The article by James Ledwich, "On Terrorism," in the October 2007 issue of Peace Magazine was a valuable contribution. It made clear that terrorism can be perpetrated by governments and cites the actions of the governments of Russia against its own people in Chechnya, of Sudan against its own people in Darfur, and of Myanmar, Chile, and Argentina against their own peoples. The author gave no definition of terrorism, but it appears that he meant "state terrorism" to include terror perpetrated by a state against its own people. I consider this too limited.
Professor Igor Primoratz in his study, State Terrorism and Counter Terrorism, provides a definition: "terrorism is best defined as the deliberate use of violence, or the threat of its use, against innocent people, with the aim of intimidating some other people into a course of action they would not otherwise take." This definition clearly includes the use of violence by states against innocent people, not their own people, to force others into action. It would include the actions of Israel against Lebanon to attempt to force it to install pro-Israel regimes and attack Palestinian refugees or Hezbollah.
These resulted in thousands of deaths. This definition would also include the actions of Israel against innocent Palestinians (house destructions, infrastructure destruction, murder of civilians in air raids, cutting off access of Gaza to commerce, now including electricity) to force them to accede to demands about recognition of Israel and giving up resistance to Israeli occupation.
This definition would also include the bombing of German and Japanese cities by the RAF and the USA in World War II, killing thousands of civilians. These actions were intended to force the civilian populations to turn against their governments. This definition also applies to the actions of the USA in Iraq in places like Fallujah and in daily in air attacks and patrols which lead to murders of civilians. Statistical studies estimate that over 600,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the US invasion of Iraq. The goal has been to crush resistance to the illegal occupation. The same applies to air attacks by the USA in Afghanistan in which thousands of civilians are killed in responses, claimed to be to someone firing on US or NATO forces.
This definition would also seem to apply to the sanctions applied to Iraq after the first Gulf War which were estimated to have caused over 500,000 deaths, especially of women and children. These sanctions were claimed to be intended to force destruction of weapons of mass destruction, which had already been mainly destroyed by UN Inspectors. The real intent was regime change.
Consider the claim by apologists for the UK, Israel, and the USA that deaths in Germany, Japan, Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan were "collateral damage," incidental to and necessary for the conduct of war and state security.
Two excuses (terror as legitimate acts of war, or acts done in defence of state security) are routinely used by the US and Israel in their currents acts of terrorism against people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine. They are used by those who defend the RAF's killing of 65,000 civilians in Hamburg and Dresden by fire storms. They are used by the defenders of the dropping of atomic bombs by the US, which killed over 400,000 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Recognition that state terrorism is not the only kind was made clear in Ledwich's article. But that is not the point of this letter. It is surely time that we are clear about the nature of state terrorism and the excuses used to justify it, whether it is used by the state against its own people or other peoples.
We can expect to be called "anti-democracy" or "supporters of terrorism" if we criticize the state terrorism practiced by of the USA and its allies in the "War on Terror" and we can expect to be called "anti-Semitic" if we criticize the state terrorism practiced by Israel in Palestine, but we will know the truth in these charges.
Edwin E. Daniel, Ph.D., FRSC, Professor Emeritus of Pharmacology, University of Alberta, Edmonton.
I support newly-elected B.C. Green Party leader Jane Sterk's efforts to have implemented the long-overdue single transferable vote.
For this reason alone, the Green Party deserves to be seriously considered, even though it has no chance of gaining power in parliament. Voters should support any proposal for proportional representation. It's high time that such election alteration is implemented.
Frank G. Sterle, Jr.
White Rock, B.C.
Peace Magazine Jan-Mar 2008, page 5. Some rights reserved.
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