1.2.1 Section 2: Terrorism and its meanings
In the next section we will consider terrorism and its meanings and explore legal and ‘official’ definitions of the term. Terrorism, as Tony Judt mentions below, is ‘nothing new’.
Even if we exclude assassinations or attempted assassinations of presidents and monarchs and confine ourselves to men and women who kill random unarmed civilians in pursuit of a political objective, terrorists have been with us for well over a century. There have been anarchist terrorists, Russian terrorists, Indian terrorists, Arab terrorists, Basque terrorists, Malay terrorists, Tamil terrorists, and dozens of others besides. There have been and still are Christian terrorists, Jewish terrorists, and Muslim terrorists. There were Yugoslav ("partisan") terrorists settling scores in World War II; Zionist terrorists blowing up Arab marketplaces in Palestine before 1948; American-financed Irish terrorists in Margaret Thatcher's London; US-armed mujahideen terrorists in 1980s Afghanistan; and so on.
Section 2 focuses specifically on one academic study of the historical nature of terrorism and will briefly review the particularities of the modern threat posed by al-Qaeda. The section then considers the ways in which politicians, particularly US President Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, have tried to characterise it. It also considers academic analysis of the historical forms terrorism takes and briefly explores the nature of al-Qaeda itself and modern Jihadist terrorism.