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When is it terrorism, and when is it not? [long post]

syf3r

Senior member
Oct 15, 1999
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[disclaimer: First off, I want this thread to be about facts (i.e. don't post a reply unless you have a reference to point to, where applicable) and I want it to be about well-thought-out arguments of a philosophical nature... I'd really like to see one thread on this forum that stays away from pointless attacks on people's patriotism or character, or lack thereof...]

That said, here's my basic observation to get this started... I know it's long, but it's designed to get people to think and not simply lash out and spout propaganda...

Fact: Sept, 11, 2001... Hijackers take control of airliners and fly them into the World Trade Center, killing thousands of people and shocking and awing the rest of us from our sleep... I believe it is safe to say that everyone reading this would consider this to be an act of terrorism.
Hypothetical: A muslim/christian/zionist/white-supermacist (whatever) zealot, smuggles a suitcase nuclear device into downtown Los Angeles/London/Moscow/Tel Aviv (wherever) and detonates it in the name of his/her cause... Again, we would all consider this to be an act of terrorism, right?
Fact: During the first Gulf War, coalition forces dropped at least 300 tons of depleted uranium on the nation of Iraq:
source1: http://www.deploymentlink.osd.mil/du_library/gulfwar.shtml For those who might immediately think it's a propaganda site, please note the .MIL extension.
source2: United Nations Coalition on Human Rights, Summary record of 482nd Meeting, 13 April, 1999.
Greenpeace places this number at 800 tons, and some estimates place this number at 2700 tons.

For those who do not know what depleted uranium is, check this site: http://www.cadu.org.uk/intro.htm. That site explains that the United Nations Coalition on Human Rights has classified depleted Uranium (DU) as:
alongside such as nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, napalm, and cluster bombs as a 'weapon of indiscriminate effect'
In other words, the UN has classified DU to be a Weapon of Mass Destruction.

The 482nd Meeting of the United Nations Coalition on Human Rights found that:
The military aggression of 1991 had gravely impaired the rights of children, particularly their most fundamental right, namely, the right to life. The coalition forces, notably the American and British, had used depleted uranium-based munitions, which were prohibited throughout the world, and contravened the United Nations Convention on Prohibition or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects. The Iraqi Minister for Foreign Affairs had described their effects in a letter dated 1 July 1998 (A/53/165-S/1998/601) addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. A letter from the United Kingdom representative to the United Nations (S/1998/517) confirmed that those munitions had in fact been used. In June 1995, Le Monde diplomatique had published an article stating that the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington had estimated that the total amount of the uranium contained in the shells used in Iraq had been 300 tonnes. The Iraqi authorities had formed specialized units made up of doctors and researchers to conduct scientific and medical studies into the effects of such weapons. It had been found that uranium, which affected the blood cells, had a serious impact on health: the number of cases of leukaemia had increased considerably, as had the incidence of foetal deformities. Paragraph 23 of the report submitted by the Secretary-General to the Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities regarding peace and international security (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1997/27) indicated, inter alia, that weapons containing depleted uranium had destructive effects which could not be measured, which lasted long after the end of a war, which caused needless suffering, and which damaged the environment. The soil, water and atmosphere remained unusable for generations. The Sub-Commission had also considered a document regarding the post-war environment in Iraq, contained in a note verbale from the Permanent Mission of Iraq (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1998/32), which revealed that numerous cases of cancer and miscarriage as well as other grave problems had emerged. [from this UN document.]
The adverse health effects from DU weapons wer also felt by coalition veterans of the Gulf War, who were exposed to these weapons for a short time in comparison to the citizens of Iraq, who have lived in the remains of the DU weapons for the last decade:
The use of DU has also led to birth defects in the children of Allied veterans and is believed to be the cause of the 'worrying number of anophthalmos cases -- babies born without eyes' in Iraq. Only one in 50 million births should be anophthalmic, yet one Baghdad hospital had eight cases in just two years. Seven of the fathers had been exposed to American DU anti-tank rounds in 1991. There have also been cases of Iraqi babies born without the crowns of their skulls, a deformity also linked to DU shelling. A study of Gulf war veterans showed that 67% had children with severe illnesses, missing eyes, blood infections, respiratory problems and fused fingers.
This has been refered to as Gulf War Syndrome by many.

