Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Thoughts on the Christmas terror flight

Another quick catch up post really, but the attempted terrorist attack on an airliner on Christmas Day has attracted so much international press that it's difficult to ignore. However, my thoughts are mainly in a jumble about the whole thing so rather than take time might a cogent think piece I thought I'd make a list of 'things what occur to me'.

  • Fail to blow up a plane, you get wall to wall coverage for your cause in every nation on Earth. Actually blow up dozens or even hundreds in Pakistan, Iraq or Afghanistan and you're lucky if you get into the inside pages once let alone over and over again. It's obviously news but the response feels disproportionate.

  • What would the world be like if we rewarded non-violent protest with this kind of media coverage? Does the international media actually, inadvertently, make violence more attractive than democratic avenues? The media's approach is certainly what leads Al Quaida to see airplanes as their targets of choice over other possibilities.

  • Despite protestations to the contrary the bomber's failure is down to security precautions working. The fact that he had to resort to complex equipment that let him down is entirely down to the fact he had to circumvent airport security checks. No system can prevent people who want to blow up planes trying to do so, but the current system did prevent the bomber using a weapon that would have actually achieved the job.

  • The bomber's motivation was religious. Any involvement he'd ever had with any national liberation struggle (if any) came directly from his religious convictions he'd held from an early age. His prosperous upbringing insulated him from real hardship and allowed him travel and get a decent education - it's difficult to this young man as a victim driven to extremes rather than a zealot whose personal beliefs led him to the conclusion that the murder of many innocent people was a worthy act.

  • Terror attacks equal excuses to bomb. This time the US have been given the green light to openly make attacks in Yemen for the first time. CNN, Guardian.

  • Prior to this the US has been active in the Yemen and this has been a contributory factor in these events.

  • These events have also raised, once again, the specter of torturing suspects. The Republicans don't even want to learn apparently. Guardian.


ModernityBlog said...

I don't see why we have to automatically assume that his motivation is religious.

It **could** be, then again it might be quasi political, for all we know, and the situation is less than clear at the moment.

But surely it does follow a particular pattern, if you will, a certain class pattern.

If you remember the class of most Red Army faction types, middle-class.

Bin Laden, upper-middle-class.

Sure, you could find plenty more examples, not sure what that tells us, but as you say he's not exactly a victim and comes from a rather prosperous background, maybe it is the Jihadist equivalent of the ultraleft in Britain (who mostly seemed to come from an upper middle-class background too!).

Anyways, it means that your underpants had better be clean if you visit America, because they'll be searched, more than once :)

Kaihsu Tai said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kaihsu Tai said...

So the intelligence community had the human intelligence, and failed to prevent the incident. Am I understanding correctly that the suggested response is to bomb Yemen, rather than improve the human intelligence system in earnest?


Jim Jepps said...

Mod: I'm not sure about the class position of 'terrorists' generally - for example PIRA members or ETA or Shining Path but it's clear that Al Quaida are drawing most of their operatives from a middle class and prosperous section of society.

I think looking at the individual we see someone who was nicknamed the Pope as a child because of his pious behaviour, who scolded his teachers when they did things he thought irreligious, and who also earned the reputation as a would be islamic teacher.

He broke his family relations after they fell out over religion and all the anecdotes we're hearing along the lines of he was so quiet etc were that his life was centered around his religion.

I think it's reasonable to say that any politicisation he underwent was through the lens of his particular religious beliefs. Whether this makes things better or worse I don't know but it looks like a reasonable conclusion to me.

I should say though that does not necessarily mean that I think these attacks happen outside their political context only that his motivation was primarily rooted in his personal religious belief system.

KT: you're right, they are going to bomb yemen rather than look to new ways of preventing this kind of attack. I'm not sure it's possible for the intelligence services to prevent all such attacks though.

For example he was on a watch list in the UK because he'd applied to come here to a fake university. He wasn't a suspected terrorist but someone suspected of hoping to become an illegal immigrant. They'd be a real human rights issue if anyone any intelligence service had decided to put on a list for whatever reason was denied the right to travel.

Also I should say the fact AQ target planes results in a lot less deaths than if they targeted shopping centers, but I'm not sure a plane attack is intrinsically more terrifying.

Steve Durrant said...

I dont think we should jump to conclusions on this case.

There are too many cases in history where things really how they appear in the presented spectacle.