Archive for March, 2011

What is terrorism?

My Definition of Terrorism

The concept of terrorism is exceedingly difficult to define. Author Gerald Seymour first said in his book Harry’s Game that, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”.  Each individual may view terrorism in a different light. Because of this, there is currently no universal definition of terrorism. However in recent years, it has become increasingly more important to form a definition of terrorism, especially while working in the media.

The word terror dates back to the French Revolution. “A terrorist was, in its original meaning, a Jacobin who ruled France during la Terruer” (Moeller 20). Terrorism has clearly become much broader in the years since its origination. Since the concept was first birthed in France it has been used for separatist, nationalistic, political and religious ends, etc.

In the book “Packaging Terrorism”, author Susan Moeller states that, “the goal of terrorism is to send a message, not to defeat the enemy”. I think this is an incredibly important concept when one is trying to define terrorism. The goal of terrorism is more about inspiring fear. Terrorists do not generally target high-up government officials, but innocent civilians like those killed in September 11. When an act of terrorism is committed, the effect spreads beyond the victim. When members of Black September killed the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, there were 11 victims of the attack. Black September’s target, however, was greater than just the Israeli athletes. They inflicted a worldwide terror. When defining terrorism, one must realize that the message is often the goal of the attack.

The U.S. Department of State defines terrorism as, “The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological”. Whereas the Belgium Red Cross says that terrorism is committed “for the purpose of intimidating the population, forcing a third party to act or destablishing or destroying the fundamental structures of a country or of an international organization”. Both of these definitions highlight some of the important aspects of terrorism. It is an act that sends a message, often for political and religious reasons.

Works Cited

Fedi, Namuezi, Laurelia Nootens, Vincent Vandendriessche, and Frederic Casier. Terrorism? Belgian Red Cross. Print.

Moeller, Susan D. Packaging Terrorism: Co-opting the News for Politics and Profit. Chichester, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. Print.\

Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism. U.S. Department of State. Web. <http://www.state.gov/s/ct/>.

Seymour, Gerald. Harry’s Game. N.Y.: Random House, 1975. Print.

Munich Reflection

Munich Reflection

“Suffering thousands of years of hatred doesn’t make you decent. But we’re supposed to be righteous. That’s a beautiful thing. That’s Jewish. That’s what I knew, that’s what I was taught and I’m losing it. I lose that and that’s everything. That’s my soul” (Munich 2005). Robert, a character in Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film Munich, expounds on the ethical dilemma that he and his fellow Israeli’s are confronted with. He realizes what must be done for his country, but cannot come to terms with it ethically. If an action, such as targeted killing, may save the lives of thousands of innocent people, is it worth the violation of one’s morals?

Munich tells the story of the five men selected by the Israeli government to assassinate members of the Black September terrorists who killed 13 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel, played an integral role in the assassinations of the Palestinian members of Black September. The Israeli agents were covertly contracted by Mossad to complete this mission. Avner, the group’s leader, is told by his handler, “We deposit money from a fund that doesn’t exist into a box we don’t know about in a bank we’ve never set foot in. We can’t help you because we never heard of you before” (Munich 2005). The Mossad cut all ties with the men in order to distance themselves; however, they financed the entire operation.

In accordance with international law, there are instances when the practice of targeted killings is lawful. However, author Nils Melzer points out that “targeted killing not directed against a legitimate military target remains subject to the law enforcement paradigm”. In the case of Munich, the agents in the film practiced target killings against individuals outside a legitimate military target. At the time of the killings, the members of Black September were civilians. This violates the United Nation’s concept of civilian versus combatants (Melzer). While the Israeli’s actions may have been justified, they were in violation of international law which makes their actions illegal.

When a nation practices targeted killing, they must factor in the consequences. They will likely face retaliation, they may be in violation of international law, they face ethical dilemmas, etc. But is some cases, the outcome may warrant the potential risks. “Fighting terror is like fighting car accidents: one can count the casualties but not those whose lives were spared by prevention. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Israelis go about their lives without knowing that they are unhurt because their murderers met their fate before they got the chance to carry out their diabolical missions” (Luft). When the use of targeted killings can save the lives of hundreds of innocent civilian lives in a nation, than a nation is liable to do what is must to counter terrorism. In Munich, the five Israeli agents make a point to avoid the loss of innocent lives. They know their targets, the members of Black September, and periodically eliminate them. In doing so, they send an important message to Black September and other similar terrorist organizations.

More recently, the Israeli government’s alleged practice of target killing has come into international focus. The Israel Foerign Minister Avigdor Lieberman would neither confirm nor deny whether the Mossad had a role in the assassination of Mahmous al-Mabhouh, a Hamas leader. Jim Krane, the author of the book City of Gold, said, “If Israel did authorize the hit, it either found Mabhouh’s elimination worth the damage to its relationship with Dubai, or the hit squad made a big mistake.” If we are to believe that the Israeli government was behind the assassination, and evidence points directly to them, then the government clearly felt the result was worth the potential risk. In killing al-Mabhouh, they severed ties with many nations. Those in power in Israel clearly felt that this assassination was necessary in order to keep their country safe.

I recently spoke to one of my pen pals, Emily Flanigan, about this issue. Emily has been working in El Salvador for over a year as a member of the Peace Corps. She majored in international relations at Northern Arizona University, so I thought she could bring in an interesting perspective. She saw the film a few years ago when it came out in theaters.

“I think that the state should always approach things in a legal matter. They have the responsibility to the people and other countries to go about things in a diplomatic way, if not they are acting in terrorism as well. In the case of Munich people felt that the violence and actions against the terrorist were justified but if each government took matters into their own hands and didn’t go about things in the correct manner countries would constantly be attacking each other. There would be no notion of civilization since the government would be secretly deciding the will of the people without going through the correct democratic channels. The values of the nation would also go down significantly.”

