The War on Terror


Alfred Mendes takes a brief look at the word "terror", and at a little-publicised aspect of the war launched on Afghanistan in late 2001.

It is incumbent upon politicians, journalists and commentators - who so frequently use the term ‘terrorist’ - to keep in mind the following observations: the word ‘terror’ (of Latin origin) is defined in dictionaries as meaning intense, overpowering fear. In other words, it is a comparative degree of fear - and, as such, susceptible to being used as a form of hype. The word must therefore be used carefully.

The word ‘terrorist’ means one who instils such terror/fear in others - the recipients/opponents. But this is precisely what all government armed services in past wars were trained to do, and did. (Indeed, one of the tragic characteristics of recent wars has been the use of terrorising weapons of mass destruction - such as the atom/hydrogen bomb, napalm, mass-bombing, missiles and-the-like). On this score therefore - and viewed rationally - there is little (if any) difference between the armed services of a nation and the followers of the death-squads of such groups as al-Qa’ida, or Hamas. Furthermore, they would all claim that their motives for acting as they did were reasonable. In the case of a militant of the latter, for instance, it is inconceivable that he - or she - can commit a suicidal act without good reason!. It is this issue of ‘reason’ that is at the crux of the matter, and the matter in question in this case is the ‘War on Terrorism’, which, it must be noted, would not be facing us now had it not been for the entry of Britain and America into the Mid- and Near East regions in their search for oil, an industry now largely under the western control.

Of the two main protagonists in this ‘war’, one is obviously America, whose aim is equally obvious: to continue on its eastwards march towards global control of the oil reserves. The other protagonist is an amorphous group identified by the Americans as al-Qa’ida, a group they ( the Americans) had sponsored and trained in the aftermath of the Afghan rebel militia’s expulsion of USSR troops from Afghanistan (a campaign largely financed by the USA).With the Russians out of the way, America would now ensure the establishment of a government in that country that would be agreeable to the USA’s plan to construct a pipeline to carry oil & gas from Turkmenistan to the more developed countries of Pakistan & India.

As for al-Qa’ida’s reasons/aims: these can only be understood by a brief appraisal of the political scene in the region in the last half of the 20th century. The displacement of the corrupt Shah of Iran by Khomeini had a marked effect on the already shaky relationship between the feudal Sheiks/Emirs and their subject fellahin in the Mid-East, and this relationship would be further weakened by the Gulf War. The frustration of the fellahin would find a niche in religious fundamentalism - and with no political faction to turn to channel their needs, many took to the only option left to them: the surreptitious use of any weapons available to them, their aim now being to attack that global power whom they held largely responsible for their subjection and frustration.

It was significant that in the aftermath of September 11th, the Americans made no attempt whatsoever to follow what would have been the most logical course: to contact al-Qa’ida (they had had many such contacts in the past), and discuss their (al-Qa’ida’s) complaints and reasons for acting as they did in order to reach some agreement. Indeed, subsequent revelations led many to suspect that America must have been aware of the coming attacks prior to Sept. 11th - though no conclusive evidence to confirm this has yet been found. But of one thing there can be no doubt: America would use this tragic event as an excuse for another military incursion - this time into Near-East Afghanistan.