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Historical Perspectives  on Terrorism


Dr. Ibrahim B. Syed *

Louisville, KY


   A writer in the  local News Paper blamed for all the problems of America on Islamic terrorists.  One should examine the problems with objectivity and take a historical perspective on Terrorism.


The writer wrote " … shortly after this nation's birth, American ships were attacked, civilian sailors were captured, imprisoned and used as slaves by the Islamic governments of Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli…"


   American History tells us that in the First Barbary War (fought against Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli) a ransom of sixty thousand dollars were paid for the American prisoners, and the Jefferson administration drew a distinction between paying tribute and paying ransom. At the time, some argued that buying sailors out of slavery or prisoners of war was a fair exchange to end the war.


   The person who assassinated an American candidate for president was Sirhan Sirhan who was born to Palestinian parents in Jerusalem and was raised a Maronite Christian. However, in his adult years he frequently changed his religious thoughts, to Baptist, Seventh-day Adventist, and Rosicrucianism. He was not an Islamic Palestinian terrorist.


   During the 1960s and 1970s, tension between Iran and America was high. On November 4, 1979 this tension exploded into what became known as the Iran Hostage Crisis. 52 American diplomats were taken hostage in Tehran and held captive for 444 days. Diplomatic errors on the part of both Iran and the United States created a rift between the two countries that has lasted more than twenty five years.


   In an effort to uphold American influence in Iran, the CIA became deeply involved in an attempt to overthrow the Iranian prime minister, a nationalist and isolationist, called Mohammed Mossadegh. In 1953 the Iranian prime minister was ousted from power, but the Iranian people were unsettled as hundreds had been killed in the process and their popular leader was gone. When the word began to leak out that America was involved in this violence, “there was for the first time a strong current of anti-Americanism abroad in the land.” By installing the Shah in Iran, America had betrayed the trust that Iran had given her and had become involved in manipulating the political system in Iran.


   This was extended to the the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing which was a major incident during the Lebanese Civil War. Two truck bombs struck buildings in Beirut housing U.S. and French members of the Multinational Force in Lebanon, killing hundreds of soldiers, the majority being U.S. Marines. The October 23, 1983, blasts led to the withdrawal of the international peacekeeping force from Lebanon, where they had been stationed since the Israeli invasion in 1982.


   Many in the U.S. government do not claim Hezbollah is responsible for the Marine barracks attack. For example in 2001 Caspar Weinberger stated: "But we still do not have the actual knowledge of who did the bombing of the Marine barracks at the Beirut Airport, and we certainly didn't then." (PBS Frontline 2001).

   The September 11, 2001 attacks consisted of a series of coordinated terrorist  suicide attacks by Islamic extremists on the United States. Nineteen men boarded the four planes  and fifteen of the attackers were from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, one from Egypt, and one from Lebanon. The group consisted of six core organizers, which included the four pilots, and thirteen others. Unlike many stereotypes of hijackers or terrorists, most of the attackers were educated and came from well-to-do backgrounds.

   The reasons for the attacks according to Al-Qaida members were: U.S. military occupation and plundering the resources of the Arabian Peninsula, and dictating policy to the rulers of those countries; U.S. support of abusive regimes and monarchies in the Middle East resulting in the oppression of their people. U.S. intention to create disunion between Muslim states, thus weakening them as a political force. The U.S. supports Israel, and wishes to divert international attention from (and tacitly maintain) the occupation of Palestine.

* President, Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc. Louisville, KY


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