Comments: Who Would Jesus Bomb?

The "hooray for war" response of many so-called Christians has galled me too. Slacktivist had a post a while back on the supposed importance of war in the Middle East in triggering the Second Coming. Radical Christians choose to ignore the myriad references to peace in the Bible, in favor of exactly two verses that could be interpreted to say that warfare will bring Jesus back. Lovely.

Posted by Carl at January 24, 2005 10:28 AM

You write:

"Terror is primarily about spectacle. It seeks to advance a political or social agenda through the response of the victim, not by the victim's injury or elimination."

While this is true of much past terrorism, particularly the PLO campaigns of the 1970s and 1980s, it is not true of all terrorism, nor is it true of al-Qaeda. The IRA's early 1920s assassination campaign, for example, was not about spectacle; it was about eliminating the IRA's enemies.

Likewise with al-Qaeda. That organization's leaders have made clear in their public statements that there is nothing the United States could conceivably do that would cause them to call off their campaign. Osama bin Laden has said that he will revoke his declaration of war against the United States just as soon as all Americans convert to Islam and swear allegiance to the new caliphate, or when the United States has been destroyed, whichever comes first.

If bin Laden's public statements are to be believed - and they're the best insight we have into his motivations - he is not engaged in terror as spectacle in order to coerce his enemies into granting him concessions. Instead, bin Laden seeks, though his attacks, to destroy the United States (and Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, and Norway, all of which he has listed in various calls to jihad). The attacks themselves are the point. The purpose of al-Qaeda terrorism is the injury and elimination of al-Qaeda's enemies.

If you look back at the PLO terror campaign of the 1970s and 1980s, you see a very different picture. The PLO had specific demands; it used terror to raise the international profile of the Palestinian movement and, in the end, largely succeeded in achieving global recognition and Israeli concessions. Al-Qaeda's behavior, and the style and execution of its attacks, bears scant resemblance to past campaigns of terror-as-spectacle.

Al-Qaeda is not engaged in political drama; it is engaged in slaughter. To believe otherwise is to reject out of hand al-Qaeda's own statements of its intentions.

Posted by arrScott at January 26, 2005 09:11 AM