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Terrorism - Understanding the Incomprehensible

Written by: Ashok Nayak
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Since time immemorial, terrorist acts have included assassination, seizing hostages and a variety of atrocities that only fiendish minds could devise. Terrorists give innumerable, explanation for their violence. They declare that society is sick and cannot be cured by half measures of reform and that, as the state itself uses the violence, it can overcome only by violence. They also assert that the righteousness of their cause justifies any action they may take-contemporary terrorism involves a group of individuals who are from affluent industrialized society. They seek to destroy this society in the name of some revolutionary concept. Examples of such groups would include The Italian Red Brigade, German Border, The Indian Naxalite Movement, etc. another group of terrorists comprises those espousing more traditional political causes- The Unification of Ireland.

Acts of international terrorism are committed to terrorize nations and governments into compliance. International terrorism is distinguished by three characteristics. First, it embodies a criminal act. Second, it is a politically motivated and their violence is directed against innocent people. Finally, international terrorism transcends national boundaries through the choice of a foreign target, the commission of the act in a foreign country and an effort to influence the policies of a foreign government. One of the factors which considered as a cause of terrorism is that most nations are undergoing a process of drastic socio-economic change what does the future hold for terrorism International terrorism has been rising in frequency at a dramatic rate. Indications are that it is almost certain to in as it seems to pay-political blackmail bets results and punishments for convict terrorists are light while free publicity is acquired on a massive scale. Terrorism has entered the mainstream of world politics and could become a naira form of warfare.

With the availability of relatively small arid inexpensive means destruction, a handful, of men could have an enormous impact upon states societies. It is not realistic to envision some countries preferring to arm and terrorists to pursue their foreign policy objectives rather than through direct as visible involvement in a conflict with another state. The world as a whole is a wary of a nuclear holocaust and restraining, ration voices make the superpowers aware of the self-destructive nature of such act but there is a real danger that the world might explode with a million mutinies which will destroy mankind just as surely.

Roots of The Mayhem:

The word terrorism never sounded as grievous as it seems to be. At times brains gobble pertaining to the origin of the bloody form of holocaust, which is terrorism. But have we ever tried to analyze within our so-called intelligent brains that where from this word terrorism creeped into our society Is this a result of day today honing of some mischievous brains or it popped up suddenly on one fine day out of no where. Very much obvious the later reason can be completely gain said. If we recapitulate the past we can surely get our answers that how this form of mayhem actually evolved. In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, a consensus quickly emerged that poverty and lack of education were major causes of terrorist acts and support for terrorism. Subscribing to that theory are politicians, journalists, and many scholars, as well as officials responsible for administering aid to poor countries.

The consensus is bipartisan. "We fight against poverty," George W. Bush said in a speech in Monterrey, Mexico. Elie Wiesel claimed, "Education is the way to eliminate terrorism." And the Nobel laureate Kim Dae Jung asserted, "At the bottom of terrorism is poverty."

With such a strong and broad coalition in agreement, we asked, what evidence links poverty and poor education to terrorism? Study indicates support for, and participation in, terrorism at both individual and national levels. Although the data at the national level are weaker, lead us to conclude that any connection between poverty, education, and terrorism is, at best, indirect, complicated, and probably quite weak. Defining terrorism is difficult. Some definitions, emphasize the "subnational," "clandestine" character of "politically motivated violence," while others include the state as a perpetrator. We have focused on substate terrorism because we believe that the roots of state-sponsored terrorism are substantially different. What's common to most definitions is the inclusion of terrorists' goal of inducing fear in a target audience that transcends the physical harm caused to immediate victims, the ultimate purpose being persuasion. A large body of evidence exists on hate crimes, a close cousin to terrorism. These are crimes against members of a religious, racial, or ethnic group selected solely because they are part of that group. Hate crimes are usually less orchestrated than terrorist acts. The effect of both terrorism and hate crimes is to wreak terror in a greater number of people than those directly affected by the violence.

The economic theory about participation in terrorism considers the supply side first -- that is, why do people commit terrorist acts. As is conventional in economics, involvement in terrorism is viewed as a rational decision that depends on the benefits, costs, and risks involved compared with those of other activities. Public opinion polls can provide information on which segments of the population support terrorist or militant activities.

