Is the United States government, by pure definition, a terrorist organistation?

The FBI defines terrorism as:

“The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segments thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

By pure definition, you would have to say yes, wouldn’t you?

What is unlawful?

According to


1 : not lawful : ILLEGAL
2 : not morally right or conventional



Bestal, with all due respect we can all use the dictionary and this is not a middle school rap session, it’s a debate and discussion forum. If you are going to make a bold assertion or offer a specific position up for debate and/or discussion please put it in context and explain your position with some degree of specificity or provide a cite or link explaining your position.

“Yes” in what context? Please put some meat on the rhetorical bones of your argument for us to gnaw on.

The entire thing hinges on the word unlawful.

The question is who defines what is and what is not lawful? In the US, obviously, it’s the US government (or (and?) international law). What about overseas? There are countries where the law of the land (or government policy) contravenes international law - in that case which laws take precedence?

by definition: obviously not (the constitution does not reserve the right to murder, overthrow, or take 'pre-emptive military actions to protect the US)

in practice: yup. welcome to the real world.

iran 1953

panama was created by gunboat diplomacy

Chile 1973




(the list is much too long)

Every other country (and a couple of religions)?: Whenever they decided to. welcome to the real world.

Where does the US get off calling such action ‘terrorist’? It has the muscle to enforce such a ruling.

What is it with Melbourne posters to this thread?

In MHO, the US have taken the role of the ultimate ‘terrorists’ insofar as they threaten AND put into practice their threats to ‘punish’ those who contravene ‘accepted’ behaviours.

Mind you, I appreciate being allied with youse guys!

Two words: Iran-Contra.

International law? Hell, the US was breaking its own laws in that one.

a couple people wonder what the US does that is unlawful?

Lets start most recently, with the War in Afghanistan…

As a member nation of the US, the US must get official approval
to bomb another country unless it is in self defense. They did not get offical approval, and while the US clings to their self-defense claim, it is pretty ridiculous. They attacked Afghanistan weeks after the 9/11 bombing. That is like getting beat up by some guy, then coming back two weeks later with a baseball bat, hitting him upside the head, and calling it self defense.

Two: The US used “cluster bombs” in the war against Afghanistan. These are illegal under international law. Basically the bomb drops and explodes into tens of thousands of “submunitions” or pieces of scrapnel which fly horizontally and take down everything in their sight. Originally developed as a defoliant, it was used against civilians in the Vietnam War, and again in Afghanistan.

Three: Civilian death tolls in Afghanistan. There is (of course) a wide variety of statistics. From what I was told by UT Professor Bob Jenson last night, the most accurate estimate (done by another professor, in Maryland I think) is that 4,500 to 5,000 civilians were killed directly by the bombing. But tens of thousands were killed because of the withdrawl of Red Cross Aid once Americans started bombing.

Write it on every American Flag: WE are the terrorists.


Um, the US was attacked. The war in Afghanistan was self-defense. You may disagree, but the logic works for me. So this one goes out the window.

*Originally posted by Colinito67 *
**They attacked Afghanistan weeks after the 9/11 bombing. That is like getting beat up by some guy, then coming back two weeks later with a baseball bat, hitting him upside the head, and calling it self defense. **


So you would have preferred that we attack before we had clearly established who was responsible? You would have preferred we not give the Taliban the chance to surrender Al-Quaeda? You would have preferred we not take our time in selecting targets so as to minimiza civilian deaths?

Cite, please. Including US ratification of said law.

#1 Cite please, especially for the “tens of thousands.”
#2 So what? How many more Americans would have died if we did nothing? We know thay were seeking nukes and bioweapons. This is self-defense.

preview, Damnit!

Repeat after me:

**The UN is an advisory body.

The U.S. is a sovereign state.**

Do you understand the difference between these two terms?

Well, no.

Article 51 of the United Nations Charter provides:

So, unless the Security Council is prepared to take concrete measures to end a military threat to a member nation (i.e. - do more than pass a resolution deploring the situation), that member nation has the sovereign right to defend itself.

In this case, a non-governmental body, sheltered by a foreign state, orchestrated a serious attack on civilians within the United States, and on the military headquarters of the United States. Unles the United Nations takes concrete action, the U.S. has the right to defend itself from that attack.

Further, there is nothing in the concept of self-defence in international law that suggests it has to be within a set period of time - it depends on the military situation, and what measures the defending nation must take to protect itself effectively from the other side, and to prevent the other side from attacking again.

Given that both of the entities that sponsored the attack are on the other side of the world from the U.S., and the practical need for the U.S. to work with international support, the time it took the U.S. to respond comes within the context of self-defence, in my opinion. Since the Security Council did not take any concrete steps itself to end the threat to the U.S., the U.S. action is also consistent with Article 51, again in my opinion.

Another factor to consider in making arguments based on the role of the United Nations is that, not surprisingly, the attacks of September 11 were contrary to international law, as recognised by a U.N. international convention, the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, New York, 15 December 1997. According to the summary of the Convention:

(I am assuming that the requirement of “international elements” is satisfied by the fact that foreign countries had dipomatic and consular offices in the WTC.)

Cite, please, indicating that cluster bombs are contrary to international law? I’ve not been able to find one, so would welcome your guidance.

Curiously, organizations like Human Rights Watch don’t seem to think that cluster bombs are illegal. They deplore their use, want the U.S. to stop using them near civilians, and argue for an international moratorium - but Human Rights Watch doesn’t argue that cluster bombs currently are illegal under international law:

Certainly, one can argue that cluster bombs are immoral and should not be used, and support the recommendations of Human Rights Watch - but that’s not the same as saying that the use of cluster bombs is contrary to international law.

