September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: View of the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty. (Image: US National Park Service ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
FBI mugshot of Timothy McVeigh. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Terror is to be afraid of or fearful of something. Terrorism is, for a group or population, to be intensely frightened of something equally unpleasant. Usually what is being considered here is some form of death or mayhem!
It is a weapon that has been used innumerable times over the centuries to attempt to achieve a political goal usually by minorities over a much larger population. Usually within a society a group or groups that are not powerful enough to make their will or position known will use the tactics of terror to propagate their beliefs. In Elizabethan England during the 16th Century, Catholics in this country that had decades earlier reluctantly turned Protestant under King Henry VIII secretly used this strategy to voice their objections during the reign of his daughter, Queen Elizabeth. During the late 19th Century in Russia and Austria-Hungary, whose population was a polyglot of different Balkan ethnic groups, protest was illegal. Revolutionaries in both these countries used terror as a form of protest, forcing their will upon the Central Governments by assassinating government officials. This included rulers in both nations.
Generally when a political group is too strong to be forcibly obliterated but not powerful enough to openly influence the existing government they seem to resort to the use of terror. The direct cause of World War I was the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Frances Ferdinand, in 1914. Later in the 20th Century the concept of war was broadened to include the entire population of a nation and terror then covered the entire population.
In the case of the world today we are dealing with total war, this can cover the entire population of a nation or a group of nations. Mayhem/ human destruction, terrorism anywhere in a nation is an act of war. The action can be caused by some individual or groups within the nation or by people from other countries or areas of the world.
In the United States in 1995 Timothy McVeigh, an American terrorist detonated a truck bomb in front of a federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19th, killing 168 people and injuring over 600 others. Presumably McVeigh was getting even with the United States for the Waco siege in 1993. At that time the Branch Davidians, a sect that separated in 1955 from the Seventh-day Adventist Church, was led by David Koresh and lived at Mt. Carmel Ranch in Elk, Texas. The group was suspected of weapons violations and forcibly refused to allow a search and arrest warrant by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Because of armed resistance, and the presence of women and children at the Ranch, a 51 day siege resulted. It ended with a tear gas attack by the FBI, in which a fire engulfed the Ranch. 76 people died that day, including David Koresh. Timothy McVeigh had been driving to Waco to show support for the Branch Davidians. Two years later he would explode his home-made bomb.
Terrorists can be either citizens of the country where the atrocity is perpetrated or come from other parts of the world to punish a particular nation. McVeigh was an American citizen seeking revenge for the Branch Davidians. Whether this was because he had mental problems or not is academic. He was at heart a terrorist who resented his own government and his killing of people was an act of terror.
A number of the mass shootings that seem to become commoner and commoner in the United States seem to be perpetrated by people who have mental problems and should have no access to weapons. According to an article in the L.A. Times as of Friday, December 4, 2015, there were up to 353 mass shootings in 2015 in the nation. The problem seems to be that In the U.S. every state has different gun laws, and weapons that are illegal in one state can be easily acquired in another state, particularly at gun shows where no background check is ever required.
It should be noted that in the case of the world today al-Qaeda, ISIS and other groups from the Middle East and North Africa, make up the majority of the terrorist groups. Their rational is that they are punishing the world for not giving in to them. In fact the President of the United States and the government of a number of European nations have declared war upon ISIS. Most of these groups come from nations that until shortly after World War II were colonies or protectorates of Europe and or the United States. Among the reasons for the uses of terror this fact seems to be one of the causes for their actions.
The colonial imperialist empires continued after the Second World War. It was from the 1950s on that these countries/colonies began rebelling and it became too expensive for the European nations like England, France, Holland, among others, to keep their possessions. It was far more practical to give them their independence and trade with them. In this way most of these nations suddenly became ready for independence.
In the United States on September 11, 2001, the Twin Towers in New York City, the tallest buildings in the world were destroyed killing 2,700 people in the collapsed two buildings, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. was also hit killing 184 individuals, and in a plane crash in Pennsylvania where 40 people died trying to take back control of the jet. The fuel on the airplanes were the bombs that burst into flames and exploded when the jets crashed into their targets. Each plane carried as passengers a crew of suicide terrorists, nineteen on all of them, who took over the planes shortly after takeoff on the East Coast and piloted the jets to their targets crashing them, in the first two cases, into the structures.