News reports often create the impression that Islam is a source of terrorism. Note, though, that suicide attacks are a relatively new, alien element in the history of mainstream Islam. But suicide attacks and other forms of terrorism have been carried out by people belonging to other established religions, too, and by individuals professing no religious faith at all.

The root cause of man made disaster and terror is very complex and don't mean to trivialize the importance of what has recently occurred or the need for developing creative solutions to the global problem of terrorism. Somewhere along the line, we can chance a guess to say that, a solution was possible before the need for radical terrorism and ultimately war.

As we move ever closer to war, we should keep in mind that terror comes from many sources and is not a central Asian problem. It has occurred in Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico and the United States. Terrorism in these countries has been both international and domestic in nature. As I have said many times, it is very dangerous to apply generalities to specifics and this case is no different.

This should not be a war on Muslim terrorists; it should be a war on global terrorism, as the potential problem exists in all nations of the world. If the fight is to be credible, it is incumbent upon all nations of any coalition to begin the fight at home by eliminating the structures that allow terrorist cells to operate and fund international and domestic terror.

Terrorism has become the systematic weapon of a war that knows no borders or seldom has a face.

Jacques Chirac, speech, Sep. 24, 1986

People experiencing circumstances of relative deprivation will protect their self-esteem and identity by attributing these circumstances to powerful enemies that unfairly impose such situation on them. They tend to develop an autistic and biased system for processing of information that allow people to see themselves as victims, and therefore to justify an attack on the attributed source of their deprivation and humiliation. This form of self-empowerment helps to protect their individual and group's identity and to exercise social pressure towards group unity. It can be argued that Hitler's rise to power was a direct result of the humiliations and deprivations suffered by Germans during the 1920's. Nazi propaganda manipulated German's sense of grievance by stressing and glorifying. The conditions of relative deprivation, collective humiliation and perceived injuries created an identity crisis in Germany that was fertile soil for fascism to flourish. The sufferings of Germany during were the ultimate source of the deprivations and humiliations artfully manipulated by Hitler. The current circumstances of Muslims around the world have similarities with pre-Nazi Germany, including a situation of relative deprivation and deep feelings of vulnerability. This beaten and vulnerable identity is not an attractive one. It is rejected, initially by an extremist minority that resorts to powerful images of a glorified past and a supposedly intrinsic superiority over their enemies to create an attractive alternative identity. Needless to say, this alternative identity is very difficult to resist in particular for young members of society. Extremists that find self-serving explanations for the deprivations, humiliations and sense of vulnerability in real or imaginary but always powerful enemies that unjustly have imposed these circumstances upon them manipulate the new identity. The sense of humiliation is transformed into anger and a sense of historical injustice, which creates longing for the reconstruction of a glorious past.

In the case of Muslims, a longing for a return to the past when the present situation seems hopeless is understandable. Muslims have seen their participation reduced to a secondary, subordinate role as a result of the partition of the Ottoman Empire at the end of WWI. Rampant levels of poverty and oppression in many Muslim countries add to the sense of humiliation and grievance to create an identity crisis that is exploited by religious and political extremists to gain influence. Although deeply unrepresentative of Islam's long history of tolerance and despite the fact that a war against civilians is a gross violation of Islamic law, the force of the reasoning contained in this declaration comes from the fact that it provides a more appealing explanation to the deprivations and humiliations of Muslims around the world. It translated the responsibility to an evil and powerful enemy that purposefully victimizes Muslims. This account, although biased and self-serving, provides a more appealing explanation that is highly appealing. As mentioned before, identity is a powerful ontological force that guides our perception and behavior. It would be naive to think that the current crisis is limited to any terrorist group. Thus is the reason why terrorists have become a symbol of defiance. The terrorist groups manipulate this to impose a self-serving, extremist, but highly appealing identity.

But there have been incidents where the so-called act of terrorism was considered desirable. For this reason the act is seen as a frontal 'clash of civilizations', or in other words a clash of threatened needs.

Impact of Terrorism:- India and World

Terrorism, like viruses, is everywhere. There is a global perfusion of terrorism, which accompanies any system of domination as though it were its shadow, ready to activate itself anywhere, like a double agent.

Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism

Though there is nothing new about terrorism and religious fundamentalism in the history of humanity, the present day scenario in the world at large, and in the Indian subcontinent in particular are undoubtedly very alarming.

In recent times, religious fundamentalism and terrorist activities have become extremely well organized with local, national and international network involving a huge number of personnel at all levels and an enormous amount of resources.

The September 11 senseless attack on mass civilian targets and the resulting heavy loss to human life and property has catapulted terrorism as the foremost threat to national and global security. These incidents lulled us into thinking that this evil is endemic to only a few regions of the world, and can be curtailed either by strong police or military action, or by bringing the perpetrators of such crimes and their masterminds to justice. The 9/11 was indeed a turning point in this regard. It was an event that deeply shook the equilibrium of the social fabric of the entire world. Human relationship became profoundly distorted.

Warmongers are finding pretexts of all kinds, not the least religious Fundamentalism and terrorism, to justify their blatantly unjustifiable position.

Consequently, over the centuries India has developed a culture of harmony that acknowledges unity and promotes diversity in religious pursuits and cultural expressions. It is because of this noble heritage that India has become the homeland of many religions guaranteeing for centuries their peaceful coexistence here. But every coin has two sides, so is this. Since its independence in 1947, India has been facing the problem of insurgency and terrorism in different parts of the country. The insurgency has been taken to mean an armed violent movement, directed mainly against security forces and other government targets, to seek territorial control; terrorism has been taken to mean an armed violent movement directed against government as well as non-government targets, involving pre-meditated attacks with arms, ammunition and explosives against civilians, and resorting to intimidation tactics such as hostage-taking and hijacking, but not seeking territorial control. India has faced exclusively terrorist movements in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, bordering Pakistan, and part insurgent-part terrorist movements in the northeast, bordering Myanmar and Bangladesh; in Bihar, bordering Nepal; and in certain interior states like Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, etc defying international borders. Terrorism has become the systematic weapon of a war that knows no borders or seldom has a face.

Jacques Chirac, speech, Sep. 24, 1986

India has also faced terrorism of an ephemeral nature, which sprang suddenly due religious anger against either the government or the majority Hindu community or both and petered out subsequently. So it can be derived to some extent that it would be wrong to target only Muslim because there have been evidences of even Hindus and Christians involving in such heinous act.

In incidents like Madrid Commuter Train Bombing, Oklahoma City Bombing, Lockerbie Disaster: The Crash of Pan Am Flight 103, Subway Attack in Japan rates of distress and posttraumatic symptoms have been found to be high in individuals studied following terrorist events.

We are not in a position to affirm that the steps we propose are adequate to root out terrorism. We still argue that these are important steps, worth taking. We therefore suggest that the peace initiatives we pursue should also not be like others in the past but bold, long term, and universal.
The terrible thing about terrorism is that ultimately it destroys those who practice it. Slowly but surely, as they try to extinguish life in others, the light within them dies.
--Terry Waite, British
religious adviser, hostage in Lebanon

Counter -Terrorism:

Fighting terrorism is like being a goalkeeper. You can make a hundred brilliant saves but the only shot that people remember is the one that gets past you.

Paul Wilkinson, London

Daily Telegraph, Sep. 1, 1992

Time and again nations wake up to the need of combating international terrorism only after they have suffered devastating attacks. Initially people underestimated the problem of terrorism and considered it as the tip of iceberg but forgot the fact that the base of the iceberg below the sea level is much vast than it seems to be. The realization of a concerted global response to international terrorism comes when big powers are subjected to terrorist attacks like 9/11 attack. There were international treaties, covenants, conventions etc. against international terrorism, but rarely are they resorted to. Western powers, because of joint defense and related matters, may be having arrangements in sharing of intelligence etc. on international terrorism, but there has been no concerted global action to stamp out or root out terrorism. Third World terrorism has been of no big concern for the western powers as long as their interests were not adversely affected. Terrorism in most parts of the world, particularly in the Third World, has come to mean One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Perhaps, the best example of this is the South Asian region where seven nations adopted what is known as the SAARC Convention on Terrorism many years ago, but no concerted action has taken place despite six countries being plagued by it. This is vividly illustrated in the Kashmir issue where those whom Pakistanis call freedom fighters are India's terrorists and India's defense forces are Pakistan's state terrorists.

