Small Wars Journal

More on Religion and Insurgency

SWJ friend Jim Guirard of the TrueSpeak Institute e-mailed us his latest Words Have Meaning related commentary.

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Dear SWJ Blog,

David Kilcullen of General David Petraeus' staff in Baghdad makes a fine start but has much farther to go in attacking the pseudo-religious scam of al Qaeda-style Terrorism (AQST) in Islamic religious terms.

To date, the State Department, the White House and the Defense Department -- and even the otherwise excellent new COIN Manual itself -- have studiously avoided this approach in favor of Western secular words only. This is because of an understandable but, I think, inordinate fear of making mistakes (as indeed we would from time to time) if we were to begin combating AQST in religious terms and frames of reference.

Such favored Western secular and law enforcement terms as criminals, thugs, bring to justice, killers and even terrorists are quite true but are little better than shooting with blanks when it comes to their impact on hearts, minds and souls (don't forget the "and souls" element) in the Muslim and Arab worlds where --

First, the ever deceitful enemy is incessantly talking in terms of "Jihad" (Holy War) by "mujahideen" and "shahideen" (martyrs) destined for "Jennah" (Paradise) as a proper reward for killing all of us "kuffar" -- us alleged "infidels" and "unbelievers" -- and where

Second, all too many of us tend to confirm the validity of such pro-al Qaeda terms -- and thus to polish Osams bin Laden's and Ayman al-Zawahiri's haloes -- either by repeating these words of self-sanctification or by failing to contest their validity, or both.

Enter now David Kilcullen, who calmly breaks stride by correctly, prudently and one-word-at-a-time referring to these suicide mass murderers as ungodly "munafiquun (hypocrites) who pose as defenders of the faith while simultaneously perverting it." Great!

He then recounts that in the bloody battle for Ramadi "The gangsters called themselves 'mujahideen'' but there was nothing holy about their war." Great, again!

In both cases he challenges the patently false religious claims of the terrorists and implies that they are enemies of Quranic Islam who are using "religion as cynical cover for carnage," a reference which sounds very much like "apostasy" (murtadd) to this reader. Great, for a third time!

In all three of these assertions the man is leveling serious religious charges, not against Islam itself but against a pseudo-Islamic ideology which is in fact the antithesis of the "peaceful, compassionate, merciful, beneficent and just" Allah who is repeatedly so described by the Quran. But to complete the job, both he and those who would follow his example need several additional semantic tools by which to portray these evildoers and their so-called "religious insurgency"

(a) NOT as constituting so-called "Jihad" (Holy War) but ungodly "Hirabah" (unholy war, war against society) and forbidden "Irhab" (Terrorism), instead;

(b) NOT as the "jihadis" and the "mujahideen" they falsely claim to be but as the irhabis (terrorists) and the mufsiduun (evildoers, mortal sinners and corrupters) they really are;

(c) NOT as the Godly heroes of "Jihadi Martyrdom" they falsely claim to be but as the Satanic perpetrators of "Irhabi Murderdom" (Genocidal Terrorism) they really are;

(d) NOT as destined for a virgin-filled Paradise for killing all of us so-called kuffar (infidels) but to a demon-filled Jahannam (Eternal Hellfire) for killing so many thousands of innocents, fellow Muslims, "People of the Book" and "Sons of Abraham," instead;

(e) NOT as the abd'al-Allah (Servants of Allah) they falsely claim to be but as the abd'al-Shaitan (Servants of Satan), the murtadduun (apostates) and the khawarij (outside-the-religion deviants) they really are.

Only once we know such correctly condemnatory words and begin to use them -- prudently but insistently, as well -- might we then begin to undermine the so-called "Jihadi Martyrdom" imagery by which these ruthless killers live, die and expect to enter Paradise as a reward for defeating "The Great Satan." (Realize, please, that according to today's AQ-concocted and universally parroted lexicon, that is who we are. For who other than TGS himself would go about killing "holy guys" and "martyrs" on their way to Paradise?)

While such truth-in-language will not persuade all or even most of today's terrorists of the apostate and satanic nature of their ways, it will in time greatly erode the certainty of their "jihadi" resolve. Those who posit that such killers are "impervious to counter methods" of a religious nature and are "not susceptible to having their hearts and minds won over" may be right. But how will we ever know if we never even try?

