Israel

Imad and Me

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A couple of things struck me about the New York Times coverage of Hezbollah leader Imad Mugniyah's assassination. First of all, in this publicity shot from the Hezbollah Media Office, Mugniyah looks like a an older, pudgier, camouflage-wearing version of me:

I gather this picture was taken before the plastic surgery he supposedly had. Despite his Semitic looks (I know, I know: Arabs are Semites too!), this was a guy who considered blowing up a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires a legitimate tactic in a war with Israel. In his view, killing any random Jew, anywhere in the world, was just retaliation for wrongs committed by the Israeli government. Yet I was still surprised to see the Times unambiguously call Mugniyah, who headed Hezbollah's Islamic Jihad Organization, a terrorist.

The headline over the main story about Mugniyah's death, "Bomb in Syria Kills Militant Sought as Terrorist," equivocates a bit, but the text calls him "one of the most wanted and elusive terrorists in the world." A sidebar summarizing his murderous career calls him "perhaps the world's most feared terrorist" before 9/11 and notes that "the list of those who might seek justice or revenge against him was a lengthy one." By contrast, the Times usually calls Arab terrorists who target Israelis "militants." The Times story about last week's suicide bombing at a shopping center in Dimona, for instance, called the Fatah-affiliated Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which initially claimed responsibility for killing an Israeli woman at the shopping center, "militant groups." (It also called the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades a "militia.") Later, when the Qassam Brigades took credit for the murder, the Times described that organization as "the military wing of Hamas," which it called a "militant Islamic group."

So what exactly does it take for a "militant" to be recognized as a "terrorist" in The New York Times? Evidently he needs to target Jewish civilians not only outside Gaza and the West Bank but outside of Israel, preferably on a different continent. I think it also helps if he attacks Americans, as Mugniyah repeatedly did. The Times does not seem to be squeamish about calling Al Qaeda "a terrorist group." If Osama bin Laden had crashed a plane into a building in Tel Aviv instead of New York City, would he be merely a militant?

NEXT: Robert Jastrow, R.I.P.

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  1. Well, Mr. Mugniyah, I’m sure Reason is glad to have you on the staff. You’ll be perfectly safe in the terrorist relocation program. Just make sure to read our policy on the slaughter of innocents. We take a dim view of it.

  2. You can be both a militant and a terrorist. As a matter of fact, I’d say that being a militant is a precondition for being a terrorist.

    If, in a story about a truck bomb destroying a community center, the writer attributes the bombing to “the military group Hezbollah,” is anybody going to not understand that blowing up civilians in a community center is terrorism?

  3. If, in a story about a truck bomb destroying a community center, the writer attributes the bombing to “the military group Hezbollah,” is anybody going to not understand that blowing up civilians in a community center is terrorism?

    You mean, aside from all the people who call that sort of thing ‘resistance’ or ‘jihad’ or ‘martyrdom’? Not that that they’d give a shit what the NYT wrote, mind you.

  4. Wow. You guys do look alike! Now, who does Gillespie remind me of?

  5. What if Jacob Sullum is Mugniyah?

  6. Yes, lunchstealer, aside from people on the other side of the planet who don’t read the New York Times.

  7. What if Jacob Sullum is Mugniyah?

    Then I have nothing to do with reason from hereon. Damn it, those terrorists are everywhere nowadays.

  8. I’m sorry, but the message that we’re trying to get across is that Dubble Bubble doubles the taste, not…turns you into terrorists.

  9. What if Jacob Sullum is Mugniyah?

    Yeah, writing this seems like a bit-too-perfect of a cover story. You can’t fool us “Mr. Sullum.”

    Why do you hate freedom?

  10. Hrm…

    Drugs finance terrorists… Jacob Sullum wrote a book against the War on Drugs…

    It all makes sense now!

  11. I always wondered how a guy with a beard can “nick himself shaving” on the same day every year.

    On the forehead.

  12. I liked Mugniyah’s This is Spinal Tap.

  13. Actually, Sullum, since both Fatah and Hamas now constitute the quasi-government of areas partially turned over to Palestinian control by Israel, it’s probably no longer appropriate to call their actions terrorism no matter who or what they blow up.

    When a state blows someone up, it’s not terrorism. If this isn’t true, then the US government is a terrorist group.

  14. I liked Mugniyah’s This is Spinal Tap.

    Funny thing is that “mughniya” derives from “ughniya” which means song in Arabic. Weird.

  15. The Times does not seem to be squeamish about calling Al Qaeda “a terrorist group.”

    Depends where they are. In Iraq, they’re assiduously described by the NYT as “Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, sometimes called Al Qaeda in Iraq, the homegrown Sunni Arab extremist group that American intelligence agencies have concluded is foreign-led.” The cost of ink must be bankrupting them.

    If Osama bin Laden had crashed a plane into a building in Tel Aviv instead of New York City, would he be merely a militant?

    No, he would be a resistance fighter, and later a Nobel Prize winner.

  16. I think the problem in distinguishing between militants and terrorist is that people confuse moral judgments with technical descriptions. Saying that “one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter” only makes sense if one believes that the justice of the cause defines a terrorist.

    Defined technically, terrorism is a collections of tactics that maybe employed by advocates of any cause. Specifically, the tactics that most define terrorism is the intentionally targeting of random members of civilian populations for the primary purpose of undermining the group moral via media propagation of the attack. It’s the use of this tactic, not the justice or injustice of the cause that the people who use the tactic, that defines an individual or a group as terrorist.

    We have reached a consensus that such a tactic is an unacceptable form of armed conflict, especially when employed by covert, unaccountable and self-appointed actors. For that reason, saying someone used the tactic of terrorist automatically carries moral condemnation.

