that the actual
account of what Federal investigators are learning from Umar Farouk
Abdulmuttalab has come out it makes sense to step back a little bit and take a
good hard look at how America’s current and former elected and appointed
officials, as well as pundits and media respond to the issue of terrorism. I
want to emphasize issue rather than threat because how to conduct an
investigation of a failed terrorist, as
well as whether terrorist should be handled in regular courts, trials or
tribunals should be held in the places that the acts of terrorism took place,
or all terrorist are automatically enemy combatants are all a series of issues,
some related some not, not actual threats.
The common thread that runs through all of these responses is that a
large portion of our politicians, our pundits, our media all seem to have been
thoroughly terrorized. Even though
Abdulmuttalab failed to do anything other than injure himself, anyone watching
American tv news, listening to American radio, or reading American newspapers
would reasonably conclude that he succeeded in his mission.
it is certainly true that a large number of these overreactions to
Abdulmuttalab’s failed attack, to handling him through the Federal criminal
justice system, and to the impending trial of Khalid Sheikh Muhammed in
Manhattan are themselves designed to draw out a political reaction or increase
ratings or readership they actually have a much more serious, and potentially tragic
set of second, third, and fourth order effects.
Reacting as if the Bush Administration hadn’t successfully tried over
300 terrorists in the regular American criminal justice system, that all of the
research on terrorism trials prior to 9-11 clearly indicate that Arabs and/or
Muslims were significantly more likely to be convicted of terrorism and
terrorism related charges and get far harsher sentences, and that the standard, and explicitly stated,
procedure for the Reagan Administration’s dealing with terrorists was to
identify them as criminals and treat them as such (h/t
to Glenn Greenwald) actually helps the terrorists!
readers who are in, have been in, or worked with the military will all be
familiar with the term IO fratricide.
According to military doctrine Information Operations (IO) fratricide
occurs “as the result of employing
information operations elements in a way that causes effects in the information
environment that impede the conduct of friendly operations or adversely affect
friendly forces” (FM 3-13) including “actions, perceptions, and information
from friendly forces that create improper impressions can adversely affect
IO in sensitive situations”. Through
their nearly hysterical over reactions and responses, many of our past and
present political leaders, pundits, and media personalities are actually
committing IO fratricide. They are
signaling to al Qaeda, those influenced by al Qaeda’s message, and members of
other violent and extremist organizations, whether foreign or domestic, that
Americans are easily terrorized.
Moreover, they are repeatedly demonstrating that it doesn’t actually
take much to cause a collective freak out by American elites and notables, even
if the rest of us are more level headed.
Leaders and members of a variety of violent extremist movements watch
American news broadcasts, read American newspapers and websites, and listen to
American talk radio. When the majority
of the messages that are transmitted are these over reactions terrorist
behavior is reinforced and terrorists are encouraged at how easy it is to
accomplish their end state – terrorizing Americans into radically changing
their behavior. If our elected and
appointed officials, media stars, and pundits really want to demonstrate how
tough they, and Americans, are in regard to terrorism they would dial the
hysteria way down, advocate and implement appropriate and effective safety
measures, and make it very clear that no security system that is acceptable to
Americans is perfect, but as Americans we’d rather risk not having perfect
security, and the tyranny that would accompany it, because we prefer the
freedom and liberty that the Founders and Framers envisioned.
 Adam L. Silverman, PhD was the Field
Social Scientist and Team Leader for Human Terrain Team Iraq 6 (HTT IZ6)
assigned to the 2BCT/1AD from OCT 2007 to OCT 2008. Upon his redeployment
to the US he served as the US Army Human Terrain System Strategic Advisor
through June 2009. The views expressed here are his own and do not
necessarily reflect those of the 2BCT/1AD, the US Army Human Terrain System, or
the US Army.
 Please see Dr. Brett Smith’s and Dr.
Kelly Damphousse’s research conducted as part of the American Terrorism
This is a very good article and I completely agree with what Adam Silverman PhD writes.
Americans seem to be very fearful and I think much of this is caused by the 24/7 hype and histeria of Fox and CNN.
Keep us scared, fired up and watching is all they care about. There is no news it is all theatre.
And the terrorists win.
I was speaking to Evan Kohlmann the other day, who’s a sharp guy who’s been tracking AQ propaganda since before 9/11. He says there’s been a pretty clear shift in recent years from OBL public communications. In the past, he would never “claim” a failed operation, but now is quite happy to claim “failures” like Abdulmutallab and, said Evan, frequently praises failed attackers success in terrorizing the enemy.
