United States Terrorism - Operations and Training Thesis

Pages: 8 (2111 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Terrorism

United States Terrorism - Operations and Training, Interactions with the Media, and Domestic Terrorism

Introduction and Brief History

Long before September 11, 2001, terrorism was a sore subject in the United States. Dating back to the 1800s and the Old West with its bands of outlaws, renegade Native American bands, and citizen militias, terrorist attacks made themselves a monumental part of American history. In the 1900s, nationalist terrorism -- or terrorists fueled by allegiances to particular groups or nations -- made the world conscious of its power with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, a terrorist act that drew the world into war.

Closer to home, president William McKinley was assassinated by a terrorist associated with anarchists, and a series of homegrown bombings occurred, including the Mad Bombers terrific tour of New York. Probably two of the most memorable terrorist attacks on the United Sates in the years before September 11, 2001 were the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, which was planned by a group of Islamic terrorist, killed six and injured thousands, and the Oklahoma City Bombing of 1995, in which Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols concocted the plot that killed 168 and injured over 800. But both of these tragic events paled in comparison to the September 11 attacks of 2001, which left around 3,000 dead and left the United States wounded. The event and the subsequent war that followed have been considered a defining moment in U.S. history, inspiring some to join the armed forces, others to become antiwar activists, and still others to enter into a political realignment (Powell 2004). Regardless of the personal and patriotic changes that the attacks inspired, avoiding a reoccurrence of September 11th has been a top priority on most government agencies' lists since the attacks. For this reason, governments and the public now know more about terrorists and terrorism than ever before. Some of the most important facets of that new knowledge, however, is an understanding of terrorists' operation and training, interactions with the media, and homegrown terrorism. By exploring these three issues, both government agencies and the public will be able to expand their views on the current status of terrorism in the United States.

Operations and Training

According to the Journal of International Law, a foreign terrorist organization is defined as an organization that is foreign, "engages in terrorist activity," and the terrorist activity "threatens the security of United States nationals or the security of the United States" (Jinks 2000, 397). According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, domestic terrorism is defined as:

activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state; appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States" (2004).

Based on these two definitions, groups that conduct these types of operations are considered terrorists by the United States. Although these definitions have lead to the capture and conviction of a variety of domestic and international terrorists including Timothy McVeigh and a number of the September 11th plotters, these definitions also apply to a variety of extremists groups that some do not quickly link with terrorism. These types of groups include eco-terrorists and the animal-rights movement, which the FBI described as "the number one domestic terrorism threat" as recently as 2005 (Schuster 2005). From bombings to attacks that cause monetary damage and violence toward citizens and police, therefore, the two definitions of international and domestic terrorism allow for a rather wide degree of interpretation.

Just as terrorists' operations vary widely, so do their methods of training. According to Global Security, "there is no present evidence of a worldwide terrorist training apparatus," and terrorist training is done on "regional ethnic and religious lines" (1995). Despite this information, certain aspects of training apply to all terrorist organizations. All terrorists must be trained mentally, physically, and spiritually in order to carry out the tremendously strenuous work they perform. Arthur J. Deikman's original work, Them and Us: Cult Thinking and the Terrorist Threat, illustrates the mental training that all terrorists must endure. According to Deikman, a common facet of many terrorist organizations' training and existence is a reliance on Cult thinking. In fact, Deikman, a psychologist, managed to find examples of cult thinking both in Al Queda's operations and attacks and in the United States' response to them (2003, 4). According to Dekman, aspects of cult thinking such as breaking up couples, isolating members from other parts of their lives that make them feel good, and installing dependence on a leader work together to encourage terrorist a thought process that hones and refines their training.

In addition to the mental component, terrorists must also be trained in the physical capacity. For some terrorist groups, most notably Al Qaeda, camps are an integral part of training. Terrorists training camps function much like the military training operatives in the United States military receive. According to Global Security, most terrorists trained in Middle Eastern camps receive general military training, in addition to specialized training in machines, bomb technology, or flight, in alignment with the organization's needs. Training at the terrorist camps also encourages would-be terrorists to react to a variety of situations and come up with new ways to create terror and commit murders (Global Security 2008). Some of these training camps take the form of Madrassas, or terrorist training schools, that teach children the art of terror at a young age. Although some have disputed that the schools are breeding ground for terrorists, suggesting instead that they are simply parochial schools (Bergen and Pandey 2005), terrorists are in the habit of recruiting children to train (Puri 2004).

Finally, many terrorists must also undergo spiritual training in order to be prepared for the tasks, which are considered a spiritual reward for many terrorists. According to recent journalism, terrorists are spiritually prepared as young children for the opportunity to end their lives and become martyrs for their religion. For example, Palestinian boys ages twelve to fifteen, are encouraged to attend school where they taught the benefits of becoming a suicide bomber in order to launch a "holy war" against Israel. According to the BBC, the children are taught "that it is good to kill" and "that it is good to die" (Cooke 2001).

Thus, although terrorist organizations are extremely diverse in their operations and training methods, some aspects unite most terrorist groups, including their need to be mentally, physically, and spiritually prepared for waging acts of terrorism. Although some dispute the reality of certain myths of terrorist training, like the Madrassa, evidence suggests that many of the gruesome details of terrorist training methods, including recruiting children and training children to become suicide bombers, are true.

Interactions With the Media

Unlike in other decades, the visual, audible, and virtual media is now worldwide, prepared to capture the most gruesome and intimate details of terrorist life on tape and in print. The media has served two main purposes in regards to its relationships with terrorist organizations. The first is a positive purpose for the organization; the media has allowed terrorists to reach much longer distances, spreading their ideas and terror worldwide. Because terrorists' primary objective is to inspire terror in the hearts of their opposition and inhibit or change other cultures' ways of life, the media has helped them further their goal in this respect. In her book, Terrorism and the Media, Bridgette L. Nacos considers this point, suggesting that if the terrorists kill, kidnap, maim, or otherwise complete the acts through which they cause terror, and the media does not report on these events, they have same effect for the terrorist as if they did not happen (1994, 48). For this reason, the relationship between terrorists and the media is often controversial: some wonder if the media is furthering the terrorists' goals by allowing them to spread their terror. Some have also suggested that journalist efforts, which seek to expose private and classified information to the public, aid terrorists by exposing plants to capture them (McCarthy 2006).

The second feature of the media in relation to terrorists, however, is negative for the terrorist organizations. In addition to spreading the terrorists' messages, the media spreads awareness about terrorism and terrorists. This increased awareness keeps citizens informed, and may help prevent homegrown terrorism and youths becoming involved with terrorist organizations because of an uncertainty about their true nature. By publishing their photographs and details, the media also aids in the capture of unknown terrorists as those who see terrorists on the news can, like they would with any other criminal, call the police and inform them of the person's whereabouts.

Although the relationship between terrorists and media provides both a positive and a negative side for the terrorists, most of the research consists of the inadvertent aid the media provides to the terrorists. Some suggest… [END OF PREVIEW]

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