Key question: Why has terrorism increased since 1991?

Learning Activities

1. Reading
  • Wiki page - complete before you come to class for the week
  • Scott and Simpson, pp.87 - 101

2. Wiki Update (S/N TASK)
  • Those responsible for this week's update are: Harley, Rhiannon and Sadia
  • Due by end of class Thursday
  • Instructions are here

3. Media Watch (S/N TASK)
  • annotate one article/video/website/blog post relevant to this week's topic and save to the Diigo group
  • Instructions are here

4. Blog post (S/N TASK)
  • write a blog post on the ning answering this week's key question

5. Update your notes for the week

6. World Map/Mind Map on Terrorism (S/N TASK)
  • Start map based on this wiki page
  • Continue map based on Scott and SImpson reading
Terrorism 9/11Text By James Oakes, St Helena Secondary College

Subscribe Free for future posts  Add this player to my Page

On September 11, 2001 the world changed, when nineteen terrorists, fourteen of them Saudi citizens, hijacked four commercial jets and flew two of them into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre and a third into the Pentagon. Both towers collapsed, killing an estimated three thousand people. Another plane was brought down, possibly on the final run to crash into the White House, but the hijackers were overcome by the passengers. America swore to bring to justice the terrorists and their supporters, and a new element of fear became part of daily life in Europe and the US as they awaited the next wave of attacks. The economies of the Western industrialised world, already close to recession, were vulnerable, especially the airline industry.

The world now was a place where terrorists hid undercover, protected by rogue states such as Afghanistan and possible Iraq. As the sole surviving superpower, the US moved from ‘containment’ under Clinton to the era of pre-emptive action under Bush, aimed at freeing the world from the scourge of terrorism. Almost immediately in retaliation the US invaded Afghanistan.

In the state of the union address in January 2002, President Bush talked of an Axis of Evil, incorporating Iraq, Iran and North Korea as those states it saw as directly responsible for harbouring and supporting terrorists. Curiously it sought to attack terrorism via the States that nurtured them given that that was probably an easier focus than a threat that recognised no national boundaries and did not call any specific place, home.

After September 11 there were no rules. The US gave itself a free hand to pursue terrorism anywhere and anytime, free from the constraints of international bodies such as the UN or the limiting demands of coalition partners. The US decided to go it alone, and anyone who wanted to come along, came along on their terms. Thus the ‘coalition of the willing’ was born.

Conversely, the sidelining of the ‘unwilling’, namely the UN, who would not support military action, occurred. The French, as a permanent member of the Security Council, threatened to veto any US action on the ground. This move had considerable European support, most notably from Germany, and this split threatened the very existence of the UN.

A frustrated, angry US decided to take a unilateral stand on Iraq in particular and, at the same time, straighten out a few others things it had been unhappy about as well. It rejected a protocol designed to reinforce the UN’s chemical and biological weapons conventions. It refused to ratify the International Criminal Court unless US service personnel were made exempt from appearing before it. It opted out of the Kyoto Protocols on greenhouse gas emissions and it raised defence spending 14% to a level that the next nine countries on the defence spending list could not match combined. It had the military muscle and it intended to use it.

To begin with, the US went to war to remove the Taliban from Afghanistan and the al Qaeda movement that they were harbouring. In particular, they wanted to capture Osama Bin Laden, the alleged mastermind behind the September 11 attack. It then went on to remove the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in order to neutralise his chemical, biological and nuclear weapons capabilities and to stop his supplying weapons to terrorist organisations worldwide.

As a result of this military action, two regimes (Afghanistan and Iraq) were replaced within two years. Both conflicts were rapidly won, with few US casualties and the much-vaunted opposition melting away in the face of superior fire power. The US was euphoric and President Bush’s approval rating at home was sky high. Everything was working out as planned. On 1 May 2003, George Bush landed on an aircraft carrier returning from the Gulf to declare the war over.

Or so it seemed. The first hint of trouble came when the masterminds (Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein) could not be found, although Saddam’s sons were found and killed by US forces in August 2003. More embarrassingly, however, was that no biological, chemical or nuclear weapons could be found. This was embarrassing for the coalition not least because this was the ostensible reason for invading Iraq in the first place.

