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Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea Reflection

After a failed attempt to reach the summit of K2 in 1993, climber Greg Mortenson mistakenly stumbles into the remote village Pakistani village of Korphe. While there, after speaking with the local people and realizing they have no way of educating the villagers, Mortenson decides that he will return to Korphe and build a school in Korphe. Mortenson’s wrong turn on K2 leads him to a new path in life. In doing so, he learns a great deal about tolerance and understanding.

Mortenson realizes the incredible importance of education. In the beginning of his mission to build schools, he is in remote regions of Pakistan. Many of these people have had little to no education up to this point. “Terror happens because children aren’t being offered a bright enough future that they have a reason to choose life over death” (Three Cups of Tea). Through providing the tools to educate these people, Mortenson can change the direction of their lives.

In addition to educating hundreds of citizens of Pakistan, Mortenson himself obtains an education. He begins to understand the culture and customs of the Muslims, Shiites and Sunnis. When September 11 occurs, he tries to help inform the American people of these traditions and the culture through journalists located in Pakistan. He notes that his message is never truly conveyed this way. Despite this, Mortenson understands the importance of tolerance and acceptance as opposed to fear and disdain, especially during times of trouble.

Three Cups of Tea tells an inspiring story. It shows that a one man’s acts of selflessness and tolerance can make a true difference and inspire hundreds of others to do the same.

My Pen Pals

I have two pen pals. One is named Linette Ramos. She works as the assistant news editor at a newspaper in Cebu City, the second largest city in the Philippines. Linette also covers city hall meetings.

Here is a conversation we had about the September 11 attacks:

Do you think 9/11 changed the American news media? What about in the Philippines?

Linette:

I think it’s not just the American media that changed after 9/11, and I guess you can say that it’s all the media in all countries that changed after US was attacked, although it was more evident in American media.

For one, personally I noticed that news magazines and other print media were giving more space and prominence to intelligence reports and correct me if I am wrong, stereotyping seemed to show in some news stories, and some are quick to identify bearded, Arab-looking individuals with ties to Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran as terrorist.

In the Philippines, journalists were also on the look out for materials on the JI, Abu Sayyaf and other breakaway groups of the Al Qaeda and were quick to report any threat to peace and order. Media organizations are also more conscious of their journalists’ safety, especially after a prominent and high-caliber broadcast journalist was kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf.

On defining terrorism and labeling a person or a group as terrorist:

I would define terrorism as any activity(or ideology) that results in loss of lives or undermines security and safety of the public, and sows fear among the people.

We leave it to the authorities–police, Department of National Defense, Armed Froces–to identify whether a certain group or individual is a terrorist because labeling one as such on our own initiative would definitely invite a lawsuit, right? Usually, they are identified in intelligence reports, and these include the local groups with ties to Al Qaeda.

I have another pen pal since Linette is so busy with her job at the newspaper. My second pen pals name is Emily Flanigan. Emily is a neighbor and good friend of mine. She has been in El Salvador since February 2010 as a member of the Peace Corps. Emily works with citizens of her village to teach them about health and sanitation. She went to NAU and graduated in 2009. She majored in International Relations and Spanish.

Here is a conversation I recently had with her:

What role did Mossad (Israel’s CIA) play? Recently, Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman declined to confirm or deny whether the Mossad was involved in the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhou in Dubai. What do you think the role of the state (whether Israeli, U.S. or any government) to counter terrorism and at what cost to the nation’s values and notion of civilization?

Emily: 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.

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>.

Reflections on September 11

Reflections on September 11

The events of September 11, 2001 dramatically changed the way in which the news media operated. We were faced with what was possibly the worst attack on American soil ever. The tragedy of 9/11 held global implications that are still being seen today. On the day of the attacks, news media outlets all over the United States, and the world, interrupted their planned broadcasts to alert citizens of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

In the hours immediately following the terrorist attacks, the American news media tried to report with objectivity. However, often times they were just receiving the breaking news themselves as the day unfolded. CNN anchor, and current ASU professor, Aaron Brown interrupted fellow anchor Jamie McIntyre to report the collapse of the South Tower, “Jamie…Jamie, I need you to stop for a second. There has just been a huge explosion. We can see a billowing smoke rising, and I’ll tell you that I can’t see that second tower” (Collapse of the South Tower, CNN). News anchors all over the country interjected with new information as it came in rapidly. According to a study conducted by Amy Reynolds and Brooke Barnett, during the first five hours of live coverage after the attacks, ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN reported rumors 84 times as news was constantly brought in. In addition, journalists acting as eye-witnesses that day made personal references 64% of the time (Barnett). Because of the crisis nature of this event, information was coming in so quickly that journalists reported in ways that differed from their traditional roles. Journalists were interviewed as eyewitnesses as they watched the action from the streets, basic information was lacking in the studios and many broadcasters were at a loss for words for periods of time as they watched the horrific events.

