Terrorism: Are we being sold a dummy?

Hildegarde The Arena
MAYBE I have used the Internet for too long, watched lots of TV and seen too many cowboy and James Bond movies. You feel the assimilation to the different cultures in all these mediums and in some cases plunging in without question. Since the majority of what is read and viewed is generated in the West, there are times when you take it as gospel truth.

The growing shadow of ISIS seems to be growing bigger and wider by each day

The growing shadow of ISIS seems to be growing bigger and wider by each day

The entertainment industry is a good example. Take cowboy movies and other make-believe TV programmes, for example. Some of us believe them to be mirror images of reality, because the packaging is sometimes too good to be true. Cool stuff for young people who fall for it!

We never think that we are being sold dummies.

So too is the so-called “war on terror”.

We swallowed the buzzwords hook, line and sinker, refusing to interrogate some of the footage we watch on satellite TV and/or the Internet.

Frightening and tragic though, the war on terror has been, since it was launched by former US president George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the emergence of Al-Qaeda affiliated groups such as Al-Shabaab in East Africa, Boko Haram in Nigeria and ISIS in the Middle East should make us question some of the stuff we watch, see and read about.

If the US Navy Seals killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, how is it that more terrorist groups are emerging, groups that are well-funded, well-trained and well-equipped? Their budgets run into billions of United States dollars.

In a Russia Today TV footage, reports are that ISIS fundraising is done in the United States through “bitcoin.”

The report says; “An Israeli cyber-intelligence analyst claims that ISIS is using the dark web and bitcoin for recruitment and fundraising. Unregulated system “gaps” could indeed be exploited by terrorists seeking refuge in the anonymous network, experts say.

“Haaretz newspaper quoted an Israeli analyst who said he traced an ISIS funding website and has uncovered concrete evidence that a terror cell, purporting to be related to the Islamic State — is soliciting for bitcoins as part of its fundraising efforts.”

“The analyst believes the finding could be pointing to a larger, more worrying trend of terrorists taking refuge in the anonymous network, as social media websites are increasing their efforts to shut down terror-related accounts.”

Jimmy Gurule, the former under-secretary of the Treasury Department under George W. Bush told RT that the allegation was possible: “Bitcoin is currently not regulated, and I think potentially the terrorists could have found a chink in the armour, or could have found a gap in our regulatory system that they may be exploiting.”

What is even more surprising is that a large number of the membership of these terror groups is drawn from the citizenry of Western countries: the Americas, Europe and Australia. Are they dogs of war or they are part of the missing link?

When one of your own becomes part of the bad apple, why then label other countries as terrorist nations and/or sponsors of terrorism?

Why also has terrorist membership taken this about-turn when we are made to believe that these are radical Muslims fighting for the preservation of their religion?

Is terrorism a bigger project whose players are still at large, but whose public relations is being carried out by international media houses and the Internet?

Watching major satellite TV stations such as the BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, Sky TV you feel like you are back to Rhodesia where the Rhodesian armed forces would always announce that they had killed a large number of “terrorists” (freedom fighters), but would not divulge the casualties from their side. The same footage would be used for different bulletins.

You also feel that you are being sold a dummy because in as much they report that allied forces are bombing ISIS and/or Al-Shabaab targets and killing their top leadership, the footage always shows the same destroyed buildings from yester-year.

What is also exasperating is that in this digital age where they have an array of technological gadgets to locate their targets, the allied forces have been successful in identifying ISIS positions, but failed dismally in locating where some of the beheaded captives were kept in order to rescue them timeously. The technology has also failed to find where the Nigerian girls are.

The case of the Jordanian pilot is another point of departure. Why did Jordan (a member of the coalition of the willing) demand that ISIS show them videos of the pilot when their intelligence information showed that he had since died?

How tortuous also for members of these murdered hostages when a system refuses to modify its policies in an abnormal situation.

For example, the United States refuses to negotiate with terrorists. Under normal circumstances, they should not, but for the sake of preserving lives and for the sake of these hostages’ families, can’t this policy be reviewed?

Obama this week defended the United States’ “no ransom policy” saying that “by paying ransom, the US would be strengthening terror groups and putting Americans at greater risk for future kidnappings.”

But why point out these blunt issues? The Internet, which has revolutionised the way we do things thereby creating a false sense of a global village, is key to the war on terror, for both sides.

When major powers like the United States and China are suddenly seeking solutions to combating cyber warfare, you realise that this problem is on everyone’s doorstep because the Internet is everywhere.

It is an enabler and also a tool that can be used to arrive at common positions.

So powerful are the Internet and the attendant social media that after the abduction of the Nigerian Chibok girls by the militant group Boko Haram, United States First Lady Michelle Obama rallied people with the Twitter handle: #BringBackOurGirls. However, a year on, the Twitter handle and the girls seem a forgotten lot — a case of creating projects that have a short-term shelf life.

You also read that these terrorist groups are techno-savvy, and they always want to upstage their rivals. This has always been the case because if one thinks that they do not have a voice in the mainstream media, they maximise that which sells their message, even if it means posting gory video footage of beheadings carried out.

They know that it is deplorable, but they are masters of absurdity and they derive mileage from the bloody stuff they post online, and the media buys into that.

On June June 5, 1994 Peter H. Lewis wrote a ‘prophetic’ piece in The New York Times: “On the Internet, dissidents’ shots heard ‘round the world.”

Internet connectivity as it is now was still visionary.

Lewis warned: “Political dissidents of all nationalities are discovering a homeland in the worldwide web of computer networks known as cyberspace . . . Today, many human rights activists are exploring an even more powerful medium, the computer web called the Internet, as a way of defying censorship.”

“As more and more people have access to the Internet, it will be practically impossible for governments to ban something,” said Siobhan Dowd. We are seeing that now.

But, is the media aiding and abetting the process in the name of informing, or the bigger picture still has to emerge 14 years after the bombing of the Twin Towers in the US?