The United States: Obscuring the True Nature and Scope of Terrorism?

The passages quoted below are from 22 U.S.C. section 2656f(d) and 18 U.S.C. section 2331(1). This author has made no changes or alterations to the original texts as posted on the two source websites.

For those of us playing the home game, these are the legal defintions of terrorism as written by the members of the United States government. It’s a lot to read, isn’t it? Spooky language. Spooky language!

(d) Definitions
As used in this section—
(1) the term “international terrorism” means terrorism involving citizens or the territory of more than 1 country;
(2) the term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents;
(3) the term “terrorist group” means any group practicing, or which has significant subgroups which practice, international terrorism;
(4) the terms “territory” and “territory of the country” mean the land, waters, and airspace of the country; and
(5) the terms “terrorist sanctuary” and “sanctuary” mean an area in the territory of the country—
(A) that is used by a terrorist or terrorist organization—
(i) to carry out terrorist activities, including training, fundraising, financing, and recruitment; or
(ii) as a transit point; and
(B) the government of which expressly consents to, or with knowledge, allows, tolerates, or disregards such use of its territory and is not subject to a determination under—
(i) section 2405(j)(1)(A) of the Appendix to title 50;
(ii) section 2371 (a) of this title; or
(iii) section 2780 (d) of this title.


(1) the term “international terrorism” means activities that—
(A) involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended—
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum;


“That’s all well and good, Couchman,” you might say. “But why post this?” A personal anecdote should set the scene.

I was seventeen years of age on September 11, 2001. I was in the very beginnings of my junior year, taking courses in AP Physics (shudder), AP American History, trigonometry, and German language studies, among others which I have long since forgotten. Junior year in high school was a big time for me. An exciting time, even. SATs, college applications, “the world is your oyster”, and all that jazz. That held true until about forty minutes into my German class that morning. It was, to the best of my memory, around 10:40 in the morning. At that point, I could hear some faint noises outside of class. A few teachers walking intently to another room, perhaps. Soon after, we received an announcement over the public address system from the school’s headmaster.

We were told that two planes had crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, or WTC 1 and WTC 2, as they were known. Then, another plane had crashed into the Pentagon. Yet another had crashed into a small town in Pennsylvania. I didn’t know what to think. Classes effectively stopped for the rest of the day; periods were spent with various teachers listening to the radio or watching the reports on the local news. The impression we had was “yeah, the first plane was an accident, the rest were attacks.” To date, I have never been more frightened or unsettled. I was shocked. I didn’t live too far from Philadelphia, which is, as we all know, a big city. Could something have happened there? Maybe the country was going to be under nuclear attack. We didn’t know. How could we have known? I trusted my government without question in those days.

More than ten years later, I have a very different viewpoint of that day. It is not a viewpoint that is disrespectful to those who lost their lives, but it is a viewpoint that demands accountability on the part of those who knew this chain of events was going to happen and refused to take action. It is also a viewpoint that is designed to expose a dangerous hypocrisy.

The United States’ legal definition of terrorism is what I would call “convenient”. To the untrained observer raised on a diet of top 40, reality TV, and the mainstream media, it’s a whole lot of legalese mumbo-jumbo. To me, it’s a whole lot of whitewashing.

In 1953, it had been two years since Iran under Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh had nationalized its oil industry and cut the United Kingdom out of their oil profits. The British government, naturally, wanted a reversal of that decision as soon as possible. President Harry S. Truman was asked for his assistance in removing the democratically-elected Mossadegh from power. He refused. When President Dwight D. Eisenhower assumed the presidency in 1953, he was soon approached by the British government and given the same scenario. However, as the great Soviet “Red Scare” was the big danger of that period (and would be for another thirty-five years), the British government warned Eisenhower of a potential communist takeover of Iran being threatened by the Tudeh Party, which would be devastating to American and British interests in the Middle East. The United States and United Kingdom (by way of the CIA and MI6), with the blessing of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, overthrew the Mossadegh government and replaced it with an autocratic regime headed by Pahlavi himself, with the United States/Israel-trained SAVAK (National Intelligence and Security Organization) police force employed to suppress political opposition. The Tudeh Party found itself eliminated by the fascists and Iranian Nazi-sympathizers that fed the regime change. Estimated casualties from this action were between three hundred to eight hundred dead. Until his overthrow in the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Pahlavi was instrumental in the torture and murder of thousands of other Iranians, and also attracted global attention for his human rights violations. The United States promptly ignored them.

In 1954, the democratically-elected government of Guatemala under Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán was similarly overthrown due to fears that a communist government would be a danger to American interests in Central America, as Guatemala was considered a potential puppet state of the Soviet Union. Over almost thirty years under an United States-friendly government, over 150,000 Guatemalans were murdered or disappeared.

In 1964, the democratically-elected government of Brazil under João Goulart was overthrown in a CIA-sponsored coup due to fears that the left-leaning Goulart was going to turn to communism. Under United States funding and tutelage, the democratic government of Brazil was replaced with a brutal military junta (and American puppet) that ruled until 1985. The Brazilian junta was criticized for grievious violations of human rights, including suppression of free speech, civil liberties, and artistic freedoms. The coup is known to have permanently damaged the United States’ reputation in Brazil.

