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What’s the Definition of Terrorism?

April 16, 2013 @ 3:57 pm
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A question that was raised last year with the Benghazi attack was what is terrorism? Was it a terrorist attack? The bombs in Boston hit close to home for me (literally) since I live and work in the Boston area. Reading the news stories following attack in Boston raised the question again. Some stories labeled it terrorism, some just say bombings. The white house called it a terrorist attack quickly after the attack took place.

This got me thinking, what is terrorism? When is it a terrorist attack and when is it not? People today seem to like to use the word as political ammo to push a particular agenda. This has clouded the public’s perspective of what is terrorism and what isn’t.

To find the answer to the question we don’t even need to open a dictionary. The word itself tells us what it means. It’s an act with the purpose of instilling terror. Some times there can be a political or religious motives, but the motives can also be personal.

So what makes an action terrorism? By looking at the definition I stated above we can see that it’s the intention of the act that makes it terrorism and not the act itself. So to know if it was terrorism we need to know the intention of the perpetrators. The intention of a terrorist is usually obvious because of where and how they attacked. So it usually doesn’t take long to figure out whether it was a terrorist attack or not.

Using this definition we can see that even governments can perform terrorist attacks. For instance many of the bombing runs done by both the allies and the axis powers in WWII were terrorist attacks. The goal was often to terrorize and demoralize the enemy. School shootings today, may or may not be terrorist attacks. If it’s kids lashing out at society who want to go down in infamy than it’s not terrorism. We can see that Benghazi was terrorism.

This bombing in Boston was almost certainly terrorism, although it’s not confirmed yet. It has the hallmarks: done on Patriot’s Day, in Boston the city of patriots, attacking the Boston marathon (arguably the biggest well known marathon in the world) and at the exact moment when the largest number of people usually finish the race. Based on this I would say that the attacker is trying to make a point against the United States and is some how related to its military presence abroad.

About the Author: The Fashionable Philosopher
I'm Catholic, and my political views are constitutionalist. I have a love for science and a degree in molecular biology.

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  • http://www.thefashionablehousewife.com The Fashionable Housewife

    I totally agree with you.