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A definition

Here's the definition as of March 13, 2007: "Terrorism is a term used to refer to violence (usually against civilians) instigated to further a certain political or ideological goal."

That's obviously not a good definition, unless you want to include all armed action. By saying usually against civilians, violent action against armies is not ruled out as a form of terrorism. For example, by that definition George Washington's fight at Valley Forge would be considered terrorism (because it was violent and it sought to further a political goal). I assume that's not what the person who wrote that definition intended.

It's also not a good definition because it seems some terrorist violence is not intended to further political or ideological goals. For instance, were the Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attacks in the Tokyo subway a form of terrorism, and if so, what political or ideological goal did they support? --Rotifer 05:22, 13 March 2007 (EDT)

I OBJECT to the inclusion of the IRA as a terrorist group. Some splinter groups of the IRA have committed terrorist attacks, but for most of its history the IRA was a group of freedom fighters. The British government occupied Ireland against the Irish people's will, and Irish people (regular folks and leaders) banded together to fight (yes, with weapons, violence, etc.) against the occupying troops and police forces of the British. Attacking civilians is a different issue. --Madonna 04:10, 14 March 2007 (EDT)

That's simply untrue. An argument could be made that the IRA of 1916-1921 weren't terrorists. But at least since 1956 they have been. Indiscriminate killing of civilians who were in the wrong store or the wrong bar or restaurant at the wrong time certainly fits the definition. Yes they targeted soldiers and policemen, but most of those they killed were civilians. La Mon, Bloody Friday, Enniskillen, Baltic St, Canary Wharf.--Murray 18:16, 15 March 2007 (EDT)

Like Rotifer said, could someone please try to come up with a correct definition of terrorist? The definition so far seems to include freedom fighters as if they are terrorists. --Madonna 04:14, 14 March 2007 (EDT)

Freedom Fighters are Terrorists our government likes. --Scrap 04:36, 14 March 2007 (EDT)

I removed the sentence about freedom fighters since it is misleading - terrorism and freedom-fighting are not mutually exclusive. JamesK 05:42, 14 March 2007 (EDT)

Wait a minute!!! You seem to be implying that conservatives are sometimes in favor of terrorism!!! That's not what you meant to imply, is it? I'm putting the statement about the difference between terrorism and freedom-fighting back in. You are very, very, welcome to clarify it... I think the whole page needs clarification... But we can't allow confusion between terrorism and freedom fighting in this page. --Madonna 06:08, 14 March 2007 (EDT)

Terrorism and freedom fighting are not "opposites", Terrorism is a tactic, or method. So "Terrorists" might be freedom fighters, or might not be, and "Freedom fighters" might employ terrorism, or might not. You can say that the IRA were freedom fighters, but you can't deny that they committed terrorist acts. JamesK 06:33, 14 March 2007 (EDT)
The "freedom fighter" definition needs work. I've commented on its talk page, but it's also relevant to this discussion.--British_cons (talk) 04:23, 20 March 2007 (EDT)

New to this site so not sure as to the talk protocol but I'd like to point out the truism that one man's "terrorist" is another man's "freedom fighter" and that a objective analysis based on political affiliation is incredibly biased. And, as a UK resident, I'd object to anyone wishing to remove the IRA from the list of terrorist organisations. From personal experiance, the Manchester bombing carried out by the IRA purely targeted civillians which would label them firmly as terrorists.--Fingermouse 17:47, 10 April 2007 (EDT)

To agree with what has been said above on the Terrorist/Freedom Fighter debate, these are subjective labels depending on your opinion of the groups under discussion, whereas "terrorism" is a defined military/paramilitary tactic, regardless of who uses it, whether for freedom, national self-determination, religious hatred or anything. Orgone 23:50, 10 April 2007 (EDT)

Terrorist vs. Freedom Fighters

I think what needs to be pointed out is what somebody did say before: terrorism is a tactic; freedom fighters are people. Freedom fighter can be a terrorist, but a terrorist does not have to be a freedom fighter. There is an enthymeme there, but I don't have time to go into it just now. I will come back to discuss this later on. Flippin 09:46, 11 April 2007 (EDT)


I have added Continuity IRA and Real IRA as they are both considered to be terrorist organizations by the British and American governments.--British_cons (talk) 06:27, 19 March 2007 (EDT)


A government can support a terrorist, or the terrorist's goals, but cannot itself be terroristic.

