Sunday, November 16, 2003

What the Terrorists Want

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi,

Why? This is the question on everyone’s lips these days. It doesn’t make sense or seems not to. They are killing Arabs and Muslims. What is the point?
My take on this, as I told Reuters and the Chicago Tribune, is that the rope is tightening round the terrorists’ necks. Their networks are disintegrating under pressure. The ones who got caught are telling on the others. Plans are spoiled before they can be carried out. Leaders and operators are killed or captured. Cash and tools are found and confiscated. They must feel that they can wait no longer for the right moment — after the holy month of Ramadan — and the perfect target. Not with all the tightening security measures. They had to go after the softest, easiest, most vulnerable target they could find. Since their intelligence is getting as weak as their network, they might have got the wrong tip. Someone might have confused Lebanese residents of the compound with Westerners. The terrorists may have assumed that since the compound is close to the Diplomatic Quarter, it must house some Western diplomats.
What kind of statement are they making? They never had much of a point to start with. The American soldiers have already left. Saudi Arabia was not part of any campaign against Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, it was squarely in the anti-war camp. The statement-making is made the more difficult after it becomes clear that the compound was inhabited by Arabs and Muslims, not Westerners. So what can they say? Not much. It is simply REVENGE. Revenge against the government, revenge against society, revenge against the world. They felt left-out; they felt persecuted; they felt unheard. They wanted to scream for the last time before the tightening rope breaks their necks, “We matter; we can hurt you; we are here.”
I have been asked by Westerners what we can do to help. We can always increase state cooperation and increase media campaigns. As you can see, we are on the same side. But most of all, we should not panic. Closing embassies and issuing public warnings to expatriates give the terrorists the wrong message and hands them a victory. Wolves smell fear. They run after the fearful. It doesn’t become the most powerful nations in the world to act afraid. It assures the enemy and doesn’t give reassurance to allies. Besides, as I told a Western diplomat, in the war for the hearts and minds, the terrorists are losing a lot of ground. If you run now, you will have made their point for them and they will count it an achievement.

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