Sunday, April 8, 2007

Reviewed: Carr, The Infernal Machine: A History of Terrorism

The Infernal Machine: A History of Terrorism From the Assassination of Tsar Alexander II to Al-Qaeda, by Matthew Carr (New Press) is reviewed by Steve Weinberg in the Boston Globe. Weinberg begins:
In an era when government leaders in the United States and Great Britain brand as unpatriotic those who examine terrorism logically, Matthew Carr has written a brave and wise book....
[Carr writes,] "It is not my intention here to offer an overarching definition of terrorism to replace those that have already been put forward. Nor do I wish to enter the largely futile discussion over who constitutes the 'real' terrorists. Both states and revolutionary organizations have carried out atrocities, crimes, and acts of terror, even if the former have done so on a far greater scale. This book is largely concerned with a particular technique of revolutionary violence that first emerged in Russia and Europe in the late nineteenth century. The essence of this technique is the use of violence against symbolic targets in order to achieve a political rather than a military victory over a particular government or regime."
The history of terrorism -- not only in Great Britain and the United States but also in the Middle East, Latin America, and other regions -- is crucial to the current charged atmosphere. As Carr notes, "The current state of terror and alarm cannot entirely be attributed to nineteen hijackers armed with pocket knives and box cutters. . . . Governments have tended to present their own particular interpretation of terrorism as the 'true' version, regardless of whether there is any evidence to sustain it. Thus, George Bush has repeatedly declared that the September 11 attacks represented an attack on American 'freedom,' even though this motivation has been explicitly rejected by Osama bin Laden."

For the rest, click here.