Connect with us

Terrorism

The Difficulty With Words and When is a Terrorist a Terrorist?

Published

on

Words are beautiful and they give us so much. Through using words we can share ideas and more importantly we can develop concepts and literally take things forward. They inform, they entertain and they explain.

They form the framework through which we understand everything from science to art to religion. They are created by our culture and in turn they create our culture. And they are dynamic, evolving and developing as we create new words and change the meaning of existing words to reflect the changing world that we live in. But it is perhaps their dynamic nature that creates the greatest challenge that words present.

In some ways the creation of words is simple. All that it takes is for one person to say something and another to understand it and we have a new word. Changing the meaning of a word is not as simple but it still happens. And it happens often. Collectively as we modify the meaning and the usage of words in everyday use we change their meaning. Sometimes entirely, sometimes subtly and sometimes we expand their meaning and dictionaries are amended and updated to reflect the change. That is except for in a legal context where their meaning cannot be as dynamic and in this context at least, their meaning can be literally carved in stone.

In legal English we find words in use that have fallen out of use in everyday language as they are no longer relevant or because they relate to concepts that are rarely encountered in our modern lives. Whereas the legal definition of words that have fallen out of everyday usage can remain straightforward, what of the words whose definition has changed. Here we have one use for most contexts and one for legal usage. A forest is a densely wooded area, correct? Well, yes and no. In everyday speech yes, a forest is a densely wooded area, but the legal definition of a forest is an area reserved for hunting, possibly for but not necessarily exclusively by a monarch. And what of the word assault? To assault means to attack. We hear it in the news when one person attacks another or in a military context when one nation attacks another. But in a legal context we have to turn the clock back to see how the word was being used when its legal definition was determined under common law as to act in a manner that would make one feel that they were about to be attacked. In fact one can be assaulted without any physical contact occurring, which is significantly different from the situation where a person is attacked or a nation invaded. With the need for the law to be known and be predictable the definition of words in a legal context must also be known and predictable. Although the law is dynamic, the definition of the words used to create the law must be static.

In most cases, although we have conflicting definitions for the same word, we rarely face any complications. If we incorrectly use the word forest, or even assault, it is unlikely that there will be any significant consequences. But what about words that relate to more complex and more serious concepts such as terrorism. Although terrorism doesn’t have two conflicting meanings, there is significant debate about what is terrorism, what isn’t terrorism and more importantly what might be terrorism. And this is particularly challenging as in many cases there are serious legal sanctions reserved only for those convicted of terrorism including execution or the removal of citizenship.

So what is terrorism? If we take a simple definition it is the use of violence in the pursuit of a political aim. Ok, that’s straightforward enough but it is very broad. Is it any violence? And what about terror? Surely a definition of terrorism should include a reference to terror. If we look in more detail at a more academic definition we might find terrorism defined as the use of violent acts with the aim of inducing a feeling of terror in the general population in the pursuit of a political aim. Now this definition tells us a little more, it is not the acts of violence in themselves that are intended to advance the political aim but the perception that they create amongst the population. But the academic definition introduces it’s own confusion by looking at not just the acts and their purpose but also considers whether they are justifiable. It is often said that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Nelson Mandela and Jose Gusmão were both labeled as terrorists at one time.

Although academia can help us to understand terrorism in its broadest sense it is in a legal setting that we really must have an accurate and reliable definition of terrorism but unfortunately it is one where perhaps we don’t. Over recent years many nations have updated their existing and introduced new anti- terrorism legislation. Arguably this is necessary as terrorism has changed significantly. Whereas it typically consisted of relatively small acts of violence designed to induce fear they have evolved to include massive and catastrophic acts of mass murder. As a result ant-terrorism laws have been expanded to include more and more specific acts within the definition of acts of terrorism. But does this evolution of terrorist tactics really warrant this expansion of the legal definition of terrorism?

Given the sizeable amount of anti-terrorism legislation that many nations have introduced in recent years it is perhaps the legal definition of terrorism rather than the everyday definition that has changed the most. Although both definitions have expanded, the everyday and academic definitions have essentially remained the same in that terrorism is the pursuit of a political aim through a campaign of violent acts intended to create feelings of terror in the general population. The legal definition by comparison has expanded to include criminal acts that may or may not be motivated by a political aim. Arguably it is the everyday and academic definitions that give us the most accurate, reliable and credible definition of terrorism and it is this definition that we should use in a legal context also.

Continue Reading
Comments

Terrorism

A Virus Yet to Be Eradicated

Avatar photo

Published

on

Much as everything in this world, human memory knows its limits. Increasingly receding into a background of the past, episodes of our life—be they thrilling at the thought or intensely dramatic—grow faint and fade, as they are gradually eclipsed by latest events and fresh experiences.

On September 11, 2001, I happened to be a first-hand witness to the most heinous terrorist attack in humanity’s contemporary history—the hijacked passenger jets heading to crash into the towers of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. Twenty-one years later, I’m somewhat in doubt that all of this happened to me for a fact: blinding flares of orange against the backdrop of a blue September sky, swirls of smoke and dust slowly blanketing the city’s downtown narrow streets, a high-pitched cacophony of fire-truck and police sirens, crowds of disoriented people having no idea where to run and what the next moment might bring.

