By Jeffrey Rudolph
Misconceptions about terrorism, regularly promoted by the mainstream media, have facilitated harmful US government actions — two wars, domestic legislation that curtailed civil liberties, and excessive national security spending. That basic, factual information about terrorism is so rarely reported thus serves to reinforce the power of those who benefit from a fearful population.
It should be banal to read in the mainstream media that the US not only engages in terrorism but often aggravates it; that if the current crop of terrorists in, say, the Middle East were killed, new terrorists would simply arise if the underlying political and economic conditions remained unchanged; and, that if a particular country is perceived as actively supporting dysfunctional political and economic conditions in a part of the world, it will become the target of anger and, possibly, violence. Yet, instead of such obvious conclusions about terrorism, we are daily exposed to much bias and distortion.
Several years ago my local newspaper, the (very mainstream) Montreal Gazette, published a piece I had written with only one change: “Jewish terrorists” was edited as “Jewish fighters”—needless to say, “Arab terrorists” remained unchanged. To counter such inadequate journalism, I have prepared the following quiz.
The Terrorism Quiz
1. Who made the following statement? “To watch the courageous Afghan freedom fighters battle modern arsenals with simple hand-held weapons is an inspiration to those who love freedom.”
-Ronald Reagan: President of the United States, 1981-1989. http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/speeches/1983/32183e.htm
Photo of President Reagan meeting with Mujahideen (Muslim guerrilla warriors engaged in a jihad; Muslims who struggle in the path of God): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Reagan_meets_Afghan_Mujahideen.jpg
The Reagan administration “was eager to implement [the advice of President Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski,] that the United States would have to take several actions to convert Afghanistan into a quagmire for the Soviets similar to the one the Americans were sucked into in Vietnam….Afghanistan was a particularly attractive battleground because the Soviets – and not their surrogates [such as Cubans] – were directly in the battlefield.” (Husain Haqqani, Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding, PublicAffairs, New York: 2013, 257. Hereinafter referred to as, Haqqani 2013.)
-“In August 1998 [President] Clinton authorized cruise missile strikes on an Al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan….Al-Qaeda had only recently attacked the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and attempted to hit a US naval vessel.” However, when “the [missile strikes] occurred [freedom-loving] bin Laden and his deputies were not in the Zhawar Kili camp.” (Haqqani 2013, 298, 299)
-On September 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda attacked the Pentagon and New York’s World Trade Center, killing “more than three thousand people…Given Al-Qaeda’s involvement, US military action against Afghanistan was inevitable.” (Haqqani 2013, 310)
-The Afghan freedom fighters “had been encouraged and funded by America to join in the anticommunist Afghan campaign.…The problem was that the genie of jihad would not go back in the bottle.” (Fawaz A. Gerges, Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy, Harcourt, New York: 2006, 114. Hereinafter referred to as, Gerges.)
“[I]n the 1980s, when Afghan warriors were battling Soviet occupation, the CIA was desperately seeking someone to set off a massive vehicle bomb inside the 1.6-mile-long Salang Tunnel. The tunnel is a crucial north-south link running beneath a difficult pass in the towering Hindu Kush mountain range, and blowing it up would have cut the main Soviet supply route. In order to be effective, the bomb would need to go off mid-tunnel, meaning certain death for its operator. In effect, the CIA was looking for an Afghan suicide bomber. No one volunteered. Suicide, said the Afghans, was a grievous sin, and quite against their religion. And yet, fast-forward to 2009, and there had been more than 180 suicide bomb attacks in Afghanistan. The Taliban had evolved to make Afghanistan an even more dangerous place.” (Vali Nasr, The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat, Doubleday, New York: 2013, 17)
2. Which official report stated the following? “[T]he Iraq War has become the ‘cause celebre’ for jihadists…and is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives.”
-The US government’s National Intelligence Estimate on “Trends in Global Terrorism: implications for the United States.” http://motherjones.com/politics/2007/03/iraq-101-iraq-effect-war-iraq-and-its-impact-war-terrorism-pg-1
-According to a study by terrorism experts Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, “the Iraq War has generated a stunning sevenfold increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist attacks, amounting to literally hundreds of additional terrorist attacks and thousands of civilian lives lost…”
-To counter the threat of terrorism the US should not invade other countries (and should not engage in terrorism itself). Rather, it should coordinate its intelligence and police actions with other states. A 2008 RAND study “explicitly points out that the best way to defeat terrorist networks is not through military force, but through law enforcement. The authors looked at 648 terrorist groups that were active from 1968 to 2006. In 40 percent of the cases, policing is ‘the most effective strategy,’ with local intelligence and police agencies able to penetrate and disrupt the terror groups, while 43 percent reached a political accommodation with the government. The study states: ‘Military force led to the end of terrorist groups in 7 percent of the cases,’…”
The concept of “waging an extremely expensive and bloody counterinsurgency campaign [in Afghanistan] to prevent safe havens never truly made sense” as a “terrorist safe haven can be anywhere”. Indeed, the 9/11 “attacks were planned in Hamburg, Florida, and San Diego,” among other places. “Bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan, an American ally and recipient of $20 billion in foreign aid since 2001….The majority of terrorist attacks against the West had been planned over the past decade not from Afghanistan, but from other countries and our own…Since Obama became president, a thousand soldiers were killed in Afghanistan, more than double the total in the years under Bush.” (Michael Hastings, The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan, Blue Rider Press, New York: 2012, 205, 208, 378. Hereinafter referred to as, Hastings.)
