Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence

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Excerpt from CAMPACC article

In 1993 Bruce Hoffman temporarily left RAND to found the Centre for Studies in Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV) at the University of St Andrews. Hoffman is currently an Honorary Senior Research Associate at the CSTPV. Brian Jenkins, a Senior Analyst at RAND who founded the corporation’s terrorism research programme in 1972, is currently a member of the CSTPV Advisory Council. The relationship is further strengthened through the collaborative establishment of the RAND-St Andrews database of ‘international terrorism incidents’.

The RAND-St Andrews nexus skews understandings of ‘terrorism’, especially through its pivotal role in the peer review and publishing of research. Members of the Centre and of RAND hold key editorial positions on the two foremost academic journals in the field: Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, and Terrorism and Political Violence. Those journals emphasise political violence directed against states, while largely ignoring violence by states, except those not allied to US or Western European countries – i.e., those described as ‘rogue states’ by the US government (Burnett and Whyte, 2005).

Embedded experts define ‘terrorism’ selectively, with a bias towards US-led alliances and against any resistance. According to Prof. Paul Wilkinson, Director of the CSTPV, extra-judicial assassinations by Israel are ‘ruthless acts of counter-terror’, i.e. self defence (Wilkinson, 2002: 68). Within this perspective the USA, the UK and their client states never carry out ‘terrorism’.

In a mid-1990s government inquiry on terrorism, Wilkinson emphasised violence by oppressed groups, while ignoring state violence against them. In particular he problematised trans-national support for ‘the weak’:

… almost any prolonged and significant terrorist campaign is likely to have an international dimension: almost every terrorist group tends to look across the borders of the state where it is based, and further afield, not only for weapons, funds, training and safe-haven, but for any ideological, political or diplomatic support it can manage to obtain; sub-state terrorism is typically the weapon of the weak (Wilkinson, 1996: 4).

Such diagnoses justified permanent anti-terrorist legislation to target the weak.

That report led to the Terrorism Act 2000, which broadened the definition of terrorism. It blurred any distinction between political protest and organised violence, as well as any distinction between ideological and material support. This law redefined terrorism to include simply 'the threat' of 'serious damage to property', in ways 'designed to influence the government' for a 'political cause'. Moreover, it banned organisations on the basis that their activities abroad fit that broad definition, and criminalised any ‘association’ with such organisations in Britain. After the September 11 attacks, the EU Council redefined terrorism in even broader ways. Predictably, such powers have been used to intimidate (and sometimes prosecute) political opponents of oppressive regimes allied to the UK. These developments ominously bring home to Britain the counter-insurgency theory that was deployed in its colonies, and in Northern Ireland during the 1970s, to counter political revolt.

An associate of the CSTPV, Rohan Gunaratna (2003), has offered expert testimony in UK prosecutions for supposed membership in ‘terrorist’ groups. In the court case of Meziane, several refugees in Leicester were accused of fund-raising for terrorist activities abroad. After Gunaratna claimed that they were Al Qaeda members, he was challenged by the defence to provide documentation, but he did not. Consequently, the allegations were dropped and he was not recalled as a witness. Neither did the prosecution take up his similar offer in another case against refugees for alleged membership of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Nevertheless Gunaratna is still quoted as an expert by journalists.

Embedded in the Iraq occupation

Beyond its academic roles, the RAND-St Andrews nexus has close professional links with key political and corporate players in the ‘war against terror’. An important example is Bruce Hoffman, founder member of the CSTPV and currently RAND Corporation’s key expert on terrorism. In 2004 he was appointed as senior advisor on counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency to the Constitutional Provisional Authority in Iraq. Hoffman argued that the occupation strategy can be successful only if it adopts a British colonial model of counter-insurgency, comparable to perspectives in Kitson’s Low Intensity Operations.

The CSTPV also has institutional ties to the private military industry. One example involves founder member of the CSTPV and current Honorary Senior Research Fellow, David Claridge. In 2001 Claridge established Janusian Security Risk Management Limited, a private military intelligence and security company, as a subsidiary of the political risk firm The Risk Advisory Group. The company claimed to be the first Western security firm with an independent operational office and a country manager permanently based in Iraq. In the press statement accompanying its launch, Janusian acknowledges their link with the CSTPV in this collaboration, which ‘includes shared access to research, intelligence sources and databases, and the expertise of the Centre’s staff, as well as the development of sector-specific studies into areas of political risk’.

Like their antecedents in counter-insurgency theory, present-day embedded experts emphasise techniques for total war against both political and military resistance. Hoffman blames the USA’s inadequate planning for the ‘insurgency’ problem in Iraq. According to him, ‘a critical window of opportunity was lost because we failed to anticipate the widespread civil disorder and looting that followed the capture of Baghdad’; this key mistake ‘breathed life into the insurgency.’ In his analysis, the insurgency originated independently of the invasion; it has no link with the occupiers’ activities there. Source: