- Charlotte Brontë
- André Malraux
- Sergei Nechayev
- Maximilien Robespierre
- Sally C. Johnson
The words philosophy and terror might seem to be mismatched and unrelated. Terror is often associated with random violence, death, and destruction, while philosophy tends to take on a more peaceful and thoughtful pose. However, terrorists and terror organizations often fancy themselves as revolutionary freedom fighters or leaders committed to preventing an advance in technology. In that vein, many have outlined their ideas, thoughts, and reasons for thinking and acting in a certain manner; others have relied on works of literature for inspiration or justification.
Sometimes, as in the case of Theodore "Ted" Kaczyn ski, the Unabomber, an exhaustive psychological evaluation can provide insight into the mind of a person who would use violence to achieve a philosophical end. When coupled with studying the writings of such an individual, greater understanding...
(The entire section is 172 words.)
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Apis (Dragutin T. Dimitrijevic)
"The Constitution of the Ujedinjenje ili Smrt" (Unification or Death)
Originally compiled in May 1911
"On entering into the organization, every member must know that by joining the organization he loses his own personality; he must not expect any glory for himself, nor any personal benefit, material or moral. Consequently the member who should dare to try to exploit the organization for his personal, or class, or party interests shall be punished by death."
While many terrorist organizations may claim to have changed the course of world history, one can reasonably claim to have sparked a world war. The organization was "Unification or Death," popularly known as Black Hand, and the war it started was World War I (1914–18).
Black Hand was comprised of military officers from Serbia, a country in the complex, mountainous area of southeast Europe known as the Balkans. For hundreds of years the Turkish Ottoman Empire had ruled the region, but by the beginning of the twentieth century, the Ottoman influence had begun to fade. North of the Balkans, the Austro-Hungarian empire had designs on that corner of Europe. Meanwhile, the region's numerous ethnic groups, each speaking a different language, coexisted in an uneasy peace. Among these people were Serbs, Macedonians, Greeks, Bulgarians, Croatians,...
(The entire section is 3292 words.)
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Excerpt from Shirley: A Tale
Originally published in 1849
"Misery generates hate: these sufferers hated the machines which they believed took their bread from them: they hated the buildings which contained those machines; they hated the manufacturers who owned those buildings."
As the nineteenth century dawned, the Industrial Revolution, a period of growth and reliance on machinery to produce goods, was gaining momentum in England. Even in its infancy, the Industrial Revolution had begun to cause economic dislocation. Individuals who had woven or knitted cloth in their homes could not compete with the efficient new mechanized knitting machines (called frames) being installed in factories and textile mills.
At the same time, England was at war with France. The British government designed policies primarily to hurt France economically, not to benefit British citizens. As a result, many workers throughout England were unemployed. They were unable to buy food since unemployment insurance and welfare did not exist. Some of these former workers blamed the new knitting machines for their situation; they attacked factories, smashing the machines in retaliation. The workers were well organized—they sometimes issued warnings to owners whose mills were targeted—and determined to cut off what they saw as a...
(The entire section is 662 words.)
Excerpt from Man's Fate
Originally published in 1933
"Ch'en was become aware, with a revulsion verging on nausea, that he stood here, not as a fighter, but as a sacrificial priest. He was serving the gods of his choice; but beneath his sacrifice to the Revolution lay a world of depths beside which this night of crushing anguish was bright as day."
André Malraux's novel Man's Fate is set in Shanghai, China, in the spring of 1927. Chinese Communists are trying to stage a revolutionary uprising in the country's most industrialized city. A terrorist named Ch'en has been sent to assassinate an arms dealer in order to obtain a document that will enable the Communists to obtain three hundred guns. Meanwhile, forces led by Chiang Kai-Shek attack their Communist allies, executing thousands. (Chiang [1887–1975] was a military leader who would rule China for twenty years.)
