People's Weekly Brief: Answers to Questions About Terror

Last week’s column, which posed a handful of questions about the UK car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow, generated terrific reader response.

It’s always gratifying to get feedback from readers of the Peoples Weekly Brief, and I’m consistently impressed with the thoughtfulness, intelligence and concern expressed by readers across the country and overseas. (Okay, with the exception of some of you knuckleheads who apparently spent much of your educational career sleeping in class. You know who you are. It’s never too late to go back to school.)

Also rewarding is the fact that the readership seems to span the political spectrum. It’s nice to know that the PWB is read by crazies on the far left, the far right and all those citizens in between. Why, it almost makes me want to fling out the term “Fair and Balanced,” but if I’m not mistaken, that saying is patented and I’d end up paying royalties or dealing with legalities related to copyright infringement.

Of all the questions raised in last week’s column, the one that sparked the most feedback was: “Is it wrong to expect Muslim leaders, clerics and respected authorities around the world to unite in a strong, vocal and moral stand against terror and the killing of innocent people?”

In other words… why the lack of condemnation from Muslim religious, political and community leaders in relation to the killing of innocent men, women and children (many, many of whom are Muslim) by Muslim terrorists?

The PWB Mailbag research team, staffed primarily by laid off John McCain campaign workers operating out of a secure site high in the Colorado mountains, has pulled together the following collection of responses:

Tony from points unknown commented, “Beautiful column! Right on the money. I don’t know what else to say except that I wish more people could see the common sense rationality of your words.”

Thanks Tony… hey, you coming to the family reunion next month? Tell Mom hi for me, I’ll call her tomorrow.

Lowell from Shelton, Wash., writes: “I think that you are dead on in asking these questions. The religious leaders don’t stand up and tell the extremists to knock it off because the extremists are doing what has been ordained in the Koran. Our whole western civilization flies in the face of Muslim beliefs. They cover their women while our women dress in thong bikinis. It’s no wonder that we clash and will continue to do so.”

Lowell, the fact that you were able to work the words “thong bikinis” into a terror related email pretty much guaranteed you’d get mentioned. How ticked off would a terrorist be if he showed up in paradise only to find 70 virgins all dressed in thong bikinis? I’m not enough of a religious scholar to answer that one.

Bobby from Arizona said… “I suspect they (the Muslim leaders) do not want to be viewed as somehow siding with non-Muslims on much of anything. The sad thing is, these religious leaders, especially tribal leaders, could help stem terrorism more than any single method, tool, weapon, sanction etc.”

Good point Bobby. We’ve had some success in Iraq working with Sunni tribal leaders in the fight against Al Qaeda elements operating in their territories, but it’s proving difficult to duplicate that sort of success anywhere else.

Bud… just Bud… sent in the following comment… “The inaction of the Muslim clerics is actually in harmony with the Koran. The idea that it is only a few Muslims that are radical does not seem to be true. The ‘non-radicals’ may not be in concert with the present day problem but it still boils down to adherence to the teachings of the Koran.”

Frankly Bud, there were a large number of comments similar to yours. One of the disturbing consequences of the lack of condemnation from the Muslim leadership is the apparent growing belief among Westerners that the Koran advocates this violence or somehow condones the terrorist actions, particularly those targeting ‘infidels.’

Case in point, Howard, from somewhere unidentified, notes… “Great commentary. I think we here in the West are missing the basic point of why terrorists do what they do. If both the West and the jihadists operated using the same definition of ‘innocent victims’ then we could address the problem of killing the innocent. But, in Islam (radical or moderate), is there such a thing as an ‘innocent victim’? If the Koran says that anyone who is not a Muslim is in fact an infidel, then they are not ‘innocent’ of anything. They are in fact guilty of infidelity itself, and subject to punishment.”

Dennis was slightly more succinct while traveling on the same logic train… “Perhaps the reason that the ‘moderate’ Muslims have not raised objections to these terror acts is that they support them."

Bob subscribes to the same school of thought… “Moderate Muslims will not protest the actions of their violent fellow faithful both because they legitimately fear retribution of some kind, and because they will be, in fact, delighted if their religious culture prevails. I have read the Koran/Quran and it provides quite good justification for exactly the kind of behavior that we see in both the extremists and the ‘moderates’.”

