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What is terrorism?

 
 
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 10:31 am
Provisionally,at least, "terrorism" can be defined as the intentional targeting of innocent people in order to instill terror to make a political point, or achieve a political goal. One question which is raised by this definition is this: suppose it is known that certain violent actions are bound to have innocent casualties; what is sometimes called, "collateral damage". Are these casualities (collateral damage) intentional, and are they the consequence of terrorism? An example would be the Allied bombing of German and Japanese cities during World War 2. Or the civilian deaths caused by the Predator drones in Pakistan. And, for a different reason, the recent murder of 13 people at Fort Hood.

Is accused Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan a "terrorist?" - By Juliet Lapidos - Slate Magazine
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josh0335
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 11:31 am
@kennethamy,
Collateral damage from wiki:

"Unintentional or incidental injury or damage to persons or objects that would not be lawful military targets in the circumstances ruling at the time. Such damage is not unlawful so long as it is not excessive in light of the overall military advantage anticipated from the attack."

So we have to ask whether those examples you gave caused damage excessive in the light of the overall military advantage. If there was excessive damage, it might be considered terrorism.
0 Replies
 
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 11:34 am
@kennethamy,
[QUOTE=kennethamy;103448]Provisionally,at least, "terrorism" can be defined as the intentional targeting of innocent people in order to instill terror to make a political point, or achieve a political goal. One question which is raised by this definition is this: suppose it is known that certain violent actions are bound to have innocent casualties; what is sometimes called, "collateral damage". Are these casualities (collateral damage) intentional, and are they the consequence of terrorism? An example would be the Allied bombing of German and Japanese cities during World War 2. Or the civilian deaths caused by the Predator drones in Pakistan. And, for a different reason, the recent murder of 13 people at Fort Hood.[/QUOTE]I think for the victims (those who lose a child, a spouse, a loved one) the distinction between terrorism, "collateral damage" and random violence is largely lost.

There is no clear bright dividing line between terrorism and "collateral damage". In planning military operations the "military necessity" versus "collateral damage" must be taken into account and the "principal of proportionality" accounted for. Civilian deaths and property destruction are inevitable in large scale military operations. Attacks solely directed at civilian populations and targets are clearly "acts of terrorism". Planned operations which largely result in civilian deaths and private property destruction and very little in the way of military advantage or gain are likewise "terrorist operations".

In the long run "violence begets violence" is a true maxim. Terrorist acts justify large scale violence, reprisals, suppression of political and human rights and in the end are counterproductive. What the Palestinians need is a non violent resistance leader on the order of Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi. Such tactics are only useful against nations like the US, Britain or Israel which are in theory founded on representative governments, the dignity of man and human rights.

Terrorism is not new as a political tool. What is new is the destructiveness of the weapons now available to individual terrorists and small fringe groups. One must seek out and eliminate the sources of terrorism (poverty, ignorance, hopelessness, frustration) as well as using military and security means to prevent and suppress it. You cannot win the "hearts and minds of the people" while you kill their loved ones, destroy their homes, and demolish their lives . It does not matter to them whether their loss is the result of "terrorism" or "collateral damage".
0 Replies
 
hue-man
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 12:11 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;103448 wrote:
Provisionally,at least, "terrorism" can be defined as the intentional targeting of innocent people in order to instill terror to make a political point, or achieve a political goal. One question which is raised by this definition is this: suppose it is known that certain violent actions are bound to have innocent casualties; what is sometimes called, "collateral damage". Are these casualities (collateral damage) intentional, and are they the consequence of terrorism? An example would be the Allied bombing of German and Japanese cities during World War 2. Or the civilian deaths caused by the Predator drones in Pakistan. And, for a different reason, the recent murder of 13 people at Fort Hood.

