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Not to be confused with State-sponsored terrorism.

State terrorism refers to acts of terrorism conducted by a state against a foreign state or people, or against its own people.[1][2][3][4][5]

Definition[edit]

There is neither an academic nor an international legal consensus regarding the proper definition of the word "terrorism".[6][7] Many scholars believe that the actions of governments can be labeled "terrorism".[8] For example, using the term 'terrorism' to mean violent action used with the predominant intention of causing terror, Paul James and Jonathan Friedman distinguish between state terrorism against non-combatants and state terrorism against combatants, including 'Shock and Awe' tactics:

However, others, including governments, international organizations, private institutions and scholars, believe that the term is only applicable to the actions of violent non-state actors. Historically, the term terrorism was used to refer to actions taken by governments against their own citizens whereas now it is more often perceived as targeting of non-combatants as part of a strategy directed against governments.[10]

Historian Henry Commager wrote that "Even when definitions of terrorism allow for state terrorism, state actions in this area tend to be seen through the prism of war or national self-defense, not terror.”[11] While states may accuse other states of state-sponsored terrorism when they support insurgencies, individuals who accuse their governments of terrorism are seen as radicals, because actions by legitimate governments are not generally seen as illegitimate. Academic writing tends to follow the definitions accepted by states.[12] Most states use the term "terrorism" for non-state actors only.[13]

The Encyclopædia Britannica Online defines terrorism generally as "the systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective", and states that "terrorism is not legally defined in all jurisdictions." The encyclopedia adds that "[e]stablishment terrorism, often called state or state-sponsored terrorism, is employed by governments -- or more often by factions within governments -- against that government's citizens, against factions within the government, or against foreign governments or groups."[2]

While the most common modern usage of the word terrorism refers to civilian-victimizing political violence by insurgents or conspirators,[14] several scholars make a broader interpretation of the nature of terrorism that encompasses the concepts of state terrorism and state-sponsored terrorism.[15] Michael Stohl argues, "The use of terror tactics is common in international relations and the state has been and remains a more likely employer of terrorism within the international system than insurgents.[16] Stohl clarifies, however, that "[n]ot all acts of state violence are terrorism. It is important to understand that in terrorism the violence threatened or perpetrated, has purposes broader than simple physical harm to a victim. The audience of the act or threat of violence is more important than the immediate victim."[17]

Scholar Gus Martin describes state terrorism as terrorism "committed by governments and quasi-governmental agencies and personnel against perceived threats", which can be directed against both domestic and foreign targets.[4] Noam Chomsky defines state terrorism as "terrorism practised by states (or governments) and their agents and allies".[18] Jeffrey A. Sluka has described Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman as pioneers in academic studies about state terrorism.[19]

Stohl and George A. Lopez have designated three categories of state terrorism, based on the openness/secrecy with which the alleged terrorist acts are performed, and whether states directly perform the acts, support them, or acquiesce to them.[20]

History[edit]

Aristotle wrote critically of terror employed by tyrants against their subjects.[21] The earliest use of the word terrorism identified by the Oxford English Dictionary is a 1795 reference to tyrannical state behavior, the "reign of terrorism" in France.[22] In that same year, Edmund Burke famously decried the "thousands of those hell-hounds called terrorists" who he believed threatened Europe.[23] During the Reign of Terror, the Jacobin government and other factions of the French Revolution used the apparatus of the state to kill and intimidate political opponents, and the Oxford English Dictionary includes as one definition of terrorism "Government by intimidation carried out by the party in power in France between 1789-1794".[24] The original general meaning of terrorism was of terrorism by the state, as reflected in the 1798 supplement of the Dictionnaire of the Académie française, which described terrorism as systeme, regime de la terreur.[23] Dr. Myra Williamson wrote: "The meaning of “terrorism” has undergone a transformation. During the reign of terror a regime or system of terrorism was used as an instrument of governance, wielded by a recently established revolutionary state against the enemies of the people. Now the term “terrorism" is commonly used to describe terrorist acts committed by non-state or subnational entities against a state." (italics in original)[10]

Later examples of state terrorism include the police state measures employed by the Soviet Union beginning in the 1930s, and by Germany's Nazi regime in the 1930s and 1940s.[25] According to Igor Primoratz, "Both [the Nazis and Soviets] sought to impose total political control on society. Such a radical aim could only be pursued by a similarly radical method: by terrorism directed by an extremely powerful political police at an atomized and defenseless population. Its success was due largely to its arbitrary character — to the unpredictability of its choice of victims. In both countries, the regime first suppressed all opposition; when it no longer had any opposition to speak of, political police took to persecuting “potential” and “objective opponents”. In the Soviet Union, it was eventually unleashed on victims chosen at random." [26]

