Who's Online

We have 286 guests online

Popular

2609 readings
Getting Past Terrorism in America PDF Print E-mail
Peace News
Tuesday, 30 January 2007 10:01
Getting Past Terrorism in America

AG - Rami G. Khouri - The good news in the United States is that more thoughtful individuals and institutions have started to generate some high quality, accurate research and analysis about terror groups. I was fortunate to absorb some of this at a two-day conference last week at the Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies at Tufts University. Excellent papers were presented by a range of mostly American scholars and analysts, including Robert Pape, Peter Bergen, Fawaz Gerges, Steve Simon, Mia Bloom, Ian Lustick, Richard Shultz, John Esposito, Ayesha Jalal, Sumantra Bose, As?ad Abukhalil, Hisham Melhem, and others. I mention many of the authors simply to highlight the availability in the United States of so many good, honest scholars and journalists who grapple with this important issue.

www.PEJ.org

The impetus in American society is to label all Islamist political groups as terrorists without distinguishing between criminal terror, legitimate resistance and peaceful political action.

Stuck in Single Frames of a Terrorism Movie

Rami G. Khouri

Agence Global
January 30, 2007

Copyright ?2007 Rami G. Khouri / Agence Global
[Republished at PEJ News with AG permission]


Boston -- The United States broadly as a whole -- citizens, government, media and academia -- has had a difficult time coming to grips with the terrorism phenomenon that struck its shores so traumatically on September 11, 2001. A two-week journey throughout the United States this month suggests that the pendulum is not shifting decisively towards better or worse analysis, but rather that American society in general is polarizing on this issue.

Some Americans have generated some first-class analysis on why various groups around the world use terrorism more frequently as a means of political expression, resistance or offensive warfare. Other quarters of American society -- especially popular media and politicians -- have slipped into panic and racism mode. They focus almost exclusively on terror committed by Arab-Islamist groups, and wildly tar all Islamist political groups as mortal threats that have stealthily penetrated American society, without differentiating between criminal terror, legitimate resistance and peaceful political action.

The worst news is in the public arena -- at airport and center-city bookshops, in the mass media, in conversations with officials and ordinary people. Here the prevalent image is of evil Islamic and Arab terrorists who work hard to undermine and destroy American and Western civilization, or ?the civilized world,? (contrasted to the 'barbaric' Arab-Islamic realm).

The proliferation of books and television specials with this theme is particularly worrying. They build expansive, frightening scenarios on the basis of small facts or the deeds of a handful of individuals. Of course, there are individuals and some very small groups of Arabs and Muslims who speak evil of the United States, and a few of them have attacked American targets. Rather than being treated as the exceptions to the rule of rather passive, non-violent Arabs and Muslims, who make up the vast majorities of our societies, these handfuls of freaks and criminals are exaggerated into a global conspiracy that is a direct, immediate, mortal threat to the United States.

Such scare-tactics journalism and political nonsense allow otherwise reasonable people and rational institutions to dwell in a manufactured world of fear, ignorance, hysteria and racism. This is not new. The same ugly side of American culture did this in the early 20th Century, when the target of their ignorance and hatred was the Jews, who were portrayed as planning to control American society and then the world.

The good news in the United States is that more thoughtful individuals and institutions have started to generate some high quality, accurate research and analysis about terror groups. I was fortunate to absorb some of this at a two-day conference last week at the Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies at Tufts University. Excellent papers were presented by a range of mostly American scholars and analysts, including Robert Pape, Peter Bergen, Fawaz Gerges, Steve Simon, Mia Bloom, Ian Lustick, Richard Shultz, John Esposito, Ayesha Jalal, Sumantra Bose, As?ad Abukhalil, Hisham Melhem, and others. I mention many of the authors simply to highlight the availability in the United States of so many good, honest scholars and journalists who grapple with this important issue.

The main conclusion of their presentations is precisely that there is no single theme or causal reason that explains the different kinds of terrorism that assorted groups employ all around the world. Nuanced, comprehensive and fact-based analyses of the individual, social and strategic motivations of terrorists provide a clear picture of a movie that is made up of many individual frames. Understanding the individual frames allows us to make sense of the entire movie.

Terrorists are variously motivated by many different issues that often mesh together in varying patterns across the world -- in sharp contrast to the simplistic, one-dimensional, quasi-racist gibberish about America-hating, hostile Islamic terrorists that dominates popular and political culture in the United States.

Some of the motivations of terror groups that emerged from the Tufts conference were: foreign military occupation of their homeland, domestic political repression and humiliation, revenge, religious interpretations, social prestige and status, alienation at home and in Western societies, aggressive foreign policies of Western powers, ?civil war? within Islamic societies, charismatic leaders like Osama Bin Laden who mobilize their followers, assorted temporal political concerns that are perceived through the lens of religious obligations, issues of lack of dignity and hope for a better future, and weaving together national, historical and emotional narratives while appealing to domestic, regional and global audiences simultaneously.

The more honest debate about America's actions in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East seems now to be joined in places by a deeper, more analytical examination of why terrorism has expanded around the world. Let's hope the policy-makers in the United States, Russia, Israel, the Arab world, and Europe read and absorb some of this material, so that we can start to wind down the terror cycle that has only grown in recent years.


Rami G. Khouri
is an internationally syndicated columnist, the director of the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut, editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star, and co-laureate of the 2006 Pax Christi International Peace Award.

Copyright ?2007 Rami G. Khouri / Agence Global

----------------

Released: 30 January 2007
Word Count: 801

----------------

----------------

Advisory Release: 30 January 2007
Word Count: 801
Rights & Permissions Contact: Agence Global, 1.336.686.9002, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  

----------------

For rights and permissions, contact: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , 1.336.686.9002 or 1.212.731.0757

Agence Global
www.agenceglobal.com  
1.212.731.0757 (main)
1.336.286.6606 (billing)
1.336.686.9002 (rights & permissions)

Agence Global is the exclusive syndication agency for The Nation, The American Prospect, Le Monde diplomatique, as well as expert commentary by Richard Bulliet, Mark Hertsgaard, Rami G. Khouri, Tom Porteous, Patrick Seale and Immanuel Wallerstein

Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 January 2007 10:01
 

Latest News