In the wake of 9/11, international terrorism has predictably become a thing to bandy about. Like many of my colleagues, I was attending numerous conferences and seminars as well as partaking in various research projects on the subject. Besides, a stroke of fate gave me a rare opportunity to have personal conversations with such heavyweights of world politics as Vyacheslav Trubnikov, Richard Armitage, Thomas R. Pickering, Kofi Annan and others, who made their meaningful contribution to fostering cooperation in countering the terrorist threat. In a way, their efforts have borne fruit as the world has seen nothing similar to 9/11 since 2001.

Still, we have to admit that the war on terror has not ended in a decisive victory. Terrorist attacks no longer claim lives of thousands—however, hundreds have died in the massive attacks in Paris and in Madrid, in Bagdad and in Berlin, in Beslan and over Sinai, in Gamboru (Nigeria) and in Mumbai (India), with new names added to this tragic list every so often. Large-scale terrorist attacks are now few and far between in the United States, but there have been more of them in Europe, let alone in the Middle East. The recent suicide bombing near the Russian Embassy in Kabul is yet another reminder that the terrorist threat is still here. Why, then, is the goal to wipe out terrorism—now dating two decades—not achieved so far?

In the first place, the international community has failed to agree on a common definition of terrorism’s origins, driving forces and character. What some actors explicitly dub as “terrorist” may look like a national liberation struggle for others. Bring up the issue of terrorism in Kashmir in a conversation with Indians and Pakistani, only to see there can hardly be a common denominator in this matter.

Second, any success in the fight against terrorism entails a high level of trust between the interacting parties—simply because they would have to exchange sensitive and confidential information. In today’s world, trust is thin on the ground. An apparent and mounting deficit of this resource is not only present in the relations between Moscow and Washington; it also takes its toll on the relations between Beijing and Brussels, between Riyadh and Teheran, between Cairo and Addis Ababa, between Bogota and Caracas, and the list goes on.

Third, international terrorism is far from an issue that is set in stone. It is gradually changing and evolving to become more resilient, sophisticated, and cunning. Similar to a dangerous virus, the terrorist threat is mutating, generating ever new strains. Ironically, what is especially dangerous today is the kind of terrorism bred by anonymous mavericks and amateurs rather than the sort represented by well-known transnational extremist movements—individualists are the hardest to track and neutralize, while plans of amateurs are harder to reveal.

The current progress in military technology, coupled with other trends in the contemporary international arena, portend a new spike in terrorist activities in the coming years. Modern and increasingly complex social and economic infrastructure, especially in large metropolitan areas, is an enabling environment for hard-hitting terrorist attacks. Besides, international and civil conflicts—like the one raging in Ukraine—drastically heighten the accessibility of modern arms for would-be terrorists.

Add to this a comprehensive setback in the resilience of global economy, which may be fraught with more social tensions and an inevitable rise of pollical radicalism and extremism in a broad range of countries. An obvious foretelling: In this “nutrient broth”, the virus of terrorism, which has not been wholly eradicated, stands all the chances for an “explosive” growth.

It may well be possible that all of us will in the years ahead be lucky enough to avoid a second edition of the events that shattered the world on September 11, 2001. Still, taking terrorism off the agenda is only possible if humanity effects a transition to a new level of global governance. It is either that the leading powers are wise and energetic enough for this, or the tax that international terrorism imposes on our common civilization will be progressively higher.

From our partner RIAC

Continue Reading

Terrorism

ISIS Rises from the Dust in the Syrian Desert

Published

on

Over the last few months Syria’s northeast has been spiraling downwards to chaos amid the surge of violence and terror attributed to Islamic State (IS). After almost five years of dormant existence the terror group is once again making its way to prominence in Syria. With the so-called territorial califate no longer viable, the IS members have switched to hit-and-run attacks on remote outposts and prolific use of improvised explosive devices (IED) against vehicles. These attacks target both US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Syrian army units operating in the northeastern provinces of Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. At the same time the terrorists managed to restore afinancial safety net by extorting money from local professionals, including small business owners, doctors and teachers. Those who refuse to pay are subjected to threats and torture. The resulting insecurity enables the terror group to widen the scope of its activities even further.

The deterioration of the security situation in Syria went almost unnoticed by the international community distracted by the Ukrainian conflict. Under these circumstances the U.S. has a window of opportunity to curb the Russian influence in Syria and undermine theimage of power projected by Moscow in the Middle East.

Indeed, the areas held by the Russians and the Syrian army in Deir Ezzor and Homs have witnessed an increase in bloody attacks, supposedly carried out by IS fighters. The terrorists were able to avoid retaliation by retreating to no man’s land in the areas abutting the U.S. bases, namely Al-Shadadi, the Green Zone near Abu-Kemal border crossing and Al-Tanf base. Moreover, previously each IS attack in US-controlled areas had been followed by joint raids of SDF and the US special forces. It is no longer so. Considerable resources that might otherwise have been used for counterinsurgency operations are allocated to maintaining security in Al-Hol camp, where some 12,000 IS fighters and their family members are held. Add to that the imminent threat of Turkish invasion from the north. The SDF was led into a deadlock and is loosing the grip on the region. Meanwhile IS sleeper cells exploit the situation to their advantage and infiltrate territories controlled by the Syrian army.

