It was reported today on the eighth anniversary of the September 11 Attacks that shortly after the attacks, Illinois State Senator Barak Obama opined about the need for “understanding the sources of such madness.” He went on to refer to “embittered children” and the seeds of discontent sown in poverty, ignorance and despair. Obama’s comments reveal his misunderstanding of the nature of the threat posed by the Islamist terrorist enemy.
Madness means “insanity,” although its meaning has been stretched to mean “rage,” as if from madness. Terrorists are not insane. Although terrorists might be angry to some degree, including Islamist terrorists like the al-Qaeda terrorists who committed the September 11 Attacks, anger is not their primary motivation. To attribute terrorism – the killing of innocent civilians in order to intimidate a populace into giving into the political demands of the terrorists – to madness or anger is to rationalize it and, thus to justify or minimize it.
Terrorists are motivated by an ideology that holds that killing innocent civilians is morally acceptable in order to advance that ideology. In other words, terrorists have evil beliefs. Terrorists are not insane or angry, but evil. This distinction is critically important to understand in order to prevent terrorism because it is necessary to avoid the temptation reflected by Obama’s comments to believe that terrorism can be stopped simply by greater understanding of its perpetrators by its victims, as if terrorism is the fault of the victims’ failure to understand the terrorists adequately.
Those who share Obama’s view believe that because the United States must have done something to make the terrorists so angry as to commit terrorism against Americans, all that is necessary to prevent terrorism is to stop doing whatever it is that is making the terrorists angry in the first place. Obama and those who agree with his view fail to understand that terrorists exaggerate their anger over the actions of “infidels” like Christians because they hate Christians not for what they do, but for what they believe. In other words, even if Christians totally give into the political demands of the Islamist terrorists, the terrorists would still hate them. In fact, they would regard such a capitulation as a sign of weakness, and thus a sign of a lacking of divine favor, and a confirmation of divine favor for their own actions.
Indeed, the main complaint of Osama bin Laden with the United States was that it had troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, which he regarded as a desecration of the holy sites of Islam. His anger was not so much at what the U.S. did by stationing the troops there per se, but because he hates those who do not believe in Islam – to the point that he regards their mere presence in the same kingdom as the holy sites as a desecration. If the United States were a Muslim state, he would not have regarded their presence in Saudi Arabia as a desecration worthy of his fatwa that Muslims should kill Americans anywhere they can. As I note in my post, The Hussein and bin Laden Myth, bin Laden’s hatred of Americans was such already by the 1980s that he refused American aid in the Afghan war against the Soviets.
Obama further revealed his misunderstanding and ignorance by attributing poverty and ignorance as the sources of terrorism, despite the fact that many terrorist leaders, including some of the September 11 terrorists, were well educated and wealthy. Like a typical liberal, Obama fails to understand that it is terrorists who cause terrorism, not poverty or other social factors, just as liberals fail to understand that it is criminals who cause crime, not poverty or other social factors. In other words, people who accept an evil ideology are the cause of terrorism. It is important to note that there has been abject poverty throughout human history, but there has only been terrorism for the last 40 years – since the development of a militant Islamist ideology that justifies it.
To prevent terrorist attacks, it is necessary to defeat the terrorists, that is to say, to capture or kill them, in order to disrupt their plots or even to deter others from committing terrorism. It is also necessary to avoid the temptation to accede to their demands. There are additional steps that can be helpful, but it is of foremost importance to recognize the evil of terrorism and to confront it. Conservatives must continue to encourage Obama to pursue the right policies to keep us safe from terrorism, despite his misunderstanding of the threat. Let us be grateful to and pray for all those who serve their country in the cause of defeating the terrorists.