Simply put, people can not agree on the definition because one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter and national hero.
Therefore each state or agency or group makes a working definition for itself to achieve its goals.
For the British Imperialists, the American rebels and revolutionists were terrorists, and the “Boston Tea Party” was a terrorist act, by definition.
As mentioned from a forthcoming book,
Policies of Error
War on Terror
Multiple Errors and Deceits about defining what is “Terrorism,” the “War on Terror,” and the allegation that Islam condones and promotes indiscriminate Terrorism
سياسات الأخطاء المتعمدة في الحرب على الإرهابية
Pages 4-13 of forthcoming book
by the will and help of God Almighty
Definition of Terrorism
Terrorism is one of the most polemical words in political and military language because, as it is said, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. It’s all about perspective and which side of the line one stands. Historically the word terrorism came into existence in relation to the French “Reign of Terror” of the Jacobins and French revolutionaries who conquered the state of France. The Oxford English Dictionary, mentions under the entry reign of terror: “a state of things in which the general community lives in dread of death or outrage; esp. (with capital initials) French Hist. the period of the First Revolution from about March 1793 to July 1794, called also the Terror, the Red Terror, when the ruling faction remorselessly shed the blood of persons of both sexes and of all ages and conditions whom they regarded as obnoxious. Hence, without article or pl., the use of organized intimidation, terrorism. Hence also White Terror, applied to the counter-revolution that followed the Red Terror, and to other periods of remorseless repression in various countries; the terror is also used simply for a similar period of repression.”
During the French revolution, the English statesman Edmund Burke commented on the violence, later to be known as the reign of terror: “thousands of those hell hounds called terrorists were turned loose by the state against the populace.” In the “The Tale of Two Cities” Charles Dickens dramatizes this period and mentions that famous innovated French instrument of terror, the guillotine, as the “national shaver” and other tongue in cheek expressions. Thus the first recorded use of the word was by State Terrorists against their own citizens. Red and white terrorists labels were used for the revolutionary and counter revolutionary forces in European class warfare and conflict, the revolutionaries (red) against the aristocracy (white).
A major problem about terrorism issues is that there are various definitions even among the different departments of one government. Let us look briefly at some currently used definitions in the USA, which is undoubtedly the dominant military and imperial force in the world of late 20th century (post WWII) and the early 21st century.
The US State Department defines terrorism as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.”
The US Code of Federal Regulations defines terrorism as: ‘the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives [28 C.F.R. Section 0.85]
The US Department of Defense defines terrorism as: “the calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.”
The FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation defines terrorism as: “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
The Executive Order on Financing Terrorism (September 24,2001), defines terrorism as “(i) involves a violent act or an act dangerous to human life, property, or infrastructure; and (ii) appears to be intended (a) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (b) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (c) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, kidnapping, or hostage-taking.”
Actually this confusion about the definition is very convenient for the legal loopholes that it provides which are called diplomatically “constructive ambiguity.” Each section of the government can fine-tune its own definition for prosecution advantage. Reread the USA State Department definition of terrorism compared to the others and you will find something significant and extremely different about this definition from the others by limiting it to “sub-national groups or clandestine agents.” Reread the definitions of the US Code of Federal Regulations, FBI, and Executive Order on Financing and we see that a violent act against property is also terrorism.
A former deputy chief of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorist Center, Paul Pillar, says that there are four key elements of terrorism, by which he means the SD definition: 1) It is premeditated—planned in advance, rather than an impulsive act of rage; 2) It is political—not criminal, like the violence that groups such as the mafia use to get money, but designed to change the existing political order; 3) It is aimed at civilians—not at military targets or combat-ready troops; four) It is carried out by sub-national groups and not by the army of a country.
The crucial point to note is that this State department definition means that whenever sub national groups capture the nation and become the “government” and terrorize the citizens however they wish, they automatically and conveniently losses the terrorism tag.
As Brian Whitaker points out in a pre Sept11 article: “If, under the state department rules, Palestinian mortar attacks on settlements count as terrorism, it would be reasonable to expect Israeli rocket attacks on Palestinian communities to be treated in the same way – but they are not. In the American definition, terrorism can never be inflicted by a state. Israeli treatment of the Palestinians is classified as a human rights issue (for which the Israelis get a rap over the knuckles) in a separate state department report. Denying that states can commit terrorism is generally useful, because it gets the US and its allies off the hook in a variety of situations. The disadvantage is that it might also get hostile states off the hook – which is why there has to be a list of states that are said to “sponsor” terrorism while not actually committing it themselves.”
[Brian Whitaker: The definition of terrorism: US government report illustrates that any classification of terrorist groups is fundamentally motivated by self-interest. Guardian Unlimited, May 7, 2001.]
Under these terms Hitler was not a terrorist, nor was Stalin, regardless of the fact that their forms of terrorism were central for the death and agony of millions in WWII and the “cold” war (WWIII).
Yet under these terms the Boston Tea Party would be an act of terrorism by the FBI definition. Yet under these terms Washington and Jefferson would be terrorists in their colonial policies toward the Amerindians by the ST definition. Let us explain this claim. It must be remembered that the “French and Indian War” was referred to in the Declaration of Independence, when it said:
“He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose, obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners, refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.”
