A History of Terror
CIA director George Tenet told the Senate Intelligence Committee that there is every reason to expect more terror attacks in the coming months, because al-Qaida has not been destroyed. He is probably right, and he might have gone on to note that government has failed in its promise to protect Americans against terrorism, and that would-be terrorists of the world are now more motivated than ever before. This should raise some fundamental questions about the whole rationale of the war and U.S. foreign policy.
In a 1997 report on the scourge of terrorism, the Pentagon's Defense Science Board observed: "Historical data show a strong correlation between
As a part of its status as the world's only "superpower," the U.S. is the only country in the world that actively attempts to police regions outside its own, so it should come as no surprise that one-third of all terrorist attacks worldwide are perpetrated against U.S. targets. Far from providing security, U.S. policy is stirring up security threats, even as the government uses the aftermath of successful attacks as rationales to expand government power.
Let's recount some highlights of the last half-century of terror in light of
November 1, 1950: Puerto Rican nationalists attempt to assassinate President Truman. In 1954, the House of Representatives would be sprayed with gunfire, wounding five congressmen. In 1973 and again in 1974, bombs would be set off in . In 1975, the FALN would plant bombs in New York City , New York and Chicago , killing several people and wounding dozens. Washington, D.C. June 5, 1968: Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian immigrant who regarded RFK as a collaborator with . Israel
- March 1971: The U.S. Senate is bombed again. Suspected this time are opponents of the
fiasco. Vietnam November 4, 1979: Supporters of the Ayatollah Khomeini storm the embassy in Teheran in anger at the longtime U.S. support for the Shah's despotic regime. It would not be until two years later that the hostages would be freed. U.S.
- December 1979: A mob of Iranians burns down the
embassy in U.S. . Iranian-sponsored terrorism against the Tripoli, Libya is promoted as a just cause in retaliation for United States support for the Shah and U.S. . Israel April 8, 1983: The Iranian-backed Hezbollah bombs the embassy in U.S. . The attack kills 17 Americans. All attacks by Hezbollah in Beirut, Lebanon around this time are in retaliation for the Lebanon openly choosing sides, supporting the Christian government against the Muslim militias by training and arming the Lebanese National Army (the LNA). U.S. Marines even began patrolling with the LNA, and the U.S. Navy and Marines began shelling the Muslims to support the LNA. U.S. October 23, 1983: A suicide truck-bomber from Hezbollah attacks the embassy and destroys the U.S. Marine barracks in U.S. killing 290 people and wounding 200 more. The U.S. Marines soon withdraw from Beirut, . A Hezbollah spokesman brags that it took only two "martyrs" to force the Marines out of Beirut : one who blew up the embassy, and the other who drove the truck that destroyed the Marine barracks. In September 1984, Hezbollah would bomb the Lebanon embassy annex in U.S. East Beirut,killing 23 people and wounding four Marine guards. During the 1980s, Hezbollah would kidnap 19 American diplomats, educators, businessmen, clergy, journalists, and military personnel, and kill at least four.
- March 1986: The largest peacetime American naval armada ever assembled sails across the "line of death," which, according to Khadafy, marks Libyan territorial waters in the
Gulf of Sidra. Fulfilling the predictions of defense analysts, he shoots off missiles at the fleet. U.S. forces then destroy a missile site and three Libyan naval craft. In retaliation, Khadafy sponsors the bombing on April 5, 1986, of the La Belle nightclub in U.S. West Berlin, which killed an American soldier and a Turkish woman. On April 15, 1986(two weeks after the "line of death" incident in late March), the retaliates for the La Belle bombing with air strikes against U.S. . Libya
According to the Defense Science Board (and contrary to neocon belief), these air strikes did not cause Khadafy to abandon terrorism. In fact, he expanded his terrorist campaign against
- April 1986: An American hostage in
is sold to Lebanon and executed. Libya
- 1986: Libyans attempt to blow up the
embassy in U.S. . Lomé, Togo
- September 1987: Abu Nidal, working for
, hijacks Pan Am Flight 73 in Libya . Several Americans are killed during the hijacking. Karachi, Pakistan April 12, 1988: A Japanese Red Army operative with three bombs is arrested in with a plan to attack a military base in the New Jersey . The attack has been timed to coincide with the second anniversary of the United States air strikes on U.S. . Libya April 14, 1988: The Japanese Red Army, under contract from Abu Nidal, plants a bomb at the USO military club in , to coincide with the anniversary. Five people are killed. Naples, Italy
- December 1988: Two Libyan intelligence agents allegedly bomb Pan Am Flight 103. The bomb kills 270 people, 200 of whom were Americans.
