Introduction to State-Sponsored Terrorism

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Introduction to State-Sponsored Terrorism

State-sponsored terrorism occurs when governments give weapons, equipment, safe harbor, training grounds, or financial support to terrorists. State-sponsorship of terrorism takes many forms. Some regimes actively recruit terrorists for certain actions, while others passively ignore the operation of terrorist networks within their borders. These regimes give aid to terrorist organizations as a means of committing covert, war-like actions against enemies. Many terror-sponsoring regimes are themselves extremist, often sponsoring terrorist groups that espouse similarly militant political or religious ideologies.

After the September 11 attacks in 2001, the United States Department of State considered eight nations—Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Cuba, North Korea, and Sudan—to be state sponsors of terrorism. Afghanistan was removed from the State Department list in 2002 after the fall of the Taliban. The Taliban's sponsorship of al-Qaeda—the international terrorist network who claim responsibility (either by direct or inspired action) for the attacks on New York, Washington, D.C., Madrid, and London—is addressed in the chapter on global terrorism. Iraq was removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism in 2004 following the U.S. and U.K. led invasion to overthrow Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein. Terrorism related to the Iraqi insurgency is discussed in the chapter on insurgent terrorism.

In early 2005, the U.S. State Department and the Foreign Office in the U.K. acknowledged improved relations with Libya, but as of 2004, Libya remained on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. The decades-long problematic relationship between Muammar Qaddafi's regime in Libya and the United States is a central focus of this chapter. Primary sources track the Libyan regime's involvement in sponsoring attacks on U.S. interests in North Africa, the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, and Qaddafi's admission of his government's support of terrorism.

Some historians and political scientists distinguish terrorist acts perpetrated directly by a government (state terrorism) from those acts committed by an independent third-party supported by the government (state-sponsored terrorism). The editors have adopted the argument that state terrorism is the commission of violence by a government or its agents against a population with whom it is not engaged in armed conflict. State terrorism often targets ethnic, religious, and racial minority populations.

Torture, kidnapping, and murder are the most common acts of state terrorism. When such tactics are used with the aim of decimating an entire ethnic, religious, race, or cultural group, they constitute genocide. This volume reflects the argument that genocide falls within most accepted definitions of terrorism.

Two articles, both featuring primary sources from the Nazi era, illustrate the growth and escalating violence of a state terrorist regime. "Organized Will of the Nation" discusses the use of violence during the Nazi rise to power. The article "Testimony of gas-van driver Walter Burmeister" discusses the height of Nazi state terrorism during the Holocaust. Instances of genocide in Rwanda and Yugoslavia are also highlighted in the chapter.

The increasing concern in the international community about the use of weapons of mass destruction (such as chemical and biological weapons) as a means of perpetrating state terrorism is discussed further in the chapter on global terrorism.

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Introduction to State-Sponsored Terrorism

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Introduction to State-Sponsored Terrorism