“He’ here referring to the English King. This paragraph indicates that those white Anglo-Saxon colonizers, the wealthy among them like Washington and Jefferson who were all slave-owners of numerous black African slaves, and the less wealthy among them eager for land and willing to become Indian scalp hunters to achieve it, ardently desired to expand settlement to within the “Indian Territory” on the other side of the Allegheny and Appalachian Mountains. King George had made any migration to this land illegal according to the terms by agreement in the treaty with the French. He enraged the colonizers by ordering the return of tens of thousand settlers who had already proceeded over the mountain passes. This was indeed an act that “excited domestic insurrections amongst us.” The USA was to become a premiere expanding imperialist state, not only a major slave promoting state, but a state with a “Manifest Destiny” to extend all the way to the Pacific Ocean, and then proceed past the waters out to Hawaii and the Philippines and beyond, and of course west and southward into Mexican territory as in the Spanish American War, and northward with the purchase of Alaska.
Then again it has been said that genocide is not a form of terrorism but another kind of war crime, and thus those like Hitler did not seek to “terrorize” the Jews and other undesirables but exterminate them altogether as a final solution and to maintain Arian purity.
Many American colonists advocated a similar policy concerning the Amerindians. As historian David E. Stannard notes on this period of history: “The destruction of the Indians of the Americas was, far and away, the most massive act of genocide in the history of the world.”
[David E. Stannard, American Holocaust: Columbus and the Conquest of the New World, New York: Oxford University Press, 1992, p.x.]
Actually in fact of sheer numbers of the deaths of tens of millions of Africans as a result of the turmoil by the European quest for slaves to be sent to the “New World” may compete in this rank for number one in genocidal mass destruction, since the same historian mentions the “unique horrors of the African slave trade, during the course of which at least 30,000,000-and possibly as many as 40,000,000 to 60,000,000-Africans were killed, most of them in the prime of their lives, before they even had a chance to begin working as human chattel on plantations in the Indies and the Americas.”
[Ibid p. 150.]
But is genocide terrorism or not? The Puritans quoted Psalms 2:8. “Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession,” to rationalize their exterminating the Amerindians and wrestling control of the land of New England away from them. US General George Washington gave the command to Major General John Sullivan to proceed against the Seneca Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy in Central New York State, 1779, saying: “But you will not by any means, listen to any overture of peace before the total ruin of their settlements is effected…. Our future security will be in their inability to injure us…and in the terror with which the severity of the chastizement they receive will inspire them…. Lay waste all the settlements around…that the country may not be merely overrun but destroyed.”
[This is just one citation from many about policy of genocide of the Amerindians.]
The inclusion of the “terror” word here might be evidence for the positive argument to the question above. How many US commanders afterward used similar tactics to displace the Indians or wipe them out in order to open up the land for mining, forestry and settlement? The Iroquois confederation of tribes has been cited as one source of the unique US democracy and this is how they were treated.
[See Johansen, Bruce E., Forgotten Founders, Benjamin Franklin, the Iroquois and the Rationale for the American Revolution: Gambit Incorporated, Ipswich, Massachusetts, USA 1982.]
Now to give some examples of state and government sponsorship, we can quote US President Jefferson in 1807 who instructed his Secretary of War about Indian resistance to American expansion: “And if ever we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe, we will never lay it down till that tribe is exterminated, or is driven beyond the Mississippi…. in war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy all of them” Five years later Jefferson urged the government to pursue the Indians “to extermination, or drive them beyond our reach.” And Jackson is the main executor of the notorious Indian Removal Act, and of the “Trail of Tears” ethnic cleansing episode when the entire settled and farming Cherokee nation was forced into exile from their native Georgia to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. Later in the century we hear infamous 1869 remark by US General Sherridan “the only good Indian I ever saw were dead” which American children repeat as they play their games of cowboys and Indians as ‘the only good Indiana is a dead Indian.’ This idea is echoed in many sayings, like a famous speech when the 26th president US president, Theodore Roosevelt, said: “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe that nine out of ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire so closely into the case of the tenth…” He also said in his famous book “The Winning of the West,” (New York: 1889) that the European settlers “moved into an uninhabited waste…the land is really owned by no one….The settler ousts no one from the land. The truth is, the Indians never had any real title to the soil.” Ten days before the “Battle at Wounded Knee” in which the 7th USA Cavalry massacred 300 people over two-thirds of them women and children, L. Frank Baum the editor of the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer (and the famous author of the story “The Wizard of Oz” later made into the classic iconic film) urged the extermination of all native Americans, writing these memorable words: “The nobility of the Redskin is extinguished, and what few are left are a pack of whining curs who lick the hand that smites them. The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians…. Why not annihilation? Their glory has fled, their spirit broken, their manhood effaced; better that they should die than live miserable wretches that they are.” After the slaughter of Wounded Knee he approved it saying: “we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up … and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth.”