    The NY Times and other Left leaning groups have always had trouble separating the moral from the technical. Since they sympathize with some of the goals of those who employ the tactic of terrorism, they have trouble condemning the specific tactics employed.

  17. Wait. Sullum is a Jew? Reason has Jews working for it? I’m canceling my subscription. What next, Mexicans? Women? Canadians?

  18. quasi-government of areas partially turned over to Palestinian control by Israel, it’s probably no longer appropriate to call their actions terrorism no matter who or what they blow up.

    Not true.

    When a state blows someone up, it’s not terrorism. If this isn’t true, then the US government is a terrorist group.

    Some call our actions exactly that.

  19. When a state blows someone up, it’s not terrorism. If this isn’t true, then the US government is a terrorist group.

    Actually, there is a difference. Terrorism targets civilians, which is quite different than collateral damage when they are the unfortunate side effect of a military attack. And yes, I do consider targeting whole cities in Germany and Japan, like we did in WWII, “terrorism.”

  20. That’s a very good definition of terrorism, Shannon.

    But it would exclude the Khobar Towers and Cole bombings. Do you include either of those?

  21. Thanks, Episiarch…

    DRINK!!

    (I know it was on purpose, but it is a Friday.)

  22. And what it were actually Jacob Sullum who was killed in Syria?

  23. I can’t start drinking until I’m in the car leaving work 🙁

  24. 1. I don’t think an attack on soldiers can be defined as terrorism.

    2. When a bombing happens in Israel they tend not to distinguish civilian and soldier casualties.

    3. There is a very fuzzy line between targeting civilians and killing them on “accident” by collateral damage. I am not sure that these two things are as different as people think they are, and they probably deserve to share a name.

    4. Looks like Sullum is bucking for another junket.

  25. Specifically, the tactics that most define terrorism is the intentionally targeting of random members of civilian populations for the primary purpose of undermining the group morale

    This would make the United States Air Force a terrorist organization, indisputably so in WWII, and arguably so in several conflicts since then. [Not so much lately, to our great credit.]

    Some call our actions exactly that.

    This is true. But the people who call our actions exactly that are not the same people as the people who most loudly denounce Fatah and Hamas.

    If you are one of the ones who call our actions that, you can call those groups whatever you want. If you are, OTOH, one of those who would never concede that any US action could ever be described as terroristic, then I don’t want to hear you handing out the label to anyone else.

  26. This would make the United States Air Force a terrorist organization, indisputably so in WWII, and arguably so in several conflicts since then. [Not so much lately, to our great credit.]

    And the British RAF and the German Luftwaffe and the… wow, the list goes on.

    Strategic bombing in WWII was imprecise and the large percentage of U.S. strategic bombing was specifically against industrial and military targets. The firebombing of Tokyo and Dresdin were arguably acts which were designed to break the morale of an entrenched enemy. They were deliberate attacks on non-military targets. They were not, however conducted by non-regular civilian, self-appointed actors. So even though one might agree that the actions were designed to inspire terror, the actors were fully tracable and accountable.

    […]If you are, OTOH, one of those who would never concede that any US action could ever be described as terroristic, then I don’t want to hear you handing out the label to anyone else.

    What, there can be no middle ground? You *must* call all actions of a certain type terrorism and then *never* call any action by the U.S.– ever– terrorism?

    Why can’t we call Hamas a terrorist organization, defer that the U.S. is not, by overall definition a terrorist organization, but concede that some irresponsible actions by the U.S. may amount to terrorist tactics?

  27. But it would exclude the Khobar Towers and Cole bombings. Do you include either of those?

    If I may, Joe, I do not call those actions, in their narrow scope, terrorism. But they were carried out by terrorist groups. Again, when one doesn’t distinguish— distinguish being the operative word– between civilian and military targets, then when you do occasionally hit a military target, does that make you an occasional terrorist organization?

  28. Wait. Sullum is a Jew? Reason has Jews working for it? I’m canceling my subscription. What next, Mexicans? Women? Canadians?

    Or even, you know…Canadians.

  29. But it would exclude the Khobar Towers and Cole bombings. Do you include either of those?

    I wouldn’t consider the Cole bombings terrorism. The Khobar bombings is a little iffy, as it is not exactly clear to me if it was a specific attack on the U.S. airforce, or an attack in general on ‘Westerners’ that happen to get lucky and kill a bunch of U.S. military personel.

    However, if you wanted to argue that said acts where not commited by agents acting on behalf of a political entity (such as a national government, local militia, etc.), and therefore terrorism, I could buy that arguement. We general associate terrorism with acts of violence commited by non-government organizations.

  30. It seems to me people had no problem calling the attack on the Marine barracks in Lebanon a terrorist attack.

    Also, what about non-uniformed military (off duty and such)? What’s the difference between targeting militants in the middle of a civilian population and targeting off-duty soldiers in the middle of a civilian population?

  31. By contrast, the Times usually calls Arab terrorists who target Israelis “militants.”

    What does the Times or Reason call Israeli terrorists who target Arabs?

  32. Again, when one doesn’t distinguish– distinguish being the operative word– between civilian and military targets, then when you do occasionally hit a military target, does that make you an occasional terrorist organization?

    I don’t buy the “Oops” defense. If you try to thread the needle with a bomb and miss, you know damn well there’s a significant chance you’ll kill innocent civilians. The people killed are just as innocent and just as dead, intentions don’t matter at that point (except when you try to go to sleep at night). That’s why police officers aren’t supposed to shoot a perp in the middle of a crowd.

