Case Studies: Revolutionaries or Terrorists? (period 3)

Case Studies: Revolutionaries or Terrorists?

Instructions

In this activity, you will examine a series of cases studies. Using the standards of the international community, you are to decide if the case represents terrorism or some other form of political violence. For each case you should answer the following questions:

1) Does your group believe that the decision to use force was acceptable and justifiable?
2) Was how the force was used acceptable?
3) What is your view of the response of the state to the use of force?

Be prepared to explain the reasons for your position. If your group can not come to an agreement on your position, you should be prepared to offer different opinions and provide justification for each.
______________________________
Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland has been the scene of political violence for many years. The region is currently a province of the United Kingdom, while the rest of the island of Ireland is a republic that gained its independence from Britain in 1921. Since that time, several unofficial military organizations, including the Irish Republican Army (IRA), have continued to fight for British withdrawal from Northern Ireland. Other “paramilitaries” loyal to the United Kingdom have fought back. Between 1966 and 1999, more than 3,600 people were killed and nearly 36,000 injured. Most of the victims were innocent civilians caught in bombings and other acts of violence in Ireland and England. The British government has sometimes responded with force. In January 1972, in an incident known as Bloody Sunday, British paratroopers fired on protestors, killing fourteen and injuring another thirteen. Many of the paramilitaries declared cease-fires in the late 1990s as a peace process took shape. In April 1998, a peace accord that became known as the Good Friday Agreement led many to hope for a peaceful resolution of the political differences. However, violence has continued to plague the region. In August 1998, an IRA splinter group claimed responsibility for bombing a shopping center in the town of Omagh that killed 28 and wounded hundreds.

1) Does your group believe that the paramilitaries’ decision to use force was acceptable and justifiable? Are they terrorists or revolutionaries?

2) Was how the force was used acceptable?

3) What is your view of the response of the state to the paramilitaries’ use of force?

Chechnya: In 1994, Chechen armed separatists launched a military-style campaign designed to drive Russia out of Chechnya, part of the Russian Federation. The Chechens claimed to be fighting for freedom from an oppressive regime that prevented them from practicing their religion, Islam, and that offered no hope for the future. The Russian military used its weapons against civilians, killing more than 10,000 and displacing 500,000 from their homes. A peace treaty was reached in 1997, but fighting resumed between Russian troops and Chechens in the fall of 1999. Russian President Putin defended Russian military action in Chechnya, claiming that Chechnya was being used as a springboard for international terrorism against Russia. In August 1999, Islamic rebels from Chechnya invaded the region of Dagestan in southern Russia. The Russian government claimed that foreign Islamic terrorists were fighting alongside the Chechens. In addition, the Russian government blamed the Chechen rebels for a series of September 1999 bombings of Moscow apartment buildings that killed several hundred Russians. These incidents provoked a strong military response from Moscow, including airstrikes against several Chechen towns and the capital of Grozny.

1) Does your group believe that the Chechens’ decision to use force was acceptable and justifiable? Are they terrorists or revolutionaries?

2) Was how the force was used acceptable?

3) What is your view of the response of the state to the Chechens’ use of force?

Chiapas: In the remote southern state of Chiapas, Mexico, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation began an armed rebellion against the Mexican government on January 1, 1994. The Zapatistas claimed to be fighting against poverty and injustice and for the rights of indigenous peoples. Led by a man referred to as Sub-Commander Marcos, hundreds of peasant soldiers, their faces covered by black ski masks or red bandanas, operated in the countryside. Although most Zapatistas carried weapons dating back to World War II, they occupied several key towns and attacked a regional military base. More than 100 people were killed in the uprising, including government soldiers, peasants, and government functionaries. The Zapatistas blew up telephone and electrical towers and detonated car bombs in Mexico City, injuring several people. The Mexican military responded with force, and international human rights groups accused the military of torturing villagers to get information about the rebels. Since 1995, the Zapatistas have been committed to negotiating with the Mexican government. Nonetheless, talks between the government and the Zapatistas have stalled. The conflict has pitted village against village, often spilling over into bloodshed. In 1997, for example, pro-government forces massacred 45 villagers for their support of the Zapatistas. At the same time, the Zapatistas rely on the Internet and cellular telephones to maintain a sophisticated communications network. Their Web site attracts thousands of visitors.