Although the events described in the novel did not actually take place, a rebellion did occur in Shanghai in 1927. The book's opening scene, excerpted here, provides the author's view of a political assassination, a moment in which the principles of politics and philosophy come down to taking the life of a specific human being.
Things to remember while reading the excerpt from Man's Fate:...
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Catechism of a Revolutionary
Published in 1869
"The revolutionary knows that in the very depths of his being, not only in words but also in deeds, he has broken all the bounds which tie him to the social order and the civilized world with all its laws, moralities and customs and with all its generally accepted conventions. He is their implacable enemy, and if he continues to live with them it is only in order to destroy them more speedily."
Sergei Nechayev (1847–1882) was a fanatical Russian revolutionary who in many respects fit the portrait of a "typical" terrorist of the nineteenth century. He is best known for his pamphlet titled Catechism of a Revolutionary (a catechism is a summary of a religious teachings) published in 1869.
Sergei Genadievich Nechayev (pronounced nee-CHI-ev) was the son of a Russian serf, a farm worker who did not own land. But he was intelligent and managed to study in the Russian capital of St. Petersburg.
Nechayev later moved to Geneva, Switzerland, where he met Mikhail Bakunin (1814–1876), a leading figure in the worldwide anarchist revolutionary movement. Anarchists believe the only form of government should be voluntary associations between individuals.
Nechayev was similar to the revolutionary he describes in his...
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Excerpt from "On the Moral and Political
Principles of Domestic Policy"
Speech delivered on February 5, 1794
"Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is therefore an emanation [something which emerges from a central source] of virtue; it is not so much a special principle as it is a consequence of the general principle of democracy applied to our country's most urgent needs."
Maximilien Robespierre (1758–1794) became the leader of the Committee of Public Safety, which governed France for about a year during the most radical phase of the French Revolution. It was the period known to history as "The Terror," and it gave rise to the term "terrorism" to describe political violence.
The French Revolution had begun with a dramatic act: storming a government prison, the Bastille, in Paris and seizing arms on July 14, 1789. The king of France, who usually governed without representatives of the people, had summoned an ancient form of parliament (representatives of the citizens) in order to raise funds for fighting against England (including extending military aid to the newly formed United States). Because no French parliament had met for many years, disputes arose about how to organize one. Representatives of the clergy and the nobility...
(The entire section is 2168 words.)
Sally C. Johnson
Excerpt from "Forensic Evaluation: Kaczynski, Theodore John"
"What was entirely new was the fact that I really felt I could kill someone. My very hopelessness had liberated me because I no longer cared about death. I no longer cared about consequences and I said to myself that I really could break out of my rut in life and do things that were daring, irresponsible or criminal."
In 1988, Theodore John "Ted" Kaczynski (1942–) was sentenced to serve four consecutive life terms in prison. Kaczynski had been convicted of killing three people after sending sixteen bombs to people he thought were ruining the environment or spreading dangerous technologies. His sentencing followed a negotiation between him and the judge in the case, who had ordered a psychiatric evaluation of the defendant known as the Unabomber.
Kaczynski was a highly intelligent, well-educated man who had taught mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley. Since childhood, he had found it increasingly difficult to relate to other people; eventually, Kaczynski became a hermit, living in a one-room log cabin in rural Montana.
For almost two decades, Kaczynski sent bombs to strangers whom he blamed for contributing to what he saw as the ruination of society. He also wrote a lengthy manifesto laying out his social philosophy. He...
(The entire section is 4286 words.)
Terrorism and Race in the United States
- Brown and Thoreau
- Claire Safran
For all of the strides the United States has made in providing equal rights for all of its citizens over the course of its history, race continues to be an enduring issue. Mutual mistrust, segregation (separation of races or classes by legal means), and misunderstanding plague relations between black and white.
When the United States was in its earliest years, slavery divided the nation on intellectual, moral, and cultural lines. The issue would not be decided until a bloody war was fought between countrymen. However, victory in war seldom changes the hearts and minds of many. Well into the twentieth century, organizations like the Ku Klux Klan terrorized many African American citizens in the American South.