Emily’s comments really made me think. While watching the film, I sympathized with Israel. I thought that the actions of Mossad were justified after such a heinous act had been committed against their county. A nation should have the right to defend its citizens, but at what cost? If each nation that has been attacked retaliates in some way, that creates a circle of violence. What distinguishes one country’s act of terrorism from another’s? An act of terrorism in one country is justice to the opposing nation.

“Every civilization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values” (Munich 2005). The Israeli Prime Minister Golda Mier makes this statement early in the film, following the attacks at the Munich Olympics. Mier, and other Israeli prime ministers, have confronted with a profound ethical dilemma. Can they permit targeted killing by members of their own government in order to protect the citizens of their country? The end of the film portrays the guilt that Avner, one of the sole survivors of the original team, will have to suffer with for the rest of his life. As Robert states in the film, those involved may feel like that are losing a part of their souls; however, they save the lives of countless Israelis in the process. Meir and the members of Mossad, perhaps at great cost to personal values, did what they believed they had to in order to keep their country safe. If there was no counter action against terrorists, that would give them the message of submission. However, in doing so, they are only perpetuating the circle of violence.

Works Cited

Krane, Jim. City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism. New York: St. Martin’s, 2009. Print.

Luft, Gal. “The Logic of Israeli’s Targeted Killings.” The Middle East Quarterly (2003): 3-13. Print.

Melzer, Nils. “Targeted Killings in International Law”. Oxford Press. 2009.

Spielberg, Stephen. Munich. Dreamworks SKG, 2005.

The United Nations. Extra-Judicial Killings. 2 June 2010. Web. <http://www.un.org/en/law/index.shtml>.

Worth, Robert F. “New Hints of Skulduggery in Hamas Killing.” The New York Times 16 Feb. 2010. Print.

Tucson Shootings

Tucson Shootings Response

In early January Jared Loughner shot 19 people in the city of Tucson, Arizona, killing six and wounding 13. Loughner killed U.S. District Judge John Roll, as well as gravely injured Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the shootings. Because the alleged target of Loughner’s attack was Giffords, some have voiced the opinion that Loughner should be labeled a “terrorist”. This question has been debated amongst many in recent weeks.

According to the Belgium Red Cross, a terrorist act is committed “for the purpose of intimidating the population, forcing a third party to act or destablishing or destroying the fundamental structures of a country or of an international organization”. Giffords and Roll may fit the type of targets in a terrorist act, but Loughner’s objectives were seemingly not to “fight for independence, fight against corporate regimes, or to secure a dictatorship”. However, we do not fully know the reasons behind Loughner’s rampage. It was initially reported that Loughner had targeted Giffords, but his reasons for doing so have not been confirmed. Because of this, I do not believe we can assign Loughner with the “terrorist” label until the investigation is complete.

An important factor in this case is Loughner’s mental illness. Investigations by the Pima County Sheriff Department show that Loughner is believed to have metal issues dating back to the beginning of high school. He was suspended from Pima Community College after complaints of inappropriate behavior, according to Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik (Frantz). Loughner’s behavior can be partially attributed to these mental problems, rather than him shooting 19 innocent people because of a specific ideology. This appears to be a case of a severely mentally ill young man rather than a terrorist act. The key fact is that Loughner acted alone, on his own behalf with no ideology backing his shootings. According to an article by the New York Times, “investigators are ‘100 percent’ certain that Mr. Loughner did not have an accomplice, and while they continue to investigate his “online associations,” they see no obvious connection between the suspect and political extremists”.

Loughner was indicted by a federal jury on January 19 on counts of the attempted murder of Giffords and her aides, Pat Simon and Ron Barber. According to the Arizona Republic, this is only the “beginning of the legal action being taken against Loughner” (Keifer). Loughner faces many more charges, including the murder of Judge John Roll and Gifford’s aide Gabe Zimmerman. He could face the death penalty because of the murder of Roll, a federal judge. However, Loughner has not had any counts of domestic terrorism brought against him as of yet. He plead not guilty to the charges on January 24.

I discussed the issue with one on my pen pals, Emily Flanigan. She has working in El Salvador for over a year now as a member of the Peace Corps. Emily disagreed with me. She felt that Loughner’s actions made him a terrorist.

“The Tucson Shooting was a tragic incident and I believe that Jared Loughner can be considered a terrorist. I have read a few articles online that call him a homegrown terrorist and I think that term is fitting. He may not fit the typical profile of terrorists that we have become familiar with but his actions have made him one. He targeted Gabrielle Giffords, a United States congresswoman. Police have also recently released some of their findings regarding Loughner’s background. They have found videos of him burning the American flag, calling for a new government, and denouncing US currency. He may not have had a backing, but, to me, all of these things make Loughner is a terrorist.”

I think Emily brought up some very interesting points that made me think a lot deeper about the issue, but I still do not believe Loughner is a terrorist. Ultimately, I agreed with some of what Emily said but we have different definitions of the word terrorist. I think the fact that there is no universal definition of terrorism have made the situation with Loughner particularly hard to define.

In the long run, unless investigators can prove that Loughner had the motives behind a terrorist act or was acting on the behalf of a specific ideology, then we cannot call him a terrorist. No matter how heinous, not every act of extreme violence should be considered an act of terrorism. We need to be extremely careful when labeling people as “terrorists”.

Works Cited

Fedi, Namuezi, Laurelia Nootens, Vincent Vandendriessche, and Frederic Casier. Terrorism? Belgian Red Cross. Print.

Flanigan, Emily. Message to author.  7 March 2011. Email.

Frantz, Ashley and Emanuella Grinberg. “Jared Loughner’s Background Reveals Series of Warning Signs.” This Just In – CNN.com Blogs.” This Just In – CNN.com Blogs. Web. 13 Jan. 2011. <http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/13/jared-loughners-background-reveals-series-of-warning-signs/>.

