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Author Topic: What defines a "terrorist?"  (Read 2471 times)

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Offline White WolfTopic starter

What defines a "terrorist?"
« on: October 26, 2013, 07:46:48 AM »
This is a question I've been debating about with friends for a while, I thought it'd be interesting to get a wider range of opinions, so wanted to throw it out to all you guys to argue amongst ourselves :)

I'll explain what prompted the question in my head. I'm doing a spot of background research for a story I want to start to write, set up in Belfast in Northern Ireland, and one important statistic I got was the amount of people killed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the Northern Irish Troubles. It clocks in at just a shade under 2,100 people - both legitimate military and paramilitary targets, and civilians. Now, compare this figure with the amount of people (military-aged males as well as civilians) who have been killed in the US Drone campaign in Yemen and Pakistan (just over 3,500 I believe), and a few questions have to be asked. What exactly makes a military or paramilitary group terrorists? If it's as simple as state sponsorship (i.e. the Republic of Ireland did not officially endorse or support the Provisional IRA during its campaign; whereas the Predator Drone strikes are the official policy of the White House) then the word probably needs to be wiped from all intelligent political discourse forever more.

What do people think? What separates a terrorist from a freedom fighter? I'm interested to hear some ideas!

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Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2013, 07:53:37 AM »
What separates a terrorist from a freedom fighter?

Whether or not they share your viewpoint and ideology.

Offline White WolfTopic starter

Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2013, 07:58:51 AM »
Whether or not they share your viewpoint and ideology.

Hahaha...that is probably it, yeah -.-'

Offline Moraline

Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2013, 08:49:50 AM »
I think anyone that specifically targets non-strategic civilians is a terrorist.

IE: There is a significant difference between blowing up a bomb next to a navy ship as opposes to setting one off in the middle of a civilian street market or bus.

I guess what I'm saying is there is a difference is between military targets and civilians.
Some civilians can be considered military targets as well but it's clear that 2 children playing on the swings in a school yard are not military targets.

Offline Hemingway

Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2013, 09:04:42 AM »
There's an excellent quote by Noam Chomsky on the subject.

Quote from: Noam Chomsky
One is the fact that terrorism works. It doesn't fail. It works. Violence usually works. That's world history. Secondly, it's a very serious analytic error to say, as is commonly done, that terrorism is the weapon of the weak. Like other means of violence, it's primarily a weapon of the strong, overwhelmingly, in fact. It is held to be a weapon of the weak because the strong also control the doctrinal systems and their terror doesn't count as terror. Now that's close to universal. I can't think of a historical exception; even the worst mass murderers view the world that way. So take the Nazis. They weren't carrying out terror in occupied Europe. They were protecting the local population from the terrorisms of the partisans. And like other resistance movements, there was terrorism. The Nazis were carrying out counter terror.

I think, at the risk of sounding insensitive, that one would have to be fairly ignorant of reality not to see that there's very little difference - not least morally - between what is being done by the US and its allies in certain places, and by the forces labeled by those same people as terrorists.

I think anyone that specifically targets non-strategic civilians is a terrorist.

It's a good thing you brought this up, because it highlights an essential problem with terrorism: The term has no clearly defined and universal meaning. It means whatever who is using it wants it to mean. Chomsky, in the above quote, bases his assesment on the following definition: "the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious, or ideological in nature. This is done through intimidation, coercion, or instilling fear." Which obviously makes no reference to civilians at all, and the deliberate targeting of civilians isn't a necessary part of it at all.

Which in essence means that world powers, the ones with the power to influence the actual discourse on terrorism, where the US has something like a hegemony, can apply whichever definition they like, when they like. It means that if a US drone strike kills a dozen civilians, or Israel uses mortars with white phosphorous, it's not terrorism because, after all, they were not 'deliberately' targeted. On the other hand, if a 'terrorist' carries out some attack that does not target civilians, then you apply a different definition, and it's still terrorism. Nevermind that under the same definition, the US and Israeli examples noted earlier are textbook cases.

Offline White WolfTopic starter

Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2013, 09:36:53 AM »
What Hemingway said above is basically what I've come to believe, studying international politics and living in Ireland and the UK most of my life. Terrorism is a propaganda term, and nothing more. It is used by the pre-eminent power in a given context to vilify their enemies and turn public opinion against them. Again, using the tired old example that is closest to home for me, I'm going to drudge up the Troubles to reference my point:

Most people in the western world would consider the Provisional IRA as being terrorists. However, a British Army report finalised in 2007, summing up the experiences and lessons of the UK in Northern Ireland, went on record describing the Provisionals as professional, well-trained and determined fighters (in comparison with other Irish paramilitaries, who they described as little more than armed thugs). In other words the British Army were giving the nod to the IRA as being a legitimate fighting force - though the label of "terrorist" has stuck.

