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Terrorism: A Brief History


Terrorism as a Tool of the State The Bosnians, Serbs, and other eastern Europeans were not the only countries using terrorism for nationalist gains. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Terrorism: A Brief History

Terrorism A Brief History
When did terrorism begin?
  • No true date can be determined since most
    researchers believe terror was used as a tool
    long before written language documented it.
  • References in ancient documents do suggest that
    terror against various parts of the population
    was common as long as 4000 years ago

Ancient Terrorism
  • The most common form of terrorism was torture,
    maiming, arson, and destruction of agriculture
    goods (livestock, crops, tools, etc.).
  • Babylon, Persia, Judea, and many other
    civilizations in the Fertile Crescent used
    tactics we would consider terrorism.
  • Terror tactics were not restricted to just the
    middle-east, but have been documented in China,
    Egypt, and other parts of the world.

Early Religious Terrorism -- The Zealots
  • Among the earliest examples of terrorist actions
    for political reasons were the Zealots, a first
    century religious and political group in Judea.
  • The Zealots strongly opposed outside (Roman)
    control/rule of Judea.
  • The Zealots achieved fairly little, except to
    trigger heavy Roman control over the Jews and the
    closing off of Jerusalem to Jews.

Theology of the Zealots
  • In their theology, the Zealots were relatively
    close to the Pharisees, but their doctrines had a
    strong focus on the necessities of violent
    actions against the enemies of Judaism.
  • The Zealots could not accept any foreign rule or
    domination as they meant that the land of the
    Jews, Judea, only could be ruled according to
    principles and authority of God.

Zealots and Terrorism
  • The Zealots consisted of factions, one of which
    was the terrorist group the Sicarii.
  • Sicarii used daggers to assassinate officials
    (Roman and Jewish alike) who did not openly seek
    a free Judea.
  • The assassinations always took place in public
    and sometimes with very bloody way.
  • According to Luke 615 Simon, one of Jesus'
    disciples, was a Zealot.

The Assassins
  • An 11th century offshoot of a Shia Muslim sect
    known as the Ismailis.
  • Like the Zealots-Sicarri, the Assassins also
    stabbed their victims in broad daylight and
  • The Assassins generally focused on politicians or
    clerics who refused to adopt the purified version
    of Islam which the Assassins were forcibly
  • The Assassins - whose name gave us the modern
    term but literally meant hashish-eater - a
    reference to the ritualistic drug-taking they
    were (perhaps falsely) rumored to indulge in
    prior to undertaking missions also used their
    actions to send a message.

The Assassin Art of Time/Place
  • The Assassins deeds were carried out at
    religious sites on holy days a tactic intended
    to publicize their cause and incite others to it.
  • Like many religiously inspired terrorists today,
    they also viewed their deaths on such operations
    as sacrificial and a guarantor that they would
    enter paradise.

The Thugees
  • Sacrifice was also a central element of the
    killings carried out by the Thugees (who
    bequeathed us the word thug).
  • Thugees were an Indian religious cult who
    ritually strangled their victims (usually
    travelers chosen at random) as an offering to the
    Hindu goddess of terror and destruction, Kali.
  • In this case, the intent was to terrify the
    victim (a vital consideration in the Thugee
    ritual) rather than influence any external

The Thugees
  • Active from the seventh until the mid-19th
    centuries, the Thugees are reputed to be
    responsible for as many as 1 million murders.
  • They were perhaps the last example of
    religiously-inspired terrorism until the
    phenomenon reemerged a little over 20 years ago.

Nationalists and Anarchists -- The French
  • The English word terrorism comes from the
    regime de la terreur that prevailed in France
    from 1793-1794.
  • Originally an instrument of the state, the regime
    was designed to consolidate the power of the
    newly-installed revolutionary government,
    protecting it from elements considered
  • Always value-laden, terrorism was, initially, a
    positive term.

Nationalist Terrorism
  • The French revolutionary leader, Maximilien
    Robespierre, viewed it as vital if the new French
    Republic was to survive its infancy, proclaiming
    in 1794 that
  • Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt,
    severe, inflexible it is therefore an emanation
    of virtue it is not so much a special principle
    as it is a consequence of the general principle
    of democracy applied to our country's most urgent

French Revolution
  • Some 40,000 people were executed using the
    guillotine under Robespierres reign of terror.
  • The use of terror as a positive social factor
    soon turned as writers like Edmund Burke, a noted
    British political philosopher, began to expose
    the fallacy of terror as a means to social gain

Terror for Political Change
  • The first notable use of terror for social and
    political change in western society arises at the
    same time as the industrial revolution.
  • The Italian revolutionary Carlo Pisacanes theory
    of the propaganda of the deed which
    recognized the utility of terrorism to deliver a
    message to an audience other than the target and
    draw attention and support to a cause typified
    this new form of terrorism.