Well, article 51 of the U.N. Charter, quoted earlier, recognizes that war in self-defence is permissible under international law. If a country’s actions are permitted under article 51, and waged in accordance with international law such as the Geneva Conventions, I would be hard pressed to agree that those actions are terrorism. Actions consistent with international law should not be considered terrorist, even if they have nasty effects.

Given that war in self-defence is permissible under international law, the fact that civilians will be killed, injured, or displaced does not mean that the war efforts are terrorism. It’s not possible to wage war and not hurt civilians - that’s the horrible reality of war.

So, if you are arguing that any war that kills, harms or displaces civilians is terrorism, then article 51 of the U.N. Charter implicitly authorises terrorism - which is ridiculous. Actions which are expressly permitted under international laws governing the use of force cannot be considered terrorism.

The situation would be much different if the United States were targetting civilian targets (the way those responsible for September 11 did). But as long as it’s going after military objectives, consistent with international laws of war, the fact of civilian casualties does not equate with terrorism.

Of course, if we had started bombing Afghanistan on September 12th, everyone would have been calling us “cowboys” and berating us for going off half-cocked without even ascertaining the facts of the situation.

very good research Piper, I’ll have to concede
that cluster bombs, while immoral, are not
illegal. ( I got my information from a Houston anti-war
group. I realized once you retorted that other facts
I read from them felt a bit dubious. Which does not
change my position on the war one iota, I just should
be more selective on where I cite).

I still don’t see how you can consider this war self-defense, however. Yes, we were attacked. Killing civilians is reprehensible. And while the attacks were cunningly and patiently planned, and ultimately successful. But I highly doubt the US government ever thought that the Al Qaeda was/is equipped enough to disable the government. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be attacked, no doubt.

But don’t just heal the symptoms, heal the cause. We have been playing god with other countries for as long as we’ve been a nation. Check out our track history with countries like East Timor, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Guatemala, Iraq, and most recently Colombia and Afghanistan. There is a reason that other countries vehemently hate us.

I’m a pacifist, so I will instinctively look for alternatives to war. They are always there, but admittedly often times more difficult. I see a fault in logic when we begin a war because our civilians were attacked and ultimately do the same thing. The Al-Qaeda is not the Taliban. The people living in Afghanistan are not necessarily the Taliban. Just the same in Iraq (this was touched on lightly in the movie “Three Kings”), we try to get back at Saddam (definitely a ruthless dictator) but instead of doing anything effective to get him out of office, we end up killing people who want Saddam out of office as much as we do. Heinously, I might add.

Yes, if we had attacked on 9/12, we’d be called “cowboys” or whatever term was used. I agree. And I definitely never supported any action entailing military retribution on 9/12. But although we waited a few weeks to attack, I don’t think there was ever any serious alternative to the US government other than military retribution.

As to how it pertains to “self defense.” I realize the fault in my analogy now: say a man breaks into your house and hits you. before self defense (in murder) can be morally justified, I think there must be meditation on the full extent of the situation. In the case I mentioned, it is more or less instantaneous. You think either; ‘this guy has a gun or is really big or seems to have intentions to kill me.’ Your life must be threatened, in other words. Or you think, ‘while this guy was able to get into my house and hit me while I was off guard, he doesn’t seem to be a threat to my life. I simply need to detain him until authorities arrive.’

When talking about countries and the implicit complications with such large scale dealings, the instantaneous second it may take you in a one-on-one confrontation might take weeks in large scale events. With that sidenote to the analogy, I think the US purposefully never thought, “hey I can detain this guy.” Rather, “how will I kill this guy was the only question.” Especially when you consider that if you keep true to the analogy, the person whose home was invaded (US) had to be breaking into several other homes in the neighborhood and raping and killing; there seems to be a great deal of momentum leaning to the fact self-defense is not justified in the issue.

so yes, I admit that there was a huge sidenote to my analogy, and it is no surprise that it was picked apart as so. but, analogy aside, I don’t see how anyone with a good grasp of recent history (from a world perspective rather than simply an american perspective) can say that we aren’t terrorists of the world. In fact it is safe to say that we are bigger terrorists than any other country in the world (not organization, mind you- there are some screwjobs out there). our embargoes and our interventions are much worse than the WTC bombings…I’d put them on par with the Holocaust.

I was asked for citation on my statement that tens of thousands have died from indirect consequences of the bombings.

The WFP (World Food Program) raised its estimate of people starving in Afghanistan from 6 million to 7.5 million within two weeks of the bombing. Plus, the war danger coupled with the fact that the US demanded Pakistan seal its border with Afghanistan has led the WFP and other humanitarian aid organizations to suspend delivery of food to the country. The highly reported US food drops were a joke. The US dropped 37,000 individually wrapped packages of food from the sky. A charity active in Afghanistan told the Londan Independent that random food drops are perhaps the worst possible way of delivering food aid. “They cause more problems than they solve.” I’m sure you heard about food drops into mine fields…

While there is no accurate proof on how the US war on terrorism has impacted the starving in Afghanistan, even the most conservative of estimates put deaths into the thousands. The estimate that I heard putting it into the tens of thousands was presented by the ISO (International Socialist Organization) which has access to the world press and is under high enough scrutiny that they are deliberate with their dissemination of facts. Just like Iraq (again), embargoes and wars which cause de facto embargoes from charity organizations only hurt the poor civilians in a country. The independently wealthy (Al Qaeda and Saddam) are not effected to the point of starvation or other consequent death.

I really want to get into US intentions here, to further illustrate my point, but I think that is for another thread. So please, tune in for: “Oil and Afghanistan” …coming soon.