[Ibid. And see L. Frank Baum’s Editorials on the Sioux Nation
And: “Native Americans and weapons of mass destruction Part V, The Last Battle: Wounded Knee,” written 03/19/98, http://www.thewinds.org/1998/03/weapons_of_destruction1.html , and also The genocide of native Americans THE COLONISTS: From Columbus to Roosevelt, there’s only one word to describe the way white settlers in North America have treated their hosts, by Ben Kiernan, author of “The Pol Pot Regime” (Yale/ Silkworm, 1996), and Whitney Griswold Professor of History and Director of the Genocide Studies Programme at Yale University. http://search.bangkokpost.co.th/bkkpost/2001/july2001/bp20010729/290701_Perspective09.htm ]
It appears that in some definitions of “terrorism” when the political goal of mass murder aims at total extermination, it is not considered terrorism but genocide, but when the political goal of mass murder is – as mentioned above – to inculcate fear to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies or any remnants among the people, then it is terrorism. Are they not both politically motivated mass murders, equally abhorrent and criminal, causing terror and calculated as force a political result? Should a war on genocide be declared alongside the war on terrorism? If this is so, then we must look at many cases and the role of those that sponsor or order the genocide, or maybe here we will also find that only “subnational groups or clandestine agents” can perpetrate this crime and not governments, like in the case of the US State Departments definition of terrorism.
What about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the clear objective of unprecedented mass murder of unarmed non-combatant civilians? Those that commanded and perpetrated this unique act admit that it was not aimed at eliminating all the Japanese but just nuclear scorching and contaminating huge numbers of civilians in those two cities in order to terrorize the Japanese people enough to force an early unconditional and total surrender. It was not aimed at total genocide but limited genocide and mass destruction and mass slaughter: it was premeditated mass murder aimed to strike mass fear and terror throughout the government and society for political and ideological reasons. The same can be said about the carpet bombings near the end of WWII of some cities like Dresden of the clearly defeated Germans. Everyone knows that vengeance was part of the motive. The subsequent policy of forced mass starvation in conquered Japan and Germany killing hundreds of thousands if not millions, was clearly aimed at vengeance and “intimidation or coercion…in furtherance of political or social objectives” to weaken and demoralize the Germans and Japanese and to socially restructure the sociality into a pacifist subservient mode, as a dedicated productive work force to be applied as needed stroking the capitalist engine with floods of products in the cold war against the threat of communism. And then there are the bombings and aerial defoliation (Agent Orange) of huge swaths of Indochina during the Vietnam War that was calculated to terrorize the populations into submission along with eliminating the threats from the target villages and jungles. And so on.
To highlight this continual dilemma about definitions, lets turn to the cold war era and read an excerpt from author Bob Woodward as he comments about internal divisions in the CIA’s cold war era definition of “Terrorism.” He writes about some reports about Soviet involvement in terrorism:
“Casey had a stand off, two drafts that contradicted each other – the CIA draft that found the Soviets largely uninvolved, the DIA that found them guilty. Several weeks later, Casey received a memo from Lincoln Gordon, a former president of Johns Hopkins university, who was one of three members of a senior review panel at the CIA charged with bringing non-intelligence professional and academic review to the formal estimates. The CIA draft, Gordon wrote, had a startlingly narrow definition of terrorism, dealing only with the “pure” terrorists like the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany, the Red brigade in Italy, the Red Army faction in Japan. These groups were interested in violence for the sake of violence; they were nihilists. An attempt to define terrorism by its motivation was not enough, he said. In a practical sense, terrorism had to be defined by acts. A bomb going off in a Paris bistro was an intelligence problem whether it was carried out by nihilists or was part of some internal struggle among factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization, whether it was carried out for propaganda purpose or for political objectives. On the other hand, Gordon said, the DIA draft held that any violent action against constituted authority was a form of terrorism. That would make George Washington and Robert E. Lee terrorists. Casey told Gordon to undertake his own draft of the Soviet-terrorism estimate. Gordon gathered all the raw intelligence and sifted through it. The bulk came from the NSA, including intercepts of communication on open, nonsecure radio links or telephone lines, and some that came from broken codes. Information from coded messages was designated code word UMBRA and was among the most sensitive. Technical intelligence, including satellite photographs, was not very much help. Moreover, Gordon found that the human intelligence was poor and it was difficult to assess the reliability of informants, many of whom have been paid. He developed a rule: unless a second source, and preferably a third, confirmed something, it was not given any credence. There were many cases where one information or case said something that had no backup.”
[Bob Woodward: VEIL: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987, pp. 126-127.]
The current US State Department definition of terrorism compared to the other definitions, is very convenient for admirers and defenders of the likes of Menachim Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, Ariel Sharoun, of Israeli, of Rios Mott and Pinnochee of Latin America and others in the US operated “National Security States” of Latin America, and countless other US stooges and protégées like the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlev, Mobutu, Fernando Marcos, etc in Africa and Asia.
It is also convenient for the graduates from the notorious “School of the Americas,” in Fort Benning, Georgia, that trained Latin American soldiers and police in torture, targeted murder and counter revolutionary “techniques.”
[George Monbiot: Backyard terrorism “The US has been training terrorists at a camp in Georgia for years and it’s still at it” October 30, 2001, http://www.guardian.co.uk
He says in this article: “Since 1946, SOA has trained more than 60,000 Latin American soldiers and policemen. Among its graduates are many of the continent’s most notorious torturers, mass murderers, dictators and state terrorists. As hundreds of pages of documentation compiled by the pressure group SOA Watch show, Latin America has been ripped apart by its alumni.”]
Since they trained government employees, they can’t even be state “sponsors” of terrorists.