- 1988: Libyan agents bomb
library facilities in U.S. , Peru , and Colombia . Costa Rica
- September 1989: Libyan agents recruit a Chicago gang to shoot down U.S. airliners with shoulder-fired missiles, the same type so generously given to the Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan in the late '70s and the '80s. The plot, fortunately, is foiled.
- April 1986: An American hostage in
March 10, 1989: The wife of the commander of the U.S.S. Vincennes is pipe-bombed in retaliation for the July 3, 1988, shooting down of an Iranian airliner over the Persian Gulfthat killed 290 civilians. March 31, 1990: Four terrorists attack a U.S. Air Force bus in . Eight people are injured. The Moranzanist Patriotic Front claims responsibility, to protest Honduras military presence in U.S. . Honduras May 13, 1990: New People's Army assassins kill two airmen near Clark Air Base in the U.S. . Philippines
- May 1990: A group led by Ramzi Yousef assassinates, in the
, Rabbi Meir Kahane, leader of the Jewish Defense League. The murder would later be discovered to be a part of a larger revenge campaign against United States foreign policy--a campaign that included the first U.S. bombing in 1993. World Trade Center January 2, 1991: A U.S. military helicopter is shot down by the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front militants (a Marxist guerrilla group) in . The two crewmen are then executed, most likely because the San Miguel, El Salvador provided military aid and advisers to the government of U.S. . El Salvador
- Mid-January to late February 1991 (during the Persian Gulf War): The number of terrorist attacks on American targets all over the world sharply increases: 120, compared with 17 over the same period in 1990. Terrorism analysts label these incidents "freelance" Iraqi-inspired terrorism.
March 12, 1991: A U.S. Air Force sergeant is blown up at the entrance to his residence in . The deadliest terrorist group in Athens, Greece , known as November 17, claims responsibility and says the attacks are in response to "American imperialism-nationalism." Greece March 28, 1991: Three U.S. Marines driving near are shot by an Arab. Jubial, Saudi Arabia, October 28, 1991: Turkish Islamic Jihad claims responsibility for a car bomb that kills a U.S. Air Force sergeant. June 10, 1992: A U.S. Army vehicle traveling between and Panama City , is sprayed with gunfire, killing the driver and a passenger and wounding a civilian bystander. The incident is likely related to the Colón, Panama presence in U.S. and control of the Panama Panama Canal. January 23, 1993: Mir Aimal Kansi, a Pakistani, opens fire on CIA employees on the street outside the agency's headquarters in . Kansi allegedly is angry about the treatment of Muslims in Virginia in retaliation, he had planned to get even by shooting up the CIA, the White House, and the Israeli embassy. Bosnia; February 26, 1993: Islamic terrorists truck-bomb the . The perpetrators had wanted to kill up to a quarter million people by toppling the twin towers like two dominos. Ramzi Yousef, the leader of the bombers, said they intended to inflict Hiroshima-level casualties as punishment for World Trade Center policies in the U.S. Middle East. March 3, 1993: A bomb explodes in front of the embassy in U.S. , most likely in response to Belgrade policy toward U.S. and Serbia . Bosnia April 15, 1993: Seventeen Iraqis are arrested in smuggling in a large car bomb and weapons as part of an Iraqi plot to assassinate former president George Bush on his visit to Kuwait . President Clinton would later retaliate against Kuwait for the plot with cruise missiles strikes against the headquarters of Iraqi intelligence, killing several Iraqi civilians. Iraq
- June 1993: Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman and other Muslims conspire to attack several
