I was thinking about Orwell’s Ministry of Information again today and started trying to find some bad guys to focus on. I’m showing my age a bit here, but it seems to me that Carlos, Andreas and Ulricke and even young Yasser, made very credible enemies. It might be to do with the degree of definition of their belief systems or their politics, but it was generally possible to pin-point this threat without their cause being extended to cover a people,race or religion.
O’Connor does a reasonable job of classifying the terror groups of my youth:
Nationalist terrorism is “traditional” terrorism, also called revolutionary or ideological terrorism. It is practiced by individuals belonging to an identifiable organization with a well-defined command-and-control structure, clear political, social or economic objectives, and a comprehensible ideology or self-interest (Hoffman 1999). Their target selection is highly selective and mostly discriminate - ambassadors, bankers, dignitaries - symbols they blame for economic or political repression.
In his piece, he moves on to define a few more classes, ending with ethno-nationalist terrorism (ethnoterrorism). I guess old Bin Laden falls into this category. His article is extremely dry and perhaps a bit over-confident (I always wonder about the principle of understanding by putting things in boxes) but is worth reading if you’re going through a process of trying to understand how we got where we are.
Specifically, when we add the suffix “terrorism” to a word (agro-terrorism) we instantly define the person or group so labelled in a way which prohibits negotiation or diplomacy. When the Red Brigades Kidnapped Aldo Moro or the IRA bombed Mountbatten, it was crystal clear that these were the actions of mad, sub-human, crazy nutters who could under no circumstances be dealt with other than by force.
Mountbatten’s death was the first incident that struck me as a young boy. I remember my father trying to explain what it meant and why he was so angry about it. If we are to grow as people, then the very least we can do is try and learn from our mistakes. Ignoring history just doesn’t make sense. From where I’m sitting, it’s beginning to look like the Catholics of Northern Ireland might of had a point.
Clearly, there can be no moral justification for bombing people, but surely the peace process in Northern Ireland is a more preferable outcome than the bombing of Iraq or indeed the classification of the entire Muslim world as our mortal enemy.