At Progressive Review (“Two Types of Terrorism,” Dec. 7), Sam Smith breaks terrorism down into two types: “That which uses guns and bombs and that which uses words to terrify the public into going along with whatever those in power want.” But the two aren’t unrelated, as the respective domestic reactions to the Paris bombings and San Bernardino mass shooting illustrate. Rather, they’re mutually reinforcing.
In Orwell’s 1984, Emmanuel Goldstein’s fictitious Book used the rustic simile of three sheaves of wheat propped against each other in a field to explain the relationship between Oceania and the two other global superpowers. The same illustration is applicable to the real-world dynamic between the first type of terrorism (most recently in Paris and San Bernardino) and the second type (i.e., that conducted by Western governments ostensibly engaged in a “Global War on Terrorism”).
Functionally, the two categories of terrorists are allies rather than enemies. An attack in Paris by ISIS or its sympathizers, or by an ultra-fundamentalist in the U.S., does not only elicit the actual bomber’s desired response from the domestic populations of France and the U.S. It also serves the purposes of the governments of those countries by helping them to terrorize and stampede their own citizenry into following the course of action desired by the political leadership.
George Bush used the 9/11 attacks to railroad the USA PATRIOT Act through Congress and get a rubber stamp on the war in Iraq he’d been itching for. Anyone who questions new wars of aggression or increases in domestic surveillance is accused of having a “September 10 mentality.” And since the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, all the usual suspects in the United States have been seizing on the opportunity to call for a renewal of NSA surveillance or demand a new war on encryption.
The symbiotic nature of the relationship is further illustrated by the fact that the Western governments’ responses to terrorist attack (escalating foreign wars, increased domestic repression of Muslims, more security theater in airports, and other forms of “getting tough”) not only directly further the aims of ISIS, but were indeed the very goals ISIS intended its terrorist attacks to achieve.
The U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, far from teaching Bin Laden “a lesson,” were precisely what he intended to goad America into. Not only did the U.S. bog itself down in a “land war in Asia” that cost thousands of American lives and trillions in spending, but it destabilized a force against Islamic fundamentalism in Iraq (and in fact was a direct cause of the rise of al Qaeda Iraq and ISIS) and created a perception of the U.S. as a Christian Crusader country throughout the Islamic world.
The domestic political reaction against Muslims following these two most recent attacks — outright proposals for new Nuremberg Laws against Muslims by Donald Trump, treatment of Syrian refugees as enemies by governors and conservative politicians across the United States, and private vigilantism by yahoos snatching the head scarves off Muslim women and screaming “terrorist” at them — send exactly the message to Muslims that ISIS wants them to get: “If you flee ISIS, you will never find a place of welcome or rest. If you already live in the West, you will always be othered, distrusted, hated and persecuted, no matter how ‘moderate’ or ‘assimilated’ you are. You may as well join us.”
As for the domestic security regime, al Qaeda’s avowed strategy in recent years has been to maximize Return on Investment by spending a few thousands or millions on a “failed” terror attack that will cause Western governments to react by imposing tens of billions in increased costs on the domestic transportation system.
The War on Terror is the very course of action al Qaeda and ISIS have sought to elicit through their acts of terror over the past two decades. And what, other than terrorist attacks by al Qaeda and ISIS, could more effectively goad Western populations into surrendering their freedoms to lawless police states, and giving governments a blank check for perpetual war? Al Qaeda and ISIS are Western governments’ best friends — and vice versa.