What is a terrorist?

How does a terrorist differ from a “freedom fighter” or the army? Is a terrorist someone who deliberately targets civillians to meet political ends through terror? How different is this to an army that accepts such innocent casualties as an inevitable part of war, without targetting them?

C’mon, Tigerman - I know you will have an opinion.

A terrorist intends to create terror in a particular society or world forum in order to further their own particular political/religious agenda. A freedom fighter does the same thing. An invading army does the same thing. It is all the same. Good point.

Sometimes terrorists grow up to become freedom fighters. Sometimes Freedom Fighters grow up to become terrorists. SOmetines invading armies invoke freedom in the name of terror.

Mostly, where does any of this lead? To the present situation the world finds itself in? Maybe.

And it’s not over. Expect a big bomb attack in a movie theater in Japan or Taipei next. Then a water poisoning on a mass scale in the USA. More and more … until the current terrorists, who root for Allah in the God business, win. Yes. folks, get ready, beacuse they are going to win and win BIG. We might not have to convert, but the world will be run by Allah’s cronies. It’s inevitable. They simply will not give up. We will.



I take the poiht - its all the same.

I admit though, that I have a feeling in my stomach that its not all the same. Now, this could just be my unwillingness to accept that the west could be wrong… but I do feel that there must be a difference between an army that acts out of morality (preventing genocide, by an armed force against unarmed civilians, perhaps) rather than a small group pursuing its own selfish interests through violence aimed at civilians.

I just cannot find the logic to express the differences. Someone help me out before my belief system collapses.


I still don’t understand why Taipei would be a target for terrorist? Japan, perhaps…

The water poisioning, sounds an aweful lot like what a Taxi driver was trying to tell me after the Rat Poison in the dofu stand in Nanjing… perhaps, I hope not.

I still have to think that the current terrorists, while better organized than others perhaps, are still the vocal minority of the religion. My biggest concern is not that we will be over run by islam, rather it is the fact that so many peace loving muslims have remained silent.

And, so, worse case, if “Allah’s cronies” win… so? Christ’s folks have been in charge for a few hundred years, have we made the whole world convert? Just fanning the flames here.

Me, myself, I am routing for the Buddhists to stage a violent overthrow- storm the UN, cause hate and discontent among the villagers! Better yet, I think the Jaines will do it!

Me, too , I vote for the Jaines to take over. SOON!

AS for why terror in Taipei, well, have you noticed that ever since SATANIC VERSUS (sic) was published here in Chinese last month, the newspapers have been trying hard to write positive stories on the 1,000 Muslims who live here. WHY? Suddenly this interest in Muslims in Taiwan? WHY? Because word on the street has it that the a major terror cell is here, yes, because of easy entry at airport and visa ease, so a bomb will go off at Warner Village or the Big Golf Ball soon, just to warn people, but not to kill. Of course, 100 or more people will die in the fire. Far-fetched? Stay home and rent a video.

We are at war. And we are going to lose.

They may or may not differ, depending upon the situation. A freedom fighter or an army can employ terrorist tactics, and when doing so, become (a) terrorist(s). “Terrorism” is, IMO, the utilization of tactics that aim to inspire fear and terror among civilians in order to achieve or further a political goal.


Very different. There has never been a war or conflict that I am aware of that has been waged without causing civilian casualties. Most agree, I assume, that war is generally undesirable, and much of the reason that we feel this way is due to the fact that innocent civilians frequently become casualties.

But, if we accept that there is such a thing as a “just” war, and I believe there is, then we must also accept that even in a just war, civilians will be harmed or killed. The theory that some wars are “just” derives basically from the notion that self-defense is an acceptable reason for employing force against others.

As the concept of self-defense requires the user of force to restrain himself and employ only that force that is reasonably necessary to defend himself, then, in the conduct of a just war, the warrior does have an obligation to refrain from targeting civilians, as civilians generally pose no threat for which defense is necessary.

However, where the enemy has selected the battlefield by placing troops or facilities having military value in areas populated by civilians, the party conducting a “just” war is obligated only to refrain from directly targeting civilians and to do everything possible to minimize or avoid civilian casualties when targeting enemy troops or facilities purposely situated in civilian-populated areas.

It would be absurd to preclude a party attempting justified self-defense from using force against an enemy actively threatening him simply because the enemy purposely hid behind innocent civilians. This is certainly not to say that harming innocent civilians is “OK”… but neither is it OK to allow a party to shoot at you from behind innocent civilians.

Of course!

A terrorist cell here should be dealt with martial law style.

I don’t think that it exists though. The muslims here are too few and too easy to monitor.

Mr T, the difference, then, is: terrorism tries to maximise civilian death; legitimate force tries to minimise it. If someone kills 100,000, while attempting to minimise civilian death, they are legitimate; someone who kills 1, while attempting to maximise civilian death, is a terrorist.