(The entire section is 121 words.)
John Brown and Henry David Thoreau
"Now I Have Done"
Statement delivered on November 2, 1859
Exerpt from "A Plea for Captain John Brown"
First printed in 1859
"I believe that to have interfered as I have done—as I have always freely admitted I have done—in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right."
"Some eighteen hundred years ago Christ was crucified; this morning, perchance, Captain Brown was hung. These are the two ends of a chain that is not without its links. He is not Old Brown any longer; he is an angel of light."
Henry David Thoreau
John Brown (1800–1859) was an abolitionist whose actions spoke louder than words. On December 2, 1859, he was hanged in Harpers Ferry, Virginia, for having plotted to provide arms to African American slaves and lead them to freedom in Canada. Brown had been convicted by a military court one month earlier; at his trial, he delivered his last speech.
Two weeks before his trial, on October 16, 1859, Brown and his army of twenty-one abolitionists had raided a federal armory to seize guns and provide them to slaves living nearby. Instead, Brown and his companions were captured by a U.S. Army colonel named Robert E. Lee—who soon would command the Confederate Army—and...
(The entire section is 5456 words.)
Excerpt from "Our Life in the Ku Klux Klan"
Published in Good Housekeeping, June 1992
"'What if,' she began one lesson, 'a little [black] child was hit by a car and lay dying in the road? What if the only way to save that child was mouth-to-mouth resuscitation? Would you put your lily-white mouth on his black lips?' 'No,' the group answered. 'Never.'"
Terrorism often seems remote, an activity carried out by anonymous people far away. But some forms of terrorism take place in neighborhoods in the United States, in the midst of ordinary people carrying out ordinary activities. Such is the case with the Ku Klux Klan.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a white couple from Georgia, Gary and Jan Ralston of Stone Mountain, belonged to a chapter of the white supremacist group. According to the Ralstons, they regularly engaged in activities designed to terrify people of whom they disapproved, African Americans and homosexuals notably. Gary Ralston recalled parking outside the home of a Klan target, simply to frighten someone into thinking his or her life was in danger. Even when the Ralstons discovered that their oldest son was a homosexual, and thus a target of the Klan's hatred, they continued their activities, even if it meant disowning their oldest child.
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Conflict in the Middle East
- Menachem Begin
- Osama bin Laden
When two planes smashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City and another crashed into the Pentagon outside of Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001, most Americans saw the attacks as an act of war. But to those who interpret the teachings of the Koran, the holy book of Islam, in extreme ways, the destruction and damage wreaked on the financial and military centers of the United States was seen as an act ordained by Allah, the God of Islam.
Similarly, the continuing conflict in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians over territory and government is rooted in deeply held religious and ideological beliefs that span generations. The Jewish state of Israel was established in 1948, yet fighting and disputes over land and settlements goes on, international efforts to forge peace go unfulfilled, and violence seems to grow.
The two documents in this section provide insight into the thinking behind these struggles. The excerpt from the biography of Menachem Begin, leader of the terrorist organization Irgun Zvai Leumi and later prime minister of Israel, sheds light on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with his experiences in trying to...
(The entire section is 244 words.)
"The King David Hotel"
Excerpt from The Revolt, first published in 1964
"That was the worst of it: no water. I had gone without food in Lukishki and elsewhere. Here for the first time I learnt what it mean to go without water. Hunger and thirst—it is best to know neither. But if I had to choose between them, I would unhesitatingly choose hunger. Prolonged thirst is terrifying."
In the spring of 1946, Menachem Begin (1913–) was the leader of a Jewish underground movement called the Irgun Zvai Leumi. The organization was fighting to establish a Jewish state in Palestine, a region in the Middle East that was ruled by Great Britain since the end of World War I (1914–18), when the Ottoman empire, which governed much of the Middle East for centuries, was dismantled. World War II (1939–45) had ended, and Jews who had survived the Holocaust, the period before and during the war in which the German military systematically killed six million Jews, were desperate to migrate to Palestine in order to establish a new Jewish nation: Israel.
