Terrorism's War with America: A History

By Dennis Piszkiewicz | Go to book overview

Chapter 6

Reagan Takes On Terrorism

Terrorism was a growing problem on the international scene when Ronald Reagan took office as president of the United States. Incidents abounded of airliner hijackings, massacres by armed gunmen, and bombs left to explode in public gathering places. Members of his administration saw the United States as an increasingly likely target, and they were quick to sound the alarm and to identify who they thought was behind international terrorism. Within days of becoming secretary of state, Alexander Haig accused the Soviet Union of financing, equipping, and training terrorists. 1 Two months later, CIA director William Casey was browbeating his staff to dig out the proof that the Soviet Union was the chief sponsor of international terrorism. He had been inspired in this quest by a book by Claire Sterling, The Terror Network,2 which claimed to give hard evidence of Moscow’s guilt. Casey’s staff and critics of Sterling’s book found the evidence unconvincing, but they did not change many minds. Reagan and his administration would operate on the assumption that the Soviet Union and its client states were behind the rise of international terrorism. 3

From the beginning of his administration, Reagan’s managerial style was based on delegating authority. As Casey explained to a reporter, “Reagan just won’t permit himself to get bogged down in detail and minutia. He’s not a yellow-pad President like Carter or Nixon. He doesn’t feel compelled to scribble notes during meeting or control who gets on the White House tennis courts.” 4 He would not be second-guessing Casey when it came to dealing with terrorists, which delighted the CIA director.

In the late 1970s, the CIA had taken a deserved beating for its illegal activities, and Casey’s first order of business was to rebuild the agency.

-43-

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Terrorism's War with America: A History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Chapter 1 - Skyjackers 1
  • Chapter 2 - Who Are the Terrorists? 9
  • Chapter 3 - Nationalists, Communists, and Insurgents 15
  • Chapter 4 - The Palestine Liberation Organization and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine 21
  • Chapter 5 - The Holy War 37
  • Chapter 6 - Reagan Takes on Terrorism 43
  • Chapter 7 - Muammar Qaddafi 61
  • Chapter 8 - Saddam Hussein 71
  • Chapter 9 - The Blind Sheikh and the Mastermind of Terror 83
  • Chapter 10 - America in Retreat 99
  • Chapter 11 - Osama Bin Laden 107
  • Chapter 12 - Al Qaeda’s War 113
  • Chapter 13 - The Past and the Future 127
  • Epilogue 137
  • Appendix 1 141
  • Appendix 2 145
  • Appendix 3 147
  • Appendix 4 165
  • Selected Bibliography 191
  • Index 195
  • About the Author 203
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