A longterm study of the adverse health effects due to the use of DU weapons was proposed to the UN General Assembly by the nation of Iraq. In November, 2001, that proposed study was rejected "After lobbying by Washington" [see: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines01/1130-01.htm.]

Now, that having been said, here is the basis for what I hope will bring out some thoughtful insights by anyone who chooses to take part...

If we can all agree that the act of flying airliners into the WTC is an act of terrorism, and the (hypothetical) detonation of a suitcase nuke in a major metro area would be an act of terrorism, why is the use of hundreds of tons of nuclear material which knows no enemy, rather, it afflicts and sickens all people equally, not classified as an act of terrorism? If the current war against Iraq has, as its purpose, the finding and elimination of weapons of mass destruction, Further, why is the use of DU by coalition forces not categorized as a Weapon of Mass Destruction? Do you feel that if Iraq was in possession of depleted uranium weapons and the coalition was not, and used them against coalition forces, would they be charged with using weapons of mass destruction just because they're Iraq? For further discussion, I would like to see addressed this question: Is it only terrorism when they do it to us?

[disclaimer: Again, this thread isn't meant for people to engage in namecalling and lashing out... Let's have some thoughtful discussion here... please?]

/syf3r
 

syf3r

Senior member
Oct 15, 1999
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Yes, I linked to commondreams, but only in citing the fact that the proposed study was rejected due to U.S. lobbying... If you'll notice, any and all statistical information comes from US military, UN, and health organisation sources...

And country/not a country is a poor argument... If something is right vs wrong, it remains so regardless of what kind of entity carries it out... 'da loser', you're dodging the issue... ;) Let's please keep this to logical arguments, and hopefully more than a couple words.... please? :)

/syf3r
 

NightTrain

Platinum Member
Apr 1, 2001
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76
Originally posted by: DoctorPizza
very simple, country/not a country...
Are the IRA terrorists?

How about the Free French Resistance in WWII?

IMO, terrorists attack indiscriminately with the sole intention of killing the largest number of people in the most public way possible.

So 1. Yes
2. No

 

conjur

No Lifer
Jun 7, 2001
58,686
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Well...from your first link

More specifically, ATSDR found that no human cancers have ever been associated with natural or depleted uranium exposure.[54] To illustrate this point more clearly, ATSDR reported, "?the mass equivalents for natural and depleted uranium for potential radiological effects [that is, the amounts that may pose a radiological health hazard] are 3,600 and 76,500 times higher, respectively, than the occupational exposure limits (short-term exposure) [based on chemical toxicity] recommended by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH 1997)." (The citation in the Toxicological Profile for Uranium of 3,600 is in error according to ATSDR. The correct value of 36,000 is obtained from Table 2-9 on page 193 of the Toxicological Profile for Uranium by dividing 7.2 g/m3 by 0.0002 g/m3.)[55]

A small fraction of the uranium taken into the body deposits in the skeleton, leading to suggestions that uranium?s radioactivity could increase the risk of bone cancer above natural background levels. The low levels of radiation DU emits and the results of scientific studies indicate DU does not cause bone cancer. In fact, scientists have never observed bone cancer in populations exposed to any form of uranium, including enriched uranium, which is much more radioactive than DU.[56] As to other possible health effects, the ATSDR concluded it would not expect any radiological health hazard from exposure to inhaled or ingested natural or depleted uranium because their radioactivity is low.[57]


and

a hypothetical driver who stays continuously inside a "heavy armor" (HA) tank (a model using DU armor panels), fully loaded with only DU ammunition with the gun pointed to the rear?24 hours a day, 365 days a year?would receive a dose of approximately 1.14 rem (8,760 hours at 0.00013 rem/hr),[72] or less than 25 percent of the current, annual occupational limit of 5 rem. Studies also have shown the maximum dose rate outside the tank approaches 0.0003 rem/hour at the front of a heavy armor turret or over a fully loaded ammunition compartment.[73] Continuous exposure at that rate for 24 hours a day for 365 days would produce an annual dose of about 2.6 rem (8,760 hours at 0.0003 rem/hr), slightly more than half the annual occupational limit. Fortunately, these continuous exposure scenarios represent impossible situations. Actual exposures based on realistic times spent in the tanks (904 hours per training year) are likely to be less than 0.1 rem in a year.[74]