3. Approximately how many North Vietnamese civilians were killed by the US’s three-and-a-half years Operation Rolling Thunder bombing campaign?
-According to US estimates, 182,000 North Vietnamese civilians were killed during Operation Rolling Thunder. http://www.pbs.org/battlefieldvietnam/timeline/index2.html
“By the end of the [American War in Vietnam], America had unleashed the equivalent of 640 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs on Vietnam. Vast areas dotted with villages were blasted with artillery, bombed from the air and strafed by helicopter gunships before ground troops went in on search-and-destroy missions. The phrase ‘kill anything that moves’ became an order on the lips of some American commanders whose troops carried out massacres across their area of operations. While the US suffered more than 58,000 dead in the war, an estimated two million Vietnamese civilians were killed, another 5.3 million injured and about 11 million, by US government figures, became refugees in their own country.” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-23427726
For Iraqi casualties relating to the 2003 US invasion and occupation, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casualties_of_the_Iraq_War
-“Late in Gillo Pontecorvo’s…film, The Battle of Algiers,…a scene occurs in which Ben H’midi, the captured political leader of the FLN, is asked by a French journalist how he could justify murdering innocent French civilians. In a reference to the French use of napalm and carpet-bombing in the countryside, H’midi replies: ‘Let us have your bombers and you can have our women’s baskets.’ In other words, atrocities are atrocities. And if the oppressed appear to use more ‘primitive’ means, it is because they are forced onto unequal ground.” (Jonathan Barker, The No-Nonsense Guide to Global Terrorism, Between the Lines, Toronto: 2008, 80. Hereinafter referred to as, Barker.)
-In “a 1984 case of the International Court of Justice (ICJ)…the ICJ ruled in favor of Nicaragua and against the United States and awarded reparations to Nicaragua. The ICJ held that the U.S. had violated international law by supporting the Contras in their rebellion against the Nicaraguan government and by mining Nicaragua’s harbors. The United States refused to participate in the proceedings after the Court rejected its argument that the ICJ lacked jurisdiction to hear the case. The U.S. later blocked enforcement of the judgment by the United Nations Security Council and thereby prevented Nicaragua from obtaining any actual compensation.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicaragua_v._United_States
Concerning the mining of Nicaragua’s harbors by the US, the hard-right Senate Intelligence chairman, Barry Goldwater, wrote the following in a private letter: “This is an act violating international law. It is an act of war….I don’t see how we are going to explain it.” (Rachel Maddow, Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, Crown Publishers, New York: 2012, 97.)
-In 2006, the former director of the “National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan, General William Odom…remarked that ‘by any measure the US has long used terrorism. In ’78-79 the Senate was trying to pass a law against international terrorism – in every version they produced, the lawyers said the US would be in violation.'” http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article34710.htm(Audio: http://www.watsoninstitute.org/events_detail.cfm?id=710)
4. True or False: Studies have repeatedly found that the bulk of terrorists are normal.
-True. Many people believe “that since what terrorists do is not ‘normal’…there must be something about the terrorist too that is ‘abnormal’.” Yet, according to interviews, very few terrorists are pathological or otherwise insane. “In fact, given the difficulties involved in planning and pulling off the kind of spectacular terrorist operations that al-Qa’ida favors, it often requires people who are intelligent…at least for the leaders of any operation.”
“The fact that most terrorists are not psychotic, sociopathic, or otherwise psychologically damaged suggests the importance of environmental factors in their decision to join a terrorist organization.” (Kenneth M. Pollack, A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East, Random House, New York: 2008, 173, 175. Hereinafter referred to as, Pollack.)
-“[E]xperts seem to agree…that suicide bombers are normal individuals; they are not ‘crazy’ or born with a psychopathology that predisposes them to violent activism.” (Mohammed M. Hafez, Suicide Bombers In Iraq: The Strategy and Ideology of Martyrdom, United States Institute of Peace Press, Washington D.C.: 2007, 8. Hereinafter referred to as, Hafez.)
5. How many suicide bombings had Iraq experienced before the 2003 US invasion?
-None. “[I]raq…never experienced suicide terrorism before 2003 [yet after the US invasion, Iraq]…has produced the largest arsenal of ‘martyrs’ ever seen…” (Hafez, 5). The US-led invasion also unleashed “a sectarian bloodbath, grinding minorities such as [Iraq's] ancient Christian communities between the wounded identities of the Sunni and Shia.” Violent sectarianism, in other words, was a terrible consequence of the invasion. (Financial Times, June 15/16 2013, 7)
-Iraq’s experience with suicide bombing supports Robert Pape’s thesis that “suicide bombing is a nationalist response to military occupation by a culturally alien democratic power. It’s a response to boots and tanks on the ground…” Other examples are Lebanon, Kashmir, Sri Lanka and Israel/Palestine.
