A simple text message from my former TAG-E Team Commander with the words, “Terrorists have taken a café in Martin Place” was how I was initially alerted to the event. I immediately jumped online and began scouring every media outlet I could to be brought up to date with the siege and the circumstances surrounding it. I also began reaching out to friends and current members of the Regiment, as well as those serving on TAG-E, to see if there was any information I could gather for myself that the media was not yet reporting on.
The initial reporting was scarce, compounded by the fact that police negotiators had not made contact with the terrorist. Critical details such as the number of terrorists, the number of hostages, the types of weapons, and the objectives of the siege had not been confirmed. Even though the general motivations were clear, the attack itself did not fit the profile of a typical Islamic-State-inspired terrorist attack. In fact, the attack did not fit the profile of any modern Islamic extremist attack whatsoever, which provided for some interesting analysis.
The political goals of contemporary terrorist organisations, such as the Islamic State, Hamas, and al-Qaeda, are generally transformational in nature. This means that they are not subject to negotiation, and the only way in which they are achievable would be through the complete destruction of a particular regional state system. For instance, objectives such as the desire to replace the states of the Middle East, or even the globe, with the Caliphate, the desire to remove the leadership of Islamic and Arab countries which are viewed as corrupt, the removal of all foreign militaries from the Middle East, and the destruction of Israel, can all be viewed as transformational objectives.
Unlike terrorist organisations that are driven by nationalistic agendas—such as the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the Front de libération du Québec (FLA), or the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA)—the ideological-driven objectives of contemporary Islamist extremist groups provide little or no room for negotiation. This rigidity guides these groups’ modi operandi, and has brought about the distinct implementation of tactics where death and destruction are the primary goals, rather than media exploitation and publicity for their cause. While the latter are certainly a critical aspect to any terrorist group’s campaign, Islamic extremism has seen these assume an almost permanent subsidiary function to the former.
Whilst ethno-nationalist terrorist groups are no strangers to violent tactics or indiscriminate killing, their motivations are generally a product of larger political issues within a state, and are centred on demands and injustices of disadvantaged groups. The main effort behind these conflicts are generally confined to the state or territory in which the dispute is taking place, although some conflicts have spilled over into neighbouring or nearby countries in order to further their specific agendas.
For instance, the conflict waged by the IRA against the British Government saw multiple attacks take place on the British homeland. Even so, the IRA’s objectives were centered on achieving Irish independence which, in comparison, was not anywhere near as transformational or utterly ridiculous as a global caliphate under one religion.
Similarly, the structure and MO’s of these two organisations couldn’t have been further apart. Whilst the IRA was highly centralized, with a clearly defined and military-inspired hierarchy, contemporary Islamic extremist groups are not. They are decentralised, franchised organisations any group or individual is able to claim an allegiance to, and carry out acts of violence on behalf of, anywhere in the world. Someone halfway around the world could blow themselves up in the name of al-Qaeda and their cause and ironically could have never met or spoken to a single AQ operative.
Their acts would also usually earn the praise from the group in which they claimed to be inspired by. These groups rely on and advocate this type of open membership to give their organisation a global reach and further their main goals of death, destruction, and fear. We have seen this in the attacks which took place on 9/11 in New York; the Bali nightclub bombing, the Marriott Hotel bombing, the Australian Embassy bombing in Indonesia, the Madrid train bombing in Spain, the London underground bombings, the murder of Lee Rigby in the United Kingdom, the Mumbai attacks in India, the Boston Marathon bombing in the United States, the attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in France, and many, many more the world over.
The point I am trying to make here is, if the primary objectives of contemporary Islamic terrorist organisations consist of death, destruction, and fear, rather than the use or threatened use of violence in the way that, say, ethno-nationalist terrorists (such as the IRA) implement it, then I do not believe that Man Haron Monis’s actions were inspired by the Islamic State as he claimed they were.
I support the notion that he was in fact a lonely, misguided individual who fed off of the publicity which he so desperately craved and sought as part of this attack. He carried out the siege in order to support his own perverted and twisted motivations, and his phony allegiance to the Islamic State was claimed purely to amplify the coverage and attention that he was after.
The one obvious point supporting this claim is this: The attacks carried out by those who are truly inspired by these organisations have set out to achieve death, destruction, and fear from the onset, and they have not taken hostages. The examples cited above are testament to this. Monis’s actions echoed sentiments of terrorism from a bygone era. They resembled more of an ethno-nationalist agenda, such as the Iranian Embassy siege in London, than an Islamic extremist one.
I’m not saying that this was the case—in fact, far from it—I’m just highlighting the inconsistencies between what Monis actually did and the motivations he claimed for doing it. France is still recovering from what is an Islamic extremist terrorist attack in its most true form. Even though a hostage scenario did unfold, the hostage takers in this event were disingenuous as far as traditional hostage scenarios go. The attack drew its inspiration from the ideals of extreme Islam and was carried out in similar scale and execution. When compared to the Sydney siege, it is not hard to see the difference.
Despite these differences, however, Monis still carried out the attack as part of his perverted Islamic interpretation. There is absolutely no denying this. Regardless of how it unfolded, he was driven by his Islamic ideology—plain and simple. To say this is not tarring all Muslims with the same brush. It is not being a bigot. It is analysing the situation and calling it for what it is. For the media or anyone else to claim otherwise is simply failing to recognise and acknowledge the issue.
If a doctor fails to diagnose a patient correctly, then the outcome is going to be less than ideal. The diagnostic process will usually consist of a patient consulting a doctor about their signs and symptoms. A doctor may then label them, classify their illness, indicate specific treatments in preference over others, and then place them in a prognostic category.
If a doctor fails to label a patient and classify them correctly, how effective would the subsequent treatment of that patient be? Similarly, if governments or media continually fail to diagnose these events as being Islamic-driven, albeit a radicalized version of the faith, then how effective are subsequent counter-radicalization and counterterrorism strategies going to be? As we in Australia would say, about as useful as shoes for a snake.