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What is terrorism?

 
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 03:53 pm
@prothero,
prothero;103532 wrote:
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.


Yes, of course. But that does not mean that someone cannot be both a terrorist and a freedom-fighter; or the one, and not the other. It just depends on the circumstances. Hasan, at Fort Hood, murdered soldiers being deployed to Iraq or Afganistan. That is more problematic.
Michel
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 03:56 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;103531 wrote:
Washington was a freedom fighter, not a terrorist...



...:rolleyes:


Do you seriously think that?
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 05:09 pm
@Michel,
Michel;103535 wrote:
...:rolleyes:


Do you seriously think that?


Yes. You have contrary evidence? I am always willing to learn something new.
0 Replies
 
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 07:17 pm
@kennethamy,
[QUOTE=kennethamy;103534]Yes, of course. But that does not mean that someone cannot be both a terrorist and a freedom-fighter; or the one, and not the other. It just depends on the circumstances. Hassan, at Fort Hood, murdered soldiers being deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. That is more problematic.[/QUOTE]It is not the cause that you are fighting for that makes the difference. It is the means employed (terrorism) versus conventional or even un-conventional warfare. If the violence is directed at military targets and/or military personnel then it is not terrorism. If the target is non combatant civilians then it is terrorism.

Rules of engagement, international law, the Geneva Convention, the law of land warfare USA are all designed to protect civilians and non combatants.

Spying, failure to identify your-self as a member of combatant enemy forces has always been severely punished usually by execution. Treason has likewise always been severely punished. The reason for this should be evident in what occurs in terrorist campaigns. When combatants deliberately mix with the civilian population and launch combat operations from civilian sites (say mortar or surface to surface missile launches) from elementary school grounds or civilian population centers, they are engaging in terrorism by using civilians as a shield.

It does not matter if you call yourself a freedom fighter, a liberator, a patriot what matters is the means employed to achieve your goals. The ends do not justify the means. You have to be able to tell the good guys from the bad guys by the means they employ not by their stated goals.

If Major Hassan was politically motivated in his assault on the soldiers at Fort Hood then it would be an act of treason as well as an act of terrorism. Motivations or intentions do matter as well and unintentional civilian causalities (those which could not have been reasonably predicted) are indeed "collateral damage". One cannot use the excuse of "collateral damage" for the widespread destruction of civilian and noncombatants when such injury could easily have been foreseen by a "reasonable man" and avoided.

It is a listed crime of warfare to use civilians as a shield for military operations.
0 Replies
 
salima
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 07:55 pm
@kennethamy,
it is inconceivable to me how humanity has come to such a state that we can quibble over definitions and intentions and keep searching for ways to kill each other.

when is killing ethical? what kind of reason to go to war is ethical? what kind of bombs and weapons are ethical?

and i am not discounting the purpose of discussing these questions in a forum like this, not at all. i guess i am just in a hurry for the world to come to the decision that none of the above is ethical and to stop it already. look for other ways to solve arguments. i am not belittling the misery in the world in so man y lands either-but why doesnt the entire population yet realize that war and violence does not work?
never has, never will.
Zetetic11235
 
  1  
Reply Sat 14 Nov, 2009 09:44 pm
@salima,
Here is a paper arguing that the founding fathers of America among other sympathetic groups, such as those who resisted Nazi occupation, were terrorists by the current legal definition used in the United States:
George Washington was a terrorist

Some of his side points are pretty weak, a law against terrorism doesn't make sense given a law against being one who engages or has engaged in terrorism. I would also say that the Nazi parallel is in bad taste and follows in the tradition of drawing such parallels lightly for shock value/rhetorical convenience.

It all comes down to pragmatism. If the terrorist is working for goals that conflict with yours, you certainly should consider him or her a dangerous enemy to be stopped by force. My goal as a United States citizen and as a human is generally to stay alive. I am willing to see killed those who would kill me to prove a political or religious point. Period. It doesn't matter to me if there is some aspect of their struggle that I can relate to; I would still put not dieing at the top of my priority list. This might be different if their goals and mine do not conflict, that is; if my ultimate goal were, for instance, the freedom of my people, it is conceivable that I might be willing to die for my chosen cause. Fortunately I am not in any such position.

