Terrorism Vs. Our Freedom

By Siahyonkron Nyanseor

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

June 10, 2002

I live only 10 minutes drive away from the Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia. In spite of my close proximity to the airport, I took no chances with being bogged down by airport security by arriving at the airport 1 hour and 45 minutes to departure time on a recent trip to Pennsylvania. My destination was Philadelphia. I was going to Phila to serve as guest speaker at a program sponsored by a newly organized group called “Liberians of the 70’s and 80’s of Philadelphia”.

The trip was like a reunion for me because I lived in Phila for 9 years and attended undergraduate school there before relocating to Atlanta. My wife is also from Phila and I still have relatives and friends there. Moreover, I was anxiously looking forward to serving as the first guest speaker of this newly formed group, and I did not want to miss an inch of the history event.

On this day (Friday, November 16, 2001), like many other days since September 11, 2001 during which terrorists attacked the United States, I was told that security was very tight, and that one had to stand in long lines to pass through airport security checks. Here I experiencing gruesome security checks of my person and travel accessories firsthand! I stood in several long lines that reminded me of those days when we had to stand in long lines in my native Liberia to purchase tickets to soccer games and to enter the stadium. But unlike Liberia where it was always common to cut ahead of several persons already in line, people in the airport security lines were orderly, and we didn’t have to fight. But on this day, I first went to ticketing and next to the place where you put your carryon, empty your pockets of all items, pass through the electronic gate, and proceed to the gate where you board the airplane. It took about 1 hour and 15 minutes from ticketing to the boarding gate alone, and each time during the process you had to show your Picture ID and Airline Ticket.

Finally, at 12:05 pm, I boarded the Northwest Airlines Flight 496 that was taking me to Detroit to get my connecting flight to Philadelphia. While on the plane, many things ran through my mind; one of which was, “I hope there is not a terrorist on this plane.” After a while, I left my fate to the Almighty, but right then my mind ran to the popular song sung by actress Doris Day when I was a teenager:

“Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera.

With God as my pilot and armed with “Que sera, sera,” my nerves became calmed.

Having left Hartsfield behind, I thought everything was over until we landed in Detroit. We got our belongings, and were about to get out of the plane when airport security and FBI agents stopped us. They instructed the Captain for “all passengers to remain on board the plane until further order.” We went back and took our seats. Few minutes later, the Captain announced that there was a security breach at Hartsfield where we had just departed and that every passenger on the plane must go through security check. We were to be transported specially arranged buses to the security check area.

After 20 minutes, the buses arrived (two big buses to be exact). We boarded the buses with the aid of security personnel. The buses carried us to the front of the terminal, where we got out to start the same process we went through at Hartsfield. We got in another long line, showed our Picture IDs, Airline Tickets, placed our carryon on the electronic conveyer, emptied our pockets of every item, and passed through the electronic gate before boarding the plane again to continue our journeys to our various destinations.

We found out later via cell phones (passengers telephoned their relatives in Atlanta) that the reason we were inconvenienced had to do with a gentleman who ran passed securities without going through the normal security routine. As a result, everything at the airport had to come to a standstill for about 4 hours.

This whole episode made me to think of the reality of “The New World Order” in which terrorism has altered our freedom of movement. It made me to begin to ask myself several questions. For example, why is there terrorism? Why has it disrupted our freedom of movement? Is it something new? Or what really is the cause for individuals or a group to engage in such acts? These are questions that led me to probe for some answers.

Based on several sources that I consulted, Terrorism is defined as a systematic, premeditated, and calculated use of violence as a means to coercion in order to change the behavior of individuals and institutions or to alter public policies. But in recent times, views on what constitute terrorism vary widely. For example, in the Middle East, where fighting has been going on between the Arabs and the Jewish State of Israel since 1948, the acts of violence by one group against another is seen as legitimate acts of war, depending on the side you are on or support. The same was true during the Colonial era in Africa and other places that experienced colonialism or suppression. During that period, assassination or guerrilla tactics were used.

However today, due to advanced technology, the choice of weapon and the battlefield have changed tremendously. We have graduated from lynching, cross burning, burning of churches, assassination, guerrilla tactics to “Cyberterrorism, Bioterrorism, Ecoterrorism, Economic Terrorism, Nuclear Terrorism”, which Porter Goss, chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee referred to as “Cause-sponsored Terrorism.”

Both State-sponsored and Cause-sponsored terrorist activities are likely to be financed by such networks as drug trafficking, money laundering, private businesses, arms sales, and “blood” diamonds sales like in the case of Charles Taylor of Liberia and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels of Sierra Leone. These acts of violence are caused by Hatred, Greed, Poverty, Oppression, and Injustice.

During the September 11, 2001 incident in the United States two airplanes hit the World Trade Centers, another plane hit the Pentagon, and one crashed in Pennsylvania, with total casualty figures reported at over 5,000 dead and 2,000 injured, though the numbers were later reduced by the authorities.

Terrorism activities since the post cold war era paints a somewhat bleak picture of the status of our New World Order – a world order full of uncertainty. In fact, Frank J. Cilluffo, director of Information Warfare Task Force of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) rightly described lamented rise in terrorism worldwide to the effect that “…We’ve created a global village without a police department;” a reference to the new strategies used by terrorist organizations which are very difficult to detect or stop.

The new wave of terrorism affects everybody! Therefore, it is my honest opinion that the UN, with the “full” cooperation of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and developing countries, take a honest approach in addressing the root causes of these activities. To do so, we must listen to what Mohandas K. Gandhi once told the British viceroy of India:

“When your country and mine shall get together on the teachings laid down by Christ in this Sermon on the Mount, we shall have solved the problems, not only of our countries but those of the whole world”.

I do believe if the root causes of terrorism in the world is honestly addressed as Gandhi suggested, terrorist activities that affect their intended targets as well as innocent people will be reduced, if not eradicated.

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