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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Terrorism, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 39
1. The continuing threat of nuclear weapons

By Barry S. Levy and Victor W. Sidel

Out of sight. Out of mind.

Nine countries, mainly the United States and Russia, possess 17,000 nuclear weapons, many of which are hundreds of times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki almost 70 years ago. An attack and counterattack in which fewer than 1% of these nuclear weapons were detonated could cause tens of millions of deaths and could disrupt climate globally, leading to crop failures and widespread famine. A greater conflagration could cause a “nuclear winter” and threaten the future of life on earth.

The recent tensions concerning Ukraine demonstrate that although 23 years have elapsed since the end of the Cold War, nuclear weapons remain a clear and present danger to humanity. Persistent threats include accidental launch of nuclear warheads, proliferation of nuclear weapons among nations, potential acquisition and use of nuclear weapons by non-state actors, and diversion of human and financial resources in order to maintain and modernize nuclear arsenals in the United States and other nations.

Despite safeguards, accidental detonation remains a real possibility. A few years ago, a US Air Force plane transported six missiles tipped with nuclear warheads, unbeknownst to the pilot and crew. Twice, in recent weeks, it was revealed that as many as half of navy and air force personnel who maintain nuclear-armed missiles and would be responsible for launching them if commanded to do so had cheated on their competency examinations. In 1995, Boris Yeltsin, then president of Russia, had only a few minutes to decide whether to launch Russian nuclear-armed missiles against the United States in response to what, on radar, looked like a US air attack with multiple re-entry vehicles (MERVs); it turned out to be a rocket launched by a team of Norwegian and US scientists to study the aurora borealis.

Another major concern is that the leaders of the nine nations that possess nuclear weapons each have absolute authority — unchecked by other government officials or institutions, even in the United States — to launch an offensive or allegedly defensive nuclear strike.

Furthermore, proliferation remains a serious threat. During the past decade North Korea obtained nuclear technology and fissile materials, and developed and tested one or more nuclear weapons. At least until recently, Iran apparently was — and may still be — on the path to developing nuclear weapons. Given the widespread knowledge about nuclear technology and the potential availability of fissile material, non-state actors could acquire and use nuclear weapons.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Betty Puma, from the 5th Munitions Squadron, reviews a nuclear weapons maintenance procedures checklist as part of the Nuclear Surety Inspection (NSI) May 19, 2009, at Minot Air Force Base, N.D. An NSI is designed to evaluate a unit's readiness to execute nuclear operations. Areas to be evaluated during the NSI include operations, maintenance, security and support activities needed to ensure the wing performs its mission in a safe, secure and reliable manner. This no-notice inspection is expected to conclude May 22. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Miguel Lara III/Released). defenseimagery.mil

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Betty Puma, from the 5th Munitions Squadron, reviews a nuclear weapons maintenance procedures checklist as part of the Nuclear Surety Inspection (NSI) May 19, 2009, at Minot Air Force Base, N.D. An NSI is designed to evaluate a unit’s readiness to execute nuclear operations. Areas to be evaluated during the NSI include operations, maintenance, security and support activities needed to ensure the wing performs its mission in a safe, secure and reliable manner. This no-notice inspection is expected to conclude May 22. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Miguel Lara III/Released). defenseimagery.mil

Highly-enriched uranium (HEU) — the fissile material used in nuclear weapons — is distributed globally, and used in nuclear reactors to perform research or power aircraft carriers and submarines. Converting to low-enriched uranium would eliminate the possibility of HEU being stolen or otherwise diverted to produce nuclear weapons.

Yet another major concern is the huge diversion of financial resources to maintain and modernize the US nuclear weapons arsenal, estimated over the next 30 years to be about $1 trillion. The proposed nuclear weapons budget of the US Department of Energy for fiscal year 2015 is higher than at any time during the Cold War. Meanwhile, substantial cuts have been proposed in programs to dismantle and prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons — and in programs to reduce poverty and protect human rights.

To most Americans, all of these concerns are out of sight and out of mind. Each of us has a responsibility to become more educated about these issues, increase the awareness of other people about them, and advocate for measures to reduce the dangers associated with nuclear weapons, including the abolition of nuclear weapons.

A longstanding proposal to eliminate all nuclear weapons is the Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC). In 1997, a consortium of experts in law, science, public health, disarmament, and negotiation drafted a model convention. The Convention would require nations that possess nuclear weapons to destroy them in stages — taking them from high-alert status, removing them from deployment, removing warheads from delivery vehicles, disabling warheads by removing explosive “pits,” and placing fissile material under control of the United Nations. Such a convention has had wide public support throughout the world.

An immediate step that could pave the way to the Nuclear Weapons Convention and the eradication of nuclear weapons is a treaty banning nuclear weapons. Such a treaty could be negotiated with or without the participation of those nations possessing nuclear weapons. It could create an international norm of the illegality of nuclear weapons, similar to the norms that have been established concerning chemical and biological weapons, antipersonnel landmines, and cluster munitions. Such a treaty could put substantial pressure on the nations possessing nuclear weapons to comply with their disarmament obligations — which they have been unwilling to do thus far. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has mobilized 300 civil-society organizations in 90 countries to campaign, on humanitarian grounds, for such a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

Given resurgent Cold-War-era arguments for revitalizing US nuclear-weapons capabilities to deter Russian actions in Ukraine, we must resist measures that would reset the “Doomsday Clock” to a point that places all humanity — and indeed all life on earth — in great peril of annihilation by nuclear weapons.

Barry S. Levy, M.D., M.P.H., and Victor W. Sidel, M.D., are co-editors of the recently published second edition of Social Injustice and Public Health as well as two editions each of the books War and Public Health and Terrorism and Public Health, all of which have been published by Oxford University Press. They are both past presidents of the American Public Health Association. Dr. Levy is an Adjunct Professor of Public Health at Tufts University School of Medicine. Dr. Sidel is Distinguished University Professor of Social Medicine Emeritus at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein Medical College and an Adjunct Professor of Public Health at Weill Cornell Medical College. Victor W. Sidel was a member of the 1997 consortium of experts in law, science, public health, disarmament, and negotiation that drafted the model Nuclear Weapons Convention. Read their previous blog posts.

