International Terrorism in the Contemporary World

By Marius H. Livingston; Lee Bruce Kress et al. | Go to book overview

NICHOLAS N.KITTRIE

A New Look at Political Offenses and Terrorism

In recent years the international community has witnessed a growing number of unorthodox political activists and movements whose tactical arsenal has ranged from civil disobedience to coups d'etat, from tyrannicide to guerrilla war and terrorism. Their proclaimed goals have included self-determination and human rights, but unorthodox activism need not be confused with exclusively liberal and human pursuits. Both recent and earlier history has demonstrated that reactionary and oppressive goals may also be served by resort to extralegal or violent means.

Political activists have attracted an inordinate degree of public attention. More inches of newsprint have been devoted the past year in America and in many other countries to the adventures and trials of Patricia Hearst, Lynette “Squeeky” Fromme, and Sarah Moore than to any other topic in the field of criminal justice. What was uniquely common to all three was not merely their gender but the political character of their crimes. As one adds to these domestic headliners the coverage of such transnational violence as the South Moluccan train hijackers in Holland, the kidnapping of the OPEC oil ministers in Vienna, and the increasing worldwide speculations regarding the mysterious Carlos, it is apparent that political crime and terrorism are this decade's favorite cops-and-robbers stories.

It is not the sheer number of those killed, injured, or otherwise affected by political crime and terrorism which accounts for the widespread public attention given this phenomenon. In the four worst years of domestic turmoil in America (1965-1968), a grand total of 214 were killed and 9,000 were injured as a result of terrorism, protests, and ghetto riots. But this compares with a national total of 12,000 murders and 250,000 aggravated assaults annually. During the height of the aircraft hijacking epidemic (1968-1972), the number of persons who lost their lives or were injured in all domestic and international flights did not exceed 200. In the same period, the number of internationally protected persons subjected to attack, kidnapping, or threat of violence did not exceed forty-six, with sixteen meeting eventual death. The most recent statement issued by FBI Director Clarence Kelley, pointing to the growing threat posed by terrorist activities, lists eleven victims killed and seventy-two injured through bombings and other violence in America during 1975. 1 Worldwide, it is estimated that in 1975 at least fifty people lost their lives and more than 150 were taken hostage in seventeen major acts of international terrorism. 2 Thus, it is apparent that political

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