  33. Jacob, a little context would be helpful. First, acknowledge that Israel was founded on ethnic cleansing with terrorist tactics thrown into the mix for good measure. It has elected a terrorist (Begin) and a war criminal (Sharon) as Prime Minister. In its suppression of Palestinian resistance and continuing defiance of international law (resonoids are all in favor of the rule of law, aren’t they ?) Israel has killed far more Palestinean civilians than it has lost by a ratio of about 10 to 1.

  34. and continuing defiance of international law (resonoids are all in favor of the rule of law, aren’t they ?)

    There is no such thing as international “law”. There are only treaties.

    You might want to understand that distinction.

  35. JS,

    The last paragraph really rubbed me the wrong way. Although I agree that the term terrorist indeed applies to Mugniyah, I think you improperly conflated NYT’s reportage in this case with their overall policy on who gets labelled a terrorist.

    Have you read the NYT style guide or attempted to contact the editors for clarification?

    What’s their policy on groups like ETA and the Tamil Tigers?

  36. Specifically, the tactics that most define terrorism is the intentionally targeting of random members of civilian populations for the primary purpose of undermining the group moral via media propagation of the attack.

    Doesn’t Hiroshima qualify under this definition? How about “Shock and Awe”?

  37. The idea that allied strategic bombing in WWII was intended to attack civilian moral and can thus be considered terrorism is a complete and utter myth that originated from Soviet propaganda targeted at the population of East Germany.

    The idea that bombing could cripple civilian moral was popular in Europe in the 1930’s due to the advocacy of the tactic by the Italian airpower theorist Douchet. The British fell under the sway of the idea and designed the Lancaster bomber to carry out such attacks. In America, the tactic was never even considered and the B-17 was designed to carry out precision bombing only.

    The British experience during the Blitz taught them conclusively that bombing did not undermine civilian moral but instead enhanced it. From that point on, no allied bombing campaign was designed with the goal of influencing civilian moral. (The American force especially suffered horrific casualties trying to carry out precision daylight bombing.) All the area bombing in the war was intended to materially disrupt the ability of the enemy to fight. As such they cannot be considered terrorism without inflating the concept of terrorism into meaninglessness.

    I really wish this lie would die. The information to disprove it is easily available. I think to many people find it to valuable as a tool for creating an illusion of moral equivalence to let the lie go.

  38. Israel has killed far more Palestinean civilians than it has lost by a ratio of about 10 to 1.

    Your analysis of the on going conflict is insightful and nuanced.
    From hence forth in the event of a casualty of an Israely citizen, the IDF shall randomly target a palestinian citizen and exectue them. Furthermore if that causualty was male a male will be excuted and a female will be executed for any female casualties. Futhermore, the IDF will make sure that the proportional execution must be carried only on targets that are within 5 years age difference of the original casualty. In the event that Israely citizen is not deceased, but only maimed, the IDF is to target based on the criteria outline above, and proceed to maim in the same manner, ie: an arm for an arm, a leg for a leg, and so forth… WE MUST HAVE PROPORTIONALITY PEOPLE.

  39. I think it also helps if he attacks Americans, as Mugniyah repeatedly did.

    Is Mugniyah blamed for targetting Americans other than the Marines barracks in Lebanon and Khobar towers in Saudi (both clearly military targets)?

  40. “There is no such thing as international “law”. There are only treaties. You might want to understand that distinction.”

    Actually treaties and conventions do have the force of law. Check the US Constitution and court rulings to that effect. The problem is that the world’s only superpower supports Israel and lets it get away with these crimes as well as its own.

  41. anon,

    Doesn’t Hiroshima qualify under this definition?

    No, Hiroshima was a major port and the HQ of the Japanese defense of Kinyushu. It was going to be destoryed one way or the other. Ditto for Nagasaki. In any case, neither attack actually influenced morale. They merely demonstrated that the US could stand off and reduce Japan to rubble.

    How about “Shock and Awe”?

    The people to be shocked and awed where not the Iraqi civilians but rather the command structure of the Iraqi military. It was intended to overload their information management and bring bout decision paralysis, which it did. Squaring the crap out of population living under the heal of a despotic regime is rather pointless.

    Again, had you bothered to actually read anything actually written by the people who made these decisions, you could figure this out for yourself.

  42. Doesn’t Hiroshima qualify under this definition? How about “Shock and Awe”?

    No, I think the second qualifier, when employed by covert, unaccountable and self-appointed actors is important to consider. Obviously, its not black and white, this is terrorism and this is not. But actions carried out by uniformed armies, especialy in the course of open ongoing armed conflict, can be called a alot of other things if you want, war crimes and such, but Im not sure terrorism would be the right term.

  43. Actually treaties and conventions do have the force of law. Check the US Constitution and court rulings to that effect. The problem is that the world’s only superpower supports Israel and lets it get away with these crimes as well as its own.

    They don’t have the force of law if they aren’t enforced.

  44. All the area bombing in the war was intended to materially disrupt the ability of the enemy to fight. As such they cannot be considered terrorism without inflating the concept of terrorism into meaninglessness

    If you’re arguing that the concept or terrorism is essentially meaningless, I’d have to agree.

  45. what if this turns out to be an oopsie “work accident”?

  46. Shannon,

    If the presence of a target of any military value within a civilian population makes an attack on that target legitimate and not terrorism (which is what I take away from your statement that “Hiroshima was a major port”), then why doesn’t the Israeli practice of universal military service make attacks on Israelis legitimate? “Hey, we got 22 military targets (Israeilis between the ages of 18 and 40) and 9 civilians.”