Kiefer, Michael. “Federal Grand Jury Indicts Loughner in Giffords Shooting.” Arizona Local News – Phoenix Arizona News – Phoenix Breaking News – Azcentral.com. Web. 20 Jan. 2011. <http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2011/01/19/20110119giffords-shooting-loughner-federal-grand-jury-charges.html>.

The New York Times. “Jared Lee Loughner Index”. 24 January 2011.< http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/l/jared_lee_loughner/index.html>.

Pen Pal Cooperation: Facebook Or Tomahawk Revolutions?

My Pen Pal is Stevo Pendarovski – assistant professor of International Security, Foreign policy and Globalization at University American College – Skopje.

He researches and writes on International Relations, Intelligence and National Security, US Foreign Policy. He was National Security Advisor to the two Presidents of the Republic of Macedonia. Pendarovski writes a weekly column in the newspaper “Dnevnk” where he brings global issues to light for its readers in Macedonia.

For the blog of Terrorism and Press class, we exchanged our opinions on the airstrikes in Libya and editorial article posted on www.haaretz.com, the online edition of Haaretz Newspaper in Israel. The editorial West’s intervention in Libya may undermine future civil revolts” focus is the dilemma about the legitimacy of revolutions in those African countries, especially in Libya. The editorial extrapolate that peacekeeping action equally needs peace building efforts.

Pendarovski wants to be a bit cynical and according to him ”the above mentioned dilemma about the nature of revolutions is not real since both Facebook and Tomahawk missiles are preeminently western products.

“What should be the right approach in my opinion is judging on presence or eventual lack of democratic credentials on the part of the local anti-regimes movements and their legitimacy amid their nations. But what about the “quality” of revolution if there is certain percentage of “imported” legitimacy let says from USA, France or Israel”, asked Pendarovski.

Libyan rebels react on the frontline of the outskirts of Ajdabiya in eastern Libya

Credits for photo and photo info: Anja Niedringhaus/AP Photo/March 21, 2011

My response is that the editorial of Haaretz.com concludes wealthy states should support and invest in the building of the societies after the revolution period. It is not that important who is behind the scene of those revolutions and whether those are Facebook or Tomahawk revolutions.

What is important is the post-revolution period and helping people to rebuild the state. The Western coalition Odyssey Dawn operation in Libya should protect the civilians. The protection of the civilian population is in the focus of the UN Resolution 1973, which establish no-fly zone and enable the action against pro-Gaddafi forces. However, this could be changed soon with the possibilites to use NATO in order to overthrow the Gaddafi regime, as BBC is reporting today in their article “Libia crisis: Allies thrash out NATO role”.

We will see in the following day how the situation will develop in Libya. However, I agree with the Haaretz’s editorial “West’s intervention in Libya may undermine future civil revolts” point of importance to rebuild the states where the revolutions are taking place. This has equal importance for the citizens of those states as the military action support.

“Labelers and Labels: Why Do We Care?

I find myself rather frustrated lately with the world’s obsessive necessity with labels and their inconsistent application. In my humble opinion, labels are simply a means for the “Labelers” to convince others to accept and believe their manipulative perspective and opinion and to create a pecking order most beneficial to “Them”.

Which leads me to my current soapbox – Tucson Mass Murder Jared Loughner versus Dearborn Mosque M-80s Roger Stockham.

Here is a brief synopsis of each event:

TUCSON MASS MURDER JARED LOUGHNER


On January 8th, 2011, at approximately ten o’clock in the morning, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner approached United States Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords during a public political event in Tucson, Arizona. It was at that time, Loughner shot and critically injured Congresswoman Giffords and indiscriminately shot citizens gathered to meet her. Loughner discharged approximately 31 rounds in 15 seconds, killing six and wounding 13 (Washington Post).

It was later revealed that Loughner had a personal YouTube channel where he posted miscellaneous entries reflecting his discontent with the current government and policies. In one particularly interesting posting, Loughner defines “terrorist” as “a person who employs terror or terrorism, especially as a political weapon.” Loughner labeled himself a terrorist.

It should be noted that Jared Lee Loughner had a few minor criminal infractions prior to this event.

Please see my January 31, 2011 post “Terrorist or Lunatic With a Gun”.

DEARBORN MOSQUE M-80 ROGER STOCKHAM


On January 31, 2011, 63-year-old Roger Stockham was arrested outside a Dearborn, Michigan mosque with explosives in his car with the intent to blow up the mosque. The explosives were identified as class C-fireworks, to include M-80s. According to Fox News, Stockham was charged with 1 count of possession of explosives with unlawful attempt and 1 count of making a false report or threat of terrorism. No one was injured and Stockham was taken into custody without incident.

It was later revealed that on January 31, 2011, at an unknown time, Stockham entered J.S. Fields bar in Dearborn and proclaimed to be a “mujahideen.” A mujahideen is an individual who is a Muslim fighter doing jihad or struggle (Examiner, 2011).

It should be noted that Roger Stockham has a long history of threats and criminal infractions prior to this event.

  1. Stockham plead not guilty by reason of insanity after being arrested in 2002 for threatening then President G. W. Bush. Roger Stockham spent approximately 1 year in the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners (Detroit News, 2011).
  2. On September 1, 1979, The Merced Sun-Star, described Roger Stockham as a Muslim convert who attempted to hijack an airliner from Los Angeles to Iran (Bill Warner Sarasota, 2011)

Two separate events, two different perpetrators acquiring two different labels. Jared Loughner is labeled a lunatic with a gun while Roger Stockham is labeled a terrorist. Why?

