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Talk:Terrorism/Draft a1

Also, I note that you use equivalence, which in this context is unmistakably resonant of "moral equivalence" - which is really just a polemic neologism coined to counter the older, more meaningful "moral relativism" term. -SV(talk) 01:02, 16 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Please don't put words in my mouth. I use "equivalence" in the logical (i.e. mathematical) sense, not in the moral sense. Making a logical distinction is different from making a moral judgement. Paramilitary and military are different by definition, because a paramilitary group is made up of civilians. The United States for example uses both, and it would be inaccurate to call the CIA's operations "military" or call Army special forces "paramilitary." You may not care about such distinctions, but they are there.
Also, I don't see how I'm supporting the idea that the US defines the terms. War crimes and the laws of war are defined by international law, which the US did not write. My statement was merely that the US usually pays attention to them. To be honest, that is irrelevant, and was merely my venting frustration because it seems that your only purpose here is to attack US foreign policy. I will not argue the point.
I agree that those usually labelled "terrorists" do not always engage in terrorist tactics. Incidents that are often called terrorism but really shouldn't be include the bombing of the USS Cole and the Marine barracks bombing, both of which had military targets. Those are examples of asymmetric warfare. Isomorphic 02:15, 16 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Well, you didn't leave me a whole lot to say in response to SV's points. :) Maybe I would add that I'm not sure that he understands that paramilitaries (or militias, irregulars, or non-state actors, or guerillas, whatever) are specifically mentioned in the laws of war, and that they are bound by them even if they are not signatories if they wish to be treated in accordance with those laws. Cecropia 06:49, 16 Mar 2004 (UTC)
OK, well fine. This new deference to international law and its definitions is welcome. There are of course issues and caveats, and I will mention them in the draft. We different involved parties are communicating, and thats all thats really important. Is it time to have the page unprotected? There hasnt seemed to be a need for it to be so, for a few days.-SV(talk) 16:02, 16 Mar 2004 (UTC)
"new deference to international law." Ah, good line, Steve! Did you think I'm secretly Dubya? ;-) But, seriously, I think we've made a lot of progress recently, with everyone trying to move toward a solution even with the wrestling matches. But what happens when we have the page unprotected at this juncture and someone comes out of left- (or right-) field, maybe anonymously, and start dismantling our hard-won understandings? Cecropia 16:32, 16 Mar 2004 (UTC)

I have not followed this discussion closely, so I won't make any changes to the draft. But I do have two comments/questions. (1) I agree that "terror" is a tactic used in war, but I think "terrorism" is something different. (2) If I understand correctly, Cecropia is trying to come up with a basic or initial definition of terrorism. I do not think this is appropriate since so much of the study of terrorism is dedicated to coming up with, or arguing for, one definition or another. Wikipedia is not a venue for original research. If there is no "neutral" definition of terrorism out there that most people accept, it is not our place to propose one. I know others here have been trying to develop other ways to introduce the article and I wish them well, Slrubenstein

