Well it seems like a day to talk about terrorism. A couple of my friends talked about it on their blogs - Nathan and Jack. I also just started to read Simply Christianity by N T Wright. In the first chapter he talks about justice. So since I am thinking about it.
Terrorism is a very loaded word, especially since 9/11. People seem to use this word about anyone who works against them. It seems to often be used to get a emotional response instead of a rational response. If someone is a terrorist then we have the right to use "whatever means necessary" to stop them. This includes bombing civilians, kidnapping, torture, ect.
One of the problem is that the definitions that are used to describe terrorism seem very vague. Wikipedia states "Terrorism is the systematic use or threatened use of violence to intimidate a population or government and thereby effect political, religious, or ideological change." And "The United States Department of State defines terrorism as "Premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrorist) The first definition would seem to include the use of any military force in any country to bring about change. This would include the invasion of Iraq by the US, the invasion of Afghanistan by the UN, and the invasion of Germany by the allied armies in WWII. It seems to be me that there is a difference between a military operation and terrorism. Though the more I think about the issue the closer the two seem to be. The second definition does not really help that much more. Since we are often willing to bend the rules for groups who fight against "bad" governments. The definition also removes the state from being able to commit terrorist actions. Though I think many would consider the Chinese response to Tiananmen Square to be terrorism. So we are left with a loaded word that we cannot really give a good definition to.
Despite this draw back people continue to use the word to try and polarize the issues - we are totally right and the other guy is totally wrong. I see this so much in the Israel/Hezbollah conflict. Israel and their supporters state that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization and must be crushed. Hezbollah states that the acts of Israel are acts of terrorism. Who is right? I would say both of them.
In the end what I would like is for us to stop calling everyone a terrorist and state exactly what actions we do not agree with. Once the action is defined to then discover why the person/organization/state felt the need to this action.