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Terrorism

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Terrorism is a tactic of violence that targets civilians, with the objective of forcing an enemy to favorable terms, by creating fear, demoralization, or political discord in the attacked population.
  • "Terrorism" is also used as a pejorative characterisation of an enemy's attacks as conforming to an immoral philosophy of violence, in a manner outside of warfare, or prohibited in the laws of war.

  • The use of the term terrorism or terrorist is politically weighted, because of the universally negative connotation of harming civilians. A nation that supports terrorism may then tend to dissociate itself from the term, by using neutral or even positive terms to characterize its combatants — such as fighters or freedom fighters — both of which can be ambiguous terms for describing terrorist actors.

    Terrorist is a label for one who personally is involved in an act of terrorism. Terrorist tactics may also be used by dissident groups or other non-state actors to achieve political ends or for purposes of extortion. The term "terrorism" originated from the French 18th century word terrorisme (under the Terror).

    Table of contents
    1 Disturbing the existing social order
    2 Arguments over definitions
    3 Politicization of the term
    4 Examples of terrorism
    5 History and Causes
    6 International Conventions on Terrorism
    7 Types of Terrorism
    8 Nationalist Terrorism
    9 Religious Terrorism
    10 Neo-Nazi or Racial Terrorism
    11 Left-wing Terrorism
    12 Right-Wing Terrorism
    13 Anarchist Terrorism
    14 State Terrorism
    15 Front Organizations
    16 Independent actors
    17 Related topics
    18 External links

    Disturbing the existing social order

    Generally, "terrorism" is a term relegated by influential nations (with the power to further echo their local terms) to hostile acts by dissident insurgents — whether these actors are may qualify as paramilitary or civilian is again a point of flux and contention. A marginal consistency in the use of the label "terrorist," appears to focus on the fuzzy distinction between civilian and paramilitary. However, while a civilian who commits an act of terrorism is a terrorist, a paramilitary group can also similarly be considered, though the uses may violate certain definitions.

    Arguments over definitions

    List of definitions for the term "terrorism":

    There is no universally accepted definition of terrorism. According to expert Walter Laqueur, "the only general characteristic generally agreed upon is that terrorism involves violence and the threat of violence."

    This criterion alone does not produce a useful definition, as it includes many acts not usually considered terrorism - war, organized crime, revolution, or even a simple riot. Asymmetric warfare and low-intensity operations are military terms for tactics that can include terrorism.

    One 1988 study by the US Army [1] discovered that over 100 definitions have been used. Some examples:

    The subjective nature of interpretation can be seen if such terminology had been used by Britain in the late 1700's. People that used violence in pursuit of the political goal of independence for the American colonies would have been defined as terrorists.

    The following are some further criteria that are sometimes applied, and the acts they exclude from the definition of "terrorism". Note that many incidents often labelled as terrorist fail one or more criteria.

    This criterion excludes: conventional warfare in accordance with the laws of war, attacks on military targets (such as the bombing of the USS Cole,) and guerilla warfare and revolution when limited to military targets.

    This criterion excludes: the Holocaust and other cases of genocide, which are undertaken to exterminate, not to intimidate, and which are usually hidden rather than publicized. Also, any violence against targets unlikely to attract public notice and having little effect on the populace at large.

    This criterion excludes: organized crime

    This criterion excludes: warfare between states, government repression, the holocaust and other state-sponsored genocide.

    Politicization of the term

    Because there is no single accepted definition of "terrorism," there is a tendency to use the term only when politically convenient. Hence, the term "terrorist" is heavily politicized, especially since the September 11th attacks. The actual definition of terrorism is not as much debated as which parties and which acts of violence are to be labeled "terrorist."

    Noam Chomsky, a prominent leftist activist, polemicist, and linguist at MIT, states that "the term 'terrorism' is used, standardly, to refer to the terrorism that they carry out against us, whoever 'we' happen to be. Even the worst mass murderers — the Nazis for example — adopted this practice." [...] "Since the rich and powerful set the terms for discussion, the term 'terrorism' is restricted, in practice, to the terror that affects the US and its clients and allies." [1]

    In his polemic 9-11, Chomsky says "[the] wanton killing of innocent civilians is terrorism, not a war against terrorism." In reference to the violence by the United States, called "counter-terrorism" or the "War on Terrorism," he claims it uses the same methods — torture, bombings of civilians, etc, is itself "terrorism".

