What International Terrorism means.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)

Manila Bulletin, October 24, 2002 | Go to article overview

What International Terrorism means.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)


WE committed to US President George W. Bush, after the Sept. 11 US tragedy, that we would follow his lead in the war against international terrorism. Since we are burdened with that obligation, we must at least have a basic understanding of what terrorism or international terrorism is the object of what we are supposed to war on under Bushs leadership. On that premise, I thought it would be of interest to the readers if my column today devote its space to the subject of terrorism.

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To understand the term "terrorism," there should be a common definition of what it is. In their book titled TERRORISM - Today's Biggest Threat to Freedom, John Pynchon Holms and Tom Burke, in their attempt to define terrorism, posed these questions: "What constitutes a terrorist action? Who is a patriot and who is a terrorist? Does simple belief in the moral 'rightness' of a political position justify whatever is necessary to solidify it? When is assassination a political statement or an act of murder? At what point does the use of violence to achieve a political agenda become nothing more than 'gangsterism' and greed? What is the responsibility of western governments toward dealing with political unrest in foreign lands?" These, the authors say, are complicated and difficult questions facing democracies today.

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Let me quote some excerpts from what these authors wrote. "The distinctions in a definition of terrorism," they said, "are important because often the legal and moral issues at stake are not the same. A definition that captures the moral and ethical outrage at what seem to be senseless acts of violence might seem satisfying but would not necessarily guide lawmakers in enacting legislation that addresses the problem and helps law enforcement... The distinctions are subtle but important. They affect everything from how investigations are conducted and who can conduct them to how taxpayers' money is budgeted for research and development in areas that combat terrorism in the US. Each US governmental agency has developed its own definition of terrorism."

***

The authors cited the different definitions of terrorism, or international terrorism, adopted by the US agencies that are the most involved in protecting the US against such menace. For instance, the CIA defines it thus: "International terrorism is terrorism conducted with the support of foreign governments or organizations and/or directed against foreign nations, institutions, or governments.

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