What is terrorism?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Roman, Nov 19, 2008.

  1. madanthonywayne Morning in America Registered Senior Member

    Except they don't have a blank check. We know where they live. They can be held accountable for their actions, terrorists can not.
    Yes, perhaps it needs a bit of refinement to specify a mass act of violence.
    That was war. I don't even consider the Nazi's terrorists. For whatever reason, if a state is involved, to me, that's not terrorism. Well, I take that back. If a state funds terrorists to sneak in and commit acts of terrorism I'd still consider it terrorism and an act of war. But if it's done by guys wearing uniforms, guys who we can strike back against, that's war.
    But it's not the same. When France bombs Germany, they are open to immediate counter attack. When some scumbag terrorist bombs a city, where is he? Who do we strike back against. That's why Roman's idea of a state being involved is a crucial difference. When one state attacks another, it's war. When a rogue group attacks someone, that's terrorism.

    It's the difference between sucker punching someone and then running away before he can strike back, and kicking someone's ass and then pointing to your house and saying, "if you want any more, I live right there."

    The terrorist does not really take responsibility for his actions. He hides among civilians, he attacks civilians. The state, no matter how horrible the atrocity it commits, takes responsibility for it. It owns up to it. Anyone who has a problem with what the state has done knows just who to see to do something about it. That is a crucial difference.
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  3. Sciencelovah Registered Senior Member

    I suppose that terrorism originates from terror and ism. Terror is a kind of overwhelming fear, and ism is a kind of movement. In general, it is basically a movement that creates overwhelming fear.
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  5. leopold Valued Senior Member

    to prevent said government from accusing its citizens of terrorism if they try to overthrow it for oppression.
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  7. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    Wrong on both counts.
    A state can have covert operations and a terrorist can be killed or brought to justice through a court of law.

    Why not?
    That's the question I am asking.
    What valid argument is there for that?
    Is it not just because you would have to admit that the US has committed acts of terrorism,and have to view the founding fathers in a new light?

    Rather than trying to redefine terrorism so it fits snugly with your naive view of good and evil and your hero worship of imperfect men, try to revisit your notion that terrorist necessarily equals evil.

    Terrorism is a last hope of desperate people.
    They are outpowered, outnumbered, outarmed and have no hope of winning a conventional military assault.
    What they have is only their belief that what they are doing is right and what the other party is doing is wrong, and they will kill or die trying to do it.
    They have no chance at defeating the other party's military, so they do what they can to bring them to their knees otherwise.

    In a one on one fight - I fight.
    If a dozen armed men attack me, I would not hesitate to slice a few achiles tendons if I have to.

    So uniforms is all it takes?
    What about the Cuban rebels? Were they terrorists?

    What world do you live in?
    Nixon sent CIA agents to bomb Cambodia and not only did he not admit it to the world, he denied it to his own people.
    I knew someone who was in Africa with Special Forces when the US "was not there".
    Are these acts of terrorism?
    No one takes responsibility, yet they were state sanctioned.
  8. Vkothii Banned Banned

    Everyone should fight wars honourably, like the USA does. American soldiers never fire their guns except at terrorists, they never engage in genocidal tactics or rape any women.
    They never shoot civilians, either.

    They always wear nice shiny red uniforms and march directly toward the enemy, in honourable, orderly rows.

  9. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    We've been through this before. Dictionary definitions of terrorism tend to be amalgamated from official government definitions, which are crafted to suit their own purposes. The press is no better, since journalists these days bend language to frighten people into buying more newspapers.

    The best definition I can offer is a synthesis from all these sources, run through the logic of linguistics:
    • Terrorism is a form of extortion. It is the use of violence of military style, scope or magnitude against civilian targets, in order to terrorize the civilian population into supporting a cause so unpopular that there is no peaceful way to garner that support.
    Note that the targets must be civilian; attacks on military targets may be insurrection, civil war or guerrilla warfare, but they are not terrorism. The attack on the WTC was terrorism, but the attack on the Pentagon was not. The Madrid subway bombing was terrorism, but the attack on the U.S.S. Cole was not. PLO shelling of Israeli villages is terrorism, but its attacks on Israeli military outposts are not. IRA attacks on random bystanders were terrorism, but attacks on police stations were not. Military personnel, including police viewed as occupying forces, civilian employees of military installations, government officials, etc., are legitimate military targets. Timothy McVeigh might have gotten away with being called a libertarian extremist freedom fighter if he had only killed the employees of some of our most unpopular government agencies in Oklahoma City, but by carelessly killing their children he became a terrorist.