    Others argue that it is used not to describe a type of behavior, but as a label to demonize a perceived enemy in terms that convey moral repulsion and outrage. For example, some argue that in post-9/11 Western society, the terms "terrorism" and "terrorist" can often be seen as acceptable racial or political euphemisms for "violence by Arabs" or "Muslims" in general. The term may also be used, whether accurately or not, to marginalize or invalidate the claims of non-violent groups that have a political association with a violent faction.

    Some believe that it is impossible to define the term terrorism in any neutral or objective way. According to this viewpoint, the term "terrorism" is inherently and inescapably political in nature, and is always defined and used politically. Hence, "history is written by the victors," and it is the dominant society who dictates to history which particular acts of violence will or will not be labeled as "terrorism."

    Examples of terrorism

    Most people would agree that the following incidents are examples of domestic and international terrorism: the Oklahoma City bombing in the USA (April 19, 1995); the Omagh bombing in Northern Ireland (August 15, 1998); the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York, USA; the Munich Massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes in 1972; and the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. See List of terrorist incidents for more examples.

    The deadliest terrorist attack ever committed was the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. The deadliest terrorist attack ever planned was Operation Bojinka; the first phase, which called for the death of Pope John Paul II and the bombing of 11 airliners, had a prospective death toll of about 4,000 if it had succeeded. The plot was aborted after an apartment fire in Manila, Philippines on January 5, 1995, exposed the plot to police. The terrorists were slightly more than two weeks away from implementing their plot.

    Since 1968, the U.S. State Department has tallied deaths due to terrorism. In 1985, it counted 816 deaths, the highest up to that time. The deaths decreased over the years, then rose to 3,295 in 2001, most as a result of the September 11 2001 attacks. In 2003, however, more than 1,000 people died because of terrorism, the highest toll for any year with no one huge terrorist attack (like 9/11). Many of these deaths occurred from suicide bombings in Chechnya, Iraq,and Israel. By April 2004, the toll from terrorism was set to again surprass 1,000.

    Some famous terrorist organizations of the 20th century include:

    Terrorism is difficult for governments to control or prevent, especially when some of its practitioners are willing to risk their lives or (in some cases) even to embrace certain death. A few governments such as Iraq (before the overthrow of Saddam Hussein), Syria, Pakistan, Libya, the United States, Yemen and the countries that supported the Taliban regime in Afghanistan have been accused of promoting or protecting certain terrorist groups.

    History and Causes

    During the French Revolution (1789 - 1799), the most severe period of the rule of the Committee of Public Safety (1793 - 1795) was labelled "The Terror" (1793 - 1794). Some argue that this period is an example of state-sponsored terrorism. Certainly, it induced fear and outrage not only in the domestic population of France, but also throughout the European aristocracy. In that sense, it might qualify as terrorism.

    Today, modern weapons technology has made it possible for a "super-empowered angry man" (in the words of Thomas Friedman) to cause a large amount of destruction by himself or with only a few conspirators. It can be, and has been, conducted by small as well as large organizations.

    Some believe that individuals or groups resort to terrorism when other avenues for change, including economics, protest, public appeal, and organized warfare, hold no hope of success (also see rioting). Therefore some argue that one approach to reduce terrorism is to ensure that where there is a population feeling oppressed, some avenue of problem resolution is kept open, even if the population in question is in the minority.

    Other causes of terrorism include attempts to gain or consolidate power either by instilling fear in the population to be controlled, or by stimulating another group into becoming a hardened foe, thereby setting up a polarizing us-versus-them paradigm (also see nationalism and fascism).

    Terrorists often seek to demoralize and paralyze their enemy with fear. This sometimes works, but it can also stiffen the enemy's resolve.

    In general, retribution against terrorists can result in escalating tit-for-tat violence. It is often felt that if the consequences of engaging in terrorism are not swift and punitive, the deterrent to other terrorist groups is diminished.

    The existing order within countries or internationally depends on compromises and agreements between various groups and interests that were made to resolve past conflicts. Over time, these arrangements become less relevant to the current situation. Some terrorist acts seem calculated to disrupt the existing order and provoke conflicts in the expectation that it will lead to a new order more favorable to their interests.

    Terrorism relies heavily on surprise. Terrorist attacks can trigger sudden transitions into conflict or war. Frequently, after a terrorist attack, a number of unassociated groups may claim responsibility for the action; this may be considered "free publicity" for the organization's aims or plans. Because of its anonymous and sometimes self-sacrificial nature, it is not uncommon for the reasons behind the terrorist action to remain unknown or murky for a considerable period.

