Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 19 Oct 01 01:08
Recent events have given us an intense, somewhat narrow focus on the impact of terrorism on American society. This is quite understandable: we are still very much dealing with the personal impact of the events of September 11, 2001 and are just beginning to see their long-term economic, political and social effects. However as President Bush and other leaders have stressed, terrorism is a global problem that requires a global response. Our next guest, Harry Henderson, is a professional writer specializing in technical and reference works for adults as well as scientific, biographical, and historical material for junior high and high school readers. Among his numerous publications are works on the Internet, computer careers and entrepreneurs, and biographies of scientists and inventors. His contributions to the Library in a Book Series include Privacy in the Information Age, Gun Control, and Capital Punishment, Revised Edition. Harry's book, _Library in a Book: Terrorism_ is a global overview and resource guide on world terrorism. This comprehensive book includes: - the paradigms or ways of thinking about terrorism, comparing it to related phenomena such as conventional war, revolution, and guerilla war - the emergence of terrorism as a tool for radical political ideologies in the late 18th century and through the 19th century - a look at the psychology and organization of terrorist groups, the changing face of terrorism (such as the predominance of religious-based terrorism) and the potential for terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction. - the background of the conflicts in areas such as Northern Ireland and the Middle East that have inspired so much terrorist activity, as well as giving capsule summaries of dozens of terrorist organizations. - summaries of laws relating to terrorist activity as well as court cases that deal with important civil liberties issues relating to terrorism and counter terrorism. These issues are likely to become increasingly important as Congress debates new counter terrorism legislation. - a detailed chronology, capsule biographies, and a glossary of terms - a research guide and an extensive bibliography including key Web sites for government and academic organizations dealing with the study of terrorism and counter terrorism. Harry will be interviewed by long-time WELL member and host Fred Heutte. Fred is a database engineer and political consultant in Portland, Oregon. He is a native of Washington, DC and has long followed both domestic and international issues, particularly in the areas where technology and the environment intersect. Fred says, "The concept of "energy security" has been a focus over the last 25 years as the world has become more dependent on depletable energy supplies in politically unstable areas. These concerns are now extending to another key resource, fresh water. My work in energy advocacy has always started from the principle that real security must come from diverse, renewable and efficient resources. After working over the years with local and regional groups such as the Solar Oregon Lobby and Northwest Energy Coalition, I am now the energy coordinator for the Oregon chapter of the Sierra Club." Harry and Fred will be joined by other WELL members who have various political, biological, military and global perspectives on the issues we face today. Please join me in welcoming Harry, Fred, and their guests to inkwell.vue.
Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 19 Oct 01 17:19
Harry, let me jump in here and ask you what inspired you to write this book? Was it written recently? And if it wasn't, how have things changed in the world of terrorism since you first wrote it?
Harry Henderson (hrh) Fri 19 Oct 01 18:24
Hello everyone. To start with "why I wrote this book" the answer is rather mundane. The publisher, Facts on File, has a number of series of reference books. This one, called "Library in a Book" is designed to provide an overview, ready reference, and comprehensive bibliography for controversial topics that are likely to be of high interest to teachers, students, high school and college debaters, journalists, and other professionals who want to explore current events and issues in depth. My editor gives me (and my wife, who also writes these books) a list of topics for which they are seeking authors, and lets us each pick a few. The topics I've done these books on so far are Privacy in the Information Age, Gun Control, and Capital Punishment, as well as Terrorism. I tend to choose topics that I would find to be interesting and challenging because they a) involve a number of different disciplines or aspects and b) raise interesting and difficult issues - you might say, topics that "stress test" our institutions and bring important values into conflict. I wrote the book late last year and early this year. At the time, the general consensus among terrorism experts seemed to be that there was a low likelihood of large-scale conventional terrorist attacks on American soil from international sources, but that the potential use of weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological, or nuclear) was increasingly worrisome because it would give even a single individual or small group the ability to cause large scale devastation.) No one, far as I can tell, saw anything like the modus operandi of Sept. 11 coming. After the attack I was browsing back through the chronology section of the book and found that in 1970 the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine had hijacked four planes simultaneously, though as with all hijackings of the time, the objective was to secure hostages, not to destroy buildings. Did whoever planned 9-11 recall that earlier operation? I don't know, of course--maybe someday we'll find out. And of course in addition to a new level of conventional terrorism we're seeing low-level bioterrorism, so far from unknown sources. Certainly there will be a lot of new material coming out over the next few months and the book will have to be revised in the light of recent events. But since the book is intended to be an overview and general bibliography (including historical and theoretical works), it will remain useful I think for people who want to look at how terrorism has been analyzed by experts in recent years.
