Picture credit: Reuters
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration declared a worldwide "war on terror," involving open and covert military operations, new security legislation, efforts to block the financing of terrorism, and more. Washington called on other states to join in the fight against terrorism asserting that "either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." Many governments joined this campaign, often adopting harsh new laws, lifting long-standing legal protections and stepping up domestic policing and intelligence work.
Critics charge that the "war on terrorism" is an ideology of fear and repression that creates enemies and promotes violence rather than mitigating acts of terror and strengthening security. The worldwide campaign has too often become an excuse for governments to repress opposition groups and disregard international law and civil liberties. Governments should address terrorism through international cooperation, using international law and respecting civil liberties and human rights. Governments should also address the root causes of terrorism, notably political alienation due to prejudice, state-sponsored violence and poverty.
This site deals with the idea and practice of the "war on terrorism." Materials critically analyze the "war" and its consequences. The site looks at terrorism's history and root causes and how the concept has been used and abused.
Targeted killing and the 'War on Terror' (October 18, 2011)
The recent targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen by the US has started a renewed debate over US counter-terrorism policies. The targeted elimination of US citizen and radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki for his alleged role as a terrorist affiliate raises troubling international legal questions. This demonstrates how the US justifies any means in the name of security, similar to the justifications used to explain the detainee interrogation practices used after 9/11. Critics of the killing have focused heavily on Awlaki’s US citizenship, and the obligation of the government to protect its citizens for harm. (Al Jazeera)
Should Bin Laden Have Been Tried? (May 3, 2011)
The death of Osama bin Laden is being celebrated across the US. This article however highlights how the extra-judicial killing of bin Laden by the US military undermines the rule of law and paints an ugly picture of the Obama administration. Whether or not a trial would have provided satisfaction to the victims of 9/11, this article argues that retribution through killing will only exacerbate tensions and destabilize the judicial process. (Open Democracy)
U.N. Reports Mixed Results on Afghan Poppy Crops (September 30, 2010)
Afghanistan modestly reduced its poppy cultivation this year in Helmand province though nationwide production has remained the same or increased. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reports that the decrease is mainly the result of blight, despite a government initiative and Western aid. The report states that increasing poppy prices could undercut the efforts to reduce cultivation in the coming year. Nearly all cultivation occurs in the country's least secure provinces. (The New York Times)
The Real War on Terror Must Begin (August 23, 2010)
While the US spends $12bn every month indicting its "war on terror," it has so far pledged pocket change to aid the 20 million displaced Pakistani's. In this article from Al Jazeera, Mark Levine argues that if a peaceful future is to be secured for Pakistan and the wider world, relief aid is an ill advised area for the US to be fiscally prudent. He suggests the US "war on terror" needs to be fundamentally rethought to consider relief, rebuilding and the struggle against poverty and hardship. And in the "multigenerational" campaign against Al-Qaida, more resources should be allocated towards reconstruction, than are used for purposes of destruction. (Al Jazeera)
The Secret Killers: Covert Assassins Charged With Hunting Down and Killing Afghans(August 29, 2010)
In Afghanistan, secret military teams have been given a mandate to pursue alleged members of "terrorists" and are seen as "manhunting" operations with the units assigned to them as "capture/kill" teams. Wikileaks has published the mass of secret U.S. military and intelligence documents that reveal how capture/kill teams have left a trail of dead civilian bodies. The covert "joint" teams involving the CIA and various military special operations forces are a key part of a new military "doctrine" developed in 1980 and came to be known as "find, fix, finish, and follow-up" missions, denoting how alleged terrorists are to be dealt with. Military experts are disquieted by the creation of such global hunter-killer teams who regularly kill civilians in their raids on supposed "targets." (Alternet)
Secret Assault on Terrorism Widens on Two Continents (August 14, 2010)
The shadow “war against terrorism” began in the Bush administration but expanded under President Obama, who ironically became popular due to his early opposition to the invasion of Iraq. The United States has increased military and intelligence operations in a dozen countries. These shadow wars have fuelled anti-American rage; blurred the lines between soldiers and spies;weakened Congressional oversight and led to a reliance on authoritarian foreign leader. (The New York Times)
CIA Whisked Detainees from Guantanamo Before Giving Access to Lawyers (August 6, 2010)
Four "high-value" prisoners were flown out of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility just months after they arrived in 2003, before the Supreme Court could grant them access to lawyers. They were transferred to a CIA "black site" for two years of interrogation, during which time they could not speak with attorneys or human rights observers. The AP discovered that top White House, Justice Department, Pentagon and CIA officials were involved in the prisoner transfer, which law professor Jonathon Hafetz called "a shell game to hide detainees from the courts." This incident suggests that Washington is willing to go to great lengths to keep "valuable" prisoners outside the US court system. (Huffington Post)
Mutilated Afghan Girl Aisha in US for New Nose (August 6, 2010)
A TIME Magazine cover featuring a young Afghan woman whose nose had been cut off by the Taliban sparked fierce debate about the issue's message. The cover's title suggested that such crimes against women would increase if the US-led military force were to leave Afghanistan prematurely. Many have claimed that TIME engaged in "emotional blackmail" and exploited "gender politics to pitch for the status quo-a continued US military involvement." Women's lives have not improved overall as a result of the war (read GPF's previous posting on this issue, below). Telling Aisha's story may raise awareness about the plight of women in Afghanistan, but drawing a connection between her situation and the US occupation is both inaccurate and manipulative. (BBC)