    International Conventions on Terrorism

    There are eleven major multilateral conventions related to states' responsibilities for combating terrorism.

    In addition to these conventions, other instruments may be relevant to particular circumstances, such as bilateral extradition treaties, the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Moreover, there are now a number of important United Nations Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions on international terrorism, including three important Security Council resolutions dealing with Libya's conduct in connection with the sabotage of Pan Am Flight 103 on December 21, 1988, which includes UN Security Council Resolutions 731 (January 21, 1992); 748 (March 31, 1992) and 883 (November 11, 1993).

    The following list identifies the major terrorism conventions and provides a brief summary of some of the major terms of each instrument. In addition to the provisions summarized below, most of these conventions provide that parties must establish criminal jurisdiction over offenders (e.g., the state(s) where the offense takes place, or in some cases the state of nationality of the perpetrator or victim).

    1. Convention on Offenses and Certain Other Acts Committed On Board Aircraft (Tokyo Convention, agreed 9/63--safety of aviation):
      • applies to acts affecting in-flight safety;
      • authorizes aircraft commanders to impose reasonable measures, including restraint, on any person they have reason to believe has committed or is about to commit such an act, when necessary to protect the safety of the aircraft and for related reasons; #* requires contracting states to take custody of offenders and to return control of the aircraft to the lawful commander.
    2. Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft (Hague Convention, agreed 12/70--aircraft hijackings):
      • makes it an offense for any person on board an aircraft in flight [to] "unlawfully, by force or threat thereof, or any other form of intimidation, [to] seize or exercise control of that aircraft" or to attempt to do so;
      • requires parties to the convention to make hijackings punishable by "severe penalties;"
      • requires parties that have custody of offenders to either extradite the offender or submit the case for prosecution;
      • requires parties to assist each other in connection with criminal proceedings brought under the convention.
    3. Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Civil Aviation (Montreal Convention, agreed 9/71--applies to acts of aviation sabotage such as bombings aboard aircraft in flight):
      • makes it an offense for any person unlawfully and intentionally to perform an act of violence against a person on board an aircraft in flight, if that act is likely to endanger the safety of that aircraft; to place an explosive device on an aircraft; and to attempt such acts or be an accomplice of a person who performs or attempts to perform such acts;
      • requires parties to the convention to make offenses punishable by "severe penalties;"
      • requires parties that have custody of offenders to either extradite the offender or submit the case for prosecution;
      • requires parties to assist each other in connection with criminal proceedings brought under the convention.
    4. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons (agreed 12/73--protects senior government officials and diplomats):
      • defines internationally protected person as a Head of State, a Minister for Foreign Affairs, a representative or official of a state or of an international organization who is entitled to special protection from attack under international law;
      • requires each party to criminalize and make punishable "by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature," the intentional murder, kidnapping, or other attack upon the person or liberty of an internationally protected person, a violent attack upon the official premises, the private accommodations, or the means of transport of such person; a threat or attempt to commit such an attack; and an act "constituting participation as an accomplice;"
      • requires parties that have custody of offenders to either extradite the offender or submit the case for prosecution;
      • requires parties to assist each other in connection with criminal proceedings brought under the convention.
    5. Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (Nuclear Materials Convention, agreed 10/79--combats unlawful taking and use of nuclear material):
      • criminalizes the unlawful possession, use, transfer, etc., of nuclear material, the theft of nuclear material, and threats to use nuclear material to cause death or serious injury to any person or substantial property damage;
      • requires parties that have custody of offenders to either extradite the offender or submit the case for prosecution;
      • requires parties to assist each other in connection with criminal proceedings brought under the convention.
    6. International Convention Against the Taking of Hostages (Hostages Convention, agreed 12/79):
