Terrorism And The United States Essay

This essay has a total of 2782 words and 15 pages.

Terrorism And The United States



Islamic Terrorism and The United States











Michelle Gowka
PLSC 14H
04/26/01

The Threat of Islamic Terrorism

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990's and the cold war over, the
international community seemed to be on the threshold of an era of unprecedented peace and
prosperity. Instead, a new series of problems was created, like ethnic conflicts, weapons
proliferation, environmental problems, population growth, drug trafficking, and terrorism.
Terrorism, as defined by Title 22 of the United States code, section 2656f(d), is the
"pre-meditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by
subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence and audience."
Islamic terrorism is a serious problem for the United States because of the threat to
national security, the safety of innocent civilians, and the foundations of democratic
societies throughout the world (1997 Global Terrorism: NP).


Most of the Islamic world views the West, especially the United States, as the foremost
corrupting influence on the Islamic world today. The Hizballah have taken this further by
labeling the Unites States as "the Great Satan" (Sinha. "Pakistan-The Chief
Patron-Promoter of Islamic Militancy and Terrorism": NP). This growing animosity the
Islamic nations feel toward the Western world has been continually demonstrated by the
increase in international terrorism. However, Muslims do not view their actions as acts of
terrorism, but self-defense and their religious duty. The Islamic radical movements main
success or failure has been their ability to gain legitimacy from the general public or
from the greater part of it in each Muslim country (Paz 1998: NP). During the past two
decades, they have had enormous success with their ability to present themselves to the
Arab and Muslim world as the true bearers of Islam. They appeal to the lower class due to
the shared resentment of wealthy westerners while the middle class and intellectuals are
drawn toward these radical groups in order to expel imported ideologies and forms of
government (State Department. "Anti-US Attacks" 1997: NP). Radical Islamic organizations
have declared a holy war, Jihad, in order to bring the Arab world together and take their
place as a world power. In order to accomplish these goals, these Islamic radicals have
mainly used terrorism as their main instrument of persuasion.


The biggest and most active terrorist organizations are those which are state funded.
These organizations act as both an overt and covert way of spreading the sponsor countries
ideologies. The U.S. Secretary of State has designated seven governments as state sponsors
of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria (State Department.
"Over of State-Sponsored Terrrorism" 1997: NP). These governments support international
terrorism either by engaging in terrorist activity themselves or by providing arms,
training, safe haven, diplomatic facilities, financial backing, logistic and/or support to
terrorists ("Over of State-Sponsored Terrorism" 1997: NP).

Iran is one of the most active state sponsors of terrorism, involving themselves in the
planning and execution of terrorist acts by its own agents and by surrogates such as the
Hizballah. Tehran conducted 13 assassinations in 1997, the majority of which were carried
out in northern Iraq against the regime's main opposition groups. An example occurred in
January 1997, when Iranian agents tried to attack the Baghdad headquarters of Mujahedin-e
Khalq using a supermortar. Despite sanctions and foreign political pressure, Iran
continues to provide support in the form of training, money, and weapons to a variety of
terrorist groups, such as Hizballah, HAMAS, and the PIJ (State Department "Over of
State-Sponsored Terrorism" 1997:NP).


Sudan is another large supporter of terrorist organizations. The Sudanese Government
supports terrorists by providing paramilitary training, indoctrinization, money, travel
documents, safe passage, and refuge. They also condone many of the objectionable
activities of Iran, such as funneling assistance to terrorist and radical Islamic groups
operating in and transiting through Sudan. Since Sudan was placed on the United States'
list of state sponsors of terrorism in 1993, the Sudanese Government still harbors members
of the most violent international terrorists and radical Islamic groups (State Department
"Over of State-Sponsored Terrorism" 1997: NP).

