Archive for the ‘Terrorism’ Category

A Nigerian citizen’s eye witness account!

December 1, 2008

Over at Law and Other Things, V Venkatesan posts an eye witness account:

Finally, I watched with a mix of sadness and admiration, the last few minutes in the life of Hemant Karkare, head of the Anti-terror squad. A tall distinguished-looking officer, he arrived at the besieged Taj, stepped smartly out of the car and got a quick briefing. He calmly collected and put on a flak jacket and helmet, then proceeded to walk towards the main building. He was not to come out alive. Of all the events of the day, that brought tears to my eyes. That singular event seemed to capture everything we so sorely lack in Nigeria: exemplary leadership, practiced from the front-lines without pomposity or bombastic pronouncement, just a deep sense of responsibility and ultimately the willingness to make the supreme sacrifice.

What more can one say?

Take a look!

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A letter to Santosh

October 2, 2008

Perhaps the most moving letters are those which will never be delivered; Uma pens one such which is sure to bring tears to your eyes.

I found a picture of you in one of the news reports. You were wearing a blue shirt, you had an open, wide-eyed expression on your little face, and you were wearing a red thread tied around your neck. Someone at home – perhaps your grandmother, or your mother – had tied a charm around your neck to ward off the evil eye. It didn’t, however, manage to save you from the evil that lurks inside the hearts of men who throw bombs.

A proper read for the Gandhi Jayanti day!

When activism morphs into terrorism

February 15, 2008

Over at Adventures in Ethics and Science, Janet Stemwedel has a very lengthy and thoughtful post on the recent attacks by animal rights activists on UCLA scientist Edythe London: she identifies at least four important strands of issues — animal use, research on nicotine addiction, funding from tobacco industry and secrecy, and argues strongly as to why on all these four issues the attitude of the public is ambivalent, which, in turn ends up endangering researchers, and worse, encouraging the terror tactics practised by animal rights activists.

Stemwedel’s arguments are impeccable; even when I am not in complete agreement with her stand,

The contentious issue is the reason for the secrecy. UCLA insists that the aim is to protect researchers who use animals from attacks of the sort directed at London (among others). When openness facilitates the placement of firebombs by groups who reject any sort of research with animals, it seems prudent to keep certain details secret.

It is difficult not to concede the soundness of her arguments:

Note that this is not the same as keeping all the details of the research secret from everyone. The IACUC had to approve the protocols, and the protocols had to be explicit in their details. Also, IACUCs include a representative of the community (in this case, a member unaffiliated with UCLA) and a non-scientist. This means that the public is represented in the IACUC’s decisions.

However, there are some who seem sure the secrecy has less to do with the safety of the investigators from harassment and physical violence and more to do with protecting the evil machinations of Philip Morris:

“It’s stunning in this day and age that a university would do secret research for the tobacco industry on the brains of children,” said Matt Meyers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in Washington, D.C. “It raises fundamental questions about the integrity, honesty and openness of research anywhere at the University of California.”

The big question, of course, is how scientists could do this research openly without becoming targets of ALF and groups of its ilk. Are the members of the public who are clamoring for full disclosure here willing to take the necessary steps to protect the researchers from harm?

If they think the corporate funder is a problem, are they willing to help locate “cleaner” sources of funding for the research?

A must-read post; take a look!

Research on the economics of terrorism

December 11, 2007

We know too little about the causes and consequences of terrorism and what we do know is not listened to. For example, existing empirical and theoretical research on the economics of terrorism contradicts common wisdom that terrorists are irrational misanthropes with little education and low income. More research is needed.

That is the summary of this detailed post by Fernanda Llussa and Jose A Tavares; via Mark Thoma. The piece is also a literature survey at some level, and classifies the existing literature on the economics of terrorism into four little boxes. Take a look!

Curiously, in spite of being a country that is facing terrorist threat at several fronts and states, I found hardly any Indian names in the papers cited, which makes me wonder: who are the Indian scholars who are studying terrorism? Anthropologists? Sociologists? Policy analysts? Political scientists? And, finally, to re-emphasise, why no economist(s)?

Engineers and violence

November 13, 2007

Tyler Cowen asks as to why so many top terrorists are engineers?

I take the bottom line to be that engineers are systematizers by nature and in Islamic countries in particular they face difficult social  circumstances, relative to their human capital and ambition.  I suspect also that elites with a clear inherited path to the top do not become engineers.

Take a look!

On the anthropology of tourism

December 9, 2006

Here is a piece titled The tourist who influenced the terrorists (via A&L Daily),  which discusses,

Sayyid Qutb’s experience in Greeley, Colorado, bad haircuts, the anthropology and sociology of tourist behavior, the weirdly colonialist assumptions of post-colonialist scholars, the idea that Arabs can be just as touristically dorky as their American counterparts, the debauchery of Truman-era church sock-hops, Arabic travel writing, Occidentalism, Orientalism, the notion that Americans are emotionally inferior to chickens, Qutb’s influence on al-Qaida, culture shock, Otherness.

I do not know about the tourist-terrorist connection; however, the article seems to be a nice place to look for some pointers to the literature on the anthropology of tourism.

A dark, sad day!

December 29, 2005

Yesterday, out of the blue, it came and hit us — terror attack on IISc. Random acts of violence such as this are committed with a view of spreading fear and panic (while, what they actually manage to spread is pain and sadness–in a place like IISc, it also spreads some curiosities about range of bullets, what they are made up of, how they are fired, and all such other academic questions). I hope that this incidence is but an aberration; more than that, I hope that the Institute and its ways of life will remain research-coffee-board-and-tea-kiosk-oriented. Our sympathies and condolences to the family of Prof. MC Puri and our wishes to a speedy recovery to all those who are hurt–physically, mentally, and spiritually.