Media Root of Modern Terrorism
“The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”
As I'm in my media analysis mood, I will venture a piece on the genesis of modern terrorism, as I see it.
It was not exactly an instance of violence as protest, but I believe the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City provided terrorists the first glimpse of the power of the media to portray and disseminate a message of protest. The moment was when Tommie Smith and John Carlos--the black U.S. sprinters who had won the gold and bronze medals, respectively--raised their fists in a Black Power salute as the U.S. national anthem was being played.
Immediately, the Palestinians realized the potential of this untapped tool, the electronic media, and began planning the 1972 Olympic operation in Munich. The rest is a sad history.
Terrorism is cheap, and the cost effectiveness is enhanced by the free communications and media coverage provided by the target. In 1972, the target was not solely the Israeli athletes, so much as world opinion--that larger audience beyond the target. Surprisingly, the Palestinians garnered worldwide sympathy for their cause after they murdered the Jewish athletes.
The only thing that has changed with terrorism since 1972 is the evolving nature of their sponsorship.
There was a time when terrorism was considered state- or non-state sponsored. It is no longer state-sponsorship as such, but unofficial and semi-official proxies of the government which supply support to these groups. The state/non-state etiology is still applied by the Department of State, but with the evolution of support transitioning into the religious realm, state sponsorship is now veiled. However, it is still a factor influencing and directing Islamic extremism.
Iraq used to pay a bonus to Palestinian suicide bombers in Israel. Saudi Arabia pays Palestinians to stay out of S.A. Iran funds and trains Hezbollah. Pakistan supports Al Quaida through the ISI. Jordan and Egypt provide funds, intel and weapons to Sunnis in Iraq. This is but a gross overview to indicate the web of complexity surrounding the problem, which is ignored by a blunt U.S. policy.
When 9-11 occurred, the responsible agency was Al Quaida, a group which had previous alliances with and training provided by the CIA and Pakistan's ISI. The monetary and personnel basis of Al Quaida is Saudi primarily, with Egyptian participation. Surely the Taliban provided safe haven. But only an idiot would believe the bin Laden family is not also financing Osama, or that the family does not have the unofficial blessing of the house of Saud.
Clearly there's a judgment call here: does the U.S. go after nuclear Pakistan, oil-rich Saudi Arabia or our Egyptian partners? Or none of these, and simply focus on prosecuting individuals within the terrorist cells, knowing that members are a renewable resource.
Invading Afganstan might eliminate a safe haven, but what has it done to address the larger issues? The Taliban is not the threat to America. The threat is Al Quaida and its sponsorship by long-term U.S. allies. That reality is being ignored in GWB's ill-conceived War on Terror. It is a palliative approach to a manifestation, rather than a routing out of the disease process which produced the visible illness.
U.S. policy should address the disease and not the symptoms.