CAN YOU PASS THE TERRORISM QUIZ?
By Jeffrey Rudolph (August 2010; last update April 2018)
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:
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, “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, “Gerges 2006.”)
“[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 quote is from 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…” (Note that no al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda offshoots existed in Iraq before the 2003 US invasion.) http://www.stwr.org/united-states-of-america/the-iraq-effect-war-has-increased-terrorism-sevenfold-worldwide.html
-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, “Hastings 2012.”)
-“Whereas on 9/11 al-Qaeda had around 400 members, [in 2017] it has thousands upon thousands, in franchises and affiliates spread from the shores of the Pacific to Africa’s Atlantic seaboard—and that is without even counting the breakaway armed group that calls itself the Islamic State….It is striking to note that, in October 2015, more than fourteen years after the 9/11 attacks, US forces disrupted what is believed to be the largest al-Qaeda training camp ever—all thirty square miles of it—right in the organization’s historic heartland of Afghanistan.” (Ali Soufan, Anatomy Of Terror: From The Death Of Bin Laden To The Rise Of The Islamic State, W. W. Norton & Company, New York: 2017, xvi.)
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 “Barker 2008.”)
In 2004 several senior US military officers watched The Battle of Algiers. “The film contained repulsive scenes of French forces torturing insurgent suspects, but it showed that brutality could destroy an uprising, even if the long-term goal of control and stability might be futile. As they talked [about the film after it ended], there were some JSOC operators who remained focused on the core mission, Al Qaeda: ‘We’re going to get Bin Laden and hang him up by the balls,’…But others, particularly the younger noncommissioned officers, picked up on the idea that there had to be more to success in this age of saturated media and global human rights consciousness than just capture and kill.” (Steve Coll, Directorate S: The CIA And America’s Secret Wars In Afghanistan And Pakistan, Penguin Press, New York: 2018, 206. Hereinafter, “Coll 2018.”)
“French officers were the first to identify counterinsurgency as a separate category of warfare. After 1840, to suppress the Algerian leader Abd al-Kadir, who, like [the former Taliban leader] Mullah Mohammad Omar, called himself the Commander of the Faithful, French forces…burned crops, orchards, and villages. They incinerated civilians who hid from them in caves. These horrors provoked opposition at home, and so gradually the military repackaged ‘counterinsurgency as a civilizing mission,’…This included an assumption of Arab racial inferiority. Phrases like ‘hearts and minds’ first arose in public discourse in the 1890s.” (In the 1960s, American “national security intellectuals argued that as the United States fought for free societies in the face of Soviet communism, it had ‘an obligation to protect emerging states as they evolve to become functional capitalist economies,’…That doctrine influenced America’s fateful decision to accept France’s legacy in Vietnam.”) (Coll 2018, 203)
-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 US 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 US later blocked enforcement of the judgment by the United Nations Security Council and thereby prevented Nicaragua from obtaining any actual compensation.”
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 1979, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) produced the only successful revolution in Latin America after Castro’s in Cuba. With its mix of workers, peasants, and artisans, of Marxists, Leninists, and Catholics from the base communities, the Sandinista Front fit precisely the recipe for revolution envisioned in Liberation Theology: it was popular, democratic, and anti-imperialistic.” (Kenneth L. Woodward, Getting Religion: Faith, Culture, and Politics from the Age of Eisenhower to the Era of Obama, Convergent Books, New York: 2016, 210. Hereinafter, “Woodward 2016.”)
However, as an independent, socialist Nicaragua posed an ideological threat–a “bad” example–to American hegemony in the region, President Reagan assaulted the country “by a combination of economic strangulation and not-so-covert military action: several thousand ‘Contras’–most of them former members of Somoza’s National Guard–armed…by the CIA, were staging a counterrevolution…” (“The Reagan administration’s destabilization strategy worked”–as a “coalition of opposition leaders backed by the United States” won elections in 1990–“but it cost the lives of thirty thousand Sandinista and Contra fighters.”) (Woodward 2016, 211, 222)
-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
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 terrorists 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, “Pollack 2008.”)
-“[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, “Hafez 2007.”)
-“A secret [December 2012] FBI study found that anger over US military operations abroad was the most commonly cited motivation for individuals involved in cases of ‘homegrown’ terrorism. The report also identified no coherent pattern to ‘radicalization,’ concluding that it remained near impossible to predict future violent acts….The [report] reinforced the FBI’s conclusion that [homegrown terrorists] ‘frequently believe the US military is committing atrocities in Muslim countries, thereby justifying their violent aspirations.’”
“Online relationships and exposure to English-language militant propaganda and ‘ideologues’ like Anwar al-Awlaki are also cited as ‘key factors’ driving extremism. But grievances over US military action ranked far above any other factor, turning up in 18 percent of all cases, with additional cases citing a ‘perceived war against Islam,’ ‘perceived discrimination,’ or other more specific incidents. The report notes that between 2009 and 2012, 10 out of 16 attempted or successful terrorist attacks in the United States targeted military facilities or personnel.”
“[According to the study] ‘Numerous individuals, activities, or experiences can contribute to an extremist’s radicalization…It can be difficult, if not impossible, to predict for any given individual what factor or combination of factors will prompt that individual’s radicalization or mobilization to violence.”
“The study echoes previous findings…which concluded that ‘a broadening US military presence overseas’ was a motivating factor for a rise in plotted attacks, specifically the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan….‘People read news reports about atrocities and become angry,’…[The perception is of] an attack on one’s own in-group, religion, or cultural heritage. ‘It doesn’t have to be information from a jihadist website that angers someone, it could be a New York Times report about a drone strike that kills a bunch of civilians in Afghanistan.’”
“Perpetrators of more recent attacks have latched onto US foreign policy to justify violence. The journals of Ahmad Rahami, accused of bombings in Manhattan and New Jersey [in September 2016], cited wars in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. [O]mar Mateen, who killed 49 people in an Orlando nightclub [in 2016], claimed he acted in retaliation for a US airstrike on an ISIS fighter. Tamerlan Tsarnaev told investigators that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated his and his brother’s attack on the Boston Marathon.”
“In many of these cases, pundits and politicians focus on the role of religion, something Marc Sageman, a former CIA officer and author of ‘Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Century,’ describes as a ‘red herring,’ citing a history of shifting ideologies used to justify terrorist acts.”
