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  • Originally published 08/22/2013

    Understanding Modern Violence Through the Lens of the Reign of Terror

    One of the most stimulating books I have read in some time is Sophie Wahnich’s In Defense of the Terror: Liberty or Death in the French Revolution (published in 2003, but in English 2012). But it’s not the writing (which is murky) or its purpose (with which I generally disagree) but its viewpoint on Terrorism that can be instructive.In fact, this little book is an apologetic for the Terrorists in the French Revolution. And its value is that in associating herself so clearly with her subject, she does see them much as they saw themselves. In short, Wahnich argues that the Terrorists were motivated by the “dread” that they felt after the assassination of Marat. They then had acted to protect the purity and integrity of the “sacred” revolution that they had made to affirm the political equality of all. More originally, Wahnich also claims that the mechanism of the Terror led to more incarcerations than executions and that its organizational existence at least put limits on popular “enthusiasm.” In sum, the Terrorists were justified and their leadership contained excesses.

  • Originally published 08/13/2013

    Louis René Beres: Core Roots of Palestinian Terrorism

    Louis René Beres was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), and publishes widely on world politics, terrorism, and international law.Jerusalem will soon have to confirm its final Road Map decisions on "peace." Then, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will need to determine whether the still-fractionated Palestinian side is willing and able to overcome some of its deepest cultural roots. Without such a determination, any formal agreement could be perilous.Here, insight requires memory. Before a resurgent medievalism took hold in the Islamic Middle East, the fraternity of Palestinian terrorist groups had contained many disparate bedfellows. Virtually every Arab enemy of Israel was more-or-less welcome to join in a battle for "national self- determination" against the "Zionists." Today, the fight has changed from a preeminently secular and tactical one, to a struggle that draws heavily upon still-underlying commitments to religious sacrifice.

  • Originally published 08/03/2013

    Daniel Pipes: On Closed Embassies, the Worldwide Travel Alert, and Wimpitude

    Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2013 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.In April, the city of Boston was effectively under military curfew because two terrorists were on the loose. Now, fears of al-Qaeda attacking has led the U.S. government to close 21 U.S. embassies in Muslim-majority countries and then issue a worldwide travel alert announcing that "Terrorists may elect to use a variety of means and weapons and target both official and private interests. U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure."The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said that the two steps result from "a significant threat stream" and so the authorities "are taking it seriously."

  • Originally published 06/03/2013

    Appeals court reduces number of IRA oral histories Boston College must provide to Britain

    A federal appeals court on Friday handed an important victory to scholars -- especially those who engage in or rely on oral history -- by reducing from 85 to 11 the number of oral history interviews Boston College must provide to British authorities.In doing so, the appeals court rejected (as it did in an earlier review of the case) the idea that confidential materials collected for scholarship were entitled to a heightened level of protection from outside subpoenas than would be most other documents. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit said that some "balancing" of conflicting rights could still be in order, and rejected the U.S. government's contention that there was no need for a court review of the appropriateness of the the subpoenas."[W]e rule that the enforcement of subpoenas is an inherent judicial function which, by virtue of the doctrine of separation of powers, cannot be constitutionally divested from the courts of the United States," said the ruling....

  • Originally published 04/24/2013

    Daniel Pipes: Education by Murder in Boston

    Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2013 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.What will be the long-term impact of the Apr. 15-19 Boston Marathon attack and the ensuing action-movie-style chase, killing a total of four and wounding 265?Let's start with what its impact will not be. It will not bring American opinion together; if the "United We Stand" slogan lasted brief months after 9/11, consensus after Boston will be even more elusive. The violence will not lead to Israeli-like security measures in the United States. Nor will it lead to a greater preparedness to handle deadly sudden jihad syndrome violence. It will not end the dispute over the motives behind indiscriminate Muslim violence against non-Muslims. And it certainly will not help resolve current debates over immigration or guns.

