The Underwear Bomber and the war of ideas

December 31, 2009

– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Who is winning the war of ideas between the West and al Qaeda’s hate-driven version of  Islam?

It is a question that merits asking again after a  23-year-old Western-educated Nigerian of privileged background, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, attempted to murder almost 300 people by bringing down a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day with  explosives sewn into the crotch of his underpants.

The administration of President Barack Obama, averse to the bellicose language of George W. Bush, has virtually dropped the  phrase “war of ideas.” But that doesn’t mean it has ended. Or that Obama’s plea, in his Cairo speech this summer, for a new  beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world  has swayed the disciples of Osama bin Laden, whose 1998 fatwa  (religious ruling) against “Jews and Crusaders” remains the  extremists’ guiding principle.

“To…kill the Americans and their allies – civilians and  military – is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it,” the fatwa said. “This is in accordance with the words of Almighty Allah  (to) fight the pagans all together as they fight you all  together.”

That this exhortation is as appealing today, to a fanatical  minority, as it was 11 years ago underlines that the United States has had scant success in meeting the objective the Bush  administration set out in its 2003 National Strategy for Combating Terrorism. “Together with the international community, we will wage a war of ideas to make clear that all acts of terrorism are illegitimate, to ensure that the conditions and ideologies that promote terrorism do not find fertile ground in  any nation…”

That aim was spelt out just weeks before the United States  invaded Iraq, an event that provided ample ammunition for the  extremists’ assertion that the West was stepping up an unrelenting war it has waged against the Muslim world for  centuries. Such claims, and al Qaeda itself, should be easy to  discredit, write two political scientists, Peter Krause and Stephen Van Evera in the fall issue of the Middle East Policy  Council Journal.

Instead, they say, “al Qaeda has so far fought the world’s  sole superpower to a stalemate in the worldwide struggle for hearts and minds. As a result, U.S. prospects in the larger war  against al Qaeda are uncertain.”

They make an important point. By many accounts, the U.S. has been making more progress on the military front than in the war of ideas.


In Afghanistan, the number of al Qaeda elements has shrunk  to fewer than 100, according to President Obama’s national  security advisor, James Jones. In Pakistan, missile strikes have  thinned out the ranks of al Qaeda leaders who use the frontier  region as safe havens. In Yemen and Somalia, air attacks and  covert operations have killed “high-value targets.”

But al Qaeda is more than an organization, it is an idea,  and killing ideas is much more difficult than killing people.

Especially when the propagators of mediaeval concepts use 21st century technology – websites, social networks, videos – more nimbly than the country that invented the Internet, in the view of communications experts.

One of the most cutting critiques of America’s shortcomings  on the ideas front came this summer, from the country’s top soldier, Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Writing in the Joint Force Quarterly, a publication of the National Defense University, he complained about “a certain arrogance” in strategic communications and of gaps between what the U.S. says and what it does.

“Each time we fail to live up to our values or don’t follow up on a promise, we look more and more like the arrogant Americans the enemy claims we are,” he wrote.

As to al Qaeda and the Taliban, “they intimidate and control and communicate from within, not from the sidelines. And they aren’t just out there shooting videos, either. They deliver.  Want to know what happens if somebody violates their view of  Sharia law? You don’t have to look very far or very long. Each  beheading, each bombing and each beating sends a powerful message or, rather, IS a powerful message.”

More powerful, perhaps, than Obama’s promise, after the underwear bomber’s failed operation on the most joyful day in  the Christian calendar, that “we will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable.”

That sounded a lot like George W. Bush, a week after the September 11, 2001, attacks on Manhattan and the Pentagon, the  greatest mass murder in American history. Talking about the elusive bin Laden, he said: “I want justice. And there’s an old poster out West that says, ‘Wanted: Dead or alive.'”


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“this exhortation is as appealing today, to a fanatical minority, as it was 11 years ago”

That’s a strong statement. Do you have any link to research showing that al Qaeda’s recruitment has remained steady over the last 11 years? Because if it’s gone down, then this statement is false and indicates the War of Ideas is being won.

Posted by drewbie | Report as abusive

Trying to make the world love us, the US, is a stupid battle. That is equivalent to asking a Red Sox fan to root for the Yankees. It’s just not going to happen. Better to make your team, the US, the team that is the very best it can be, a team that lives up to it’s own values, excels where it is supposed to excel, and does nothing to tarnish it’s image.

If you voted for Obama because he was going to make the world love us, then you wasted your vote. If you voted for Obama because you believed he was the one who was going to restore some our lost greatness – our swagger, our machismo – then you voted for the right reasons.

Hopefully, Obama will realize that being president does not mean making our country popular. Living up to our values, promoting our values, and not being afraid to say that we – the US – are great because of what we believe, those are the things that a great president understands.

It is not too late for this man to become a great president.

Posted by charliethompto | Report as abusive

I agree drewbie. To assert, that the power of ideas is not subject to the intricate mixtures of each country or culture’s specific contexts, laws, traditions, and histories–even down to the local scale–is a very strong statement that begs more questions than it answers. Where are the facts (other than quotes from national security statements or prominent political figures) to support that assertion? Even if true, the best way to combat a dangerous idea shoved at you is to ignore it in the way we communicate to the world. The absence of acknowledgement will defeat the radical islamicist agenda far more handily than any kind of belicose language…language that riddles the 2003 National Strategy for Combating Terrorism from the Bush Admin.

Posted by blazerd | Report as abusive

[…] The Underwear Bomber, by Bernd Debusmann, at Reuters. […]

Posted by Killing ideas is far more difficult than killing people « Dating Jesus | Report as abusive

What is being missed is that for Arabs and their followers in Al Queda, the idea is powerfully identified with Bin Laden. As long as he remains alive, to the Arabs, and indeed much of the Moslem world, Al Queda is winning. All of this will not stopped until Bin Laden is executed publicly in Saudi Arabia because if he dies in battle, he will be a martyr. What is astonishing it how he has managed to avoid detection for all this time. But as far as the war of ideas goes, there is no way America can win as long as Israel mistreats the Palestinians and refuses to come to terms for the creation of a Palestinian state. It is true that Arafat is to blame because Israel offered him an excellent deal that he turned down. But now, with the hard right in power in Israel, determined to keep the settlements on the West Bank and all of Jerusalem, there is no chance for peace. It is not lost on young Moslems that Israel uses American weapons and received vast amounts of aid from America. That is sufficient evidence to young Moslems that America is their enemy. Until this situation is changed, America will be on the defensive, unable to win the hearts and minds of young Moslems throughout the world who see America as the enemy of Moslems everywhere.

Posted by cummings01 | Report as abusive

Drewbie: Saying the idea of killing Americans is as appealing today to a minority as it was 11 years ago is not the same as saying recruitment remained steady (who’d keep the statistics on that?). Recent cases, from the underwear bomber and the Fort Hood shooter to the five foreigners arrested in Pakistan are evidence that the idea has appeal. Here are two links germane to the discussion. s-new-popularity.php 09/12/15/how_al_qaeda_dupes_its_follower s?page=full

Posted by Beedee | Report as abusive

Has a refusal to understand terrorism allowed it to grow?
A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it and nothing true. It was twenty-four hundred years ago when Socrates said this. Is it possible that he was on to something? Understandably, he probably had no idea how out of control it could get, but how would he say we should get out of it? How would any of history’s greatest minds come together to get us out of this downward spiral in which we find the entire planet. If you can contribute, this page in newly created for us(the 6,400,000,000 people that let 1000 decide our lives) to come up with an alternative to destroying the world. Look at all premises on both sides without bias and come up with a solution. Please take this seriously. This subject in the eyes of Americans isn’t even really all that important. The ones who do believe it is important are saying hunt them all down. Al Qaeda says they fight because……. (letter from Al Qaeda) @ titled Words of Al Qaeda. The reasons they kill.
http://terroristxxxorxxxactivist.blogspo terrorism-let.html