Nevertheless, the US was convinced that eventually both the perpetrators and their weaponry would be found – it was just a matter of time. In the meantime, Iraq would be stabilised, the essential services restored, infrastructure rebuilt and government returned to the liberated Iraqis. The US would return home, leaving Iraq as a shining example of democracy at work and, perhaps, an example to others in the region that they might want to follow. The seeding of democracy in Iraq, it was hoped, would spread throughout the region, much as it had done in Eastern Europe after the break-up of the USSR.

So what really came out of it all? By December 2006, three and a half years after George Bush declared the war over, Iraq and Afghanistan are still not under control. In Iraq, essential services like water and electricity still come under attack, law and order has not been established, with conflict bordering on civil war and American troops continue to suffer losses. There has been persistent sabotage of Iraq’s oil infrastructure and Iraqis are still queuing up at the petrol pumps in the vain hope of getting some. As well, there have been significant attacks by supporters of the former regime on Iraqi police stations, the UN and Red Cross headquarters in Baghdad, and any targets of opportunity.

SO far some 2772 US troops, 119 UK and 118 other troops have been killed. Anywhere between 40000 and 65000 Iraqi’s have died. (AGE October 2006) As a result serious revision of policy is occurring behind the scenes, given the war on terror and Iraq have not been the open and shut victories as expected, although the public statements of Bush, Blair and Howard continue to emphasise that the coalition will stay until the job is done. In December 2006, the Baker Iraq Study Group delivered its report to the President and Congress outlining the difficulties and suggesting some changes in strategy.

The events of September 11 demonstrated just how vulnerable a modern, high technology society could be to medium-scale terrorism. It could well have been worse had there been a biological, chemical or even a nuclear attack. A radical Islamic group, al Qaeda, had been identified as responsible, with strong links to Osama Bin Laden. When the Saudi government removed his citizenship in 1996, Bin Laden hid in Afghanistan, where he enjoyed the protection of the ruling fundamentalist Taliban regime.

After the expulsion of the Taliban from Afghanistan by the ‘war on terror’ led by the US and Great Britain in 2002 and attempts to capture or kill Bin Laden, numerous tapes turned up at the Qatar-based Aljazeera television station which tended to suggest that Bin Laden was still alive. Even if he was not, the Bali bombings, the Spanish train bombings, and the London bombings suggested that the terrorist networks that he set up were very much active.

The September 11 attack certainly changed the way we live in the West. Since the end of the Cold War we felt finally free of the military anxieties that had plagued all of the 20th century from World War I onwards. Even post-Cold War conflicts such as the Gulf War and the former Yugoslavia were fought with little loss of Western lives. In the Gulf War, for example, the coalition faced a one million strong Iraqi Army, of who anywhere between 30,000 and 100,000 died. The coalition lost around 200. The war had little impact on Western economies when all was said and done.

September 11 was different. The dynamics of international politics had changed and that now would require a different approach. So, suddenly we are in the era of ‘asymmetric threats’, where a very powerful party (the US) could be put at risk by smaller terrorist groups. Would we see a return to the Cold War days? Russia certainly backed the US, as did China, so there would not be a return to a bipolar world, but there were other features of the Cold War starting to re-emerge.

The Bush Doctrine

George W Bush’s ‘you are either for us or against us’ approach reminded us strongly of Cold War rhetoric. The newly departed US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, talked of a new benchmark. The benchmark would be how states respond to American requests for help in the fight against terrorism and, as a consequence, how much help they could expect from the US in the future. As in the past, countries may be graded by the US on the level of cooperation forthcoming. At home in the US, priority may well be given to national security and there have been concerns about how that has infringed on civil liberties. There has been no decisive battle as yet and this new conflict may well go on for longer than the Cold War. Either way, it seems to be a new era for America. It has seen the re-emergence of the idea of pre emptive strike against potential enemies and has sharply redefined who is friend and who is foe.

