JOHN MENADUE. We need to better understand terrorism – how we got here and how best to respond.

The terrorist attacks in Manchester and London have received a deluge of media coverage. However, terrorism is much worse in the Middle East and other countries. Terrorism is a vivid political act, but deaths from gun violence, car accidents drugs, domestic violence and climate change are far more significant. We need to admit how we got into this mess.  

The carnage from terrorism in developed countries pales beside that in the Middle East. The Institute of Economics and Peace has published a Global Terrorism Index for 2016. The first ten top-ranked countries for terrorism and violence were: Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, India, Egypt and Libya. Among the 130 ranked countries, France was ranked 29, the UK 34, the US 36, Germany 41 and Australia 59. In a week in which 22 people were killed in Manchester and 8 people killed in London, 29 Coptic Christians were killed in Egypt and over 150 were killed in a terrorist attack in Kabul.. For days, our news media has given saturation coverage to the Manchester and London attacks, but the deaths in Egypt and Afghanistan were only briefly reported and then forgotten. A foot note only. Our derivative media clearly decided that attacks in the Anglo-sphere were more newsworthy and important than deaths in countries like Egypt and Afghanistan.. Our “news” coverage is heavily biased in favour of content from countries where we have traditional links or journalists in place. Again and again our media show us that it sees Australia as an island parked off London and Washington.

Terrorist deaths attract more attention because they are deliberately designed for propaganda value. It is political violence which relies upon the news media to spread the story. Unfortunately, our news media and others cooperate to maximise the propaganda value of terrorist attacks. Do they realise how much they are being used? Do they care?

Gun or domestic violence , drug overdoses and traffic accidents cause far more deaths. But they are not intended to attract political and media attention. ISIS and other terrorist groups try to seize every opportunity to advertise and promote their barbarity. Terrorist attacks are increasingly becoming low tech with “lone wolves” using vehicles and knives.   But they rely on the media to frighten us with blood and gore.

The terrorist groups’ craving for attention is mirrored by some conservative leaders whose stock-in-trade is the promotion of fear for political benefit. Malcolm Turnbull can’t contain himself when there are terrorist attacks in the Anglo-sphere. He believes that this focus on terrorism is effective in diverting attention from more important and intractable issues like climate change, energy policy, domestic violence or the failure of the war on drugs.

It is also clear that very powerful and influential vested interests depend on heightening the terrorist threat for profits, funding and employment. Even Universities are scrambling to join this booming industry. Just think, for instance, of the huge security infrastructures at airports, busily seizing mountains of nail clippers and installing new and expensive security machines.

Far more importantly, the vast military-corporate-intelligence communities in the United States and countries like Australia benefit from highlighting the terrorist threat and ensuring the vast expenditures that flow. Terrorism is an important factor in entrenching and extending the power and influence of the Security Industry State. The arms industry in Australia, for instance, has recently taken to funding the Australian War Memorial and provides substantial funds to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a so-called independent think tank that advises on defence issues.

Our intelligence agencies ASIO, ASIS and others have received greatly increased funding and powers to combat terrorism. But are we getting value for money.? Time and time again, we learn that terrorists and bombers were on security watch lists but were still able to wreak damage. Just think of how Monis was allowed to run free for months in Australia.

The most important and inescapable fact is that terrorist attacks today are driven by a thirst for revenge. Young, alienated Muslim men see terrorism as pay-back for the West invading and exploiting Muslim lands. Our invasion and continued presence in the Middle East has triggered terrorist attacks in the West and provoked historic Shia and Sunni enmity.

Until we admit that our interventions in the Middle East were mistaken, we will not begin to understand or overcome the tragedy that we see repeated week after week in many countries. But our media does not have clean hands. All our commercial media supported the disastrous invasion of Iraq. It is determined not to examine its role in the disaster it supported.. So it picks up each new terrorist attack but refuses to ask or examine how we got into this mess in in the first place.

The best thing we could do for starters is to get our military out of the Middle East.

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3 Responses to JOHN MENADUE. We need to better understand terrorism – how we got here and how best to respond.

  1. Too often the ‘campaign’ against terrorism lacks any understanding of history or perspective. I noted in a blog in early 2016 (Terrorism and words: a reality check on ISIS) that Micah Zenko from the reputable Council on Foreign Relations had observed that in the decade after 9/11 an average of 29 Americans were killed each year in terrorist attacks. Figures compiled by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission showed that about the same number were crushed to death each year by unstable television sets and furniture.

  2. michael lacey says:

    Terror serves the interests of the war mongers!
    It conveniently does not invade countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel.
    We carefully excite our audience with “shock and awe” and display the spectacle like it is a celebrated event. They torture hostages and behead them. We organise Shiite death squads to kill Sunnis. They organise Sunni death squads to kill Shiites.

    “The barbarism we condemn is the barbarism we commit. The line that separates us from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is technological, not moral. We are those we fight.” Chris Hedges

    We need to understand terrorism, well the neoconservatives understand it very well.
    The man that has just been hung in the square that lesson is for the audience.

  3. John Greenwell says:

    John Menadue says ‘we need to understand terrorism.’ A substantial part of what follows comprises criticism of the media for its ‘saturation’ of the news, with terror attacks in Europe such as the Manchester and London attacks and failure to give anything like the same emphasis to terrorism elsewhere, as in Afghanistan and the Middle East. Apparently the War in Afghanistan, the Taliban, the influx of refugees into Europe, and the War in Syria have received insufficient attention.
    But ‘the important and inescapable fact’, he maintains, is that it is the intervention of the West, particularly the disaster in Iraq, which have led to modern Islamic terrorism.
    This is not so. Modern Islamic terrorism was not caused by the invasion of Iraq. Not only did the attack of 9/11 precede the invasion, but Osama bin Laden had formed Al Qaeda before 2001. His Declaration of Jihad was made on the 12th October 1996. None of this is intended to justify the War in Iraq. It was unquestionably a bad war and aggravated Islamist terrorism, but did not originate it.
    Certain doctrines of Islam — Jihad and Martyrdom — are fundamental to modern terrorism. On a liberal construction, ‘jihad’ means ‘struggle’ which does not mandate war against ‘the Zionist, Crusader alliance’, as bin Laden described it in his 1996 Declaration. Everything suggested Islam would follow this liberal construction of ‘jihad’, as indeed it has in many countries.
    But, even in medieval times, there were dissentients — the Habalis. And, one of their number, Ibn Tamiya, was to influence Abd-al-Wahab, who took rigid Wahabi Islam to Saudi Arabia. Islamicism (fundamentalist Islam) thereby acquired its powerful influence.
    To the subsequent misfortune to the peace of the world, large quantities of oil were found there. The major criticism which can be made of America is that it allied itself economically with the Saudis which, through their enormous wealth, have been able to export extremist Islam, notably through the madarasas (Islamic schools).
    Saudi Arabia was largely content to derive its enormous wealth from oil and implement its Wahabi Islam governmentally within Saudi Arabia; but it was the extremist Wahabi belief in jihad, as war against the crusader zionists, which encouraged Saudi-born bin Laden and most of the Saudi 9/11 bombers to carry out the Twin Towers attack and for bin Laden to establish Al Qaeda. Thereafter, ISIL proclaimed the Islamic Caliphate and became primarily responsible for the dissemination of modern Islamic terrorism.
    But, its origins were certain doctrines of Sunni and Shia Islam.

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