OK. It may sound harsh but I can accept this definition.

Legitimate use of force not only attempts to minimize civilian casualties, it is obligated, whenever possible, to avoid civilian casualties. Only when it is not possible does legitimate force “accept” civilian casualties, and then only with a duty to minimize the same. Conversely, a terrorist seeks, as you have stated, to target and maximize civilian casualties.

IMO, the attacks against the US Marine barracks and against the USS Cole were not terrorist attacks, but were acts of war, even if a state of war is not officially recognized. The attacks using commercial airliners are terrorist acts.

That is an interesting distinction. Seems valid to me. Any dissenting view?

terroists are people who seek to kill large numbers of people and so in flict terror onto those people’s family, countrymen etc to achieve their personal goal while using usually using guerialla tatics to do it

It probabily comes down more to their motivations and targets than the quantites they kill either civliian or military.

Attacking military targets is a declaration of war or even attacking people or postions in power could be considered as non terrorist attack

Anyway the country the terroists are attacking usually get to call them and define them by.

Russia has Chechan terrorists
Uk had IRA terrorists
Spain has Basque Terrorists
America has everykind of terroist wanting to hurt them the Al Queda, Malisha ( spelling) in the southern states

Even in war there are rules… does anybody have a book with the rules and what defines a freedom a war and a terrorist

Also the bombing of Nagaski and Hiroshima… were these terroists attacks

Well said Tigerman. I think most people I’ve talked to all hold the same views more or less. There’s always a vocal few trying to make themselves feel better than everybody else, but I think they are a very small minority, from what I’ve seen. (Maybe I’m wrong?)

Otherwise all those people on scooters are terrorists. Hell, they’re not actively trying to save innocent lives anywhere close to level the US Army seemed to in Afghanistan. Yet many people die every day because of them… so are they terrorists? According to the logic of some, apparently they are. They’re running the risk of killing people for their own agenda (granted, their agenda is usually getting from point A to point B).

[Disclaimer: this argument can be used for drivers anywhere in the world, so no flames on criticizing the locals please… let’s keep this thread on-topic…] :stuck_out_tongue:

Is the ‘man’ in “Tigerman” pronounced like “Spiderman,” or more like a last name (such as Silverman)? I really should stop having drinks with lunch…

This is an excellent point. I might have argued in the past that this was an act of war. But, according to Tigerman’s definition, it must be a terrorist attack. Surely? Mr. T?

A terrorist only seeks to maximize casualties… but even by killing only one civilian, his objective of terror is achieved. Albeit on a smaller scale or without the impact that a mass killing would achieve.

Numbers are irrelevant, but targets are important, IMO. The League of Nations in 1937 attempted, but failed, to define terrorism in an internationally acceptable way and UN Member States still have no agreed-upon definition of “terrorism”.

Terrorism expert A. Schmid in 1992 suggested that the existing consensus on what constitutes a “war crime” could be used as a foundation on which to discuss a definition for “terrorism”. He suggested that if war crimes, defined as “deliberate attacks on civilians, hostage taking and the killing of prisoners” were applied to times of peace, “terrorism” could be defined as “peacetime equivalents of war crimes”.

League of Nations Convention in 1937 defined “terrorism” as “all criminal acts directed against a State and intended or calculated to create a state of terror in the minds of particular persons or a group of persons or the general public”. As indicated above, this definition was not agreed upon.

In 1999, the UN stated 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 circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other nature that may be invoked to justify them”. (GA Res. 51/210 Measures to eliminate international terrorism).

Some scholars, led by A. Schmid in 1988, arrived at a rather wordy academic consensus definition of “terrorism” which states that “terrorism is an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi-) clandestine individual, group or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal or political reasons, whereby - in contrast to assassination - the direct targets of violence are not the main targets. The immediate human victims of violence are generally chosen randomly (targets of opportunity) or selectively (representative or symbolic targets) from a target population, and serve as message generators. Threat- and violence-based communication processes between terrorist (organization), (imperilled) victims, and main targets are used to manipulate the main target (audience(s)), turning it into a target of terror, a target of demands, or a target of attention, depending on whether intimidation, coercion, or propaganda is primarily sought”.

Not according to the scholars’ definition above.

I disagree. Regardless of all the other reasons that there may have been for dropping the bombs, I believe that by dropping the bombs the lives of more people (both combatants and civilians, both Japanese and Allied) were spared. In the definition of “terrorism” that I provided, a party fighting a “just” war is obligated only to minimize civilian casualties when it is impossible to completely avoid them. By dropping the bombs, even on targets where civilians were certain to be harmed, the higher goal of minimizing civilian casualties was achieved.

Like in Spiderman.

