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Lessons of 9-11

09/11/2008

The tragic terror attacks of September 11, 2001 should, at least, have been a learning experience. But the high tuition has not generated much wisdom.

The lessons of 9-11 can be grouped under introductory courses in terrorism, violent Islamism and internationalism.

Terrorism, murder of civilians or threats against a civilian population, is an ideology-neutral tool. It can be used by any group, whether for political causes or private gain, or private gain masked as a political or religious cause. It can be used by state sponsors as well as unaffiliated groups. It has become a tool of choice for many reasons, which include the complexity and vulnerability of modern societies, the easy availability of explosives and rockets, and the simple fact that once a security weakness is found, malefactors will do the maximum to exploit it. International law was fashioned to deal with war crimes and state terrorism. It was primarily shaped to meet the threats of state militarism and fascism. To an extent, this has also helped to make state-sponsored terror more attractive, since unofficial groups are not generally subject to the same sanctions as states. Terrorist leaders who have conspired to murder diplomats and initiated mass murder of civilians often die in bed and are revered as "liberation heroes." Had they been officials of a state, they would have been hanged. Terrorism, in its own way, poses a threat

Terrorist organizations have weak points, but exploiting them requires organization and determination. Seven years have passed since 9-11, but there is still no real international agreement on a definition of terrorism, no effective way of ensuring that states combine resources to cut off terrorist funding and no effective sanctions against states that harbor terrorists.

The media and public attitudes have not provided an adaptive and constructive response to terror. Media have a tendency to call terrorists who operate in their own country "terrorists," while people who perform the same acts, and sometimes the same persons, are called "militants" if they operate in another country. Media, with the help of the public, also provide the terrorists' greatest asset. The aim of the terrorists is not simply to kill people, but to cause political upheaval and fear that will give them leverage to gain concessions. Terrorist hits and the damage they cause are always magnified out of proportion to their real impact and attract undue attention and perhaps undue resources. Suppose that 40,000 people had been killed in the 9-11 attacks? Wouldn't that have been the occasion for a much greater war and unimaginable hysteria? Over 40,000 people die in US traffic fatalities each year, yet there is no "war on traffic fatalities." Of these deaths, over 16,000 are "alcohol related," but there has been no suggestion of profiling of drivers prone to inebriation. After 9-11, Americans were afraid to fly in airplanes, but after all those traffic fatalities, Americans are still not afraid to drive their automobiles, sober or drunk. Tapes of drunk drivers threatening mayhem are not aired on television stations. Nobody heralds them as heroes or liberators and nobody is interested in any demands they might have. The struggle against terrorism would benefit from much more light and much less heat. Societies must learn to react much more effectively and much more quietly. What is needed is less rhetoric, more analysis, a keener appreciation of the very real dangers posed by terrorism, and a program that is not influenced by narrow political considerations. In the real world, it probably will not happen. Like the Fascist regimes of the previous century, the problem of terror may be destined to grow to the point where it really will claim mass casualties and pose a real threat to civilization before it is contained. By then, it might be too late.

Violent Islamism has been brewing in the Middle East for many years. In retrospect, it is simply incredible that the problem was not recognized as early as the 1970s. Regrettably, too many states and too many people sought to make use of Islamist extremism for their own ends, and too many others had their attention focused on problems of the moment such as the Cold War. If anyone had bothered to examine the rhetoric and teachings and way of life of the Mujahedin in Afghanistan in 1979, it would have been clear to them that supporting such groups was a dangerous and irresponsible policy. Understanding of what "Mujahedin" ("Jihadists") means, and what their idea of Jihad is, should have been sufficient to raise a black flag over them. Likewise, had anyone delved into the teachings of the Ayatollah Khomeini, the threat posed by Shiite Jihadism would have been equally obvious. Unfortunately, in America and elsewhere, the people making the decisions hadn't the remotest acquaintance with the Middle East or the world of Islam. Unfortunately too, an army of apologists for Jihadism appeared in academic circles, all of whom mistook criticism of Jihadism for criticism of Islam. They insisted that these people posed no threat and would eventually become "democratic." In reaction to the 9-11 attacks, two other aberrations attacked. The first is the school of thought represented by radical right wing politicians and scholars that insists that all of Islam is inherently violent, and wants to undertake a world-wide crusade against a billion and a half Muslims, regardless of their political beliefs. The second is the alarmingly popular 9-11 conspiracy theorists, who insist against all evidence, confessions and logic that the September 11, 2001 terror attacks and others like them were perpetrated by the Bush administration, the CIA, the FBI or the Mossad or just about anyone except the actual Muslim perpetrators. This vile superstition is not confined to the Muslim world. Here is one example:

Dr. Zakir Naik: "Brother Lopez asked how I can prove that 9/11 was an inside job. I've got the proof that can defeat the proof that has been proven by the people... 75 professors from the U.S. say and believe that 9/11 was an inside job....They say that there were some politicians in the White House who engineered the destruction of the Twin Towers, and, they say, the main reason was so that they could attack, and they could have control of the oil-rich countries. Open secret, I told you.

