The Importance of Definitions
Now that the Government of the United States of America have decided to rule the world under the slogan of "War on Terror", the word "terrorism" has become subject of heated arguments in the same way as the word "God" was subject of heated arguments at the time of the religious wars of the past1. But in such arguments the parties often mean different thing by thesame word, and for that reason the argument cannot be resolved.
Had the argument at the time of the Crusades really been about God, then it would have been necessary to examine the parties' definitions and to see which one is correct. But the meaning of the word "God" did not matter at the time of the medieval Crusades, because religion was used as an excuse for wars of looting and conquest oflands.
But those waging the present "War on Terror" assure us that the purpose of "War on Terror" is not looting and conquests, but the defence of the Civilized World against "terrorism". And, if their assurances are true, then we need to understand what the word "terrorism" means. Because, without clear understanding of "terrorism", "War on Terror" will fail to achieve its stated purpose, andwill come to be seen by the future generations as an orgy of destruction, cruelty and slaughter, motivated by vanity, ignorance, prejudice and greed, as the Crusades of the past.
What is Terrorism?
Terrorism is destruction of people or property by people not acting on behalf of an established government for the purpose of redressing a real or imaginary injustice attributed toan established government and aimed directly or indirectly at an established government.
Not all cases of destruction of people or property are terrorism. The important definitive characteristics of terrorism are:
1. The act of destruction is performed by a person or group of persons not acting on behalf of an established government ,
2. The act of destruction is performed to redress a realor imaginary injustice, and
3. The act is aimed directly or indirectly at an established government, who is seen as the cause of the injustice.
Without these characteristics an act of destruction of people or property is not terrorism. It is either an accident, or an act of war, or a matter of internal policy, or an ordinary common law crime (murder, arson, etc).
• If destruction of peopleor property is caused unintentionally, it is an accident.
• If destruction of people or property is undertaken by or on behalf of an established government against another country, it is considered war, not terrorism.
• If destruction of people or property is undertaken by or on behalf of an established government on its own territory, it is considered a matter of policy, not terrorism.
•If destruction of people or property is undertaken without justification, it is considered an ordinary common law crime, not terrorism.
• If destruction of people or property is not aimed against an established government, but is aimed at a private individual or group, it is considered an ordinary common law crime, not terrorism, even if such act is aimed at redressing a wrong, because disputesbetween private individuals should be settled through an established legal system operated by an established government, not by taking law in one’s own hands.
Legality and Illegality of Terrorism
Most official definitions of terrorism also contain the word "unlawful" or "criminal" as part of the definition. This is because the purpose of such definitions is to make the activity defined as"terrorism" a crime in the country where it is being defined. Lawfulness or criminality, however, are not part of the activity itself, but depend on whether such activity is considered lawful or unlawful in a particular country.
Morality and Immorality of Terrorism
An act of terrorism. in itself, is neither moral, nor immoral - no act in itself ever is. Morality of an act is determined by the...
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