Terrorism


Peter Orne says: "With the exception of Martha Crenshaw's (Wesleyan University) cogent analyses, I think anything
interesting to say about terrorism, state or otherwise, began and ended with Conrad's The Secret Agent (1907). I really wish the world would move on, else the terrorists may really get the upper hand. Humanity has become obsessed with the idea that it can kill itself with window dressing tacked on. I have always thought Condoleezza Rice as much of a throw rug as her given name, and I hope she becomes a mere footnote in the history of the miseries of the families who suffered because of September 11th". RH: Indeed, the London anarchists in The Secret Agent bear a strong resemblance to modern terrorists, but I do not understand what Peter, a Journalist, is recommending: that we simply stop worrying about terrorists?

Christopher Jones says: "Peter Orne is right. The word "terrorism" has been promoted by the Bush/Cheney clique to better "sell" a war on Islam. (They could not say Islam because that would rattle the foundations of multiculturalism and "we're all the same down under, buy Coca Cola.) Miss Rice's pseudo history of terror was so ridiculous that I really wonder how she got all those fancy academic titles -- maybe Affirmative Action played a role in her success? Americans are going to have to learn that terror is a method. You cannot have a war on terror. It would be like calling World War II a war on blitzkrieg. Her lapses in history were always skewed to show America, the shining defender of truth and justice. Of course, a very good case can be made that precisely America has terrorized the world since 1945 with only one thing in mind: to promote its economic dominance of the world through the export of multiculturalism and junk food behind the Hollywood veneer of "democracy". I would like to hear how the inhabitants of Hanoi qualify the US Christmas bombing and the secret bombing of Cambodia -- state terror -- or do some WAISers think they want to thank Uncle Sam for napalming them?"

RH: The expression "war on terrorism" is perfectly valid. The world "war" is used in a variety of ways. There can be a war against disease and poverty. Instead of planning wars against other nations, the armies of the world should band together in order to help the governments of the world fight terrorism. This might be done under the auspices of the UN.

I asked if Peter Orne, a journalist, is recommending: that we simply stop worrying about terrorists. Clyde McMorrow comments: "That is exactly what he is saying. We have to get over the idea that there are a group of people we can define as terrorists and a group that are not. Terrorism is just a tactic. It is used by every state and non-state group. The U.S. presence in Iraq surely strikes terror in the heart of some of the locals, as does the Israeli practice of nuking invalids in wheel chairs, and I can assure you that is exactly what is intended.

Terrorism is an extremely efficient form of warfare. The operating cost are low and the effects are high. The cost of defending against terrorism are prohibitive. Look at the costs that we are paying to try to protect all planes, trains, roads, ports etc. from a threat we can't even define.

There is no winning of the war on terrorism because there is no terrorist entity. Executing Osama Ben Laden won't make any difference to the Sendero Luminoso or to ETA. The disarming of the IRA didn't make any difference to the Algerians.

One interesting aspect of fanatical organizations is that they are almost always led by a strategist who is not afraid of reading the classical literature on the economics of war, and the methods they choose are usually those that have proven effective in the past. Effective for a small organization is the same as efficient and the most efficient form of warfare is to shock and awe the opponent or, in other words, terror".

RH: Yes, but what do we do? There are terrorists and state terrorism. There are different diseases, but we fight them one by one. The same goes for terrorists.

Tim Brown disagrees with the statement that "Terrorism is used by every state and every non-state group". Tim says: "That is a historically false statement. Further, any and all acts that make someone afraid, to the point of feeling terrorized, and political terrorism are entirely different things. Criminal rape terrorizes the victim and immediate community, but is not an act of deliberate terrorism for political purposes. Gangs terrorize entire neighborhoods and fight each other, but that does not make them political terror groups.