International reaction

Great Britain immediately supported the US promising troops in the war on terror in Afghanistan. Tony Blair supported the US invoking the NATO alliance and renewing a commitment to a long standing close relationship, even though Bush was a Republican President and Blair a Labour PM. Blair needed to withstand significant opposition in his own party to support the US.

For other countries, it has created nothing but problems and for none more so than Pakistan. Pakistan’s President, General Musharraf, was quick to give support, promising overflight rights and other support, despite the fact that its own influential Islamic militants at home were strong supporters of Osama Bin Laden. Just the same, Pakistan put considerable pressure on the Taliban to hand over Bin Laden.

The greater fear, however, is what was called ‘blowback’. The war to liberate Afghanistan from the Soviet Union in the 1980s generated millions of refugees who fled to Pakistan. It also flushed armed fanatics out of Afghanistan and into the Pakistani camps. The same has happened in the last five years, with alarming consequences for Pakistan. Pakistan continues to face violent opposition from within and with Pakistan in control of nuclear weapons instability within this country is a source of constant worry for the West.

On the positive side, Pakistan has continued to remain committed the coalition and has (as there are always opportunities in these situations) gained economic support from the West as a consequence. It has also gained some sympathy for its argument against India over the disputed territories in Kashmir with the trade embargo imposed after its nuclear testing program started being lifted.

The Russians and the Chinese were quick to support the US over the attacks on Sept 11, and in the following War on Terror. The Russians because they too had been victims of Bin Laden attacks on apartment blocks in Moscow, which had killed hundreds. The attacks were in reprisal for Russian intervention against al Qaeda’s Islamic brothers, the Taliban, in Afghanistan and associated rebels in the Russian breakaway province of Chechnya. Since then of course, the Russians have had their own terrorists strike close to home, with the Chechen attack on a Moscow theatre that one way or another killed over 100 people. Russian school hostage siege by Chechen rebels and two unexplained Russian airline crashes in 2004 have seen Russia bear the brunt of terrorism, not directly connected to Al Qaeda, but terrorism that has Islamic Nationalism at its core.

China wanted US support for its entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and also to be seen to be distancing itself from the Tiananmen massacre of 1989. There can be no doubt that, in the longer term, the US and China will remain rivals in Asia, but right now it is expedient for China to support the US. Even after the 2003 campaign in Iraq, the Chinese were conspicuously silent, offering no criticism of US efforts there.

Even the French supported the US stance, although it made clear it was not giving a ‘blank cheque’ as some others were. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), actually one of the few countries to recognise the Taliban, withdrew its support from Afghanistan. Iran, a long time foe of the US offered its condolences. Iran had been secretly funding the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in northern Afghanistan and already plays host to some two million Afghan refugees. As a Shi’a Muslim theocracy, it has no love for the Sunni Taliban, who have savagely repressed its Shi’a Muslim brothers.

President Bush went to extremes to emphasise that this was to be a war against terrorism and not against Islam. The last thing that Washington needed was a ‘holy war’ or ‘jihad’ by all Muslims against the mainland or the assets of the United States. Just the same, numerous commentators were describing the conflict in exactly those terms and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was quickly condemned for his remarks that the Islamic states were ‘backward’. In 2002, ex-French PM Valery Giscard d’Estaing, commenting on the Turkish application to join the EU, basically said that their ‘Islamicness’ made them unsuitable.

In Australia’s own region, Bush’s message was, by and large, well received. For one thing, the nations of South-East Asia had enough problems of their own, with terrorist networks operating within them, and secondly they needed US economic help. Indonesian extremist groups had numerous links with Bin Laden and al Qaeda and the more Indonesia clamped down on breakaway groups like the Achenese, the more likely they were to drive them to extremism.