I guess the word "terrorist" is simply indicative of the overall state of political discourse in the western world; all we get from our political leaders and media outlets are talking points, hyperbole, half-truths and voter-friendly ideas. Never the true story, or the various facets of the true story.

Offline Moraline

Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2013, 09:48:07 AM »
It seems to me in Chomsky's quote that he is defining every military campaign as an act of terror that gets redefined based on the victor (ie the strong). However, I think it only appears that way because the quote is taken out of context. In that quote he is defining the argument that the weak use terrorism and not the strong. He's then explaining how that is a wrong assumption.

Even Chomsky admits that violence is something that needs to be done to defeat a greater evil. So is it terrorism then when a violent act is committed to remove a greater evil and who gets to define that greater evil?

It's easy for us to sit by with media biased all around us and say that the US are committing acts of terrorism in foreign lands.

I choose to define terrorism on an individual basis (attack by attack). I use the micro-sample of a single act of terrorism to define it because I can see with clarity what the result is.

Therefore I define terrorism as any violent act committed against a non-military/strategic civilian because I can see with absolute clarity that there is no need for that person(s) to have been a target. Therefore it is an act of terrorism and to me it can't possibly be justified as an act of war unless the target is is proven to be something other then a purely non-strategic civilian.

Offline Callie Del Noire

Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2013, 11:36:34 AM »
It's a difficult and hard point.

It could be argued that some of our own American ancestors who acted in the Revolutionary War could be called terrorists. Some, not all, acted against civilian supporters of the English. Who could be argued AT THAT TIME, were the legal authorities.

To me, there is a critical point to be considered. Are you fighting the authorities and trying to instigate change.. or are you trying to force YOUR change by force of arms and actions that will make all that don't support you fear you?

My first memory of terrorism was on January 7th, 1979. I was getting up after one particularly AWFUL flight to the Republic of Ireland. I had just slept 18 hours (jet lag + air sickness medicine is not a good thing for a 9 year old) and turned on the TV to be greeted by a car bombing that involved the death of a family. Not for any reason beyond the fact that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Terrorism is the determination that you are going to have your way and that anyone who might disagree with you must be crushed. If that means killing a child (or a dozen) because they don't fit in your world.. so be it. No cost, no act, is too high for you to get your due.

To me..that is terrorism.. the willingness to do anything...ANYTHING ..to achieve their goals.. even if by so so you taint and warp it.

Offline White WolfTopic starter

Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #8 on: October 26, 2013, 11:45:40 AM »
My first memory of terrorism was on January 7th, 1979. I was getting up after one particularly AWFUL flight to the Republic of Ireland. I had just slept 18 hours (jet lag + air sickness medicine is not a good thing for a 9 year old) and turned on the TV to be greeted by a car bombing that involved the death of a family. Not for any reason beyond the fact that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The problem with trying to sort out the Irish example is that, as well as about 4 or 5 different factors that influenced the troubles, what you ultimately have is two diametrically opposed peoples in Northern Ireland (Unionsts and Nationalists, which can loosely - but not always! - be also sorted into Protestant and Catholic camps) who both have an equal and utterly incompatible legitimacy on their claim to nationhood. Ireland legally has as much right to be a united republic as Northern Ireland does to remain a part of the United Kingdom. So, to many Nationalists, the IRA is a legitimate army, while the UVF or even the British army itself are terrorists. To many Unionists, the British Army or even the UVF represents the legitimate army (the UVF began its existence, in 1912, as the legitimate defence force of the province of Ulster) while the IRA are terrorists. This goes back to the point, I guess, that a terrorist is only a terrorist if he isn't fighting for YOUR cause.

