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Politics The Psychology Of Terrorism


Jun 1, 2004
The Psychology of Terrorism

1. Terrorism as a Category of Violence

In a global war on terrorism, it is important to ask what we mean by terrorism.

The usual definition of terrorism is something like "the use or threat of violence, by small groups against non-combatants of large groups, for avowed political goals." The key to this definition is the combination of small groups killing non-combatants. Terrorism is the warfare of the weak, the recourse of those desperate for a cause that cannot win by conventional means. But it is worth noting that state terrorism against a state's own citizens--as practiced by Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Pol-Pot, and many smaller-league tyrants--has killed millions of non-combatants, whereas the anti-state terrorism we usually focus on has killed thousands.

The distinction between combatants and non-combatants--between people in uniform and people not in uniform--has been eroding since the French Revolution. The Revolution brought a new kind of army, a "nation in arms" that vanquished the best professional armies of Europe. Since then, the Western way of war has triumphed, and only a nation in arms has been able to beat a nation in arms. The implication of this shift is that the nation behind an army is a legitimate target of war.

The U.S. has accepted this implication on numerous occasions. In WWII, the U.S. dropped fire bombs on Dresden, Hamburg, and Tokyo, and nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These cities had relatively few in uniform; most of the dead were old people, women, and children. When the U.S. bombed Milosovic's Serbia, targets included transportation, communication, and power centers and the casualties included many not in uniform. When the U.S. and its allies embargoed Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the shortages of food and medicine killed more children than men in uniform.

As terrorism from above is not always called terrorism, so terrorism from below is not always called terrorism. At least for some Americans, the Contras were not terrorists and the Irish Republican Army are not terrorists. It seems unlikely that the U.S. will never again want to distinguish terrorists from freedom-fighters, in order to support the latter despite their attacks on civilians. Perhaps we ought to be honest in seeking to punish and interdict whatever groups are behind the attacks of 9/11, and go easy on talk about a global war on terrorism.

2. Terrorism as Individual Pathology

A common suggestion is that there must be something wrong with terrorists. Terrorists must be crazy, or suicidal, or psychopaths without moral feelings or feelings for others. Thirty years ago this suggestion was taken very seriously, but thirty years of research has found psychopathology and personality disorder no more likely among terrorists than among non-terrorists from the same background. Interviews with current and former terrorists find few with any disorder found in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Comparisons of terrorists with non-terrorists brought up in the same neighborhoods find psychopathogy rates similar and low in both groups.

Another way to think about this issue is to imagine yourself a terrorist, living an underground existence cut off from all but the few who share your goals. Your life depends on the others in your group. Would you want someone in your group suffering from some kind of psychopathology? Someone who cannot be depended on, someone out of touch with reality? Of course there are occasional lone bombers or lone gunmen who kill for political causes, and such individuals may indeed suffer from some form of psychopathology. But terrorists in groups, especially groups that can organize attacks that are successful, are likely to be within the normal range of personality.

Indeed terrorism would be a trivial problem if only those with some kind of psychopathology could be terrorists. Rather we have to face the fact that normal people can be terrorists, that we are ourselves capable of terrorist acts under some circumstances. This fact is already implied in recognizing that military and police forces are eminently capable of killing non-combatants in terrorism from above. Few suggest that the broad range of military and police involved in such killing must all be abnormal. Since 9/11, there have already been suggestions that the U.S. security forces may need to use torture to get information from suspected terrorists. This is the edge of a slippery slope that can lead to killing non-combatants.

3. Terrorism as Normal Psychology

No one wakes up one morning and decides that today is the day to become a terrorist. The trajectory by which normal people become capable of doing terrible things is usually gradual, perhaps imperceptible to the individual. This is among other things a moral trajectory, such as Horowitz has described in "The Deadly Ethnic Riot." In too-simple terms, terrorists kill for the same reasons that groups have killed other groups for centuries. They kill for cause and comrades, that is, with a combination of ideology and intense small-group dynamics.

The cause that is worth killing for and even dying for is personal, a view of the world that makes sense of life and death and links the individual to some form of immortality. Every normal person believes in something more important than life. We have to, because, unlike other animals, we know that we are going to die. We need something that makes sense of our life and our death, something that makes our death different from the death of a squirrel lying by the side of the road that we drive to work. The closer and more immediate death is, the more we need the group values that give meaning to life and death. These values include the values of family, religion, ethnicity, and nationality-the values of our culture. Dozens of experiments have shown that thinking about our own death leads us to embrace more strongly the values of our culture ("terror management theory").

