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Passions in Poetry

What is a Terrorist?

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Local Rebel
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0 posted 09-19-2001 09:37 AM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Given the current climate and declared 'War on Terrorism' how do we define the word?

There is Alicat's suggestion that a 'hate' crime is also an act of terrorism.  I've used an analogy on my web site in talking about cancer, which kills an equivalent of two World Trade Center disasters per week, as another 'faceless' terrorist that we have no moral outrage against (albeit I concede I've done it for dramatic effect -- I have no real notion that a disease is a terrorist) -- And a conversation in another thread in which I made the statement that to the British George Washington was a terrorist which was dismissed by one poster as 'Garbage' because that would be like calling Pershing, Macarthur, and Shwartzkopf, et al terrorists.

So here's the question... what am one?  Or is this an "I know one when I see one" scenario?

Shall we resurrect the objective/subjective threads to accompany this?

[This message has been edited by Local Rebel (edited 09-19-2001).]

Interloper
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1 posted 09-20-2001 01:15 PM       View Profile for Interloper   Email Interloper   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Interloper

Terrorism is defined in the dictionary as:
The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.


Terrorism is also used by small, organized groups of people to wage war against established nations. A terrorist war is very different from a conventional war between two nations. A conventional war is intense and concentrated. It has battle lines, battle fields and the combatants are trained military professionals fighting against one another. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. A terrorist war, on the other hand, consists of random acts of violence against civilians where they live and work.

I hope we can agree to this without getting into the "collateral damage" issue of "conventional war."
Brad
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2 posted 09-20-2001 08:58 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I'm not sure this'll help at all, but Leno called it a 'sucker punch'. I think that's probably what it all comes down to. From the 'victim's' point of view, a terrorist act is a complete surprise. If you have some kind of expectation for acts of violence, then I suppose we don't call it terrorism.

Just some initial thoughts,
Brad
Brad
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3 posted 09-20-2001 09:14 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Also, doesn't the word come from the French Revolution?

I don't know if the British would have considered Washington a terrorist or not but I bet they considered him a traitor.

Brad
Local Rebel
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4 posted 09-21-2001 11:54 AM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

I think prior to Alicat's posting I would have asked the question "did anybody ever kill anybody they liked?"  Meaning of course, I never really considered it necessary to classify a crime as a hate crime. Murder is murder after all.

But, I think, on considering the possibility that a hate crime could be terrorism -- and that terrorism is politically motivated and designed to disrupt an entire community -- yes -- I think there is a classification of 'hate' crimes and that it does qualify as terrorism in the classical sense.

Next question though is -- are street gangs terrorists?

And, I don't know if the word came from the French revolution but the model for operation, ie cellular, came from the French underground.

Looking at the State Department's definition of terrorism it seems to focus on acts of war that are in violation of the geneva convention and aimed specifically at civilian targets.

In recent negotiations with Palestinian groups UN officials have tried to get Arafat's people to sign up to an agreement that says targeting military personell and materiel would not be considered terrorism -- but targeting civilians -- even on Palestinian territory -- say with a suicide bomber on a bus -- would be.

The Palestinian position -- as well as most radical Islamic position is -- there is no such thing as a civilian -- the armies get thier funding and direction from 'civilian' governments and 'civilian' taxes.

In looking at the definition from the dictionary -- during the American Revolution -- our army could have definitely been considered a terrorist army and the Boston Tea Party was definitely an act of terrorism.
StarrGazer
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5 posted 09-21-2001 07:59 PM       View Profile for StarrGazer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for StarrGazer

To me terrorist means someone who preys on the emotions of others instilling fear and panic in them by whatever means available to reach their intended goal...

So, taking that veiw point gang members can be considered terrorists, you and I could be considered terrorists, and even our country might be considered terrorists to other countries... that may sound a little rash but after the attacks on our nation last week I imagine many in countries over seas are shaking in fear and panic at how we will retalite...

just my thoughts... Kind of hard to put in to words . I seem to be having that problem lately, trying to explain to my children what war is when in fact I have no idea I've seen it on TV read about it in books, but there is far more emotional involvement this time
Alicat
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6 posted 09-22-2001 01:36 AM       View Profile for Alicat   Email Alicat   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Alicat

To answer your question, LR, street gangs could be considered terroristic in nature given certain parameters, as could militia organizations and survivalist camps here in the U.S. It boils down to treatment of the guarantees found in the Preamble to the Constitution: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. When these self-evident rights are infringed upon by means who's result is terror, these groups cease to be gangs, or militias, but domestic terrorism cells.

They all have the right to think what they want, say what they want, and do what they want...as long as they adhere to the laws of the land and take responsibility for their actions. And I have firmly believed, throughout my life, that when you violate or steal away someone else's rights, you forfeit your own.

