the Pamphleteer
First published in London, UK by C-Space ltd © 2001. this issue published by Ideaz Inc, © 2005
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article by Eric LaMotte

Well, it seems the Americans have their war. Not surprisingly and entirely understandably the national reaction stateside to the appalling events of the 11th September 2001 was a declaration of war. After all a nation which stands at the pinnacle (as have Carthage, Athens, Rome, Alexandria, Constantinople, London in their time) has a right to be determined to defend its tremendous advantages with maximum force.. History shows that the mighty fall and for any half awake American, that prospect must loom ahead at least as a potential.

So, as the commander in chief emerged from his nuclear bunker on that fateful day, scanning the skies for passenger jets on erratic flight paths, it was only natural to respond to such an act of war by declaring war. The only slight flaw in the plan was that the Act was executed by a small group, all of whom had died on impact and whose support network was not readily apparent. No one claimed responsibility and no reason was given for the atrocities. The targets were self-evident in their symbolic importance. The twin towers of the World Trade Centre encapsulated the world of international capitalist commerce from its home.. Wall Street, New York, USA. Secondly the Pentagon in Washington DC city is without doubt the most highly visible military headquarters in the world. So both targets made the message clear; American military and economic power was opposed in no uncertain terms.

It seems that the act was not primarily intended as a propaganda event. In the past, in some conflicts, terrorist acts have been selected for their potential profile. The IRA in Ireland, for example, would telephone a coded warning of an attack on a military target, allowing evacuation. The device would explode, causing damage but no casualties, and the general public may be swayed a little in their opinion. The acts of 11th September didn't show any concept of the propaganda value of an event like this in demoralising the enemy. The enemy of the perpetrators of the Act is America, and America could not be more unified in its resolve to crush anything in its way.. Undoubtedly it is a nation in fear.. Especially with developments in biological and chemical attacks. But fear in this case does not mean capitulation, quite the contrary.

So the President declares war, and then everyone looks around to determine exactly who to go to the war with. Immediately a new concept of war is devised. This will be a war against terrorism and those who aid terrorists.

Thus we come to the core of the problem. There is no clear and unambiguous definition of 'terrorism'. So pinpointing who are the terrorists can be difficult, to say the least. To the Americans the majority of their concept of terrorism is that it is perpetrated by fanatics from overseas. These fanatics are generally Islamic fundamentalists from the Middle East, and a variety of incidents over the years have raised themselves in the American consciousness: From the PLO, hijacks and the Olympics massacre in the 70's, through Beirut, the World Trade Centre (first attack), the African embassy bombs, the USS Cole to the events of today. but beyond the anomalies which were Timothy McVeigh, or the Una-bomber, the American concept of terrorism is Middle Eastern and Islamic, so when the President says we are at war with terrorism no-one should have any illusions as to what he means or that it has anything to do with IRA terrorism, South American terrorism or any other terrorism. Just to complicate matters, Yasser Arafat and the PLO, and many other Palestinian groups are, and have been for some time, in favour as the long inevitable peace talks stumbled along over the last few years. To the Israelis, however, a population which supports suicide bombers strapped with high explosives, supports terrorism. In fact, at the dawn of the nation of Israel, the British held some of the most extreme zionists of the time, the Stern gang, to be terrorists. How things change and yet remain ever the same.

So what do we really mean by terrorism? Most of us think of it as a clear concept, but if, like the Americans, we have a concept developed over time, then what we understand as terrorism might not be the same as others. one nation's terrorist group may be another's revolutionary liberationists… it depends on your point of view. We could struggle towards an understanding: Terrorism is a doctrine of strategy, engaged in violent activities in pursuit of political aims. In definition it is practised not by governments or state organisations but by autonomous groups. Historically it has been an internal matter, where groups engage the state. where the doctrine is utilised by nations it is known as 'state terrorism'. The doctrine of violence is directed at a multiplicity of targets representative or having leverage on the enemy. Generally it is practised in subterfuge, with small units hiding amongst the population. Finally and most notably the acts are perpetrated generally against the general civilian population rather than the military or government targets. It is this final point which is at the crux of terrorism. Although violent acts, motivated politically, have no doubt occurred since the dawn of mankind, the development in the 20th century of weapons of mass destruction and the increased sophistication of explosives and concealed weaponry has meant that the destructive power of a small-scale attack can have large scale consequences. Compound this with mass transportation, enormous power blocks and the 11th of September becomes a unique event that could not have occurred until the modern age.