Where would the Nicaragua Contras be placed in the list since they fulfill all four categories of the State department above? When the CIA mined Nicaragua’s harbors and other clandestine acts seeking to harm their economy the World Court judged affirmatively in June 1986 to a Nicaragua lawsuit and found the U.S. guilty of violating international law. This is a clear case of a state “sponsorship” of “terrorism,” just as the Contras were clearly terrorists as defined from their own definition. This is a fact that the State Department and US government ideologues and lawyers will never agree to because they are “ours,” and therefore by definition the good guys and for “freedom.” Typical is the saying of Anthony Quainton, U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua, 1984, while answering the question on how U.S. actions like the mining of Nicaragua’s harbors and bombing of airports differed from the acts of terrorism that the US condemned around the world, for he is reported to have replied: “If they do it it’s terrorism, if we do it, it’s fighting for freedom.” Sort of reminds you of the our S.O.B. comment.
Our citation of the Contra issue here is not out of line in this investigation we are pursuing about the WOT since John Negroponte, the Ambassador to Honduras (1981-1985) during the Contra years, is known for involvement with the Contras and the notorious death squads of that country and he was appointed as the Ambassador to Iraq from 2004 to 2005 during some the worst havoc of Shia Militias with ties to the US installed Shia dominated puppet government in that country, and then he was appointed as the National Intelligence Director in 2005, and so on in the loop.
[See “John Negroponte’s Human Rights Record Continues to Stir Debate,” May I Speak Freely Media February 2005,
and Ghali Hassan: Ambassador to Death Squads: Who is John Negroponte?, Counter Punch, June 4, 2004.
The convenient omission of states from the definition of terrorism requires the State Department to issue a list of states that “sponsor” terrorism, but are not in and of themselves terrorist states. Of course this USA list includes the foremost ideological enemies of the communist breed like Cuba and North Korea, and many states of the Muslim world that take strident anti USA rhetoric and actions, the “rogues,” but never any friendly state to the USA.
Noam Chomsky has noted that there has been a historical move in emphasis away from state terrorism to sub state terrorism, what he sardonically calls along his leftist ideological lines of economic analysis, “wholesale” and “retail” versions of terrorism. We note that the wholesale and retail versions may be white or red and thus capitalist and communist according to the Oxford English Dictionary above. One should note that another variable in the mix are native resistance movements against imperial and colonial penetration and occupation. This is a crucial factor in Asia and Africa.
With this in mind one must remember that the retailers are almost always in response to wholesale oppression, which in turn precipitates new levels of wholesale terrorism for terrorizing the masses into submission. The wheels of violence and revenge turn over and over again as if it was all planed for the maintenance of highest possible levels of security expenditures and military expansion, and for the broadest possible legal autonomies of the agencies executing policies.
Winston Churchill’s summarizes the terror by the powerful colonists and the wholesalers in these famous words: “The rich and powerful have every right to demand that they be left in peace to enjoy what they have gained, often by violence and terror; the rest can be ignored as long as they suffer in silence, but if they interfere with the lives of those who rule the world by right, the ‘terrors of the earth’ will be visited upon them with righteous wrath, unless power is constrained from within.”
As Edward Said, a robust spokesman for the causes of the retailers but not for terrorism itself, said: “It’s very interesting that the whole history of terrorism has a pedigree in the policies of imperialists. The French used the word “terrorism” for everything that the Algerians did to resist their occupation, which began in 1830 and didn’t end until 1962. The British used it in Burma and in Malaysia. Terrorism is anything that stands in the face of what we want to do. Since the United States is the global superpower and has or pretends to have interests everywhere-from China to Europe to southern Africa to Latin America and all of the Americas-terrorism becomes a handy instrument to perpetuate this practice. Terrorism is also now viewed as a resistance to globalization. That connection has to be made. I notice, by the way, Arundhati Roy made that connection, as well, that people’s movements of resistance against deprivation, against unemployment, against the loss of natural resources, all of that is termed “terrorism.’”
[Edward W. Said: They call all resistance “terrorism” International Socialist Review, Aug/Sep 2001]
John Bart Gerald, a supporter of Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, and a student of CIA involvement in targeted murders, observes that:
“Since its inception at the end of World War II, CIA operations distinguished themselves through psychological warfare operations whose motive was to terrorize people into compliance with extra-judicial killings. Since a general trauma to the people was the purpose of the murders, assassination researchers may have looked in the wrong place for understanding. They have assumed that assassinations were for the tactical gains one expects from a power struggle, rather than a long term plan to mould the people’s world view. In the short term, if honest representative leaders were shot, then the people would be less willing to openly identify with / support them. In this way the U.S. was being prepared for increasingly overt fascism. The FBI’s treatment of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was illegal to the degree of being State terrorism. It was under any perspective of international law, criminal. It was under any perspective of American law, criminal. It was also, overtly, baldly, criminal. Through FBI terrorization of him – all people who understood him, and backed him and supported him, were terrorized. The FBI program was therefore a direct attack on nonviolence, on equal rights, on the American Constitution, on Christianity, on black people and the black community. The illegality was perpetuated in the name of anti-communism. It taught a suspension of human rights internationally in the name of anti-communism. There was never any adequate evidence to prove that Dr. King was anything else than what he declared himself to be, a Christian. In this sense, the FBI’s program was an American blind spot – a continuing betrayal of its own system of justice, its principles, its people. The FBI’s ongoing program of identifying and levying war against individual American citizens suspected of Communism, was the model and forerunner of Operation Phoenix and its forerunners in Vietnam, Operation Condor in South America and the active genocides in Indonesia, Chile, Guatemala, Bolivia, etc.”