Trying to maintain the balance of power in the region, Britain was restricting the number of Jews immigrating to Palestine and limiting the Jewish settlements to a small area. Irgun Zvai Leumi used terrorist tactics against the ruling British to help Jews expand...
(The entire section is 699 words.)
Osama bin Laden
"Jihad against Jews and Crusaders"
Published in Al-Quds al-Arabi, February 23, 1998
"The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy mosque in Mecca from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim."
On February 23, 1998, an Arabic-language newspaper in London, England, Al-Quds al-Arabi, published a fatwa that declared war on Americans. The newspaper claimed the fatwa had been written by Osama bin Laden (c. 1957–) and other leaders of the Al Qaeda terrorist organization.
A fatwa is an instruction or interpretation of Islamic law issued by a Muslim leader to his followers. In some religions, it would be described as a religious decree. Islam recognizes many religious teachers; therefore, many individuals describe their writings as fatwas.
The following fatwa from Osama bin Laden was published three-and-a-half years before the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and on the Pentagon near Washington, D.C. Little attention was paid to it at the time. But...
(The entire section is 1412 words.)
September 11, 2001
- George W. Bush
- John Ashcroft
The eastern seaboard was nearly picture perfect on the morning of September 11, 2001. In New York City, the workday began under a clear blue sky, while in Arlington, Virginia, the military bureaucracy filed into their offices at the Pentagon for business as usual. President George W. Bush (1946–) sat down in an elementary school classroom in Florida and began reading to children. Everything was normal.
But just a few minutes later, the world was turned upside down. Two hijacked planes slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, and the buildings burned and burned until they collapsed. Another hijacked plane rammed into the Pentagon. Yet another was thought to be headed toward the U.S. Capitol or the White House, but the passengers surmised the situation, and heroically grappled with the hijackers and crashed the plane in a rural Pennsylvania field. An aide to President Bush interrupted his storytelling, whispering in his ear that America was under attack.
Nothing like it had ever happened on American soil. In the days immediately following the attacks, President Bush and his administration met to determine who committed these...
(The entire section is 264 words.)
George W. Bush
Address to a Joint Session of Congress
Delivered on September 20, 2001
"Tonight, we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom. Our grief has turned to anger and anger to resolution. Whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done."
Nine days after terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush (1946–) declared a war on terrorism. Appearing before a joint session of Congress, the president vowed revenge on the organizers of the deadliest terrorist attacks in American history.
It was without a doubt one of the most important speeches the president would ever make, coming as his first fully considered response to the four simultaneous hijackings just over a week earlier. Just as September 11, 2001, reminded Americans of the surprise Japanese military attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, so President Bush's speech invited comparisons to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's declaration of war on Japan and his famous description of the "day that will live in infamy."
In the case of President Bush, though, there was no obvious national enemy against which to declare war. Instead, he declared war on...
(The entire section is 4378 words.)
Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee of the U.S. Department of Justice
Delivered on December 6, 2001
"Your tactics only aid terrorists—for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve."
On September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked four U.S. airplanes en route from the East Coast to the West Coast. Two planes were forced to fly into the World Trade Center in New York City, each bringing one of the twin towers crashing to the ground. A third plane was intentionally flown into the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., killing nearly two hundred people inside the U.S. military headquarters building. The fourth plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania, evidently forced down by its passengers and crew who, aware of the other hijackings, were determined to thwart the terrorists' plan.
The federal government immediately set about trying to find out who was behind the attacks. Within ten days, President George W. Bush (1946–) had identified the hijackers as members of a radical Muslim organization: Al Qaeda. Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and state or local police departments began investigations to identify and arrest any other conspirators.
The authorities conducted these investigations amid an...
(The entire section is 4446 words.)
