Terrorism is bad for your health

This title may seem a bit obvious – of course terrorism is bad for your health. It kills, maims and scars people for life. A more relevant title may have been “The fear of terrorism is bad for your health“. This again doesn’t seem too far fetched as living in constant fear means an uncharacteristic body chemistry with hormones (like adrenalin) being in an abnormal state for long periods of time. Hebrew University of Jerusalem has attempted to quantify this affect on the health of humans with  study covering 17,000 Israelis where they used both medical check data and questionnaires to study a population that lives under a very high security environment. They concluded that the fear of terrorism increases resting heart rate and the risk of death. The research appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences as “Fear and C-reactive protein co-synergize annual pulse increases in healthy adults.”

The stress associated with long term exposure to terror is bad for your health

The stress associated with long term exposure to terror is bad for your health

By combining the medical exam data with the questionnaire responses, the researchers found that basal heart rate was affected by physiological characteristics, such as level of physical fitness and inflammation index reflecting the activity of the immune system.

In contrast, an ongoing increase in heart rate was also influenced by psychological characteristics such as fear of terrorism. Through a statistical analysis of 325 different parameters, the researchers found that fear of terror was a major contributor to annual increases in resting heart rate, with 4.1% of study participants suffering from an elevated fear of terror that predicted an increase in their resting heart rates.  (Eureka Alert!)

While a heartbeat of 60 beat per minute is normal, an increase of up to 70-80 beats per minute was observed in subjects who exhibited an increased fear of terrorism. In other words, for people with an elevated fear of terror, the heart beats faster and the associated risk of heart disease is higher. (NewKerala.com)

Living in fear will kill you prematurely.


What role can militas play in bringing peace to Iraq?

Iraq has been a mess. The recent rise of ISIL in the contiguous parts of Syria and Iraq have brought the country’s capital and critical infrastructure on the verge of capture by the terrorists. Many major cities have fallen and thousands of people have been killed. The United States is hoping that they will be able to entice the many Iraqi tribes for form militias (now referred to as Civil Defense Forces) and work with the (so far very ineffective) Iraqi Army to keep ISIL/ISIS at bay. The concept of a “militia” has deep meaning in American history with the defense of the nation being put forth as their responsibility in the nation’s second amendment.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

But can this strategy work in Iraq?

Advocating for militia's in Iraq to keep the peace

Advocating for militia’s in Iraq to keep the peace

As Iraq and the United States seek to once again to partner with the tribes to dislodge ISIL, it is crucial that both learn from the mistakes of the past. The skillful employment of irregular auxiliaries will not only ensure tactical success against ISIL but could also help promote long term stability in Iraq by building habits of cooperation between Sunnis and Shia. Moreover, lessons learned from this experience could also be of tremendous value in places such as Yemen, the Egyptian Sinai and Nigeria, where state governments hold little sway and depend on local irregulars to help combat insurgents and terrorist groups. (War on the Rocks)


Terrorism and Torture

The post 9/11 milieu put forth the question of whether torture (officially referred to as enhanced interrogation techniques) had any place in a civilized society that was trying to prevent catastrophic terrorist attacks. Nuances and legal loopholes were used to skirt around the “ugly things” that many believed the CIA and other intelligence agencies had to do at that time. With transfers of terror suspects to GITMO or countries like Afghanistan, Poland, Egypt, Iraq, Thailand, etc. with lower human right standards, people were being black bagged, water boarded, electrocuted and put through worse in the name of fighting the war on terror. But questions quickly emerged on whether the information extracted from torture or enhanced interrogation techniques helped in any tangible ways. And the disclosure of waterboarding and other forms of torment lead to a loud outcry in America and around the world. The United States Senate took up investigations into that matter and the Select Committee on Intelligence has now released a voluminous official report on this matter.

US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its report on torture used in the war of terrorism

US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its report on torture used in the war of terrorism

The report is more than 6,000 pages long, but the committee voted in April to declassify only its 524-page executive summary and a rebuttal by Republican members of the committee. The investigation was conducted by the committee’s Democratic majority and their staffs. Many of the C.I.A.’s most extreme interrogation methods, including waterboarding, were authorized by Justice Department lawyers during the Bush administration. But the report also found evidence that a number of detainees had been subjected to other, unapproved methods while in C.I.A. custody.

The torture of prisoners at times was so extreme that some C.I.A. personnel tried to put a halt to the techniques, but were told by senior agency officials to continue the interrogation sessions. The Senate report quotes a series of August 2002 cables from a C.I.A. facility in Thailand, where the agency’s first prisoner was held. (New York Times)


Have we been duped by terrorists?

Journalist and commentator Gwynne Dyer puts forth a view that we have been duped into a “War on Terrorism” that will lead to bad outcomes for the world. His thesis revolves around the belief that the fundamentalist Islamists really want to take over the Muslim countries and to create a groundswell of local support, they needed a whipping horse. The West has provided this by invading and bombing Muslim countries, thus creating more and more freedom fighters/martyrs/terrorists. Some may consider this an overly simplistic view but it if for nothing else, it does tie in the complex subject of fundamentalist terrorism into an easy to digest morsel. Geo-politics, religion, access to natural resources, etc. would round out the analysis.

The Columbus Dispatch publishes Gwynne Dyer's commentary on terrorism

The Columbus Dispatch publishes Gwynne Dyer’s commentary on terrorism

The purpose of major terrorist activities directed at the West, from the 9/11 attacks to Islamic State videos, is not to “cow” or “intimidate” Western countries. It is to get those countries to bomb Muslim countries or, better yet, invade them. The terrorists want to come to power in Muslim countries, not in Canada or Britain or the U.S. And the best way to establish your revolutionary credentials and recruit local supporters is to get the West to attack you….

…The invasions, the drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Africa, the whole lumbering apparatus of the “global war on terrorism” have not killed the terrorist beast. They have fed it, and the beast has grown very large: 3,361 people were killed by terrorism in 2000; 17,958 were killed by it last year.

At least 80 percent of these people were Muslims, and the vast majority of those who killed them were also Muslims: the terrorists of Islamic State, Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and al-Qaida and its offspring in other parts of the world (such as al-Shebab in northeast Africa)… (The Columbus Dispatch)


China: “Censor Internet to fight terrorism”

China is a very large and complex country but it really does not take much to see the hypocrisy and self serving attitude they laid out at the World Internet Conference hosted in Wuzhen, China. In brief, the Chinese slid draft copies of a declaration under the hotel doors of the attendees at 11pm with a 8am deadline for any feedback. The declaration asks that the world community join together to police and censor the Internet to prevent it from being used for terrorist purposes. This of course is to also protect the personal information of users, prevent cyber attacks and maintain sovereignty of each country over its portion of the Internet (sic).

Terrorism as we try to show on this site is a very complex subject and to see a country – one that by all reasonable standards, censors information including the Internet for its citizens and is accused of being complicit in cyber attacks – is extremely discouraging for any sort of global governance of the Internet. Its best to keep this medium independent of the interests of countries or else we will end up with a fractured system that reflects the values of those who are the most restrictive.

China censorship

World Internet Conference held in Wuzhen, China.

But when a key Chinese proponent of tougher laws to combat cyber-terrorism pushed that view on Thursday while showing video from the crime scenes at a forum called the World Internet Conference, he faced pushback from two American researchers.

“Cyber-terrorism is a sort of cancer on the Internet,” declared Gu Jianguo, who is China’s top policeman on cyber-crime as director of network protection at the Ministry of Public Security. “We are trying hard to elicit support of the international community.”

While condemning such attacks, not everyone agreed with Mr. Gu’s way of thinking about them. “There is very little cyber-war or cyber-terrorism,” said Bruce McConnell, a senior vice president at the EastWest Institute who formerly worked on such issues at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “Exaggerating the threat does not help defeat it. (Wall Street Journal Blog)