“Religion is…well suited to be the handmaiden of groupishness, tribalism, and nationalism [as it unites people into a single moral community]. To take one example, religion does not seem to be the cause of suicide bombing….[For suicide bombings to occur there] has to be an ideology in place that can rally young men to martyr themselves for a greater cause. The ideology can be secular (as was the case with the Marxist-Leninist Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka) or it can be religious (as was the case with the Shiite Muslims who first demonstrated that suicide bombing works, driving the United States out of Lebanon in 1983). Anything that binds people together into a moral matrix that glorifies the in-group while at the same time demonizing another group can lead to moralistic killing, and many religions are well suited for that task. Religion is therefore often an accessory to atrocity, rather than the driving force of the atrocity.” (Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, Pantheon Books, New York: 2012, 268)
-The US’s war in Iraq officially ended in December 2011.
6. In 1958, according to the United States National Security Council, what was the main reason the Arab people hated the US?
-“In a staff discussion…president Dwight Eisenhower described ‘the campaign of hatred against us (in the Arab world), not by the governments but by the people’. His National Security Council outlined the basic argument: the US supports corrupt and oppressive governments and is ‘opposing political or economic progress’ because of its interest in controlling the oil resources of the region. Post-September 11  surveys in the Arab world reveal that the same reasons hold today, compounded with resentment over specific policies [such as the US’s]…crucial support for Israel’s harsh military occupation…” http://www.chomsky.info/articles/20020907.htm
-It seems that the main reason for Muslim Middle Easterners hatred is the perception “that we [the US] support the autocratic regimes that they (rightly) hold responsible for their misery.…Thus the anger and despair they feel because of the actions (and inaction) of their own governments get transferred to the United States in the belief that we are the ultimate power behind the local autocrats.” (Pollack, 199)
-The primary reason for the pervasive hostility of the Muslim world toward the US is clear: US actions in their countries. “As a Rumsfeld-era Pentagon study concluded: ‘Muslims do not hate our freedom, but rather, they hate our policies.’ In particular, it is ‘American direct intervention in the Muslim world’ — justified in the name of stopping Terrorism — that ‘paradoxically elevate[s] the stature of and support for Islamic radicals’.”
“It is not hyperbole to say that America is a rogue nation when it comes to its drone wars, standing almost alone in supporting it. [A] Pew poll from June  documented that ‘in nearly all countries, there is considerable opposition to a major component of the Obama administration’s anti-terrorism policy: drone strikes.’ The finding was stark: ‘in 17 of 20 countries, more than half disapprove of U.S. drone attacks targeting extremist leaders and groups in nations such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.’…[T]he very policies that Americans constantly justify by spouting the Terrorism slogan are exactly what causes anti-American hatred and anti-American Terrorism in the first place. The most basic understanding of human nature renders that self-evident, but this polling data indisputably confirms it.”
7. Who stated the following to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 2005? “Our [the US’s] policies in the Middle East fuel Islamic resentment.”
-Lowell E. Jacoby: U.S. Vice Admiral, then director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. (Gerges, 267)
8. Who said the following? “Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples [in the Middle East].”
-David Petraeus: Then-US Army general and former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. http://www.haaretz.com/news/u-s-general-israel-palestinian-conflict-foments-anti-u-s-sentiment-1.264910
-A report by the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel appointed in 2006 by the US Congress, “urged an aggressive U.S. push for Arab-Israeli peace and, controversially, claimed that Israel’s 2006 bombing of Lebanon had increased hostility to U.S. troops in Iraq.” (Peter Beinart, The Crisis of Zionism, Times Books, New York: 2012, 129)
-The US “has no obvious stake in Israel’s colonization and annexation of Palestinian territories. Quite the contrary, it is in the American interest to rein in Israel and resolve the conflict diplomatically. If supporting the Israeli occupation becomes a major political burden for Washington, as it might if the Arab Spring ushers in governments responsive to popular opinion, a serious rift could open up between the United States and Israel.”
If the US has thus far “not compelled Israel to terminate the occupation, it is because of the efficacy and ruthlessness of the [Israel] lobby. Were it not for the pressure exerted by the lobby in the electoral arena and on public opinion, Washington might well have joined the international consensus supporting a full Israeli withdrawal…[However,] Washington will not order Tel Aviv to withdraw until and unless the occupation becomes a major liability for it.” (Norman G. Finkelstein, Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel Is Coming to an End, OR Books, New York: 2012, 34, 65-6)
-“This observer [Franklin Lamb, Professor of International Law] has spoken with enough Daash [Islamic State] young men to have learned that a surprising number are not all that religious and care less about the Koran or know much…about Saudi Arabia or Wahhabism. It is generally agreed that the fundamental and immediate issues giving rise to IS type groups in this region are three. The historic lack of dignity and freedom allowed to the Arab people by their dictatorial rulers and politicians, the Zionist occupation of Palestine, and the growing Sunni-Shia conflict and competition.” http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/08/29/no-american-arms-for-lebanon-until-civil-rights-for-palestinians/
9. True or False: Revenge is an important cause of terrorism.
-True. For example, “The University of Toronto sociologist Robert Brym carefully studied all 138 suicide bombings between September 2000 and mid-July 2005. He concluded that in the vast majority of cases the suicide bombers themselves—whatever their ideological predispositions, or the groups that claimed responsibility—had lost a friend or close relative to Israeli fire. They acted, he wrote, ‘out of revenge’.” (Bernard Avishai, The Hebrew Republic, Harcourt, New York: 2008, 255)
-Perhaps the following message written on a placard held by an old man in Gaza can help westerners understand Palestinian terror: “You take my water, burn my olive trees, destroy my house, take my job, steal my land, imprison my father, kill my mother, bombard my country, starve us all, humiliate us all but I am to blame: I shot a rocket back.” A western reader of the placard “may or may not agree with his rocket retaliation, but all his other accusations are verifiably true as witnesses – some Jewish – have been attesting for years.”