In addition to whatever impact such an initiative has on the Hell-bound Terrorists themselves, it will help to strengthen the anti-murderdom resolve of most truly faithful Muslims -- many of whom, like so many of us, are quite thoroughly hoodwinked by AQST's false labeling, by habit of language, by brainwashing, by pseudo-Islamic preachings and by a wide variety of peer pressures into a 'round-the-clock parroting of al Qaeda's seductive but patently false language of self-sanctification.

By painting the truthful alternative image of Irhabi Murderdom (of Genocidal Terrorism), we will begin to expose al Qaeda's grandiose promises as a monumental satanic scam which entices religiously motivated young Muslims into becoming irhabis, mufsiduun, munafiquun, murtadduun and khawarij -- and dispatches them in due course not into Allah's Paradise but into Shaitan's demon-filled Hellfire, instead.

And in that truthful RELIGIOUS frame of reference we might begin to find the much-needed disincentive to the suicide mass murder by which al Qaeda, al Sadr, Hizballah, the Afghan Taliban and their genocidal ilk are now attempting to inflict a "death by a thousand cuts" catastrophe on the entire civilized world.

Of course, those true believers in the al Qaeda Apostasy -- as well as those individuals who are simply criminals, psychopaths, mercenaries, thugs and Caliphate-hungry imperialists -- and will still have to be hunted down and either be killed or be captured and imprisoned.

But is it not also time, as David Kilcullen (and maybe Gen. Petraeus himself?) seems to be recommending, that we at least "GIVE A BLOODY GOOD TRY," as the British and as Kilcullen's own Australians would say, to these long-avoided strategies, operations and tactics for saving not only ourselves but Islam itself from those deviants who would turn that huge and growing religion into nothing but a perpetual killing machine of all Christians, of all Jews and of all Muslims, as well, who happen to disagree?

Finally, as a means of assessing the anti-Terrorism utility of the "war of words" and "war for hearts, minds and souls" recommendations explained above, one might try to picture what the late Osama bin Laden's reaction to each might have been before he was so deservedly cast into Eternal Hellfire some time ago.

(And how is that for a somewhat speculative but quite possibly true "psyop" ending to this story about AQST's satanic mastermind?)

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Jim Guirard -- TrueSpeak Institute 703-768-0957 Justcauses@aol.com ... and Truespeak.org

A DC-area attorney, writer, lecturer and anti-Terrorism strategist, Jim Guirard was longtime Chief of Staff to former US Senators Allen Ellender and Russell Long. His TrueSpeak Institute and TrueSpeak.org website are devoted to truth-in-language and truth-in-history in public discourse.

Comments

emjayinc (not verified)

Mon, 05/21/2007 - 5:34pm

BG and others,
Admired your inputs so much that I cribbed mine from another location in SWJ, so I could associate my thinking when I include the entire discussion in my personal files. From my comment to the Frank Hoffman critique:
As I've noted at another SWJ blog entry, seems to me that religion is not a human need, but a tool to meet human needs. Getting their needs met is what motivates people, politics is the medium, and religion, like other ideologies, both conditions the political discourse and justifies political actions. At least, that's my take on what Maslow and other motivational psychologists and cultural anthropologists have been developing as an explanation for human behavior over the last 60 or so years. From this point of view, the FM may need some edit work on the place of religion in the context of everything else, but focusing on peoples' wants and needs as the more crucial strategic framework seems justified.

emjayinc (not verified)

Mon, 05/21/2007 - 5:34pm

BG and others,
Admired your inputs so much that I cribbed mine from another location in SWJ, so I could associate my thinking when I include the entire discussion in my personal files. From my comment to the Frank Hoffman critique:
As I've noted at another SWJ blog entry, seems to me that religion is not a human need, but a tool to meet human needs. Getting their needs met is what motivates people, politics is the medium, and religion, like other ideologies, both conditions the political discourse and justifies political actions. At least, that's my take on what Maslow and other motivational psychologists and cultural anthropologists have been developing as an explanation for human behavior over the last 60 or so years. From this point of view, the FM may need some edit work on the place of religion in the context of everything else, but focusing on peoples' wants and needs as the more crucial strategic framework seems justified.

bg (not verified)

Fri, 05/18/2007 - 4:10pm

I agree that insurgents can and do use Islam (or any ideology) as a tool to achieve a goal and that religion, although a factor, doesnt warrant its own brand of insurgency.