  47. FWIW, this wikipedia article describes German morale and the use of bombing to decrease such.

  48. “””The idea that allied strategic bombing in WWII was intended to attack civilian moral and can thus be considered terrorism is a complete and utter myth that originated from Soviet propaganda targeted at the population of East Germany. “””

    I don’t think that’s the argument being made. The fact is we attacked civilians, reasons aside. If the metric that determines a terrorist act is attacking civilians. Then the example is valid. I’m not sure if the metric is valid. Besides, it’s the federal government that determines if the attack is terrorism. Here is what the FBI says about it.

    “There is no single, universally accepted definition of terrorism. Terrorism is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations as “…the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85) ”

    By the C.F.R.’s definiton, Gen George Washington et al were terrorist. There is no doubt that what we did against the British was unlawful with the purpose of furthering a political goal. Of course, the government exempts its self. I think it’s a interesting definition in that it basically says freedom can not come from within and MUST be delivered by a third party. Normally I would say the C.F.R. only apply to us but our government seem sto claim that the world is our jurisdiction when it comes to terrorism.

  49. No, Hiroshima was a major port and the HQ of the Japanese defense of Kinyushu.

    In other words. Shannon’s definition for terrorism is “if the US does it, it is not terrorism. If it is someone Shannon considers an enemy .. then it is terrorism” got it . thanks!

  50. Why can’t we call Hamas a terrorist organization, defer that the U.S. is not, by overall definition a terrorist organization, but concede that some irresponsible actions by the U.S. may amount to terrorist tactics?

    Because this is far too easy to do when you’re the world hegemon.

    Let’s give Hamas a turn at being world hegemon for a century, and I bet their apologists would then say, “Well sure, we committed some terrorist acts, but look at all the schools we built!” Hell, Hezbollah can say that NOW.

    A terrorist is one who commits terrorism. There is no credit for good deeds, no carbon offets for it, and no “consider three centuries of my actions before you call me a terrorist because I attacked a few civilian populations on purpose”. You can’t be a little bit pregnant.

    And Shannon Love, your argument is decisively undermined by the fact that Churchill openly states in his memoirs not once, but several times, that he hoped strategic bombing would break the morale of the German people – and further, that he desperately wanted bombing of German civilians as revenge for the Blitz and for the V1 and V2 attacks.

    When one of the two top guys giving the orders is willing to put down in writing years later that he demanded a strategic bombing campaign at least in part to terrorize civilians and at least in part as a reprisal campaign against civilians, you don’t get to stomp around here calling it a myth.

  51. I must note that in the C.F.R. it says to coerce “a” government. What government other than the US could the C.F.R. apply?

  52. Shannon Love,

    Specifically, the tactics that most define terrorism is the intentionally targeting of random members of civilian populations for the primary purpose of undermining the group moral via media propagation of the attack.

    It seems to me that terrorism also includes the intential targeting of civilian, etc. leaders, celebrities, etc. of a population so as to sow confusion, etc.

  53. Actually treaties and conventions do have the force of law.

    No. Under the US Constitution, treaties have the force of law. I do not know if Israel treats treaties the same way, or if anyone else does. Plus we can withdraw from treaties.

    And to top it all, if somebody doesn’t follow international “law”, who is going to stop them?

  54. I don’t buy the “Oops” defense. If you try to thread the needle with a bomb and miss, you know damn well there’s a significant chance you’ll kill innocent civilians.

    I’m not sure what your point is here, mo. And intentions do matter. One simply cannot conduct a large scale military operation and not kill civilians. This doesn’t make one a terrorist. Especially when great pains are taken to minimize or eliminate civilian deaths. Yes, the dead are just as dead, but to call every errant bomb or mistaken target a terrorist act is to be willfully ignorant of the entire purpose of terrorism.

  55. “”In other words. Shannon’s definition for terrorism is “if the US does it, it is not terrorism. “””

    That seems to fit squarely with the C.F.R.’s definition.

  56. Shannon, what do you make of the US bombing campaign against Japan in WWII?

    I don’t think the failure of the London Blitz either proved that attacking civilians was inherently doomed to failure, or that this was the usual interpretation given to those events. More commonly, people believed London didn’t fall for a variety of reasons particular to the situation: the unity and courage of the English people; the success of its leaders in averting panic and minimizing the loss of life and limb; Hitler’s overconfidence and hence inability to attack even more forcefully.

    It sounds like you have a vested interest in preserving the meaningfulness of the concept of terrorism. If it’s a bad concept, why not let it die?

    As it happens, I think it’s a good concept for reasons that have nothing to do with the extent of the destruction. It’s attacking a third party materially for mostly psychological and propagandistic reasons. The third party is supposed to pay attention to you, preferably in ways that make them look weak and stupid, and your supporters are supposed to think you’re a viable force because you’re able to take their concerns to a higher level. Causing the third party actually to join the war against you is a calculated risk of terrorism, not its desired outcome.

    No matter how terrifying or cruel, attacking civilians to affect their support of a hostile government is not terrorism. It’s just warfare of a particularly distasteful variety.

    Also, Jacob: that dead guy resembles Victor French from Little House on the Prairie much more than he looks like you.

  57. Jacob, a little context would be helpful. First, acknowledge that Israel was founded on ethnic cleansing with terrorist tactics thrown into the mix for good measure. It has elected a terrorist (Begin) and a war criminal (Sharon) as Prime Minister. In its suppression of Palestinian resistance and continuing defiance of international law (resonoids are all in favor of the rule of law, aren’t they ?) Israel has killed far more Palestinean civilians than it has lost by a ratio of about 10 to 1.

    Hezbollah openly professes that it wants to rid the world of all non-muslims. Israel is entirely neutral toward non-Jews.

    Regardless of any human rights abuses, I am naturally going to side with the group that doesn’t plan to exterminate me and my family.

    You can’t declare your desire to exterminate me and my family, and at the same time expect me to side with you against people who are no threat to me and my family?

