Can Terrorism be morally justified? How and when? Or Why not?

Essay by suzanna_pUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, August 2005

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Can Terrorism be morally justified? How and when? Or Why not?

On September 11th 2001, two aeroplanes crashed into the world trade centre in New York, this was the horrifying beginning of what would come to be known 'the age of terror.' Although terrorist acts date back decades, it was this attack on the world's most powerful nation, America, that struck fear into the hearts of the Western people and the potential severity of these attacks was realised. Acts of terrorism are becoming part of everyday news, they are occurring around the world and being carried out by various different groups of people. Reaching a definition of 'terrorism' is an ambiguous task but in his book Terror, Gearty (1991) cited 109 different definitions of terrorism which he obtained in a survey of leading academics in the field. From these definitions, the author isolated the following recurring elements, in order of their statistical appearance in the definitions: Violence, force (appeared in 83.5%

of the definitions); political (65%); fear, emphasis on terror (51%); threats (47%); psychological effects and anticipated reactions (41.5%); discrepancy between the targets and the victims (37.5%); intentional, planned, systematic, organized action (32%); methods of combat, strategy and tactics (30.5%).

A recurring theme between most definitions is that it deliberately targets innocent people. Leiser's definition (cited in Khatchadourian, 1998, p. 5) equates terrorism with what he calls "the victimization of defenceless, innocent persons" as opposed to "the assassination of political and military leaders". This concept, and now, widely-used tactic is what seems to be the precise element that makes terrorism itself immoral. Like most elusive and ambiguous expressions "terrorism" has a "common core of meaning" in its different usages and this is the notion that "terrorist acts are acts of coercion or actual use of force, aiming at monetary...