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Perspective: Terrorism And Terrorists
Author: John Christopher Fine
Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content
“We have nothing to fear except fear itself.” With that pronouncement President Franklin D. Roosevelt rallied the American people in difficult times.
With his big cigar and determination, Winston Churchill for his part also rallied the British people during difficult times – as they were enduring nightly bombing raids during the terrible ordeal of World War II. The era was the worst of times that produced the best of people. Human courage, good will and idealism prevailed over darkness and evil. In a broadcast to America and London on October 16, 1938 after Nazi invasions, Churchill said, “The cause of freedom has in it a recuperative power and virtue which can draw from misfortune new hope and new strength.”
World War II didn’t end with Japan and Germany’s surrender. War wasn’t over after atomic bombs forever changed the complexity of human warfare. Victory was short lived when one curtain was lifted and another rang down across the Soviet belt. Polish army officers, 22,000 of them, were murdered by Stalin’s forces, shot in the back of the head. They were executed at Katyn, purged as a potential threat to occupation of Poland. Stalin’s purges continued with cruelty that equalled the Nazi regime.
Torture, secret police, informers, denunciations. It was the Spanish Inquisition of modern times. Communism revealed itself as nothing more than a tool of oppression. Germany and Japan were rebuilt. Europe and the British Isles returned to normalcy, China followed the path of Mao Tse Tung with the eventual defeat of Chang Kai Check and retreat to Formosa of forces loyal to the U.S.
Controlling a population through terror dates from the first human societies. Fear of terrorists has caused our free society, through elected officials, to circumvent civil rights. Lawsuits have been instituted that reveal electronic espionage on innocent U.S. citizens by government intelligence services. Torture of prisoners interned in offshore compounds, shrouded in secrecy, has been revealed by investigations and Congressional probes. The good have become bad and the bad have won a major victory against people they view as infidels.
From the outset of time religion has played a role in terror. Roman occupiers heeded Jewish leaders who demanded the crucifixion of Christ. Christians launched crusades to eliminate Muslims. Extremists in the church embarked on systematic torture of native peoples in the Americas to steal their gold and silver. Whole populations were burned alive. There was no limit to sadistic methods of torture and death. During America’s western expansion, smallpox infested blankets were given native peoples so that they would be eradicated. The U.S. Army set out to exterminate them until eventually the last remnants of tribal survivors were forced onto reservations where they starved.
Many terrorists resemble psychopaths. They function as normal people but dwell in darkness working cruelty on others. It is naive to think that a terrorist is a raving lunatic; that is far from the case. They are dedicated people that, for all intents and purposes, are normal.
I served in Congo after the Belgians left. Shamans were recruited by Chinese Communist agents operating from former French Congo Brazaville across the river. They recruited children. Nine and ten-year old boy soldiers were then brainwashed. “They will beat their mother and father to death. They are used like robots… have no conscience,” a Congolese nurse told me.
We were treating a child soldier wounded in warfare. Nothing about the young boy would have given a clue to his cruelty nor his previous indenture to a reign of terror. Shamans provided drugs, doped the children up, and a systematic brainwashing took place to make them function in killer armies. These children hacked innocent villagers apart leaving many without limbs, torturing others. Terror was the method of choice for China to destabilize the region.
Throughout Indochina, in the recent past, terror was employed to destabilize U.S. control of Vietnam and the surrounding regions. Both sides used torture to elicit information and for revenge. U.S. soldiers, some doped up on drugs, were as feared by local villagers as were Vietcong. Air raids using napalm, poisonous defoliants such as Agent Orange, and collateral damage from bombing and artillery put the civilian population in turmoil.
To impose absolute control after defeat of U.S. forces in Vietnam and their removal from the secret war in Cambodia, Pol Pot, a French educated intellectual, embarked on a reign of terror. Millions of Cambodians were killed. Many were tortured. Forced labor was imposed and reeducation mandatory. Anyone who wore eye glasses was beaten to death. Piles of skulls from the killing fields are now on display in Cambodia as a people try to cope with the history of recent terror imposed while the whole world looked on and allowed it to happen.
