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Friday, Dec. 07, 2001 at 11:23 AM
Thema: Guerrillas and Terrorism (Spezialgebiet)
Autor: Helmut Pauer
GUERRILLAS AND TERRORISM
I.I. The origin of the word "Guerrilla"
The word "guerilla" means "little war" and comes from the Spanish word for war (guerra = war, guerilla = little war). "Guerilla" came into use during the warfare of the people in Spain against Napoleon at the end of the 18th century.
I.II. The Definition of Guerrilla Warfare
Guerilla warfare is carried on by loosely organized bands with or without official sanction, and sometimes degenerates into warfare for plunder and banditry. This method of fighting is often resorted to by the weaker side when unable to present a strong organized armed opposition. Wars for independence have often begun with or included guerilla warfare. Other motives prompting guerilla warfare are the desires for territorial expansion and for racial equality. In the 20th century guerilla warfare acquired a new function - that of popularizing a cause, in this it was often more successful than in achieving victory. Most guerilla groups end and start like most revolutionaries - One intelligent man has a good idea and the guerilla are needed to make this idea true. They fight for the idea, but one day some guerillas are so disappointed that they only fight for their own profit.
I.III Guerrillas and Terrorism
Many guerrillas reject the use of terrorism. Che Guevara, a Cuban guerrilla, warned that terrorism was generally ineffective and indiscriminate in its results, since it often made victims of innocent people and destroyed a large number of lives that would be valuable to the revolution. Mao Zedong in China insisted that correct treatment of civilians was vital if the revolution was to build support. He saw the work of the guerrillas as primarily to wear down the armed forces of the government, this fighting between guerrillas and armed forces was (and is) guerrilla warfare, not terrorism. Guerrilla warfare, however, requires immense patience. It usually takes years to wear down the forces of a well-armed enemy. In practice, many guerrilla groups have lacked this patience. They have tried to intimidate local communities by attacking civilians or their leaders, in order to force them into supporting the guerrillas. When they are using fear in this way as one of their weapons we are right to call them terrorists. We should be careful, however, not to use the words guerrilla and terrorist as if they were the same, we should look at the type of action carried out by the group. If it involves widespread killing of civilians, for instance, then it is probably terrorism. In short, guerrillas may be terrorists but they do not have to be. Many of the most important guerrilla wars of the twentieth century have taken place in the countryside - in China, Africa and Latin America, for instance. However, some guerrillas have taken the struggle to the cities. They are known as urban guerrillas. In cities, terrorism is much more likely to be used in the struggle and in practice the terms urban guerrilla and terrorist have come to mean very much the same thing. That's because in the city you can't fight the other forces like in the jungle or desert. In the city you have to use terrorist methods like car-bombing etc.
II.I What is Terrorism?
Probably the first image that comes into our minds when we hear the word terrorism is violence. Terrorism is the bomb that explodes in a crowded street, the man gunned down on his doorstep in front of his family, the aircraft that is seized by armed hijackers, the innocent man who got shot by a sniper ... This violence often seems to involve innocent people, for example the passengers of many different nationalities who happen to be travelling on the same aircraft. Terrorist violence has often been described as indiscriminate: that is, its victims are picked at random. This is not always the case. Often terrorists will target particular people, leaders of a community, the police or members of the armed forces. However, even in these cases there is the sudden and unexpected act of violence, the horror of a human being gunned down or bombed by self-appointed assassins. What are terrorists trying to do with these acts of sudden violence? In most cases they are aiming to spread fear. Terrorists, one observer said, do not care about whom they kill, but who is frightened by their killing. Terrorists are trying to put pressure on a community through the use of violence, in order to force that community to agree to their demands. Meanwhile, terrorism can be seen as the use of fear, through violence or the threat of violence, as a weapon to force political change. Fundamental to the spread of fear is the effective use of publicity, and the more brutal or daring the act of terrorism, the more effective the international publicity for the terrorists.
II.II Types of Terrorism
There are small groups who are using terrorism to overthrow governments or to force them to change their policies. It is important to note, however, that governments themselves can use terrorism as a means of achieving their ends; the suppression of opponents, for example. The use of fear in this way is of particular concern, as governments have enormous resources at their disposal, the police and the armed forces, as well as the control of publicity.