The United Kingdom's adoption of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the United States' PATRIOT Act strengthened the notion that other countries had acknowledged the need to move beyond traditional domestic criminal procedure in order to properly battle terrorism. Thus, the Indian Government had enacted the Prevention of Terrorism Act [hereinafter POTA-2002] which served as an anti terrorist legislation which was vast enough to cover all kinds of acts included in terrorism like Punishment for, and measures for dealing with terrorist activities, Terrorist Organizations, Interception of communication in certain cases.

Terrorism has been on the agenda of the United Nations for decades. Thirteen international conventions have been elaborated terrorism like Convention Against the Taking of Hostages ,Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism ,Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Civil Aviation and on regional level there have anti-terrorism laws like Arab Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism (League of Arab States, 1998), Convention of the Organization of the Islamic Conference on Combating International Terrorism (1999), European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, OAS Convention to Prevent and Punish Acts of Terrorism Taking the Form of Crimes against Persons and Related Extortion that are of International Significance, SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism within the framework of the United Nations system relating to specific terrorist activities.

The Security Council has also been active in countering terrorism by establishing several subsidiary bodies. At the same time a number of programmes, offices and agencies of the United Nations system have been engaged in specific operational actions against terrorism. To consolidate and enhance these activities Member States opened a new phase in their counter-terrorism efforts by agreeing on a global strategy to counter terrorism. The strategy, adopted on 8 September 2006 and formally launched on 19 September 2006 marks the first time that countries around the world agree to a common strategic approach to fight terrorism. And there also have been other laws as well to suppress.

A Modern Scourge
Terrorism has become a part of modern life. Hijackings, bombings, and assassinations on different continents of the world may seem like isolated attacks, but they reflect an easy reliance on violence as a way to promote social, political, and religious change. They are elements of a pervasive end justifies the means philosophy being followed to its most perverse conclusions. International terrorism has become the scourge of all democratic governments. These democratic governments are accustomed to dealing within a legal structure; often find it difficult to deal with criminals and terrorists that routinely operate outside of the law. However, deterrence is just as much a part of justice as proper enforcement of the laws. Democratic governments that do not deter criminals inevitably spawn vigilantism as normally law-abiding citizens who have lost confidence in the criminal justice system take the law into their own hands. However, lack of governmental resolve is only part of the problem. Terrorists thrive on media exposure, and news organizations around the world have been all too willing to give terrorists what they crave, publicity.

Terrorists end up destroying human rights in their alleged fight for human rights. A relatively new term for terrorism has been coined, new warfare. Innocent citizens become targets in the devastating terrorist attacks. However, terrorists do not live in fear of the governing authorities in the countries where they live. Their governments do not think of them as breaking civilian laws and thus do not prosecute them. In conclusion, terrorism must be recognized as a new type of military aggression that requires governmental action. It involves an undeclared war and government officials must take the same sort of actions that they would if threatened by a hostile country. There must be changes in order to prevent further terrorist aggression in this decade and in the future. There has to be a line drawn if we are too completely eradicates this modern scourge of terrorism.

To counteract the growth of terrorism and the inhuman meaningless killing innocent, peace loving people, governments all over the world must crack on this menace and condemn all terrorist acts as criminal. What is more, the terrorists cause must not pay; political blackmail must not get results. While every effort should be made for peaceful results there must be no flinching from using force when necessary. Punishments for convicted terrorists must not be light. Most of all, the publicity which terrorists receive on such a massive scale must never give. If the terrorists acts are neither acknowledged nor flaunted abroad with great fanfare, their balloons will be pricked and their causes death.

Finally, it is essential that anti-terrorist strategies are taken upon an emotional scale. It is essential to have good intelligence on terrorists? and their plans. This most effective weapon must be kept secret to be effective. It is also essential to develop the appropriate tools for handling a terrorist situation including special units of hostage rescue or other missions and clear legislative authority. The fight against terrorism must be undertaken by a strongly united world because it is a fight for humanity. Isn't it?

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