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Threat of Terrorism a Political Driven Fantasy?


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#1    Lottie

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Posted 16 January 2005 - 12:22 PM

The Power of Nightmares - a controversial BBC documentary series screened last autumn (and to be repeated next week) - questioned whether the threat of terrorism to the West is a politically driven fantasy and if al-Qaeda really is an organised network. The BBC was inundated with correspondence, some critical much of it very positive, and here I try to answer some of the points raised.

Are you saying that there is no threat?

No, the series did not say this. It was very clear in arguing that although there is a serious threat of terrorism from some radical Islamists, the nightmare vision of a uniquely powerful hidden organisation waiting to strike our societies is an illusion.

As the films showed, wherever one looks for this "al-Qaeda" organisation - from the mountains of Afghanistan to the "sleeper cells" in America - the British and Americans are pursuing a fantasy.

The bombs in Madrid and Bali showed clearly the seriousness of the threat - but they are not evidence of a new and overwhelming threat unlike any we have experienced before. And above all they do not - in the words of the British government - "threaten the life of the nation". That is simply untrue.

OK, so al-Qaeda does not exist as a highly organised and structured group. But it is a terrifically powerful ideology, which makes it even more dangerous.

No - the extreme Islamist ideas are dangerous, as Madrid, Bali and 11 September showed, but to portray them as a terrifying new viral form of terrorism is also part of the politics of fear.

The Power of Nightmares re-defined the terrorist threat
If one looks at the history of the Islamist movement and its ideas it is clear that its high point came in the late 80s when it seemed on the verge of success across the Muslim world.

But then in the 1990s Islamism failed dramatically in its attempts to create revolutions because the ideas failed to inspire the masses. They did not appeal to the majority of people.

The attacks on 11 September were not the expression of a confident and growing movement, they were acts of desperation by a small group frustrated by their failure which they blamed on the power of America. It is also important to realise that many within the Islamist movement were against this strategy.

The films were biased.

The films were far less biased than the overwhelming majority of media reporting of the al Qaeda threat over the past three years.

Almost all of this reporting was based solely on unsubstantiated briefings from government and security sources.

As with politicians, the media also stumbled on a way of reasserting their authority because they could portray themselves as powerful figures who knew about the terrifying hidden world of "al-Qaeda".

In this way a fantasy became the received wisdom. Just because one is challenging the received wisdom on the basis of historical facts and journalistic investigation does not make one biased.

How can the BBC broadcast the Dirty Bomb programme and transmit the Power of Nightmares?

I don't know, you'll have to ask them. But I am really pleased they were so supportive of the Power of Nightmares. It shows the BBC is a strong and confident public service broadcaster.

Haven't the actions of the Americans and British in the "war on terror" turned the fantasy into reality? In particular with the emergence of Islamist foreign fighters in Iraq.

I think one has to be very careful about this. The anti-war movement and the Left is just as capable as other politicians of playing the politics of fear.

There is very little hard evidence of foreign fighters in Iraq, the majority of the insurgents are Iraqis and despite claims in Washington, the Commander in Chief in Iraq, General Casey, recently said that as far as he could discover foreigners were playing a minimal role in the insurgency.

It starts with conclusions and makes up the evidence to support it. The neo-Conservatives didn't come to power in the US as a result of 9/11. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were already in the Defence Department before 9/11.


The attacks on 11 September were not the expression of a confident and growing movement, they were acts of desperation by a small group frustrated by their failure
Adam Curtis, producer, Power of Nightmares

The Power of Nightmares
The neo-Conservatives were part of the administration but if you talk to the neo-Cons, which I did, they will tell you candidly that they had very little influence during the early part of the Bush administration, particularly in foreign affairs.

It was the events of 11 September that showed the president, they say, that what they had been warning of since the early 1990s was correct - that America faced dangerous threats in a new unipolar world, and the need for America to fight pre-emptive wars. This, as the programme said, brought them back to power in America. They would agree with this.

Are you saying it's a conspiracy?

No. The use of fear in contemporary politics is not the result of a conspiracy, the politicians have stumbled on it. In a populist, consumerist age where they found their authority and legitimacy declining dramatically they have simply discovered in the "war on terror" a way of restoring their authority by promising to protect us from something that only they can see.


THE POWER OF NIGHTMARES
BBC Two, 23.20GMT
Part 1: Tue 18 January
Part 2: Wed 19 January
Part 3: Thu 20 January
I don't think it will last. Already senior parts of the Establishment are beginning to question the very basis of the politicians' argument - that "al-Qaeda" is a threat like no other which "threatens the life of the nation".

In the recent House of Lords ruling which said that the indefinite detention of foreign nationals without trial was illegal, one of the Law Lords - Lord Hoffman - publicly challenged the government's justification.

He said: "This is a nation which has been tested in adversity, which has survived physical destruction and catastrophic loss of life.

"I do not underestimate the ability of fanatical groups of terrorists to kill and destroy, but they do not threaten the life of the nation.

"Whether we would survive Hitler hung in the balance, but there is no doubt that we shall survive al-Qaeda.

"The Spanish people have not said that what happened in Madrid, hideous crime as it was, threatened the life of their nation. Their legendary pride would not allow it.

"Terrorist violence, serious as it is, does not threaten our institutions of government or our existence as a civil community."

Was the programme trying to change anything?

Yes.

Can the programme be compared to the red pill offered by Morpheus in The Matrix?

Thank you very much. But remember always to read the label before taking the medication.

The Power of Nightmares will be broadcast over three nights from 18 to 20 January at 2320GMT on BBC Two. The final part has been updated in the wake of the Law Lords ruling in December that detaining foreign terrorist suspects without trial was illegal.

source


#2    bathory

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Posted 16 January 2005 - 12:31 PM

looks interesting:) i guess in a sense the evil organisation of Al Queda is portrayed as something like Lex Luther? or a not so bumbling Dr Evil type organisation when in reality its more of a bunch of offshoots with no centralised command and whatnot (hence why Bin Laden isn't *that* important to the outcome of the war)


#3    The Russian Hare

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Posted 16 January 2005 - 03:12 PM

I wish there was a way to get this program here in the US.

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#4    zephyr

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Posted 17 January 2005 - 02:16 PM

QUOTE
As the films showed, wherever one looks for this "al-Qaeda" organisation - from the mountains of Afghanistan to the "sleeper cells" in America - the British and Americans are pursuing a fantasy

And Mullah Omar lost his throne trying to protect the same fantasy grin2.gif
QUOTE
they were acts of desperation by a small group frustrated by their failure

Nonsence!  tongue.gif
On Sep 11 2001, the fantasy land boys were in control of Afghanistan and were quite prosperous and confident. they had just managed to assissinate their Ahmad Shah Masoud a couple of days before, things were going great for them, they were far from being desperate and frustrated. yes.gif
QUOTE
In this way a fantasy became the received wisdom. Just because one is challenging the received wisdom on the basis of historical facts and journalistic investigation does not make one biased

Too bad for the fantasy which wasn't one to begin with anyway. rofl.gif



#5    alienbear

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Posted 17 January 2005 - 02:26 PM

disgust.gif See the docu. before you start bitching. They really do put forward a convincing case. Maybe the went a bit overboard with some of the remarks, but the gist of things remains true (at least to me): at a time when the old enemy (communisme) was lost, a new one was created: terrorism.

9/11, Madrid and some lower key stuff (the murder of a dutch film director, among such)  mad.gif  mad.gif were committed by radical islamitic groups. They are sponsored by likewise organisations. But still .... there is a difference between the picture putf orward by the Bush administration and reality

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#6    zephyr

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Posted 17 January 2005 - 03:48 PM

QUOTE
See the docu. before you start bitching

Don't give that BS about when I can talk angry.gif I was proving the invalidity of some of the arguments in Lottie's post. devil.gif 
Something you failed to do was to reply properly to my arguments, and went on bitching about how bad Bush was. ohmy.gif
QUOTE
at a time when the old enemy (communisme) was lost, a new one was created: terrorism.

And is this terrorism a fantasy or a real one? grin2.gif  
I think your views on the matter are severly blured by your opinions and emotions about Bush!  yes.gif

Edited by zephyr, 18 January 2005 - 06:11 AM.





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