Now, if the United States defines domestic terrorism as any activity that violates any state or federal criminal code that endangers human life, which intimidates a civilian population with the intent to influence the policy of a government or affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping (Cornell Law School, n.d.), how do the acts of Roger Stockham fit these elements?

Well, fireworks can endanger human life and proclaiming to be a Muslim fighter doing jihad in today’s atmosphere can be intimidating to most civilians. Yet, how does his actions influence governmental policy or affect the conduct of a government? I cannot find nor see any indications of such. Where as, Jared Loughner intentionally attempted to assassinate a US Congresswoman and slaughter her political supporters at a political function, sufficiently terrorizing citizens and affecting the conduct of government.

As a retired law enforcement officer, my training and experience compels me to believe that Roger Stockham’s actions fulfill the criminal elements of a hate crime more than domestic terrorism. A hate crime is defined by a 1994 federal law, Public Law #103-322A, which states the following: “a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of a property crime, the property that is the object of the crime, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person” (Religious Tolerance, 2011).

Based on their legal definitions and the world’s obsessive necessity with labels, how would you, the reader, label these men – terrorist or the perpetrator of a hate crime?

I dare to say Roger Stockham’s reported history as a converted Muslim and his intended target being a Muslim mosque influenced his acts to be labeled “terrorism.”  This, of course, is mostly due to the fact that the world ignorantly and erroneously equates anything “Muslim” with terrorism and the extreme politically correct sensitivity of today’s day and age. In addition to this, “Labelers” fearfully reminding American citizens that the “war on terror” must continue at home and abroad in order to eradicate Muslim extremists.

I surmise labels are used to manipulate the masses into accepting the perceptions and opinions of the “Labelers.” Jared Loughner, by legal definition, committed an act of domestic terrorism and therefore, is a terrorist. Roger Stockham, on the other hand, committed acts that fall within the hate crime category and therefore, is an anti-religion (Muslim) hate criminal. As clear as this may be, the “Labelers” want to convince us otherwise.

With this said, we must remember the most important element of all – in the end, regardless of the label applied, the end result is still the same – a crime is a crime is a crime.

Works cited:

Nakamura, D., Horwitz, S., Hedgpeth, D. (2011, January 19) In videos, details of shooting emerge. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://wapo.st/eee7uj

Robinson, B. A. (2009, July 22) U.S. hate crimes: Definitions; State/federal laws. Religious Tolerance. Retrieved from http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_hat3.htm

Sarasota, B. W. (2011) blog retrieved from http://pibillwarner.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/viet-nam-vet-roger-stockham-arrested-in-attempt-to-blow-up-the-islamic-center-of-america-mosque-in-dearborn-the-biggest-mosque-in-the-detroit-area/

Staff. (2011, January 31). Explosives expert: Fireworks in Dearborn mosque plot were ‘enough to be lethal. Detroit News. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/hLVpWm

Staff. (2011, January 31). Calif. Man accused in plot on Michigan Mosque. Fox News. Retrieved from http://fxn.ws/hCUlc3

Taylor-Bonds, D. (2011, February 1). Man who tried to blow up mosque has history of threatening President Bush. Examiner. Retrieved from http://exm.nr/eHAoRT

Theatrical Terrorism and Popcorn

Throughout the cinematic ages, countless fiction and non-fiction films have been created documenting and reflecting the time period’s political and social atmosphere. Today’s current atmosphere is permeated with terror and terrorism; therefore, directors and producers have created a plethora of films depicting this subject matter. What remains interesting is the influence of directorial creative freedom upon the framing of the topic and for which purpose the film serves be it propaganda, educational or entertainment.

According to the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research at Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication, Richard Alan Nelson:

Propaganda is a systematic form of purposeful persuasion that attempts to influence the emotions, attitudes, opinions, and actions of specified target audiences for ideological, political or commercial purposes through the controlled transmission of one-sided messages (which may or may not be factual) via mass and direct media channels (Nelson, 1996).

The inculcation of terrorism, by the way of propaganda film, is prevalent throughout the world. Those who strive to promote their ideological, political or commercial messages and those who counter these messages utilize directorial creative freedom to persuade their audience.

For example, Steven Spielberg’s movie, Munich, serves the purpose to educate the audience of the fine line between terrorism and counterterrorism. Munich is based off of true events surrounding Israel’s retaliation against Black September, a Palestinian terrorist organization, after they murdered 11 Israeli Olympic athletes during the 1972 Olympic games in Munich, Germany.

Spielberg infuses actual footage with the cinematic dramatization of the events exposing the audience to factual information. The violent and brutal imagery framed Israel’s Prime Minister Golda Mier’s justification of counterterrorism. Additionally, Spielberg placed great emphasis on the moral dilemma precluding Mier’s decision when she said “Every civilization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values” (Munich, 2005).

Throughout the film, the viewer is shown Israel’s acts of counterterrorism, as well as the collateral damage that is usually absent in pro-American counterterrorism activities. Conversely, the Israel agents are shown to be nervous and motivated by their own personal convictions, yet, at times, they are shown to struggle with the conflictions of duty and their personal conviction.

In the end, Avner, the leading Israeli agent, realized the domino effect of terrorism – a counterterrorism act is an act of terrorism, which initiates a counterterrorism act that ultimately catapults state sanctioned and non-state terrorists into a never-ending cycle of terrorism.  Spielberg captures this phenomenon when Avner proclaimed “There’s no peace at the end of this no matter what you believe” (Munich, 2005), thus “framing terrorism as a global war that can not be won” (Silcock, 2011).

In contrast, in 2006 Universal Pictures released United 93. The film, directed and written by Paul Greengrass, is a cinematic portrayal of the events surrounding the hijacking of United flight 93 on September 11th, 2001. The film depicts the four Muslim hijackers as “conflicted and afraid” and “fervently engaged in prayer” (Kellner, 2005). These images project to the viewer that the terrorists who carried out 9/11 were unsure, frightened and surmountable.

