The Untouched Bastion of Terrorism

Category: Life & Society Views: 979

Recently, an editorial comment in a Chicago-area newspaper declared, "All of the Arab countries in the Middle East have 80 percent of the terrorists in the world, trying to destroy the United States and Israel." The writer's misguided opinion is understandable given the imbalanced media focus on terrorism perpetrated by Arabs and Muslims, coupled with Hollywood's long-standing love affair with the Arab man as villain. Nevertheless, there is a bastion of terrorism against the United States where we have not sent our troops, and it is a region geographically much closer than the Middle East.

That untouched bastion of terrorism is Latin America. In its just released report, "Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001," the State Department recorded 191 acts of terrorism against the United States from Latin America, the most of any region. That is up from last year's figure of 172, which was up from the figure of 96 from the year before that. In fact, the number of attacks against the United States in Latin America has increased every year since 1996. Compare those numbers with the Middle East, which is popularly perceived as the bastion of anti-American terrorism. In 2001, there were only eight anti-U.S. attacks that occurred in the Middle East. Indeed, since 1996, there have been a total of 33 attacks against the U.S. in the Middle East, a fraction of the number that occurred in Latin America last year alone.

This begs the question of why America has not done more to stop the growing number of terrorist attacks against her in Latin America? Why have not we sent our aircraft carriers, bombers, and helicopter gunships to Latin American shores? Is it because our government feels that only terrorists of the Arab and Muslim flavor warrant attention? I hope not, although every indicator points to this being the case.

There is yet another more important question of why the Bush Administration can only conceive of military force to deal with the terrorist threat. Certainly, military action in Afghanistan made sense because of the anti-American terrorist base there. Yet, as is painfully obvious from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, fighting the fire of terrorism with the even hotter fire of bombs and missiles does not snuff out terrorism. Quite the opposite, it begets even more terrorists and terrorist acts.

A better way to fight the fire of terrorism is with the cool waters of dialogue and engagement. Rather than killing or detaining indefinitely everyone the Bush Administration deems a terrorist, why not engage those elements in the world that are hostile to the United States? Contrary to what some may counter, dialogue and engagement is not "giving in to the terrorists." It is an approach that seeks to learn and eradicate, dare I say it, the root causes of the phenomenon of terrorism. This approach seems to be working in Sri Lanka and Angola, and it should be given another chance in Colombia.

While the methods of terrorists are gruesome and morally reprehensible, the political causes motivating terrorists are frequently legitimate. Although it is of the utmost importance to do everything possible to prevent future attacks, it is as important to use our influence as the most powerful nation on earth to rid the world of injustice, the disease whose symptom is terrorism. Rid our world of injustice, and the plague of terrorism will melt away. Plunging the United States into a seemingly endless war with no clear definition of victory is the wrong approach, which will only put more American lives at risk.

Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago-area physician and writer and is contributing author to the forthcoming book Taking Back Islam due to be released by Beliefnet/Rodale in October 2002.

  Category: Life & Society
Views: 979
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Older Comments:
The recent terrorist attacks in Bali obviously focus on Australians who are the largest fraction of victims at this time. Whoever set those bombs had no political agenda except murder. Same with September 11th with the Americans.
The point is that these terrorists are nothing but gangsters looking to serve themselves. they hide behind political and religious doctrine but there is no correlation.
If the USA fixed all the 'injustices' then September 11th would still happen. I think the terrorists have no agenda except to vent their hatred in the most violent way possible. They just search for excuses to carry out their evil works. look at Australia - what have they done? Sided with America? Is that reason to murder?
Loook at Jesus Christ - though he could have devastated the entire world he let himself be crucified to serve a higher purpose. Terrorists know nothing of any higher purpose.
They are the rapists and murderers of peace time - when there is no more injustice the terrorists will still seek violence in its cruelest forms.
All reasonable people of all religions etc should do something about it - it is the nature of humanity to do wrong - but it is the nature of the beast to murder.

Let me tell you somthing BRENT,'you said many middle eastren countries depend on the US'well that sounds funy to me US are ther becouse of ther own interst.Again you said middle eastren terrorist,don,t you know that the begest terror on thes world are American,and Jews?Who killed women and childeren and naver call them selfes terror.They are the people who created this imegs of today,s world problems,you better know that instead of judging middle easten people.

you asked... "Why have not we sent our aircraft carriers, bombers, and helicopter gunships to Latin American shores? Is it because our government feels that only terrorists of the Arab and Muslim flavor warrant attention? I hope not, although every indicator points to this being the case."
Do you really think that if one of those terrorist succeeded in taking down the world trade centers, that we wouldn't be there too? Please!
Furthere more many middle eastern countries depend on the U.S. to defend them. The middle east has much oil. The rest of the world (U.S. included) would love to have it. If the U.S. is ever defeated then we'll all see how much the Middle east likes to be under China's control. Then middle east terrorist will be asking themselves "What have we done?"

Good points on the Latin American threats to US security. We don't often hear as much about them as we do threats from the Middle East. but, then again, Latin Americans are not training their children to strap bombs to themselves and blow up innocent women and children either. And Latin American "terrorists" don't seem to be supported verbally or non-verbally by their population at large.