Saying that since we cannot wipe out a organized terrorist group in one region by defeating one in another is tantamount to saying we should not have tried to stop genocide in the former Yugoslavia because by doing so we did not eliminate it in all of Africa, or saying that the police in Los Angeles should not even try to control criminal gang activity there because even if they succeed it will not wipe out the gangs in New York. Defeating Nazi Germany did not end the war with Japan but that's hardly an argument for saying we therefore should not have fought the Nazis. By this line of reasoning we should have refused Libya's offer to get rid of its WMDs because doing so did not disarm North Korea!

On costs, while terrorism is less expensive than maintaining and using a standing army, the assumption that it is cheap is false. It is in fact quite expensive, to the extent that it cannot be done effectively on any scale without hundreds of millions do dollars in funding. The example I know best is El Salvador's Faribundo Marti Liberation Front which engaged in terrorism as a tactic that, according to its leaders, cost more that $200 million over its life-time. Nor are the costs of combating it prohibitive, High, yes, but no more prohibitive than the costs of fighting ordinary criminality. And I can't imagine anyone arguing we should get rid of the police or fire departments because they are too expensive and cannot totally eradicate crime and arson, which can never be entirely eliminated.

On winning the war on terrorism, there is a very simple way to end it. It's called pre-emptive capitulation. Give the terrorists everything they demand in hopes they will then become peaceful and then cross your fingers that they will have no new demands you then also have to meet. It's the approach appeasers love, and the one that led to world into WWII.

This is a reiteration of the Cold war admonition to stop worrying and learn to love the (atomic) bomb, only no it's stop worrying and love the terrorists. Hardly! "Nuking invalids in wheel chairs?" So no one should cut the head off a terrorist organization if his or hers physical head rests on the shoulders of someone who has a physical mpediment. I guess that means we should not touch Bin Laden because he probably has diabetes and some kidney problems. How bizarre!

RH: Putting a coat loaded with explosives on a suicide bomber is not very expensive.

Nuclear bombs against terrorists

A congressional committee discussed developing a new type of nuclear weapon to fight terrorists. Daryl DeBell comments: "The development of new nuclear weapons to fight terrorists would be a catastrophe. Aside from the fact that the arguments about their effectiveness are very weak, the political effect would be disastrous. The laudable effort to prevent proliferation and even to eliminate nuclear weapons would be utterly destroyed, a very dismal prospect for the survival of mankind. The image of the US as an international bully would be confirmed and enhanced. Power indeed has its utility, but it should be used positively and to enhance alliances, not to intimidate. The whole idea is another grim example of the fallacies of the 'realist' theories of international relations".

Regarding the use of nuclear weapons to fight terrorists. David Krieger says: "I fully agree with Daryl DeBell's comments. Of course, it is not just a Congressional Committee that proposes new nuclear weapons. It is also the White House and the Pentagon that have been pushing for more usable nuclear weapons, such as mini-nukes (up to a third the size of the Hiroshima bomb) and bunker-busters. These steps are indeed widely perceived in the international community to be in bad faith with regard to US nuclear disarmament obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. They are in fact even worse than that for the example they set for the rest of the world. One wonders at the thought processes in those US policy makers that seek to portray nuclear weapons as more usable and to be willing to cross the nuclear threshold yet again. The failure of the US to lead toward serious nuclear disarmament will probably be viewed from a future perspective as the greatest failure of our time both for world security and for US national security. We are playing a bully's game, for which the American people and others are likely to pay a terrible price".

Daryl DeBell said "The development of new nuclear weapons to fight terrorists would be a catastrophe". Dwight Peterson counters: "To play the Devil's advocate with Daryl DeBell, it seems to me that these terrorist Muslim extremists are certainly unlike any enemies we have ever encountered before and that intimidation may be the only stance that they truly understand and respect". RH: It would be hard to use nuclear weapons against them without endangering innocent people, with consequences hard to predict.

John Heelan says: "Terrorists are usually organised into small, discrete cells dispersed around a country or the world. There tends to be only a loose hierarchy of command, so that even if the main culprits are caught, the disseminated terrorist cells can continue with their deadly work without much trouble. Supply of resources form the major organisational links, especially the provision of funds to buy arms and explosives, and it is these links that the security forces attempt to discover and track.