II.III Why has Terrorism Become Such a Problem in the 20th Century?
The use of terrorism as a weapon is not new. We can find examples throughout history, although the word itself was probably used for the first time in the 1790s to describe the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution. However, in the past 50 years, terrorism as a political weapon has been given greater prominence than ever before. What are the reasons for this? We need first to look at the nature of the world we live in. The twentieth century has been an era of violence. There have been two massive world wars and scores of other conflicts, many of them bringing appalling local destruction. Violence has become, in many different situations, a common way of trying to achieve change. It is not surprising that its use has become accepted as justified by many groups and individuals, who feel they have a good cause. In a troubled world, with extremes of wealth and poverty and many racial and nationalist conflicts, there is certainly no shortage of such causes. These developments, although important, do not fully explain why terrorism has become so widespread. One reason lies in the publicity that terrorism brings. A bombing, shooting or hijacking can be transmitted from one end of the world to another in minutes. Television screens bring the horror and drama of many terrorist acts right into our living rooms. It is this very development which has been exploited by terrorists. The terrorist knows the greater the publicity an act of terrorism achieves, the greater the fear and anxiety that is spread. To this extent, terrorism and the news media feed on each other and make the impact of terrorism all the greater. Another important development in terrorism has been in the mobility of terrorists. The hijacking of a Kuwaiti aircraft is an excellent example of this. No less than six different governments across half the world were involved in the events of these 15 days. The international nature of terrorism, the way in which groups can build links with each other or with groups that support them, and then strike in virtually any part of the world, has given terrorism a totally new dimension in the past 20 years. We call acts of terrorism of this nature international terrorism. International terrorism has been made more dangerous in recent years by the support certain governments, particularly in the Middle East, have given to terrorist groups. At the same time the weapons of terrorism have become more sophisticated. The destructive power of guns has increased dramatically. An easy-to-hide machine gun can kill and wound tens of people in a few minutes (as happened in the Lod Airport massacre of 1972 in Israel, when 26 people were killed and 80 wounded in a few seconds by three gunmen). Explosives such as Semtex (see "Semtex - the most dangerous weapon"), used by the IRA and other terrorist groups, are very much more powerful than traditional ones and are very difficult to detect, as they do not show up on normal screening devices. At the same time, it has become easier to obtain weapons. It is thus possible for a well-organized group, convinced of the rightness of its cause, and with the belief that an act of terrorism will further it, to carry out enormous disruption, destruction and bloodshed. An air crash such as that which took place at Lockerbie in December 1988 showed this all too clearly. A bomb, which had been successfully loaded on to a plane, exploded, killing all the passengers and several residents of the town on which it crashed. It was a horrifying reminder of the power of the terrorist. In short, we live in a world where in some parts restraints on the use of violence have broken down, and it has become easier for those who wish to use violence to do so. The mobility of terrorists, together with an increased sophistication in terrorist weapons and methods, have combined to make acts of terrorism easier to commit. The publicity that each act of terrorism gains for the terrorist makes it an ideal weapon for many powerless groups determined to bring their cause to the attention of the world.
II.IV Why use Terrorism?