Military actions primarily directed against non-combatant targets have also been referred to as state terrorism. For example, the bombing of Guernica has been called an act of terrorism,[27] as well as the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Other examples of state terrorism may include the World War II bombings of London, Dresden, Chongqing, and Hiroshima.[28][verification needed]

Sometimes regarded as an act of terrorism was the peace-time sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, a ship owned by Greenpeace, which occurred while in port at Auckland, New Zealand on July 10, 1985. The bomb detonation killed Fernando Pereira, a Portuguese photographer. The organization who committed the attack, the DGSE, is a branch of France's intelligence services. Ironically, France and New Zealand had been allies since French missionaries settled in Akaroa, in 1835. The agents responsible pled guilty to manslaughter as part of a plea deal and were sentenced to ten years in prison, but were secretly released early to France under an agreement between the two countries' governments.

Another example is the British Military Reaction Force in Northern Ireland during the 1970s which murdered innocent civilians from the Catholic community in order to stir up ethnic hatred and "take the heat of the army".[29] In 2012–13, a former MRF member using the covername 'Simon Cursey' gave a number of interviews and published the book MRF Shadow Troop, about his time in the unit: "We opened fire at any small group in hard areas [...] armed or not – it didn't matter. We targeted specific groups that were always up to no good. These types were sympathisers and supporters, assisting the IRA movement. As far as we were concerned they were guilty by association and party to terrorist activities, leaving themselves wide open to the ultimate punishment from us".[30]

In November 2013, a BBC Panorama documentary was aired about the MRF. It drew on information from seven former members, as well as a number of other sources: Soldier H said "We operated initially with them thinking that we were the UVF", to which Soldier F added: "We wanted to cause confusion".[31] In June 1972, he was succeeded as commander by Captain James 'Hamish' McGregor.[32]

In June 2014, the wake of the Panorama program the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) opened an investigation into the matter.[33] In an earlier review of the program the position of the PSNI was that none of the statements by soldiers in the programme could be taken as an admission of criminality.[34]

Arguments that terrorism is not committed by states[edit]

Discussions of terrorism in social sciences and philosophy tend to apply to violent non-state actors.[35]

The Chairman of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee has stated that the twelve previous international conventions on terrorism had never referred to state terrorism, which was not an international legal concept, and that when states abuse their powers they should be judged against international conventions dealing with war crimes, international human rights law, and international humanitarian law, rather than against international anti-terrorism statutes.[36] In a similar vein, Kofi Annan, at the time United Nations Secretary-General, stated that it is "time to set aside debates on so-called 'state terrorism'. The use of force by states is already regulated under international law".[37] Annan added, "...regardless of the differences between governments on the question of definition of terrorism, what is clear and what we can all agree on is any deliberate attack on innocent civilians [or non-combatants], regardless of one's cause, is unacceptable and fits into the definition of terrorism."[38]

Dr. Bruce Hoffman has argued that failing to differentiate between state and non-state violence ignores the fact that there is a “fundamental qualitative difference between the two types of violence.” Hoffman argues that even in war, there are rules and accepted norms of behavior that prohibit certain types of weapons and tactics and outlaw attacks on specific categories of targets. For instance, rules codified in the Geneva and Hague Conventions on warfare prohibit taking civilians as hostages, outlaw reprisals against either civilians or POWs, recognize neutral territory, etc. Hoffman states that “even the most cursory review of terrorist tactics and targets over the past quarter century reveals that terrorists have violated all these rules.” Hoffman also states that when states transgress these rules of war “the term “war crime” is used to describe such acts.”[39]

Walter Laqueur has stated that those who argue that state terrorism should be included in studies of terrorism ignore the fact that “The very existence of a state is based on its monopoly of power. If it were different, states would not have the right, nor be in a position, to maintain that minimum of order on which all civilized life rests.”[40] Calling the concept a “red herring” he stated: “This argument has been used by the terrorists themselves, arguing that there is no difference between their activities and those by governments and states. It has also been employed by some sympathizers, and rests on the deliberate obfuscation between all kinds of violence...”[41]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Aust, Anthony (2010). Handbook of International Law (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 265. ISBN 978-0-521-13349-4. 
  2. ^ a b "Terrorism". Encyclopædia Britannica. 
  3. ^ Seldin & So, 2003: p. 4
  4. ^ a b Martin, 2006: p. 111
  5. ^ Shanahan, Timothy (2009). The provisional Irish Republican Army and the morality of terrorism. Edinburgh University Press. p. 195. ISBN 978-0-7486-3530-6. 
  6. ^ Williamson, Myra (2009). Terrorism, war and international law: the legality of the use of force against Afghanistan in 2001. Ashgate Publishing. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-7546-7403-0. 
  7. ^ Schmid, Alex P. (2011). "The Definition of Terrorism". The Routledge Handbook of Terrorism Research. Routledge. p. 39. ISBN 0-203-82873-9. 
  8. ^ Nairn, Tom; James, Paul (2005). Global Matrix: Nationalism, Globalism and State-Terrorism. London and New York: Pluto Press. 
  9. ^ James, Paul; Friedman, Jonathan (2006). Globalization and Violence, Vol. 3: Globalizing War and Intervention. London: Sage Publications. p. xxx. 
  10. ^ a b Williamson, Myra (2009). Terrorism, war and international law: the legality of the use of force against Afghanistan in 2001. Ashgate Publishing. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-7546-7403-0. 
  11. ^ Hor, Michael Yew Meng (2005). Global anti-terrorism law and policy. Cambridge University Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-521-10870-6. 
  12. ^ Donahue, pp. 19-20
  13. ^ Alex P. Schmid (2011). Routledge Handbook of Terrorism Research. Routledge. p. 48. ISBN 0-415-41157-2. 
  14. ^ "Dealing with Terrorism", by Helen Purkitt, in Conflict in World Society, 1984, p. 162.
  15. ^ Michael Stohl, p. 14
  16. ^ The Superpowers and International Terror Michael Stohl, Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, Atlanta, March 27-April 1, 1984).
  17. ^ Stohl, National Interests and State Terrorism, The Politics of Terrorism, Marcel Dekker 1988, p.275
  18. ^ Chomsky, Noam (April 2002). "What Anthropologists Should Know about the Concept of Terrorism'". Anthropology Today 18 (2). 
  19. ^ Sluka, 2000: p.8
  20. ^ Stohl & Lopez, 1988: pp. 207-208
  21. ^ "Those Hell-Hounds Called Terrorists" By Harvey C. Mansfield, The Claremont Institute,' posted November 28, 2001
  22. ^ Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition, CD Version 3, 2002, Oxford University Press
  23. ^ a b A History of Terrorism, by Walter Laqueur, Transaction Publishers, 2007, ISBN 0-7658-0799-8, at [1], p. 6
  24. ^ Teichman, Jenny (October 1989). "How to define terrorism". Philosophy 64 (250): 505–517. doi:10.1017/S0031819100044260. 
  25. ^ Primoratz, Igor (2007); "Terrorism" in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  26. ^ Primoratz, Igor (2007)
  27. ^ What's wrong with terrorism? by Robert E. Goodin, Polity, 2006, ISBN 0-7456-3497-4, at [2], p. 62
  28. ^ Michael Stohl, "The Superpowers and International Terror", Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, Atlanta, March 27-April 1, 1984.
  29. ^ Murray, Raymond. The SAS in Ireland. Mercier Press, 1990. pp.44-45
  30. ^ "The 'murder and mayhem' squad: Shocking new revelations by former undercover soldier who carried out 'shoot first, ask questions later' attacks on IRA terrorists for the British Army". The Mail on Sunday, 23 December 2012. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  31. ^ Ware, John. "Britain's Secret Terror Force". Irish Republican News, 23 November 2013. Retrieved 23 November 2013.
  32. ^ Telling, Leo (director) (21 November 2013). "Britain's Secret Terror Force". Panorama. BBC. 
  33. ^ "Police investigate Military Reaction Force allegations". BBCl. 10 June 2014. Retrieved 1 March 2015. 
  34. ^ "Panorama MRF programme: Soldiers 'admitted no crimes". BBC. 13 May 2014. Retrieved 1 March 2015. 
  35. ^ "State terrorism and counterterrorism" (PDF). Primoratz, Igor (2002). Retrieved 2009-03-25. 
  36. ^ "Addressing Security Council, Secretary-General Calls On Counter-Terrorism Committee To Develop Long-Term Strategy To Defeat Terror". United Nations. Retrieved 2009-03-25. 
  37. ^ "The Legal Debate is Over: Terrorism is a War Crime". Michael Lind, New America Foundation. Retrieved 2009-03-25. 
  38. ^ "Press conference with Kofi Annan and Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi". United Nations. Retrieved 2009-03-25. 
  39. ^ Bruce Hoffman (1998). Inside Terrorism. : Columbia University Press (April 15, 1998). pp. 34–35. ISBN 0-231-11468-0. 
  40. ^ Ruth Blakeley (2009). State terrorism and neoliberalism. Routledge. p. 27. ISBN 0-415-46240-1. 
  41. ^ Walter Laqueur (2003). No end to war: terrorism in the twenty-first century. Continuum. p. 237. ISBN 0-8264-1435-4. 

Bibliography[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Prevention of terrorism


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