In summary, we can now distinguish three types of terrorism: micro-terrorism (less than 200 deaths); macro-terrorism (thousands of deaths), which was inaugurated on September 11 in New York; and giga-terrorism (10,000 deaths and up), which we have not yet seen, but, you can be sure, we are going to see.
In fact, in view of the attacks of September 11 on the United States — which marked the real beginning of the Twenty-first century — terrorism has changed its nature. This is neo-terrorism. The novelty is that it can now create mass massacres while before it used to be limited to less than 200 deaths per operation, when the most murderous was the possibility of detonating bombs aboard airplanes in flight. The use of sophisticated technologies has created this new situation. This allows us to revive Carl Schmitt’s distinction between the conventional ‘warrior’ and the ‘partisan’ and to say that from now on the partisan will see his status and dangerousness equal, or rather surpass, that of the military apparatus of states.
Let us not indulge in wishful thinking. We shall again see large-scale terrorist acts, perpetrated by Islamist fanatics (or others), this time using biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. This is the way terrorism makes its bloody entrance into history, no longer as a minor threat, but as a major threat, equal to and perhaps even worse than the threat of nuclear war between states.
What are the fearsome dangers that await us? They are seven in number:
- More attacks by suicide bombers on airplanes, including small private planes and helicopters diverted from their route and loaded with explosives. In this regard precautionary measures against air piracy are of dubious effectiveness.
- Attacks using airplanes or bombs on the ground against nuclear reactors.
- Bioterrorism dispersing bacterial strains, not especially murderous in reality, but with a very significant psychological effect.
- Dispersion in confined places (as in the Tokyo subway by the Aum Shinrikyo sect) of poison gas or poisoning the channels of drinking water. The effect will be similar to number 3.
- Attacks by vehicles driven by suicide bombers containing more than one hundred kilos of explosives rolling through the heart of large cities. These will be as impossible to prevent as the attacks at Beirut against the French and American barracks.
- Exploding rudimentary or miniaturised atomic bombs in big cities or significant targets. This scenario was predicted in the 1980s by the political scientist Julien Freund.
- Exploding radiological ‘dirty bombs’ made from recycled plutonium in urban areas with devastating effects from the massive radiation.
We shall come back in the conclusion to all these forms of terrorism. In summary, we can now distinguish three types of terrorism: micro-terrorism (less than 200 deaths); macro-terrorism (thousands of deaths), which was inaugurated on September 11 in New York; and giga-terrorism (10,000 deaths and up), which we have not yet seen, but, you can be sure, we are going to see.
* * *
The greatest danger concerns giga-terrorism by nuclear attacks, next to which flying civilian airplanes against the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center may well turn out to be nothing more than a little bee sting, in comparison with the two forms of nuclear terrorism (atomic bombs and ‘dirty bombs’). With all their misfortune, the Americans had one bit of crazy good luck: if the diverted Boeing, which crashed, they say, into one wing of the Pentagon, had instead struck the nuclear plant at Three Mile Island, which is located nearby, the radiation would have been enough to cause the evacuation of a large part of the East Coast of the United States — including New York and Washington — for fifty years!
In other words, nuclear terrorism could bring a superpower like the United States to its knees, with very small means in comparison with the enormous size of the military objective obtained. This is the radical novelty of neo-terrorism and its superiority to the safety precautions of normal states. While bombardment with laser-guided bombs or cruise missiles against military targets found in countries supposed to be ‘helping the terrorists’ costs a considerable amount and has meagre results, a ‘trifling’ operation with modest means (not even the cost of a single F-18 fighter-bomber) can have devastating results. This is the advantage of neo-terrorism: an enormous effectiveness in terms of costs and results.
Since the fall of the USSR, it is known that nuclear fuel is for sale virtually over the counter from the networks of the Russian mafia, and that scientists from the former Soviet Union are selling their services to anyone who can pay their price. In addition, there are the ‘leaks’ coming from Pakistan, which possesses nuclear weapons, the ‘Islamic bomb’ Bin Laden bragged about.
And then, by a sort of contagion, the attacks of September 11 and those that followed have certainly given ideas to groups of fanatics who are not especially Muslim or even ‘political’ in the classic sense: networks of crackpots of all types, criminal groups or extremist movements of the extreme Left or extreme Right (like the Oklahoma City bombing, perpetrated by American ‘militias’ of the extreme Right), outlandish neo-Nazi or new Leftist revivals, and pseudo-religious sects. Anything is possible. Giga-terrorism does not cost much and, provided there is good organisation and good training, it has the technical means, beginning with hundreds of individuals, to destabilise a planet of several billion people.
* * *
Neo-terrorism is like a virus confronting a lion. The mighty lion cannot detect the microscopic virus, but the virus can kill the lion and not vice versa. Jean de La Fontaine foresaw the situation in his fable ‘The Lion and the Gnat’. The weak challenges the strong or the mad challenges the strong, as you please.