      • provides that "any person who seizes or detains and threatens to kill, to injure, or to continue to detain another person in order to compel a third party, namely, a State, an international intergovernmental organization, a natural or juridical person, or a group of persons, to do or abstain from doing any act as an explicit or implicit condition for the release of the hostage commits the offense of taking of hostages within the meaning of this Convention;"
      • requires parties that have custody of offenders to either extradite the offender or submit the case for prosecution;
      • requires parties to assist each other in connection with criminal proceedings brought under the convention.
    7. Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts of Violence at Airports Serving International Civil Aviation (agreed 2/88--extends and supplements Montreal Convention):
      • extends the provisions of the Montreal Convention (see No. 3 above) to encompass terrorist acts at airports serving international civil aviation.
    8. Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, (agreed 3/88--applies to terrorist activities on ships):
      • establishes a legal regime applicable to acts against international maritime navigation that is similar to the regimes established against international aviation;
      • makes it an offense for a person unlawfully and intentionally to seize or exercise control over a ship by force, threat, or intimidation; to perform an act of violence against a person on board a ship if that act is likely to endanger the safe navigation of the ship; to place a destructive device or substance aboard a ship; and other acts against the safety of ships;
      • requires parties that have custody of offenders to either extradite the offender or submit the case for prosecution;
      • requires parties to assist each other in connection with criminal proceedings brought under the convention.
      • Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Fixed Platforms Located on the Continental Shelf (agreed 3/88--applies to terrorist activities on fixed offshore platforms):
      • establishes a legal regime applicable to acts against fixed platforms on the continental shelf that is similar to the regimes established against international aviation;
      • requires parties that have custody of offenders to either extradite the offender or submit the case for prosecution;
      • requires parties to assist each other in connection with criminal proceedings brought under the protocol.
    9. Convention on the Marking of Plastic Explosives for the Purpose of Identification (agreed 3/91--provides for chemical marking to facilitate detection of plastic explosives, e.g., to combat aircraft sabotage). Consists of two parts: the Convention itself, and a Technical Annex which is an integral part of the Convention.
      • designed to control and limit the used of unmarked and undetectable plastic explosives (negotiated in the aftermath of the Pan Am 103 bombing);
      • parties are obligated in their respective territories to ensure effective control over "unmarked" plastic explosive, i.e., those that do not contain one of the detection agents described in the Technical Annex;
      • generally speaking, each party must, among other things: take necessary and effective measures to prohibit and prevent the manufacture of unmarked plastic explosives; take necessary and effective measures to prevent the movement of unmarked plastic explosives into or out of its territory; take necessary measures to exercise strict and effective control over possession and transfer of unmarked explosives made or imported prior to the entry-into-force of the convention; take necessary measures to ensure that all stocks of such unmarked explosives not held by the military or police are destroyed or consumed, marked, or rendered permanently ineffective within three years; take necessary measures to ensure that unmarked plastic explosives held by the military or police, are destroyed or consumed, marked, or rendered permanently ineffective within fifteen years; and, take necessary measures to ensure the destruction, as soon as possible, of any unmarked explosives manufactured after the date-of-entry into force of the convention for that state.
      • does not itself create new offenses that would be subject to a prosecution or extradition regime, although all states are required to ensure that provisions are complied within their territories.
    10. International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombing (agreed 12/97--expands the legal framework for international cooperation in the investigation, prosecution, and extradition of persons who engage in terrorist bombings):
      • creates a regime of universal jurisdiction over the unlawful and intentional use of explosives and other lethal devices in, into, or against various defined public places with intent to kill or cause serious bodily injury, or with intent to cause extensive destruction of the public place;
      • like earlier conventions on protected persons and hostage taking, requires parties to criminalize, under their domestic laws, certain types of criminal offenses, and also requires parties to extradite or submit for prosecution persons accused of committing or aiding in the commission of such offenses.