Street gangs are terroristic if the neighborhoods they 'claim' as they own leads to others being afraid to leave the house, or to sit too close to windows, or to even sit in a room on the perimeter. When shop owners and workers are afraid to go to work, for fear of death, theft, and physical violence. Rarely will a street gang have a political stance. Those that hate hate for a reason, at least in their minds.

These international terrorists hate Americans and the U.S. They may spout rhetoric, but that's just a facade for the deep down hatred they have of us. The KKK really doesn't have a political slant, or even religious; they hate because they can. Black Panthers may also spout political rot, but they too hate because they can. Bigots hate because they can. And you know what? They have a right to hate just as much as they want, as long as that hatred does not infringe upon the rights of others. And though I disagree with their views, I would still fight for their right to express them. One of the downsides of freedom, I guess.

Freedom without bounds is anarchy. Freedom without price is worthless. Freedom without responsibility is just a hollow word.

Alicat
Brad
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7 posted 09-22-2001 07:46 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I like the idea of expanding the definition of terrorism but I just wanted to point out that this isn't how the word is currently used.

Doesn't the fear of terrorism stem from it's apparent randomness?

I'll come back later because I want to talk about Alicat's 'hate'.

Thanks,
Brad
Local Rebel
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8 posted 09-22-2001 12:56 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Ali I agree all those groups can be considered terrorists -- however -- one does not forfiet all rights when one violates another's -- the Constitution is clear on that.

Brad -- I wonder about the 'surprise' element being a factor in the definition of terrorist action -- although it does have an element - but surprise is something sought in 'conventional' warfare as well.

I also wonder who it is in the media that is reading what I write because it seems about 4 hours after I post something on the net I start hearing it going around in the news -- almost 4 hours exactly after I made the topic post the question started going around on the newstalk radio and tv pundits -- is terrorism a know it when you see it(paraphrased) proposition?

But, anyway...

The reason I wanted to bring street gangs into this discussion (and lets see how long it takes for this to make it to NPR and CNN now) is because if we look at the efficacy in managing street gang violence in America what do we think the real odds are of being able to contain international terrorists?

The words coming from this administration are fine (except when he says stupid things like 'crusade' which has half the conservative clerics in the Middle East calling for a Holy War now) and appropriate, necessary even for the American people to hear right now -- but -- I'm wondering about the execution.

It has been said before that street gangs are only allowed to operate because they do so in poor minority neighborhoods -- that if they were in suburbia they would have been stopped a long time ago -- but we've never gotten rid of organized crime in any form -- whether it be the classic 'Soprano' style, a drug cartel, or a street gang.

Why is international terrorism going to be any different?

[This message has been edited by Local Rebel (edited 09-22-2001).]

Brad
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9 posted 09-22-2001 10:11 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Surprise is an important part of warfare, but when a war is declared you expect to be surprised -- the fear is constant so to speak. The difference, perhaps, between walking at 2 in the morning in downtown L.A. and getting shot and getting shot in a suburban backyard at 2 in the afternoon.

The framework of expectation is different.

Concerning seeing your thoughts on the news: It's kind of fun to think that somebody is reading our thoughts here and elsewhere and then stealing them (I certainly know the feeling), but media types really aren't as stupid as they look. Given roughly the same framework as we have, it's natural that they would come up with the same or similar ideas (they just get paid more money to do it).

And maybe they're just a little bit slower than we are.  

Brad
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10 posted 09-30-2001 12:39 AM       View Profile for The Lonely Stranger   Email The Lonely Stranger   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for The Lonely Stranger

Terrorism is defined in the dictionary as:
The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.


Interesting that no one has mentioned the KKK, Aryan Brotherhood, Various Militias, Neo-Nazi movement......

No one ever listened themselves into trouble.

rwood
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11 posted 09-30-2001 09:02 AM       View Profile for rwood   Email rwood   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for rwood

I have given much thought to these questions of what is a Terrorist. When I read the replies and Street Gangs popped up. I have to account for the actions...not the gang. As I was once up close and personal...and don't like to remember the incidents...I know in my heart that I was terrified...and they fed off of it.

My account was brutal. As some do consider theirselves to be in a gang per say. But not until the actions proved them to be terrorists was I terrorized.

Example 1.
There are street gangs here in Tennessee. Small groups in our quiet town. They are mostly quiet but gather in small time drug use, prostitution, organized car theft...and rarely strike out in violence, except among each other. Even though I despise this "small time gang's" activity and feel it a menace to society...there are lone individuals doing the same thing. I can only hope the law will catch up with them before they bloat into something bigger..Quite frankly the other gangs I have encountered...would eat their lunch and scoff at the idea they were even a "gang" at all.