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2. Terror

By Yair Amichai-Hamburger

On the Internet, terrorists can find a wide-open playground for particularly sophisticated violence. I have no doubt that the people at the US Department of Defense, when they brought about the inception of the Internet, never thought in their worst nightmares that come 2013, every terrorist splinter group would boast a website and that all the advantages of the Internet would be at the service of terrorists for organizing, planning, and executing their attacks on innocent people.

The Internet helps terror groups in a variety of activities: recruiting members, establishing communication, attaining publicity, and raising funds. Terror organizations direct their messages to their various audiences over the net with great sophistication. The primary audience is the central core of activists, who use the website as a platform for information about various activities. Messages are disguised by pre-agreed codes, and if you’re unfamiliar with the codes, you won’t understand what’s being talked about.

Fingers on the keyboard

By means of such encoded messages, a global network of terror can operate with great efficiency. It can manage its affairs like an international corporation: the leader passes instructions to various operations officers around the world, and they pass instructions onward to their subordinates. Using the Internet for information transfer, the organization can create a compartmentalized network of activists who cannot identify one another. Even if one cell is exposed, the damage to the overall network is minimal. Ironically, that survivability was exactly the factor that guided the US Department of Defense when it set up the Internet in anticipation of a doomsday scenario.

The second audience that the terror websites speak to is the general community of supporters. Messages for them are open, not disguised, and the operational side is toned down a little. At the site for the general public, the focus is on negative messages regarding the terror organization’s target, and on legitimizing attacks against it without going into specifics. The site presents history in a way that suits its agenda, and often it tries to attract legitimate contributions for its activities by concealing them behind various charitable fronts.

Some of these sites sell souvenirs with the terror organization’s logo, as if it were a sports team. Thus fans can buy scarves or shirts that give them a strengthened sense of identification with the terror organization. The site allows visitors to join discussions, and in some cases it also tries to attract people from the community of true believers into the community of activists. Of course such a process is undertaken with much caution in order that spies not infiltrate the organization. When new volunteers are recruited, there is a great advantage to enlisting people who don’t fit the terrorist stereotype, since such people can serve as couriers without immediately arousing suspicion. On the other hand, the less the new volunteer belongs to the community from which the terror organization sprang, or resembles a member of that community, the greater the suspicion of untrustworthiness. So such a new volunteer will be performing under close watch, or will be assigned to a one-time task that is to end in the grave.

The third audience is the group to be terrorized. In addressing this group, the organization has the objective of arousing fear, and it publicizes its terror operations in order to “win” the audience to the idea that each of them, including their family and closest friends, is likely to be the next terror victim. This baleful message is accompanied by an ultimatum to the audience: if all its demands are not met, the terror organization will make good on all its threats. The terror organization will try to show that because it’s fighting for absolute justice and has no mercy as it makes its way to that goal, it’s unstoppable. It immortalizes its terrorism in well-concocted documentary films that portray successes among its deadly operations, and by documenting executions performed on camera.

Examining the way that terror organizations address their audiences over various channels, we can see that most terror organizations deploy a rather impressive public-relations corps. Many terror organizations, not satisfied with a website alone, expand onto social networks and use other net-based avenues such as e-mail, chats, and forums.

The language of terror is quite interesting. Terrorists lay all the blame on the other party, which they label the aggressor while they present themselves as the real victims who speak in the name of human rights and who champion the oppressed. Take for example the international terror organizations. They explain that terror is the only method they have for striking back defensively at the imperialist aggressor. The terror organizations delegitimize their opponents and describe their enemy as the ultimate aggressor, a perpetrator of criminal actions such as genocide, slaughter, and massacres. Sometimes the fight is considered part of a continuing religious war and the messages bear a religious aura. For instance, a jihad with the prophet Muhammad as the commander in chief, in charge of the courageous legions that the organization represents.

Terror organizations tend to describe their murderous activities as self-defense by a persecuted underdog. They ignore the human side of their victims and use the psychological tool of dehumanization against the opponent, defining it as a group that has no human face. Thus for example, after the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon on 11 September 2001, the Al Qaeda organization completely ignored the thousands of murdered people and chose to focus on the indignities that the capitalist Americans had wreaked, and were continuing to wreak, and on the importance of the Twin Towers as a symbol of the western world’s decadence.

Yair Amichai-Hamburger is Director of The Research Center for Internet Psychology, Israel, and author of The Social Net: Understanding our online behavior. This article originally appeared as part of a series on Psychology Today.

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Image credit: Fingers on a keyboard, via iStockphoto.

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3. Running Towards Danger

After writing “My Advice to New Moms in the Wake of the Terror in Boston,” I didn’t think I had much else to say about yesterday’s terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon’s Finish… Read More

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4. Art, love, and the terror in Norway

By Toril Moi Like other Norwegians I am in shock at the terrible events in Oslo and at Utøya on 22 July. My heart goes out to the victims and their families. I was not in Norway when the horror happened. On 22 July, I was giving a talk about Ibsen’s 1873 play Emperor and Galilean at the National Theatre in London. I only learned about the bombing in Oslo and the massacre at Utøya later that night. When I discovered that the terrorist in Norway saw himself as

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5. Where are all the Islamic terrorists?

By Charles Kurzman Last month, a few hours after a bomb exploded in downtown Oslo, I got a call from a journalist seeking comment. Why did Al Qaeda attack Norway? Why not a European country with a larger Muslim community, or a significant military presence in Muslim societies? I said I didn't know. A second media inquiry soon followed: Given NATO's involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the number of disaffected Muslims in Europe, why don't we see more attacks like the one in Norway? This question was more up my alley. I recently

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6. 9/11 and 3/11

Carl R. Weinberg Editor, Magazine of History On Tuesday March 11, 2003, I was working in my office at North Georgia College and State University (NGCSU), when I received an email that I will never forget. It was sent to all faculty and staff on the campus listserv from one of my colleagues on the subject of “America's Defense.” His email noted that some of our

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7. Decennium 9/11: Learning the lessons

By Andrew Staniforth For Americans, no act of terrorism compares to the attacks and from that moment the history of the United States has been divided into ‘Before 9/11’ and ‘After 9/11’. In lower Manhattan, on a field in Pennsylvania, and along the banks of the Potomac, the United States suffered its largest loss of life from an enemy attack on its own soil. Within just 102 minutes, four commercial jets would be simultaneously hijacked and used as weapons of mass destruction to kill ordinary citizens as part of a coordinated attack that would shape the first decade of a new century.

