September 3rd, 2004

The Hamburg Cell

Young men are very suggestible. They're fragile and they have a great need to belong. And so they're very easily roped into wars, sects, jihads and the like. If the war, sect or jihad is something that pisses Daddy off then so much the better.

I was watching Channel 4's drama about the 9/11 hijackers last night. They were rootless rich boys, most of them, adrift in a society that didn't give them enough respect. Al Quaeda offered them brotherhood, charismatic father figures, dogmatic certainty, a strong sense of purpose. As one of them said as he made his commitment to the Hamburg cell- "I want my life to count."

They weren't demons. At least, they weren't demons to begin with. At some point or other they crossed the line. And the scary thing is it was impossible to say exactly when that happened. When did imagination fail? When did they stop asking questions? We watched as noble idealists morphed into murderous fanatics and it was a smooth, unbroken process.

War on Terror? Bush was right the first time; it's unwinnable. Why? Because it's a war on human nature. So long as there are needy young men there will be recruits for Al Quaeda and the like.