Osama bin Laden the leader of al-Qaeda chose these targets because he believed the United States was a “paper tiger, an easy and inept target.” His reasoning followed the pattern of U.S. withdrawal from Viet Nam in 1975, leaving Lebanon after a bomb in Beirut in 1983 at the marine barracks killed 241 servicemen, and the withdrawal of American forces from Somalia in 1993 after the deaths of 18 servicemen in Mogadishu.
While al Qaeda was highly functional after the attack on the Twin Towers it wasn’t until after the election of Barak Obama as President of the United States that it was effectively gone after. Using drones the U.S. continually went after its leaders, killing a large number of them. What eventually became the dominant militant terrorist force was ISIS or ISIL.
The Boston Marathon is held yearly on Patriots Day. It is open to anyone from 18 years on who qualifies. On April 15, 2003 the brothers Tamerlain and Dzhekhar Tsarnev placed two separate backpacks in separate areas near the finish line. They exploded killing 3 people and wounding 264 others. Both brothers were born in a Muslim area of Russia and migrated to the United States. One died in a shootout with police and the other was taken prisoner, tried, condemned to death and executed. At one point he publically apologized to his victims. It would seem from the evidence released that these two acted on their own; they were not affiliated with any terrorist organization.
To my knowledge there has been one other cases of foreign terror in the U.S. since then, the recent shooting by the young terrorist couple in San Bernardino, California. This couple also largely acted on their own. The reason, as I understand it, for this small amount of foreign terrorism has been the relentless protection provided by the F.B.I. and other law enforcement services. Unfortunately there has been assorted terrorist killing in the United States but these have been by our own deranged citizens. There are no real restrictions, as we’ve seen, on anyone acquiring automatic assault weapons. Freedom to buy guns seems an axiom of Republican Congressmen who will not even require background checks upon the purchasers.
In the United States the Caucasian population no longer makes up the majority of the population. They are one of the large ethnic groups but no longer one that is the majority.
In terms of religion there are today a multitude of largely different beliefs now existing in the United States. Traditionally the country was mainly Christian, having mostly Protestant Sects, some Roman Catholics, with a relatively small Jewish population. There was also a nonreligious group operating as a religion, Ethical Culture. Today there are also Hindu temples, Moslem mosques, plus numerous other groups existing in the country. The country has undergone a large number of people coming from other parts of the world for political or other reasons.
One of the major causes for the problems that currently exist is that society has gotten complex. Unfortunately today to economically function successfully in our society one needs a decent education; people need to understand that nothing is simply black and white; that societal and other problems do not have just simple “common sense” solutions.
Not too long ago a young, high school dropout, Dylann Roof, who apparently found high school too difficult but who admired former South African apartheid, at age 21, went into a Black Church in South Carolina and, after sitting and watching a Bible class for a while, shot nine people, killing them; then stated that he had to do it because Black people “rape our women” and “are taking over our country.” His lack of intelligence created a simplistic bigot who, incidentally at the shooting, mostly killed women.
Over the last fifteen years there’s been a goodly increase in hate crimes, and at the same time it has become more difficult for a large number of people, with low or no specific skills, to become gainfully employed. It is easy to find such a reason in demographic change, particularly in a country with a Black President. The U.S. has had an increase in homegrown domestic terror. But the Jihad still exists. ISIS has declared war on all opposing nations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and on the United States. Evidence of their behavior is evident, practically every day. There are acts of terror around the world or ISIS is beheading people, both Muslim and non-Muslim in areas it controls.
Probably in 2015 the most devastating Terrorist attack or attacks were in Paris, France on November 13th. Since then the governors of 20 states in the U.S. have stated that they will not accept refugees from Syria. Legally they don’t have that power but they may forcibly try to stop the process. President Obama has committed the U.S. to bringing in 10,000 Syrian refugees. Donald Trump wants to stop any Moslems from coming to the U.S.
It is important to remember that Syria has a multi-sided Civil War that has been going on for a number of years with no solution in sight. ISIS is only one of main rebel groups that controls a fair section of the country. The current president of the country holds a fair section of the nation and currently has the support of Russia and Iran. The population has been caught in-between all this fighting and well over a million citizens have been killed. A percentage of the civilian population has and is continuing to flee the country and flooding Europe.
