May 27, 2003

Terrorists. . . I Hate

Terrorists. . . I Hate These Guys

Sunday evening, as I clicked through the channels, nursing a slight sunburn following 27 holes of golf, I landed on CNN. The topic centered around whether we are losing the war on terrorism. My gut instinct was to yelp an emphatic "NO!" and try to find a rerun of Star Trek: The Next Generation. But, I lingered just so I could get the gist of what they were saying.

They weren't saying anything new, really. Pretty much, in light of the bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, and the renewed suicide attacks in Israel, some "experts" are convinced that it's proof the war on terror is a losing one. Puh-lease. If anything, those bombings have all the earmarks of an organization teetering on desperation. If you opt to bomb the very holy land you profess your religious devotion to, indications are high that you don't have a lot of wiggle room. If it's true that the Saudi royal family is running a pipeline of finances to al Queda, the Saudi attacks were a blatant display of biting the hand that feeds them.

Even more damning for terrorist groups has been the reaction from the Arab street regarding attacks on Islamic soil. Regarding terrorism, the Arab street opinion has gone something like this: "If they want to bomb the Cole, fine. If they want to bomb U.S. embassies, okay. If they want to bomb busy markets in Israel, great. If they want to fly into American buildings, that's pretty amazing."

But, as soon as terrorists start attacking Muslim lands, such as Morocco and Saudi Arabia itself, killing their own and not apparently giving a shit (as usual), you get stuff like this:

Tens of thousands of demonstrators chanting "no to terrorism" thronged the streets of Casablanca today, nine days after 43 people were killed in coordinated suicide attacks in the city.

and this:

"The bombers were a group of Muslim fanatics who hate the government and the royal family," said Abdullah [not his real name], a businessman and a member of the 120-man consultative council - the precursor of what may one day become a fully-fledged Saudi parliament. "In their terms, hitting the Prince Sultan air base would make some sort of sense - at least there's an idea behind it. But the idea in Riyadh was to kill and maim as much as possible, and I don't see a political idea there at all.

and this:

All signs pointed to what neither the Palestinians nor the Syrians will acknowledge: Syria has bowed to U.S. pressure and curbed the radicals it has hosted for years.

and this:

``They (the militants) claim they are heroes,'' said Mohammed Zaaneen, 30, a farmer, as he carried rocks into the street. ``They brought us only destruction and made us homeless. They used our farms, our houses and our children ... to hide.''

Far from a terrorist movement that is "winning," these are all prime indications that terrorists are shooting, er, bombing themselves in the foot.

But, that's not what sells in the modern American, and world, media. You keep viewers glued to the screen by offering up just the possibility that we may not be winning. CNN and MSNBC can draw from a pool of Chicken Littles who are willing to spout off for an hour or so about the terrorist sky falling. There's a Chinese curse that says, "May you live in interesting times." Well, these are definitely interesting times, but the major media outlets are determined to make them seem drastically more interesting than they actually are.

What I don't think the media grasps, however, is just how diversified the public has become in its search for balanced reporting. We have the standby big dogs, like NBC, ABC and CBS news, and we have a plethora of cable news channels, and we have magazines and we have newspapers, and now we have the Web, a new tool that I don't think news organizations really have even begun to understand. Using this multitude of sources, we can sift through the crap being flung by the right and the left and find a middle ground that is probably pretty close to the truth.

There are those so hopelessly lost of the right, however, that they will only believe what Fox News and Rush Limbaugh tell them, and there are those lost to the left who only believe what Robert Fisk and Eric Alterman tell them. We have so many information tools in front of us today, we can effectively decide to be informed on all sides, or to galvanize out opinion one way or the other. I'm not sure if that's dangerous or not, but it seems as if it tends to let others think for you, and that's never a safe thing.

That said, I think we're winning the war on terrorism, although I don't pretend to think we'll ever be able to fully stamp it out. As long as there are poor, uneducated, desperate and religiously zealous people on earth, they're going to get together and vent their hatred at their perceived enemies through unsophisticated attacks such as those against Morocco and Saudi Arabia. But, the current terror structure, the one that thrived in Afghanistan and pretty much went unchecked prior to 9/11, that's being dismantled. And, the aura of terrorists as spectral bogeymen is being broken every day, and those that harbor them are either falling into line or being forced to do so at gunpoint.

These are, indeed, interesting times we're living in. But, I don't think they're all that bad.

Posted by Ryan at May 27, 2003 11:10 AM
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