National Geographic : 2004 Nov
s the new century began, an epidemic of terrorism spread panic around the globe. In world capitals, leaders fortified their security and curtailed public appearances. Ordinary citizens felt unsafe walking the streets of major cities, while the terrorists themselves were like phantoms-everywhere and nowhere at the same time, seemingly able to strike at will. Terrorism became the preoccupation of police and politicians, bankers and business leaders. Headlines screamed out news of the latest outrage: "WASHINGTON STUNNED BY THE TRAGEDY" in one paper, "IN GREAT PERIL" in another. One horrific September terrorist attack, in the United States, sent the stock market reeling and sparked anti-immigrant sentiment. Another attack, in Madrid, plunged Spanish politics into tur moil over issues of war and peace. Politicians in the U.S. took to describing the war on ter ror as a struggle of good versus evil, while some religious leaders, quoting scripture, pro claimed that the end of the world was at hand. The year was 1901. As frightening as modern terrorism is, the bitter fear it generates would have been familiar to those alive at the turn of the 20th century. A few decades before, Russian revolu tionaries had killed Tsar Alexander II with a bomb in St. Petersburg. In 1894 an Italian anarchist stabbed French president Sadi Walter Laqueur, one of the world's leading experts on terrorism and guerrilla warfare, recently retired from the Kissinger Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. His latest book is Voices of Terror (2004). Carnot. In 1897 the Spanish prime minister was assassinated just as Cuba's drive for inde pendence was boiling over; within a year, Spain was at war with the United States. And in 1901 William McKinley, President of the U.S., was assassinated by a 28-year-old anarchist, Leon Czolgosz. Thirteen years later, of course, a Serbian terrorist shot and killed Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-and triggered World War I. Obviously terrorism-defined here as the systematic use of murder, injury, and destruction, or the threat of such acts, aimed at achieving political ends-has the power to alter the course of history, as the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, last spring's train bombings in Madrid, and bloodcurdling headlines from Israel and Iraq remind us today. And with the additional threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, it does seem that humanity has crossed into a perilous new The word "terrorism" has no universally accepted definition, but it has been applied to tactics serving a variety of causes-ranging from the purely personal to struggles for Indepen dence or freedom from oppression. Through his tory there have been few common threads beyond a willingness to use vio lence for political ends. In the 21st century the violence has reached previously unseen levels. Dagger Men The hard core of Jewish Zealots were called Sicarii, from the Latin word for dagger. These mili tants opposed the Roman rule of Judaea in the years preceding the lev eling of the Jewish Tem ple and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Among other violent acts designed to spur the pop ular war of independence that began in A.D. 66, they murdered Roman officials and high-ranking Jews they considered enemies of the fight to liberate the Jewish people from Rome. The Assassins Murdering prominent enemies was a religious duty to this Islamic sect. From its strongholds in Syria and present-day Iran, the group terrorized the Middle East, where they were called hash shashin by their Arab enemies for their rumored use of hashish. Though modern-day scholars question this charge, a variant of their name assassin-entered the vernacular and is now applied to those who murder royals, presidents, and other officials. Terror and Tea The dumping of tea into Boston Harbor by colonists in American Indian cos tumes to protest British tax policy is a celebrated event in American history. But if it were repeated to day, the Boston Tea Party would fall within the FBI's definition of terrorism, which includes property destruction as a means of political coercion. PRECEDINGPAGES: (OSAMA BIN LADEN). CORBIS/SYGMA. LEFT:MASATOMO KURIYA, CORBIS. BOTTOM ROW, FROM LEFT: BETTMANN/CORBIS; HULTON-DEUTSCH COLLECTION/CORBIS; BETTMANN/CORBIS IIIS 1ORY OF 'l l-.RROR FIRST CENTURY 11th CENTURY 1773 !