The first reason may be, of course, that a group actually believes that terrorism will be an effective way of achieving its aims. Its primary aim may be publicity, for instance. Terrorism is an effective way of achieving this. It may believe that the fear and tension its acts will bring will force a government to give in to its demands. In other words, the group sees terrorism as an effective strategy for achieving its aims. It has also been argued, however, that groups and individuals turn to terrorism out of desperation. They may have a cause to which no one pays attention. The most important thing for them is to force the attention of the world on to their sufferings. This would certainly appear to have been the case with the Palestinians who, after the establishment of Israel in 1948 and her massive victory over the surrounding Arab states in 1967, saw any chance of regaining their homeland slip even further away. It was perhaps not surprising that some Palestinian groups started resorting to hijacking and other acts of terrorism in their determination to focus the eyes of the world on their cause. Some experts on terrorism have looked at the personalities of terrorists. Is there a particular type of person who is drawn to the use of violence in this way? In practice, it has not been easy to find a typical terrorist personality, although it appears that some terrorists have joined terrorist organizations because of a deep-rooted need to have the power that terrorism provides. They may be weak or inadequate personalities, who find that only through the publicity of some dramatic act such as one of terrorism do they feel fulfilled. On the other hand, many terrorists examined by doctors have proved to be little different from the normal population. The vast majority of terrorists have been young men aged between 18 and 30. Women play a minor role in most groups. One reporter in the Lebanon in the summer of 1986 observed how the bitter fighting between terrorist and guerrilla groups would stop each night between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. as the men from each side gathered round television sets to watch the World Cup. The women, on the other hand, had to use these vital hours to search for their children and for food, and to bury the dead. There have been some situations in which terrorism seems to have become a form of self-defense. In the Lebanon, for example, where law and order has broken down completely in some areas over the past ten years, a large number of groups have used terror and counter-terror in an attempt to survive in the climate of fear and disintegration. Possibly, as we have seen, the same thing has happened in some Catholic areas of Northern Ireland, where attacks on the army and police have been partly a response to the tensions of police raids and army patrols. Once terrorism has become established as a method of fighting a particular cause it can very often become part of a tradition. In the Palestinian refugee camps, for instance, each new generation is taught that violence, often including the use of terrorism, is justified in the struggle for their lost homeland. The IRA recruits from the same families generation after generation.
II.V Terrorism Worldwide
Terrorist acts have taken place worldwide. In the nineteen sixties Latin America appeared the center of world terrorism, as guerrilla groups inspired by the success of Castro in seizing power in Cuba tried to overthrow governments, many of them used terrorist tactics in the process. Among Latin American guerrilla groups who used terrorism were the Tupermaros in Uruguay, who were involved in a number of kidnappings and assassinations, and the Montoneros in Argentina, who launched a similar campaign. Both groups invited heavy government repression and were eventually crushed. In the late 1960s the center of world terrorism shifted to the Middle East, where Palestinian groups used terrorism as a tactic to improve publicity and support for their cause. The Middle East continues to provide the background and support for much of the world's international terrorism. In the seventies and eighties, Western Europe also became vulnerable to terrorist attacks. The British government was involved in a bitter struggle with terrorists in both the Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland and there were other European outbreaks, ranging from the activities of the Baader-Meinhof groups in West Germany to the Red Brigades in Italy and ETA, seeking an independent Basque state in Northern Spain. There is, in fact, virtually no part of the world which has escaped some form of terrorist act.
II.VI The Terrorist Group
Terrorist groups vary enormously in their size, stability and efficiency. At one extreme there are large guerrilla groups, numbering in the thousands and controlling their own territory, who use terrorism as one weapon in their fight against a government. In the African wars of liberation of the 1960s and 1970s there were numerous examples of civilians being killed by guerrillas either as a punishment for collaborating with the government forces, or to frighten the local population into supporting the guerrilla movement. That is also an example for the use of terrorism by guerillas At the other extreme there are tiny terrorist groups, perhaps with only four or five members. This has been typical of West European groups such as the Baader-Meinhof gang, which carried out a number of bomb attacks in West Germany in the early 1970s, and Action Directe in France which had only a few core members. These small isolated groups are often quickly detected and rounded up by police. Longer established and more stable terrorist groups such as the IRA may have quite a large membership - perhaps in the hundreds - but are organized in isolated cells of three to five members (for security reasons). Each cell receives