Please take part

Posted by infinite0 | Report as abusive

“…killing ideas is much more difficult than killing people.” – B.D.
Yes, difficult, but not impossible. In 1940, when Churchill said one of the goals of war should be elimination of Nazi ideology, Stalin ridiculed him by saying “you can’t defeat ideas” or something to that extent. The next year Stalin found himself fighting exactly the same enemy. The enemy was defeated, and the Nazi ideology was thoroughly rooted out of being. The neo-Nazis may be at times noisy, but their real influence is somewhere between non-existent and negligible.
Islam may be defeated just as well. Even though it has much greater number of followers than Hitler, it doesn’t have behind it the most advanced and powerful army in Europe of its time like the Wehrmacht was. However the political correctness must be thrown down the toilet in order to do so. The Great Victory of 1945 and following de-Nazification of Germany was achieved by using, among other things, carpet bombings, incendiaries, ethnic cleansing of huge areas of Sudetenland and Eastern Prussia, and arrests and internments of anyone suspected in having a slightest thing to do with the Nazis. Sometimes as ridiculous as arresting street car driver (S-bahn Führer) because his job title was similar to Sturmbannführer (rank in SS equal to Army Major).
If the choice is between strip-searches of anyone suspected having anything to do with Islam or Arabs, and having airliners blown over the cities, let’s search, and politically correct word “profiling” can go to hell. If there’s intelligence that Ben Laden might be hiding in certain village in Afghanistan or Pakistan, then let B-52s carpet bomb it with no regard to collateral damage. And whoever doesn’t like it is welcome to visit Ground Zero in Manhattan – that view can profoundly change anyone’s attitude.

Posted by An0nym0us | Report as abusive

“…no way America can win as long as Israel mistreats the Palestinians…” – Posted by cummings01
Wouldn’t it be easier for you if anti-Semitism still were socially acceptable? How easy: Jews crucified the Lord, and therefore are to blame for all the ills of this world. Thank God it’s not so anymore, at least in respectable society.
But you still want to blame the Jews, so you make much more complicated chain of logic, involving Palis, Israel, right wing government, American weapons, “hearts and minds of young Moslems throughout the world” – yet in the end still you conclude that Jews are to blame for all the ills of this world.
What is your business about Israeli right government? It was brought to power by Israeli people fed up with inaction of leftie government in the face of Islamic terror. It was elected democratically – can you name just one other democratically elected leadership in that region?
And regarding winning “hearts and minds of young Moslems throughout the world”. If you resorted to anatomy, I would suggest that it’s much more practicable to win their urinary systems. When they begin wetting their pants at the remotest sound of USAF or IDF jets up in the sky, the job is done, and no one needs to care about their hearts and minds.

Posted by An0nym0us | Report as abusive

Ideas can not be killed unless they are shown to be incorrect. We in the US can only “win” this “war of ideas” if we live up to the ideals we claim uphold.

It starts at home. When we have a nation in which each individual citizen is worthy of respect, where the citizen is made the center of every system we have in place, and where the solving of real problems is held up as superior to hording money, then we will “win”. When we finally understand what the “American dream” is REALLY all about, and we materialize it in this country, we will have what we need in order to prove the value of a free society.

Posted by Benny_Acosta | Report as abusive

The war of ideas is not very important.

Islamic terrorism thrives on the poor and the uneducated. Unless you have the capacity to remove poverty or stupidity, it will always exist.

Our main goal is to protect ourselves from terror attacks. Then, the terrorists can stew in their hate all they like.

If this were a general war of “Islam vs the West” then things would be much simpler. Because then the West could simply steamroll the enemy nations, without restraint, until the entire Islamic world is rubble.

But we live in civilised times now. So we have to wait until they turn to rubble by themselves.

Posted by Anon86 | Report as abusive

If Islamic terrorism thrived on the poor and uneducated, as Anon86 says, how does one explain that the underwear bomber came from one of Nigeria’s top families, is wealthy, anmd graduated from one of London’s top colleges. Or that most of the September 11 terrorists were middle class and educated?

Posted by Komment | Report as abusive

The WorldWideWeb was designed at CERN.

‘the greatest mass murder in American history’ – what about the indigenous people ?

Anon86 – North Africa through Afghanistan is already rubble. There is no West anymore, it’s the Rest, the +- 4-5 000 000 000 infidels. This will never change, it is embedded escrow…

Posted by Ghandiolfini | Report as abusive

“North Africa through Afghanistan is already rubble” – only relatively so. Of course no Westerner would think of living in these squalid conditions, but for locals it’s just normal. That’s the life they built for themselves, and want for everyone else. Anon86 meant a different kind of rubble – something like Dresden or Hiroshima. Eventually the West may be forced to resort to it. The good beginning of it would be nuclear objects of Iran – or we’ll face the possibility that Western cities may be turned into rubble.

Posted by An0nym0us | Report as abusive

If it really were to come to a “war of ideas” the question might arise: what intellectual output has America actually produced more of in the last three decades than dubious banking and financial products, mealy-mouthed neoliberal excuses, hideously expensive weaponry and the implicit global subjugation of cultures it has neither the education nor even pretense of legitimacy to comprehend?

