Looking At The Definition Of What Terrorism Is Criminology Essay

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Terror has been a political tactic throughout most of human history. Terror can come from the state, from those resisting the state, or from small dedicated ideologically or religiously motivated groups. The primary difference between terrorists of the Bronze Age and terrorists today is that technology now allows for terrorism to occur on a grand scale, affecting many more people. It also allows for greater publicity through our various media sources.

But defining terrorism still remains a controversial issue. Samuel Clements was fond of saying "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter". To this day we see not only national, but international debate, on who exactly is a "terrorist".

Even those who come to agreement on who may not agree on how to classify. For example, academics tend to focus on "goal" as the defining characteristic of a terrorist. What do they want? Independence? An end to animal testing? The genocide of a particular people?

National security experts and law enforcement analysts tend to classify terrorists not by goal, but by tactic. Are they kidnappers? Suicide-bombers? Hijackers?

Since the goal of this section is to understand the goals of terrorists and terrorist organizations in order to determine successful strategies of self-defense. We'll cover Religious Terror, Left and Right Wing Extremist Terror, National and Ethnic Terror, "State Terror", and International Terror. We'll then look at what kinds of terror are most prevalent in the United States, and why.

Were the participants in the Boston Tea Party terrorists or freedom fighters? History rather than those present tend to decide these definitions.

picture from: http://www.pbs.org/ktca/liberty/chronicle_boston1774.html

Read pages xi-37 in What Terrorists Want

Answer the following questions:

1) What led to the increased radicalization of the Irish independence movement?

2) Why, according to Richardson, have lives been lost since 9/11? What is her book's primary argument?

3) What is the lesson we should take from Peru's experience?

4) What are the seven characteristics of terrorism?

5) What are guerrillas?

6)Why is is important, according to Richardson, that we categorize groups like the ANC as terror organizations?

7) What are the two key variables for understanding all terrorist groups? Describe one terrorist group using these variables.

8) What are the three ways modern terrorists justify violence?

9) What are the most important precursors to contemporary terrorist movements?

Religion and Terror

The relationship between religion and terror is hardly new. Religion is a very forceful justification for violence (although it is rarely the cause). Most religious terrorists are not trying to garner public sympathy (especially from the global community) when they commit what they consider to be "holy acts" in an effort to please God. Terror, in their minds, is a sacred action. For these reasons, terror performed by religious extremists tend to have higher casualties and more extensive damage. They are not trying to save society through their actions, they are trying to stamp out what they have determined is "evil". However, most religious terrorist organizations have more practical political goals (e.g. trying to bring down an unpopular government, etc.)

All terrorists must distance themselves from their victims. This makes their actions easier to carry out. For example, kings can be assassinated by revolutionaries, because they "feed on the poor" and are therefore less moral than the revolutionaries. Whale hunters' ships can be sabotaged because their occupation alone makes them less moral than animal activists. But most religious extremists do not stop at degrading their victims, most completely dehumanize them, even those with whom they share a common identity. The victims of 9/11 were largely thought of as collectively evil because of their nationality - "Americans" are evil, so every American death is a act of reverence to God. The fact that they also killed children, non-Americans and even fellow Muslims was of little or no consequence. They were guilty by association.

Anti-abortion terrorists are also unconcerned with who is hurt or dies in their bombing and assassination attempts because any one who would associate themselves with the abortion process is evil so their deaths are holy acts as well.

Martyrs play a very important role in terrorism as a whole. "I regret that I have but one life to give...." Even in American history, our martyrs in the Revolutionary War are exalted as heroes. In religious terrorism they play a greater role than just motivating others or garnering publicity. Martyrdom is viewed as a ticket to eternal life with God's blessing. The terror leaders try to persuade their groups that the ultimate goal of every religious terrorist is martyrdom - the only way to truly show one's faith. Even the Japanese government during World War II used this method to recruit Kamikaze pilots. Japanese leaders claimed that according to the Shinto religion, pilots could exalt their position among the dead and honor their families for generations by martyring themselves.

Suicide bombers are not a new phenomenon, but Kamikaze pilots only targeted military, as opposed to civilian targets.

picture from:http://www.bosamar.com/kk7.html

Read pages 38-70 in What Terrorists Want

Answer the following questions:

1) What are the three common character traits of most terrorists?

2) How do terrorist leaders tend to be different that terrorist followers?

3) What is "complicit surround"? How does it contribute to terrorist violence?