    Understand? I don’t give a shit about Israel’s human rights abuses, so long as Israel is friendly and Palestine is hostile.

    I do think the U.S. should stop subsidizing Israel’s military… but for entirely other reasons than the Palestinian issue.

  58. Shannon,

    Whether or not demoralization was the intention of the U.S. forces, the fact remains that the civilian populations of Dresden and Tokyo (especially in March of ’45) were devastated beyond any military purpose. Even if mass murder wasn’t the goal, the civilians were treated as if the value of their lives was negligible.

  59. And I should point out that the U.S. actively engaged in terrorism throughout the Cold War.

  60. “””Even if mass murder wasn’t the goal, the civilians were treated as if the value of their lives was negligible.”””

    Some things don’t change.

  61. I don’t give a shit about Israel’s human rights abuses, so long as Israel is friendly

    This is an entirely defensible way of looking at the situation in practical terms.

    It does, of course, mean that we don’t really need to listen to any moral arguments from you on this subject at all, though. You realize that, right?

    If you don’t care about human rights abuses from a friendly power, then you don’t care about human rights abuses at all – you care about international power politics and that’s it.

    So any indignation from you about terrorist acts or human rights abuses by unfriendly powers or their pawns can be dismissed as mere tactical posturing.

  62. then why doesn’t the Israeli practice of universal military service make attacks on Israelis legitimate?

    Joe, are you being glib, here? Deliberately blowing up a six-year-old is legitimate by virtue of the fact that said six-year-old will one day be pressed into the IDF?

    Tricky:

    The fact is we attacked civilians, reasons aside. If the metric that determines a terrorist act is attacking civilians.

    The metric is not attacking civilians. Re-read Shannon’s excellent and very reasonable definition of Terrorism above. It’s more nuanced than that. And the word “distinction” must be emphasized.

    Let me requote your own quoted passage:

    There is no single, universally accepted definition of terrorism. Terrorism is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations as “…the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

    What that means is the Code of Federal Regulations is, by its own definition a non-universally accepted definition of terrorism.

    that he hoped strategic bombing would break the morale of the German people – and further, that he desperately wanted bombing of German civilians as revenge for the Blitz and for the V1 and V2 attacks.

    Right, so Churchill thought that terrorism was a decent response to Nazi terrorism. So where are we going with this?

    Maybe Nazi Germany was lucky that the British were patently bad at bombing, and instead relied on the Yanks for the real dangerous daylight stuff.

  63. the civilians were treated as if the value of their lives was negligible.

    Im often confused by statement like this. Im currious as to how you see the protectorate relationship the US governemtn has with you.

    Do you not feel that because the governemnt derives its power, legitimacy and finances directly from you that they would treat your life as infinetely more valuable then the life of a citizen of another government. And even more so a citizen of an enemy governement? Do you not think that US command is fully and morraly justified to consider 1 US life worth 10?, 100?, 1000? times a japanese life? How about atleast twice as valuable?

  64. So much is so wrong with this discussion.

    For one thing, People, it’s “morale” not “moral.” Two different words with vastly different meanings.

    The term “terrorism” was traditionally applied only to the acts of sub-national groups, so even if Hiroshima had not been a legitimate military target in WW2, the term would not apply.

    It’s become fashionable during the past decade to speak of “state-sponsored terrorism” which is an ingenious attempt to have it both ways.

    Agree that “international law” really doesn’t exist per se. Treaties do have the force of law, when the signatories choose to abide by them, but there is no body of international laws which bind all nations. Specifically, the Nuremberg tribunal used the convenient fiction of “international law” to justify their actions. Not that there was anything wrong with hanging some Nazis, of course.

    I think the bottom line is that Sullum is PO’d because the NYT wouldn’t call Mugniyah a terrorist.

    Highly recommend the works of Martin van Creveld, particularly The Transformation of War, to anyone interested in deeper issues than quibbling with the NYT style guide.

  65. Tonio,

    As I have read the modern use of the term comes from the use violence as perpetrated during the ‘reign of terror’ by the then government of France.

  66. “””What that means is the Code of Federal Regulations is, by its own definition a non-universally accepted definition of terrorism.””

    Actually the sentence you highlighted was from the FBI, not from the C.F.R. It is the FBI saying there is no universal defintion, not the C.F.R. The overall quote is from the FBI website. Here’s the link.
    http://www.fbi.gov/publications/terror/terror2000_2001.htm

    Here’s how title 18 of the US code defines it.

    ” Domestic terrorism refers to activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state; appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States. [18 U.S.C. ? 2331(5)]

    International terrorism involves violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any state, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or any state. These acts appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping and occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum. [18 U.S.C. ? 2331(1)]””

  67. A terrorist is one who uses fear (terror) as a strategic tool for a political motive. Anyone who uses the tactic is a terrorist to whomever is made to be fearful, not the group that supports them, and not really any bystanders or third parties who are not meant to be fearful OR who are not fearful as a result of their distance from the threat.

    I would consider the Madrid train bombers terrorists, not because I am the one made to be fearful or because I’m close to Madrid now, but because I would like to be able to travel freely (and that might be a stop on my itinerary some day). Anyone who has no plans to ever go to Madrid, probably only calls them terrorists because that’s what our media or government calls them, not because they are really afraid.

    Of course, I’m not really afraid because I know how unlikely it is I will be harmed, but because I desire to move freely, I am a target for political reasons.

  68. Hezbollah openly professes that it wants to rid the world of all non-muslims.

    I’m calling bullshit on this statement. Please provide a link.

  69. Right, so Churchill thought that terrorism was a decent response to Nazi terrorism. So where are we going with this?

    Well, the first place we are going with it is a place where it’s demonstrated that Shannon has no idea what she’s talking about with regard to the history of WWII strategic bombing.