[John Bart Gerald: Essay on State Terrorism; http://www.nightslantern.ca]
The mention of these “special operation” programs is important since it brings into relief US programs of institutionalized mass murder and extra-judicial killings to terrorize various populations into submission. The example above was for domestic terror for compliance of the population, but what happened overseas is infinitely much worst and more blatant. For instance Operation Phoenix was the CIA led killing program wherein trained teams of “special operation” forces went into Vietnamese villages and murdered civilian village chiefs and local leaders on the premise they “might” be Viet Cong or sympathizers or had been designated in the intelligence lists as such. The purpose of the program, which resulted in the homicide of around 50,000 people, was to obliterate the Vietcong leadership and to terrorize any sympathizers in the villages into accepting US authority in Vietnam.
It is a telling sign that the same types of operations were repeated in other places, and in the 21st century are being repeated in Iraq. Consequently large segments of the population are antagonized to the hilt to say the least. “According to the investigative writer Max Fuller (National Review Online), the key CIA manager of the interior ministry death squads “cut his teeth in Vietnam before moving on to direct the US military mission in El Salvador. Professor Grandin names another central America veteran whose job now is to “train a ruthless counter-insurgent force made up of ex-Ba’athist thugs.” Another, says Fuller, is well-known for his “production of death lists”. A secret militia run by the Americans is the Facilities Protection Service, which has been responsible for bombings. “The British and US Special Forces,” concludes Fuller, “in conjunction with the [US-created] intelligence services at the Iraqi defence ministry, are fabricating insurgent bombings of Shias.”
[John Pilger: CIA Return Of The Death Squads – Iraq’s Hidden News, Znet,
The ideological mentality persists, as shown by Don Bendella who served as an officer in 4 Special Forces Groups including a tour on a Green Beret A-team (Dak Pek) in Vietnam in 1968-1969 and in the Top Secret Phoenix Program, when he says in an article rousing the troops: “To those jihadists, there must be no quarter given and no quarter asked. The swift sword of American might and justice cannot be sheathed to yield to jurisprudence, in our constant quest for fairness, for in this war we must take no prisoners, we must show no mercy.”
[Don Bendell: Give No Quarter Ask No Quarter: August 12, 2006 http://www.newmediajournal.us/guest/bendell/08122006.htm ]
Going above and beyond the law and “jurisprudence” in the name of security. Sound familiar?
Of course there are among the readers those who scoff at quotes and critiques from anyone of the likes of Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, John Pilger, Robert Fisk, and their genre, readers who have created for themselves an intellectual blind spot in respect to what these kind of writers witness by their investigative reporting and research, and what they argue through documentation and historical proofs. As George Orwell famous author of 1984 and Animal Farm “The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.” But that is exactly the point. Just as these leftist writers are considered outside the pale, so are Muslim writers and any who defend their rights today if those rights conflict with the set Anglo-American agenda. Under the pretext of fighting communism beforehand and radical Islamism today, and of protecting the liberal democratic capitalistic world to remain “free,” the powers that be in the West remain blind to any substantial wrongdoing on their part and to their own governmental role in the perpetuation of the cycles of political violence. In the USA they gave and continue to give the FBI, CIA, NSA and clandestine military groups and private “contractors” a “free” hand to target whom they will for destruction and neutralization of dissent and enemies by any means legal or otherwise as long as the perceived treat was eliminated. What they do by proxy around the world is of course much worst since there are no scruples about what are euphemistically called domestic civil right abuses. The same can be said for the communist states like the USSR under the KGB and others like it across the world of the left that brutally suppressed any dissent to the ruling party. Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn has documented for us the USSR prison system in his Gulag Archipelago.
[Harper and Row, NY 1973. ]
And of course there are numerous interrogation and torture chambers the world over. Amnesty International has called the US military and CIA prison system the “American Archipelago.”
These themes as delineated above are being played out in the current WOT on a grander scale that the previous world wars by the very nature of current realities of technology, globalism, asymmetrical warfare, and by way of the contradictions and ambiguities about “terrorism.” There also appears to be involved a massive collusion of forces and domestic and international conspiracies, both terrorist and counter terrorist, red and white, but conspiracy theories cannot be investigated here.
Lest we forget recent history and continue the blunder into the future, many of today’s terrorists were yesterdays freedom fighters and we will quote US Ronald Reagan praise’s of those fighting against the Evil Empire of Soviet communism: “Throughout the world … its agents, client states and satellites are on the defensive — on the moral defensive, the intellectual defensive, and the political and economic defensive. Freedom movements arise and assert themselves. They’re doing so on almost every continent populated by man — in the hills of Afghanistan, in Angola, in Kampuchea, in Central America … [They are] freedom fighters.”
[Quoted from Norm Dixon: How the CIA created Osama bin Laden]
Of course we know today that some of the “blowback” effects of the of particular cases of “interventionalism” of the CIA and the US foreign policy of “containment” by helping “freedom fighters” in the “third world” countries, accumulating and quadrupling into the mass anti American resentment after the initial violence of civil war, then backlash violence of secondary waves, and so on and on.
[As Chalmers Johnson says in Blowback The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (Henry Holt, 2000) the term “blowback” refers to “the unintended consequences of policies that were kept secret from the American people. What the daily press reports as the malign acts of “terrorists” or “drug lords” or “rogue states” or “illegal arms merchants” often turn out to be blowback from earlier American operations.” ]
Of course we now know today that sponsoring regional strong men like the Shah of Iran to contain communism and Saddam of Iraq to contain revolutionary Iran and so on and so forth, will definitely have its blowback effects for decades to come.
