Terrorism experts offer ideas

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— Local political scientists said Tuesday's terrorist attacks appear to send a message of deep distaste for western capitalism.

"They struck the heart of the economic centers," said Michael Kanner, University of Colorado at Boulder lecturer of American politics, foreign affairs and national security. "As part of any terrorist groups, they're trying to overturn the world system."

Diane Misch Bush, professor of sociology at Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus, said terrorists have two things in mind: to either get the government to change a policy or viewpoint with what is called instrumental terrorism, or to express revenge with what is called expressive terrorism.

"Most (terrorist attacks) have a little bit of both," Misch Bush said.

Kanner said while the magnitude of Tuesday's attacks were hard to fathom, the truth is, such attacks might not have been difficult to orchestrate.

"For all the talk on how sophisticated this was, you could do it with 20 people who were strongly committed," Kanner said.

Kanner's expertise in terrorism includes working for the U.S. Army on counter-terrorism in Latin America. He said it will be difficult to piece together what happened since there were no survivors of the plane crashes and forensic evidence will be difficult to gather.

Kanner said it is unlikely that the airline pilots, knowing they and their passengers were going to die, would fly into the World Trade Center towers. He surmised that the terrorists had control of the planes.

"It just had to take someone to fly into things," Kanner said. "Landing and taking off are the tricky parts of flying."

Misch Bush said Tuesday's events underscore how terrorism is now the country's primary threat.

"The terrorism today is perhaps a more pressing issue than our issues of nuclear threat from other nations," Misch Bush said. "The scariest thing would be if terrorists got hold of nuclear weapons."

Misch Bush said U.S. officials have to be careful and measured in responding to the attacks.

"If the United States would show itself to be enraged and lashing out ... (terrorists) want to see that reaction," Misch Bush said. "The key thing is we don't know. The worst thing we can do is jump to conclusions."

Misch Bush said not only is it immoral and unethical to accuse a certain group or nation of terrorist attacks without conclusive proof, it plays directly into the hands of terrorists, Misch Bush said.

"Taking 'swift' action is just going to play into their hands. That's a normal thing for a leader to say," Misch Bush said of President Bush's statement to the nation Tuesday afternoon.

Misch Bush said comparing this atrocity to that of Pearl Harbor makes her a little uneasy.

"This will probably end up to be the worst, in terms of death, terrorist attack we've seen in the United States," Misch Bush said.

Kanner said the terrorist attack on America is a declaration of war, but he predicted it won't be the last of its kind.

"(People should fear) that it's not over. It's a concerted campaign, a multi-phase campaign," Kanner said.

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