A while ago, I read a frightening piece in The New York Times, on looted weapons in Libya. The hopeful side of the report is that the opposition to the brutal dictator (who has systematically attacked unarmed citizens) is militarily empowered, using the weapons of the dictatorial regime against the dictatorship. But the Times report emphasized the dangers. With arms now circulating outside the formal control of the state, there is a high likelihood that some of them will reach the black market and get into the hands of terrorists outside this zone of conflict. C.J. Chives, the Times reporter examines particularly this dangerous side of recent events there.
Indeed it’s scary. Nihilists of various sorts might obtain missiles that are capable of attacking commercial airliners. As someone who often flies abroad for professional and family purposes, I am particularly concerned. This security threat is very real, Chives reports, because in relatively recent past examples of state arsenals being looted by civilians, Uganda in 1979, Albania in 1997 and Iraq in 2003, the fear has been confirmed.
When I was reading this article, I thought about another circumstance when such fear in the end seems to have proven unfounded, and in which I was peripherally involved. The collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1989 led many to worry that terrorists, who had been armed and supported by the Soviet bloc, would become rogue and free floating. Further, there was the fear that their preferred weapons, sophisticated plastic explosives, specifically semtex, might be used in new ways, not disciplined by the logic of the cold war. It was in this context that I became a suspected terrorist.
I was coming home from a two month trip around the old Soviet bloc in the late winter of 1990. This visit would later become the basis of my theoretical travelogue, After the Fall: The Pursuit of Democracy in Central Europe. I . . .
Read more: Reflections of a Terrorist Suspect