Evan Hodgens (evan) Fri 19 Oct 01 19:46
Certainly no one foresaw 9/11, but I have to believe that weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological, or nuclear) are still on the table. I suspect that your book may get more readership than you thought, even if it doesn't address 9/11. Do you see 9/11 as (apologize because it's much overused, but the right idea in this case) as a paradigm shift for civilian and military thinking?
Harry Henderson (hrh) Sat 20 Oct 01 00:43
Well, it certainly transformed our assessment of our vulnerability from theoretical to practical. One thing I cover in the introductory chapter is comparing terrorism to a number of other phenomena such as conventional war, revolution, guerrilla war, and organized crime. Terrorism shares some characteristics with each of these but there are also key differences (guerrillas, for example, sometimes engage in terrorist acts, but they see themselves as a military force with a political objective, they usually have some relatively broad- based support, and they tend to use conventional weapons even if their tactics are unconventional.) Since 9/11 our leaders have tried to apply the conventional war paradigm, albeit with many often-stated qualifications. This is a shift from the earlier reaction, which was to see terrorists more as criminals. None of these paradigms really fit, and I think we're in the process of fashioning a new one (if I knew how to do this, I wouldn't be writing obscure reference books, I'd be a highly paid consultant for the State Department ...) Another thing I mention is "state terrorism" -- that is, the use of extralegal violence by governments against dissidents. The "official" definitions of terrorism get around this by including as one of the characteristics of terrorists that they're not a government. Of course state terrorism isn't the same as state-supported terrorism, which is a government providing backing to a separate terrorist group. So a lot of the beginning of the book is just getting the terminology straight while surveying how the experts characterize terrorism and terrorists.
Linda Castellani (castle) Sat 20 Oct 01 00:55
What was the process that created terrorism as a tool for radical political ideologists? Hasn't terrorism been around for centuries?
Fuzzy Logic (phred) Sat 20 Oct 01 02:58
I was just thinking of that, Linda, and the fact that Guy Fawkes Day (November 5, "gunpowder, treason and plot") is coming up soon. Hi everyone, and welcome to you Harry. My first question is more about the writing, or perhaps better said, the necessary editorial judgment involved in a book like this. Everyone involved in any given subject has a point of view, and perhaps a position to protect, but here we have a subject that by its very nature invites subterfuge, misdirection, omission and outright lying. This isn't ordinary police-and-thieves; the organizations involved are in a very deadly game concerning not just violence for ordinary reasons of greed or revenge, but violence for the purpose of political and other ideology. So I'm wondering how you went about filtering the many sources for this book and weighing which ones were reliable or at least basically credible, and which ones simply had to be disputed or ignored. As anyone who surfs around the Web knows, there are endless "conspiracy theory" web sites that purport to explain all kinds of political and social phenomena including terrorism. So perhaps your very in-depth experience in looking at this subject can help us sort out the overwhelming volume of stuff on this issue.
Daniel del Solar (dsolar) Sat 20 Oct 01 10:31
A very good question, that of values. On that very question hangs the definition of "the enemy, aka, 'them.'" To the native tribes, thought doubtless they had other names for them, the invading "white man" was a terrorist. Given their understandable lack of a world historical vision, the invaders who came with gifts, gunshots, and gunysacks with which to cart away the wealth of the land they "discovered." All which goes to the central questions raised when one observes: one person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter.