I might also note the lack of British civilian casualties (as far as I know, not including those born in America who were technically British citizens) during the revolutionary war. I think that there is some distinction to be made when civilian targets are made fair game.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Nov, 2009 04:37 am
@Zetetic11235,
I think the last post does show that it is a matter of perspective. For those colonists who wished to remain British subjects , Washington was a rebel and a terrorist. The means and the reasons for rebellion should be considered and those who rebel should be judged by history for their real value. Why should we see thanks , on this thread, for supporting one view over another, its a bit silly. I'm not condemning Washington Im making an observation.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Nov, 2009 04:44 am
@xris,
xris;103598 wrote:
I think the last post does show that it is a matter of perspective. For those colonists who wished to remain British subjects , Washington was a rebel and a terrorist. The means and the reasons for rebellion should be considered and those who rebel should be judged by history for their real value. Why should we see thanks , on this thread, for supporting one view over another, its a bit silly. I'm not condemning Washington Im making an observation.


Washington was a rebel, all right. But unless all that is said about him is wrong, he certainly was not a terrorist. He did not intentionally target innocent people to terrorize the non-military population. So why would he be a terrorist? What those who did not like him called him, or considered him, is not here or there. The question is whether he was a terrorist, not what he was considered or called. (Of course, the term, "terrorism" was not, I think, even in use then).
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Nov, 2009 09:44 am
@kennethamy,
Yes, it is not the ends that one desires, but the means that one employs that determines "terrorism". Terrorism can be employed in a good cause but it remians "terrorism" none the less.
0 Replies
 
xris
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Nov, 2009 10:21 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;103599 wrote:
Washington was a rebel, all right. But unless all that is said about him is wrong, he certainly was not a terrorist. He did not intentionally target innocent people to terrorize the non-military population. So why would he be a terrorist? What those who did not like him called him, or considered him, is not here or there. The question is whether he was a terrorist, not what he was considered or called. (Of course, the term, "terrorism" was not, I think, even in use then).
When you consider many colonists had to move themselves to Canada, where they encouraged or terrorised. Does it matter if the term was relevant then? What if a civilian had opposed his action , would he have been classified as a combatant?
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Nov, 2009 10:43 am
@xris,
xris;103633 wrote:
When you consider many colonists had to move themselves to Canada, where they encouraged or terrorised. Does it matter if the term was relevant then? What if a civilian had opposed his action , would he have been classified as a combatant?


There is no evidence that Washington terrorized anyone. There was some hostility against the Tories. But that was not from Washington. Again, there is no evidence I know of that Washington attacked the Tories. You can speculate all you like. If you have any evidence, then let me know.
Dewey phil
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Nov, 2009 11:02 pm
@kennethamy,
What is terrorism? Most of the responses so far would have you believe it's idealism in action -- Islamic famaticism, freedom fighters, and the like. Let's get realistic.

A few terrorist leaders are educated and middle class. They are capable of holding the idealogical beliefs that engrosses this forum. But the foot soldiers, those actually doing all the damage in Iraq , Afghanistan, and elsewhere are almost entirely illiterate, jobless, and drawn to violence by a desperate attempt to ease their wrenching poverty.

The answer to this kind of terrorism is to provide economic opportunity to these pitiful "enemies".
BrightNoon
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Nov, 2009 02:29 am
@kennethamy,
'Terrorism' is violence that the party in question defines as 'terrorism' for one of many potential, political purposes. In our case, terrorism is violence committed against the U.S. or its interests by people who pose an obstacle to the expansion of those interests in vital strategic regions of the world, who can thus be vilified and used to justify offensive wars and domestic repression. The Mujahideen were 'freedom fighters' when we funded them to fight the Soviets. They became 'terrorists' when they refused to allow us to build an oil pipeline through Afghanistan. Sadam Hussein was a valuable ally when he was being funded by us to fight Soviet-backed Iran. He became the leader of a terrorist regime with WMD's when he started selling oil in euros instead of dollars.

...We are at war with Eurasia, we have always been at war with Eurasia...:whistling:
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Nov, 2009 06:34 am
@Dewey phil,
Dewey;104217 wrote:
What is terrorism? Most of the responses so far would have you believe it's idealism in action -- Islamic famaticism, freedom fighters, and the like. Let's get realistic.