Nope, whenever ideas are called for – like, always – America’s leaders may be consistently relied upon to take the easy way out. There’s no leadership by example, no originality worth defending when push comes to shove, but plenty of laziness as usual in idolizing the twin chimeras of Terror and Anti-Terror, tons of fantastic lore and speculation about the means Other People might (if they so chose, were they to, should they) deploy in fighting back against imperial paucity of social concept. Headline news: it’s always about what The Other Guy might do, given half a chance…

Fact: such utter absence of vision, social cohesion and justice as prevails in America today would make any nation vulnerable even unto itself. Ergo, long before any barbarian enemy were to subvert this country from without, it will likely have imploded due to internal vacuum in the area of accountability.

Look at America’s health, welfare and education. Look at physical and digital communications infrastructure. Look at distribution of wealth. A more cynical person than myself might conclude that all we’ve got here is Yankee dog eat dog. Whose idea of a good time would that be, for Auld Lang Syne?

But luckily, what we’re seeing now is no “war” of ideas. Not to say that we don’t have enough wars going on already…

No, I say luckily, because what’s really going on too closely resembles a one-sided slapstick sitcom scuffle over who can deposit the most explosive excrement in their underwear at any given moment. In this decade’s episode, the dignity of The America People has been the biggest loser of all time.

Posted by HBC | Report as abusive

The uneducated thrive in the West as much as in the East. It is a major historic and political error to keep on denying the undeniable. The terrorists’s misrepresentation of Islam succeeded to capture the minds of many young muslims, only when the West especially the USA -above all- succeeded to assure the muslims everywhere; sunni; shiites; mainstream and extremists, that muslim land; blood and history could be usurped without the slightest remorse or consideration . The UN had become a puppet of the US and extremist zionists were practically planted by the West to set up shop in Palestine on purely ethnic and self-serving religious grounds. The Arabs were to pay the price of the atrocities committed in WWII, by both sides, a war in which muslims did not play part, yet are expected by the “educated West” to pay the bill for what was committed in anotherr world on a distant continent and soil against the jews, by Europeans!
Yet the ‘democratic and free West’ denies the Palestinians their religious and ethnic roots to live where they want, in their homeland. What sort of justice or Human Rights example does this give. The entire western propaganda about western freedom and democracy became so hypocritical and smells of stench. As the “enlightened” one above says, might as well win the young muslims urinary bladders. Yep, to empty on western promises and peace agreements. Nothing could be more stupid. For anyone out there who knows the abc of root-cause analysis, this is the root of today’s hate-mongering and racism. The West needs to do some serious introspection. Not only because it needs to win hearts and minds, but because it needs to stop losing soldiers on foreign soil.

Posted by combakpro | Report as abusive

“Yet the ‘democratic and free West’ denies the Palestinians their religious and ethnic roots to live where they want, in their homeland.” – Posted by combakpro

The land they want has been claimed by its rightful owners – Israelis. Iran, Hamas, al-Qaeda, and their likes can demand “Palestine from the river to the sea” all they like, but the fact of the matter is that the state of Israel is there and will not go anywhere. The legitimacy of Israel has been confirmed by UN in 1948, even though Israel needs no confirmations of legitimacy from UN, USA, or anyone else. The claim of Israel to the land is thousands of years old, and the word “Arab” has not yet been heard under the sky when Kings of Israel established the city of Jerusalem as their seat of power.
The plight of Palestinian Arabs is regretful, but it’s been caused by their Arab brethren. When Arabs ran away from newborn Israel, about an equal number of Jews has been forced from Arab countries where they lived for generations. In just a few years, Jewish refugees had been accommodated and integrated in Israel. The Palestinians remain in squalid camps in Arab countries even though over 60 years passed. If you want to know what government has the worst record in discriminating against Palestinians, keeping them behind the dividing walls, using heavy weaponry against refugee camps – it’s not the one of Israel, it’s Lebanese. Syrians and Jordanians are not much behind.

And last but not least – the word Israel has never been mentioned by B.D. in his original post. However some posters are trying to turn every discussion into anti-Israeli hysteria. The name for their state of mind is known for centuries – it’s plain old anti-Semitism.

Posted by An0nym0us | Report as abusive

@ Komment, you make a good point.

It is true that the September 11 attackers were educated, as was the recent “underbomber”.

But they are the minority, not the norm.