And how was that Iraqi medical study performed? How do they know the rates went up? What was the control group? What previous studies had been performed? And, sorry, I would not put one ounce of truth in anything that came of an Iraqi Minister's mouth.

And, it wasn't300 tons of DU...it was 300 tons of DU projectiles. They are not solid DU.
 

Mookow

Lifer
Apr 24, 2001
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DU:
link #1
link #2
link #3
Link #4

Oddly, I'm going to trust the World Health Organization over whichever UN council decides to make a politically motivated determination. I see they have assumed its DU that has been causing all those problems in Iraq, rather than, say, the oil well fires that blocked out the sun.

To the other point of this thread:
when a non-state attacks a country, its terrorism
when a country attacks another country, its an act of war

From the 3rd link:
The World Health Organization agrees that DU is not a great health risk. Its 2003 fact sheet on the topic declares that "because DU is only weakly radioactive, very large amounts of dust (on the order of grams) would have to be inhaled for the additional risk of lung cancer to be detectable in an exposed group. Risks for other radiation-induced cancers, including leukaemia, are considered to be very much lower than for lung cancer." Another WHO report found, "The radiological hazard is likely to be very small. No increase of leukemia or other cancers has been established following exposure to uranium or DU."
 

syf3r

Senior member
Oct 15, 1999
673
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Hmm.. I'm not sure if we should expand this to groups/organizations/countries outside the original scope of the post... I guess it's up to everyone who chooses to respond, but I think it could quickly get bogged down in what-if's and whatabouts... There are just too many possibilities to keep it readable, and anyway, it also goes outside the original subject matter... Let's try to keep it just to the use of Depleted Uranium weapons in the Gulf war (First and/or second) and what that means when taken in the context of weapons of mass destruction and if a classification of "terrorism" is dependent on who carries out the act...

[edit: and in case anyone is curious, I'm not arguing one side or the other... This is something I'm curious about, and I creatd this thread in the hopes of learning something... I want this to just boil down to a discussion of what is right and what is wrong, which is why the argument that when a country does it, it's an act of war, and when a group does it, it's terrorism.. that sits a little wrong with me... nuclear weapons used by anyone, I would think, are wrong... To me, a weapon that damages beyond the scope of the war in which it's used, is a weapon of mass destruction..]

/syf3r
 
Oct 16, 1999
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It's terrorism when the targets are civilians. The WTC attack was terrorism, the Pentagon attack wasn't (exactly). Who carries out the attack, be it military (or at least state-sponsered) or civilian, doesn't really matter. Also, civilians being killed as a result of a military attack doesn't equate an act of terrorsim, otherwise the US would be guilty of committing the largest acts of terrorism in modern history (Hiroshima/Nagasaki).
 

da loser

Platinum Member
Oct 9, 1999
2,037
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0
Originally posted by: DoctorPizza
very simple, country/not a country...
Are the IRA terrorists?

How about the Free French Resistance in WWII?
until you are your own country with government and recognized by other nations as a country you're a terrorist organization that commits terrorist acts. ira has no government (no political recognization), therefore commits terrorism. the free french resistance, from what i just looked up does not represent the french government but just a group of people, so its a terrorist organization.

Where it gets shady is terrorist organizations supported by governments. and whether those organizations are merely supported or are an arm of the government. iran, syria, iraq...
 

yowolabi

Diamond Member
Jun 29, 2001
4,185
2
81
Originally posted by: Mookow
DU:
link #1
link #2
link #3
Link #4

Oddly, I'm going to trust the World Health Organization over whichever UN council decides to make a politically motivated determination. I see they have assumed its DU that has been causing all those problems in Iraq, rather than, say, the oil well fires that blocked out the sun.

