Saturday, 6 November 2010

Al Qaeda and the Anarchists - Propaganda by Deed?

Ever since 9/11, I have taken an active interest in Jihadism generally, and the tactics of Al-Qaeda in particular.  I knew that Al Qaeda's tactics would have to evolve following the attacks in the USA, and thought I could predict how they would develop new methods of seeking to inflict terror on their chosen targets. Although they moved with what I thought of as bewildering slowness, all my fears have been realised - and there's more to come.
After 9/11, the resultant security crackdown at airports, plus the increased Intelligence effort against them, made it difficult to repeat the outrage (although they didn't stop trying). Obviously, then, the terrorists eventually (as I expected) decided to mount indiscriminate bomb attacks. This led to the atrocities of 7/7 and the Madrid train bombing.
The authorities everywhere reacted by making it more difficult to obtain bomb-making materials. I thought that, unless Al-Qaeda and friends were stupid, they would switch to using firearms, which are cheaper (the 7/7 bombers spent £3000 making their murderous bombs), smaller and easier to conceal. They were not stupid, and the Mumbai Massacre happened.
To bring matters up to date, I believe that we have recently seen a new development in Jihadist tactics. The case of Roshonara Choudhry, the 21 year old woman jailed for stabbing Stephen Tibbs MP, indicates (to me, at least) that Al-Qaeda are moving towards the tactic supposedly developed by 19th century Anarchists - "Propaganda by Deed". I say "supposedly", because anarchists totally condemn both the tactics and beliefs of Al-Qaeda - See Here. I have no doubt that Jihadists loathe Anarchism just as much, but "Propaganda by Deed"(PBD) will hold certain attractions for Al-Qaeda.
Briefly, PBD means that individuals who support a radical cause should take violent actions against real (or imaginary) enemies when they are so minded, and have the opportunity. In the 19th century, some anarchists did carry out such attacks, often "inspired" by police provocateurs. One such example was the Walsall Bomb Plot of 1892. Even at the time, most anarchists condemned such outrages, and even the perpetrators tried not to harm the innocent.
Al-Qaeda will observe no such niceties. Already, an Islamist website has published details of MPs' surgery times - and where to buy knives to carry out attacks. I hope I am wrong, but I anticipate that Al-Qaeda will move towards more such small scale attacks, less "spectacular", but every bit as lethal. I also think that their range of targets will grow wider in time. Like I said, let's hope I'm wrong.


  1. I've never been able to accept mass murder of ordinary people, whether by the IRA, the Tamil Tigers or Islamist suicide bombers. But on the other hand, I can see why disaffected people might view our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan in a similar light: far more civilians have been killed by us than every murderous attack by terrorists combined. Approximately 105,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since our invasion, compared to c. 3000 on 11 September bombings, and 52 in the London bombings. Figures for Afghan civilians are speculative but are in the tens of thousands, if not more.

    Our nation's actions are not morally superior than those of our enemies - we are not on the side of the angels here - in fact we were the invaders. Being killed by someone dressed in the uniform of a national army is no better than being killed by a suicide bomber - and each civilian death we cause means a little bit more hatred is sown.

    I think you may be right about the change in tactics, but if I were an Afghan whose family had been wiped out at a wedding or funeral because US "intelligence" indicated that such a gathering of Afghan people constituted a threat, then I'd not look upon the foreign invaders of my country with anything but hatred and contempt.

  2. I take your point, Nev, but even if we withdrew from Afghanistan tomorrow, Al-Qaeda would still exist. In years to come, we may find that our ill-conceived military adventures in recent years have created a Frankenstein monster with a life and agenda of its own.

  3. We've already done that with our longstanding failure to address the situation in Palestine as well as these invasions. There is a notion, particularly among extreme right-wing American Christian fundamentalists, that the way to solve all the problems of the Middle East is to conquer the entire area and convert everyone to Christianity. While these people don't make the decisions in the USA, some of them are rich and influential; is it surprising that some Moslems are very suspicious?

    The question is: are we making things better or worse by staying there? I obviously believe the latter, seeing that the death rate among civilians rises year after year and some people are looking back to the days of Taliban rule as a time of peace. Oppression certainly, but also peace. If our continuing presence makes Taliban rule look like the good old days, then we have already completely failed, a situation that I would maintain is irretrievable.