4) Why is it a "political judgment" as to who or who is not a state sponsor of terrorism? Give and example.

5) How are poverty and inequality "risk factors" for terrorism? Give an example. How can terrorist groups use this to their advantage?

6) How is globalization both a cure and a cause of terrorism?

7) Why are religious terrorist groups more dangerous in terms of their lack of restraint?

8) What is bin Laden's primary goal? Why is it more political than religious?

9) What were the three events that made Islamic fundamentalist views popular? How did each contribute to current terror organizations?

Political Terror

Terror exacted by radical left wing and right wing groups have plagued the globe over the past century. Even in the United States which tends to prefer politics and politicians in the middle has seen recent episodes of these types of actions. When we think of the sabotaging of logging equipment or the bombing of pharmaceutical testing centers, the terrorists responsible are motivated by the politics of environmentalism or animal rights activism. The terrorist actions ranging from harassment to assassination against abortion clinics reached a peak in the 1990s. These actions were motivated by pro-life, anti-abortion ideologies. Although most mainstream Americans denounce these types of terrorist actions, many may actually feel sympathetic enough to the cause not to overly condemn them. This is the challenge of political terrorism. It's not that there are hundreds or thousands committing acts, but that support may be just enough to hinder the capture of the terrorist themselves.

This helps explain why it is so difficult to capture other types of terrorists as well. While most Palestinians are not terrorists, many may feel that Israeli policies towards Palestinians are unjust, and so may feel they, at least, understand where the terrorist is coming from. These people, in turn, may not feel the need to cooperate with Israeli forces to bring the terrorists to justice, even if they are horrified by their actions.

This bombing of an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama in 1998 killed one person and severely injured another.

picture from:http://cgi.cnn.com/US/9801/29/bombing.update/

Read pages 71-103 in What Terrorists Want

Answer the following questions:

1) What are the four secondary motives of terrorism? Give an example of 1 in detail

2) How was the London Underground bombing an example of revenge, renown, and reaction?

3) Give two examples of primary motivations and the groups that embrace them.

4) Why does Richardson argue that terror organizations are "short on detail"? Give a detailed example of this.

5) What was the "revenge" the 9/11 terrorist act was supposed to have redressed?

6) What is the role of publicity in terrorism? What did the Jackal mean by "The more I'm talked about the more dangerous I appear"?

7) According to Richardson, what is the "genius of terrorism"? Give an example.

Nationalist and Ethnic Terror

Nationalist terrorism is a relatively recent phenomenon. It's usually enacted by people with a common identity to achieve independence from a ruling power. The goal is to move the ruling elite by panicking the public. Throughout the twentieth century the Irish Republic Army (IRA) have used terror in both Ireland and Great Britain with the hopes of uniting Northern Ireland with the state of Ireland, which is currently an independent nation. Fear is the primary tool of nationalist terrorists. Their actions need not have extensive damage or victims, as long as their actions are consistent and sometimes fatal. This gives the population the impression that their governments are impotent to protect their citizens, and this leads to more widespread criticism of their ineffectiveness.

Nationalist and ethnic terrorism usually go hand in hand. The "common identity" is generally ethnicity. Usually they are a minority ethnicity either in numbers or relative political power is the nation where they currently reside. Terrorism is a strategy for drawing attention to their group's struggles as a minority, and their status, perceived or real, as victims. Ethnic terrorist organizations also tend to be longer lasting than political or religious terrorist groups, so they have multi-generational support.

picture from:http://users.westnet.gr/~cgian/irahist.htm

A primary source of funding for Irish terrorist groups was the United States. This is, of course, contradictory to our official policy which recognized the United Kingdom as an ally against terrorism. Most of the financial support comes form private citizens sympathetic to the Irish cause.

Read pages 104-135 in What Terrorists Want

Answer the following questions:

1)How is the "group" involved in suicide bombings?

2) How do secular suicide bombers differ from religious suicide bombers? Give an example of each.

3) What is the role of the "escort"?

4) How do we know that suicide bombers aren't crazy?

5) What are the variety of motivations for Iraqi suicide bombers?

6) Why are women drawn to suicide bombing? How ar their motives different from men's?

7) What is the biggest challenge to organizations that want to use suicide bombing as a tactic?

8) What do some families of martyrs object to? How do leaders and their followers differ in their approach to suicide bombing?

9) What is hte process for training a suicide bomber?

10) How ar ethe families of suicide bombers affected? How are their "public" faces different from their "private" faces?

