Thursday, July 10, 2008

"High Noon" Norman:

One shouldn't go for a merely self-serving definition, such that it is never 'we' who use terrorism, only ever 'they' - whoever the 'we' and 'they' might happen to be for you. We want a term that will describe a mode of operating in more or less objective terms. On the other hand, to treat terrorism as a legitimate weapon is not an option to be countenanced; for at the core of the notion, whatever other difficulties or disagreements there may be with or about it, is the deliberate killing of innocents - innocents in the sense of non-combatants. And the deliberate killing of non-combatants is both a crime of war and, when it is systematic policy, a crime against humanity. It is now these things because it has been declared by the international community, on behalf of all of us, to be prohibited under all cirumstances, as a form of murder. To want a definition of terrorism that throws that issue open again is like wanting a definition of genocide that allows that it may sometimes be OK.
A 'heavens about to fall'-type justification of an act that is otherwise absolutely wrong is not the same as a Guardianista, root-causes justification - one allowing that more or less any crime is 'understandable' when it can be urged that it resulted from some pressure or disadvantage.

On resigning from the University and College Union (UCU):

A Jewish member of UCU stands, for obvious reasons, in a special position to the boycott policy. He or she is a member of a union demonstrating discriminatory intent, but this is not discrimination in general; it is directed at Jews and thereby at him or herself. Discriminatory policies aimed at anybody should, naturally, be opposed. But in opposing a discriminatory policy where they are, directly or indirectly, on the receiving end, members of the group in question face a fight with a twofold character. It is a fight against discrimination in general, to be sure. But being, in this particular case, a battle against anti-Semitism, for Jewish members it is also an argument for those who would treat them or other Jews in a discriminatory and hence demeaning way, not to do so. It is, consequently, not only a general political battle but also, in a manner of speaking, a plea to be treated by their colleagues as equals; rather than being subjected, or seeing other Jews subjected, to loyalty oaths or opinion tests in order to gain the right to the general benefits of academic cooperation.

This, for me, is the decisive point. To be a Jew in UCU today is to be, in some sort, a supplicant, pleading with the would-be boycotters and those unmoved to oppose them and deliver them a decisive defeat, pleading for Israeli academics to be accepted as having the same status as other academics world-wide, pleading that Jewish supporters of the rights of academics in the Jewish state should not be made to feel isolated in their own union, like participants willy-nilly in an anti-Semitic campaign. Well, not to put too fine a point on it, shove that. Not today, not tomorrow, and not any time. To be a supplicant Jew is not a choice I would be willing to contemplate. I should come and entreat within the UCU for the same consideration for Jewish academics in Israel and Jewish academics in Britain as are extended to academics of every other nationality? Forget about it.

He, Dreyfuss, would prefer a coalition government between Mugabe and Tsvangirai. He dubs Power's suggestion 'an example of democracy promotion run wild' (my emphasis). Dreyfuss's own kind of democracy promotion is for a coalition between the man backed by the recently-expressed will of the Zimbabwean people and... a tyrant who has waged a campaign of brutal violence to overturn that democratic result. All this at one of the best-known venues of the American left.

That the regime in Iran is indeed a regime, while in Washington there's an administration subject to the fixed term of a democratically elected president, needn't, after all, get in the way of these convenient speech patterns.


At 10:46 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anglo-Saxons obfuscate the question of defining terrorism. The British called all violent insurgents against their Empire "terrorists", especially the Irgun and Lehi. The Americans are deeply attached to their revolutionary history, and would never describe the insurrection led by Washington as terrorism. Yet the definition proposed by US establishment terrorism "expert" Bruce Hoffman boils down to "any violent action against the state".

The idea that targetting non-combatant civilians is always terrorism is not entirely satisfactory. What if the non-combatants are supporters and perpetrators of aggression or worse? Is retaliation and retribution for attacks against one's own non-combatants off-limits? Few if any wars in history have been fought without intentionally inflicted non-combatant deaths.

At 12:00 AM EDT, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

"What if the non-combatants are supporters and perpetrators of aggression or worse?"

If they are "perpetrators of aggression" then they are no longer non-combatants, no?

I like Andre Glucksmann's definition best, because it puts an emphasis on Intentionality:

"A better definition of terrorism is a deliberate attack by armed men on unarmed civilians. Terrorism is aggression against civilians as civilians, inevitably taken by surprise and defenseless. Whether the hostage-takers and killers of innocents are in uniform or not, or what kind of weapons they use—whether bombs or blades—does not change anything; neither does the fact that they may appeal to sublime ideals. The only thing that counts is the intention to wipe out random victims. The systematic resort to the car bomb, to suicide attacks, randomly killing as many passersby as possible, defines a specific style of engagement."

At 6:53 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

UN folds, Mugabe won. He ran a brillian election campaign of terror and brutality.

At 10:35 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

CC wrote "If they are "perpetrators of aggression" then they are no longer non-combatants, no?"

Not necessarily. Government officials who organize war preparations are not usually considered combatants. Neither are defense industry employees. Neither are journalists who incite and indocrinate against the enemy with malicious and false hate propaganda. Neither are the politicians who decide on and give the orders to go to war. These are some examples of non-combatants who are familiar, perhaps central, actors in modern conflicts.

Glucksman's definition would make all of the Allied actions against German cities in WW2 acts of terrorism. Also the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Does that mean that to him terrorism is sometimes justified? Or does he think that WW2 German and Japanese civilians were entitled to immunity from retribution for the mass-killing of civilians intentionally perpertrated by their nations?


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