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8. 9/11 and the dysfunctional “aughts”

By Richard Landes In the years before 2000, as the director of the ephemeral Center for Millennial Studies, I scanned the global horizon for signs of apocalyptic activity, that is, for movements of people who believed that now was the time of a total global transformation. As I did so, I became aware of such currents of belief among Muslims, some specifically linked to the year 2000, all predominantly expressing the most dangerous of all apocalyptic

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9. Stories That Read YOU Archives...

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This second book in the Patriot Acts trilogy takes the reader inside the White House where treachery and terrorism boils below its underbelly. While trying to avoid invoking emergency powers that could destroy American constitutional freedoms, a former Special Ops officer, now the President of the United States, races to stop a deadly virus, which has killed thousands of innocent Americans.

This Fisher Harrison saga, The Second Republic, is an action thriller that could appear on any of today’s headlines, on any given day with a plausible scenario for the death of humankind that is too frighteningly conceivable for comfort.

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10. The Oxford Comment: Episode 4 – RELIGION! (Part 1)

In this two-part series, Michelle and Lauren explore some of the most hot-button issues in religion this past year.

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Featured in Part 1:

Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan Debate: Is Islam a Religion a Peace?

Highlights and exclusive interviews with Hitchens, Ramadan, & New York Times National Religion Correspondent  Laurie Goodstein

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11. Freedom from Religion: Protecting Society Against Religious Extremist Inciters

By Amos N. Guiora

Religious extremism poses the greatest danger to contemporary civil society.  The threat comes from religious extremists, not people of moderate faith. The recent suicide bombing by Islamic extremists killing 21 Copts in Egypt is a prime example.

Decision makers, the general public and people of moderate faith – whose faith does not lead them to kill others in the name of their god – must address how to minimize this palpable threat. Step one is recognizing the threat, although it may make us uncomfortable. Step two is involves proactive, concrete measures to protect society.  Society can say a collective “woe is me” or take aggressive proactive measures. The former is defeatist; the latter protects the innocent.

Religious extremist incitement is the primary source of this danger and the danger is clear: religious extremist inciters have done extraordinary harm to society.  Underage girls – in an internal community shockingly unprotected by government – are forced to marry and have sexual relations with adult males in the name of religious extremism pronounced by the Prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints.  A religious Jewish extremist assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Rabin after extremist rabbis placed a curse on Rabin, directly inciting the violent murder.  An extremist imam placed a fatwa on an Islamic Dutch politician who said Islam must come to grips with homosexuality.

Needless to say, multiple other examples abound, from right-wing extremist Christians killing abortion-performing physicians to extremist Jews burning mosques in the West Bank to Islamic terrorists committing suicide bombings targeting innocent civilians. All result from religious extremist incitement.

Limiting the ability of extremist faith leaders to incite their parishioners is the critical step.  Simply put, unabated incitement endangers society.  Monitoring and surveillance are effective, essential and lawful measures to negate the power of religious extremist speech to which society and law enforcement have largely granted immunity.

Nevertheless, these measures are problematic because of the potential to chill participation in religion.  Potential members may hesitate to join a congregation under surveillance and existing members may shy away from attending services.   Preachers, rabbis, imams and other religious leaders may not feel free to fully express their messages.

However, the clear and present danger religious extremist faith leaders pose demands an effective response.  Resolving the tension between justified surveillance and the cost associated with such surveillance is difficult, but it is essential to adequately protect the community. To that end, I recommend the following:

*Articulate clear guidelines for monitoring
*Enhance cooperation between law enforcement and clergy
*Adopt a heightened probable cause standard for monitoring Houses of Worship
*Articulate and enforce limits of free speech with respect to religious extremism

The monitoring and surveillance must not be arbitrary or capricious, but rather initiated narrowly and specifically in response to compelling evidence, including intelligence information, suggesting that a particular faith leader is inciting in the House of Worship.  This cautiousness will ensure that due process and equal protection standards and obligations are met.

Without this sober analysis, the inevitable chilling effect will be unwarranted and therefore unconstitutional.  

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12. Phone-hacking: The law may be difficult to understand but that’s no excuse

By Simon McKay


In 1928 the iconic United States Supreme Court Justices Holmes and Brandeis dissented in a judgment that ruled the product of telephone conversations derived from “wiretapping” admissible. With characteristic eloquence, Mr Justice Brandeis held that “the confined criminal is as much entitled to redress as his most virtuous fellow citizen; no record of crime, however long, makes one an outlaw”. The judges could be forgiven for thinking that, at least in terms of the English law, eighty years on, things haven’t changed much.

There is a connection between the phone hacking row, which appears to be the preserve of celebrities who fear their calls may have been listened into and the changes to control orders, inelegantly re-named Terrorism Prevention and Investigatory Measures. On the one hand, there is a gaggle of media lawyers and their clients complaining that the Metropolitan Police has failed to take action against individuals eavesdropping on the most private of conversations and on the other the same material is secretly relied upon by the State to confine individuals, who have not been convicted of any offence, to effective house arrest and to impose other Orwellian sanctions. The apparent juxtaposition becomes manifest; the police and agencies rely on the material to counter terrorism, yet appear impotent in terms of investigating allegations of what is given the seemingly neutral term of phone hacking.

There needs to be some attempt to de-mystify what is meant by phone hacking, sometimes referred to as phone tapping. It is clear that practically what is meant is eavesdropping on voicemail messages.

Previously the police have asserted they could not rely on the evidence provided on the ground that it is not admissible. This is a reference to a legal provision in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 that prohibits the use of intercept product in court proceedings. However, it has been misunderstood. The prohibition largely relates to product of intercept warrants that the State obtains to protect national security and investigate other threats as well as serious crime – this is why terror suspects aren’t prosecuted in the criminal courts – the intelligence implicating them cannot be used for this purpose. It expressly does not apply where an illegal interception has occurred.