The American passengers were shown “as ordinary citizens, involved in the petty cares and mundane rituals of everyday life” (Kellner, 2005). Once they “[became] aware of the disaster unfolding” (Kellner, 2005) they banned together and overwhelmed the terrorists; thus, successfully thwarting the terrorists’ goal. These images promote American heroism and the inability of a terrorist to destroy American ideology.

United 93 put a face on a faceless enemy and frames terrorism as defeatable. The imagery projects and infuses the American psyche with the belief they are undefeatable when united. The message is reinforced when political and military leaders quote a passenger, Todd Beamer, who was overheard on an open cellular phone line moments before the passengers fought back: “Let’s roll!” (IMDB). American policymakers have utilized his quote as a “moral cloak” (Moeller, 2009) “of purposeful persuasion” (Nelson, 1996).

The film serves the purpose of propaganda for American superiority over the inferior terrorists’ extremism. United 93 “[distracts] the population from the real source of the problem, which is an ideology that wants to destroy the west” (Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West, 2005).

United 93 and Munich are just two examples of the plethora of fiction and non-fiction films depicting terrorists and their acts of terrorism. United 93 perpetuate American dominance and their ability to conquer any enemy threatening their way of life. Furthermore, it diminishes fear of terrorism by its unspoken message if we stand united we have nothing to fear. Munich, on the other hand, creates fear of terrorism because it depicts terrorism as an undefeatable faceless enemy.

By and large, theatrical terrorism is a result of directorial creative freedom. The framing of the topic can serve as a means to educate, spread fear or as propaganda to persuade its targeted audience towards a political agenda.

Reference

Kennedy. K. (Producer), Spielberg, S. (Producer & Director). (December 23, 2005). Munich [Motion picture]. United States: Universal Studios.

Kellner, D. (2005). Social memory and the representation of 9/11 in contemporary Hollywood film. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/fBg21C

Mier, P. (Producer), Shore, R. (Producer) & Kopping, W. (Director). (October 21, 2005). Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West [Documentary film]. United States: Clarion Fund.

Moeller, S. D. (2009). Packaging terrorism: Co-opting the news for politics and profit. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Nelson, R. A. (1996). Chronology and glossary of propaganda in the United States. Goleta, CA: ABC-Clio, LLC.

The Definition of Terrorism According to Me

As an active law enforcement officer the United States government, the State of Arizona and departmental policy bestowed the definition of terrorism upon me. I was not afforded the opportunity to pursue alternative definitions nor did I find it pertinent to seek them out. Additionally, had I developed my own personal definition of terrorism, it would have remained ancillary to the government’s explicit legal definition, and most likely would have convoluted my objectiveness as a law enforcement officer. Now, however, I am a retired officer and this has allowed for exploration and self-reflection to determine and develop my definition of terrorism.

Through my current studies, I have been exposed to the academic and mass media perception of terrorism but not a true definition. The truth of the matter is the universal concession is that there is not a universally accepted definition of terrorism (Moeller, 2009).  As a matter of fact, “the United Nations spent 17 years trying to come up with a universally accepted definition, and failed (Moeller, 2009, p. 17). An additional study “discovered 109 different definitions of the word” (Moeller, 2009, p. 17). The lack of a definitive definition opens a Pandora’s box and obfuscates terrorism. Rendering terrorism difficult to perceive and understand [allows] any government [to] can direct and “sell its policy to its citizens” (Moeller, 2009, p. 17) that serves the administration’s political agenda.

Susan Moeller states that “terrorism and terrorist often have little ‘real’ meaning – they are instead political epithets” (Moeller, 2009, p. 17). I agree and I have used this as the springboard to my definition of terrorism. In her book, Moeller quotes British academic and former foreign correspondent Anatol Lieven, “terrorism is not a movement, terrorism is not a state, terrorism is a tactic” (Moeller, 2009, p. 18). To define terrorism as a tactic, it provides clarification, “real” meaning and vindicates criminal prosecution – nationally and internationally. Further more, a tactic is identifiable and can be defined. The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) identifies three key tactics to define terrorism: 1. Terrorism deliberately targets civilians. 2. The victims and the intended audience of a terrorist act are not the same. 3. The psychological impact of a terrorist act is intended to be greater than the physical damage caused. The goal of terrorism is the send a message, not defeat the enemy (Moeller, 2009, p. 18). This, of which, is my definition of terrorism.

Reference

Moeller, S. D. (2009). Packaging terrorism: Co-opting the news for politics and profit. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

“Ignore The Man Behind The Curtain”

” America will never be destroyed from outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” ~Abraham Lincoln

The popular American collective memory of September 11, 2001, is of 19 “evil-doers” who perpetrated unimaginable and unpredictable deadly terrorist acts against America. The memory is framed with words and images of mass destruction, Osama bin Laden, death and heroism. Mainstream media vehemently projected that imagery and message onto the American public by reporting only those stories or events that reflected such. Susan D. Moeller (2009), for example, wrote how NBC, CBS and FOX showed footage of individuals jumping out of the WTC forever etching the image of death upon the American collective memory.

Meanwhile, significant and meaningful news/events that contradicted or disrupted the collective memory, were rarely, if ever, given proper attention or referenced to again.

As a case in point, David Griffin, a professor of philosophy of religion and theology, emeritus, at Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California, points out, just after 9/11, the New York City Fire Department (NYFD) recorded approximately five hundred oral histories. Firefighters and emergency personnel spoke of their personal experiences that tragic day. The oral histories documented eyewitness accounts describing explosions and controlled demolition. NYFD Firefighter Thomas Turilli explained, “it almost sounded like bombs going off, like boom, boom, boom, like seven or eight” (Griffin, 2005b).  Deputy Commissioner Thomas Fitzpatrick says, “It looked like sparkling around one specific layer of the building … My initial reaction was that this was exactly the way it looks when they show you those implosions on TV” (Griffin, 2005b). The NYFD oral histories were not included in the 9/11 Commission report (Griffin, 2005a) nor have they been brought to light by mainstream media.

