Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How to tell a terrorist from a freedom fighter

Anatoly Kudryavtsev

The UN Security Council returns to the discussion of the "international terrorism" term. So far there is neither a general definition nor a common comprehension of what terrorism and especially international terrorism is.

The UN has always had difficulties with this term. During the Cold War, when the world was divided into two camps, every state defined this concept in line with his ideological position and geopolitical interests. In that situation the same persons could be regarded as terrorists in the West and freedom fighters in the Communist camp and vice versa.

The end of the Cold War did not bring single-mindedness on this issue. While the US called some people in the Middle East terrorists, they were declared freedom fighters by some developing countries.

Dramatic differences in the comprehension of international terrorism occurred not only between governments but also among people.

After the unprecedented terrorist attacks in New York on September 11, 2001 the US was faced with the unpleasant fact that it was the state everyone sympathized with. Notably, in Russia where people lived through explosions in residential blocks in Moscow and many other terrorist attacks, people expressed sincere sympathy to Americans, laying flowers in front of the US embassy. At the same time, there was mass exultation on Palestinian territories.

Americans and other Western people drew their conclusions. The US responded to September 11 with two wars and secret jails for tens of thousand of suspects connected to terrorists. But the thereat of the international terrorism has not become smaller, Fyodor Lukyanov, the chief editor of the "Russia in global policy" journal says.

"The unprecedented terrorist attacks on September 11 seriously influenced the comprehension of terrorism by the leading nations as well as the fight against terrorism. They employed significant human resources to fight terrorism but we have not seen any significant progress. The wars which began after September 11 in Afghanistan and Iraq have not reduced the terrorist threat. I would say, on the contrary, the number of those who fight against the US has increased."

After September 11, the West did its best to find a shared understanding of the international terrorism. However, they have only been partly successful, Lukyanov says.

"International terrorism is no more in the center of world policy. If 5-7 years ago it was the key issue now it is clear that it is impossible to build an international political system on a common attitude towards international terrorism."

It seems that the world's nations are not ready to unite into an international anti-terrorist coalition. The comprehension of terrorism remains different in different countries. Perhaps this is the reason why envoys of Chechen insurgents who engineered terrorist attacks in Russia receive political asylum in Great Britain.