*Reports are coming in of a series of explosions in a packed stadium in America. It is believed that a coded message from an Islamist terrorist group, warning of several backpacks packed with mining explosives interspersed throughout the stadium, was received shortly before their detonation, which killed relatively few. The real damage was done when three enormous car bombs subsequently exploded at each of the main exits to the stadium as dense, panicked crowds rushed out. Each bomb reportedly left a crater some 50 ft in diameter.
There are not yet any accurate figures for fatalities from the explosions or stampede, but sources speculate upwards of 3000 deaths…*
What would this mean?
Should such a horrific hypothetical atrocity actually come to pass, I would think that measured, careful debate would simply be out of the question. And so, let us explore it now, before our reason and rigour are swept away by such understandable passion.
Specifically, I wish to explore who exactly might have been responsible, and what rhetoric and action each political persuasion might set forth in its light. My guesses are thus.
[ul][li] The US Administration says: This attack on the free world proves that Al Qaeda still exists as a global terrorist organisation, and justifies the American people’s re-election of George W. Bush as their leader in the ongoing war. We will redouble our efforts to find and kill Osama bin Laden. We will commit more troops to Iraq to fight the terrorists there. We are committed to bringing full democracy to terrorist states such as Syria and Iran.[/li]
[li]The anti-war, anti-Bush portion of the left says: The US had it coming. This attack reaps what the invasion of Iraq sowed in terms of propaganda for Al Qaeda’s recruiters, and George W. Bush must share responsibility for these deaths, which represent a mere 3% of the Iraqi civilian deaths since the invasion. The Iraqi elections are over and their people have spoken - it’s time to withdraw and leave them to run their own country, for better or worse.[/li][/ul]
Now, I consider that both of these positions are rather misinformed, but the key question still appears to be “who exactly placed the bomb(s) and made the phone call?” Again, my personal second-guesses.
[ul][li] The US Administration says: A sleeper cell of Osama bin Laden’s global legion of followers. This is an act of desperation in response to our armed forces having disrupted their operations for four years. We believe that one of the terrorists had help from a national government whose past association with terrorists is well documented - rest assured, consequences will follow.[/li]
[li]Anti-war says: How unlikely is it that the nationwide Iraqi insurgency somehow managed to get a few people into America, or that someone outside Iraq acted in sympathy with them against their aggressor? Bush has made it impossible to distinguish between Al Qaeda and the Iraqi rebellion.[/ul]Again, both views look in utterly the wrong direction, in my opinion. I consider that the probability of the bombers having some connection to either Osama bin Laden or the Iraqi insurgency is slim to none. What we do have are several other examples of terrorist acts, whose origins and perpetrators we can examine. [/li]
Jemaah Islamiah, the group responsible for the Bali Bomb, had no link with Al Qaeda. The Madrid bomb was planted by a group called Islamic Combatants of Morocco (GICM), who exchanged drugs for mining explosives - again, these are hardly the actions of a global terrorist organisation. The Beslan Chechen separatists and the gunmen in Egypt had no AQ link either. (Indeed, Al Qaeda barely seems to have existed, except as a byword for a group of foreign fighters in Afghan training camps linked with a wealthy Arab: it seems highly unlikely that Al Qaeda, whatever it was, survived the fall of the Taleban.)
These Islamist groups are isolated handfuls of psychopaths - only one of them, somewhere in the world, needs to put some cheap explosives in a public place once a year and the Al Qaeda illusion is complete. It is this kind of group who I believe will have been responsible for the hypothetical atrocity. Some low-level crime is all that is necessary to obtain the materials, and some web-based research and a little experimentation required to plan the attack. Indeed, the terrorists need only say that they are Al Qaeda, or sponsored by the Iranian government, or whatever, and the US security forces will have neither reason nor motivation to question it (heck, they needn’t even really be Islamic: if another Timothy McVeigh blames it on Muslims, will the police ever catch him?)
For who will believe that a mere handful of evil monsters will solely be to blame? The cry will come: “Surely such carnage could only have been possible with high level knowledge and funding, perhaps at a state government level?” Even now, we cannot bring ourselves to sensibly consider the possibility that 9/11 was just down to 30 or so guys who lived in tents and caves, and a few tens of thousands of dollars.
I contend that we must accept that isolated psychopaths might kill us in our thousands using stuff simply stolen from a building site, and that there is very little we can realistically do about it (at least, such that the cure is not outright worse than the ailment). If my hypothetical atrocity came to pass, and of course I hope with all my heart that it does not, it would not be George Bush’s fault. It would not be Bill Clinton’s fault. It would not be vocal war-protestor’s fault, nor the fault of those opposed to strict profiling procedures at airports. It would not even be Osama bin Laden’s fault.
It would be the fault of some madman who, despising the pernicious effect of Western liberalism on Islamic society, woke one morning and decided to kill Western civilians. Who he subsequently convinced to join his cause, and who he specifically said he represented, would likely have global consequences in terms of who the US subsequently attacked militarily. After all, if one single fanatic can start a war, how are we ever to see peace in future?
So, for debate: 3000+ people die in a 2005 bombing in the US, and the coded message beforehand vaguely claims it in the name of Islam and jihad. [ul][li]Who did it?[/li][li]Which past course of action does it justify? What should the response be?[/ul][/li]My answers:[ul][li]Anybody.[/li][li]None.[/li]Nothing (save for criminal investigation, extradition and prosecution under due process of law). [/ul]