Offline Callie Del Noire

Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #9 on: October 26, 2013, 11:55:01 AM »
The problem with trying to sort out the Irish example is that, as well as about 4 or 5 different factors that influenced the troubles, what you ultimately have is two diametrically opposed peoples in Northern Ireland (Unionsts and Nationalists, which can loosely - but not always! - be also sorted into Protestant and Catholic camps) who both have an equal and utterly incompatible legitimacy on their claim to nationhood. Ireland legally has as much right to be a united republic as Northern Ireland does to remain a part of the United Kingdom. So, to many Nationalists, the IRA is a legitimate army, while the UVF or even the British army itself are terrorists. To many Unionists, the British Army or even the UVF represents the legitimate army (the UVF began its existence, in 1912, as the legitimate defence force of the province of Ulster) while the IRA are terrorists. This goes back to the point, I guess, that a terrorist is only a terrorist if he isn't fighting for YOUR cause.

Did I say it was BBC/RTE Coverage of the 'Troubles'? It wasn't. (That day)

It could have been. But that moment it wasn't. It was either a German or Italian group on the continent.

The next day I got to see the fun of Ian Paisely talking on TV, riots in Londonderry, a discussion of the bombing of Lord Montbatten's boat the summer before.

Did I learn about terrorism by watching the Troubles? Yes. It wasn't my first exposure though.

Tell me this though LittleWhiteWolfy. What does a mixed religion couple have to do with Nationalistic Determination? That was one event I recall clearly. And BOTH sides have engaged in criminal actions, assassinations and bombings of such 'vital government' places such as schools. There are NO clean hands in the Irish 'issue'.

When you resort to bombing schools, mining public roads outside your 'country' and killing tourists for being 'in the wrong place at the wrong time', you lose a lot of standign with me.

Offline Hemingway

Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #10 on: October 26, 2013, 11:58:43 AM »
It seems to me in Chomsky's quote that he is defining every military campaign as an act of terror that gets redefined based on the victor (ie the strong). However, I think it only appears that way because the quote is taken out of context. In that quote he is defining the argument that the weak use terrorism and not the strong. He's then explaining how that is a wrong assumption.

The definition, according to the book the quote is taken from, comes from a US Army pamphlet. I can't find it on any US Army website, but if you're curious, it's supposed to be taken from TRADOC Pamphlet No. 525-37. It isn't Chomsky's definition, in other words. Chomsky also goes on to explain why the definition is unacceptable from an official point of view. A quote from the same talk the other quote was taken from:

Quote from: Noam Chomsky
But there’s a problem. If you use the official definition of terrorism in the comprehensive treaty you are going to get completely the wrong results. So that can’t be done. In fact, it is even worse than that. If you take a look at the definition of Low Intensity Warfare which is official US policy you find that it is a very close paraphrase of what I just read. In fact, Low Intensity Conflict is just another name for terrorism. That’s why all countries, as far as I know, call whatever horrendous acts they are carrying out, counter terrorism. We happen to call it Counter Insurgency or Low Intensity Conflict. So that’s a serious problem. You can’t use the actual definitions. You’ve got to carefully find a definition that doesn’t have all the wrong consequences.

It's easy for us to sit by with media biased all around us and say that the US are committing acts of terrorism in foreign lands.

I choose to define terrorism on an individual basis (attack by attack). I use the micro-sample of a single act of terrorism to define it because I can see with clarity what the result is.

Therefore I define terrorism as any violent act committed against a non-military/strategic civilian because I can see with absolute clarity that there is no need for that person(s) to have been a target. Therefore it is an act of terrorism and to me it can't possibly be justified as an act of war unless the target is is proven to be something other then a purely non-strategic civilian.

A definition like this has three possible implications: Either the US is guilty of terrorism, or those labeled terrorists are not, or the US is justified in killing civilians as the cost of waging war while their enemies are not. I can't see any others.

I'm personally not compelled by definitions of terrorism that emphasize intent. It was the intent of some organization to kill civilians, therefore it's wrong. It was not the intent of the US to kill civilians, therefore it's not wrong. I'm not convinced, because it seems to me that whether you intended to create terror, or it simply happens as a by-product of what you're doing, it's still the tactic you use. It's not necessary for the US to use drone strikes to assassinate their targets, murdering civilians in the process. It also isn't their right to do so within the borders of another sovereign state, but that's a whole other matter.

What about the Blackwater Baghdad shootings? If similar acts had been carried out by a group affiliated with another government, there is no way it would not have been labeled a terrorist attack. Armed mercenaries in the employ of an occupying state gunning down civilians in, say, downtown Manhattan? It's possible there wasn't a deliberate plot to create a situation like that - that there wasn't a shadowy conspiracy instructing the Blackwater people to do as they did. But I'm not convinced that matters to most of the parties involved.

