Defining Terrorism

A couple of years ago, I came across this interesting paper titled “Defining Terrorism: Philosophy of the Bomb, Propaganda by Deed and Change Through Fear and Violence“. In those days, Afghanistan and Iraq were still the countries with the most terrorist attacks and casualties, and we had not yet reached the current weekly terrorist attack frequency of the last couple of months.

Two years later, as terrorist attacks have slowly become a part of our weekly (if not daily) lives, I believe that this paper has become a must-read for us (Pakistanis) to understand terrorism a bit better. The author, Arthur H. Garrison, who was the Director of Criminal Justice Planning and Senior Researcher at the Delaware Criminal Justice Council at the time of writing, defines terrorism as:

The use of force or violence or the threat of force or violence to change
the behavior of society as a whole through the causation of fear and the targeting of specific parts of society in order to affect the entire society.

A few more quotes worth reading from the paper:

There is a consistent ideology that connects terrorists regardless of their desired goals or social context. Although there are clear differences in political ideology, philosophy, desired goals and the social context between terrorists through history, an examination of their writings reveals that terrorists share a common understanding of the utility of terror.

Terrorists, regardless of issue or cause, hold at least one of ‘three basic concepts [about society]:
(1.) Society is sick and cannot be cured by half measures of reform.
(2.) The state is itself violence and can be countered and overcome only by violence.
(3.) The truth of the terrorist cause justifies any action that supports it. While some terrorists recognize no moral law [they] have their own ‘higher’ morality’. (Parry, 1976, p. 12)

The use of rocks, stones and suicide bombs is as much about regaining Palestinian selfrespect by not accepting the occupation of the territories by Israel and keeping the attention of the world as it is a tactic to force Israel out of the territories.

The use of terror has always been an appealing option to the young and those who espouse terror have always sought to recruit and use the young to implement terror.
Bakunin wrote in 1869, ‘the healthy, uncorrupted mind of youth must grasp the fact that it is considerably more humane to stab and strangle dozens, nay hundreds, of hated beings than to join with them to share in systematic legal acts of murder, in the torture and martyrdom of millions of peasants’ (Laqueur and Alexander, 1987, p. 67).

Read the complete paper here.

The Answer is 200 Million Kilograms

Keep Calm
Since we usually have a bomb blast or two every other week in one of the major cities of Pakistan, and as there is nothing happening right now to hope for things to change in the near future, so I think that it is about time that we started some research on how to cope with the FUD in our “Land of the Pure”.

We can begin by looking back a few decades and learning from how our ex-rulers (that would be the British, for those who have forgotten/never knew) did it, and try to “Keep Calm and Carry On”. Meanwhile, we do need to ask some questions and gather statistics to help us survive the next few days, weeks, months or years, depending on how far ahead you usually plan.

This is probably the real reason why one of the “Breaking News” headlines after today’s Peshawar bomb blast (which claimed 20ish lives) was:

“The explosives weighed 15-20 kilograms.”

I doubt that the people who died in the blast would have given a damn about HOW they died, but the question that popped up in my mind was, how many kilograms of similar explosives will it take to kill us all – and by us, I mean Pakistanis.

As the 20Kg. killed 20 people , so 1Kg. of explosives kill approximately 1 person – by simplifying our model and ignoring most variables like population densities, people’s tendency to run away from hazards etc. etc., and as the population of Pakistan is roughly 200,000,000 (We are the 6th largest nation of the world by population) – so we can safely say that around 200,000,000 kilograms of explosives are needed to blow away the entire Pakistani population.

While I do not have any visualization aids or images handy that would help you imagine what they would look like, trust me when I say that it is a LOT of explosives.

If the current bombing patterns are the best that the terrorists can do, then Pakistan is not going anywhere soon. Sure, a few thousand people will die due to explosives, but when you ‘zoom out’ and adjust your focus (at the risk of being called insensitive/inhuman), it is not much, statistically speaking.

And so, there is one less answer that is blowin’ in the wind…

On the Turning Away

This song came up on my playlist just as I published the previous post, so I had to share it.

Consider spending six minutes of your life listening to Pink Floyd.

I tried looking for a ‘moderate’ flavored documentary, but couldn’t find any good video that didn’t mention the US of A.

Warning: it contains some very shocking images, but if shock and depression can cure us of apathy, we should be shocked more often.

Here’s the youtube link.

and the lyrics… just in case… Read more “On the Turning Away”

FBI is Confused About Dr. Aafia Siddiqui

aafia-normalWhile a tiny percentage of our Pakistani population is protesting for fair treatment to Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, it looks like the US FBI is as confused as we are about the truth regarding her case.

The official FBI page on one of the most wanted women in the world has her picture with the caption “In Custody”, and on the same page it states:

“Aafia Siddiqui’s current whereabouts are unknown.”

The page also says:

“Although the FBI has no information indicating this individual is connected to specific terrorist activities, the FBI would like to locate and question this individual.”

Maybe the FBI’s left hand does not know what the right hand is doing, or maybe their webmasters are too busy working on more important tasks. Either way, some God-fearing media monitor from their government should poke the FBI to change/fix the text before people start getting the wrong impression from this slip.

I found the link to the FBI page from Mind Hacks, a neuroscience blog that I subscribe to, which also has a summary of her area of research. The research topic does not have anything to do with the military application of neuroscience (an area that Uncle Sam seems to be an expert at). The Mind Hacks page also has links to her thesis and research papers, in case anyone is interested.

Arthur C. Clarke, Pakistan, Terror and Science Fiction

I started reading Arthur C. Clarke's novel Time's Eye the day before he died. The novel is set in the NWFP, and it is a world where Lahore has been blown up by a nuclear bomb (ouch!). Here's a page from the novel's beginning that reminded me of the recent US missile strikes inside Pakistan:

He had been just four when he had first encountered the helicopters of the west. They had come at night, a pack of them. They flew very low over your head, black on black, like angry black crows. Their noise hammered at your ears while their wind plucked at you and tore at your clothing. Market stalls were blown over, cattle and goats were terrified, and tin roofs were torn right off the houses. Moallim heard, though he did not see it for himself, that one woman’s infant was torn right out of her arms and sent whirling up into the air, never to come down again.

And then the shooting had started.

Later, more choppers had come, dropping leaflets that explained the “purpose” of the raid: there had been an increase in arms smuggling in the area, there was some suspicion of uranium shipments passing through the village, and so on. The “necessary” strike had been “surgical,” applying “minimum force.” The leaflets had been torn up and used to wipe asses. Everybody hated the helicopters, for their remoteness and arrogance. At four, Moallim did not have a word to describe how he felt.

And still the choppers came. The latest UN helicopters were supposed to be here to enforce peace, but everybody knew that this was somebody else’s peace, and these “surveillance” ships carried plenty of weaponry.

These problems had a single solution, so Moallim had been taught.

The elders had trained Moallim to handle the rocket-propelled grenade launcher. It was always hard to hit a moving target. So the detonators had been replaced with timing devices, so that they would explode in midair. As long as you fired close enough, you didn’t even need a hit to bring down an aircraft-especially a chopper, and especially if you aimed for the tail rotor, which was its most vulnerable element.

Time's Eye – Clarke & Baxter

Science fiction is not always fiction.