Misconceptions about terrorism, regularly promoted by the mainstream media,
have facilitated harmful US government actions—two wars, domestic legislation that curtailed civil liberties, excessive national security spending.
That basic, factual information about terrorism is so rarely reported thus serves to reinforce the power of those who benefit from a fearful population.
It should be banal to read in the mainstream media that the US not only engages in terrorism but often aggravates it; that if the current crop of terrorists in, say, the Middle East were killed, new terrorists would simply arise if the underlying political and social conditions remained unchanged; and, that if a particular country is perceived as actively supporting dysfunctional political and social conditions in a part of the world, it will become the target of anger and, possibly, violence.
Yet, instead of such obvious conclusions about terrorism, we are daily exposed to much bias and distortion.
Several years ago my local newspaper, the (very mainstream) Montreal Gazette, published a piece I had written with only one change: Jewish “terrorists” was edited as Jewish “fighters”—needless to say, “Arab terrorists” remained unchanged. To counter such inadequate journalism, I have prepared the following quiz.
THE TERRORISM QUIZ:
1. Who made the following statement?
“To watch the courageous Afghan freedom fighters battle modern arsenals with simple hand-held weapons is an inspiration to those who love freedom.”
-Ronald Reagan: President of the United States, 1981-1989.
-Photo of President Reagan meeting with the Mujahideen:
– “In August 1998…President [Clinton] ordered missile strikes…to kill [freedom-loving] Osama bin Laden and his men in the camps in Afghanistan.” And, later, after 9/11, the US …
-The Afghan freedom fighters “had been encouraged and funded by America to join in the anticommunist Afghan campaign. … The problem was that the genie of jihad would not go back in the bottle.” (Fawaz A. Gerges; Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy; Harcourt; New York: 2006; p. 114)
2. Which official report stated the following? “the Iraq War has become the ‘cause celebre’ for jihadists…and is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives.”
-The US government’s National Intelligence Estimate on “Trends in Global Terrorism: implications for the United States.” (https://motherjones.com/politics/2007/03/iraq-101-iraq-effect-war-iraq-and-its-impact-war-terrorism-pg-1)
-According to a study by terrorism experts, Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, “the Iraq War has generated a stunning sevenfold increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist attacks, amounting to literally hundreds of additional terrorist attacks and thousands of civilian lives lost…” (https://www.stwr.org/united-states-of-america/the-iraq-effect-war-has-increased-terrorism-sevenfold-worldwide.html)
-To counter the threat of terrorism, the US should not invade other countries but coordinate its intelligence and police action with other states.
3. Approximately how many North Vietnamese civilians were killed by the US’s three-and-a-half years Operation Rolling Thunder bombing campaign?
-According to U.S. estimates, 182,000 North Vietnamese civilians were killed. https://www.pbs.org/battlefieldvietnam/timeline/index2.html
-“Late in Gillo Pontecorvo’s…film, The Battle of Algiers,…a scene occurs in which Ben H’midi, the captured political leader of the FLN, is asked by a French journalist how he could justify murdering innocent French civilians. In a reference to the French use of napalm and carpet-bombing in the countryside, H’midi replies: ‘Let us have your bombers and you can have our women’s baskets.’ In other words, atrocities are atrocities. And if the oppressed appear to use more ‘primitive’ means, it is because they are forced onto unequal ground.” (Jonathan Barker; The No-Nonsense Guide to Global Terrorism; Between the Lines; Toronto: 2008; p. 80)
