Inside Terrorism, by Hoffman, Bruce
- ISBN: 9780231126991 | 0231126999
- Cover: Paperback
- Copyright: 6/1/2006
|Preface to the Revised and Expanded Edition||ix|
|Preface to the First Edition||xv|
|1. Defining Terrorism||1||(42)|
|2. The End of Empire and the Origins of Contemporary Terrorism||43||(20)|
|3. The Internationalization of Terrorism||63||(18)|
|4. Religion and Terrorism||81||(50)|
|5. Suicide Terrorism||131|
|6. The Old Media, Terrorism, and Public Opinion||73||(124)|
|7. The New Media, Terrorism, and the Shaping of Global Opinion||197||(32)|
|8. The Modern Terrorist Mind-set: Tactics, Targets, Tradecraft and Technologies||229||(28)|
|9. Terrorism Today and Tomorrow||257||(40)|
Excerpt from the chapter, "Terrorism Today and Tomorrow"
The al Qaeda Movement's Ideological Resiliency and Continued Resonance
Despite the damage and destruction and losses of key leaders and personnel that al Qaeda has suffered since 2001, it stubbornly adheres to its fundamental raison d'être: continuing to inspire and motivate the broader radical jihadist community. The principle of jihad is the ideological bond that unites this amorphous movement, transcending its loose structure, diverse membership, and geographical separation. The requirement to engage in jihad is relentlessly expounded in both video- and audiotapes of bin Laden, al-Zawa-hiri, and other senior al Qaeda personalities, on myriad jihadist Web sites, and by radical clerics and lay preachers speaking in mosques or addressing informal circles of adherents in more private settings. The struggle is cast in narrow, defensive terms: extolling the duty of the faithful to defend Islam by the sword. Imitation by example is encouraged through the depiction of the sacrifices of past martyrs (suicide terrorists and others who perished in battle against the infidel) coupled with messages about the importance of continuous battle against Islam's enemies. "It is no secret that warding off the American enemy is the top duty after faith and that nothing should take priority over it," bin Laden wrote in his seminal 1996 declaration of war. Such exhortations continue to resonate today, when many Muslims harbor a deep sense of humiliation and resentment over the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the continued bloodletting of their coreligionists in Palestine, Chechnya, and Kashmir, among other places, the ill treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo alongside the myriad other reasons jihadists have for hating the United States. Indeed, the expostulated theological requirement to avenge the shedding of innocent Muslim blood -- and particularly that of Muslim children who have been killed in Iraq and Palestine -- has repeatedly been invoked by bin Laden. These calls for revenge, coupled with the terrorists' own abiding faith in the potential regenerative power of even a single, dramatic terrorist attack to breathe new life into the jihadist movement, ensure that the war on terrorism will be won neither easily nor soon.
Terrorist morale is also sustained by propaganda portraying the 9/11 attacks as a great victory and America's involvement in Iraq as a quagmire that will ultimately bring about the downfall of the United States. The connection between the destruction of the World Trade Center and the blow struck against the U.S. economy by the 9/11 attacks has been a persistent jihadist theme. It was repeated by bin Laden himself in the videotape broadcast on October 29, 2004, when he explained, "So we are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. Allah willing, and nothing is too great for Allah." Parallels are also drawn with the mujahideen's defeat of the Red Army in Afghanistan, the alleged chain reaction it set in motion that led to the demise of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism with the current travails the United States faces in Iraq, and the inevitability of our defeat there at the hands of contemporary jihadists. Indeed, al Qaeda propaganda has long described the United States as a "paper tiger," on the verge of financial ruin and total collapse much as the USSR once was, with the power of Islam poised similarly to push America over the precipice. Bin Laden emphasized this very point in his last publicly known address to his fighters in December 2001, when he declared, "America is in retreat by the grace of God Almighty and economic attrition is continuing up to today. But it needs further blows. The young men need to seek out the nodes of the American economy and strike the enemy's nodes." And he repeated it again in the aforementioned videotape, released just days before the 2004 American presidential elections. "This is in addition to our having experience in using guerrilla warfare and the war of attrition to fight tyrannical superpowers, as we, alongside the Mujahideen, bled Russia for ten years, until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat. All Praise is due to Allah." This strategy thus continues to guide jihadist target selection and tactics today.
