Terrorists and Torture Essay

Terrorists and Torture

“One has, I think, to reckon with the fact that there are present in all men

destructive, and therefore anti-social and anti-cultural, trends and that in a

great number of people these are strong enough to determine their

behaviour in human society.”

Sigmund Freud (1927, p.7)

The word terrorism can best be defined as;

“The calculated use of violence (or threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear”


“Terrorism is the use of threats and violence to frighten or alarm people.”

Terrorism is a word used to depict violence or other destructive acts committed (or threatened) against civilians by groups or individuals for political or ideological goals. Most definitions of terrorism include only those acts which are deliberated to generate fear or “terror”, are committed for an ideological goal and deliberately target “non-combatants (civilians)”.

In his book “Inside Terrorism” Bruce Hoffman wrote in Chapter One: Defining Terrorism that

On one point, at least, everyone agrees: terrorism is a pejorative term. It is a word with intrinsically negative connotations that is generally applied to one’s enemies and opponents or to those with whom one disagrees and would otherwise prefer to ignore. ‘What is called terrorism’, Brian Jenkins has written, ‘thus seems to depend on one’s point of view. Use of the term implies a moral judgment; and if one party can successfully attach the label terrorist to its opponent, then it has indirectly persuaded others to adopt its moral viewpoint’. Hence the decision to call someone or label some organization ‘terrorist’ becomes almost unavoidably subjective, depending  largely on whether one sympathizes with or opposes the person/group/cause concerned. If one identifies with the victim of the violence, for example, then the act is terrorism. If, however, one identifies with the perpetrator, the violent act is regarded in a more sympathetic, if not positive (or, at the worst, an ambivalent) light; and it is not terrorism.

Those who commit these acts of terror are called terrorists. They rarely identify themselves as such, and usually use other general terms or terms specific to their situation, like: separatist, freedom fighter, liberator, revolutionary, vigilante, militant, paramilitary, guerrilla, rebel, jihadi or mujahidin, or fedayeen, or any similar word in other languages. (Galea, Resnick, Kilpatrick, Bucuvalas, Gold, Vlahov).

“Terror” comes from a Latin word meaning “to frighten”. Terror is disrespect for one’s values. Terror is in constant nervousness about the mundane. Terror is being in pain. Terror is a colossal feeling of fear brought on deliberately by elements who aim to disrupt lives and societies.

As a form of alternative warfare, terrorism is at times used when attempting to compel political change by: persuading a government or people to comply to demands to avoid future damage or fear of harm, destabilization of an existing government, motivating a disgruntled population to join an uprising, escalating a conflict in the hopes of disrupting the status quo, expressing the severity of a grievance, or drawing attention to a neglected cause. (Schuster, Stein,  Jaycox, Collins, Marshall, Elliot, Shou, Kanouse , Morrison, and Berry (2002).

Effects of Terrorists and Torture

The first major terrorist attack the United States witnesses was that on the 11th of September, 2001. The 9/11 attacks had instantaneous and overpowering effects upon the United States population and that of the entire world. Appreciation toward uniformed public-safety personnel and especially toward firefighters, was extensively expressed in light of both the drama of the risks taken on the scene and the high death toll among the workers. Many police officers and rescue workers elsewhere in the country took leave of absence to go to New York City to help in the dismal process of recovering human remains from the twisted remains of the Twin Towers. Blood donations also saw an increase in the weeks after 9/11.

Various episodes of hate crimes and harassment were reported against Middle Easterners and other “Middle Eastern-looking” people, particularly Sikhs, due to the fact that Sikh males usually wear turbans, which are stereotypically associated with Muslims in the United States. (citation). There were reports of verbal abuse, attacks on mosques and other religious buildings (including the firebombing of a Hindu temple) and assaults on people, including one murder; Balbir Singh Sodhi was fatally shot on September 15. He, like others, was a Sikh who was mistaken for a Muslim.