In countries such as Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq, the majority of terrorists are lower class, and have an education mainly restricted to religion.

Look at your standard Pakistani suicide bomber, or your general Afghani militiaman (who may be Afghani, Iranian, Somalian, or Pakistani). Very few of them are likely to have university degrees or millionaire fathers.

Those who thrive on hate, spread their word by taking advantage of those with weak willpower.

In Pakistan and Afganistan, this is done by taking advantage of people’s faith, poverty and low education.

For a Nigerian millionaire’s son, this is done by taking advantage of a pampered lifestyle, a complete lack of contact with family/friends, and his feelings that his life has no purpose.

Posted by Anon86 | Report as abusive

An0nym0us, rubble is rubble.

‘something like Dresden or Hiroshima. Eventually the West may be forced to resort to it. The good beginning of it would be nuclear objects of Iran’ – tell us about Dresden, do you condone it ? Are you saying that nuclear facilities in Iran must be bombed ? How many posters have actually visited North Africa or the Middle East or Wahabi Country or Mecca ? Why is there this drive that the USA has to take on this huge responsibility ? Who bankrolls all of this low grade propaganda ?

I saw ‘Waltz with Bashir’ yesterday, give it a try. It is animated, in case you can’t stand real mechanized combat, which you should maybe also try out some time. Sit right until the last credit rolls by, even Bob Dylan features. Don’t name countries, name religions. BD doesn’t, why should you ?

Anon86, you are a class bunny.

Posted by Ghandiolfini | Report as abusive

You make a jumbled comment about propaganda, mechanized combat and Bob Dylan.

Then you called me a rabbit for some reason.

I’m sure there is a more subtle quality to your argument, but you lost me completely.

Posted by Anon86 | Report as abusive

As horrible as it was, Dresden was the price for peaceful, democratic Germany we know now. Please don’t start the speculations about its proportionality or necessity, it happened as it happened. The history doesn’t recognize “What if”, it just records the facts.
Am I saying that nuclear facilities in Iran must be bombed? Not necessarily so, but the mad Mullahs ruling Iran must be prevented from obtaining the nukes. Negotiated solution is preferable, but seems like the negotiations are going nowhere. So the bombing might become the only remaining option. Nuclear bombing, if conventional bombs are not sufficient to eliminate targets dug deep under the mountains. When it’s them or us, the choice is clear.
“How many posters have actually visited North Africa or the Middle East or Wahabi Country or Mecca ?” One can get well informed just by reading. How many astronomers actually flew to the stars? As for Mecca, most of the readers of this would not be allowed to set a foot there – it’s reserved for Muslims only. Can you imagine Rome reserved for Catholics or Jerusalem reserved for Jews?
“Why is there this drive that the USA has to take on this huge responsibility ?” Who else can? Technically Israel could, but too much stink would be raised by “peace loving world community”. Remember the reactor in Osiraq? Everyone was piling it on “Zionist aggressors”. But if Israel hadn’t done it, Saddam would have had nukes by the time of Desert Storm, so there would probably be no Desert Storm at all, and Saddam still would be smiling in Baghdad, digesting Kuwait. Oh, well, it’s a good thing that history doesn’t recognize “What if”.
“Who bankrolls all of this low grade propaganda ?” I wish I knew – I’d claim my share for the posts here.

Posted by An0nym0us | Report as abusive

It’s correct, to some degree, to say this is a war of ideas – but it is still a war. Wars are fought with weapons, not holy books. Even if we build schools, hospitals, mosques, and rec centers in the Middle East, we will fail on the same level as we did in Vietnam – the people would rather live under local tyranny than foreign freedom. It will come down to a campaign of fear. People criticize Truman for his use of the atomic bomb – they caused approximately 250,000 deaths. The other option, the proposed invasion of Japan, Operation Downfall, was predicted to cause at least 3 million American deaths and the extermination of nearly the entire Japanese people. The main weapons would have been incendiary bombs and poisonous gas. So it will be in the Islamic world. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Palestine, perhaps even Iran will all have to have some sort of retribution fall against them before this is all said and done. Even though the terrorists are called “extranational”, their recruiting base is national indeed. Create a climate of fear such that the word “American military” will be a nightmarish bedtime story and who will join the jihad anymore? This war is no different than Japan – it will come down three options. A nuclear campaign, a campaign of fear like in Japan and Germany, or defeat.