The Guantanamo Paradox (August 6, 2010)
More than 170 men who have not been convicted, or in some cases even charged with a criminal offense, are being kept in indefinite detention in Guantanamo Bay. As the Obama administration moves forward with the military trials at the detention facility, it is difficult to see how the President is fulfilling his commitment to "re-establishing our [US] credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law." For all of President Obama's rhetoric about closing Guantanamo and providing fair trials for the detainees, he has been unable to translate these promises into reality. The maintenance of Guantanamo is just one of the ways in which this administration continues to resemble that of George W. Bush. (Crimes of War Project)
Western Wars Vs Muslim Women (August 5, 2010)
The Time Magazine's cover story on the plight of Afghan women contributes to justifying the war on humanitarian "civilizing" grounds instead of criticizing it on the same grounds. Military solutions to social problems fail to make the distinction between Islam and the Taliban or explain how women's rights can be attained by such means. This author suggests that "the war to liberate the women of Afghanistan," is more concerned with promoting "men's wars" rather than women's rights, whilst Muslim women are being progressively silenced in this discursive battle. (Al-Jazeera)
Engendering New Discourses (May 17, 2010)
This author suggests Pakistani women are central to the ideological battleground between the Taliban and the US military: the former using Islamic extremism to exclude women from the public sphere, the latter using western notions of liberation and progress to orchestrate women's unveiling. Although driven by contrasting ideologies, both serve to further disempower women from decision making. Security Council Resolution 1325 highlighted the contributions that women can make to conflict prevention and resolution, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. Yet this suppression of female agency in Pakistan denies the importance of women's equal and full participation as active agents in peace and security. (The Express Tribune)
VIDEO: TIME Magazine Cover Explains What Happens to Aghan Women If "We Leave Afghanistan," But That Tragedy is Already Occurring (July 29, 2010)
A photograph on the cover of a recent issue of TIME Magazine depicts an Afghan woman whose nose and ears were cut off by the Taliban when she was caught trying to escape from abusive family members. The image is intended to remind the reader of "what happens if we leave Afghanistan." An accompanying article argues that women's rights would be destroyed if the US military settled with the Taliban and left the region. However, despite the lofty rhetoric about "freeing" the women of Afghanistan, the US-supported government of Hamid Karzai has not implemented policies to help women in any substantial way. In this Brave New Films video, numerous experts show that conditions for women have actually deteriorated as a result of the US-led occupation. (Huffington Post)
US Drone Strikes Draw International Scrutiny (May 31, 2010)
The CIA uses unmanned drones to carry out targeted killings in Afghanistan and Pakistan raising serious questions of legality. Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapportuer on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions will deliver a report on June 3 to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva which argues that drone use should be restricted to the US military. The report says that the "life and death" power of drones should be entrusted to regular armed forces and not intelligence agencies like the CIA which have much less transparent oversight. It is unlikely that the Obama Administration will alter its policy, as drone attacks have become an increasingly important tactic in US "counter terrorism operations" in Pakistan and Afghanistan. (IPS)
At West Point, Obama offers new Security Strategy (May 23, 2010)
In a commencement speech at the US Military Academy at West Point, President Obama set out a new national security doctrine which attempts to distance his administration from George W Bush's policy of "distinctly US internationalism." Obama pledged to shape a new "international order" based on diplomacy and engagement to resolve such global challenges as "violent extremism and insurgency", nuclear weapons, climate change and preventing conflict. However, as he calls for global cooperation, Obama has intensified the US war in Afghanistan and secret operations in the Middle East. (Washington Post)
Detainees Barred from Access to US Courts (May 21, 2010)
A US Court of Appeals ruled that three men, who were captured outside Afghanistan and have been detained for years without trial, have no right to habeas corpus hearings in US Courts as Bagram is "on the sovereign territory of another government." If the precedent stands, it will provide further justification for the Obama Administration's policy of detaining terrorism suspects overseas for indefinite periods to avoid judicial oversight. (New York Times)
Drones and Democracy (May 18, 2010)
U.S. drone attacks continue to devastate civilians in Pakistan yet remain shrouded in secrecy. Pakistanis learn nothing of the attacks, and U.S. newspaper reports mention no more than a few words on the location of the strike and the estimated death toll. Victims and witnesses of these attacks openly question the legitimacy of a strategy that kills many innocent civilians and only serves to instill anti-American hatred in the local population. These victims link indifference and inaction on drone warfare to the state of U.S. democracy: "What kind of democracy is America where people do not ask these questions?" (CommonDreams)
Judges Ban Secret Evidence in Guantanamo Compensation Case (May 5, 2010)
Six former Guantanamo Bay prisoners are claiming civil damages against the UK Government alleging that the MI5 and MI6 "aided and abetted their unlawful imprisonment" at numerous locations around the world, including Guantanamo Bay, where they were tortured. Controversially, the UK Government asked for the trial to be heard under the "closed material procedure" meaning that the claimants would not see large parts of the evidence being used by the Government to defend the allegations. The High Court denied the Government's request, with Lord Neuberger stating that "it would undermine one of the most fundamental principles of the common law," the right of a party to know the case again him. (The Times)
A Kinder, Gentler Gitmo (April 22, 2010)