But there is a baseline definition, since the general subject is covered in international law. Basically, terrorism, if it comes down to charges between belligerents, deals with violations of the treatment of civilian populations in warfare. Most everything else is partisan finess. But I will acknowledge your question of whether "terrorism" is something different from "terror" as a tactic. Yes and no, in that the use of "ism" mucks up the whole issue, since "ism" implies a intellectual theory of political, religious, or social policy. On that basis we might argue that terrorism simply doesn't exist, because can you name a "terrorist" organization that kills innocent civilians just because they think it's a good idea? Some anarchists, maybe? Cecropia 00:06, 16 Mar 2004 (UTC)
That comment might offend some peace-loving anarchists. ;) -SV(talk) 00:23, 16 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Hello, SR. I agree with you up to the point that you say that 'we cant do anything' about the desparity. In fact, because this is not an academic context, (footnote) and because the very nature of an internet forum trancends many of the limitations of academic discourse, (and traditionally institutionally-defined terms like 'encyclopedia' and terrorism). Because we are faced with the logical interoperability problem, where the terms (inasmuch as terms have the tendency to reflect bias) do influence the language, the context, and hence the quality of the articles, we are obligated to act. To make a precendent here of limiting the use of the term 'terrorist' to NPOV standards is not somethig that is beyond our ability, reason, or scope. -Rspfy,-SV(talk) 00:22, 16 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Thanks, SV. I admit I am unconcerned about "Academic Standards Disease" but who am I to say, whether this is because I suffer from it, or because I am more sensitive to "Sitting at Starbucks and bullshitting" disease. But my point had nothing to do with academic standards -- only with the fact that Wikipedia is not a venue for original research; this is a pretty well-established value in this community. Of course I agree with you that the article on terrorism must be NPOV. But no NPOV definition of terrorism may exist, in which case the only solution is to do the things that often help make an article NPOV: provide other current definitions; be clear about who uses said definition; provide some historical context (is all this too academic? I didn't think so!). Cecropia points out that there is a definition in international law. If that is so (I mean, if there is a written definition established in signed international treaties or in UN resolutions) by all means that should be highlighted in the article. Slrubenstein
Well, I'm in complete agreement - but there is no issue here with 'original research', and thus the caution was ill-placed, and that was my reason for the retort. As for the international law definition - this is a good idea, but the term refers to a body of law, some of which is itself contradictory - not to mention dominated by US and its allied interests. That the UN said "no" to the US (yes, actually, but too slowly) in the last Iraq case is an outstanding oddity. But the real issue, again is'nt the definition - as you say, SR, we've got to represent all of the operative definitions, right? Why not then make it a little less hellish and condense these to their common logic, and by that fulcrum we can base a standard for articles - and repeat (at times) how the term breaks down by POV? This might even be put into a mediawiki message (for use with msg:tags) but that would be a bit inflexible.
The issue is consistency - so, for example, in the list of terrorist incidents (addr Isomorphic's comment below) the kiling of an American individual is counted as a 'terrorist' incident, (because the perpetrators were "Terrorists," right?) but the methods which inflamed Nicaragua, Vietnam, the list goes on... are omitted. Though we might all here agree that cases would be counted as "terrorism," the regular conflicts center around the inclusion of recent American attacks as terrorism (Calling Christopher Columbus' ethnic cleansing "terrorism" has just (500 years later) become OK discussion, apparently) The chit-chat here might seem like steam, but Iso, Cecro and I are at least in agreement that the standard polemic use of the term terrorism is inflammatory. That was huge progress, considering the "poles" that we represent.
Since the term is mostly inflammatory, the definitions must not just be accepted, but continuously challenged, otherwise the articles on which they are based ("terrorism" as the basis for a theme of research? HA! ) will fall into the apathetic state of current propagadisms by which certain kinds of lives (or articles about them) continue to be defacto-categorized as less important than others. It may be a vain task to try to inject logic into a localized language - ie. Arabic is considered to be too filled with colloquialisms and Allahisms to be useful for certain cases. This discussion has enlightened me on the way the 'English language' ('American language,' really) has similar pitfalls. Thus, what this is really about, just as Cecropia and Iso have agreed to talk in terms of International law - so too must we understand the role of international English, as a language outside of the localized form we are used to. It's good to see you again, SR, SV(talk) 19:48, 16 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Interestingly, until today, I (and apparently others in this discussion) had overlooked list of terrorist incidents, which already exists and is rather extensive. I hate to point it out, since it only offers one more thing to disagree over and I'm reasonably satisfied with it as it stands now, but it's there and it's relevant. Isomorphic 10:28, 16 Mar 2004 (UTC)

The terrorism sidebar at Mediawiki:terrorism (insert with {{msg:terrorism}} should be editable. This article is interesting: [1] if only for its summary under 'definition of terrorism.' Since there are many, and they all are, in there own way encyclopedic, I propose that we make a list of all of them List of definitions for terrorism, and then we can talk about extracting a common definition for our purposes, since, as according to the article: "There are several international conventions that define war crimes, but there is no internationally accepted definition of terrorism. There is not one international convention that actually condemns terrorism." -SV(talk) 20:01, 16 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Correction:Cecropia, I said above, there was no mention of Vietnam - I stand corrected - "1965 March 5 - The U.S. president starts "Rolling Thunder" bombing campaign to terrorize Ho Chi Minh into negotiating with the U.S." - Its sadly inaccurate - bombing actually began in 1962, right? -SV(talk) 20:05, 16 Mar 2004 (UTC)

SV, I'm not sure which point of mine you are responding to—this has gotten so long (but interesting) that I'm cursing that we are under the GFDL; imagine what we could sell the book rights for? ;-) But let me make a point that I have nothing invested in the Vietnam: I was against that war before I was "invited" to participate; while I was in the Army; and still am. But, as a matter of fact, I think the right date is 1965 with Rolling Thunder. AFAIK, the only source for the 1962 charge is Chomsky, and he's not reliable on the point. Cecropia 20:18, 16 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Fuzzy Line Between Civilian and Paramilitary[edit]

I think you're OK with noting rhetorical use between state powers and others, but in terms of combatants there is no fuzzy line. There are three main classes recognized and one important subclass. They are:

  • (1) the army of one of the combatants;
  • (2) militias (your paramilitaries) if they meet four criteria--being commanded by a person responsible for them, having a uniform or distinctive badge recognizable at a distance, carrying arms openly; and conforming to the laws of war.
  • (3) "protected persons" meaning mainly civilians.

The important thing is that adhering to these rules determines whether or not they are lawful or unlawful combatants. Class (2) becomes class (3) if they don't meet the four criteria. Protected persons have special rights but are not eligible to be POWs. Now Class (3) (the class numbers aren't official--I'm just trying to make it easier to explain) cannot engage in combat or combat-like activities--no shooting, sabotage, supporting the opposite combatant, covertly passing information to the other side, etc. If they do they are in the unhappy position of being neither protected by POW status nor protected person status.

The subclass and exception is that "The inhabitants of a territory which has not been occupied, who, on the approach of the enemy, spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading troops without having had time to organize themselves in accordance with [the above terms] shall be regarded as belligerents [i.e., eligible for POW status] if they carry arms openly and if they respect the laws and customs of war." (emphasis added). IOW, in the exigent situation, they can resist without being subject to the commander and uniform rules, but it doesn't apply once occupied, and it doesn't allow them to conceal explosives under their clothing, hide weapons on their person, or violate any of the rules of war and still retain that POW-eligible status. Cecropia 02:00, 17 Mar 2004 (UTC)


  • (1) the army of one of the combatants;
  • (2) militias (your paramilitaries) if they meet four criteria--being commanded by a person responsible for them, having a uniform or distinctive badge recognizable at a distance, carrying arms openly; and conforming to the laws of war.
  • (3) "protected persons" meaning mainly civilians.


Mr Cecropia, You express the problem (not the solution) quite clearly: "The important thing is that adhering to these rules determines whether or not they are lawful or unlawful combatants." So, you say 'this set of designations fits into that set of designations.' Well, for starters, what exactly is the meaning of the term "unlawful combatant"? Isn't someone who commits a war crime also an 'unlawful combatant'? :) To say that 'this set of three terms hooks up to these two terms in these ways,' isn't saying much. But if you're expressing that this is how it is defined in international law, then please supply your reference links. Ill further ask that you show where the "terrorism" designation (not agreed upon in i8ln terms) fits in, according to international sources, not just your reasoning. It seems to me that terrorism (and the inconsistency by which war crimes are defined) throws the whole notion of 'designations' to the wind. I liken it to how US Revolutionary War "guerilla" tactics contradicted the then established conventions of European style warfare. I havent heard of anyone going back to bright red uniforms and marching in open file, behind a 14 year old with a drum, but then maybe I dont subscribe to the right magazines. -SV(talk) 06:38, 17 Mar 2004 (UTC)