As Fred Halliday sums up the stark reality we confront: “Historically, the continent of Europe pioneered political violence on a world scale, developed modern industrial war, and played the leading role in developing those particular instruments of modern political action and control: genocide, systematic state torture, and terrorism.”
[“Terrorism in historical perspective”
American and Australia are just extensions of that continuant, both known for their obliteration of the natives.
This leads us to explain how the term “sacred terrorism” entered into the modern political dictionary, another example of seeking to obliterate the natives of a conquered land.
………” and so on
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….coming soon…. (by the will of God Almighty)
Extensive research into the causes of suicide terrorism proves Islam isn’t to blame — the root of the problem is foreign military occupations.
BY ROBERT A. PAPE | OCTOBER 18, 2010
Although no one wants to talk about it, 9/11 is still hurting America. That terrible day inflicted a wound of public fear that easily reopens with the smallest provocation, and it continues to bleed the United States of money, lives, and goodwill around the world. Indeed, America’s response to its fear has, in turn, made Americans less safe and has inspired more threats and attacks.
In the decade since 9/11, the United States has conquered and occupied two large Muslim countries (Afghanistan and Iraq), compelled a huge Muslim army to root out a terrorist sanctuary (Pakistan), deployed thousands of Special Forces troops to numerous Muslim countries (Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, etc.), imprisoned hundreds of Muslims without recourse, and waged a massive war of ideas involving Muslim clerics to denounce violence and new institutions to bring Western norms to Muslim countries. Yet Americans still seem strangely mystified as to why some Muslims might be angry about this situation.
In a narrow sense, America is safer today than on 9/11. There has not been another attack on the same scale. U.S. defenses regarding immigration controls, airport security, and the disruption of potentially devastating domestic plots have all improved.
But in a broader sense, America has become perilously unsafe. Each month, there are more suicide terrorists trying to kill Americans and their allies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other Muslim countries than in all the years before 2001 combined. From 1980 to 2003, there were 343 suicide attacks around the world, and at most 10 percent were anti-American inspired. Since 2004, there have been more than 2,000, over 91 percent against U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries.
Yes, these attacks are overseas and mostly focused on military and diplomatic targets. So too, however, were the anti-American suicide attacks before 2001. It is important to remember that the 1995 and 1996 bombings of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen were the crucial dots that showed the threat was rising prior to 9/11. Today, such dots are occurring by the dozens every month. So why is nobody connecting them?
U.S. military policies have not stopped the rising wave of extremism in the Muslim world. The reason has not been lack of effort, or lack of bipartisan support for aggressive military policies, or lack of funding, or lack of genuine patriotism.
No. Something else is creating the mismatch between America’s effort and the results.
For nearly a decade, Americans have been waging a long war against terrorism without much serious public debate about what is truly motivating terrorists to kill them. In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, this was perfectly explicable — the need to destroy al Qaeda’s camps in Afghanistan was too urgent to await sober analyses of root causes.
But, the absence of public debate did not stop the great need to know or, perhaps better to say, to “understand” the events of that terrible day. In the years before 9/11, few Americans gave much thought to what drives terrorism — a subject long relegated to the fringes of the media, government, and universities. And few were willing to wait for new studies, the collection of facts, and the dispassionate assessment of alternative causes. Terrorism produces fear and anger, and these emotions are not patient.
A simple narrative was readily available, and a powerful conventional wisdom began to exert its grip. Because the 9/11 hijackers were all Muslims, it was easy to presume that Islamic fundamentalism was the central motivating force driving the 19 hijackers to kill themselves in order to kill Americans. Within weeks after the 9/11 attacks, surveys of American attitudes show that this presumption was fast congealing into a hard reality in the public mind. Americans immediately wondered, “Why do they hate us?” and almost as immediately came to the conclusion that it was because of “who we are, not what we do.” As President George W. Bush said in his first address to Congress after the 9/11 attacks: “They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.”
Thus was unleashed the “war on terror.”
The narrative of Islamic fundamentalism did more than explain why America was attacked and encourage war against Iraq. It also pointed toward a simple, grand solution. If Islamic fundamentalism was driving the threat and if its roots grew from the culture of the Arab world, then America had a clear mission: To transform Arab societies — with Western political institutions and social norms as the ultimate antidote to the virus of Islamic extremism.
This narrative had a powerful effect on support for the invasion of Iraq. Opinion polls show that for years before the invasion, more than 90 percent of the U.S. public believed that Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction (WMD). But this belief alone was not enough to push significant numbers to support war.
What really changed after 9/11 was the fear that anti-American Muslims desperately wanted to kill Americans and so any risk that such extremists would get weapons of mass destruction suddenly seemed too great. Although few Americans feared Islam before 9/11, by the spring of 2003, a near majority — 49 percent — strongly perceived that half or more of the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims were deeply anti-American, and a similar fraction also believed that Islam itself promoted violence. No wonder there was little demand by congressional committees or the public at large for a detailed review of intelligence on Iraq’s WMD prior to the invasion.