Nuclear weapons are designed to terrify the opposition by their ability to cause widespread damage to people, armaments and property. Terrorists are unlikely to be terrified by sudden death. Further, given the fragmentary nature of terrorist organisation, together with an absence of concentrations of leaders or resources, the use of even a small-scale nuclear weapon against a terrorist cell of a a dozen people or so seems somewhat ludicrous overkill. [However logic has little to do with the greed of the defense industry eager to develop such weapons, having spent so much money already buying the Administration's decision-makers for such items.]"

Christopher Jones says: "I completely agree with John Heelan. The mini-nukes are a propaganda ploy in the war on Islamic terrorism or only for use in a Tora Bora style theater of ops. (I shiver if they will be passed on to the Israelis). Instead of this silly bluster, the money would be better spent promoting intensive Arabic language education. Since the Madrid bombings, I have heard over and over again that this basic tool in this war is lacking. In particular, Bavarian Interior minister Günther Beckstein lamented that not only was a detained suspected terrorist released by a German judge for a lack of hard evidence, but upon returning to his rooms, the suspect e-mailed coded messages in Arabic. Not only did the interior ministry lack a qualified interpreter, but because they were coded once they were belatedly translated, they were still unintelligible". RH: The mini nukes may be more than a propaganda ploy; they may become a reality- The lack of Arabic-speakers makes the US and other forces in Iraq seem totally alien. This brings us back to our discussion about the Arabs. The Arab League has 22 country members, and the total number of Arabs is given at 280 million, Arabic is a major language.

Terrorists, A Jihad

Alice in Wonderland might have said " 'Ierrorist' means whatever I want it to mean". Christopher Jones (CJ) quotes me (RH): RH: There are terrorists and state terrorism. There are different diseases, but we fight them one by one. The same goes for terrorists.

CJ: There are Islamic terrorists, like there are Basque terrorists, Irish republican ones, Zionist terrorists etc. The blanket use of the word terrorism as a definition of everybody who doesn't agree with the US is a direct throwback to the Hitler's Reich. The Nazis also made no difference and defined anyone who had taken arms both inside Germany and in occupied Europe against the "New World Order" as a terrorist, coward, bum etc. I am thinking in particular of the Weisse Rose. RH: No American calls the West European critics of the US "terrorists".

RH: The expression "war on terrorism" is perfectly valid. The world "war" is used in a variety of ways. There can be a war against disease and poverty. Instead of planning wars against other nations, the armies of the world should band together in order to help the governments of the world fight terrorism.

CJ: I do not find the term valid. I repeat, "Terrorism" is a method of warfare used traditionally by guerrillas. There is nothing new or unique to terrorism, and this "method" has proved resilient and very effective. The "terrorist" methods used by the Spanish people against Napoleon's army in 1808 and documented by Francisco de Goya would have earned the scorn of Bush, Cheney and Rice. This would have corresponded with Napoleon's view of the Iberian campaign. Don't forget, that Joseph Bonaparte was bringing the people of Spain, the advances of the French revolution: Liberté, Égalité and Fraternité, of which a direct echo is Bush's "western democracy and freedom." Today, unfortunately for Napoleon, and Bush II, the uprising of those "terrorists" is known today as the "Guerra de Independencia." RH. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has a long definition of "terrorist", beginning "1. As a political term: a. Applied to the Jacobins and their agents and partisans in the French Revolution, esp. to those connected with the Revolutionary tribunals during the ‘Reign of Terror’". My understanding of the word "terrorist"is exactly that given by the OED.

CJ: The American fixation on the word "terror" is a public relations prop to better package the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Terror methods will be with us until the last gasp of mankind on the planet. The best way to fight terrorism is either through a brutal use of counter terror and/or accompanied by a political program to disarm the terrorists ideologically in their home territory. (The Americans are failing miserably on both points.) There is no other way. Start saying "NO" to Sharon. RH. "Terrorist" is more than a public relations prop, although the US never applies it to Sharon and co.