After his inauguration, President Barak Obama signed an Executive Order mandating more humane conditions for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and the closure of the prison within a year. With the January 22 deadline passed, the detention camp reflects the Obama Administration's failure to change US national security policy from the framework of the Bush Administration's "War on Terror." While the new administration has prohibited torture and inhuman treatment, the defining injustice of Guantanamo - the indefinite imprisonment of individuals without charge or trial - remains. (The American Prospect)
New Rules on Terror Custody Being Drafted (April 15, 2010)
On taking office, President Obama pledged to close Guantanamo Bay prison and abolish many of the detainee practices of the George W. Bush administration. The Obama administration is currently drafting "classified guidelines" to determine whether new captured terrorist suspects should be placed in long-term detention or whether they should be prosecuted. The guidelines will also provide answers on where to hold them and how to interrogate them. Bagram air base in Afghanistan appears to be the favoured location, in part because prisoners there are denied access to United States courts. (LA Times)
George W. Bush 'Knew Guantanamo Prisoners Were Innocent' (April 9, 2010)
Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, a former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, has revealed that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld covered up the imprisonment of hundreds of innocent men in Guantánamo Bay. According to Wilkerson, they feared that releasing these prisoners would jeopardize their push for war in Iraq and the broader War on Terror. This is the first time that such allegations have been made by a senior member of the Bush administration. Wilkerson made the accusations in support of a lawsuit filed by a Guantánamo detainee against a list of American officials. (The Times)
The Guantanamo "Suicides:"A Camp Delta Sergeant Blows the Whistle (March 2010)
On June 9, 2006, three prisoners at Guantanamo died suddenly and violently with Rear Admiral Harry Harris quick to declare the deaths "suicides." According to the US Naval Criminal Investigative Serivce documents, each prisoner had fashioned a noose from torn sheets and t-shirts, was able to bind their own hands, stuff rags into their throats and tie the noose to the top of the cell's eight-foot-high steel-mesh walls. Evidence suggests that the Obama administration has failed to seriously investigate the deaths and may have continued a cover-up of the possible homicides of these prisoners. (Harpers Magazine)
Habeas Challenges for Bagram Prisoners (March 1, 2010)
The US Government has detained an unknown number of prisoners at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan since 2002, some of whom have been held for up to six years without charge or a fair hearing. Concerned that Bagram has become the new Guantanamo, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed habeas corpus petitions to allow four prisoners access to lawyers and the opportunity to challenge in court the legality of their detention. (IPS)
Lindsey Graham: White House Mulling Indefinite Detention (February 16, 2010)
According to Senator Lindsey Graham, the White House is again considering a "preventative detention" statute to govern persons held at Guantanamo Bay. The proposed statute would assist in the closing of Guantanamo Bay and govern the detention of persons, by the US government, outside the criminal justice system. There is concern from Human Rights Watch that the statute would "turn the anomaly of Guantanamo Bay into a permanent legal norm" and would give future President's the unfettered authority to detain people without trial "not because they were captured on a military battlefield but because they are considered a threat against national security." (Politico)
UN Secret Detention Report Asks, "Where are the CIA Ghost Prisoners?" (January 28, 2010)
A study conducted by a group of UN Special Rapporteurs has concluded that "secret detention in connection with counterterrorist policies remains a serious problem." The study, conducted by four independent UN human rights experts, details secret detention practices used by the US in the "Global War on Terror" and expresses concern over the fate of dozens of persons still held in secret CIA run prisons. (Truthout)
The Joint Post/Obama defense of the Patriot Act and FISA (October 6, 2009)
The US administration has been exploiting a recently foiled terrorist coup, the Najibullah Ziza case, to justify the Patriot and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Acts. Such fear mongering resembles the behavior of the previous administration. By publicly connecting the Patriot Act with prevented terrorist attacks the administration misleadingly suggests that the plot could not or would not have been thwarted without recourse to such extreme surveillance measures. (Salon)
The Difference Between "Legal" and "Illegal" (September 8, 2009)
In 2006 the British police thwarted a terrorist plot with the help of US and British electronic surveillance. Some polemicists used this to justify illegal government surveillance programs. However the information used in 2006 had been obtained legally, thus invalidating this justification. This foiled attack shows that governments do not need to resort to illegitimate activities to successfully fight terrorism. (Salon)
US Takes the Russian Route to Afghanistan; Wonder What They're Thinking in Moscow (July 7, 2009)
Russia recently agreed to allow US troops and weapons to fly over its territory on the way to war in Afghanistan. Russia apparently believes that US and NATO forces in Afghanistan are effectively defending Russia's southern flank. Washington's war in Afghanistan is likely to last longer than the Soviet Union's war in the country, which began in late 1979 and ended in early 1989.(CommonDreams)
Who the Hell is Stanley McChrystal? (May 19, 2009)
General David McKiernan was suddenly fired earlier in May over his failure to stop the escalating violence in Afghanistan. General Stanley McChrystal, a former US Special Forces commander, officially took charge of the nearly 90,000 US and NATO-led troops fighting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. General McChrystal, also known as "the Pope," is notorious for promoting torture techniques in counterterrorism. He has brought together military and intelligence operations to produce controversial battlefield results. The decision of the Obama administration to appoint McChrystal reflects a commitment to large scale, long term "special operations" involving further global military escalation. (Esquire)
Rebranding War & Occupation (June 18, 2009)
