WorksTerrorism is waged on an intellectual as well as a visceral level, and I would have liked to see at least one of your contributors analyse its underlying hypocrisy. America is decried and abused as the "great Satan," yet the only reason terrorist organisations and, indeed, guerrilla armies are able to function is that "great Satans" do not attack innocent and guilty alike but try (whether successfully or not) to distinguish between them. Terrorists don't bother. But then the unwillingness of the superpowers to resort to undifferentiated slaughter is turned against them in triumphalist claims that America lost in Vietnam and the Russians lost in Afghanistan.
There also seems to me to be something worthy of comment in the way the enemies of the "great Satan" both assume and take full advantage of its (presumably) amazing hospitality towards them, its concern for their civil rights and liberties, its unwillingness to demand conformity to the established social and religious norms of western society --- and its readiness to accommodate, legitimise and even encourage the propagation of alien belief systems, including extreme fundamentalist Islam.
Islamic fundamentalists do not make distinctions between good Americans and bad ones. By contrast, Western political and religious leaders have specifically demanded that innocent Muslims should not be victimised. Neither in America nor in Britain have we seen mass anti-Islam street protests, chanting of hate-slogans and public incitements to murder.
And, finally, no bleeding hearts are really necessary concerning "what the terrorists have to say." As R. W. Johnson points out, terrorism works. It has worked this time. Already Osama bin Laden's specific concerns are being addressed with vigor, just as IRA demands rocketed to top priority following the bombing of Canary Wharf. So, in the medium term, the Israelis had better watch out, and I don't think there will be US military bases in Saudi Arabia for very much longer.---J. Glenn
From The London Review of Books
15 November 2001