    Note that the perpetrators need not be civilians. Terrorism may be used by governments, even by military forces, so long as the targets are civilian.

    Therefore, the greatest act of terrorism ever committed was by the U.S. armed forces in wartime: the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The military infrastructure in these cities was not significant enough to warrant such disproportionate use of weaponry--squandering the only two nuclear weapons the U.S. possessed! It was generally believed (rightly or wrongly, but that's a topic for another forum) that the Japanese government and military would never surrender as a matter of honor; that the country would keep fighting a losing battle until the last four-year-old girl was gunned down while charging a batallion of U.S. Marines with her dead daddy's beat-up samurai sword. In addition to our government being uncomfortable with the notoriety of committing true genocide and destroying most of Japan's cultural artifacts in the process, the cost in American lives would have run into the millions.

    So our government decided to try to terrorize the Japanese civilian population into petitioning their government to surrender--a cause so unpopular in Japan that there was surely no peaceful way to gain support for it. Showing them that they were fighting an enemy with no sense of honor seemed like a good way to snap them out of their own honor-based death spiral. And the cause was deemed worthy enough for the U.S. to actually become a nation with no sense of honor.

    It can be argued that the most unfortunate aspect of the nuclear terrorism against Japan is that it succeeded. No other major act of terrorism has ever achieved its goal of extorting a civilian population to support an unpopular cause. (Correct me if I'm wrong, anybody?) But today, every terrorist can point to the ruins of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the subsequent unconditional surrender of Japan, and say to his skeptical countrymen, "See, terrorism can work! It worked for America!" We had forgotten about the Law of Unintended Consequences: "You can never do just one thing."

    Terrorism is extortion. It's the mobster burning down a restaurant so all the other restaurant owners will start paying his protection money... writ large.
  10. leopold Valued Senior Member

    the target of these bombs was not the civilians but the city itself.
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Yes the cities contained some military targets, but Japan had dozens of cities like that. It was not worth using up the only two atomic bombs we had, just to destroy those two particular cities for their modest strategic military value. Sure, if we'd had a hundred A-bombs we could have destroyed all their cities of that level of importance, without the risk that our own forces would have to take by flying low enough to hit the targets with lower-power conventional bombs.

    But we didn't. We only had two and we used them on two little podunk towns. We did it for the purpose of terrorizing their civilian populations.
  12. leopold Valued Senior Member

    actually it was done for one reason only.
    the city of hiroshima was not bombed at all during WW2.
    this gave us the perfect setting to ascertain the bombs blast effects.
    this was the primary reason hiroshima was selected as a target.
  13. Asguard Kiss my dark side Valued Senior Member

    this is a usless definition as well, christan nuts have an overwhelming fear of gay people. This doesnt make gay's terriousts, it proves that the christans are nutcases.

    I agree with one ravens defintions

    Atacks against civillans for POLITICAL objectives of cohersing the people or goverment into capitualating to there demands

    Each of those is essential

    Ie if you remove the word "atack" then any political movement would fall into the catigory

    There has to be political motive, otherwise you are looking at crimes like genocide rather than terriousm

    there have to BE demands. If you dont have any demands then why do it? (in this case again your looking at either organised crime for profit or genocide)

    and it HAS to be against civillans because otherwise its WAR (which is what irritates me about yanks calling pear harbor terriosium)

    There is no requirement that it not be a soverign state or army of a state which did it. The atacks in east timor were backed by indonesia but they were still atacks against civillans designed to force a political ajender
  14. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    But everybody does that. Both Israel and the PLO (or whatever alphabet-soup band of Syrian- and Iranian-armed one-percenters claims to speak for the hapless Palestinians these days) insist that what they do is valid military action, but what the other side does is terrorism.

    I insist that the nuclear attacks on Japan were terrorism. I can't quite decide about acts that took place during our Revolutionary War. Sometimes the prevailing attitudes of the citizenry change so much over the centuries that it's impossible to correctly label something using the rhetoric of our own age.

    In past eras it was standard for invading armies to treat the civilians they met like vermin to be exterminated, like domestic animals to be confiscated and put to work, like enemy combatants to be punished cruelly, or like booty to be used abusively and discarded. I'm sure civilian populations everywhere accepted that attitude as fact and would have had trouble relating to our newfangled concept of terrorism. They would have all done the same thing without a second thought if their army were the conquerors.

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