“The US government has announced plans to spend millions of dollars on ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ initiatives, which are supposed to involve community members in spotting and stopping would-be extremists. These initiatives have been criticized as discriminatory, because they have focused almost exclusively on Muslim communities while ignoring political motivations behind radicalization. ‘Politicians try very hard not to talk about foreign policy or military action being a major contributor to homegrown terrorism,’… Sageman says that the shortcomings of CVE models reflect a misapprehension of what drives political violence. ‘Terrorism is very much a product of individuals identifying themselves with a group that appears to be the target of aggression and reacting violently to that… Continued US military action will inevitably drive terrorist activities in this country, because some local people here will identify themselves with the victims of those actions abroad.’” https://theintercept.com/2016/10/11/us-military-operations-are-biggest-motivation-for-homegrown-terrorists-fbi-study-finds/
-Cynthia Mahmood, a scholar who studies militants, says that “they are more ‘regular’ human beings than we would like to admit, and that we purposefully isolate and exoticize them because we don’t want to think they are anything like us [nor that] we are [likewise] capable of terrible behavior… In fact, we know that the suicide bombers in Paris were French or Belgian citizens; they were people’s neighbors and schoolmates.”
“[W]e need to recognize that part of the reason that militants do what they do is because of the asymmetrical power structure that differentiates us from them. We are powerful, they are not….We need to ask the question, what brought them to the point where they think that they are so powerless that they need to amplify their voice through atrocious acts, like beheadings, to get attention? It’s an extreme alienation…They have a way to get our attention and inspire fear in us.”
“[W]e have to play the long game, and [accept] that a solution will only come when we engage the Muslim community in a positive way….By shedding the concept of ‘terrorism,’ and looking at the driving forces behind specific militant acts, we can get at root causes and address them.” http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/homeland-security/266230-the-end-of-terrorism (18 Jan. 2016)
-That the bulk of terrorists are normal is not to deny that there are many terrorists — particularly “lone-wolf terrorists” — who are mentally unstable. And, “such lone-wolf, disconnected loser-figures have become, by a wide margin, the most prevalent and frequent agents of public violence in the Western world today.” “There is a long history of mentally disturbed people – notably those with conditions such as schizophrenia – seeking out narratives to give shape and meaning to the dark impulses that pollute their minds. They occasionally invent such narratives themselves, but are more likely to reach out for a pre-existing one. A century ago it was anarchism that attracted disturbed, violent people; then ultra-nationalism; then Marxism; then right-wing anti-government notions; then Islamism – and today we’re just as likely to see any of these manifesting themselves.” http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/lone-wolf-ideology-or-pathology/article21293910/ (26 Oct. 2014)
“Killing a lot of people [offers lone-wolf ‘losers’, who are often consumed with resentment and fantasize about revenge and recognition,] the chance to be a somebody…and going out in a blaze of glory…The promise of paradise, and an ideology that rationalizes how the massacre serves a greater good, makes the posthumous fame all the more inviting.” (Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case For Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, Viking, New York: 2018, 196. Hereinafter, “Pinker 2018.”)
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 2007, 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, 15/16 June 2013, 7)
“[I]n the later decades of the twentieth century, Iraqis had come to share a common national identity and a uniquely Iraqi sense of patriotism, one that had been made stronger by an eight-year war against Iran’s Shiite-led theocracy [in the 1980s]. Before Saddam Hussein’s overthrow, Sunnis and Shiites mingled easily in Iraqi schools and universities and often lived side by side in mixed neighborhoods. Now, thanks in large measure to [the violence unleashed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi], the country was segregating itself into armed enclaves. Soon the nights belonged to Shiite and Sunni gangs who carried out reprisal killings…” (Joby Warrick, Black Flags: The Rise Of ISIS, Doubleday, New York: 2015, 135. Hereinafter, “Warrick 2015.”)
“Even in 2012, after years of sectarian attacks and a Shia-led government that was itself widely criticized for being divisive, only 14 percent of Iraqi Sunnis said that Shias were not Muslims, compared with 43 percent in Jordan and 53 percent in Egypt….Few Iraqis wanted to attack people who for centuries had been their neighbors–let alone their friends, wives, fathers and mothers.” (Soufan 2017, 139)
-According to Robert Pape, founder of the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism which has studied every suicide attack since 1980, “What 95 percent of all suicide attacks have in common…is not religion, but a specific strategic motivation to respond to a military intervention, often specifically a military occupation, of territory that the terrorists view as their homeland or prize greatly. From Lebanon and the [Occupied Palestinian Territory] in the 80s and 90s, to Iraq and Afghanistan, and up through the Paris suicide attacks [in November 2015], military intervention—and specifically when the military intervention is occupying territory—that’s what prompts suicide terrorism more than anything else.”
ISIS, which “emerged from the insurgency against the US occupation of Iraq just as the Al Qaeda network traces its origins to the Afghan resistance to the Soviet occupation in the 1980s,” is “a group whose outward expressions of religious fervor serve its secular objectives of controlling resources and territory. Virtually all of the group’s leaders were once high-ranking officers in Iraq’s secular military.” http://www.thenation.com/article/heres-what-a-man-who-studied-every-suicide-attack-in-the-world-says-about-isiss-motives/ (2 Dec. 2015)
“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. However, “There are about 5000 US troops in Iraq [in October 2016], mainly conducting advisory and training missions.” (On 20 Oct. 2016, a “US service member died…from wounds sustained in an improvised explosive device blast in northern Iraq…American advisers are with Iraqi forces in the battle for Mosul, the largest offensive yet against the Islamic State in Iraq.”)
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 2008, 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 US 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: US Vice Admiral, then-director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. (Gerges 2006, 267)
-“There’s a reason the US and NATO countries are the targets of [Islamist-based terrorism] but South Korea, Brazil, and Mexico are not. Terrorists don’t place pieces of paper with the names of the world’s countries in a hat and then randomly pick one out and attack that one. Only pure self-delusion could lead one to assert that Spain’s and the UK’s participation in the 2003 invasion of Iraq played no causal role in the 2004 train bombing in Madrid and 2005 bombing in London. Even British intelligence officials acknowledge that link. Gen. David Petraeus frequently described how US policies — such as Guantanamo and torture — were key factors in how Muslims become radicalized against the US. [In the words of] Tony Blair’s former deputy prime minister, John Prescott[:] ‘I’ll tell you how [young Muslims] are radicalized. Every time they watch the television where their families are worried, their kids are being killed or murdered and rockets, you know, firing on all these people, that’s what radicalizes them.’”