Irish terrorists took innocent victims and tortured them. One former IRA marauder, pardoned with the advent of peace, revealed on a television show that he and his fellow terrorists kidnapped young men off the street. They took them into alleys and smashed their hands with cinder blocks. Bombings of markets, pubs, buses and schools was commonplace. A war was waged on civilians to force Britain out of Ireland.
Yesterday the Queen shook the hand of Martin McGuinness, former IRA commander, now Ireland’s Deputy First Minister. The former terrorist’s organization had murdered Lord Louis Mountbatten in Scotland; he was the last Viceroy of India and cousin to the Queen. His little fishing pram was blown apart while he and two others were out on the water.
South and Central America are rife with strife. Drug cartels effectively use terrorism to affect their control. Judges and prosecutors have been blown apart with bombs. Assassinations and mutilations take place. Mexican police officials lead terror gangs that hold victims hostage for ransom and mutilate them so that their families pay off.
Psychopaths? No. Almost psychopaths? Yes. When I was responsible to investigate and then prosecute the terrorist bombing cases in New York City while attached to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, I learned that terrorists responsible for attacks on civilian targets were not psychos. They lived normal lives. They had normal families and in some cases were model citizens. Black Panthers were radical and espoused terrorism. Puerto Rican nationalists were vocal about their goals.
Behind the scenes, bomb makers went about their systematic work to bring attention to these goals trying to force capitulation by terror. Once in custody they behaved normally and indeed, some of them, with good manners and civilized comportment.
Arab terrorists are brainwashed by zealots. The profile of an Arab suicide bomber is usually a young person who has lost family to Israeli or U.S. bombing or conduct. They are not ‘madmen or insane women.’ They are normal people. Some are Palestinians who have suffered over generations at the hands of fellow Arabs and Israelis. They are refugees pushed around as world politics and its volatile eruptions take place beyond their control. From these refugees diabolical recruiters take the disaffected.
Like the New York City terrorist bombers trained in Communist Cuba and indoctrinated to Communist ideology, Arab terrorists have been weaned on hatred. Hate is the universal language of terror. Think of anger. Exaggerate it by actual or imagined wrongs done you or your family. Combine it with oppression and add influence of experts in recruiting and training terrorists. They are masters of deceit, monarchs of manipulation, regents of religion.
Terrorist attacks on the U.S., on that balmy day in September 2001, affected immediate and long term ruin. Billions were lost as Wall Street reeled in shock. Government spending rose with advocates of war. Trillions of dollars later the U.S. is still enmeshed in war that never had clear definition. A president lied about weapons of mass destruction and persuaded a Congress to condone military action, largely supported by a population put in fear of terrorist attacks. Wholesale waste and rampant government spending has left the U.S economy staggering in debt. Some even predict collapse of a way of life and lifestyle as a direct result.
There are no experts on terrorism. Some self-proclaimed authorities crave the attention they get from TV’s talking heads. They may belong to a think tank or some organization or university. Government officials crave the limelight and prognosticate as experts, reacting to terrorism. Police recognize that the random act of violence is impossible to prevent.
The ‘almost psychopath’ in society cannot be found before harm is done. The criminal who perpetrates terrorist violence on civilian populations usually is destroyed in the event thus vengeance is denied. In the belief structure of Arab terrorists, heaven awaits with all manner of beatification and solace.
They are not easily defined. They are not easily recognized. Even racial profiling doesn’t select them. They are the armed robots of diabolical leaders.
John Christopher Fine served as Senior Assistant District Attorney in New York County. He was the Assistant Attorney General In Charge, Organized Crime Task Force and served various state and federal law enforcement and investigative agencies. He is the author of 24 books and remains a consultant to law enforcement on national security issues and organized crime, and a frequent contributor to 9-1-1 Magazine.