Terrorism: Cause and Responses
June 14, 2005
Our world has been a victim of terrorism and terrorist acts since the civilized human life began on this planet. There have been radicals and extremists who have been unhappy about something or the other all along during the development of our world. It can be seen that the ways how these people terrorized the world has changed along with time. Terrorists have always used the path of violence to get their voice heard to the world. With the technological innovations these groups also adapted their means of violence.
One of the examples of the traditional terrorist group (which I must clear that any Indian would not believe it to be a terrorist group but at the time was labeled as a terrorist group) was Hindustan (Indian) Republican Association in India. The whole world knows that India got its independence by following the path directed by Mahatma Gandhi of non-violence, but not many people know that even during the time of Gandhi India did see some brave soldiers like Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and many more young generation people who formed groups to fight against the British government. These people were called terrorists by the British government during that time. One of the most famous groups of that time was Hindustan (Indian) Republican Association (HRA) and Bhagat Singh was one of the most active members of group. Before Bhagat Singh joined HRA the activities and the purpose of this group was unknown to the general public of India and that was one of the main reasons that even the population of India thought that this group was a terrorist organization, but everything changed after Bhagat Singh joined HRA. Bhagat Singh was a well educated man who believed in communism. He studied the writings of the anarchist leader Bakunin, some thing of the father of communism Marx, but more of Lenin, Trotsky and others who had succeeded in bringing about a revolution in their country. For Bhagat Singh the decisive break came in the post-1926 period when the Hindustan Republican Association leadership fell on his shoulders. He lost no time in articulating the necessity of having a political ideology and that was to be Marxism.
In 1928, Bhagat Singh also had the responsibility of the Hindustan Republican Association with Chandra Shekhar Azad, other leaders having been sent to the gallows or given a life sentence. The first thing he did was to change its name to the Hindustan (Indian) Socialist Republican Association (HSRA). The party was recognized with a central committee and with provincial and district committees under it. All decisions were to be taken in these committees, majority decisions were to be binding on all. HSRA did many violent acts to fight against the British government, they looted a train in Kakori which was carrying lots of government money, they also murdered a British officer, and the biggest act was the bombing in the Legislative Assembly. By this time most of the young generation of India had started believing in Bhagat Singh and were joining HSRA. Bhagat Singh was labeled a terrorist and to prove the British government wrong he did the bombing in the legislative assembly and turned himself in, so that he could bring the reality of the corrupt government in front of the people of India by fighting his own case in the court. Bhagat Singh believed that the perception of the existence of class cleavages in society also led to the understanding that violence would be imperative to bring about a change in the social structure. It was a violence that destroyed to build. The Communist Party of India was formed in 1925-26 and had to almost immediately go underground. Within the next six years Bhagat Singh was executed and it remains one of the big ifs of history whether he would have joined the party as his companions did.
On the other hand if we talk about the new generation terrorism the example of al-Qaeda would be appropriate. As discussed in class and also from my own knowledge I can say that one of the worst terrorist groups the world had every seen is al-Qaeda. This group is one of the new generation terrorist groups; it all began in early 1995 when Osama bin Laden came back to Afghanistan from Sudan. Every educated person in this world knows al-Qaeda or Bin laden the founder of this group. The worst thing about this group is “Bin Laden is the leader of a movement that doesn’t necessarily need a leader to function and be effective,” said Juliette N. Kayyem, a terrorism expert at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government and a former member of the National Commission on Terrorism. “This is such a diffuse structure that it can survive without him.” (Benjamin Weiser and Tim Golden, September 30, 2001, the New York Times). The al-Qaeda consists of many Islamic extremists and radicals who believe in reuniting all the Islamic countries together and to fulfill this goal they execute terrorist acts in the name of Jihad (Holy War). The al-Qaeda group got its funding from many rich Islamic individuals who supported their beliefs and with the help of these funds they had been able to get hold of extremely expensive weapons and also created various terrorist training camps. Al Qaeda had taken great advantage of the protection of the Taliban in Afghanistan to build up a steady supply of arms and camps to train recruits from around the world. The terrorist camps were the hub for training the radicals for using the latest technologies available to the civilized world to create terror in the world by the violent acts. The new generation terrorists are assumed to be very well educated people from different backgrounds, who can easily understand and use the new technologies and weapons to achieve their goals. The training camps trained the jihadis intensively in the fields like; using modern arms and ammunitions, breaching security, gathering intelligence, kidnapping, picking targets, doing surveillance, making bombs, and the hijacking of buses and planes.
