So what is terrorism? According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary eleventh edition, terrorism is defined as the systematic use of terror esp. as a means of coercion. This definition would indicate that anyone who uses terror to get their way would be a terrorist. This would require us to accept the single mother who uses fear to get her child to obey would be a terrorist. Society obviously does not view such individuals as terrorists but rather, as responsible parents. On the other hand, someone who uses violence against a group of individuals to coerce them to conform to their beliefs is considered a terrorist and rightfully so, but how do we, as a society, distinguish between the two? This is where social context and the concept come in to play. Terrorism is not used to define disciplinary acts because the motivation behind the act is in the best interest of the child. On the other hand, the motivation behind the second scenario is that of an individual’s values and morals. These violent acts can be religiously, politically, or ideologically motivated. Although the international community has still not agreed on a definition of terrorism, there are agencies who have defined the concept primarily to combat it.
The Handbook of Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism produced by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime states:
… in 1994, the General Assembly, in the Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism, declared that criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstances unjustifiable, whatever the consideration of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other nature that may be invoked to justify them. In 2004, the Security Council, in its resolution 1566 (2004), identified elements of a definition, referring to “criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act (UNODC, 2009). (p. 10)
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The Department of Defense on the other hand, defines terrorism as “The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear and intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological” (DoD Directive, 2003). According to the State Department, “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience (DoS, 2001). Consistent with the previous definitions the FBI uses the definition of terrorism spelled out in the Code of Federal Regulations that reads “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives”(28 C.F.R. Section 0.85). The FBI breaks terrorism down further into two categories: domestic and international. Domestic terrorism as used by the FBI is defined as:
The unlawful use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States or Puerto Rico without foreign direction committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives (FBI, 2005).
International terrorism is defined as:
… violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are 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 any state. These acts appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or affect the conduct of a government by assassination or kidnapping. International terrorist acts occur outside the United States or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to coerce or intimidate, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum (FBI, 2005).
Although all of these definitions vary slightly they all have the same components. They describe terrorism as violent acts towards a government or people in an attempt to further their religious, political, or ideological views. This would mean in order to determine what constitutes terrorism and what does not, it is imperative that the motivation behind the act is identified. Using this explanation it is easier to distinguish between a mother disciplining her child and someone who blows up a building occupied by innocent people.
As interesting as this phenomenon may be, it is not new and it was around well before the devastating acts carried out on September 11, 2001. As a matter of fact, this concept has been around since the dawn of time. If you read the Bible, I am sure you can point out numerous battles that would be deemed terrorism today. However, due to the social context at the time it was not referred to as such. There have been many revolts in history that by previously mentioned definitions would constitute terrorism, but again were not referred to as terrorist activity. For example, the independence of the United States from Great Britain is considered a revolution not an act of terrorism, when in fact; it has every characteristic of terrorism.
People forget that the United States has just as much terrorism generated and carried out by its own citizens than those carried out by other countries. J. Bowyer Bell and T.R. Gurr point out some acts of the terrorism throughout American history in “Terrorism and Revolution in America” which is summarized in the textbook “Terrorism and Homeland Security,” sixth edition (White, 2009). Bell and Gurr explain actions like vigilante justice as nothing more than terrorist tactics used to unlawfully carry out justice. They also mention groups that used terroristic means to further their cause. They state that terroristic means have been used by the weak to coerce the strong whereas the strong use the same means to suppress the weak (White, 2009).
What motivates people to use such tactics to further their cause? There are three main motivators of terrorism, which are evident in almost all of the definitions. These motivators are religion, politics, and ideology.
Because the concept of terrorism is based on values and morals, it is no surprise that religion would play a major part in terrorism. Groups such as Al Qaeda, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and Pro-life organizations in the United States have strong religious beliefs that drive to use extreme measures. These groups feel that they are being called upon by God or their higher power to take such measures.
Take Al Qaeda for example, this group was founded by Osama Bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam, who believed that the purification of their religion was the answer to poverty (White, 2009). They believe that the western world has a negative influence on their culture and religion. They feel the west has polluted their religion by encouraging acts that are in violation of Islamic Law. It is for this reason they felt it necessary to take any and all measures to destroy the largest of these influences, the United States.