The Nazi regime was not terroristic? Saddam putting people in woodchippers is not terrorism? The Soviet, Chinese, Korean & Cuban gulag systems are not employing terrorism to intimidate the populace and keep them in check? RobS 18:01, 9 April 2007 (EDT)

Yknow, I didn't like the way that was originally written, but I disagree more with the re-edit. Governments can engage in terroristic activities. Thats why we have the term "State Sponsored Terrorism."--Elamdri 18:04, 9 April 2007 (EDT)
The term is not accurate. "State sponsored terrorism" is an oxymoron. States, by definition, cannot be terroristic (including the Nazis, or whomever else you want to name) because their forces are ALWAYS military. Calling state actions terrorism is the equivalent of saying the US Navy Seals are state sponsored terrorists-- does that make it more clear? The term SST entered the lexicon probably in the same way "irregardless" did, as a useless modifier. Flippin 17:38, 10 April 2007 (EDT)

It is possible for states to harbour, fund or support terrorists due to the fact that, although not being part of the state, they are considered to have the same aims as the controlling party of said state. Hence whilst not strictly "state sponsored terrorism" this could be construed as "state sanctioned terrorism".--Fingermouse 17:54, 10 April 2007 (EDT) offtopic, I need to remember to sign my contribs ; )

Please sign your posts with four tildes "Flippin 17:57, 10 April 2007 (EDT)" I understand that states can harbor terrorists, but they cannot be terroristic. Terrorism, by definition (which is admittedly difficult) is not a state act. Look at a country like Somalia, they essentially have no government, but are they a nation of terrorists? They can't be a nation is the problem. Flippin 17:57, 10 April 2007 (EDT)

Flippin, So is it just my imagination this document exists (pgs. 171 - 178 pdf), or are denying the legitimcay of US State Dept. authority to publish it?
An excerpt:

Chapter 6


Iran and Syria routinely provide unique safe haven, substantial resources and guidance to terrorist organizations.

State sponsors of terrorism provide critical support to non-state terrorist groups. Without state sponsors, terrorist groups would have much more difficulty obtaining the funds, weapons, materials, and secure areas they require to plan and conduct operations. Most worrisome is that some of these countries also have the capability to manufacture WMD and other destabilizing technologies that can get into the hands of terrorists. The United States will continue to insist that these countries end the support they give to terrorist groups. --RobS 17:56, 10 April 2007 (EDT)

I am saying the distinction is rhetorical, not ideological. In 2008, the terms will probably change. Look at the recent episode with the "global war on terror" language. Flippin 17:59, 10 April 2007 (EDT)

This is still an issue of semantics. Whether a state is complicit in acts that would be viewed as terrorism (therefore rendering it not an act of terrorism) or whether it "merely" supports their aims and provides a haven, it makes little difference in the end. --Fingermouse 18:09, 10 April 2007 (EDT)

It makes a great deal of difference. The problem is this: when a state acts it is not terrorism. Simply put, that is like saying putting one foot in front of the other and moving your body is walking. So, every time I put one foot in front of the other I am walking. So, cross country skiing becomes a form of walking. OR every time I move forward, I am walking. If I am in a car, moving forward, we don't call that walking. Semantics are important in this case. When a state acts, the resulting action is from their military force-always. If a state is complicit in acts of terrorism, they are declaring war because that is a military action. This distinction is key to why our country is divided on what to do about Iraq right now. Terrorists act outside the state--they may have the same goals, but if they act within the state they are not terrorists, they are troops. Flippin 13:35, 13 April 2007 (EDT)
So Saddam gassing the Kurds (including infants) was not an act of terrorism? RobS 13:38, 13 April 2007 (EDT)
No, neither was Hitler gassing the Jews. They were acts of genocide, they were atrocious and vulgar, but definitely not terrorism. Flippin 13:41, 13 April 2007 (EDT)

