File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0109, message 40

Date: Sat, 15 Sep 2001 08:13:26 -0500
Subject: Observations on terrorism

Here are some observations about terrorism which I found interesting and
am passing along.

TR Young <>To: psn-special-AT-csf.colorado.eduSubject:
Pre-theoretical Violence: the World Trade Center

The news of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York leaves one
stunned at the complexity of the act and benumbed by the death of so
many people. There will be a great many analyses of this event over the
years to come and, it is likely that, one day, we will know a great deal
about the people who organized the 'bombing' of the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon.Right now, we have little more than outrage and anger
to guide us in our understanding. In the sections to follow, I will make
as few assumptions as possible...I assume that the group responsible is
one sponsored or at least tolerated by any one of a half dozen
governments in the Mid-East who have cause to dislike, intensely, the
policies of the US government in the region. It well may be that the
chief architect of this act of guerrilla warfare may be the guerrilla
chief known as Bin Loden, a Saudi Arabian living in Afghanistan: he has
the funds, the experience and the will to organize it.The Afghanistan
government has denied the possibility of his involvement...saying that
all of his communications equipment has been taken away. I doubt very
much if it were any group within Palestine itself...they are focused on
Israel...not the USA.I have organized this mini-lecture/analysis into
five parts: the social psychology of terrorism; the social organization
of terrorism; the political economy of terrorism; the social base of the
attack and, finally, the long-range effects of the act.Before I start, I
want to emphasize that both this awful violence and the short-term
response by the US government is and will continue to be pre-theoretical
vengeance and revenge. The bombing of the Trade Center and the Pentagon
will not produce the policy changes desired by its architects; nor will
revenge in turn reduce the kind and amount of terrorism to which the USA
is exposed. Reason for this statement will emerge in the analysis below.
The Social Psychology of Terrorism. 
Many US leaders use a highly charged, medical analysis of the people who
hi-jacked the plane and guided it into the twin towers of the Center.
Madness, psychosis, religious fanaticism, dementia, as well as jealousy,
envy and a need for self assertion...all have been central to the
comments of both politicians and reporters yet there is another social
psychology which, I believe, is more helpful to a sociological
understanding of the act.Think about it. You are a young man in an
Islamic society who has been angry for years at the way in which the US
and its allies have acted in the Mid-East...and you have been invited to
join a group, invested in the firm belief that the USA and Europe are
corrupting the morals of the whole world; drugs, alcohol, pornography
and a privatized sexuality of ever younger boys and girls all offend the
teachings of social life to which you are dedicated. The emergence of
women's liberation also offends the teachings of Islamic society...and
the USA is one of leading centers for the new gender politics. This is
anathema to Islamic men.Unlike the young men in Palestine who wrap
explosives around their bodies and kill a few people, you have a chance
for mass killing of an unprecedented size. And you have the support of
Islamic peoples from the Philippines to Morocco.Then you are put into a
small group whose working assumption is that one gains eternal honor by
serving as the agent of destruction of the western 'devils'. These are
powerful psychological drives for acts of self-destruction of such young
men. Bravery, courage, honor and sacrifice for a 'higher' cause are
elements of a social psychology which have driven small bands of males
to warfare for centuries.Other members of your team become your friends
and honored companions in a labor which will earn you eternal not only join but you are eager to join and to help wreak
vengeance on the Western Devil' You leave your country an are isolated
with several dozen people all of whom accept; none of whom challenge
your working assumptions.Your social psychology is not private madness
but one of a determined revenge for 'wrongs' engineered by the West for
the past century or more anchored in a social base which you cherish as
'your people.'
The Social Organization of Terrorism. 
In the case of the Trade Center, it appears that there was/is a fairly
large organization which engineered the bombing. There were at least
four teams which took over the airplanes...probably of four or five
members each. Then there had to be a central team based on land to
coordinate the attacks after the hi-jacking. This means that there were
from 30 to 50 members of a highly secretive group which infiltrated the
USA over the months or weeks before 11 September, 2001.The training of
the teams probably took place in one of several camps scattered over the least one member of each crew had to be instructed in
piloting air-craft...the hi-jack teams could not depend upon US pilots
to fly their planes and passengers into the towers or the pentagon. This
means a whole cadre of support personnel at the camp; cooks,
instructors, guards, technicians and a leadership as well. At least 100
or perhaps 200. All of these people had to be known by government
officials of the host country...just as the USA sponsored anti-Cuban
guerrillas in Central America with the full knowledge of the Guatemalan
government, the host government could not but know of the group...if not
the specific plan.
The Political Economy of Terrorism. 
The Choice of the Pentagon and the World Trade towers as target are
leading clues to the political economy which forms the larger
socio-political context in which the events emerged.The Twin Towers and
surrounding buildings are the heart of a vast world political economy
dominated/orchestrated by the USA. The Pentagon is the heart of a great
military establishment with bases around the world.The short version of
all this is that there are some 86 essential raw materials in countries
around the world which are needed to drive the American Economy. Oil is
the central one; factories, the automobile industry and the
chemical/plastics industry in Europe, Japan and the USA could not
survive without oil from the Mid-East.There is also a micro-political
economy which fuels much of the Islamic anger directed at the USA
involving Israel and Palestine.Israel is a small pawn in this larger
world trade which brings oil and other essential materials to the West.
For years, it provided the only 'friendly' base for American 'interests'
in the Mid-East. Those interests were and are oil to fuel America cars;
oil to generate American energy; Oil to provide American products and
oil to drive American factories.Israeli needs the protection of the USA
in a region hostile to its very existence. The USA has supplied Israel
with planes, missiles, guns, training and billions of dollars over the
past 30 years. These military goods are used against Palestinian/Islamic
Arabs.Central to the tragedy of the Holy Land is the slow acquisition of
Palestinian land by Israeli settlers. I lived for a while on a Kibbutz
in Israel and came to understand the political economy which drives the
continuing hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians. Land tenure
among the Palestinians has been traditional....families 'own' vaguely
demarcated farm and grazing lands....Israelis brought European notions
of land tenure with specific bounded ownership of every acre. Since
there has been no deeds nor recording of deeds, it appears to Israelis
that land is 'unowned.' To Palestinians, they know, generation by
generation, who has use and usufruct to the land...and, in some cases,
elders in a village apportion grazing rights for a year or for
years...people know this without formal title or state records.It is
this discrepancy in ideas of land tenure which drives much of the
tension between Israel people and Islamic people everywhere. Then too,
there is the military superiority of the Israelis which is used to
enforce policies and occupations unpopular to Palestinians. Finally
there are the labor policies...Palestinians are used as a surplus labor
reserve by Israelis much as Germany uses...and discriminates
against...immigrant Turks or USA farmers and businesses use Mexican
migrants as a cheap labor source.
The Social Base of Terrorism. 
There is a larger social base which supports the destruction of the Twin
Towers and another social base which is deeply offended by the deed.In
poor countries around the world, there will be something approaching
jubilation at the news of the destruction of these two symbols of
Western domination of the world and of world culture. For many people, a
sort of grim, unspoken satisfaction will serve; for others, public
displays of delight at the death of thousands of persons will be seen.In
most of Europe as in the USA, horror, shock, anger and outrage will flow
from the people.There are reasons from the emergence of these two very
different emotions in two very different social bases.On the one hand
there are some 20 wealthy countries which benefit from world trade; on
the other, there are some 120 poor and poorer countries which see the
wealth of the country extracted and shipped off to the wealthy
countries. European countries and the USA as well as Japan import food
from the poorest, weakest and hungriest countries in the world. Men and
women in Latin America and Central America see their children go hungry
as beef is shipped to MacDonald's, to Wendy's, to Arby's and to Burger
King. Strawberries, tomatoes, coffee and street drugs use the best land
in a poor country....and these agricultural products go by plane, ship,
train and truck North to the USA...while government officials get rich
and those who grow and sell become wealthy. Income gaps widen and social
unrest this context, the bombing of strangers in the North
seems to be some kind of justice.
Short Term Effects of the Trade Center Tragedy. 
>From the point of view of the engineers of the destruction of the World
Trade Center, revision of American Policy in Israel and the Mid-East is
desirable. This is, in the short term, unlikely.More likely is the
identification and destruction of the group which trained and supplied
the terrrorist teams. This means US bombing of one or more terrorist
bases in the Mid-East and a growing hostility to US interests in Islamic
countries around the world.Not a happy result but one to which the
American people and the Bush Administration has committed itself.It well
may be the case that European countries will mediate both short-term and
long term effects of the bombing long as the gap between
wealthy and poor countries in the world grow; as long as non-Christians,
especially Islamic peoples, are exploited and targeted by US military,
the future is not promising for world peace...terrorism will continue to
be the tactics of necessary by peoples too poor and to weak to use high
tech weaponry.They will continue to use make-do weapons with which to
register their outrage. And Americans, uneducated in the larger
political economy in which terrorists and terrorism thrives, will
continue to re-act with to re-act with pre-theoretical anger and

 TR Young <>


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