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Terrorism is a tactic, not a label

[Note: For whatever reason, MT ate some of the punctuation in the blockquote. Sorry bout that. It is right on Steven's site.]

For a brief moment, I thought James Joyner had gone over the edge. Then I noticed it was a guest poster Leopold Stotch. I don't remember a time I've disagreed both so intellectually and viscerally with Stotch. I was all set to do some serious keyboard abusing when I saw that Steven Taylor did it for me. Consider this a rant by proxy.

On Terrorism and Revolutions

Leopold Stotch, blogging at Outside The Beltway, hits one of my pet-peeves:

What Americans need to realize is that there really is no such thing as terrorism; there are revolutions you support (freedom fighters) and those that you dont (terrorists). But to label a person or a group terrorist is to say nothing more than that you disagree with their claims and their cause.

I wholly disagree with the whole one mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter line of thinking. For one thing, not all who fight for freedom use terrorism, and certainly it would seem that most who employ terror arent fighting for freedom. I see, for example, no freedom fighting in what al Qaeda has done, and certainly the PLOs utilization of terror has hardly resulted in much freedom for anybody.

Terrorism is largely a tactic, and a group is defined by the degree to which that tactic accurately describes its basic operation. I see terrorism (and I defined it online here) as the specific targetting of civilians in order to foment fear, which, is created in hopes of changing the policies of governments. I do not see all collective political violence as terrorismI certainly dont see guerrilla movements as terrorists, per se (although they may engage in terroristic tactics at times, which, granted, blurs the lines a bit). However, if one takes a group like al Zarqawis that detonates car bombs in markets and kidnaps workers and beheads them on camera, one is dealing with something quite different than, say, the FSLN in Nicaragua prior to the revolution (or the Contras after the revolution) or the FMLN in El Salvador during its civil war. In one case you have a very small group that is trying to create terror in the population, in another you have an army that emerges to attempt to confront the state militarily.

You know the old line, read the whole thing.


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Comments (53)

Wow, I guess Butters is thi... (Below threshold)
bullwinkle:

Wow, I guess Butters is thinking that crashing airplanes into buildings full of civilians thousands of miles away from your home country is the equivalent of waging a revolution at home against an oppressive government. I don't seem to recall our minutemen loading onto ships, sailing over to London and burning down Buckingham Palace, and we were in a declared war with England at the time. Confusing guerrilla warfare on home territory or even a sneak attack on a military base with slaughtering civilians to send a message are two entirely different things. So are common sense and idiocy, but that's a different story.

Yep, I thought Butters was ... (Below threshold)

Yep, I thought Butters was one of the smarter people in South Park.

Based on this post I bet his parents ground him again!!
DKK

terrorism isnt something th... (Below threshold)
r.a.:

terrorism isnt something that is just made up; its real.

the attack by al qaeda was certainly a terrorist action, no doubt about it.

you're wrong about the contras however...they were known terrorists, as they targeted journalists, teachers, and other civilians. they were pretty nasty actually.

soem of my friends have bee... (Below threshold)
IAN:

soem of my friends have been trying to tell me that the US got busted for terrorism in the 80s against honduras or costa rica or something. they said it was at a world court or something like that, but how can that be possible? if that happened why havent i ever heard of it then?

i have a question tho.... (Below threshold)
IAN:

i have a question tho.

after reading that i am thinking that maybe the kkk could be called terrorsts too? and the other guy who blew up the oklahoma city building too???

is that right? i might bethinking about this wrong.

IAN: Not sure if you are b... (Below threshold)
-S-:

IAN: Not sure if you are baiting a racial argument here, or not (McVey, bomber responsible for the Oklahoma City destruction, is often used as a racial stereotype by some because he was, obviously, a "white man"/Caucasian so it's often attempted on some boards to fan flames of racial arguments by using McVey as an example of all the bad things that "white people" do and similar...generally, it's a racial-argument-bating topic when raised within this line of discussion, and I notice that you also include "the kkk" so you appear to be likely as not headed in that direction), but, I'll make a point other than what I've already made.

If an individual or group of individuals conducts "it's own war" by resorting to acts of violence and aggression within a society, against others in that society, for their own reasons -- without sanction by command of a government -- they are both criminally behaved and engaging in terrorism.

People are charged by society all the time for 'domestic terrorism' for threatening of a certain type others in society. Happens more often than you may be aware.

Had McVey or anyone like McVey made threats of use of his planned bomb, and been captured afterward, he'd have been charged, I am nearly certain, with "domestic terrorism" or at least threatening such (which is nearly the equivalent because terrorism can and does exist in the threat itself -- the "I have a bomb and I'm going to set it off if you don't give me/do what I want" line of threat, or brandishing a weapon can and does equal that, whether stated or not in direct intent, if I can generalize here).