-A study by “America’s National Bureau for Economic Research looking at the circumstances around 4,000 civilian deaths in Afghanistan found a high correlation between NATO killing of even two civilians in an area and a spike of attacks on NATO and US troops.…A heavy footprint and more NATO operations likely will create the monster Washington fears, a growing insurgency, rather than ‘blunting the momentum’ of the ‘Taliban’…” http://www.juancole.com/2010/07/civilian-casualties-rethinking-afghanistan-pt-4.html
-According to a September 2012 report by the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic of Stanford Law School and the Global Justice Clinic at New York University School of Law, “publicly available evidence that [drone] strikes have made the US safer overall is ambiguous at best. The strikes have certainly killed alleged combatants and disrupted armed actor networks. However, serious concerns about the efficacy and counter-productive nature of drone strikes have been raised. The number of ‘high-level’ targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low—estimated at just 2%. Furthermore, evidence suggests that US strikes have facilitated recruitment to violent non-state armed groups, and motivated further violent attacks. As the New York Times has reported, ‘drones have replaced Guantánamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants.’” http://livingunderdrones.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Stanford_NYU_LIVING_UNDER_DRONES.pdf
10. Who was the first American suicide bomber since the 1930s?
-Soon after the US-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in January 2007, “twenty American students from the Little Mogadishu neighborhood of Minneapolis…went to Somalia to wage jihad against the Christian invaders [who recklessly killed thousands of civilians and engaged in rampages of looting and gang rape]. Among [those Americans] was Shirwa Ahmed, a community-college dropout who loved basketball and spent most of his days doing odd jobs and memorizing the lyrics to rap songs. He had become so enraged by the arrival of the Ethiopians in Somalia that he made his way to the Horn of Africa, where he joined al Shabaab [a fundamentalist Islamist group]. In October , he drove a car packed with explosives into a government building in Puntland, a region of northern Somalia.” (Mark Mazzetti, The Way Of The Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth, Penguin Press, New York: 2013, 151)
Not for the first time, reckless US foreign policy has created great problems for a country. “Somalia is just in utter hell [as it experiences] some of the greatest suffering on planet Earth and the U.S. has played a very significant role in destabilizing Somalia for many, many years.” http://www.democracynow.org/2013/9/25/jeremy_scahill_al_shababs_nairobi_mall
11. What was the main objective of al-Qaeda for the 9/11 attacks?
“[B]in Laden, Zawahiri, and company [in the late 1990s] were pursuing bigger ambitions [than other jihadists]—waking the Muslim community from its slumber.…In a secret 1998 letter to another militant—recovered in 2001 from captured Al Qaeda computers in Kabul—Zawahiri points out that Al Qaeda had escalated the fight against ‘the biggest of the criminals, the Americans’ to drag them for an open battle with the nation’s masses…” Bin Laden and Zawahiri “expected a Muslim response similar to that following the Russian invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Their goal was to generate a major world crisis, provoking the United States…; American attacks on Muslim countries would reinvigorate and unify a splintered, war-torn jihadist movement and restore its credibility in the eyes of [Muslims]…”
When the United States “invaded Afghanistan, however, Al Qaeda found itself on its own.…No religious authority lent his name and legitimacy to repelling the American troops.…Most jihadists were opposed to what bin Laden had done, some even within his own wing of the movement.” “[S]heikh Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Cairo, the oldest religious institution in the Islamic world, swiftly dismissed bin Laden’s jihad credentials as ‘fraudulent’ and warned young Muslims against…Al Qaeda’s call to fight in Afghanistan.”
In contrast “to the war in Afghanistan, the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq triggered a torrent of angry responses by Islamists, ulemas, secular Muslims, and religious Muslims alike.…Institutions and clerics urged Muslims to join in jihad with their Iraqi brethren and repel the American invaders.” (Gerges, 181, 203-4, 209-10, 240-1)
-Bin Laden, in a 2004 videotape, described his strategy of luring the US to self-defeating battle: “We, alongside the mujahideen, bled Russia for 10 years until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat…We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy…. All that we have to do is to send two mujahideen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written ‘al-Qaeda’, in order to make generals race there and to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations…”
As predicted by Bin Laden “Washington, goaded by [neo-conservatives and other hawkish groups], also deployed forces – or drone missiles at the very least – to virtually wherever al-Qaeda or its alleged affiliates raised its flag, often at the cost of weakening local governments and incurring the wrath of local populations, particularly in Somalia and Yemen.”
