Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Terrorist Thinking

Much is being made of the terrorists in Gitmo deciding on November 4th to plead guilty and seek to be put to death. Nobody has offered a really satisfying explanation for that action, and especially not for the date, but I think Mike German, author of “Thinking Like a Terrorist” might be able to do so. Having just finished his book I’m going to offer the conclusion that I draw based on what he offers in it.

So long as Bush, or someone with a Bush mentality, is in office these men are being held as political prisoners and are regarding themselves as martyrs. There is, in their minds and (to them) in the minds of their followers a sense of nobility in their captivity and impending death. As soon as Obama is in office they will be moved into a normal justice system where they will become not martyrs, but criminals. They will be put on trial not for their ideology as they are now, but for their actions, which are common, heinous crimes against humanity.

They want the issue to be their ideology, not their actions.

The book is pretty interesting reading although, like many of this genre, the meat is in the first few chapters. After that it delves into mundane detail about what a multitude of subchapters of various terrorist groups did throughout history. Sort of, “I’ve said everything I have to say, but nobody is going to pay $24.95 for twenty-two pages, so…”

Terrorists, he tells us, always write a manifesto detailing their cause. We did that in 1776 and called it our “Declaration of Independence.” Instead of bombing British tearooms, though, we called them out and met them on battlefields at Lexington, Concord, Yorktown and other places, so we did not become terrorists.

Terrorists always have a cause, and sometimes that cause is quite legitimate. That doesn’t make their actions legitimate, and this is the great pitfall of our reaction to terrorist acts. Why one does something does not justify the crime in a civilized world.

The very use of the term “Radical Islam” is a setback to our efforts to deal with the problem. The people we seek are Muslims. But we are not seeking them because they are Muslims, radical or otherwise; we are seeking them because they committed crimes against humanity. “Radical Islam” is not a threat to us; people who set off bombs in our cities are a threat to us.

German suggests that we need to change our approach from “declaring war,” to fighting crime. Declaring war is counterproductive, whether that war be on nations, groups or ideology. He points out the success that the FBI has had against domestic terror groups using a crime-fighting approach but, since he is writing mostly about his own experience and research, doesn’t delve into the success the British have had with that approach recently with international terrorism.

I would suggest we need to change our rhetoric as well, and in two respects. First, we need to quit dignifying these acts by using terms like “war” and “terror” and simply call them what they are; crimes. Secondly, we need to cease adding fuel to the fire by stressing the threat on a daily basis. These criminal groups pose no more threat to us than do drug sellers, for instance, or any other criminal gang, who kill many more people in this nation every year than do “terrorists.”

1 comment:

  1. So does this mean you enjoyed my book recomend? I guess you at least found it interesting. (I hope you didn't really pay that much for it, I found it for less than $18 in paperback.)