Even Chomsky admits that violence is something that needs to be done to defeat a greater evil. So is it terrorism then when a violent act is committed to remove a greater evil and who gets to define that greater evil?

I'm approaching the limit of how much I feel I can subject people to my own thoughts in one post, so in short: I think the question is based on a misunderstanding of the definition, but in short, yes. Terrorism is still terrorism if it's used against a 'greater evil'.

Offline Chris Brady

Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #11 on: October 26, 2013, 12:44:16 PM »
I think anyone that specifically targets non-strategic civilians is a terrorist.

To expand on this, the main reason that they attack non-military targets is to create fear and terror (hence the name), which is actually the main difference between 'real' freedom fighters and cowards.

The French in World War 2 fighting back in France taking on German soldiers, to kick them out of France, those were Freedom Fighters.  Car bombs in Beirut, Lebanon in front of schools, or restaurants, to strike fear for some political goal, that's Terrorism. 

It's not quite that black and white, but those are the main differences, that I've come to see.

Offline White WolfTopic starter

Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #12 on: October 26, 2013, 12:50:18 PM »
To expand on this, the main reason that they attack non-military targets is to create fear and terror (hence the name), which is actually the main difference between 'real' freedom fighters and cowards.

The French in World War 2 fighting back in France taking on German soldiers, to kick them out of France, those were Freedom Fighters.  Car bombs in Beirut, Lebanon in front of schools, or restaurants, to strike fear for some political goal, that's Terrorism. 

It's not quite that black and white, but those are the main differences, that I've come to see.

Carbombs in front of schools etc. in places like Lebanon, Iraq or Northern Ireland is indicative of an entirely other issue though: sectarian warfare. Religious hatred and the idea that other, heretical sects must be wiped out. That isn't so much trying to instil "terror" in a population to reach specific political goals; it IS the political goal. They don't want to inspire fear in people; they want to wipe those people out. But is that "terrorism?" Or is it something else? Sectarianism?

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #13 on: October 26, 2013, 02:21:42 PM »
Whether or not they share your viewpoint and ideology.

More or less yes. "My eight-year old niece understands that the key characters in the first Star Wars trilogy are terrorists" as someone put it - terrorists in the eyes of the Emperor and his people.

I think anyone that specifically targets non-strategic civilians is a terrorist.

IE: There is a significant difference between blowing up a bomb next to a navy ship as opposes to setting one off in the middle of a civilian street market or bus.

I guess what I'm saying is there is a difference is between military targets and civilians.
Some civilians can be considered military targets as well but it's clear that 2 children playing on the swings in a school yard are not military targets.

The incendiary bombing of Dresden by British and American aircraft in early 1945 would have counted as a war crime, and an act of terror warfare, if it hadn't been committed by the side that was going to win the war in a few months.  Strategically, even in terms of local tactics, it was next to 98% meaningless and it also snuffed out many thousands of civilian refugees (many of whom were Poles and Czechs, not Germans) who had flocked to the city recently, trying to escape the advance of the Russian troops through Poland.

Dresden was, at best, a railway hub of some importance (and a temporary centre of administration - some mostly civilian administration had been moved there from other places in the lands surrounding it), but it would have been much more effective to bomb the railway lines some way outside of the city. Actually the main railway station suffered fairly limited damage, while lots of residential areas and central parts of the city were engulfed in bombs and flames. Some factories were hit, but no less an authority than Albert Speer stated, when he was interviewed in jail after the Nuremberg trials, that recovery of the industrial capacity had been rapid

Unfortunately this is not unique, even if it's one of the most notorious examples. Imagine a carpet bombing of Pittsburgh or Quebec by a superior foe and you'll get the idea.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2013, 02:40:53 PM by gaggedLouise »

Online Neysha

Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #14 on: October 26, 2013, 05:49:21 PM »
This is a question I've been debating about with friends for a while, I thought it'd be interesting to get a wider range of opinions, so wanted to throw it out to all you guys to argue amongst ourselves :)

What do people think? What separates a terrorist from a freedom fighter? I'm interested to hear some ideas!

I like the United Nations definition in one of their many useless resolutions:

Quote from: United Nations
Recalls that criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act, and all other acts which constitute offences within the scope of and as defined in the international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism, are under no circumstances justifiable by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature, and calls upon all States to prevent such acts and, if not prevented, to ensure that such acts are punished by penalties consistent with their grave nature;

But the State Department has a decent one since most of the int'l ones pertain to intimidation of the population.