The ability of the al Qaeda movement to continue to prosecute this struggle is also a direct reflection of its capacity to attract new recruits and replenish expended resources. Hence, the main challenge for al Qaeda and the wider jihadist movement is to promote and ensure its durability as an ideology and concept. It can achieve this only by staying in the news, elbowing itself into the limelight through dramatic and bloody attack and thereby promoting its continued relevance as the defender and avenger of Muslims everywhere. Violence will thus continue to be key to ensuring its continued presence as an international political force. Hence, al Qaeda and the wider movement's resiliency, if not longevity, will be predicated on its continued ability to recruit new cadre, mobilize the Muslim masses, and marshal support -- both spiritual and practical -- for jihad.
Repercussions of Iraq on the Broader Terrorist Threat
Iraq had already emerged as an important rallying cry for al Qaeda and the radical jihadist movement even before the actual invasion began. The call to arms that al Qaeda issued, however, was not in support of Saddam Hussein or his regime but in resistance to what was -- and is still -- perceived as continued U.S. and Western aggression against Muslims and neocolonialist encroachment on Muslim lands. In fact, the idea that al Qaeda wanted to make Iraq the central battlefield of jihad was first suggested by al Qaeda itself. In February 2003, a month before the U.S.-led coalition even invaded Iraq, the movement's information department released the fifth and sixth installments of a series of online articles titled In the Shadow of the Lances that had begun to appear shortly after the 9/11 attacks. Although the previous installments had been written by al Qaeda's chief spokesman, Suleimain Abu Ghaith, who had been trained as a theologian and a Muslim cleric, these two new issues were authored by Saif al-Adl, the movements chief of military operations, one of its most senior commanders and a warrior by training who had been an officer in the Egyptian Army's Special Forces and a military trainer at al Qaeda's al-Farook camp in Afghanistan. In these two issues, al-Adl imparted practical advice to Iraqis and foreign jihadists on how guerrilla warfare tactics could be used against the American and British troops. "Turn the mujahedin military force into small units with good administrative capabilities," he suggested, since this "will spare us big losses. Large military units pose management problems. They occupy large areas which are difficult to conceal from air reconnaissance and air attack." His exhortations echoed previous statements made by bin Laden since at least 1996 about the asymmetric virtues of guerrilla warfare. Indeed, the al Qaeda leader has often cited the victory he claims was achieved with this tactic against American forces in Mogadishu, Somalia, during October 1993 -- when eighteen U.S. Army Rangers and Delta Force commandos were killed in fighting with Somali militiamen and, according to bin Laden, al Qaeda fighters too. "It must be obvious to you," bin Laden had stated in his 1996 declaration of war, that, "due to the imbalance of power between our armed forces and the enemy forces, a suitable means of fighting must be adopted i.e. using fast moving light forces that work under complete secrecy. In other words to initiate a guerrilla warfare, were [sic] the sons of the nation, and not the military forces, take part in it." For bin Laden, the withdrawal of American military forces that followed is proof that terrorism and guerrilla warfare can defeat more powerful opponents.
Al Qaeda's entreaties to jihadists to descend on Iraq and confront the United States and coalition military forces only intensified after the fall of Baghdad. For example, a statement posted on the movement's alneda.com Web site on April 9, 2003, which was clearly written after American forces had entered the Iraqi capital, lauded the virtues of guerrilla warfare against conventional military opponents. Under the heading "Guerrilla Warfare Is the most Powerful Weapon Muslims have, and It is The Best Method to Continue the Conflict with the Crusader Enemy," these lessons of history were cited to rally jihadists for renewed battle. "With guerilla warfare," it explained, "the Americans were defeated in Vietnam and the Soviets were defeated in Afghanistan. This is the method that expelled the direct Crusader colonialism from most of the Muslim lands, with Algeria the most well known. We still see how this method stopped Jewish immigration to Palestine, and caused reverse immigration of Jews from Palestine. The successful attempts of dealing defeat to invaders using guerilla warfare were many, and we will not expound on them. However, these attempts have proven that the most effective method for the materially weak against the strong is guerrilla warfare."
