Friday, March 12, 2004

The Madrid bombings

A work of Islamo-fascist terrorism or not? My gut feeling is “no”, for the most part – that the synchronised bombings were done by a group with peripheral connections, at most, to al Qaida. Quite possibly, the atrocity was a kind of joint venture between “old school” terrorists with a cause to peddle like ETA (and the IRA), and Islamo-fascist ones, who in my strongly-held opinion are completely devoid of cause or ideology – at least as far as the planners and perpetrators of September 11 go.

Believe it or not, and not meaning to be disrespectful to anyone who has lost loved ones in the bombings, I think that this development is a good thing, inasmuch as it shows the waning power, and dilution of method, of al Qaida. For me, the most telling aspect about who may be behind the bombings was that they were apparently all performed by remote control – as opposed to by suicidal GenX human robots.

By not using brainwashed young men as operational foot-soldiers, the Madrid bombers can only have come from a different ideological and production platform to that of al Qaida.

Al Qaida’s ideological (and moral) nullity has only been possible by virtue of its extreme division of labour along generational lines. Like many a call centre in the West, or the workplace set-up in the TV comedy “The Office”, al Qaida has so far thrived as an asymmetric grouping lead by a single baby boomer* running the show solely as an exercise in prolonged sadism over the younger workers within his/her coterie.

I use “the show” advisedly. As a doco on Osama bin Laden, aired on SBS a month or two ago showed, bin Laden’s truest job description during the years 1998-2001 would be “documentary (= now, reality TV) producer”.

The use of young men as suicidal human robots both allows and compels a quantum leap in what might be termed the “production values” of terrorism.

Other than in the bombings’ synchronisation, Madrid had extremely low production value. In other words, if GenX labour went into the atrocity – and I’m sure that some did – this time (unlike September 11) it did so with input at the management and technical levels. That is, GenX with a remote control in its hands, as opposed to powerless “glory” – death carrying a piece of paper promising a starring role in Osama’s next reality-TV craptacular.

* bin Laden does have at least one so-called “deputy”, Ayman al-Zawahiri, but al-Zawahiri seems much more a bin Laden doppelganger than a middle-manager.

Update 16 March 2004

Australia as a terrorist target?

Just when cool heads are most needed, the fevered imaginations of many are going into overdrive. I don’t know if Australia is on al Qaida’s “Most Preferred Targets” list. Of course, there is actually no such thing – acts of terrorism, even those years in the planning like September 11, must undergo near-continuous operational alteration and re-prioritisation, as circumstances change.

I do know, however, that it is unhelpful to confuse and conflate different types of terrorist attack. As I suggested in the main post, September 11 is al Qaida’s quality benchmark – its activities since have been relatively low production value attacks within Muslim countries (Casablanca, Riyadh), or have been conducted at arms-length, through ideologically-related but more-junior groups (Bali; whose relatively high production value was not in its body count, but in the graphic shock of its televisual spectacle: nightclubbers being burnt to death, etc).

Thus, Australia may be facing the proverbial Sydney Opera House attack. Or it may be facing more mundane attacks, such as on its (non-airline) public transport system. It’s very unlikely to be both – at least by the same people. And in terms of terrorist- prevention intelligence-gathering, not to mention the state of the public mind, this needs to be said. It’s horses for courses, folks, so don’t start mistaking the 4:45 to Dubbo for the Harbour Bridge.

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