4. True or False: Studies have repeatedly found that the bulk of terrorists are normal.
-True. Many people may believe “that since what terrorists do is not ‘normal’…there must be something about the terrorist too that is ‘abnormal’”. Yet, according to interviews, very few terrorists were pathological or otherwise insane. “In fact, given the difficulties involved in planning and pulling off the kind of spectacular terrorist operations that al-Qa’ida favors, it often requires people who are intelligent…at least for the leaders of any operation.” (Kenneth M. Pollack; A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East; Random House; New York: 2008; pp. 173 and 175)
-“[E]xperts seem to agree…that suicide bombers are normal individuals; they are not ‘crazy’ or born with a psychopathology that predisposes them to violent activism.” (Mohammed M. Hafez; Suicide Bombers In Iraq: The Strategy and Ideology of Martyrdom; United States Institute of Peace Press; Washington D.C.: 2007; p. 8 )
-“The fact that most terrorists are not psychotic, sociopathic, or otherwise psychologically damaged suggests the importance of environmental factors in their decision to join a terrorist organization.” (Kenneth M. Pollack; A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East; Random House; New York: 2008; p. 175)
5. How many suicide bombings had Iraq experienced before the 2003 US invasion?
-None. “[I]raq…never experienced suicide terrorism before 2003 [yet after the invasion Iraq]… has produced the largest arsenal of ‘martyrs’ ever seen…” (Mohammed M. Hafez; Suicide Bombers In Iraq: The Strategy and Ideology of Martyrdom; United States Institute of Peace Press; Washington D.C.: 2007; p. 5)
-Iraq’s experience provides additional evidence of the possible relationship between occupation by a democratic country and suicide bombings. Other examples are Lebanon, Kashmir and Sri Lanka. (https://www.amconmag.com/article/2005/jul/18/00017/)
6. In 1958, according to the United States National Security Council, what was the main reason the Arab people hated the US?
-“In a staff discussion…president Dwight Eisenhower described ‘the campaign of hatred against us (in the Arab world), not by the governments but by the people’. His National Security Council outlined the basic argument: the US supports corrupt and oppressive governments and is ‘opposing political or economic progress’ because of its interest in controlling the oil resources of the region. Post-September 11  surveys in the Arab world reveal that the same reasons hold today, compounded with resentment over specific policies [such as the US’s]…crucial support for Israel’s harsh military occupation…” (https://www.chomsky.info/articles/20020907.htm)
-It seems that the main reason for Muslim Middle Easterners hatred is the perception “that we [the US] support the autocratic regimes that they (rightly) hold responsible for their misery. … Thus the anger and despair they feel because of the actions (and inaction) of their own governments get transferred to the United States in the belief that we are the ultimate power behind the local autocrats.” (Kenneth M. Pollack; A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East; Random House; New York: 2008; p. 199)
7. Who stated the following to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 2005? “Our [the US’s] policies in the Middle East fuel Islamic resentment.”
-Lowell E. Jacoby: U.S. Vice Admiral, then director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. (Fawaz A. Gerges; Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy; Harcourt; New York: 2006; p. 267)
8. Who said the following? “Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples [in the Middle East].”
-David Petraeus: US Army general. (https://www.haaretz.com/news/u-s-general-israel-palestinian-conflict-foments-anti-u-s-sentiment-1.264910)
9. True or False: Revenge is an important cause of terrorism.
-True. For example, “The University of Toronto sociologist Robert Brym carefully studied all 138 suicide bombings between September 2000 and mid-July 2005. He concluded that in the vast majority of cases the suicide bombers themselves—whatever their ideological predispositions, or the groups that claimed responsibility—had lost a friend or close relative to Israeli fire. They acted, he wrote, ‘out of revenge.’” (Bernard Avishai; The Hebrew Republic; Harcourt; New York: 2008; p. 255.)
–“A new study by America’s National Bureau for Economic Research looking at the circumstances around 4,000 civilian deaths in Afghanistan found a high correlation between NATO killing of even two civilians in an area and a spike of attacks on NATO and US troops. … A heavy footprint and more NATO operations likely will create the monster Washington fears, a growing insurgency, rather than ‘blunting the momentum’ of the ‘Taliban’…” (https://www.juancole.com/2010/07/civilian-casualties-rethinking-afghanistan-pt-4.html)
10. What was the main objective of al-Qaeda for the 9/11 attacks?
-“[B]in Laden, Zawahiri, and company [in the late 1990s] were pursuing bigger ambitions [than other jihadists]—waking the Muslim community from its slumber. … In a secret 1998 letter to another militant—recovered in 2001 from captured Al Qaeda computers in Kabul—Zawahiri points out that Al Qaeda had escalated the fight against ‘the biggest of the criminals, the Americans’ to drag them for an open battle with the nation’s masses[…]” Bin Laden and Zawahiri “expected a Muslim response similar to that following the Russian invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Their goal was to generate a major world crisis, provoking the United States…; American attacks on Muslim countries world reinvigorate and unify a splintered, war-torn jihadist movement and restore its credibility in the eyes of [Muslims]… When the United States invaded Afghanistan, however, Al Qaeda found itself on its own. … No religious authority lent his name and legitimacy to repelling the American troops. … Most jihadists were opposed to what bin Laden had done, some even within his own wing of the movement.” “[S]heikh Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Cairo, the oldest religious institution in the Islamic world, swiftly dismissed bin Laden’s jihad credentials as ‘fraudulent’ and warned young Muslims against…Al Qaeda’s call to fight in Afghanistan.” “In contrast to the war in Afghanistan, the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq triggered a torrent of angry responses by Islamists, ulemas, secular Muslims, and religious Muslims alike. … Institutions and clerics urged Muslims to join in jihad with their Iraqi brethren and repel the American invaders. (Fawaz A. Gerges; Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy; Harcourt; New York: 2006; p. 181, 203-4, 209-10, 240-1)
-Group (i.e., non-state) terrorism is done for various reasons including to sabotage a peace process; to exact revenge; to attract attention and resources to an issue; and, to try and induce an entity to overreact in order to augment support for the group.
11. True or False: Over 20% of the respondents of a 2005 Gallup poll of ten predominantly Muslim countries felt the 9/11 attacks were fully justified.
-False. Only 7% felt the 9/11 attacks were fully justified; moreover this 7% was no more or less religious than the other 93%. (Kenneth M. Pollack; A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East; Random House; New York: 2008; p. 209)
-Even “The Hizbollah leadership distanced itself from September 11 and went public in its criticism of Al Qaeda.” (Fawaz A. Gerges; Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy; Harcourt; New York: 2006; p. 189)
12. True or False: Of the seventy-nine worst al-Qa’ida and other Salafi terrorists, more had attended madrasas than regular universities.
-False. 54% attended regular universities and 11% attended madrasas. Indeed, of those who had attended secular institutions, 48% had gone to Western schools. (Kenneth M. Pollack; A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East; Random House; New York: 2008; p. 210.)
13. True or False: The majority of terrorists come from the lower-classes.
-False. “[N]umerous academic and government studies find that terrorists tend to be drawn from well-educated, middle-class or high-income families. Among those who have…studied the issue, there is not much question that poverty has little to do with terrorism. … Most terrorists are not so desperately poor that they have nothing to live for. Instead they are people who care so deeply…about a cause that they are willing to die for it.” (Alan B. Krueger; What Makes a Terrorist: Economics and the Roots of Terrorism; Princeton University Press; New Jersey: 2007; pp. 3-4.)
-Throughout history “The leaders of revolutionary movements and their offshoot terrorist groups are almost invariably scions of the middle class, with exceptions from the upper class being at least as prevalent as those from the lower classes.” (Kenneth M. Pollack; A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East; Random House; New York: 2008; p. 178.)
-Terrorists are disproportionately from the middle-class because members of this class suffer most from betrayed expectations. “The unfulfilled expectations of the middle class derived from the [Middle East] region’s economic problems, coupled with (and in part caused by) crippling political practices, is almost certainly a powerful element driving many members of the Arab and Iranian middle classes to opposition and, at the extreme, membership in terrorist organizations.” “[E]conomic factors like poverty or unemployment typically produce revolutionary and/or terrorist responses only when they are coupled with oppressive political forces that deny the individual any hope of bettering his (or her) situation but also serve as a tangible focus of anger.” (Kenneth M. Pollack; A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East; Random House; New York: 2008; pp.180 and 186)
14. Which groups committed the following terrorist acts in Palestine to further nationalist goals?
i) July 22, 1946: Terrorists blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem killing or injuring more than 200 persons.
ii) December 19, 1947: Terrorists attacked a village near Safad, blowing up two houses, in the ruins of which were found the bodies of 10 persons, including 5 children.
iii) December 30,1947: Terrorists attacked the village of Balad al Sheikh, killing more than 60 persons.
iv) March 3, 1948: Terrorists drove an army truck up to a building in Haifa and detonated 400 pounds of explosives that killed 14 persons and injured 23.
-i) The Irgun: Zionist paramilitary group led by future prime minister Menachem Begin. It was classified as a terrorist organization by Israel itself when it became a state in 1948. (https://guardian.150m.com/palestine/jewish-terrorism.htm)
-ii) The Haganah: Jewish paramilitary organization which became the core of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Members of the Haganah included future prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon.
-iii) The Palmach: Elite fighting force of the Haganah. (The Palmach’s last operation as an independent unit was against the Irgun. Perhaps right-wing Jews should not be so smug when they hear of fighting between Fatah and Hamas.)
-iv) The Stern Gang: Radical Zionist paramilitary group that split from the Irgun in 1940. Future Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir was among its leaders.
-“[T]errorism arises when there are few effective alternative means for an extremist group to pursue its aims. If a movement is strong enough to mount a full-fledged civil war, it will wage a full-fledged civil war. I think terrorism tends to arise in situations in which the odds are against the group that is perpetrating the terrorist acts. The tension between Israel and the Palestinians is an example. Israel dominates militarily. A full-fledged war was never a possibility. Historically there were some cases in which terrorism did achieve the goals of an organization, or at least brought the organization closer to achieving its goals. You could probably say that about the formation of the state of Israel.” (Alan B. Krueger; What Makes a Terrorist: Economics and the Roots of Terrorism; Princeton University Press; New Jersey: 2007; p. 154)
15. If a terrorist act can be linked to a country or group should that preclude diplomacy with that country or group?
-No. Otherwise North Vietnam and the US—two perpetrators of terror—could not have negotiated in the 1960s/70s, ditto for Egypt and Israel, The US and the USSR, Britain and the IRA, South Africa and the ANC, etc.
-Only actions are unambiguously terrorist or non-terrorist. People and organizations make more or less use of terrorism often in conjunction with other kinds of political action. Terrorism, much of it state terrorism, has been integral to warfare between government and guerillas, just as it has been part of state-on-state warfare.
16. True or False: The internationally respected Goldstone Report accused Israel of terrorizing Gaza’s civilians during the December 2008 Gaza invasion.
-True. Although Israel justified the Gaza invasion as self-defense against Hamas rockets, the Goldstone Report concluded that the attack was “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.” (Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (25 September 2009).)
17. True or False: The religion of Islam is an important cause of terrorism.
-False. Most Arab terrorists “espouse religious zealotry (although many do not actually practice it), but it is their anger and desperation, derived from their circumstances, that drives them to religion and so to the militant groups, not the other way around. Indeed, the slums…of the Arab world are almost uniformly hotbeds of Islamism and provide a seemingly endless supply of new recruits (mostly foot soldiers, but a few leaders) for the Salafi terrorists.” (Kenneth M. Pollack; A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East; Random House; New York: 2008; p. 183)
-“Given that notions of jihad and martyrdom are contested concepts subject to competing interpretations…[i]s the charisma of fanatical leaders sufficient to convince young people to make the ultimate sacrifice, or must there be additional factors such as societal conflicts or cultural facilitators that push individuals to give up their lives?…[T]he causal link between religious inspiration and suicide attacks is not a direct one. One must situate these appeals in broader societal conflicts that allow radical ideologies to resonate with the wider public.” (Mohammed M. Hafez; Manufacturing Human Bombs: The Making of Palestinian Suicide Bombers; United States Institute of Peace Press; Washington D.C.: 2006; p. 10)
-Rather than Islam in particular, it seems that religion in general is what aggravates volatile situations. For example, “Christian fundamentalism is partially to blame for fueling Muslim militancy. Lebanon’s Christians killed and pillaged in the name of the cross…Religious coexistence gave way to estrangement [in the 1970s]…Waving holy banners, neighbor railed against neighbor. People seized upon their communal identity in a desperate effort at self-preservation. The state of war pushed people into their sectarian bunkers and turned an open, tolerant society into a jungle. … Christian fundamentalism, which was xenophobic and supremacist, fed into parallel tendencies in the Muslim camp. More than a hundred thousand people perished in the Lebanese Civil War. A million people—a third of the country’s population—were displaced.” (Fawaz A. Gerges; Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy; Harcourt; New York: 2006; p. 82-83)
18. Which Middle Eastern country suffered an 18 October 2009 Baluchi terrorist attack that killed dozens and that was condemned by the US?
-Iran. “‘We condemn this act of terrorism and mourn the loss of innocent lives,’ said Ian C. Kelly, a State Department spokesman.” https://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/20/world/middleeast/20iran.html
-Iran also suffers terrorist attacks from Salafis.
-It should be noted that there is not a single known instance of an Iranian suicide-bomber since the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988. (Robert Baer; The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower; Crown Publishers; New York: 2008) For more details on Iran see “Can You Pass the Iran Quiz”.
19. What are the Annual Risks for an American to die from: Heart disease? Criminal homicide? Lightning strike? Terrorism?
-Heart disease: 1 in 300 people in America typically die of heart disease in a given year; Criminal homicide: 1 in 18,000; Lightning strike: 1 in 3,000,000; Terrorism: 1 in 5,293,000. (Alan B. Krueger; What Makes a Terrorist: Economics and the Roots of Terrorism; Princeton University Press; New Jersey: 2007; p. 139)
-Perhaps if Americans better understood the risk they face from terrorism they would fear it less and thus be less susceptible to manipulation.
20. Has Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad ever deliberately attacked American targets?
-No. However, the PLO, currently the US’s favored Palestinian group, did deliberately attack US targets in the past. The “last attacks that can be tied to elements of the PLO coalition are the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking by the Palestine Liberation Front and the 1986 hijacking of an American airliner by the Abu Nidal Organization.” (Kenneth M. Pollack; A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East; Random House; New York: 2008; p. 170.)
-Unlike the revolutionary al-Qaida, Hamas is looking to achieve concrete results for occupied and oppressed Palestinians.
-“Central to the IRA’s decision to decommission its weapons was Sinn Fein’s inclusion in the political process. … As Hamas enters and achieves representation within the political process, can this induce it to curtail its campaign of suicide terrorism, as the IRA’s inclusion led to a curtailment of its campaign of terror? [Yet, Israel, the US and other states immediately imposed sanctions on Hamas following its 2006 election victory.]” (Mohammed M. Hafez; Manufacturing Human Bombs: The Making of Palestinian Suicide Bombers; United States Institute of Peace Press; Washington D.C.: 2006; p. xii)
-For more information on Hamas see, “Can You Pass The Hamas Quiz?”
21. True or False: A majority of the people in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates support al-Qa’ida’s goal of creating an Islamic state.
-False. “[T]he vast majority of Arabs and Muslims ardently desire the kind of political pluralism (even democracy…) that bin Ladin and his ilk have declared antithetical to Islam—at least their version of Islam.” (Kenneth M. Pollack; A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East; Random House; New York: 2008; p. 209)
22. True or False: In 1997 a declassified CIA training manual detailed torture methods used against suspected subversives in Central America during the 1980s.
-True. The CIA manual refuted claims by the agency that no such methods were taught by it. The CIA also declassified a Vietnam-era training manual which also taught torture. (Jonathan Barker; The No-Nonsense Guide to Global Terrorism; Between the Lines; Toronto: 2008; p. 85)
Jeffrey Rudolph, a college professor, was the Quebec representative of the East Timor Alert Network, and presented a paper on its behalf at the United Nations. He prepared the widely-distributed “Can You Pass the Israel-Palestine Quiz,” “Can You Pass the Iran Quiz,” and “Can You Pass the Hamas Quiz.” (Comments or questions concerning the quizzes should be emailed to: .)