Top law enforcement officials around the globe predict an increase in terrorist bombings, hijackings and assassinations in the months and years ahead. What can be done to stem the epidemic of terrorism?
Washington, D.C., was a city under siege. A small band of Hanafi Moslem terrorists, bent on revenge against members of the rival Black Muslims convicted of murdering seven Hanafis in 1973, held some 130 hostages at gunpoint at three separate locations in the city in early March of this year. The gunmen threatened to behead their hostages unless the convicted murderers were taken from prison and brought to them for "justice." Heavily armed policemen ringed the three buildings in a tense standoff. Finally, after lengthy negotiations with Washington police and Moslem diplomats, the gunmen released the hostages and surrendered to police. The two-day siege came to a sudden and unexpected end. Tragedy, in this case at least, was averted.
"Age of Terror"
Terrorist activity has become a common feature on the international scene in recent years, and law enforcement officials do not expect it to diminish in the foreseeable future. On the contrary, many feel it threatens to spread totally out of control. Dr. Yonah Alexander, professor of international studies at the State University of New York and a frequent lecturer on terrorism, warns: "Terrorism is going to grow rather than lessen. Today, we are entering an Age of Terror." Since 1965, there have been some 1,000 incidents of international terrorism (operations across national borders or by foreign agents within a country), resulting in the deaths of nearly 1,000 people and double that number wounded. When the figures for strictly domestic terrorism (such as the Hanafi incident) are added in, the picture becomes even grimmer. Though the death toll from terrorist acts is still relatively small compared to other forms of crime, terrorism nevertheless has an enormous emotional and political impact which is much greater than mere numbers suggest. Brian Jenkins, terrorism expert for The Rand Corporation, observes that terrorism "is dramatic violence; it's almost choreographed violence, theatrical violence carried out for its psychological effect on the people watching. It is designed to create fear, which makes people exaggerate the terrorists and the strength of their cause." Terrorist organizations for the most part are relatively powerless politically and militarily. The generation of chaos and fear by means of disruptive acts is the only way they see to publicize their causes and achieve their ends, which otherwise would probably be unattainable in the face of overwhelming opposition or indifference. Terrorists, moreover, are becoming increasingly convinced that terrorism pays. Figures compiled by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other organizations reveal that terrorists have close to a 50 percent chance of having some or all of their demands met, whether they be ransom money, the release of "political prisoners," or other objectives. In addition, there is an attractive 80 percent chance of their escaping capture or death.
A growing number of terrorist incidents around the world in the past few years has dramatically thrust the problem to the forefront of official and public concern. Among the incidents: The massacre of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich, West Germany, by eight "Black September" terrorists in September 1972. The assault on a passenger terminal at Israel's Lod International Airport by three machine-gun-toting "Japanese Red Army" terrorists in May 1972. Twenty-eight tourists died, 78 were wounded. The massacre at Rome airport in December 1973 by Palestinian commandos who blew up a Pan Am jetliner and hijacked a Lufthansa plane to Athens and Kuwait; 33 tourists were killed. The abduction of the oil ministers of 11 nations by six pro-Palestinian guerrillas who invaded a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Vienna in December 1975. The hijacking of a Dutch intercity train by 13 youthful Moluccan terrorists in December 1975 a 16-day ordeal which left four hostages dead. The hijacking of an Air France jetliner bound from Tel Aviv to Paris by pro-Palestinian guerrillas in late June 1976. The plane was flown to Uganda, where the 150 non-Jewish passengers were released and the remaining 100 Jewish passengers were rescued a few days later in a daring raid on Entebbe airport by Israeli commandos. The three-day intercontinental hijacking of a TWA New York to Chicago jetliner by five exiled Croation nationalists in September 1976. The hijackers demanded that an eight-page communiqué on Croatian demands for independence from Yugoslavia be printed in five major newspapers.
America, Get Ready
Though certain countries notably the United States and Great Britain have, for the most part, escaped the brunt of international terrorism, experts feel those days are rapidly nearing an end. Take the United States, for example. "Terrorism is about to become the biggest single problem facing America," warns a top U.S. law enforcement official. The FBI has estimated that there may be as many as 15,000 people both homegrown terrorists and resident aliens involved in over 20 groups in the United States that preach violence as a means of achieving their political goals. Best known among these groups are the Weather Underground, Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), and the New World Liberation Front. J. Bowyer Bell of Columbia University's Institute of War and Peace Studies expects their ranks to grow: "Revolutionaries from abroad, attracted by soft targets [in the U.S.] may strike at what they see as the center of the imperialist-capitalist-racist conspiracy." American police officials are preparing for the worst.
