TERRORISM SALON: Matthew Levitt on Implications for Defining Terrorism

-

banner_terrorism_r1_c1.jpg
(Matthew Levitt is a Senior fellow and Director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy).
Eric raises excellent points. I’ll just add that on top of the question of whether the existing treaties do in fact cover the full waterfront on possible terrorist offenses, the lack of a common definition of terrorism has several other implications. Among them:
First, much of the debate over terrorism still focuses on the groups themselves and their underlying grievances or political objectives, not the actual acts of terrorism — the criminal terrorist offenses — they carry out. As such, the “terrorism v resistance” argument is given weight it does not deserve since the legal issue at hand is not why one carries out a criminal act of terrorism like a suicide bombing but the fact that such an act was carried out at all.
Second, the 1267 committee is only authorized to deal with al Qaeda and the Taliban, so all other groups — from Hamas and Hezbollah to FARC and ETA to Kach and Kahane Chai — can only be designated unilaterally by individual countries or by regional bodies like the EU. This too is a factor of the lack of a common definition of terrorism.
Finally, on a somewhat tangential note, the U.N. should re-establish an independent monitoring group not under the thumb of the Security Council, as my colleague Mike Jacobson has argued. In January 2004, the United Nations replaced the monitoring group with a team with far less autonomy after some member states complained that its reports were too critical. The monitoring team has done excellent work, and should be given full and free reign to accomplish its important mission.
— Matthew Levitt
This week long terrorism salon will continue to be hosted by The Washington Note and UN Dispatch.

Comments

18 comments on “TERRORISM SALON: Matthew Levitt on Implications for Defining Terrorism

  1. rich says:

    Mr. Levitt displays, in arguing that the “‘terrorism v resistance’ argument is given weight it does not deserve since the legal issue at hand is not why . .. but the fact that such an act was carried out at all,” the widespread compulsion to miss the point, and missing the full picture, the ‘why’, root causes—has no viable solution to offer.
    Today’s news underscores the unstable premise of Matthew Levitt’s attempt to privilege his rigid political agenda over effective policy, and he doesn’t stop at excluding other voices, but tries to tamp down this very debate.
    What we know—the basic facts at hand—exposes the moral and legal bankruptcy of Matthew Levitt’s narrow focus on “the actual acts of terrorism.” It’s another confirmation of what everyone knows.
    Pakistan Behind Indian Embassy Bomb
    http://www.iht.com/articles/reuters/2008/07/14/asia/OUKWD-UK-AFGHAN-PAKISTAN.php
    It’s hardly news.
    Pakistan Aided Attack in Kabul
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/01/world/asia/01pstan.html?scp=6&sq=pakistan&st=cse
    The NYTs reports that “Pakistan’s powerful spy service” committed a terrorist bombing in Kabul. They “helped plan the deadly July 7 bombing of India’s embassy.”
    These fist-in-glove relationships are not new, nor do they confer innocence or even plausible deniability: statutes regularly enable DAs & AGs to charge planners and B&E drivers with terrorism or murder charges, whether they knew what was to happen or not.
    When “actual acts of terrorism” are committed by Pakistan or Israel or the United States, does Matthew Levitt have the integrity to condemn those with as much vehemence? Levitt does have that obligation. (Rendition=terrorism: you don’t get the right guy, you don’t get good intel, you do not have legitimacy as a state, before or after.)
    Mr. Levitt can’t contribute to a solution because he won’t grapple with the actual problem. Apparently, coming to terms with policies that contradict and undermine the fundamental political principles & insights upon which America is founded is asking too much.
    Enforcement that absolutely refuses to repair state policies in order to bring them under the rule of law, render legitimacy to the state, and structure in substantive political responsiveness to legitimate grievances—will not only doom to failure the best efforts of police and DA and AG alike, but will compound the problem by generating more terrorism.
    This is known as History of the American Revolution 101.
    Maybe Mr. Levitt believes that Gen. Howe’s rigid More Enforcement policy was an appropriate or legitimate response to George Washington’s political concerns, but he’ll be hard-pressed to find an American who doesn’t laugh out loud at the idea government is in a position to commit crimes agaisnt civilians. Or violate the Constitution at will or on a whim.
    Mr. Levitt wrote:
    “First .. . the “terrorism v resistance” argument is given weight it does not deserve since the legal issue at hand is not why one carries out a criminal act of terrorism like a suicide bombing but the fact that such an act was carried out at all.”
    Not so.
    First, though, note Mr. Levitt concedes that the legal system is not only not capable of resolving and ending terrorism, it is not even willing to do so.
    More important, Mr. Levitt errs, badly in one respect: the “legal issue at hand is the fact that” the legal system can countenance, is complicit in, and condones terrorist acts undertaken by the machinery of state in violation of the law and in an evisceration of the Constitution.
    Whether implanting wahhabism & al Quaeda in Algeria, or training and directing death squads in El Salvador, or training Savak 17 in Iran after overthowing democratically-elected Mossedegh, or torturing inconvenient taxi drivers, or bombing a few dozen wedding parties, these actions by America are by definition terrorism.
    Add to that the routine tazering of American citizens here at home.
    To amputate this discussion from the tyrannical regimes and brutal policies that generate violent responses fundamentally mis-apprehends the issue at hand, and precludes any viable solution. And that doesn’t display much dexterity or thoughtfulness on Mr. Levitt’s part.
    In the end, the law must be able to capture the full complexity of the issue, and not serve eagerly as a blunt instrument for furthering brutal and anti-American policies contrived by the machinery of state.
    King George III did not have the agility to treat English Citizens as, well, English Citizens. It’s long been apparent that King George (W. Bush) IV does not have the character or pragmatism to apply defining American principles of liberty at home or abroad. And we will continue paying the price for that.
    Didn’t the English Parliament condemn Washington and Adams and Jefferson as “terrorists”? Mr. Levitt has lost his way. And he misleads us about his responsibility to the country and under the law.

