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Terrorism can never be stamped out because terrorism works

Jefferson Galt

It's a hard lesson for many people to learn but here it is: terrorism can never be stamped out because terrorism works.

Terrorism has been a highly effective tool of dissent since time began. Specific offences - regicide, treason, etc. - have been developed to deal with specific conduct by those performing terrorism within states. The use of the term "terrorism" became widespread at the end of the 18th century: the world was in turmoil - major revolutions were on the horizon and anarchists made and executed plots. The term "coup d'etat" is used for the overthrow of a government by its own military.

When a body of people rises up against its own or another government, the use or the threat of violence or extensive harm to property, wealth or even certain classes of rights in pursuit of a cause is classed as terrorism. It is also terrorism if the same conduct takes place with regard to third parties e.g. so-called animal rights activists causing or threatening harm to those who conduct experiments on animals.

Where the purpose is to effect social or political change, that converts what would otherwise be extortion, blackmail or even assault (with or with out battery) into terrorism.

It follows that terrorism is a tool of those who, for whatever reason, are unable or unwilling to effect change using democracy or diplomacy.

States are not regarded as committing terrorism against other states: that's an Act of War. Having said that Gordon Brown, at the time the UK's Prime Minister, announced that he was making orders under terrorism legislation against Iceland, the intention being to facilitate the freezing of assets in the UK owned by Iceland. But states can and do support terrorism and the reason is just the same as where independent terrorist groups take what some disguise by using the term "direct action" - terrorism works.

It is usual to refer to "The Peasants' Revolt" as being in England in 1381, led by Watt Tyler in protest at high taxes, known as "the Poll Tax" imposed to pay for The Hundred Years' War between England and France and the divisions in society that resulted from poverty and the aftermath of The Black Death a generation earlier. It began in Brentwood, in Essex and spread across the south east of England where protesters attacked manor houses and religious premises and then into London. The Essex protesters met the king and demanded a range of social changes including the end to indentured servitude (known as villeinage), the right to rent agricultural land at affordable rents and for labour to be subject to contracts agreed between the parties. Later, a separate group, from Kent, demanded that all nobles below the monarchy be stripped of power, that all clergy except Bishops be abolished and that church lands be confiscated and distributed amongst the population at large. The King agreed to the various demands but the revolt was soon put down by the Mayor of London and the terms of agreement abandoned. As the protests had gained ground, there was extensive property damage and murder, including the then Archbishop of Canterbury, The Chancellor and John of Gaunt who had been regarded as anti-Royalist although history treats him rather more kindly.

It was not the first peasants' revolt: In 464BC, an earthquake in the Eurotus Valley created the opportunity for the Helots, slaves under the Spartans, to revolt. That revolt was successful: the Helots took possession of Mount Ithome and held out against a Spartan siege for five years. After a truce, the Helots were given land on the Island of Naupactus. They were eventually, formally, emancipated in the 3rd Century BC.

But rebellion was not new even then: a popular uprising had overthrown the last Kong of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, who, unlike his six predecessors was not a benevolent ruler: reaction to his tyrannical rule led to the creation of the regime of Consuls, two consuls would run Rome changing twice each year. It was usual for the Consul to be a General. The violent disposal of the last King and the creation of a new form of government were intertwined and that's another example of how terrorism works.

In the 18th Century, we see one of the most celebrated and, even, lauded uprising and a period of terrorism lasting from 1775-83. History records it as "The American Revolutionary War" or "The War of American Independence." The uprising was between the residents of the thirteen British colonies in North America and the British colonial government. Once more, a significant cause of the revolt was an attempt by England to impose higher taxes. The US residents argued that they had responsibilities but no rights because they had no representation in the British Parliament which made laws to govern them. Initially, the demands were that there be no taxation without representation and that the British Army should not be stationed in the Colonies without consent. The demand for independence came later. The actions of the Americans against the incumbent government fit exactly within the definition of terrorism once more proving that terrorism works.

Much of today's conflict in parts of the Middle East can be directly traced back to acts of terrorism and how surrender to terrorists without ensuring fairness and balance to others has created a long-term problem. After the Second World War, Palestine (not a country under international law) was a territory under British control. The British command post was in Jerusalem, in what had once been, and was still called, The St David's Hotel - and part of the building remained open for business. Advocates for an Israeli state had been long undertaking skirmish attacks against British forces and taking actions of increasing violence. On 22 July 1246, a small bomb outside the hotel went off outside, followed a short while later by a much larger bomb in the hotel itself, taking many lives (records show 91 dead - 28 British, 41 Arabs, 17 Jews, 2 Armenians, 1 Russian, 1 Greek and 1 Egyptian - and 45 wounded.) A policeman and a British Officer saw the bombs being placed and were shot by rebels. Some of the terrorists were shot and some escaped to be hidden by supporters. The result was that the British carved out borders for The State of Israel. The terrorists claimed that the bombing was the fault of the British, a stance that current Prime Minister Netanyahu has publicly endorsed. His predecessors and other prominent Israeli leaders have included some of those actively engaged in the terrorism.

In 1953, the Iranian armed forces overthrew the government of Mohammed Mosaddeq who had been an advocate of attacks on foreign oil companies operating in the country. In mid-1952, the Shah dismissed Mosaddeq but reinstated him after public protests. The UK's MI6 and the USA's CIA became concerned that Mosaddeq was a covert communist. The CIA helped fund and organise street protests and provided "technical assistance" in the coup that unseated Mosaddeq and re-installed the Shah. In return, the Shah transferred the operations of more than a third of Iran's oil fields to the USA. In the late 1970s, rebels over-threw the Shah in a violent coup and created an Islamist state which remains in place today, demonstrating that terrorism, including terrorism sponsored by a foreign state, succeeds but that nothing is for ever.

The USA has supported a number of rebel groups, some of which have been very successful post-terrorists, but their countries have not shared in the success: attempts to unseat Castrol failed over and over again.

In Guatamala, in 1954, the USA supported rebels who eventually took over the country and held it under brutal military rule and miserable economic conditions. The rebels see it as a success, the wider population less so.

In The Congo, in 1960, the USA funded the Belgian military to try to protect Belgium's interests after so-called "de-colonisation." US Government documents indicate that, for several years, the CIA "maintained close contact with Congolese who expressed a desire to assassinate (Prime Minister) Lumumba. A failed attempt involved a poisoned handkerchief. The coup was completed when the Prime Minster's location was revealed to the rebels by the CIA which compromised available escape routes allowing for his capture and killing early in 1961. Again, the rebels took control by using terrorism and, as we all now know, the country now known as The Democratic Republic of the Congo remains one of the world's poorest and most destabilised countries.

In 1961, the CIA underpinned the assassination of a brutal dictator, Rafael Trujillo, in the Dominican Republic. He had undertaken systematic extermination of the Haitian population. The ensuing regime ruled by fear for decades but terrorism worked by removing Trujillo.

These are just a handful of occasions when terrorism has produced the result the terrorists wanted. It's true that when there is such a victory, it is rare for the population at large to gain all the benefits they would have hoped for. But for the terrorists, they got what they wanted: power, territory and access to wealth. It's not surprising to see that terrorism continues to be a tool that is widely used.

Find Jefferson Galt at www.jeffersongalt.com