In the aftermath of September 11, the American media began to focus on the hunt for Osama bin Laden, President Bush’s “War on Terror”, and other powerful White House rhetoric like “vengeance” and “justice”. Susan D. Moeller notes that “most of what the American and British media cover of terrorism relates to the impact of terrorism on governments and the body politic, not its impact on people and their very human bodies,” (46). This is somewhat reflected in the American media’s coverage of September 11. After the initial reporting of September 11, where the focus seemed to be more on the human lives lost and personal reflections, the media turned its focus to the political implications. The terms “terrorist”, “terrorism”, and “War on Terror” were now familiar to nearly all US citizens. The use of these words, initially stemming from the Bush White House, took on a life of their own in the media, “After September 11, many media first sourced the terms of the ‘War on Terror’ and ‘terrorist’ to the President and other administration officials, then as the terms slipped into common usage they began applying them to Bush foreign policy goals without attribution,” (Moeller, 109). Every day one could turn on their TV and hear this rhetoric, now infused in our nation’s vocabulary. Our nation was urged to unite as one and fight for justice for what had happened to us.

While the American media focused primarily on the personal political impact the attacks had on our country, the media in other countries focused more on the global impact. The British Broadcasting Corporation is the network that the United Kingdom turns to most frequently in times of crisis, and 9/11 proved no different (Barnett 120). In the first hours of the attack the BBC’s coverage mirrored that of the American media. They offered a “live, continuous, single-focused reporting of the event,” (Bouvier). Both news medias used phrases such as “the images you are just seeing” and “we are about to show you a repeat” for viewers just joining, breaking news was coming in every few minutes, and images of the collapsing towers were being played on loop.  However, following the initial shock of the event, the BBC turned its focus to the global ramifications. The BBC began to direct more coverage to the Middle East and terrorism. In the months following, they tried to remain objective, “When reporters from non-American news outlets wrote about the Bush’s administration’s ‘War on Terror’, the words were typically placed in quotation marks and preceded by the phrase ‘US-led’… that made it clear that this… was part of the White House’s political rhetoric and that the conflict was the United State’s,” (Moeller, 109-110). Because the attacks did not happen in the United Kingdom, the BBC had the luxury of not personalizing their broadcasts and instead focused on worldwide consequences.

The BBC coverage of the attacks did not stop right away, they published special “one-year on” and “five-year on” sections that feature items such as eyewitness reports and 9/11 Commission findings. This demonstrates the great impact that September 11 had on the global media. Years after the attack, esteemed foreign outlets were still publishing information regarding September 11.

My pen pal, Linette Ramos, the news editor at a newspaper in the second largest city in the Philippines, has noticed the affect of September 11 all over the world, “I think it’s not just the American media that changed after 9/11, and I guess you can say that it’s all the media in all countries that changed after US was attacked, although it was more evident in American media,” she said. “For one, personally I noticed that news magazines and other print media were giving more space and prominence to intelligence reports and correct me if I am wrong, stereotyping seemed to show in some news stories, and some are quick to identify bearded, Arab-looking individuals with ties to Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran as terrorist.” In regards to the effect in her own country, she felt that,

“In the Philippines, journalists were also on the look out for materials on the JI, Abu Sayyaf and other breakaway groups of the Al Qaeda and were quick to report any threat to peace and order. Media organizations are also more conscious of their journalists’ safety, especially after a prominent and high-caliber broadcast journalist was kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf.”

I agree in that the terrorist attacks made many citizens of the world quick to judge and stereotype. Unfortunately, September 11 made many people paranoid for personal safety. September 11, 2001, changed the way in which not only the American media, but the global media, operates. 9/11 was brought into our collective memory and a pattern was established for covering horrific events like this that has since been seen with coverage in places like Russia, Georgia and now Egypt and Libya.

Works Cited

Barnett, Brooke, and Amy Reynolds. Terrorism and the Press. Vol. 1. Washington D.C/Baltimore: Peter Lang, 2009.

Barnett, Brooke, and Amy Reynolds. “This Just In.” Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly (2003). Print.

Bouvier, Gwen. “Breaking News: The First Hours of the BBC Coverage as a Media Event.”  Journal for Crime, Conflict and the Media 2005 (2005). Print.

“Collapse of the North Tower: CNN Coverage.” CNN Live. CNN. WNYW, New York City, 11 Sept. 2001. Youtube.com. Cable News Network, 19 Oct. 2006. Web. 7 Feb. 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjwDv_IONgA&feature=related>.

“CNN 9/11 – South Tower collapses.” CNN Live. CNN. WUSA, New York City, 11 Sept. 2001.Youtube.com. Cable News Network, 29 Oct. 2006. Web. 7 Feb. 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9Q5ff7hRYo>.

Moeller, Susan D. Packaging Terrorism. Singapore: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

Ramos, Linette. “Reflections on 9/11.” Message to the author. 8 Feb. 2011. E-mail.

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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.