Posted by Crater | Report as abusive

Moslems are reacting to the treatment they have received at the hands of the West. The origin of the problem is the harsh treatment of the Palestinians by the Israelis. Israel could not exist without American help so the Americans are associated with Israeli oppression. The Moslems are stigmatized in films and the media and this increases their antagonism.

Taking a firm hand with Israeli aggression will do wonders in reducing Moslem terrorism. Talking to the terrorist leaders will achieve far more in the long term than trying to crush them with superior firepower.

Posted by AnOldBrit | Report as abusive

@ AnOldBrit.

The term “Israeli Aggression” is a loaded term.

It implies that Israel actions in history are unilateral and without cause, as opposed to being logical reactions to hostile military actions by other nations.

The wall is designed to stop suicide bombers. The patrols are for stopping gunmen from killing civilians. The current embargo is to prevent weapons and supplies from reaching Hamas.

Even the recent Lebanon and Gaza wars were a response to military attacks on Israel. Do you really see this as Israeli aggression?

For that matter, if terrorism can be halted simply by the low price of capitulating to terrorist demands, do you really see this as a ‘solution’?

I also note that Israeli superior firepower has pretty much stopped both Hamas and Hezbollah from launching rockets and sending raids Israel, while decades of talking to terrorist leaders did not.

Posted by Anon86 | Report as abusive

“Create a climate of fear such that the word “American military” will be a nightmarish bedtime story and who will join the jihad anymore?”

A suicide bomber has no fear of dying, they will queue up in their thousands to die and take you with them if you adopt this Nazi approach.

Posted by AnOldBrit | Report as abusive


Israeli response to terrorism is harsh and repressive, can you imagine the reaction to Britain if we had bombed Dublin in response to IRA terrorism?

Israel has routinely responded in this way to attacks. She gained her State by terrorism against the British and has continued in this illegal manner ever since.

Posted by AnOldBrit | Report as abusive

What on earth is everyone, once again, debating the Israeli Palestinian problem for? This has nothing to do with Palestine or Israel. Al Qaeda is a pure Islamic movement that hates everyone that is not them, and wishes to destroy anyone, Jew, Christian, Muslim, whatever, if they do not accept their interpretation of Islam. Did their supporters in the Taliban blow up Pakistanis because of their support for Israel? Pakistan hates Israel. Israel could disappear tomorrow and the Islamic cult of pure Caliphate inspired dominance would continue. Read the book, ‘The Looming Towers’ if you want to understand what al Qaeda really stands for.

Until the leaders of the Free World and moderate Islam unite to rid this cancer from our civilized world, nothing will change. Unfortunately, we have appeasers and PC fanatics in charge of the White House and the EU, so there is little chance of anyone dealing with the problem. As for the UN, it is currently dominated by their supporters.

On a side note, Dresden, which has also mysteriously managed to be inserted into this debate, was designated a ‘fortress’ city by Hitler, which meant that it would have to be defended to the last man, woman and child. If the Allies had not bombed it, the Russians would have flattened it anyway, as they did other cities in their way. So sadly Dresden and its people was doomed whatever decision the Allies took.

Posted by stephenr | Report as abusive


Despite what you think, this outbreak of terrorism was triggered by Israel’s harsh repression of Palestinians. If you can’t accept this then a solution will never be found.

Posted by AnOldBrit | Report as abusive


“While seeking Allah’s help, we form our reply based on two questions directed at the Americans:

(Q1) Why are we fighting and opposing you?
Q2)What are we calling you to, and what do we want from you?

As for the first question: Why are we fighting and opposing you? The answer is very simple:

(1) Because you attacked us and continue to attack us.

a) You attacked us in Palestine:”

Where did this come from?

Osama Bin Laden’s “Letter to America”.  /24/theobserver refers.

Posted by AnOldBrit | Report as abusive

Lets face it the ideas of the US have not been backed up with actual action. While it is easy to promise engagement with societies, it is more difficult to actually reverse years of foreign policy and actually stand by the new promises made.

Israel and Palestine are a debate that is important but isn’t the only point of debate. As someone commented above you cannot make the world suddenly start to love you. What the US can do is try and stick to a moderate carrot and stick policy that at some point might pay dividends.

Acts of terrorism are not likely to end any time soon not with all that has happened over the last decade. However, what the US can hope to do is deter the existence of future recruitment of similar people. How it will is the biggest mystery.

