Yet again, the world has witnessed a horrific terror attack by a radicalized 22-year-old individual linked to ISIS. On Monday, May 22 where twenty two mostly young people were killed. In fact, 12 children under the age of 16 were injured or killed, one as young as an eight-year-old. At least 59 people were injured by the suicide bomber attack in total. This terrible event occurred at a concert of singer Ariana Grande in Manchester, England. (see CBC’s Taken too soon).
Reflecting on this latest act of terrorism, I began to wonder: Are we presently living in more turbulent and unstable times compared to other times in history? Is there more terrorism today then before? If you listen to and believe the rhetoric coming from the American president, you would likely answer yes. I did some research to find out.
I focused on the historical time period in which I was alive. I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, so I’ll look at each decade starting with the 1960s. Here is but a small sampling of terrorism and turmoil starting with the 1960s.
- In Canada, Quebec separatists set off bombs and robbed armories in a bid to establish a separate French-speaking country. The Front de libération du Québec, or FLQ, (in English “Quebec Liberation Front”) was a separatist and Marxist-Leninist paramilitary group in Canada’s province of Quebec. The FLQ promised to destroy “all colonial symbols and institutions, in particular the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the armed forces.
- On August 13, 1961, the Berlin Wall was erected in the dead of night. It was a physical division between West Berlin and East Germany in order to keep East Germans from fleeing to the West.
- The disastrous Bay of Pigs Invasion occurred. This was when a CIA financed and trained group of Cuban refugees to invade Cuba attempting to topple the communist government of Fidel Castro. The attack was an utter failure.
- The frightening Cuban Missile Crisis befell with the confrontation between the United States and the former Soviet Union over the American deployment of missals in Italy and Turkey causing the Soviets to deploy missiles in Cuba. The confrontation is often considered the closest to a full-scale nuclear war the world has ever come.
- On November 22, 1963, President, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald while he and Mrs. Kennedy were riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas.
- On April 4, 1968, American Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King was assassinated by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee while standing on a motel balcony.
- On June 5, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy, presidential candidate and brother of John F Kennedy, was assassinated at a campaign victory celebration in a Los Angeles hotel after primary victories.
Regarding terrorism in 1960s
- It was in the 1960s when “The Troubles” occurred in Northern Ireland eventually ending with the Good Friday “Belfast” Agreement of 1998.This was a conflict between nationalists (self-identified as Roman Catholic) and unionists (self-identified as British or Protestant). Although the Troubles mainly took place in Northern Ireland, violent acts of terror (bombings, etc.), spilled over into parts of the Republic of Ireland, England and mainland Europe.
- In Canada, the FLQ or October Crisis of 1970 happened. Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s federal government reacted toughly to the kidnapping of two high-ranking men and murder of Quebec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte. A state of war was declared in Quebec when the War Measures Act was instituted. Hundreds of intellectuals, political activists and trade-union leaders were imprisoned.
- The Munich massacre takes place at the 1972 Summer Olympics Munich, Germany, where Palestinian Arab terrorists of the Black September terrorist organization kidnap and murdered eleven Israeli athletes.
- United States President Richard Nixon resigned as President on August 9, 1974, while facing charges for impeachment for the Watergate scandal.
Regarding terrorism in 1970s
- The use of terrorism by militant organizations across the world such as the Red Army Faction in Germany, Action Directe in France and the Red Brigades in Italy escalated in 1970s.
- On September 6, 1970, the world witnessed the beginnings of a series of plane hijackings. It started on what is today called Skyjack Sunday. Palestinian terrorists hijacked four airliners and took over 300 people on board as hostage. The hostages were later released, but the planes were blown up.
- The 1984 anti-Sikh riots in India took place. This was when Hindu militants rioted against Sikhs in response to the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by a Sikh militant.
- In 1989, the Tiananmen Square protests occurred in the People’s Republic of China, in which pro-democracy protesters demanded political reform. The protests were crushed by the People’s Liberation Army.
- Canada saw political unrest in the province of Quebec, due to the differences between the dominant francophone (French) population and the Anglophone (English) minority, which caused the provincial government to call a public referendum on partial separation from the rest of Canada in 1980. The referendum ended with the “no” side winning majority (59.56% no, 40.44% yes).
Regarding terrorism in 1980s
- Air India Flight 182 was destroyed on June 23, 1985, by Sikh-Canadian militants. It was the biggest mass murder involving Canadians in Canada’s history.
- On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over the village of Lockerbie, Scotland, while on route from London’s Heathrow Airport to New York’s JFK. The bombing killed 270 people who were citizens of 21 nationalities. The bombing was and remains the worst terrorist attack in United Kingdom.
- The Rome and Vienna airport attacks took place on December 27, 1985, against an Israeli airline. The attack was done by militants loyal to a militant Palestinian splinter group backed by the government of Libya.
- The shameful Rwandan Genocide occurred between April 6, 1994 until mid-July 1994 involving mass killing of hundreds of thousands of Rwanda’s Tutsis and Hutu political moderates. Over the course of approximately 100 days, at least 500,000 people were killed. It resulted in serious criticism of the United Nations for failing to stop the genocide.
In 1990, Canada had the Oka Crisis involving an armed standoff between people of the Mohawk nation (indigenous peoples in Canada), and the Canadian military over a dispute involving land held via treaty to the Mohawk people.
- The 1995 Quebec referendum on sovereignty was held in the province of Quebec in Canada. If accepted Quebec would become an independent country with an economic association with Canada. The proposal is narrowly rejected by Quebec’s voters by 50.4% no, and 49.6% yes.
Regarding terrorism in 1990s
- The 1993 World Trade Centre bombing occurred when a truck bomb detonated in New York City intending to send the North Tower crashing into the South Tower potentially killing tens of thousands of people. Thankfully, it failed to do so but killed six people and injured over a thousand.
- In 1995 was the Oklahoma City bombing when a bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma killed 168.
- After the bombings of United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by Al-Qaeda militants, the United States naval forces launch cruise missile attacks against Al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan in 1998.
- Ironically, on 15 June 1996, the IRA set off a bomb in Manchester, England targeting the city’s infrastructure causing widespread damage in which 212 people were injured.
- In 2001, the war on Terror was launched largely against Islamist groups such as al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas from posing a threat to the U.S. and its allies.
- 2003–2011 was the Iraq War when the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, Australia and Poland invaded and occupied Iraq.
- 2001–2014 was the war in Afghanistan when the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Canada and Australia invaded Afghanistan seeking to oust the Taliban and find al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Regarding terrorism in 2000s
- We all remember 9/11 when on September 11, 2001, 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked four airliners and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States. Two of the planes were flown into the World Trade Centre towers in New York City, a third plane hit the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.
- On the 7th of July 2005, London experienced bombings in which a series of coordinated terrorist suicide bomb attacks targeting civilians in London’s underground public transport system during the rush hour was carried out.
Sadly, there has not been a decade in my life time where there has not been turbulence and terrorism happening on our planet. It seems we humans just can’t seem to get along with one another. Why can’t humans just be loving and get along? My answer is ego. Vocabulary.com defines the ego as an inflated feeling of pride in your superiority of others. It is ego that causes us to push our beliefs and values onto others. The Rig Veda the oldest of the Vedas, the Hindu sacred scriptures, says “Ego is the biggest enemy of humans.” I would have to agree. Dorothee Solle, a German theologian once said, “With the disappearance of God, the Ego moves forward to become the sole divinity.” Until humanity learns to control the ego, nothing will change.