There is no special association between religion and violence. Many of the terrorist groups since WWII have been radical-socialist groups with no religious roots: the Red Brigade in Italy, the Baader-Meinhof Gang and the Red Army Faction in Germany, the Shining Path in Peru. Animal rights and saving the environment can be causes that justify terrorism. For much of the twentieth century, atheistic communism was such a cause.

The group values represented in the cause are focused to a personal intensity in the small group of like-minded people who perpetrate terrorist violence. Most individuals belong to many groups--family, co-workers, neighborhood, religion, country--and each of these groups has some influence on the beliefs and behavior of the individual. These groups tend to have different values and the competition of values reduces the power of any one group over its members. But members of an underground terrorist group have put this group first in their lives, dropping or reducing every other connection. The power of this one group is now enormous, and extends to every kind of personal and moral judgment. This is the power that can make violence against the enemy not just acceptable but necessary.

Every army aims to do what the terrorist group does: to link a larger group cause with the small group dynamics that can deliver individuals to sacrifice. Every army cuts trainees off from their previous lives so that the combat unit can become their family, their fellow-soldiers become their brothers, and their fear of letting down their comrades greater than their fear of dying. "Perfect love casts out fear."

The power of an isolating group over its members is not limited to justifying violence. Many non-violent groups also gain power by separating individuals from groups that might offer competing values. Groups using this tactic include religious cults, drug treatment centers, and residential schools and colleges.

In brief, the psychology behind terrorist violence is normal psychology, abnormal only in the intensity of the group dynamics that link cause with comrades.

4. Terrorist Strategy

Psychologists recognize two kinds of aggression, emotional and instrumental. Emotional aggression is associated with anger and does not calculate long-term consequences. The reward of emotional aggression is hurting someone who has hurt you. Instrumental aggression is more calculating -- the use of aggression as a means to other ends. Terrorist aggression may involve emotional aggression, especially for those who do the killing, but those who plan terrorist acts are usually thinking about what they want to accomplish. They aim to inflict long-term costs on their enemy and to gain long-term advantage for themselves.

Terrorism inflicts immediate damage in destroying lives and material, but terrorists hope that the long-term costs will be much greater. They want to create fear and uncertainty far beyond the victims and those close to them. They want the enemy to spend time and money on security. In effect the terrorists aim to lay an enormous tax on every aspect of the enemy's society, a tax that transfers resources from productive purposes to anti-productive security measures. The costs of increased security are likely to be particularly high for a country like the U.S., where an open society is the foundation of economic success and a high-tech military.

Terrorists particularly hope to elicit a violent response that will assist them in mobilizing their own people. A terrorist group is the apex of a pyramid of supporters and sympathizers. The base of the pyramid is composed of all those who sympathize with the terrorist cause even though they may disagree with the violent means that the terrorist use. In Northern Ireland, for instance, the base of the pyramid is all who agree with "Brits Out". In the Islamic world, the base of the pyramid is all those who agree that the U.S. has been hurting and humiliating Muslims for fifty years. The pyramid is essential to the terrorists for cover and for recruits. The terrorists hope that a clumsy and over-generalized strike against them will hit some of their own side who are not yet radicalized and mobilized, will enlarge their base of sympathy, will turn the sympathetic but unmobilized to action and sacrifice, and will strengthen their own status at the apex of this pyramid.

They have reason to be hopeful. In 1986, for instance, the U.S. attempted to reply to Libyan-supported terrorism by bombing Libya's leader, Khaddafi. The bombs missed Khaddafi's residence but hit a nearby apartment building and killed numbers of women and children. This mistake was downplayed in the U.S. but a public relations success for anti-U.S. groups across North Africa. In 1998, the U.S. attempted to reply to attacks on U.S. embassies by sending cruise missiles against terrorist camps in Afghanistan and against a supposed bomb factory in Khartoum. It appears now that the "bomb factory" was in fact producing only medical supplies.

A violent response to terrorism that is not well aimed is a success for the terrorists. The Taliban did their best to play up the bombs that killed civilians in Afghanistan.

Terrorists also hope for a reaction of stereotyping and prejudice in which the terrorists are seen as typical members of the cause they say they are fighting for. Usually the terrorists are only a tiny splinter of the group they aim to lead. Their most dangerous opposition is often from their own side, from moderates who see alternatives other than violence. If the response to terrorist attack is to lump together all who sympathize with the cause the terrorists claim to serve, to see a whole ethnic or religious group as dangerous and violent, then the moderates are undermined and the terrorists win.