“Obviously, none of this is to say that Western interference in that part of the world is the only cause of anti-Western ‘terrorism,’ nor is it to say that it’s the principal cause in every case, nor is it to deny that religious extremism plays some role. Most people need some type of fervor to be willing to risk their lives and kill other people: It can be nationalism, xenophobia, societal pressures, hatred of religion, or religious convictions. But typically, such dogmatic fervor is necessary but not sufficient to commit such violence; one still needs a cause for the targets one selects.”
“When asked by a friend about the prospect of ‘peaceful protest’ against US violence and interference in Muslim countries, [Faisal] Shahzad, the would-be [May 2010] Times Square bomber, replied: ‘Can you tell me a way to save the oppressed? And a way to fight back when rockets are fired at us and Muslim blood flows?’ One can…object to the validity of that reasoning. But one cannot deny that the decision to engage in this violence is the reasoning process in action.” https://theintercept.com/2016/01/06/the-deceptive-debate-over-what-causes-terrorism-against-the-west/
-Militant groups use terrorism for various objectives such as “to call attention to their cause, to extort a government to change its policies, to provoke it into an extreme response that might recruit new sympathizers or create a zone of chaos for them to exploit, or to undermine the government by spreading the impression that it cannot protect its own citizens. Before we conclude that they ‘pose a threat to the existence or survival of the United States,’ we should bear in mind how weak the tactic actually is. [T]errorism is the opposite of military action, which tries to damage the enemy’s ability to retaliate and prevail….From their position of weakness…what terrorists seek to accomplish is not damage but theater….[In fact,] their small-scale violence almost never gets them what they want.”
“Indeed, the rise of terrorism in public awareness is not a sign of how dangerous the world has become but the opposite….It is not only interstate war that has become rare; so has the use of political violence in the domestic arena….The most damaging effect of terrorism is countries’ overreaction to it, the case in point being the American-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq following 9/11.”
Countries should address terrorism by: (1) “securing weapons of mass destruction” to make sure casualties remain low; (2) countering ideologies “that justify violence against innocents, such as militant religions, nationalism, and Marxism,…with better systems of value and belief”; (3) encouraging the media to calibrate their coverage of terrorism so as to not feed “the perverse incentives they have set up”; (4) improving governments’ “intelligence and clandestine actions against networks of terrorism and their financial tributaries”; and (5) encouraging “people…to keep calm and carry on…”
“Over the long run, terrorist movements sputter out as their small-scale violence fails to achieve their strategic goals…It happened to the anarchist movements at the turn of the 20th century (after many bombings and assassinations), it happened to the Marxist and secessionist groups in the second half of the 20th century…” (Pinker 2018, 196-8)
8. Who stated the following in cleared congressional testimony in March 2009? “Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontation. The conflict foments anti-American sentiments due to a perception of US favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of US partnerships with the governments and peoples in the AOR [area of responsibility] and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.”
-David Petraeus, then-US Army general and former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, made the above statement. And General James Mattis, current Secretary of Defense and former head of Central Command after Petraeus, echoed the latter in 2013: “We have got to find a way to make the two-state-solution [a reality]. And the chances for it…are starting to ebb because the settlements and where they’re at are going to make it impossible…And I paid a military-security price every day as the commander of CENTCOM because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel, and…all the moderate Arabs who want to be with us…can’t come out publicly in support of people who don’t show respect for the…Palestinians.” (Dennis Ross, Doomed To Succeed: The US-Israel Relationship From Truman To Obama, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York: 2015, 348, 363-4. Hereinafter, “Ross 2015.”)
Accordingly, it should come as no surprise that “Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks…, told interrogators that he was motivated to attack the United States in large part because of Washington’s leading role in assisting Israel’s repeated invasions of Lebanon and the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians.” http://www.tomdispatch.com/dialogs/print/?id=175804 (9 Feb. 2014)
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…” http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/08/29/no-american-arms-for-lebanon-until-civil-rights-for-palestinians/
-A report by the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel appointed in 2006 by the US Congress, “urged an aggressive US push for Arab-Israeli peace and, controversially, claimed that Israel’s 2006 bombing of Lebanon had increased hostility to US troops in Iraq.” (Peter Beinart, The Crisis of Zionism, Times Books, New York: 2012, 129. Hereinafter, “Beinart 2012.”)
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.)
Thus, it is only to be expected that Israeli officials will dismiss any US efforts, however timid, to reach a just settlement to the conflict. Israeli ministers know “that Washington will wield no stick and that bushels of carrots are in the offing, whether Israel rolls back or redoubles its land seizures and colonization efforts. President Obama has boasted that the US has never given so much military aid to Israel as under his presidency.” http://www.tomdispatch.com/dialogs/print/?id=175804 (9 Feb. 2014)
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.”
Moshe Dayan, Israel’s Chief of General Staff in 1956, understood the power of revenge when he delivered the following funeral obsequy for the killing of a kibbutz security officer, Ro’i Rothberg, by Gazans: “What can we say against their terrible hatred of us? For eight years now, they have sat in the refugee camps of Gaza, and have watched how, before their very eyes, we have turned their lands and villages, where they and their forefathers dwelled, into our home. It is not among the Arabs in Gaza, but in our own midst that we must seek Ro’i’s blood.” (J.P. Filiu, Gaza: A History, Oxford University Press, 2014, 92.)