In 1965, the government of Indonesia under Sukarno was overthrown by the combination of a failed military coup organized by Major General Suharto with the cooperation of the CIA, the United States government, and the British government as well as a series of planned assassinations of members of the Indonesian military under Suharto’s supervision. Blaming the assassinations on Sukarno and his connections with communist groups in Indonesia, Sukarno was removed from power and Suharto was named Acting President in 1967; he was elected to the office in 1968. The Indonesian “New Order” under Suharto became infamous for its violations of human rights; over five hundred thousand alleged communists were killed within months of Suharto assuming the presidency. More infamously, the Indonesian government occupied the newly-independent East Timor (formerly Portuguese Timor) from late 1975 until 1999, resulting in the deaths of over two hundred thousand Timorese civilians from executions, rapes, forced abortions, and starvation. The Indonesian military was funded and assisted by the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, and Australia; all five countries ignored the Timorese genocide until MIT professor Noam Chomsky personally exposed the conditions in East Timor to the United Nations in 1978.

In 1973, the democratically-elected government of Chile under Salvador Allende was overthrown in another CIA-sponsored coup over more fears that the similarly left-leaning Allende was going to turn towards socialism. President Richard Nixon was openly critical of Allende as early as 1970 and instigated plans to have him removed from power as soon as possible. The coup went through with a diminished CIA influence, but not before the CIA and the United States government had provided funding and assistance to members of the Chilean military as well as the ITT Corporation, which fostered dissent through the right-leaning El Mercurio, officially “owned” by Chitelco, the Chilean Telephone Company. Allende was overthrown on September 11, 1973 and is known to have committed suicide. A military junta, similarly a puppet of the United States, was installed under General Augusto Pinochet and ruled until 1990. Three thousand Chileans are known to have been killed under this regime (most famously, Nueva Cancion singer/songwriter Victor Jara), and tens of thousands more imprisoned or tortured.

In 1976, the democratically-elected government of Argentina under Isabel Martínez de Perón was similarly overthrown in a military coup and funded to the tune of fifty million dollars by the United States government, who knew that the coup would not succeed without violent repression. Until the government was dissolved and democratic elections were held in 1983, over ten thousands Argentinians were known to have been murdered or imprisoned.

Over the period of 1981-90, the United States government provided material and weapons aid to the Nicaraguan contras, who stood in opposition to Daniel Ortega’s FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front). From 1981 until 1984, the United States provided forty-three million dollars to the contras until a Congressional legislation, the Boland Amendment, banned all aid to the contras, who, by this point, had been categorized as a terrorist organization. The administration of President Ronald Reagan illegally continued aiding the contras by means of selling arms to Iran and using the profits to fund the contras, who had commenced acts of drug trafficking, of which the United States was also aware. The contras soon became infamous for grievious and gruesome violations of human rights, including kidnapping, torturing, raping, and murdering civilians, including women and children. The contras were dissolved under the cooperation of the United States with the reinstatement of democratic elections and the assimilation of the contras into Nicaraguan society in 1990.

These are some of the more notable examples of the United States government actively funding and supporting terrorist states or terrorist organizations with deadly, violent consequences.

The United States’ legal definition of terrorism is cleverly written. Under United States law, these acts are not considered to be illegal. However, under international law, as well as under statutes from the United Nations, these actions have been condemned as violations of international law, and, in some cases, examples of state terrorism.

Under the two sections of United States Code quoted above, the United States has quietly yet cleverly whitewashed its own contributions to human rights violations. The United States has summarily ignored rulings against the country by the International Court of Justice (Nicaragua v. United States) and has unsigned the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The United States has also ignored or openly resisted United Nations resolutions designed specifically to address issues of state terrorism on the part of Israel against Palestinians, as well as state terrorism on the part of Indonesia against Timorese.

The continuing situation with regards to abuse and torture of alleged terrorists and unlawful combatants by the United States in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Abu Gharib, Iraq, Bagram, Afghanistan, and several other CIA “black sites” has been openly criticized by the international community, as well as individuals within the United States government.

This article is not written to disrespect the victims of 9/11, but rather to call attention to the United States and its illegal War on Terror. I’ve shared this same information with several people I know personally, only to be greeted with “yeah, but they attacked us”. Understandable, yes. But the fact of the matter is that terror is not an enemy. Terror is a tactic and, unfortunately, it works. The current campaign on the part of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the members of NATO and the European Union only serve to make those entities look hypocritical to the rest of the world.

About Jason D'Ambrosio

Fighting the good fight for liberty. Defending freedom. ‎"...with regard to freedom of speech there are basically two positions: you defend it vigorously for views you hate, or you reject it and prefer Stalinist/fascist standards." - Noam Chomsky
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One Response to The United States: Obscuring the True Nature and Scope of Terrorism?

  1. Bill Tsafa says:

    The term “Terrorism” has become just as vague as the word “Spy” or “Treason”. The word “terrorist” now refers to anyone that the Government wants to strip of their rights.

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