It's not a case of identifying RACIAL characteristics and then equating those racial characteristics (of any race/human type) with potential or real acts of terrorism. It is a case of closer examining individuals from within congregations/groups/behaviors who may or may not be of one racial type or another (groups/congregations who declare and promote acts of violence reveal to societies what they intend "if" -- there again, you get a threat of violence "if" demands are not met).

No one is writing here that racial TYPES are to be suspect of all or any violence, to be suggested to be terrorists simply because of the place of their birth and what their genetic mix is or may be.

People ARE saying that groups (and that can and does include some nationalities, which are not "racial" but cultural in identification) and some individulas from those groups/nations/cultures/congregations/behaviors are known to be more prone to terrorist threatening than others.

It's a sad fact that most "serial killers" for instance are from a certain age within "white/Caucasian males"...so, just because a person is Caucasian does not either excuse them or include them automatically in the classification of "serial killers," nor does the fact that a person from Iran automatically include that person in the classification of "terrorist," but, it's at least a pool or general area within which people start to focus when on the search for a problem.

It's foolish to NOT rely on these types at a certain point, for certain purposes, just as it would be foolish to discount a large, dark, swirling cloud on the horizon as not bearing the potential for tearing up your garden and, possibly, your house.

You don't walk into a pasture and tremble at the site of a bunch of cows but you are very, very stupid to walk into a pasture and not take into consideration a one/two ton bull who is staring you down.

The bull isn't a "terrorist" but he IS a potential problem. Potential. He has the potential to harm you and you just take into consideration that potential and evaluate the bull's actual behaviors from that point, and mind your own in interacting with the bull.

The left, unfortunately, uses these issues of smart behavior to equate with horrible "racial" prejudice and such. It's not a racial issue, however, and again, but an issue of what types of persons characterise, generally, what potential harms to others. You evaluate within those characterizations, that's all.

And, unfortunately, also, M... (Below threshold)
-S-:

And, unfortunately, also, Muslims -- some among those -- are instructed in violence against those who are not like themselves, by the very dogma that they believe in. As are some other groups and even other religions, such as they are.

It's not a case of assuming that because a person is Muslim (or a part of some other group/congregation/type/nationality/culture that instructs or supports violence/intolerance for others), that they are, therefore, a terrorist or going to be involved in terrorism.

But, once the threat is known and identified, it's stupid to ignore the potential for terrorism as originating within certain identified cultures/nationalities/groups/etc. who are known to suggest and instruct violence as a course of behavior.

If you're looking for a one armed man, you don't examine all females who have no arms. You look for a one-armed man. But you don't exclude the possibility of costumes and prosthetics.

I assure you that I have no... (Below threshold)

I assure you that I have not lost my mind, and still deserve that trip to Bennigan's.

Let me ask everyone: was the attack on the USS Cole terrorism? Was McVeigh a terrorist? Was/is the Pentagon a legitimate target? Did you know that US extradition courts have consistently ruled that the IRA is not a terrorist group?

My whole point is that the acts we label as terrorism are simply the ones we don't like. It's a totally normative category, and it has become intellectually meaningless.

But before you consider me a turncoat Chomskyite, go read my entire post at OTB -- I make several other points besides what Paul/Steven have here.

Let me ask everyone: was... (Below threshold)

Let me ask everyone: was the attack on the USS Cole terrorism?

Yes.

Was McVeigh a terrorist?

Yes.

Was/is the Pentagon a legitimate target?

If it had been the only target on 9/11 this might be a relevant question. Since the attack on it was in conjunction with the attacks on the World Trade Center, which were absolutely NOT legitimate targets, whatever legitimacy the Pentagon might have had as a target is neither here nor there.

Did you know that US extradition courts have consistently ruled that the IRA is not a terrorist group?

Did you know that courts are not infallible?

My whole point is that t... (Below threshold)
-S-:

My whole point is that the acts we label as terrorism are simply the ones we don't like. It's a totally normative category, and it has become intellectually meaningless.

Posted by: Leopold Stotch at January 1, 2005 11:35 AM


No, the acts *I* label "terrorism are not "the ones *I* don't like," and the acts themselves are not, not at all, simple nor my consideration of them done "simply."

I was curious who this collective "we" is that you conclude thinks, concludes however it is that YOU do. What you've opinined here and over there (original article) seems to be so heavily projected upon the rest of humanity as to be irraitional.

Which is what is offputting about your conclusions, to many others. You've arrived at some foggy land in your own intellectual and social concepts and definitions, and then projected them upon a non defined collective intellect and are quite resolute that you've arrived at an absolute truth.

Thereabouts, at least. Whatever the collective "we" is that you presume to be representing, however, is your first intellectual error and everything else you've suggested falls apart from there.

(Above comments of mine wri... (Below threshold)
-S-:

(Above comments of mine written to "Leopold Stotch" -- ^^)

McGehee: You somewhat make ... (Below threshold)

McGehee: You somewhat make my point. Acts are or are not terrorism because you say so. Meaning it's completely in the eye of the beholder, and therefore meaningless as an intellectual category.

