Harvey W. Kushner
The egregious acts of September 11, 2001 precipitated a newfound interest in all that is terrorism. I offer the latter term in quotes both to emphasize the much-debated concept and flag the neophyte reader of this foreword to how difficult it is to define terrorism. I will return to the problem of definition later. For now, however, I turn to the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Center and the considerable rush to publish everything and anything that supposedly relates to the concept of terrorism.
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A visit to the neighborhood bookstore reveals prominently displayed shelves overflowing with new offerings meant to explore any conceivable event and circumstance that might impact our understand- ing of September 11. Books on the history of Islam, Middle Eastern politics, and Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda all abound. There are also a variety of monographs, manuals and pocket guides devoted to the possibility of the unmentionable terrorist atrocities to comesuch as nuclear, biological and chemical terrorism, or as these horrors are categorized, NBC terrorism. The interested can even find titles as absurd as those that could be labeled Terrorism for Dummies and Terrorism 101.
Some of this new literature on terrorism is well planned and articulated. In other words, the authors researched, ruminated and wrote before putting pen to paper. There was no urgency to get the work to market to placate a need to sell books, which is not necessarily a disingenuous goal. This said, however, there is no paucity of literature whose content is replete with conjecture concerning September 11, and its causes and solutions. Interestingly enough, the same people who bring us the evening news on terrorism are responsible for many of these new works. What happened to the separation between reporting and speculation? To be sure, the line has blurred and is dangerously close to impacting the understanding of the type of terrorism aimed at the United States in the 21st century.
There were certainly other watershed-type events in history that have precipitated a rush for publication profits. A scandal surrounding a presidency, a particularly hideous crime and the sexual escapades of a revered movie star all saw authorized, as well as unauthorized, biographies come to market. Today, the veritable explosion (no pun intended) of information available to the public through their local bookstores, on the evening news, or on the Internet is unprecedentedand so the public is saturated with information concerning the events surrounding the aftermath of September 11.
September 11, or the ensuing so-called declared war against terrorism, is not your usual important event. For all alive today, it might well turn out to be the main event of the new millennium. At this time, it impacts almost every aspect of our daily lives.
As a consequence, all the literature surrounding this catastrophic event takes on added meaning, in that it is meant to inform and educate the public about September 11 vis-à-vis terrorism. It forms public opinion and public policy. It provides the building blocks of knowledge that in no small way become the wherewithal for action, good or bad.
As certain as the events of September 11 are still fresh in our memories, it is also certain that the full story of the attack and the ensuing U.S. response is still unwritten, albeit unknown. It will take years to fully contemplate these events and come to grips with a thorough understanding. As for defining the concept of terrorism, however, a totally acceptable definition may never be reached. The same might be said of all concepts that straddle the fence of ethnocentrism, and spout the assertion One mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter. The latter part of the assertion is even regrettably echoed when revisiting the unforgivable and evil acts of September 11.
In this anthology, authors who understood the importance of explaining different aspects of the terrorist puzzle penned the offerings. They were thereinvolved with terrorismwhen others saw fit to devote their efforts to things other than terrorist-related issues. One author in this book tried to come to grips with the problem of defining terrorism by revisiting his classic treatise on the issue. Other writers addressed a number of topics concerned with the psychological aspects of terrorism. From the mindset of the suicide bomber to the inner workings of a serial bomber to the worldview of a terrorist cell, they tried to unravel the psychology behind terrorist actions. Leaving no stone unturned, they also considered the victims of terrorism. From the trauma visited on the survivors of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center to posttraumatic stress disorder among veterans of the Persian Gulf War they asked, studied, and offered their conclusions about victims of terrorist events.
Other contributors to this volume examined specific events in order to come to grips with a slice of history. From the SDS and the Weatherman to the Iranian state-run media to a 1985 TWA hostage crisis, our contributors pushed the envelope of historical explanation. Another contributor involved with a specific case study asked whether the Oklahoma bombers succeeded, while yet another prodded the context of a political crime by investigating a terrorist on trial. Still other contributors ventured into the governmental aspect of terrorism by questioning the role of the state in international terrorism as well as counterterrorism policy and the political process related to countering terrorism.
Venturing into the unthinkable, our contributors were on the cutting edge of what might befall us in the new millennium. In a most timely piece, the threat of biological terrorism in the new millennium was widely and cleverly discussed. Others asked, How clean is clean when it comes to decontamination issues surrounding biological and chemical warfare agents? And in a most prophetic article, our authors investigated past anthrax threats that became all-too-real after the destruction of the World Trade Center twin towers on September 11.
In short, our contributors were describing and explaining events related to terrorism well before the nineteen suicide terrorists set off to attack America. They all had reason to believe in their research and develop it without a pressing need to meet a commercial interest. To be sure, much of the post-9/11 public and academic interest in all that was terrorism was fleeting. Interest waned as soon as the population was able to get back to business as usual, which for many was surprisingly fast.
It is for this reason that our contributors should be commended, not only for their vision but also for their focus. Many were categorized as either alarmists or misinformed. At one time or another they were most likely admonished for involving themselves in unpopular research. Today, however, their celebrity is on the rise considering the amount of attention given to the topic of terrorism by both the lay public and academic community.
I welcome all readers of this volume to digest the information within the context of the totality of current events pertaining to terrorism. The information contained in these articles will no doubt provide the framework from which future explanations of the events of September 11 and the war on terrorism will be built. Our authors have made a commitment to understanding terrorism. I invite you to make a similar commitment and attempt to cut the Gordian knot that binds our understanding of terrorism.
Harvey W. Kushner, Ph.D.
New York, April 2002
Copyright© 2002 by Richard Altschuler & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.
Cover Design: Josh Garfield
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