  • Originally published 04/23/2013

    Michael Lind: The World is Actually More Peaceful than Ever

    Michael Lind is the author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States and co-founder of the New America Foundation. In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, it is important to keep things in perspective, by emphasizing what the mass media tend to neglect — namely, the fact that the world has become much more peaceful in recent decades and is getting more peaceful all the time.It does not diminish the horror of mass casualty attacks on civilians, in this and other countries, to point out that today’s terrorist incidents provide a counterpoint to a declining arc of political violence worldwide. Both violence among states and violence within states have diminished dramatically in the last few generations.If we look at battle deaths in the last century, the spurts in the Cold War, associated with the Korean, Indochina and Soviet-Afghan wars, were dwarfed by the huge spikes of slaughter associated with the world wars. And with the end of the Cold War came a steep decline in political violence worldwide — mainly because the two sides no longer kept local conflicts going by arming and supplying opposing sides from Latin America to Africa to Asia and the Middle East.

  • Originally published 04/22/2013

    Who Are The Chechens?

    A Chechen man picks up a loaf of bread in Grozny in 1995. Credit: Wiki Commons.In the aftermath of the killing and arrest of the Tsarnaev brothers, responsible for the Boston marathon bombings, the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11, there has been much speculation and interest in their ethnic origins. The media was quick to report that the brothers had Chechen ancestry, but few Americans know what that means. Having taught what is perhaps the only class in America, if not the world, on this obscure land for nine years at University of Massachusetts -- Dartmouth, I thought I would take advantage of this unique moment to shed some light on the brothers’ little known homeland and its ancient people.  

  • Originally published 04/21/2013

    Murder! Madness! Terror!

    A member of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September during the infamous Munich Olympic massacre in 1972.During the ancient Olympic games a sacred truce (ekecheiria, the stress on the penultimate syllable -- literally a holding of hands) prevailed. It was an elaborate procedure: runners (spondophoroi) were sent out all over Greece to announce the beginning of the truce which lasted a month and sometimes longer. Violators were heavily punished. In the High Middle Ages the Treuga Dei, the truce of God imposed by the church, persisted for centuries. On certain days there was to be no fighting and certain categories of people were never to be attacked. This armistice, not specifically connected with sports, was universally respected. 

  • Originally published 04/18/2013

    Erika Eichelberger: Violence on the Home Front

    Erika Eichelberger is a senior editorial fellow at Mother Jones where she writes regularly for the website. She is also director of social media for TomDispatch. She has written for the Nation, the Brooklyn Rail, and Alternet.Since the Newtown massacre, visions of unfathomable crazy mass killers and armed strangers in the night have colonized the American mind. Proposed laws have been drawn up that would keep potential mass murderers from getting their hands on assault weapons and high-capacity clips, or that would stop hardened criminals from buying guns. But the danger out there is both more mundane and more terrible:you're more likely to be hurt or killed by someone you know or love. And you'll probably be at home when it happens.

  • Originally published 04/17/2013

    Duke historian Martin Miller on meaning of terrorism

    In the aftermath of the deadly explosions in Boston, one word quickly became attached to the tragedy: terrorism. The major media honed in on the presence of the term in President Barack Obama’s speeches, and as the investigation continues into the motives of its unknown culprit or culprits, so too will speculation into the terrorist pathologies underlying it all. In post–9/11 America, terrorism is the frame through which we now instinctively make sense of seemingly senseless violence.

  • Originally published 04/16/2013

    HNN Hot Topics: Terrorism

    Aftermath of bombing of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Credit: FlickrHistorian's TakeHistorian of terrorism worried about rise in militia groups (ABC News, 3-30-10)Gérard Chaliand: Why We Need a Cool Assessment of Terrorism (History News Network, 7-29-07)Walter Laqueur: Terrorism Won't Be Defeated in Our Lifetime (Wall Street Journal, 7-12-05)Histories of Terrorism

  • Originally published 03/28/2013

    Jill Lepore: Terrorism, Counterterrorism, and the Law of Torment

    Jill Lepore, a staff writer, has been contributing to The New Yorker since 2005.On November 13, 2001, George W. Bush, acting as President and Commander-in-Chief, signed a military order concerning the “Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism.” Under its provisions, suspected terrorists who are not citizens of the United States were to be “detained at an appropriate location designated by the Secretary of Defense.” If brought to trial, they were to be tried and sentenced by a military commission. No member of the commission need be a lawyer. The ordinary rules of military law would not apply. Nor would the laws of war. Nor, in any conventional sense, would the laws of the United States. In the language of the order, “It is not practicable to apply in military commissions under this order the principles of law and the rules of evidence generally recognized in the trial of criminal cases in the United States district courts.”