The goal of transforming Arab societies into true Western democracies had powerful effects on U.S. commitments to Afghanistan and Iraq. Constitutions had to be written; elections held; national armies built; entire economies restructured. Traditional barriers against women had to be torn down. Most important, all these changes also required domestic security, which meant maintaining approximately 150,000 U.S. and coalition ground troops in Iraq for many years and increasing the number of U.S. and Western troops in Afghanistan each year from 2003 on.
Put differently, adopting the goal of transforming Muslim countries is what created the long-term military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, the United States would almost surely have sought to create a stable order after toppling the regimes in these countries in any case. However, in both, America’s plans quickly went far beyond merely changing leaders or ruling parties; only by creating Western-style democracies in the Muslim world could Americans defeat terrorism once and for all.
There’s just one problem: We now know that this narrative is not true.
New research provides strong evidence that suicide terrorism such as that of 9/11 is particularly sensitive to foreign military occupation, and not Islamic fundamentalism or any ideology independent of this crucial circumstance. Although this pattern began to emerge in the 1980s and 1990s, a wealth of new data presents a powerful picture.
More than 95 percent of all suicide attacks are in response to foreign occupation, according to extensive research that we conducted at the University of Chicago’s Project on Security and Terrorism, where we examined every one of the over 2,200 suicide attacks across the world from 1980 to the present day. As the United States has occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, which have a combined population of about 60 million, total suicide attacks worldwide have risen dramatically — from about 300 from 1980 to 2003, to 1,800 from 2004 to 2009. Further, over 90 percent of suicide attacks worldwide are now anti-American. The vast majority of suicide terrorists hail from the local region threatened by foreign troops, which is why 90 percent of suicide attackers in Afghanistan are Afghans.
Israelis have their own narrative about terrorism, which holds that Arab fanatics seek to destroy the Jewish state because of what it is, not what it does. But since Israel withdrew its army from Lebanon in May 2000, there has not been a single Lebanese suicide attack. Similarly, since Israel withdrew from Gaza and large parts of the West Bank, Palestinian suicide attacks are down over 90 percent.
Some have disputed the causal link between foreign occupation and suicide terrorism, pointing out that some occupations by foreign powers have not resulted in suicide bombings — for example, critics often cite post-World War II Japan and Germany. Our research provides sufficient evidence to address these criticisms by outlining the two factors that determine the likelihood of suicide terrorism being employed against an occupying force.
The first factor is social distance between the occupier and occupied. The wider the social distance, the more the occupied community may fear losing its way of life. Although other differences may matter, research shows that resistance to occupations is especially likely to escalate to suicide terrorism when there is a difference between the predominant religion of the occupier and the predominant religion of the occupied.
Religious difference matters not because some religions are predisposed to suicide attacks. Indeed, there are religious differences even in purely secular suicide attack campaigns, such as the LTTE (Hindu) against the Sinhalese (Buddhists).
Rather, religious difference matters because it enables terrorist leaders to claim that the occupier is motivated by a religious agenda that can scare both secular and religious members of a local community — this is why Osama bin Laden never misses an opportunity to describe U.S. occupiers as “crusaders” motivated by a Christian agenda to convert Muslims, steal their resources, and change the local population’s way of life.
The second factor is prior rebellion. Suicide terrorism is typically a strategy of last resort, often used by weak actors when other, non-suicidal methods of resistance to occupation fail. This is why we see suicide attack campaigns so often evolve from ordinary terrorist or guerrilla campaigns, as in the cases of Israel and Palestine, the Kurdish rebellion in Turkey, or the LTTE in Sri Lanka.
One of the most important findings from our research is that empowering local groups can reduce suicide terrorism. In Iraq, the surge’s success was not the result of increased U.S. military control of Anbar province, but the empowerment of Sunni tribes, commonly called the Anbar Awakening, which enabled Iraqis to provide for their own security. On the other hand, taking power away from local groups can escalate suicide terrorism. In Afghanistan, U.S. and Western forces began to exert more control over the country’s Pashtun regions starting in early 2006, and suicide attacks dramatically escalated from this point on.
The research suggests that U.S. interests would be better served through a policy of offshore balancing. Some scholars have taken issue with this approach, arguing that keeping boots on the ground in South Asia is essential for U.S. national security. Proponents of this strategy fail to realize how U.S. ground forces often inadvertently produce more anti-American terrorists than they kill. In 2000, before the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, there were 20 suicide attacks around the world, and only one (against the USS Cole) was directed against Americans. In the last 12 months, by comparison, 300 suicide attacks have occurred, and over 270 were anti-American. We simply must face the reality that, no matter how well-intentioned, the current war on terror is not serving U.S. interests.
The United States has been great in large part because it respects understanding and discussion of important ideas and concepts, and because it is free to change course. Intelligent decisions require putting all the facts before us and considering new approaches. The first step is recognizing that occupations in the Muslim world don’t make Americans any safer — in fact, they are at the heart of the problem.
Eric J. Tilford/U.S. Navy/Getty Images
Robert A. Pape teaches at the University of Chicago and is co-author, with James K. Feldman, of Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It.
Reese Erlich: Conversations with Terrorists
“The word terrorism is meaningless,” says journalist and author Reese Erlich, who points out that the definition has become so flexible, it can be applied to anything–including U.S. foreign policy. With George W. Bush on his book tour, claiming that waterboarding is legal and necessary and that even knowing what he knows now, he would have invaded Iraq, it’s especially important to look back at our definitions of terrorism and the “War on Terror.”
