War on Terror Can’t Beat ‘Muslim Desperados’

In the wake of Gen. William Westmoreland Jr.’s recent death, many commentators reflected on how the general — during the Vietnam conflict and in the decades after — never really “got it.” He tried to fight a conventional war against an unconventional foe.

Similarly, the chickenhawks in the Bush administration who loudly advocate for the War on Terror are showing Westmoreland-esque signs of a disconnect with a reality that is quickly outstripping their capacity to understand it. As in Vietnam, in Bush’s War on Terror, its proponents think the enemy is Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, but in reality, it is a decentralized, disenfranchized, band of “Muslim desperados” organized at the cellular level whose aim is far different from al Qaeda’s.

So argues Jamal Dajani in 21st Century ‘Muslim Desperados’ — Why London Bombers Don’t Fit ‘War on Terror’ Frame” for the Pacific News Service.

Dajani says it is a mistake to lump in the recent London and Egypt bombings by home-grown “desperados” with al Qaeda’s actions as a consolidated target of the War on Terror:

This rationale, which has subsequently appeared in several op-ed articles, goes like this: Since 9/11 happened before the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, there is no cause and effect relationship between terrorist actions now and the war in Iraq and foreign troop presence in Afghanistan.

On the other hand, the U.S. government, its allies and many members of the press have regularly held Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda responsible for terror attacks worldwide, including what is happening in Iraq on a daily basis. These routine accusations are always buttressed with the fact that Al Qaeda or its wannabes obligingly take credit on their Web sites, or through praises delivered by bin Laden or by his right-hand man Ayman al-Zawahiri. The recent attacks in London were claimed by at least three so-called “Al Qaeda franchises.”

But the London attacks do not fit into the past profile of foreign attackers or jihadists who have descended on a country to wreak havoc and destruction. They were homegrown. These are 21st century Muslim Desperados with characteristics similar to terrorists active in the 1970s in groups such as the Red Brigade in Italy, the Red army in Japan, the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany and even the Symbionese Liberation Army in the San Francisco Bay Area. Just as members of those seventies terror groups adopted rhetoric from Communists and South American revolutionaries, today’s Muslim Desperados model their ideology from bin Laden’s and Al Qaeda’s deviated interpretation of Islam.

Dajani says these desperados feel disenfranchised because they are relegated to “an inferior immigrant status” in the country they were born in, and that they were drawn to radical Islam after 9/11. Many went to the Pakistan to study Islam, others learned from terrorist Web sites. But however they received their Islamist indoctrination, Dajani says they are very different from members of al Qaeda:

Like the gun-slinging outlaws of the past with modern-day weaponry, their blaze of fire and destruction holds no message except to visit anarchy and terror on the status quo that has excluded them.

But also driving them is the cumulative effect of Western influence and presence in the Middle East and Islamic countries, and of the first and second Iraq War, the first and second George Bush, the war in Afghanistan amd the rising tide of sentiment against Muslims.

Dajani notes that the recent bombing targets killed scores, not thousands, and, with this new breed of terrorist, that is the point:

The horrific bombings in Sharm el-Sheik have shocked the world again. First the comfortable, stable regularity of an everyday London permeated with uncertainty and instability, then a peaceful, remote vacation spot shattered and charred. In all the horror and carnage and panic, there does seem to be a very deliberate message in these attacks: “No more ‘business as usual,’ for anyone, anywhere.”


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