From the MACBook of the Yogini
Bree’s Place    
Terrorism, as defined by Webster’s, is the unlawful use or threat of violence especially against the state or the public as a politically motivated means of attack or coercion.  Terrorists use violent tactics in an effort to create political change, threaten or induce fear in the public and/or government, raise media attention or further their political cause.  Unfortunately, many times, terrorist attacks fall upon innocent victims.
One may argue as to the degree of innocence each individual may have.  Terrorist attacks in current history most always end in the killing of children.  There can be no argument as to a baby’s innocence.
Terrorism when inflicted on innocent civilians can never be justified.  Killing others for any reason other than self-defense is morally reprehensible.  Kant believes in a universal law.  Morally, we must “treat humanity…never simply as a means but always at the same time as an end.”    In other words, terrorists cannot morally justify innocent deaths to achieve some ultimate goal.    R.G. Frey and Christopher Morris have similar beliefs that, “terrorists cannot avail themselves of such theories to justify furthering the ends of some small group at the cost of greater damage to the interests of others.”  Even if we disagree with Kant, Frey and Morris, and assume that the terrorist’s goals were justifiable, terrorist attacks in no way guarantee a set end result.  Although a terrorist would achieve his goal of threatening and inducing fear in the public by performing a terrorist act, there is no guarantee that such an act will either create the political change the terrorist is trying to achieve, or attain the desired response by the government or the public.   The media attention that is derived from the act may or may not be conducive to the terrorists’ objectives.
One may argue that the terrorists are justified in their actions.  Those in support of the terrorist attacks would most likely also support the attackers’ cause.  For example, a group of “terrorists” may bomb the white house because they believe that President Bush is corrupt and is killing innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan without just cause.  The terrorists believe that if they bomb the White House and kill the President, the Bush administration will fall, and the wars in the Middle East will end.  There may be some who agree with these terrorists, and believe that they are justified.  Take a life for a life.  Bush is responsible for the deaths of thousands, so his death is warranted.  
However, if the supporters of these terrorist attacks would examine the consequences of the attack on the White House in more detail, they may change their stance.  How do we measure the attacker’s success?  Is success measured by number of deaths or the fall of the house of Bush?  What if the Bush administration does fall, but more and greater corruption follows?  How about the innocent lives at the White House that will be lost during the attack?  Taking innocent lives is the very thing the terrorists so greatly oppose.  This is a contradiction in belief.  How do we assess the value or cost of the fear and terror that this attack will instill on the entire nation?  Is this also a desired result?  Do we know for certain that widespread panic and total chaos will not ensue in the aftermath of such a heinous act?  And it is doubtful that such an act would in fact immediately end the Middle Eastern wars.
An attack on the White House would impose a significant impact on our current government and public climate.   Immediate and severe actions would be taken.  However, these terrorists did not exhaust all legal possibilities.    R.G. Frey  and Christopher Morris state that “alternatives such as passive resistance and nonviolent civil disobedience” must first be attempted.  We have created a legal system to create change as well as protect the public.  Our society has created various means for voicing our disapproval, without the need for violence.  These terrorists can vote, form groups and foundations, peacefully protest, and write letters to our elected officials.  They have the freedom to join activists, or even travel to the Middle East and volunteer.  All these methods will not produce immediate results, and our judicial system is not without faults.  But these systems were put in place to protect an individual from harm, and protect those individuals’ personal rights.  The knowledgeable death of innocents can never be justified.
W.D. Ross suggests that we have a moral obligation, a “prima facie” duty to “non-maleficence”.  It is our ultimate responsibility to not harm others.  And Richard Wasserstrom also affirms that “there are no circumstances under which the intentional killing of innocent persons, even in time of war, can be justified.  It is always immoral to do so.”
Many individuals would claim “terrorism can never be justified”.  The word never conveys an absolute.  Absolutes tend never to hold true.  There always seems to be grey areas, or caveats which are exceptions to every rule.  
We can rephrase the absolute statement to “terrorism usually cannot be justified, but in some rare instances, is justifiable”.  In the event that all political means of mediation have been exhausted, and lives of innocent people are threatened or the basic needs of life (food, shelter, sanitation) are deprived, then those individuals would be justified in fighting for self preservation through means of terrorism.  This act of terrorism must be geared towards those responsible with the insurance that no innocent civilian lives are lost.  Maybe then, a word other than terrorism should be used in this instance.  Maybe a better word, based on this definition, would be revolution.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Is Terrorism Ever Justified?