Are mainstream media journalists restricted from covering events that contradict the gatekeeper’s message and imagery of  September 11th, or are they simply the unwitting messengers for the propagandists? Regardless, doubt and mistrust of media has breathed life into a movement in search of the truth. Many scholars, investigative journalists and average citizens are attempting to bring evidence to light that debunks some, if not the entire official conspiracy theory. Nevertheless, the gatekeepers appear to be keeping vigilant watch preventing these stories from seeing the light of day. As a result, independent media outlets in radio, television and Internet bear the weight of bringing the truth out from the shadows of censorship.

The US government’s official and original conspiracy theory is that “9/11 was planned and executed solely by al-Qaeda terrorists under the guidance of Osama bin Laden” (Griffin, 2005). The al-Qaeda terrorists successfully hijacked four US commercial jetliners and skillfully crashed two of them into the World Trade Center (WTC) Twin Towers (causing them and WTC 7 to collapse) and one into the Pentagon. The fourth jetliner was crashed into a field in Pennsylvania by the daring and dramatic efforts from the passengers, which prevented the terrorist’s successful completion of their fourth and unknown target.

Sadly, the shadows of censorship were cast within a couple of hours of the tragic events and continue to this day. For example, immediately after the first tower collapsed, a local CBS 2 reporter Marcia Kramer stated, “CNN is now reporting that there was a third explosion at the World Trade Center, probably an explosion from the ground that caused World Trade Center 1 to collapse on top of itself” (Watson, 2010). She continued, “Again there was a third explosion, it is unclear what caused it…. But CNN is reporting that there was a third explosion that caused World Trade Center 1 to collapse within itself” (Watson, 2010).

Additionally, several unidentified news reporters interviewed three NYFD firefighters moments after the collapse of the first tower. The firefighters reported while staging in the lobby they heard a total of 3 different secondary explosions “then the whole lobby collapsed on the lobby inside” (Watson, 2010).

On face value these 2 examples could easily be explained away. The first CBS report could be retracted as a simple reporting error and the firefighters could have been mistaking because of the chaos unfolding around them. Yet, these two stories carry significant weight towards the truth and the darkness of media censorship. First, when a person experiences a traumatic event they make spontaneous statements without having time or a chance to reflect back on the event to fabricate a false statement. Spontaneous utterances are inherently truthful and extremely difficult to fabricate. Every person speaking in the news clips are obviously still in some state of shock and distress from the events they just witnessed. Their spontaneous statements lend credence to the factual bases from which they came from.

Secondly, and most importantly, the United States government, within hours of their original live broadcasts, confiscated the above referenced video clips. They were withheld from the American public until min-2010 when a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit mandated their release (Watson, 2010).

Notwithstanding the American media censorship, The British Broadcasting Company perpetuated the dark shadow of misleading information as well. At approximately 4:35pm (New York time) BBC reporter Jane Stanley reported that WTC 7 collapsed 20 minutes before it actually collapsed (Watson, 2010). During her live broadcast, WTC 7 can be seen in the background behind her left shoulder as she reports the collapse of the building and the effect it is having on everyone (Watson, 2010). Is this a case of misreporting or was this a break down of the propagandists’ control of their unwitting messengers? Regardless, doubt and mistrust of media is now pandemic.


ENHANCED VERSION: News Reports WTC7 Fell Before It Happens!
youtube.com

Yet, while discussing 9/11 with Frida Hedenstedt, a Swedish family member, she indicated that 9/11 was covered in great detail by her national and local media mediums. Frida explained that 9/11 was the primary story covered for several weeks following the attacks. She also stated the coverage focused on al-Qaeda, terrorism and the victims. In regards to information contradicting the official story coming to light over the last several years, she said her country’s news mediums have not brought a lot of attention to the topic. She added, she has not heard much about it herself either.

These examples are just a few among hundreds of significant and meaningful news/events that contradict or disrupt the collective memory. This information was rarely, if ever, given proper media attention. The roll of mainstream media has been one of censorship and image control. Whereas the roll of the independent journalist and news media has been that of truth seekers and asking the hard questions: what really happened on 9/11 and why has the world been lied to about it?

Ask yourself, “What happened to WTC 7? ” “Why did it collapse?”  Take a look at the following still photographs taken from: 4409 — (Unseen Footage) Tower 7 blasted into rubble from NEW angle! [www.keepvid.com] and see for yourself.

Maybe the leaseholder of WTC 7, Larry Silverstein, answered the questions for us in an interview in September 2002 for a PBS documentary “America Rebuilds”:

“I remember getting a call from the, er, fire department commander, telling me that they were not sure they were gonna be able to contain the fire, and I said, “We’ve had such terrible loss of life, maybe the smartest thing to do is pull it.” And they made that decision to pull and we watched the building collapse.” (Source: http://www.serendipity.li/wot/wtc7newspaper.htm)

Reference

Griffin, D. R. (2005a). The 9/11-commission report: Omissions and distortions. Northampton,

MA: Olive Branch Press

Griffin, D. (2005b, Oct.). The Destruction of the World Trade Center: Why the Official Account Cannot be True. Retrieved from 9/11 Review Web site: http:911review.com/articles/griffin/nyc1.html

Harnden, T. (2001, September 18). Bin laden is wanted: Dead or alive, says Bush. The Telegraph retrieved from http://bit.ly/dqMABE

Moeller, S. D. (2009). Packaging terrorism: Co-opting the news for politics and profit. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Watson, P. J. (2010, October 15). CBS report on 9/11: Ground level explosion cause WTC to

collapse. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/csNEXH


BLOODY TIMES

This is the Bloody Sunday movie reflection of my Pen Pal, Stevo Pendarovski from University American College from Skopje

I have always been suspicious about the real impact of the time flow upon our lives and it is proving correct time and again whenever going back to the vital parts of the “Troubles” on the island just “opposite to Europe”.

