||State terrorism||Page 8|
Because most pronouncements about terrorism are made by states or their representatives, and because the commercial mass media represents state interests, there is little discussion of state terrorism.
However, keeping in mind the definition of terrorism as violence carried to frighten a non-combatant population for political reasons, a case can be made that many of the most prominent terrorist acts of the 20th Century have been committed by states. For example:
* The aerial bombardment of Guernica by the Spanish fascists, immortalized in the painting by Picasso
* The aerial bombardment of London by the Nazis using V2 rockets
* The firestorm bombardment of cities in Germany and Italy by the Allies
* The nuclear bombardment of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States
Nuclear terrorism is the most dramatic of all. Throughout the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union held the war in a balance of terror, each aiming enough nuclear weapons at the other to potentially destroy the planet with a "nuclear winter." This balance of terror went far beyond the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and put all people on the planet under a cloud of fear. Although there was some decrease in the deployment of nuclear weapons at the end of the Cold War, hopes for nuclear disarmament were thwarted by the Great Powers who continue to deploy enough weapons to destroy the planet. We continue to live under the nuclear threat, as the US alone has 2,000 nuclear warheads on hair-trigger alert.
When asked to rule on nuclear weapons, while the World Court as a whole did not take a clear position, some of its members were eloquent. Judge Weeremantry condemned nuclear weapons in the following terms:
"The threat of use of a weapon which contravenes the humanitarian laws of war does not cease to contravene those laws of war merely because the overwhelming terror it inspires has the psychological effect of deterring opponents. This Court cannot endorse a pattern of security that rests upon terror ... A global regime which makes safety the result of terror and can speak of survival and annihilation as twin alternatives makes peace and the human future dependent upon terror. This is not a basis for world order which this Court can endorse. This Court is committed to uphold the rule of law, not the rule of force or terror, and the humanitarian principles of the laws of war are a vital part of the international rule of law which this Court is charged to administer. "
The issue is put most clearly by the eminent authorities Johan Galtung and Dietrich Fischer:
"If someone holds a classroom full of children hostage with a machinegun, threatening to kill them unless his demands are met, we consider him a dangerous, crazy terrorist. But if a head of state holds millions of civilians hostage with nuclear weapons, many consider this as perfectly normal. We must end that double standard and recognize nuclear weapons for what they are: instruments of terror.The topic of nuclear terrorism by the state is taboo. A number of years ago I was asked by a colleague to speak at an academic conference on terrorism she was organizing. I replied that she should know the topic of my talk before inviting me, and I told her that I would speak on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the key terrorist acts of the 20th Century, which provided the moral umbrella for all terrorist acts since then. She thought for only a moment and then disinvited me, saying that if I gave such a talk, their financial source for the conference, the Ford Foundation, would probably never fund them again. Similarly, a few years ago, the Smithsonian Institution of the US government planned to make an exposition of the damage done at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the plans were stopped after complaints from Congressmen that they would show the US in a bad light. These examples are typical.
The state terrorism of nuclear weapons is practiced not only by the US, but also by Russia, UK, France, China, Pakistan, India and Israel. The recent war in Iraq was justified by claiming that Iraq was going to deploy nuclear weapons. This is especially ironic since it was not true, while those making the accusation were the very countries that refuse even to discuss disarmament of their own nuclear weapons.
The United Nations, rather than seriously discussing nuclear disarmament, is pressured by the nuclear powers to help maintaining their monopoly of terror. How else should we interpret Resolution 1540, mentioned at the beginning of this article? It is designed less to rid the world of existing nuclear arsenals and more to protect the existing nuclear powers from losing their monopoly on these weapons due to the development and stockpiling of such weapons by additional countries. One can interpret in a similar way the paragraph on nuclear weapons in the section of terrorism of this year's Summit Outcome Document at the UN which, as mentioned above, promotes an International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. It does not call for disarmament by the nuclear powers, but for the maintenance of their monopoly control of nuclear weapons.
Given the history of their use in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, what other purpose can nuclear weapons serve than to strike fear in the hearts of civilian populations? One needs to keep in mind, in this regard, that Henry Kissinger advocated using nuclear weapons in Vietnam, and when the Americans invaded Iraq in 2003, they called their aerial bombardment "shock and awe."