- Nancy Gibbs
- Andrea Heiman
- Cal Fussman
Most everyone in the world with a television set was riveted by the sights and sounds of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. In just a few minutes, two gigantic skyscrapers that had been signatures of the New York skyline had vanished, all of it captured on live television and to be seen countless times in the weeks and months ahead.
Many commented that the image of hijacked planes flying into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and their consequent destruction was like a dream or something out of a movie. But it was all too real. For those watching on the screen, the horror and fear of being caught in one of the towers was almost too much to bear. What was it like to be trapped? How could there be an escape?
Just the same, images of carnage and blownout busses can be seen on an almost nightly basis from the Middle East. Yet at times it is easy to lose perspective of how frightening it can be to live in an area where a bus can suddenly explode, or to live with the fear that a suicide bomber can walk into a pizza parlor and destroy human beings. It all seems...
(The entire section is 259 words.)
"The Blood of Innocents"
Published in Time, May 1, 1995
"The sobs from inside the rubble told rescue workers instantly that children were still in the building, still alive. They plunged into the debris, turning over cribs and furniture, hoping to find signs of life, catching their breath at the sight of babies burned beyond recognition."
On April 19, 1995, a rented truck filled with explosives was detonated outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, shredding the front of the building and exposing its interior. The blast killed 168 people, including 19 children who attended a day-care center in the building.
Timothy McVeigh, a U.S. Army veteran of the Persian Gulf War (1990–91), eventually admitted to having planted the truck bomb. He was convicted and sentenced to death. Before his execution in 2001, McVeigh said he had planted the bomb to avenge the 1993 raid on the compound of a religious extremist group in Waco, Texas, in which dozens of people died in a fire and shootout with government agents.
The words "truck bomb" and "detonated" describe what happened in Oklahoma City, but they do not carry the full impact of an unexpected violent attack on a civilian population. Hundreds of lives were disrupted permanently that morning in...
(The entire section is 4774 words.)
"There Was a Bomb on My Bus"
Published in Teen, April 1996
"My lungs hurt badly, and I couldn't breathe. My hair was burnt off, my face was all burnt, and my shirt was burnt off. All I could smell was burning."
Terrorism draws people into political violence whose everyday lives have nothing to do with politics. Sometimes, this violence touches teenagers or even younger children.
Nowhere have attacks on innocent people been more evident than in Israel. The modern-day struggle between Arabs and Jews to control the land of Palestine, on which Israel was founded in 1948, started near the beginning of the twentieth century, although borders within the region have been dis puted for many generations. The battle has included both con ventional wars fought by government soldiers and terrorist attacks. The last full-scale Arab-Israeli war was fought in 1973. Since then, Arab Palestinians have used terror attacks to try to establish their own state within Palestine.
In late 2000, after peace talks broke down between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Palestinians began using a new weapon: suicide bombs. Pales tinians would strap explosives around their waists, hidden under their clothing, and then would walk into crowded places in Israel, such as malls or...
(The entire section is 874 words.)
Excerpt from "What I've Learned"
Published in Esquire, January 2002
On September 11, 2001, two hijacked jets hit the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Just over an hour later, one tower collapsed in a monstrous heap of rubble, followed shortly thereafter by the second. Almost three thousand people died: people aboard the hijacked planes, office workers in the two buildings, and rescuers.
It was the deadliest terrorist attack in the history of the United States. But there also were thousands of survivors who made their way down stairways and out of the 110-story buildings. Their trip was, in most cases, horrific.
Terrorism has many aspects: the reasons that terrorists launch their attacks, their political or social goals, and the outcome. Victims are also part of the story. The attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, suddenly thrust ordinary people into an extraordinary circumstance.
That fateful Tuesday morning, Michael Wright was working on the eighty-first floor of one of the towers, not far from where the hijacked plane hit and burst into fire. Structural engineers, who study buildings, believe they know what
(The entire section is 4247 words.)