The Infernal Machine: A History of Terrorism

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9781595581792: The Infernal Machine: A History of Terrorism

A dramatic reframing of our troubled present against a century full of striking historical parallels.

In 1881, a small group of Russian revolutionaries calling themselves "terrorists" assassinated Tsar Alexander II in a spectacular bombing attack in St. Petersburg. Far from being psychopathic murderers, these men and women viewed their actions as a just response to tyranny.

The violence in Russia launched a crucial but poorly understood chapter in modern political history. With extraordinary narrative sweep, investigative journalist Matthew Carr unearths the complex realities of terrorist violence and its indelible impact on nations as different as Italy, Argentina, France, Algeria, Ireland, Russia, Japan, and the United States.

Spanning over a century of world history, The Infernal Machine reveals stunning similarities in societies' responses to terrorism despite profound political and cultural differences. Again and again, Carr demonstrates that the true impact of terrorism has been felt in the overreactions of government and the media to acts of political violence, as rulers have consistently seized on terrorist attacks as a pretext for a massive counterassault, sacrificing civil liberties and curtailing democratic institutions in the name of security.

Includes historical accounts of: IRA, Mau Mau, Red Brigades, Baader-Meinhof Gang, PLO, National Liberation Front of Algeria, The Weathermen, ETA/Basque separatists, Carlos the Jackal, Hezbollah, The Tamil Tigers, Al-Qaeda.

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About the Author:

Matthew Carr is a writer, broadcaster, and journalist who has reported on a number of violent conflicts. He is also the author of the acclaimed memoir My Father's House. Carr lives in Derbyshire, England.

From Publishers Weekly:

British author and journalist Carr (My Father's House) bookends his engrossing, unsettling history—including accounts of murderous organizations like the 19th-century anarchists, the IRA, Mau Mau, Red Brigades, Basque separatists, FLN, PLO and Hezbollah and the onset of international terrorism 30 years ago—with a scathing critique of the Bush administration's "authoritarian responses" to the attacks of 9/11. Amid an avalanche of information, Carr argues that most terrorist groups—those with a distinct political goal and popular support within their country—are essentially uncrushable, but negotiating with them (Britain and the IRA, for example) has worked. Carr relates scores of terrorist outrages and devotes equal space to brutal government counterterrorism that, he demonstrates, is not only ineffectual, but also nourishes terrorism. Instead of today's war on terror, Carr calls for addressing the wider causes: "the present eruption of Islamist violence is perhaps a symptom of an imbalance of power and the consequence of decades of manipulation, deceit and hypocrisy in Western foreign policy towards the Arab world." Though his analysis of Middle East politics is open to debate, Carr presents an impressive compendium of terrorist violence and government response. (Apr.)
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