1) Does your group believe that the Zapatistas’ decision to use force was acceptable and justifiable? Are they terrorists or revolutionaries?

2) Was how the force was used acceptable?

3) What is your view of the response of the state to the Zapatistas’ use of force?

South Africa: When the South African government began its system of apartheid in 1948, the African National Congress, a political movement begun in the early 20th century, launched a campaign of non-violent resistance to the government’s official system of racial segregation. However, after years of political struggle, the ANC had made no progress against the increasingly oppressive apartheid regime. In the early 1960s, the ANC decided that it would use violence to fight the white government, which denied black South Africans their most basic human rights, including access to education, the right to vote, and the right to live and travel where they wanted. Following the 1960 massacre of 69 black Africans by South African forces at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, the ANC embarked on a campaign of sabotage against the country’s infrastructure and armed resistance against the South African government, including bombing several government buildings. The South African government continued to crack down on black South Africans as racially motivated violence plagued the country. In 1976, government forces killed more than 600 people in an uprising at the Soweto township.

1) Does your group believe that the ANC’s decision to use force was acceptable and justifiable? Were they terrorists or revolutionaries?

2) Was how the force was used acceptable?

3) What is your view of the response of the state to the ANC’s use of force?

The Weathermen Underground: In the late 1960s there was significant social and political unrest in the United States. Opposition mounted against the war in Vietnam, and there was growing frustration over the lack of progress on the issue of racism. Many protest groups developed, but one of the most radical was the Weathermen, whose objectives included not only an immediate end to the war in southeast Asia and to all racism, but to economic exploitation and sexism as well. Members of the Weathermen, most of whom were in their early twenties, believed change would come about only through armed revolution. In 1970 the Weathermen went underground. Over the next few years, they engaged in numerous activities, such as bombing government buildings (including the Pentagon) and various cooperate headquarters, causing damages in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. They also assisted convicted felons in jail breaks and participated in an armored car holdup. These activities resulted in the deaths of policemen, innocent bystanders, and the Weathermen themselves. The FBI closely monitored the activities of the Weathermen. Little by little the members were either captured or chose to give themselves up.

1) Does your group believe that the Weathermen’s decision to use force was acceptable and justifiable? Were they terrorists or revolutionaries?

2) Was how the force was used acceptable?

3) What is your view of the response of the state to the Weathermen’s use of force?

_______________________________________________________________________

This lesson is excerpted from Responding to Terrorism: Challenges for Democracy (© August 2002, Choices for the 21st Century Education Program, Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University. All rights reserved.)

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5 thoughts on “Case Studies: Revolutionaries or Terrorists? (period 3)

  1. Northern Ireland
    I am confused what the revolutionaries want/

    Chechnya
    The revolutionaries are justified because they had been invaded and were trying to be under their own rule. Russia had been Communist and Chechnya should be able to choose for themselves.

    Chiapas
    The Zapatistas were not justified and they are more terrorists. They claimed to fight for their country but they were hurting innocent people. Violence was not the answer.

    South Africa
    In a country with no human rights, something is wrong and the ANC was justified. The people in charge were obviously doing something wrong. The response of killing people relates to how little the government cared about it’s people.

    Weathermen Underground
    The Weathermen weren’t justified because they wanted to end war and fighting but they were causing more pain. The government had a good response because it was not very violent and was a good example of how to get something done without using violence.

  2. Northern Ireland:
    I do not feel that there is a clear reason for the paramilitaries to use force. The paragraph did not give much information on what exactly the United Nations did that upset the people of Northern Ireland so much, so from what we learned I do not think the decision to use force was justifiable. The use of force was not acceptable because it resulted in the loss of over three thousand lives including many innocent civilians. I am not sure of how aggressive the paramilitaries were to begin, but I assume that it must have been significantly threatening towards the United Nations because their response led to so many casualties.

    Chechnya:
    The Chechen’s decision to use force was justifiable because they were prevented from practicing their own religions, so I think they fall under the class of “freedom fighters” when they attempted to drive the Russians out. The text does not include specifics on amount of casualties caused by the Chechens, and it sounds like the use of force was acceptable. The response of Russia, however, was not acceptable because the issue turned into a war with over 10,000 Chechens dying at the hands of the Russians.

