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There are two kinds of terrorists: the homegrown and the foreigner. In the land of the free and the brave there are terror groups who abuse their liberty from government control and manipulations. They abuse their individual has the right to express himself and to pursue areas of interest without the need to consult the government as long as all activities are within the bounds of the law. This is because they express their frustration and anger through killing innocent civilians.
The same thing can be said of terrorists who come from abroad and bringing with them their religious fanaticism will blow up a building or use themselves as suicide bombers. They have issues; they may be emotionally and psychologically distressed because of what was done to them. They may feel oppressed and marginalized but their acts of terror will never be justified.
Before going any further it is important to turn the spotlight on the main actors by defining what it means to be a terrorist. According to the Patriot Act, “domestic terrorism is the unlawful use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group of individuals based in the United States” (Addicott, 2004, p.3).
The key idea here is that this type of terrorists operate are born and raised in the land of the brave and the free. In other words American citizens will be labeled as terrorist if they “use force and violence against persons or property and if they intimidate or coerce a government, a civilian to further political or social objectives” (Addicott, 2004, p.3). They may be religious extremists or paranoid members of a militia group, they will be accorded that infamous label if they perform terror acts.
International terrorism on the other hand is defined in similar terms. The Patriot Act provides that definition as involving violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that violate the criminal law of the United States or any state and it would be a criminal violation “if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or any state” (Addicott, 2004, p.3).
The definition is similar to the one found above except for the fact that these violent acts are being committed outside the United States. But if these same groups will enter the United States to wreak havoc then they are international terrorists who are in American soil. The Al-Qaeda operatives who blew up the World Trade Center can be labeled as such.
An example of domestic terrorism is the Centennial Park Bombing in Atlanta, Georgia at the height of the 1996 Olympic Games. The pipe bomb used was assembled by Eric Robert Rudolph, a white supremacist and member of a homegrown terror group whose main goal is to advance right-wing ideals such as the destruction of abortion clinics and gay bars (Juergensmeyer, 2003, p.30). This type of terrorist can be an average-type of American teenager or young adult but with deadly intent.
An example of international terrorism is the handiwork of an al-Qaeda affiliate in Southeast Asia known all over the globe as the Jemaah Islamiyah because they target foreigners.
Their most infamous terrorist act to date is the 2002 Bali bombings which transformed a beautiful resort into bloody crime scene. There is no need to elaborate on the impact of Muslim extremists and how their religious fanaticism drives them to kill thousands of innocent civilians.
Terrorism is a despicable act because it is not a byproduct of passion, the spur of the moment act that resulted in the accidental death of a person. It is deliberate. This is because “terrorism is a goal-directed, calculated, premeditated use of force” (Addicott, 2004, p.4). This is the reason why it must be condemned and the perpetrators must be brought to justice for what they had committed can never be justified (Smith, 2008).
It can be argued that those who wanted to join a terror group do not see themselves as terrorists. At least they see themselves as soldiers and freedom fighters (Gilbert, 2002).
Their passionate hearts are aflame because they are convinced with the justness of their cause and they swell with pride because of their conviction that what they are about to do is the most important thing and it will benefit a lot of people (Stern, 2003). Eric Robert Rudolph and other white supremacists will not hesitate to use a home-made bomb to force others to listen to their rants and demands.
International terrorists on the other hand like Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Jemaah Islamiyah are driven by religious and political convictions (Hamzeh, 2004).
Their religious views can be simplified as the need for others to bow down or acknowledge their religion as the only one and therefore those who will not adhere to their beliefs will be marked as infidels and therefore violence can be inflicted on them because they are empowered by a higher source (Giraldo, 2007). The Islamic terror groups are driven by their fanatical understanding of what the Koran told them to do. But at its core is another secondary issue and it has something to do with politics.
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The political aspect can be summarized in one word – Israel. Their hatred for this tiny nation is understandable but it is hard to believe that a person can kill himself simply on the basis of political ideologies. This brings to the realization that religion and politics are seen as one, the intermingling is hard to separate.
This means that religious beliefs help shape their politics. Intense hatred for Israel can be explained by the constant fighting. But knowing that the Arabs hated Israel even when the nation was still in its fledgling state after World War II plainly reveals that there anger is fueled by something more than the need for retribution and this is because the Arabs were the first to strike.