landmarks all on the same day to inflict maximum casualties. As a sequel to the bombing of the New York , the group planned to blow up, on July 4, the headquarters of the U.N., the World Trade Center and Lincoln tunnels under the Holland Hudson River, the , and the federal government's main office building in George Washington Bridge . The group also planned to assassinate Senator Alfonse D'Amato and others. At the time they were arrested, the conspirators were mixing fertilizer and diesel fuel to create a bomb like the one used on the New York . Rahman and nine others were convicted in a public trial World Trade Center October 1, 1995. July 1, 1993: Terrorists fire two rockets at the U.S. Air Force base at . The incident happens a few days before President Clinton is due to visit the base. The attacks are most likely from opponents of the Yokota, Japan military occupation of U.S. . Japan July 7, 1993: Just six days later, four rockets are fired at the headquarters of the U.S. Air Force in at Japan . Camp Zama, Japan October 3, 1993: After U.S. armed forces kill thousands of Somalians--an attack about which the commander of the operation, Marine Lt. Gen. Anthony Zinni, told the press, "I'm not counting bodies . . . I'm not interested"--al-Qaeda-trained Somalian tribesmen conduct ambushes of "peacekeeping" forces in U.S. . The attacks down two helicopters and kill 18 American Army Rangers, resulting in the infamous dragging of dead American soldiers through the streets of Somalia . An indictment alleges that al-Qaeda believes the Mogadishu has plans to occupy Islamic countries, as demonstrated by its involvement in United States and Somalia and the Persian Gulf War. Saudi Arabia forces would be withdrawn from U.S. and bin Laden would later call the Somalia, operation his group's greatest victory. Somalia October 21, 1994: Members of Abu Nidal's organization are convicted of plotting to kill Jews in the , to blow up the Israeli embassy in United States , and to kill anyone who exposed their plans. Washington February 7, 1995: Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the bombing, is finally arrested in World Trade Center . The arrest foils a plan already set in motion to bomb 12 Pakistan jumbo jets in flight over the U.S. Atlanticand kill 4,000 passengers. March 20, 1995: The Japanese apocalyptic cult Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) releases sarin nerve gas in the subway. According to the group's beliefs, the last years of the millennium would give rise to an Armageddon between Japan and the United States, and the cult believed that attacking the Tokyo subway would hasten this Armageddon. The group was hoping to kill tens of thousands of people. Tokyo
- April 1995: Members of the Aum Shinrikyo religious cult plan a nerve-gas attack on
Disneylandin . The group plans to attack during a fireworks celebration at which attendance at the park would reach maximum capacity. Tipped off by Japanese police, Anaheim, California authorities apprehend members of the group at the U.S. airport before they can launch the attack. The plan also called for an attack on petrochemical facilities in Los Angeles .The Aum Shinrikyo cult has assets of at least $1.2 billion and the capability to produce sarin and VX gas--agents that cause anthrax and botulism--and radiological weapons. This cult is still active. Los Angeles August 18, 1995: The Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front bombs an office building of the American company Fluor Daniel in , citing as its reason solidarity with Santiago, Chile and opposition to the Cuba economic blockade. U.S. September 13, 1995: A rocket-propelled grenade is fired at the embassy in U.S. . The attack is suspected to have been retaliation for Russia involvement in the NATO air strikes on Bosnian Serb targets. U.S. November 13, 1995: A military complex in housing Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, troops is car-bombed, killing seven people, including five Americans, and wounding 42 others. Muslims seeking to overthrow the oppressive Saudi monarchy and expel the U.S. from United States carried out the bombings. Three groups, including the Islamic Movement for Change, claim responsibility, and Saudi Arabia officials suspect Osama bin Laden was involved. U.S. November 15, 1995: An explosive device is discovered on a power line to a military complex in U.S. . Sagmihara, Japan February 15, 1996: A rocket is fired at the embassy compound in U.S. , causing minor damage to three diplomatic vehicles and surrounding buildings. The State Department says the circumstances of the attack suggest it was another attack by the group known as November 17. Athens, Greece June 25, 1996: A U.S. military apartment complex, , near Khobar Towers , is truck-bombed, killing 19 Dhahran, Saudi Arabia airmen and wounding 515 people, including 240 U.S. citizens. U.S. officials have linked Osama bin Laden to the bombing, and some analysts