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Can someone normal become a terrorist?

  1. Oct 28, 2003 #1
    What creates terrorists? Can a normal mental healthy person become a terrorist?
    IMO it can. It all depends of the subjective or collective perception of injustice.
    When someone feel treated with great injustice caused by other individuals or a group in power, by his own government or by occupying enemies, he can create the motives to react with violence and even go in hidden resistance (cf.. Secret White Army in Europe against German troops in WWII). Of course the holders of power will call such acts to be unlawful terrorist actions.
    There can be many acts which can create deep feelings of injustice, but for sure heavy emotions are involved.
    Of course such desperate people may organize themselves or influenced by people with more fanatic goals.

    We have the right to protect our family, our ground and goods, our wealth, our religion, ... but in what degree? Where is the limit? Where is the trigger or threshold that upsets someone in such way that he takes the rights in his own hands (and also weapons)? Repeated and inhumane acts of injustice? As said this can be individual and/or collective. When religion is involved we see extra motives added, and growth of fanaticalness. We saw that in Northern Ireland (Catholics/Protestants), we see that in Israel/Palestine, we see that in guerrilla conflict in Russia (Chechnya), we see that now in Iraq, etc.

    Now even interesting is to look what happens in USA on the right to bear weapons. This is significant. I refer to: http://usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/rightsof/arms.htm

    Quote: In 1960, a law professor, Stuart Hays, first suggested that private ownership of guns was a privilege protected by the Second Amendment, and that prior court decisions tying it only to the militia had been mistaken. Hays asserted that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to own a gun, perhaps primarily for self-defense, but totally apart from any militia duty. He also argued that the amendment created a citizen "right of revolution," and that armed citizens could launch an armed revolt against a government they believed had acted in an unjust manner. Essentially, Hays seemed to be arguing that the real purpose of the Second Amendment was to preserve to future generations the right of rebellion against tyranny that had been exercised by the patriotic generation of the American Revolution.

    The Hays article and the Kennedy assassination precipitated a continuing debate in the academy over the original and contemporary meaning of the Second Amendment, but more importantly, the constitutional debate was seized on by political groups who supported or opposed stronger gun control laws. Since then, the debate has raged between gun advocates defending their "constitutional right" to own firearms as opposed to those wanting to regulate gun ownership, and who deny there is any "right" involved at all.

    ... Some of the more militant gun advocates believe the real reason behind gun control laws is to disarm the citizenry, so that a despotic government can take over complete control and do away with all the rights of the people. Some such groups have organized themselves into modern-day "militias," and as such claim that the Second Amendment protects their activities fully.

    The opposition bases its arguments on the thousands of people killed each year by guns, many of these deaths resulting from domestic disputes or accidents. They also point to the ease with which deranged persons can get weapons, such as the two teenage boys who on April 20, 1999, entered Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, with four guns.
    Self-defense: Historically, so the argument goes, Americans have defended themselves, and, on the frontier, guns were essential to warding off attacks by Indians, rustlers, and other predators, both human and animal. In modern society, people ought to be able to protect themselves against robbery, rape, assault, and burglary. ..._

    American Law Institute, Model Penal Code and Commentaries(1985) : A man may repel by force in defense of his person, habitation, or property, against one or many who manifestly intend . . . to commit a known felony on either. In such a case he is not obliged to retreat, but may pursue his adversary until he finds himself out of danger; and if, in a conflict between them, he happens to kill, such killing is justifiable. The right of self-defense in cases of this kind is founded on the law of nature; and is not, nor can be, superseded by any law of society.

    _The Right of Revolution: As a nation born out of a revolution against its lawful king, and whose people are taught from infancy that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, the argument that the Second Amendment supports a right of revolution is not without attraction. More than a century ago, Lord Acton declared that "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely," and the men who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights understood that concept perfectly, even if they had not heard of Acton's exact words. Any government, even a democratic one, tends to accumulate power, and in doing so will fight off any attempt to diminish that power. An unarmed citizenry will be unable to preserve its liberties when confronted by the powers of the government; an armed citizenry can and will resist, as did the colonists in 1776.