Essentially we are reaching our definition: Terrorism is a doctrine of violence against varied civilian and political targets, perpetrated clandestinely by secretive groups in pursuit of political aims. This is not a definition of 'State Terrorism' as American, Israeli or others military activities are often described. It is arguable that, whilst they are criticised for striking civilian targets, these are acts of war as they are perpetrated by the military.

In many ways it is the covert manner of the terrorist which distinguishes him from the military. But that in itself is not much. The military can act covertly, though this is generally described as 'special ops' or sabotage, and still is focused on military targets and objectives. If a government moves into action against civilians it becomes of the responsibility of police or state security services. For the terrorist moral and political constraints don't exist in the same way as for conventional authorities. Therefore as a counterbalance to the force of a legitimate (or otherwise established) government a terrorist group can affect an impact far beyond its size and resources. This impact has two main effects. Firstly, and obviously, is the devastating impact of the violent event itself. People killed and injured in such an act are obviously victims, and any property damaged or destroyed compounds these effects.. Secondly a psychological effect is triggered. A combination of fear and depression will wash over a population subjected to terrifying violent acts. This latter is the lever which the terrorist is seeking to pull. If a populations terror is such that the nation's resolve to oppose it is broken, then the terror group has won.

Examining the situation unfolding as a result of the events of 11th September in the light of these arguments we can reach an analysis which just might help with a clearer view of what's going on. On the morning of 11th September four jet liners were hijacked. Two were flown directly into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in downtown New York, one into one of the five sides of the Pentagon in Washington, and one crashed into the countryside. These horrific events absolutely and clearly happened, unfolding as they did live on TV channels around the world and witnessed by millions live and in real time. On reflection I would say it was the most shocking violent event I have ever witnessed, and I am sure many millions would agree with me. Since that day the world has reached fever pitch, with an alliance being built, ultimata made and a bombing campaign launched on Afghanistan. But still, from my vantage point, facts are sparse, but the environment is 'information rich'. Around the world nations and organisations gear up for war, and one of the key weapons on all sides is public opinion. Given the very few verifiable facts but large amounts of information here in the west, it is disturbing that so many people are fixed in their opinions, and assert opinion as truth. It strikes me as a good time to be asking questions, not as a challenge to accepted notions, but as a strategic tool in order to wield truth and accuracy as tactical devices and improve the chances of a favourable outcome. Some key questions are;

1. Who organised and enabled the hijacking?
2. Can mass terror be avoided through intelligence and police action, without intolerable restrictions on civil liberties.
3. In pursuing the perpetrators of the acts of the 11th September, and eliminating the potential for future attacks, what military or political actions are likely to have the best possible effect?

It was very rapidly asserted that these acts had been perpetrated by agents connected with Al Q'aida and supported by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. In the understandably angry response of the Americans, amidst strong support of a host of other nations, no attempt at public dissemination of evidence for the assertion was made. The world polarised amazingly quickly. There was a dust settling period (quite literally) of something over a week before those people not automatically sympathetic to the USA allowed their attention to slip from the atrocity itself to matters of American foreign policy, whilst those who are automatically sympathetic stood unquestioningly by Americas side.

Without any declaration of responsibility, many voices started linking the attack to Israel, to Iraq, to propping up of unpopular Arab regimes. These and other reasons were all presented by individuals and organisations, even nations, as the motives of the terrorists. Did they know the motives because they had been told by the terrorists, or did they simply infer from the racial origin of those named as suspects that these must be the causes.. and yet some even insist these names were false, suggesting fabrication by the FBI/CIA to cover up a mossad / American right wing de-stabilisation plot. Frankly given the lack of hard facts in the public domain, one theory is as likely to be valid as another, although some are clearly fantasy and speak more of the delusions and prejudices of the theorist than any knowledge of the truth.

At the end of it all it doesn't really matter. The Americans believe it is Osama Bin Laden who is responsible and have unleashed the most fearsome war machine in human history in response. Many reactions and opinions are futile as they will have no effect whatsoever on policy-makers. Immediately upon declaring war on terrorism, President bush articulated a simple point. 'Either you are with us or against us'. However clever an analyst or anti-war protester may be it will only set them in the 'against us' camp. Whatever the true motives of any nation, declaring support and not interfering in the American action will ensure they are 'on side'. Key phrases early on revealed fundamental human truths. The Americans are very angry. Probably at least as angry as any anti-American terrorist. Notably it was stated that this would be a war unlike any other previous wars. This means that certain expectations built upon the experience of previous wars will need to be altered. With terrorists, whilst maybe given succour by nation-states, there is no monolith of territory and assets to invade and occupy. Ultimately this is a war which will in fact be waged internally, within the societies who wage it.

article © Eric LaMotte, Autumn 2001

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