Barack Obama promised a major shift in U.S. foreign policy. However, after five months in office, Obama's policies seem to reflect considerable continuity with earlier administrations. He has raised U.S. military spending and has added more than 20,000 troops in Afghanistan. It is clear that U.S. foreign policies are largely formed by long-standing economic and political interests and not so much by the electoral process. (Zmag)
"War on Terror" Was a Mistake, Says Miliband (January 15, 2009)
During a speech in Mumbai, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband criticized the "war on terror" and qualified it as "misleading and mistaken." Miliband stated that instead of reducing potential terrorist threats, the military reaction created more resentment and backlash. He praised diplomacy over a military response contrary to the position he held four years ago (Guardian)
"Remember Pearl Harbor!" (December 7, 2008)
The author of this article draws parallels between the attacks on Pearl Harbor by Japan in 1941 and the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor because it perceived the US as a threat to its national interest. According to the "preemptive war" doctrine, which the US used to justify the 2003 attack, the US has the right to use force whenever its interests may be threatened. Both actions are breaches of international law, as the use of military force is illegal unless used in response to a prior attack. (Truthout)
Secret Order Lets US Raid Al Qaeda (November 10, 2008)
In 2004 president George Bush issued an executive order authorizing military action in Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and several other Persian Gulf states. Using this order, the US military has conducted nearly 12 previously undisclosed attacks. This broadened the ground rules in the "Global War on Terror" and also removed sensitive military operations from the previous process of oversight and review. (New York Times)
Legislating Tyranny: Bush's War on Civil Liberties (June 3, 2008)
The Bush administration assaults civil liberties under the guise of the "war on terror," and not many US citizens express alarm. With vague definitions of "terrorist" and "enemy combatant," police can arrest and imprison any US citizen based on suspicion and without evidence. President Bush also abuses power in the executive branch by sidestepping the Supreme Court, weakening Congress, and disregarding the Constitution. With his exercise of arbitrary and undefined power, the US is "sliding toward dictatorship" and falling away from democracy. (Counterpunch)
US Accused of Holding Terror Suspects on Prison Ships (June 2, 2008)
The US military holds detainees on secret "floating prisons", before transporting them to undisclosed detention centers, according to human rights organization Reprieve. The US uses ships such as the USS Bataan, Peleliu and Ashland to hold prisoners without legal representation or a right to trial. Reprieve reports that the US military keeps many of the prisoners in cages and subjects them to physical abuse. Since 2001, the US has held approximately 80,000 detainees, 26,000 of which remain in secret prisons. (Guardian)
Al-Qaeda and the "War on Terrorism" (January 20, 2008)
This Global Research article argues that propaganda for the "war on terrorism" disregards the historical link between al-Qaeda and the US. The CIA created al-Qaeda during the Soviet-Afghan war in 1979 and also brought the heroin drug trade to Afghanistan. Further, the CIA used the Pakistani military intelligence apparatus (ISI) as a "go-between" to provide funding, arms, and training to groups in Chechnya, Kashmir, Kosovo, and China. The author argues that the "war on terrorism" is instead an excuse to expand US military domination.
Just Counter-Terrorism (July 5, 2007)
"Only when we put terrorism in proper perspective can we start to think about appropriate solutions," argues this Foreign Policy in Focus article. With regard to its "acuity, its scope, and its likely duration," terrorism does not pose as great a threat as global warming, nuclear proliferation, disease, and conventional war. The authors claim that the Bush administration has used US citizens' fear to amplify the threat of terrorism and initiate a preventative war against it – a campaign as "meaningless" as "declaring war on serial murderers." Instead, they suggest that Washington tackle detrimental political and economic injustices.
Introduction to "Selling US Wars" (March 2007)
This excerpt from the book "Selling US Wars" by Tariq Ali analyzes the theories and mechanisms employed by the US to "ensure indirect domination" worldwide. One of the justifications the US gives for the extension of its sphere of influence is the "global war on terror," which the author states is an unacceptable form of "political violence terror." Ali also asserts that Washington's selectivity in enforcing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is another tactic in its pursuit of regional and global ambitions. Moreover, the author criticizes the use of "humanitarian intervention" and "democratization" as reasons for military invasions. (Transnational Institute)
The Axis of Intervention (July 27, 2006)
This Foreign Policy in Focus article cites a growing trend towards unilateral military action as opposed to multilateral diplomacy in solving conflicts. The US and Israel have justified "preventative war" under the "War on Terrorism." Meanwhile, Japan threatens to preemptively attack North Korea, jeopardizing its "peace constitution." This dangerous policy threatens to undermine the institutions of international law and global agreements such as the Geneva Conventions.
Global Responses to Global Threats: Sustainable Security for the 21st Century (June 2006)
This Oxford Research Group report argues that the main causes of conflict stem from global climate change, competition over resources, "marginalization of the majority world," and global militarism. These issues, combined with a military approach to terrorism, and the spread of fear-inducing propaganda, detract from realistic peace-building solutions. The authors report that unless world leaders tackle these four causes and refrain from promoting global militarism and waging wars on terrorism, the global system will become irrevocably unstable.
The Logic of Suicide Terrorism: It's the Occupation, Not the Fundamentalism (July 18, 2005)
This interview from the American Conservative showcases expert Robert Pape's detailed analysis of the roots of suicide terrorism. His central finding is that, overwhelmingly, "suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel [foreign occupiers] to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland." A "demand-driven" phenomena, Pape notes that "the suicide terrorists have been produced by the invasion" in Iraq and other countries.