In Paris, late Friday, November 13th three well-coordinated simultaneous terrorist attacks in different areas of the city killed 130 people. There were six random shootings of anyone who happened to be in range by three teams of suicide killers who wore sophisticated explosive vests. There was no way they could or would be taken alive.
As far as we know the Paris attacks were planned in Syria and organized in Belgium. ISIS has claimed credit for the killings and has promised that the next raid and killings will be in Washington, D.C. Apparently their actual next raid in the U.S. was in San Bernardino, California. On December 2, 2015 a married couple attacked an end of year company party, where the man worked, killing 14 people and wounding 22. They were both killed in a car chase. The man had been born in the United States of Moslem parents and the woman, his wife, was born in Pakistan.
In terms of France the November 13th killings were not the first attacks in France. Nearly a year earlier there was an attack on the French satirical publication “Charlie Hebdo” that had come out with one edition that had a representation of Mohammed on its front page. Several staff members were killed. Not too long afterwards a Jewish Supermarket was attacked either by al-Qaeda or ISIS members. Several people were killed before the French police assaulted the facility, freed the hostages that were being held, and killed the suspects. In addition people who swore allegiance to ISIS in several instances ran their automobiles into crowds killing and maiming numbers of people. There seems to be a strong animosity between extreme Muslim radicals and the French government.
Most of the people killed in al-Qaeda or ISIS attacks have been and are Muslims, both in the Middle East and in North Africa. ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) or ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) is a Sunni sect. The other major Islamic sect is the Shiites, which ISIS considers anathema or blasphemous. The Middle East is divided mostly by these two sects, of which Shiites are in the majority. The Shiites are the civilians in ISIS areas who are usually beheaded.
Sunni ISIS considers the Shiite and most other interpretations of their religion blasphemous. They see nothing wrong with attacking their co-religionists as infidels, even during their religious services, with suicide bombers. If the prophet, Mohammed, were to come back today he would be both shocked and appalled at much of what ISIS is doing in his name.
The United Nations holds ISIS responsible for human rights abuses and war crimes. Amnesty International has charged the group with ethnic cleansing on a massive scale in northern Iraq. Around the world Islamic religious leaders have condemned ISIS’s ideology and actions arguing that the group has strayed from the path of pure Islam and that its actions do not reflect Islam’s true teachings or virtues. The U.N. has designated it a terrorist organization. The European Union and all its member nations, the United States, India, Indonesia, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and other countries, over sixty in all are directly or indirectly waging war against ISIS.
As a result of the last Paris attack the French and also the British have joined the United States in bombing attacks on ISIS strongholds. Will all this be effective? ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is holding large tracts of land in both Syria and Iraq. The Iraqi government has not been able to mount strong enough ground offensives against them to force them out of their country. In Syria there well are over a dozen revolutionary groups fighting President Assad and his government, plus each other. They all have, including ISIS, different versions of what they want for their country. It is an impossible situation that has been going on for five years. ISIS holds large tracts of land in the country. Both Russia and Iran support Assad’s government as the legitimate one. The United States wants to remove Assad and work out some sort of compromise between a number of the less radical Revolutionary groups. Millions of Syrian citizens have left the country looking for safety by going west into Europe as refugees, looking to start life over again where they can be safe.
For the United States or a European nation or nations to send an army in to help either Syria or Iraq is not a good idea. There are too many people there who remember the colonial era. And ultimately which group or groups do they support in Syria? For that matter which of the Revolutionary group or groups do they really approve of or can trust after they arm them? It is currently an impossible situation.
For the United States or any other Industrial country to send in troops would be an act of utter stupidity as we saw in Iraq where the U.S. sent in any army to dispose of one dictator only to generate another corrupt government that just about expelled the American army. U.S. troops were not popular no matter what they did. The same was true for Afghanistan where a small number of Americans were shot by their allies.
The situation in the Middle East is a mess. The only real solution is to have the countries of the Middle East come to the rescue of their own people. But they don’t seem to want to do that. But then again they don’t have to with the United States and other Western nations continually intervening.
In Iraq incidentally the government, which the U.S. helped to set up, seems to be largely corrupt and very pro-Sunni; about 95% of the country belongs to this Muslim sect of Islam. The government doesn’t necessarily have the support of its own people, at least not to the point of dying while militarily fighting its enemies, like ISIS for example.