  • Originally published 03/22/2013

    A Brief History of Suicide Bombing

    U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon after the 1983 suicide bombing.Originally posted on OSU's Origins.On February 1, 2013, a suicide bomber killed himself and a security guard at America’s embassy in Ankara, Turkey. This attack, carried out more than a decade after 9/11, reveals a great deal about the phenomenon we have come to know as suicide bombing.

  • Originally published 03/20/2013

    Denying Islam's Role in Terror: Explaining the Denial

    Image via Shutterstock.Originally printed in the Spring 2013 edition of Middle East Quarterly.Over three years after Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's massacre at Ft. Hood, Texas, in November 2009, the classification of his crime remains in dispute. In its wisdom, the Department of Defense, supported by law enforcement, politicians, journalists, and academics, deems the killing of thirteen and wounding of forty-three to be "workplace violence." For example, the 86-page study on preventing a repeat episode, Protecting the Force: Lessons from Fort Hood, mentions "workplace violence" sixteen times. (1)

  • Originally published 03/18/2013

    Convicted terrorist set to be released from prison in 1982 airline attack that killed teen

    WASHINGTON — Mohammed Rashed slipped a bomb beneath the jetliner seat cushion, set the timer and disembarked with his wife and child when the plane landed in Tokyo. The device exploded as Pan Am Flight 830 continued on to Honolulu, killing a Japanese teenager in a 1982 attack that investigators linked to a terrorist organization known for making sophisticated bombs.It would be 20 years before the bomber — and one-time apprentice to Abu Ibrahim, currently featured on the FBI list of most wanted terrorists — would admit guilt in an American courtroom.Now, credited for his cooperation against associates, Rashed will be released from federal prison within days after more than two decades in custody in Greece and the United States....

  • Originally published 03/14/2013

    Clifford D. May: St. Patrick’s Day with Edmund Burke

    Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on national security.Perhaps because St. Patrick’s Day is coming up, I’ve found myself re-reading Edmund Burke and Conor Cruise O’Brien — and drinking Irish whiskey. I first became acquainted with these three sources of stimulation back in 1978. That was also my first brush with terrorism.I was a young foreign correspondent sent to Northern Ireland to cover the “Troubles,” the conflict between Catholics and Protestants, Republicans (Irish nationalists) and Loyalists (those favoring solidarity with the United Kingdom) that broke out in the 1960s and dissipated just before the turn of the century.I spent many hours in pubs, listening to those on both sides of the divide tell me what they believed, whom they despised, and what acts of violence they would countenance — and in some cases carry out — to achieve their objectives.

  • Originally published 03/07/2013

    Chester A. Crocker and Ellen Laipson: The Latest Front in a Long War

    Chester A. Crocker is professor of strategic studies at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service and served as assistant secretary of state for African Affairs from 1981 to 1989. Ellen Laipson is president of the Stimson Center.HISTORY has often shown that military victories do not automatically translate into political success. This is true in the recent military victory of French and government of Mali forces in their fight against radical Islamist insurgents who tried to seize power in the North African nation. The small victory in Mali is just the beginning of what will likely be a very long struggle for control of the Sahel — the trans-Saharan badlands that stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.We all know now that President George W. Bush was premature when he said in 2003 that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended” as he stood in front of a banner reading “Mission Accomplished.” It would be equally premature today to say that success in Mali signals the defeat of jihadist forces in the Sahel.

