The horrific attacks on 9/11 brought home to the American people a reality already recognized and known by others around the world: there is a strategic culture of terrorism that is unrelenting in its use of violence to pursue political, social, or religious change.
For the historical moment, at least, Muslim extremists have our attention, and with good reason. According to the website Religion of Peace, since 9/11 Islamic terrorists have been responsible for more than 17,500 terror attacks, a significant figure that easily puts these psychopaths in the forefront of those willing to inflict casualties for a cause.
The majority of Islamist attacks and accompanying deaths have been against their co-religionists, who they likely believe are either apostates or legitimate targets in their fight against perceived oppression, Israel, and the supremacy of Western culture. They aren’t the first terrorists to use such deplorable tactics, and they won’t be the last.
A Long, Bloody History
At the end of the 19th century, Irish nationalists and Russian nihilists attracted the world’s attention, especially after revolutionaries assassinated Russian Tsar Alexander II in March 1881.
Another infamous terrorist group at the time was the Macedonian Revolutionary Organization. Founded by a group of ethnic Bulgarians, this group bombed targets and assassinated collaborators and officials in an effort to end Ottoman rule in the region. Many in Europe saw the organization as the ultimate in terror networks, with a reach far beyond Macedonia and Thrace. These terrorists were behind the dual 1934 assassination of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia and the French Foreign Minister, Louis Barthou, in Marseille.
Probably one of the first terrorist groups to have international roots was the Black International, an anarchist group founded in England in 1881 and whose bloody hand stretched all the way to the United States. Members were responsible for detonating a bomb in Chicago’s Haymarket Square in May 1886, killing a number of police officers and civilians. The members consisted mostly of European immigrants and seven were executed for the bombing. Marxists and socialists worldwide celebrate this atrocity each year with pathetic parades and worn speeches about internationalism and worker solidarity.
Another terrorist network, the Serbian military-backed Black Hand, became almost the de facto authority in what is today Kosovo despite that region’s nominal control by the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires. Fired by the vision of pan-Slavism, a young man by the name of Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Young Bosnia movement and trained by the Black Hand, fired the shot that killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand and helped plunge the world into the horrors of the First World War and all that followed, to include the fall of the Romanov Dynasty and the rise of the Soviet Union.
After the Second World War the Soviet Union emerged more confident, oppressive and expansionist while pan-Slavic tensions found a temporary outlet in the re-creation of the multi-ethnic state of Yugoslavia, this time under Marshall Tito. Western culture now faced a new terrorist threat, this time from Marxists, who received both rhetorical and financial support from the Soviet Union and its Iron Curtain allies. Many of these groups employed an odd mixture of Marxist and nationalist liberation rhetoric.
Membership in a Marxist movement at the time was considered by many to be the sine qua non of a terrorist. In May 1972 the Japanese Red Army Faction, working in concert with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, one of two major groups making up the Palestinian Liberation Organization, carried out a murderous attack at Lod Airport in Tel Aviv, killing 26 and wounding 80 in the rampage. The Stasi-supported Red Army Faction, popularly known as the Baader-Meinhof Group, killed approximately 34 innocents in their bombing and shooting debacle directed against US military concerns throughout Germany. In the 1970s and 1980s terrorists seized more than 50 airliners, and the majority of these criminals were associated with Marxist, nationalist or jihadist Mid-East terrorist groups.
Internet as the Terrorist’s Incubator
The Weather Underground conducted a lethal bombing campaign throughout the 1970’s, in part because of their opposition to the Vietnam War and “western imperialism.” One of their first acts was to detonate a bomb in Chicago’s Haymarket district in an effort to destroy a statue commemorating the police casualties sustained in the May 1886 attack. Two of the group’s founders — Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers — have yet to repudiate the violence that led to the deaths of at least three police officers. This radical organization, composed mostly of the sons and daughters of the middle class, actively collaborated with the Black Liberation Army and the Black Panthers, embracing both anti-establishment political rhetoric and violence.
Now, of course, the U.S. and the West face what at first glance appears to be a new terrorist threat. Anarchism and Marxist revolution have given way to Islamists, who hope to draw nominal support from members of the religion’s more than one billion adherents. To further their purpose they have developed an unofficial cadre of new recruits, using the very Western-inspired technology they abhor: the Internet. No longer is there a need for terror cells or formal networks, though these also continue to exist.