First, to give a straightforward answer to a straightforward question: no, someone who commits a war crime may have been a lawful combatant, but can still be punished for the war crime. I'm talking about what inherently makes a combatant lawful. There are other issues in conventions and treaties, but the core definition is from the Annex to the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907 (and still in force) Section 1, Chapter 1, entitled "Qualifications of Belligerents," excerpted at illegal combatant. The essential problem is not a question of definition, though; it is the fact that international law is not like national law in one important feature: you don't have true international government (the U.N. isn't, even if you want it to be), you don't have an international police force (fantasies about U.N. "police actions" notwithstanding; and Interpol is a cooperative agency, not a governmental one, per se); and no courts of competent jurisdiction that derive their power other than from the sovereignty (and acquiesence) of the cooperating nations. In short, when one talks about legal action against, say, Osama, you can put as many seals and ribbons on the indictment as you want, but you better send an army in with the process server.
But much as I might be repeating what I've already said: you can "fuzzy" meanings from here to Armageddon, you can only claim the protections of the laws of war if you adhere to them/
You quote the Hague conventions - drafted at a time when maybe half the automobiles on the road were exactly 1 or 2hp. Is there anything you can quote that comes from the modern age of enlightenment (Regan ;) or the latest "American Camelot"?
These treaties are still the basis of International Law on the subject. To reiterate (deja vu all over again) my earlier point, these are rules you follow (no hiding weapons under your shirt, no blowing up innocents) if you want your opponent to follow rules based on the same law (if you want POW status, if you don't want reprisals in kind). Cecropia 00:21, 18 Mar 2004 (UTC)
I suppose the reason for the Hague definition was to bring some order to the conduct of war. It is difficult to say, in a century that killed (or murdered) 250 million people, whether the "lawful conduct" of warfare has had any effect. I do have some perspective, though: 1907 was shortly after the "Philippine insurrection," you could probably still buy Injun scalps fairly easily, and most civilized nations in the world still thought that population transfer was a decent thing to do, in certain cases. So, people have obviously come a long way. And our discussions have come a long way as well. Still, I think there is a generation difference (between yours an mine) in terms of when on the mountain we should take our lunch break, and how much farther there is to go. I dont view those documents as very relevant, because they are a product of a view that came from much further down the mountain. Compare that with some scripture, which can be much older, yet is more resonant and relevant. Rfy,-SV(talk) 03:11, 18 Mar 2004 (UTC)
A generational difference perhaps, but I think maybe also a difference of personal experiences, as I dealt with the subject on a non-theoretical basis. Let's not talk "Geneva" or "Hague" for the moment, but use the generic term "multilateral treaties." Multilateral treaties are all we've got to moderate the brutality of the world. Even the UN derives such power as it has from the power (or lack of it) of multilateral treaties, because that's what the UN charter is. If you envision a perfect world you'll have to enforce it. Would your perfect world make no distinction between civilians and military? Anybody can fight, by any means, no uniform, fang and claw, rocks, bottles, bricks, suicide bombs, nuclear devastation? Most of the world are signatories of Geneva and Hauge and they are modified from time to time. Every time anyone talks about "war crimes" or "POWs" or "international law" (in terms of conduct of war) they are talking Geneva and Hague. If you think the terms are generic, then they are nothing.
I respect your position, and appreciate your reference to scripture, which I consider very practical documents. Just taking the Judeo-Christian bible as a well-known example, "Thou shalt keep the Sabbath day" was the first labor law; what evolved into Kosher laws and Halal were the original Food and Drug Administration; "Feed thy beast before thyself" the first humane law, and swords into plowshares the first vision of universal peace. But still, who enforces these worldwide? If you're a Jehovah's Witness, you believe all war and government is futile, God will settle it. No nuclear state, no suicide bomber, nada, don't even bother. My generation and the ones before mine saw visions of Men on the Mountain Who Would Rescue Us. They wore robes, were perfect, and very enlightened. Some people thought the League of Nations was it. Or the United Nations was it. I thought the latter, once. In retrospect I think the UN lost it in 1950 when the world organization for peace sponsored its first war. Or wiser people from outer space would stop all our foolishness. But Michael Rennie is dead and Gort is rusting. More's the pity. Cecropia 04:44, 18 Mar 2004 (UTC)
You say (according to the definition) "someone who commits a war crime may have been a lawful combatant" - this is completely self-contradictory if you read it by todays (my) interpretation. -SV (talk) 18:36, 17 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Lawful combatant is a status determined by meeting certain requirement when going into battle. War crime is a crime is a violation of the laws of war. War crimes can be committed by both lawful and unlawful combatants or by the belligerent entities themselves. Cecropia 00:21, 18 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Actually a "war crime" is a misnomer for "a crime against humanity," which is itself a misnomer for a "crime against the Almighty," inasmuch as other human beings are divine beings in their own right. -SV(talk) 03:11, 18 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Oh, BTW, is "right magazines" a dig at me? Please elucidate, so I can enjoy the joke, too. ;-) Cecropia 18:18, 17 Mar 2004 (UTC)
No - its a dig at the way () people get their news. Not you specifically. The picture is someone sitting the pot reading a copy of People, and then feeling 'enlightened' enough to join a discussion on politics somewhere. A sterotype, particular to the most celebrated, enlightened, and self-rewarded culture. :)-SV(talk) 18:36, 17 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Actually, the US won its revolutionary war in fairly traditional battles. It's a popular myth that the ragtag bands of sharpshooting colonists whipped the hidebound old-fashioned Brits. The serious fighting was done by a trained Colonial army, with European advisors. Isomorphic 08:39, 17 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Interesting - But I didnt say they wore khackis and night-vision goggles, did I? The "fair" change to us was no doubt a pronounced one at the time. Know anything about the psychological (terror) effects of the (limited amounts of) guerilla warfare on the British? ;) Which reminds me - is this "original research" going to mke some changes to the definition of "terror" itself? -SV(talk) 18:36, 17 Mar 2004 (UTC)