-S-: The use of we is meant to refer to when we as individuals make such normative judgements. As for the foggy definitions, my whole point is that there is no clear definition of terrorism and in that sense Alam's article forces us to deal with this fact -- and therefore the nature and roots of bin Laden's revolution. The fog is not in my thinking, but in the minds of those who excuse some political violence because they approve of the cause, and then feign moral indignation at other political violence because they reject the cause.

S:thanks for the a... (Below threshold)
IAN:

S:

thanks for the answers.

i wasnt trying to make a racial thing about this. i was just asking. the word terrorism is confuesing and sometimes it justs sounds like war, but in different types of ways.

i wanst asking about them cause they are white, but just that they live here, and i live here too. and i was thinking that it sounds the same what they do here and what terrorists do to people over there.

thats all i was asking. thnaks tho for writing back.

Leopold, There *is... (Below threshold)
Blixa:

Leopold,

There *is* a clear definition of terrorism, but you are refusing to apply it. It's not acts we (or someone) "don't like". Look up the definition please.

The fact that that definition has fuzzy edges is not a trump card; playing that card is something a teenager might try to get away with, I suppose. All definitions have fuzzy edges. The definition of "war" also has fuzzy edges. So what?

BTW: McVeigh/OKC was terrorism, USS Cole was not. As for the Pentagon, the Pentagon is a "legitimate target" for groups and/or nations who wish to wage war against the US, I suppose. (In other words: enemies.) Here's a similar statement: all women are "legitimate targets" for a serial killer who victimizes women. The notion of whether something is a "legitimate target" is far less interesting or dispositive than you seem to think, in other words.

The particular enemy we're talking about, on 9/11/2001 launched attacks that combined the "legitimate" (Pentagon) with terrorism (WTC). Your point? That al Qaeda *sometimes* attacks the "legitimate"? BFD. Looking at Madrid and Bali and Phillipines, we see a pattern, which is that terrorist acts are a primary tool in their arsenal. Hence we call them terrorists. This would be true even if I "liked" those attacks.

For the record, here's some other violence I "don't like" which is NOT terrorism:

-Pearl Harbor attack
-Beirut barracks bombing
-mortar attacks etc. against US bases in Iraq

Here's some violence I "like" which may, in fact, be terrorism (I'm not convinced it wasn't):

-Dresden firebombing
-nuke attacks on Japan

Have I proved you wrong yet?

Remember your assertion: "the acts we label as terrorism are simply the ones we don't like". Incorrect - see above. QED.

Leopold:You don't ... (Below threshold)
-S-:

Leopold:

You don't appear to be comprehending my point earlier. I realize, literarily and psychologically, what and how the use of "we" is as you've used it. You don't appear to be able to offer much of any information, however, without relying on the scapgoating of the universal "we" nor are you here able to describe your point without retreating into that safe, scapegoating usage.

These are YOUR projections, your perceptions projected upon the collective human psyche. And, intellectually, it's the language of avoidance.

As in, here I am, another h... (Below threshold)
-S-:

As in, here I am, another human being, there's Paul, another human being, there are others who have attempted to interact with you to no avail -- also other human beings -- which, in effect, discredits and disproves what you've originally written, trying to establish points by relying on the collective "we" as to your inaccurate descriptions of how "we" think, reason, or don't.

I doubt that many humans, and I assure you, I, have been blunted to nor am now become blunted to the issue of "terrorism." Perhaps you just had one of those "what's the use" or "I'm so sick and tired of reading about this" moments or too many of them in too short a period of time and then proceeded to assume that everyone else was, too. Dunno, but, so far, what you've written is more or less an excuse for those "cute, rascally bombers".

Blixa: Ok, I'll look up the... (Below threshold)

Blixa: Ok, I'll look up the definition. Where do you suggest I look? Each US government agency maintains separate and different definitions based on their needs. US courts have defined terrorism in a much narrower way, and the UN's definition is quite confused.

For you to suggest that there is a single, accepted definition of terrorism is simply inaccurate. (from Walter Laqueur's latest: "after thirty years of hard labor there still is no generally agreed definition of terrorism.")

I don't mean for this argument to go on forever, but ask yourself this: if you label bin Laden a evil terrorist, what secondary and tertiary questions follow from that? And if you consider his war a revolution, what questions arise from that? I submit that using the latter description will bring a more fruitful policy debate.

Again, I think I was clear about this in my original post.

-S-: Your criticism seems r... (Below threshold)

-S-: Your criticism seems rather narrow. If you like, I can go back and change the term "when we" to "when one" or "when an individual" -- would this solve the semantic problem?

If you think that what I've written is an excuse for anyone, then you've misread me and missed the entire point (expressed in the fourth paragraph of the original post).

Leopold:I could wr... (Below threshold)
-S-:

Leopold:

I could write, "ah-HA," after reading that last comment of yours, but I'll leave it to the collective imagination, instead.