A few terrorist leaders are educated and middle class. They are capable of holding the idealogical beliefs that engrosses this forum. But the foot soldiers, those actually doing all the damage in Iraq , Afghanistan, and elsewhere are almost entirely illiterate, jobless, and drawn to violence by a desperate attempt to ease their wrenching poverty.

The answer to this kind of terrorism is to provide economic opportunity to these pitiful "enemies".



Terrorism is an evil means to an end. The end my be a good one (independence, as in South Africa) or a bad one (to impose a tyranny). So someone can be both a terrorist and also a "freedom" fighter, at one and the same time. Those terms are not exclusive, and they often can correctly be applied to one and the same person or group. So, for example, Hamas is a terrorist group since it uses terror as a means. Whether or not you believe that its goal is good or bad, it is still terrorist. People constantly confuse the means with the end, and think that because (they believe) in the goal or cause of a group and think it is good, that the group cannot be terrorist. That is wrong. Bad means can be used for a good end (or what is thought to be a good end).

Terrorism itself consists in the intentional targeting of civilians or non-combatants (or even the unarmed) for political or other goals. As I said, the means are evil whether or not the goals are good (or thought to be good).


















T
Dewey phil
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Nov, 2009 12:18 pm
@kennethamy,
I agree. Yes, the means the terrorists use to their ends are deplorable. But those poor ragged creatures comprising the bulk of terrorism have no other means, no good means, to their ends. What do you expect you would do if you were they? Would you quietly resign to your fate and slowly expire, or would you grab the only means left to you, namely violence?

We need to help those "enemies" to have some good means at hand.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Nov, 2009 01:08 pm
@Dewey phil,
Dewey;105880 wrote:
I agree. Yes, the means the terrorists use to their ends are deplorable. But those poor ragged creatures comprising the bulk of terrorism have no other means, no good means, to their ends. What do you expect you would do if you were they? Would you quietly resign to your fate and slowly expire, or would you grab the only means left to you, namely violence?

We need to help those "enemies" to have some good means at hand.


You mean that we should give them nuclear bombs, and missiles to deliver them? By the way, why did you place quotes around the word, enemies? You don't think that trying to kill us makes them enemies. Who would you consider an enemy if not someone who was trying to kill you?
Dewey phil
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Nov, 2009 06:58 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;105889 wrote:
You mean that we should give them nuclear bombs, and missiles to deliver them? By the way, why did you place quotes around the word, enemies? You don't think that trying to kill us makes them enemies. Who would you consider an enemy if not someone who was trying to kill you?



Please reread what I said. Then you will realize I stipulated that the means should be good means. I think we agree that bombs and missiles are not good means.

I placed the quotes around the word "enemies" because I distrust that word. All too often it promotes and excuses the very thing you have brought up and are against - the employment, the premature employment, of bad means.

You and I can go on in this black and white mode, looking for gotchas. Or we can face up to the fact that everything we know is relative and nothing is absolute. I don't know enough to go around idealistically preaching 100% peace tactics. You don't know enough to go around preaching 100% violence and no reconciliation.

We are mutually ignorant. Let's play it safe and meet in the middle. Let's make sure we try every good means we can to resolve these conflicts. Then, if our best efforts fail, let's take whatever means are feasible, including violence, to protect ourselves. What do you think?

PS Just think, with this difference behind us, we could move on to argue over what does and does not constitute sufficient employment of good means. That would be a juicy topic.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Nov, 2009 07:08 pm
@Dewey phil,
Dewey;105956 wrote:
Please reread what I said. Then you will realize I stipulated that the means should be good means. I think we agree that bombs and missiles are not good means.

I placed the quotes around the word "enemies" because I distrust that word. All too often it promotes and excuses the very thing you have brought up and are against - the employment, the premature employment, of bad means.

You and I can go on in this black and white mode, looking for gotchas. Or we can face up to the fact that everything we know is relative and nothing is absolute. I don't know enough to go around idealistically preaching 100% peace tactics. You don't know enough to go around preaching 100% violence and no reconciliation.

We are mutually ignorant. Let's play it safe and meet in the middle. Let's make sure we try every good means we can to resolve these conflicts. Then, if our best efforts fail, let's take whatever means are feasible, including violence, to protect ourselves. What do you think?

PS Just think, with this difference behind us, we could move on to argue over what does and does not constitute sufficient employment of good means. That would be a juicy topic.



I really don't know what it means to say that whatever we know is relative and not absolute, so I'll just pass on that. But there are, it seems to me some things that are black and white, and some that are not. The pathetic excuse that the poor terrorist has to resort to terror because he is so-well, poor, does not move me. It sounds too much like the rapist who excuses his rape of a child because he cannot get any woman to have sex with him. It is really not an excuse to do something evil because you cannot accomplish what you want in any other way. It is surprising, even shocking, that people would give this kind of thing a serious hearing.

I don't know what good means we could give the terrorist to accomplish his goal of murdering people who do not conform to his beliefs. Do you?
Dewey phil
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Nov, 2009 03:44 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;105959 wrote:
I really don't know what it means to say that whatever we know is relative and not absolute, so I'll just pass on that. But there are, it seems to me some things that are black and white, and some that are not. The pathetic excuse that the poor terrorist has to resort to terror because he is so-well, poor, does not move me. It sounds too much like the rapist who excuses his rape of a child because he cannot get any woman to have sex with him. It is really not an excuse to do something evil because you cannot accomplish what you want in any other way. It is surprising, even shocking, that people would give this kind of thing a serious hearing.

I don't know what good means we could give the terrorist to accomplish his goal of murdering people who do not conform to his beliefs. Do you?



Thanks, kennethamy. Here's my responses to your questions and comments.

Kennethamy:"I really don't know what it means to say that whatever we know is relative and not absolute, so I'll just pass on that."

Dewey: Perhaps, since this is a philosophy forum, you would like to have an idea as to what philosophical relativity is. John Mill explains it this way:

"Our whole knowledge of mind and of matter is relative, conditioned-relatively conditioned. Of things absolutely or in themselves, be they external, be they internal, we know nothing, or know them only as incognisable; and become aware of their incomprehensible existence, only as this is indirectly and accidentally revealed to us, through certain qualities related to our faculties of knowledge, and which qualities, again, we cannot think as unconditioned, irrelative, existent in and of themselves. "


kennethamy: "The pathetic excuse that the poor terrorist has to resort to terror because he is so-well, poor, does not move me. It sounds too much like the rapist who excuses his rape of a child because he cannot get any woman to have sex with him."

Dewey: I don't see much equation in that comparison. The one seeks the essential to life - food and shelter. The other does not. And, incidentally, I looked for but could not find factual evidence to support your causation for rape.


Kennethamy: "It is really not an excuse to do something evil because you cannot accomplish what you want in any other way. It is surprising, even shocking, that people would give this kind of thing a serious hearing."

Dewey: To relieve the surprise and shock, I suggest you give more consideration to that term "evil". Ask yourself if you are applying it objectively. Spinoza, one of the myriad of philosophers in agreement in this regard, reminds us that "evil" indicates nothing positive in things considered in themselves. As Hamlet puts it: "There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so." The answer here might be to think less subjectively and more objectively.


Kennethamy: "I don't know what good means we could give the terrorist to accomplish his goal of murdering people who do not conform to his beliefs. Do you?"

Dewey: No, I don't. Anyhow it's irrelevant. (I abslutely refuse to believe you ask this question to find a good means of murdering all the terrorists.)


I apologise if I have underestimated your understanding of the matters discussed above. But a little reminding can't hurt.
IntoTheLight
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Nov, 2009 06:30 pm
@Dewey phil,
The definition of "terrorism" is relative to who is doing the talking.

In WWII, the Nazis fired hundreds of V-1 "buzz bombs" and V-2 rockets at England during the beginning of the war. These weapons were thought of as terror weapons because they had negliable military value and didn't do much damage, but served to scare the civilian population and hopefully break their will.

However, toward the end of WWII the US Army Airforce regularly conducted incindiary bombing raids on both German and Japanese civilian targets for the same reason the German's used to "buzz bombs" - to scare the civilian population and break their will.

Of course, each side justified it at the time as merely "making war".

-ITL-
0 Replies
 
 

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