I also stumbled across yesterday the transcript of the judges remarks when sentencing Richard Reid, which i thought were fantastic:
“So war talk is way out of line in this court. You’re a big fellow. But you’re not that big. You’re no warrior. I know warriors. You are a terrorist. A species of criminal guilty of multiple attempted murders.
In a very real sense Trooper Santiago had it right when first you were taken off that plane and into custody and you wondered where the press and where the TV crews were and you said you’re no big deal. You’re no big deal.”
Terror clearly serves the short-term interests of politicians. A population that is fearful, dependent and self-absorbed will be more obedient, less critical and more quiescent.
Bush learned this lesson quickly after 911. Obama will be strongly attracted to it too. Like Tolkien’s Ring.
It is hardly news that the short-term interests of politicians may clash with the strategic interests of the Nation. Leads back to the fundamental problem of governance and elite formation.
Thank you for your analysis.
I wonder, though, to what extent the power of the military industrial complex’s desire for BUSINESS, and their power [corruption] within Congress and Administration has anything to do with the overhype? As to MSM, that woeful diverse organization is not in the business of analysis, it is in the business of re-inforcing the talkiing points of the purchased politician, on one hand, and; on the other hand. they are in the business of sensationalism with the aiom of entertaining the uneducated masses [e.g, major national disaster when Challenger blew up, a tragedy for the astronauts and the builders, but of liftle consequence within a nation of 250 million+ citizens].
So the hype will go on, for it plays to major interests! Reality, rational; thought is not necessary!
This is top-down. This was a freaking republic. Where is the bottom-up definition of the fundamental problem?
“The common thread that runs through all of these responses is that a large portion of our politicians, our pundits, our media all seem to have been thoroughly terrorized.”
To quote JFK:
“In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience – the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men – each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage can define that ingredient – they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.”
Not much soul searching going on inside the beltway or the MSM. Perhaps a new presidential candidate could write a new book “Profiles in Cowardice”. There are plenty of examples to highlight from the ranks of pundits, media barrons and politicians.
Corporate Media has one overriding goal; making money for its owners. Besides pushing fear and diverting the viewers, the purpose of the broadcasts is to make one feel good about oneself by buying this or that.
9/11 was a major paradigm shift. Before only States could attack America. A few Hamburg Arabs funded by excess oil money found and exploited weakness in American airline security, air defenses, and flaws in the Twin Towers along with the willingness to kill oneself to create a catastrophe in New York. Even worse than the attack itself, 9/11 empowered crony capitalists to exploit the need to kick some Muslim Ass for military contracts to fight two wars and for tax cuts for the wealthy. All this at the cost of 6.1 trillion dollars loss in home value and 4375 dead and 31,616 wounded in Iraq alone.
The ongoing economic crisis continues because American government cannot reregulated the financial industry, reform health care, end two wars, or tax the wealth. A few hundreds of radical true believers in the Hindu Kish Mountains or Aden are of no consequence except for weakness of America itself and its addiction to oil.
None of these issues are being discussed by Corporate Media. Worse, the Obama Administration is ignoring them at its own peril of being a one term Presidency.
to: N.M. Salamon
I can be as critical of the military and corporate world as most but, if they are in any way complicit in this hysteria, they have done a remarkable job of hiding their fingerprints. No, this is largely the fault of craven politicians and media who have traded their proper responsibilities for ratings.
It pains me to say so but, yes, hysteria sells … consequences be damned.
Thank you Mr. Silverman, thank you!
After the ’01 anthrax attacks, one of my aunts started opening her ordinary mail while wearing latex gloves, hopefully she still isn’t doing that.
“O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
I have to wonder if we are becoming the home of the coward are we also becoming the land of the no longer free?
I wish our leaders would man up and set the right tone.
Here’s a great article putting this in perspective:
Dollars to donuts, if the fear/hysteria level were dialed back to something resembling the real and actual threat – which is very minor – then a mountain of power, influence, and money would have to be allocated elsewhere, to less lucrative (and more productive) venues.
With the greatest of respect, I think you are labouring under the misapprehension that the American Elites want IO operations to succeed.
They don’t. You are witnessing the very careful roll out of Orwells “1984” in support of a military industrial complex takeover of the Government of America, and maintaining the bulk of Americans in a state of perpetual fear is the most important part of the plan.
It’s important because it enables Government to enact measures that would not have been tolerated a decade ago.
The most telling comparison is the behaviour of successive British Governments dealing with IRA terrorism versus the American Government’s confrontation with Al Qaeeda. Were Bush seriously trying to keep the country on an even keel after 911, he would have told the nation that it’s “business as usual” and that nothing Al Qaeeda could do would change Americas values or resolve. That did not happen. Instead we got the reverse. “911 changes everything.”