(Ponder that.)

You reveal your individual motivations with the language you use. For example, as you've written here, "...if you lable bin Laden a [sic] evil terrorist, what secondary and tertiary questions follow from that? And if you consider his war a revolution, what questions arise from that? I submit that using the latter description will bring a more fruitful policy debate."

No, it won't. No, it does not.

What it DOES do is allow you to wax poetic and avoid outright declaration in support of a harmful individual. You attempt to remain in some intellectual 'safe place' by again lodging grand encroachments upon other human beings with your projected language of personal avoidance.

If YOU fancy Bin Laden to be a "revolutionary," declare that. But, projecting your own wrongful assumptions against and about "policy" inorder to then oppose "policy" in actual defense of a known murderer, conspirator and terrorist -- a real, live, breathing terrorist, no revolutionary, not very poetic while sitting in his various caves petting his paranoia -- does point out where your head and heart are.

Unfortunately, many persons like yourself do tend to retreat into various caves of your own -- that "safe place" I mentioned earlier -- by psychologically blowing up your own motives into grandiose statements about "all" humans, "everyone," that old universal "we" reliance when writing from your own keyboard.

Perhaps you just have not yet clarified who the "we" you feel you speak on behalf of are. As in, perhaps it would both prove your point if you did by revealing your affiliations and sympathies. Otherwise, you might just as well be writing about the Giant Clam Men on Mars.

-S-: Your comment is hilari... (Below threshold)

-S-: Your comment is hilarious. Perhaps Paul will be so kind at to change my 11:35 comment to read "the acts one labels as terrorism ..." instead of "the acts we label as terrorism ..." Would that solve the problem?

But the real funny part is that your entire criticism is focused on the notion that by using "we" I'm speaking for others -- and yet in your last comment you somehow divine all these hidden, unstated ideas I hold down here in my hiding place.

The fact of the matter is that had we recognized the jihadist revolution that seemed to begin in 1979, we could have crafted a much smarter Middle East policy.

First, US extradition court... (Below threshold)
julie:

First, US extradition courts have not ruled that the IRA is not a terrorist group. That is an extreme over-simplification of the issues involved in the PIRA cases. And if you want to blame someone, blame Congress for passing a crappy extradition treaty.

Second, acts are defined as terrorism because the laws defines them as terrorism.

Each US government agency maintains separate and different definitions based on their needs.

So what? The definitions aren't in conflict with each other.

For you to suggest that there is a single, accepted definition of terrorism is simply inaccurate.

Maybe, like Justice Stewart, she knows it when she sees it. :p

Terrorists argue that since there is no universally accepted definition of terrorism, the US lacks jursidiction to prosecute them. Well, the joke's on them.

For obvious reasons, there will never be an international consensus as to what is terrorism. And while Congress has adopted several approaches in defining terrorism, it works. The feds have been prosecuting people successfully for both domestic and international terrorism for decades. You go, DOJ!

"For you to suggest that th... (Below threshold)
Tim in PA:

"For you to suggest that there is a single, accepted definition of terrorism is simply inaccurate."

I call Bullshit.

The only reason there isn't a universally excepted definition is because there are some people who insist that terrorists be given a pass as long as they're killing the "right" people (which is just one reason why we hear Hamas members referred to as "activists")

Terrorism isn't a hard concept to grasp; it is the use of force against non-military targets, in an attempt to force concessions from an adversary that the terrorist cannot defeat with conventional military means.

That last part is pretty important, by the way. If a world power started indiscriminately and intentionally killing civilians in a smaller (and pretty much defenseless) nation, that wouldn't be terrorism. It would simply be an atrocity -- mind you, I'm not saying it is any better, but there is nothing for the more powerful side to gain by doing so that they could not achieve anyways.

The entire point of terrorism is, as I stated, to defeat a more powerful foe. Terror accomplishes this by several mechanisms. One is to provoke an over-reaction which will drive more uncommitted individuals to side with the terrorists (Northern Ireland has provided a few examples of this). Another is, obviously, to create political pressure in the enemy nation to cave into demands (One word: Spain.)

Terrorists may also use guerilla tactics -- hit and run mortar attacks on enemy camps, IED attacks on convoys, etc. but this does not mean that they aren't terrorists.

Since Tim in PA doesn't off... (Below threshold)

Since Tim in PA doesn't offer a coherent definition, his call of bull is lost on me.

But his articulation of the definition is quite telling: by his logic, the United States is the biggest perpetrator of terrorism the world has ever seen.

I don't accept this for one second, and I don't think that Tim would either. But it just shows how porous any definition of terrorism is.

Which was my whole point from the get-go.