This is an excellent point. I might have argued in the past that this was an act of war. But, according to Tigerman’s definition, it must be a terrorist attack. Surely? Mr. T?[/quote]

The issue does get sticky. In the definition of “terrorism” that I provided, in the above several posts, a party fighting a “just” war is obligated only to minimize civilian casualties when it is impossible to completely avoid them. By dropping the bombs, even on targets where civilians were certain to be harmed, the higher goal of minimizing civilian casualties was achieved.

I understand that with regard to the A-bombs, reasonable minds may differ on whether or not this was a “terrorist” act. Some people argue that dropping the first bomb was OK but dropping the second bomb was a terrorist act.

Nagasaki, etc fits “the direct targets of violence are not the main targets” and “the immediate human victims serve as message generators.”

The weakness of the “minimising civilian deaths” argument - anyone might claim killing people was INTENDED, however misguidedly, to spare the lives of many more later.

I think Smid’s definition would call both terrorist acts.

Yes. But let’s remember that notwithstanding the League of Nations’ attempt in 1937 to define “terrorism”, the definitions being discussed today are all an attempt to deal with the new type of wars being faught rather than the large-scale conflagrations between nation states. The nature of such largescale wars made civilian casualties an unavoidable consequence. In todays wars, civilians are specifically targeted.

Yes. However, if reasonable grounds can be provided for believing that killing x number of civilians actually spared twice as many civilians, then an argument can be made that the act was not terroristic. For instance, the US can point to the nature of Japanese resistance on Okinawa and other islands as support for the notion that if the Japanese islands were invaded, the civilian casualty would be far greater than that resultant fromthe bombs dropped. Likewise, the Israelis, IMO, can reasonably defend their actions in Jenin by pointing out that they easily could have leveled the targeted area, despite the presence of civilians, in order to save the lives of Israeli soldiers. The US obviously saved the lives of many US soldiers by bombing rather than invading Japan. But the Israelis went in to Jenin on the ground and conducted house to house searches and in doing so, spared the lives of many Palestinian civilians… at the cost of some 23 Israeli soldiers’ lives.

Thus, although civilians may have been targeted in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, far more lives, both civilian and combatants, were spared. I think we have an obligation to minimize civilian casualties if casualties cannot be altogether avoided.

Probably. But I think the idea of an obligation to minimize civilian casualties whenever such casualties cannot be completely avoided is an important part of a definition of “terrorism”. That’s what I think, anyway.

[quote=“tigerman”]The US obviously saved the lives of many US soldiers by bombing rather than invading Japan [quote]

Hmmmm… I wonder if it is “legitimate” in this context to save the lives of soldiers by sacrificing the lives (of an admittedly smaller number) of civilians. I think I would argue NOT.

This discussion getting interesting…

Hmmmm… I wonder if it is “legitimate” in this context to save the lives of soldiers by sacrificing the lives (of an admittedly smaller number) of civilians. I think I would argue NOT.[/quote]

The US also arguably saved the lives of many Japanese civilians and soldiers by dropping the bombs rather than invading Japan.

The decision to drop the bombs was made by US President Truman, in his capacity of Commander in Chief of the US Armed Forces, then fighting the Japanese military. Whether it was “legitimate” to sacrifice the lives of Japanese civilians so that US soldiers could be spared is an interesting and difficult issue.

I often feel that one of the most difficult things in life is to keep from being an hypocrite sometimes. This is definitely one of those times when I find my beliefs apparently not as solidly grounded as I would like. But I’ll attempt to explain my position anyway. :wink:

I think that in the context of the Second World War, with all of the horrible suffering involved, worldwide, for civilians and combatants alike, the sacrifice of the Japanese civilians who died as a result of the bombs being dropped was justified. Looking at the whole big picture, the world had been at war for about a decade and the Japanese were, IMO, primarily to blame for the Pacific war… and everyone wanted the war to end. The Japanese should have known that they were defeated and surrendered rather than continuing to fight to the last soldier (and in the case of Okinawa, to the last civilian). Moreover, the Allies knew that the Japanese planned to execute nearly all Allied POWs and civilian prisoners as well (such as those Allied soldiers held POW here in Taiwan). The Allies also knew how the Japanese army faught on the islands as the Allies inched closer and closer to Japan. In any event, how could US President Truman justify to Americans sending so many estimated US soldiers to death in an invasion of Japan when he knew that the US possessed a weapon that would likely end the war?

It was a difficult decision, I’m sure. And with hindsight, we can debate the necessity of using the bombs. We can also debate the actual reasons that the bombs were used. But I don’t believe that we can debate the issue of whether more lives were ultimately saved by using the bombs.

Using my definition of “terrorism” = “violence targeted at civilians aimed at maximizing casualties + an obligation during war to avoid civilian casualties or minimize civilian casualties in when total avoidance is impossible”, I do not think that the bombing of Hiroshima or Nagasaki were terrorist acts.

Yes, this is a very interesting discussion, and one in which I’m certain there will be many different conclusions.