cj#849> E Davidsson: “Definition of terrorism”


Richard Moore

Date: Sat, 3 Oct 1998
To: •••@••.•••
From: Elias Davidsson <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Definition of terrorism

Dear cj,

I just discovered today that there has been a lively discussion about
terrorism on this list.  Readers seem not to know that there is indeed a
binding and legal definition of international terrorism in the US legal
code. Here it is:

US legal code (Title 18 P 2331), defines international terrorism as follows:

* (1) [T]he term ''international terrorism'' means activities that -
   o (A) involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are
       a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any
       State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within
       the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State;
    o (B) appear to be intended -
          + (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
          + (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or
            coercion; or
   o (C) 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;

It is noteworthy that neither the media nor the US government has been
referring to this definition in its rhetoric about foreign terrorism.
Using this definition as yardstick, it appears evident that the embargo
imposed on the people of Iraq, is a gross form of international terrorism.
The terrorists sit in the White House and their representatives in
Embassies around the world and at the UN.  I personally find the above
definition quite sensible and delimits reasonably well the phenomena of
terrorism from that of war crimes on one hand (prohibited by the Geneva
Conventions) and common crime on the other. The key attribute of terrorism
is in my view the existence of  THREE parties (as distinct from TWO in
other crimes), namely the offender, the victim (mostly civilians) and the
target (mostly a government authority).

Readers may not be aware that UN member states are loath to agree to a
definition of international terrorism, because any such definition (such as
the above) would tie their hands in conducting their affairs.  Books and
articles for public consumption on terrorism generally explain that an
international consensus cannot be obtained BECAUSE third world countries
insist to define national liberation struggle as being not equivalent to
terrorism.  I believe that most authors know this is not true. This
argument is given in bad faith.  The US has not promoted its own definition
of terrorism (as existing in US law) or tried to rally a consensus around
it.  Most probably the US not only does not promote a universal definition
of terrorism but bullies other states to refrain from bringing up this
issue.  The fact that no European country has pushed for a universal
definition of international terrorism is noteworthy.

A revealing text in this connection is that provided by the Government of
Algeria on 12 September 1995 as a response to the UN on the question of

"The Government  of Algeria  continues to  believe that  the problem  of
defining  terrorism  might  be  appropriately  resolved  by  agreeing  to
a detailed  definition of  terrorist  acts  characterized  in terms  of
their criminal  nature  and impact  rather  than  focusing  on  the
phenomenon  of terrorism.   Such  an  approach  would have  the advantage
of  shifting the emphasis  from the  conceptual aspects  of  terrorism  to
its  practical and material manifestations, on which a consensus could be

The US terrorist regime would agree with the Algerian terrorist regime that
"you scratch my back, I scratch your back". The Algerian government
refrains from calling the US government a terrorist government because it
kills Arab children in Iraq. The US government refrains from calling the
Algerian government a terrorist government although it terrorizes its own
population.  The same applies to the relationship of the US with other
totalitarian and terrorist governments.

Thus, in spite of the wealth of UN resolutions against terrorism, not a
single of them contains a definition of the subject matter.

The sea of deception inundating oue waters is deeper than many people would

I would be thankful for any remarks, critical or otherwise, to the above text.

Elias Davidsson, ICELAND

Elias Davidsson - Post Box 1760 - 121 Reykjavik - Iceland
Tel. (354)-552-6444     Fax: (354)-552-6579
Email: •••@••.•••     URL:  http://www.nyherji.is/~edavid

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