    I also question why you would endorse Shannon’s “definition” of terrorism, since she starts out by saying that we should define it as a tactic and not as a moral state, and takes to task those who withhold the label “terrorism” when they support the moral goal of the terrorist – but then she immediately turns around and starts indignantly quibbling with those who point out clear instances of terrorism conducted by the United States. If terrorism is a word that merely describes a tactic and we should apply it even to those whose causes we believe in, why are her panties in a bunch about admitting that WWII strategic bombing was terroristic?

    And as for the supposed “nuance” about the word terrorism only being applicable to non-governmental or sub-national groups – fine. But we have to pick one side of the nuance and stay on that side. If that’s the side we’re picking, Fatah and Hamas are no longer terrorist groups. If that’s not the side we’re picking, then the US government is fair game for the label.

    I don’t necessarily think it’s necessarily wise to exempt states from the label, by the way. Doing so is potentially moral statism of the worst sort.

  70. Unofficial “Clarification of Definition” Posting:

    A word ending in “ist” describes a person who uses, practices, believes in, or operates within the boundaries commonly accepted as the meaning of the noun pre-ceeding “ist”.

    Examples:

    Capitalist – one who uses capital

    Constitutionalist – in the US, one who believes in the Constitution

    Communist – one who believes in a socioeconomic structure that promotes the establishment of a classless, stateless society based on common ownership of the means of production

    Violinist – one who acts upon a musical instrument called a violin causing (hopefully) music to result.

    Racist one who antagonizes and/or oppresses people of other (than his/her own) races due to the believe that

    Terrorist – one who acts in such a way as to cause people to be terrified. (Therefore spiders, snakes, cockroaches, and cops can be considered terrorists.)

    Motorist – one who motors

    Shootist – one who shoots

    Sexist – one who sexes? (Chicken sex-ist, or chicken sex -er? People are actually paid to determine the sex of chicks in eggs.)

    (*note: suffix “er” in some words produces the same effect as the suffix “ist” – i.e. “shooter” rather than “shootist” – but not in the example “racer” for “racist”.)

  71. Do you not feel that because the governemnt derives its power, legitimacy and finances directly from you that they would treat your life as infinetely more valuable then the life of a citizen of another government.

    Absolutely not.

    Why would my life (or the life of my son, even) be “worth” more (whatever that means), than the life of an Iranian child or Iraqi mother? (Honestly, the very notion is repugnant to me.) Should we judge the “worth” of a human life based whether or not it pays taxes to a particular government? The “value” of each life would then vary, not based on what kind of a life an individual has led, but by it’s loyalty to any particular government.

    By this reasoning, your life is inherently worth less than a millionaire’s (I’m assuming you’re not rich), since you contribute less to the government than a millionaire does.

    This philosophy is the basis of most every government-sponsored atrocity you can name.

    So, again, absolutely not.

  72. Oh my god. Jacob Sullum is a terrorists! Get em, secret police!

  73. I can’t believe there’s a huge discussion about the use of civilian targets in WWII and the words “total war” never came up once.

    There are people who have tried to study and classify the different kinds of war. They’re called military historians, and it’d behoove most of you to read a little about the subject before commenting about definitions.

  74. You can be both a militant and a terrorist. As a matter of fact, I’d say that being a militant is a precondition for being a terrorist.

    Can you be a militant and not a terrorist?

  75. If Osama bin Laden had crashed a plane into a building in Tel Aviv instead of New York City, would he be merely a militant?

    I think the NYT is trying to tie any military action with being an act of evil.

    What you see as demons trying to make pejorative terrorists into heroic militants the NYT sees as Angels exposing all military force as acts of horrific terror.

  76. No love for my Shiite joke, huh?

    Fine. Be that way.

  77. Can you be a militant and not a terrorist?

    militant

    1 : engaged in warfare or combat : fighting
    2 : aggressively active (as in a cause) : combative *

    Yes. By either definition.

    *Merriam-Webster OnLine

  78. Les, why dont you get off your soap box. The US government conscripted GIs in WW2. Then they put them in harms way in Japan, so yes, Iraqi and whatever mothers not withstanding, the army’s first and foremost resposnibility was to the GIs not Japanese mothers. Furthermore, really, Les, your son’s life is not worth more to you then some Iraqi mother’s life? That some BS if I have ever seen any. To me personally thousands of your’s/your son’s/Iraqi mother’s lives are not worth nearly as much as the single life of my wife/father/mother etc… So I exepect my government which ideally acts to protect my life to value it far far higher then the life of an Iraqi mother or Iranian child. OK back to your soapbox.

  79. Actually, to all the commentators above, there IS such a thing as “International Law”. It’s been around for, well, in different permutations about 2000 years in Western legal traditions, but the present version really got kicked into gear with Grotius.

  80. Just in case nobody said this;

    Sullum is on the No-Fly list.

  81. val,

    Is anyone stating an opinion you don’t agree with “on a soapbox?” Anyway, I didn’t say my son’s life wasn’t worth more “to me” than an Iraqi’s mother’s life. I simply said her life wasn’t worth less. Period. Obviously, I want my son to live a long, happy life, but that doesn’t mean I approve of our government killing strangers claiming it’s necessary to protect me. I’m not that trusting of the government. Why should I be?

    And since the government forced its people into harm’s way in WW2, it makes sense to you that they should be able to kill women and children so they don’t get hurt. Fantastic. There’s really not much more to say, is there?

  82. militant

    1 : engaged in warfare or combat : fighting
    2 : aggressively active (as in a cause) : combative *

    Yes. By either definition.