To the other point of this thread:
when a non-state attacks a country, its terrorism
when a country attacks another country, its an act of war
As for depleted uranium, people have provided enough links that it's long term effects are in dispute.

As far as terrorism, non-state attacking a country is oversimplified. By that definition, anybody that seeks independence is a terrorist, including the founders of the United States. Also, when a "country is fighting for independence", the mother country can simply not recognize the country's independence, and that makes them terrorists.

What you're really saying, and what I am more and more believing to be true, is that the weaker side and the losers are the terrorists. The stronger side and the winners are the moral ones.
 

DoctorPizza

Banned
Jun 4, 2001
106
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The attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were of no direct military value whatsoever. They were attacks made by the military on civilians.

This was not uncommon for the era -- the attacks on London, firebombing of Tokyo and Dresden, and many other events were also attacks on civilian targets with the intent of killing and/or displacing civilian populations.

They would be -- I hope -- unacceptable today.

But simply targetting civilians cannot be the benchmark, I think; it includes too many acts "of war".

 

NightTrain

Platinum Member
Apr 1, 2001
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Originally posted by: yowolabi
As far as terrorism, non-state attacking a country is oversimplified. By that definition, anybody that seeks independence is a terrorist, including the founders of the United States.

If we had lost, that is pretty much how history would have viewed us.
 

syf3r

Senior member
Oct 15, 1999
673
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The whole argument that 'once you're a country you can do no wrong' just doesn't sit well with me... Seems like it makes it really easy to treat a flag as a curtain to hide behind... I guess I just don't see how the nature of an act changes simply because it's carried out by a group with a leader, or a country with a flag...

/syf3r
 

DoctorPizza

Banned
Jun 4, 2001
106
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By that definition, anybody that seeks independence is a terrorist, including the founders of the United States.
Their behaviour was compatible with that typically attributed to terrorists.

But then, I'm sure you know what they say about terrorists and freedom fighters....
 

yowolabi

Diamond Member
Jun 29, 2001
4,185
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81
Originally posted by: NightTrain
Originally posted by: yowolabi
As far as terrorism, non-state attacking a country is oversimplified. By that definition, anybody that seeks independence is a terrorist, including the founders of the United States.

If we had lost, that is pretty much how history would have viewed us.
If we're going to say that being a country is the benchmark for terrorism, then we should stop talking as if terrorism is evil. Under this definition there is nothing intrinsically bad about terrorism, unless you believe that everything is supposed to stay like it is right now. The terrorists can easily be morally right. Wiping out terrorism would not be a desirable goal.
 

AbsolutDealage

Platinum Member
Dec 20, 2002
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also quoting from your source, at http://www.deploymentlink.osd.mil/du_library/health.shtml

Depleted uranium is also used in numerous commercial applications requiring a very dense material. These include: ballast and counterweights; balancing control devices on aircraft; balancing and vibration damping on aircraft; machinery ballast and counterweights; gyrorotors and other electromechanical counterweights; shielding for medicine and industry; shipping container shielding for radiopharmaceuticals; chemical catalyst; pigments; and, x-ray tubes.

so are the medical companies terrorists? are doctors terrorists? are our factories terrorists? what about airline manufacturers? No.

The source you referenced (above) found little if no connection between the use of depleted uranium and increased risk of cancer, etc. The fact is, just because it is "Uranium" does not make it "nuclear material". There are items on the shelves of your hardware store or local antique shop that give off more radiation than a DU round. The typical 30mm DU round from the A10 has ~10MBq, or .27mCi of radioactive material present. Looking here under section C (Consumer Products) lists many common items that range from very little (~1 µCi) to very large (~30Ci). Using that source, an old smoke detecter would be giving off 7 mCi, almost 30 times the radioactive material than a 30mm round and well over twice the radioactive material than a M1A1 DU Tank round (~111MBq, 3 mCi). Were the manufacturers of those products terrorists?