Is accused Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan a "terrorist?" - By Juliet Lapidos - Slate Magazine


Wartime casualties of civilians are not intentional, but unavoidable, and so collateral damage is not terrorism. However, the intentional mass murder of innocent civilians in Japan in WW2 was an act of state terrorism.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 01:53 pm
@hue-man,
One mans freedom fighter is another's terrorist. I can recall the british paratroopers, who where attempting to keep the peace in Palestine being the target of Zionist "freedom fighters".. Those same freedom fighters are calling Palestinians, terrorists, in their attempt at attaining the same freedoms they sought.
hue-man
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 01:58 pm
@xris,
xris;103503 wrote:
One mans freedom fighter is another's terrorist. I can recall the british paratroopers, who where attempting to keep the peace in Palestine being the target of Zionist "freedom fighters".. Those same freedom fighters are calling Palestinians, terrorists, in their attempt at attaining the same freedoms they sought.


I disagree with the notion that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. That's a very common rhetorical device, but terrorism and freedom fighting are not synonymous. You can be a freedom fighter without being a terrorist and you can be a terrorist without being a freedom fighter. Were the Zionists intentionally killing innocent people in their quest for freedom or power?
xris
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 02:00 pm
@hue-man,
hue-man;103505 wrote:
I disagree with the notion that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. That's a very common rhetorical device, but terrorism and freedom fighting are not synonymous. You can be a freedom fighter without being a terrorist and you can be a terrorist without being a freedom fighter. Were the Zionists intentionally killing innocent people in their quest for freedom or power?
Would you call peace keepers a valid target?
Dave Allen
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 02:15 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;103448 wrote:
Provisionally,at least, "terrorism" can be defined as the intentional targeting of innocent people in order to instill terror to make a political point, or achieve a political goal.

Terrorism is a useful slur we rich societies can apply broadly to the military tactics of poorer people.

It's cool, because it makes it clear that an action like blowing up a bus is less acceptable ethically than an action such as showering densely populated urban areas with radioactive metal that will punish those who oppose us, and their great, great, great, great, great grandchildren too.
Quote:
What the Palestinians need is a non violent resistance leader on the order of Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi. Such tactics are only useful against nations like the US, Britain or Israel which are in theory founded on representative governments, the dignity of man and human rights.

Israel's record of killing Palestinian moderates (read a few accounts of the assassination of Doctor Thabet if you fancy becoming dreadfully pessimistic), and those from organisations seeking to encourge peace - such as the UN or ISM - is appalling. Never mind the murder of Israeli moderates such as Rabin by Isreali hardliners.

Precisely what can be done about the terrible state of this benighted corner of the world is beyond me. I used to care - but it's plain this is one that's going to run and run and run until burgeoning demographic changes see an arab majority in Israel in 50 years or so (when, I imagine, a whole new set of problems will arise).

Whilst that happens I'm happy to treat the excesses of intifada as works of dreadful evil - but why some romantic notion that the Israeli actions which both inspire and respond to Palestinian violence are somehow "better" is beyond me.

To suggest that the onus is on the occupied people, impoverished and lacking any sort of effective central authority as they are, to provide some sort of "nice" Gandhi like "we'll just sit here and take it while you decide to stop building settlements on our land and rerouting our water supplies" love-in is ... naive, let's say.

Indians living under the Raj had to put up with a great many indignities, but they didn't extend to having to raise whole communities within refugee camps apparently more densely populated than anywhere else on Earth, and they didn't go to work to find their olive groves demolished as the whole community apparently deserves to suffer because one of them couldn't take it any longer and blew himself up in a Tel Aviv market.

Now I don't wish to be seen to promote British imperialism, as I said elsewhere the fact our destruction of Tasminia's indigineous population (history's only recorded successful genocide) has done little to affect our reputation strikes me as a pretty impressive propaganda coup. No one left to complain I suppose.

We probably called those who fought back terrorists I'm sure (actually "savages" was probably used - "terrorist" is the new "savage").

But a campaign against moderates - that's not been our style for some time.
0 Replies
 
hue-man
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 02:43 pm
@xris,
xris;103508 wrote:
Would you call peace keepers a valid target?


Sure, if the peacekeepers were truly non-combative. It's very simple. Terrorism is the intentional murder of innocent non-combatants for political or ideological purposes. Freedom fighters like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were not terrorists. Men like Osama Bin Laden and Timothy McVeigh are terrorists.
Dave Allen
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 02:57 pm
@hue-man,
hue-man;103513 wrote:
It's very simple. Terrorism is the intentional murder of innocent non-combatants for political or ideological purposes. Freedom fighters like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were not terrorists. Men like Osama Bin Laden and Timothy McVeigh are terrorists.