I added a disclaimer to list of terrorist incidents. I tried to word it in such a way as to make the list inclusive. In the main article, I care about attempts to define terrorism. The list, on the other hand, can and should include any incident that's commonly referred to as terrorism, even if it doesn't fit any reasonable definition of such. Readers will expect such incidents to be listed, and since it's basically an index, we can't go wrong by having too much information available to the readers. Isomorphic 03:15, 17 Mar 2004 (UTC)

This seems productive. Each of us being focused on three different parts of the main trunk for the whole topic, will be a useful way to divide the energy (since were all still fairly insterested in this rather lighthearted topic :\ ) Pretty soon, though, this problem will be solved - wiped from Wikipedia and soon after, from the Earth itself. And then I can go back to trolling the superstring theory articles. -SV(talk) 06:44, 17 Mar 2004 (UTC)~

Actually, superstring theory is something I'm interested in, partly because my daughter is considering a physics career. Is it true that there is no hard evidence to either prove or disprove the theory? Cecropia 18:23, 17 Mar 2004 (UTC)
It is not yet produced what we called a critical experiment, that is an experiment capable of decisively determining whether or not the theory is the correct one. What can be said about it so far is that is in accordance with known experiments, but there is not yet enough experimental evidence to say that it must be adopted in order to explain experiments that cannot yet be explained by other experiments. Hope that helps. -- Decumanus 18:26, 17 Mar 2004 (UTC)
I know very little about it (hence my "interest") -all I understantd is that M-theory is the applauded, more unified way of looking at at the whole notion, and its taken off from there into branes- andwhathaveyou. Thank God for PBS programming. -SV(talk) 18:42, 17 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Take it Live?[edit]

The current Draft is looking very sharp, actually. I'm thinking that we should expand the intro to give some hints of whats below, (summary, not redundancy) and then take it live. I think the page should still stay protected, though, so we should state an agreement to update it. SV(talk)