CJ: As for the "War on poverty" or the "War on Drugs" the term resembles the word "Jihad." The word war looks very inappropriate. A "war" on poverty sounds like you're going to shoot the poor. A "war on drugs" sounds a little better but what do we mean? Those farmer who grow poppies? Or the causes behind drug consumption. Whatever, the war on drugs is not going very well. RH: I find the expression "war on poverty" very appropriate.

The EU and Terrorists

Christopher Jones writes from Europe: "Mass deportation and even the revocation of citizenship based on adherence to an organization out to subvert the state is what many on the "extreme" right have proposed; the confiscation of property, with compensation to be paid in their country origin. A new "Edict of Nantes" would set down the rules for Jews and Moslems in the EU. Already the Shengen treaty will be suspended for Spain during the period around the marriage of the Crown Prince. Europe has such a myriad of immigration laws, police forces, secret services etc. that it has been quite easy for Islamic nasties to operate with impunity. It is interesting to see those of every "bourgeois" political persuasion squirming after the Madrid bombings. They are now facing the possibility of more perhaps far more lethal terrorist bombings. The recent French regional elections showed how the electorate is swinging wildly as it tries to find a group that can handle this problem and the long sad list of Euro-problems that afflict every country on the continent. A good illustration of the rift between the political elite and the "people" was the choice of politically correct words on European TV to describe the murder of Hamas leader Sheikh Yassin. The word "murder" was substituted by "unlawful killing" so as not to offend our Jewish friends or leave the impression that Europe has grown anti-Semitic. A few pointed out the rather amazing picture of an Israeli helicopter firing a rocket at a quadreplegic in a wheelchair. Last night, German TV was trying to drum up support for sending more troops to Afghanistan to coincide with President Karsai's visit to Berlin. There is a "security problem" outside of Kabul, and in some areas the Taliban have returned to power! "

War on Terror

Miles Seeley says: "I do not think there is a single solution to the war on terrorists, but I do think that understanding the reasons people become terrorists is most important. I think one major reason for Arab terrorists is that we are perceived as treating Islam, not just Al-Quaeda or Taliban or Iraq, as our enemy. This, in turn, comes partly from our unswerving support of Israel, no matter what it does. My reading of the first Gulf War is that most Arabs understood our action even if the did not publicly support it, because Saddam invaded a fellow Arab neighbor and was, besides, a despot who killed hundreds of thousands of his own people and waged war with Iran. Our invasion of Iraq this time seems to most Arabs as unprovoked and done to impose our will on an Arab country, perhaps to control its oil. Certainly, some reports from the Pentagon saying that we should impose our will on the entire region add fuel to the fire.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sharon seems to believe that unrelenting military force is the only solution to Palestinian terrorism. To that end he publicly makes Palestinian leaders targets for assassination, builds a wall delineating a border only he approves of, and keeps bulldozing civilian homes. Pulling back from much of Gaza while keeping at least six major Israeli "settlements" there, and building ever more settlements on the West bank, only hardens Palestinian resistance to the point that they (as well as, apparently, Sharon) think peace is impossible.

Somehow, in a myriad of different ways, I think we need to try to convince Moslems that we are not waging a holy war against Islam; and that we condemn suicide bombers but also condemn political assassinations, for example.

To accomplish these goals, I think we need the most international support possible. We must acknowledge the fact that we cannot do it alone and do not have all the answers, and we must lose the arrogance others think we display. The UN, NATO, and the EU, for example, should all be consulted and their views merged with ours into a broad consensus about how to proceed against terrorism. We say we are doing this, but it seems to me we are not.

I think Dick Clarke understood much of this, but I see no signs that Dr. Rice and the rest of the Bush team do".

Ronald Hilton -


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