What about examples that aren't so cut and dried? Would you call Nelson Mandela a terrorist or a freedom fighter? What about John Brown? What about a member of Hamas who restricts his targets to military personnel? Or an IRA man who makes pipe bombs under the belief that they will only be thrown at members of protestant paramilitary gangs?

Terrorism is the military action of the weak and the poor. Like the military action of the strong and the rich it is the context that makes it awful (in other words, pretty much every time it occurs).
xris
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 02:57 pm
@hue-man,
hue-man;103513 wrote:
Sure, if the peacekeepers were truly non-combative. It's very simple. Terrorism is the intentional murder of innocent non-combatants for political or ideological purposes. Freedom fighters like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were not terrorists. Men like Osama Bin Laden and Timothy McVeigh are terrorists.
So those same Zionist terrorists can they really complain that their strategy is any different to the Palestinian attacks on them. In my mind George Washington was a rebel terrorist who initially did not have the consensus of public opinion to validate his rebellious attacks. Your claiming right is might and sod the established government. What if had lost, would he be a valiant freedom fighter or a rebel hanged for insurrection? Hue its a matter of perspective, we all pick and choose our vantage point to observe. Who wins, has the advantage of writing the history.
0 Replies
 
Poseidon
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 03:00 pm
@kennethamy,
The question is a minefield of debate.

Its a very easy thing to write it off as 'collateral damage' when your own military force goes on an intentional killing spree. If you do otherwise, you'll most likely be the next bit of collateral damage. Are you going to prosecute an armed dangerous soldier, and put him in prison for life?
...

The end of world war II after the atom bombs, is an ideal example.

The individuals who make up armies most often originate from over-populated cities.
One would have to have very little choice in life, to voluntarily risk one's life to kill people on the other side of the world who you have never met.

War itself is terrorism, and yet, once the war has started, and if the only way to end it is with an atom bomb, well then that is what has to be done.

But its the way wars escalate - before the atom bomb phase - where the choices made are most vital. Surely, Pearl harbour was a greater act of terrorism than Hiroshema? Its not just a matter of body count, but the context of the terrorism which must be accounted for. Even though I admittedly see this from a Western perspective, I have yet to hear even the vaguest justification for Pearl harbour, or for the Nazi invasion of Poland.

When you examine the Axis strategy during ww2, well, there was nothing vaguely viable about their war. They had no chance of winning. How could Japan possibly think it could defeat the US?
Did Germany really think that English speaking countries, like the US would side with it? No chance.

They say that ww1 started because of the assassination of one person. I don't buy that.

I think that war (aka terrorism) can be better understood by the K-factor.
When there are too many people in a limited space, they go crazy and start killing. They need 'lebensraum'.

So, much to the horror of the feminiists, the real terrorism is a lack of family planning more than anything else. The real terrorism is the bearing of children in poverty. Its the children of prostitutes who spark the k-factor. Its polygamy, and sexual predators. Its also believing that this can be prevented by dishing out condoms. If people do not have the sense to realise the sex brings children, and excess people destroy society, they will not have sense to actually use the condom effectively, if at all. If a birth control device is 98% effective, that just means a 3-month delay between children. Virtually worthless.

Sterilization? Enforced on unwilling overbreeders? How terrible!
Sorry,
no easy answers for this great question.
0 Replies
 
hue-man
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 03:04 pm
@Dave Allen,
Dave Allen;103515 wrote:
What about an example that isn't so cut and dried? Would you call Nelson Mandela a terrorist or a freedom fighter? What about John Brown? What about a member of Hamas who restricts his targets to military personnel? Or an IRA man who makes pipe bombs under the belief that they will only be thrown at members of protestant paramilitary gangs?

Terrorism is the military action of the weak. Like the military action of the strong it is the context that makes it awful (in other words, almost every time it happens).


Those examples are cut and dried if you follow the definition of the word terrorism. None of those are examples of terrorism.
Dave Allen
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 03:08 pm
@hue-man,
hue-man;103518 wrote:
Those examples are cut and dried if you follow the definition of the word terrorism. None of those are examples of terrorism.