orders from above and operates independently. If one cell is wiped out, as happened in the Gibraltar shootings of an IRA group in 1988, the organization, though weakened, can still continue to operate. Abu Nidal's Fateh Revolutionary Council, a Palestinian terrorist group, is believed to plant members in target countries and often wait for years before using them. In some cases, such as the Palestinians, many different groups may be using terrorism for the same cause. There are hundreds of Palestinians prepared to join small groups, which just commit one hijacking or bomb attack and then to disappear again. This is in addition to the more long-established groups such as the PFLP and Abu Nidal's Fateh Revolutionary Council, which have operated effectively over a number of years. How do terrorist groups form? Many draw on existing family relationships. This has been true of both Palestinian groups and the IRA. As mentioned in the Case Study on Northern Ireland, 80 per cent of the members of the IRA have had a brother, uncle or father in the group and most of them had friends or relatives who got killed by the other side. Abu Nidal built up his terrorist group using a network of his family relationships. Such links, by encouraging loyalty, help keep a terrorist group secure and stable. Not all terrorist groups have such stability. Many, in fact, are full of bitter internal struggles. In 1972, a hideout of the Japanese United Red Army group was found. There were 14 bodies there - one half of the group had killed the other half. There are usually severe punishments in terrorist groups, including the death penalty for informing. Disputes between groups fighting for the same cause are also common and many end in violence. This has been true both in Northern Ireland and among the Palestinians. On the other hand there has also been co-operation between groups from different parts of the world. An early example was the use by Palestinians of Japanese terrorists to carry out a massacre at Lod Airport in Israel in 1972. In 1988 Japanese terrorists were suspected of having been organized by Abu Nidal to carry out a bomb attack on an American club in Naples which killed five people. By this stage it appeared that there were Japanese terrorist groups ready to commit terrorism for whoever would pay them. The French group Action Directe, rounded up in 1987 after a number of assassinations, had planned their attacks with help from small groups in West Germany, Belgium and Italy. Some groups find most of their support and finance from sympathetic states.
III. THE FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM
III.I The State Versus the Terrorist
When a state is faced by acts of terrorism from within, there are several ways it can react. It may believe that the terrorists' cause is justified and thus be prepared to give in to their demands. In practice most states are reluctant to do this as they know it will weaken their authority and suggest that they are vulnerable to terrorist pressure. On the other hand, many governments under extreme pressure have made deals with terrorists. The opposite extreme is to launch a major campaign of counterattack. One of the most brutal of such campaigns was that launched by the Iranian government in 1981 against a variety of terrorist groups that opposed the new government of Ayatollah Khomeini. At least 2500 suspects were executed; there were widespread allegations of torture, and a massive clampdown on political activity. In terms of crushing the terrorists, the campaign was successful - but the result was a dictatorship. In Latin America government campaigns of this brutal nature have destroyed terrorist groups. In the process, of course, thousands of innocent people suffer and a military dictatorship may be established, as happened in Argentina under General Galtieri (1976-83). For a democratic state, neither of these options are possible. A democratic state believes that change can take place peacefully. The people are free to elect a government to pass laws on their behalf, these laws will be enforced by a police force which, ultimately, is under public control. Anyone accused of breaking the law is entitled to a fair and public trial, with the right to be tried by an independent judge or jury. A truly democratic government also guarantees human rights for all its members. Such rights would include freedom of speech, freedom of movement, and freedom from arrest without cause. Terrorists are not elected. They appoint themselves. They use violence or the threat of violence to achieve their aims, rather than the elected parliament or other body which makes laws. In carrying out violence they are destroying the human rights of their victims - rights to live in peace, liberty and free of cruel treatment. If a democratic government gives in to the threat of terrorism from within it can be argued that it is betraying the ideals of democracy. Similarly, a government is betraying democratic ideals if it responds by a campaign of mass repression. Such a campaign will depend on mass arrests of suspects, the widespread searching of private homes, and possibly the use of torture to extract information. All these are denials of the human rights on which a democratic society is based. A democratic society under threat from terrorism is thus presented with an extraordinarily difficult challenge. How can it defeat terrorism, a threat to the ideals on which democracy is based, without betraying these same ideals? There are certain policies which seem to be essential. First, it must be clear that everyone in society has full access to democratic rights, including equal opportunity to share in political life, schooling, employment and access to housing. So long as one part of the community, members of one race or religion, for instance, feel discriminated against there will be grievances on which