I think we could take it live in more or less its current form. I agree the page should remain protected and have any changes discussed through Talk until we feel comfortable that it is stable. When we remove the protect altogether, maybe we could keep an eye on major changes viewed against the baseline of what we've hashed out?
What opening summary do you suggest that would help the reader to understand what's coming without adding excessive verbiage or redundancy? Cecropia 19:56, 24 Mar 2004 (UTC)

I know you have all put in a good deal of work, but I question the opening; I agree that "terror" is a tactic, but there is something jarring about defining terrorism as a tactic. If "terrorism" is too loaded a word to reduce to one NPOV definition, then perhaps it is enough for the article to say so. But it is my sense that most people, when they use the word "terrorism," are referring to something more than a tactic. Yes, terrorists, use terror as a tactic. But I think there are many people who would also say that non-terrorists sometimes use terror as a tactic. The "ism" adds something -- perhaps an ideology, perhaps an institutionalization of terror, or using terror not only as a tactic but as a strategy ... Unless you are using the word "terror" solely to describe an emotional state. That is certainly reasonable as a personal choice, but I don't think it reflects common usage anymore. Slrubenstein

The third paragraph of the opening deals with non "terrorists" who use "terrorist tactics". The opening is accurate and about as non-POV as we can get, otherwise we're essentially saying "we don't know what it is, but we're going to blather on about it for a few thousand words anyway." ;-)
Just yesterday a sentiment similar to our opening was made by by 9/11 Commission Member Jamie S. Gorelick (former deputy attorney general in the Clinton Administration) who said "[...]terrorism is a tool. It is not an enemy in itself; it's a tool." Cecropia 20:18, 24 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Yeah, but that womans apparent point in pushing that, was shown when she next tried for ten minutes to get Powell to agree with her that 'the enemy is Islamic extremism.' Either she was pushing a bigoted bias there, or she was trying to open up a wider point. I hate to talk so plainly. -SV
Well, I don't know what axe she has to grind. She seems to be the harshest critic of the Bush Administration in the conference, even among the Democrats--she was Madeline Albright's subordinate, so that much is consistent. I think she was trying to make the point that a specific group of terrorists (not IRA, say, or the Tamil Tigers, or Shining Path) is what the US is at war with, rather than the more nebuolous "terrorism." Personally, as I noted somewhere on the wiki, I don't believe that terrorism is an ism particularly because it is a tactic, not a theory of society or government (compare to Trotsky's permanent revoluation, which was.
However, beyond her prejudice, whatever it may be, my point is that she expressed the idea that terrorism ia a (tactic, tool, method of warfare, whatever) rather than a philosophy. Cecropia 21:02, 24 Mar 2004 (UTC)~
I agree with Steve's read of things. The lead in the article is strong, but trips over the paradox which he described. It could be smoother, but then, we may as well copy the whole Definition of terrorism article over as the lead. -SV(talk) 20:42, 24 Mar 2004 (UTC)
That much we can all agree on, and any insinuation of an apparent or likely ethnic bias, will certainly need to be swept away as unspeakable obviousness, or an assumption in its own right. ;) -SV(talk) 21:28, 24 Mar 2004 (UTC)
I feel comfortable in saying that the opening covers our major basis in as few words as possible, paragraph by paragraph.
  1. Core non-country-specific definition
  2. Expected military objective of the attack
  3. Terrorist tactics may also be used by non-state actors
  4. Political controversy over use of the term
  5. Etymology
Then we go on to the heavy duty wrangling after the TOC
Cecropia 21:02, 24 Mar 2004 (UTC)
I understand. But though Gort be rusting and Rennie gone on, theres no reason to keep the wrangling exclusively below the TOC line, (which is like a wall, in a lot of cases ). Its a question of style, really - a dictionary style entry, we can all agree, is inapplicable, given the various flavors. Ill take a crack at it - we do the usual back and forth for a little bit. There should be an article, btw: lead. -SV(talk) 21:16, 24 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Come to think of it, we should have a link to Gort in the terrorism article. If a mindless robot programmed to destroy everybody unless they behave in a manner determined by a culturally insensitive alien robot isn't terrorism, what is? Cecropia 22:21, 24 Mar 2004 (UTC)
'The attempt to impose moral standards or oppose immorality through means of violence' - That may be the paradoxical definition we are looking for. Gort certanly needs an article --I thought you were talking about St. John's Gort. -SV(talk) 01:46, 26 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Corporate terrorism[edit]

