Thursday, March 05, 2009

What It Takes to Defeat Terrorists ... Really.




"Know Your Terrorist"/Christopher Dickey on "The Paula Gordon Show: Conversations with

Atlanta, GA/March 5, 2009 -- What's the secret of security and fighting terrorism in New York City, and in fact in most of the big cities in the United States? "The American Dream," reports Christopher Dickey.

“What interested me is how do you make people in a city, in any urban environment -- but New York may be being the most challenging urban environment in the world -- how do you make them not only feel confident but how do you actually make them safer, so it’s not just a question of illusion and delusion but a reality of a world that's safer for them?”

And the answer is?

“Effective intelligence work, maybe some covert action, a lot of diplomacy and by holding on to the American Dream. What’s needed is the combination of law enforcement and intelligence gathering. That's how you fight terrorism. To have couched the actions of a handful of testosterone driven malcontents in a framework of a clash of civilizations is plainly nuts.

“You don't want to sound kind of airy-fairy talking about this, because you’ve got bad guys with guns and bombs and doing all kinds of crazy stuff out there. But the truth is, the best thing you’ve got going for you is the community that rejects those kinds of actions.

“If you look at the list of the top ten safest cities, eight of them are where there are high proportions of first generation immigrants. When people come to the United States, they come to build their futures. They come because they buy into the Dream.

“It’s really an immigrant and ethnic dream. You can be Hindu, you can be Muslim, you can be Jewish, you can be Catholic, you can be an Atheist. (These immigrants) want to keep things quiet. When you look at that, you start to understand that safety is about the way people feel in the society, about the possibilities it gives them.

“If there's a problem with immigration, and there is, it’s when you have second and third generation children of immigrants who didn't come of their own free will, (who) feel cut off from the possibilities of the society.

“What happened in March of 2003 is that basically we had won the war against the people who carried out 9/11. As of 2003, the Bush Administration might have said, ‘We've won and we're going to keep after Bin Laden and then we're going to get on to the business with living our lives.’

“But they didn't, of course. It was just a stunning mistake. It did nothing except create more hatred of America. It broadened the pool from which terrorists draw their recruits, made it harder to get intelligence, and ultimately bogged the United States down in a war that costs about 2 and a half billion dollars a week, the sole purpose of (which) is essentially to keep Americans in a country where they're not wanted.”

The same realities apply to homegrown criminals like the Unabomber, he says.

“Why do we think that (terrorist acts are) something unique to Muslims? It’s commonplace. There are a lot of nuts running around and some of them have apocalyptic visions of themselves.”

[This Program was recorded February 9, 2009, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.]

©2009 Paula J. Gordon

Christopher Dickey, reporter and author. An award-winning Newsweek reporter, Mr. Dickey is their Paris Bureau Chief and Middle East Regional Editor. Previously, he was Cairo Bureau Chief and Central America Bureau Chief for the Washington Post. Mr. Dickey, author of Securing the City: Inside America’s Best Counterterror Force -- the NYPD, also writes the weekly “Shadowland” column on counterterrorism, espionage and the Middle East for Newsweek online. His five other books include Summer of Deliverance. He lives in Paris and New York City.

Related Links:

Securing the City: Inside the World’s Best Counterterror Force, the NYPD is published by Simon and Schuster.


A decade ago, former deputy director of the FBI Danny Coulson first pointed out to us the important distinction between the role of police and that of the military. He also argued that treating terrorists as criminals rather than members of some amorphous army greatly reduces the public relations efficacy of their crimes.

Mia Bloom (Dying to Kill) says that it is precisely the PR effect of suicide bombings which sustains their use.

In How Israel Lost, Richard Ben Cramer agrees with Mr. Dickey's point that military occupation of a land along with accompanying humiliation of its people is guaranteed to stoke the flames of terrorism.

In The Terror Dream, Susan Faludi says that, rather than dealing with the reality of terrorism as Mr. Dickey suggests, American media and much of the political and chattering classes chose to respond to 9/11 by engaging in magical thinking based or ersatz American myths

Former Ambassador Peter Galbraith supports Mr. Dickey's view that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has served as an excellent tool for recruiting new terrorists.

Tim Weiner has documented the ongoing intelligence failures of the CIA in Legacy of Ashes.
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