The Politics of Health in Counterterrorism Operations

by Jonathan Whittall
published in MER286

In the early morning hours of October 3, 2015, a helicopter gunship operated by US special forces circled the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) trauma center in Kunduz, Afghanistan. It fired precise and repeated rounds on the main hospital building, quickly reducing it to rubble. Patients and staff who survived the airstrikes were shot while fleeing the burning building. By the end of the assault, 42 people had died, including 24 patients, 14 staff and four caretakers. The week prior to the attack on the hospital, the Taliban had taken control of the Afghan city of Kunduz. It was the first time the Taliban had gained control of a provincial capital since its fall from power in 2001 following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Airstrikes Against the Patriarchy

by Amanda Ufheil-Somers | published September 26, 2014 - 6:46pm

The media sometimes has trouble conjuring a feel-good story out of an airstrike, but not now. In the last few days, news outlets across the world have fallen all over themselves to champion Maryam al-Mansouri—the first female combat pilot in the United Arab Emirates—who flew in a nighttime sortie over Syria on September 22.

The Next Round of an Unwinnable War Beckons

by Amanda Ufheil-Somers | published September 17, 2014

Once again, a U.S. president vows to eliminate an extremist militia in the Middle East to make the region, and Americans, safe.

And that means it’s time again for a reality check. Having failed in its bid to destroy the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the United States is still trying to dismantle both organizations. Over the course of 13 years of war, that mission has spread to Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Mali, and West Africa, as militant groups on two continents have adopted the al-Qaeda brand.

From the Editors

by The Editors
published in MER131

Over the last several years, library subscriptions to MERIP Reports have expanded steadily. We are very pleased at this development, and we are anxious to encourage an even higher rate of growth in library subscriptions. In particular, we would like to see more subscriptions at public libraries, where the Reports are still poorly represented. Library subscriptions are particularly important in bringing MERIP Reports to many readers who might not otherwise see it. For this reason, we ask our readers to request subscriptions at their local public library and/or their university library. Thanks to a donation from a friend of MERIP, we are able to offer a half-price introductory subscription to the first 20 libraries that request it in 1985.

Melman, The Master Terrorist

by Roger Gaess
published in MER147

Yossi Melman, The Master Terrorist: The True Story Behind Abu Nidal (New York: Adama Books, 1986).


Yossi Melman has pieced together “an interim report” that provides, within limits, a substantial sketch of Abu Nidal and his Palestinian fringe group, most widely known as the Abu Nidal group, or the Fatah Revolutionary Council. As the correspondent of the Israeli daily Ha-aretz, Melman covered the trial of Abu Nidal group members whose assassination attempt upon the Israeli ambassador in London served as Israel’s pretext for its 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Melman uses that trial as both the primary source and the framework for The Master Terrorist.

Comprehending Terror

by Eqbal Ahmad
published in MER140

Let us begin with the dictionary definition of terror -- “intense, overpowering fear” -- and of terrorism -- “the use of terrorizing methods of governing or resisting a government.” This simple definition has the virtue of fairness; it focuses on the use of coercive violence and its effects on the victims of terror without regard to the status of the perpetrator. Terrorism does not refer to the mutual fear of armed adversaries, but only to acts of intimidating and injuring unarmed, presumably innocent civilians. Therein lies the revulsion over terrorist acts. This definition leaves out the question of motivation. Motives have varied, and so have methods. Many terrorists in our time have no identifiable goals.

Adams, The Financing of Terror

by Rex Brynen
published in MER151

James Adams, The Financing of Terror, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986.)


I don’t care what anyone says: I liked Claire Sterling’s 1981 classic, The Terror Network. Sure, the plot was weak and the characterization a bit sketchy -- but what imagination! Soviet-supplied attack helicopters in the service of the Irish Republican Army! A Palestine “floating on oil”! A KGB terrorist conspiracy to subvert the free world! Ronald Reagan must have liked it too, because he reportedly asked the United States Information Agency to make copies available worldwide.

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Lies, Damned Lies and Plagiarizing "Experts"

by Darryl Li
published in MER260

The 9/11 Commission Report is the closest thing in print to an official narrative of the events that gave rise to the “war on terror.” In American political culture, the Commission embodied a trans-partisan act of knowledge creation, handing down a narrative meant to establish treasured national consensus. Also, the Commission acted as a filter trusted to use classified information in a manner that educated the public without jeopardizing national security.

The Fateful Choice

by The Editors | published May 6, 2011

When 19 al-Qaeda hijackers attacked New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, the United States faced a strategic dilemma that was unique in magnitude, but not in kind. Terrorists had killed numerous civilians before, in the US and elsewhere, with and without state sponsorship. Al-Qaeda was not the first non-state actor to present no coherent demands alongside its propaganda of the deed or to have no single fixed address. Nor were Americans the first victims of unprovoked terrorist assault to set aside political differences, at least for a time, in search of a unified self-defense.

Bush's Flawed Flypaper Theory

by Chris Toensing | published July 29, 2005

Forget for a moment how shamelessly President George W. Bush tried to manipulate Americans’ emotions by invoking September 11 six times during his recent prime-time sales pitch for staying the course in Iraq. There is no need to recall the reports finding no connection between that day’s terrorist attacks and Iraq, and no call for repeating that Iraq was not in danger of becoming a “safe haven” for al-Qaida until after it was invaded. The president doesn’t really claim otherwise.