What’s New about Terrorism or the Nuke?
Since the elevation of religious pervasion over and above reason and the recent
attempt at blowing up a plane by Umar Forouk Mutallab, the world seems to be in
a state of panic. Why the panic, I asked a friend? Is there anything new about
terrorism? Is it because it is coming from a Nigerian? Was it not Yigal Amir - a
Law student that pulled a gun and abbreviated Rabin? – a Jew killing a Jew?. In
Nigeria, the leadership is punishing the masses electing or selecting them. For
me afflicting the people with hunger, darkness and mal-governance is equivalent
There is hardly any part of the world where some form of insurgency or violent protest has not taken place. The Israelis
and Palestinians have been trading blames of terrorism even though in Sept 13,
1993, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the PLO leader Yasser Arafat shook hands
at the White House Lawn. While the Israeli ruling class is accused of
Machiavellian tendencies by their Semitic cousins – the Palestinians, the
spread of Al Qaeda, and the conspicuous signpost of Hamaz’s terrorism in Lebanon
and Syria, has redefined Israeli-Palestinian relations. At least the Israeli
experience on counter-terrorism has helped the Americans to reduce causalities in
Iraq and Afghanistan.
Insurgency as an organized protest or rebellion against a lawfully constituted government has existed throughout
history but it has ebbed and flowed in accordance with the dynamics and
sophistication of socio-economic and technological advancement.
insurgency is a strategy adopted by groups perceived to be disadvantaged to
extract concessions through psychological warfare, political mobilization and
military confrontation insurgencies. Under the first category, the primary
antagonists are the insurgents and a national government which has national
legitimacy. Usually, insurgencies of this typology are often triggered by
identity, racial, religious and ideological factors. On the other hand,
liberation insurgencies are aimed at liberating an occupied territory from an
alien nation. The Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Taleban in Afghanistan, the Chechnya
insurgency against Russia and the Palestinian insurgency are a few examples of
In Mexico, the Zapatista Movement was started by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), in 1994. The EZLN declared
war on the Mexican government and proclaimed a revolutionary agenda against the
government. Upon brutal suppression by the government the rebels withdrew into
the Lacandons’ jungle near the Mexican Guatemala border, Although, it was a non-violent movement, the Zapatista
Movement created increased pressure for democratic reforms thereby raising the
specter of instability in the United States.
In Latin America, there existed the Sandinistan
National Liberation Front - the
contra-rebels led by Daniel Ortega. In Mexico, the Zapatista National
Liberation Army fought for years for a separate State. In Peru, the Tupac - Amaru
Revolutionary Movement held away as an insurgent group since 1980. In Venezuela,
the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement for National Salvation provided a solid
pedestal for Hugo Chavez to come to power. The Society of Muslims in Trinidad
and Tobago, the Jungle commandos in Surinam, the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party
- all played active parts in their nations. From the experience drawn from the
Middle East and Latin American, it is obvious that opposition to any
established government through insurgency
has become part of the democratic process.
Even before the World War 1, there had existed some form of revolutionary
syndicalism in France and Britain; industrial unionism in the U.S, anarchro-syndicalism
in Spain and Italy and Larkinism in Ireland. So even in the advanced democratic
nations, variants of revolutionary movements had existed, sustained and even
admired by people of those countries where there was perceived injustice
In Sri-Lanka, the Tamil Tigers raised a strong guerrilla movement, which actively negotiated the creation of a separate state.
In 1956, the administration of Bandaranaike introduced a “Language Policy” of
Sinhala Only Act, which replaced English with Sinhala as the “Lingua Franca”.
By this policy, the Tamils were placed at a disadvantage. While the Tamils
protested against this policy, government also introduced communal quotas for
university entrance, which led to the exclusion of Tamil Students. Thus the
Tamils came to the conclusion that their socio-economic aspirations could only
be fulfilled within a separate Tamil State. Again, in Sri-Lanka, there is the
problematic of the “wedlock” between political ideology and communitarian
hagiography. While Buddhism tends to promote the renunciation of material
concerns but individual monks engage in political activity aimed at reforming
society. These contradictions in the society have strengthened the position of
the Tamil Tigers in their struggle for a separate state
until recently when the Tamils crumbled.
In the Philippines, there is the security dilemma associated with the continuing conflict of the government with armed
communist and Islamic insurgent groups. The government and insurgents trade
accusations and denounce each other as the cause of the nation’s economic
stagnation. The communists had since the late 1960’s started to pressure the
Filipno government for policy reversals. Government also reacted with brutal
suppression of the insurgents. The Muslim insurgents unlike the communists are
not intended to supplant the national government. Under the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF), the Muslims seek to
separate Muslim state in the Southern Philippine Island of Mindanao. The Muslim
insurgency is an attempt to undermine the political homogeneity of the country.
Even the United States of America perpetrated atrocities at the Guantanamo Bay
operations during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, and under the cover of the
cold war, America elevated global terrorism to its apogee with a view to
vilifying Soviet interest and the much-dreaded global Sovietization that was
the thrust of Marxist-Leninist ideology. Under the Bush administration, the
detention camps in Guantanamo
Bay competed favourably
with the torture chambers of the Nazi regime. The situation was so horrible
that former Secretary of States General Collin Powell (retired) has
authoritatively implored the Pentagon to close the detention camp because it
has blistered America’s
human rights record.
The action of the U.S created the impression that ideological differences are
better settled with brute force as symbolized by the atom bomb. That is why Pakistan and India are vigorously pursuing the
armament race at a very huge cost even at the point of neglecting very pressing
domestic needs. If the atom bomb is the key to power, why will the Persians not
look for it at all cost even if it would serve civilian ends.