"We don't comment on the corporate terrorist activities of PETA. They are corporate terrorists and just like the United States government, we will not negotiate with corporate terrorists." - KFC spokeswoman Bonnie Warschauer [2] New American Empire
That's just being stupid on the part of the KFC spokeswoman. I have no idea what she thought she meant by "corporate terrorist". PETA are activists - they use emotional shock tactics, but I've never heard of them using violence. We probably should put in something about groups like the Earth Liberation Front, or at least a link to ecoterrorist. Isomorphic 19:45, 26 Mar 2004 (UTC)
I think we should be careful about diluting the definition with too many "hyphenated" subissues. I'm not trying to give destructive advocates a pass on anything, but in a discussion of warfare where you're thinking about The Hundred Years War or the Iraq War or World War II, you might think twice in including the "War on Drugs" or three times about Mr. Clean's "War on Dirt." Cecropia 19:59, 26 Mar 2004 (UTC)
OK. I don't care that much about this issue. A link under "related topics" might still be appropriate. Isomorphic 20:43, 26 Mar 2004 (UTC)

State terrorism[edit]

Is there really discussion of going live with the current version? Has anybody read the section on state terrorism lately? Not only is it inappropriately placed before the more universally recognized forms of terrorism, it's also way longer than the rest and is blatantly POV. I'm going to clean it up. I won't mourn it if a lot of what I delete disappears forever, but if anyone wants to salvage anything, put it in state terrorism, not in the main article. Isomorphic 20:43, 26 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Last two sections[edit]

I also object to the last two sections. The US waged terrorism in Vietnam, the Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened , and we're going to blame Israel for Palestinian terrorism? How much of this article are we going to devote to Chomsky's views? Seriously? Whenever I try to NPOV something Stevertigo writes, he leaves my edited version and writes more POV into a new section. I'd try to NPOV the new stuff, but I'm getting tired of this, and I don't want the entire article to be "Blah, but Chomsky claims Blah. And also Chomsky says blah and blah." Isomorphic 22:44, 26 Mar 2004 (UTC) BTW, lest I do nothing but criticize, I do like the new intro. Nice, concise, and gets the point across. Isomorphic 22:45, 26 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Well, Heaven forbid we don't get what we want. I agree that since they are controversial, (and way too over-specific) they should be removed. It would be interesting to include them as hypothetical possibilities that engage us to think about the issues, but that's not factual and not encyclopedic, is it? That's now out of the way. I think it's ready to sent up to the big kahuna. Cecropia and you and I all appear to agree. -SV(talk) 23:19, 26 Mar 2004 (UTC)


Ah, it's good to see the fruit of so much labor ready for prime time. However, before everyone gets that good night's sleep (or after, if everyone is snoring) I have a thought about this section and the last paragraph in particular:

"Some believe that it is impossible to define the term terrorism in any neutral or objective way. According to this viewpoint, the term "terrorism" is inherently and inescapably political in nature, and is always defined and used politically. Hence, "history is written by the victors," and it is the dominant society who dictates to history which particular acts of violence will or will not be labeled as "terrorism."

While I can agree with that being a legitimate argument, I don't think it is fair to say terrorism is "always" defined politically. For example, Nazi Germany did many terrible things in warfare, but a fair reading would describe some (blitzkrieg) as legitimate war tactics, but the V2 bombing that targeted civilian areas as terrorism. So my point is that terrorism is still a useful descriptive term even with a hated enemy, unless we can come up with a less charged but accurate generic term to describe the same general behavior, as "ethnocentrism" is a less charged term than "racism."