The countries of the middle east have found terrorism beneficial for many reasons. First,
terrorism is an inexpensive alternative to fighting a war, while still spreading their
ideology and advancing their political agenda. However, defending against terrorism is
very expensive; the United States spends approximately five billion dollars annually to
guard against terrorism (Wilcox 1996: NP). Random terrorist acts cause a great amount of
psychological damage to the target area. Even though terrorism kills relatively few
people, the random nature by which innocent civilian are killed evokes a deep fear and
insecurity upon the population. This form of terrorism was successfully used to target
tourism and the economy of Egypt in 1997. Publicity is another benefit of terrorism. By
involving acts which are designed to attract maximum publicity, terrorism can bring the
smallest group to the forefront of attention (Rajeswari NP). All this is done while
exposing the terrorist to minimal risk when compared to war.


By secretly funding terrorist organization, the patron state avoids the possibility of
defeat and does not appear to be the aggressor. Modern technology has now made terrorism
an efficient, convenient, and general discrete weapon for attacking state interests in the
international realm. Furthermore, terrorism causes fear, unrest and hysteria among
civilians of target countries which is the ideal setting to launch propaganda. Through
propaganda patron states are able to organize revolts, coups, and even civil war.


Throughout history terrorism has only been successful in prolonging conflicts, as in
Ireland. However, technology is constantly changing the nature of life-threatening
hostilities by delivering more sophisticated devices that cause greater damage. No longer
are terrorists restrained to simple car bombs and explosives; now nuclear, biological, and
chemical weapons are becoming more readily available. The terrorist attack in Tokyo that
injured 5,000 people is an example of this kind of terrorism. The latest threat is the
cyber terrorist, who can corrupt a governments computer system, steal money, and/or
classified information while never leaving his house. Changing methods and techniques that
terrorists employ today make threat of attack worse than ever. First, terrorists operate
at an international level, no longer concentrating on a particular region or a country.
The dawn of the modern age of terrorism dates back to September 5, 1972, when the
Palestinian terrorists attacked the Israeli Olympic team in Munich (Rajeswari NP).
Following this, there has been a period of hijacking of commercial airlines, which
culminated in the destruction of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.


Another new aspect of terrorism is the growing possibility of terrorists making use of
weapons of mass destruction—nuclear, biological and chemical. Also, the governments have
to think seriously about the threat of chemical weapons and biological toxins. Both these
types of weapons are easy to manufacture but have horrifying after-effects on the civilian
population. The Sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway in 1995 by Aum Shinrikyo, the
apocalyptic Japanese sect, showed that the threat of chemical terrorism is now a reality
(Sinha "Threat of Islamic Terrorism": NP).

For many years, it had been thought that weapons of mass destruction did not serve the
purpose of terrorists, and it was not mass murder they wanted. But in the modern age of
terrorism, one sees a wider use of powerful explosives that attack mostly the civilian
population, and availability is the only thing that prevents the use of larger weapons.
This trend towards larger attacks is represented by a 25-year low in international
terrorism in 1996, with reported incidents down from a peak of 665 in 1987 to 296 in 1996,
there was a drastic rise in the number of casualties (311 people killed and 2,652 wounded)
(1997 Global Terrorism: NP).


The third aspect of terrorism that is new is cyber terror. It has become very easy to
penetrate the telecommunications and computer systems of nations and also private
organizations, and enter new computer codes that cause the system to shutdown or which
make it accessible only to the intruder. Terrorists use computers, cellular phones, and
encryption software to evade detection and they also have sophisticated means of forging
passports and valuable documents. Similarly, they could even introduce "morphed" images
and messages into a country's radio and television network, and spread lies that could
incite violence. Technology advancement has made it possible to carry powerful explosive
devices in a purse and explode these at the right place, at the right time.


Another recent trend in terrorism is suicide bombing. Suicide bombings have emerged as a
tactic used particularly by radical Islamic terrorists. Even though Islam prohibits
suicide, these suicide bombers believe that death in a holy struggle assures them a
faithful place in heaven; thus, by committing this act of war, they feel they are
guaranteed to go to heaven. This method of terrorism is almost impossible to defend
against, that is why the terrorists must be prevented, not deterred.
Continues for 8 more pages >>