Saturday, September 29, 2007

Terrorism History
History of Terrorism: Anarchism and Anarchist Terrorism
From Amy Zalman, Ph.D.,
Your Guide to Terrorism Issues.

Anarchists employed "Propaganda of the Deed"
What is Anarchism?

Anarchism was a late 19th century idea among a number of Europeans, Russians and Americans, that all government should be abolished, and that voluntary cooperation, rather than force, should be society's organizing principle. The word itself comes from a Greek word, anarkos, which means "without a chief." The movement had its origins in the search for a way to give industrial working classes a political voice in their societies.

By the turn of the 20th century, anarchism was already on the wane, to be replaced by other movements encouraging the rights of dispossessed classes and revolution.

Propaganda of the Deed
A number of late 19th century thinkers argued that actions, rather than words, were the best way to spread ideas.

For some, it referred to communal violence, while by others it referenced assassinations and bombings carried out by anarchists.It was taken up by anarchists to describe assassinations and bombings.

"Anarchist Terrorism"
The late 19th century saw a wave of political violence inspired by anarchist ideas which were soon labeled anarchist terrorism:

1881: the assassination of Russian Tsar Alexander II, by the group Narodnaya Volya
1894: the assassination of the French president Marie-Francois Sadi Carnot
1894: Bombing of Greenwich Observatory in London
1901: the assassination of American president William McKinley in September 1901, by an anarchist, Leon Czolgosz.
These assassinations led to fear among among governments that there existed a vast international conspiracy of anarchist terrorists. In fact, there never was one.

Anarchists Today: No Connection to Religious Terrorism or War on Terror
Anarchists themselves argue that they should not be considered terrorists, or associated with terrorism. Their claims are reasonable: for one thing, most anarchists are actually against the use of violence to achieve political aims, and for another, violence by anarchists was historically directed at political figures, not civilians, as terrorism is.

On a different note, Rick Coolsaet suggests that there is an analogy to be made between the past and the present.

Muslims are often regarded now with the same mixture of fear and contempt as workers were in the 19th century. And the jihadi terrorist has the same feelings about America as his anarchist predecessor had about the bourgeoisie: he sees it as the epitome of arrogance and power. Osama bin Laden is a 21st century Ravachol, a living symbol of hatred and resistance for his followers, a bogeyman for the police and intelligence servicesToday’s jihadis resemble yesterday’s anarchists: in reality, a myriad of tiny groups; in their own eyes, a vanguard rallying the oppressed masses (5). Saudi Arabia has now taken the role of Italy while 11 September 2001 is the modern version of 24 June 1894, a wake-up call to the international community.
The reasons for the rise of terrorism now and anarchism then are the same. Muslims worldwide are united by a sense of unease and crisis. The Arab world seems to be more bitter, more cynical and less creative than it was in the 1980s. There is a growing sense of solidarity with other Muslims, a feeling that Islam itself is in danger. This is fertile ground for a fanatical minority.

What is Terrorism?:
Terrorism is distinguished from other acts of violence, and from war, by always having these four characteristics:

Terrorists violate the rules of modern warfare, established in acts called the Geneva Conventions and Hague Conventions; or they are actors (e.g., sub-state groups) who can't declare war legitimately;
Its goal is to achieve political change;
Its targets are symbolic of the political issue in question;
Acts of terror are designed to get attention from the public and media.

Also see definitions of terrorism from the United States government and international bodies and conventions.

Terrorism in the Pre-Modern World:
Violent acts on behalf of political change are as old as human history. The Sicarii were a first century Jewish group who murdered enemies and collaborators in their campaign to oust their Roman rulers from Judea.

The Hashhashin, whose name gave us the English word "assassins," were a secretive Islamic sect active in Iran and Syria from the 11th to the 13th century.

Their dramatically executed assassinations of Abbasid and Seljuk political figures terrified their contemporaries.

Zealots and assassins were not, however, really terrorists in the modern sense. Terrorism is best thought of as a modern phenomenon. Its characteristics flow from the international system of nation-states, and its success depends on the existence of a mass media to create an aura of terror among many people.