Also, the politicization section focuses mainly on belligerents simply claiming that the word is used politically, thus is meaningless. But there is a second front in this, as it were, in claims that terrorism the speaker defends is only one aspect of terrorism. Over use of the term to describe (as recently here) rogue opponents of Fried Chicken franchises as terrorist is a shot in this battle. Cecropia 00:15, 27 Mar 2004 (UTC)


It's true that Chomsky is a prominent linguist, but he is also very prominent as a well known leftist critic of American and other policy and something of a loose cannon. I'm not saying he's always wrong but some of his tangents are not worthy of history, such as apologia for the Khmer Rouge and assertions about Vietnam not backed up by other histortical writing, especially The "Pentagon Papers." I think he can be quoted relevantly, but not extensively. Since his comment on "terrorism" does not come from the simple academic discipline of linguistics, couldn't we say "Linguist and leftist critic Noam Chomsky"? Cecropia 00:33, 27 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Rverted FYVM's edits[edit]

Aside from the fact that most of the edits are a barely coherent POV and/or off-topic rant, this new user violates Wikipedia:Username#No_inflammatory_usernames and the referenced section Wikipedia:Profanity. I realize this person can sign up again under a different username, but I feel it damages the Wikipedia to let this stand without challenge. Cecropia 14:42, 29 Mar 2004 (UTC)

He's just a reincarnation of User:Bird. He's on a crusade against Wikipedia, and spent some time yesterday trying to mess up everything I've worked on because I told him off. You can pretty much revert anything a Bird reincarnation writes, as none of it is going to be useful. Isomorphic 16:14, 29 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Actually, looking at the edit, all he did was revert the most recent series of edits. The "POV, off-topic rant" was just what the section looked like until I edited it down. The most egregious bits were written by User:, a French editor whose history shows a rather strong POV. Isomorphic 16:24, 29 Mar 2004 (UTC)

A Proposal[edit]

Terrorism should be defined objectively and not politically or emotionally (even though fear is an emotion). The best operational definition that matches the way people actually use the word is
Acts of War committed by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO's)

This definition captures the special nature of Terrorism, does not obsess on civilian vs. military targets, and excludes all the things people want to exclude (crime, warfare, accidents, vandalism). This definition fairly includes both the Contras and Hezbollah. This definition gives a crisp definition to the phrase "State-sponsored terrorism" that otherwise tends to merge with warfare or covert action by governments. This definition can be agreed upon by people with differing religions and moral codes. This definition is pretty resistant to the duplicity of lawyers, propagandists, and politicians, and does not depend on multi-lateral treaties. Definitions are useful so that we may have words to use in our treaties. We cannot let treaties be the only origin of our definitions.

The Terror of the French Revolution and certain Marxist states is a related but different phenomenon deserving of its own word. This Terror always induced fear and was intended to induce fear and obedience. Modern Terrorism sometimes (apparently) intends to create over-reaction. Note that the September 11th attacks produced more anger than fear. Should we call al-Queda an "Angrist" organization?

It is hoped that an agreement on the meaning of Terrorism may facilitate the communication and negotiation that ends it.

While I agree with your sentiment that it would be highly desirable to have an objective definition, which a number of us have been working toward, I feel your definition does not really touch any accepted legal or functional definition of the term except in the popular mind, bolstered enormously by 9/11.
In fact, at least in terms of treaties, conventions and tradition, there are virtually no true non-state terrorists, because terrorists tend to represent the interests of states or combinations of states, and, as succinctly put after 9/11, "they do not exist in disembodied space"--i.e., they usually train and operate with the aid and/or acquiescence of states. The best-known example of arguable non-state actors in war-like acts are pirates, which still exist, but in their modern incarnation are more like highwaymen than terrorists or belligerents. Still, even pirates (during the most active age of piracy) had state support, which is why the formation and international sanctions against the Trucial States were effective in reducing piracy.
I would refer you back to the substance of our discussions defining terrorism more by its method, intent and effect than by who does it. Cecropia 04:38, 31 Mar 2004 (UTC)

This draft is long since superceded. Should we be deleting it? Isomorphic 00:33, 26 Jun 2004 (UTC)