Terror in the late 19th century
  • Pisacanes thesis which was not in itself new
    and would probably have been recognizable to the
    Zealots-Sicari and the Assassins - was first put
    into practice by the Narodnaya Volya (NV).
  • NV -- a Russian Populist group (whose name
    translates as the Peoples Will) -- formed in
    1878 to oppose the Tsarist regime.
  • The groups most famous deed, the assassination
    of Alexander II on March 1, 1881, also
    effectively sealed their fate by incurring the
    full wrath of the Tsarist regime.

Terror as a tool of Anarchist
  • Anarchist groups were particularly enamored of
    the example set by the Russian Populists and soon
    groups all over the world would use terror to
    further their cause.
  • As the 19th century gave way to the 20th,
    terrorists attacks were carried out as far a
    field as India, Japan, and the Ottoman empire.
  • Two U.S. presidents (William McKinley and James
    A. Garfield) and a succession of other world
    leaders were victims of assassination by various
    anarchists and other malcontents.

Terrorism in the 20th Century
  • The early part of the 20th Century saw a mixture
    of anarchist and state-sponsored terrorism.
  • For instance, many officials in the Serbian
    government and military were involved (albeit
    unofficially) in supporting, training and arming
    the various Balkan groups which were active prior
    to the assassination of the Archduke Franz
    Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo.
  • Ferdinands assassination was carried out by an
    activist from one such group, the Young
    Bosnians and has been widely credited with
    setting into motion the chain of events which led
    to World War I.

After WWI
  • The 1930s saw a fresh wave of political
    assassinations deserving of the word terrorism.
  • This led to proposals at the League of Nations
    for conventions to prevent and punish terrorism
    as well as the establishment of an international
    criminal court (neither of which came to aught as
    they were overshadowed by the events which
    eventually led to World War II).
  • Despite this, during the interwar years,
    terrorism increasingly referred to the oppressive
    measures imposed by various totalitarian regimes,
    most notably those in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy
    and Stalinist Russia.

Terrorism as a Tool of the State
  • The Bosnians, Serbs, and other eastern Europeans
    were not the only countries using terrorism for
    nationalist gains.
  • In South American several military dictatorships
    used terrorism to keep citizens in line or to
    thwart political opponents.
  • Zimbabwe is one of the more well known African
    nations to use state-sponsored terrorism against
    its own citizens to quash uprising among rival
    tribes or political groups.
  • This type of activity has lead some to
    distinguish the use of terror from that of true

Terror or Terrorism
  • Noted commentator Bruce Hoffman argues that
    state-sponsored terror tactics are not the same
    as terrorism by non-governmental entities, and
    should therefore be treated differently.
  • Others, such as Jessica Stern, argue that the use
    of murder, mayhem, or general tactics designed to
    raise fear whether by government or
    non-government entities constitutes terrorism.

Terrorism since WWII
  • The changes arising immediately prior to World
    War II especially in Europe and the Pacific Rim
    lessened the focus on terror.
  • Following WWII displaced or disgruntled groups
    found themselves under new scrutiny by a world
  • The shift in power from Europe to the US created
    a significant change in policy as well as

The Colonies Arise
  • Following WWII the British and French colonies
    found themselves now able to focus on domestic
  • Colonial nationalist groups began to use terror
    as a tool against colonialist governments.
  • Across the Middle East Asia and Africa, nascent
    nationalist movements resisted European attempts
    to resume colonial business as usual after the
    defeat of the Axis powers.

Guerilla Warfare and Colonial Strife
  • Nationalist and anti-colonial groups conducted
    guerilla warfare, which differed from terrorism
    mainly in the tactics and focus.
  • Guerilla warfare tended towards larger bodies of
    irregulars operating along more military lines
    than their terrorist cousins.
  • Guerilla fighters often fought in the open from a
    defined geographical area over which they held
    sway. They also tended to follow traditional
    military tactics of target, engage, and retreat.

British and French Defeats
  • Guerilla warfare was successful in areas such as
    Indochina, China, Burma, Malaysia, Cyprus, and
  • One reason for the success was the effective use
    of the world media to focus attention on colonial
    domination and use of force against freedom
  • Through the 1960s and 1970s, the numbers of those
    groups that might be described as terrorist
    swelled to include not only nationalists, but
    those motivated by ethnic and ideological

Modern Terrorism
  • Many of the anti-colonial groups have declined in
    their numbers of disappeared altogether.
  • These groups have been replaced with displaced
    and focused groups who bring new ideals to the
  • By the mid-1980s, state-sponsored terrorism
    reemerged - the catalyst for the series of
    attacks against American and other Western
    targets in the Middle East. Countries such as
    Iran, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

Iran Birth of Modern Terrorism
  • The 1079 revolution in Iran transformed the
    democratic country into an Islamic Republic.
  • The religious leaders of that time openly
    accepted and encouraged the use of terrorism as a
    means of propagating its ideals.
  • The success of the Iranian incidents soon allowed
    a spread of the ideology throughout Islam.
  • Before long, the trend had spread beyond Iran to
    places as far a field as Japan and the United
    States, and beyond Islam to ever major world
    religion as well as many minor cults.
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