also suspect U.S. of complicity. Iran February 23, 1997: A Palestinian, Ali Hassan Abu Kamal, opens fire on the observation deck of the , killing and wounding several tourists before committing suicide. Empire State Building July 31, 1997: Police in Brooklynarrest two Palestinian men who allegedly are planning suicide bombings of the subway and a commuter bus. November 12, 1997: Four employees of Union Texas Petroleum are killed in an attack one mile from the consulate in U.S. . The Islamic Revolutionary Council and the Aimal Secret Committee claim the killings are revenge for the conviction of Mir Aimal Kansi, the Pakistani man who murdered CIA employees in their cars in January 1993. Karachi, Pakistan December 23, 1997: The teachers' residential compound of the is fired upon. This attack is also probably in retaliation for the conviction of Mir Aimal Kansi. Karachi American School April 3, 1998: November 17 claims responsibility for a rash of attacks against targets in U.S. . Since 1975, its victims include a CIA station chief and three other Americans. Greece August 7, 1998: Simultaneous car-bombings of the embassies in U.S. and Kenya linked to Osama bin Laden, kill more than 200 Africans--mostly Muslims. Before the bombings, bin Laden issues a Fatwa that he will kill Americans and will not discriminate between military personnel and civilians. In retaliation, on Tanzania, both August 20, 1998, the launches cruise missiles on bin Laden's al-Qaeda training camps in U.S. and a factory in Afghanistan . The Sudan administration claims the Sudanese factory produced chemical weapons and was linked to bin Laden. This is later proven to be a lie, but it would not stop Clinton from declaring his own, although fragmentary, "War on Terrorism" in the midst of impeachment. Clinton August 25, 1998: A Planet Hollywood restaurant in is bombed. A local terrorist group called Muslims Against Global Oppression is said to be the likely culprit, seeking revenge on the South Africa for the cruise missile attacks on United States and Afghanistan . Sudan August 26, 1998: A U.S. government information center in Pristina, Kosovo, is fire-bombed, most likely in opposition to and NATO policy on Kosovo. U.S.
- Early September 1998: The Ugandan government and the FBI uncover a plot by Osama bin Laden to attempt to bomb the
embassy in U.S. for a second time. Ugandan officials say that the cruise missile strike on Kampala, Uganda, in retaliation for the bombings in Sudan and Kenya might have prompted bin Laden to try a second time to attack the embassy in Tanzania . Several arrests are made in connection with the bombing. Kampala
- October 2000: The USS Cole is dinghy-bombed while in port in
. Al-Qaeda is widely suspected, in bin Laden's ongoing personal war against Yemen policies in the U.S. Middle East. September 11, 2001: The World Trade Center is bombed a second time, killing nearly 3,000 and sparking a new "war on terrorism," a resurgence in statism throughout the Western world, and increased nuclear confrontation between and India . Pakistan
These examples illustrate the folly of the uniquely modern American theory of self-defense, which decrees that the
Richard Betts, writing in Foreign Affairs before September 11, raised the prospect that "some angry group that blames the United States for its problems may decide to coerce Americans, or simply exact vengeance, by inflicting devastation on them where they live." He concluded that "the best way to keep people from believing that the United States is responsible for their problems is to avoid involvement in their conflicts." 2
Yet the supporters of this latest war believe the solution to criminal acts against Americans is yet more criminal behavior--the destruction of innocent lives and property--by the
- 1. Defense Science Board, The Defense Science Board 1997 Summer Study Task Force on DoD Responses to Transnational Threats (Washington: U.S. Department of Defense, October 1997), vol. 1, Final Report, p. 15. Cited in "Does U.S. Intervention Overseas Breed Terrorism: The Historical Record" by Ivan Eland, Foreign Policy Briefing , Cato Institute, December 17, 1998 Foreign Policy Briefing , Cato Institute, December 17, 1998. Much of the information in this article comes from Eland's excellent piece.
- 2. Richard Betts, "The New Threat of Mass Destruction," in Foreign Affairs 77, no. 1 (January-February 1998): 28.