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- Meaningless war on terror

This weekend, it's been four years since the September 11 attack on the United States. Terrorism cannot be fought with war, says Björn Kumm. The man behind The history of terrorism believes al-Qaeda is as little a religious movement as the IRA.


The history of terrorism now comes in Norwegian, and in the book Björn Kumm digs in the many and intricate roots of terrorism. He draws the lines back to the Jewish Celotians who violently revolted against the Romans in the year 66, and goes until the September 11 terror and today's al-Qaeda network. Along the way we meet Russian anarchists, Idi Amin in Uganda, American patriots, Baader-Meinhof in West Germany, CIA in the US, ETA in Spain and IRA in Northern Ireland.

The book was first published in 1997, and is largely met with good reviews. But Kumm is also criticized for reading the story with red glasses, and in the Israeli-friendly journal menorah he shuts his head to unilaterally embrace terrorism as "the weak party's right to wage war". "I think the religious / ethnic fanatic dimension is completely missing," writes reviewer Lennart Persson. Kumm has a clear answer:

- Many would like to place terrorism exclusively in the religious / ethnic / fanatical perspective. Personally, I consider al-Qaeda, as little as the IRA, to be a religious movement. Osama bin Laden has a very special interpretation of Islam, while the IRA is only Catholic and "papist" in the eyes of the Protestant majority in Northern Ireland. In both cases, this is about the continuation of the political struggle by other means, and for al-Qaeda's part with Islam as a sign instead of Karl Marx, Kumm explains to Ny Tid.

They are waging war

After Kumm released The history of terrorism terror has become increasingly synonymous with Islam, but precisely such misunderstandings are some of the author's wishes.

- Terrorism is definitely not an Islamist phenomenon. Among the suicide bombers, the Tamil tigers in Sri Lanka are clearly "leading". Much of today's terror has its origins in the conflicts in the Middle East, but the explanation does not lie in Islam – but in West Middle East politics in the 1920s. I highly recommend David Fromkins' book The Peace to end all Peace, which traces the origins of most of what plagues us today to Middle Eastern politics.

In 2002, Kumm expanded the book with a chapter on September 11, but this terrorist operation has not caused him to change his main definition of terrorism. It's still about "what the big army calls the little army".

- I have called terrorism "the war of the weak", ie a fight fought by a minority or by groups that consider themselves "the underdog" – in relation to a military and politically superior opponent. The problem is that state terrorism is not captured. For example, Israel's very effective and deliberate executions of the men behind the hostage action at the Munich Olympics in 1972. It was simply a matter of serial killings, which immediately after September 11, 2001 were called "discreet" by Sweden's former prime minister Carl Bildt. But the murder in Lillehammer of the Moroccan waiter Ahmed Bouchiki, mistaken for being the PLO's security chief Ali Hassan Salameh, was not very discreet.

Symbiosis with the media

"Right after 11/11, some commentators actually claimed outraged, almost aggressively, that it was a downgrading of the terrible thing that would have happened if one went back in history to find explanations or tried to 'understand' what happened," writes Kumm in the preface. He does not regard XNUMX/XNUMX as a watershed in history, but as yet another chapter in the history of terrorism.

- I would say that the terror has not technically changed much in recent years. Well-established terrorist methods have only evolved and become more destructive. Hijackings were a new tool for the Palestinian liberation fighters in the early 1970s, but usually ended peacefully – after negotiations. The combination of hijacking and suicide bombers, as we saw on September 11, is something new. I guess the military commanders in the Pentagon envy al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations their death-defying soldiers.

Kumm believes that the terrorists' reliance on the media to get attention leads to an escalation of the scale of the terrorist actions. Like so many other areas of society, one has to scream ever higher and in new ways for attention, and terror is no exception.

- The media and the terrorists have entered into a symbiotic relationship, where one is largely dependent on the other. The terrorists want maximum media attention, while the media want news and spectacular events that attract readers, viewers and advertisers. Live assassinations and other terrorist acts satisfy both parties, but soon a kind of saturation occurs. The media thus "demand" ever larger and more sensational forms of terrorism, which in turn can lead to a further brutalization of the terrorist acts.

Goldfish memory

Kumm also thinks our own and the media's memory is astoundingly short when it comes to terror. Why were we so shocked by the bombing of London and Madrid, when the capitals for years lived in fear of ETA and IRA terror?

- After the bombings in Madrid and London, it was said that the new form of terror had come to Europe, although I would rather claim that it was the Iraq war that came to states that had engaged on the US side in Iraq. Since the memory, especially in the media, is so short, the terrible IRA attacks were forgotten – so that the IRA appeared almost convivial compared to the new jihad terrorists who could not be negotiated with. The memory is so bad because we never cared to understand why terrorists act as they do: They try to use terror to create fear in the population, for the simple reason that they have no faith in ever being heard through less violent political means.

It is easy to interpret the terrorist actions of recent years as a result of the dissolution of the Cold War terror balance. Where the United States and the Soviet Union previously held each other at bay, today there are no states that dare to go to conventional war against the world's only superpower. Thus, stateless terror becomes the most effective and the only possible remedy.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union showed great skepticism towards terrorist organizations, while the United States to a greater extent supported and even trained terrorists – such as Jonas Savimbi in Angola and Contras in Nicaragua. One can imagine that the Eastern Bloc previously tried to block or gain control of terrorist groups that hoped for communist support for their struggle, such as Baader-Meinhof. But the Eastern Bloc was only moderately interested in this. Today, it is probably rather the case that the United States, through its war in Iraq and abuses in the Abu Ghraib prison and at Guantanamo Bay, influences the political climate in the world in such a way that more terrorists can be recruited. . Since we now have only one superpower, with what can be called hegemonic power, and which does not prove willing to engage in dialogue with its opponents, it becomes more than likely that the resistance will take the form of terrorism.

This is precisely why Björn Kumm also believes that the war on terror is an impossibility. It can never be won, but will probably only escalate if both parties insist on using violent means.

- An excellent way to fight what George W. Bush calls "international terrorism" is to pull the United States out of Iraq, force Israel to end the colonization of the West Bank and stop threatening Iran. This would immediately make the world a significantly safer place to live. War against terrorism, on the other hand, cannot be won.

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