The dastardly acts committed in September 2001 were committed by Al-Qaeda but in the Middle East there is another group that is well-known among extremists and they are called the Hezbollah.
Today, Hezbollah also known as the Party of God, “…transformed itself from a radical, clandestine militia to a moderate, mainstream political party with a resistance wing … Underling all of Hezbollah’s actions are its claims of deep faith and a literal interpretation of God’s word as expressed in the Koran” (Harik, 2005). Hezbollah emerged in the early 1980s when radical clerics decided to put an end to Israeli occupation of Lebanon.
Acts of terror can never be justified because at its core these terrorists are criminals. If one will remove the Arab sounding names and the fancy labels usually associated with terrorism such as Jemaah Islamiyah and Hezbollah, if one will strip these groups to the basics and analyze their work, they are nothing more than criminals.
What they have accomplished are not glorious acts there are criminal acts. Using violence against people, intimidating them and creating panic is a crime. At least in the United States all of these terrorist acts are at its core are crimes resulting from breaking the laws of the land. Thus, the 1993 World Trade bombing is a criminal act and the perpetrators must be apprehended as criminals.
Acts of terror can never be justified because there are other means to express their frustrations, anger, and concerns. One is bewildered by the lack of diplomacy. If Islamic radicals believe that they are in the right path and that their religion is the only path then why would they encourage their members to go on dialogue with their Western counterparts? It does not require a genius to realize that the more attacks on the U.S. mainland will only increase retribution.
But this is just one of the major reasons why dialogue is needed. The more important reason why they must engage in dialogue is the simple fact that they are killing innocent civilians. Not only is their tactics not working to make the world aware of their plight – as of recent history Afghanistan and Iraq were reduced to rubble by incessant fighting – they are also killing those who have nothing to do with Middle East politics.
The death of a single individual must be cause for mourning. The lives of innocent men, women and children cannot be considered as material things that can be sold or bartered. In this case the lives of innocent people are treated like pawns in a chess game. The terrorists knew that their lives have value but not valuable enough when it comes to their religion and extremists beliefs. The lives of people are means to an end.
They utilize faulty logic. For instance it is common rhetoric among terror groups that they are killing people so that Americans and Israeli soldiers will be forced to stop the killing of their own people. Why is that they can view their own children as precious and yet use a different guideline or value system for the children of other people and consider them as an expendable unit in their struggle for freedom or religious expression.
They must consider the fact that every time they pull the trigger and push the button for their radio-controlled bombs a child will become an orphan or a parent will lose a child. When Timothy McVeigh detonated a bomb in front of a Federal building he did not only destroy the lives of government operatives, he also destroyed the lives of little children who happen to be in that building on that day.
Vengeance can never be the justification for their actions. If the child of a terrorist was killed during a time of war, he could not express his remorse and demand retribution by blowing up the children of other people. Terrorism by the way is not an exact science in that it kills randomly. What is the result of such action? What was accomplished by random acts of terror? Nothing was accomplished and therefore it is useless to kill innocent civilians because of a religious or political cause.
Acts of terror can never be justified. This is because terrorism does not pay, in other words they can create a chain-reaction of events that will lead to more destruction and mayhem. Peace can never be achieved using terror. It will only generate fear. Terrorism is an impractical solution to a religious or political problem.
Case in point is the handiwork of the Al-Qaeda operatives who used commercial jetliners to destroy the World Trade Center. Their objective was to bring America to its knees. But the end of the story is not their victory but the destruction of Afghanistan and Iraq. The cycle will never end thus terrorism is not the answer to life’s problems. This is the reason why acts of terrorism can never be justified.
Addicott, Jeffrey. Terrorism Law: The Rule of Law and the War on Terror. AZ: Lawyer & Judges Publishing Company, 2004.
Gilbert, Martin. The Routledge Atlas of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. New York: Routledge, 2002.
Giraldo, Jeanne and Harold Trinkunas. Terrorism Financing and State Response. CA: Stanford University Press, 2007.
Hamzeh, Ahmad Nazar. In the Path of Hizbullah. New York: Syracuse University Press, 2004.
Harik, Judith. Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
Juergensmeyer, Mark. Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. CA: University of California Press, 2003.
Smith, Paul. The Terrorism Ahead: Confronting Transnational Violence in the Twenty First Century. M.E. Sharpe Publishers, 2008.
Stern, Jessica. Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill. Harper Collins, 2003.