Nationalist and Ethnic Terror

Nationalist terrorism is a relatively recent phenomenon. It's usually enacted by people with a common identity to achieve independence from a ruling power. The goal is to move the ruling elite by panicking the public. Throughout the twentieth century the Irish Republic Army (IRA) have used terror in both Ireland and Great Britain with the hopes of uniting Northern Ireland with the state of Ireland, which is currently an independent nation. Fear is the primary tool of nationalist terrorists. Their actions need not have extensive damage or victims, as long as their actions are consistent and sometimes fatal. This gives the population the impression that their governments are impotent to protect their citizens, and this leads to more widespread criticism of their ineffectiveness.

Nationalist and ethnic terrorism usually go hand in hand. The "common identity" is generally ethnicity. Usually they are a minority ethnicity either in numbers or relative political power is the nation where they currently reside. Terrorism is a strategy for drawing attention to their group's struggles as a minority, and their status, perceived or real, as victims. Ethnic terrorist organizations also tend to be longer lasting than political or religious terrorist groups, so they have multi-generational support.

picture from:http://users.westnet.gr/~cgian/irahist.htm

A primary source of funding for Irish terrorist groups was the United States. This is, of course, contradictory to our official policy which recognized the United Kingdom as an ally against terrorism. Most of the financial support comes form private citizens sympathetic to the Irish cause.

Read pages 104-135 in What Terrorists Want

Answer the following questions:

1)How is the "group" involved in suicide bombings?

2) How do secular suicide bombers differ from religious suicide bombers? Give an example of each.

3) What is the role of the "escort"?

4) How do we know that suicide bombers aren't crazy?

5) What are the variety of motivations for Iraqi suicide bombers?

6) Why are women drawn to suicide bombing? How ar their motives different from men's?

7) What is the biggest challenge to organizations that want to use suicide bombing as a tactic?

8) What do some families of martyrs object to? How do leaders and their followers differ in their approach to suicide bombing?

9) What is hte process for training a suicide bomber?

10) How ar ethe families of suicide bombers affected? How are their "public" faces different from their "private" faces?

State Terror

State terror can take two forms: terrorist actions against another state, or against its own people. Some analysts, such as Noam Chomsky, argue that national authorities or "states" commit the most terrorism. They are often overlooked because we tend to give more legitimacy to governments than we do fringe groups. State or government terrorism has several goals:

a) to enforce rule (such as a strike against a grumbling minority, a growing political movements, etc.). A good example of this would be Saddam Hussein's use of biological weapons against Iraq's Kurdish minority in the 1980s. This was an effort to keep Kurds from conspiring with Iran, a country with which Iraq had an eight-year war.

b) to fund or control a terrorist group abroad (to protect or progress national interests) For example, the United States supported and trained the Contra Revolutionaries of Nicaragua in the 1980s to overthrow a democratically elected socialist government which was viewed as threatening to US economic interests.

State terrorism can also take the form of consistent human rights abuses. Most non-democratically elected governments and some democratically elected governments (including the US) have been targeted by Amnesty International of violating basic human rights. Some countries, of course, take these abuses to greater extremes. Saudi Arabia has many international complaints of human rights abuses, but maintains its control primarily through international assistance (such as arms sales and military training from the United States and Europe). So sometimes even nations which philosophically oppose state terrorism in their own countries will support state terror in others.

Read pages 139-168 in What Terrorists Want

Answer the following questions:

1) What made 9/11 different from other terrorist attacks?

2) Why, according to Richardson, was 9/11 particularly shocking to Americans?

3) What was the importance of the deployment of troops to Saudi Arabia?

4) According to Richardson, why was our response to 9/11 disproportionate compared to home may people are killed in year in drunk driving accidents? Why have we declared a "war on terror" but not a "war on alcohol"?

5) Why are Americans safer now than during the Cold War?

6) Does religion cause or justify terrorism? Explain.

7) What are WMDs? Why does Richardson find it ironic that Americans fear WMDs more after 9/11?

8) What are the 4 categories of chemical agents? Give an example of each.

9) What is the most difficult part of using chemical agents? Give an example.

10) Does Al Qaeda realistically have chemical WMDs? Why or why not?

11) What does Richardson mean by "It appears, therefore, that the fear of its using chemical weapons increased just as its capacity to do so declined"?

12) What is a historical example of biological weapons use?

13) What is a current example of biological weapons use?

