Is the killing of these Marines in Iraq a terrorist act?

Related to a similar question I posed in this thread (post #108); were the people who killed these Marines in Iraq terrorists? Why or why not? Show your work. :wink:

Here’s the gist of the story–

If you’re curious, my thoughts are that the specific killers mentioned in this story are not terrorists but guerrillas. That’s just my opinion which certainly would change if I became convinced that it was terrorism. I am looking for other posters’ opinions on this but I put it in Great Debates rather than IMHO because I thought it might end up there anyway.

To clarify a bit: the killers *could * actually be perpetrators of terrorism in other actions, but I believe that the act of killing the Marines in this instance was guerrilla combat not terrorism.

I’d lean against calling them terrorists. Insurgents, guerilla fighters, what-have-you, but not terrorists.

These guys attacked an armed military unit, took fire, and may have had some of their own killed or wounded in the process. Even if they attacked from ambush, an ambush is accepted military doctrine in just about any military I can think of.

These guys are the enemy, and I dislike (maybe even hate) them, but I respect them to a certain extent.

Terrorists, even suicide bombers, are sick opportunists. They rarely attack military targets, and their goal is not to kill “the enemy,” but to terrorize unarmed civilians.

No. They were targeting armed soldiers. That is warfare. Guerilla warfare, possibly. But warfare.

I don’t think labels help. This was a guerilla action. If the very same people bombed a mosque it’d be a terrorist act. I support the right of people to fight an occupying force, even though i hope they get their asses whacked, but terrorist acts are completely out.

That’s interesting. I would suggest that if an army invades another country, they don’t get to choose which means are appropriate for opposing them.

Were such an act carried out in the US, or anywhere outside Iraq, it could be labelled terrorism (for all the difference a label makes). In defence of one’s own country though, right or wrong, I can’t see how it can be.

Don’t get me wrong - I was opposed to the invasion and I believe remaining there makes things worse, not least because of the continuing civilian deaths incurred through our ‘blast anyone that looks vaguely threatening’ insurgent creation policy. But still, that doesn’t mean I take any satisfaction in occupation casualties and in the end I hope they prevail. They won’t though. There’s not a cat in hell’s chance of anything like a secular democracy emerging. It’ll end in Saddam-lite or a theocratic pseudo-democracy that’ll just be another enemy.

But deliberately creating civilian casualties to stir up a civil war is not legitimate resistance to an invader.

We all know how this is going to end. Some face saving ‘mission accomplished’ flim-flam under the pretense of vietnamisation, I mean Iraqification and then as soon as we’re gone, a civil war.

Aerial bombing campaigns are known to have caused more civilian casualties than all of the insurgents actions combined. Surely you deplore the former as much as the latter? Dead is dead.

BTW, this just in: Bomb kills 14 U.S. Marines in Iraq

Looks like the insurgents are clearly in their “last throes.” Which must be excellent news for everyone in the Faith Based Community except for families of those young men needlessly sent to their deaths.


Nonsense. There’s a large moral difference between an aerial bombardment where civilian deaths were an accidental (yet deplorable) secondary effect and a bombing a mosque where the deliberate primary goal is to kill as many civilians as possible.

That said, I think in these situations aerial bombardments are a complete mistake and generally only serve to turn popular opinion against the ones doing the bombing. So, not only is there a legitimate moral question, there’s also a legitimate question on how practical they are.

I don’t like it and I don’t condone it.
It was not a terrorist act. They targeted hostile military targets.
Generally terrorist attacks are those against non-specific non-combatants. (My Definition)
Depending on definition used almost any guerrilla attacks are a form of Terrorism.
Some varied definitions

Too right I deplore it and I’ve said so many times and I consider US military actions llike Fallujah, bombing wedding parties, blasting people away on suspicion, using napalm under another name and cluster bombs in built up areas war crimes. I think my disapproval implicit in my ‘insurgent creation’ crack. But this post isn’t about ‘who is the killing the most.’

As the situation is, I’d love it if by some miracle the insurgency stopped and a secular democracy emerge. And I no more want to see US/UK troops getting killed than I do civilians getting shot on suspicion by same forces or being blown up by terrorist acts.

I don’t think the gap betweeen ‘not giving a fuck who we kill’ when cars are shot up on suspicion and families killed or an afghan village is bombed to hit a ‘compound’ (read home for a large extended family) just because you suspect there might be taliban fighters in it and deliberately targeting civilians is an order of magnitude. Either way cast iron certain civilian casualties are traded for military objectives.

Bullshit. That sort of distinction might make you feel good, but it means diddly to those the bombs are being rained on. Collateral damage is one of the most digusting euphemisms I can think of to excuse the carnage that’s unleashed in war.

Point of fact: there’s nothing “accidental” in killing civilians when you drop bombs in the middle of crowded cities. It is simply the expected result of the action taken.

