Depicting the Indescribable: A Brief History of Terrorism

  • Charles Lindholm
Part of the Twenty-first Century Perspectives on War, Peace, and Human Conflict book series (21CP)

Abstract

Any written “history” of a phenomenon as controversial and anxiety-provoking as “terrorism”3 is bound to be selective and somewhat subjective. Because there is little consensus (at least in much of the English-speaking world at this time) regarding terrorism, and due to the potentially enormous number of “terrorist” incidents from antiquity to the present, it is hard to know where to begin and which events to include or exclude.

Keywords

Europe Syria Assured Turkey Egypt 

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Notes

  1. 2.
    Walter Laqueur, The Age of Terrorism (Boston: Little Brown & Company, 1987), 3,9, and 143.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Caleb Carr, The Lessons of Terror (New York: Random House, 2002), 12–13.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    See Carr, Laqueur, and Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, as well as Paul Wilkinson, Political Terrorism (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 1974),CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. and Peter Waldmann, Terrorismus Provokation der Macht (Munich: Gerling Akadamie Verlag, 1998), esp. 40–55.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Jean Bethke Elshtain, Just War against Terror (New York: Basic Books, 2003), 50.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Aristotle, Politics (13, 142), cited in Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars (New York: Basic Books, 1977), 198.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    See David Barash and Charles Webel, Peace and Conflict Studies (Thousand Oaks, London, and New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2002), 4–5.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    See Laqueur, The Age of Terrorism, 12–13; Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, 88–89; Karen Armstrong, Holy War (New York: Random House, 2001), 18–19;Google Scholar
  9. and Jessica Stern, Terror in the Name of God (New York: Harper/Collins Ecco, 2003), xxi–xxii, for conventional histories of this period.Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    Mohmmad, al-Ghazali, The Foundation of the Articles of Faith, trans. Nahi Amin Faris (Lahore: Ashraf Press, 1963), 134.Google Scholar
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    Ignaz Goldziher, Introduction to Islamic Law and Theology (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), 183.Google Scholar
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    See Gilles Kepel, Jihad The Trail of Political Islam (Cambridge: Harvard University Press 2002), 24–30, for the Muslim Brotherhood;Google Scholar
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  17. 17.
    For a synopsis of the differences between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims, see Bernard Lewis, The Middle Fast (New York: Simon and Schuster Touchstone Books, 1997), 67 and 139.Google Scholar
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    For Al-Qaeda’s selective appropriation of Western technology and modernity, see John Gray, Al Qaeda and What It Means to be Modern (New York: The New Press, 2003).Google Scholar
  22. 27.
    Said Amir Arjomand, The Turban and the Crown: The Islamic Revolution in Iran (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).Google Scholar
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    Ayatollah Khomeini, quoted in Yann Richard, Shi’ite Islam: Polity, Ideology and Creed (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1995), 86.Google Scholar
  24. 32.
    See Michael Youssef, Revolt Against Modernity: Muslim Zealots and the West (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1985).Google Scholar
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    See Kepel, Jihad The Trail of Political Islam, 27–30, and R.P. Mitchell, The Society of the Muslim Brothers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), for Hassan al-Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood.Google Scholar
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    Muhammad Guessous, quoted in Kevin Dwyer, Arab Voices: The Human Rights Debate in the Middle East (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), 120.Google Scholar
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  28. 39.
    Johan Galtung, “11 September 2001: Diagnosis, Prognosis, Therapy,” in Johan Galtung, Carl G. Jacobsen, and Kai Frithjof Brand-Jacobsen Searching Tor Peace The Road to Transcend (London: Pluto Press, 2002), 91–94;Google Scholar
  29. William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (Monroe, MA: Common Courage Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  30. 40.
    It may unnerve, even anger, some readers to read about the “state terrorism” and “rogue” behavior of such two ostensibly democratic and freedom-loving nations as the United States and Israel. Yet the historical record since the last days of World War II cannot be ignored—particularly in terms of the number of civilian victims of American and Israeli military operations and the defiance by the United States and Israel of human rights and international consensus in the world’s most democratic public forum, the United Nations. For Israel’s use of terrorist methods (“sacred terrorism,” according to Edward Herman), initially against the British and then against the Palestinians and Israel’s Arab neighbors, as well as for the Palestinians’ violent responses, see Carr, The Lessons of Terror, 210–21; and Herman, The Real Terror Network, 76–79. For numerous examples of the U.S. support of repressive governments and terrorism around the world, and opposition to the United Nations and other “multilateral” organizations and international treaties/norms, see Blum, Rogue State A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, esp. 184–99; and Noam Chomsky, Rogue States The Rule of Torce in World Affairs (Cambridge MA: South End Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  31. 41.