    Reply

  2. Kathleen says:

    Oy, gevalt, seriously.

    Reply

  3. pauline says:

    “If and when the US leaves Iraq, the American legacy won’t be “democracy,” or “liberation” – it will be the so-called Awakening of the Sunni tribes and clans succored by American arms and aid. These groupings are a ticking time bomb that will explode soon after the American presence is reduced significantly, a booby-trap set by the “liberators” to explode in the faces of the “liberated.”
    The whole aim of the surge has been obscured by the apparent stalling of the rush to confront Tehran, for that was its real purpose, and the real aim of the war itself, which was more war – this time with Iran.
    I say apparent stalling because a slowdown is not a breakdown, and it makes good sense for the War Party to lay low at this point. Not that they’re keeping quiet – far from it – but the Bush administration, for its part, is making noises about negotiations, just like they did in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Why, we’ve even announced that we’re re-establishing the American embassy in Tehran. Peace seems to be breaking out all over – and yet, not so fast ….
    To begin with, the situation remains very precarious, with hundreds of possible flashpoints of conflict along Iran’s border with Iraq, and an ongoing destabilization campaign carried out by Washington and several covertly-funded terrorist groups, mostly Kurds (Pejak) and al Qaeda-like groupings in the wilder eastern section of the country.
    Secondly, think how easy it would be for a “rogue” group of “extremists” to take over the newly-established American embassy in Tehran, for example: we’d be in for a replay of the Iranian hostage crisis. Or how about a replay of the more recent capture of that British Navy patrol, only this time with Americans held captive and paraded before the television cameras?
    In short, it would take very little for the War Party to reassert its position of dominance and reprise its all-too-familiar narrative of “war before dishonor.” John McCain would jump on this so quickly that it would make the Obama’s head spin – and how, pray tell, would the Hopeful One respond? This is one of those “hypotheticals” that Obama tends to shy away from, but it isn’t hard to imagine he wouldn’t be talking about negotiating with the Iranian leadership.
    I have to say, at this point, that the War Party isn’t above engineering just such a provocation: the phrase “War Party” is short-hand for a variegated bunch, including US neoconservatives, the arms industry, Joe Lieberman, and at least one foreign nation – Israel. The Israelis have been urging Washington to attack Iran for months, if not years, and anyone who thinks they wouldn’t dare undertake a false flag operation doesn’t know the story of the Lavon Affair.
    The conquest and occupation of Iraq was never about oil, just as it was never about “liberation,” “democracy,” or any of the other rhetorical flourishes so beloved by the President’s speechwriters. It was and is an attempt to establish a forward base from which to launch further attacks on Muslim nations in the Middle East and Central Asia – and so it remains.
    Obama, who is no dummy, never brings this up, because his position on Iran is deliberately vague, and a sore point with his backers and handlers: his antiwar base naturally opposes war with Iran, but his campaign – and, seemingly, he himself – is ambivalent.
    On the one hand, Obama wants to negotiate directly with the Iranians – a bold proposal in Washington, which Pat Buchanan accurately describes as “Israeli-occupied territory.” On the other hand he keeps talking about “big sticks” and how we can’t rule anything out. Iran, he intones, is “the greatest strategic challenge to the United States in the region in a generation.”
    Gee, what happened to the threat from al Qaeda, which supposedly has taken over half of Pakistan, at least if we take what Obama and his surrogates say at face value? Remember that, according to Obama, the invasion of Iraq diverted us away from the real threat, embodied by bin Laden and his followers: how come they aren’t “the greatest challenge to the United States in the region in a generation”?
    As always, the question of war and peace – of whether we are going to launch an attack on the biggest, most powerful country in the Middle East on Israel’s behalf – is going to be decided, not by conditions on the ground, but by political considerations on the home front.
    If neither major presidential candidate is opposed to the War Party’s ultimate aims and purposes, and if the American people have no say and no voice in determining the foreign policy of this country – that is, if things continue as they have been going – then peace is not anywhere on the horizon, and the surge surges forward … all the way to Tehran.”
    from —
    http://antiwar.com/justin/