Bob touches on an important aspect of this issue… the fear of retribution. We’ve seen this played out time and again in Iraq and Afghanistan. Personally, I believe the vast majority of Muslims abhor the violence generated by the radical jihadists (since the PWB is reader-friendly and interactive, feel free to substitute the term islamo-facists, crazed terrorists, violent fundamentalists, death merchants or any host of colorful, derogatory phrases at will).

That fear shouldn’t be discounted when trying to understand the Muslim community’s response to terror. In the Middle East, particularly in the hostile environments of Iraq and Afghanistan, and in fundamentalist spots such as Saudi Arabia or Iran, would you really be inclined to speak out loudly against Al Qaeda and others if the likely result was that you’d lose your head, your Mosque would be bombed, your child shot on her or his way to school or your family or business otherwise targeted?

Terrorism is all about intimidation, and so far, when it comes to getting the larger Muslim community to take sides, the terrorists have us beat.

You’d have to be either willfully ignoring the events at hand or trapped in a cave devoid of any media access to not know to some degree the dangers Muslims in these countries and elsewhere face when they associate with infidel causes, assist Western efforts to stabilize the environment, take a stand against insurgents, Al Qaeda or other terrorists or simply do something seen by extremists as an affront to Islam.

I happen to know from my contacts at the NSA that there are no more caves in the U.S. that aren’t wired for cable, so I suspect that many are simply ignoring the impact that retribution has on those in the Muslim community otherwise inclined to take a stand.

Wendy voiced this concern very simply… “Any moderate Muslim that came out against this terrorism would be put on a hit list.”

Moving on… John from Denver joins us from a different point of view… “You seem to have taken the stance that the blanket term ‘terrorists’ are just blood-thirsty zombies who have no rational for what they do other than to see people die. Even a cursory observation of these attacks tells you that they are in direct response to our policies towards Muslims.”

Well, John from Denver, the last thing we here at the PWB would want to do is imply that terrorists are blood-thirsty zombies who apparently enjoy seeing people die. I’ve got far too much respect for zombies to lump them into the terrorist crowd. As anyone who has seen a fine George Romero movie knows, zombies look and act nothing like terrorists.

Damn it man, get your facts straight. Zombies are unwilling and unwitting victims of dangerous viruses, bites from other zombies or alien attack. Terrorists, on the other hand, know full well what they are doing when they blow up innocent children in markets, behead journalists and aid workers, kill randomly in horrific explosions and otherwise spill blood of Muslims and infidels alike. In the future, please don’t denigrate the good name of zombies in a bizarre attempt to blame U.S. and Western policies for terrorist actions.

And finally, David wraps up this week’s effort with the following… “I read your article called “Questions of Terror.” You do not seem like much of a scholarly expert on Islam or the Middle East, but frankly your argument is absolutely flawless. We must dismiss the apologists and prove the danger of their naïve thinking, and we must press extremely hard for the voices of moderate Islam to unite and stand strong against terrorism by denouncing it.”

David, you’re a fine judge of character. As mentioned in last week’s column, I don’t claim to be an Islamic scholar, haven’t read the Koran and start from the understanding that there is a great deal I don’t know or understand. But I’m pretty sure of one thing in this “War on Terror” (apologies again to John Edwards, a big fan of the PWB)… it ain’t winnable unless the Muslim community finds a way to raise its collective voice against the fanatics, declaring loudly, globally and consistently that terrorist acts of any kind, against anyone, are unacceptable to Allah.

That’s just my opinion. Let me know your thoughts and comments. Till next week, stay safe.

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Mike Baker served for more than 15 years as a covert field operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations around the globe. Since leaving government service, he has been a principal in building and running several companies in the private intelligence, security and risk management sector, including most recently Prescience LLC, a global intelligence and strategy firm. He appears frequently in the media as an expert on such issues. Baker is also a partner in Classified Trash, a film and television production company. Baker serves as a script consultant and technical adviser within the entertainment industry, lending his expertise to such programs as the BBC's popular spy series "Spooks" as well as major motion pictures. In addition, Baker is a writer for a BBC drama to begin production in July 2007.

Mike Baker is the Co-Founder of Diligence LLC, a leading global intelligence, security and risk management firm. Prior to starting Diligence, Mike spent over a decade and half with the CIA as a covert field operations officer. He is a regular contributor in the national and international media on intelligence, security, counterterrorism and political issues. He appears regularly on Fox News, as well as other major media outlets.