-Israel understands revenge. An Israeli army commission, that thoroughly studied Israel’s practice of demolishing the homes of Palestinian terrorists, concluded that “There is no proof of the deterrent effect of house demolitions….‘If anything, the study found that the demolitions inflame the public and probably generate more attacks…If the [home demolitions don’t] deter…then it all boils down to revenge…It’s just a penalty imposed on the entire community.’” (Israel’s policy of home demolitions “has regularly been condemned by human rights organizations” as collective punishment – a war crime.) http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/12/01/demolition_derby_israel_lone_wolf_attacks_home_demolitions
“Human rights groups have criticised [Israel’s] closing of…investigations [of suspected violations of international law during the 2014 ‘Protective Edge’ Gaza conflict]. [For example,] In June , inquiries were dropped against Neria Yeshurun, a brigade commander who had admitted to ordering the shelling of a medical clinic ‘to raise morale’, apparently in revenge after one of his officers was killed. Yeshurun was reprimanded instead.” (“Protective Edge is the first major offensive against the Palestinians over which The [International Criminal Court (ICC) in The] Hague has potential jurisdiction. In ratifying the Rome Statute [in 2015], the Palestinians gave the ICC authority from June 2014, a month before Israel’s attack on Gaza.”) http://www.jonathan-cook.net/2016-09-04/israel-trial-for-war-crimes/
-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
According to a 2014 report, “US drone strikes kill 28 unidentified people for every intended target. While the Obama administration has claimed its drone strikes are precise, the group Reprieve found that strikes targeting 41 people in Yemen and Pakistan have killed more than 1,000 other, unnamed people. In [failed] attempts to kill al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri alone, the CIA killed 76 children and 29 adults…” http://www.democracynow.org/2014/12/3/a_precise_us_drone_war_report
In December 2014, “the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks…published an internal CIA document which reveals the agency’s doubts about the effectiveness of [high-value assassinations]. The document, which is from 2009, describes both the positive and negative impacts of assassinating so-called high-value targets. It warns that such operations can ‘[increase] the level of insurgent support,’ ‘[strengthen] an armed group’s bond with the population,’ ‘[radicalize] an insurgent group’s remaining leaders.’ WikiLeaks notes, ‘After the report was prepared, US drone strike killings rose to an all-time high.’” http://www.democracynow.org/2014/12/19/headlines#12194
10. Who was the first American suicide bomber since the 1930s?
-Soon after the US-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in December 2006, “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 US 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
-In the Fall of 2006, “just months before a failed American-backed effort to crush Islamist ‘aggression,’…there was a rapidly shrinking sliver of an opportunity to bring peace to Somalia….An alliance of Islamist clerics had just seized Mogadishu. With grass-roots support, they had driven out a cadre of clan warlords who had been covertly supported by the CIA….Western diplomats started calling the Islamists the ‘African Taliban.'”
However, in Mogadishu boys and girls were in school, young couples could take walks, and men and women worked together. In contrast, “One of the first things the Taliban had done when they seized power in Afghanistan was to close girls’ schools, believing that half of humanity deserves to be shuttered in ignorance….[Somalia’s] peace was secured by young [well-armed, religious] men [called al-Shabaab]…They succeeded at something no one else had managed to accomplish, including 25,000 American soldiers sent to Somalia in the early 1990s…in a humanitarian operation that ended in ignominy.”
“In December , the Pentagon helped the army of Ethiopia, Somalia’s historic enemy, invade. That decision set off a chain reaction that continues to plague [the US]: The Islamists were pushed underground; the Shabaab became an insurgency, then a terrorist group; pirates hit the high seas; famines broke out across the land. The American government keeps getting sucked deeper in…”
The young religious men wanted Shariah. “What [Americans] often see as a nightmare, Shariah, traditional Islamic law, is another man’s dream. [Al-Shabaab] were true believers…, but at the same time, they were turning to Islam for a very logical reason. Somalia’s civil wars and chaos had been caused by clan rivalries; Islam was a way to unite a violently divided people.” (The New York Times, 14 May 2017, SR 7)
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 US-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 2006, 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 2008, 209)
-Even the “Hizbollah leadership distanced itself from September 11 and went public in its criticism of Al Qaeda.” (Gerges 2006, 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, “Krueger 2007.”)
-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 2008, 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 91 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.” (Beinart 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 2007, 154)
“Terror was not the only reason that the State of Israel finally came into being, but the Irgun campaign [led by future prime minister Menachem Begin] was a critical factor in driving the British out of Palestine. Begin was the first terrorist to grasp the value of publicity in promoting his cause to an international audience. The transformation of terrorism from a primarily local phenomenon into a global one came about in large part because of the success of his tactics. He pioneered techniques that would become basic terrorist strategy, such as simultaneous bombings and the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). He proved that, under the right circumstances, terror works. Many years later, American forces would find a copy of Begin’s memoir The Revolt in the library of an al-Qaeda training camp. Osama bin Laden read Begin in an attempt to understand how a terrorist transformed himself into a statesman.” “Begin’s brilliant improvisations created a terrorist playbook that would be followed by groups around the world—including Palestinian organizations[,] [the Irish Republican Army, and the African National Congress]—that hoped to emulate his success.” (Lawrence Wright, Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David, Alfred A. Knopf, New York: 2014, 82, 77.)
-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.”
https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/israel/2012-08-18/rise-settler-terrorism (Beinart 2012, 22)
-“A  US State Department report says a myriad of Israeli policies — such as continued settlement building and aggressive military operations in the West Bank — are [partly responsible for] Palestinian terrorism [as they create a ‘lack of hope’], while the Palestinian Authority is making substantial efforts to halt such violence.”
http://www.timesofisrael.com/state-department-says-settlements-lack-of-hope-drive-palestinian-violence/ (21 July 2017)
-According to Israeli historian and journalist Ronen Bergman, “since World War II, Israel has used assassination and targeted-killing more than any other country in the West, in many cases endangering the lives of civilians.” (In particular, following a Palestinian terrorist attack in northern Israel, an Israeli special operations group, between 1979 and 1983, “killed hundreds of people” who were members of, or connected to, the PLO.)
“No target thwarted, vexed and bedeviled the Israeli assassination apparatus more than Yasir Arafat…” The dominant belief among top intelligence officials was “that assassinating the PLO leader would solve the entire Palestinian problem…[as his killing] would unleash a large part of the internal conflicts inside the PLO and significantly hinder its capacity to make any strategic decisions… ‘Gradually,…awareness grew that Arafat was a political matter, and he must not be seen as a target for assassination.'”
While Bergman acknowledges the role of assassinations and targeted-killings to sometimes save Israeli lives, he also argues that they have enabled Israel to avoid engaging in needed political compromises. (The New York Times Magazine, 28 Jan. 2018, 35-39)
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. The same can be said for France and the Algerian National Liberation Front, Egypt and Israel, the US and the USSR, Britain and the IRA, South Africa and the ANC, Israel and the PLO, and many other cases.