The cause for most concern was that most of the separatist movements in South-East Asia, like the Aceh in Indonesia and the Moro in the `Philippines, were overtly Muslim in character. If the US cut off funds to these groups, then regional governments threatened by these groups would not complain. The matter of economics was even more important. Most of the region was heavily dependent on exports to the US, particularly of computer components, and if Americans are not travelling, then their tourism-dependent economies would suffer as well. Either way, they needed the US to stay in business. Terrorist attacks linked to Jemaih Islamir in Indonesia against the Marriot Hotel and the Australian Embassy have given us a grim reminder that extremist Islamic groups are a threat in South East Asia as well.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard had immediately put Australian troops at US disposal, in the War on Terror saying that as Australians ‘we stand alongside the US in its hour of need’. The Australian SAS was at the forefront in both the War in Afghanistan to depose the Taliban and in Iraq to bring about the downfall of Saddam Hussein. Japan prevaricated, mindful of the 1991 debacle when it sent no troops to the Iraq Gulf War, just a very big cheque, and got no thanks for it.

The battle of civilisations?

For the US this period could be a turning point, as have so many crises in the past. All of those, such as the Wall Street Crash that ushered in the Great Depression in 1929 and the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, started periods of US ascendancy in world affairs. Like it or not, the US is predominant in world affairs because of its economic, political and diplomatic power today and in the immediate future. Whatever the course of the campaign it will not be over quickly nor is it likely to be immediately decisive. The Cold War lasted forty-five years. Perhaps we will have to wait longer to see this one out.

Whatever the outcome, the world has changed. Russia has turned to the West, NATO has moved into the Baltic States and the EU has fallen into line behind the US in a way that would have been unthinkable even five years ago. Russia’s basic interest in cooperating rather than confronting the West has been thrown into sharp relief. Just the same, when it comes to China it may be said that the short-term support it offers for US efforts does not mask the longer-term conflicts it will have with the US over influence in Asia, Taiwan and missile defence. In that sense, things may not change much. Japan, on the other hand, seems set to expand its naval patrols and, alongside that, it is thinking about a greater security role in the region. While some things change, others in the long term will remain the same.

The US may have to rethink the ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ strategy of the past if it is to make full use of the changed international situation. Others have looked at the costs and benefits of trying a new diplomatic breakthrough in the new revised world circumstances. Israel and the Palestinians are a case in point here. So are the Pakistanis and the Indians. At loggerheads for decades over Kashmir, and ostracised by the US after their nuclear testing programmes in 1998, suddenly, for clear strategic reasons, Pakistan is once again back in the good books with the US, much to the annoyance of the Indians, who blame the Pakistanis for importing Taliban-based troubles there.

The relationship between the US and the states of the former USSR, however, is changing the most rapidly. Russia has offered the US use of its airfields and has helped supply intelligence for a part of the world it knows only too well. Russia has thinned out its border troops and has not raised too many objections to NATO’s expansion into the ex-Eastern Bloc countries. Bush, in turn, seems set to offer President Vladimir Putin deep cuts in nuclear weapons stockpiles. This will no doubt please Putin, as long as nuclear parity is maintained, because he wants to focus on other issues, such as trade and a bigger say in the security of Western Europe. He wants to carve out a role that will halt the marginalisation of Russia in world politics. Russia has also realised that it has more to fear from terrorism than long-range missiles from a rival superpower.

So one of the consequences of the events of September 11 has been an improvement in US–Russian relations. Some say it is the best it has been in decades. President Putin even visited George Bush’s Texas ranch. What Russia really needs, however (and this could be the pay-off for cooperation with the West), is membership of the WTO. China was admitted (at the Doha Conference) in 2001 and Russia wants the same. The prerequisite for admission would be a drastic restructuring of Russia’s Mafia-style economy and that would be no bad thing in itself.

Some commentators have described this time as the start of ‘the battle of civilisations’. The idea that it is the US versus the rest still persists, even after the end of the Cold War, but the basis of the conflict seems to have shifted from the political to the cultural. Sometimes history just ambles along and sometimes events like those of September 11 give existing trends a bit of acceleration. Clearly the terrorist attacks have accelerated a trend towards economic recession in America, Asia and Western Europe. The attacks have damaged confidence – it has meant that individuals and companies have been reluctant to spend and that has made what was already a consumer downturn far worse. How long that lasts will depend on how the ‘war of the 21st century’ (as President Bush called it) goes.