    *Merriam-Webster OnLine

    Ya i know…just thinking that perhaps the NYT uses its own dictionary for this one.

    Joe might also have his own stashed somewhere.

  83. Is anyone stating an opinion you don’t agree with “on a soapbox?” Anyway, I didn’t say my son’s life wasn’t worth more “to me” than an Iraqi’s mother’s life. I simply said her life wasn’t worth less. Period. Obviously, I want my son to live a long, happy life, but that doesn’t mean I approve of our government killing strangers claiming it’s necessary to protect me. I’m not that trusting of the government. Why should I be?

    Umm I don’t have a child but I am pretty sure I would kill just about any one in just about any circumstance if it prevented the death of my child…I thought this was why we had government….you know to stop me from doing just that.

    If it could not stop me or kill me….then it really wouldn’t be fulfilling its purpose

  84. If terrorism is a word that merely describes a tactic and we should apply it even to those whose causes we believe in, why are her panties in a bunch about admitting that WWII strategic bombing was terroristic?

    I take exception to this. Some WWII strategic bombing was terroristic, much was not. And I don’t personally have any issue with what Shannon reports on WWII strategic bombing. I happen to know a little something about strategic bombing. My father was a member of the infamousely “marked” Bloody 100th, was shot down on his fourth mission over Munster and spent two years in German prison camp until the war’s end. His mission: Bombing ball bearing factories.

    Most of the U.S. strategic bombing was carried out against just such targets. Its effectiveness has been argued, but to call that “terroristic” is bogus. The British did believe that saturation bombing of German cities was the most effective solution- especially considering the beating they were taking by the Luftwaffe doing same.

    Britain’s Bomber Command, headed by Arthur “Bomber” Harris, believed a saturation bombing of major German cities was the best way to cripple the Reich. American planners, including Generals Ira Eaker and Carl “Tooey” Spaatz, countered that precision attacks against selected industrial targets like oil production facilities, aircraft and ball bearing plants were the best use of bomber strength. “It is better to cause a high degree of destruction in a few essential industries … than to cause a small degree in many,” the USAAF Committee of Operations Analysts agreed in March 1943. Harris, however, expressed contempt for this concentration on a limited number of targets, calling them “panacea targets.”

    One might view certain tactics as terroristic in the sense that the targets (as proposed by the British, not as proposed by the U.S.) were indiscriminate. But again, these were regular uniformed armies with central command structures. Countering them, and targeting them for retaliation was logistically straightforward: Shoot back at the guys with this insignia on their planes.

    What Shannon attempted to define (and did an exemplary job of it) was attempt to codify the situation when the people shooting at you indiscriminately cannot be distinguished from the civilian population from whence they came.

    I don’t necessarily think it’s necessarily wise to exempt states from the label, by the way. Doing so is potentially moral statism of the worst sort.

    I never have once exempted the U.S. from any possible lable of acting in a “terroristic” way, and I don’t read anything in Shannon’s posts which suggest same. In fact, by my interpretation, Shannon was doing the exact opposite. She was warning that one should be careful how you label someone or something based upon your affinity with their cause.

    Shannon’s observation (and one I lean towards agreeing with) is that it seems that this happens often, where if your tactics are abhorrent, but your cause just, you’re a “militant” or “freedom fighter”.

    I don’t excuse the actions of the U.S. merely because our cause is just. Ask me how I feel about our actions when our cause isn’t just?

  85. I can’t believe there’s a huge discussion about the use of civilian targets in WWII and the words “total war” never came up once.

    Brian E. Already thought of. But given the direction this discussion has already taken, to simply throw out “total war” (even though that IS the point I’m moving towards) would simply raise more ire than it would probably solve. The obvious response would be: The I.R.A. felt that it was at “total war” with the British government structure. Same with Hamas…etc.

  86. Umm I don’t have a child but I am pretty sure I would kill just about any one in just about any circumstance if it prevented the death of my child…

    Well, that sets up an almost pointless philosophical fantasy. Either you kill an innocent person, another child, maybe, or your child dies. I can honestly say I don’t know what I’d do.

    I don’t expect the government to protect my child (or, at any rate, do anything but an incompetent job of it), so my wife and I do the best we can. And I certainly don’t trust the government when it says, “We had to kill these children so your child could be safe,” which is essentially what governments usually say when they go to war.

  87. Even if mass murder wasn’t the goal, the civilians were treated as if the value of their lives was negligible.

    Les, see Brian’s “total war” comment above.

  88. What the?!! Miller Time(tm). Laterz. Time for everyone to forget their differences and…

    *DRINK!*

  89. I should add that if someone ever threatened my child directly, I would kill them on the spot. I’m like a mama bear like that. Thank goodness that’s not likely to happen.

  90. Paul, I did and it’s very interesting and enlightening. It’s easy, I think, to get caught up in the swamp of semantics. But I think most of us agree that even in the case of a necessary war, civilian casualties should be avoided when possible. And I do believe our military has come a long way since WW2 in minimizing civilian casualties. All we have to do now is learn which wars are worth fighting. But that’s not up to the military, I know.

  91. One can make a fair argument that the Palestinian cause is a good cause; it’s just that their tactics (killing civilians) that suck. A Palestinian can’t vote for the Israeli parliment, yet Israel maintains a high level of control over both West Bank and Gaza (just because they have no troops on the ground in Gaza doesn’t mean Gaza is an independent nation, free to what it wants-Israel controls the airspace and the borders and a number of other things). Until that happens, or until Israel gives up all claims to the territorties of Gaza and the West Bank, the Palestinains have a legitimate beef with the government of Israel.

  92. I gather this picture was taken before the plastic surgery he supposedly had.

    Jacob, ever considered the possibility he saw your picture and had plastic surgery to look more like you.