Unfortunately, this has created a misconception regarding religiously motivated terrorism, especially Muslim motivated terrorism. People assume that the Muslims are fighting solely against the presents of the United States in their countries. This however, is a false assumption and is due to the lack of understanding of the Muslim religion. While taking a Somali language course I had many conversations with my instructor regarding religion. More specifically, we discussed the differences between our religions in an attempt to better understand their culture and way of life. In our discussion we came to the conclusion that we believe in the same God. This conversation broke down the religions to determine exactly where we started believing differently. It came down to the fact that Muslims believe that Mohammad was the last prophet and that Jesus was only a prophet of God not his son. Now the Muslims are not the first to discount Jesus being God’s son but they are the only ones that believe Mohammad was the last prophet. As a matter of fact this is also where I was informed on why there are two distinct types of Muslims, the Sunnis and the Shi’ites. This is due to the fact that early Muslims could not agree on who was to take over the religion after Mohammad and his son died. Some of the people followed one grandson and the others followed the other, hence, the Sunnis and the Shi’ites. Why is that important? It helps provide some understanding of the religion that is motivating these groups to carry such horrific acts of violence. It also demonstrates that Muslims are not just fighting against other nations but also among themselves.
As mentioned with Al Qeada, these Muslims groups that are fighting for jihad or holy war are doing so to purify their religion. It is not just the United States that threatens their religion. If you read the book of Revelations in the King James Version of the Bible it will tell you that when Israel becomes its own nation again it is a sign of the last generation. Muslims do not believe that Israel should be its own nation. They don’t believe Israel should even exist. It is for this reason that many Muslim or Jihadist groups target Israel just as much as they target the United States. The Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) group is a prime example of this. The group broke away from the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1970s (Fletcher, 2008). The group’s initial purpose was to over throw the Egyptian government and when the brotherhood refused to use violence some members broke away, creating the EIJ. They are responsible for the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat (Fletcher, 2008). The group later joined Al Qaeda to further its religious goal of purifying the Muslim faith (Fletcher, 2008).
Another group who is motivated by the Muslim faith is that of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or PIJ. This group was founded by a radical student studying in Egypt (Oreck, 2010). The group primarily fought against Israel because they believed that a liberated Palestine would further the goal of creating a united Arab and Muslim world. The group was expelled from Egypt to the Gaza Strip in Palestine when they were found to have had ties to the group that assassinated President Anwar Sadat (Oreck, 2010). The group became a rival of the well known terrorist group Hamas. However, in recent years the groups have been known to cooperate in attacks (Oreck, 2010). Hamas unfortunately is not unique in the fact that is motivated by both religion and politics.
Political motivation for terrorism is just as ramped as the religious motivation. Groups like Hamas and Hezbollah use both motivations to further their goals (Oreck, 2010). (The political motivation will be discussed later.) Hamas is a terrorist organization that was founded from the Muslim Brotherhood out of Egypt (CFR, 2009). The founder of the group, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin established Hamas as the Muslim Brotherhood’s local arm in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (CFR, 2009). Yassin promoted a non violent approach to the liberation of Palestine but other members of the group had different plans. Their religious motivation has led to numerous attacks against Israel. One of their biggest problems with Israel other than the invasion of their borders is the religious significance of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and probably most importantly is the city of Jerusalem.
Religiously motivated terrorism is not specific to Muslims or international terrorism. There are groups that fall into the category of domestic terrorism. Antiabortion groups have used the same tactics right here on U.S. soil against doctors and nurses for decades. While some commit acts as groups others act alone. This was the case with Dr. David Gunn who was shot and killed outside his clinic in 1993 (White, 2009). It was also true in the cases of Reverend Paul Hill and Eric Randolph who both murdered doctors who performed abortions. These gentlemen were motivated by their religious belief that one has no right to destroy a gift from God. It was this religious conviction that led them to carry out these devastating acts. These are terrorists who are born and breed right here in the United States.
Politically motivated terrorism unfortunately, is just as prevalent as religious motivated terrorism. Groups such as Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Aum Shinrikyo are examples of politically motivated terrorist groups. Although Hamas and Hezbollah have some religious motivation they are also politically motivated groups. A group that hits a little closer to home is Los Macheteros in Puerto Rico.These groups use violence against innocent people to act out or over throw a government. They have no regard for human life in their pursuit of change.
The IRA has been around for centuries. They started out revolting against British rule in Ireland. In 1921 the IRA succeeded in creating a free Irish State, but with it they agreed to leave the six most northern provinces under the control of the British (Gregory, 2010). It was in the late 1960’s, when the IRA split into two branches and the northern branch again revolted against British control. They were fed up with the Protestant British suppressing the Catholic Irish (Gregory, 2010). These groups would use terrorist tactics to gain their freedom. When the British fought back, they too would target innocent civilians. Before a peace treaty could be signed there would be more than 3,500 people dead. Whereas some people may not consider this terrorism, others certainly do. The IRA’s violent tactics against the British and the retaliation of the British both constitute acts of terrorism and were politically motivated. Some may ask what is the difference between a revolt or a push to change policy like that of Martin Luther King Jr. and that of the IRA? The difference is politically motivated terrorism involves violence against civilians. The IRA attacked civilians, not just members of the British forces, as well, the British did the same. Martin Luther King Jr. on the other hand, avoided violence. He protested, marched on Capitol Hill and held demonstrations. He did not attack buildings full of civilians, nor did he advocate violence is support of his cause.