Blixa wrote:"Here'... (Below threshold)
r.a.:

Blixa wrote:

"Here's some violence I "like" which may, in fact, be terrorism (I'm not convinced it wasn't):

-Dresden firebombing
-nuke attacks on Japan"

You actually condone the firebombing of Dresden? Even when you acknowledge that it may have been a terrorist action? So you're saying that you supprt terrorism in some circumstances?

Here's a definition of terrorism according to 1984 US CODE: "[An] act of terrorism means any activity that (A) invloves a violent act or an act dangerous to human life that is a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any state, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any state; and (B) appears to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by assassination or kidnapping." (United States Code Congressional and Administrative News, 98th Congress, Second Session, 1984, October 19, Volume 2; par. 3077, 98 STAT. 2707)

is there anyone who agrees ... (Below threshold)
r.a.:

is there anyone who agrees with that definition, at least as a starting point?

does it work? why/why not?

[Nice try, r.a., but let's ... (Below threshold)
julie:

[Nice try, r.a., but let's go with the most recentely enacted code]

18 USC § 2331. Definitions
As used in this chapter—
(1) the term “international terrorism” means activities that—
(A) involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended—
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum;
(2) the term “national of the United States” has the meaning given such term in section 101(a)(22) of the Immigration and Nationality Act;
(3) the term “person” means any individual or entity capable of holding a legal or beneficial interest in property;
(4) the term “act of war” means any act occurring in the course of—
(A) declared war;
(B) armed conflict, whether or not war has been declared, between two or more nations; or
(C) armed conflict between military forces of any origin; and
(5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—
(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended—
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

ok that works...sorry all i... (Below threshold)
r.a.:

ok that works...sorry all i had was the 84 version on hand

julie:according to... (Below threshold)
r.a.:

julie:

according to that definition the current Iraq war seems really close to terrorism.

r.a.One thing the ... (Below threshold)
julie:

r.a.

One thing the Patriot Act did is combine the definitions of international and domestic terrorism together in one section. Technically, merely a housekeeping function. Which is sort of funny in the way it's represented as an attack on our constitutional rights. But, hey, I'm the devil's spawn, of course I would say that!

What I pasted is labeled as “released 8/6/04" I'm not sure what that means in that § 2331 appears not to have been modified in anyway.

but that definition just so... (Below threshold)
r.a.:

but that definition just sounds like "war" to me, for the most part.

r.a.,Keep in mind ... (Below threshold)
Blixa:

r.a.,

Keep in mind that my use of the word "like" was forced by Stotch's rather silly "like"/"dislike" construction. I'd rather say something along the lines of: Were I in power at the time, I probably would have approved the Dresden thing.


Stotch,

Again, the fact that the definition of terrorism is fuzzy, and that there is disagreement at the margins, doesn't mean that it has NO definition. Tim in PA gives you the basic definition. You say it's not coherent but you do not appear to have understood what he wrote, so try again.

"if you label bin Laden a evil terrorist, what secondary and tertiary questions follow from that?"

First of all, it's weird to say I'm "labeling" bin Laden a terrorist; it's an objective summary of his preferred tactics which can be observed by anyone. I have observed that he uses primarily terrorism to wage his war, ergo he is a terrorist. If I observe that he is tall, am I "labeling" him tall? Well if so, so be it.

Second, exactly what difference does it make what
"secondary and tertiary questions follow from" bin Laden being a terrorist? Perhaps none. So what? Terrorism is something one either engages in, or does not. One either uses terrorism enough to be fairly called a terrorist, or does not. This "secondary and tertiary question" jazz just doesn't matter, it's like saying we shouldn't call the sky blue because no secondary questions follow from doing so. Hunh?

"And if you consider his war a revolution, what questions arise from that?"

I *do* consider his war a revolution! "Revolution" and "terrorism" are not mutually exclusive (but neither do they necessarily go hand in hand). He is a revolutionary, interested in revolution (NOT AGAINST US by the way! Against the Saudis!). As a primary tactic in his revolution, he uses terrorism, including against the US, so he is a terrorist. Why is this so confusing for you?

" I submit that using the latter description will bring a more fruitful policy debate."

Again, I find it weird that you seem to advocate altering objective descriptions based on what you think will help the policy debate. But perhaps there's a more basic problem, you seem to think that "terrorist" and "revolutionary" are mutually exclusive, and once we decide a person is A, he ought not be referred to as B.

In bin Laden's case, why not both? *boggle*

Blixa:"Keep in min... (Below threshold)
r.a.:

Blixa:

"Keep in mind that my use of the word "like" was forced by Stotch's rather silly "like"/"dislike" construction. I'd rather say something along the lines of: Were I in power at the time, I probably would have approved the Dresden thing."

I kept that in mind, and thats why i wrote "condone"
instead of "like".

So you are saying that you agree with the prosecution of terrorist actions in some cases? Why?

And i agree with your above point that terrorism and revolution are not mutually exclusive by any means.