On Suspicion of Not Being One of Us (April 2005)
The intelligence services are working hand in hand with industries who profit from war to create a dangerous environment of paranoia. These "merchants of fear" have filled the post-cold war "vacancy for a subversive global conspiracy" with a new enemy, Islam. Their own obsessions and the desire to justify their continued power have led to the framing of community tensions and other social issues as security threats, and a pervasive climate of distrust. (Le Monde Diplomatique)
US Terror War â€˜Over-Reaction,' Top Judge Says (January 17, 2005)
Richard Goldstone, first chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunals for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, says the global "war on terror" threatens international justice. He points to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisoner abuse as reasons for more judicial oversight, and suggests UN Security Council reform as a way of "protecting the rule of law." (Toronto Star)
Poverty, Disease, Environmental Decline Are True 'Axis of Evil' (January 12, 2005)
The State of the World 2005 Report from the Worldwatch Institute argues that the "war on terror" is diverting world's attention from more serious threats to global instability. Poverty, infectious disease and environmental degradation create conditions in which extremism thrives and new conflicts emerge. Dealing with these challenges requires preventive engagement rather than use of brute military force.
The Making of the Terror Myth (October 15, 2004)
This Guardian article states that a general consensus between governments, security services and the media has created a "terror myth," an imagined danger of organized terrorism, maintained through a "jittery media-driven democracy."
Al-Qaida Brand Name Ready for Franchise (September 1, 2004)
This article compares al Qaeda to a transnational business organization with a "promising future as a brand name." It gives several examples illustrating that the terrorist organization's reputation acts as self-recruiting function for activist groups wishing to commit acts of violence in its name. (Le Monde diplomatique)
The Clash Thesis: A Failing Ideology? (August 24, 2004)
The discourse of hate is an ongoing theme in the "war on terrorism." More than a motive it now comprises an ideology justifying all actions against entities representing the ever-growing category of "terrorists." The article claims that this has created a new right for "great powers" "to convert phony wars into real ones." (Dissident Voice)
'The Lesser Evil': Fight Fire With Fire (July 25, 2004)
Michael Ignatieff believes that the use of pre-emptive war, assassination, limited torture and indefinite detention without trial might be "the lesser evil" in the fight against terrorism. In this review, Ronald Steel charges that Ignatieff's latest book lacks "any serious political analysis" of terrorism, and ultimately amounts to "an elegantly packaged manual of national self-justification." (New York Times)
The Politics of Poverty, Aid in the New Cold War (May 2004)
Governments that divert aid relief funds to anti-terrorism efforts exacerbate the suffering of the world's poorest people, argues Christian Aid. This report points out that the US government diverted a US $2.2 billion aid program for Afghanistan in 2004 to military projects and emergency relief.
G7 to Combat Terrorism with Airline Cash Inspections (April 27, 2004)
G7 officials are discussing ways to tackle cross-border cash movements as part of the "war on terror." According to the Financial Action Task Force, the proposal includes making international travelers file currency declarations and X-ray scan for cash, as well as weapons at airports. Will these attempts really help preventing terrorist attacks? (International Relations and Security Network)
Terrorism in Historical Perspective (April 22, 2004)
This article seeks to explain the concept of terrorism during different periods of time stretching back to the 20th century. The author argues that terrorism is a global problem in cause and in impact; therefore, understanding the background of terrorism is one of the important ways in addressing this world security threat. (OpenDemocracy)
Banker Presses Aid for Poor to Fight Terror (April 22, 2004)
World Bank President James Wolfensohn highlights an increasing imbalance in world governments' spending, noting that governments spend $900 billion annually on defense and only $56 billion on development assistance. Wolfensohn argues that changing spending priorities focusing on development of poor countries would help to defeat terrorism. (New York Times)
Why the Qaeda Threat Is Growing (March 17, 2004)
As Al-Qaeda becomes "brand-name terrorism," many other groups commit themselves loyally to bin Laden's idea of "global jihad against the US and its allies." (Time Magazine)
"Terrorism": A World Ensnared by a Word (February 18, 2004)
The author argues people often use and abuse the word "terrorism" by applying it to "whatever they hate," as a way of "avoiding rational thought and discussion and, frequently, excusing their own illegal and immoral conduct." (International Herald Tribune)
The Non-Debate over Suicide Bombing (January 29, 2004)
This article argues that informed debate about suicide bombing is "long overdue." The author suggests the phenomenon warrants neither sympathy nor blanket condemnation but a better understanding of the motivations of suicide bombers. (Arab Media Watch)
Muddying the World's Conscience (January 9, 2004)
The "war on terror" reformulates many aspects of world politics and the international NGO sector. In the US and elsewhere, ultra-conservative thinktanks have recently set up units to monitor and investigate the NGO sector. NGOs operating in "war on terror" conflicts feel pressured to either act as "sub-contractors for the superpower or pull out." (Guardian)
A Global War against Terrorism
“Millions of innocent people and thousands of cops have lost their lives, fighting terrorism but the thirst for human blood of the creators and fumigators of terrorist has not been quenched so far.”
Terrorism has now become a worldwide phenomenon. Since independence, India has been facing the problem terrorism in different parts of the country. Terrorism means an armed violent movement directed against government as well as non-government targets, involving pre-meditated attacks with arms, ammunition and explosives against civilians, and resorting to intimidation tactics such as hostage taking and hijacking, but not seeking territorial control. Terrorism can also be defined as an organized way of intimidation and violence especially for political purpose. Political frustration, Political necessities, Religious and Racial Fanaticism and person political interests are some of the main causes of terrorism. Terrorist are encouraged by the vested interest of some countries, external powers, to create instability in other countries. Terrorists indulge in looting, kidnapping, murder shooting, arson and other unlawful activities to serve their very purpose of creating instabilities or deter the innocents so that either they support them or don’t support the legal Government machinery.