-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 2012, 141, 142-3, 279, 374)
It’s worth remembering that “No Taliban or other Afghans participated in the September 11 attacks. The hijackers were Saudis and other Arabs. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the plot’s mastermind, was a Pakistani who had lived for many years in Kuwait and attended college in North Carolina. It is not clear whether [Taliban leader] Mullah Mohammad Omar knew of the conspiracy in advance….Still, under the emerging Bush Doctrine, Omar’s refusal to cooperate in Bin Laden’s arrest condemned the Taliban to mass slaughter and indefinite imprisonment as enemy combatants.” (Omar argued “that Bin Laden had not been proven guilty: ‘Where is the evidence?’ And, ‘If there was a crime, we are not supporting the criminal,’ so there was no reason for the United States to target the Taliban.”) (Coll 2018, 68-9)
The US’s self-defeating policy of uncompromising war with the Taliban, because of their alliance with Al Qaeda, guaranteed great difficulty in normalizing Afghanistan. “Yet for the most part, by mid-2002, the Bush administration had stopped thinking seriously about Afghanistan”, wrongly believing the “Taliban had been defeated.” (“The Taliban did constitute a millenarian revolutionary movement with an uncompromising leader, although it was indigenous [–and legitimized by faith, ethnicity, and their fighting during the anti-Soviet war–] and had never attacked outside Afghanistan’s borders….[Nevertheless,] The Bush administration’s message to the [Taliban and their Pakistani supporters] was…: The Taliban could expect no future in Afghan politics unless they fought for it.”) (Coll 2018, 143-4)
-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.)
-“[T]he US has…developed an effective military relationship with the YPG [People’s Protection Units], the military wing of the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] in Syria, which has used US weapons and military advice to wrest several Syrian towns from ISIS control….The problem with this US-YPG alliance, apart from the fact that the YPG is a branch of an organization that is on the US terrorism list, is that the US commitment to these Kurdish fighters is wafer thin: it could well come to an end the moment the YPG achieves victory in Raqqa.” http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2017/04/13/syria-hidden-power-of-iran/
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. “Islamic Scripture is a constant. Over 1,000 years old, it is composed of the Koran and hadith, words and deeds attributed to the Prophet Muhammad by his followers. Muslims who want to justify violence can find plenty of passages to cite—collections of hadith run into the hundreds of volumes. Nevertheless, Muslim political behavior has varied greatly throughout history. Some Muslims have cited Scripture to justify violence, and some have cited it to justify peace. If Scripture is a constant but the behavior of its followers is not, then one should look elsewhere to explain why some Muslims engage in terrorism.” “Muslim countries ended slavery without reforming their religion, and they can do the same for many other behaviors endorsed by Scripture but out of step with modern norms and values.”
-“Muslim-majority countries score poorly on measures of health, education, freedom, happiness, and democracy, holding wealth constant….[E]mancipative values such as gender equality, personal autonomy, and political voice are less popular in the Islamic heartland than in any other region of the world…Human rights are abysmal in many Muslim countries, which implement cruel punishments (such as flogging, blinding, and amputation), not just for actual crimes but for homosexuality, witchcraft, apostasy, and expressing liberal opinions on social media.”
“How much of this lack of progress is the fallout of theistic morality? Certainly it cannot be attributed to Islam itself. Islamic civilization had a precocious scientific revolution, and for much of its history was more tolerant, cosmopolitan, and internally peaceful than the Christian West. Some of the regressive customs found in Muslim-majority countries, such as female genital mutilation and ‘honor killings’ of unchaste sisters and daughters, are ancient African or West Asian tribal practices and are misattributed by their perpetrators to Islamic law. Some of the problems are found in other resource-cursed strongman states. Still others were exacerbated by clumsy Western interventions in the Middle East, including the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, support of the anti-Soviet mujahedin in Afghanistan, and the invasion of Iraq.”
“But part of the resistance to the tide of progress can be attributed to religious belief. The problem begins with the fact that many of the precepts of Islamic doctrine, taken literally, are floridly antihumanistic. The Koran contains scores of passages that express hatred of infidels, the reality of martyrdom, and the sacredness of armed jihad….Like the other Abrahamic religions, Islam has its version of rabbinical pilpul and Jesuitical disputation that allegorizes, compartmentalizes, and spin-doctors the nasty bits of scripture. Islam also has its version of Cultural Jews [and] Cafeteria Catholics…The problem is that this benign hypocrisy is far less developed in the contemporary Islamic world.”
“Correlation is not causation, but if you combine the fact that much of Islamic doctrine is antihumanistic with the fact that many Muslims believe that Islamic doctrine is inerrant–and throw in the fact that the Muslims who carry out illiberal policies and violent acts say they are doing it because they are following those doctrines–then it becomes a stretch to say that the inhumane practices have nothing to do with religious doctrine and that the real cause is oil, colonialism, Islamophobia, Orientalism, or Zionism.” (Indeed, when variables like income and education are controlled for, “Islam itself predicts an extra dose of patriarchal and other illiberal values across countries and individuals.”)
“All these troubling patterns were once true of Christendom, but starting with the Enlightenment, the West initiated a process (still ongoing) of separating the church from the state, carving out a space for secular civil society, and grounding its institutions in a universal humanistic ethics. In most Muslim-majority countries, that process is barely under way.”
“Calling out the antihumanistic features of contemporary Islamic belief is in no way Islamophobic or civilization-clashing. The overwhelming majority of victims of Islamic violence and repression are other Muslims. Islam is not a race…Criticizing the ideas of Islam is no more bigoted than criticizing the ideas of neoliberalism…”
We know that the Islamic world can adopt Enlightenment ideals. Not only was classical Arabic civilization “a hot house of science and secular philosophy…[but today] Tunisia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia have made long strides toward liberal democracy.” (Pinker 2018, 439-442)
-“On November 9, 2014, the king [of Jordan, Abdullah,] took a seat next to Jordanian Chief Justice Iz al-Din al-Tamimi as the judge read a short declaration that Abdullah hoped would serve as the template for Muslim rejection of takfiri beliefs. ‘We denounce and condemn extremism, radicalism…’ …Months later, more than two hundred Islamic scholars – representing more than fifty countries, from Saudi Arabia and Egypt to Iran and Lebanon – gathered…to craft a more expansive statement that carried the same blanket rejection of religion-inspired violence. Over the following year, a total of five hundred Islamic scholars and seven international Islamic assemblies would formally endorse what came to be called ‘the Amman Message.’ ‘It is neither possible nor permissible to declare as apostates any group of Muslims who believes in God,’ the statement said. It was the first time scholars and religious leaders from across the Islamic world had come together to denounce takfiri ideology collectively, in a consensus statement, considered legally binding for observant Muslims.” (Warrick 2015, 173)
-In April 2018, “Thirty prominent French imams issued a strongly-worded condemnation of antisemitism and Islamist terrorism… [T]he imams described themselves as ‘indignant’ — both as French citizens and as faithful Muslims — ‘at the confiscation of our religion by criminals.'”