    Ted Honderich, After the Terror (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2002), 151. Honderich’s book has caused an enormous stir in philosophical and other intellectual circles. His argument is regarded by many as an apologia for terrorism, and of blaming the “victims” of terrorism (Westerners) for their own misfortunes. “We need to change the world of bad lives and not just to make more terrorism against us less likely…. Our societies as they are, if you will put up with some last plain speaking, are ignorant, stupid, selfish, managed and deceived for gain, self-deceived, and deadly” (147). While controversial and at times overstated, Honderich’s book is essential reading for anyone interested in the knotty ethical issues intertwined with the political debate on “terrorism” and how to respond to it.Google Scholar
  32. 50.
    Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, Book 5, cited in Jonathan Glover, Humanity A Moral History of the Twentieth Century (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), 28–29. See also Michael Walzer’s interpretation of the Melian Dialogue in Just and Unjust Wars, 5–13.Google Scholar
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    For sieges and blockades, see Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, chapter 10, 160–75. According to the military historian Sven Lindquist, “total war was an expression that began to be used in France during the First World War…. The most famous use was in Der Totale Krieg (Total War) the title of a book by General Erich Ludendorff. Modern war is total in the sense that it touches the lives and souls of every single civilian of the warring countries. Air bombardment has intensified the concept, since the entire area of the warring country has become a theater of war. ‘The total war is a struggle of life or death and therefore has an ethical justification that the limited war of the 19th century lacked,’ writes Ludendorff.” Lindquist has provided the best extant chronicle and implicit critique of bombing and of how historically what had been “impermissible” in war (such as killing noncombatants) has gradually become “permissible,” if certain “ethical justifications” are provided. Sven Lindquist, A History of Bombing, trans. Linda Haverty Rugg (New York: The New Press, 2001), 68.Google Scholar
  34. 53.
    Harrison Salisbury, The 900 Days The Siege of Leningrad (New York: Da Capo Press, 1981), 514–15. “More people had died in the Leningrad blockade than had ever died in a modern city—anywhere—anytime: more than ten times the number who died in Hiroshima…. A total for Leningrad and vicinity of something over 1,000,000 deaths attributable to hunger, and an over-all total of deaths, civilian and military, on the order of 1,300,000 to 1,500,000, seems reasonable…. Pravda… declared that ‘the world has never known a similar mass extermination of a civilian population, such depths of human suffering and deprivation as fell to the lot of Leningraders.’” In following chapters of this book, several stories of Leningraders (“babushki,” or grandmothers) who survived the blockade, will be told. They, and millions of other Russians, are still haunted by this worst siege in human history (so far…).Google Scholar
  35. 55.
    Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Humanism and Terror (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969), 94.Google Scholar
  36. 56.
    Hannah Arendt, On Violence (Harcourt Brace & Company, Harvest Book: San Diego, 1970), 5.Google Scholar
  37. 58.
    See Joel Kovel, Against the State of Nuclear Terror (Boston: South End Press, 1983);Google Scholar
  38. Gregg Herken, The Winning Weapon: The Atomic Bomb in the Cold War 1945–1950 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Jonathan Schell, The Tate of the Earth (New York: Knopf, 1982);Google Scholar
  40. and Robert Jay Lifton and Richard Falk, Indefensible Weapons: The Political and Psychological Case Against Nuclearism (New York: Basic Books, 1982).Google Scholar
  41. 60.
    “Allegedly,” because on the many occasions the “Cold” War was perilously close to being “hot,” and not just during the Cuban Missile (or missive?) Crisis of October 1962. For a sophisticated analysis of the U.S. nuclear brinkmanship, see Michio Kaku and Daniel Axelrod, To Win a Nuclear War: The Pentagon’s Secret War Plans (Boston: South End Press, 1987), esp. x–xi and 5.Google Scholar
  42. 61.
    “By nuclearism we mean psychological, political, and military dependence on nuclear weapons, the embrace of weapons as a solution to a wide variety of human dilemmas, most ironically that of ‘security.’” Lifton and Falk; Indefensible Weapons ix. Also see Robert jay Lifton, Superpower Syndrome: America’s Apocalyptic Confrontation with the World (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press/Nation Books, 2003).Google Scholar
  43. 66.
    Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism, trans. Chris Turner (New York and London: Verso Books, 2002), 15 and 31.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Charles P. Webel 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles Lindholm

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