A History of Terrorism
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Not a history, exactly, but a useful anthology of primary documents and secondary articles on what the Russian nihilists called “Propaganda by Deed.”

Cronin, an American who worked in international trade and lived in Algeria during a wave of fundamentalist violence, brings no unifying thesis to this collection, save perhaps the obvious one that “terrorism is a form of warfare that has evolving causes, motivations, and objectives.” Still, the documents here don’t really require commentary. Among them are firsthand accounts of terror from the propagator’s point of view: one, for instance, comes from the poison pen of Osama bin Laden himself, who instructs Muslims that it is their duty to kill members of the “Zionists-Crusaders alliance,” particularly “the Americans and their allies—civilians and military”; while another, from the portable typewriter of Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, asserts that the violent overthrow of the technological system is a necessary duty for anyone who values freedom. Other pieces are literary responses to terrorism, including the almost obligatory excerpt from Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent (“A bomb outrage to have any influence on public opinion must now go beyond the intention of vengeance or terrorism. It must be purely destructive”) and a thoughtful piece of reportage by Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami about the Aum Shinrikyo gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995. Still others are interpretive, ranging from historian Walter Laqueur’s brief history of terrorism, tracing its antecedents back to the Hebrew Zealots who from a.d. 66 to 73 assassinated Jewish priests and Roman imperial officials, along the way destroying whole archives’ worth of tax records, to Saudi journalist Ahmed Rashid’s eye-opening revelation that bin Laden first went to Afghanistan at the behest of the Saudi rulers “in order to show Muslims the commitment of the Royal Family to the jihad.”

A primer on knowing thy enemy.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2001
ISBN: 1-56025-399-1
Page count: 576pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2002