terrorism can feed, as it has among the Catholics in Northern Ireland. Secondly, terrorists must as far as possible be dealt with under the existing law of the land. It is very easy for terrorists to claim that they are special people, who, because they are fighting for a political cause, should not be treated as criminals. The IRA, for instance, claimed that they were soldiers fighting the British government and should be treated as prisoners of war when captured, not as ordinary criminals. (In 1981 a number of IRA prisoners went on hunger strike to try to force the British government to accept this.) It is important, however, that society does not give terrorists a special status or importance but treats a terrorist killing as a murder, and thus an offence against criminal law like any other murder. Most governments accept, however, that special powers are needed to deal with terrorism. In Britain there is the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which allows suspects to be held for up to seven days without trial. The British Government has also banned certain types of publicity for terrorist organizations. These laws certainly restrict human rights. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that suspects should be brought before a court no longer than four days after arrest, compared to the seven days the British government allows. When we consider how far such restrictions on human rights are justified we need to look at the following questions. First, have the laws concerned actually increased the number of convicted terrorists or helped in other ways to reduce the use of terrorism? How far is it possible for outsiders to government to examine how the laws work in practice, or is the way they are imposed hidden in secrecy? Are they temporary laws which need to be renewed each year, or have they become part of the permanent law of a country (in which case they may be kept on as permanent restrictions, even after the terrorists have been defeated). The reason why these questions are important is not only that these laws act as restrictions on human rights but that every new power a government takes on strengthens its position to take further powers. It has been a common practice in several parts of the world for governments claiming to be acting against terrorism to take on an ever widening selection of laws which are then used against the population as a whole. The main result of terrorism has thus become the destruction of democracy, not so much by the terrorists as by the government they are attacking. There is no easy way to defeat a sustained campaign of terrorism against a democratic government. There is usually no alternative to calm and expert police work, so that terrorists can be detected, arrested and convicted under normal criminal laws, and to the continued determination of the government concerned to uphold a democratic way of life for all citizens, so far as the pressures of terrorism allow. There are few greater or more difficult challenges a democratic government can face.
III.II The Fight Against International Terrorism
As we saw in the case of airplane - hijackings, an act of international terrorism can very quickly involve a number of governments. For international terrorism to be successfully controlled, there needs to be effective cooperation between governments. Three things are necessary if this is to happen. First, there must be common international agreement as to what is meant by terrorism. It must be clear what acts of violence are to be treated as terrorist. Secondly, it must be accepted that acts of international terrorism are attacks on the international community, not just the state immediately affected. It follows that all governments should accept a shared responsibility for dealing with acts of international terrorism. Third, there must be some agreed way of bringing captured terrorists to justice. One view is that there should be an international law court to deal with such cases. For combined action against terrorism we should look first at what the United Nations, which represents virtually every state in the world, has achieved. The United Nations first discussed terrorism in 1972. For the Western nations things were fairly clear. They saw themselves as peaceful, democratic nations and they were outraged that terrorist violence should be used against them, their civilians and airliners. They were ready to support firm measures against terrorists. On the other hand, many African and Asian nations had only become independent through the use of violence and they supported the struggles of other nationalist groups - in Southern Africa, for instance -to achieve freedom and independence. They were not prepared to allow acts of violence committed in the cause of liberation to be condemned as terrorism. As Mauritania, one of the African nations put it, 'the word terrorism could not be applied to persons who were denied the most elementary human rights, dignity and independence. Such people could not be blamed for committing desperate acts, which in themselves were reprehensible; rather the real culprits were those who were responsible for causing such desperation.' The representative for Madagascar put it another way claiming 'that acts of political terrorism undertaken to vindicate hallowed rights recognized by the United Nations were praiseworthy'. So there was not even agreement that acts of terrorism should be punished. It took many years of discussion before in December 1985 the United Nations passed a resolution in its General Assembly that condemned without reservation 'as criminal, all acts, methods and practices of terrorism'. At the same time, however, it proclaimed the right of people to engage in armed struggle against colonial or racist governments. What some states may see as terrorism may thus be seen by others as violence used as a justified