The Politics of Terrorism & the UN


Jon Kofas says: "May I clarify the point on "UN sanctions?" A clear definition of terrorism and its multifaceted causes has been notably absent from any political and media discource before and since 9/11. Noam Chomsky pointed out that only the Wall Street Journal, to its great credit, took the time and effort immediately after 9/11 to find out why there is such militant opposition to U.S. policy in the Muslim world. The State Department's response was to hire a PR person from New York to intensify "public diplomacy" (U.S. propaganda) as a means of lessening opposition toward U.S. policies around the world. That person has since left her job, after realizing the impossible task. Not only has the Bush administration obfuscated the term "terrorism" to the degree that it is very broad and generic encompasing all unconventional forms of opposition to U.S. policies, but the administration has allowed authoritarian regimes around the world to define "terrorism" as they see fit, as long as they back the  U.S. Does this sound like the Cold War when we backed dictators in the name of "fighting Communism?" Before the Democrat convention, former president Jimmy Carter held an international conference in Atlanta GA on this issue, and he explained to the press after the conference that he was stunned to hear from activists of various countries that human rights workers, UN personnel, intellectuals questioning tyrannical methods used by the state against its citizens, and any opponent to a regime can and has been labeled "terrorist" in some countries. Such a maximalist definition that encompasses all opposition to a regime is dismissed a "terrorist" trivializes the issue. This is especially important in light of the bloodbath that took place in Russia yesterday and today with the Chechnya rebels and hostages. Do people who strive for self-determination and face the conventional forces of a powerful government have the right to fight back, or do they submit to tyranny? Just as the UN decided on a definition of Human Rights, Racism, Genocide, Apartheid, Ethnic Cleansing, etc. it is time that the UN revisit the issue of "terrorism" and provide the appropriate mechanism by which such a discussion must take place and then voted on by the General Assembly. Input from leading scholars with varying views, NGOs, politicians, church leaders, etc. will be significant in providing input to the UN's definition of the term, after outlining its complex root causes. Then the UN has to agree to a set of resolutions and sanctions against states which are supporting "terrorism" and states that use "terrorism" to repress their political opponents, or violate the sovereignty of other nations in the name of fighting "terrorism." This does not mean that "terrorism" will be defeated as long as the state remains an instrument of oppression and socioeconomic polarization widens. But short of a multilateral UN-sanctioned approach, every authoritarian regime around the world, and even pluralistic societies like the U.S., will use the pretext of "terrorism" to unleash repression against their citizens who demand certain legitimate rights for minorities, workers, women, political opponents, etc. While people want safety and security, they also want to have their rights protected and do not wish to live in garrison states".

RH: While all this is true, nothing justifies the killing of innocent people, such as the children held hostage in a Russian school.  Nor do I trust the UN General Assembly, which is dominated by small states which have little responsibility.

Ronald Hilton -


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