Wednesday, August 17, 2005

BOOK REVIEW: Genuine Expert Explodes Terror Myths

BOOK: Terrorism Explained: the facts about terrorism and terrorist groups
AUTHOR: Clive Williams
PUBLISHER: New Holland Publishers, Sydney, Australia
Recommended Retail Price $24.95

In our post-September-11 world, every man, woman and dog is popping up as an expert on terrorism. Terrorist “experts” are being bought and sold in the market of ideas, and many are happy to sell themselves to the highest bidder. Many have little in the way of formal training and genuine hands-on expertise.

One terror expert has appeared regularly on the terror circuit, speaking across the world and even appearing in Australia as a guest of the Centre for Independent Studies.

Dr Daniel Pipes has been described by ever-perceptive Miranda Devine as an “Islam scholar”. He holds a PhD in medieval European history from Harvard University, and apparently speaks and reads fluent Arabic.

When it comes to modern Muslim political radicalism, Dr Pipes’ qualifications make him as useful to serious understanding of the phenomenon as Sheik Hilali’s extensive qualifications make him as an adviser on youth affairs to the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.

After all, what Pipes describes as “Islamism” bears little resemblance to Medieval European or even Medieval Muslim thought. And most Muslim extremists read material written in Urdu and Farsi.

Dr Rohan Gunaratna is another fascinating study in terror expertise. When he is not engaging in group defamation of Tamils, Dr Gunaratna lambasts Western governments for … wait for it … not protecting democracy by denying Muslim communities civil liberties.

A bit like suggesting mass-floods as a solution to tsunami-ravaged areas in Tamil Nadu. Then again, given Gunaratna’s record with Tamils, we might actually be reading him suggesting this!

Clive Williams doesn’t fit into either of these categories of alleged expertise. This Australian author teaches anti-terrorism to students at the Australian National University. Before embarking on an academic career, Williams served as an Army intelligence officer and was awarded the Medal for Gallantry in Vietnam.

Unlike presumed experts on terrorism, Williams has been involved in defence intelligence collection and analysis for over 3 decades. He has not merely been writing columns for New York tabloid newspapers or generating editorials in multiple languages on personal websites.

And like all real experts. Williams can see all sides of the argument. He argues that major terrorist incidents will continue to occur in western countries, especially the United States. Reason? Williams writes in his Preface:

“This seems inevitable given the insensitive way in which many minority Muslim sections of the US population have been treated, the increased Muslim anger against the United States as a result of its international counterterrorism campaign post-September 11, its unqualified support for Israel and the continuing detention of alleged Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.”

Perhaps Messrs Howard, Ruddock and Downer should take the short drive from Parliament House down to the ANU campus in Acton and learn some valuable lessons from Williams. They might wish to anonymously sit in his lectures or tutorials. Perhaps their advisers might join them in this quest for genuine knowledge.

Perhaps the most attractive aspect of Williams’ book is his resistance of the common presumption that only Muslims can be terrorists. Williams debunks this theory with 2 simple ingredients – facts and logic.

Williams does not leave definitions to innuendo and group-smear. He provides a clear definition, explanation and classification of terrorism. He then charts out the history of terrorism and its various religious, secular and other manifestations. Williams provides various categories of terrorism not as water-tight compartments but rather as aids to understanding the complexity of motivations that lead persons to call themselves and/or innocents.

In Australia, Williams’ analysis seems to have fallen on deaf ears. The Commonwealth continues to proscribe only Muslim extremist groups as terrorist organisations. This despite growing evidence of religious extremism in other communities.

The London bombings coincided with the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre by Bosnian Serb forces led by General Ratko Mladic. Some 60 people died in London, whilst over 6,000 Muslim men and boys were massacred in one of many incidents of slaughter in July 1995.

Abundant evidence exists of Australians of Serbian Orthodox and Catholic background being involved in supporting, aiding and participating in the massacres and gang-rapes and other war crimes that took place in Bosnia during the war.

Evidence also exists of certain Australians actively being involved in efforts to derail the Middle East peace process by actively supporting opponents of the Israeli government’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Indeed, Daniel Pipes himself has written in support of extremists and against Ariel Sharon’s peace initiative.

Williams is not afraid to name names and identify individuals and groups (Muslim or otherwise) known to be involved in terrorist activities. He also provides lucid analysis of various forms of terrorism, their sources of finance and the real extent of their threat. All this without paranoid calls for the eradication of all civil liberties and declaration of a state of emergency.

Williams’ book is certainly not written with a view to winning elections or ratings wars. Nor does it make for entertaining tabloid reading. But what Williams does do is provide a balanced account of the real threat facing Australia and other western countries.

(For a limited time, readers can obtain a copy of Clive Williams’ book for $16.50 including postage and handling to anywhere in Australia. Purchasers of 5 or more copies can pick them up for $11 each. Hurry as there are very limited copies left. For further details, e-mail

© Irfan Yusuf 2005


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