A reaction of stereotyping and prejudice toward Arabs and Muslims living in the U.S. will turn them from sources of help against terrorism to sources of further terrorism. Rudeness, suspicion and hostility directed toward Arabs and Muslims in the U.S. is good news for the terrorists. "Profiling" or other infringement of civil rights of Arabs and Muslims by U.S. agencies of state security can help encourage a sense of victimization. Some of the thousand of so Arabs and Muslims jailed since 9/11 on suspicion of terrorist activities are likely to feel aggrieved, when they are finally released.

In U.S foreign policy, a reaction of threat and hostility toward Arabs and Muslims might be even more dangerous. "Join our war against terrorism or else" runs the risk of undermining Western-leaning governments of states where fundamentalist Muslim forces are contesting government cooperation with the West: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan. If the reaction to terrorism is seen as a crusade against Muslims, the terrorists will be positioned to lead a jihad that begins at home. Easy talk about moving U.S. forces from Afghanistan to Iraq can only reinforce Muslim fears that there is a crusade embarked.

5. From Criminal Justice to War

Since the first bombing attack on the World Trade Center, the U.S. response to terrorism has shifted from criminal justice -- finding, trying and punishing perpetrators --to waging war. This shift has psychological consequences.

Framing terrorism and response to terrorism implies a movement from individual blame to group blame. This is just what the terrorists want. They want to be seen as representing all who feel that the U.S. has since WWII dominated, humiliated, and helped to kill Muslims. They want responsibility for their actions projected to all who sympathize with their cause. It should be our business not to accept the terrorists as leaders of a billion Muslims. Rather we should inquire into the policies of the U.S. that could create so much anti-American feeling around the world.

The shift to a rhetoric of war also signals the possibility of more extreme and expensive measures against terrorism. A more pro-active policy against terrorism is being called for. There are some unfortunate models of what this kind of policy might look like. Our pro-active policy against Viet Cong terrorism included the Phoenix Program, which sent snipers and Special Forces teams to assassinate people suspected of Viet Cong activity. This program was unfortunate not only in dispensing with the process of law but in being ultimately unsuccessful.

Our most recent pro-active war is the war on drugs. We pay or threaten foreign countries to drop poison on their own farms where farmers are growing crops Americans want to buy. We put money and training into the military and security forces of these countries. We support undercover agents to penetrate drug rings and develop intelligence against them. See the film "Traffic" for a recent review of what this war means on the ground -- and for a progress report on its success.

The domestic costs of increased security are the costs of a more centralized state that can become the enemy of its own people. In the U.S., the government has already assumed new powers without consulting Congress. Polls taken in years preceding the terrorist attack on 11 September indicate that about half of adult Americans saw the federal government as a threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary Americans. No doubt fewer would say so in the aftermath of the recent attacks, a shift consistent with the adage that "war is the health of the state." But if more security could ensure the safety of the nation, the Soviet Union would still be with us.

6. Conclusion

The response to terrorism can be more dangerous than the terrorists. Relaxing into the warmth of anger and war against terrorism will not honor those who died in the attacks of 9/11. We have to think.

Clark McCauley: The Psychology of Terrorism


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Feb 19, 2007
Delhi India
So then were the Khalistani militants and the Indian Government any different?

And did not both of them together achieve a degree of success comparable or even better than that achieved by the militants and the opposing authority anywhere else?!
Oct 21, 2009
Dear Aman ji,

An interlinked question that cannot be shunned away is the examination of the root cause of the terrorism. These things are interlinked. If there is a smoke there must be a fire.What we see is the result sizzling sentiments on accounts of wrong done to the so called terrorists.These wrongs may not be so perceptible by the civil society but the one who has suffered/or not suffered may see it point blank ,may be in reality it is not the same.The perception 'by the group of people' becomes important aspect.

To understand the psychology of terrorists one may have to go in for locating the root causes. It cannot be imagined in the present state of affairs that the terrorisms can be curbed by the use of 'power' or by counter-retaliation as there is no big loss felt by the terrorists. They are properly funded and sacrificing two or ten members of the group is also not material as there are number of new aspirants who are willing take the shoes of the one who has been killed.

It shall be appropriate for me if I keep the 'state sponsored terrorism' as a separate entity as bigger issues are involved.