But is a third party listening to a voicemail an interception? The simple answer is that it might be, particularly if it has not been listened to (if it is, it is a criminal offence) but if it is not, it is almost certainly an offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. Where such offences may have been committed there is no question that the incident and evidence of interception or hacking is admissible and capable of being used by the police. Even if there was an argument to the contrary, the consent of the “victim” alleviates any remaining difficulty concerning the issue (if an individual consents to their calls being intercepted the prohibition on admissibility no longer applies).

To fair to the police, the highest courts in the land have found the question of what may amount to an interception “particularly puzzling” and the legislation “difficult to understand”. It is almost impenetrable but that is not really any excuse.

Add to this the fact that the law in this area is under review (again). A cynic could muse what all the fuss is about; surely the simplest thing would be to make the product of intercept admissible, even i

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13. Michael Scheuer sits down with Stephen Colbert

Michael Scheuer was the chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999 and remained a counterterrorism analyst until 2004. He is the author of many books, including the bestselling Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terrorism. His latest book is the biography Osama bin Laden, a much-needed corrective, hard-headed, closely reasoned portrait that tracks the man’s evolution from peaceful Saudi dissident to America’s Most Wanted.

Among the extensive media attention both the book and Scheuer have received so far, he was interviewed on The Colbert Report just this week.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Michael Scheuer
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14. Quickcast – OSAMA BIN LADEN

What does Osama bin Laden really want from us? Listen to this podcast and find out.

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Michael Scheuer was the chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999 and remained a counterterrorism analyst until 2004. He is the author of many books, including the bestselling Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terrorism (recommended by bin Laden himself). His latest book is the biography Osama bin Laden which he recently discussed on The Colbert Report (and this podcast!).

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15. Beyond reciprocal violence: morality, relationships and effective self-defense

By Ervin Staub

A few hours after the 9/11 attacks, speaking on our local public radio station in Western Massachusetts, struggling with my tears and my voice, I said that this horrible attack can help us understand people’s suffering around the world, and be a tool for us to unite with others to create a better world. Others also said similar things. But that is not how events progressed.

Our response to that attack led to three wars we are still fighting, including the war on terror. How we fight these wars and what we do to bring them to an end will shape our sense of ourselves as a moral people, our connections to the rest of the world, our wealth and power as a nation, and our physical security.  What can we do to reduce hostility toward us, strengthen our alliances, and regain our moral leadership in the world?

One of the basic principles of human conduct is reciprocity. As one party strikes out at another,  the other, if it can, usually responds with force. Often the response is more than what is required for self-defense. It is punitive, taking revenge, teaching the other a lesson. But the first party  takes this as aggression, and responds with more violence. Israelis and Palestinians for many years engaged in mutual and often escalating retaliation, sometimes reciprocating immediately, sometimes, the Palestinians especially, the weaker party, waiting for the right opportunity.

Many young Muslims, and even non-Muslims converting to Islam, have been “radicalized” by our drone attacks, and our forces killing civilians in the course of fighting. The would-be Times Square bomber has talked to people about his distress and anger about such violence against Muslims. While we kill some who plan to attack us, especially as we harm innocent others, more turn against us.

Of course, we must protect ourselves. But positive actions are also reciprocated—not always, but often, especially if the intention for the action is perceived as positive. Non-violent reactions and practices must be part of effective self-defense. Respect is one of them. Many Muslims were killed in the 9/11 attacks, and we should have specifically included them in our public mourning. Many Arab and Muslim countries reached out to us afterwards, even Iran, and we should have responded more than we did to their sympathy and support. Effective reaching out is more challenging now, and after the mid-term elections the world might see reaching out by President Obama as acting out of weakness. But the U.S. is still the great power, and both the administration and members of Congress ought to reach out to the Muslim world.

But even as we show respect and work on good connections, we ought to stop supporting repressive Muslim regimes. That has been one of the grievances against us. An important source of Al-Qaeda has been Egyptian terrorists, who fought against a secular repressive Egyptian regime. Then as Al-Qaeda was organized by the Mujahideen, who fought against and defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, they turned from such “near enemies” against the far enemy, the United States, which supported these repressive regimes.

Another important matter is dialogue between parties. Dialogue can be abused, used simply to gain time, or as a show to pacify third parties, or can even be a fraud as in Afghanistan where an “impostor” played the role of a Taliban leader in dialogue with the government . The Bush administration strongly opposed dialogue with terrorists—but then with money and other inducements got Sunnis in Iraq, who have been attacking us, to work with us. In persistent dialogue, in contrast to the very occasional negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, the parties can develop relationships, gain trust, and then become ready to resolve practical matters.

To resolve our wars, we cannot simply bomb and shoot. We must also

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16. Assassinating terrorist leaders: A matter of international law

By Louis René Beres

Osama bin Laden was assassinated by U.S. special forces on May 1, 2011. Although media emphasis thus far has been focused almost entirely on the pertinent operational and political issues surrounding this “high value” killing, there are also important jurisprudential aspects to the case. These aspects require similar attention. Whether or not killing Osama was a genuinely purposeful assassination from a strategic perspective, a question that will be debated for years to come, we should now also inquire:  Was it legal?

Assassination is ordinarily a crime under international law. Still, in certain residual circumstances, the targeted killing of principal terrorist leaders can be defended as a fully permissible example of  law-enforcement. In the best of all possible worlds, there would never be any need for such decentralized or “vigilante” expressions of international justice, but – we don’t yet live in such a world. Rather, enduring in our present and still anarchic global legal order, as President Barack Obama correctly understood, the only real alternative to precise self-defense actions against terrorists is apt to be a worsening global instability, and also escalating terrorist violence against the innocent.

Almost by definition, the idea of assassination as remediation seems an oxymoron. At a minimum, this idea seemingly precludes all normal due processes of law. Yet, since the current state system’s inception in the seventeenth century, following the Thirty Years’ War and the resultant Peace of Westphalia (1648), international relations have not been governed by the same civil protections as individual states. In this world legal system, which lacks effective supra-national authority, Al Qaeda leader bin Laden was indisputably responsible for the mass killings of many noncombatant men, women and children. Had he not been assassinated by the United States, his egregious crimes would almost certainly have gone entirely unpunished.