The “costs have been staggering in almost every respect. The estimated $3 trillion to $4.4 trillion Washington has incurred either directly or indirectly in conducting the ‘global war on terror’ account for a substantial portion of [its] fiscal crisis…” http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/MI10Dj02.html
-Group (i.e., non-state) terrorism is done for various reasons including to sabotage a peace process, to exact revenge, to attract attention and resources to an issue, and to try and induce an entity to overreact in order to augment support for the group.
12. True or False: Over 20% of the respondents of a 2005 Gallup poll of ten predominantly Muslim countries felt the 9/11 attacks were fully justified.
-False. Only 7% of respondents felt the 9/11 attacks were fully justified; moreover this 7% was no more or less religious than the other 93%. (Pollack, 209)
-Even the “Hizbollah leadership distanced itself from September 11 and went public in its criticism of Al Qaeda.” (Gerges, 189)
13. True or False: Of the seventy-nine worst al-Qa’ida and other Salafi terrorists, more had attended madrasas than regular universities.
-False. 54% of the terrorists had attended regular universities and 11% had attended madrasas. Indeed, of those who had attended secular institutions, 48% had gone to Western schools. (Pollack, 210)
14. True or False: The majority of terrorists come from the lower-classes.
-False. “[N]umerous academic and government studies find that terrorists tend to be drawn from well-educated, middle-class or high-income families. Among those who have…studied the issue, there is not much question that poverty has little to do with terrorism.…Most terrorists are not so desperately poor that they have nothing to live for. Instead they are people who care so deeply…about a cause that they are willing to die for it.” (Alan B. Krueger, What Makes a Terrorist: Economics and the Roots of Terrorism, Princeton University Press, New Jersey: 2007, 3-4. Hereinafter referred to as, Krueger.)
-Throughout history “The leaders of revolutionary movements and their offshoot terrorist groups are almost invariably scions of the middle class, with exceptions from the upper class being at least as prevalent as those from the lower classes.”
Terrorists are disproportionately from the middle-class because members of this class suffer most from betrayed expectations. “The unfulfilled expectations of the middle class derived from the [Middle East] region’s economic problems, coupled with (and in part caused by) crippling political practices, is almost certainly a powerful element driving many members of the Arab and Iranian middle classes to opposition and, at the extreme, membership in terrorist organizations.” “[E]conomic factors like poverty or unemployment typically produce revolutionary and/or terrorist responses only when they are coupled with oppressive political forces that deny the individual any hope of bettering his (or her) situation but also serve as a tangible focus of anger.” (Pollack, 178, 180, 186)
15. Which groups committed the following terrorist acts in Palestine to further nationalist goals?
a) July 22, 1946: Terrorists blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem killing or injuring more than 200 persons.
b) December 19, 1947: Terrorists attacked a village near Safad, blowing up two houses, in the ruins of which were found the bodies of 10 persons, including 5 children.
c) December 30, 1947: Terrorists attacked the village of Balad al Sheikh, killing more than 60 persons.
d) March 3, 1948: Terrorists drove an army truck up to a building in Haifa and detonated 400 pounds of explosives that killed 14 persons and injured 23.
-a) The Irgun: Zionist paramilitary group led by future prime minister Menachem Begin. It was classified as a terrorist organization by Israel itself when it became a state in 1948.
-b) The Haganah: Jewish paramilitary organization which became the core of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Members of the Haganah included future prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon.
-c) The Palmach: Elite fighting force of the Haganah. (The Palmach’s last operation as an independent unit was against the Irgun. Perhaps right-wing Jews should not be so smug when they hear of fighting between Fatah and Hamas.)
-d) The Stern Gang (also called Lehi): Radical Zionist paramilitary group that split from the Irgun in 1940. Future Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir was among its leaders. “During Israel’s war of Independence, members of the Stern Gang and…the Irgun massacred more than one hundred Arabs, many women and children, in the village of Deir Yassin” (Peter Beinart, The Crisis of Zionism, Times Books, New York: 2012, 104).
-“[T]errorism arises when there are few effective alternative means for an extremist group to pursue its aims. If a movement is strong enough to mount a full-fledged civil war, it will wage a full-fledged civil war. I think terrorism tends to arise in situations in which the odds are against the group that is perpetrating the terrorist acts. The tension between Israel and the Palestinians is an example. Israel dominates militarily. A full-fledged war was never a possibility. Historically there were some cases in which terrorism did achieve the goals of an organization, or at least brought the organization closer to achieving its goals. You could probably say that about the formation of the state of Israel.” (Krueger, 154)
-Some “groups deploy terrorism as a tactic more at some times than others. Zionists in British Mandate Palestine were active terrorists in the 1940s,…and in the period 1965-1980, the FBI considered the Jewish Defense League among the most active US terrorist groups. (Members at one point plotted to assassinate Rep. Dareell Issa (R-CA) because of his Lebanese heritage.) Now that Jewish nationalists are largely getting their way, terrorism has declined among them.”
