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Subject: Terrorism: defined
BlackHistory    3/29/2004 7:52:19 PM
I wanted to start a discussion about terrorism, and what we think it means. I think a discussion about it would be beneficial for everyone; ideally, we will all learn something. OK, so I'll begin: Terrorism, in my mind, can be defined as: "the systematic use of violence as a means to intimidate or coerce societies or governments." I know, it seems kind of broad, but that's what is also scary about it: lots of acts in world history, by various regimes, fit with this description of the term. Here are some questions: * Can terrorism (as defined above) ever be "justifiable" ? * There are lots of 'obvious' or oft-mentioned countries whom we accuse of employing terrorism to 'get their points across.' Has the U.S.A. ever behaved in such a way? Russia? France? England? Israel? Any one else? Hope this spurs a good debate!
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Maverick    RE:Terrorism: defined   3/29/2004 8:20:55 PM
any damned action agaist anyone unannounced is in my opinion is terrorism. Remember Peral Harbor- 3000+ deaths. Terrorist Act.
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appleciderus    Defined?   3/29/2004 8:42:59 PM
Who are the "we" who are doing the accusing? If you have already “assumed” that your definition of terrorism meets mine, you might be mistaken. I have an aversion (read: red flag) to folks who open a discussion, as defined by them, and then employ the collective “we” to their definition. It often indicates intent by the writer to express a political view rather than solicit a discussion. Have “Nation States” other than those you mentioned met your definition? Algeria, Libya, Cambodia, Cuba, Iran, China, North Korea, Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen, Mali, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, and Syria are a few that come to mind. Have “non Nation States” met your definition? The Tamil, AQ, the Palestinians, Taliban, Hamas, and other name changers come to mind. Have any of the nations you named met your definition? The US in its dealings with indigenous peoples and slavery, yes. Russia? Unknown, but the Soviet Union certainly. France and England? Yes, as colonial powers. However, all these behaviors have been addressed, resolved, or are a work in progress. Israel? You tell me.
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bsl    RE:Terrorism: defined   3/29/2004 8:45:49 PM
Nope. Terrorism has a definition of long-=standing. It's the application or threat of force on civilian non-combattants for the purpose of breaking their will. Use of force against a military or a government is not terrorism. It's "war", conventional or unconventional. Any attempt to redefine terms so that "war" and "terrorism" become indistinguishable is a nonstarter.
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S .rD    RE:Terrorism: defined   3/29/2004 9:08:37 PM
any attack or harm to any unannouced enemy... read my other responce and think of Pearl Horbor in 1944
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celebrim    RE:Terrorism: defined   3/29/2004 9:09:42 PM
First, your definition is overly broad. It doesn't define anything useful. All violence has at some level either the aim or the result of causing fear. By defining 'terrorism' that broadly, you haven't said anything interesting at all. You are trying to make the question seem alot simpler than it actually is, or alternately, you don't understand the problem with sufficient depth so you are unable to properly formulate a question. As such, I don't feel that answering your questions directly is useful. Without meaning to give offense, its almost as if someone defined 'evil' to mean 'giving candy to babies' (something incidently I don't believe in), and then asked, 'Using the definition I gave, is evil ever justifiable?' Answering that question doesn't illuminate anything; it just obscures the question. A more serious question which might give some insight is, "How is terrorism different from other forms of political violence?" Another question you might ask is, "When political violence is justifiable, what makes it justifiable? Does terrorism lack any of the qualities of justifiable violence?" (A good place to start thier would be St. Augustine, but I'll not get that deep quite yet, primarily because I'm too busy.) I don't have a ready answer for what is terrorism. It's like someone asking me 'What is pornography?' I don't have an acceptable and complete answer at hand, but as the saying goes 'I know it when I see it'. But just because I don't have a full verbal answer ready doesn't mean I don't have enough of an idea about what is terrorism to make some general assertions about it. I will have to make do with guessing about terrorisms nature, until such time as I stumble upon a good Socratic definition. Some observations I have about terrorism compared to other political violence: 1) Most political violence has as its subtext to prove that you are stronger than your opponent and therefore he must accede to your greater material authority. This is the subtext of war, and to a lesser extent the whole subtext of diplomacy is based on the idea that there is an implicit or explicit threat in not cooperating because your opponent is strong. From