14) How does the media contribute to rising fears?

15) What is the fear of "loose nukes"?

16) How realistic is the threat of a nuclear attack from Al Qaeda?Explain.

17) What is a "dirty bomb"?

18) How do terrorists like bin Laden capitalize on the public's fears of WMDs?

19) Why does Richardson argue that the risk of attack was actually much greater before?

20) How is our fear hampering our ability to formulate effective counterterrorist strategies?

21) What was overlooked, according to Richardson, in the US decision to invade Iraq?

22) What did change after 9/11?

Terror in the United States

Brent Smith identified the 3 main forms of terrorism that threatens the United States: right wing extremism, left wing extremism and international terrorism. Although as a nation we are still shocked and confused by the 9/11 attacks, most of our day to day dealings with terrorism are actually from domestic groups. Part of the challenge of combating terrorism in the United States is actually identifying terrorist acts as being distinct from crime. For example, an abortion clinic's director may come to work to find his keyholes have been glued. He will most likely call the police to report vandalism which may or may not be reported federally as a form of terrorism. Yet, these minor acts may lead to the actual bombing of that clinic as the terrorist organization gains confidence in their anonymity. Even acts done by international terrorists often get misclassified as local crimes which can leave federal organizations lacking key information.

While the major attacks such as the World Trade Center or the Oklahoma City Federal Building are highlighted in our media, most attacks do go unnoticed by the general public. For example, organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Militia Watchdog (who track right wing extremists) estimate that there are hundreds of anti-government attacks each year ranging from forms of paper terrorism (trying to disrupt local economies by passing bad checks, counterfeiting, etc.) to actual bombings. These acts cost millions of dollars of business and tax payers' monies. Since only now the federal government is trying to create a national database on these incidents, we are actually not absolutely sure how often they occur.

Yet the 3 main forms of terrorist organizations differ in terms of targets although their actions may remain the same (vandalism, bombings, assassinations, cyber attacks, etc.). Right wing organizations tend to be anti-government, so their targets are those that represent authority. Left wing organizations tend to focus on businesses and other representations of capitalism. International terrorists tend to focus on targets that represent the culture of the American people.

Right wing terrorist organizations are influenced by ideologies of white supremacy, anti-government survivalism, and fringe Christian religious zealotry. This is why most right wing groups often base themselves in rural areas in separate communities. While they support the tenets of capitalism, they identify government, the United Nations and other representatives of globalization, and ethnic minorities and immigrants as the "enemy". They often envision an America that is white, conservative, and Christian.

Left wing terrorist organizations tend to be influenced by Marxism/socialism or specific issues (such as environmentalism and animal rights). They tend to base themselves in urban areas and see capitalism and corporate America as the "enemy". The one characteristic they share with right wing extremists is age. Left wing and right wing terrorists are usually over 30, unlike their international counterparts.

International terrorists tend to be very young and influenced very heavily influenced by religion. For example, there are dozens of of radical Islamist groups in the United States, yet their actions have been extremely limited as compared to the home-grown left and right wing domestic terrorism. The biggest concern is their potential as opposed to their current behavior.

Read "Domestic Terrorism"

Answer the following questions:

1) Why is eco-terrorism the top domestic terrorist threat?

2) What are at least two major terrorist incidents since 9/11?

3) Who are the "Black Helicopter" crowd? What do they believe?

Read pages 169-199 in What Terrorists Want

Answer the following questions:

1)What are the United States' two mistakes and two missed opportunities since 9/11?

2) What made the "war on terror" more than a metaphorical war?

3) How did Rumsfeld undermine NATO? What were the global reactions to the US?

4) What were the alternatives to declaring war on terror or evil?

5) What did the attack on Afghanistan achieve? What did it fail to do?

6) What does Richardson mean by "If victory means making the US invulnerable to terrorist attack, we are never, ever going to be victorious"?

7) What is the ultimate goal of any war? Why do terrorists want to be considered "soldiers"? So what should be our strategy with terrorists?

8) How did the US rejection of the Geneva Convention play out in the global community? Give an example.

9) What does Richardson mean by"winning battles does not necessarily equate with winning wars"? Give a detailed example.

10) How were Latin American terrorist groups defeated? Why aren't these tactics available for democratic nations?

11) What are the Thompson Principles?

12) What advantages did the British have against the IRA that the US does not have with Al Qaeda?

13) Why weren't the British more successful in their efforts to counter terror? What does this mean for the US?

14) What was the second major mistake of the post 9/11 period?

15) What were the three sets of arguments for declaring war in Iraq?

16) What evidence is there to indicate that Al Qaeda was hostile to Iraq?

17) Why are there so many public misconceptions? What can we attribute to this?

18) How did waging war in Iraq create a "self fulfilling prophecy" according to Richardson?

19) Why do radicals believe the US is in Iraq?

20) How did international support collapse? What propaganda does the world find more credible?

21) How is bin Laden's litany of grievances similar to ours?

22) How have both sides used "God" to justify their actions?

23) What is the greatest affront to terrorists? How should this influence our strategies? Why is covert action necessary?

Globalization and Terrorism

Sociologists are interested in terrorism in many ways: some study "who joins terrorist organizations", some look for its historical impact, and others look at terrorism in a broader perspective - when does it emerge and why. World systems theorists explain that international terrorism increases when core nations begin to decline as a result of economic change. This means that because globalization has opened up the world's market, nations like the United States no longer have an absolute monopoly on dictating the global order. The economic change of globalization has actually weakened the US's core status despite the fact that it remains a major player.

Like Spain in the 15th century, and like Britain in the 19th century, when the superpower begins to decline, it often tries desperately to cling to its core status by controlling other economies/governments to their benefit. This includes financially supporting unpopular governments in other nations as well as increased military actions abroad. As the core engages in these actions to maintain its own power and wealth, it often alienates the populations of other nations, particularly those in the semi-periphery (which tends to have wealthier and more highly educated populations than the periphery). These nations tend to have very negative opinions of the core nations - they often see them as bullying, corrupt, and self-interested.

This explanation may help explain the social circumstances in which the 9/11 terrorists emerged. Most were form Saudi Arabia, a semi-peripheral nation, which has actually gone through some serious economic hardships over the past two decades. There has been a decline in the standard of living for the middle classes as the oil revenues are no longer enough to stimulate the economy. The population is highly educated, but there are few jobs that they can fill. At the same time, there is really no mechanism to change this economic stagnation. Saudi Arabia is a monarchy, which does not have to answer to its population to maintain its power structure. The monarchy sustains itself by making promises to its fundamental religious leaders, and by arming itself with weapons from United States in order to suppress any dissent. Many in this nation who are frustrated with their leadership blame the United States for supporting the king, and thwarting a regime change. Add religious extremism into the mix, and you have ripe conditions for international terrorism.

Great Britain experienced a good deal of terrorism in its colonies at the turn of the century as it began its hegemonic decline. The United States may be currently experiencing a similar phenomenon. Terror is the tactic of asymmetry. When one group is at an extreme disadvantage because of their small size, or lack of political power, lack of wealth, or lack of weaponry, the only way to "fight" the greater power is through guerilla warfare - through terrorists actions. When a group is successful in attacking the core power, other groups have their hand in it as well. Of course, indirectly the culmination of these attacks is successful - the United States has responded to international terrorism by stretching our resources thin by increasing our military action globally. We are going greater into debt, investing in ourselves less (in terms of education and infrastructure), and are basically guaranteeing that generations after us will carry the burden of our current overspending. If we continue in this pattern we will experience hegemonic decline. The very wealthy among us will probably not be affected, as our laws currently go to great lengths to protect their assets, but the middle classes will definitely see a decline in their standard of living. Terrorism is our canary in a coal mine - it is the warning sign. How we respond to it determines not only our safety, but our economic future as well.

Read pages 200-239 in What Terrorists Want

Answer the following questions:

1) What was Gladstone's response to the violence in Ireland?

2) What is Rule #1 for counteracting terrorism? Explain and give an example.

3) What is Rule #2 for counteracting terrorism? Explain and give an example.

4) What is Rule #3 for counteracting terrorism? Explain and give an example.

5) How does good intelligence help weaken adversaries? Give an example.

6) Why are talks with terrorists important according to Richardson?

7) Give an example of how our ignorance about our enemies has strengthened them?

8) What is Rule #4 for counteracting terrorism? Explain and give an example.

9) How valid is the accusation that American sanctions killed Iraqi children? Why is it important that we listen to terrorist allegations?

10) What turned the tide of anti-Americanism in Indonesia? What can we learn from this?

11) What is Rule #5 for counteracting terrorism? Explain and give an example.

12) What is Rule #6 for counteracting terrorism? Explain and give an example.

13) How has the US not followed these 6 rules?

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