Unfortunately, we have witnessed frequently the same kind of troubles in the Balkan history, not to mention “troubles” going on “in live” nowadays from North Africa.

The general matrix is recognizable in at least two stages: first, on the spot and in the immediate unfolding of the chain of events, second, later on, in accelerated nation-wide political and security dynamic affected by the initial clash on the ground.

Up close perspective will expose so common and ugly elements of the picture so familiar: army against unarmed demonstrators, indiscriminate killing of civilians and state supporting openly the culture of impunity.

Consequences in the mid to long-term are also well known: scenes of spilled blood and dead bodies directly contribute to amassing the people’s revolt and recruitment of paramilitary units.

Undemocratic regimes had never been fans of the “lessons learned” seminars, hence their repetition of the same mistakes: instead of critical analyses on and the sanctions for the operational misconduct they are stepping up political rigidity and violence.

So-called “interment without the trial” which followed the Bloody Sunday has made definitive rupture between the state and part of the population that started looking for alternative political authority.

In addition about the soldiers: even in the decades of the bipolar world engaging the army for internal security has always indicated misbalanced civil-military relations. Although that lesson (at least on the continent) has been grasped much later, soldiers of today are in the barracks or in the peace-keeping missions abroad. Instead, multiethnic police boots are on the ground.

Movie in question is hard to watch, some scenes are utterly realistic. It sound cynical, but, it has always been much easier to follow pictures on the home screen, than facing a fraction of them in reality. However, despite of our “soft” or “hard” stomachs, historical events of this proportion to all of us extend a simple wisdom: small individual contributions on a daily basis can prevent humiliation and ultimately make our world better.

Using words instead of weapons will spare lives of innocent people. And of course, will spare future Governments efforts to extend apologies for the misdeeds of their predecessors. Is anything wrong with apology? No, it might be valuable for the future cohabitation, but in a specific case, it means virtually nothing to so many people.

Bloody Sunday Movie Reflection – The Only Winner Was IRA

Northern Ireland today is the example of reconciliation of the communities that were for years divided because of the religious and political issues.  In 1998 the government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Government of Ireland signed the Good Friday Agreement to end over three decades of conflicts between Protestant and Catholics. The conflict between the Ulster Unionist, and the Nationalist are centuries old. The Protestant Unionist, appealed to remain a part of the United Kingdom, while the Catholics liked to assemble with Republic of Ireland. This conflict included not only the political disputes, but brought the violence and terror to the streets of Northern Ireland. Bloody Sunday is a recent history incident that occurred on 30th January 1972, when British army soldiers killed thirteen civilians in Londonderry during the civil rights march against the internment without trial. The Government of Northern Ireland introduced special Power Act in August 1971 that allowed arrests and detention without judicial process.

According to World Socialist Web Site article Saville inquiry continuous cover up of Bloody Sunday massacre “under the Special Powers Act, mass arrest began and by-mid January 1972 there were 600 internees”. Such a brutal response created wage of revolt that explode in the civil right struggle.  “The brutal response of the British bourgeoisie in Northern Ireland was conditioned by the fear of an emerging challenge to their rule, not just in the north, but throughout the UK”, suggested Chris Marsden from the editorial board of World Socialist Web Site. (Marsden, C. 2010, June 18)

The glimpse of the violence that happened in 1972 is portrayed in the movie Bloody Sunday directed by Paul Greengrass. The movie tells the story on Ivan Cooper who was prominent figure of the civil rights movement and founder member of nationalist SDLP. As BBC stated in the movie review of January 30th2002, “Ivan Copper is not the name of the lips of many people.”  BBC in 2002 movie review Bloody Sunday leader finds fait in film wrote the Greengrass “remains a self-confessed idealist who came to politics because he believed in the notion that Catholic and Protestant working class could be united”. (Bloody Sunday leader finds faith in film 2002, January 30)

Despite the central role Copper had in the Bloody Sunday movie, an official report published last year rejected his claims that the journalist from the Sunday Times did not interview him.

For years and in the second official inquiry for Bloody Sunday that was initiated by the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Cooper blamed that his interview to Sunday Times journalist John Berry was fabricated. Still, the role and opinion of Greengrass is important because of his stands that use of force of British paratroops helped only IRA to increase its membership and to involved Northern Ireland in deadly violence for more then two decades.

“Before Bloody Sunday, I believe there were no more than 30 to 40 IRA volunteers in Derry. They had a very small base, small amounts of hardware and, most important, very little support”, remarked Copper for BBC in 2002. Not only the actors and eye – witnesses of Bloody Sunday events hold the position that the bloody victory belongs to the IRA movement. Jenny McCartney who writes a social and political analysis for the online edition of the British newspaper Telegraph stated that the after Bloody Sunday events IRA gained more supporters among “radicalized young Catholic man”.  “I was not yet a year old on Bloody Sunday: I grew up in Northern Ireland under its long toxic shadow. Its sole beneficiary was the IRA. There was only one Bloody Sunday, but thereafter the IRA and the Loyalist paramilitaries ensured that civilian blood flowed every day of the week”, underscored McCartney. (Bloody Sunday: The only winners were the IRA 2010, June 12).

In the 5,000 – page document that was coordinated by the Lord Saville and prepared for dozen years, he assessed that “What happened on Bloody Sunday strengthened the Provisional IRA, increased nationalist resentment and hostility towards the Army and exacerbated the violent conflict of the years that followed. Bloody Sunday was a tragedy for the bereaved and the wounded, and a catastrophe for the people of Northern Ireland.”

The presence of the IRA members in the movie is almost invisible, but the viewers should be culpable to identify they strengthened their position in Northern Ireland after the British soldiers killed unarmed civilians. The Saville report described that Official IRA and Provisional IRA was among the civil rights protesters on 30th January. “What we have concluded, however, is that there is no evidence that suggested to us that any member of the Provisional IRA used or intended to use the march itself for the purpose of engaging the security forces with guns or bombs”, was suggested in the Saville report.  The report, nevertheless, notified that “Martin McGuinness was armed with a Thompson sub-machine gun on Bloody Sunday and we cannot eliminate the possibility that he fired this weapon after the soldiers had come into the Bogside”.  (Report of Bloody Sunday Inquiry. 2010, June 15)

This lead as to crucial and dramatic moment in the movie Bloody Sunday and that is the action of the British soldiers against the civilians at the protest. Catholic community disputed the report conducted by Lord Widgery who reported, “Paratroopers firing had “bordered on the reckless” and concluded “the soldiers had been fired upon the first and some of the victims had handled weapons. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair commissioned the new inquiry for the Bloody Sunday events in 1998.  The report was published on 15th June last year followed by the statement of current British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. In a statement to the House on the Saville Inquiry, Brown affirmed the findings of the report. “What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong”, appraised Brown. (PM: Statement on Saville Inquiry. 2010, June 15)

Then, Brown expressed what Lord Saville concludes on the balance of used armed force against civilians at the protest.  “None of the causalities shot by soldiers of Support Company was armed with a firearm”, appraised Lord Saville in his report. Even though, the Saville report does not indicated the responsibility of the authorities for toleration or encouragement of unjustified lethal force, still recognized the lack of discipline among armed forces.

The contrast between civilians and British armed force is apparent in the movie Bloody Sunday. It was filmed with the documentary approach to make the events of Northern Ireland history more closed to the viewers. I can agree with the approach of the director Greengrass used in the movie to catch at least a glimpse of a personal and collective memory drama of Northern Ireland history. It took more than two decades for the British Government to apology for the Bloody Sunday.  The revision of the past and the collective memory is something that every nation should face in their history. The use of documentary approach and showing the drama in the last minutes of its film, Grengrass opens the possibility to every viewer to seek for its true of the Bloody Sunday happenings. The role of the press and media is only a small part in this TV docudrama from 2002. It showed only BBC reporter asking why the military attacked unarmed civilians. However, Grengrass does not touch the role of the Sunday Times in the aftermath of Bloody Sunday because the movie ends shortly after the killings of civilian protesters. The 250 interviews conducted by Peter Pringle and Philip Jacobson for The Sunday Times Insight File of Bloody Sunday was pivotal material to “the longest-running inquiry in British history”.   (Times Newspapers Limited. 2010, June 13)

However, the key issue and the right of peaceful protest are recognized in the Bloody Sunday movie.  The importance of civil rights and the free expression of the opinion is the cornerstone of every democracy. In the light of news from Libya and the protesters that are killed it is important to underline that every government should investigate the killing of civilians. What is the difference between United Kingdom and Libya? British government undertook the investigation and finally apologized for the Bloody Sunday. Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi asked from NATO and EU to investigate how the people in Libya were killed, accusing for conspiracy towards Libya. In a democracy, the society is prepared to confront itself with every misuse that might occur against the civilians and their right of protest. The negligent behavior after the Bloody Sunday event in 1972 exactly lead Northern Ireland in the violence driven by mixture of politics and terror. While we follow the news from Libya, we should ask: how many civilians will suffer in the anti and pro – Gaddafi protest? 

Work cited:

1.Chairman, D., Beams, N., Dias, W., Grey, B., Hyland, J., Jones, K., & Marsden, C. (2010, June 18). Britain: Saville Inquiry continues cover-up of Bloody Sunday massacre. In World Socialist Web Site. Retrieved March 6, 2011, from http://www1.wsws.org/articles/2010/jun2010/bloo-j18.shtml

2. Bloody Sunday leader finds faith in film (2002, January 30). In BBC News Online. Retrieved March 6, 2011, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/1791090.stm

3. Bloody Sunday: The only winners were the IRA (2010, June 12). In The Telegraph. Retrieved March 6, 2011, from   http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/northernireland/7823559/Bloody-Sunday-The-only-winners-were-the-IRA.html

4. Report of Bloody Sunday Inquiry. (2010, June 15). In The Bloody Sunday Inquiry. Retrieved March 6, 2011, from http://report.bloody-sunday-inquiry.org/volume08/chapter147/

5. PM: Statement on Saville Inquiry. (2010, June 15).  In www.Number10.gov.uk. Retrieved March 6, 2011, from http://www.number10.gov.uk/news/statements-and-articles/2010/06/pm-statement-on-saville-inquiry-51888

6.  Times Newspapers Limited. (2010, June 13). Return to Bloody Sunday. In The Sunday Times. Retrieved March 8, 2011, from http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article7148889.ece

7. Saville inquiry dismissed evidence of Ivan Cooper. (2010, June 20). In SundayTribune. Retrieved March 6, 2011, from http://www.tribune.ie/article/2010/jun/20/saville-inquiry-dismissed-evidence-of-ivan-cooper/

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Terrorism and the Press

This blog is an integral part of a special section of Honors 394 Spring 2010, Arizona State University. Rather than a routine history course this dynamic, interactive seminar explores the interplay between terrorism and television, and other media sources on-line and in print. 26 students and their global pen pals comprise the bloggers. We welcome all to share their opinions, pertinent observations, insights, comments, feedback. Please post in a responsible manner.