If the definition of terror... (Below threshold)
julie:

If the definition of terrorism was "fuzzy," §2331 would be declared constitutionally vague -- which it has not.

julie-good point.<... (Below threshold)
r.a.:

julie-

good point.

I don't "condone" terrorist... (Below threshold)
Blixa:

I don't "condone" terrorist acts in the present tense, r.a. Perhaps it was not clear but I was speaking of a historical event, and judging that event in the context of the actual time in which it occurred. Get it now?

julie, are you really sayin... (Below threshold)
Blixa:

julie, are you really saying that the definition of an English word cannot be fuzzy because the US Supreme Court hasn't declared unconstitutional a certain act of Congress? I sure hope not.

blixa:got it.... (Below threshold)
r.a.:

blixa:

got it.

that one's a messy case. its still up in the air for many people as to whether it was right or wrong. 35,000 or so people killed, yet there were german optical plants etc...

churchill himself questioned the rationale behind that one though...

i dont know.

Blixa: I should ha... (Below threshold)
julie:

Blixa:

I should have written "If the definition of terrorism was "fuzzy," §2331 would be declared unconstitutionally vague -- which it has not."

I could care less how joe-blow philosopher defines terrorism. What is important is the legal definition.

I am saying a law must be written with sufficient clarity so that it informs people of the conduct they must take to avoid the penalties, i.e., not fuzzy. The definition of terrorism in various forms has been used for years to convict people. While it has been challenged as unconstitutionally vague, the courts have ruled otherwise, i.e., not fuzzy.

" a law must be written wit... (Below threshold)
Blixa:

" a law must be written with sufficient clarity so that it informs people of the conduct they must take to avoid the penalties"

Of course that's perfectly correct when one is talking solely about how and when the acts and question may be legally prosecuted. Which, as far as I can tell, nobody here was.

Leopold: happy to read tha... (Below threshold)
-S-:

Leopold: happy to read that I entertained the legion. Best wishes to ya' all.

Seriously, though, Leopold,... (Below threshold)
-S-:

Seriously, though, Leopold, but you haven't come forward even now as an individual with a point of view to declare. We could all hypothesize as individuals forever, but, it'd still be individual hypthesis and quite exhausting. And it would also deflect actual focus from real issues in the here and now, such as does your conflaguration of psychobabble masquereding as information.

What's your individual opinion? I've read a bit of an inkling about what you opine as an individual and it is about the past, as in, conjecture about what might have been had you done what. About everyone else, I still don't have the confidence in you as individual source to find much credibility in whatever collective to which you continue to refer.

Either that, or you actually are writing from a perspective of multiple personalities, or, some one person fully indoctrinated in a collective of some sort, that you have not identified. Which is it?

My individual opinion is th... (Below threshold)

My individual opinion is that bin Laden is a murderer, with a deranged plan of a global Islamic revolution. He and almost everyone who follows him will need to be killed because what they want we cannot accomodate.

But I could only come to that conclusion after having looked at the roots and goals of his revolution. To simply brand him an evil terrorist is a conversation stopper -- he is not crazy or cowardly as that title has come to imply. He is an intellegent tactician and a charismatic leader (in the minds of his followers).

Thus my insistence on taking his revolution seriously forces me to ask questions about American policy in the Middle East, both currently and historically. What he seeks, an Islamic world of servitude and subjugation, is untenable. But millions of Muslims follow him and many are willing to die for this cause. And in the end it's this cause that has to be defeated, not just this one man.

Of course that's perfect... (Below threshold)
julie:

Of course that's perfectly correct when one is talking solely about how and when the acts and question may be legally prosecuted.

Or, when defining who and/or what is a terrorist/terrorism. I cannot think of any reason to look at terrorism as anything but a crime. Policy debate is not going to stop them from killing you. Either, excute them or imprison them for life. Preferably the former.

Leopold:Thanks for... (Below threshold)
-S-:

Leopold:

Thanks for that, it was refreshing to read: your opinion, perspectives.

But, about Bin Laden, I completely and utterly differ with you -- you write that he "is not crazy," and yet, yes, he is. He is completely crazy, as in, undoubtedly a paranoid schizophrenic who is not under medical care for his psychosis.

The term, "crazy" is inappropriate, however. I probably would never apply that word to Bin Laden, nor nearly anyone else, unless I had no other language available to me to describe whatever issue was affecting them. It's not a very descriptive term, beyond a point, and provides no real information about anyone (so I don't use it).

I also could and would never apply the term, "revolutionary" to Bin Laden. Nor to his followers, unfortunately, haplessly induced as they may be into following along with the paranoid delusions of an extremely troubled person.

People can suffer from various conditions and yet still function in society. In the case of paranoid schizophrenics, even without treatment, most of them function very, very well in fields of study and such, and particularly do very well if they are well funded by other as is Bin Laden (he hasn't had to go into society for his material needs and so has never had his behaviors countered by others, much at all).

