Why Has Terrorism Become Such an Important Issue over the Last 40 Years? Essay

There are many reasons why terrorism has become such an important issue over the last 40 years. In this paper I will be exploring the answers to this question through three related topics; 1) the threat from terrorism; 2) why people join terrorist groups and; 3) dealing with terrorism. I will be using the sources provided and historical facts related to three groups; the IRA, the PLO and Al-Qaeda. Section 1 – The threat from terrorism Terrorism has been defined in many ways and not everyone agrees with any one definition.

The UK government defines it as: “The threat of, for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause, of action which involves serious violence against any person or property. ” Over the last 40 years powerful modern states have faced challenges from various terrorist groups using violence and have found it more and more difficult to deal with them. The main threat from terrorism has been serious violence against people and property resulting in deaths and huge damage to properties.

Source 1, a sketch by Stanley Franklin in 1985, illustrates this threat in form of a giant vulture over the globe shown to destroy airplanes belonging to different countries. It refers to some of the airplane hijackings by the PLO that took place in the 80’s. It paints the image of terrorists as pure evil, preying on innocent victims with the ability to strike anywhere. Although this reflects some reality it appears to be slightly exaggerated and one-sided as it doesn’t offer any history or explanations for their actions.

The PLO also used other methods of attacking and threatening the Israelis such as the event in 1972 in which the Black September Organization (part of the PLO) carried out the Munich massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes. Source 3 is a photograph of the damage done to Canary Wharf, London in 1996 after one of the largest IRA bomb attacks in the UK. It reflects the size of the threat from the IRA and the fact that it used a bombing campaign to hurt and scare people in the hope that the British government gives in to their demands.

The source is reliable as visual evidence of the damage caused by IRA bombs and can easily be supported by other historical evidence. The IRA did not only threaten Britain by using a bombing campaign but also in the 1970s and 80s they attacked British troops and the Northern Ireland police. The IRA has been the largest terrorist threat to the UK for almost 70 years. Another group that has threatened and attacked countries is al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda were accused of the 9/11 attacks in 2001 in the US which killed around 3000 people.

It was the largest terrorist attack that the US had suffered inside their country. It also probably had the most impact on world events since then. The UK also suffered an attack by al-Qaeda on July the 7th 2005 in London. Source 2 is a very graphic piece of evidence of this attack showing the remains of a London bus which was blown up by one of the suicide bombers on 7/7. It also illustrates the fact that al-Qaeda used a bombing campaign against a number of countries. The source is Reuters which is reliable, and the event is a known historical fact and was covered widely by the media at the time.

Section 2 – Why people join terrorist groups There are many reasons why people join terrorist groups; among them are nationalism, fighting against foreign occupation, misuse of religious beliefs and political ideology. Source 11 is a statement from an IRA volunteer, Shane O’Doherty from the 1970’s. It clearly mentions the reason why he joined the IRA. He joined because he read about the ‘tragedies of Irish history’ which according to him were a result of ‘pure political injustice of British rule in Ireland against the wishes of the Irish people. ’ This is what angered him most.

This feeling of injustice is also supported by source 7 from a private in the British Army during the 70s who says that due to the way searches were carried out only in Nationalist areas of Belfast ‘they saw the British Army as the enemy, a foreign occupying force. ’ Both sources are primary sources. Although both are personal opinions, they are from opposite sides of the conflict and support each other. It also is well documented that the people who joined the IRA wanted Northern Ireland to be independent just like Southern Ireland after it became independent in 1916.

The IRA‘s own stated aims were to defend their nation, to remove British troops from N. Ireland and to make it a part of the rest of Ireland as one country. People join al-Qaeda for various reasons loosely connected with fighting foreign occupiers, political motivations and religious ideology. One of the main reasons why people join al-Qaeda is to fight America and other western governments who are seen as invaders or aggressors against Muslim lands and their populations.

They also strongly focus on the US backed occupation of Palestine and the Al-Aqsa mosque (in Jerusalem) by Israel and the US troops that are based in Saudi Arabia home to the holiest mosque in Islam. This has been supported by statements from al-Qaeda itself. This is also supported by source 10 a statement by Osama bin Laden made in 1998. After pointing out the political and military injustices of the ‘Americans and their allies’ he quotes verses from the Quran to back his argument for Muslims to kill Americans and their allies. Source 4 is a similar statement made by al-Qaeda which further proves the motives.