Terrorist Rogues' Gallery
There are between 50 and 100 groups in the world at present which employ terrorist tactics, including the indiscriminate slaughter of innocent civilians when it becomes "necessary." Those involved in terrorist activities differ widely in their motivations and objectives. Some are revolutionaries out to overthrow a prevailing political system. Some are anarchists seeking to provoke a total breakdown of society and government. Some are separatists, minorities within nations seeking to break away and form their own autonomous countries. In addition, there are individuals who are not affiliated with actual terrorist groups, but who resort to terrorist acts to protest a specific grievance or to seek revenge for a supposed wrong, often nonpolitical in nature. Sometimes their acts are of a highly personal nature, relating to a family or job problem. Finally, there are the free-lance mercenaries who offer their services to political terrorist groups although they themselves are not politically motivated. Their primary interest is money. Major terrorist groups operating throughout the world today include: The Japanese Red Army, an ultra-radical, Japan-based group formed about 1970 and operating in the Far East, Middle East and Europe. It is allied with various Palestinian groups. The Baader-Meinhof Gang, a West German-based anarchist organization. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), an umbrella for the diverse guerrilla groups operating against Israel, dominated by Yasir Arafat's Al Fatah. Once known as the most energetic of international terrorist organizations, the PLO has been bogged down in the Lebanese civil war since early 1975. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Marxist terrorist group operating primarily in the Middle East and Europe. A split-off from the PLO, the PFLP led by Dr. George Habash is possibly the most extreme group within the terrorist community. Black September, formed in 1971, an offshoot of Yasir Arafat's Al Fatah. The Provisional Wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), responsible for most of the bombings in Britain and Northern Ireland. The Mohammed Boudia Commando (also known as the Arm of the Arab Revolution and the Carlos Group), an anti-Zionist, radical leftist group, an offshoot of the PFLP. The elusive "Carlos," identified as Venezuelan-born Illich Ramirez Sanchez, is the world's most-wanted terrorist, a member of numerous groups and allegedly involved in the OPEC kidnappings and the Air France hijacking to Uganda. There are many other groups of note, including the Basque ETA, the Italian Red Brigade, the Puerto Rican nationalist FALN, the Turkish Peoples Liberation Army (TALA), the Spanish organization FRAP, and the South American Junta for Revolutionary Coordination led by Uruguayan and Argentine Tupamaros.
Intelligence sources say that many of these diverse groups have now begun coordinating their operations sharing weapons, money, training facilities and manpower to increase their effectiveness. In some cases, cooperation is based on a specific operation, with the groups involved sometimes acting with widely differing motives. In other cases, cooperation is ongoing. The 1975 guerrilla raid on the Vienna OPEC conference, for example, was reportedly the combined work of the PFLP, the Baader-Meinhof Gang, and a Latin American group. The glue holding together the many seemingly diverse terrorist groups is their common ideological struggle against the "Evil Three": imperialism, Zionism, and capitalism. Moreover, terrorists in many cases now have the active or tacit support of a number of like-minded governments, including those of Libya, Iraq, Somalia and South Yemen, which serve as havens for escaped or released terrorists and often provide financial and other support for them. Under erratic dictator Col. Muammar Khadafi, the chief pirate state colluding with terrorism is Libya. Intelligence specialists note that much of the weaponry used by terrorists has passed into their hands through these sympathetic countries. In most cases, the arms originated in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Though the Soviet Union officially opposes terrorism, many analysts have suggested that the Kremlin might actually act, to one degree or another, as a common central command for the seemingly multifarious international terrorist groups. Increasing evidence points to direct involvement by the KGB (the Soviet intelligence organization) in the support of terrorist operations in the West. Political columnist Otto von Habsburg writes: "One common denominator is that most leaders of these organizations have spent some time in the Soviet Union... The numbers who train in Russia are so great and their connections with the KGB so close that leadership by remote control from the Soviet Union must be presumed." Whatever the case, there is no doubt that the world's terrorist groups, now beginning to coordinate their efforts, are becoming more and more efficient and professional in their operations, posing a significantly greater threat than ever before. "The trend toward greater international contact and cooperation among terrorist groups that has already markedly enhanced the operational capabilities of some of the organizations involved seems likely to gain further momentum," predicts a CIA study released last year.