Quote from: Department of State
the term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents;

Offline Oniya

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Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #15 on: October 26, 2013, 05:57:16 PM »
So, by the State Department's definition, it is impossible for a nation to commit terrorism?  I'm noting the specific phrase 'subnational groups', which I assume means 'smaller than a nation'.  (Whatever that means.  The entire nation of Luxembourg is smaller than the state of Rhode Island.)

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #16 on: October 26, 2013, 06:16:04 PM »
The UN definition especially, but also the US State Dept. one, would have had many resistance organizations during WW2 or guerrilla fronts in Africa who were opposing colonial powers (Britain, France) or later rogue dictators (such as Idi Amin or Mobutu) - by these definitions, those organizations would have been classed as terrorists. Even if we all see their wider aims as legitimate.

The very nature of a resistance movement that has to work clandestinely and in a spread-out structure, often without a hard, rigorous leadership on all points, and without means of formal accountability up and down the lines (you stick with the people you trust and you generally follow orders without questions, or you're out, possibly dead) means there's an inherent risk of people settling private scores and dressing it up as "execution of snitches and enemy collaborators". Or raping women that are "of the enemy" or whose partners/husbands have been running errands for the enemy. After the victory that's all swept under the rug. There was a lot of all that in '44-45 in occupied France, especially after D-Day, in Spain during the civil war, on the counts of both sides, and in Central America in the 1980s, places like Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua (especially by the Contras and their henchmen). A lot of crappy and indefensible acts - but surely the work of the French Resistance and the Spanish Republican units was, as a whole, morally legitimate and very much needed?

It's no coincidence either that both Reagan and Thatcher classed the ANC, and Nelson Mandela, as terrorists. Yes, there were some unsavoury acts going on, in open attacks or more shady personal dealings - like the infamous "necklace killings" - but what the ANC engaged in was 95% an open and justified struggle against an evil system. And in tandem with that, the building of a civil society and civic cohesion in regions which the masters of the apartheid system wanted to keep down in a sea of filth.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2013, 06:44:30 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Hemingway

Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #17 on: October 26, 2013, 08:45:31 PM »
So, by the State Department's definition, it is impossible for a nation to commit terrorism?  I'm noting the specific phrase 'subnational groups', which I assume means 'smaller than a nation'.  (Whatever that means.  The entire nation of Luxembourg is smaller than the state of Rhode Island.)

I love these word games our governments ( and others! ) play. I find it endlessly fascinating how languages is used and abused to justify and to condemn. It's really horrible, but I have a very real fascination with language, and this is very much part of it.

It makes me wonder about a few things. Would Academi ( formerly Xe, formerly Blackwater - they did it again! ) be classified as subnational? Would Hamas? With regards to the former, my answer would be 'yes', and with the latter 'no'. But, of course, that would mean that a company employed by the US government ( maybe that means they're not subnational? I'd hope not - for the sake of the US ) could be labeled terrorist, while an organization they already label as terrorist, couldn't. In the end, it doesn't really matter - the US has something of a hegemony on labeling people as terrorist, so maybe they should just come out and say it as it is: terrorists are whoever we say are terrorists - subject to change without notice.

Offline Shjade

Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #18 on: October 26, 2013, 08:48:19 PM »
What separates a terrorist from a freedom fighter?

This is a meaningless question. Terrorism is a methodology; freedom fighting is a motivation. Freedom fighters might employ terrorism to achieve their goals, or they might not. Terror is certainly not always brought about for purposes of achieving freedom. They aren't comparable terms.

Offline Oniya

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Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #19 on: October 26, 2013, 09:00:46 PM »
maybe they should just come out and say it as it is: terrorists are whoever we say are terrorists - subject to change without notice.

I think this sums it up very succinctly.  There's a line in the movie/musical 1776 where Ben Franklin says 'A rebellion is always legal in the first person, such as "our rebellion." It is only in the third person - "their rebellion" - that it becomes illegal.'

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #20 on: October 26, 2013, 09:23:07 PM »
This is a meaningless question. Terrorism is a methodology; freedom fighting is a motivation. Freedom fighters might employ terrorism to achieve their goals, or they might not. Terror is certainly not always brought about for purposes of achieving freedom. They aren't comparable terms.