-In recent years Israeli leaders have begun to recognize the problem of terrorism by radical Jewish settlers against Palestinians, the IDF and mainstream settler leaders. In 2011, “the Israeli general in charge of the West Bank, Nitsan Alon, described the violence by radical settlers as ‘terrorism’ and urged the IDF to ‘do much more to stop it.’…And following settler vandalism of an IDF base in the West Bank, the Israeli ministers of defense, legal affairs, and internal security discussed officially designating [such radical settlers] as a terrorist organization.” (In 2014, Israeli Defence Minister, Moshe Yaalon, branded settler attacks as “outright terrorism” (The Montreal Gazette, Jan. 16, 2014, A2).)
Jewish terrorists “have staged politically motivated attacks against Palestinians and pro-peace Israelis before. In the early 1980s, for example, one group, known as the Jewish Underground, carried out a series of bombings against Arab mayors and shot three Arab students in the West Bank. And in 1995, an Israeli law student, Yigal Amir, assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, dealing a devastating blow to the peace process….According to UN investigations, in 2011, extremist settlers launched almost 300 attacks on Palestinian property, causing over 100 Palestinian casualties…The UN has also reported that violent incidents against Palestinians have proliferated, rising from 200 attacks in 2009 to over 400 in 2011. The spike in assaults on Palestinians by settlers has come despite the fact that over the same period, Palestinian terrorism fell dramatically”
The radical settler attacks should be labeled as terrorism as they target innocent “Palestinians, pro-peace Israelis, and Israeli soldiers alike for supposedly anti-settlement measures taken by the Israeli government. By seeking to frighten a rival population and intimidate a government, the extremists mimic the typical methods of terrorist groups across the globe.”
The “Israeli government does not support or condone settler violence, but it has failed to adequately combat it. Soldiers have been known to look on as violence occurs, and they sometimes do not aggressively seek the perpetrators after the fact.” In contrast, “when Palestinians attack Jews, the Israeli army often puts entire villages under curfew, and perpetrators sometimes have their homes bulldozed.”
In recent years, “the extreme right wing has made inroads even into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s own party, the Likud, making any opposition to settlement activity a risk for more mainstream Likud politicians.” Settler terrorism “is undoubtedly working. It has made it more difficult for the IDF to govern the West Bank and fractured the settler movement, weakening the influence of the more moderate elements that would accept the legitimacy of the Israeli state even if it committed to another withdrawal.” http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/137825/daniel-byman-and-natan-sachs/the-rise-of-settler-terrorism?page=show (Peter Beinart, The Crisis of Zionism, Times Books, New York: 2012, 22)
16. If a terrorist act can be linked to a country or group should that preclude diplomacy with that country or group?
-No. Otherwise North Vietnam and the US—two perpetrators of terror—could not have negotiated in the 1960s/70s, ditto for Egypt and Israel, The US and the USSR, Britain and the IRA, South Africa and the ANC, etc.
-Only actions are unambiguously terrorist or non-terrorist. People and organizations make more or less use of terrorism often in conjunction with other kinds of political action. Terrorism, much of it state terrorism, has been integral to warfare between government and guerillas, just as it has been part of state-on-state warfare.
-In 2010, General Stanley McChrystal, former commander of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) and USFOR-A (US Forces Afghanistan), stated the following in a presentation to German military and foreign policy experts: “A lot of people in Afghanistan have blood on their hands. If we spend our time worrying about that, there won’t be anyone to have peace talks with.” (McChrystal also acknowledged that “If you kill the insurgency, you kill the Afghan people you came to protect, and there’s nobody left to win over.”)
By 2011, the Obama administration was heeding the call of Afghanistan experts who argued that “negotiating, not an increase in military operations, is the only way out….In late February, President Obama [met] with his national security team…The topic of discussion: negotiations with the Taliban.” “The simple and terrifying reality, forbidden from discussion in America, was that despite spending $600 billion a year on the military, despite having the best fighting force the world had ever known, they were getting their asses kicked by illiterate peasants who made bombs out of manure and wood.” (Hastings, 141, 142-3, 279, 374)
-In 1996, when the peace talks were stagnating, “the IRA blew up London’s Canary Wharf and the center of Manchester. Although open support for armed struggle was confined to a nationalist minority, the relevant fact is that a sufficient number of northern nationalists were anti-British enough to understand, tolerate, and give protection to the IRA’s network of active-service units.” (Tom Hayden, The Long Sixties: From 1960 to Barack Obama, Paradigm, United States: 2009, 134)
-In 2008, “Nelson Mandela and his African National Congress party [were] removed from the US terror watch list….Ronald Reagan had originally placed the ANC on the list in the 1980s….Prior to the removal of his name from the watch list Mr. Mandela had to get special certification from the US secretary of state that he [was] not a terrorist in order to visit the country. Mr. Mandela won the Nobel peace prize in 1993, and was president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.”
-In 1982, Saddam Hussein was taken off the terrorism list “so the United States could provide him with agricultural and other support that he needed.” The US supported Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War so, by definition, Saddam could not be a terrorist — even when, for example, Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran. (Noam Chomsky, Power Systems, Metropolitan Books, New York: 2013, 71)
17. True or False: The internationally respected Goldstone Report accused Israel of terrorizing Gaza’s civilians during the December 2008 Gaza invasion.