    Today, the vast majority of the American people rely on the accepted methods of democracy to both influence and to limit government — the ballot box, political interest groups, a free press, and the courts. Very few Americans approve or sympathize with fringe groups who have declared the U. S. government a tyranny that must be resisted by force of arms. In fact, the only time in our history under the Constitution when citizens rebelled on a large scale was the Civil War, and very few will argue today that the South had a right of revolution. Indeed, the Constitution specifically gives the federal government the right and the power to suppress insurrections. (end of quote).

    So the question remains: What is a terrorist? A lunatic, a person claiming his 'right of revolution' against a government of tyranny, a desperate person which sees no way of normal self-defense, .... what your idea?

    IMO we have to look seriously to the arguments of people which claim injustice, and at the same time try to give them better conditions of life. I believe that - almost everyone - wants a normal life with as less as possible aggression. I don't believe someone goes Kamikaze for fun.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 28, 2003 #2
    What is a terrorist?

    I'm sure some here will tell you it's a muslim.

    Of course that's bigotted and wrong, but in the view of many americans that's the only qualification. Some muslims are terrorists, therefore all terrorists are muslim and all muslims are terrorists.

    What's my definition? A fighter with a belief in his cause that is so great he is willing to kill, and because his enemy is so overpowering he will resort to attacking civilians targets. This can easily be confused with a guerilla fighter, which will attack legitimate military and military support targets using unconventional methods. Of course it depends on who you ask. For example, Iraqis would call the iraqi resistance freedom fighters, from a clinical perspective they are guerilla fighters, and President Bush calls them terrorists. Probably because they're muslim.
  4. Oct 28, 2003 #3

    haha, jk, you know im smarter than that( i would hope)...

    Seriously though, I think that the fact that you are trying to draw a line is trivial... There is no line, Its all about perspective. I recall a tribe in Africa where a man gets his ear pierced 3 times if he kills 10 men in his life. They interviewed the rationale behind these traditions, and the rationale was simply not reasonable(by western thought). The tribesmen asserted that death is everywhere, the only thing that matters is how you die. It is better to die figthing for your tribe then dieing of sickness. Really, when you think about it, death is everywhere in africa, I recall statistics of average life expectancy in some tribes as being just over 30. The tribe elder was perplexed by the interviewer actually valueing life at a considerable amount. The elder answered the question as if it were a very pointless question.

    Another example would be the difference of in our opinions on the situation between palestine and chechnya. Both are very like situations, and yet terrorism is the word used MUCH more in palestine than in Chechnya. It is america's interpretation that chechan rebels are fighting for freedom, and palestinians are fighting out of spite and vengeance. America allows Isreal to bulldoze whole housing sectors in palestine, but wont let russia touch chechnya in many respects.

    Its all relative, But viewed objectively, it is all the same. Property damage and murder are forms of terrorism, no matter how you look at it.
  5. Oct 28, 2003 #4
    Wrong, Being a civilian doesnt exempt you from being a legitamate target. You are guilty by association.
  6. Oct 28, 2003 #5


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    The words "terrorst" and "terrorism" have specific, objective definitions.
  7. Oct 28, 2003 #6
    So then the WTC was a legitimate target?
  8. Oct 28, 2003 #7
    It hit us hard didnt it? Isnt that the objective of warfare and terrorism?
  9. Oct 28, 2003 #8
    Rules of war? if you tell me one f*cking thing about the rules of war, i will sincerely disrespect you. Where did the atomic bombs hit? military targets? Get real.
  10. Oct 28, 2003 #9
    ok, i think that last post might get me into trouble... please take out the word 'F*cking', sorry.
  11. Oct 28, 2003 #10
    And if the US had loss the war against Japan we WOULD have been held responsible for war crimes. There is international law against attacking civilian populations. Do most members in war break these laws? Yes. Should they? No. Not to mention the ABSURDITY of using a highly debatable action as a point in a debate...
  12. Oct 28, 2003 #11
    the word 'should' is very hilarious in the world of politics. Infact, if you can name me one instance in which 'should' has been respected in a desperate situation, i will retract my statement.
  13. Oct 29, 2003 #12


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    Incorrect. Those provisions were put in AFTER WWII. In addition, WWII was a different kind of war in which the mobilization of the civilian population was essential to the war effort. The US/allies won because of American manufacturing capacity. Attacks on cities aimed at psychological effects are terrorism. Attacks designed to destroy manufacturing capability are not. Obviously though, destorying a city is a messy (for lack of a better word) way to destroy manufacturing capability. Anyway, Dresden (for example) was a city of no military value. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were heavily industrial.
    Mattius, under the objective definition, those attacks would generally be considered terrorism. They are mitigated by what I said above, but still terrorism. The 9/11 attack however had no military value whatsoever.

