Failed Car Bomb Plot Defies Conventional Wisdom

Bri Heppel/AFP/Getty Images

Failed Car Bomb Plot Defies Conventional Wisdom

Western media and governments believe that terrorists are poor, disadvantaged, uneducated people, but the foiled car bomb plots in the UK show this thinking is dead wrong.

A green Jeep Cherokee filled with gas cylinders and fuel crashed through the check-in entrance of the Glasgow Airport in Scotland and burst into flames on June 30. A day earlier, two Mercedes were found packed with fuel, gas cylinders and nails, one outside a night club near Trafalgar Square and the other on a nearby street. Eight suspects were arrested.

While aspects of the plot are similar to other terrorist attacks or attempts in the UK, there were two differences.

It was the first time Islamic terrorists used a car bomb in the UK. “Make no mistake,” said John Stevens, the prime minister’s security adviser. “This weekend’s bomb attacks signal a major escalation in the war being waged on us by Islamic militants.”

The second difference shatters a commonly held myth about the terrorist threat in the world today. Most of the conspirators were well-educated doctors or medical students. The cars used were upscale Mercedes rather than beaten-down junkies.

For years, Britain has allowed foreign doctors to travel to Britain on a regular visa without a job offer or work permit to find employment in the National Health Service for up to three years. This open system was introduced to help Britain fill its need for doctors. In fact, 37 percent of Britain’s practicing doctors, including 184 from Jordan, 1,987 from Iraq, 6,634 from Pakistan, and 27,558 from India, trained and qualified as physicians overseas.

The doctors apparently involved in the plot were given an open opportunity to move to a nation with a better standard of living and better wages in order to supposedly save lives. Yet somehow they were instilled with enough hatred that they decided instead to take lives.

While the general public normally believes terrorists are poor, disadvantaged or brainwashed, Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at the Swedish National Defense College in Stockholm, says, “The ones who actually perpetrate violence without handlers and manipulation are highly intelligent by necessity.”

“It’s only the smart ones who will survive the security pressures in subversive existence,” Ranstorp said in an Associated Press interview. “Sometimes they are doctors, a profession that provides a brilliant cover and allows entry to countries like Britain.”

Even al Qaeda’s number-two man, Ayman al-Zawahri, is a doctor, and the terrorist who planned the 9/11 attacks was a mechanical engineer trained in North Carolina.

“It means obviously that you can’t make any assumptions, or have any preconceptions about the kind of people who might become terrorists,” Pauline Neville-Jones, former head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, which advices the British government, told bbc News.

The conventional logic of the West is that areas with rampant unemployment, low wages, lack of civil liberty and opportunity for advancement are terrorist breeding grounds—that disadvantaged places without hope, money or healthy living conditions are where terrorists come from.

So the West believes that spreading democracy, social programs and giving millions of money in aid will help provide the stable environment needed for people to prevent people from turning into extremists.

This attempted car bombing proves such logic false.

Eight people with some of the best educations, living standards and opportunities for advancement turned into extremists and tried to take the lives of people they were trained to help.

Officials have highlighted the unique aspects of this terrorist plot, but they have ignored the terrorists’ most glaring similarity to previous perpetrators: their religion. And while media organizations and government agencies compile a list of other doctor terrorists, which include Hamas spokesman Mahmoud Zahar and Palestinian Islamic Jihad founder Mohammed al-Hindi, many will chose to ignore that those terrorists are all Muslims.

And that is the problem with the West’s view: It minimizes the importance of Muslim beliefs and principles as agents of action. Instead, it focuses purely on economic and material issues—interpreting Muslim anger as merely stemming from a lack of Western freedoms and privileges.

In truth, the assumption that Islamic terrorism is a product of poverty and deprivation has been proven false. Measuring wealth and economic trends nation by nation won’t tell you where Islamism will be weak or strong. Islamic terrorists are not opposed to wealth. But they are simply not interested in wealth in and of itself. “Economic assets for Islamists represent not the good life but added strength to do battle against the West,” wrote Daniel Pipes. “Money serves to train cadres and buy weapons, not to buy a bigger house or a late-model car. Wealth is a means, not an end” (National Interest, Winter 2001/2002).

Westerners have a hard time believing that anyone could have an ideological problem with them. But listening to the Islamists themselves (rather than Western commentators) shows how fundamental their objections are: They are sickened and incensed by the West’s political, economic and cultural dominance of the world.

Recognition of real and perceived Western evils translates into a deep hatred of the people of the West. That is a fire of hatred that will not be quenched by appeasement—or money or education. Read “Ugly Truths About Islamic Terrorism” to learn how Islamic terrorism will in fact be eliminated.