The attack of September 11, 2001 proved the whole world how capable and well trained these people were. The whole plan was plotted in Afghanistan and with the help of Bin Laden it was carried out in America; the hijackers were well trained in breaching the security, and flying the planes so that they can be crashed in to the determined targets. It is also believed that these organizations do have the abilities of producing weapons of mass destructions which they will not hesitate to use if necessary.
We can clearly see how the new generation terrorists have evolved from the traditional ones and how they have adapted themselves in using the technologies, from the small bomb blasts to bombing public buildings and embassies around the world to suicide bombings to well designed acts like; using air planes as bombs in destroying their targets.
General causes of terrorism! What are the general causes of terrorism? leads too easily to looking at the usual suspects: poverty, injustice, exploitation, frustration, ethnicity, and religion or religious differences. These are some of the general causes that I was able to think off but the actual list of general causes is just endless. Describing these causes of terrorism can be an easy job and a tough job at the same time; I will try to explain these causes that I have stated to the best of my ability.
Poverty: Poverty is said to be an important cause of terrorism. It is so believed that poverty is an important cause of terrorism because many of the Islamic countries in the world are poor and terrorists in general are expected to be from an Islamic country. I don’t agree to the belief that poverty is an important cause for people to get in to terrorist acts. I say this because I believe so because the biggest example defying the belief is Osama bin Laden, he comes from a multimillionaire Saudi family. Bin Laden is the founder of al-Qaeda and the person responsible for the 9/11 attack. As discussed in class the whole 9/ll attack was funded by affluent Saudis and Egyptians, citizens of the wealthy Gulf individuals, or rich sons of Lebanon. I do not disagree that many poor Islamic countries like Egypt, Morocco, Palestine, Afghanistan, and other similar countries support terrorism but this is also a fact that these countries can not provide the terrorist groups with the wealth they require.
Injustice: People say that injustice and inequality breeds terrorism, which is true to some extent. I can support this statement by giving the example of Ireland, one of the most important reasons for terrorism in Ireland or in the formation of IRA was the unjust British government. The Catholics in Ireland were not given the same rights as the Protestants which raised the feeling of discontent, dissatisfaction and anger in the Catholics. The first group that was formed for the rights of Catholics in Ireland was the United Irishmen. The goal of United Irishmen was to take the path of non-violence and get the Catholics their rights in Ireland, but due to the time in and time out repression attempts from the unjust British government led this group to reform with time which eventually ended up being the Irish Republican Army (IRA). We all know what has been happening in Ireland ever since. But giving all the blame to just injustice for the cause of terrorism is also not acceptable, because there are many other reasons which results in people to take the path of terrorism.
The other example similar to Ireland is Sri Lanka where the Tamil Tigers LTTE group is conducting terrorist acts in Sri Lanka for their basic rights.