“‘We, the signatories of this appeal, would first like to express our compassion for all our fellow citizens who have been directly or indirectly affected by terrorism and by the antisemitic crimes that have blindly struck our country,’ the declaration began — referring to the rash of Islamist terrorist attacks in France over the last decade that have struck targets from a Jewish school to the country’s leading satirical magazine, as well as the violent hate crimes that have compelled thousands of Jews to move out of their homes in several major urban districts.”
“The group of thirty imams represent mosques and Islamic centers in Paris, Strasbourg, Lyon, Nice and other French cities. Significantly, five of the signatories serve as chaplains to thousands of Muslim inmates in the French prison system — historically, a fertile recruiting ground for radical Islamist groups.”
“The manifesto urged Muslim ‘religious authorities’ to follow the example of the Catholic Church by declaring antisemitic statements in the Quran to be ‘obsolescent’ — that is, discredited — ‘so that no believer can rely on a sacred text to commit a crime.'” (“[S]uccessive opinion surveys conducted over the last ten years had concurred that ‘antisemitism is significantly higher among Muslims than among non-Muslims.'”)
-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 2008, 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 2007, 10)
-According to Robert Pape, “religious fervor is not a motive [for suicide terrorism] unto itself. Rather, it serves as a tool for recruitment and a potent means of getting people to overcome their fear of death and natural aversion to killing innocents….[And, as] there have been ‘many hundreds of secular suicide attackers,’…radical theology alone [cannot] explain [all] terrorist attacks. From 1980 until about 2003, the ‘world leader’ in suicide attacks was the Tamil Tigers, a secular Marxist group of Hindu nationalists in Sri Lanka.”
“Pape’s analysis is consistent with what Lydia Wilson found when she interviewed captured ISIS fighters in Iraq. ‘They are woefully ignorant about Islam and have difficulty answering questions about Sharia law, militant jihad, and the caliphate…But a detailed, or even superficial, knowledge of Islam isn’t necessarily relevant to the ideal of fighting for an Islamic State, as we have seen from the  Amazon order of Islam for Dummies by one British fighter bound for ISIS.’” http://www.thenation.com/article/heres-what-a-man-who-studied-every-suicide-attack-in-the-world-says-about-isiss-motives/ (2 Dec. 2015)
-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 2006, 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.)
“‘[T]he Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and 74 percent of every single law enforcement agency in the United States all say that the greatest threat to Americans is right-wing extremism, right-wing terror…Right-wing terrorists have killed far, far more Americans since the attacks of 9/11 than Islamic terrorists have…You are more likely in this country to be shot by a toddler than you are to be killed by an Islamic terrorist…’” http://www.rawstory.com/2016/04/reza-aslan-anti-muslim-hysteria-hides-the-true-threat-of-homegrown-right-wing-terrorism/
Between 2008 and 2015 (i.e., beginning as Obama gained national prominence) “there were 201 total cases of domestic terrorism in the United States—almost three times the rate of the preceding eight years. The large majority of these crimes were committed by right-wing extremists—some 115 in all, compared to 63 cases of Islamist-inspired domestic terror, and 19 cases of left-wing extremist terrorism. Despite that disproportionate reality, the image most Americans gave when they think of terrorism is an act committed by someone wearing a turban. That is mostly a result of [9/11, and the US media’s focus on Islamists]…” (A May 2016 study found a meaningful correlation between Trump’s “many anti-Muslim statements” and a rise in “anti-Muslim hate crimes nationally in 2015”. As well, “Antisemitic incidents in the US surged 57% in 2017…Close to 2,000 cases of harassment, vandalism and physical assault were recorded, the highest number of antisemitic incidents since 1994…The rise comes amid a climate of rising incivility, the emboldening of hate groups and widening divisions in American society…”) (David Neiwert, Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in The Age of Trump, Verso, US: 2017, 13, 296.)
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
-In 2014 Belgian mayor, Hans Bonte, commissioned a study to determine, in part, why Islamic State was able to recruit young people from nearly every neighborhood of his small city of Vilvoorde. “Officials investigated the personal and family histories of all 28 young people who had joined Islamic State….Their profiles were essentially identical: disenchanted, poor Muslim youth who came from troubled homes and had had run-ins with the police. Most were not religious until Islamic State got hold of them.” (Montreal Gazette, 21 Feb. 2015, A21)
-When analyzing the 2016 horrific truck attack in Nice, France and similar attacks, “the reality is that while ISIS may influence these Muslims in a general way, their animus is coming from their position as unwanted immigrants in Europe, especially in France, where they are still not treated French, even if they are born there. The community as a whole has a disproportionate population of unemployed youth with poor education and housing and is constantly the butt of cultural humiliation. It is not an integrated community, barring some honorable exceptions….The pattern of [the] petty criminal [who is not religious in any way] may be observed in [many] terrorist attacks in Europe…”
Solutions to this terrorism problem, which are offered by knowledgeable analysts, include to “provide the Muslim community educational and employment opportunities, youth programs, and promote acceptance, diversity and understanding.”
“Merely to take one illustration of [societal dysfunction] to be faced, [consider that] ‘only 7 to 8 percent of France’s population is Muslim, whereas 60 to 70 percent of France’s prison population is Muslim.’ It’s also worth taking note of a recent National Research Council report, which found that ‘with respect to political context, terrorism and its supporting audiences appear to be fostered by policies of extreme political repression and discouraged by policies of incorporating both dissident and moderate groups responsibly into civil society and the political process.'” http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/37242-global-struggles-for-dominance-noam-chomsky-on-isis-nato-and-russia (17 August 2016)
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 US 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.
