Domestic Terrorism: Difficult Research Proposal

Pages: 4 (1501 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Terrorism

Domestic Terrorism: Difficult to Define

Following such events as the Oklahoma City bombing and the September 11, 2001 attacks, the topic of domestic and international terrorism has been widely considered in the field of criminal justice, as well as in the media. Through a discussion of domestic and international terrorism, their similarities and differences, the history of domestic terrorism, and two modern groups that some consider to be terrorist organizations, the true difficulty of identifying domestic terrorism as terrorism is revealed.

Domestic And International Terrorist Groups -- Similarities And Differences

According to Wieviorka and White (1998) domestic terrorism is often "an extension" of international terrorism, but the two have many functional differences (p.293). Most importantly, international terrorism is more of a political entity than domestic terrorism. In fact, international terrorists generally only use violence in an attempt to communicate with some other "political entity," offering a warning or a sanction for actions that the terrorist group did not want to occur. Domestic terrorism, on the other hand, has violence as its primary goal, and Wieviorka and White (1993) argue that domestic violence groups are rarely political organizations, even if they can be described as extremists on either the left of the right. Instead, the authors suggest that domestic terrorist organizations have effectively left the political spectrum when they become terrorist organizations -- their goals are primarily violence (Wieviorka and White, 1993, p.293-294).

Of course, in order to understand these differences between domestic and international terrorism, it is important to understand what terrorism actually is. McCauley (n.d.) argues that the definition of terrorism is often misleading, as defining terrorism as simply violence perpetrated by a small group excludes incidences of Mao, Stalin, Hitler, etc. (para. 1). Still, terrorism can be from both above and below. That is state-sponsored terrorism, or terrorism from above, can be just as terrifying as terrorism perpetrated by non-state groups, or terrorism from below. The problem arises when certain people see these groups not as terrorists but as legitimate armies or revolutionary groups. McCauley (n.d.) expresses the implications of this when he says:

"At least for some Americans, the Contras were not terrorists and the Irish Republican Army are not terrorists. It seems unlikely that the U.S. will never again want to distinguish terrorists from freedom-fighters, in order to support the latter despite their attacks on civilians. Perhaps we ought to be honest in seeking to punish and interdict whatever groups are behind the attacks of 9/11, and go easy on talk about a global war on terrorism" (para. 4).

McCauley's analogy can be extended further throughout history as well as applied to today. For instance, many see Chairman Mao's violence in China as revolutionary, while others can label it as terrorism from below. Similarly, while culture has idealized Che Geuvara, he can also be labeled as a terrorist from below, as can Franz Fanon and Carlos Marighella. Thus, it becomes clear that the differences between domestic and international terrorist groups are both functional and definitional -- they can be viewed as either revolutionaries or terrorists depending on one's political or social beliefs. Still, it is necessary to remember Wieviorka and White's (1993) arguement regarding domestic terrorism and politics -- that domestic terrorists are not political entities. They are not trying to negotiate, but simply to incite violence. Today's examples of terrorism from below in the United States can include some eco-terrorist groups, who aim to cause violence instead of promoting a message. Further, the recent arrest of Scott Roeder, the man who gunned down an abortion doctor, was the arrest of a terrorist. Like Che, eco-terrorist groups, and others, Roeder moved off of the political frame, seeking only violence, when he allowed attacked the doctor.

II. History of Domestic Terrorism in the United States

But while eco-terrorist and anti-abortion extremists may be some of today's domestic terrorist groups in the United States, domestic terrorism in the United States is just about as old as the country itself. An immediate example that comes to mind is Shays' rebellion, in which a farmer fueled by frustration regarding federal financial issues lead a band of similarly concerned citizens in a series of raids across New England. Between 1980 and 1999, however, 457 domestic terrorist-related incidents occurred in the United States, including confirmed domestic terrorist incidents, prevented domestic terrorist incidents, and suspected incidents of domestic terrorism. These incidents included bombings, arson, and assassinations ("Terrorism -- Domestic Terrorism Before September 11, 2001," 1999, para. 3). Neiwert (2001) points out that later examples of domestic terrorism, those before 1995, were mainly the result of specialized groups such as eco-terrorist and anti-abortion advocates. Thus, these groups were aimed at terrorizing certain special interest groups, and victims of the groups' terrorist activities included members of the political groups on the other side of the political spectrum and certain specialized organizations. For instance, the Earth First! Organization and the Animal Liberation Front staged arsons, liberated animals, and destructed property, victimizing those who supposedly treated animals inhumanely. Although these terrorist organizations did not have as broad of an impact as many of today's domestic and international terrorists, they are as harmful as today's terrorists because they still lived up to Wieviorka and White's (1998) characterization of a domestic terrorist -- one who is focused solely on violence.

After the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, however, Neiwert (2001) identifies a dangerous trend -- extremist groups unified by rightist ideals such as patriotism, racism, anti-abortion advocacy, and anti-government advocacy. Unified by an emotionally charged belief in patriotism, Neiwert (2001) argues that these new-wave domestic terrorists are organized using a policy of "leaderless resistance," in which small cells of a few extremists band together to commit acts of terror. The group mentality is very important among these modern day domestic terrorists, who share an Odinist belief in community, which has lead to a cult mentality and creation of cults among many of those who share this view. Seeing themselves as militias, these groups heavily support their second amendment rights and see themselves as protectors of American ideals. Because of their strong beliefs, dedication to violence, and strong network, this group of domestic terrorists or potential domestic terrorists is threatening to law enforcement at many levels.

III. PETA and Greenpeace -- Terrorist Groups?

Although the network of the right has become the source of much recent domestic terrorism or domestic terrorism concern, there are still specialist groups that many believe are terrorist organizations. PETA and Greenpeace are two famous examples of this controversy. PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, recently waged a lawsuit, with other groups, against the FBI for unwarranted monitoring (Hsu, 2005). PETA engages in activities such as demonstrations, fundraising, raising awareness, and rescuing animals, as well as encouraging vegetarianism. Obviously, none of these are terrorist acts. Where the media generally tags PETA as terrorist is their financial contributions, given to environmental organizations that do use terrorist acts, such as the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front (Hsu, 2005, para. 16). Greenpeace, an environmental organization dedicated to preserving the earth and lowering the humans' impact on the earth, regularly commits illegal acts. On April 12, 2002, for instance, they staged a demonstration in which they illegally boarded a ship with the intent of hanging a partisan sign on the vessel. Huus (2003) called this kind of activity standard for the group, but noted that the government's extreme response in this case -- charging the Greenpeace organization under an obscure law -- was not usual. Still, Huus (2003) notes that Greenpeace members are used to facing arrest for their endeavors. Regardless, PETA and Greenpeace are not terrorists. They man engage in illegal activities, take unorthodox measures, and even support terrorist organizations, but this does not make them terrorists themselves, especially since the contributions to terrorist… [END OF PREVIEW]

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