Example 2.
While living in CA. there was a gang of Children....yes children.. that were 100% more violent than the one mentioned above. While in the (7th) grade..they ruled the campus as in Whoever they came by at lunch hour and liked what you had...they took it. Everyday they gathered in the courtyard where we were eating and took your lunch..your money..your belongings and no one said a word..not even the teachers! Okay the bully routine...simple...normal.. But then there were Knives, chains and bigger brothers and sisters waiting for you outside the campus grounds if you said one word. Unfortunately I was the new girl in school...and I stood up and tossed one away from me for frisking my purse and body. Unkowing of the terror to begin. They tracked my every class. My every step..my friends...my bus..my home.

I had agriculture. I grew a garden row for class, I raised baby bunnies for class. I took one home with me. I came to class one day and my garden row was stomped to mush...my rabbits were all killed in the pen...including the one in its cage at my home! My mom called the police...the principal the school board...nothing would detain these people. Because they had not touched me yet! Until the day by knife point they cornered me out on the football bleachers doing my homework. I was beaten...my blouse was cut off of me. I was held down and spray painted in the face and body before anyone could arrive to help me. While both male and females of the gang laughed and kicked me. Somehow...by sheer fear and determination to survive this attack..I overpowered the leader (and the fact that I was exposed to the world) and started fighting back. By the time help arrived I had his head shoved under a chain link fence and was standing on his crotch screaming "No More" in his own language. This freaked the gang so badly they backed off from me. As I stood there out of my head and half naked they thought me crazy! The knife he used to cut my clothes and threaten me with was laying in the dirt 3 feet from his reach. I don't know how or what happened because I was so afraid that my fear drove me blind in the attempt to survive. For surely I should be dead. I survived with broken ribs..nose..a bruised kidney and several cuts. From that day forward they called me "Loca Gringa" and stepped away from me. Do you think I was at all proud? I just wanted to go to school! This is sadly a very true account.

So yes.. I believe they can be terrorists but not because they were a gang...because they acted out and provoked terror and got off on it till they were actually afraid themselves. Their violence was not what made me afraid...their laughter did while they were doing it. And the fact they had nothing to gain from me materially. And as far as hate goes...isn't it just a residue or a result of the madness where they are so driven by their desire to target and tear down anything that challenges them? Because before I stood up for myself that first day...They didn't hate me. They didn't know anything about me.

[This message has been edited by rwood (edited 09-30-2001).]

Brad
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12 posted 10-01-2001 04:58 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Wow, what a story.

I want to explain this in abstractions but for the moment, I just have a question:

When they saw you as crazy, do you think they, in a sense, respected you or, in a sense, ignored you?

That is, did they bring you into their 'world' or did they push you away and consider you outside, different, incomprehensible?

I hope this makes sense.

Brad
Interloper
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13 posted 10-01-2001 06:42 PM       View Profile for Interloper   Email Interloper   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Interloper

A terrible story Ms. Wood.  Terrible and sort of inspiring.

The difference between a gang and a terrorist lies in the "soul" or spirit of the gang.  They are only strong when they are together.  Alone they rarely display aggressiveness because they need the "pack" bravery.

A terrorist, on the other hand, needs nothing but his belief and a method of destruction to "innocent" people.

That a gang terrorized you is a certainty.  But that does not make them terrorists, per se.

I hope you understand.  I had a similar experience, also in California.
rwood
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14 posted 10-01-2001 10:51 PM       View Profile for rwood   Email rwood   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for rwood

Brad:
Well...I know they didn't ignore me...they had total
disbelief in their faces. I was lucky enough to have picked the right one to overcome is all I could say. The Leader! For they treated me with some sort of superstition from that day forward. I had the evil eye!

I could never understand it except there was an incident where a couple weeks after the beating..his brother showed up with other gang members at my bus stop! Everyone but me
ran! He just stared me in the eye and said "Ella no está loca. Ella es verdadera. La no tocarán otra vez!" She is not crazy. She is real. She will not be touched again! They disappeared and I never saw them again.

My guidance councilor said I had been given protection from the leader of leaders? Is that respect? Not sure. Still can't believe it myself. It's as if that is a chapter of my life that I
was outside of. Loca Gringa means Crazy foreign person. Even the black race called me that. That was the strange thing. Many people within the school and neighborhood started standing up for themselves. Like some sort of revolution.

After the incident the teachers demanded more outside protection...where before they went in fear. There was then rumors of inner city wars where others were attacked and arrests took place. Gang leaders were imprisoned and neighborhoods took on their own militia. Walls everywhere bore graffiti of the wars taking place. But I must say that they did ignore me somewhat...because very few people ever took the time to get to know me at all. They mostly steered clear of me. Even the police did not know how to react to me.

