Mr. Chairman, I am honored to be with you and the committee today. My name is Dr. Christopher C. Harmon, professor of international relations; I was asked to join the panel as the author of a new book, Terrorism Today. . .
Americans are well aware that terrorism is a varied phenomenon. We've been embarrassed to see some of it rooted in our country. Some of it is born and raised overseas, and stays there. Some terrorism is transnational. The latter is our special problem just now; we are facing up to the damage inflicted on September 11, while still analyzing the many other transnational terrorist threats.
We seem to be facing, among other forms of terrorism, a militant Moslem international. It is not precisely like the Bolshevik international of the 1920s and 1930s, because its motivations differ and because it is less centralized. But it may be akin to the less formal Communist international of the 1960s or the 1970s or the 1980s, a coalition of front groups, terrorists, radical states, and powerful central governments in the Soviet Union and China.
The new militant Moslem international is wide in its appeal and global in its operations and aspirations. It seems feverish in its faith. It is profoundly angry at its enemies, which are many; the enemies list may not begin with Americans, and it certainly includes many moderate Arab regimes. The international seems versed in ideology not mere momentary heat or inspiration. It is so combative that some within it defy all sense of self-preservation. It is often well-educated, well-trained, well-financed, and well-armed. Most disturbingly, it is on the move. It appears to have very high morale, if very twisted morals. It seems to sense that its time has come, that its opportunities have never been better.
I should say a word or two more about several of these main characteristics.
Religion, which should be a source of enlightenment and sooth our spirits, can also be the source of blood lust. Federal prison now holds the spark who detonated the first bomb at the World Trade Center towers, in February 1993. Sheik Abd al-Rahman arrived here via Egypt and the Sudan and put together a coalition of multinational persons of adherence to him and the faith he says he speaks for. They then did all they possibly could to take down the buildings. Militarized religion was a moving force in that attack: Ramzi Yousef declared his group to be "an international movement concerned with affairs of the world's Islamic armed movement."
Equally evident in that 1993 attack was hatred of U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East. Here is a second constant of the new militant international, equally visible in the Charter of Hamas, or the training manual of the Bin Laden organization, "Military Studies in the Jihad Against the Tyrants." The movement damns Americans for supporting the Israelis. Yousef said that his group aimed to make the U.S. administration "stop its aid for Israel." Another of the 1993 New York City bombers, Nidal Ayyad, sent a letter to the press explaining the attack: "The American people are responsible for the actions of their government..." and so they "will be the targets of our operations... ."
The ruthless willingness to kill large numbers of civilians is another characteristic. The 1993 bomb plot in New York was the kin, in this way, with operations of the Algerian GIA (Armed Islamic Group), or Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement), or others. The Osama Bin Laden group's February 1998 fatwa specifically threatened all Americans, civilian and military. The 1993 bombers did not even bother to pretend there was military utility to their target. The papers of plotter El-Sayid Nosair, found after the first New York attack, state coldly that they wished "to demoralize the enemies of Allah . . . by destroying and blowing up the pillars of their civilization and blowing up the tourist attractions they are so proud of and the high buildings they are so proud of."
In the microcosm of the initial New York attack we thus see religious motive; a sharp political determination; and decisions about targeting that disregard all decency and any deference to nonbelligerents.
On the operational level, appearances suggest that the new international uses mobility, varied communications, and safe-havens to direct terror attacks. We have no evidence that Bin Laden set foot in East Africa before his teams blew up two embassies, murdering many Africans and some Americans, too. He probably did not return to Yemen, the homeland of his father, when he was directing the attack on the sailors of the U.S.S. Cole. He need not come to America to see the murder of thousands in the Trade Towers. He used cell phones, or couriers with computer diskettes, or airplanes, or encrypted data on the Internet, and perhaps other means. Men from dozens of different countries have been doing Bin Laden's work.
Operations in Europe, especially our NATO ally Germany, seem to be particularly important. Northwestern Europe is wealthy, indulgent of foreign cultures, and rife with trade schools, institutes and good universities. There are media outlets to appeal to, and cultural societies and academic circles of similar potential. Support groups are easily formed in these free societies. Many in Europe are foreigners: guest workers, new residents, or students, and they may wish to help, or can be pressed to do so. Europe's immigration laws never please all critics, but they are far more liberal than those of many other countries in the world. The continent also offers excellent varieties of communications. A well-chosen base in western Germany, for example, is a geographical bridge reaching into four other countries, all with airports, good highways, rental cars, etc.
For tactical actions, covert cells have sufficed. This cell structure was precisely and publicly explained to the world by the paratroop commander in the classic film quite an accurate film The Battle of Algiers. Individuals know very few compatriots, and only one boss. Section bosses know only some of those in the lower ranks their own subordinates; section bosses also know relatively few persons in the structure above them even as few as one. Thus when a blunder is made, or a whole cell is arrested, the damage is easily contained. Even if one chooses to defect, or breaks under torture, the member may have little to disclose about others in the organization.
The organizations are diversely funded. New York Times journalist Judith Miller wrote a book about this movement, as well as many superb investigative articles on how it funds itself. U.S. court proceedings show that radical Moslems with international connections have supported themselves here, or earned funds for the movement, by selling cars, smuggling cigarettes between states to take advantage of tax laws, and even setting up think tanks or institutes which cover for the raising and export of funds. Hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars have been raised here and sent to the Middle East. Other patrons live abroad, contributing from personal fortunes. Bin Laden's money was inherited from his Saudi father's construction business, but the son has not only spent. During his years in the Sudan, for example, he was directing construction projects and engaging in agricultural business.
All of the above still goes on. This movement certainly is far wider than the Bin Laden organization and certainly was not created by the Bin Laden organization. Indeed, the wider movement of which we see glimmers includes established governments, probably including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and in the immediate past, Sudan. Secular Iraq may be involved. The movement appears to include independent operators, such as the self-declared Mujahideen who traveled to Bosnia to join the fight. The movement involves people who strongly disagree about some things, and may even dislike or hate Bin Laden. The movement has apparently been able to include Sunni as well as Shia, Iran as well as Libya, and the Palestinians of Hamas as well as the Lebanese of Hizbollah.
It thus apparent that we must act against the Bin Laden network without expecting that success there will end the broader international militant Moslem movement. The movement existed before him and will outlive him and will for some time be a challenge to all nations which decline to submit to it.