Another group that is politically motivated is the Aum Shinrikyo group out of Japan. After a failed attempt by the cult’s leader Shoko Ashahara and 20 followers to gain political power, they began their crusade. Japanese analysts believe this is when the cult began its search of weapons of mass destruction (Olson, 1999). In 1995, the cult carried out an attack on the Tokyo subway. They released sarin gas a nerve agent into the subway in an attempt to kill as many police officers as possible. The attack killed 12 and injured more than 3,800 (Olson, 1999). This was not their first attack and it probably won’t be there last. Even though this group may be have a religious foundation the attacks were motivated by politics. As a result of these attacks many of the cult’s members were brought to trial in Tokyo’s High Court. The leader Shahara is convicted on the 13 charges against him and receives the death penalty (Onishi, 2004). This is not the only group who makes it difficult to identify the motivation behind their acts. Hamas as briefly discussed earlier has a very strong political wing.
This organization continues to fight Israel over the political boundaries of Palestine. As many peace talks and cease fires were negotiated they never seemed to last long. Hamas’ political goal is to gain a liberated Palestine and secure the holy land. They will do whatever it takes to make it happen. They, like most other terrorist groups use means such as bombings, kidnappings, and other violent attacks against Israel. They don’t believe Israel has a right to exist and continue their fight to reverse the decision that allowed them to become a nation. With a similar hatred toward Israel, the Lebanese group Hezbollah is another politically motivated terrorist group.
Hezbollah is a political group in Lebanon. It is a Shi’ite Muslim group that spawned after the Iranian Revolution. Although the group’s goal was to spread Shi’ite Islamic Law throughout Lebanon, that goal took a back seat to driving Israel out of Lebanon (BBC, 2004). Like Hamas, Hezbollah has several seats in parliament and continues to keep Lebanon free of Israeli occupation. This group has used numerous violent acts to include bombings and kidnappings to further their goals. This is why it is more fitting for them to fall under the politically motivated terrorism.
It is necessary to understand that political motivation is not just a foreign concept. Los Macheteros is a politically motivated group from Puerto Rico. They began attacks against the Puerto Rican Government in early 1998 (Counterterrorism Threat and Warning Unit, 1998). This group was responsible for 3 bombings and multiple fires in different parts of the island (Counterterrorism Threat and Warning Unit, 1998).
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Not all groups fall into one of these two motivations of terrorism, many groups base their values or morals on ideologies. It is these ideologies that breed such a belief in something, that these groups will go to any extreme to change policies or just others’ views on the subject. Brent Smith breaks ideological terrorism into five categories: human nature, economic views, geographical bases of support, tactics, and target selection. Arguably, the most common of these ideologies are animal rights activists and environmentalists (White, 2009). This is definitely not all encompassing, but these two ideologies are possibly the most often read about in headlines. Some of these groups include the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), the Earth Liberation Front and the Evan Mecham Eco-Terrorist International Conspiracy (EMETIC). There are of course, other types out there that may be classified as one of the two previous motivations. Groups such as United Freedom Front (UFF) and the Armed Resistance Unit may also be considered politically motivated groups (White, 2009).
The Animal Liberation Front, more commonly referred to by its acronym ALF, is dedicated to freeing animals from scientific research. This is a group who, in its own credo blatantly states their intended goal is to create economic harm to those who “abuse” animals (Berlin, 2010). The ALF website also states in their guidelines that they will bring no harm to any animal (humans or other). This is despite the fact that they have taken credit for such actions. For example, an article in the Los Angeles Times on November 25, 2010 describes a professor at UCLA who has received numerous threats from this particular group. The latest of these threats was an envelope containing razor blades suspected to be contaminated with the AIDS virus. He has also received a letter stating that when he is walking on campus between classes that someone will walk up behind him and slice his throat (Faturechi, 2010). Even though this type of organization has groups that work autonomously, the group as a whole takes credit for such attacks. Their goal is to save animals from abuse and they advertise terroristic means to achieve this goal. Similar to this group is the Earth Liberation Front, known as ELF.
The original ELF was actually known as Environmental Life Force founded by John Hanna, the first person arrested for what is now considered terrorist attacks in the name of saving the earth. It was founded in the ’70s, but following Hanna’s arrest the group lost much of its support according to the group’s website. The website further explains the evolution of the group which is now known as the Earth Liberation Front. The group still does not have the support of many environmentalists because of the tactics they use. They have no qualms about using tactics such has placing firebombs on farm equipment or using arson to further their movement. The new website earthliberationfront.org has a timeline annotating the evolvement of the group to include attacks made and FBI operations to combat the environmental extremists (ELF, 2009).
Another group that uses extreme measures to further the environmental movement is the Evan Mecham Eco-Terrorist International Conspiracy or EMETIC. According to James F. Jarboe, the Domestic Terrorism Section Chief of the Counterterrorism Division for the FBI, this group targeted nuclear power plants and ski resorts in the southwest. Members of the group were arrested, fined more than $25,000 in fines and given one received 100 hours of community service. This group was extremely active in the late 1980s and held responsible for some acts even into the 1990s (Jarboe, 2002).
These groups have an obvious motivation of ideology but groups like the United Freedom Front is a group that fits into the gray area between political and ideological terrorism. This group was an anti-Vietnam War that not only protested but bombed business (White, 2009). The group dismantled in the 1980s after members were arrest for the murder of Phillip Lamonaco, a New Jersey State Trooper (NY Daily News, 2009). Recently, University of Massachusetts was criticized for inviting Raymond Luc Levassuer to speak at the university in 2009 (NY Daily News, 2009). The group was also responsible for more than 20 bombings and nine bank robberies in a decade from 1975 to 1985 (NY Daily News, 2009). This group was not alone in their views against United States aggression during this time. The Armed Resistance Unit also protested and using extreme measures in their cause.
The Armed Resistance Unit was responsible for several acts now considered terrorism in the 1980s. The group carried out a plan to bomb the U.S. Capitol, demonstrating their disapproval of U.S. aggression (Seattle Times, 2006). This was not the only one of such attacks.
Although all terrorist groups could be placed in one of these three motivations, the FBI further catalogs them into one of two types of terrorism: Domestic and International. While most people are familiar with international terrorism, many forget that here in the United States, we breed our own types of terrorists.
Terrorism does not just include groups or organizations that are trying to further a cause. It also consists of individuals that are out to prove something. When we discuss domestic terrorism, one of the first things that come to mind for most is school shootings. On the other hand, some may think of people like Timothy McVeigh or the Unabomber. Then again, some may think of drug dealers or gangs that use terrorist tactics to maintain their territories or turfs. Some gangs are based on race but some are based on drug territory. For some, organized crime families may appear to be nothing more than terrorists. To be fair, according to the definitions that have been produced, these families are terrorists.
These acts are committed by individuals that are disgruntled or have felt they were wronged in some way. In the case of the Virginia Tech shooting in April 2007, a lone gunman killed two in a dormitory and then a few hours later kill 30 more in a classroom building on the Blacksburg campus (Hauser, 2007). Sueng Hui Cho was a senior at VA Tech when he finally snapped and opened fire on his fellow students. While Cho was known to have psychological problems and had failed to get the therapy he so desperately needed, no one thought it necessary to take action (VA Tech Review Panel, 2010). Unfortunately, this was a deadly mistake. Cho had internalized all his anger and frustrations towards the world and on that fateful day took them out on unsuspecting students (VA Tech Review Panel, 2010). This event although considered to be the worst in U.S. history, was not the first of its kind.
There first school shooting to play out on national television was at Columbine High School in Colorado just before the turn of the century. According to an article in USA Today written by Greg Toppo, the disturbed duo, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were just two teenagers who wanted to repeat the devastation of the Oklahoma City Bombing by Timothy McVeigh (Toppo, 2009). The two had psyched each other up for a year, saving money from after school jobs to finance their horrific plan. Their intent was not to go into to the cafeteria and shoot up the place, it was to blow up the entire building in order to kill everyone. Fortunately for the survives of the attack the boys did not know how to wire the bombs correctly and they were never detonated (Toppo, 2009). Timothy McVeigh on the other hand, was much more successful.
Timothy McVeigh constructed a bomb, placed it into a van and drove to the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. On the morning of April 19, 1995 McVeigh used up the Murrah Federal Building as a symbolic target against state power (White, 2009). It was not just the attack itself that sent shock waves across the United States. As a matter of fact, the biggest shock of entire incident was the arrest of a young white man from western New York. It was difficult for Americans to believe that this was a product of a fellow citizen (White, 2009).
Americans gangs use extreme measures to maintain control over their neighborhood. They have used multiple tactics to coerce residents to keep quiet. Those who tried standing up for themselves were silenced by threats of violence and at times acts of violence such as drive by shootings. It wasn’t just the residents the gangs targeted, it was also rival gangs. Gangs use similar tactics against other gangs that would try and roll in on their turf. One of the most well known gangs from the 1960s out of Los Angeles was the Cripes. In response to the Cripes organization a rival gang emerged known as the Bloods (Walker, 2010). The two gangs distinguished themselves from each other by dressing in certain fashions but more distinctively by wearing certain colors. The Cripes displayed blue while the Bloods by no surprise displayed red. These gangs took their terrorism by targeting anyone who wore the opposing color, whether the individual was affiliated with the gang or not.
Gangs like these are not particular to big cities or even certain states. Gangs like these have spread through the country. The Cripes themselves have been loosely affiliated with more than 200 gangs around the country. Interestingly enough these gangs fight amongst each other as much as they fight others. Nonetheless, they all use terrorist tactics and create an extremely high level of fear in their neighborhoods.
There are many notorious crime families that throughout history have done nothing more than terrorize the communities they live, whether it be physical harm or just destruction of their businesses. Organized crime families such as the Gambino family used terror to coerce business owners to be a legitimate front to cover up their criminal activity. The Gambino family was led by John Gotti Sr. from 1985 until his conviction in 1992 when he then passed the reins over to his son John Gotti Jr. (Gotti, 2009). The Gambino family is one of the top five organized crime families in New York and New Jersey and has affiliation with the infamous La Cosa Nostra a Sicilian mafia organization (Gotti, 2009). The organize crime families are one of the reasons there is such a problem with being able to distinguish between terrorism and basic criminal activity. Again, these groups would fit in to domestic terrorism by the FBI’s definition. On the other hand, where do we draw the line between criminals and terrorists?
These are just a few acts of terrorism by individuals or groups that were born and raised right here in this country. The United States can’t just focus on these domestic attacks because just as these individuals planned, targeted, and carried out these horrifying acts of violence on symbols of state power, there are several others that have similar sentiments about the strength of the United States and how they use their power. They come from all walks of life and live all over the world.
International terrorism is just as much of a threat as domestic terrorism. Just as the name of it implies, international terrorism are attacks that happen outside or at a minimum, generate from outside the United States. These types of attacks are not unique to the United States. There have been bombings in numerous countries around the world. Some may be against the United States some are not.
In spite of the United States identification of vulnerabilities, they still fell victim to a major attack. On June 25, 1996, the Khobar Towers, a housing facility in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia was the target of a successful bombing. Air Force Security Forces identified suspicious activity involving a sewage tanker truck and treated the situation as a threat. They made every attempt to evacuate the building but despite their efforts the attack left 19 dead and 500 wounded (Bruno, 2010).
Groups such as the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) translated as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia have targeted Americans in a similar fashion as earlier groups mentioned such as Al Qaeda. It was established in 1964 and is organized along military lines with many urban fronts. It is one of Colombia’s oldest insurgent groups (Global Security, 2008). This group kidnaps individuals and uses them for ransom. The group kidnapped 15 people, including three government contractors in 2003. They were held captive for over five years and were finally rescued in 2008 (CNN, 2008). Although no ransom was paid for these hostages, the tactic is used for financial gain.
The bombing of the London subway though, was not targeting the United States, but rather attack Great Britain for their assistance to the U.S. in operations against terrorism. On July 7, 2005 4 suicide bombers entered the London underground (subway). The attack killed 52 and wounded 700 citizens when the suicide bombers detonated on three different trains and a bus.
There is no safe haven from these types of organizations. On March 11, 2004 Madrid, Spain experienced similar attacks. Militants disrupted Madrid’s transportation network by blowing up four of the commuter trains. The devastating attacks caused 190 deaths. Spain continues to receive threats for their support to U.S. forces (BBC, 2004). Spanish authorities identified six Morrocans, but were only able to arrest three of them in connection with the bombings. Authorities also arrested two Indians in connection with the same attack.
Pirates off the coast of the Horn of Africa are also considered international terrorism. These pirates hijack ships from many different countries to hold for ransom. The U.S. does not negotiate with terrorism and this stand has been reiterated by numerous presidents in multiple different press releases. Unfortunately, this is not the stance other nations take on dealing with terrorist, as some give in to the demands of terrorist. China for example, would do anything for the safe return of their bulk carrier transporting coal from South Africa to India (CNN, 2009). The carrier was hijacked on October 19, 2009 with a crew of 25. This was not the only Chinese vessel to be hijacked. Another vessel was the MV Golden Blessing that was hijacked June 28, 2010. The ship was carrying glycol ethylene from Saudi Arabia to India. Al
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