Erlich joins Laura in studio to talk about his book and his conversations with terrorists, from former members of the IRA to current leaders in the Middle East, and to unpack the blanket definitions that lump politically-motivated groups with popular support in with groups like Al-Qaeda.
The real definition of Terrorism
The FBI yesterday announced it has secured an indictment against Faruq Khalil Muhammad ‘Isa, a 38-year-old citizen of Iraq currently in Canada, from which the U.S. is seeking his extradition. The headline on the FBI’s Press Release tells the basic story: “Alleged Terrorist Indicted in New York for the Murder of Five American Soldiers.” The criminal complaint previously filed under seal provides the details: ‘Isa is charged with “providing material support to a terrorist conspiracy” because he allegedly supported a 2008 attack on a U.S. military base in Mosul that killed 5 American soldiers. In other words, if the U.S. invades and occupies your country, and you respond by fighting back against the invading army — the ultimate definition of a “military, not civilian target” — then you are a . . . Terrorist.
Here is how the complaint, in the first paragraph, summarizes the Terrorism charge against ‘Isa:
By “outside of the United States,” the Government means: inside Iraq, ‘Isa’s country. The bulk of the complaint details conversations ‘Isa allegedly had over the Internet, while he was in Canada, with several Tunisians who wanted to engage in suicide attacks aimed at American troops in Iraq; he is not alleged to have organized the Mosul attack but merely to have provided political and religious encouragement (the network of which he was allegedly a part also carried out a suicide attack on an Iraqi police station, though ‘Isa’s alleged involvement is confined to the attack on the U.S. military base that killed the 5 soldiers along with several Iraqis, and the Terrorism indictment is based solely on the deaths of the U.S. soldiers).
In an effort to depict him as a crazed, Terrorist fanatic, the complaint includes this description of conversations he had while being monitored:
Is that not exactly the mindset that more or less anyone in the world would have: if a foreign army invades your country and proceeds to brutally occupy it for the next eight years, then it’s your solemn duty to fight them? Indeed, isn’t that exactly the mentality that caused some young Americans to enlist after the 9/11 attack and be hailed as heroes: they attacked us on our soil, and so now I want to fight them?
Yet when it’s the U.S. that is doing the invading and attacking, then we’re all supposed to look upon this very common reaction with mockery, horror, and disgust– look at these primitive religious fanatic Terrorists who have no regard for human life — because the only healthy, normal, civilized reaction someone should have to the U.S. invading, occupying, and destroying their country is gratitude, or at least passive acquiescence. Anything else, by definition, makes you a Terrorist. That’s because it is an inherent American right to invade or occupy whomever it wants and only a Terrorist would resist (to see one vivid (and darkly humorous) expression of this pathological, imperial entitlement, see this casual speculation from a neocon law professor at Cornell that Iran may have committed an “act of war” if it brought down the American drone that entered its airspace and hovered over its soil without permission: “if it is true, as the Iranians claim, that the drone did not fall by accident but was brought down by Iranian electronic means, then isn’t that already an act of war?”).
It’s one thing to condemn ‘Isa’s actions on moral or ethical grounds: one could argue, I suppose, that the solemn duty of every Iraqi was to respectfully treat the American invaders as honored (albeit uninvited) guests, or at least to cede to invading American troops the monopoly on violence. But it’s another thing entirely to label someone who does choose to fight back as a “Terrorist” and prosecute them as such under charges that entail life in prison (by contrast: an Israeli soldier yesterday killed a Palestinian protester in a small West Bank village that has had much of its land appropriated by Israeli settlers, by shooting him in the face at relatively close range with a tear gas cannister, while an Israeli plane attacked a civilian home in Gaza and killed a father and his young son while injuring several other children; acts like that, or the countless acts of reckless or even deliberate slaughter of civilians by Americans, must never be deemed Terrorism).
Few things better illustrate the utter meaninglessness of the word Terrorism than applying it to a citizen of an invaded country for fighting back against the invading army and aiming at purely military targets (this is far from the first time that Iraqis and others who were accused of fighting back against the invading U.S. military have been formally deemed to be Terrorists for having done so). To the extent the word means anything operationally, it is: he who effectively opposes the will of the U.S. and its allies.
This topic is so vital because this meaningless, definition-free word — Terrorism — drives so many of our political debates and policies. Virtually every debate in which I ever participate quickly and prominently includes defenders of government policy invoking the word as some sort of debate-ending, magical elixir: of course President Obama has to assassinate U.S. citizens without due process: they’re Terrorists; of course we have to stay in Afghanistan: we have to stop The Terrorists; President Obama is not only right to kill people (including civilians) using drones, but is justified in boasting and even joking about it, because they’re Terrorists; of course some people should be held in prison without charges: they’re Terrorists, etc. etc. It’s a word that simultaneously means nothing and justifies everything.
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Here are two videos relating somewhat to this: (1) Sen. Carl Levin claimed as part of the debate over the detention bill he sponsored with John McCain that it was the Obama White House that demanded the removal of language that would have exempted U.S. citizens from military detention without charges:
(2) Last month, I sat for an hour-long interview with Berkeley’s Harry Kreisler as part of that university’s Conversations With History series. Although the event was nominally part of my book tour, Kreisler was a very good interviewer who asked a lot of probing questions unrelated to the book which I’m not generally asked — about my background, intellectual influences and foundations, motives — and so some may find this discussion worthwhile: