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A NATION TRANSFORMED
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See All Customer Reviews. Shop Books. Read an excerpt of this book! Add to Wishlist. USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Explore Now. It is also one where feelings, myths, confused sentiments struggle to articulate themselves in public discourse, and where the sense of everyday security in the private lives of families and individuals is thwarted or undermined by large, impersonal forces they strain to understand.

11 September 2001: War, Terror and Judgement

This latter activity has been a major feature of the modern world, especially in situations of domination by western or colonial powers. The general right to resist, and, where extreme coercion exists, to take up arms, is generally recognised both in law and in modern political discourse: it was the basis for the Reaganite backing of revolt against communist third world regimes Angola, Grenada, Mozambique in the s as it was of communist backing for wars of national liberation in the s and s. This right is also a precious part of the legacy of political reflection, in west and in east, over many centuries.

The Christian legal and political tradition gave due respect to this principle.


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Terrorism is a distinct political and moral phenomenon, though of course interlinked with the issue of revolt and opposition to oppression. Terrorism refers to a set of military tactics that are part of military and political struggle, and which are designed to force the enemy to submit by some combination of killing and intimidation. As such it is deemed to be a violation of the rules and norms of warfare, in either of two senses. First, where these are formally encoded, as in the Geneva Conventions and their two Additional Protocols of , the latter of which cover albeit inadequately irregular and terrorist actions.

Second, where they exist informally, in relation to what are considered legitimate means of waging war. These are notoriously vague, and permit especially in situations of nationalist or religious fervour partisan interpretations, but they are also remarkably resilient and universal: the killings of women and children, of prisoners, or of groups of civilians are actions widely recognised in all cultures, religions and contexts as invalid in principle. This dimension should not be forgotten.

Russian anarchists also deployed this tactic. Only in the late s did the main incidences of such activity shift to the Middle East, with guerrillas in Palestine, Iran, Eritrea resorting to attacks on civilians, hijacking of airlines, kidnapping of politicians and ordinary civilians alike. Religious groups, like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan, and the Fedayeen-i Islam in Iran, did carry out selected assassinations of secular intellectuals or political opponents, but these were specifically targeted actions, not part of a broader social and political mobilisation to take power.

Much has been made, in the light of 11 September, of the relationship between religion, in this case Islam, and acts of terror. All religions contain the bases of respect for general norms of behaviour in war, but they also contain elements that can be used for massacre, ethnic expulsion, and the slaying of prisoners. It is indisputable that there are elements in the texts and traditions of Islamic peoples that can be assembled to make the modern device of political terrorism — but this is not a necessary, or singular, connection. It has developed, in rich and poor countries alike, as part of a transnational model of political engagement.

Terror and Faith: 9/11 Terror Attack (2/2)

Its roots are in modern secular politics; it has no specific regional or cultural attachment; it is an instrument, one among several, for those aspiring to challenge states and, one day, to take power themselves. The Challenge of Al-Qaida The ideology, strategy and tactics of al-Qaida certainly have distinct aspects, and are not a mere extension of this earlier history. It was, amazingly, the first time in years of unequal, globalised, north-south interaction and conflict that such an event has occurred.

Al-Qaida itself is, moreover, not just another, conventional, modern terrorist organisation.


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Its ideology is an extreme case of hybridity, borrowing as it does some elements from Sunni Islam, others from Sunni sectarianism against Shi'a Muslims, and mixing both with modern nihilism, the cult of extreme heroism, self-sacrifice and the gun, anti-globalisation rhetoric and, not least, nationalism. Like Nazism, it is an ideology that thrives on its intoxicating incoherence.

At its core is a small, conspiratorial, group, led by Osama bin Laden and his Egyptian companion, Ayman al-Zawahiri ; around them are small, semi-independent groups, drawn from many different parts of the Muslim and non-Muslim world. Their approach is a result of two, mutually reinforcing characteristics.

First, a rational calculation that decentralised networks, active in fund-raising and recruiting, are more resistant to penetration. Second, a cultural adaptation of the loose patterns of association, trust and commitment that characterise societies, like Afghanistan and parts of the Arab world, where tribal patterns of behaviour to some degree still prevail. The other key element in understanding al-Qaida, one that takes the focus right back to modernity and the historical context in which it emerged, is the cold war, in particular its latter phase from the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan onwards.

Without the cold war, and without lavish United States and Saudi support for the opposition guerrillas in Afghanistan, neither al-Qaida nor the whole transnational world of Islamic fighters would have come into existence. Years before al-Qaida started attacking western targets in New York and Africa , they were on the rampage in Afghanistan and Yemen, killing secular officials, intellectuals and opponents of their fundamentalist project. In challenging these two pro-Soviet Islamic third world regimes, where in a benighted way reformist communist states were trying to push through a secular, modernising, programme, the west and its regional allies turned too easily to the crazed counter-revolutionaries of the Islamic right.

Al-Qaida hates the west, but it is a creation — an ideological, militarised and organisational monster — of western policy in the cold war itself. On 11 September the sorcerer's apprentice hit back. Given a chance, it will hit back again. It will take years for this crisis to pass, and, in contrast to conventional wars, there will be no moment at which the war, or indeed the jihad , will clearly be over. Citizens, in east or west, are and will remain spectators in this conflict. But they we can take a stand, make judgments, and attempt to influence policy.

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