The Great Debate

The danger of symbols

By Peter Baumann
September 9, 2011

By Peter Baumann and Michael W. Taft
The opinions expressed are their own.

Ten years ago this Sunday, 19 madmen used commercial airliners as guided missiles to perpetrate what became the most influential act of terrorism in world history, generating mass fear, confusion, sorrow and rage on a scale that will not be forgotten. With the passing of a decade the reality of the attack—the smoke and the flames, the blood and the destruction—have receded into memory. Now the September 11th attack has become a concept, a symbol of the apex of terrorism in the new millennium.

The case for torture warrants

By Alan Dershowitz
September 7, 2011
By Alan Dershowitz
The opinions expressed are his own. One goal of terrorism directed against democracies is to provoke overreaction and repression. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, many Americans did in fact overreact, and although the actions of the government did not approach “repression,” there were some overreactions that seemed to play into the hands of the terrorists. Perhaps the most egregious were the acts of humiliation and torture that were captured by cell phone photographs at Abu Ghraib prison. These disturbing photographs went viral throughout the world and showed the ugly face of American torture. Surprisingly, the events of 9/11 also stimulated a debate within Western democracies: Is torture ever justified in the war against terrorism?

Rational discussion of this and other questions relating to torture proved difficult, because the issues are so emotional. Indeed, to many absolutists, the very idea of a “rational” discussion of torture is an oxymoron. To them, the issue is simple and clear-cut: torture should never be employed or even considered, because it never works; it is incompatible with democratic values; it is barbaric; it will always lead to more barbaric practices; it is worse than any evils it may prevent; it will provoke even more terrorism; it strips any democracy employing it of the moral standing to object to human rights violations by other nations or groups; and it unleashes the “law of unintended consequences.”

America, Iran and a terrorist label

By Bernd Debusmann
November 19, 2010

Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Who says that the United States and Iran can’t agree on anything? The Great Satan, as Iran’s theocratic rulers call the United States, and the Islamic Republic see eye-to-eye on at least one thing, that the Iranian opposition group Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) are terrorists.

9/11 and the nine year war

By Guest Contributor
September 10, 2010

SEPT11/

The following is a condensed version of George Friedman’s geopolitical column for STRATFOR, a global intelligence company where Friedman is chief executive officer.

America’s trouble with Islam

By Bernd Debusmann
August 27, 2010

Of the many posters held aloft in angry demonstrations about plans for an Islamic cultural centre and mosque in New York, one in particular is worth noting: “All I ever need to know about Islam, I learned on 9/11.”

Drugs, terrorism and shadow banking

By Bernd Debusmann
March 26, 2010

The trouble with moving big amounts of cash, from a criminal’s point of view, is threefold. It’s bulky, it’s heavy and it smells.

American nightmare: Al Qaeda at home

By Bernd Debusmann
January 21, 2010

berndforblog- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own -

It has been a recurring nightmare of American counter-terrorist officials for years — growing numbers of home-grown al Qaeda recruits drawn from the Muslim-American community, plus blue-eyed, blond-haired would-be suicide bombers travelling on American passports.

America, terrorists and Nelson Mandela

By Bernd Debusmann
January 15, 2010

berndforblog- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own -

Woe betide the organization or individual who lands on America’s terrorist list. The consequences are dire and it’s easier to get on the list than off it even if you turn to peaceful politics. Just ask Nelson Mandela.

The Underwear Bomber and the war of ideas

By Bernd Debusmann
December 31, 2009

- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own -

Who is winning the war of ideas between the West and al Qaeda’s hate-driven version of  Islam?

Why we must profile airline passengers

December 28, 2009

Philip Baum2Philip Baum is the editor of Aviation Security International and the managing director of Green Light Limited, an aviation security training and consultancy company based in London. The opinions expressed are his own.