In the modern world, people live in the communities that manage to maintain a peaceful diversity of views and beliefs of its representatives. As a rule, this approach is validated due to the use of a judicial system and the local and international law that helps to provide the peaceful resolution of possible conflicts. However, there are different organizations that do not recognize peaceful conflict management as a productive way of reaching their political, religious or other goals. Resorting to terrorist acts, they endanger different communities, attempting to achieve discriminatory and antihuman goals that often are not peaceful. Although the American population is cautious of infamous international Islamic terrorist organizations, the analysis of this issue reveals that the country has domestic terrorist groups as well. The comparison and contrast of a domestic terrorist organization Army of God and its international counterpart Al-Quaeda demonstrate that terrorists recognize violence and threatening as the major tool. However, the level of threat coming from Army of God is underestimated because of the fact that Al-Quaeda has attracted significant public attention after the September 11, 2001 attack.
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History and Goals
The history of Al-Quaeda begins in the 20th century, and it is closely connected with the personality of Osama bin Laden, who was its core ideologist and initiator of different attacks. The basis of the ideology of this movement is the belief in the dissolution of Ottoman Caliphate in 1924 and the need for its restoration through Jihadism (Skovgaard-Petersen, 2017). The latter has its origins in Islamic religion and is understood by the representatives of the conservative branches of Islam as the need for war against non-Muslims. This war is regarded as the one initiated “for the sake of God,” and Muslims have a duty to continue fighting the world’s tyrants (Skovgaard-Petersen, 2017, p. 26). According to the view of its ideologists, “the Muslims are fighting their way out of a state of weakness and are highly defensive” (Skovgaard-Petersen, 2017, p. 36). Therefore, Al-Quaeda has a rebel ideology with the aim of eliminating all non-Muslim population that does not follow the mode of life propagated by conservative branches of Islam.
Reason for Targeting the US
One of the critical reasons Al-Quaeda has to attack the US is the views of its members that Americans oppress the Islamic world and propagate an unholy way of life that contradicts Islam. One of the indicators that reveal this issue is a survey of Muslims in Lebanon and Syria on their emotions associated with Americans and the terrorist movement. The survey showed that many Muslims appear to support Al-Quaeda, recognizing Americans as a direct threat to their well-being due to their aspiration for global resource domination (Levin, Kteily, Pratto, Sidanius, & Matthews, 2015). As a result, the major feelings of the respondents toward American individuals were contempt and disgust. What is more, many individuals characterized Al-Quaeda positively for its goal “to protect threatened in-group values by de-contaminating Islam from Western cultural influence” (Levin et al., 2015). Consequently, individuals that join Al-Quaeda have a desire to contribute to the defense of their religious ideology. However, the defense has gradually turned into offense as the terrorist organization initiated diverse attacks overseas.
Army of God
History and Goals
Army of God is a domestic terrorist organization that recognizes its primary goal as making the American community refuse from abortion. The terrorist organization is based on Christian ideology and refers to the notion that the words of Christian disciples justify the use of violence against “evil-doers” (“Army of God,” 2017). The evolvement of the terrorist organization is associated with the first case of the involvement of its members in terrorist activity for ending abortion in 1982 (“Army of God (AOG) – United States,” 2017). The terrorists representing this group maintain secrecy and do not typically communicate with each other, which do not stop them from initiating group or individual attacks. The major objects of their attacks are physicians specializing in abortions or specialized abortion clinics. In 1993, the Army of God Manual was discovered in the backyard of one of the terrorists, which was the instruction of how to attack abortion clinics (National Abortion Federation, 2017). The analysis of the Manual enhanced the understanding of the ideology of these Christian terrorists.
Reason for Targeting the US
For the members of Army of God, the country of their activity is not critical since their goal is to eliminate abortion in the country they live. Consequently, the group assaults abortion physicians and clinics in the US because the terrorists that support the ideology of the Army of God permanently live in the US.
Distinctive Types of Attacks and the Level of Threat
The members of Al-Quaeda perform diverse attacks that have the primary aim of killing people and promoting its ideas and ideology of mass threatening. The distinctive types of attacks performed by its members are bombings and shootouts leading to massive murders. Bombings can be subdivided into several types ranging from parking vans loaded with explosives in public places to the use of suicide bombers, which is especially typical for Islamic terrorists. So far, the most infamous terrorist act performed by the representatives of Al-Quaeda is September 11 attack in 2001 that led to death of almost 3,000 individuals and hundreds of billions of dollars of material damage (Bergen, 2016). After this attack, all anti-terrorist policies of the US were reviewed and enhanced with the aim of improving the aspects of national security.
The attack of 2001 demonstrated that a decade ago, Al-Quaeda had grown as a terrorist power capable of crossing intercontinental distances in order to commit ideological crimes and mass murders. Thus, the level of threat of this organization should be defined as high as underestimation of its capabilities resulted in the hijacking of the US aircrafts and their further usage as a weapon of mass murder. The issue is aggravated by the fact that the contemporary terrorists use the Internet to spread their ideology. As a result, due to online recruiting, new terrorists can join Al-Quaeda and attack the US even without crossing international borders and oceans.
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Army of God
The members of Army of God justify the use of physical power against the US citizens that practice abortion, which is why this terrorist group can be defined as the one with a narrow specification. In contrast to Al-Quaeda, its members prefer kidnapping, mail threatening, and the assassination of doctors and nurses that practice abortions. For example, its members killed the abortion doctor John Britton and his bodyguard James Barrett and two receptionists at a Planned Parenthood clinic in 1994 (Henderson, 2015). Other notorious attacks of this organization include sending over 550 anthrax threat letters to clinics that practiced abortions (National Abortion Federation, 2017). However, with time, the members of Army of God changed their goals and started aiming at attracting more public attention and the attention of the legislators. To do this, the terrorist organization started practicing bombing attacks with the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta in 1996 leading to the biggest number of deaths and injuries (Henderson, 2015). The bombing attacks significantly increased the level of threat to national security posed by Army of God.
Due to the fact that Army of God changed the doctrine of its fight from individual to mass murders to gain public awareness by spreading terror, the level of its threat has seriously risen. In this respect, the Southern Poverty Law Center claimed that non-Islamic domestic terrorists killed more people in the US than jihadists, whereas the former President Barack Obama indicated that due to terrorism, Christianity had a dark side (Henderson, 2015). Consequently, although Army of God is a domestic terrorist organization that has significantly lower public concern as opposed to Al-Quaeda that is an officially recognized threat to national security, its level of threat is underestimated. The reason for this is the change of its doctrine, the presence of a code of secrecy and the absence of adequate criteria that allow rapidly defining its members and neutralizing them.
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The comparative analysis of Al-Quaeda and Army of God leads to a conclusion that both terrorist organizations pose a significant threat to the national security of the US. The reason for this is the presence of aggressive ideology directed toward American citizens and justification of murder as a tool for reaching their goals. Both organizations have a religious context at the core of their ideology with Al-Quaeda recognizing ideas of Islam and Army of God recognizing ideas of Christianity as the main moving force for action. At the same time, both terrorist groups mistreat the sacred writings that allegedly allow them to propagate the ideology of force and murder and recruit the new members. The September 11 attack in 2001 by Al-Quaeda demonstrated that this terrorist group had grown as a global threat capable of crossing significant distances and national borders. Therefore, it poses a serious threat to the national security of the US, and many US citizens believe that this threat is much higher than that of the Army of God. However, this aggressive Christian organization poses a similar level of threat to national security due to recent ideological changes and recruiting its members inside the country without the need for crossing the borders.