India has faced exclusively terrorist movements in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, bordering Pakistan, terrorist movements in the northeast, bordering Myanmar and Bangladesh; in Bihar, bordering Nepal; and in certain interior States like Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa that do not have international borders.
India has also faced terrorism of an ephemeral nature, which sprang suddenly due to religious anger against either the government or the majority Hindu community or both and petered out subsequently. For example the explosions in Mumbai on March 12, 1993 which killed about 250 civilians and the simultaneous explosions in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, in February 1998. Tamil Nadu has also faced the fallout of terrorism promoted by LTTE elements on its political rivals living in the State and the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991.
India has also faced, for some years, Hindu sectarian terrorism in the form of the Anad marg, which, in tis motivation and irrationality, resembled to some extend the Aum Shinkriyo of Japan. The Marg, with its emphasis on mediation, special religious and spiritual practices and use of violence against its detractors, had as many followers in foreign countries as it had in India. Its over-ground activities have petered out since 1995.
In Assam and Tripura the political factors that led to insurgency-cum-terrorism included the failure of the government to control large-scale illegal immigration of Muslims from Bangladesh.
In Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Bihar, there are economic factors that include the absence of land reforms, rural unemployment, exploitation of landless labourers by landlord etc. These economic grievances and perceptions of gross social injustice have given rise to ideological terrorist groups such as the various Marxist/Maoist groups operating under different names.
Mainly seen in Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur due to feelings of ethnic separateness.
In Punjab, some Sikh elements belonging to different organizations took to terrorism to demand the creation of an independent state called Khalistan for the Sikhs . In J & K, Muslims belonging to different organizations took to terrorism for conflicting objectives. Some terrorist groups such as the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation front, want independence for the state, including all the territory presently part of India, Pakistan and China. Others such as the Hizbul Mujahideen, want India’s J&K State to be merged with Pakistan. While those who wand independence, project their struggle as a separatist one, those who want merger with Pakistan project it as a religious struggle.
There have also been sporadic acts of religious terrorism in other parts of India. These are either due to feelingsof anger amongst sections of the Muslim youth over the government’s perceived failure to saeuard their lives and interests or due to Pakistan’s attempts to cause religious polarization.
The maximum number of terrorist incidents and deaths of innocent civilians have occurred due to religious terrorism. While the intensity of the violence caused by terrorism of a non-religious nature can be rated as low or medium, that of religious terrorism has been high or very high. It has involved the indiscriminate use of sophisticated Improvised Explosive Devices, suicide bombers, the killing of civilians belonging to the majority community with small weapons and resorting to methods such as hijacking, hostage-taking, blowing up of aircraft through IEDs, etc.
All terrorist groups, religious as well as non-religious have resorted to kidnapping hostages for ransom and for achieving other demands. The non-religious terrorist groups have targeted only Indians, whereas the religious terrorist groups target Indians as well as foreigners. The Khalistan Commando Force, a Sikh terrorist group, kidnapped a Romanian diplomat in New Delhi in 1991. The JKLF kidnapped some Israeli tourists in J & K in 1992. HUM, under the Name Al Faran, kidnapped five Western Tourists in 1995 and is believed to have killed four of them. An American managed to escape. Sheikh Omar, under trial for the Kidnap and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl in Karachi in January last year, had earlier kidnapped some Western tourist near Delhi. They were subsequently freed by the Police.
Non-religious terrorist groups in India have not carried out any act of terrorism outside India territory. Of the religious terrorist groups, a Sikh organisation blew up an Air India place off the Irish coast and unsuccessfully tried to blow up another plane in Tokyo the same day, plotted to kill then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi During his visit to the US in June 1985 (the plot was foiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation), attacked the Indian ambassador in Bucharet, Romania, in October, 1991 carried out a number of attacks on pro-government members of the Sikh Diaspora abroad. The JKLF kidnapped and killed an Indian diplomat in Birmingham, England, in 1984. In the 1970s, the Anand Marg had indulged in acts of terrorism in foreign countries.
The Sikh and the indigenous Kashmiri groups projected their objectives as confined to their respective State, but the Pakistani pan-Islamic terrorist groups project their aim as extending to the whole of South Asia – namely the ‘liberation’ of Muslims in India and the ultimate formation of an Islamic Caliphate consisting of the ‘Muslim homelands’ of India and Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The Sikh terrorist groups demanded an independent nation of the ground that Sikhs constituted a separate community and could not progress as fast as they wanted to in a Hindu-dominated country. They did not deride Hinduism and other non-Sikh religious. Nor did they call for the eradication of Hindu influences from their religion. The indigenous Kashmiri organizations, too, follow a manlier policy. But the Pakistani pan-Islamic Jihadi organizations ridicule and condemn Hinduism and other religious and call for the eradication of what they describe as the corrupting influence of Hinduism on Islam as practiced in South Asia.
Religious as well as non-religious terrorist groups have external links with like-minded terrorist groups in the other countries. The link between the Marxist groups of India with Maoist groups of Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh; the link between the indigenous Kashmiri organizations with the religious, fundamentalist and jihadi organizations of Pakistan; the link between organizations such as the Students Islamic Movement of India with jihadi elements in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia; and the link between the Pakistani pan-Islamic jihadi organizations operating in India with Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are well know.
