Thursday, 26 February 2009

Some notes on terrorism

Martha Crenshaw, "The Causes of Terrorism," 2001

"Terrorist violence communicates a political message; its ends go beyond damaging an enemy's material resources."

"If there is a single common emotion that drives the individual to become a terrorist, it is vengeance on behalf of comrades or even the constituency the terrorist aspires to represent."

US State Department

"politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience."

Charles Tilly, The Politics of Collective Violence, 2003

"Regimes have often authorised violence specialists such as paramilitary forces, secret police, and subsidised thugs to silence their opponents, but over the last few centuries those killers have usually operated in the shadows. When unauthorised groups have employed terror, furthermore, they have commonly  belonged to two categories of political actors: groups actively aligned with international enemies of the regimes they are attacking (the case of most suicide attackers in recent decades) or factions of larger dissident coalitions that have broken away from moderate control (frequently the case of armed activitists in Ireland and the Basque Country). In short, the same sorts of political processes that generate other forms of coordinated destruction produce the special forms that authorities and horrified observers call terrorism."

Veena Das and Arthur Kleinman, Violence and Subjectivity, 2000

"One cannot draw a sharp line between collective and individual experiences of social violence. These are so thoroughly interwoven that moral processes (i.e social engagements centered on what is at stake in relationships) and emotional conditions are inseparable. Violence creates, sustains, and transforms their interaction, and thereby it actualises the inner worlds of lived values as well as the outer world of contested meanings."

Eqbal Ahmad, "Terrorism: Theirs and Ours" 1998

"By 1942, the Holocaust was occurring, and a certain liberal sympathy with the Jewish people had built up in the Western world. At that point, the terrorists of Palestine, who were Zionists, suddenly started to be described by 1994-1945, as 'freedom fighters.' At least two Israeli prime ministers, including Menachem Begin, actually had bounties on their heads. You can find copies of posters with their pictures, saying 'Terrorist, Reward this Much.' The highest reward I have noted so far was one hundred thousand British pounds on the head of Menachem Begin, the terrorist. 

Then from 1969 to 1990, the PLO, the Palestine Liberation Organisation, occupied center stage as the terrorist organisation. Yasser Arafat has been described repeatedly by the great sage of American journalism, William Safire of the New York Times, as the 'Chief of Terrorism.' That's Yasser Arafat. 

Thus, on September 29,1998, I was rather amused to notice a picture of Yasser Arafat to the right of President Bill Clinton. To his left is Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In 1985, President Ronald Regan received a group of bearded men in the White House. I was writing about these bearded men in those days in the New Yorker. They were very ferocious-looked bearded men with turbans who looked as though they came from another century. After receiving them, President Reagan spoke to the press. He pointed toward them, I'm sure some of you will recall that moment, and said, "These men are the moral equivalent of America's founding fathers.' These were the Afghan Mujahideen. They were at that time, guns in hand, battling the Evil Empoire. They were the moral equivalent of our founding fathers!  

I have recalled all these stories to point out to you that the matter of terrorism is rather complicated. Terrorists change. The terrorist of yesterday is the hero of today, and the hero of yesterday becomes the terrorist of today."

"The Palestinians, for example, the superterrorists of our time, were dispossessed in 1948. From 1948 to 1968, they went to every court in the world. They knocked at every door in the world. They were told that they became dispossessed because some radio told them to go away - an Arab radio, which was a lie. Nobody was listening to the truth. Finally, they invented a new from of terror, literally their own invention: the airplane hijacking. Between 1968 and 1975, they pulled the world up by its ears. They dragged us out and said, Listen, Listen. We listened. We still haven't done them justice, but at least we all know. Even the Israelis acknowledge. Remember Golda Meir, prime minister of Israel, saying in 1970. 'There are no Palestinians'? They do not exist. They damn well exist now. We are cheating them at Oslo. At least there are some people to cheat now. We can't just push them out. The need to be heard is essential. One motivation is there."

"My final question is this: these conditions have existed for a long time, but why then this flurry of private political terrorism? The answer is modern technology. you have a cause. You can communicate it through radio and television. They will all come swarming if you have taken an aircraft and are holding 150 American hostages. They will all hear your cause. You have a modern weapon through which you can shoot a mile away. They can't reach you. And you have modern means of communicating. When you put together the cause, the instrument of coercion, and the instrument of communication, a new kind of politics becomes possible."

"Do not condone the terror of your allies. Condemn them. Fight them. Punish them. Please eschew, avoid covert operations and low-intensity warfare. They are the breeding grounds of terror and drugs....Please focus on causes and help ameliorate causes. Try to look at causes and solve problems. Do not concentrate on military solutions. Do not seek military solutions. Terrorism is a political problem. Seek political solutions. Diplomacy works."

"I first met him in 1986. He was recommended to me by an American official who may have been an agent. I asked the American, 'Who are the Arabs here who would be very interesting to interview?' By 'here' I meant in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He said, 'You must meet Osama.' I went to see Osama. There he was, rich and bringing in recruits from Algeria, from Sudan, from Egypt, just like Sheikh Abdul Rahman. This fellow was an ally. He remained an ally. He turns at a particular point. In 1990, the US goes into Saudi Arabia with force. Saudi Arabia is the holy place of Muslims, Mecca, and Medina. There had never been foreign troops there. In 1990, during the Gulf War, they went in, in the name of helping Saudi Arabia defeat Saddam Hussein. Osama bin Laden remained quiet. Saddam was defeated, but the American troops remaind in the land of the kaba...He wrote letter after letter, saying, Why are you here? Get out! You came to help, but you have stayed on. Finally, he started a jihad against the other occupiers. His mission is to get American troops out of Saudi Arabia. His earlier mission was to get Russian troops out of Afghanistan....these are tribal people...Being a millionaire doesn't matter. 

Their code of ethics is tribal. The tribal code of ethics consists of two words: loyalty and revenge...For him, America has broken its word. The loyal friend has betrayed. The one to whom you swore blood loyalty has betrayed you. They're going to go for you. They're going to do a lot more. These the chickens of the Afghanistan war coming home to roost. This is why I said to stop covert operations. There is a price attached to them that the American people cannot calculate." 

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