Terrorisms root causes may be on account of the followings:

Those who are poor, uneducated and disadvantaged are never acceptable to the elite, or in-group, unless, perhaps, as servants. The underlying causes of political violence and terrorism begin long ago and faraway. Yet they remain a part of our lives today.They are made to see the difference on almost daily basis and there comes a point when they try to identify with some alter-egos who are facing the similar situations.It is applicably uniformly.This common factor forms the ground of the 'Group' passing through the same phase. With the passage of time they integrate and see the elite/eliteness as something that is responsible for this kind of the situation that they are put into.

I would resort to some standard material available on net.

One may refer the useful bookThe Nature of Prejudice, Gordon W. Allport, (Addison Wesley 1979). We are all familiar with “those people” and what people say about “them.” They’re lazy, dirty; they breed like rabbits; they’re uneducated and uncouth; they stick to themselves; and they’re sneaky and can’t be trusted. Yes, you know who we’re talking about – the “out-group.” They could be black, or white, red or yellow. They could be Christians, Jews, Hindu, or Muslim. They could be from this country or that country. It doesn’t matter.

As Allport explains, in-groups always make the same observations and criticisms of out-groups. These prejudices lay the foundation for deeper future problems. Oftentimes such prejudices appear true, not because of a people’s nationality, or religion, but because of their circumstances. Those who are poor, uneducated and disadvantaged are never acceptable to the elite, or in-group, unless, perhaps, as servants. The underlying causes of political violence and terrorism begin long ago and faraway. Yet they remain a part of our lives today…

Group Identity – People have an instinctive need to establish an identity. They are born into a family and naturally share that family’s identity in terms of name, relatives, clan, ethnicity, language, religion and culture. These associations form the basis of our existence and establish our identity. Through association and education we learn and adopt the values and behaviors typical of our group – our in-group. Over time, people realize that there are other groups to which they do belong and with which they don’t identify – out-groups. Invariably people recognize that there is an “us” and a “them,” that there are noticeable differences between groups, and develop loyalty to their in-group. People naturally take pride in their in-group and usually view their own group as superior. These basic group differences set the stage for competition and conflict.

Inter-Group Dynamics – As groups interact with one another, patterns of cooperative and competitive behavior develop. The result of competition is that one groups wins and benefits, while the other loses and suffers. Each group then rationalizes the results, either reasserting the reasons for their success, or failure, which entails rejecting the out-group. Gordon Allport categorizes the forms of rejective behavior in a scale of intensity:

Verbal Rejection – derisive comments, put-downs, ethnic (out-group) jokes
Avoidance – forms of self-imposed or voluntary segregation, sticking with our own kind
Discrimination – denying equality to others solely because of affiliation with an out-group

Physical Attack – personal physical attacks against out-group members, rioting, lynching, attacking homes, etc.

Extermination – concerted attacks designed to force out-groups to move away, or to actually exterminate the subject group – pogroms, massacres, ethnic cleansing and genocide

Over long periods of time group differences and rejective behaviors often become deeply ingrained and more severe behaviors have led to protracted conflict and hatreds between groups. These historic conflicts may be obscured by political changes or current events but remain as latent sources of renewed conflict as circumstances change, for better or worse, and opportunities arise.

Relative Deprivation – Over time, groups often establish a pattern of dominance that may be based on group size, specialization (farmers vs. merchants), discrimination, or external influences (colonial power favoritism). The relative differences between group successes may not be a problem unless it is seen as the result of unfair, unequal or discriminatory distortions. Where a dominant group imposes a system that results in disadvantage for a particular out-group it eventually invites demands for reform. Such demands usually come from out-group members who have become better educated and aware of the inequality that frustrates their efforts to advance and prosper according to their abilities.

The out-group may be at a disadvantage in education, living standards, job opportunity, job advancement, political influence, or ability to express its group identity, language or culture.

In many colonial situations, the European colonial powers favored specific minority groups as part of the divide and conquer strategy. They used these favored minorities as surrogates to help maintain order and dominance over much larger majority populations. When the colonists withdrew after World War I and World War II, little or nothing was done to establish more democratic governing systems, or to redress the relative disadvantages that had been created.

In other cases, the ruling systems, monarchies or regimes that were left in power continued to exploit out-groups for their own benefit, or failed to move their countries forward in the global marketplace. In either case, out-groups developed heightened expectations for their future but remained frustrated at their inability to change their disadvantaged situation.