These suspicions are confirmed by a high-ranking source in the Syrian intelligence. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the source claimed that the U.S. helicopters transported 200 former IS fighters from prisons in Haseke to the 55-km security zone around Al-Tanf. The terrorists will be split up into groups of 10 – 15 people. These groups will be then sent to provinces with Russian presence including Homs, Latakia, Tartus and Damascus with the task of conducting terror attacks with IEDs at the Russian military sites. Most of the selected militants originate from Northern Caucasia or Central Asia and therefore are fluent in Russian.

The source added that the list of the primary targets of the terrorists includes the phosphate mines in Hneifis guarded by Russian security companies as well as Russian military bases in Lattakia, Tartus, Damascus and Aleppo.

Ultimately, the recruitment of IS members to create disturbance for the Russians would only become a logical development of the proxy policy adopted by the U.S. in Syria. After all, Washington is killing two birds with one stone by destabilizing the area of Russian influence and making use of the IS prisoners. However, there is another conclusion to be made: Washington has failed in its initial mission to defeat IS and is now resorting to the use of terror group splinters in its political power games.

Continue Reading

Terrorism

Pakistan is a victim of terrorism

Published

on

Terrorism

A High-Level Ministerial the first Session of the UN Global Congress of Victims of Terrorism was held on 8 September 2022, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s remarks:- 

“I am honored to speak today at the first UN Global Congress of Victims of Terrorism. This subject has special resonance for me personally, having lost my illustrious mother, the first woman Prime Minister of Pakistan, in a dastardly act of terrorism.

2.​ The Government and the people of Pakistan pay solemn tribute to all those who have suffered at the hands of terrorists. I express my profound support and solidarity with the victims and families of those who have been affected by this scourge.

3.​ The international community has an abiding responsibility to protect and support victims of terrorism. This has to be the basic tenant of our efforts to promote peace and security in the world.

4.​ While waging kinetic efforts to eradicate terrorist groups is imperative, we cannot fully win the fight against terrorism without preserving the rights of millions of innocent, defenseless, and vulnerable people who have suffered immensely because of terrorism. There should be more focus on retribution and rehabilitation and justice. Equally important is the need to work together to prevent further attacks, hold terrorists to account, and adopt a uniform victim-centric approach while addressing the challenges faced in conflict zones.

5.​ It is also unfortunate that political expediency and real politick have been allowed to dictate international response towards terrorism. Our tolerance for terrorism must not be a function of our foreign and domestic policies. This selective approach toward terrorism is the biggest injustice to the victims of terrorism.

6. ​For the last two decades, Pakistan has been one of the worst victims of terrorism – with over 80,000 causalities and economic losses exceeding $150 billion. We pay tribute to the families of martyrs of our law enforcement agencies and armed forces, who have rendered invaluable sacrifices while defending our motherland.

7.​ If we are to chart a way forward for victims, we must look beyond narrow political interests and geo-political agendas. We must examine why, despite global strategies, the terrorist threats continue to proliferate and give rise to the number of victims.

8.​ To further debate this issue, I would like to make a few points: First, we must address the root causes of terrorism and conditions conducive to terrorism. Second, we must distinguish terrorism from legitimate struggles for self-determination. Third, we must address state-sponsored terrorism, especially in cases of foreign occupation, and reject occupying powers’ propensity to use brute force against occupied people in the name of counter-terrorism operations. Fourth, we must have a consensus definition of terrorism and take into account new and emerging threats. Fifth, we must address challenges emanating from the use of new technologies by terrorists, especially on social media and the dark web. And finally, we must counter disinformation campaigns.

9.​ Pakistan condemns terrorism in all forms and manifestations including right-wing, Islamophobia, racially and ethnically motivated, and state-sponsored terrorism.

10.​ Terrorism can only be completely eradicated by fighting extremism and the mindset that breeds violent extremism. I would like to urge that this global problem requires continuing international cooperation without any prejudices or preconceived notions against any particular religion, race, civilization, or country.

11.​ I would also like to take this opportunity to pay special homage to the oppressed people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and Palestine who deserve our special attention for their continuing suffering as victims of the worst forms of state-terrorism. The international community must hold the perpetrators of such state terrorism, and crimes against humanity, to account.

12. ​Our inability to address these issues will continue to increase victims and add to their suffering. It will also add to the physical and psychological trauma that may outlive many conflicts. The international community owes it to the victims of terrorism to take effective steps to address terrorism, wherever it may be, in whatever form it exists, without political considerations. This is our moral as well as legal obligation.”

Pakistan’s sacrifices in the Afghan war are much more than the collective damages caused to the 46 nations alliance led by the US in Afghanistan. Pakistan suffered the loss of around 80,000 precious human lives and an economic loss of estimated worth US Dollars 250 billion, in addition to the menace of terrorism, drugs, and gun cultures. The international community should acknowledge Pakistan’s sacrifices and compensate.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Trending