Counter-terrorism: Some home truths: B Raman

22 08 2008


A stereotyped question often posed is: If the US can prevent acts of terrorism in its homeland after 9/11, why can’t India do likewise? Those, who pose this question, attribute the lack of any terrorism in the US homeland to the strong legal and operational measures taken by the US authorities after 9/11. They advocate similar measures in India.

A counter-question, which is relevant, is: How many acts of terrorism were there in the US homeland before 9/11 when these special measures did not exist? Hardly any. The Oklahoma explosion of 1995, the Atlanta explosion of 1996 and some fire-bombing incidents against Hindu and Jewish properties during the 1990s by a Pakistan-based organisation called the Jamaat-ul-Fuqra were not strictly viewed as acts of terrorism by religiously or ideologically motivated organisations. They were instead viewed as violent acts of marginal elements in the local society.

If we exclude these incidents, there has never been any major act of terrorism in the US homeland before or after 9/11. The terrorist strikes of 9/11 were an exception. They were staged by al Qaeda in retaliation for the US cruise missile attacks in August, 1998, on its camps in Afghanistan and on a chemical factory allegedly run by it in the Sudan. According to the US, this factory produced chemicals for use in acts of terrorism. According to al Qaeda, it produced anti-malaria medicine for poor people.

A group of 19 Arabs — all foreign citizens — entered the US, underwent flying training and staged the terrorist strikes against the two towers of the World Trade Centre in New York and against the Pentagon headquarters in Washington DC on 9/11. The US was taken by surprise. It was prepared for attacks in foreign territory, but not in the US homeland. It viewed these strikes as Pearl Harbour-style attacks by a non-state actor. It decided to retaliate against them militarily in Afghanistan from where these strikes had originated. It called it a war against terrorism and has been using its armed forces against al Qaeda with no holds barred.

The US and its people never excuse an adversary, who dares to attack them in their territory. During the Second World War, even though both Germany [Images] and Japan [Images] were the adversaries of the US, it used the atomic bombs only against Japan and not against Germany because it wanted to teach Japan a lesson for daring to attack it by stealth on its territory.

Similarly, the US and its people are determined to teach al Qaeda and Muslims who support it a lesson for daring to attack them by stealth in their territory. The US is prepared to fight against Al Qaeda [Images] and the organisations allied with it for as long as it takes to destroy them and thereby prevent another 9/11 in their territory. While many political leaders in the US criticise its involvement in Iraq and demand the withdrawal of its troops from there, one does not find similar criticism in respect of Afghanistan. There is support for the view often expressed by President George W Bush [Images] that if the US leaves Afghanistan with the “war” half-finished, al Qaeda will attack the US again in its territory. During the current presidential campaign in the US, the criticism against Bush is not for the US involvement in Afghanistan, but for the failure to kill Osama bin Laden and his senior associates and neutralise al Qaeda.

The US has been using its army, air force, navy and covert action groups against al Qaeda, the neo-Taliban and their allies in Afghanistan. The US use of heavy weapons and air strikes and the over-militarisation of the US counter-terrorism operations have resulted in large civilian casualties. There has consequently been an aggravation of the anti-US anger in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries of the Islamic world. This has led to more support for al Qaeda and the Taliban and more terrorism. Highly-militarised counter-terrorism as practised by the US in Afghanistan and Iraq has itself become a root cause of aggravated jihadi terrorism.

Since the US has been waging its war against terrorism against foreign nationals in foreign territory, the kind of restraints, which normally operate in counter-terrorism campaigns against one’s own nationals in one’s own territory do not operate. The more ruthless the US strikes with its armed forces, the more the civilians killed. The more the civilians killed, the more the recruits to al Qaeda. The more the recruits, the more ruthless al Qaeda’s operations The more ruthless al Qaeda’s strikes, the more ruthless the US military strikes. It has become a vicious circle.

More Americans have died at the hands of terrorists in different countries after the post-9/11special legal and operational measures than before 9/11 when such measures were not there. The post-9/11 special measures might have protected the US territory from any more terrorist strikes so far, but they have not protected US nationals in different countries. In fact, US nationals abroad and countries which support the US are more vulnerable to terrorist attacks today than they were before 9/11.