    During the negotiations on the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, many states supported adding terrorism to the list of crimes over which the court would have jurisdiction. This proposal was not adopted. However, the Statute provides for a review conference to be held seven years after the entry into force of the Statute. This review will consider (among other things) an extension of the court's jurisdiction to include terrorism.

    Terrorists are not protected by the laws of war because they cannot claim lawful combatant status.

    Types of Terrorism

    Six broad categories of terrorist organizations can be identified, though the distinctions between them are not always precise. In addition to this classification, terrorism can also be classified by its range of operations into domestic terrorism and international terrorism.

    Nationalist Terrorism

    Main article: Nationalist terrorism

    Nationalist terrorists seek to form a separate state for their own group, and try to draw attention to their fight for "national liberation".

    Examples of Nationalist Terrorist Groups:

    Some Nationalist groups' roles overlap significantly with Left-wing terrorism, such as:

    Religious Terrorism

    '\'Main article:
    Religious terrorism''

    Religious terrorists use violence to further what they see as divinely commanded purposes. (See also Religious intolerance).

    Examples of Religious Terrorist Groups:

    Neo-Nazi or Racial Terrorism

    They frequently attack immigrants and are both racist and xenophobic, often specifically anti-semitic. A number of events occurred in Germany in the 1980's and early 1990's, and there have been sporadic incidents in the USA.

    Left-wing Terrorism

    Main article:
    Left-wing terrorism

    Left-wing terrorists wish to undermine or destroy capitalism and replace it with a communist or socialist government.

    Examples of Left-Wing Terrorist Groups:

    Right-Wing Terrorism

    Main article:
    Right-wing terrorism

    Right-wing terrorists often seek to defend regimes currently in place. They are often called paramilitaries, and the contras would be a good example of them.

    During the 1980s, right-wing Latin American terrorist groups, known as death squads, often consisted of members of the armed forces who acted in an unofficial capacity to terrorize dissidents, generally with the implicit support or protection of high ranking officials. As private groups with overlapping memberships with the military, they were able to carry out a terror campaign on the government's behalf while giving the government a form of plausible deniability. The most famous victims of this campaign of death-squad terrorism in El Salvador were four American nuns in 1980, and Archbishop Oscar Romero also during that year. In a civil trial ending in July of 2002, a jury in Miami, Florida convicted two former Salvadoran defence officials of the torture of three Salvadoran dissidents, and ordered them to pay $54.6 million to the plaintiffs.

    Other examples of Right-wing terrorism border on Religious terrorism, such as the shootings of abortion doctors, bombings of abortion clinics, and the Centennial Olympic Park bombing by Eric Rudolph

    Anarchist Terrorism

    Main article: Anarchism and violence

    Anarchist terrorism was much more prevalent from the 1870s to the 1920s than it is at present. Several heads of state were assassinated, including King Umberto I of Italy (July 29, 1900) and President of the United States William McKinley (September 14, 1901). The justification of Anarchist terrorism was that such acts would make anarchist ideas famous; however, there were also many terrorists and criminals who called themselves "anarchists" but had little in common with philosophical anarchists and often rejected any association with these individuals. This policy was known as "propaganda by the deed". Some Anarchists are found participating with the more violent elements of demonstrations, such as the anti-globalism protests in the 1990s and 2000s. There are significant sections of the Anarchist movement, which do not support terrorism or violence, including many organizations and individuals that advocate pacifism.

    State Terrorism

    Main article: State terrorism

    State terrorism is a term referring to acts which fit some definition of terrorism but are committed by an official state military or are sponsored by a sovereign government.

    According to Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, "State terrorism is a political system whose rule of recognition permits and/or imposes a clandestine, unpredictable, and diffuse application, even regarding clearly innocent people, of coercive means prohibited by the proclaimed judicial ordinance. State terrorism obstructs or annuls judicial activity and transforms the government into an active agent in the struggle for power."

    States widely classed as 'terrorist' include:

    Furthermore, some of these states, as well as others, often provide logistical and financial support for more broadly-recognized terrorist groups, literally being states that sponsor terrorism. Some of these associations include: Even more so other uses of the term "terrorism", the term "state terrorism" can sometimes be politicized. Some of those who use the term, particularly those on the Left-wing, would classify Britain, Israel and/or the United States as terrorist states.

    Front Organizations

    Terrorist organizations sometimes create front organizations, sometimes legitimate, to conceal activities or provide logistical or financial support to the illegal activities. "Import-export" companies are favorite front organizations for terrorist groups.

    Independent actors

    Acts of terrorism are often outside of a command structure, and unaccountable to their claimed collective cause, making disconnected, hostile actors a virtual political island — separate from the common consensus. This was true in the case of Vietnam, where the US government undertook a large terrorist operation to exacerbate the pre-existing civil conflict in Vietnam, unbeknownst to the larger American public (the cause which the public was led to support was "
    anti-communism"). Also the Omagh bombing in Ireland, where the "Real IRA"— a splinter group from the more conciliatory IRA, killed 29 people in a bombing attack against Ulster Loyalist families — a completely radical action, according to the mainstream Republican view.

    In the Palestinian territories, a similar (but more complex) situation exists where several distinct factions, under constant pressure by retaliatory actions from Israel, tend to be extremely divided about any immediate course of action — such that they can rarely or never act in a collective or controlled manner. Under stress, the choice between action and inaction tends to default to one between violence and protest. Violence, being far more decisive than moderation and discussion, tends to win out over discussion.


    temp: List of definitions of terrorism List of definitions for terrorism

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