ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF TERRORISM By Harvey W. Kushner, Sage, $ 99.95
September 11, 2001 remains a black day for the United States of America. It marked a decisive advent of the age of Islamic fundamental terrorism and has sparked among people the desire to be informed about operational terrorist organizations, their objectives, modus operandi and the brains behind them. For them, the Encyclopaedia of Terrorism is a must-read. The author, Harvey W. Kushner, a professor of criminal justice at Long Island University, has not only arranged the voluminous mass of relevant facts but has also provided the necessary contexts.
Kushner’s focus remains on the jihadis who pose the biggest threat to Western civilization. He also writes about various right-wing Christian groups involved in terrorist activities, the activities of the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Republican Army, the Skinheads, the White Patriot Party and several others who are all against the US government which, in their eyes, pampers the Jews and the Blacks, and concentrate on carrying out random acts of violence.
The encyclopedia’s greatest contribution perhaps lies in the wealth of information about the al Qaida and its deadly operators. This dreaded group has a global presence, with its cells receiving orders from majlis al shura (consultation council equivalent to a high command). While the Federal Bureau of Investigation is engaged in destroying al Qaida networks within American cities, the Central Intelligence Agency is engaged in tracking down Osama bin Laden’s lieutenants from across the continents.
Many of the jihadis, it has been revealed, come from highly educated and Westernized backgrounds. For example, one of the suicide bombers grew up in Germany and had an engineering degree. It remains to be answered why such educated young men are turning towards conservative theocratic ideology.
A serious flaw in Kushner’s work is his failure to identify and elaborate on the crucial role played by several government organizations in propagating and sustaining terrorist cells. The birth and rise of bin Laden’s al Qaida was, to a large extent, possible due to the funds and munitions provided by the CIA. During the Eighties, when both the superpowers were engaged in the Cold War, the CIA organized, trained and armed bin Laden’s retainers in order to conduct “hit and run expeditions” against the Red Army in Afghanistan. Many training camps were located in Washington’s “front line states” like Pakistan. After the demise of the Soviet Union, the mujahedins turned against the “Jews and their Christian sponsors”. Kushner’s silence on these issues probably has to do with the fact that he is a senior advisor of the FBI. Again, he deals mostly with those terrorist outfits which pose a direct threat to the US. Information about the various terrorist bodies causing unrest in the Afro-Asian countries is scarce.
In spite of these limitations, Kushner has done a brilliant job. Particularly interesting are the bio-data of several terrorists. Kushner compiles important information about terrorists and terrorism from a host of newspapers and websites. The encyclopedia is a necessary volume for the police and military officers as well as for the ordinary information-seeker.