Posted by Rambler | Report as abusive

@ OldBrit

Your analogy is flawed. Gaza is a separate entity which is not part of Israel, nor are the people in Gaza considered civilians of Israel.

Imagine instead that Spain started using its military to launch missiles at London. And making sure that all missile sites and Spanish soldiers were located in Madrid.

For your first question “Would the UK bomb Madrid”, the answer is “you bet”. Civilian areas used for military purposes become legitimate targets.

For your second question “What would the reaction be” the answer is “hypocrisy”. Because while there would undoubtable be outrage at the UK’s actions, the reality is NO nation (let alone a Muslim one) will allow another nation to deliberately fire missiles at their civilians without reply.

The fact you expect Israel to act different to any other nation seems to indicate double standards.

You seem to believe that Israel is not allowed to defend itself, and hence all such actions of defence are “illegal” according to your view.

That standard doesn’t fly with any other nation, so why treat Israel differently?

Posted by defcon86 | Report as abusive

In an article commenting a war of ideas it is wrong to say one side is “hate filled” and ignore the other sides actions.
Hundreds of thousands people have died in the opression of Iraq. The US supports ethnic cleansing against Palestinians. America murders political opponents by missile strikes and calls the victims terrorists. Innocent people are imprisoned and tortured in US run prisons.
The ideas of justice, freedom and equality have not been defeated. They just have been ignored.

Posted by andycomment | Report as abusive


For your information, the Irish Republic, of which Dublin is the capital, is not part of Great Britain any more than Spain is, so the analogy IS a good one. IRA terrorists DID use Eire as a base but at no time did we consider bombing Dublin. We are a civilised nation who are bound by accepted standards of international conduct. Sadly, Israel is not bound by such a code.

“The fact you expect Israel to act different to any other nation seems to indicate double standards.”

Israel DOES act differently to every other nation, no other nation would bomb refugee camps and nuclear reactors.

Israel breaks every standard of accepted conduct. It is a terrorist state.

Posted by AnOldBrit | Report as abusive

Andycomment. Such a short post, and yet so rich in issues worth debating.

1. “Hundreds of thousands people have died in the opression of Iraq.”

We can see here that you imply that Americans are a cause of oppression in Iraq, and that American oppression led to the deaths of all these innocent people.

You ignore the fact that these deaths were caused direct actions of Islamic terrorists against civilians. Their kidnapping, murder and suicide bombs directly killed those people. Actions which some would consider “hate filled” and not justifiable in any manner.

2. “The US supports ethnic cleansing against Palestinians.”

The term ‘ethnic cleansing’ is a concrete legal term which should not be used lightly.

Unless you are on your way to the International Court to get a ruling that the legal term applies, perhaps you should wonder why the international court has not yet made such a ruling and why this is so.

Unless you are an International Court judge, in which case your opinion is relevent.

3. “America murders political opponents by missile strikes and calls the victims terrorists.”

You seem to mistake policical entities for those actively involved in enemy military activities, and the difference between the two.

And the term ‘terrorist’ is not a subjective term. It is a term which applies to those who make deliberate illegal attacks against civilian targets, for the purpose of killing civilians.

It is the method of a person which determines whether that person is a ‘terrorist’, not their cause. So when these people are called terrorists, it isn’t mere propaganda, but a definitive description.

“Innocent people are imprisoned and tortured in US run prisons.”

This involves a bunch of assumptions.

-Are they, in fact, innocent?
-Regardless of the above, do they need to be guilty of a crime to be lawfully imprisoned?
-If they are treated in a particular manner, is that treatment fitting the definition of torture?
-And if they are tortured, is it systemic or isolated?
-And does such events have any actual bearing on whether we should fight terrorism, or is it merely a secondary issue for those who need to feel moral superiority before they will allow their nation to defend themselves from harm?

Posted by defcon86 | Report as abusive


For your information, the Irish Republic is a separate sovereign nation. The individual terrorist republican groups acting in North Ireland were not.

If the Republic of Ireland’s actual official army (Later known as the Defence Forces) had attacked North Ireland’s Belfast it wouldn’t have been an act of terrorism, but an act of war.

And if Ireland then decided to hide its official military in Dublin, then yes, the city would be bombed.

The terrorist groups in North Ireland were criminals, and the matter in dealing with them was a domestic one. Which is why their actions, separate from the Republic of Ireland, would not lead to Dublin being bombed.