In the United States and Europe, young Muslim men, and sometimes women, often to the surprise of their immigrant parents, have fulfilled their misguided aspirations and have found support from such Internet sensations as Anwar al-Awlaki and Abdullah el-Faisal. This list of miscreants includes Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, Richard Reid, Malik Hasan, and probably Naser Abdo.
The Internet has become a source of inspiration for a number of other murderers who act under the false flag of freedom fighter. In March 2004 likely al-Qaeda-inspired extremists in Spain ignited a bomb in Madrid’s subway system, killing 191 and wounding another 1,800 innocents.
In July 2005, four disaffected British Muslim youths, three of Pakistani decent and one of Jamaican, detonated four bombs in the London transit system, killing 56 and injuring 700. They found inspiration from al-Awlaki. Two weeks later a separate group, likely preying on the fears caused by the first, attempted a similar attack. Countless others, many of whom are recruited in prison, eventually move from radical da’wa (calling or invitation) to violent jihad, have acted in a similar fashion.
Very Strange Bedfellows Indeed
However, it’s not just Islamists that have found inspiration on the Internet. Neo-Nazis have discovered the Internet to be an excellent recruiting tool. In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security estimated there were approximately 2,400 white supremacist web sites, 72 blogs, and 213 user groups.
The level of cooperation among these disparate groups can be surprising, and the anonymity of Internet has only made these informal (and sometimes formal) connections easier to make and harder to track.
Even before the Internet, Elijah Muhammad — who led the Nation of Islam between 1934 and 1975 — met with KKK leaders in Atlanta in 1961 and invited George Lincoln Rockwell — a well-known Neo-Nazi — to address his organization’s conference the following year. Tom Metzger, a well-known right-wing extremist, has donated money to Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam. In 2009 Metzger addressed a New Black Panther Party meeting in Dallas. The Eastern Hammer Skinheads have referred to the Nation of Islam as “the greatest ally of the white separatist movement.”
Throughout the 1990s, the Lyndon LaRouche Network and the Nation of Islam maintained close ties.
Connections between the IRA and Islamic radicals also have a long history. In the mid-1980‘s Muammar Gadhafi supplied the IRA with assistance, to include weapons that helped sustain a flagging terrorist campaign. Of note, Gadhafi also gave Chicago street gang leader Jeff Fort (aka Prince Iman Malik) approximately $2.5 million to induce him to commit terrorist acts in the US.
By the late 1980’s the IRA had strengthened contacts with Hezbollah and, in 2009, Jerry Adams, Sein Fein’s chairman, met with Hamas leaders while visiting the Mid-East. Sein Fein has been nothing if not vocal in their criticism of EU trading practices with Israel as well as Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians.
Sad Truth: Terrorism Works
Politicians will eventually ignore if not accommodate terrorist behavior in the hopes that in so doing a greater good will emerge from their compromise with the devil.
In Macedonia, several political parties vie for the legacy of the Macedonian Revolutionary Organization. In the Mid-East, the nationalist al Fatah, a faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, now appears to be the most reasonable group with which the West enjoys some relations, though the Sunni inspired Hamas is competing effectively for the hearts and minds of the population. In Northern Ireland Sein Fein has established a foothold on legitimacy by participating in Northern Ireland’s political process. Jerry Adams, despite his increasingly absurd claims that he was never a member of the IRA’s ruling Army Council, has received praise from Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has compared Adams favorably with both Martin Luther King and Jesus Christ. In the United States Bill Ayers (now a retired Professor of Education), founder of the Weather Underground, found ready access to a young community activist and politician who eventually became President of the United States.
What loosely binds many of these groups is a hatred for Israel that borders on anti-Semitism; a fear of globalization that will erode what they believe to be “traditional” values; a concern that modern nation-states are failing because of a variety of pressures; and a loss of faith in democratic principles. All adhere to the belief that violence and the killing of innocents and the police will be an effective tool in bringing about change, or at least getting their cause on the nightly news.
They also recognize the challenges. Though mass media and the Internet have connected their shallow and disparate ideologies into a web of moral chaos and hate, it has also desensitized their audience. Future attacks must be more lethal if they are to sustain their public presence and effectiveness.
On this 10-year anniversary of al Qaeda’s attack on the United States, as we mourn those lost and eulogize the heroes, we must not forget that a terrorist culture exists, regardless of race, religion, or national identity. This culture embraces mass casualties, accepts violence as a divinely inspired act, and has little regard for the laws of man. Fighting this cancer, regardless of its origins, has been and will continue to be an endless war if we are to preserve our liberties for future generations.