Written By Ali Akbari
Is there a difference between terrorism and the use of specific tactics that exploit fear and terror by authorities normally considered “legitimate”? Nations and states often resort to violence to influence segments of their population, or rely on coercive aspects of state institutions. Just like the idea of equating any act of military force with terrorism described above, there are those who equate any use of government power or authority versus any part of the population as terrorism. This view also blurs the lines of what is and is not terrorism, as it elevates outcomes over intentions. Suppression of a riot by law enforcement personnel may in fact expose some of the population (the rioters) to violence and fear, but with the intent to protect the larger civil order. On the other hand, abuse of the prerogative of legitimized violence by the authorities is a crime.
But there are times when national governments will become involved in terrorism, or utilize terror to accomplish the objectives of governments or individual rulers. Most often, terrorism is equated with “non-state actors”, or groups that are not responsible to a sovereign government. However, internal security forces can use terror to aid in repressing dissent, and intelligence or military organizations perform acts of terror designed to further a state’s policy or diplomatic efforts abroad.
Governmental or “State” terror: Sometimes referred to as “terror from above”, where a government terrorizes its own population to control or repress them. These actions usually constitute the acknowledged policy of the government, and make use of official institutions such as the judiciary, police, military, and other government agencies. Changes to legal codes permit or encourage torture, killing, or property destruction in pursuit of government policy. After assuming power, official Nazi policy was aimed at the deliberate destruction of “state enemies” and the resulting intimidation of the rest of the population. Stalin’s “purges” of the 1930s are examples of using the machinery of the state to terrorize a population. The methods he used included such actions as rigged show trials of opponents, punishing family or friends of suspected enemies of the regime, and extra-legal use of police or military force against the population.
Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons on his own Kurdish population without any particular change or expansion of policies regarding the use of force on his own citizens. They were simply used in an act of governmental terror believed to be expedient in accomplishing his goals.
State involvement in terror: These are activities where government personnel carry out operations using terror tactics. These activities may be directed against other nations’ interests, its own population, or private groups or individuals viewed as dangerous to the state. In many cases, these activities are terrorism under official sanction, although such authorization is rarely acknowledged openly. Israel terror attacks in Palestine and Lebanon territories are the historical examples of State Terrorism! Sabra & Shatila Massacre is one of the worst!
On Thursday,16 September 1982 Israeli troops lit flares to light the way for their Phalangist allies to enter the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, on the outskirts of West Beirut. The massacre of unarmed children, women and old men went on for three days. It resulted in the deaths of between 2,000 and 3,000 Palestinians, most of them left piled up or hastily buried in mass graves. The Red Cross later said it would be impossible to know the exact number who died. On 16 December 1982, the United Nations General Assembly condemned the massacre and declared it to be an act of genocide.The voting record on section D of Resolution 37/123 was: yes: 123; no: 0; abstentions: 22; non-voting: 12. After that People called Ariel Sharon, the “Butcher of Beirut,”
David Hirst who served as journalist in Beirut in those years describes the massacre in his book “The Gun and the Olive Branch”:
“The first unit of them include 150 Phlanges militias entered Shatila refugee camp that some of whom carried knives in addition to guns! The massacre continued for 48 hours and even it went on through the night as Israeli forces lit the camp area! They broke into Palestinian houses and they gun them down as they were sleeping! Phalanges would torture them before killing them; taking out their eyes; peeling their skins alive; ripping off their bellies; raping their women and daughters for more than 6 times and then cutting their breasts and finally giving them a head-shot! They split children and smashed their heads to the walls and blow their brains out! Eventually they brought some bulldozers to bury victims and demolished their living houses which were not destroyed! The cats would feed on the flesh of the corpses and they had gone enough rabid to attack lives because they used to feed on human flesh!”