The clearest explication of al Qaeda's strategy in Iraq was provided by Zawahiri himself on the occasion of the second anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. "We thank God," he declared, "for appeasing us with the dilemmas in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Americans are facing a delicate situation in both countries. If they withdraw they will lose everything and if they stay, they will continue to bleed to death." On the attacks' third anniversary, he issued a slightly different version of the same statement, now proclaiming that U.S. defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan "has become just a question of time" and explaining, "The Americans in both countries are between two fires. If they continue, they will bleed until death, and if they withdraw, they will lose everything." Indeed, what U.S. military commanders optimistically described in late 2003 as the jihadist "magnet" or terrorist "flytrap" orchestrated by the U.S. invasion of Iraq is thus viewed very differently by al Qaeda. "Two years after Tora Bora," Zawahiri observed in December 2003, "the American bloodshed [has] started to increase in Iraq and the Americans are unable to defend themselves." For al Qaeda, accordingly, Iraq has proved to be both an important battleground and an effective means of preoccupying American military forces and distracting U.S. attention while al Qaeda and its confederates make new inroads and strike elsewhere. On a personal level, it may have also provided bin Laden and al-Zawahiri with the breathing space that they desperately needed to further obfuscate their trail. But most important, Iraq has figured prominently in al Qaeda and jihadist plans and propaganda as a way to reinvigorate the jihadist cause and sustain its momentum as well as engage U.S. forces in battle and thus perpetuate the image of Islam cast perpetually on the defensive with no alternative but to take up arms against American and Western aggressors. In addition, the ongoing violence in Iraq, coupled with the inability of U.S. and coalition and Iraqi security forces to maintain order and the Abu Ghraib revelations along with other disadvantageous developments, have all doubtless contributed to America's poor standing in the Muslim world.
Finally, whatever the outcome of the current conflict in Iraq, its consequences will likely be felt for years to come. Much like Afghanistan after the struggle against the Soviet occupation ended in that country, the surviving foreign jihadists who fought in Iraq will eventually return to their home countries or the emigre communities that they came from. Having been bloodied in battle in Iraq, they will possess experience, cachet, and credibility that will be useful for both jihadist recruitment and operational purposes elsewhere. Moreover, in contrast to the mujahideen who returned home from Afghanistan a decade and a half ago, trained mostly in rural guerrilla warfare, this new generation of jihadists will have acquired in Iraq invaluable firsthand experience in urban warfare -- including the construction of vehicular and roadside IEDs, the use of standoff weaponry like mortars and similar remote-control-fired devices, assassination and kidnapping techniques, and sniper and ambush tactics. The application of these newly learned capabilities to urban centers in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and elsewhere could result in a precipitous escalation of bloodshed and destruction, reaching into countries and regions that hitherto have experienced little, if any, organized jihadist violence. While the threat to Europe is perhaps the most serious, the danger may be greatest in Saudi Arabia -- the country from which the overwhelming majority of jihadists (61 percent) fighting in Iraq hail.