With the fall of Kabul on November 14, 2001, that war entered a new phase, with the emphasis now on rebuilding the nation and establishing a legitimate administration, even if the promised money has not exactly been forthcoming. The fall of Kabul was not the end of it, however, with the remnants of the al Qaeda network continuing their work in South-East Asia, the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan, Indonesia (the Bali bombing), the Philippines (bombing supermarkets), and east Africa (firing surface-to-air missiles at a departing Israeli passenger jet). During 2004, attacks on Coalition forces in Afghanistan have continued, the Drug lords have returned to their poppy crops, and safety of the roads outside Kabul cannot be guaranteed

Iraq – an ongoing conflict.

What has changed as a consequence of ongoing terrorist threats is rather than state-to-state conflict, the terrorist threat is the focus of US foreign policy. The emphasis is now on ‘getting in first’ or the ‘pre-emptive strike’ against any group or nation that might constitute a threat to the US – a policy that implies that sovereignty is no longer absolute in international relations. In November 2002, John Howard echoed similar sentiments, followed by actual commitments of Australian personnel to the new Iraq conflict of March 2003 which was designed to remove Saddam Hussein. The War was declared won in May 2003 although it took till December to locate and capture Saddam. This new US policy has had considerable impact on Australian defence policy. With the US we have, under Howard adopted an interventionist, expeditionary force allied to the US anywhere in the world, or do we re-consider what it will take to defend our coastline? Can we afford to do both?

The campaign in Iraq in 2003 saw an evaporation of the sympathy and goodwill extended to the US after September 11. A once-supportive Europe was now much less willing to support a war on Iraq. France and Germany, with some tacit support from Russia, refused to support military intervention. France even went as far as to threaten vetoing any such resolution for action that might come before the Security Council.
The US decided to go it alone, albeit with the support of the UK, Australia and Poland. But it created a rift that had not healed even by the end of 2003. US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld disparagingly called France and Germany ‘the old Europe’, suggesting that they were out-of-step with the rest. The UN lamented American unilateralism, citing the danger it posed for future international law.

Late in 2006 the USA and the Coalition of the willing are bogged down in both Afghanistan and Iraq, carrying out significant military operations to end opposition to the occupation and the establishment of democratic institutions.

What’s more the spread of these new forms of conflict have been seen in Russia, where there are continuing problems with the Chechen rebellion, with the latest occupation and hostage situation ending in disaster with 200 schoolchildren dead. Clearly ethnic nationalism and extremist Islam is causing Russia problems as well.

Israel and Palestine also have continued to experience conflict that involves state military action against perceived terrorism, and continued violence against the Israeli government, its policies and the armed forces actions.

With the ongoing attacks in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, the Western World is on high alert, with increased security at airports and shipping ports looking to prevent terrorist attacks. Little has been said in the West about how this threat might be reduced, just that it must be resisted.

Late in 2006, there has been an ongoing debate in the US, Great Britain as well as Australia about the ongoing problems in Iraq. The Iraq Study Group has recommended changes in strategy, but President Bush is yet to respond

The leader of the British Army has said that the continuing occupation of Iraq has increased problems at home. It is encouraging a new generation of home grown terrorists increasing the threat at home, and giving motivation for joining the insurgents in Iraq


On Tuesday, Oussama Kassir(supporter of al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden) was convicted of plotting to set up a training camp in Oregon and distributing terrorist manuals over the web.

Al-Qaida's "Islamic State of Iraq" has issued a new audio recording from its commander Abu Omar al-Baghdadi(the leader of the Council of Freedom Fighters who oppose the American troops in Iraq) denying reports of his capture.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, commonly known as the LTTE or the Tamil Tigers) is a militant organization based in northern Sri Lanka. Founded in May 1976, it has waged a violent secessionist campaign that seeks to create an independent Tamil state in the north and east of Sri Lanka. This campaign has evolved into the Sri Lankan Civil War, one of the longest running armed conflicts in Asia.
After numerous suicide bombings, and attacks on the government and civilians, the Tamil Tigers cut off the water supply to 60,000 people in the country, which prompted the government to launch it’s first major offensive attack.
Finally after years of civil war, the Tamil Tigers admitted defeat in their battle for an independent ethnic homeland, as government forces close in on the remnants of the rebel army.