Exploitation: Exploitation can also be an important factor in forcing people to commit terrorist acts. I had a class last semester in which I had a case study of Shell Oil Company in Nigeria. I guess you might be familiar with this case and so I will not go in too much detail about the case but from what I remember Saro-Wiwa was executed in Nigeria which turned out to be a big issue in the international news. The synopsis of this case was that Shell Oil Company had one of its biggest plants in Nigeria and a large percentage of its oil used to come from this plant. Shell was making huge profits from the oils it was getting from this plant and so was the government. The corrupt government of Nigeria was making lots of money from the Shell Company but in return the local people who were employed in the company and also the general population whose lands were being used were not getting anything at all. The economical condition of the people of Nigeria never got better but instead got worse with time and exploitation. Saro-Wiwa’s people, the Ogoni people of the Ogoniland were in many ways the victims both of oil development and also the government. Eventually tired of being exploited by the oil company and their own government these people started rebelling against them and started committing terrorist acts against their own country and the oil company. This is just one example I gave but this is the situation in most of the oil rich countries, in most of the cases the population of the country is exploited for the oil and all the profits and money goes in the pockets of the oil companies and the government.
Frustration: I have listed frustration as one the causes because all the above causes that I have stated does result in to frustration which forces the people to take the track of terrorism.
Ethnicity: There are lots of example in the world where ethnicity and not the religion is the reason for people to fight amongst themselves which might result in to the acts of terrorism by one or both the groups. Some of the examples of terrorism resulting due to the difference in ethnicity in the same religion are Ireland, where Catholics and Protestants were fighting with each other; other example is India in the 1970s when there were acts of terrorism in the region of Punjab between Sikhs and Punjabis, who are more or less the same religion. Sri Lanka is also a good example for the acts of terrorism by Tamil Tigers or the LTTE group who are killing the innocent people of Sri Lanka just to prove their point and trying to earn their rights in the country. I am not sure but I think even Zimbabwe might also come under the same condition.
Religion or Religious Difference: According to me religion or religious difference is the most important cause of terrorism. The whole world has seen this fact religion plays an important role in making terrorists out of people. Islamic countries have faced the problem with other religions in the world. Islamic people are believed to the extremist in nature regarding their religion which has in general made them intolerant to other religions. The biggest example that I can give about the terrorism that erupted due to the religious differences is the Holocaust, when the German army under the leadership of Hitler killed hundreds of thousands of Jews due to the intolerance in religion. Hitler’s this act was one of the biggest terrorist act in the world in my point of view. The terrorism that has been going on in the Kashmir region of India since last 58 years has its roots to the religious difference of Muslims and Hindus too. The only reason why India was divided in to two countries in 1947 during India’s independence was the differences in the two religions; Hindus and Muslims. Israel and Palestine is also suffering terrorism since a long time which I would guess one of the core reasons is the religion.
According to me the most appropriate response to this problem is to teach religious tolerance to people. People should understand that religion is not greater than Humanity and that people should respect other people as humans and not hate them due to the religious reasons. It is said in Gita (the holy book of Hindus) “Vasudeva Kutumbakam,” which means that “the whole world is one family.” I believe that the day people will start understanding this fact of life half of the world’s terrorism problems will be solved. But again this is my belief and I am not sure if I am right or wrong, but for me religious tolerance is the most important thing.
To give the similarities and differences between the right wing American terrorist groups and radical Islamic terrorist groups I think first of all I will have to explain briefly what both of these groups are. After trying to explain both of these terms I think it will be easier to state the similarities and the differences between the two.
Right wing American terrorist groups: According to my understanding to the American right wing terrorist groups I can say that these groups get involved in terrorist acts motivated due to the opposition of the federal government’s rules and regulations like taxation policies, its support to other countries and also the U.S. government itself. These types of terrorist groups have their roots to the white extremists who have hatred towards racial and religious minorities. Some of the examples of such American groups can be the Ku Klux Klan, skinheads, Neo Nazis, militia groups, and Christian Patriots. These kind of terrorist groups are the people who are unhappy and unsatisfied by the US government and so get in the acts of anti government policies, violence, and terrorist acts against their own country and people.