    Reply

  4. Kathleen says:

    The rationale for invading Iraq was ‘”packaging”, just like claiming our agression in the ME is to defend “our only friend in the ME”,’ Israel… it sounds so much better to say we’re defending Israel than it does to say we want you to send your kids to die for big oil and your reward will be to be gouged at the gas pump. It’s easier to sacrifice a child for a “good cause'” than it is make a few millionaries billionaires. Ask Mary Tillman and Cindy Sheehan.

    Reply

  5. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “As such, the “terrorism v resistance” argument is given weight it does not deserve since the legal issue at hand is not why one carries out a criminal act of terrorism like a suicide bombing but the fact that such an act was carried out at all”
    I see. Than the horseshit you liars fed us as a rational for the criminal invasion of Iraq is irrelevant.

    Reply

  6. Carroll says:

    Posted by … Jul 29, 2:49PM –
    >>>>>>>>>>>>
    So Perle is going into the oil biz with the Kurds. No surprise there. The Israelis have been operating with the Kurds since the begining of the invasion of Iraq. Still after that oil pipeline to Israel. Senator ..”I am a zionst”..Biden has been promoting a seperate Kurd state for that reason. At least that is what the Financial Times reported the plan of the neo-zios and the Israelis was during the runup to the US invasion of Iraq.

    Reply

  7. ... says:

    pauline – great song! i doubt any of these freaks will be singing the tune anytime soon, but there is always hope…

    Reply

  8. ... says:

    speaking of terrorism, i see richard perle is in the news again today… what a coincidence, lol.. i stumbled on this site which i think has an excellent rundown on terrorism from high up in the corridors of washington… http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache:pjQJuL5Lor8J:dailyscare.com/2770/the-bomb-in-the-shadows-proliferation-corruption-and-the-way-of-the-world+chris+floyd+bcci+edmonds&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=6&gl=us&client=firefox-a

    Reply

  9. Davi Rai says:

    This comment is Re: the Congressional hearing on the fratricidal ‘murder’ of Pat Tillman, the distruction of physical evidence (burning of Tillman’s gloves, clothes, notebook, etc.) without a signing-off by a medical physician when his uniform was cut off and the paddle mark bruises indicate an attempt at recussitation 90 minutes following his head being blown away along with the P4 cover-up of the truth up to the time of the presentation of the Silver Star by the current Administration and the worst part= the comment made to Ms Tillman by a leader of the armed forces after the truth came out about “how do you (Ms Tillman) feel that her son is now worm dirt [for not being a ‘born again Christian’])” as if to judgementally deny her son access to “heaven” due to his choice of beliefs tends to point more to the fact of the overall denial and misinterpretation of the Book of Thomas and the true story of the Apocalypse of Jesus the Annointed according to the Vision of Peter (Jesus did NOT “suffer and die” because he was out-of-body the entire time) as that entire Legend is given in the Nag Hammadi. Therefore nothing like deicide (God’s Son “dies” for your sin) and ritualistic canabalism (taking the blood and the flesh of Christ internally) can be deemed a requirement to be born again as a true Christian. Similarly, looking for the common denominator between all religions could only be more Christian than denying the spiritual rights of others since that is the reason this country was founded. If this country continues to operate in this fashion according to lies and half truths while murdering innocently those who would choose selflessly to protect Her it cannot come to a good ending for our children and their children. History is our proof of this fact. Thank you for looking toward me for support and Love that is non-dual. Having transcended the emotional plane it is true that the problems of this plane cause the wars and disease in our lives that we witness including the horrors of genocide that have occurred in this past century around the globe. The emotional plane of thought/mind are wracked by what is known as the love/hate duality. Duality exists thoughout that plane and is witnessed throughout our english language quite clearly, i.e.; white/blace, up/down/, in/out, square/round and so forth. The brain at this particular time in the evolution of the lifewave on this planet uses duality, or choices between two extremes in order to gain experience, or in order to evolve through the life experience. I hold you in the Light of my meditation. Be at peace. True Love, Davi

