The recurrence of September 11 has unleashed a flood of comments, some more understandable and cogent than others, but for the greater part predictable, pugnacious and inconclusive. This could therefore be a favourable moment in which to analyze the phenomenon, in a feeble attempt to stem the flow of totally irrational anti-Islamic feeling which has gained a firm foothold in much of the Western world -- particularly, of course, the United States.
identification of yet another "terrorist"
There is a disturbing superficiality in the way terrorism is perceived and presented by the media. The same applies to the practically unanimous consensus on the labelling of some groups or activities as "terrorist", with no attempt to understand their motivations.
inappropriately coined term "war on terror" (briefly labelled
"crusade" before slightly wiser counsels prevailed) has always appeared as
destined primarily to domestic audiences
with the secondary, but by no means unpredictable, or unwelcome, effect
of creating the impression that some religious or ethnic groups are potential terrorists,
and, hence potential enemies. The resulting wave of Islamophobia, particularly in the
It may appear otiose or redundant to point out that the term "terrorism" has been in use for well over a century and that people in occupied or oppressed areas have, throughout history, used tactics, against the oppressor, which today would be labelled "terrorist".
It is particularly important to remember that the misleading term "Islamic Terrorism" is unique to our time. The IRA, or ETA activists were never labelled "Catholic Terrorists", and yet many of them were devout Church-goers, and probably partook of the Holy Sacraments whenever possible.
appear that, as the strength of nations develops, so does their feeling of
insecurity, and, as a result, the militarily
stronger Countries (The United States and the United Kingdom come to
mind) deeply feel the need of
identifying an "enemy" who deserves no quarter and who is out to destroy the
State's very foundations. Every Empire has its version of "Cartago Delenda Est",
and the phenomenon was acutely analysed
in Orwell's "
The quest for a new face to label as "Public Enemy Number1" was made easier by events such as the Lockerbie tragedy: Here, presented, as it were, on a silver platter, was a reason to raise hysterical reaction, as long as no mention was made of the events which, perhaps, at least partly inspired the perpetrators of this horrible crime, such as the unjustified, unexplained and, above all, unpunished shooting down of a scheduled Iran Air civilian flight in the Persian Gulf some weeks prior to the Lockerbie event. So the attention was shifted, in the space of very few months, from "Communists" to "Islamic Terrorists", and, finally, to "Islam". The necessary language adjustments were made, and the propaganda machine was in full efficiency well before the S.S. Cole incident, the bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam, and, of course, the immense tragedy of September 11 2001.
The subsequent disasters caused by a cynically incompetent conduct of the "war on terror" need not be stressed, and it can suffice to say that not only was the main objective unfulfilled, but terrorist bases were created where none had existed before.
It would be a specious exercise to search for historic parallels, but even a superficial glance at more recent events makes it easy to notice how the quality of being a terrorist resides very much in the perception of others. Yesterday's terrorists often become the heroes and inspirators of a new order, and at times end up facing the earlier oppressors, on a footing of parity, in the course of international negotiations.
To my knowledge, a "war on terrorism" has never been won, but, in the long run, wherever there have been waves of perceived "terrorism", the conflict has been more often than not decided in favour of the cause defended by the "terrorists" -- Enough to mention Partisan or Resistance movements in the Soviet Union, in Greece, in the Balkans, in France, in Italy, in Libya, in Abyssinia and, in the course of time, in many other nations subject to colonial rule, domestic oppression or foreign occupation.
that precede are not an attempt to defend terrorism, but rather to explain the
phenomenon in an historical context. In
These are points on which serious reflection is called for, rather than emotional, pavlovian rhetorical responses, or, worse, retaliatory attacks which can only drive a growing number of young people in the arms of the targeted organizations.
of this submission, Ambassador Carlo Ungaro is a senior Italian Diplomatic
Officer, now retired. He has spent many years in Central Asia and especially