How so?

I mean, if we take your definition:

"Terrorism is the intentional murder of innocent non-combatants for political or ideological purposes."

or mine

"A slur used to distinguish the military efforts of the poor and weak from those of the rich and powerful."

All the examples I gave are either people who commit acts of terrorism or are complicit in their organisation and conspiracy, are they not?
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 03:16 pm
@xris,
xris;103503 wrote:
One mans freedom fighter is another's terrorist. I can recall the british paratroopers, who where attempting to keep the peace in Palestine being the target of Zionist "freedom fighters".. Those same freedom fighters are calling Palestinians, terrorists, in their attempt at attaining the same freedoms they sought.


First of all, someone can be both a freedom figher, and a terrorist, since terrorism is a means, and freedom (or independence, which is what is really meant) is an end. So, terrorism can be used in order to attain the goal of independence. Second, just because someone is thought to be a "freedom fighter" does not make him one. He is still a terrorist if he uses terrorism, the targeting of innocent people, whatever he does it for. Just because you happen to approve of what someone does, and you call him a "freedom fighter" doesn't mean that what he does is good.
0 Replies
 
Michel
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 03:26 pm
@kennethamy,
Terrorism= A Violent or destructive action which instills fear into a civilian population and is inconsistent with the interests of the person or state that uses the word terrorism to refer to that violent or destructive action. Wink

Frankly, I hate the word. It's too often abused and bandied around by idiots.
0 Replies
 
hue-man
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 03:30 pm
@Dave Allen,
Dave Allen;103519 wrote:
How so?

I mean, if we take your definition:

"Terrorism is the intentional murder of innocent non-combatants for political or ideological purposes."

or mine

"A slur used to distinguish the military efforts of the poor and weak from those of the rich and powerful."

All the examples I gave are either people who commit acts of terrorism or are complicit in their organisation and conspiracy, are they not?


The definition I gave is not my definition. It's the actual definition of the word. Your "definition" is just a statement of your belief that the state uses it as a slur against weaker militants. Even if it is true that governments use the word as a slur, that doesn't mean that the slur is unjustified, which you seem to imply. Terrorism is a slur because the action is commonly believed to be evil and cruel.
Dave Allen
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 03:36 pm
@hue-man,
hue-man;103526 wrote:
The definition I gave is not my definition. It's the actual definition of the word. Your "definition" is just a statement of your belief that the state uses it as a slur against weaker militants. Even if it is true that governments use the word as a slur, that doesn't mean that the slur is unjustified, which you seem to imply. Terrorism is a slur because the action is commonly believed to be evil and cruel.

OK, I pretty much agree, but you do seem to have dodged my actual query. How is it that the examples I gave aren't terrorists but Osama and so on are?
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 03:40 pm
@Dave Allen,
Dave Allen;103515 wrote:
What about examples that aren't so cut and dried? Would you call Nelson Mandela a terrorist or a freedom fighter? What about John Brown? What about a member of Hamas who restricts his targets to military personnel? Or an IRA man who makes pipe bombs under the belief that they will only be thrown at members of protestant paramilitary gangs?

Terrorism is the military action of the weak and the poor. Like the military action of the strong and the rich it is the context that makes it awful (in other words, pretty much every time it occurs).


Mandela and Brown were both. The notion is that freedom fighting and terrorism are exclusive of one another is simply false. The first is an aim, the second is a means. But, that doesn't mean that one cannot be the one, but not the other, too. Washington was a freedom fighter, not a terrorist. And there are terrorists whose only goal is vengeance or destruction. And, the strong and rich are also sometimes terrorists. The Nazis for instance. And the poor and weak often do not resort to terrorism because they think it wrong to murder innocents.
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 03:44 pm
@kennethamy,
don't you think it has something to do with the target of the violence. Civilian versus military targets. With attacks against targets of military value or with military functions versus attacks against primarily non combatant civilian targets. I acknowledge the difficulty in discerning the two and borderline areas but in many cases the targets are clearly non military and the goal is to induce terror in the civilian population.
 

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