Propaganda Stiffens Resistance

Propaganda stiffens resistance in a country being attacked; this weakens the effectiveness of military force as a means of coercion.

An attack on a country is a threat to a population’s security, way of life and independence – so the country’s leaders are politically strengthened (6.3.6) by calling for unity to resist.  Both America and Al-Qaeda used emotive language to boost morale.

Civilian casualties, particularly where children are involved, make eye-catching headlines and effective propaganda – as in this speech by George W Bush:

“Every day a retired firefighter returns to Ground Zero to feel closer to his two sons who died there.  At a memorial in New York, a little boy left his football with a note for his lost father: “Dear Daddy, please take this to Heaven.  I don’t want to play football until I can play with you again someday.””

He was seeking public support for his “war against terror”, in his 2002 State of the Union address, responding to Al-Qaeda’s ‘9/11’ attacks on America.

George W Bush’s response to 9/11 was used against him.  He had used the word “crusade” (an “impromptu” choice of word, which he later regretted), when launching his “war on terrorism” on 16 September 2001 in what the Daily Telegraph described as a Bush speech crafted to unify hawks and doves in cabinet.  It was then easy for Al-Qaeda to pick this word up, with its dreadful connotations for Muslims: as described in a BBC report, Bin Laden rails against Crusaders and UN, Osama bin Laden described the ‘war against terrorism’ as:

“the most ferocious, serious, and violent Crusade campaign against Islam ever since the message was revealed to Muhammad”.

He was calling upon all Muslims to support his global jihad, to resist the West’s ‘war on terror’.  UK-born Muslims later carried out bombings in London on 07/07/2004 and BBC News online quoted one of the perpetrators, Mohammad Sidique Khan, the London bomber: Text in full:

“Your democratically elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world.

And your support of them makes you directly responsible, just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters.

Until we feel security, you will be our targets.  And until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people we will not stop this fight.”

Messages like this helped to recruit people from all over the world to join ISIS, the so-called ‘Islamic State’, to resist the West by terrorising its populations: international terrorism, as described earlier (7.3.3).  Civilians in Iraq and Syria were encouraged to help the insurgents in any way they could – by hiding them, feeding them, and giving them medical help.

The BBC described another example of motivating a population against an attacker: “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian who had no experience of politics when elected less than three years ago, has suddenly emerged as a convincing war leader”.  This article was written two days after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in February 2022.  President Zelensky was able to inspire heroic resistance in the ensuing weeks, as he criticised Russian brutality in daily broadcasts to the Ukrainian population.



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/7431.htm.