The indiscriminacy of Al Qaeda operations under bin Laden was never the result of inadvertence. It was, instead, the intentional outcome of profoundly murderous principles that lay deeply embedded in the leader’s view of Jihad. For bin Laden, there could never be any meaningful distinction between civilians and non-civilians, innocents and non-innocents. For bin Laden, all that mattered was the distinction between Muslims and “unbelievers.”

As for the lives of unbelievers, it was all very simple.  These lives had no value. They had no sanctity.

Every government has the right and obligation to protect its own citizens. In certain circumstances, this may even extend to assassination. The point has long been understood in Washington, where every president in recent memory has given nodding or more direct approval to “high value” assassination operations. Of course,  lower-value or more tactical assassination efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan have become a very regular feature of U.S. special operations.

There are some points of legal comparison with the recent NATO strike that killed Moammar Gadhafi’s second-youngest son, and his three grandchildren. While this was a thinly-disguised assassination attempt that went awry, the target, although certainly a supporter of his own brand of terrorists, had effectively been immunized from any deliberate NATO harms by the U.N. Security Council’s  limited definition of humanitarian intervention.

It is generally

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17. ‘Nobody should doubt the importance of the killing of Osama bin Laden’

By Richard English

Nobody should doubt the importance of the killing of Osama bin Laden. Whether one thinks that al–Qaida had been destroyed as an organization and had become merely an inspirational brand, or holds the view that they had regrouped and still offered a coherent threat, bin Laden’s importance to the movement was centrally irreplaceable.

In this sense, the United States administration and military are right to be so jubilant. The fact that bin Laden had so long evaded the world’s remaining superpower had been a matter of gloating celebration for jihadists.  So his brutal killing is as much a morale boost for the US and her counter-terrorist allies as it is a sharp blow to the confidence and morale of America’s terrorist enemies.

And the mode of operation involved is one duly celebrated too. Even those, like myself, who have argued repeatedly against an over-militarization of response to terrorism, have also stressed that military action – ‘kinetic’ methods – on occasion have their place. This killing was based on precise intelligence, it targeted an important foe and removed him from the war, it did so with striking efficiency, and it managed to avoid weighty and counter-productive collateral damage in the process.

Yet broader lessons also emerge, and celebration should not be the only reaction. First, the lethally effective use of  such precisely targeted military means in May 2011 raises questions about the kind of militarized response which the US and her allies have deployed since the atrocity of 9/11. To kill Osama bin Laden so clinically can indeed be seen as an effective step forward in fighting terrorism.  To invade Iraq in 2003 was not.   Indeed,  the deployment of supposedly counter-terrorist military might in the post-9/11 period has very often missed the mark.  Had greater military force been directed at catching or killing bin Laden in late 2001 – when he was indeed nearly killed at Tora Bora – then he might very well not have survived so damagingly for ten subsequent years.

Again, had military attention not been devoted from 2003 onwards to Iraq – as noted, an adventure of limited value in the fight against terrorism – then the job in Afghanistan would have been easier to pursue efficiently and successfully, as many military voices have made clear.

And, unlike Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan were and are important in the fight against jihadist terrorism. This is another, less comfortable, lesson to emerge from the events of early May 2011.  Whether the Pakistani authorities did not know that the world’s most famous villain was living near one of their major military bases, or did know but decided not to act decisively on it, the reality remains depressing.  Understandably, there are those in Pakistan whose view of al – Qaida and of the priorities in international relations in the region differ starkly from those of Washington. But the janus-faced role of sections of the Pakistani establishment remains a crucial problem, and likely a lasting one.  As many US soldiers on the Afghan – Pakistan border have themselves painfully noted, the US has been facing something like a war from Pakistan for some years, but has been unable or unwilling to do much about it. The deep problem of Pakistan, and of rival political forces and imperatives within it, is one of the reasons that we will have to learn to live with terrorism for some years to come.

But, thirdly, we need to keep that threat in perspective.  There has been much talk of revenge attacks in the wake of bin Laden’s death, and doubtless there will be both the desire and the labelled actions to follow, on occasion. But the truth is that jihadi terrorists represent a largely limited threat to the west, in practice. They certainly show no signs of succeeding in their central war aims.


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18. The Catonsville Nine

The United States was plagued by social unrest throughout the 1960’s. 1968 stands out as the most militant and contentious year of the decade with the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. In that same year, the Selective Service office announced that its December quota for the draft would be the highest thus far, leading countless Americans to engage in acts of civil disobedience. American Catholics, who were led to accept mainstream cultural values and unhesitatingly support foreign policy faced a changing identity brought on by a remarkable act known as the Catonsville Nine. Led by two priests, the Catonsville Nine would set off a wave of other Catholic protests against the Vietnam War. The following excerpt from Mark Massa’s The American Catholic Revolution describes this transformative moment in American Catholic history.

At 12:30 on the afternoon of May 17, 1968, an unlikely crew of seven men and two women arrived at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Catonsville, Maryland, a tidy suburb of Baltimore. Their appearance at 1010 Frederick Road, however, was only tangentially related to the Knights. The target of their pilgrimage was Selective Service Board 33, housed on the second floor of the K. of C. Hall. The nondescript parcel they carried with them contained ten pounds of homemade napalm, whipped up several evenings before by Dean Pappas, a local physics teacher who had discovered the recipe in a booklet published by the U.S. Special Forces (two parts gasoline, one part Ivory Flakes). On entering the office, one of them explained calmly to the three surprised women typing and filing what was going to happen next. But either out of shock or because they hadn’t heard the announcement clearly the women continued about their business until the strangers began snatching up 1-A files, records of young men whose draft lottery numbers made them most likely to be drafted to fight in Vietnam. At that point one of the women working in the office began to scream.

The raiders began stuffing the 1-A files (and as many 2-As and 1-Ys as they could grab) into wire trash baskets they had brought for the purpose. When one of the office workers tried dialing the police, Mary Moylan, one of the nine intruders, put her finger on the receiver button, calmly advising the distraught worker to wait until the visitors were finished. The burning of the draft records was intended to be entirely nonviolent, although one of the office workers had to be physically restrained from stopping the protesters, in the course of which she suffered some scratches on her leg. With that one exception, the raid went according to plan. Indeed, as Daniel Berrigan, S.J. one of the leaders of the event, later remembered it.