    Reply

  10. pauline says:

    Down By the Riverside
    Gonna lay down my sword and shield
    Down by the riverside
    Down by the riverside
    Down by the riverside
    Gonna lay down my sword and shield
    Down by the riverside
    Ain’t gonna study war no more.
    refrain
    I ain’t gonna study war no more,
    I ain’t gonna study war no more,
    Study war no more.
    I ain’t gonna study war no more,
    I ain’t gonna study war no more,
    Study war no more.
    Gonna stick my sword in the golden sand;
    Down By the riverside
    Down by the riverside
    Down by the riverside
    Gonna stick my sword in the golden sand
    Down by the riverside
    Gonna study war no more.
    refrain
    Gonna put on my long white robe;
    Down By the riverside
    Down by the riverside
    Down by the riverside
    Gonna put on my long white robe; Down by the riverside
    Gonna study war no more.
    refrain
    Gonna put on my starry crown; Down By the riverside
    Down by the riverside
    Down by the riverside
    Gonna put on my starry crown;
    Down by the riverside
    Gonna study war no more.
    refrain
    Gonna put on my golden shoes;
    (ETC)
    Gonna talk with the Prince of Peace;
    (ETC)
    Gonna shake hands around the world;
    (ETC)

    Reply

  11. Don Bacon says:

    DHS: “There is no credible, specific intelligence suggesting an imminent threat to the homeland at this time.”
    http://www.dhs.gov/xinfoshare/programs/Copy_of_press_release_0046.shtm
    Whew. The homeland is not threatened by foreigners (but remains vulnerable to its domestic enemies).

    Reply

  12. Carroll says:

    The majority public doesn’t buy Levitt and the Lukid – hyphen – American bogga bogga boys who want the US to kill the Arabs, Iran, Old Europe and anyone else who they consider an enemy of the zionist Jews and Israel for them.
    Iran and Hamas are not threats to the US. Actually US interest would be better served by a good relationship with Iran, better served than they are by our unholy relationship with Israel.
    Every realist and person of common sense knows that.
    I agree with POA and POA2, think tankers and Lukid agenda peope are a bigger problem for the US than ME terriers. And everyone already knows that ..””When they do it, it’s terrorism, when we do it, it’s not.”..is the universal definition of terrorism.

    Reply

  13. Johnh says:

    It’s only terrorism when those in power decide to call it terrorism. So, yes, when they do it, it’s terrorism…
    But why is Steve continuing to advance and promote the neocon cause by providing the likes of Matthew Levitt a forum here? Why not just relegate him to posting comments?

    Reply

  14. Mr.Murder says:

    On reading up for local Civil War actions in my area it was worth noting that all COnfederate activity was deemed “insurgents” by the archived reports on Matthew Brady’s Civil War.
    Robert E. Lee, West Point Graduate, commanded the largest insurgent army in history.

    Reply

  15. ... says:

    exactly… example: if the iranian republican guards are a terrorist group, clearly the cia is too…

    Reply

  16. POA2 says:

    I’d suggest this as a key proviso in any definition of terrorism:
    “When they do it, it’s terrorism, when we do it, it’s not.”

    Reply

  17. ... says:

    stupidity is an exploitable trait for some…

    Reply

  18. PissedOffAmerican says:

    It seems to me this whole exercise, this so called “terrorism salon”, is falsely legitimizing a world class con-job. The “GWOT” is a fuckin’ farce, and one need look no further than the gaping holes in the official “explanation” for 9/11 to reach that conclusion.
    Guaranteed, you stand a far greater chance of being shot in the head by some illegal on meth than you do of being blown up by a crazed Islamic wackjob.
    Judging by the mewling subservience the American people have shown in failing to protest enmasse the crimes, abuses, and deceptions we have been subjected to these last eight years, one hopes the next president will wage a War On Stupidity.

    Reply

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *