The Seeds of War:

A Brief History of Middle East Terrorism

To undestand what's going on in the present, it is necessary to understand the events of the past.

In the years following World War II, the proliferation of terrorist acts in the Middle East increased dramatically. Much of this may be due to increased Western involvement in that area in the latter half of the 20th Century. Western countries began to rely more heavily on oil and foreign companies soon became a presence in the Mid East. The creation of an Israeli state in Palestine also caused tension among displaced Arabs whose rights to land and citizenship had been taken away by a few strokes of a foreign pen.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has continued to be a bloody battle with no end in sight. Acts of terrorism are perpetrated by both sides and thousands of lives have already been lost. Attempts to negotiate peace treaties regularly break down, resulting in even more violence. One major complaint in the Arab world is that Western nationsóthe United States includedócontinue to supply Israel with monetary aid and military backing. Many Palestinians feel the Israeli government deprives them of basic human rights and that the have no recourse but to fight.

Throughout the 1970s, the United States had a number of problems with Middle East terrorism. A number of airlines were hijacked and a number of Americans were taken hostage. A U.S. Marine Barracks near Beirut, Lebanon was bombed and American forces retaliated by bombing that country. Countless other incidents also occurred.

During the 1980s, the United States found a new enemy in Libya. More bombs were dropped and a series of ineffective sanctions were put in place, yet Libya continues to experience economic prosperity and many consider the country to be experiencing a Golden Age. Significant terrorist events of this time period include the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland.

The 1990s saw the Persian Gulf War and U.S. bombings of Iraq. For the sake of protecting oil interests in the region, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded neighboring Kuwait. To protect its own interests and ensure low oil prices, the United States planted forces in Saudi Arabia and proceeded to bomb Iraq into submission. After Iraq surrendered, trade sanctions were put in place. The United States continues to patrol Iraqi airspace and those economic sanctions give Hussein reason to deprive his people of food and other necessities. Thousands of Iraqis, including children, are estimated to die of starvation each year.

But the United States is not the only country responsible for unrest in this region. The 1980s saw the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Hoping to extend its influence further into Central Asia, the Soviet Union backed a communist overthrow of the Afghan government and was forced to install troops after popular revolt by ethnic majorities. This turned into a ten-year losing battle in which more than ten thousand Soviet troops died at the hands of Afghan guerillas.

These guerillas would not have been able to hold back Soviet forces without the aid of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA trained and provided weapons to one major ethnic group which later took control of the country under the name Taliban.

One of the guerilla fighters present for the Soviet-Afghan was Osama bin Laden, son of a Saudi millionaire. Bin Laden holds a deep hatred for the United States and its influence in the Middle East. He allegedly operates an international terrorist organization named Al Queda and cites a number of reasons why he perpetrates attacks against the United States.

Osama bin Laden is believed to be responsible for the U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa a few years back, and well as the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen last year. Bin Laden is the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center towers.