The most sinister development since the corporatisation and muzzling of the free press, is the fusing of industry “contractors” and the Government into an amorphous mass so that it is difficult to know whether the guy in the helmet with the rifle is there out of patriotism or for profit. Then of course there is the fusing of Defence Department Assets with local internal law enforcement.
“Seamless integration” from the Cop on the beat all the way to the Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff is a recipe for tyranny, as is the integration of Wall Street and the Treasury.
You can expect more “failed” IO operations in support of further erosion of civil rights and the integration of Government and business until it is one seamless amorphous mass where the distinctions between police, “contractors” and the military is effectively minimal.
By the way, were the Americans killed by an IED outside a girls school in Pakistan contractors or soldiers? Would you care to comment on that incident?
I think you have me confused with Dr. Silverman. pl
Over the last days I got the impression that China is replacing terror as the great public scare. It´s not a new topic but it almost feels like the administration is playing up currency valuation, Taiwan, industrial espionage/hacking, human rights and other contentious issues. Will this rally people behind Obama?
Sad and scary.
Tinfoil hat aside, I’m very pessimistic about the citizenry’s ability or inclination to retake the republic, and my PM is bent on the same things up here. We’re so easily herded. And shouted down. Many a paycheque or two away from bankruptcy, so long as employed and not deployed, politically, critically, apathetic.
New Orleans, if not complicit, fattened corporations and think tanks utilizing revolving cadres of retired military personnel as undeclared paid shills in the guise of expert talking heads dispensing grave counsel to bumptious hosts are the cast of characters filling the media stage to bemuse the craven politicians awaiting their scene.
More like footprints than fingerprints, I’s say. Who owns the media, think tanks, the lobbyists and the politicians, and hires the retiring brass? The bits that Israel doesn’t own outright?
The problem is Americans are easily terrorised. It’s easy to control a people who spend most of their free time watching a technology they think is a window to the real world and can even be convinced to vote against their own interests–just instill the fear. Power always moves from the low-energy (viewer) to the high-energy (actor). The batteries almost drained and I don’t expect much from a people who wear jammies to the grocery store. cynimax
Piggy-backing on your analysis Mr. Silverman … As a terrorist I setup a patsy (the undie bomber), fill him w/disinformation, and arm him w/a device I know will not detonate. I grease him on an US bound flight because I have local knowledge of the embark airports security. I do want the explosive to detonate because I do not want to run the risk of creating sympathy for the Americans, and not unimportantly, revealing myself for the cold-blooded maniac that I am. I am however very interested in telling my target audience that we do not have to even kill them to terrorize the hell out of ’em, i.e., we are supermen in their eyes.
Tangentially related, Jeremy Scahill in The Nation:
Andy Mink: The US can no longer use China in that manner. At several times in the last decade, China has reminded the US its limits – when China uttered the word nuclear option (dumping a tiny fraction of their TBills), interest rates jumped 2% in less than a day and Bush reversed and the talk ceased.
Just for once uncertain as to the merits of Dr. Silverman’s post. Are the American people fearful? Not according to the polls. Job loss not terrorism leads their fears. Does the MSM really see terrorism as cause for alarm? Not according to those organizations that analyze the MSM. They do see the MSM trying to hype any story that they can to attract readershio or viewership! Is the Adminstration fearful? Well the DNI seems to have downgrade conventional terrorism and now more worried about Cyber Security! Is the Congress worried about terrorism? Not based on the actual hearings conducted and legislation introduced and enacted! So where are we going as we head to the fall 2010 elections? Will politicians position on terrorism control outcomes? Doubtful. Has the military/industrial/acacademic complex really come to grips with study and analysis of terrorism? Not based on published open sources! Few academics actually study terrorism. Few in the military bank their careers on anti-terrorism or counter-terrorism! As to industry–it marketing experts are the greatest users of the threat of terrorism. We now have DHS again about to spend over $1 Billion on new screening equipment (third or fourth generation) when the early generations all failed. Sniffers and puffers would be cheaper but that would deprive several contractors of nourishment. I could be wrong about all of the above of course.
I struggled through the 170+ pages of DoD’s QDR report. It appears to be Business As Usual, neither admitting the REALITY of USA’s economy [some minor sentences on the issue]; nor making any mention of the PEAK OIL problem, an almost unforgivable omission – for DoD is among the largest users of petroleum products [if memory serves right, onse I read it would be among the world’s top 5 users].
On the other hand:
“Mr. Gabrielli, the CEO of Petrobras, gave a presentation in December 2009 in which he shows world oil capacity, including biofuels, peaking in 2010 due to oil capacity additions from new projects being unable to offset world oil decline rates.”
with a long expose at:
I am aware that there was a serious discussion paper with respect to Global Warming and its interaction to DoD efforts – indicating problems, possible solutions as it effects USA’s Armed Froces under that scenario.
So I wonder, perhaps, the Colonel or some members on this blog have seen an analysis of DoD vs. Peak Oil, and if so, would point to such document.
Thank you for your help, if any.
I witnessed the perfect terror antidote today. I was forced to listen/watch Senatress Susan Collins. Put her on the front lines: she’ll put them all in a catatonic state.
Over the last days I got the impression that China is replacing terror as the great public scare.
China is our greatest national threat over the coming decades. Terrorism is a mere gnat’s bite.
And this is why…
Debts issued by CDB are fully guaranteed by the central government of the People’s Republic of China.
They are pumping billions of risk free loans into high-tech companies to compete on international markets.
And it’s working…
Huawei is but one example.
How do we compete with that?
Guess it’s easier to blame underwear bombers for our ills.
All: Just a couple of follow ups, I’m sure I’ll miss someone’s remarks, and apologize in advance.
I am in complete agreement with everyone who has identified that the media does a terrible job and is simply looking to meet a corporate bottom line. I have a good friend who is a MassCom/PR/Journalism professor and one of the things I’ve learned from talking with her on this topic is that like so many things there was a major effect on the media that slowly began with all the other major changes to American life that we now accept as being normal (childhood, a middle class) after WW II and came to full fruition in the 1960s and the 1970s. Unfortunately as with so many of these other adjustments we seem to be reverting back to the pre WW II norms.
Mr. Cumming is absolutely correct that the data shows us that most Americans are not specifically focused on terrorism, and if that was one of the points that came across in the post it was unintentional. Rather it was to explicitly point out that political leadership, pundits, media elites, and a few others are not just trying to mobilize American behavior through promoting fear, but that what they are doing is actually benefitting the terrorists. So it is both counter-productive at home here in the US and providing assistance to the violent extremists, wherever they are, in that they see how out leadership, elites, and notables over react.
The problem is many of our leadership, elites and notables are Scared (i.e. Richard Bruce Cheney).
I have no doubt that you are correct, but as I have not met most of the people who are hyping the fear reaction I am hesitant to argue that they are really afraid versus being politically manipulative. I can tell you that the one member of this crowd that I do know (I unfortunately used to work for him) who considers himself a huge person of importance on terrorism and security issues is personally afraid. And it goes beyond just the threat of terrorism. The guy is afraid of everything, so he acts as if he’s the biggest toughest SOB out there. If he perceives that he has a position of strength in regard to someone he bullies them mercilessly (or tries to – he treated our departmental staff like slaves) and if he feels he is in a subordinate position to someone of authority he brown noses and sucks up relentlessly. The funniest two examples of his fear based lunacy were having him show off his .38 Chief’s Special he got to defend himself against the Islamofascists that are gunning for him and watching him give a presentation to a local, state, regional, and federal emergency management meeting on the 30+ members of the original 9-11 cell that are still in the US, where Atta placed them, as sleepers, how al Qaeda has a suitcase nuke which they’ve smuggled into the US and they’re just waiting to use, and showing a video clip made by some friends of his that conflated Sunnis and Shi’is, as well as Islamic nationalist movements with al Qaeda. I was mortified when several people, after his talk, approached me and asked what I thought of it and I had explained that the week before FBI Director Mueller had testified before Congress that after five plus years of searching there was absolutely no evidence of 9-11 or al Qaeda sleeper cells in the US, but they’d keep looking just to be safe and that the al Qaeda had a suitcase nuke had been debunked by a number of sources, among them the Federation of American Scientist, which explained that 1) not only are all of them accounted for and 2) that it takes a team of physicists, engineers, and technicians to maintain each one and a specialized facility to do so – so having one in one’s attic or cave while waiting for the go ahead from bin Laden to use it would mean one has an inoperative device. It was at that point that it clearly sank in that I had to resign and I did so not long after.
I understand your hesitantcy and congratulate your moral courage for resigning. Most bullies tend to be cowards and our elites are filled with bullies, but unless proven one shouldn’t call them on it. Except Cheney.
In Dillip Hiro’s The Iranian Labyrinth, he tells how after the Halabja chemical weapons attack the IRI played up the issue to the point that 30 percent of Tehran’s population fled the city. Which proves your point.
You would think an ambitious person in our elites would get out in front of this problem to earn a reputation as a calm rational voice in the throes of danger. (Any elites reading this, please take this idea and run with it).
The frustating thing is that the United States is smarter and better than it has been showing.
By the way, your postings are informative and enlightening. Thank You.