STATE TERRORISM… HOW CRUEL IT IS ?
Prof Dr Colonel (Retired) K Prabhakar Rao
Every one speaks on terrorism at present. Why not? This is the easiest subject at present. Lengthy articles are written in News papers, journals, editorials and spoken at seminars where experts (Some and mostly pseudo ?_)deliberate on the issues related. Many arm chair pseudo analysts, drawing room analysts, arm chair watchers, fake strategists, retired government personnel from Police and home department indulge in lengthy talks on the subject of terrorism particularly about Islamic terrorism. This activity has reached its crazy height after 9/11. But sadly none deliberates on State terrorism worldwide. They blink and act as if the word is not heard. They turn the head other way. This is because some of the retired Government men in all the nations are surely a part to this nefarious activity and that was a sanctioned holy act in their view. Some of them might have been as cruel as the members of German GESTAPO of World War II ill fame and many get Scot-free.
Can State terrorism be different from the routine terrorism? Can we have separate names for these two types of terrorism? Or is entire thing only terrorism? Can we condemn Islamic terrorism and ignore terrorism by the States worldwide? Is it in order? Mind bogging questions indeed!. Now let us deliberate the issue in detail.
Michael Stohl, Professor of political science at Purdue University defined terrorism as ( 1) :
“Terrorism is the purposeful act or threat of violence to create fear and/or compliant behavior in a victim and/or audience of the act or threat. ... this definition helps to distinguish terrorism from other forms of political violence. Not all acts of state violence are terrorism. It is important to understand that in terrorism the violence threatened or perpetrated, has purposes broader than simple physical harm to a victim. The audience of the act or threat of violence is more important than the immediate victim”.
The Encyclopedia Britannica Online defines terrorism as the "the systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective. Terrorism has been practiced by political organizations with both rightist and leftist objectives, by nationalistic and religious groups, by revolutionaries, and even by state institutions such as armies, intelligence services, and police" The Encyclopedia Britannica also states that "Establishment terrorsim, often called state or state-sponsored terrorism is employed by governments—or more often by factions within governments—against that government's citizens, against factions within the government, or against foreign governments or groups. This type of terrorism is very common but difficult to identify, mainly because the state's support is always clandestine.." (2)
From above it is clear that line between terrorism and State terrorism is very thin . Both are unscrupulous acts of intimidation. While the first one gets world wide condemned, the second one is accepted universally under the disguise of governing and foreign policy. The state terrorism can take any shape from the following;
a. Inspired acts of intimidation by the ruling party over the members of the opposing groups in a country
b. Acts of assassination of opposition leaders and people of importance abetted by the intelligence agencies of a government
c. Funding the agents operating in a foreign country (Mostly neighbor) to carry out the acts of sabotage
d. Carrying out surprise raids and create terror in the border population by a neighboring country
e. Kidnapping border guards and killing them inhumanly
f. Deliberate invasion of country and use of excessive force including systematic annihilation of opposition
g. Seeking to change the government in a country by abetting crime, instability and lawlessness creating public unrest
The super power America notifies certain countries as sponsors of terrorism ( 3).
Countries determined by the Secretary of State to have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism are designated pursuant to three laws: section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act, section 40 of the Arms Export Control Act, and section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act. Taken together, the four main categories of sanctions resulting from designation under these authorities include restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance; a ban on defense exports and sales; certain controls over exports of dual use items; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.
Designation under the above-referenced authorities also implicates other sanctions laws that penalize persons and countries engaging in certain trade with state sponsors. Currently there are five countries designated under these authorities: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.
Country Designation Date
Cuba March 1, 1982
Iran January 19, 1984
North Korea January 20, 1988
Sudan August 12, 1993
Syria December 29, 1979
In the above sponsoring activities of terrorism state funding is a must and it is clandestine. Most of the times arms are supplied. In some cases training to militants is also a part of the game. Most of the countries are resorting to the above activities at some time or other. It is not only the communist nations, but also the other so called democratic modern nations that resort to such nefarious activities. Most of the internal secessionist activities in any country like armed insurgents; Guerilla groups are abetted by some neighboring nation that has vested interest in destabilizing the country and drive advantage out of it. Most of the nations to day are suffering from internal troubles due to ethnic problems, regional imbalances and racial discrimination. Such countries are breeding grounds for the guerilla groups and insurgents. There is always some neighbor or some distant friend who is ready to fish in troubled water. It is widely known that many terrorist groups glorified as freedom fighters in certain countries were given safe haven in the United States of America that stands for liberty. Taliban and some more groups fighting Russian occupation army were patronized by USA and it is now an open secret. Now Pakistan is the home ground for Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. It is better to call them lawless band of terrorists than a group fighting for some justified cause. Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam enjoy support in European nations. Nagaland guerillas in India are patronized by UK and the leader hides there. Khalistan terrorists driven out from India hide in Canada and other European nations. Guerilla groups operating in Eastern India are abetted by Bangladesh and find safe sanctuary in the country. Some country or other patronizes these terrorists of various groups. In Africa, scores of countries are safe places for Islamic terrorists and are flourishing there. Thus it is a proven fact that states by them propagates terrorism in most of the cases, but clandestinely. At international forums they condemn terrorism, but behind the curtain they abet and sponsor terrorism.
It is most appropriate to quote Philosopher Igor Primoratz who provides four reasons why he believes that State terrorism is typically morally worse than non-State terrorism. First, because of the nature of the modern State and "the amount and variety of resources" available even for small states, the State mode of terrorism claims vastly more victims than does terrorism by non-State actors. Secondly, because "Stateorism is bound to be compounded by secrecy, deception and hypocrisy," terrorist states typically act with clandestine brutality while publicly professing adherence to "values and principles which rule it out." Thirdly, because unlike non-State actors, states are signatories in international laws and conventions prohibiting terrorism, when a State commits acts of terrorism it is "in breach of its own solemn international commitments." Finally, while there may be circumstances where non-Sate actors are in such an oppressed situation that there may be no alternative but terrorism, Primoratz argues that "it seems virtually impossible that a State should find itself in such circumstances where it has no alternative to resorting to terrorism." (4)
In his university-level textbook, "Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues", Gus Martin argues that the work of organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are among the "approaches to the analyses of state terrorism [that] are useful for evaluating different types of state-sponsored violence" arguing further that during the late 1970s and 80's “in its annual global human rights reports Amnesty International has extensively documented the escalation in State terror…Amnesty International identified the main forms of state terror as arbitrary detention, unfair trial, torture, and political murder or extrajudicial execution."
To day no country wants other country to be stable and peaceful. Therefore State terrorism is the order of the day and can not be eradicated. Even India that goes around bragging for peace and non violence a Gandhian fad around the globe has been charged by Pakistan that RAW of India is encouraging terrorism in certain areas of Pakistan. Thus no one is above board in the world. It is more inhuman, dirty, unethical and more damaging than normal terrorism.
1.State terrorsim, Wikipedia, Stohl, National Interests and State Terrorism, The Politics of Terrorism, Marcel Dekker 1988, p.275
2. Stohl, National Interests and State Terrorism, The Politics of Terrorism, Marcel Dekker 1988, p.275
3. US Department of State, State Sponsors of Terrorism, http://220.127.116.11/search?q=cache:7gW3qX4-ZZcJ:www.state.gov/s/ct/c14151.htm+state+terrorsim&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=4&gl=in
4. Primoratz, Igor. State Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism, in Terrorism: The Philosophical Issues, Igor Primoratz, ed. Palgrave Macmillan, 2004,119-120
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