It is in view of this that an increasing number of analysts is advocating a mid-course correction with partial, if not total, dimilitarisation of counter-terrorism. At the annual conference of the Council on Security Co-operation Asia Pacific in Jakarta in December, 2003, I was invited to speak on India’s non-military approach to counter-terrorism.

It would be incorrect to compare India with the US and unwise to advocate an emulation of the US counter-terrorism measures by India. The US is located thousands of kilometres away from the Islamic world. India is right in the middle. The US has no Islamic state as its neighbour. India has two — Pakistan and Bangladesh — both not well disposed towards India. In addition, Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics are nearby. Most of the non-Palestinian jihadi terrorist organisations of the world were spawned in this region. Whenever the ill-winds of Islamic fundamentalism, extremism and terrorism blow from their region, India is in their path. India has the world’s second largest Muslim population after Indonesia. It has to be concerned all the time about the likely impact of its counter-terrorism policies on its Muslim citizens. The US has a very small Muslim population. It does not have to worry about the impact on them.

The situation in India is further complicated by the involvement of the intelligence agencies of Pakistan and Bangladesh in sponsoring and assisting terrorism of different hues in Indian territory — the United Liberation Front of Assam, the Khalistanis of Punjab, the indigenous Kashmiri organisations and the indigenous Muslim organisations in other parts of India and of pan-Islamic Pakistani and Bangladeshi organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami of Pakistan and Bangladesh and the Jaish-e-Mohammad, which are members of Laden’s International Islamic Front.

These complications render the tasks of Indian intelligence and counter-terrorism agencies, including the police, much more difficult than those of the US. We have to fight terrorism in our own way according to our own ethos without letting our counter- errorism policies becoming copy-cat models of those of the US or Israel.

Despite the frequent incidents of terrorism, we have not been doing too badly. This would be evident from the fact that the terrorists have not succeeded in disrupting the communal harmony or political stability or the economic growth. Even at the height of Khalistani terrorism, Punjab continued to play its role as the granary of India and feed all of us in the rest of India. Despite the surge in jihadi terrorism in different parts of India, we have emerged as the leading IT power in the world. Our economy continues to grow at eight plus per cent. Foreign investment flows continue to remain high.

After every terrorist attack in a tourist resort — whether Bali or Mombasa or Casablanca or Sharm-el-Sheikh — there was an exodus of tourists from there and large-scale cancellations of air and hotel bookings. This has not happened after the Jaipur blasts. This shows the gratifying confidence still displayed by the international community –including the business class — in the Indian ability to deal with this problem and to protect them.

There is no reason for us to indulge in breast-beating after every terrorist strike. By doing so, we only add to the image of the terrorists in the eyes of their community. It is often easier to destroy the terrorists than the image which the media and the agencies unwittingly create of them by projecting them as if they are invincible. They are not.

‘Chinese success in Olympics will be our success’

17 08 2008


August 07, 2008
On Monday, August 4, when 16 border police guards of China’s ministry of public security were killed and many others injured when two unidentified terrorists attacked their barracks near Kashgar in the Xinjiang province of China, B Raman got a telephone call in Chennai from a Chinese think-tank advising China’s Olympics [Images] committee. Raman, India’s foremost expert on terrorism, visited Chengdu and Shanghai recently to advise the Chinese on the threat to the Olympics.

On the eve of the inauguration of the planet’s biggest sporting spectacle, Raman discusses the prospects of the evil of terrorism in Beijing [Images] in an interview with Editor Sheela Bhatt.

Do you think there is a possibility of some kind of terrorism in China during the Olympics?

There is a medium to high probability of acts of violence, including terrorism, by Uighur elements not only in the Xinjiang province, but also against Chinese nationals and interests during the Olympics in the Central Asian Republics, Pakistan and Turkey.

The Uighurs do not have a demonstrated capability for major acts of terrorism in Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai, where the main Olympic events will be held, but have a high capability in Xinjiang, the CARs and Pakistan. The main threat, if any, will be from the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan, which operates from North Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan.