If the United States or France or England and Germany, for that matter, were to send troops in either or both Iraq and Syria they would risk keeping them there indefinitely without the support of the people in either of these countries. The people’s sense of values is completely different from those of the Western nations. In both Pakistan and Iraq, when the U.S. had a presence in those countries during the administration of President George W. Bush, some of the local military ended up shooting some of the Americans. It is quite a frustrating dilemma!
Currently President Barak Oboma stated, in a national speech made on television in early December of 2015, that the bombing raids by the U.S., that have been going on now for well over a year, in coordination with local military operations have kept ISIS from gaining additional territory in either Syria or Iraq. The President stated that the Islamic State militants have not waged a single successful major offensive operation since 2014 in either of the two countries. Currently France and England are also conducting bombing raids against ISIS targets. Saudi Arabia is also involved in air raids against the Islamic State.
ISIS has threatened that its next attack will be in Washington, D.C. Of the American born man and his Pakistani born wife who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California on Wednesday, December 8, 2015, in a shooting rampage at the Inland Regional Center. The man, Syed Rizwan Farook, aged 28, attended a party with his fellow workers; he quietly slipped away his jacket draped over a chair. Then he returned with his wife, Tashfeed Malik, aged 29. Both were dressed with body armor and unleashed a terrorist attack. They were at the Center for Disabled People, where his company had rented a large room for their yearly social event. They killed 14 and injured 21 people. They were both killed in a police chase, leaving a 6 month old baby with his mother.
The annual event was known as a GEM (general education meeting), run by the San Bernardino Health Department. It began at 8 a.m. and would end about 4 p.m. It was held in a conference room that was designed to hold around 500 people. Mr. Farook was there from the start of the meeting. He had worked for the Department for five years. At some point he got up and went out. When he returned with his wife the drama began.
They had automatic weapons which had been legally purchased. The man’s parents had been born in the Middle East and immigrated to the United States, becoming citizens. His wife was born in Pakistan. Both were college graduates and both were radicalized enough so that they left a six month old baby with his mother. Presumably the mother, who lived with them, was told by the woman that she had a doctor’s appointment.
What emerges here is an interesting point. In the United States if we compare terrorist shootings, killings and woundings with American shootings, killings and woundings, the mayhem caused by the terrorists numerically is barely noticeable. Terrorist acts get lots of publicity while American shooting are statistics barely covered by the media. Republican Congressmen and many others are very conscience of terrorist acts but ignore other shootings because in order to limit American shootings they would have to limit the availability of guns.
A solution among many Republicans is to keep Muslims, followers of Islam out of the country. The problem here is that there are a large number of followers of Islam already in the country. This is in addition to the number children of immigrants who were born in this country. There are also the Black Muslims who converted or whose parents converted in the last half of the 20th Century. They are largely the descendants of slaves that were brought to this nation as prisoners and sold as slaves in the 18th and early 19th Centuries. They converted originally as a protest to Christianity, the major religion of white America. How will the Republicans handle them? By putting them into reeducation centers?
There is a legitimate fear with the terrorists. That is that somehow they will smuggle into the U.S. bacteriological disease creating materials that can be easily put into the water supply. Another possibility is that a stolen atomic bomb can be brought in and exploded in the center of a major city. All this makes a good plot for Hollywood films. But is this danger real? Currently, it seems that the FBI has 900 open cases it is investigating. This does not include all the other cases that are being worked on by other law enforcement agencies. Also the possibility of acquiring any of these weapon is almost nonexistent.
What should our attitude be toward the current Syrian refugee problem? Currently under the Obama administration it takes from eighteen months to two years of investigation for any Syrian refugee to be able to settle in the United States. To the Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Republican governors of twenty some states this screening is inadequate, they want to extend it even further. One of the terrorists from San Bernardino was born in the United States and was a citizen. France despite its recent attack has overwhelmingly voted to take in Syrian refugees. It seems that the Republicans who overwhelmingly believe in all kinds of gun ownership and availability would change our principles about refugees because they do not trust their government to properly monitor refugee immigration from the Syria and the Middle East. They seem to be fearful for the sake of being fearful.