  93. Yet I was still surprised to see the Times unambiguously call Mugniyah, who headed Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad Organization, a terrorist.

    WTF?

    This sounds like something from Hannity’s America…but Sullum doesn’t look like Hannity at all.

  94. Les, I suggested you were on a soap box not because of what you said, but how you said it. You got into quite a bit of rhetoric there, bringing in mothers and children, and how repugnant this was…

    But hey atleast its good to see that your son’s life is ‘worth’ more to you then some stranger. In just a matter of a few posts you figured out what I meant by a life’s worth, and your son is not even a millionaire. So do you feel that the US government should value your son’s life more than, lets say a Japanese factory worker (see they dont have to be mothers or children)?

    Should they risk your son’s life (lets he was a GI in the Pacific around 1945) and be sure to save that factory worker’s life? Or should they assume that in all likelyhoold that Japanese worker will die, but more than likely risking your son’s life will not be necessary? What if 100 factory workers have to die to not have to risk your son’s life? 1000?

  95. Val, I don’t understand how stating that the life of a child in another country is equal to the life of a child in this country is “rhetoric.” Nor do I understand how stating my opinion that such a belief is repugnant to me qualifies as “rhetoric.” I suppose it depends on the definition you’re thinking of.

    So do you feel that the US government should value your son’s life more than, lets say a Japanese factory worker (see they dont have to be mothers or children)?

    Well, you didn’t specify in your original question, now, did you? (And YES, if you’re going to honestly philosophize about civilian casualties, they DO have to be mothers and children.) You asked,

    “Do you not feel that because the governemnt derives its power, legitimacy and finances directly from you that they would treat your life as infinetely more valuable then the life of a citizen of another government.”

    The answer is still, “Absolutely not.” You imply that paying taxes makes a life more valuable, “infinitely” more valuable, even. This is, I think, morally untenable and, again, a philosophy that’s been used time and again to defend needless violence against innocent parties.

    Should they risk your son’s life (lets he was a GI in the Pacific around 1945) and be sure to save that factory worker’s life? Or should they assume that in all likelyhoold that Japanese worker will die, but more than likely risking your son’s life will not be necessary? What if 100 factory workers have to die to not have to risk your son’s life? 1000?

    This is a clumsy and unrealistic hypothetical. If my son was ever conscripted (and I would encourage him to resist that conscription as I believe involuntary servitude is slavery), I wouldn’t give a good goddamn who the government thought needed killing. Your scenario requires that I trust the wisdom of the government (and what objective reason is there ever to do that?) to know who needs to die and who doesn’t and, strangely, it requires that we imagine ourselves in the last justifiable war the U.S. was involved in, over 60 years ago.

    The bottom line is, you asserted that since I pay taxes, my life should be worth more to my government than the life of some civilian in another country. While I sadly agree that this is the accepted philosophy of the government (and perhaps most people around the world), I also think it’s destructive nonsense that’s only fueled the ease with which Americans embrace war as a means to an end.

    I don’t know if all that’s “rhetoric,” but it’s what I sincerely feel. I’m stepping off the soapbox, now.

  96. If Osama bin Laden had crashed a plane into a building in Tel Aviv instead of New York City, would he be merely a militant?

    It’s not the nation that determines the difference between terrorist and militant, it’s the method of warfare.

    Suicide bomber: terrorist.
    Sniper: hero.

    Suicide plane crash: terrorist.
    Pilot flying at 20,000 feet using ‘smart bombs’: hero.

    Little kid throwing rocks: terrorist.
    Soldier with automatic rifle: hero.

  97. Your scenario requires that I trust the wisdom of the government (and what objective reason is there ever to do that?) to know who needs to die and who doesn’t and, strangely, it requires that we imagine ourselves in the last justifiable war the U.S. was involved in, over 60 years ago.

    Les, I was responding specificaly to your statement about that last justifiable war.
    Remeber what you said about WWII?


    Whether or not demoralization was the intention of the U.S. forces, the fact remains that the civilian populations of Dresden and Tokyo (especially in March of ’45) were devastated beyond any military purpose. Even if mass murder wasn’t the goal, the civilians were treated as if the value of their lives was negligible.

    And that exactly what I was getting at, the civilian’s lives were treated as negligible compared to the GI (American citizens/allies) it saved, as they well damn should have been. I repeat the government derives its legitimacy and power, not just finances, from its citizens, and in my opinion, is unequivocaly required to judge its citizens’ lives as more valuable then the the lives of citizens of another country (especialy an enemy country).

    The government (in this case army), ideally, acts as extension of you, as your agent. Now I know thats and ideal situation, and that almost never happens as can be seen from the amount of posts on this site. But in case of a war, justified or not, where the government has put ‘your’ son or ‘my son’ in harms way, I expect them to do everything necessary to make sure he comes back.

    You are trying to muddy the point by talking about the unjustified Iraq war (atleast that what Im assuming you are getting at). First, I wasnt talking about the reasons of why a war is started, nor wether one should be involved in a war or not. I was talking about specific tactical decissions, like Hiroshima/Nagasaki or Dresden or whatever… If army command feels that by nuking/bombing an area and saving a number of soldiers’ lives be it their own or allied, but wiping out a score of ‘innocent’ civilians, then I feel they are morraly and fully justifed to do so. And the ratio of saved to killed does not have to be 1:1…

    Anyway back to the definiton of terrorism.

  98. Muslims Against Sharia congratulate the organization responsible for elimination of terrorist Imad Mugniyeh on a job well done!

    http://muslimsagainstsharia.blogspot.com/2008/02/targeted-killing-of-imad-mugniyeh.html

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