Religious as well as non-religious terrorist groups draw moral support ad material sustenance from the overseas Diaspora. The Khalistan movement was initially born in the overseas Sikh community in the UK and Canada and spread to Punjab in India. The Indigenous Kashmiri organizations get material assistance from the large number of migrants from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, called the Mirpuris, who have settled in Western Countries. The Marxist group get support from the Marxist elements in the overseas Indian community.
The terrorism in India is mainly nurtured by external agencies especially Pakistan, in the bordering States of Kashmir and Punjab. In North-Eastern States, ULFA and NSCN are also indulged in terrorist activities. Pakistan has been the main source of arms, ammunition and training for religious terrorist groups operated in the Punjab in the past and operating presently in J&K and other parts of India. The training is given by the ISI, either directly or through religious fundamentalist and pan-Islamic jihadi organizations, in various makeshift camps located in PoK, the Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan) and the North-West Frontier Province.
Under US pressure, President Musharraf has banned the activities of LET, JEM and LEJ in sindhi, Punjab, the NWFP and Baluchistan, but not in PoK, the Northern Areas and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas. The activities of HUM and HUJI which are closest to Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment, have not been banned anywhere.
In a recent judgment against some Pakistani doctors accused of providing sanctuaries and medical assistance to Al-Qaeda members, the Pakistani Supreme Court pointed out that the Pakistan government has not, till now, declared Al-Qaeda-a terrorist organization and banned its activities in Pakistan as required under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
Between 1989 and 1993, terrorism in J&K was mainly due to the activities of indigenous Kashmiri organizations. Since 1999, the Pakistani jihadi organizations have taken over the leadership of the anit India movement and have been operating in India territory under the guise of Kashmir’s. Out of the 46 suicide terrorist attacks reported since 1999, 44 have been made by Pakistanis belonging o these jihadi organization. The principal leaders of these organizations are Pakistani Punjabis and the majority of their cadres are Pakistani nationals. These Pakistani jihadi organizations project J&K as the gateway to India and say that after ‘liberating’ J&K from the control of the Hindus, they will ‘liberate’ the Muslims in other parts of India and set upto more independent ‘homelands’ for Muslims – one in north India and the other in South India. As part of this long-term aim, they have been setting up clandestine cells in other parts of India and have launched some major operations such as the attack inside the Red Fort in New Delhi in January 2001, the attack on the Indian parliament in December, 2001, and the attack on Hindu worshipper in Akshar Dham Temple in Gandhinagar, Gujarat in September 2002.
There have been a number of terrorist incidents in other parts of India such as the attack on the security guards outside the US consulate in Kolkata in January 2002, the four explosions in Mumbai in 2002-03, the latest on March 13, 2003, killed 12 innocent train passengers and the explosion in a Hindu religious place in Hyderabad last year.
Till now, Al-Qaeda’s Arab members have not operated in India territory, Some Arabs were arrested in J&K during counter-terrorism operations, but they were member of Pakistani pan0Islamic jihadi organizations and not of Al-Qaeda. However, HUM, HUJI, LET and JEM, the Pakistani jihadi organizations which are members of Bin Laden’s IIF along with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, have been responsible for most of the religious terrorist incidents in J&K and other places in India.
India has more than 140 million Muslims, the second largest Muslim community in the world after Indonesia. Only a very small section of the community has taken to terrorism due to various grievances and instigation by the ISI and Pakistan’s religious, fundamentalist and jihadi organizations.
The overwhelming majority of Indian Muslims are loyal, law-abiding citizens. They have not allowed their anger against the Indian government or the Hindus for any reason to drive them into the arms of terrorist organization. India has the most modern, peaceful and forward-looking Muslim community in the world. It is important to note that when the US started its air strikers on Al-Qaeda and the Taliban training camps in Afghan territory on October 7, 2001, there were demonstration in India. Even after the Us-led coalition started its war on terrorism in Afghanistan, hundreds of Muslims from many countries went to Pakistan and Afghanistan to join the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in their fight against the coalition troops. There were no Indian Muslims among them.
These factors show that Bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda have had little impact on the Muslim community in India. The Indian Muslims, including the aggrieved sections of the Kashmiris, have kept away from them. The government of India believes that a genuine and well-functioning democracy, good governance, responsiveness to public grievances, effective policies and economic development are the best antidotes to terrorism. India has not allowed the intimidator violence of terrorism to come in the way of the electoral process. In 1990s, elections were held in Punjab at the height of terrorist violence. Elections were held in J&K in September last year despite instructions from the ISI to the Pakistani jihadis to disrupt the process. Foreign diplomatic missions in New Delhi wre encouraged to send their observers to the State to satisfy them that the elections were free and fair. All of them have certified this. Elections to the Nagaland assembly were held recently. The government has not allowed terrorist to disrupt the economic development of the affected areas. Even at the height of terrorism, Punjab continued to be the granary of India, producing a record wheat crop year after year. In J&K, the fall in revenue due to decline in foreign tourist’s arrival is being sought by encouraging greater domestic tourism. In 1990s, when terrorists prevented the holding of examinations in Srinagar, the government flew the students to Jammu at its cost to take the examination.
The government has announced many packages for the economic development of the affected areas and trying to implement them despite the terrorist violence. The government has refused any king of concessions to terrorists resorting to intimidation tactics such as hijacking, hostage-taking, etc. The government has refused to hold talks with terrorists until they give up violence, but began to search for a political solution through talks once the terrorists give up violence.
The government is maintaining an open mind to suggestions coming from all sections of J&K for improving the political and administrative set-up. It has recently appointed former home secretary N.N. Vohra to enter into a dialogue with all the elected representatives of the State on their demand for greater autonomy.
India has been the victim of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism since 1950s. in those years, Pakistan’s ISI had supported the insurgent/ terrorist groups in India’s northeast region and provided them sanctuaries, training, arms and ammunition in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of the then East Pakistan. India’s anisette stop this, played an important role in its assistance to the people of East Pakistan to liberate themselves. Since 1980, the ISI has been providing sanctuaries, training, arms and ammunition in Pakistan to religious terrorist groups operating in Punjab, J&K and other parts of India. It is also infiltrating the mercenaries of the Pakistani pan-Islamic jihadi organizations into India of promote cross-border terrorism. India has taken up this issue with the US since 1992 and wants Pakistan declared a State sponsor of international terrorism under US laws and his punitive action taken against it. In 1993, the Clinton administration placed Pakistan on a watch list of suspected State sponsors of international terrorism for six months and forced Nawaz Sharif who was then in power to sack Lieutenant General Javed Nasir, then ISI’s director-general, and other senior officers. This did not have any effect on the use of terrorism by the ISI. Since Nov. 9, 1993, Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment has been collaborating with the US in taking action against Al-Qaeda elements posing threat to US nationals and interests. But it has not taken any action against cross-border terrorism directed against India and to destroy terrorist infrastructure in PoK and the Northern Areas.
After the attack by LET and JEM on the Indian Parliament in December 2001, India mobilized and deployed its Army on the border in response to public pressure for action against the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory. In response to appeals from the Us, UK and other friendly governments, India refrained from action against Pakistan. Under US pressure, Pakistan banned LET and JEM, but not HUJI and HUM and arrested some of their leaders and cadres. They have since been released.
US officials themselves admit Pakistan has not implemented its assurances that it would gut a stop to cross-border terrorism J&K. despite this, the US is reluctant to act against Pakistan because of its cooperation in assisting the US in neutralizing Al-Qaeda elements who have taken shelter in Pakistan.
India has made it clear that there will be no question of any talks with Pakistan on the moralization of bilateral relations till it stops cross-border terrorism, winds up the terrorist infrastructure in its territory and gives up the used of terrorism as a weapon against India. India has also been greatly concerned over the use of Bangladesh territory by religious and non-religious terrorists operating against India. The non- terrorist organizations, HUJI has an active branch in Bangladesh. Some Al-Qaeda elements who escaped into Pakistan from Afghanistan have found their way into Bangladesh where they have been given shelter by HUJI. There is active complicity between the ISI and its counterpart in Dhaka in this matter. The Bangladesh authorities have not been co-operating with India in taking effective action against the large-scale illegal immigration into India. However, keeping in view the otherwise good relations with Bangladesh, India has been trying to have these problems sorted out bilaterally at the political and diplomatic levels. But the progress so far has been disappointing.
Global war against Terrorism:
The much talked about ‘Global war against Terrorism” is one of the cruelest jokes of present time. It is ironical that Pakistan, the epicenter of Global Terrorism, is the greatest ally of USA, fighting Global Terrorism. India has regularly been drawing attention of the US and other countries to the atrocities committed by the terrorists, trained and funded by Pakistan but of no avail. Rightly said by some ‘only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches’ USA realized the danger of terrorism only when terrorists struck at its hear on 11th Sept. 2001 when twin towers of ‘World Trade Centre’ New York were reduced to debris by suicide squads of terrorists. USA that boasted of its Super Power status, Military might and Intelligence suddenly forced to release its vulnerability. USA feared that its fortress was also not impregnable and therefore, wanted to eliminate the kingpin, the notorious dreaded Qsamabin Laden and its Al-Qaeda. But President Bush couldn’t identify the God-father of all the mischief in the terrorist world, Gen. Pervez Mushrraf, instead joined hand with Mr. Musharraf to fight the terrorism globally. The removal of Osamabin Laden from Afghanistan has not eliminated the threat of terrorists attack on USA. The American people even today are living under the long shadow of fear. The Military might and world’s most powerful intelligence agency CIA could no longer eliminate the fear from the general American’s mind. The tape of Osama bin Laden released by Al-Zazira in Sept. 2003 has again threatened the USA Government of his determination to teach a lesson to the US Government.
Every person entering USA is being frisked by the authorities thoroughly. There have been thousand of instances when passengers are down loaded on strength of suspicion. Once bitten, twice shy, they don’t want to leave anything to chance. But is that all cover the insecurity prevailed among the minds of Americans? The US ambassador to India has time and again asserted that Global Terrorism will not end until the problem of Trans border Terrorism across India’s borders is tackled. The crux of the story is that the USA is having double standard in dealing with terrorism and formulating its foreign policy to suit its interest. In the name of destruction of WMD (Weapons of Mass destructions), US destroyed the Iraq, ousted the Saddam and till date, not even a trace of Biological, Chemical or Nuclear weapons has found. Indian government again and again drew the attention of US’ appeasement policy towards Pakistan. Appeasement of devilish elements can result in more unforeseen catastrophe.
India has to fight its own with the terrorism being funded and encouraged by the neighboring countries. How can we expect that USA or Britain will feel the pinch of Terrorists attack in India? To look for support from either of them would be a folly. Just like any other country, we have to empower ourselves, we have to tackle our problems in our own ways. Terrorism has to be dealt firmly with determined efforts and indomitable political will with the full and all out support of all political parties and every citizen.