Harry Henderson (hrh) Sat 20 Oct 01 10:42
Two excellent questions (and welcome, phred). In my overview chapter I do look briefly at the historical context for the idea of terrorism. Certainly "terrorist" acts go back as far as recorded human history. For example, a conqueror might kill everyone in a city and raze it, thus encouraging the next city down the road to surrender immediately when the conqueror's army arrives. Then there was the medieval Islamic society who became known as "the Assassins" whose hashish-stoked warriors apparently specialized in killing opposing leaders. _Modern_ terrorism, though, is, you might say, the bastard brother of the modern state. That is, the modern state embodied the idea of consciously reshaping society to serve ideology, and terrorism emerged as a tool both for enforcing and resisting such "social engineering." The idea of using terror as an explicit tool for transforming society begins, I think, with the French Revolution. (While Guy Fawkes stands out earlier, it was isolated.) During the 19th century terrorism was developed as a tactic by fringe socialist and anarchist groups. Particularly in late 19th century Russia terrorist use of bombs became common. In the 20th century the postcolonial period (following WW2) and the Cold War encouraged the development of terrorism by revolutionary movements (such as in Algeria in the 1950s). Regional conflicts (such as Northern Ireland, which can be loosely included in postcolonialist conflicts) tended to create loci of terrorist activity. The Cold War saw the Soviets backing some terrorist groups, while the U.S. often backed governments that used state terrorism against dissidents. Anyway, there's the capsule summary.
Harry Henderson (hrh) Sat 20 Oct 01 10:56
In response to phred: The explosion of online information has been a boon to researchers for books such as this because it's easier to find and process information online. (I remember for the first of these books I did several years ago I still had to dig through spools of microfilm in the Berkeley library basement. I don't miss the "boiler room" at all.) But of course as every netizen knows, there's a huge volume of unreliable or at least unverifiable information out there. For researching a controversial topic there's also going to be a need to consider the possible bias in different kinds of sources. Usually for my first pass I start with sources that have some prima facie reliability. For example, for information about terrorist groups and activities such sources as the State Department's annual "Patterns of of Global Terrorism" and FBI statistics on domestic terror incidents are probably reliable for factual matters. Then there are academic sources attached to reputable universities, etc. Each of these sources have links to other sources, and one can mentally "weight" a link from a reliable source to other sources that in turn are likely to be reliable. But having followed the link to a source, I must ask 1) who are its sponsor(s)? 2) what is its apparent purpose? 3) what kinds of materials does it provide? 4) Is it kept up to date? 5) Is it likely to be truly useful to researchers? The purpose of the book however is not to declare whether sources are reliable or not. It's to select a variety of sources that are likely to be reliable _and useful_. The "second pass" (though I don't necessarily do them that discretely) is what you might call the "diversity pass." I look for contrary points of view. For example, the work of Noam Chomsky offers a contrasting perspective based on state terrorism by the U.S. and reaction to it in the Third World, as well as critiquing the definitions used by "the establishment." Also, in preparing the introductory chapter I will have identified other main schools of thought or perspectives. When compiling the bibliography I seek accessible and useful books and articles espousing these points of view. The goal is to have a diverse and robust collection of fact-bases and viewpoints. This doesn't mean that all will get equal coverage-- the "orthodox" viewpoint on terrorism has many more books and articles supporting it than, for example, the Chomskian view.
Harry Henderson (hrh) Sat 20 Oct 01 11:01
Answering dsolar: The terrorism against native peoples is harder to categorize. I suppose it fall roughly in the category of state terrorism (to the extent a government deliberately used it by policy-- the Belgians in the Congo are a particularly egregious example, though the British and U.S. did it -- the Trail of Tears for example. In general I tried to include the concept of state terrorism and Chomskian perspective in the book. However most of the governmentmental and even academic sources take the "orthodox" approach of terrorists being nongovernmental actors. Although even within that ambit there is a variety of theories for understanding terrorism, including psychological theories and communications theories.
