(ZNet, 18 October 2008 )
The 9/11 attacks on America and the subsequent ‘war on terror’ prosecuted by President George W. Bush have brought the debate on terrorism into sharp focus. Hardly any country today can claim to be immune from the threat of terrorism or the impact of the US offensive worldwide. In Afghanistan, Iraq, and increasingly Pakistan, it means war. India, ex-Soviet republics in Central Asia and US allies in the Gulf have become frontline states in the war against terrorism. Beyond the conflict zone, its manifestations can be seen in security operations. These include surveillance, kidnappings and detentions instigated by America and its allies, as well as immigration restrictions and checks on money transactions unprecedented in scale since the end of the Cold War.
When changes of such magnitude take place in the name of ‘war on terror’, it is natural to ask what constitutes terror and how is it caused? Yet the reluctance to confront these questions is far greater today than at any time in the last half century. ‘Terrorist’ and ‘terrorism’ have become widely used terms of abuse throughout the world by democratic and totalitarian regimes alike. Academics and human rights activists can be denied visas to enter the United State. The political opposition in Zimbabwe and Buddhist monks protesting against Chinese rule, even the Dalai Lama, are accused of engaging in terrorist activities. More