We took the A-1 [sic] files, which of course were the most endangered of those being shipped off. And we got about 150 of those in our arms and went down the staircase to the parking lot. And they burned very smartly, having been doused in this horrible material. And it was all over in 10 or 15 minutes.

Once Berrigan and the others left the office, Moylan said to the office worker with the phone, “Now you can call whoever you wish.” But instead of calling the police she hurled it through the window, hoping to get attention of workmen outside the building, which she did: one of the workmen quickly rushed up to the office to see what the ruckus was. But his arrival on the scene came too late to interrupt the protest. A small group of reporters and photographers, as well as a TV crew, had already gathered, having been tipped off by a memb

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19. The Unabomber's Books

By court order, the U.S. government has to sell off Theodore "Unabomber" Kaczynski's stuff. Intrepid and well-funded buyers can bid on such things as the sunglasses and sweatshirt made famous in the forensic sketch, various tools and personal items, numerous manuscripts, and a few typewriters, including the one he used to write his manifesto. All good fun for the memento-seeker, and the proceeds go toward restitution to his victims' families.

I was curious to see what books he had. Lot 12 consists of 5 paperbacks the FBI thought were particularly important: Chinese Political Thought in the Twentieth Century 1 Comments on The Unabomber's Books, last added: 5/20/2011
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20. Calling Hamas the al Qaeda of Palestine isn’t just wrong, it’s stupid

By Daniel Byman

In a rousing speech before Congress on May 24, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected peace talks with the newly unified Palestinian government because it now includes — on paper at least — officials from the terrorist (or, in its own eyes, “resistance”) group Hamas. In a striking moment, Netanyahu defiantly declared, “Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of al Qaeda,” a statement greeted with resounding applause from the assembled members of Congress.

But hold on a minute. Yes, Hamas, like al Qaeda, is an Islamist group that uses terrorism as a strategic tool to achieve political aims. Yes, Hamas, like al Qaeda, rejects Israel and has opposed the peace talks that moderate Palestinians have tried to move forward. And sure, the Hamas charter uses language that parallels the worst anti-Semitism of al Qaeda, enjoining believers to fight Jews wherever they may be found and accusing Jews of numerous conspiracies against Muslims, ranging from the drug trade to creating “sabotage” groups like, apparently, violent versions of Rotary and Lions clubs.

But the differences between Hamas and al Qaeda often outweigh the similarities. And ignoring these differences underestimates Hamas’s power and influence — and risks missing opportunities to push Hamas into accepting a peace deal.

While Congress was quick to applaud Bibi’s fiery analogy, U.S. counterterrorism officials know that one of the biggest differences is that Hamas has a regional focus, while al Qaeda’s is global. Hamas bears no love for the United States, but it has not deliberately targeted Americans. Al Qaeda, of course, sees the United States as its primary enemy, and it doesn’t stop there. European countries, supposed enemies of Islam such as Russia and India, and Arab regimes of all stripes are on their hit list. Other components of the “Salafi-jihadist” movement (of which al Qaeda is a part) focus operations on killing Shiite Muslims, whom they view as apostates. Hamas, in contrast, does not call for the overthrow of Arab regimes and works with Shiite Iran and the Alawite-dominated secular regime in Damascus, pragmatically preferring weapons, money, and assistance in training to ideological consistency.

Hamas, like its parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, also devotes much of its attention to education, health care, and social services. Like it or not, by caring for the poor and teaching the next generation of Muslims about its view of the world, Hamas is fundamentally reshaping Palestinian society. Thus, many Palestinians who do not share Hamas’s worldview nonetheless respect it; in part because the Palestinian moderates so beloved of the West have often failed to deliver on basic government functions. The old Arab nationalist visions of the 1950s and 1960s that animated the moderate Palestinian leader Mahmood Abbas and his mentor Yasir Arafat have less appeal to Palestinians today.

One of the greatest differences today, as the Arab spring raises the hope that democracy will take seed across the Middle East, is that Hamas accepts elections (and, in fact, took power in Gaza in part because of them) while al Qaeda vehemently rejects them. For Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Ladin’s deputy and presumed heir-apparent, elections put man’s (and, even worse, woman’s) wishes above God’s. A democratic government could allow the sale of alcohol, cooperate militarily with the United States, permit women to dress immodestly, or a condone a host of other practices that extremists see as for

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21. Guantanamo Boy: a review

Perera, Anna. 2011. Guantanamo Boy. Chicago: Albert Whitman.
(first published in the UK, 2009)
Advance Reader Copy supplied by the publisher.  Due on shelves in August.
"We must remember that once we divide the world into good and bad, then we have to join one camp or the other, and, as you've found out, life's a bit more complex than that."
Funny (or not so funny) - in searching for related links, further information and other reviews on Guantanamo Boy, I actually found myself wondering (worrying?) if my every passing stop along the Internet seeking information related to Guantanamo Bay will be tracked by some government official in a cubicle somewhere.  Just the fact that such a thought crossed my mind, is an indication of the intense fear, distrust and paranoia that is gripping our world because of terrorism.  With that worldwide fear and paranoia as a backdrop for Guantanamo Boy, Anna Perera has crafted an entirely plausible story about a 15-year-old British boy, Khalid, from Rochdale, a large town in Greater Manchester, England.

Khalid is much like any other boy from his town, interested in good grades, his mates, soccer ("footy"), girls, and online gaming.  Though his family is Muslim, Khalid is a casual practitioner.  When his family visits Pakistan to assist an aunt, Khalid's father inexplicably disappears.  Khalid goes to check the address where his father was last seen, threading his way through a street protest enroute.  Unable to find his father, he returns to his aunt's home where he is later kidnapped in the late night hours,

Surely only his dad could be coming through the door without knocking this time of night?