Ross Alan Stapleton-Gray (amicus) Sat 20 Oct 01 21:32
> I'd be a highly paid consultant for the State Department Actually, I think we've greatly neglected the diplomatic arm of government, in favor of the military (a pound of pounding is sexier than an ounce of prevention...); you might be a highly-paid consultant for the State Department, but far more likely you're getting your money from DOD, these days. I'd challenge the labeling of Fawkes, or any of those Russian bomb-throwing anarchists, as terrorists... I think there's a significant distinction between regicide and terrorism. Yes, Alexander II may be terrified of having a bomb thrown under his carriage, but what makes terrorism terrorism, it seems to me, is that the aim is a more widespread panic, discord, and social damage. Right now, the U.S. is, as a policy, economy, and culture, pretty damned terrified... a bunch of $1.95 box cutters wielded by a few dozen individuals have produced a trillion dollars or so of economic disruption, and now everybody and his brother wants a dose of Cipro to chase down the sedatives their taking. There's been a simultaneous upsurge in patriotism, but the net effects of all of this have been extremely disruptive and costly.
Harry Henderson (hrh) Sat 20 Oct 01 22:19
Fawkes seems to be primarily regicide, not an attempt to terrify the population as a whole (although I'm not well-read on the Gunpowder Plot). That's why I think terrorism in the modern sense was born in the French Revolutionary era. However the Russian anarchists weren't simply trying to off the Czar. They and some other 19th century radical anarchists consciously embraced terror as a tool to destabilize and destroy the state itself, not just a particular ruler. (In the book I also make it clear that anarchism per se does not equal violence or terrorism. There were many peaceful anarchists.)
Ross Alan Stapleton-Gray (amicus) Sat 20 Oct 01 22:40
> embraced terror as a tool to destabilize and destroy the state Terror of the massed populace? Terror of a class (e.g., boyars, or nobility)? I think terrorism has a lot to do with mass communication, as well, and the ability of a population to spread information (which, I guess, aren't the same things)... there have been enormous effects in the U.S. from the 9/11 attacks, that really couldn't happen in China, given the means (or lack of it) for lateral information flows.
Harry Henderson (hrh) Sun 21 Oct 01 11:13
Yes indeed. I have a brief section on terrorism and communications theory as well as terrorism and the media.
Fuzzy Logic (phred) Sun 21 Oct 01 15:15
I wonder if you could talk a little more about the psychological and communications theories of the underlying origins or motivations for terrorist activities. It certainly seems worthwhile to sort out the root causes even if not a whole lot can be done about them in individual cases.
Harry Henderson (hrh) Sun 21 Oct 01 22:58
Yes, I have trouble with the idea that we can _either_ try to understand the motivations of terrorists and the people who support them, _or_ "fight terrorism." I'd think the former, intelligently pursued, could help with the latter, in both the short and longer terms. One perspective is group dynamics, some of which terrorist groups share with cults, such as rigid, absolutist ideology, the demand for total commitment, isolation from mainstream society, and so on. On the other hand not all terrorist groups depend on a single charismatic leader as a cult usually does, and as we have seen, some terrorist group members can more or less blend into our society for extended periods of time. For terrorism as communication, it can be broken into components such as the transmitter (terrorist), recipient (target), message, and feedback (reaction of target) and the effectiveness of different actions in communicating messages can be analyzed. (See the work of Philip Karber and others). The extent to which the media emulates a) a filter b) a mirror or c) an amplifier or feedback loop is also controversial.
"Is that a British publication?" (jdevoto) Sun 21 Oct 01 23:02
You mention group dynamics a la cults, Harry. I wonder, does the book discuss the relation of terrorists with the larger society? It seems to me that some terrorist groups have indeed been cultlike, isolated, while others have been much better integrated into their society, have enjoyed widespread support (both moral and material), and have had around them a lot of people who, though not terrorists themselves, felt that the terrorists spoke for them or represented them in various ways. I think this also may get us into the definition of "terrorism" - whether it's defined by its tactics or by the nature of the group doing it.