"One of the professors, by the name of Steve Jones, says: 'We do not believe that 19 hijackers and a few men in a cave in Afghanistan could have done such a professional job alone. They could not have done it. We don't believe - and by God, we are going to come to the truth and we are going to expose - we don't believe in the theory of the government.' They don't believe in the theory of the government.

Dr Naik is right that there are Americans who support these and other theories, despite the fact that Al-Qaeda operatives have admitted planning and carrying out the attacks, and Osama Bin Laden himself has made it clear that it was his "project." For the fantasists of Oped News and other such journals, facts don't count if they can't be used to support a political theory.

The growth of these two pernicious trends and subcultures - the deniers of reality and apologists for Islamic extremism on the one hand, and the crusaders against Islam, immensely complicates the issue of dealing with extremist Islamism responsibly. Conspiracy theories that put the blame in the wrong place are an obvious danger that needs no elaboration. They are used to support false and pernicious political doctrines. The danger inherent in propagating Islamophobia is less obvious, but equally potent. Violent Islamism can best be combated by Muslims. At the core, it is an internal Muslim issue about how society should be organized in Muslim countries. "Jihad" is a religious duty, but the interpretation of what Jihad is will in the end be the interpretation that is accepted by Muslims. Attacks on Islam itself will unite Muslim societies against the rest of the world and isolate moderates, just as Islamist attacks on the West tend to unite us against Muslim societies. This atmosphere makes it easier for Islamists to label any attack on them as an attack on Islam. It makes it impossible for moderate Muslim regimes that are threatened by Islamism to marshal public support against extremists, who can conveniently pose as defenders of the threatened faith.

Internationalism and awareness of global trends is a third and more general lesson of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Americans still have a relatively low awareness of events outside the United States, and international affairs captures only a small and distorted focus of attention in American politics. A poll taken in 2006 showed that about 25% of American voters could not identify Hamas and 20% could not identify Hezbollah. The Middle East is not an exception or blind spot. Large numbers of Americans are not really aware of dangerous doings in Zimbabwe or Darfur. They may have heard of these places dimly, but the fate of their people occupies a tiny place in their consciousness. More time may be spent by Americans the present US presidential campaign discussing Bristol Palin's pregnancy than on discussing the war in Afghanistan. It is probably much more important to know who is the son of Osama Bin Ladin than to know who is the son in law of Sarah Palin, but that isn't going to happen in the United States. Not surprisingly, a largely ignorant electorate tends to have a government that reflects the same priorities and the same ignorance. The most important lesson of 9-11 is that if you ignore the world, the world will remind you that it is nonetheless out there.

Ami Isseroff



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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000715.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 2 comments

There are many credible critics of the official account of 9/11.

- Raymond McGovern, PhD, former Chairman of the CIA's National Intelligence Estimates (NIE) and 27-year CIA veteran. (According to the CIA, NIE's are "the most authoritative written judgments concerning national security issues") "I think at simplest terms, there's a cover-up. The 9/11 Report is a joke."

- William Christison, former Director of the CIA's Office of Regional and Political Analysis, overseeing 250 CIA analysts. 29-year CIA veteran. "I now think there is persuasive evidence that the events of September did not unfold as the Bush administration and the 9/11 Commission would have us believe. ... An airliner almost certainly did not hit The Pentagon. ... The North and South Towers of the World Trade Center almost certainly did not collapse and fall to earth because hijacked aircraft hit them."

- General Albert Stubblebine, former commanding general of U.S. Army Intelligence. "I look at the hole in the Pentagon and I look at the size of an airplane that was supposed to have hit the Pentagon. And I said, ‘The plane does not fit in that hole’. So what did hit the Pentagon? What hit it? Where is it? What's going on?"

Information about 1,000 other credible critics of the official account of 9/11 is available on the website PatriotsQuestion911.com/

Posted by Alan Miller @ 09/11/2008 03:16 AM CST

The world seems to be listening to the United Nations. The United Nations is incapable of indentifying terrorism or its source because the people on the committees that have the responsibility to do so represent countries guilty of the most horrific crimes against humanity. They have even decreed that the culprits can not be indentified by their actions, creed, source, or reasons for their actions.

The world needs to stop listening to the UN and abandon it completely as it alone is the biggest blockade to calling the terrorists for what and who they are. All terror acts as 9/11 were committed by persons yelling Allahu Akbar. That makes it quit clear who the terrorists are and their goal. The facts are clear, the 9/11 murders were committed by Muslims in the name of Islam and its quest to make the world submit to it or die.

Posted by Vladimir Val Cymbal @ 09/11/2008 08:40 AM CST


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