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Saturday, July 09, 2005

London Terror

Can Terrorism Defeat Terrorism?

You can't beat terrorism with shallow words of bravado or military reprisal. There, I've said it so it all you war mongers out there can throw your daggers if you wish because I'm ready and you cannot shake my resolve.

Did that statement deter you? I think I've made my point but let me explain.

Today we woke up to the shocking news of four bombs set off by terrorists in London. In my case I just happened to be watching TV and caught it live on the news. I watched in horror as I saw a bus ripped open like a tin can, and reports of mayhem as images of injured people hobbling around looking for help flashed before my eyes.

My thoughts immediately flashed back to 9/11 of buildings falling down and people leaping out of windows to their certain deaths on the pavement below.

What made it even more surreal was that just minutes earlier I had watched an English movie about terrorists setting off a dirty bomb in London. Even more amazing was the response the terrorist made during interrogation.

When the Brit interrogator said there will be a military response from England and more people will die, the terrorist smiled and said "we are counting on your reprisal. Our attack divides you and makes you weaker. Your reprisal only unites us and makes us stronger".

Are those the mere words of somebody that we can smugly write of as a lunatic? Label them in the same mold as a Jeffrey Dahmer with a religious twist? Or is it a cunning and intelligent adversary whom we cannot understand?

SUN TZU's "the Art of War" refers to it as knowing thy enemy, and it appears that they know us even better than we know ourselves. At this point we don't know yet for certain who is responsible. Nevertheless, terrorists share commonality in their roots, methods and goals, and perceived wrongs, hatred, revenge and religious fervor are just some of them.

Question: Has military action in Afghanistan or Iraq changed anything since then? Today we found out the hard way that it hasn't. Even if it wasn't Al Qaeda we can still see the mayhem their agents continue to cause in the middle east. So how long must we suffer until we get the point?

You can't rely on smarter bombs, cameras on every corner, homeland security or undercover operatives to catch all of these fanatics. They have the advantage. They are small in numbers and can blend in the general populace.

We are not dealing with a single army that can be nuked into oblivion in one final apocalyptic blast. They exist in small cancerous cells that are all over the world, and odds are some of them are going to slip through. A mathematician who understands the laws of probability will tell you that.

The only winners in this game are CNN and their ilk whose ratings go through the roof when these tragedies happen. Have you ever noticed they present the news like it was another Schwarzenegger blockbuster action movie? But this isn't a movie folks. It's real and hardcore.

When I saw Tony Blair make his statement at the G8 conference I couldn't help but get the feeling his words were hollow. He was visibly shaken and when he spoke words of bravado about this terrorist attack not shaking his resolve, it seemed rather shallow and almost ludicrous.

Let's look at the balance sheet. A terrorist slaps on a backpack with a bomb in it and takes a ride on a bus. They are blown to smithereens and don't feel a thing and happily go off to eternity in a drunken orgy. Their families are well taken care of by the brotherhood and are proud of their sacrifice.

Whereas on the other side of the equation dozens of people suffer horrific injuries and are crippled for life either physically or emotionally. Some even die and families are shattered. Who wins?

We respond and kill many more of them with our smart bombs including women and children in collateral damage. They say "see, look at those terrorist Yanks and Brits", and a young orphan grows up to become another martyr to continue the cycle.

Take a look at Israel and Palestine and you will see there will be no peace until someone has the courage to stop the cycle. It can't be about an eye for an eye.

Will we ever learn from history? "Violence only begets more violence" and the only empire that was able to satisfactorily quell terrorists were the Romans. And why were they successful? Because they were more brutal than the terrorists. Smart bombs just won't cut it.

Ironically, they also consider it an act of terrorism. The terrorists justify their actions by propagandizing collateral damage from these so-called "smart" bombs". Just a little more high-tech. Tit for tat.

Is that an exaggeration? Perhaps. But it's not the point. So long as the general populace buys into it that is all that matters. It is a war of the mind and hearts of the people, and that is far more powerful than any bomb that can ever be created.

Makes you think doesn't it? I hope so. It is called shifting our paradigms and I recommend Stephen Covey's work.

Do you want to live in a world of fear and loathing? Is that the legacy you want for your kids? I hope not because neither do I.

So go ahead. Call me a liberal, socialist, left-wingnut, pinko, peacenik, whatever. Throw your daggers and smart bombs. But remember my family is more powerful than yours and will avenge me. They have a long memory so you had better watch your back because you never know when your number will be up.

Believe it or not I have personally mediated a dispute between two Iranian men who said those exact words. Needless to say, when we were finished everyone was still alive.

To believe that the 'enemy' is out to destroy us merely because of differing ideology is naive and simplistic. Sounds a lot like the old Vietnam/Soviet line doesn't it? Communism vs. democracy ($$$ capitalism). Good vs. evil (who has the moral high ground). Justice for the perpetrators (you hit me first). Or could it really be big business interests vs. religious fervor?

I can assure you the notion that we can defeat terrorism with perceived terrorism will only backfire on us. Just ask Richard the Lion Hearted.

They see no difference between between a low-tech human bomber and a "smart bomb" let fly from an F-18. We may disagree with that comparison but nevertheless that is the way they "perceive" it, and that is the bottom line.

Desperate actions by desperate people. Does that justify anything? Of course not. But the sooner we begin to understand the way the other side thinks the better. And that is how we move from our entrenched positions, to mutual understanding, to concensus.

There is always a reasonable answer to any dispute/war, and eventually both sides will come to that realization. But that can only be accomplished by sitting down face to face. And that can be difficult when both sides remain convinced they have God and Right on their side. Let's just hope that it will happen soon enough before more innocent people have to die.

What's the answer? Yes, I am appalled and my immediate reaction is to bomb the sh__ out of them. Track down the perpetrators and bring them to justice. But remember they also consider our leaders to be criminals, and acting like texas rangers with both guns blazing and creating more martyrs is not the answer.

The point is you cannot defeat an enemy who is full of hate and willing to die for an ideal in the belief that they will be rewarded in a better afterlife. You can only defeat an idea with another idea - not with guns and bombs. That is how the Soviet Union fell. Not by bombs but with the realization that communism just wasn't working.

The mediator in me says let's find a win/win so we can all coexist in peace. We need to take a look at the bigger picture. Just what are our interests in the middle east anyway? And what are the interests of those who live there? At least that is a place to start.

Have I made my point? Sounds too idealistic for you? Too weak? Too compromising? Then what are the alternatives?

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