Causes of Terrorism in the 20th century

Course objectives:

• Understanding of the difficulty and complexity of defining terrorism.
• Examples of political and religious violence against civilians in historical eras.
• The origins of the term ‘terrorism’ from the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.
• Differences between Simple, State-Sponsored and State terrorism.
• Understanding idea that terrorism is an abstract concept which changes over time and place.
• Understanding that terrorism is defined from various points of view involved in conflict.
• Understanding of the phrase, “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”
• Understanding international law involving war crimes, guerilla warfare and traditional war.
• Analysis of examples of incidents historically debated as being terrorism or acts of war.
• Analysis of political, religious, economic, and cultural motives of terrorists.

Essential questions:

• What are definitions of terrorism that have been created by the media?
• How and why was terrorism used by ancient societies?
• How and why was terrorism used by dictators during the twentieth century?
• How and why was the term ‘terrorism’ used during the French Revolution?
• What are various types of terrorism? Do these types influence interpretations of definition?
• How is terrorism different from guerilla warfare, and conventional warfare?
• How does international law define what is and what is not terrorism?
• What does the phrase mean “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter?”
• How does defining terrorism depend on various perspectives?

"Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible".

Maximilien Robespierre, architect of the Reign of Terror

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Who are terrorists? What do they want? Where do they come from?

In the last few years the image of a "terrorist" has become a very narrow one, of a Muslim person of Middle Eastern appearance.
Contemporary international terrorism includes much more than Islamist groups. For example, the 1995 Okalahoma City bombings were carried out by an Anglo-Saxon, American born, right-wing political extremist. Terrorist groups can include animal rights activists, right to life advocates and anti-globalisation protestors. There is an ongoing controversy over the definition of terrorism. Some groups argue that the label "terrorist" has been used to undermine legitimate groups who are fighting injustice. For example, Nelson Mandela was called a terrorist by the White Apartheid South African regime while Osama bin-Laden, part of the mujahadin was once supported by the US when fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

Definitions of terrorism::
US Dept. of Defence: “the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence against people or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives.”
In other words, terrorism is violence designed to advance some cause by getting a government to change its policies or political behaviour.

However, some see this definition as “western”. Iranian religious scholar, Ayatulla Taskhiri in a paper delivered at a 1987 international terrorism conference called by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, argued a definition of terrorism as “an act carried out to achieve an inhuman and corrupt objective and involving threat to security of any kind, and in violation of the rights acknowledged by religion and mankind."

Countries, by this definition, can be guilty of terrorism [see]

Task: In pairs, research and write a definition of “terrorism” in your own words.

Causes of Terrorism

What is behind terrorism? When the planes hit the World Trade Centre towers, many raised the question, why do the terrorists hate the USA so? Many people were offended by this question. The mirror should be placed back on societies that spawn such hate filled individuals, they argued. Follow the Bali bomber trial to see individuals driven by hatred, ignorance, arrogance, bigotry, dogmatism, naivete etc, they argue.

Profiles of groups involved in terrorism. Who are they? What are their goals?

How common is terrorism and is it?
Terrorism is widespread around the world. Most people are very aware of attacks in Bali and the September 11 attack, but there are numerous terror incidents in the world. There are various groups listed as terrorist groups by US State Department reports other than al Qaeda – the Palestinian group HAMAS, Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka, Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement [MRTA] in Peru, Basque Fatherland and Liberty [ETA] in Spain, to name a few.

Events that shocked the World
In the last fifty years there have been many large-scale terrorist attacks, undertaken by a wide range of groups, on a diverse array of targets all over the world. Some of the most devastating attacks include:
• The 1946 bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem
• The 1972 attack on Israeli Olympians in Munich
• The 1985 bombing of the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour
• The 1988 attack on a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland
• The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing
• The 1998 car-bomb attack in Omagh, Northern Ireland
• The 1998 Luxor attack on tourists in Egypt
• The 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen
• The 2001 attacks on the U.S. World Trade Centre and Pentagon
• The 2002 bombings of tourist venues in Bali
• The 2004 bombings of trains in Madrid
• The 2004 school siege in Beslan, Russia
• The 2005 London tube and bus bombings
• The 2006 attack in Sinai, Egypt

History of terrorism

There is a long history of terrorism dating back to early times – the French Revolution saw the widespread use of terror tactics.

Types of Terrorism

Domestic terrorism involves groups whose terrorist activities are directed at elements of their own government without foreign involvement. Oklahoma City is a primary example.
International terrorism involves groups whose terrorist activities are foreign-based and/or directed by countries or groups. Sept. 11 is an example of International Terrorism.

Terrorism conclusions
  • Terrorism is an ancient tactic.
  • Terrorism is a mode of communication.
  • Terrorism is a special type of violence and Asymmetrical warfare.
  • Terrorism is used in times of peace, conflicts and war.
  • Terrorism is designed to make a point, through psychological means: fear.
  • Terrorism is a political act.

The focus of this unit is for you to undertake your own historical investigation.

The process of investigation involves:

Step 1
Brainstorm areas of interest. Choose terrorist group or incident to investigate.
Step 2
The students address the questions:
• What information do I need?
• How will I locate this information?
• How relevant will the information be to the topic and its presentation?
Step 3
• make important decisions about what information to include, how it applies to your topic and how it will be demonstrated in your presentation
• refine and redefine the parameters and direction their enquiries take in the knowledge building process.
Step 4: Exam

Research topics:
  • Baader Meinhof
  • Jemaah Islamiah
  • Chechnyan Rebels
  • Irish Republican Army
  • KKK
  • Basque Separatists (ETA)
  • Tamil Tiger

Syllabus Outcomes:
  • planning and conducting historical investigations
  • comprehending written sources
  • locating, selecting and organising relevant information from a variety of sources
  • using a variety of sources to develop a view about historical issues
  • analysing sources for their usefulness and reliability
  • identifying different historical perspectives and interpretations evident in sources
  • formulating historical questions and hypotheses relevant to the investigation
  • using historical terms and concepts appropriately
  • synthesising information from a range of sources to develop and support a historical argument
  • presenting and communicating the findings of the historical investigation using appropriate and well-structured oral and/or written and/or multimedia forms including ICT.

ASSESSMENT TASK: Wiki 10%, Oral Presentation 10%: TOTAL 20%. Due: May 27

Sites of Interest

Terrorist Group Profiles
The Institute for Counter Terrorism
Foreign Terrorist Groups
List of Terrorist Organisations check out the talk page
MIPT Terrorism Database
Terrorism Research
Investigating al-Qaeda
Suicide Terrorism
State sponsored terrorism: Mossad