-True. Although Israel justified the Gaza invasion as self-defense against Hamas rockets, the Goldstone Report concluded that the attack was “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.” (Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, 25 September 2009)
18. True or False: The religion of Islam is an important cause of terrorism.
-False. Most Arab terrorists “espouse religious zealotry (although many do not actually practice it), but it is their anger and desperation, derived from their circumstances, that drives them to religion and so to the militant groups, not the other way around. Indeed, the slums…of the Arab world are almost uniformly hotbeds of Islamism and provide a seemingly endless supply of new recruits (mostly foot soldiers, but a few leaders) for the Salafi terrorists.” (Pollack, 183)
-“Given that notions of jihad and martyrdom are contested concepts subject to competing interpretations…[i]s the charisma of fanatical leaders sufficient to convince young people to make the ultimate sacrifice, or must there be additional factors such as societal conflicts or cultural facilitators that push individuals to give up their lives?…[T]he causal link between religious inspiration and suicide attacks is not a direct one. One must situate these appeals in broader societal conflicts that allow radical ideologies to resonate with the wider public.” (Hafez, 10)
-Rather than Islam in particular, it seems that religion in general is what aggravates volatile situations. For example, “Christian fundamentalism is partially to blame for fueling Muslim militancy. Lebanon’s Christians killed and pillaged in the name of the cross…Religious coexistence gave way to estrangement [in the 1970s]…Waving holy banners, neighbor railed against neighbor. People seized upon their communal identity in a desperate effort at self-preservation. The state of war pushed people into their sectarian bunkers and turned an open, tolerant society into a jungle.…Christian fundamentalism, which was xenophobic and supremacist, fed into parallel tendencies in the Muslim camp. More than a hundred thousand people perished in the Lebanese Civil War. A million people—a third of the country’s population—were displaced.” (Gerges, 82-3)
-The reports of Europol, the European law enforcement agency, “have long made it clear that the biggest threat of terrorism in Europe comes from separatist movements, then from the fringe left, then from the far right. In 2008, only one terrorist attack out of hundreds in Europe was committed by radical Muslims. In 2010, according to Europol, 7 persons were killed in terrorist attacks. Some 160 of these attacks that year were carried out by separatists. The number launched by people of Muslim heritage? 3. It would be silly to maintain that Muslim radicals do not pose a threat of terrorism; indeed, many plots were broken up by European police. But as an actually-existing phenomenon, terrorism in Europe is mainly the work of Christian-heritage people.” http://www.juancole.com/2011/07/white-terrorism-in-norway.html
In the US, “Islamist terrorism remains rare: the number of Muslim-American terrorism suspects and perpetrators apprehended each year averaged around 14 annually between 2001 and 2008…” (The actual average “is probably lower because these numbers include acts of terrorism…that have no apparent Islamist or Jihadist motives, but happen to have been committed by Muslims.”) In 2010, the US suffered “20 non-Islamic terror attacks…(most of them right-wing).” (Doug Saunders, The Myth Of The Muslim Tide: Do Immigrants Threaten The West?, Alfred A. Knopf, Canada: 2012, 106)
There have been “a number of major studies of [Western Muslim terrorists'] beliefs and motives in recent years, and what is clear is that almost none of them are motivated by religious faith or a desire to impose their beliefs on the world around them. Quite the contrary: it has repeatedly been shown that more religious Muslims are the least inclined to terrorism, and that those drawn to extremism are propelled by political, territorial and very often personal motives unrelated to faith. Not only that, but those Muslims who are living in tight-knit, religious-conservative communities and Islamic ‘ghettoes’ are the least likely to go into political extremism or terrorism: Extremism tends be the preserve of fairly wealthy, educated Muslims who are isolated from other Muslims in relatively well-off neighborhoods. It’s not the ‘Muslim tide’ that is creating extremism, but rather the political beliefs of a few middle-class loners.” http://www.juancole.com/2012/07/the-three-lies-michele-bachmann-tells-about-american-muslims-saunders.html
19. Which Middle Eastern country suffered an 18 October 2009 Baluchi terrorist attack that killed dozens and was condemned by the US?
-Iran. “We ‘condemn this act of terrorism and mourn the loss of innocent lives,’ said Ian C. Kelly, a State Department spokesman.” (New York Times, 19 October 2009, Iran Blames U.S. and Britain in Attack.)
The “Baluchi militant Salafi group named Jundullah has conducted deadly attacks within Iran, targeting civilians and key political figures….[Credible] reports revealed that the CIA gave support and supplied money to Jundullah, which conducted raids into Iran from bases in Pakistan, while an article in Foreign Policy claimed that operatives of Israel’s Mossad…had posed as CIA agents when attempting to recruit members of Jundallah for attacks against Iran.” (Seyed Hossein Mousavian and Shahir ShahidSaless, Iran And The United States: An Insider’s View on the Failed Past and the Road to Peace, Bloomsbury, New York: 2014, 242-3.)
-It should be noted that there is not a single known instance of an Iranian suicide-bomber since the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988. (Robert Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, Crown Publishers, New York: 2008.) For more information, see The Iran Quiz.