Discrimination - A memorandum of the United Nations defines the issue of discrimination:

"Discrimination includes any conduct based on a distinction made on grounds if natural or social category, which have no relation either to individual capacities or merits, or to the concrete behavior of the person.” Among the forms of discrimination officially practiced in various parts of the world, the United Nations lists the following:

Unequal recognition before the law (general denial of rights to particular groups)
  • Inequality of personal security (interference, arrest, disparagement because of group membership)
  • Inequality in freedom of movement and residence (ghettoes, forbidden travel, prohibited areas, curfew restrictions)
  • Inequality in protection of freedom of thought, conscience, religion
  • Inequality in the enjoyment of free communication
  • Inequality in the right of peaceful association
  • Inequality in treatment of those born out of wedlock
  • Inequality in the enjoyment of the right to marry and found a family
  • Inequality in the enjoyment of free choice of employment
  • Inequality in the regulation and treatment o£ ownership inequality in the protection of authorship
  • Inequality of opportunity for education or the development of ability or talent
  • Inequality of opportunity for sharing the benefits of culture inequality in services rendered (health protection, recreational facilities, housing)
  • Inequality in the enjoyment of the right to nationality inequality in the right to participate in government
  • Inequality in access to public office forced labor, slavery, special taxes, the forced wearing of distinguishing marks, sumptuary laws, and public libel of groups

Reform Movements – In situations where out-groups have access to a political system reform movements often emerge demanding changes. Under monarchies and authoritarian regimes there is rarely the ability to petition the state for reform and repressive regimes are often quick to quell any such movements. The rise of a reform movement inevitably raises expectations of the out-group.The initial reaction to reforms demands is most often to reject the demands as unfounded – to deny the existence of the problem and blame the situation on prejudiced characterizations of the out-group. (“The reason they’re poor is that all out-groupers are lazy.”) A typical theme is that, “we don’t have a problem, they do.”

Even if a state recognizes a demand as legitimate, specific interest groups that will oppose reform from fear that it will dilute their position of power and advantage. It’s often said that no one has ever given up power or wealth voluntarily. Such interest groups are easily provoked into a strong reactionary response targeting either, or both, the reformers group, or the government. The emergence of these fear-driven reactionary forces is perhaps the most potent factor is a cascading plunge into violent political conflict. The state is placed in the position of choosing the lesser of two evils, confronting the weaker of two adversaries, and pursuing a course that ensures its own interests and immediate survival.

Not surprisingly, reform movements often meet with limited, if any, success. The greater the institutionalized discrimination, inequality and injustice, the lower the prospects for reform and the greater the chances for eventual violence. Rejection of reform demands heightens out-group frustration and strengthens the arguments of militants and their call for decisive action.

Dissident Movements – It is not human nature to go quietly into the night. When governments reject reasonable reform, they invite more aggressive dissent. And when reactionary interests enter the fray, attitudes harden, demands escalate and prospects for resolution diminish quickly. As reformers become dissenters, more militant leaders may take up the call, organizing demonstrations and protests. These activities are designed to raise out-group support and recruit participants to pressure and threaten the state and its dominant in-groups. There is an inevitable struggle between dissenters between non-violent protest and the classic revolutionary tactic of provoking the state to violent repression as a means to anger and inflame people against the injustice.

Dissident movements face three obstacles: ignorance, apathy and inertia. Hence their objectives are to inform people of the problems and motivate them to take a position and join the movement. Public protests are designed to attract publicity and attention, but it is difficult to sustain an active movement unless it can show progress and inspire hope. Where government controls the media, or there is little means for public exposure the prospects are dim.

The rise of dissident movements creates ever more visceral fear within privileged in-groups and is as likely to provoke reactionary violence from counter-demonstrators as from the state. As fear and tension rises, violence is but a stone’s throw away; all that is need is a precipitating incident, whether intentional or not, to ignite the cycle of violence.

Political Violence – Once violence erupts, the voices of reason and moderation become muted, militants fight for control and rogue elements, whether dissident or reactionary can influence events. A key result of the transition to violence is to eliminate apathy. People are pushed from the fence of indecision and forced to take a position or join the fray.

Political violence requires there be a target for attacks and the choices are limited - people or things, government or private. The obvious first targets of the militants are the repressive state’s buildings, facilities, symbols and security forces. Ironically, the state’s assets are better protected than the community they are designed to protect, which serves to redirect violence toward the private sector. As violence breaks out, threatened in-groups are often quick to organize for counter-attacks and their targets are limited to out-group individuals, their homes and businesses. Attacks against these targets can readily be defined as terrorism, but because they support the state, they are rarely condemned for what they are.