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    From Red Army to Al Qaeda: Terror and Postwar Japan

    Postwar Japan has, by and large, been insulated from the type of terror that has afflicted the U.S. and Europe. In recent history, the crisis that resulted in the largest number of Japanese casualties was the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack on New York. On that day, 24 Japanese citizens died, including a number of bank employees working at World Trade Center offices.Here’s a brief history of such incidents:Sept. 28, 1977: Five members of Japanese Red Army hijack Japan Airlines plane in Indian airspace with 156 people aboard. All hostages released after Japanese prime minister accepts demands for $6 million and release of imprisoned comrades, illustrating Tokyo’s preference for negotiation.Aug. 2, 1990: Baghdad starts detaining Japanese and Westerners to deter U.S.-led attacks after invasion of Kuwait. Former pro wrestler and member of Japan’s parliament Antonio Inoki helps negotiate release of all 41 Japanese “human shields” through talks with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein....

  • Originally published 01/18/2013

    Prospero Gallinari, a Terrorist, Is Dead at 62

    Prospero Gallinari, who as a member of the Italian terrorist group the Red Brigades was convicted in the kidnapping and assassination in 1978 of Aldo Moro, the Italian prime minister, died Monday after collapsing at his home in Reggio Emilia, in northern Italy. He was 62. He was long believed to have been the gunman in the killing until a comrade took responsibility.Mr. Gallinari had a history of heart trouble, Italian newspapers said, citing police reports confirming his death.The Red Brigades, a vicious and idiosyncratic Marxist-Leninist paramilitary organization, engaged in robberies, assaults and assassinations in the 1970s as part of a campaign to foment leftist revolution in Italy. The group’s most notorious act was kidnapping Mr. Moro in March 1978. It held him for 55 days and then shot him to death. Mr. Moro’s body was found in a car trunk on May 9, 1978, the same day he was murdered....

  • Originally published 01/15/2013

    Eight Things I Miss About the Cold War

    Credit: Wiki Commons.At a book festival in Los Angeles recently, some writers (myself included) were making the usual arguments about the problems with American politics in the 1950s -- until one panelist shocked the audience by declaring, “God, I miss the Cold War.” His grandmother, he said, had come to California from Oklahoma with a grade-school education, but found a job in an aerospace factory in L.A. during World War II, joined the union, got healthcare and retirement benefits, and prospered in the Cold War years. She ended up owning a house in the suburbs and sending her kids to UCLA.Several older people in the audience leaped to their feet shouting, “What about McCarthyism?”  “The bomb?” “Vietnam?” “Nixon?”

  • Originally published 02/02/2011

    Elena Milashina: The Roots of Moscow's Chechen Problem

    Ms. Milashina, an investigative journalist for Novaya Gazeta, is a recipient of Human Rights Watch's 2010 Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism. The terrorist attack at Domodedovo airport last week, likely organized by Islamists from the North Caucasus, claimed 35 lives. Less than a year ago, 40 people died in the March 2010 bombing of the Moscow metro, also carried out by Chechen Islamists. Prior to the metro attack there hadn't been a bombing in Moscow for nearly six years. In the summer of 2004, militants acting on orders of Chechen leader Shamil Basayev, organized a series of terrorist attacks in several Russian cities. The culmination of these attacks was the seizure of a school in the small Ossetian city of Beslan in September 2004. When Russian troops stormed the school, 333 hostages died, including 186 children. Anna Politkovskaya, my courageous colleague from Novaya Gazeta, was supposed to be the reporter covering the Beslan hostage story. However, she was poisoned by Russian special services on her way to the region. So I was sent instead. In 2004, Basayev's bargaining chip was Ossetian children: He demanded that the Kremlin release a group of Chechen separatists, and, more importantly, he demanded recognition of Chechnya's independence and a complete cease-fire in exchange for the lives of the hostages.

  • Originally published 04/18/2010

    A Brief History of Chechen Terrorism

    Emergency responders at the site of the 2010 Moscow Metro bombing.Editor's Note: This article was originally titled "Female Suicide Bombers are Nothing New." The Moscow Metro bombing detailed in the article was the second most recent Chechen terrorist attack in Moscow -- the most recent was the Domodedovo International Airport bombing in 2011, which killed 37 people.