part of such a struggle. There is still no firm international agreement on what is actually meant by terrorism. Resolutions of the United Nations do not require anyone actually to do anything. A better way of achieving action is a Convention. This is an agreement by which states promise to take action in certain cases. When there was a widespread outbreak of hijacking, for instance, a number of Conventions were drawn up. In the Hague Convention for the Suppression of the Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft of 1970 those who signed it agreed that captured hijackers should be sent to be tried either in the country where the hijacked plane was registered or in the country where it landed. If this was not done the country which had arrested the hijacker should try him or her. The next year the Montreal Convention extended this to cover acts of damage against aircraft, whether committed on the ground or in the air. Conventions are not as strong as they may seem. Only those who sign them are bound by them, there is little that can be done to punish a state which signs a Convention and then fails to carry out what it has agreed to do. The greatest progress has been made in Europe. The European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, drawn up in 1977, dealt with the issue of bringing terrorists who had committed a crime in one European state to justice in another. This removal from one state to another is called extradition. In the past a suspect who was wanted for a bomb attack committed, for example in Germany, but who had fled to France could claim that the offence that the German government wished to try him for was committed for 'political' reasons. This was normally held to be a defense and the French government could refuse to extradite him. Under the 1977 Convention it was agreed that a wide range of acts which were clearly terrorist, such as hijacking, taking hostages and exploding bombs, could no longer be claimed as political and thus the terrorist could be extradited to the country where the offence had been committed. Although the Convention only applies to Europe, it is the first step towards making the terrorist an international criminal, the enemy of all states, and dealt with by each state as such. In April 1986 members of the European Community went further and made the first moves to deal with states supporting international terrorism. The American government had repeatedly asked them to be together on such states and had eventually taken the law into its own hands and bombed Libya - a state everyone agreed had been supporting international acts of terrorism. The European states realized that they needed to act more effectively, if only to prevent more bombing raids. They agreed to enforce stricter rules on the numbers and movements of diplomats from countries such as Libya and to ban the sale of all arms and other military equipment to states they pinpointed as sponsors of terrorism. They also agreed among themselves to cooperate more on intelligence operations against terrorism. International cooperation against terrorism is still very limited. As we have seen, many states refuse to accept that certain acts of violence (those committed in the cause of 'national liberation') should be seen as terrorism. Even when there is agreement and Conventions have been signed it is difficult to ensure that each state acts as it has promised it would. In practice, under the pressure of events, many states are prepared to make their own deals with terrorist groups.
IV.I The Difference between Guerrillas and Terrorists
Directly fight the "ruling forces" in combat, to get the power to make the changes
The "innocent" people can be helpful for the cause, so they are friends
The lives of the "innocent" people are important
Weaken the stability of the system to force the government to make the changes
The "innocent" people are only the "tool" to achieve the demands
The lives of the "innocent" people are not important
IV.II Weapons of Terrorism
SEMTEX - "the most dangerous weapon"
'The most dangerous weapon used by the IRA', one British army expert is reported to have said, 'is not SAM missiles but Semtex.' Semtex is a plastic explosive, made since the end of the 1960s in Czechoslovakia. There is no evidence that Czechoslovakia has supplied Semtex directly to terrorist groups but many governments throughout the world have bought it and some of these have passed it on to terrorists. One major source has been Libya, which has supplied the IRA with enough Semtex to last for years. Semtex is an ideal weapon for terrorists. It has no smell and cannot be detected by X-rays. Unlike other explosives such as gelignite, it appears to stay active for years. It can be formed into different shapes to fit any space which the terrorist chooses. The IRA, for instance, packs amounts as little as 2lbs into lunch boxes and then attaches these under cars. By the end of 1988 about a dozen people had been killed in this way. A major use of Semtex has been to blow up planes. Middle East groups have specialized in this. Because it is so difficult to detect it is relatively easy to smuggle aboard, Only a few pounds of carefully placed Semtex are needed to blow a hole in an aircraft, causing it to disintegrate in mid-air. The Lockerbie air disaster of December 1988 was caused by explosives similar to Semtex. Semtex will continue to be a major terrorist weapon until some effective method of detecting it is found. One plan is to ensure that the makers of Semtex mix in special microchips which could then be spotted. However, there is so much pure Semtex already freely available so that it is unlikely that this would prove effective for many years. There are also other plastic explosives available, and the manufacture of all these would have to be controlled.
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