    Chiapas:
    I believe that the Zapatistas decision to use force was not justifiable because they killed over 100 people while claiming to fight only against poverty and rights, which does not sound like enough of a reason to murder that many people. The use of force was not acceptable because so many people were killed by the Zapatistas. The response from the state was justifiable because Mexicans were being killed continuously, not in one large event, so they had to stop these attacks.

    South Africa:
    The ANC’s decision to use force was justifiable because their basic rights were being violated and they were being killed occasionally so they had to respond with force. The use of force was acceptable because I feel that anything less than what they did would not have sent a strong enough message. The state’s response was unfortunate, because rather than respecting the ANC’s plead for basic rights, they killed many more African Americans.

    The Weathermen Underground:
    I do not think the Weathermen’s decision to use force was justifiable because they were arguing against government decisions, but their basic rights were not being violated. To use deadly weapons such as bombs was not acceptable because of simply disagreeing with some of the government’s decisions. The state’s response was ideal, because they did not cause more innocent casualties, but they still handled the situation by capturing individuals of the weathermen.

  3. Northern Ireland:
    The Irish wanted independence. This has been a valid reason for violence for hundreds of years. I think the paramilitary may have been justified on some level, but could not justify the extent of the carnage they created.

    Chechnya
    The Chechen’s were justified in using violence to win their right to practice their religion and obtain other liberties. Russia’s retaliation was over the top. Russia was not going to sit by and give up Chechnya without a fight, or at least a good deal of bloodshed, and I believe they were wrong.

    Chiapas
    I’m not convinced in the Zapatista’s cause. If they are truly fighting against poverty and injustice and for the rights of indigenous people, these are valid desires. It just doesn’t seem clear to me. I do believe the Mexican government’s response was overkill (no pun intended).

    South Africa
    The ANC were justified in fighting for basic freedom and liberties. The government should have provided for all of the people, no matter their race. The reaction of the government was inappropriate.

    The Weathermen
    Although I can appreciate the desire of the Weathermen to protest the war in Vietnam as well as other political issues, there was no real necessity for them to use violence. The liberties of these folks were not in jeopardy. The whole point of democracy is to be able to disagree with the government, but that doesn’t give you the right to kill innocent people to make your point.

  4. –Northern Ireland
    (i didnt understand the demands of the revolutionaries…. it was a bit confusing, to be honest!) The only thing I gathered clearly was that Ireland (like America during the revolution) wanted to be free from England and be fully independent.
    –Chechnya
    The Chechens could be seen as revolutionaries, because they wanted to express their religious beliefs freely. However, I think that they were demaning a bit much by wanting to be rid of the Russians completely. The Russians did not have an appropriate response– too much bloodshed.
    –Chiampas
    They could be seen as terrorists, because their approach to their cause was very violent towards the Mexican government. The Mexican government fought back appropriately, considering it was under attack.
    –South Africa
    I would say that the ANC was justified. They were revolutionaries, because they were fighting against social injustice.
    –Weathermen
    I would say that their cause was not just. They wanted to stop violence through violence? How does that even make sense? It doesn’t.

  5. Northern Ireland:
    Their decision to use force to win independence is justifiable, but the force used was not acceptable because it caused a lot of civilian deaths and injuries. The state’s response to the paramilitaries was unjustifiable because they shot protestors. They should have the right to protest as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.

    Chechnya:
    Their decision to use force was justifiable because the Russians were trying to take away their right to practice their religion, so they are freedom fighters The Russian response was not ok though because they killed thousands of civilians.

    Chiapas:
    The use of force was not justifiable because they killed a lot of people fighting poverty. The way the force was used was unacceptable because they killed a lot people including peasants and detonated bombs. They should have used a more peaceful way to try to get what they want, they seem more like terrorists. The state’s response was also bad because they tortured innocent villagers for information.

    South Africa:
    The ANS decision for force was justifiable because they were defending their basic human rights, so they are freedom fighters. Also, their force was justifiable because they tried to get rights peacefully first. The state’s reaction was not justifiable because they killed a lot of civilians.

    The Weathermen Underground:
    The Weathermen’s decision to use force was unjustifiable. They can have opinions about the war and racism, but they can’t kill a bunch of people for not agreeing with them. They are terrorists. Their way of force was unacceptable because it caused a lot of harm for no good reason. The state’s response was good because they kept an eye on them and captured them.

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