1. Religion is a tool. Insurgents will use it as a means to an end. The end is NOT a Caliphate or Sharia law, the end is power. Political power. Insurgency is a political fight.

2. To Islamic fundamentalists, religion and politics are the same. Are we displacing our belief of separation between religion and politics on the fundamentalists' beliefs, motives and strategies?

3. If we agree that COIN is a political fight, and we agree that religious extremists do not see a difference between religion and politics, why should we consider religious fundamentalism as a different type of COIN? The Caliphate is just another form of government, the "jihad" is just another battle cry (and not the first to inspire suicide missions).

4. When we focus on religion, we focus on the differences between the counter-insurgent and the population. This biases the actions of the counter-insurgent and aides the insurgent who is trying to seperate and to gain active or passive support of the population against the counter-insurgent.

My fear with dealing with an insurgency from a religious standpoint is that we automatically put ourselves into the "outsider" role, which inspires not just the religious extremists who fear the next crusade, but we inspire the nationalist insurgent who want to remove foreign influence. The population must identify with the counter-insurgent as people with common goals. When we frame our way of thinking based on religion and other differences, we predispose ourselves to be different, separating the counter-insurgent from the population.

mnc (not verified)

Fri, 05/18/2007 - 5:59am

Along these lines, last year in Dubai a Bangladeshi taxi driver was telling me what a geat man he was to evade the US for so long, etc.

I responded by saying that OBL was possessed by Satan, that Satan is strong and protects his disciples and the proof that he is possessed is in the numbers of Muslims killed by AQ.

My message hit home. It was in terms he understood and could deal with. For a while at least, I created doubt in his mind.

walrus (not verified)

Fri, 05/18/2007 - 3:21am

At last! I've found another small oasis of sanity on the internet!

Mr. Kilcullen's sensible and measured advice is music to my ears because unlike much else on the web, it is based on factual first hand observation. It also happens to correspond with my own limited experience of counterinsurgency and my experience of the East and the muslim religion.

The advice I've seen elsewhere on the net (Get tough! Take the Gloves off! Be more Brutal! Change the rules of engagement!) all seem to me to be coming from people who despite their often impressive academic qualifications, have never held a weapon in their hands, much less been required to use it on another human being in a military setting.

I think there is one issue here that is not addressed and that is giving legitimacy to our claims to such language that is inherent of the Arab language and Islam, we being largely not Arab nor Muslim.

Understanding, of course, that as non-believers and not overly related to the tribal or ancestral make up of such, our co-opting of such language can be problematic or even rejected as not having the authority to do so. We must have the support and acceptance of opinion makers and leaders of such related peoples.

I have heard that Iraqis refer to these killers in such terms and sometimes the Saudis in public, particularly in the early days. I think we missed the boat. We were too busy being suspicious of this rejection because we were too busy looking for the enemy and his causes under every rock. Had we publicized this language usage early on, adapted it and rejected the language of AQ (ie, mujihadeen, etc) we would have been in a much better position. We would have had the cover of legitimate authority on the matter and owned the language.

So, in order to make this conversion of language work, we need to start saying it loud and often. We need to publicize more insistently and widely the language of the average Iraqi and others who are victims of or who oppose the irhabi. In short, we need to find, adapt and advance those with the moral authority to use such language.

The more authority we can muster, the more our language and labels will be accepted. Until such a time, we may have some impact, but it will be limited.

It would helpful if this was from a respected, international person or persons, however, as Kilcullen and others have pointed out, part of this adaptation must occur on the local level as well because that is where you defeat an insurgency, whatever its language or political intent; pealing away local support. International or national voices lend strength to the local authorities on such matters, but the power to change the local setting is at the local level.

Brian H (not verified)

Mon, 05/14/2007 - 8:58pm

OOhhh! Loverly! And about time!

I also recommend considering the implications of the viewpoint expressed on http://www.everythingismiscellaneous.com/ (Everything is Miscellaneous) which allows multiple categories to apply to the same item or situation, rather than fixating on artificially precise Aristotelian categorization.

Brian Hall
Web editor