Today is the 13th anniversary of al-Qaida’s attacks on The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC in 2001. I still remember the day when I woke up to the news on TV that streamed the moving images of the horrific destructions of the twin towers by two passenger airplanes. The sights were unbelievable in its senselessness. When my husband and I visited the World Trade Center Memorial in New York City this summer, I in fact experienced slight dizziness when I encountered the documentary recording of the aerial attacks. The world looked like a very dangerous place to live. And it still does, when I think about what’s happening in the world.
When, the ringleader of the terrorist organization, Osama bin Laden, was killed in 2011 by American Navy SEAL men in Northern Pakistan, it seemed to me that it marked the end of the al-Qaida. However, this was not the case; it was just another milestone. As many world-affairs specialists inform us, the group is still alive and kicking because as an organization it works like a franchise. Last few months, as many news organizations report, another, more brutal and yet more technologically sophisticated group, a sort of an offshoot of al-Qaida, ISIS, emerged out of the political vacuums in Syria and Iraq produced by the ongoing civil war in Syria and the highly sectarian regime in Iraq.
The name ISIS was rather strange to me due to its resemblance to the name of goddess in the Ancient Egyptian religion. Then, the group changed its name to ISIL and then IS. I am not sure the changing name suggests its fluidity or its uncertainty, but it certainly impresses us as a frightening organization that murdered two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, in a most blood-thirsty manner. Indeed, such a savage display of terror finally motivated President Obama to make a formal announcement to the nation that US would “degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy,” on Sept. 10, Wednesday.
Terrorism is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” Doesn’t such a definition include great many political activities? Isn’t such a definition very unsatisfactory in the face of more indiscriminate, visceral violence committed by contemporary terrorists, who often appear more psychotic than political? I think probably we should find another word to identify the contemporary terrorists such as IS in a more accurate manner.