A Reality Check From Oz
One might have thought, after 9/11, that the supposition that terrorism is bred by poverty, oppression, lack of education, etc. would have been laid to rest. After all, we learned the backgrounds of the 19 hijackers and none of them appeared to have been the victims of deprivation...unless you consider the lack of any sort of moral compass to be a form of deprivation. And yet we continue to hear the so-called experts pontificating on the "root causes" of terrorism...a dangerous exercise at best because it will lead us to believe we can solve the problem by taking measures that, in truth, will get us nowhere. But every so often, up steps someone like Australian journalist, Andrew Bolt, who cuts through all the politically correct B.S.
"Terror By Degrees"
Herald and Weekly Times
October 7, 2005
It's a mistake to think terrorists are simple folk who'll respond to kindness--many of them are far better educated than their victims.
Howard Hawk's "The Thing From Another World" may have seemed mere space junk back in 1951, but how spookily prophetic it was, after all. I'm thinking of the scene in the movie in which the idealistic scientist pushes aside the bad soldiers who want to shoot this monster that's fed on the blood of their friends.
Dr. Carrington instead appeals to the blood-sucker's inner angel: "Listen to me! I'm your friend! Look, my hands are in the air. I have no weapons. I'm your friend, you must understand that. You're wiser than I. You must understand I'm trying to help you!" And the monster reacts as you'd expect. As the script puts it: "Now, without haste, it lifts one arm and flicks its hand at Carrington's throat. Carrington falls to the floor, almost decapitated..."
How very today that now all sounds as we hear new experts urging us to negotiate withIslamist terrorists such as Osama bin Laden, or buy them off by, say, abandoning democratic Iraq.
Let's see. There's the monster who grows stronger with blood. There's the contempt of an intellectual for an armed response. His faith that monsters can be talked into reason. His belief that it's our failing to seem nice that's the real problem. Even Carrington's beheading prefigures the fate of, say, British hostage Ken Begley or American Nick Berg in Iraq, or of Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl, who went, unarmed, to talk to al-Qaida's Ahmed Omar Sheikh.
What does it say that a naivete in the face of evil that even a B-grade movie half a century ago had the worldliness to mock is now seen in cultured circles as proof of superior wisdom?
I wrote on Wednesday of the folly of talk by ABC hosts and the like that it's worth negotiating with the Islamists who kill families dining on a Bali beach – especially given Jemaah Islamiah leader Abu Bakar Bashir warned only last month that "if they want to have peace, they have to accept to be governed by Islam".
But I'd left unchallenged one more Carrington-class foolishness that is again too common – a conceit that the monster can be patronised.
How often do we now hear, especially on ABC talkback, that the terrorists hunting us are just ignorant? Poor? Desperate? That all they need is our help? "I'm your friend . . . you must understand I'm trying to help you."
And so we tut-tut over footage of the madrassas – Islamic schools – which we're sure are factories for these fanatics. And we send aid to steer the poor children into good schools instead.
That should civilise them.
Ah, the self-congratulatory racism of the elite.
But let's face a sobering fact. Most of the worst Islamist terrorists were in fact trained not in madrassas but in universities – including ours. Pearl's beheader, for example, went to the London School of Economics.
On the whole, they have higher educational qualifications than the average Australian, and their average victim. They kill not because they are dumb and desperate, but because they have surrendered to an ideology and a collective that insists that to kill is glorious. Holy.
Check for yourself. Start with the Malaysian Azahari Husin, believed to have made the bombs for the attacks on our people in Bali in 2002, in Jakarta in 2004, and again in Bali last week.
Azahari, perhaps the most senior military leader left in Jemaah Islamiah, studied mechanical engineering at Adelaide University, before getting a PhD in statistical modelling from Britain's Reading University and teaching at Johor University.
The spiritual head of his movement, Abu Bakar Bashir, himself studied at an Islamic university. When Prof Scott Atran interviewed him in jail last month, he found Bashir surrounded by "disciples (who) tend to be well-educated, often university graduates, and they wash his clothes".
Likewise, five of the men who helped to organise the first Bali bombings went to university, and Hambali, who until his capture was Jemaah Islamiah's deputy leader, is the son of a school principal.
It's the same story with the most notorious terror attacks on the West.
In the first World Trade Centre bombing in 1993, all 12 plotters had gone to university. So had two thirds of the men behind the September 11 attacks. The mastermind, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, studied engineering at an American university, while ringleader Mohamed Atta had a degree from a German one. Zacarias Moussaoui, the captured "20th hijacker", went to a university in France.
Their spiritual leaders are equally educated. Al-Qaida's head, Osama bin Laden, is a millionaire's son who studied business administration. His deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri is the son of a Cairo professor and himself graduated as a pediatrician.
Their most zealous followers in the West are just as likely to be educated. We know two of the four British Muslims who perpetrated the suicide bombings in London studied at university, and another planned to.
In fact, a report commissioned last year by British Prime Minister Tony Blair warned that "extremists are known to target schools and colleges where young people may be very inquisitive but less challenging and more susceptible to extremist reasoning/arguments".
Even in Iraq, we find graduates doing some of the worst killing. The Martyrs of the Land of the Two Rivers, a document on an Arabic website that details the lives of 430 terrorists who died in Iraq, reveals many were from comfortable backgrounds, even studying for degrees in meteorology, English, computer science and medicine.
So the terrorists we face are no peasant army, needing the too-easy pity or sympathy of the Left. Many are educated middle-class men who have chosen to kill us, and have the skills to do it.
None of this would surprise students of terrorism. As Jamestown Foundation's Scott Atran concludes from his work on suicide attacks: "If you look at the history of these kinds of extreme acts, they're pretty much directed by middle-class or higher middle-class intellectuals."
Think also of the recruits for the Japanese Red Army, the Spanish ETA, the German Baader-Meinhof Gang, the Italian Red Brigades. Even the Lebanese Hezbollah "martyrs" tend to be better educated and richer than most Lebanese, according to a study by Prof Alan Krueger of Princeton University. Think, too, of Paris-educated Pol Pot. Of Dr Che Guevara.
These are not people who can be patronised. These are not people who can be set right with a word from the wise, or a little Western-funded education. Thanks, but they've had that already.
You may still feel the need to sidle up to them and do a Carrington, saying in the clear English we use for nice little foreigners: "I have no weapons – I'm your friend – you must understand that. You're wiser than I . . ."
But you'll find that they think so, too, and have a fancier diploma than yours on the wall to confirm it. And the end will be no prettier than it was in the movie.
Something that Andrew Bolt touches on, and which I find particularly fascinating, are those terrorist masterminds who are physicians. Ayman al-Zawahiri is probably the best known and most notorious, but years before he appeared on the scene there was George Habash, a pediatrician who was the chairman of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a group that, at the time, was considered to be even more radical and violent than the PLO. Habash was responsible for planning, among other terrorist atrocities, an attack on a school in the Israeli town of Ma'alot, in which more than 20 children lost their lives. It's difficult to imagine something more incongruously evil than a pediatrician plotting an attack on children. And was George Habash poor? Was he uneducated? Was he oppressed? No. But he was completely devoid of humanity...and that's probably one of the leading "root causes" of terrorism.