Citations needed

We need citations for each one of these:

RobS 00:32, 11 April 2007 (EDT)

I tried to give the following references, but someone else was working on the article (someone who actually knows how to use the 'reference' tags!) and there was an edit conflict, so ill put them here for now:

Orgone 01:50, 11 April 2007 (EDT)

Now added to the article Orgone 02:27, 11 April 2007 (EDT)

Orgone, Thank you, and good job. Now two problems exist; (1) the al Qeade reference is unacceptable in the regard, the source state unequivocally "Al-Qaeda....was created in 1989 .... The organisation grew out of the network of Arab volunteers who had gone to Afghanistan in the 1980s to fight under the banner of Islam against Soviet Communism". It was Mujahideen that recieved support, not al Qeade. (2) Subhead reads, "Groups Considered to be Terrorist Organizations Funded by the United States"; considered by whom? we need a source for this claim.

Finally, as a word of caution, whatever the cause of the error of represnting al Qeade with this claim false claim, I highly recommend having the proper research in place before posting such a controversial inclusion. There is nothing wrong with bringing valid, highly controversial material to light like this; however, when something is as easily disprovable as a claim like this one, it does reflect upon the credibility of the editor who placed it. So as to avoid being accused of wreckless partisanship or other things that can undermine true scholarship and research, please have the material properly orgainized and cited, and faulty inclusion of this nature then can be regarded as good faith errors as opposed to naked propagandizing. Thank you for your attention to this. RobS 13:14, 11 April 2007 (EDT)

al Qaede

reverted material:


Here's another one; the Reagan State Dept. did not have Contra's on the terrorist watch list. This is now example two of bad use of sources and sloppy research methodology. I think we have to revert the subhead now due to its controversial and unsourced claim.

I agree the Contras are not a terrorist group. It was a group that fought a Communist dictatorship.--JoeyJ 13:24, 2 March 2014 (EST)


The claim SAVAK "received US funding" is highly questionable, being that (a) it was a bureau of the Iranian government. (b) Iran's oil wealth hardly necessitates US subsidies to run an internal bureau. Prima facia this claim appears bogus, but it will be researched. RobS 15:41, 11 April 2007 (EDT)

  1. Al-Qaeda's origins and links, BBC News, July 20, 2004.
  2. National Security Archive, The Iran-Contra Affair: The Making of a Scandal, 1983-1988 1990.


Good img. Why don't we move it up to the top? RobS 13:23, 13 April 2007 (EDT)

Good idea. Done. GodlessLiberal 13:36, 13 April 2007 (EDT)
Sorry, bad image. I really think this ought to be deleted. Terrorism is not just a political strategy, but a rhetorical one. This image is the reason many Americans died, but the image itself was what the terrorists wanted us to see. THIS image is their achievement and by putting it on this page, font and center, you endorse their message (which is: we can do this to even the most powerful nation on earth.) Ask yourself this one question: Had you, or your neighbors ever heard of Al Qaeda before 9/11? Most likely not. THIS image made them a household name. It really must be removed. Flippin 13:40, 13 April 2007 (EDT)
So if the 9/11 picture 'endorses' the terrorists' message, do pictures of starving Jewish prisoners from the Holocaust endorse Hitler's message? GodlessLiberal 13:53, 13 April 2007 (EDT)
No, the message with Hitler was military and political. With 9/11 the point was for everyone to see the terrorists strength--their ability to bring us to our knees, and all that. Flippin 13:54, 13 April 2007 (EDT)
I disagree... but what sort of image would you recommend if this one is not good enough? GodlessLiberal 13:58, 13 April 2007 (EDT)