But, as to "revolutionary," in the sense of persons resorting to covert destructive acts against their fellows based upon a perception of invasion by or overrule by some offensive alternate rule, no, Bin Laden has used the course of initial and continued aggression upon others without regard to social harms he may and has created and proferred (antisocialism, certainly) based upon his own interpretations of "divine" information. The behavior of a paranoid schizophrenic.

Applying literary terms and words to and about Bin Laden as is "revolutionary" tends to romanticize his behavior. In a literal defintion of the term, "revolutionary" and who that is, Bin Laden it isn't.


To anyone who may find fault in this: I realize that the name is spelled, correctly, "bin Laden," but I find it clearer for discussion to type "Bin Laden" and so I do.

Another thing (Leopold): <... (Below threshold)
-S-:

Another thing (Leopold):

You continue to frame your argument -- suggesting that it's worthwile to label Bin Laden a "revolutionary" rather than "an evil terrorist" -- by use of that last term, "an evil terrorist."

Why not just write, "terrorist"? I am curious as to further explanation as to why you object or find objectionable the specific expression you continue to write, and that is, "evil terrorist."

-S-: Good points all. I wo... (Below threshold)

-S-: Good points all. I wouldn't call bin Laden a revolutionary either (although I probably have inadvertantly in a comment). But what I mean is that I do believe that he's engaged in a revolution, if that's not a contradiction. ("Revolutionary" indicates a kind of honor and respectability that I would never grant bin Laden)

What concerns me, and why I wrote the original post, is that people use the term terrorist to connote simple evil. I believe that bin Laden is not simple, although he is in fact evil -- but I also recognize that this is only a normative statement and that millions of Muslims consider him their savior. If they believe it is a revolution, then we need to deal with it as such. Thirty-five years of treating attacks against Americans by Islamists as isolated incidents perpetrated by crazed madmen has done us no good.

So when Alam wrote his essay comparing bin Laden to our revolutionaries, I gave him credit -- particularly for his calling 9/11 a shot heard 'round the world and for articulating well the jihadist revolutionary rhetoric.

The goal should be to articulate a coherent counterterrorism strategy that deals with the root causes of each group's enmity. Yet most blogger discourse consists of is simple labeling, which does nothing toward understanding or explaining anything. I believe that conceiving of this jihad as a revolution not unlike our own will actually help is win the war.

The goal should be to ar... (Below threshold)
r.a.:

The goal should be to articulate a coherent counterterrorism strategy that deals with the root causes of each group's enmity. Yet most blogger discourse consists of is simple labeling, which does nothing toward understanding or explaining anything.

I second that.

Oh, no! Not the old "root c... (Below threshold)
julie:

Oh, no! Not the old "root causes" b.s.! Sorry, but this is just code for screw the Jews. The islamo-facists hatred is not valid, they can never be placated, and we will *never* abandon Israel. Gotta love it, they want a repeat of Cambodia and the Holocaust. Now, that's policy!

Oh, no! Not the old "roo... (Below threshold)
r.a.:

Oh, no! Not the old "root causes" b.s.! Sorry, but this is just code for screw the Jews. The islamo-facists hatred is not valid, they can never be placated, and we will *never* abandon Israel. Gotta love it, they want a repeat of Cambodia and the Holocaust. Now, that's policy!

where the @&#% did that come from? damn, investigating motives is always a primary part of any criminal investigation, how the hell did you jump into anti-semitism from that???

investigating the motives behind a murderer's acts BY NO MEANS justifies the actions. it makes no sense for you to say "they want a repeat of cambodia and the holocaust". where the hell did you get THAT from?

wow. that was quite a leap you just made there.

wow. that was quite a le... (Below threshold)
julie:

wow. that was quite a leap you just made there.

No, it isn't. God, knows I've heard it all before ad nauseum. After 9/11, I swore that if one more dingbat said to me, "Do you know WHY they hate us?" -- I would clock them on the spot. (Warning to dingbats everywhere: That still goes.)

And by the way, motives are never an element of any crime. Anyway, we know their motives. Their motives are not, have never been, and will never be, valid.

What do you think the result was of the Chompskybots falsely convincing the American public we should pull out of Viet Nam? If your answer is 1.7 to 3.4 million dead Cambodians, your answer would be right. (And, why isn't the left holding up signs, "We're sorry, dead Cambodians! We wuz wrong!"?)

And what do you think would happened if we caved in to islamofacist "root causes" and withdrew our support from Israel? If your answer is 5 million dead Jews, your answer would be right. And even that will never appease those murderers.

And before you try to lecture me again, hit your history books.

I dont remember bringing up... (Below threshold)
r.a.:

I dont remember bringing up Vietnam, or Cambodia, or US support of Israel. I thought we were talking about dealing with the root causes of our current War on Terror...

I'm more concerned with where the terrorists come from, and why people buy into their bullshit. What can we do in the future to lessen the chances that we will have do deal with terrorists? What past mistakes, by us or others, can we learn from?

