Tuesday, September 11, 2018

On This 17th Anniversary of 9/11: The Top Ten Terrorism Myths

It's always encouraging to behold a group or organization operate from within its proper 'wheelhouse' as opposed to venturing outside it. In this case, the pamphlet produced by the Skeptics Society; 'Terrorism - Top 10 Myths'- fits that bill nicely and is a refreshing change from the Skeptics wasting time and energy trying to critique the JFK assassination conspiracy.  Regarding that meandering, as I asked in my post from Nov. 22, 2014:  "Why are so many would-be skeptical critics broken on the 'wheel' of the JFK assassination? Well, because they treat it frivolously - without the respect it is due  - more often conflating it with nonsense pseudo conspiracies."

Thankfully, that error is not made in the Skeptics' new pamphlet - and just in time for the 17th anniversary of 9/11.  To that end, I give a brief overview of each of the myths below and the Skeptics' justifications:

1- "Terrorists are pure evil"

Terrorists are not pure evil.  Evil, in the theological sense of existing outside of human behavior is a myth.   "Evil" may be a good adjective for describing someone or something you don't like, but the concept only clouds our understanding of human behavior.  Everyone has a motive and a point of view including people such as Islamic terrorists.

2-"Terrorists are primarily  politically motivated."

This myth is busted by the terrorists' own words. Their primary motive is religious.   9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta, for example, wrote in his suicide note:

"Pray for yourself and all your brothers that they may be victorious and hit their targets and ask God to grant you martyrdom.  Shout 'Allahu Akbar' because that strikes fear in the hearts of he unbelievers."

4-  "Terrorists are diabolical geniuses".

The 9/11 Commission report described Al Qaeda terrorists as "sophisticated, patient, disciplined and lethal".  But according to political scientist Max Abrahms, after the decapitation of the leadership of the top terrorist organizations, "terrorists targeting the American homeland have been neither sophisticated nor masterminds, but incompetent fools."   Examples include the 2001 airplane shoe bomber Richard Reid unable to ignite the fuse because it was wet from rain. And the 2009 underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab who succeeded only in setting his pants n fire.

6. "Terrorism is effective in achieving its goals".

In a study of 42 foreign terrorist organizations, Max Abrahms concluded only two achieved their stated goals over  several decades, e.g. when the Tamil Tigers took over parts of Sri Lanka in 1990 0 which they lost in 2009. Abrahms and colleague Matthew Gottfried also found that when terrorists did get what they wanted it was more likely to be money but not political objectives.

7. "Terrorists Conquer And Establish States."

In an analysis of 457 terrorist campaigns since 1968 political scientist Audrey Cronin found that not one terrorist group had conquered a state and that a full 94 percent had failed to gain even one of their strategic goals.   And the number of terrorist groups who accomplished all of their objectives? Zero.

8.  "Terrorism is an effective means of political change".

Political scientists Erica Chenowith and Maria Stephan found documented the relative successes and failures  of non-violent vs. violent campaigns since 1900.  Results: "From 1900 to 2006, non-violent campaigns worldwide were twice as likely to succeed as violent campaigns."  Chenowith added that this trend has been increasing over time.

10.  "Nuclear terrorism is likely to happen."

Never mind plots in 'Homeland' or '24',  most experts agree that acquiring the  necessary materials and knowledge for building a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb is far beyond the reach of most (if not all) terrorists.  It is important to note that no dirty bomb has ever been successfully deployed resulting in casualties by anyone, anywhere, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulartory Commission  - which tracks fissile materials.  Further, there has not been a pattern of collecting fissile sources for a dirty bomb. In short, the chances of terrorists successfully building and launching a nuclear device of any sort are so low that we'd be far better off investing our limited resources in diffusing the problem of terrorism in other areas.

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