A picture of something that does not connote the terrorists' values. So, no images of them with Nick Berg, that sort of thing. Honestly, the best approach might be something like the picture of the guy on the balcony in Munich, 1972. Gives the image, without the current debate. That would be a good example. The other is simply too much, too soon. I appreciate your consideration on this. Flippin 14:00, 13 April 2007 (EDT)

[link] This the image you're referring to? GodlessLiberal 14:16, 13 April 2007 (EDT)
Yeah, I think it gives the impression of the what the page will discuss without the rhetorical issue I mentioned before. Thanks. Flippin 14:20, 13 April 2007 (EDT)


Wow, looks great. Thanks! Flippin 14:26, 13 April 2007 (EDT)

source for edit Peter Sederberg's book is the first I found to directly address the issue of defining terrorism. Flippin 15:33, 2 May 2007 (EDT)

Link for edit

At "See also"

Yasser Arafat

Only problem is, he wasn't a terrorist. Flippin 19:07, 9 May 2007 (EDT)

Spectrum theory

Elmadri, while the recent inclusion are ambitious, some of it warrants discussion. This appears to be an effort to re-establish the old political spectrum theory and apply it to terrorist thinking, motives, and ideology. Let's examine this for example,

  • [Leftist] radicals believe that they are currently being oppressed by some current government, idealogy or regime, and therefore they should overthrow that oppressor and install a better government.
  • [Rightist} Reactionary terrorist violence is an attempt to regain the lost government and return to "order" and status quo.

And we see al-Qaeda placed under "Leftist." Leftist then proceeds to propound Marxist-Leninist motivations. Now, it can be argued Al-Qaeda can fit under either of these definitions, but debating which is more appropriate may not be helpful. The fundamental problem is the spectrum theory itself. And this simply appears, once again, of trying to pigeon-hole a square peg into a round hole.

So, while some, if not most of the material is good, it probably needs reorganization. That is, we should probably remove the subheads and not try to assign some or all extreme terrorist groups to an ideological class defined by the spectrum theory. While discussion of tradition Marxist-Leftist terrorism is valuable, nonetheless, the spectrum theory is not definitive of all politcal motivations. Some groups come together simply out of the practical necessity of the moment, irregardless and irrespective of an underlying ideology of its members, that is to say, not all political activity (in this case, I'm referring to extremist political activity) is ideologically driven. This is the fundamental flaw of the spectrum theory. Therefore, we should not perpetuate a flawed theory by assigning questionable motives to groups on other pages outside the Political spectrum article. RobS 11:13, 22 June 2007 (EDT)

Well, to be quite frank, I'm working from some of my textbooks here. Now the thing is, that they do address the changes in though about terrorism, and I want to rewrite some of it to take into account what you are talking about. Obviously, there has been changes in how terrorist operate and how we view terrorism, and what I've put in doesn't reflect that, but rather more the post Cold War view. I was going to go in and put that stuff in, but I think I upset Andy with the article on the Patriot Movement, which was my bad. I wasn't thinking at the time. Therefore, I'm trying to kinda stay away from the more politically charged stuff for the time being. Feel free to go in and change stuff of course, but I would like it if you left the the stuff in and perhaps simply categorized it as spectrum theory and added that its a little outdated.--Elamdri 17:34, 24 June 2007 (EDT)
Thank you. If you've read the political spectrum theory article, you'd probably see how difficult it is to label persons, groups, and even ideologies as "left" or "right", and never was this more true than in the post-Cold War era. The simple fact is, not all poltical action is ideologically driven. Take the NRA for example, widely regarded as the most powerful special interest group in the US, yet nonetheless, it's broadbased grassroots come from a huge cross section. A woman who carries a gun in self defence to protect herself against rape, can hardly be pigeon-holed into an ideological mold.
Being that the question is so unsettled, and "left/right" spectrum theory really is little more than journalistic shorthand to argue prejudices without having to discuss issues, I suggest we just drop it from the article. We can come up with better subheads. I'll be a little busy in the early part of this week, but by mid week should be able to focus a little closer and help you out. Thanks again. RobS 20:18, 24 June 2007 (EDT)

AL QAIDA is not leftist.