One of the characteristics of this mass neo-terrorism is that, unlike classic terrorism, it can destabilise the West and the world economy, which, since globalisation, has become disturbingly fragile and vulnerable. This is the domino effect. The most powerful terrorist actions of the past did not succeed in affecting speculators or investors or terrorising public opinion. It is extraordinary to learn that, after the attacks of September 11, a very large number of economic sectors entered into crisis, from air travel to cinema, and even including tourism, and all this from a simple psychological effect of panic multiplied by the media. One estimate was that in Europe an entire growth point was lost from the GDP. Unheard of!
There were two memorable images from that time. One was of President Bush just after the attacks, looking frightened in a command centre that was crowded with computers and television screens; the other — filmed on amateur video — was Bin Laden, surrounded by his lieutenants, standing like a new Muhammad, at the back of a cave, a Kalashnikov AKS-74U beside him, dressed in the traditional garb of an Eighth-century Bedouin, defying his enemy on all the world’s televisions. It was the rise of the archaic in the very heart of a sick modernity.
* * *
I shall cite passages from an interview conducted by Luther Blisset with Paul Virilio, a French philosopher, urbanist and specialist in ‘speed’, which was published by Sinergias Europeas, the Spanish bureau of Synergies européennes, on 6 October 2001. The journalist asks Virilio if, since September 11, we have not entered the Third World War. Listen to how Virilio responds: ‘The Twentieth century started with the First World War in 1914. In 2001 we are witnessing the first war of globalisation. The difference between the two is one of extent. The First World War was limited essentially to Europe and we are now entering a globalised war. The attack on the World Trade Center in New York corresponds to the attack in Sarajevo in August 1914’ (because the two events raised the curtain for a war). We are indeed entering the Third World War, but it will be a new type of war and a much more serious one. The philosopher Virilio explains that up to this point we have been dealing with micro-terrorism, which had no catastrophic impact. Now, however, we are dealing with ‘large-scale global terrorism, of which the first symbolic sign was the fall of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. This large-scale terrorism will continue and become nuclear terrorism’. Virilio thinks that nuclear terrorism could take two forms, either ‘anti-cities’ (against civilian populations), or ‘anti-forces’ (against ports, factories, etc.). He believes that nuclear terrorism against civilian populations will become the dominant form. Then he makes the following acerbic remark: ‘Bush, with his anti-missile system, is completely mistaken. He thought that the danger would come from intercontinental missiles, and in fact the attack came from three airplanes that belonged to American Airlines! I insist: we are dealing with a real war and not with “terrorism”’! Yes, to be sure, but in a war we need an enemy. This is a war against whom? Against Islam or against shadows? Virilio, as he usually does, offers a brilliant analysis, but it may be insufficient.
Let us first examine his analysis objectively. For Virilio, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Gulf War and Kosovo — which he calls conflicts of the ‘post-Cold War’ period — we are entering ‘a new period of international war’ that he analyses as follows: ‘Formerly there existed an equilibrium of terror, which lasted up to the fall of the Soviet Union. With the fall of the towers of the World Trade Center we are entering the era of the disequilibrium of terror. Anything is possible, even the unimaginable!’ In his opinion, ‘the West is completely unprepared for this new form of war’, and then adds, ‘There are two forms of war: the classic and “substantial” conflict with armies and the “accidental” war with unpredictable modalities. In the Twentieth century, classic war could degenerate into a subversive war of partisans, guerillas, local terrorisms. But today, we are entering a form of war without openly declared enemies, without front lines, a furtive war.’ In summary, no longer a ‘world war’, but a ‘globalised’ war, a blind war, without rules, without frontiers or sanctuaries, in which there are no low blows and even the most horrible ones are permitted, in a society ‘delocalised’ and animated by the ‘speed of movement’, where the invisible enemy strikes from within.
Virilio explains that Bush is confused because he ‘cannot distinguish a clearly identified enemy’. In other words, Bush does not dare designate Islam, but instead the abstract enemy that is ‘terrorism’. Virilio explains that classic, territorial war, à la Clausewitz (war between nations) is obsolete and the theory of anti-ballistic missile defence has been made ridiculous by September 11. The threat was not where everyone expected it.
Virilio gives a very impressive analysis, which must, however, be completed, for it seems insufficient. From our point of view his ‘First War of Globalisation’ opposes two different camps. Virilio forgets the historical dimension. He is too much of a sociologist. Islam has been trying to invade Europe for 1,300 years. On two previous occasions it failed, but it keeps returning obstinately to the assault and is never discouraged. This is the key element that Virilio neglects. War can change forms and does so eternally, but it always opposes two different camps: friend and foe, us and them. Between the two there is no mercy. Let us think about the expression, used in French and Spanish, ‘nous autres’: the rest of us.
