Term Paper: State Sponsored Terrorism

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¶ … Sponsored Terrorism

State Sponsored Terrorism

What is terrorism and what is state-sponsored terrorism?

Terrorism: "The systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion" - Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Notwithstanding that simple definition by Merriam-Webster, there is an inherent difficulty in defining the concept of terrorism, writes Martha Crenshaw in the journal Political Psychology (Crenshaw, 2000). The problem in searching for an appropriate definition, Crenshaw explains, is that in attempting to adequately discuss terrorism, one must take into account the so-called new terrorism, which emerged during the last few years of the 20th Century. Also, there are so many conflicting psychological studies into the various personalities that any attempt at a final definition tends to get muddled and watered down. There are a wide variety of incidents that are known to have been committed by terrorists over the past 30 or so years. And in addition, terrorism acts range widely from high-profile kidnappings, to mass-casualty bombings of civilian targets, to quiet killings of a covert nature.

Crenshaw writes that a big problem - which creates tension around the concept of identifying what terrorism really is - is due to the fact that policymakers insist on creating a terrorist profile, which the FBI or CIA can use in terms of identifying a potential terrorist prior to that person attacking and causing harm in some way. Some psychologists believe that when women join terrorist organizations, they do that because they may well have had many traumatic events in their lives that ruined their self-esteem. Losing self-esteem can lead to a woman being obsessed with trying to belong to something or some group. From there, she may find a terrorist organization to belong to which will give her potent psychological rewards.

But all the psychological studies in the world cannot get around the fact that terrorists are simply people involved in a serious group activity, that they have a shared experience and they share a commitment to change something and that all members wish to live out that commitment, according to Crenshaw.

Meantime, writing in the journal Sociological Theory, University of Arizona professors Albert J. Bergesen and Omar Lizardo (Bergesen, et al., 2004) define terrorism as the premeditated use of violence to reach a political, social, or political objective. In other words, the planned attack against assumed enemies where the perpetrator acts independent of any official nation or state.

In another article in Sociological Theory, writer Anthony Oberschall describes terrorism as having four key elements: one, it is usually the action perpetrated by several people, rarely one; two, it is seen as political, not necessarily criminal; three, it is not conventional warfare of the kind witnessed in WWII, but rather it is covert warfare; and four, it is of course perpetrated through the use of violence. Terrorism has been associated with more than just political differences; it is also associated with religious and class conflicts, and with issues involved social or cultural justice.

And although in the past history shows that terrorism has often been used against high officials (such as the killing / assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat by a member of the Egyptian army), diplomats, and other members of the establishment, more recently it has been directed towards innocent civilians, unsuspecting bystanders, and others who had no hand in whatever policy the terrorist organization has targeted.

The concept of state-sponsored terrorism has been used in the Middle East since the 1960s, Oberschall writes. And moreover, state terrorism - whether it is sponsored through money, materials and training facilities, or just condoned by the state - has a tendency to displace legitimate social control systems. State supported terrorism very often expands from what it was originally intended to be, and also escalates the insurgency into more targets, a greater move towards more violence, and more brutal violence. The way Oberschall explains State Sponsored Terrorism, it seems that what originally starts as state sponsored terrorism by a small band of insurgents or risk-takers who are bent on violence against a specific target soon grows into a larger movement with more bloodshed and the desire for international publicity reporting on the violence.

State sponsored terrorism sometimes works very effectively. Oberschall mentions the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1982, which was a state-supported attack, paid for by Syria, and carried out by Hezbollah; shortly after that carnage, the U.S. withdrew from Lebanon. And in the Somalia, the U.S. forces were brutally attacked by state-sponsored terrorists from Sudan - and as a result the U.S. pulled out of Somalia. That incident was used as the basis for the movie, "Blackhawk Down."

Oberschall's article goes into great detail in discussing the Iranian Revolution in 1979, when the Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile to regain power. The Shah of Iran - who had been installed in 1954 as the Iranian dictator / leader by a CIA plot under the Eisenhower Administration, perhaps making the U.S. At that time a kind of state sponsor of terror - was ousted and Khomeini became the new Iranian power broker. Khomeini put a call out to radical young Muslims (from Libya, Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon, the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other places) to come and be trained in Iran as holy warriors against Sunni-dominated Muslim leaders in the Gulf states. In other words, Khomeini was a now the autocratic ruler of a state that was sponsoring terrorism, not just against the West but against Islamic countries that Khomeini believed were cooperating with the United States.

This state-sponsored terrorism on the part of Khomeini let to an assault on Saudi Arabia, which Iran at that time accused of being an accomplice of the U.S. A bold and violent terrorist act was perpetrated in 1979 by Khomeini's crusading radicals in Saudi Arabia. About 200 heavily armed radicals that had been trained in Iran and were paid by Iran took over the Great Mosque of Mecca, which is the holiest shine in all of Islam. Inside the Mosque were some 40,000 Muslims who had come from all corners of the world to worship and pray. Saudi security fought with the Khomeini-trained holy warriors for ten days. The gunmen holding the hostages inside the Mosque claimed they were trying to purify Islam and liberate Saudi Arabia from what they considered to be corrupt leaders who had forgotten true Islamic values.

In the end, some 255 pilgrims, terrorists, and Saudi troops died in the gunfire, and about 500 people were injured. This is the kind of fanaticism and violence that can occur when state supported violence is perpetrated against an enemy. That death toll in Mecca was the largest death toll credited to Islamic terrorism until the attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2007.

An article in the journal Political Psychology (Shamir, et al., 2002) suggests that state sponsored terrorism is wrongly defined; the authors say that perhaps terrorism should not be connected or linked in any way to the states that support terrorists. That is because political violence committed against innocent civilians by states - in peacetime and in time of war - is already categorized by existing international conventions and laws, such as the Geneva Convention and the Geneva Accords. What some call state sponsored terrorism, others call war crimes or crimes against humanity. So, those same people argue, calling such acts, as terrorism sponsored by states is wrong; state violence against civilians should be extended to organizations and political violence perpetrated by organizations against civilians should be called terrorism.

The U.S. State Department, for example, defines violence against civilians (whether intentional or not) as non-combatant targets. The article points out that there are major differences between how Israeli Jews and Palestinians see terrorism. For example a large majority of Israeli Arabs define all acts of violence, no matter who the perpetrator was or the victim was, as acts of terrorism. This view on the part of Israeli Arabs can be explained, the authors continue, because there is social stigma connected with one's identity of having Israeli citizenship and yet being kin to Palestinians creates a dichotomy and cultural clash.

What nations / states does the U.S. currently consider "State Sponsors of Terrorism"?

The United States Department of State - according State Department's Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism - lists six countries as officially "State Sponsors of Terrorism" (http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/45313.pdf).They include Sudan, Libya, Syria, North Korea, Iran, and Cuba. On page 88 of the document mentioned in the sentence above, the State Department explains that when a country impedes the efforts of the U.S. And its allies in the international community, it is in a very real way sponsoring terrorism.

The State Department had also named Iraq as a state sponsor of terrorism, but took Iraq off that list in October 2004. It is interesting to note that the Bush Administration had claimed, prior to the invasion of Iraq by American forces in 2003, that the Iraqi leadership had "sponsored" the Al Qaeda attacks… [END OF PREVIEW]

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