    I accept that the definition cuts both ways. Do you?

    In any case, the US TODAY is beyod reproach when it comes to this issue. Whether you consider that to be a luxury we have due to our power or a decision based on politics/morality is up to you. But consider the moral outcry if we mirrored the tactics of some of our enemies.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2003
  14. Oct 29, 2003 #13
    Provisions to what? There were war crime trials of both Germans and Japanese after WWII. There were international standards and laws before WWII about the treatment of civilians, before the United Nations was formed. Anyways, you do have a balanced view, so I am not in serious disgreement with you on this issue.
  15. Oct 29, 2003 #14
    I think people are basically the same everywhere you look. Imagine if you were a teenager, and you saw your family, friends, and neighbors, all innocent, killed by foreign occupiers. You knew that it had been going on for decades, and would continue to go on possibly until all your people are wiped out. I don't care if you are Muslim, Jew, Christian, Atheist, whatever, you would feel justified in striking back.

    I'll say something else: what is going on in Iraq is not terrorism, as far as I see it. Striking an occupying army which has invaded your country isn't terrorism.
  16. Oct 29, 2003 #15


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    Yes, there have been many Geneva Conventions. However, the war crimes trials for genocide and treatment of POWs.

    Some attacks yes, some no. A car bomb at a police station or a mosque for example is terrorism. A booby trap on a road is not. Remember, we aren't the only ones being targeted.
    Certainly, but I'd strike at the ARMY, not the innocent civilians.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2003
  17. Oct 29, 2003 #16
    Hummm, russ is it still a 'Terrorist act' if it is occuring during an open, and declared, War?? ....I think not, but I could be wrong...

    As for the "mirroring of tactics", shortly after the War was declared over, troops were sent out to find the "last remnents" of the "terrorists", or any "Saddam Loyalists" who were then, summilarily, found in their hiding places by infra red, lured out into the open by US troops, and shot.

    In history, such actions/activities/performances have been called "Death Squads" as they act after war is declared OVER!
  18. Oct 29, 2003 #17


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    No. The Japanese would simply have killed those who they found it inconvenient to allow to continue living and those who they hated. I doubt they would have bothered with war crimes charges.

    There was no equivalence between how the Japanese treated their enemies and how their enemies treated the Japanese. Now, to be fair to the Japanese, they were not hypocritical. They believed that their enemies would act as they did. This puts them a step above the Nazis. The Nazis knew full well that their enemies would not act as they acted.

  19. Oct 29, 2003 #18


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    Near the beginning of the Korean War, before the entry of China, MacArthur had driven the shattered remnants of the N. Korean army to the Chinese border. MacArthur knew that there was a massed Chinese army ready to attack and wanted to use atomic weapons against it. Truman refused even when US forces were being thrown back and overrun. Their situation was clearly desperate. Had they been used, the Korean war would have ended with a complete US victory, but the precedent for using atomic weapons casually in warfare would have been set. Instead, Truman set a precedent of restraint. Truman did not want atomic weapons to be used caually in warfare. Remember, at this time, China did not have them, the Soviet Union had very few, and no means to deliver them effectively.

  20. Oct 29, 2003 #19
    Would you? You can know for sure? I don't think you can say that, not for sure. And, even if you could, could you speak for your brother or your next door neighbor?
  21. Oct 29, 2003 #20
    Actually I'd consider the Pentagon as having quite a bit of military value. And the WTC, being a key financial center, is probably just as legitimate a military target as the TV stations and hotels and palaces we've been blowing up in Iraq.
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