* * *
The struggle against terrorism that the United States and other Western countries say they are conducting is suffering from impotence since they do not dare to clearly name their enemies (radical Islam) and because, out of naïveté, they are allowing millions of foreign immigrants from the Third World and Islamic countries to set themselves up on their own soil, especially in Europe. The 52 million Muslims present in Europe, from Gibraltar to Russia, are breeding grounds for Islamist terrorists much more dangerous than the terrorist networks of the Near East! On the other hand, Europeans and Americans are completely blind to the coming of an ethnic civil war and a demographic submersion much more serious than ‘terrorism’. It is not bombs and armed attacks, but rather ethnic submersion that destroys peoples. On the contrary, bombs and violence can wake them up. The principal weapon of war in every age has been the infiltration, naturalisation, and progressive seizure of power by foreigners. Battles and terrorist acts only accompany this basic movement, but are not its content.
In France, giga-terrorism may be accompanied by a repetitive micro-terrorism, as in Israel: a daily terrorist incident by a booby-trapped car or a kamikaze attack, with a ‘strategy of tension’. The real struggle against terrorism must succeed first in reducing and then eliminating the massive and organised presence of Islam in areas where it was not — or was no longer — present in the Twentieth century. This is the politics of containment, extolled during the Cold War by the Pentagon (McNamara) against Communism, which was infinitely less dangerous than Islam. The strategy must be first to contain and then to repel Islam everywhere where it expands outside its historic territory.
* * *
Can Islamic terrorism strike the United States again? The experts of the American government are afraid that it will. Under the cover of anonymity (in a few cases they actually give their names), they confided in Lisa Myers of MSNBC News (16 September 2003). Here is a summary of the substance of their fears. First of all, as was perfectly predictable, the invasion of Iraq did not weaken the terrorist networks; in fact, it strengthened and spread them. George W. Bush’s policies, which were supposed to reduce the risk of attacks against the United States, only increased them. Finally, the new organisation that is suspected of having committed the attack against the headquarters of the United Nations in Baghdad, Ansar-al-Islam, is supposed to have succeeded in infiltrating America, which, even more than before September 11, is the principle target of the mujahideen. Interestingly, this organisation is a mixture of radicalised Kurds and Islamist Arabs. ‘There is no doubt that Ansar-al-Islam has succeeded in entering the United States. Our information is making us very nervous’, explains FBI agent Patrick D’Amuro. The terrorists are supposed to have been involved in locating targets in six big cities, including New York, San Diego and Los Angeles. They may be preparing suicide attacks on a large-scale. Terrorism expert M. J. Gohel warns, ‘They can be activated to perpetrate an atrocity in the United States, but also in Europe.’
* * *
Will there be a new September 11 tomorrow? It is necessary to expect giant Islamist attacks in the West, according to the warnings of the ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the United States, Prince Bandar ibn Sultan. The threat is precise. On 17 June 2003, the Director of MI5, the British domestic secret service, Eliza Manningham-Buller, announced in the course of a speech to the Royal United Services Institute, ‘we are faced with the realistic possibility of some form of unconventional attack… Sadly, given the widespread proliferation of the technical knowledge to construct these weapons, it will only be a matter of time before a crude version of a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack is launched at a major Western city and only a matter of time before that crude version becomes something more sophisticated.’ She added that Al Qaeda remains capable of deadly terrorist attacks, and that the breeding grounds for recruiting potential terrorists is far from shrinking, a polite way of underlining the totally counterproductive nature of the ‘Bush doctrine’. And then, in conclusion, she ventured this scathing quip: ‘Breaking the link between terrorism and religious ideology is difficult.’ So the head of MI5 accepts the thesis that Islamism necessarily produces terrorism.
* * *
What are the chances of large-scale Islamist attacks on the West? According to an investigation by Jeffrey Fleishman, reprinted in the London Times and the Los Angeles Times, the Al Qaeda teams that perpetrated the anti-Western attack in Riyadh have infiltrated Europe and the United States. Prince Bandar ibn Sultan, the ambassador of Saudi Arabia in Washington, announced, ‘My gut feeling is that something enormous is going to happen in Saudi Arabia or in America.’ He noted that intelligence services ‘have detected a significant flood of chatter about terrorist activity, some regional but also international ones’, while listening to relevant networks. The invasion of Iraq probably reactivated all these networks. The Prince numbered at 350 the active Saudi militant terrorists who are preparing for an action.
According to an article in The Guardian, ‘Al Qaeda has returned and is stronger than ever.’ Jonathan Stevenson of the International Institute for Strategic Studies believes that the victories that Bush boasted of in dismantling terrorist networks have been nullified by significant new recruitment following the invasion of Iraq.
The above text is an excerpt from Guillaume Faye’s Convergence of Catastrophes (Arktos, 2012). If you liked this selection, be sure to check out the whole book.