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VOL 23 NO 55 REGD NO DA 1589 | Dhaka, Tuesday, January 5 2016
Posted : 05 Jan, 2016 22:54:21 AA-A+
Terrorism in the past and present
K B Ahmed

Terrorism has now spread all over the world. There is hardly any nation that is now free from the threat of terrorism. Historically, it was only the states which engaged in wars and carried out atrocities by killing, destruction and caused havoc to their adversaries. There were in addition, in the periphery, armed conflicts carried out by dissenters, secessionists or the rebels. These elements also caused destruction and violation of rights of individuals.  History is witness to invasions, expeditions, occupation and subjugation of one state by another which routinely changed the political map of the world over the centuries. In defence, nations had to take traditional preparation against an advancing army to repel it, if it was possible. But since the World War II and dropping of atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, establishing world peace became a universal demand. This  led to the formation of the United Nations Organisation (UNO) with a more workable and mandated charter than its predecessor, the League of Nations.   

War in any form, had been and will always be a manifestation of terrorism, as it terrorises and victimises those who are not participants or the beneficiaries of "war  gains". The reason and rationale of any war is aggression and an intent to violate rights and liberty of others. No cause, either national or claimed to be international, could be justifiable for aggression that destroys innocent lives and property and restraints liberty. But war is caused not only by political conflicts, or for subduing the dissenters or gaining territory for expansion. War is caused by a motive for commercial gains as well. History depicts it as discovering new lands and establishing of colonies far away from homeland and in the process perpetrating torture, oppression and exploitation.

Terror is a tactic used by all invaders -- kings, rulers and even the elected leaders, to establish control, exploitation and supremacy. Distinctions of size and political legitimacy of the actors using terror raise questions as to what is and is not terrorism. The concept of moral equivalence is frequently used as an argument to broaden and blur the definition of terrorism as well. This concept argues that the outcome of an action is what matters, not the intent. Collateral or unintended damage to civilians from an attack by uniformed military forces on a legitimate military target is the same as a terrorist bomb directed deliberately at the civilian target with the intent of creating that damage. 

Simply put, a car bomb on a city street and a jet fighter dropping a bomb on a tank are both acts of violence that produce death and terror. Therefore, any military action is simply terrorism by a different name. 

This is the reasoning behind the famous phrase "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter". It is also a legacy of legitimising the use of terror by successful revolutionary movements.

Political ideology ranges from the far left to the far right. For example, the far left can consist of groups such as Marxists and Leninists who propose a revolution of workers led by the revolutionary elite. On the far right, we find dictatorships that typically believe in the merger of state and business leadership. Nationalism is the devotion to the interests or culture of a group of people or a nation. Typically, nationalists share a common ethnic background and wish to establish or regain a homeland.  

Religious extremists often reject the authority of secular governments and view the legal systems that are not based on their religious beliefs as illegitimate. They often view modernisation efforts as corrupting influences on traditional culture. Special interest groups include people on the radical fringe of many legitimate causes; e.g., people who use terrorism and extremism to uphold antiabortion views, animal rights and radical environmentalism. These groups believe that violence is morally justifiable to achieve their goals.

The earliest known organisation that exhibited aspects of a modern terrorist organisation was the Zealots of Judea. Known to the Romans as 'dagger-men', they carried on an underground campaign of assassination of Roman occupation forces, as well as any Jews they felt had collaborated with the Romans. Their motive was an uncompromising belief that they could not remain faithful to the dictates of Judaism while living as Roman subjects. Eventually, the Zealot revolt became open, and they were finally besieged followed by mass suicide at the fort of Masada.

From the time of the Assassins (late 13th century) to the 1700s, terror and barbarism were widely used in warfare and conflict, but the key ingredients for terrorism were lacking. Until the rise of the modern nation state after the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, the sort of central authority and cohesive society that terrorism attempts to influence barely existed. Communications were inadequate and controlled, and the causes that might inspire terrorism (religious schism, insurrection, ethnic strife, etc.) typically led to open warfare. By the time kingdoms and principalities became nations, they had sufficient means to enforce their authority and suppress activities such as terrorism.

During the late 19th century, radical political theories and improvements in weapons technology spurred the formation of small groups of revolutionaries who effectively attacked nation-states. Anarchists espousing belief in the "propaganda of the deed" produced some striking successes, assassinating heads of states from Russia, France, Spain, Italy, and the United States.

However, their lack of organisation and refusal to cooperate with other social movements in political efforts rendered the anarchists ineffective as a political movement. In contrast, Communism's role as an ideological basis for political terrorism was just beginning, and would become much more significant in the 20th century

The largest act of international terrorism occurred on September 11, 2001 in a set of coordinated attacks on the United States of America, where Islamic terrorists hijacked civilian airliners and used them to attack the World Trade Centre (WTC) towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. The effects of 9/11 had a significant impact on the American psyche and led to global reverberations. Other major terrorist attacks have also occurred in New Delhi (Indian Parliament attacked); Bali car bomb attack; London subway bombings; Madrid train station bombings; attacks in Mumbai (hotels, train station and a Jewish outreach centre), Nigeria, Pakistan, Paris and more. The operational and strategic epicenter of Islamic terrorism is mostly centred in Pakistan, Afghanistan and parts of Syria. 

Member states of the UN in September 2006 embarked upon a new phase in their counter-terrorism efforts by agreeing on a global strategy to counter terrorism. The strategy forms a basis for a concrete plan of action: to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism; to prevent and combat terrorism; to take measures to build state capacity to fight terrorism; to strengthen the role of the United Nations in combating terrorism; and to ensure the respect of human rights while countering terrorism. The strategy was built on the unique consensus achieved by world leaders at their 2005 September Summit to condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. In recent years, terrorist networks have evolved, moving away from dependence on state sponsorship; many of the most dangerous groups and individuals now operate as non-state actors. Taking advantage of porous borders and interconnected international systems-finance, communications, and transit-terrorist groups can reach every corner of the globe. While some remain focused on local or national political dynamics, others seek to affect global change. Recently, a concerted campaign has been raised to counter the threats from the so-called Islamists, also known as Al-Qaeda or Islamic State and in many other forms as well. Eventual beneficiary of the campaign is not yet in sight.   

Against this backdrop, new innovations are taking place, new products to counter terrorism have been introduced and new machineries are manufactured with billions of dollars spent. A huge array of equipment, some lethal ones, are guarding the public buildings and private properties. Personal security from known business personalities to public functionaries are subjecting themselves to be covered by electronic and armed weapons to be protected from terrorism.

Terrorism has not stopped nor has it been effectively understood. It is spreading in many different forms, and the world is becoming totally engulfed by terror. World leaders are left with no other choice but to engage themselves in planning to counter terrorism.

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