Terrorism erodes—at both the individual level and the society level—the sense of safety and safety  the public usually feels. Violence challenges the natural need of humans to see the world as conventional, orderly, and controllable. Research has shown that conscious violence creates longer lasting mental-health effects than natural disasters or accidents. The consequences for both individuals and the community are prolonged, and survivors often feel that inequality has been done to them. This can lead to rage, nuisance, helplessness, fear, and a desire for vengeance.  (DiGiovanni). Studies have shown that acting on this anger and desire for revenge can increase rather than decrease feelings of anger, guilt, and distress. (Fullerton & Ursano)

However, the mechanisms for natural recovery from traumatic events are strong. Many trauma experts (Staab, Foa, Friedman) agree that the psychological outcome of communities as a whole will be resilience, not psychopathology. For most, fear, anxiety, re-experiencing, urges to avoid, and hyper-arousal symptoms, if present, will gradually decrease over time.

Research has shown that those who are most at risk for more severe traumatic stress reactions, such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), are those who have experienced the greatest magnitude of exposure to the traumatic event, such as victims and their families. However, sometimes rescue workers also have direct relationships with or indirect exposure to those who are missing or killed. Therefore, these rescue workers need to cope with their own losses as well as with the demands of the rescue mission. In the case of September 11th, for example, a particularly difficult task for these rescue workers was the identification and removal of the casualties. These activities have been shown to be particularly traumatic and associated with higher rates of PTSD.

Terrorism has no Religion

Many of the terror organizations today; whether Al-Qaida, or Laskar –e – Tayyibba, or Jaish e Muhammad etc. operate under the umbrella of a misconstrued version of Islam. Many in the West also incorrectly associate Islam with terrorism.

According to the Quran:

“God does not love mischief makers”. (Surat al-Qasas: 77)


“…You shall not kill — GOD has made life sacred — except in the course of justice. These are His commandments to you, that you may understand.” (6:151)

According to the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina,

“Terrorism and militancy have no religion, no national boundaries,”


Terrorism is a criminal act that affects people beyond the immediate victim. The terrorists strategize to commit acts of aggression that grabs the attention of the common people, a national government, and the world to their purpose. The terrorists plan their assaults to get maximum exposure, choosing targets that represent what they are against. The success of the terrorist act lies not in the act itself, but in the effect of the act. For example, at the Munich Olympics in 1972, the Black September Organization killed 11 Israelis. The Israelis were the immediate victims. But the actual targets were the estimated one billion people watching the globally broadcasted event.

We, as global citizens, have to unite to promote peace by promoting knowledge. We have to come out of our individualistic shells and come together to shun terrorism and make the world a better place.

Works Cited

Schuster, MA, Stein BD, Jaycox, LH, Collins, RL, Marshall, GN, Elliot, MN, Shou, AJ, Kanouse DE, Morrison, JL and Berry SH (2002). A national survey of stress reactions after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. New England Journal of Medicine, 345(20), 1507-1512.

Schlenger, W.,Caddell, J., Ebert, L., Jordan, B.K., Rourke, K., Wilson, D., Thalji, L., Dennis, J.M., Fairbank, J., & Kulka, R. (2002). Psychological reactions to terrorist attacks: findings from the National Study of Americans’ Reactions to September 11.   Journal of the American Medical Association, 288(5), 581-588.

Galea, S., Ahern, J., Resnick, H., Kilpatrick, D., Bucuvalas, M., Gold, J., ; Vlahov, D. (2002). Psychological sequelae of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City. New England Journal of Medicine, Special Report 346, 982-987.

Grieger, T., Fullerton, C., ; Ursano, R. J., (2003). Posttraumatic stress disorder, alcohol use, and perceived safety after the terrorist attack on the Pentagon. Psychiatric Services, 54(10), 1380-1382.

DiGiovanni, C. (1999). Domestic terrorism with chemical or biological agents: Psychiatric aspects. American Journal of Psychiatry, 156, 1500-1505.