Contrast with Hamas, a terrorist group which has complete political and military control over Gaza. And was elected as Gaza’s government. Making Gaza a separate entity from Israel.

Hence their actions against Israel were an act of war. As surely as if Spain or the Irish Republic had started launching missiles at London.

Regarding your statements regarding standards of conduct? Israel is indeed bound by international standards and complies with them to the letter.

You just don’t understand those standards. You simply assume that if you don’t like what is happening, the standards must have been broken. International law doesn’t work that way.

Posted by Anon86 | Report as abusive


I just noticed that you claimed that “No other nation would ever bomb refugee camps and nuclear reactors”

That statement is ridiculous. Many nations have done both. When civilian sites are used for military purposes, military attacks on those targets are legal.

Posted by Anon86 | Report as abusive

Israel “…gained her State by terrorism against the British and has continued in this illegal manner ever since.” – Posted by AnOldBrit
Looks like AnOldBrit is one of the remaining faithful members of Oswald Mosley’s British Union. Back then when all normal Brits were watching the raise of Hitler with horror, these guys painted ‘Perish the Jews’ on the walls.

Shall I remind that it was the Brits that issued the Balfour declaration, when they needed support of Jewish financiers to finance WWI? And then reneged on it to keep happy the Arabs like Husseini who anyway betrayed them by openly joining Hitler? However thousands of refugees trying to get to then-British mandate of Palestine were turned back to certain death in Hitler-occupied Europe.
The “terrorism” mentioned by AnOldBrit began as Jewish resistance to Arab revolt. Some Jewish organizations started targeting the Brits only in response to executions of Jewish resistance fighters. It worked – when 2 British sergeants were hanged and a message was left that it was done in response to hanging Jewish detainees, the hangings stopped on both sides. As for the famous explosion of British offices in King David hotel, the advanced warning was issued giving enough time to evacuate the building – too bad it wasn’t heeded. Somehow I don’t remember Arabs and Muslims ever giving detailed advanced notice on their bombings, that began even before Israel was founded, and continue ever since – the underbomber just the last, but unfortunately by no means final case.

Posted by An0nym0us | Report as abusive

bad work, top to bottom.

Posted by jimigenius | Report as abusive

As long as America continues doing business with the corrupt dictatorship called Saudi Arabia, Al-Qaeda will live on. This is not America vs Islam but an Arab family dispute gone horribly wrong.
America has a double standard with which dictatorships it wars with or does business with. It’s hypocrisy at its best. That’s where Bin Laden ideas came from.
End all business relationships with the Saudi’s and Bin Laden and his ideas will die along with it.
Remember Bin Laden is funded by Arab money paid for by Americans.

Lesson to America: Have some bloody standards when choosing international business partners.

Posted by dutch | Report as abusive

The Islamic jihad was not the brainchild of Osama but that of the American Imperialism [with the aid and assistance of the most right-reactionary forces in every country of their occupation] whose only concern is to assist the MNCs and the TNCs in their exploitation of the abundant natural resources the world over.All talk of upholding the values- that too American ones[?]- of freedom, democracy, free choice,etc. is nothing more than a cliche to hoodwink those gullible guys in their own as well as other countries!
After all what business do the Americans have in those countries no matter what their social-economic-political systems are? If the former USSR was wrong in ‘exporting’ revolution to the third world countries how can the USA directly wage wars in the name of their brand of democracy? If America’s political evangelism is right then Osama’s and his ilk’s retaliation is also right! If America has every right NOT ONLY TO DEFEND BUT ALSO SPREAD ITS STYLE OF LIFE AND BELIEFS then how can one find fault with others who also feel that their values are being threatened?.After all it was this very same America which originally recruited and trained them in their ‘jihad’ against the truly humanizing socialist ideology that was sought to be practiced in such countries. IF communism was a taboo for them can the American way of life be sold to them in the name of pseudo-democracy?
AND lastly,no American other than the ones who are genuinely-not for tactical or personal/practical reasons-opposed to the neocolonialist wars of his country has any right to grouse against the backlash of his country’s atrocities elsewhere.Let them not gloat over their system which has driven thousands on to the streets in their own country and is ruining the lives of the millions in other countries.Because that system and its government in their country are not theirs but those of the warlords in the service of the MNCs and the TNCs.
A V Samikkannu, Pappireddippatti, Tamilnadu, India

Posted by avsk7294 | Report as abusive