Though no universal definition exists for terrorism, there are some common elements in most of its definitions. Terrorism has been used by some of the nations that are powerful in implementation of their agendas throughout the world, particularly against individuals or states with different views from theirs. The purpose of this paper is exploring the definition of terrorism, the common components as well as illustrating how nations that are most powerful regulate international relationships through use of the term. Acts of terrorism were defined by these powerful nations to serve their interest by manipulating international relationships while at the same time distancing themselves from terrorism acts they actually carry out in disguise.
The UN General Assembly Resolution 49/60 defined terrorism as criminal acts that are aimed at provoking a state of terror within the public or especially groups of individuals or people for political purposes not justifiable in any manner (Nesi 26). The Arab Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism defines it as any threat or act of violence regardless of the motives that occurs in advancement of criminal agenda that might be collective or individual in nature with the purpose of harming the environment, public, infrastructure or jeopardizing national resources (Amnesty International 27). The US defines terrorism as acts or activities that are life threatening that violate the US criminal laws or any other state with the major aim of intimidation or coercing civilian population, influencing the policies of a government or affecting government operation by the mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping (White 7). Some of the components that are common in the definitions include civilian, political motivation and violence.
Terrorism therefore is violent acts that are politically motivated targeting civilian population of a specific country and seeking to jeopardize the operations of government. Definition of the term, however, is connected to the level of the power of the country defining it like the US which often uses terrorism to manage relationships with other countries and criminal violent acts that target civilian population committed by allies of the US on other hostile groups are not viewed as terrorism (para 6-7).
Terrorism definitions are done by those who wage wars and are considered fitting when referring to enemies of terrorism while disregarding disastrous retaliation attack consequences as terrorism itself. The mandate of determining who terrorists are is upon powerful nations and they also determine whether they should be punished. These nations use terrorism to manage international relations in a manner that advances their interests. Their attacks which are state led are never viewed as terrorism acts but rather humanitarian efforts or self-defense acts as such, considering citizens affected from other countries as collateral damage.
The manner in which a government responds to terrorism acts is likely to lead to restriction of individual rights as well as human rights violation all in the name of national security. Such an instance was evident in Chile where the US government under rule of President Nixon participated in overthrowing the president of Chile, Salvador Allende who was heading a socialist government. The US offered support to opposition parties against his leadership and they even helped bomb the Chilean presidential palace, overthrowing the government and ending civilian rule. As a result of the coup, the commander-in –chief of Chilean army, Augusto Pinochet then become the president. Consequently, the US was in a position to access Chilean economy once more and they also trained Chilean army on how they could suppress insurgents as well as other opposition groups in Chile.
The program was known as the School of Americas and it provided military training to central and South American nation’s personnel who were disguised with the purpose of democracy protection. Under the dictatorship of Pinochet, disappearance of individuals and arbitrary arrest of individuals considered a threat were common and they especially targeted people who were affiliated with communist ideologies and parties. Graduates of the school are also among dictators who are most oppressive in Latin America with their actions as the most violent and inhuman across the globe (Gutierrez 138-140). This therefore makes the School of Americas a good example of state terrorism based on high incidences of violations of human rights undertaken by graduates from the school on civilians from their native countries. Countries like Venezuela and Bolivia no longer send military to these schools and as a result they are referred to as undemocratic by the US governments and viewed as potential threat to national security.
Such schools concerned with war on terror continue to exist after the 11th September attack though under different names while the emphasis is war on terror. The Army School of Americas currently operates under Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation name. Barker notes despite decline of non-state and state led violence against civilians in the last decade, the number of activity and investment that is related to counter-terrorism has risen significantly and range from terrorism research centers to collection of technology information as well as military and police units that are devoted to counter-terrorist operations (Para 2). The US has already violated privacy rights of a large number of people in the quest of collecting intelligence information via interception of communication since they are looked upon as potential terrorists (Charles para 6-7).
Such suspicion leads to in-depth interrogations which case physical or psychological torture, incrimination or other experiences that are life threatening of the individuals under suspicion (Mayer para 3-4). The US has also heavily invested in unmanned aircrafts used to gather terrorism information throughout the world most of which are based in Africa. Some of these aircrafts have been used in series of attacks said to target terrorist but they have terrorized civilians such that entire families have been killed in air strikes that target individuals merely suspected of being terrorists (Wolverton para 8-14).
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