The bottom line is that there is DU in the munitions because it is a material that is suited well for this purpose. We did not go around dropping carloads of U-235 everywhere just for kicks. If a DU round from an M1A1 can take out an enemy tank with one round as opposed to 3-4 tungsten based rounds, then it has done its job.

It is rediculous to compare the supposed long term effects of DU exposure with the immediate and overwhelming effects of a terrorist act. A terrorist does not place low-level radioactive material in the soil surrounding a city hoping that in 10 years the population feels some ill effect, the terrorist detonates some enriched highly-radioactive material in an airburst, attempting to kill as many people as possible.
 

Morph

Banned
Oct 14, 1999
747
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Shhhhh. That's not a feel-good story, and you're being anti-American by posting it at a time like this. And as I'm sure some will tell you, depleted uranium is perfectly safe. :p
 

bsobel

Moderator Emeritus<br>Elite Member
Dec 9, 2001
13,350
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First off, I want this thread to be about facts
No you don't your making up facts as you go along. As the following illustrates:

alongside such as nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, napalm, and cluster bombs as a 'weapon of indiscriminate effect'
In other words, the UN has classified DU to be a Weapon of Mass Destruction.
Wrong. The very basis of your argument is flawed. Wepaons of indiscrimate effect are not 'weapons of mass destruction'. They could be, depending on the type. But making this statement of equality as a fact is an outright lie.

Bill

 

syf3r

Senior member
Oct 15, 1999
673
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absolutdealage makes some good points in his post... but I'm going to take one part of his post and throw it out to add another branch to this thread... he states that "A terrorist does not place low-level radioactive material in the soil surrounding a city hoping that in 10 years the population feels some ill effect, the terrorist detonates some enriched highly-radioactive material in an airburst, attempting to kill as many people as possible. "
I would propose that the terrorist's only goal is not to kill as many as possible in that first detonation, but to frighten as many as possible in the ensuing mayhem... hence the term terror-ism... And this leads us back to the earlier argument about whether or not a nation and a flag determine what is no longer an act of terrorism. I have heard many people argue that the whole premise behind the "shock and awe" campaign is just terrorism by another name. Designed to instill a sense of fear, a 'you shouldn't have messed with us' feeling. But again, if it's a nation that's carrying out a shock and awe campaign, it's an act of war... if it's a group of freedom-fighters or whatnot, it would again be terror-ism... That's another point I wanted to include in the original post but it was getting way too long as it is... To many people, the word "shock" in shock and awe, sounds much too similar to the point of "terror" in terrorism...

gotta head home... hope this thread continues... If nothing else, I'm glad to see nobody has called anyone any names! :)

/syf3r
 

syf3r

Senior member
Oct 15, 1999
673
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0
bsobel:
okay, you're right... I meant to stress that, in the eyes of the UN, depleted uranium weapons are in the same class as nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons which, some would say, are weapons of mass destruction only in that they are weapons of indiscriminate effect, meaning they don't only target the guy in the tank, they target the kid in the school a few blocks away from the guy in the tank... small point, but you're correct...

/syf3r
 

bsobel

Moderator Emeritus<br>Elite Member
Dec 9, 2001
13,350
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Originally posted by: syf3r
bsobel:
okay, you're right... I meant to stress that, in the eyes of the UN, depleted uranium weapons are in the same class as nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons which, some would say, are weapons of mass destruction... small point, but you're correct...
/syf3r
Small point? Your entire argument is based on you declaring that du has been declrared by the UN as a weapon of mass destruction, that simply isn't true. Comparing a nuclear device to expended DU shells or naplam is a joke.

Bill


 

Mookow

Lifer
Apr 24, 2001
10,162
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Originally posted by: DoctorPizza
The attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were of no direct military value whatsoever. They were attacks made by the military on civilians.

This was not uncommon for the era -- the attacks on London, firebombing of Tokyo and Dresden, and many other events were also attacks on civilian targets with the intent of killing and/or displacing civilian populations.

They would be -- I hope -- unacceptable today.

But simply targetting civilians cannot be the benchmark, I think; it includes too many acts "of war".
They were of the highest military value. They got Japan to surrender. That is the goal in warfare.
 

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