On July 25, 2008, a private security consultancy agency of the US claimed to have intercepted a three-minute Olympics-specific video message by one Sayfallah, who claimed to belong to an organisation called the Turkistan Islamic Party in which he threatened acts of violence directed against the Olympics. He claimed that his organisation was responsible for the explosions in buses in Shanghai in May and in Kunming in Yunnan in July. He warned that his group is planning to attack Chinese cities ‘using previously unused methods’.

He also said: ‘This is our last warning to China and the rest of the world. The viewers and athletes, especially those who are Muslim, who plan to go to the Olympics should change their plans and not go to China. The Turkistan Islamic Party plans military attacks on people, offices, arenas, and other activities that are connected to the Chinese Olympic Games.’

Images: China ready to deliver safe Games

This message, even if its purpose is assumed to be to create fear and nervousness, shows that sections of Uighurs in Xinjiang as well as in Pakistan, the CARs and Turkey have been thinking of some incidents before and during the Olympics to draw attention to their cause. Likely threats from them have already been taken seriously by the Chinese authorities and have been factored into in their security planning.

Chinese concerns have been magnified by the attack on border police guards in Kashgar in Xinjiang province on August 4 in which 16 police guards were killed by two Uighurs of the area. Apart from diversionary attacks on Chinese nationals and interests, the other dangers are hijacking of Chinese planes and kidnapping of Chinese diplomats posted in neighbouring countries.

Is the Chinese government doing enough to understand the issue? Are Chinese leaders taking action?

Yes. The Chinese have done whatever they can to prevent acts of terrorism. They have taken into account various contingencies that could arise such as the hijacking of a plane and trying to crash it into the stadium, attacks on athletes and their places of stay, attacks on soft targets like the public transport system etc.

They have thoroughly studied the various scenarios that could arise and the scenarios that actually arose in the past, such as the kidnapping and murder of some Israeli athletes by the Black September group during the Munich Olympics in 1972 and the explosion in Atlanta in the US in 1996 by an irrational individual during the Atlanta Olympics, and factored the lessons into their security planning.

Which are the groups who have a significant presence In China?

The Chinese apprehensions mainly focus on the IMET and other Uighur groups, the Falun Gong and the supporters of the Dalai Lama [Images]. In my view, the highest threat will be from the Uighurs and the pro-Uighur groups in Pakistan like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Union, which is another Uzbek group, Al Qaeda [Images], the Taliban [Images] and Pakistani jihadi organisations.

While the anger of the Uighurs is against the Chinese because of their alleged suppression of Uighurs in Xinjiang, the others will be more interested in exploiting the gathering of thousands of athletes and hundreds of thousands of tourists in Beijing to watch the Olympics to attack teams from the US, Israel and Denmark. The anger against Denmark is particularly intense because of the publication of cartoons of the Holy Prophet by some Danish newspapers in 2005.

Are the athletes safe? Which countries have a higher risk?

The Chinese have assured all participating countries that their security will be very tight and that they will be protected. However, terrorism is a very unpredictable threat and hence one has to keep one’s fingers crossed. While some nervousness is natural, one should not allow this to come in the way of one’s participation. The international community should wish the Chinese well and help them in preventing any threat from materialising.

A terrorism-free Beijing Olympics will be an important contribution to the global fight against terrorism.

Don’t miss‘s coverage of the Beijing Olympics!

I am praying with all the intensity I can command that the Olympics should be totally successful and that the Chinese should succeed in preventing any violent incident. The highest risk will be to Denmark, the US and Israel in that order.

Do you think IMET or the Uighur movement is determined to spoil the Olympics?

The Olympics will provide a global audience. The Uighurs are determined not to miss this opportunity to publicise their anger against the Chinese. So too the Falung Gong. Some sections of Tibetan youth too wanted to exploit the occasion, but His Holiness the Dalai Lama has strongly advised them against doing anything which might embarrass or humiliate the Chinese. Unfortunately, neither the Uighurs nor the Falun Gong have a leader with the moral calibre of His Holiness. So, there is no one to advise them to exercise restraint. They can be irrational and unpredictable.

What kind of advice will you give the International Olympic Committee?

I was invited by the Chinese to make a presentation on likely threats to Olympics security at Chengdu in Sichuan in August last year and at Shanghai in May. We had very detailed discussions on various possible scenarios and they have been closely following my articles on the subject.