And by the way, motives are never an element of any crime.

What? That doesnt make any sense.

Are you telling me that police dont investigate motives when trying to solve a murder?

Anyway, we know their motives. Their motives are not, have never been, and will never be, valid.

I'm not trying to determine how valid they are, I'm trying to look at what may have influenced their thinking, and motivated them to commit such crimes. Alot of people are buying into the bullshit, and it may help to understand what fuels that belief.

Investigating Ted Bundy's motives in no way justifies his actions. The question is, what helped to create such a killer, and how can we do something to avoid the same thing from happening again? What were the situations or signs that should have been noticed? Can we do something about that?

Is that so bad? And you did make a big jump and take the argument somewhere that I had no plans of going.

I dont remember bringing... (Below threshold)
julie:

I dont remember bringing up Vietnam, or Cambodia, or US support of Israel. I thought we were talking about dealing with the root causes of our current War on Terror...

Exactly what do you think dealing with the root causes of terrorism means? It means all US presence out of the Mideast and no support for Israel. What do you think would happen if we pulled out of Iraq? A bloodbath? That is exactly what happened when we pulled out of SE Asia.

I'm more concerned with where the terrorists come from, and why people buy into their bullshit. What can we do in the future to lessen the chances that we will have do deal with terrorists? What past mistakes, by us or others, can we learn from?

Lack of democracy? Lack of human rights? Lack of good government? Just about everything we take for granted. As far as our mistakes: rolling over for every act of terrorism perpetrated against us for the past 40 years. We need to stop pretending the corrupt, murdering Palestinian Authority ever wants peace with Israel.

And by the way, motives are never an element of any crime.
What? That doesnt make any sense.
Are you telling me that police dont investigate motives when trying to solve a murder?

It is not an element that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order for a jury to convict.

I'm not trying to determine how valid they are, I'm trying to look at what may have influenced their thinking, and motivated them to commit such crimes. Alot of people are buying into the bullshit, and it may help to understand what fuels that belief.

Don't you think the easiest way is to ask the terrorists? Don't you think people already have? And do you know what their answers are: Because of the US presense in the mideast, b/c of our support of Israel, b/c they want the destruction of Israel, b/c they want to convert the entire world to Islam, and then they want to kill us. -- But, conversion first! :-) Can't be more specific than that, can you?

Investigating Ted Bundy's motives in no way justifies his actions. The question is, what helped to create such a killer, and how can we do something to avoid the same thing from happening again? What were the situations or signs that should have been noticed? Can we do something about that?

Some people can never be cured. The only treatment is locking them away for life or executing them. Sometimes the only thing you can do about it, is recognizing nothing can be done about it. That is certainly the prevailing thought. As applied to the mideast, kill or imprison as many terrorists as possible and introduce democracy into the region.

Is that so bad?
It is if it interferes with the protection of the public.

And you did make a big jump and take the argument somewhere that I had no plans of going.

You may had no plans of going there, but that is where phrases like understanding the root causes of terrorism ultimately leads you. Why? Because history tells us so.

"Exactly what do you think ... (Below threshold)
r.a.:

"Exactly what do you think dealing with the root causes of terrorism means? It means all US presence out of the Mideast and no support for Israel. What do you think would happen if we pulled out of Iraq? A bloodbath?"

Dealing with the root causes of terrorism means that we work to try to eliminate the situations and conditions in which terrorism arises...at least as much as we can.

Certainly our goal isnt to stay in the Middle East forever, is it? I am not talking about just picking up and leaving Iraq right now.

Israel: I guess you want to talk about that. I havent said that I think the US needs to stop supporting Israel. Two groups are laying claim to the same land, and arguably they both have some rights. Something will have to be worked out, but I dont know how a single state would pan out.

Whats your opinion about the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories? And by the way I am not on one "side" or the other in that debate.

[causes of terrorism, past mistakes]"Lack of democracy? Lack of human rights? Lack of good government? Just about everything we take for granted. As far as our mistakes: rolling over for every act of terrorism perpetrated against us for the past 40 years."

Of course the lack of democracy, human rights, and good government is a large factor.

Mistakes: I'm going to add something even if you get mad at me. We cant align ourselves or support oppressive regimes/groups. It has come back to haunt us time and again. We should have been more careful in Afghanistan in the early 80's with who we armed against the Soviets. We armed the best killers we could find, and that got out of control (Taliban). We supported Hussein against Iran (regardless of what he was doing at the time in his country), and that came back to bite us. We cant profess to be all about democracy and freedom while we support such types. We did the same in Nicaragua, the same in Guatemala. No more supporting dictatorships. I dont like knowing we have done that, but it happened. We cant change what we did then, but we can avoid doing it again.

Today we support the regime in Saudi Arabia, and I'm wondering when that is going to haunt us, or if its not part of the problem right now. We cant be buddies with those governments while they do what they do to their people. Do you disagree?





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