No, but sometimes terrorism, state terror bombing, random acts of reprisal or the like are used under the banner of fighting for freedom. The Stern Gang, formed by Israeli jews who wanted to create the best possible frame (from their point of view, that is:  a position of strength and no place for compromises worked out at the negotiations table) for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, kept up a fighting/terror effort in the 1940s and up to 1948. They were effectively a band of professional assassins and rogue soldiers acting against civilians and politicians. It included Yitzhak Shamir, later to become prime minister of Israel. Their best-known deeds included high profile assassinations and the capture of an entire Arab village at Deir Yassin; the inhabitants were killed - men, women and children - and the women first raped. The body count of that attack is controversial, Arab sources say 254 dead, the Israelis say about half that figure and deny rapes.

The Irgun group, from which the Stern Gang had split off, included Menachem Begin. He coordinated their bombing of the British military and civilian headquarters for Palestine at the King David Hotel, Jerusalem, in July 1946. 91 people were killed, both British, Jews and Arabs, some of them civilians. At the time, Irgun were aligned with the Hebrew Resistance movement. They claimed a warning had been sent shortly before the bombing, whether there had been one is unknown.

There are many grim episodes of this kind, and not just in the Middle East.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2013, 07:46:41 AM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Dashenka

Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #21 on: October 27, 2013, 06:46:34 AM »
Having witnessed the Moscow subway bombings from a bit too close, I'd say the definition of a terrorist is being Chechan.

Offline kylie

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Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #22 on: October 27, 2013, 07:19:16 AM »
Having witnessed the Moscow subway bombings from a bit too close, I'd say the definition of a terrorist is being Chechan.

          That only works until you find the odd person you didn't expect (Russian, whatever) doing the same sort of stuff.  This was a bit of a shock when it happened with Oklahoma City in the US...  And some people now, though it has been some time since that particular incident, overlook the possibility of "domestic" (and white, Christian, etc.) terrorism quite regularly.

         

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Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #23 on: October 27, 2013, 07:29:43 AM »
          I don't think I'm surprising many people here by saying it, but...  There are actions you can more or less quantify, there are intentions that maybe you can or maybe not in any given case (e.g. could someone fighting for freedom also enjoy causing terror?  I don't see why not, beyond the potential utility of causing it)...  And then there are labels people are going to toss around anyway.

           So we can fuss about what "should" be called terrorism, but in fact it seems that people often go on much as they do with the term "Nazi."  Which is to say, there are multiple meanings for the label (or maybe, epithet?) too. 

Sometimes -- usually when it's directed at "outsiders" that one suspects their group could afford to actually target at minimal or acceptable cost -- it actually means, "That is something completely intolerable and we should attack them or somehow take action to convince them to stop it." 

However, on other occasions, it is used (whether domestically or internationally) as a tool of political rhetoric meaning, "I really dislike your point of view and I don't think I could bear it if people take you seriously so I'm calling it this and hoping it somehow serves to isolate you when I do -- even if I can't quite see myself in a position to actually bomb you [or perhaps even to have you jailed, though this is sometimes actually raised as a suggestion with this form].  (There are even tentative hints of this with Washington politicians recently trying to see who can get the last word on who is "holding the country for ransom," or if you prefer, perhaps even in comparing certain factions/parties directly to the KKK, or whatever historical militant group reference is in fashion.)

            Whatever you think of what actions should be called terrorism (or even if maybe none), the labels are still there.
 
« Last Edit: October 27, 2013, 07:33:19 AM by kylie »

Offline Toral Stimins

Re: What defines a "terrorist?"
« Reply #24 on: October 27, 2013, 08:31:26 AM »
In my view there is a very fine line between terrorist and freedom fighter. President Assad from Syria will call the opposition terrorists, but in the eyes of the Western world they might be freedom fighters. There has been a time that Al Qaeda was regarded as freedom fighters in Afghanistan (against the Russians), but a few years later they were the biggest threat. Cuban opposition is hailed in the US as freedom fighters.

Any form of opposition in WWII was either freedom fighter or terrorist, depending on who spoke about it. ETA (Euskadi Ta Askasuna) are classed as terrorists in Spain, but Freedom Fighters in Pais Basque.

Plenty of examples for that, PLO in Palestinia another one of those. But what about Brigata Rosso in Italy in (mainly) the '70s, Rote Armee Fraktion in Germany. They didn't fight for an actual place or country on the planet, but for a belief.

Was Robin Hood (if he ever existed for real) a terrorist (had they known the word). Was Jesus of Nazareth a terrorist in the eyes of the Romans?