a biological perspective, we can understand war in the context of threat displays. One animal makes himself look big, displays his physical fitness by jumping up and down, and makes a great deal of noise in an effort to win the arguement. Failing that, they engage in somewhat ritualized combat until one side or the other realizes it cannot win, and then the losing side concedes. When nations engage in war, they generally try to do so by exerting the minimum ammount of threat and violence that they think they can get away with. Even nations engaged in total war often take years to wind up to fully moblized (for example the US wasn't yet fully moblized at the end of 1945) in part because it takes that long for the desparation and social changes to set in (you can bet the Soviets were fully moblized by then). Terrorism is different. Terrorists are weaker than the foes that the choose to fight. They aren't seeking to impress on thier foe that they are stronger. They are trying to impress on them something entirely different, something which I might add is not something that mere animals would understand. If you can imagine a terrorist Chimpanzee, he'd start killing random members of the tribe hoping the dominate male would become so terrified that he'd leave. But of course, amongst animals that doesn't ever happen. Terrorists are trying to impress, not with there strength, but with their utter ruthlessness, and if I can use an emotional charged word here, with thier utter depravity. In essence, what they do is begin at a state of total violence, rather than working up to it and hope to shock the normal social order which hasn't yet worked itself into this state. The message is, "See how serious I take this!!! Fear me!!!" The message is not, "See how much more damage I could do to you than I am doing right now.", which is the tradiational message of war. One thing that I think is terribly terribly important to understand is that terrorism - like total pacifism - doesn't work and has never worked if your opponent is both stronger than you and is willing to be as ruthless as you are. For example, you couldn't by acts of terror sway the Roman Empire at the height of its power to leave you alone. Lots of people tried. It didn't work. They were every bit as ruthless as any barbarian, and a whole lot stronger. You tried to engage in a terror campaign, and the Roman empire would just crucify 50,000 of your neighbors - or sack your city and put man, woman, and child to the sword - and dare someone to try that again. 2) Terrorism, compared to political violence, doesn't have to have reasonable objectives. At the beginning of WWII, the Japanese Empire had no hope of conquering the US. But its hindsight that tells
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swhitebull    RE:Terrorism: defined - S .rD   3/29/2004 9:25:21 PM
..any attack or harm to any unannouced enemy... read my other responce and think of Pearl Horbor in 1944.. Uh Dude - what other response? Post as someone else, have you? swhitebull ...
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BlackHistory    RE:Terrorism: defined - S .rD   3/29/2004 9:39:15 PM
Incidentally, I had no ill intention by using the collective term "we" -- I was speaking generally and inclusively. Anyway, it does seem that "we" all have varying interpretation of the term (which, by the way, is a dictionary def'n, and not a politicized variant) -- someone said it's applicable when an attack is unannounced, someone else stated it depends on who is being attacked (civilians or gov't / military) Anyway, I can see obvious inconsistencies in how the term is being read and perceived. This can be highly problematic, however, and only goes to show that many people use words without a real understanding of usage. It also means that people think they're agreeing when, in fact, they aren't speaking of the same thing. Interesting so far, though, people!
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SGTObvious    Terrorism Definition   3/30/2004 6:50:41 AM
"In my mind" doesn't cut it. If you decide that "in my mind, little fuzzy animals are defined as things that swim and lay eggs" guess what, you won't be able to tell a fish from a hamster. Get with the program. To be a terrorist, you need: 1) No Overt State support, or in the absence of a state, No overt support from a recognized group acting as a state. 2) Political aims to your violence. 3) General disregard of the laws and customs of war. That's the definition. If you want to play "in my mind" games, and redefine every word, we don't have a language left, do we? You see? This is what happens when a president under oath questions the meaning of the word "is"..
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SGTObvious    Pearl Harbor   3/30/2004 6:52:59 AM
Pearl Harbor was carried out by overt and recognized members of a nation's armed forces. It was not a terrorist attack, it was an act of war. Had a group of Japanese civilians launched the attack, it would have been terrorist..
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BlackHistory    RE:Pearl Harbor   3/30/2004 9:13:11 AM
I agree totally, Pearl Harbour was an act consistent with war. Whoever said it was a terrorist act ... careful, by doing so, you kill the term's meaning.
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