Ominously, the acts of terrorism we have witnessed to date may only be child's play compared to what is to come. Professor Yonah Alexander comments grimly that "there is no limit to the terrorist imagination." Intelligence sources reveal that within the past two years the terrorist underground has been discussing the possibility of attacking nuclear power stations; poisoning the water supply of a major city; stealing nuclear, chemical and biological warfare materials; hijacking oil tankers or large passenger liners; sabotaging strategic communications centers; destroying railway centers, oil refineries, or offshore rigs. Terrorists today are increasingly able to get their hands on new, technically sophisticated military weapons by outright theft from military depots, on the black market, or from sympathetic governments which buy them from one of 'the major arms-exporting nations. These weapons-advanced machine guns, automatic pistols, and even portable missiles can convert one man into a virtual walking army. The CIA report previously cited warns that "the world will witness steadily greater and more widespread sophistication in terrorist targeting, execution, and weaponry." Many experts fear the day is fast approaching when a terrorist group will either steal or manufacture an atomic bomb and threaten to use it as a part of a blackmail scheme. There is evidence that a number of groups have already begun toying with the idea of "going nuclear." Underground pamphlets have been uncovered both in Europe and the United States containing plans for crude atomic weapons.
Terrorists and the Media
"The latest developments in that Mideast skyjacking... Channel 2 News at eleven!" intones an excited TV newscaster during a prime-time commercial break. Terrorism is rapidly becoming a major spectator sport. It is not uncommon to see upwards of half of an evening newscast being devoted to the chronicling of the latest terrorist incident, or to be assaulted through the evening by a series of five-second commercial plugs for the upcoming late-night news, which will bring us "up to date" on this or that "spectacular" terrorist hijacking or raid. Dr. Frederick J. Hacker, author of Crusaders, Criminals, Crazies: Terror and Terrorism in Our Time, asserts: "Terrorism and mass media are made for each other." An obscure, ragtag group armed with a few rifles and grenades can command instant worldwide recognition for their cause by one daring terrorist act. In a matter of minutes, multiple millions can watch the drama unfold over television or hear it over the radio. Banner newspaper headlines proclaim the latest developments. The terrorists, in short, can achieve a notoriety far beyond their power and number as the media closely follow their exploits for the public. "While the terrorists may kill, sometimes wantonly, the primary objective of terrorism is not mass murder," says The Rand Corporation's Brian Jenkins. "Terrorists want a lot of people watching and a lot of people listening, not a lot of people dead." Dr. David Hubbard, director of the Aberrant Behavior Center in Dallas and one of America's leading authorities on skyjacking, puts it somewhat more strongly: "The news is a whore. It will lie down and give itself completely to any man who skyjacks an airplane." Walter Cronkite, anchorman for the CBS Evening News, may have pinpointed the problem during a question-and-answer session while in South Africa recently. Asked why television reported only the bad news, Cronkite suggested that "news is the aberration, not the norm. It is not the number of aircraft that land safely every day, but it is the one that crashes that makes the news." Terrorism, without a doubt, provides plenty of aberrant grist for the world's news mills.