Anyone care to explain exacly how al Qaida qualifies as a LEFTIST terrorist group?

--PF Fox 16:11, 28 June 2007 (EDT)

Good observation PF, and we are discussing it. The idea here is to eliminate the ideological groupings, and fund some other system of classification. Perhaps reviewing some of the source websites would be helpful. Care to assist? RobS 11:13, 29 June 2007 (EDT)
Why do you consider imposing a system of classification so important? --PF Fox 16:02, 30 June 2007 (EDT)
Terrorism, as of the last decade or so, has undergone a radical shift in how it operates. We're starting to see a breakdown of the old system that RobS was pointing out. For example, it is getter hard to classify terrorists within a political spectrum, as the world is no longer really divided between communism and capitalism anymore. Also, terrorist are changing their goals and strategies. Where once, a terrorist would choose a target that would be symbolic and surgical, now terrorist are concerned with indiscriminate destruction. Also, now rather than operating in clandestine groups, they choose to operate in this small cell network. Like I said, I was planning on retooling it, but at the moment, I was more concerned with getting the most information in as possible.--Elamdri 16:29, 30 June 2007 (EDT)

Here's some ideas, we could use these classifications:

  • Communist/Socialist
  • Environmental
  • Nationalist/Separatist
  • Racist
  • Religious

RobS 16:38, 30 June 2007 (EDT)

And in the meantime, you've still got Al Qaeda incorrectly listed as a "leftist" terrorist group. Why is that grossly inaccurate "information" allowed to remain? --PF Fox 11:00, 1 July 2007 (EDT)

  • I think you have fallen victim, Fox, to a world view, globalist mentality! If Al Qaeda isn't leftist aligned, what in the world is it aligned with? Rightist governments? All of the governments I see supporting it are socialist and communistic, not right-wing. And we have already dealt with the silly idea, and Big Lie that Facists are right-wing. --Sysop-TK /MyTalk 13:14, 23 July 2007 (EDT)


Should the PKK be added to the list of terrorist groups in this article? Its recognized as one by the United States and EU, and it has had significant impact on Turkey and the U.S. mission in Iraq.--Tash 12:49, 23 July 2007 (EDT)

  • I agree it possibly should, and defer to RobS on this. --Sysop-TK /MyTalk 15:12, 23 July 2007 (EDT)

Al Qaeda, leftist terrorist organization?

Never heard of anyone referring to Al Qaeda as a Left wing terrorist organization and I don't understand why it's being labeled as one. First of all they fought against Communists, which are rather much to the left. Second, Al Qaeda is a religious terrorist organization with a ideological belief that pretty much contradicts Left wing ideologies. Suggest that the classifications as proposed by RobS should be used --Sachaztan 18:54, 31 July 2007 (EDT)

I think it would be better to create a separate section referring to Islamic terrorist groups and move Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood to that section, while adding in Jemaah Islamia and Abu Sayaaf to the list, as well as the Palestinian groups (maybe the palestinian groups "deserve" their own sub-heading or should be included with nationalist / independence groups Luojie 10:12, 29 September 2007 (EDT)

EFF, ACLU, etc

I know conservatives don't like them, but I don't see any evidence that they give money contributions to terrorism. I looked on the articles about each organization as well and could not find it there either.

I think perhaps what you are getting at is that these organizations oppose certain "terrorist-fighting laws" (such as the Patriot Act), but there's a long difference between "opposing the Patriot Act" and "supporting terrorism". If this is what is meant by the new section, it should be stated more explicitly. HelpJazz 15:30, 31 December 2007 (EST)


Andy, if the common definition doesn't fit your narrative, you change the definition? Does this work for you in court? --AugustO 18:38, 14 May 2015 (EDT)