March 21, 2005

One man's terrorist....

It was announced today that UN Secretary General Kofe Annan is calling for passage of a package of reforms at the UN. Increasingly pressured by the right in the U.S. and plagued with scandals in the Oil for Food program designed to provide relief to Iraqi citizens who were dying by the thousands under sanctions from the U.S. and others.
One of the measures called for was to develop a definition of terrorism, which would be a first for the U.N.

This is an interesting question. As the saying goes, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. A simple definition would be the use of terror on a citizenry as a weapon to achieve goals, or the killing of random innocent people to achieve a goal.

What definition of terrorism could you come up with that wouldn't include methods and tactics that the U.S. has used repeatedly?


At 3/21/2005 8:08 PM, Blogger Dissenter said...

What an incredible question. I had never thought that I could not simply define the term, until you asked us to define it.

I have always believed that President Bush uses the term far too loosely. I suspect that his administration's definition is "Anyone who disagrees with us."

One might argue that a terrorist is one who engages in acts of mass violence without the indicia of government support ("mass violence" being defined not necessarily as violence aimed at many, but as violence aimed indiscriminately). While this definition has some appeal, I suggest that it is too broad. Under this definition, serial killes can be deemed "terrorists," and I believe that they are. But so can the Founding Fathers of our great nation. To label all revolutionaries as "terrorists" is to ignore the manner with which our own nation was founded. Therefore, a terrorist cannot be defined as a person or entity which lacks the support of a recognized or organized government.

A terrorist is one who indiscriminately aims violence at civilian targets. This definition excludes revolutionaries, but includes those who act in a manner repugnant to the rule of law and/or the rules of military engagement.

At 3/22/2005 4:08 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Those two last definitions seem to be the most common. However, the armed forces of the U.S. and her allies have certainly killed their share of innocents. (the fire-bombing of Dresden, the nuclear attacks on Japan, indescriminantly wiping out entire villages in Nam, to name a few) One might argue whether it was indescriminate or not, but trying to arguem that they weren't is certainly difficult with any honesty.

And the last definition is one that really seems almost quaint or child-like to me. In other words, it's as if children are playing war and they're saying that it's no fair to play without wearing uniforms or using the weapons they've all agreed on.

In other words, you're a terrorist if you don't follow the "rules" of war. But the concept that there are rules to war seems contradicted by the reality of war. You can bomb and kill by the thousands, you can incinerate entire cities, you can even vaporize a city with nuclear weapons, you can lie, spy, and torture, but somehow, we get indignant when someone doesn't follow the "rules"?

I suppose the British felt the same way during our Revolutionary War, since we didn't follow the "rules" that said that armys were to wear bright uniforms and march towards each other in nice straight ranks.
Now we're very upset if anyone is suspected of planning to have WMD. This is despite the fact that we've had them for decades, as has others, and we're the only ones who have actually used them in war.
We'd no sooner give them up than Bush would admit a mistake. Yet we threaten destruction to those we consider not to be allies if they develop these. (of course, Pakistan has nuclear capabilities, and it's government came to power as a result of a military coup... but they're "OK")

I don't know, but it seems a bit hypocritical to be outraged because someone fights in an unconventional way. It's almost as if the most heavily armed countries are saying that, unless you are developed enough to have an army, navy, and air force, strong enough to be in the "club", you're not allowed to play the "war" game. And if you do anyway, using the only means at your disposal, you're a terrorist.


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