Sicarii, First Century Terrorists
The Assassins

Robespierre's sentiment laid the foundations for modern terrorists, who believe violence will usher in a better system. But the characterization of terrorism as a state action faded, while the idea of terrorism as an attack against an existing political order became more prominent.

Should States Be Considered Terrorists?
U.S. State Department State Sponsors of Terrorism, Who's On the List and How to Get Off

1950s: Twentieth Century Terror:

The rise of guerrilla tactics by non-state actors in the last half of the twentieth century was due to several factors.These included the flowering of ethnic nationalism (e.g. Irish, Basque, Zionist), anti-colonial sentiments in the vast British, French and other empires, and new ideologies such as communism.

Terrorist Groups with a nationalist agenda:

Irish Republican Army
Kurdistan Worker's Party

1970s: Terrorism Turns International:
International terrorism is considered to have gotten its start at the 1972 Munich Olympics, at which a Palestinian organization, Black September, kidnapped and killed Israeli athletes preparing to compete.

The event also gave us our contemporary sense of terrorism as highly theatrical, symbolic acts of violence by organized groups with specific political grievances.

Black September's political goal was negotiating the release of Palestinian prisoners. They used spectacular tactics to bring international attention to their national cause.

Munich radically changed the United States' handling of terrorism: "The terms counterterrorism and international terrorism formally entered the Washington political lexicon," according to counterterrorism expert Timothy Naftali.

Terrorists also took advantage of the black market in Soviet-produced light weaponry created in the wake of the Soviet Union's 1989 collapse. Most terrorist groups justified violence with a deep belief in the necessity and justice of their cause.

Terrorism in the United States also emerged. Groups such as the Weathermen grew out of the non-violent group Students for a Democratic Society. They turned to violent tactics, from rioting to setting off bombs, to protest the Vietnam War.

International Terrorism, Notable Attacks: 1968 PFLP Hijacking of El Al Flight 1988 Pan Am Lockerbie Explosion

Learn more about counterterrorism.

1990s: The Twenty First Century: Religious Terrorism and Beyond
Religiously motivated terrorism is considered the most alarming terrorist threat today. Groups that justify their violence on Islamic grounds- Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah—come to mind first. But Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and other religions have given rise to their own forms of militant extremism.

What is most distressing about this turn, as religion scholar Karen Armstrong points out, is terrorists' departure from any real religious precepts. Muhammad Atta, the architect of the 9/11 attacks, and "the Egyptian hijacker who was driving the first plane, was a near alcoholic and was drinking vodka before he boarded the aircraft." Alcohol would be strictly off limits for a highly observant Muslim. Atta, and perhaps many others, are not simply orthodox believers turned violent, but rather violent extremists who manipulate religious concepts for their own purposes.

Robespierre's sentiment laid the foundations for modern terrorists, who believe violence will usher in a better system. But the characterization of terrorism as a state action faded, while the idea of terrorism as an attack against an existing political order became more prominent.

The Many Definitions of Terrorism

There is no official definition of terrorism agreed on throughout the world, and definitions tend to rely heavily on who is doing the defining and for what purpose. Some definitions focus on terrorist tactics to define the term, while others focus on the actor. Yet others look at the context and ask if it is military or not.

We will probably never arrive at a perfect definition to which we can all agree, although it does have characteristics to which we all point, like violence or its threat. Indeed, the only defining quality of terrorism may be the fact that it invites argument, since the label "terrorism" or "terrorist" arises when there is disagreement over whether an act of violence is justified (and those who justify it label themselves "revolutionaries" or "freedom fighters," etc.).

So, in one sense, it may be fair to say that terrorism is exactly violence (or the threat of violence) in context where there will be disagreement over the use of that violence.

But this doesn't mean that no one has tried to define terrorism! In order to prosecute terrorist acts, or distinguish them from war and other violence that is condoned, national and international institutions, as well as others, have sought to define the term. Here are some of the most frequently cited definitions.

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