But he's badly mistaken. Blocking the hallway is a gang of fierce-looking men dressed in dark shalwar kameez.  Black cloths wrapped around their heads.  Black gloves on their hands.  Two angry blue eyes, the rest brown, burn into Khalid as the figures move towards him like cartoon gangsters with square bodies.  Confused by the image, he staggers, bumping backwards into the wall.  Arms up to stop them getting nearer.  Too shocked and terrified to react as they shoulder him to the kitchen and close the door before pushing him to his knees and waving a gun at him as if he's a violent criminal.  Then vice-like hands clamp his mouth tight until they plaster it with duct tape.  No chance to wonder what the hell is going on, let alone scream out loud.
And so begins Khalid's descent into a frightening labyrinth of secret prisons, interrogation rooms, and finally Guantanamo Bay detention center.
A few lengthy passages are didactic in nature, but they are few in number. Khalid's unique perspective as a boy, a British citizen and non-practicing Muslim of Pakistani descent, offers a superb vantage point into the previously termed War on Terror. His sensibilities are Western, his concerns are adolescent, his perspective is that of  outsider - he has known discrimination in England, he is too Western for his Pakistani relatives, he has little in common with his fellow inmates.  Khalid is the perfect protagonist for this third-person narrative.

Heart-wrenching and frighteningly enlightening, Guantanmo Boy is not without bright spots - the power of small acts of kindness, the love of family,

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22. On whether KSM deserves Vengeance or Justice

Elvin Lim is Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and author of The Anti-intellectual Presidency, which draws on interviews with more than 40 presidential speechwriters to investigate this relentless qualitative decline, over the course of 200 years, in our presidents’ ability to communicate with the public. He also blogs at www.elvinlim.com. In the article below, he examines our nation’s concepts of vengeance and justice in light of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s forthcoming trial in New York City. See Lim’s previous OUPblogs here.

There are four reasons which have been supplied to suggest that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) does not deserve a civilian trial in New York:

1. This is what KSM wants – a show trial, and he should not get what he desires.
2. The trial will increase the risks of a terrorist attack in New York.
3. Classified information will be released in a civilian court trial, to the benefit of potential future terrorists.
4. The injury KSM has inflicted is a war crime, and not a domestic criminal matter.

1-3 are unverifiable predictions, sub-points to the main point, 4, which is the motive force behind the considerable agitation behind Attorney General, Eric Holder’s decision. Those who oppose a civilian trial for KSM want vengeance more than they want justice. This is exactly what Michael Goodwin has argued:

“Either try the detainees in military courts on secure bases or, best of all, give them death now. Mohammed and some others already acknowledged guilt and said they were ready to die.

I say we take yes for an answer.”

Well, there we have it. Goodwin wants vengeance primarily, and justice only incidentally. Now, vengeance and justice are not unrelated. Vengeance presumes the existence of guilt, so the pursuit of vengeance can lead to justice. Indeed, in an anarchic, godless world of all against all, vengeance is the closest thing there is to justice. To speak of justice would be a categorical mistake because without the apparatus of sovereignty and law, it is a standard that stands on stilts. We say “Justice under the Law” because without law, justice is a meaningless concept.

Goodwin and others like Mayor Rudy Giuliani who want to deny KSM a civilian trial believe, though they have not fully articulated their reasons, that the international milieu exists as a state of nature in which there is no universal law and no universally accepted sovereign law-giver, and therefore, the pursuit of justice is folly and the pursuit of vengeance necessary. If there is neither legality nor illegality, then there is only strength and weakness. Vengeance will have to do. This is why Rudy Giuliani insists on the frame that we are a nation at war, that we are dealing with terrorists or “enemy combatants” and not what John Yoo called “garden-variety criminals.”

To be sure, in a government of laws such as in a liberal democracy, justice takes on higher attributes that vengeance does not (and cannot). While justice is about law; vengeance is about necessity because it privileges immediate judgment over the process that would deliver such a judgment. While vengeance gives specific solace to those who were injured, justice assures all citizens that the system in which they conduct themselves works, – i.e., while vengeance is pointed, justice is blind, and while vengeance is preponderant, justice is proportionate.

Well and good. But as we consider whether or not KSM should have been granted a civilian trial, we need to determine the context in which we make this judgment: is terrorism a domestic criminal matter or an act of war? If the context is the former, then the Constitution takes precedence and it makes sense to speak of justice and that is what KSM deserves. If it is the latter, then because there is neither universal law nor a sovereign law-giver in the international milieu, KSM will have to suffer our vengeance because justice is not an alternative.

We have not settled on an answer to this question of whether or not terrorism is a criminal or a war crime because our historical definition of war has not caught up with its modern incarnation in which deterritorialized non-state actors perpetrate acts of violence. Our discussion over what KSM deserves is a footnote to this larger debate.

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23. And the Place of the Year is…


Why Yemen, you ask?

It’s a place that seems to be on the brink of collapse, and even as we prepared to make this announcement, Yemen again emerged as a home base for terrorist plots. The stakes are high and the future is unclear for Oxford’s 2010 Place of the Year.

According to geographer Harm de Blij, author of The Power of Place and Why Geography Matters, “In the modern world of terrorist cells and jihadist movements, Yemen’s weakness spells opportunity.” Regional conflicts like the Houthi rebellion in the north and revival of the southern secessionist movement diminish the power of the government. Terrorist bases now reside in the remote countryside, posing a familiar dilemma for the United States: Is shoring up the country’s army and police worth the risk of increasing Al Qaeda protection and loyalty? At the same time Yemen stands to be the poorest country in the Arab world, nearly depleted of its leading export, oil, while facing a water shortage experts say is heighten by the country’s addiction to qat, a mildly narcotic leaf.

Once a promising experiment in Muslim-Arab democracy, Western opinion now recognizes Yemen to have all the features of a failed state. Obscured by the attention of the political geography, is what de Blij calls “a Yemen that might have been.”

To hear more from de Blij on Place of the Year be sure to check in tomorrow!