Generally the right wing groups have broader revolutionary agendas and they might intend to throw down the existing government. As discussed in class some of the examples of right wing American terrorist acts can be: the unsuccessful attempt of bombing in Oklahoma in 1983, the Oklahoma bombing of 1995, the 1996 bombing during Olympics, there were few more examples that we talked in class that I do not remember exactly. The right wing extremists have always had a problem with the minorities in the US and have also attempted terrorist acts targeted towards the minority groups. One other example that I think might be right about the right wing groups could be the isolated events of killing innocent Muslims and Sikhs in different parts of US after the 9/11 attack on the US. The other example that I would like to give, but I am not at all sure if this is a right example or not is; the assassinations of the US Presidents like Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy were also done by the American right wing terrorists.
Radical Islamic terrorist groups: The radical Islamic terrorist groups have been known for being staunch in their intentions and strong believer of their religion. These groups have been in the civilized the world for a long time now. The most important trait of these groups is that they are not at all tolerant to any other religion except Islam. The radical Islamic terrorist groups have been known to world for conducting terrorist activities against the non Islamic countries for centuries. They have not even spared their own people or the government if they discovered that the people or the government was allies with a non Islamic country or government. These groups have created highly sophisticated terrorist training camps at different locations to train the Jihadis in indulging in to terrorist acts with utmost proficiency. They have a high inflow of funds, financially as well as in weapons from rich Islamic individuals, supporters, and in some cases other Islamic governments and countries.
The example of the terrorist acts against their own people and country could be the terrorist acts against the soviet backed Afghani government before the Soviets attacked Afghanistan. As discussed in class I remember that US had funded the Islamic terrorist groups financially and also with weapons to fight the government of Afghanistan. Other example I can give confidently is that of the Radical Islamic terrorist groups infiltrating in the Kashmir region of India. These terrorist groups do not hesitate in killing Indian Muslim people. The radicals believe that even though the people they are killing are of their own religion but because they are Indians they should be killed to achieve their goals.
Islamic terrorist groups have used combinations of ancient guerrilla warfare tactics and advanced technologies to carry out their goals. They have shown themselves to be practitioners of unconventional warfare by staging operations around the globe against high-value targets, using very small teams, producing dramatic results with relatively little expenditure, all without ever engaging in direct battlefield attacks against an opposing military force. The best example of such an act is the 9/11 attack on the US as informed in class I remember that the total cost of executing the 9/11 attack was somewhere around 400 million dollars which is a considerably small amount in comparison to the destruction and human loss is considered.
Some of the goals of these radical Islamic terrorist groups according to me are: elimination of American and Israeli geopolitical influence on Islamic nations, the establishment of governance by religious law, bringing all loosely-affiliated Islamic groups together in a coalition, indulge in unconventional warfare tactics, looking for dramatic results, combine ancient tactics with modern technology.
Conclusion: I have tried to explain above the general characteristics of both the right wing American terrorist groups and also the radical Islamic terrorist groups. Based on the characteristics explained above I found a few similarities between the two, they are; -Both the groups are very racist in nature. Both the groups have zero tolerance for people of other race, religion, and country. -The other similarity that I found was that both the groups claim to be very patriotic but if needed, they would not resist in carrying out terrorist acts against their own people and country. -Both the groups have a history full of violence.
Some of the difference that I noticed was: -The right wing American terrorist groups unlike the radical Islamic terrorist groups operate within their own country and their main discontent is against the government policies and democracy. On the other end the radical Islamic groups are not at all confined to their own country; they are more interested in spreading the word of Islam in the whole world. -The Islamic groups would indulge in terrorist act towards their own country only when it is necessary. -The other big difference is the highly sophisticated training camps that the radical Islamic groups use is not that easily available to the right wing groups. -The funding in case of the right wing groups is limited and does not have any support from their own government or the people. -One of the most important goals of the radical Islamic terrorist groups is the formation of a coalition of all loosely-affiliated Islamic groups and countries and spread the word of Islam in the world. On the other hand there is not much of a connection between different right wing American terrorist groups amongst themselves.
The reason behind the right wing American terrorist groups and the radical Islamic terrorist groups to be different might be that their final goals are different from each other. Some of their methods of beliefs might be similar but except that the final goals of both the groups do not match.