It is important to understand that the term “terrorist organization”, or “terrorist group” is a misnomer; terrorism is a tactic used by a group, which may have political or criminal objectives, or as in the case of the FARC, both. Such groups, once they have achieved their objectives, or abandoned their original aims, will abandon their tactics of terror. Examples are legion, the Provisional IRA’s involvement in the government of Northern Ireland means that the organization no longer finds it necessary to shot soldiers and policemen and leave car bombs in city centres, in the same way once the State of Israel was declared, the terrorist activities of the Irgun Zionist group, which had bombed the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946, killing 91 people, ceased once there was no perceived need for such tactics.
Terrorism, means literally the process of inflicting terror on someone else, normally civilians, by the calculated use of, or threat of, violence, in order to achieve the objectives of the person, or organization, undertaking these actions. The term “War on Terror” is therefore confuses the process of a conflict against groups, who are perceived to be a threat, with a tactic used in conflict. It can be argued that “terrorist” tactics are widely used by states to frighten civilian population and destroy their morale, thus the area bombing of German and Japanese cities, like Hamburg and Tokyo, during the Second World War can be described as the use of terror tactics (or terrorism), as can the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2009, and the tactics used by the Nazi occupation forces in occupied Europe in 1939-45. Because the term “terrorism” has attracted such a burden of negative associations since the destruction of the Twin Towers buildings in 2001 it is sometimes difficult to be objective about its meaning. Now it is possible to argue that such tactics are morally correct, because those undertaking them have a superior morale objective; and that, for example, the citizens of Hamburg in 1942 were actively assisting the Nazi regime, which was so evil, that the use of any tactics were justified to remove it. However, as Bishop Bell pointed out in the House of Lords, during the Second World War, two wrongs do not necessarily make a right. I am not attempting to make such a judgement, but only to point out that in the broken states of Somalia and Yemen many groups believe that the use of terrorist tactics are justified by a higher moral purpose, which they may see as a justification by God, or the overwhelming importance of their group securing dominance over its rivals. In other words never confuse the tactics used with the objectives of the group. This is particularly important in Somalia, where an increasingly unpleasant collection of armed thugs, supported by a motley collection of foreign interests, have found that shooting their rivals is not sufficient, but that it is often more efficient to blow them up using suicide bombers (a tactic first developed by the Tamil Tigers, or LTTE, in Sri Lanka, and used to kill the former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at a rally in May 1991). The Al Shabeeb, one of several competing groups in southern and central Somalia, has made wide-spread use of this tactic, possibly using knowledge gained from men who have fought against the Coalition Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, or as the result of training provided by a country which wishes to maintain the current state of misrule in Somalia. The leadership and “spin-doctors” of such organizations find it useful to associate themselves with anti-western, specifically anti-American, ideas, and to enhance the tendency of western analysts to see Reds (or Al-Qaeda) under the beds of the region. Such announcements are in turn magnified and reboardcast by those who believe that they can thereby attract American money, notably the government of Ethiopia and the profoundly corrupt government of Yemen.
This is a complex argument and not one that will be followed by those who prefer their information in sound bites, but in order to grasp what is really going on the pirate badlands of the Horn of Africa, it is vital that the reader understands that Somalia, and Yemen, are not essentially “terrorist bases” for attacks on the west. The intense focus of western governments and their security apparatus on the threat of terrorism, is, in my opinion, a distraction when we try and understand the true nature of the problems of Somalia, Libya, Nigeria, Mali, Syria, Iraq and the Yemen.