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The University of North Carolina at Pembroke
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University Newswire
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Date: May 7, 2004
Contact: Amber Rach
Email: amber.rach@uncp.edu
Phone: 910.521.6863
Fax: 910.521.6694
 

Terrorism expert addresses UNCP audience

By Scott Bigelow

Cynthia CombsInternational terrorism expert Dr. Cynthia Combs had some bad news and some good news for a UNC Pembroke audience on April 14.

"We have the potential for some really scary terrorist attacks here, but you're still more likely to be killed by a drunk driver," she said. "You let terrorists win when you refuse to do things like fly commercially because of 9/11."

Dr. Combs, author of "Terrorism in the 21st Century" and contributing editor of "The Encyclopedia of Terrorism," was the inaugural speaker of the Robert K. Gustafson Memorial Scholar Series. She is a political science professor at UNC Charlotte.

Because terrorism is an "asymmetrical threat" from people who are "not rational actors," Dr. Combs said a "war on terrorism is not a winnable war."

Terrorists are not born but created out of frustration, desperation and alienation, she said.

"I am reminded of the Israeli soldier returning from blowing up homes of Palestinians who said, 'we've created 1,000 more terrorists today,'" Dr. Combs said. "We must find a way to take away that desire, anger and frustration."

Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian issue would be a good start to ending terrorism, but Dr. Combs fears that a new generation of terrorists is being created in Iraq.

"We may be creating a whole new group of terrorists with the potential for the United States to be a longer term target for a lot of different groups," Dr. Combs said.

"Al Qaeda and Afghanistan are not just about Palestine," Dr. Combs said. "What we've got are people with no reason to stop the violence."

Dr. Combs rejected the notion that Islam is a violent faith. Violent factions within the Islamic faith are similar to Christian groups, like the one Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh belonged to.

"Terrorism is something that should get us excited," Dr. Combs told the UNCP audience that included many students. "I am asking you to think about it and discuss it."

The lecture was sponsored, in part, by the American Democracy Project, which is a national program to stimulate civic engagement and awareness.

Rach, Thompson, Combs, Gustafson and Farrell

From left: Amber Rach, Director of Communications for University and Community Relations; Dr. Carolyn Thompson, Director of the University Honors College; Speaker Dr. Cynthia Combs; Sheryl Dawson, Helen Gustafson and Charles Farrell.

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The Gustafson Lecture is named for the late Robert K. Gustafson, an ordained minister and a department chair and professor and of religion at UNCP. It was established by his wife Helen, who lives in Laurinburg. Mrs. Gustafson attended the lecture with her daughter, Sheryl Dawson.

UNCP Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Roger Brown introduced Dr. Combs, who was a former colleague of his in the Political Science Department at UNC Charlotte.

"Cindy is a nationally-known expert on international terrorism who has carved her professional niche in a very dark world," Dr. Brown said.

Dr. Combs offered a four-part definition of terrorism as (1) a violent act, (2) politically motivated, (3) calculated to create fear in a target audience and (4) targets innocent victims.

"What is going on now with the attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq is not terrorism," she said. "It is guerilla or insurgent warfare."

Terrorism has a long history, and the 1972 Olympic terror attack launched a new age of terror.

There are three types of terrorist, Dr. Combs said, "criminals," "crazies" and "crusaders."

"The bad news is crusaders are the type of terrorist we are dealing with today," she said. "They were not created overnight and not in response to a specific incident."

"Because they have a higher cause and do not expect to live, their demands cannot be met," Dr. Combs said. "The good news is that we should be able to predict where they will come from."

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The University of North Carolina at Pembroke Updated: Friday, May 7, 2004
Copyright © 2001-2004 The University of North Carolina at Pembroke
University Newswire
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Pembroke, NC 28372-1510
Phone: 910.521.6863
Fax: 910.521.6694