As dissidents evolve from militants, to armed insurgents, they quickly find themselves out-numbered and out-gunned by increasingly aggressive security forces and caught in a vice between them and reactionary paramilitary or vigilante groups. At this point, the burden is on the state – either they will act to quell the civil discord through negotiation, or through force. Unfortunately, most of today’s current conflicts and resulting terrorism result from a cooperative effort – a joint venture – between the state and its in-groups and out-groups.

In real wars, we‘ve all become familiar with apologies for civilian casualties known as “collateral damage.” Violent political groups have no such excuse; once a bomb, or stray bullet kills an innocent civilian, the perpetrators are branded as terrorists, and as government spokespeople and politicians have said a million times, “once a terrorist always a terrorist.”

This is a broad, generic description of the conflict development process and there are a myriad of variations and exceptions in specific cases. The classic example of the process is the conflict in Northern Ireland. The UK endured nearly 30 years of conflict in Ulster at a cost of some 3,500 lives and tens of billions in economic cost – all of which might have been avoided by agreeing to rather modest human rights demands that have since been granted anyway.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has a number of similarities and even though there was no government authority to consider reforms, Great Britain and the U.N. could have taken up this role. Again, the economic and human costs have been staggering with no resolution yet in sight. The situation in Sri Lanka also includes many elements of the process, as do conflicts in Spain, Turkey, Cyprus and elsewhere.

A contrasting perspective is available by analyzing the U.S. experience with the 1960’s civil rights movement and Viet Nam anti-war protests. Often forgotten is that America experienced a devastating Civil War that demonstrated the compelling need to deal with civil discord.

During the civil rights conflict in the South, the U.S. Government sent National Guard troops, not to repress the civil rights demonstrators, but to protect them and to enforce the rule of law. Such actions are unparalleled. Meanwhile, anti-war demonstrations became increasingly violent and fractured American society. At Kent State University National Guard troop shot and killed student demonstrators in 1971. This tragic escalation helped sober the nation, restrained protestors and spurred the government to commit to withdrawal of US forces from Viet Nam.

Terrorism Causes

At many points the effected Governments have tried to define this as per their perceptions.Some of these are quoted below.

Defining Terrorism & its Root Causes:
references to the definition of terrorism and the root causes as discussed in the UNGA debate "Measures to eliminate international terrorism"
October 1-5, 2001, United Nations, New York

This document compiles references made to the definitions and root causes of terrorism by Member States in the debate of the 56th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on "Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism".

Definitions of Terrorism

In the General Assembly debate, the lack of a working definition of terrorism was repeatedly noted. In a briefing produced by the United Nations half way through the debate, it was noted that "the absence of a definition seriously undermined international efforts to tackle a grave threat to humanity." One of the first things that will need resolution in the negotiation of a Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism will be the question of a definition. Reaching Critical Will has collated the following from speakers to the debate on terrorism to provide an easy reference tool for non-governmental organizations and interested Member States.

Root Causes of Terrorism

While discussing the elimination of terrorism, clear calls were made by some governments to examine the root causes of terrorist acts. A number of governments indicated that terrorism does not happen in a vacuum, but rather occurs for reasons of economic degradation, as well as social and political alienation. Freedom fighters and those struggling for independence were an area of great contention, both in defining the term terrorism, and identifying its root causes.

1. DEFINITIONS of Terrorism

In alphabetical order by nation:
Statement by Ambassador Agim Nesho, Permanent Representative of Albania to the United Nations - 4 October 2001
"Terrorism is a scourge that takes innocent lives, threatens values of humanity, human rights and freedoms and impedes development and world progress. The fight against terrorism should rise above the individual interests of states and can not be justified with differences in the social development or cultural and social disparities.

This fight, in no way, can be confused with the legitimate struggle of the people for freedom and self-determination, equality and respect of their democratic rights and, furthermore, can not be used to justify the intransigent stands of some countries to not respect the rights of citizens in the multi-ethnic society and principles and laws of democracy therein."

Statement by H.E. Mr Ismael A. Gasper Martins, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Angola to the United Nations - 3 October 2001
"Terrorism is a scourge that affects all of us as it threatens the very way of life we have come to cherish.
It challenges the economic and political institutions we have erected. It undermines the principles of interaction among states. It negates due process. And worst of all, it fails to adhere to internationally accepted standards for conflict resolution.

Terrorists destroy vital social and economic infrastructure in their arbitrarily selected target countries.
Through their actions, terrorists deprive innocent victims of their livelihoods.
In their existence, terrorists undermine the will of the governed and the internationally accepted."

The following link would be helpful for those who are curious to investigate it further. I am no expert on this topic but do have keen interest.

Definition of Terrorism and Its Root Causes
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