Harry Henderson (hrh) Mon 22 Oct 01 10:56
The book doesn't go into that topic explicitly in the overview, though the bibliography cites various works relating to the sociology of terrorism. Some cites include: Alali, A. Oadasuo and Gary M. Byrd. Terrorism and the News Media: a Selected, Annotated Bibliography. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1994. Violence and Terrorism (an annual series of readers from Dushkin/McGraw Hill). Juergensmeyer, Mark. Terror in the Mind of God: the Globald Rise of Religious Terrorism. Berkeley, UC Press, 2000. Leeman, R. W. Rhetoric of Terrorism and Counterterrorism. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1991. Nacos, Brigitte L. Terrorism and the Media. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994. Nordsrom, Carolyn and Joann Martin, eds. The Paths to Domination, Resistance, and Terror. Berkeley, UC Press, 1992. Sluka, Jeffrey A. Death Squad: the Anthropology of State Terror. Philadelphia, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1999. Zulaika, Joseba and William A. Douglass. Terror and Taboo: The Follies, Foibles, and Faces of Terrorism. New York: Routledge, 1996. Some of the academic stuff is, not surprisingly, dense and uses idiosyncratic language and special theories. But one thing I do make clear is that the definition and label of "terrorist" is used differently by people with different political and academic viewpoints. "State terrorism" obviously differs in some respects from what is commonly called terrorism (that is, by nongovernment actors). State terrorism is usually justified in terms of preserving the state or society, though to the opposition it's a means for enforcing a repressive status quo. State terrorism usually targets people conceived to be opponents of the regime, though it often indiscriminately includes other parties. And, like nonstate terrorism, it is usually intended to demoralize if not paralyze its opponent. State terrorism usually uses death squads armed with guns, while nonstate terrorism overwhelmingly favors bombs (although there are some killings of individual targets). The Chomskyian view is basically that the U.S. has engaged in or supported state terrorism for many years, and that nonstate terrorism is a response to it that is understandable if not justified. The "orthodox" view, expressed by Bush and others, is that terrorists are either a) crazy or b) "hate our freedom" While it's true that what we call our freedom to spread our culture globally _is_ perceived as a threat by many Muslims and others, it's also pretty clear that the people who engage in anti-U.S. terrorism (or support it) have many more specific issues. Most experts fall somewhere between the Chomskyian and Bush views.
Ross Alan Stapleton-Gray (amicus) Mon 22 Oct 01 14:57
Heh. And most of America falls between Maine and Hawaii... :-) Herb Meyer, who was on the National Intelligence Council, was applauding how the 9/11 actions were leading to a new attitude toward the CIA, which would presumably (according to Meyer) be given the rein to return to more its OSS roots. Meyer specifically cited its (the OSS's) war-time record, which was more like a partisan/commando situation, and the CIA's subsequent "successes," among which he included the mining of harbors in Nicaragua. This last one really bugged the hell out of me, as, in addition to being explicitly illegal (per the Bolland Amendment), it was about as obviously terrorism (the aim was to frighten int'l transport, insurers, etc., away from any commerce with Nicaragua, and crash the economy) as anything I can imagine. I think Meyer was on the NIC during the Reagan years, so his views might be unsurprising, but how do we reconcile what he applauds with others' desires for an ability to respond in kind?
Jo Simons (josparrow) Mon 22 Oct 01 15:49
Hi Harry With respect to the "Fighting Terrorism" attempts of various governments, what sort of effects do you think they have on the terrorist groups themselves? For example the "war on terrorism" response doesn't seem to really be impacting the groups themselves, and the impression is that if anything, they could possibly recruit more people to a cause. On the other hand, simply relying on diplomacy after the fact doesn't seem to be useful either if the terrorist groups involved are not directly linked with specific governments. What is your take on this?
Harry Henderson (hrh) Mon 22 Oct 01 16:54
I think it's too early to say what the ultimate effect on the terrorist groups of our "war on terrorism" will be. Roughly, I would say that if the existing anti-terrorist coalition holds (which means minimizing collateral damage and actions seen as offensive to mainstream Muslims) al-Qaeda and related groups may be either knocked down or marginalized by cutting off resources. But these groups are pretty fluid in nature and the hydra can very well grow new heads after awhile. If the war gets out of control and governments (particularly Pakistan or Saudi Arabia) are destabilized, all bets are off. Historically, some terrorist groups have been pretty much wiped out. The leftist European terrorists of the 1970s (Red Brigades, Red Army Faction, etc.) were knocked down by massive police action and eventually marginalized by political shifts in the host countries. Similarly, right-wing terrorists in the U.S. have pretty much disappeared (not that they were ever that extensive), again through a combination of heavy FBI surveillance and raids and the lack of a broad base of supporters. Of course both left and right wing terrorists might return if there's major economic dislocation or if a strongly right or left wing government takes power. But the Middle Eastern groups are fueled by ongoing unresolved issues (particularly Israel-Palestine) and they also have a lot more sympathy and indirect support than the European leftists ever had. And with the relative decline in importance of traditional right or left wing ideology, religion and culture have emerged (again) as dominant forces.
Doubting Disappearance (dsolar) Tue 23 Oct 01 01:27
>Similarly, right-wing terrorists in the U.S. have pretty much >disappeared (not that they were ever that extensive), again through >a combination of heavy FBI surveillance and raids and the lack of a >broad base of supporters. Disappearance in terms ONLY of media mention. The groups, the tens of thousands of heavily-armed right wing "cells," remain unabated. A few, two or three or four, of the more public groups have been slowed down and the more visible "freedom village" in Idaho has been effectively closed, but we remain riddled by right-wing hate. Racism is alive and well, and well-armed. The media has a more pressing instance of "terrorism" to deal with, and the Bush agenda has been fast-forwarded by 911. National identity card anyone? Omnivore?
Harry Henderson (hrh) Tue 23 Oct 01 11:39
Can you give me a cite for "tens of thousands of heavily armed right wing cells"? Everything I've read suggests that membership in militia groups (not all of which are right wing or racist by the way) has declined ever since the Oklahoma City bombing (which was not related to a militia, btw). And militias aren't organized into cells, and many of them meet in public (and the bigger ones no doubt have their own resident FBI informers.) There's a small number of violent anti-abortion terrorists. Some of those such as "Army of God" do have a cell-type structure. The biggest white supremacy group, Aryan Nations, was put out of business by civil action brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center (Morris Dees' group) There are certainly still survivalist types, many of whom hold right-wing views, but most of them focus on self-sufficiency, being "off the grid" and weathering some sort of apocalypse, not conducting terrorist actions. I suspect in the weeks since 9/11 there has been some upsurge in survivalist activities (though the leading economic indicators for such sentiment, gold and silver prices, haven't gone up that much.)
Bob 'rab' Bickford (rab) Tue 23 Oct 01 12:40
It really sounds to me like the question in #22 above is blithely assuming that *any* group with offensive right-wing and/or separatist views is somehow automatically a terrorist group, especially if their members are "heavily armed". That sort of nearly blind reaction to differences is what fosters and promotes divisions in society and is just what real terrorists want: everyone suspicious and hateful of everyone else. There aren't "tens of thousands" of any sort of "cell" in America. Certainly there are an ample supply of people who are (justifiably) somewhat paranoid about their rights to keep and bear arms being trampled upon by the ignorance and fear of a minority of their fellow-citizens, and among them there are certainly a few swaggering loud-mouths. But actual 'terrorists'? No way, not unless the idiots in our government actually cross the line and start acting totalitarian -- in which case I'd argue that the terrorists would be in Wash. DC and not elsewhere. Fortunately that's not too likely; Bush and company are not quite as stupid as his critics claim (barely).
flash gordon md (flash) Wed 24 Oct 01 08:35
what resources do you cover on bioterrorism, harry?
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