Whilst these are secondary sources they are supported by similar video statements made by al-Qaeda in this period and by their actions. Source 9, a picture of a young boy chanting anti –US slogans in Pakistan may further support the fact that al-Qaeda support is based on seeing the US as the enemy. The source Reuters is a very credible international news agency. However it is not fully known why the boy is chanting slogans. The PLO was another group considered as terrorists between 1964 and until 1991 by the United States and Israel.

In 1993 the PLO recognised Israel’s right to exist and rejected “violence and terrorism”; in response Israel officially recognised the PLO as the representatives of the Palestinian people. At the time PLO were considered terrorists their aims were to remove or destroy the state of Israel, to re-establish Palestine as the home of the Palestinian Arabs and to have freedom from the Israelis. Source 12 is a poem by Mahmoud Darwish who used to be an active member of the PLO. The poem tells of his sadness when remembering his home which he was driven out of and his longing for that place.

The poem does not directly say that was why he joined the PLO, but it is a well known historical fact that it was one of the main reasons along with Israeli occupation why Palestinians fought against Israel. The fact that Palestinians were driven out of their homes is also a historical fact with many Palestinians living in refugee camps even today. So in this context source 12 is a useful explanation for why people may have joined the PLO. Section 3 – Dealing with terrorism Dealing with terrorism is a difficult task for any government due to a number of factors.

Terrorists groups can be small in size, secretive and hard to identify or track down. They may recruit people that you wouldn’t normally suspect etc. The other question is what approach to take to deal with terrorists. Source 5 shows two options; getting tough or talking to terrorists. Although it is a simple way of looking at the subject, it does provide some basic methods. In general the US took a tough stance against al-Qaeda especially since 9/11 by attacking Iraq and Afghanistan, imprisoning suspects in Guantanamo Bay and using other harsh measures. This has been only partly successful.

Since 9/11 many of Al-Qaeda’s weapons and camps were captured or destroyed, airports now have tighter security which has made the work of terrorist more difficult and since 2001 there has been no further attacks in the US. But getting tough wasn’t always a good thing for the Americans because they were internationally criticized for abusing human rights by holding suspected terrorists without trial. The wars against Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in many thousands of civilian deaths which have increased anti- US feelings and created more support for al-Qaeda in some countries.

Source 9 is a good example of anti-US feeling in Pakistan. Also the tactics they used such as torturing for information removed the feeling of sympathy and increased the support for militancy. The British government also used tough tactics against the IRA in the past. There were positive and negative results. For example the security forces in N. Ireland were authorized to arrest and hold anyone suspected of terrorism and undercover operations which helped to find out what the IRA were up to which made it difficult for the IRA to setup terrorist attacks.

The negative results were like Bloody Sunday in which there was a peaceful demonstration where 13 unarmed protestors were shot dead by British paratroopers. This didn’t help the British at all but made the Irish people very angry and made them want to support and join the IRA. Source 7 also describes how security forces in N. Ireland were authorized to unfairly search any homes. This often led to people suspected of terrorism being held without charge or trial and many of these people were tortured. Source 6 shows the funeral of hunger striker Bobby Sands in 1981.

It is clear that a large number of people supported him. This is a reliable visual source which can easily be checked. This type of images and funeral processions were used as propaganda against the British. The Israeli government had a ‘get tough’ policy as well as a ‘talk to the terrorist’ policy. One form of get tough policy has been targeted assassinations. This was successful for the Israelis because they had killed the PLO military commander Abu Jihad. The Israeli forces used a wide range of security measures including the set up of checkpoints.

This helped to restrict the activities of PLO members. On the other hand Israel were criticized for being too tough and earned themselves a bad reputation, in one event the Israelis killed 19,000 Palestinians and Lebanese which were mostly civilians and they also killed many innocent journalists. This damaged the support for Israel around the world. The Palestinians became very angry and launched the first Intifada. What worked by talking to the PLO was that after many meetings and negotiations the PLO signed a peace agreement with Israel.

From then on the PLO was considered legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people and the PLO recognised Israel as a state, this was an achievement for Israel. Terrorism has become an important issue over the last 40 years because of the number and size of attacks against modern states and the threat they pose to safety. Sources 2 and 3 provide evidence of real damage caused by them. People join these organizations usually because they feel they have been oppressed, victims of injustice or that they are right to do so.

Governments have struggled to deal with terrorism or to wipe out terrorism because of the small size of organizations, the support that they enjoy sometimes amongst their people and due to the strong motivations behind members joining these organizations. Also the fact that many of the Governments fighting these organizations are seen as unjust powers or foreign occupiers makes it harder for them to defeat these groups. This is illustrated well by sources 4, 7 and 11.