There was a female cop that took special interest that was Latino in descent. She said that my innocence and my ignorance was what saved me. That no one had the ability to look a leader in the eye without challenging them. I didn't know you were challenging anyone by looking them in the eye.
They thought I was brave! The whole world seemed crazy to me at that time.


Interloper:

Yes...It was terrible. I was only 12 years old. The leader was 15. He was small in stature, I was already 5' 9" tall. This was my only advantage I'm sure besides adrenaline that worked for me.  It is possible without the agging on of his group...he would have not cornered me. But I did see his
eyes, and he did have brutality in his soul. Maybe with his make up he would very well be one that could politically terrorize a country. A very evil ingredient was in that boy. I'm sorry you had a similar experience. It changes how you look at things for sure.


[This message has been edited by rwood (edited 10-02-2001).]

Local Rebel
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15 posted 10-03-2001 12:16 AM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

I agree with Brad... Wow Regina.. what a story.. my first reaction to it -- just doing a little out loud thinking -- is were they really terrorists since they were the defacto local 'government' -- however loosely defined -- obviously no one had control over them -- they had control over the community -- it was your act of defiance that brought their structure down...

Anyway -- I suppose the next question as Interloper has inferred is -- what is the difference between a Terrorist and a Bully?

Lonely Stranger -- actually before this thread started -- on another thread 'the shift to war?" I believe -- we were discussing those groups so to speak.
Brad
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16 posted 10-03-2001 03:16 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Sorry, ignore was the wrong word. As you describe it, it would seem they left you out of their world (but it seems everybody did).

This is the same thing that happens in Japan and Korea. The Yakuza in Japan do not deal with foreigners -- they don't know where they stand (I suppose there are exceptions but from my own experience and from the stories of others, I think this is, for the most part, true). A few years back there were some riots in Korea and, if you were a foreigner, you could walk through them unharmed (except for the tear gas).

If you don't know where to place someone in your worldview, you generally don't deal with them.

thanks,
Brad

  
rwood
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17 posted 10-03-2001 07:29 AM       View Profile for rwood   Email rwood   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for rwood

LR: Yes...definately a result of a de facto local government. You are right in that part. It seemed no one could take the first step to control the menace...even the law didn't have protection from the stalking at that time. I took the word terrorist out of context...but it did feel at that time they were any horrible, brutal word rolled into one. As I believe they possessed the ability to be such at that given time. With such freedom to do it. A terrifying thing.

Brad: It's okay. I understood what you were saying. I remember feeling like everyone thought I was a bully because I stood up for myself. Like I was not worthy of friendship anymore. But I had to overcome many residual feelings of negativity. Some still haunt me I'm sure.

I really want to understand the difference that will separate for me a terrorist from a bully or "The Monster After You" in your nightmares. It is important to know who you're dealing with. As Brad said, when someone is outside your worldview, you don't deal with them. So I'm gonna try to break down my thoughts and please tolerate my generalizations, because I don't really know.

A bully to me...is someone that has personal deep seated inferiority and lashes out on others they know they can basically overpower anyways. Usually picking on the smaller one. And uses that to make themselves feel superior. Always finding the weak one. But not so much as to destroy completely his sounding post. He needs it, so he only goes so far.

A terrorist to me...is someone that already believes themselves to be superior in their beliefs or political standing and becomes deep seated on bringing down the giant they feel is hindering whatever life plan they so desire. Ignoring the weak link and targeting the giant's major nerve or artery to make a strong statement. Getting rid of it at any cost.

This is just a picture in my mind:

Two people wait by a gate that borders another country, a bully and a terrorist. An American needs to walk through. The bully trips him on the way through and gloats at his own audacity, the terrorist plants a bomb on his back for he knows the American is on his way to visit the White House and he quietly walks away to plan or act out his next move.

Just my theory.

It seems the bully is less cunning and scaled down to more of a personal problem. That may change when he "Grows up" or gains self respect. Where the terrorist goes off the charts and will never sway off the path to destruction? But then here's the clincher...can the terrorist start out as a bully? Oh boy..I'm confusing myself.

Help me...

[This message has been edited by rwood (edited 10-03-2001).]

Interloper
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18 posted 10-03-2001 02:51 PM       View Profile for Interloper   Email Interloper   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Interloper

Regina, you've got the bully part down pretty good.  Therefore, you realize that the "gang" has a bully mentality with the leader usually being the bigger bully because he must be able to bully the other gang members in order to be the leader. Phew!

Terrorism and the terrorist is, I believe, much more complicated with regard to their target and their method of harming the target.

Basically, bullys just tend to "beat" people up on an individual basis (I'm not talking gang wars here, that is an entirely different set of circumstances) while terrorists tend to kill and/or injure many innocent people in order to gain notoriety.

I am I helping or just muddying the waters?
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