-“[I]t is wildly inaccurate to describe [Iran] as the source of jihadi terror. According to an analysis of the Global Terrorism Database by Leif Wenar of King’s College, more than 94 percent of deaths caused by Islamic terrorism since 2001 were perpetrated by ISIS, al-Qaeda and other Sunni jihadists. Iran is fighting those groups, not fueling them. Almost every terror attack in the West has had some connection to Saudi Arabia. Virtually none have been linked to Iran.” http://www.sunjournal.com/news/columns-analysis/2017/05/28/america-has-now-signed-saudi-arabia-foreign-policy/2137452
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 2007, 139)
In 2012, according to the US Department of State, 10 US citizens were killed as a result of terrorism; all of them were killed in Afghanistan. (“A majority of the world’s terrorist deaths take place in zones of civil war…”) (Pinker 2018, 193)
The number of deaths from terrorism in the US in 2014 and 2015 were 19 and 44, respectively. (The number of deaths in the US from motor vehicle accidents in 2015 was 35,398.) (Pinker 2018, 192)
-“[S]ince 9/11, more people have been killed by right-wing terrorists than by Muslim terrorists in the US. Including the [Dec. 2015] San Bernardino attack, 45 people have been killed by Muslim terrorists; yet right-wing terrorists have killed 48….Around 400,000 have been killed in gun crimes.” http://www.accuracy.org/release/trumps-islamophobia-is-tip-of-iceberg/ (15 Dec. 2015)
In 2017, “Americans were less likely to be killed by a Muslim extremist (one chance in 19 million) than by an extremist for being Muslim (one in three million).” (The New York Times, SR 11, 28 January 2018)
-From the “terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 [to now, Jan. 29, 2017], no one has been killed in the United States in a terrorist attack by anyone who emigrated from or whose parents emigrated from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, the seven countries targeted in [President Trump’s Jan. 27 travel ban].” (However, those seven countries have been bombed (over 25,000 times) or had their governments overthrown by the US and its allies.)
Trump’s executive order for the travel ban “excluded Saudi Arabia and Egypt, where the founders of Al Qaeda and many other jihadist groups have originated. Also excluded are Pakistan and Afghanistan, where persistent extremism and decades of war have produced militants who have occasionally reached the United States. Notably, perhaps, the list avoided Muslim countries where Mr. Trump has major business ventures.”
“[J]ihadist attacks garner news attention that far outstrips their prevalence in the United States, and the president’s order appears to address not a rational calculation of risks but the visceral fears that terrorists set out to inflame.” According to Prof. Charles Kurzman, “123 people have been killed in the United States by Muslim terrorists since the 2001 attacks—out of a total of more than 230,000 killings, by gang members, drug dealers, angry spouses, white supremacists…”
Many experts consider the executive order to be counterproductive, “not just domestically but also abroad, where the United States relies on allies, including Muslim countries, for intelligence and other help against terrorism. [The order could, for example,] ‘alienate the Iraqis [and] they are the ground force against ISIS.’ [And, as the] jihadist threat in the United States has turned out to be largely homegrown…and the order will encourage precisely the resentments and anxieties on the part of Muslims that fuel, in rare cases, support for the ideology of the Islamic State or Al Qaeda[,] [the order may prove dysfunctional at home]. ‘It sends an unmistakable message to the American Muslim community that they are facing discrimination and isolation,…[and this will] feed the jihadist narrative’ that the United States is at war with Islam, potentially encouraging a few more Muslims to plot violence.” (It should be noted that the travel ban was found to be illegal by the Ninth Circuit.) (The New York Times, 29 Jan. 2017, 1, 17)
-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.
“[I]rrational, evidence-free beliefs [are] so persistent…because evidence-based reasoning is not easy for many people. Consulting the contents of consciousness via introspection is easier than consulting the empirical evidence. Adopting evidence-based stances can be costly with regard to one’s position in one’s social group, where a premium may be placed on the maintenance of in-group cohesion, even when it is contrary to the available evidence. However, for public policy, we must…consult the evidence base, not our own personal prejudice base.” (“Anecdotes are not evidence and are not relevant to evidence-based discussions. The work of science over the centuries has been to devise standards of evidence and methods of collecting data that allow us to test our ideas, theories, and hypotheses about how the world works in a systematic and reliable way.”) (Shane O’Mara, Why Torture Doesn’t Work: The Neuroscience of Interrogation, Harvard University Press, US: 2015, 23, 24. Hereinafter, “O’Mara 2015.”)
“Though terrorism poses a minuscule danger compared with other risks, it creates outsize panic [as] that is what it is [often] designed to do. Modern terrorism is a by-product of the vast reach of the media. A group or an individual seeks a slice of the world’s attention by the one guaranteed means of attracting it: killing innocent people, especially in circumstances in which readers of the news can imagine themselves. News media gobble the bait and give the atrocities saturation coverage. The Availability heuristic kicks in and people become stricken with a fear that is unrelated to the level of danger. [And] Something is uniquely unsettling about the thought of a human being who wants to kill you, and for a good evolutionary reason. Accidental causes of death don’t try to do you in…” (“The nature of news is likely to distort people’s view of the world because of a mental bug…called the Availability heuristic: people estimate the probability of an event or the frequency of a kind of thing by the ease with which instances come to mind. In many walks of life this is a serviceable rule of thumb. Frequent events leave stronger memory traces, so stronger memories generally indicate more-frequent events…”) (Pinker 2018, 41, 195)
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, “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)
-In his 2013 “book, The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism, investigative journalist Trevor Aaronson analyzes 10 years of terrorism cases that were prosecuted in the United States after Sept. 11. By assembling a database of the cases and going through court records, he concluded that the FBI, which receives $3 billion per year for counterterrorism, is ‘the organization responsible for more terrorist plots over the last decade than any other.’ Rather than stopping actual terrorist attacks, like the Boston bombing, the FBI focuses significant resources on using informants and sting operations to entrap would-be Islamic terrorists who ‘never could have obtained the capability to carry out their planned violent acts were it not for the FBI’s assistance,’ he writes in his book.” http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/q-a-the-fbi-s-role-in-manufacturing-terrorism-1.1337748
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 2008, 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 2007, 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 2008, 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 2008, 85)
-“In the 1960s, the CIA developed a torture manual codenamed KUBARK that outlined various ‘coercive counterintelligence interrogation’ techniques including sensory deprivation, threats and fear, ‘inducing physical weakness,’ and, of course, pain. Although the manual details why inflicting pain is frequently counterproductive, many of the military regimes that drew on this manual ignored the caveats.”
“In 1964, [Brazil’s] democratically elected left-wing government was overthrown by a military coup. Both publicly and before Congress, US officials vehemently denied any role, but…documents and recordings subsequently emerged proving the US directly supported and helped plot critical aspects of that coup. The 21-year, right-wing, pro-US military dictatorship that ensued was brutal and tyrannical, specializing in torture techniques used against dissidents that were taught to the dictatorship by the US and UK. A comprehensive 2014 Truth Commission report documented that both countries ‘trained Brazilian interrogators in torture techniques.’”