The al Qaeda Movement Today and Tomorrow
Al Qaeda's obituary has been written too often since 9/11. "Al-Qa'ida's Top Primed to Collapse, U.S. Says," trumpeted a Washington Post headline two weeks after KSM's arrest in March 2003. "I believe the tide has turned in terms of al-Qa'ida," Congressman Porter J. Goss, then-chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee and himself a former CIA case officer who became its director a year later, was quoted as saying. "We've got them nailed," an unidentified intelligence expert was quoted as saying, and still more expansively declared, "We're close to dismantling them." These upbeat assessments continued the following month with the nearly bloodless capture of Baghdad and the failure of al Qaeda to make good on threats of renewed attack in retaliation for invasion. Citing administration sources, an article in the Washington Times on April 24, 2003, reported the prevailing view in official Washington that al Qaeda's "failure to carry out a successful strike during the U.S.-led military campaign to topple Saddam Hussein has raised questions about their ability to carry out major new attacks." Despite major terrorist attacks in Jakarta and Istanbul during the latter half of the year and the escalating insurgency in Iraq, this optimism carried into 2004. "The Al Qaida of the 9/11 period is under catastrophic stress," Ambassador Cofer Black, at the time the U.S. State Department's counterterrorism coordinator, declared. "They are being hunted down, their days are numbered." Then came the Madrid bombings six weeks later and the deaths of 191 people. The most accurate assessment, perhaps, was therefore the one offered by al Qaeda itself. "The Americans," Thabet bin Qais, a spokesperson for the movement, said in May 2003, "only have predications and old intelligence left. It will take them a long time to understand the new form of al-Qaida." Admittedly, while the first part of bin Qais's assertion is not correct, there is more than a grain of truth to the second part: we are indeed still struggling to understand the changing character and nature of al Qaeda and the shifting dimensions of the terrorist threat as it has evolved since 9/11.
Whatever the future holds for bin Laden and al Qaeda, it is indisputable that the war on terrorism will likely be longer than many believed when it began more than four years ago. It has already surpassed the amount of time that the United States fought World War II. And, by any measure, it has already had a seismic effect on the United States and the entire world. Bin Laden is in fact one of the few people alive who can claim to have fundamentally changed the course of history. And, in this respect, the epic battle that he launched is not over yet. Even bin Laden's death is unlikely to collapse the movement he created. The al Qaeda cofounder and leader has in fact long prepared for his death and has likely formulated a succession plan of his own, not necessarily with regard to who specifically will replace him as leader, but in order to ensure the continuation of the movement and revolution that he set in motion. On several occasions, bin Laden has spoken of his own martyrdom and warmly welcomed it. In August 1998, for instance, he declared, "I am fighting so I can die a martyr and go to heaven to meet God. Our fight is now against America. I regret having lived this long. I have nothing to lose." And again, four months later, he proclaimed, "I am not afraid of death. Rather, martyrdom is my passion because martyrdom would lead to the birth of 1,000s of Osamas." Although much of what bin Laden says is a mixture of bravado and braggadocio, in the past when we have failed to take him at his word, it has often been to our detriment. Given the immense patience, elongated time frames, and meticulous planning that have long characterized bin Laden's oversight of al Qaeda's major tactical operations, we can be sure he has devoted the requisite thought and effort to safeguarding his legacy and his movement's longevity.
What bin Laden also doubtless understands is that in the post-9/11 world, terrorism's power to coerce and intimidate, to force changes in our daily lives, and to influence our policies and affect how and on what we spend money has increased enormously. In this respect, not only the stakes have grown, but so have public fears and expectations. More and more, the measure of success in the war on terrorism is defined as the ability of intelligence agencies and law enforcement organizations to prevent, preempt, and deter attacks. Conversely, the measure of success for the terrorists has become simply the ability to act. Although there is a world of difference between bombing a bar on a Saturday night in Bali and laying waste to the World Trade Towers and severely damaging the Pentagon, the impacts are no longer completely dissimilar. The tragic loss of innocent life in any attack linked to al Qaeda is calculated by its masterminds to rekindle worldwide the same profound fears and anxieties that the attacks on 9/11 ignited. Al Qaeda's stature and reception in parts of the world today is a product of the extraordinary success achieved and attention generated by the attacks that day. Under these circumstances, we must be careful to avoid impatience and the temptation to declare victory in the war on terrorismÑand not least, we must guard against precipitous optimism.
Countering terrorism is akin to taking a series of time-lapse photographs. The image captured on film today is not the same as the image yesterday, nor will it be the same tomorrow. Terrorism, similarly, is constantly changing, evolving -- indeed, far more rapidly and consequentially during the period of time since 9/11. In February 2006, we face a different enemy than we confronted on 9/11. Winning the war on terrorism will take decades, not years, to accomplish. If we are to succeed, our efforts must be as tireless, innovative, and dynamic as those of our opponents.
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