Yemen at a glance:

Population: 22,858,000
Capital(s): Sana’
Government: Multiparty Republic
Ethnic Groups: Predominantly Arab
Languages: Arabic
Religions: Islam
Currency: Yemeni rial= 100 fils
Cash crops: coffee and cotton
President: Ali Abdullah Saleh

And now for the runners-up…

Gulf Coast (of the United States)
the Eyjafjallajokull volcano
Seaside Heights, NJ
Rio de Janeiro
Wall Street
The Gulf of Aden (“Pirate Alley”)

OUP Employee Votes:

“I’d go with Mexico. A fascinating failing state in which our stake couldn’t be greater, and compelling for all the reasons the other places mentioned might be interesting (or in crisis) individually–you have natural disaster (or the ongoing potential thereof), man-made disaster, social unrest, crime (and how), political chaos and corruption, etc. Whatever you do, don’t pick Seaside Heights, N.J., though I’ve nothing whatever against the place.” -Tim Bent, Executive Editor, Trade History

“Haiti—so we don’t forget the hundreds of thousands of people who lost their families and homes and way of life.” -Jessica Ryan, Copyediting Lead

“Eyjafjallajokull. It’s perfect in that it had a world-wide impact, or close to it; it was hard to pronounce; and it was the proverbial flash-in-the-pan issue.” -Niko Pfund, VP and Publisher

“You totally made up that v

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24. What You Should Know About Yemen 2010 Place of the Year

Yemen is Oxford’s 2010 Place of the Year. As we’re sure you very well know, Yemen is on the front page of many newspapers now because of the increased influence of Al Qaeda and the recent bombing attempts that emerged from the small middle eastern country. However, the decision to choose Yemen as the POTY was made long before any of these developments reached our ears. Below, geographer Harm de Blij explains just why we found this country to be of particular interest not just in the year past, but as we look ahead. You can follow Yemen in the news here.

By Harm de Blij

International tensions have a way of thrusting small, faltering states into the global spotlight. When suicide bombers attacked, and very nearly sank, the American warship U.S.S. Cole in 2000 in Yemen’s south-coast port of Adan (Aden), this remote country on the southwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula drew the world’s attention for the least desirable of reasons. Once seen as a promising if fragile experiment in Muslim-Arab democracy and as a destination for adventure tourism, Yemen suddenly found itself at the center of concern about the threat of Islamic militancy and terrorism.

Yemen occupies a small, peripheral sector of the Arabian Peninsula, but its population very nearly matches (and by some estimates exceeds) that of its vast neighbor, Saudi Arabia. The country as it is seen on the map today, its boundaries with Saudi Arabia still contentious, is the product of a 1989 merger between two neighbors, the populous, tribal Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) in the northwest, bordering the Red Sea, and the communist-inspired People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen), facing the Gulf of Adan, in the south and east. This agreement, which took effect in 1990 to create the Republic of Yemen with its capital at Sana’a in the northern interior, soon collapsed in a political crisis that precipitated a civil war in 1994. South Yemen announced its secession, North Yemen’s forces advanced into the South and captured Adan, culpable politicians were killed or exiled, and the state was restored.

The physical geography of Yemen displays rugged, deeply incised mountains in the North, where ephemeral streams flow westward to the Red Sea coast and disappear eastward into interior deserts, and lower relief in the South, where coastal topography is also rugged but interior desert plains are more extensive. Much of the craggy, arid countryside lies remote from Yemen’s meager road system and effectively beyond the reach of its government, creating refuges for rebels and bandits who ambush officials, kidnap tourists for ransom, and, more recently, set up terrorist bases. As in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, relief, remoteness, and cultural traditions combine to protect jihadists.

Yemen’s relative location creates additional challenges. Its territory (about the size of France) includes the sizable island of Socotra in the Gulf

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25. After Yemen, what now for al-Qaeda? 2010 Place of the Year

By Alia Brahimi

The air freight bomb plot should be understood as part of al-Qaeda’s pervasive weakness rather than its strength. The intended targets, either a synagogue in Chicago and/or a UPS plane which would explode over a western city, were chosen as part of the attempt to re-focus al-Qaeda’s violence back towards western targets and pull the jihad away from the brink.

Indeed, things haven’t worked out the way Osama bin Laden hoped they would.

Quoting such diverse sources as Carl von Clausewitz, Mao Zedong, Vo Nguyen Giap and Peter Paret, al-Qaeda strategists had repeatedly emphasised the pivotal importance of attracting the support of the Muslim masses to the global jihad. For Abu Ubeid al-Qurashi, the absence of popular support meant that the mujahidin would be no more than a criminal gang. ‘It is absolutely necessary that the resistance transforms into a strategic phenomenon’, argued Abu Mus’ab al-Suri, time and time again.

However, despite the open goal handed to bin Laden by the US-led invasion of Iraq and the increased relevance and resonance of his anti-imperial rhetoric from 2003-2006, he failed to find the back of the net. His crow to Bush about Iraq being an ‘own goal’ was decidedly premature. The credibility of bin Laden’s claim to be acting in defence of Muslims exploded alongside the scores of suicide bombers dispatched to civilian centres with the direct intention of massacring swathes of (Muslim) innocents.

Moreover, where al-Qaeda in Iraq gained control over territory, as in the Diyala and Anbar provinces, the quality of life offered to the Iraqi people was a source of further alienation: music, smoking and shaving were banned, women were forced to take the veil, punishments for disobedience included rape, the chopping of hands and the beheading of children. Brutality was blended with farce as female goats were killed because their parts were not covered and their tails turned upward.

In the end, bin Laden’s ideology, which relied first and foremost on a (poetic) narrative of victimhood, became impossible to sustain. Bin Laden’s project is profoundly moral. He casts himself as the defender of basic freedoms. He eloquently portrays his jihad as entirely defensive and al-Qaeda as the vanguard group acting in defence of the umma. He maintains that all the conditions for a just war have been met.

In reality, however, all of his just war arguments – about just cause, right authority, last resort, necessity, the legitimacy of targeting civilians – are based on one fundamental assumption: that al-Qaeda is defending Muslims from non-Muslim aggressors. As such, it is essential that (1) al-Qaeda stops killing Muslims and (2) al-Qaeda starts hitting legitimate western targets and the regimes which enable the alleged western encroachment.

The emergence of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in January 2009 can be viewed as part of this end (much as the al-Qaeda-affiliated GSPC in Algeria formed in opposition to the moral bankruptcy of the GIA). Their publications favour targeted violence such as political assassinations and attacks within US military barracks such as that perpetrated by Major Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood. Their most high-profile operations have been an assault on the US embassy in Sana’a, an attempt to assassinate the Saudi security chief Mohammed bin Nayef, and the bid by the ‘underpants bomber’ to blow up a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

In Yemen, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQIP) have internalised lessons from Iraq and are seeking to keep the population and the tribes on side. Their statements articulate the political and social discontent of the populace. The leadership seems to subscribe to bin Laden’s argument that violence must be used strategically and not w

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