The increase in bombings, kidnappings, hostage-taking and assassinations by terrorist groups has focused the attention and concern of law enforcement officials around the globe on the growing threat. Police organizations are still searching for the best way of dealing with terrorism. Prevention is logically the first step. This would include tighter security around prime terrorist targets (airports, nuclear plants, government buildings, embassies, etc.), stepped-up police intelligence activities, infiltration of terrorist groups, and so on. Brian Crozier, the distinguished British correspondent and director of the Institute for the Study of Conflict in London, suggests that each threatened country "needs to create a department of special defense that will pull together all of the knowledge necessary to combat the threat experts in intelligence, explosives, commando tactics, languages, psychological warfare, communications and train anti-terrorist squads to be instantly ready whenever an incident occurs." For even greater effectiveness, these individual national agencies could then cooperate closely with each other, possibly even forming a common unified international police command. Stiffer punishments for convicted terrorists including the death penalty are also seen by many as a deterrent to terrorism. A few have advocated even stronger measures, including preventive detention and restrictions on travel for suspected terrorists, prohibition of private gun ownership, official identity cards for every citizen, barring individuals with links to radical groups from civil service jobs, and the like. Proponents of this approach point to countries such as Iran, where tight security measures have made it extremely difficult for enemies of the Shah to operate. Critics of this approach argue, plausibly, that the inevitable result would be a repressive, authoritarian police state and the loss of civil liberties. But if the terrorist situation worsens appreciably, there may be no choice. Says Rand's Brian Jenkins: "I think we may see governments in frustration opting for measures that will result in the reduction of liberties." Curbs on the media are also viewed as a possible preventive measure against terrorism. If the sensationalism and glamorization of terrorism imparted by media coverage were eliminated, and terrorists could no longer be assured of the extensive worldwide publicity for their causes, some feel it would put a definite damper on terrorist activity. Some police departments have gone on record as stating that if responsible media self-censorship is not forthcoming, they will be forced to bar the media from vicinities where terrorist incidents are in progress. Finally, since terrorism is a problem of global proportions, many have suggested that formal international legal conventions be drawn up to deal with it. Proposed antiterrorist pacts would impose sanctions against nations colluding with terrorists or failing to punish apprehended terrorists; provide for the extradition of terrorists; allow for the crossing of national borders by police in pursuit of terrorists; standardize national policies for handling terrorist situations, and so on. For years, however, the United Nations has not even been able to come up with a generally accepted definition of terrorism, much less tough international laws against it. The oft-heard statement that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" is at the root of the problem. With the majority of its member nations customarily supporting anything anti-Western, up to and including terrorism, there seems little hope that the U.N. will come up with any sort of comprehensive and meaningful anti-terrorist program. Certain regional cooperative agreements, however, might eventually be seen among the nations of Western Europe and the United States, for example. Precautions against terrorism, obviously, can be taken only up to a point. Terrorists, knowing when and where they will strike, always have the advantage. How, then, should police deal with an incident when it does erupt? Once terrorists demonstrate they are willing to kill or be killed for their cause, there is no sure method of dealing with them. No one response can be expected to get the same results in every case. Ruling out total capitulation to their demands, most officials advocate a flexible response the use of different tactics for each special situation, and shifts in tactics as the situation changes. Such tactics include negotiations, deals, stalling for time, and in some cases strong-arm rescue or assault operations. Officials generally agree that overreaction can be more dangerous than the immediate situation itself. Often the best approach is a slow, careful one waiting it out and taking no precipitate action. The Israeli Entebbe rescue cannot, in most cases, be used as a model for responding to terrorism. The element of surprise is not always possible.
To the majority of people who have not been victims of terrorism, the terrorist threat is a remote and abstract thing. But if the experts are right, more and more people on an increasingly wider scale are going to be touched by its effects in the years just ahead. The problem of terrorism, like the worldwide epidemic of crime, was predicted centuries ago in the pages of the Bible. Jesus prophesied that conditions in the world in the "latter days" would mirror the chaotic state of the earth in Noah's time an evil and corrupt world filled with violence (compare Luke 17:26 with Genesis 6:5, 11). The apostle Paul also warned (II Timothy 3) that "in the last days perilous times shall come. " The Bible pictures an end-time world filled with lawlessness and hate; a world split by factions and international disputes; an era of rampant, indiscriminate violence and murder inspired by Satan the devil the original murderer (John 8:44).
Only Real Answer
As long as the influence of Satan remains on the earth, terrorism and crime will continue to increase. When Satan is finally restrained (Rev. 20:2-3) and God's millennial rule is established over the earth, violence will be eradicated and lasting peace and tranquility will be realized on a global basis. In that day, Satan's way of vanity, jealousy, lust, hatred and greed will be replaced by God's way of loving, giving and serving. The CIA study declares: "All told, transnational terrorism promises to pose a continuing and potentially gravely unsettling problem for the world community until such time possibly years hence that the international system gets into new and generally accepted contours." Those new "contours" will be provided by the soon-coming government of God over the earth. Only the Kingdom of God can rescue this world from the scourge of violence and terror which has beset it from the beginning of history, and which now threatens to engulf it to a greater degree than ever before. It is a seemingly simplistic solution to some, but it is the only real answer.