20. What are the Annual Risks for an American to die from: Heart disease? Criminal homicide? Lightning strike? Terrorism?
-Heart disease: 1 in 300 people in America typically die of heart disease in a given year; Criminal homicide: 1 in 18,000; Lightning strike: 1 in 3,000,000; Terrorism: 1 in 5,293,000. (Krueger, 139)
-In 2012, according to the U.S. Department of State, 10 US citizens were killed as a result of terrorism; all of them were killed in Afghanistan. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2012/210030.htm
-Perhaps if Americans better understood the risk they face from terrorism — and better understood the relationship of US foreign policy and terrorism — they would fear it less and thus be less susceptible to manipulation by, for example, neoconservative chicken-hawks.
21. How many terrorist attacks has the US National Security Agency’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped?
-None. “[T]he argument that mass surveillance has prevented terror plots – a claim made by President Obama and a range of national security figures – has been proved false. [For example,] a federal judge declared the phone metadata collection program ‘almost certainly’ unconstitutional, in the process saying that the Justice Department failed to ‘cite a single case in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent terrorist attack.’ [Also in 2013, a presidential] advisory panel…convened to study the NSA program concluded that the metadata program ‘was not essential to preventing attacks…’ [Furthermore,] members of the Intelligence Committee…stated [that] the mass collection of telephone records has not enhanced Americans’ protection from the threat of terrorism.” (Glenn Greenwald, No Place To Hide: Edward Snowden, The NSA, and The U.S. Surveillance State, Signal, Canada: 2014, 202-3. Hereinafter referred to as, Greenwald 2014.)
-The NSA’s “collect-it-all system did nothing to detect…the 2012 Boston Marathon bombing. It did not detect the attempted Christmas-day bombing of a jetliner over Detroit, or the plan to blow up Times Square, or the plot to attack the New York City subway system – all of which were stopped by alert bystanders or traditional police powers. It certainly did nothing to stop the string of mass shootings from Aurora to Newtown. Major international attacks from London to Mumbai to Madrid proceeded without detection, despite involving at least dozens of operatives. And despite exploitative claims from the NSA, bulk surveillance would not have given the intelligence services better tools to prevent the attack on 9/11….[In fact,] the CIA had multiple reports about an al-Qaeda plot and ‘quite a bit of information about two of the hijackers and their presence in the United States,’ which ‘the agency didn’t share with other government agencies until it was too late to do anything about it.’” (Greenwald 2014, 203-4)
22. Has Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad ever deliberately attacked American targets?
-No. However, the PLO, currently the US’s favored Palestinian group, did deliberately attack US targets in the past. The “last attacks that can be tied to elements of the PLO coalition are the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking by the Palestine Liberation Front and the 1986 hijacking of an American airliner by the Abu Nidal Organization.” (Pollack, 170)
-“Central to the IRA’s decision to decommission its weapons was Sinn Fein’s inclusion in the political process.…As Hamas enters and achieves representation within the political process, can this induce it to curtail its campaign of suicide terrorism, as the IRA’s inclusion led to a curtailment of its campaign of terror?” Yet, Israel, the US and other states immediately imposed sanctions on Hamas following its 2006 election victory. (Hafez, xii)
-Unlike the revolutionary al-Qaida, Hamas is looking to achieve concrete results for occupied and oppressed Palestinians. For more information, see The Hamas Quiz.
23. True or False: A majority of the people in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates support al-Qa’ida’s goal of creating an Islamic state.
-False. “[T]he vast majority of Arabs and Muslims ardently desire the kind of political pluralism (even democracy…) that bin Ladin and his ilk have declared antithetical to Islam—at least their version of Islam.” (Pollack, 209)
24. True or False: In 1997 a declassified CIA training manual detailed torture methods used against suspected subversives in Central America during the 1980s.
-True. The CIA manual refuted claims by the agency that no such methods were taught by it. The CIA also declassified a Vietnam-era training manual which also taught torture. (Barker, 85)
-In 2012, “For the first time, the European Court of Human Rights has found the US Central Intelligence Agency guilty of torturing and sodomizing an innocent man. German national Khalid El-Masry (of Lebanese ancestry) was kidnapped (‘rendered’) from Macedonia and taken to Afghanistan and placed in the ‘salt pit.’ He was beaten, sodomized and tortured until 2004, when the CIA realized he was a case of mistaken identity and released him. The verdict sheds light on among the darkest routine practices of US intelligence in the past decade….Note that no such cases have been brought in US courts, much less verdicts obtained, and that there was a relative blackout on this news in the US mass media.” http://www.juancole.com/2012/12/european-human-rights-court-finds-cia-guilty-of-torture.html
-In the “Cambridge History of the Cold War, John Coatsworth [a historian of Latin America and the provost of Columbia University] recalls that from 1960 [by which time the Soviets had dismantled Stalin's gulags] to ‘the Soviet collapse in 1990, the numbers of political prisoners, torture victims, and executions of nonviolent political dissenters in Latin America vastly exceeded those in the Soviet Union and its East European satellites.’ But being nonatrocities [since committed by US-supported regimes], these crimes, substantially traceable to U.S. intervention, didn’t inspire a human-rights crusade.”