To wit: Baghdad shops bombing. And that’s just one of many, many incidents. That’s war. That’s why it shouldn’t be taken lightly – and much less lied into.

I agree. But you appear to contradict yourself.

Civilian casualties and other collateral damage are certainly to be expected when attacking targets in the middle of cities, even with precision weapons. This certainly must be taken into account. However, the potential for killing innocent bystanders must be weighed against the military value of the target.

Obviously this goes both ways. If you put your military command and control center amidst a ring of day care centers, a certain amount of the onus for civilian casualties falls on the defender.

I am speaking in generalities, not to explain or excuse any particular incident.

What legitimate military objective is achieved by deliberately targeting a marketplace with no opposing military in the area?

That’s a silly argument. Of course, the primary objective makes a difference in judging the morality of an action. I know of no moral system that doesn’t acknowledge that fact. An action designed to deliberately kill as many civilians as possible is on a different moral plane than one kills many civilians but is designed to kill as few civilians as is reasonably possible, or even one that simply doesn’t take civilian casualties into account.

The fact that neither makes a difference to the person killed doesn’t make the acts equivalent.

No, not really. See MMI’s post for a better explanation of my position.

In the current situation their military objective is to start a civil war so in their own eyes civilians are military targets (just like the allied terror bombing of cities in WW2) particularly those of a different islamic variant. To me that is terrorism and so is attacking a country under false pretenses.

And I really don’t care for self-serving pious declarations of what targets might be any more than I cut OBL slack for there being CIA offices in the Twin Towers.

You bomb a crowded market you intend to kill civilians whether or not a military target is there. You can’t wash that stain away with a term like collateral damage, especially in cases like bombing of compounds in the hope of hitting some taliban. That is just not caring about the families killed any way you slice it. As is shooting up civilians because you don’t like the way they’re driving.

Of course other particular circumstances can put a different moral shine on things but on the ground in Iraq the indiscriminate use of firepower is every bit as much a terrorist act as the bombing of what we call civilians and they call collaborators, apostates, necessary sacrifices or whatever other term makes them the enemy in their eyes.

Or maybe like you they are making a ‘greater good’ calculation. You are happy to wash your hands of blood by deeming deaths collateral damage if there is a military objective, they deem their military objective of making the country ungovernable and wearing our patience out trumps the civilian deaths. Tactically they are right. They can’t beat us in open battle but they sure as hell can outlast us.

If we want to talk morality - how about just not attacking other countries on false pretexts and if you do, do it properly and plan to deal with the aftermath. If you do attack and then compound it with stupidity all the deaths that occur are partly your moral responsibility.

I personally believe that when the target is Military personnel or Politicians, then any act of violence of this kind should not be called terrorist. Usually guerilla attack, or assassination attempt is the term I prefer. This helps separate the majority of acts done by the French resistance from acts done by ETA, IRA, and other mostly terrorist organizations. It also means that I feel that when the IRA attacked soldiers or the Conservative conference those attacks were not terrorist in nature.

No…they are legitimate military targets.


Correct. But you should also remember the invasion itself was avoidable, and therefore so too were all of it’s casualties – which is precisely why I’ve stated over and over that the US lost its much vaunted ‘moral highground’ the exact day it launched it’s murderous Shock & Awe campaign based on outright lies and deceptions.

Fact remains that you don’t get to decide how the insurgency responds to your invasion. Again, don’t talk to me about this ‘moral plane,’ when it’s patently clear that your side is reponsible for the great majority of civilian deaths in Iraq. And no, that does NOT mean I am on the side of terrorists – whichever side they happen to be on.

Explain that to the families of the victims. Because if you ask me, I’m going after anyone who drops a bomb on any member of my family, ‘guided’ or not.

And once again I’ll point out that the choice to unleash this invasion – against, literally, the opposition and/or advice of the great majority of the world – was yours and yours alone.

Try as you might, the finger of guilt for the ensuing carnage cannot be avoided.

Well, yes, but I thought we were talking about tactics in general, not just in regards to this specific Iraq invasion.

No doubt, that’s why aerial bombardment in civilian areas is an impractical tactic in real life. It just turns the tide against you.

Possibly, but that’s only speculation. And, in any case, I doubt that’s the objective of most of the terrorists.

That’s just stupid. Under what possible definition is an invasion of a country terrorism, whether under false pretenses or not? Terrorism is a tactic. Attacking a country under false pretenses may or may not employ terrorism, but the simple act does not.

You seem to not actually be aware of the definition of terrorism. Please let me help you so you don’t continue to make a fool of yourself:
ter·ror·ism: violence (as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands <insurrection and revolutionary terror>

Indiscriminate use of firepower may well be immoral, I am not going to argue the contrary. But that does not make it terrorism