“In 1983, KUBARK became the Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual, which US allies used, often with the direct assistance of the CIA. [According to] Laura Smith…: ‘The 1983 manual was discussed in Senate Intelligence Committee hearings in 1988 because of human rights atrocities committed by the CIA-trained Honduran military, Battallion 316, which the Center for Justice and Accountability called a ‘death squad.’ CIA operatives trained them ‘side by side’ with torturers from Argentina’s ‘Dirty War.’ Demonstrations were done on live prisoners. Battalion 316 would arrive in unmarked cars and whisk people away for violent interrogations. They disappeared 184 people whose bodies were never found, not to mention the many who were tortured and survived — many of whom were ‘peaceful leftists.'”
“So, after 2001, the CIA could draw on its own history and the experience of its own authoritarian allies to create black sites in various countries — Thailand, Poland, Romania, Morocco, Lithuania, Afghanistan, Bosnia — where it would send suspected terrorists, via ‘extraordinary rendition,’ to be tortured.”
-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 US intervention, didn’t inspire a human-rights crusade.”
Philip Agee, a CIA operative during the 1960s, “became so unwound by the torture of people he had turned in to the Uruguayan police that he became an agent–through Cuba–of the KGB. From exile in Germany, he later wrote a book [Inside the Company: CIA Diary] describing in brutal but accurate detail how the CIA maltreated suspects in its care. He also blew the cover on several covert agents around the world. They were immediately killed.” (Woodward 2016, 201)
-“With terrible irony, much of the erroneous information in [Secretary of State Colin] Powell’s [February 2003 UN] speech [–which helped build the case for war by alleging Iraqi possession of WMD–] was extracted using methods [on Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, at the behest of the CIA,] of the kind that would in time prove an even more potent recruiting sergeant for terrorism than the [2003 Iraq] war itself….Hoping to stop the torture and avoid transfer to an even less sympathetic intelligence service, al-Libi told his captors just what they wanted to hear: that Saddam Hussein had trained al-Qaeda in the use of chemical and biological weapons. But torture’s trail of destruction did not end with faulty intelligence. Harsh treatment of detainees in US custody, particularly when documented on film, fed directly into the terrorists’ own lie that the United States was waging war against Islam and would stop at nothing in its determination to humiliate Muslims. As the former general counsel of the US Navy, Alberto Mora, would tell the Senate Armed Services Committee in June 2008: ‘There are serving US flag-rank officers [that is, those ranked rear admiral and above] who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of US combat deaths in Iraq—as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat—are, respectively, the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.’” (Soufan 2017, 128-9)
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.”
-“In summer 2002, the George W. Bush administration developed a legal rationale for torture. On July 24, Attorney General John Ashcroft approved the use of ‘the attention grasp, walling, the facial hold, the facial slap (insult slap), cramped confinement, wall standing, stress positions, sleep deprivation, use of diapers, and use of insects.’ On July 26, he approved waterboarding. Once the CIA got this approval, the interrogators did the rest. But not everyone in the Agency went along. Most notably, CIA agent John Kiriakou…”
“There is only one US government employee who has gone to jail in connection with the widespread torture program by the CIA documented in the…Senate report that was partially released [in December 2014]: the man who helped expose it [in 2007]. John Kiriakou, who worked for the CIA between 1990 and 2004, stepped forward in 2007 and confirmed to press outlets some of the first details about the agency’s widespread use of torture….In 2013, Kiriakou…was prosecuted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act for allegedly revealing classified information to a reporter….His incarceration came after the Obama administration refused to prosecute any of the higher-up government officials who designed, authorized, or otherwise took part in implementation of the torture program….The Senate report…reveals that, as the Obama administration locked up Kiriakou, the CIA was actively spreading lies and misinformation about the agency’s vast torture program, including deliberate leaks and false narratives to the media.”
WikiLeaks “released a United States assessment that detainee mistreatment at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo was ‘the single most important motivating factor’ convincing foreign jihadists to wage war, and Gen. Stanley McChrystal said, ‘In my experience, we found that nearly every first-time jihadist claimed Abu Ghraib had first jolted him to actions.'” Nevertheless, President Trump has argued for the usage of torture. (The New York Times, 12 Feb. 2017, SR 7)
-“The empirical reality is this: the intelligence obtained through torture is so paltry, the signal-to-noise ratio so low, that proponents of torturing detainees are left with an indefensible case…, especially when considered against other, effective, noncoercive methods.” The theory relied upon by the proponents–a theory of the relationship between coercion, stress, and recall from memory–“fails in the intelligence outcomes sought but lost, the pathologies of psychological function it causes, the corruption of good investigative and humane interrogative practice it induces, the corrosion of institutions and democracies it causes, the lives it ruins. In short, torture, when analyzed in instrumentalist terms, fails as an interrogative methodology and fails for reasons that are grounded in what we know about what happens within the brain as the result of the imposition of the chronic, severe, and extreme stressor states used in torture.”
“That torture might be used for other purposes–for retribution or punishment, to instill [fear to maintain power], to generate predetermined intelligence to bolster particular political intentions, to secure confessions for legal convictions, or whatever–is” not the argument made by the proponents of torture. Nevertheless, throughout history, “The usual purpose of torture by state actors has not been the extraction of intentionally withheld information in the long-term memory systems of the…unwilling.”
“[While] [t]orture may be genuinely effective in getting people to do things they do not want to do,” it is erroneous to believe “this means torture may therefore be useful for extracting real information. Napoleon [Bonaparte correctly] knew otherwise: ‘The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know.'” (“[Senator] John McCain, who suffered torture while imprisoned in Vietnam,” is firmly against torture and has in fact echoed Napoleon’s arguments. McCain recognizes that while torture sometimes produces good intelligence, its costs are far too high.)
“Memory and language did not evolve for truth-telling or information recording purposes per se but rather to serve our social and survival needs. [Therefore,] we should expect memory to be relatively fluid and modifiable in the light of social demands and current circumstances.” (O’Mara 2015, 2-3, 6, 36-7, 39, 100-1)
Jeffrey Rudolph, a Montreal college professor, was the Quebec representative of the East Timor Alert Network and presented a paper on its behalf at the United Nations. He was awarded the prestigious Cheryl Rosa Teresa Doran Prize upon graduation from McGill University’s faculty of law; has worked at one of the world’s largest public accounting firms; and, has taught at McGill University. He has prepared widely-distributed quizzes on Israel-Palestine, Iran, Hamas, Terrorism, Saudi Arabia, US Inequality, the US Christian Right, Hezbollah, the Israeli Ultra-Orthodox, Qatar, and China. These quizzes are available at, https://detailedpoliticalquizzes.wordpress.com/
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