The actions of President Bush have cast doubts on America’s record as the policeman
of the world as compared to the so called “access of evil”, a phrase used to
describe the enemies of America. America has a track-record of
wrecking havoc in other lands. America
wrecked havoc in Vietnam but
the people’s resolve was so strong that Vietnam inflicted heavy casualty on
the Americans. America also
unilaterally invaded Grenada,
Afghanistan, Panama and Cuba under the guise of curbing
terrorism. Because of America’s
adopted isolationism as a foreign policy option. The bombardment of Benghazi and Tripoli
by the Ronald Reagan administration was also borne out of morbid fear of the
ever increasing Libya-Moscow alliance.
In human affairs when leaders deliberately try to cover up the truth to satisfy
their selfish interests, they end up telling more lies in an attempt to
authenticate earlier fabrications. This has been the course of events in America
since the ascendancy of President Bush eight years now. George Bush
demonstrated colossal naivety in the area of foreign policy. Even the presence
of Condoleezza Rice could not save the foreign policy disaster. As Secretary of
States she has shuttled between Washington and
Tel-Aviv, but could not diffuse the tension in the Middle
East. Even the modicum of success achieved in Korea and Lebanon
has been dwarfed by the interminable sectarian violence in Iraq.
In blatant disregard for international law and the diminution of the United
Nations, President Bush elevated the idea of preventive strike not only as a
strategic option to secure America,
but to the pedestal of a core security doctrine. Under Bush’s tyranny, America
legitimized the use of force by pontificating that the atom bomb in the hands
of a dictator would be dangerous and a world without Saddam Hussein is a safer
and more peaceful place.
This wretched doctrine was sold to the capitalist and Washington Lobbyists with
immense oil interest in the Middle East.
Without the U.N approval, Bush unilaterally took America
to Iraq in order to rewrite
the history of the U.S.
Like Pharaoh Rameses II of Egypt,
Bush has re-written the history of the Middle East
with the blood of youthful American soldiers whose death could have been
avoided if caution was not thrown to the wind. Bush’s aggression has portrayed America as a bully in the Middle
East rather than a peace maker. To use the word of Late. Senator
Robert Kennedy, Bush’s action in Iraq was “unilateralism run amok”.
America’s curiosity and overzealousness in preventing the armament race has lured many
countries who are now desperate to acquire nuclear power. Today India and Pakistan are trying to outrun each
other in the mad race to obtain the nuke. Iran seems to have made some
progress in the enrichment of Uranium which is a logical step towards the
development of nuclear weapons. North
Korea is yet to lay all the cards on the
table of the International Atomic Agency. The policy of Pyongyang vacillates
between termination of nuclear enrichment and frequent policy reversals of
sustaining the programme.
Although America’s pre-emptive strike
wrecked havoc on Iraq, America
has also sent a clear signal that no country can be safe without acquiring some
quantum of nuclear strike force. In fact the nuclear issue bothers on the
national security of countries hence even developing countries now have the
increasing quest for acquiring sophisticated military build-up in order not to
be mesmerized by any superior military power.
There is another consequence of America’s
unilateralism namely: the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the world. It is
true that the process of acquiring nuclear weapons ranging from uranium
enrichment, the production of nuclear fuel to the development of nuclear
weapons is a very complex procedure; the enthusiasm shown by nations will
obviously culminate in the proliferation of the technology. The result is that
the world would be more insecure as countries may no longer feel secure. The
phobia that other countries are front-runners in the race to pick the nuke
technology will heighten the mad race.
Now in Iran,
nuclear weapons are seen as symbolic of state power, modernity and identity. In
North Korea, the Nuke now
serves as a bargaining chip attracting as it were much needed economic
assistance from America and Europe. South Africa,
Libya, Ukraine, Kazakhstan,
Argentina and Brazil
have given up on their nuclear programmes. Thus as the advanced capitalist
countries approach the nuclear threshold, emerging nations are now making a big
push for the nuke in spite if the colossal cost involved.
Again, the civilian use of nuclear power as a twin imperative of energy security and
climate security has also made the tinderbox attractive. The general perception
is that Positive Security Assurance may gradually begin to wane giving way for
Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). The fact that the Middle
East is a Nuclear Free zone has provided justification for the
hard-line posturing. Worse still, disarmament initiatives and its diplomacy
have never been effective because of insincerity on the part of the world
powers and their strategic allies. In fact, disarmament diplomacy is convoluted
to favour the allies of the West.
The Federal Government purports to have extended amnesty to the “militia” groups in
the Niger Delta. The aim is to stop the cyclical instability characterized by
the systematic, but piecemeal violation of oil facilities. If MEND’s operations
were total, Nigeria’s Foreign exchange would have been nil. Even the U.S. had
to appreciate the sad reality that globalization is characterized by progress
and subversion as evidence in the 9/11 terrorist attacks- targeted at the Pentagon
and the New York World Trade Centre.
America which was the greatest exporter of terrorism during and after the cold war is
now at the receiving end of terrorism of the Islamic fundamentalist variety. The
recent attempt by the 23-year old Nigerian born Umar Forouk Mutallab, who is
obviously a product of Al Qaeda may be the first test of the capability of
Obama to use dialogue and persuasion to curb terrorism made in Afghanistan,
Iraq and Yemen. My only regret is that Obama the first Afro-American President has
come to bear a rugged, heavy cross manufactured by his predecessor. This is the
burden of the Obama Presidency.
Idumange John, Is a University Lecturer & Activist