My advice to them will be: Be well-informed, be alert, be prepared for any contingency and avoid adding to the anger of those against Beijing by using harsh words against them. Be also on the look out for threats from angry individual Muslims not belonging to any organisation, who might get into the teams from the Islamic world participating in the Olympics.

China is the third Asian country to host the Olympics after Japan [Images] (Tokyo) and South Korea (Seoul), but neither Tokyo nor Seoul had to hold the Olympics under such difficult circumstances as Beijing, when the world is facing such serious threats from terrorism. Greece faced similar difficulties and threats during the Athens Olympics of 2004, which were held three years after 9/11 and after the US-led military operations against Al Qaeda and the Taliban had started in Afghanistan and one year after the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. All the NATO countries rallied to the assistance of the Greek authorities to ensure that there was no threat to the Athens Olympics.

The Beijing Olympics, which is the second after 9/11, faces the same level of threats as the one at Athens. The Chinese have received excellent international cooperation, but they do not have the same technological capability against terrorism as the NATO countries. They have spared no pains and no expenditure to ensure the success of the Games.

The entire Chinese people, their professionals, their security forces, their scientists have rallied together to make the Beijing Games an occasion to remember. Only sick minds will wish ill of them at this juncture.

At the end of my visit to Shanghai in May, an important personality had hosted a lunch for me. In my toast, I said: “In India, we all without exception want you to succeed and want the Beijing Olympics to be a memorable success. We want to hold the Olympics in New Delhi [Images] one day. We will learn from you how to organise a spectacular Olympics.” I could see everybody at the lunch was touched.

We are all Chinese today. Chinese success will be our success. Chinese pride will be our pride.

Fighting Trauma and Depression in the Face of Terrorism and War —

7 08 2008

Source: Market watch

Help From Extended Family Relationships Is Often Not as Accessible as It Once Was

Last update: 3:06 a.m. EDT Aug. 6, 2008
PASADENA, CA, Aug 06, 2008 (MARKET WIRE via COMTEX) — writer Gina Stepp discusses the emotional and mental fallout of terrorist attacks that attempted to disrupt the upcoming Beijing Olympics.
Monday morning, August 4th, 16 police were killed and16 others were injured in a border attack in the Xinjiang region of China, home to the largest Muslim population in China.
The attack comes on the heels of Sunday’s report by the United Kingdom’s Times Online that Spain is secretly gearing up to deal with threats of looming terrorism that may be faced by local tourist resorts during the busy August season. And while United States officials insist that Europe is much more susceptible to terrorist threats than America, the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center proved that the U.S. is not immune to danger.
Whether or not such assurances of American safety are true, the emotional and mental fallout is the same in the U.S. as elsewhere in the West. Families and communities feel they have more reason than ever to worry about the mental effects of trauma and depression. But do they? Some would argue that life was even harder for previous generations — those that struggled through the many and varied hardships of earlier times. But there is one additional factor that is often not considered in such arguments. Families are more likely to be scattered in modern times, and the relatively modern invention of the “nuclear family” has already given way in many cases to a more fragmented single-parent version. Help from extended family relationships is often not as accessible as it once was, and this weakening of society’s fabric contributes to the weakening of community and family resilience.
In other words, in Western society and culture people may be less resilient than ever in the face of trauma, while serious threats to well-being may actually have increased.
“Because of such considerations, communities would love to know how to prepare people for psychologically stressful events and to increase the potential for recovery,” says a new feature article from Vision, titled “Building Resilience in a Turbulent World.” “Researchers in the field of positive psychology, in turn, are busily working to find out what traits are shared by those people who demonstrate a greater capacity to cope, in the hope of helping others to become more resilient to stress, trauma and depression.”
Vision presents the latest research to help families build this kind of resilience, discussing the topic further a related Blog titled “Family Matters” at Vision Media.
Stepp notes that some people are born with a naturally positive outlook, and optimism is seen as a key factor in resilience, but she also points out that researchers now know that new experiences and supportive family relationships can literally change brain structure. This understanding has led psychologists to understand that optimism and resilience can be built, and that adults as well as children can, to some degree, be inoculated against depression. However, stresses Stepp, building resilience is nearly impossible outside of the protective influence of positive interpersonal relationships.
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