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Author Topic: Terrorism- the heart of the problem.
seekingprometheus
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I've said this before:

Terrorism is simply a rhetorical device to reinforce constructs of legitimacy.

What "causes people to become terrorists" is lack of access to effective "legitimate" modes of conflict resolution.

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Funean
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Or perceived lack of access, or indifference to, lack of faith in, or disagreement with the legitimacy of said modes of conflict resolution.

This is such an interesting question, because like obscenity, I suspect most people feel like they "know" it when they see it. And yet articulating meaningful standards is very difficult and illuminating of one's prejudices and position.

Some things I have been able to identify as common traits among groups, individuals and actions I consider "terrorist" are:

--Belief (as I interpret their actions) that the end justifies any means
--Belief ( as I interpret their actions) that there are no non-combatants
--Little to no evidence of any real post-victory plan

These in combination are what create the distinction, for me, between revolutionaries and terrorists.

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Ivan
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Since we seem to be trying to define what "terrorism" is (a "terrorist" is, quite simply, one who practices "terrorism"), I figured I'd give it a shot.

At its core, "terrorism" is an act directed from one party to another. For "terrorism" to exist, there has to be a party performing the "acts of terorrism" and a group that these acts are aimed at "terrorizing". Additionally, acts of terrorism do not have, as their primary objective, the direct results of their action. Their aim is to generate an irrational (on some level) reaction from the party they are attempting to terrorize.

An example: A Palestinian walks into a bar and blows himself up. What he accomplishes is killing 20-50 Isrealis. This is the direct result of his action. However, killing 20-50 Isrealis isn't his goal. Rather, he (or, more likely, whoever sent him on this mission) has an objective of scaring Israelis away from doing things they normally do (like go to bars and the like). Simply put, prevent people from going about their lives in a "normal" way. Additionally, he wants oustide individuals to take notice of the cause he represents. For example, if the UN sees all of these peopel blowing themselves up, claiming to protest the way Isrealis treat Arabs, maybe they'll put presure on Isreal to change their policies.

So, in that example, we have the terrorist performing an action (blowing himself up in a bar) with the intention of, not only killing Isrealis (because, sure, maybe he wants to do this), but also to make people too scared to do things as they usually would.

Earlier I said that this reaction had to be, necessarily, irrational. What I mean by this is simply that the reaction must necessarily be out of proportion with the risk associated with the terrorism:

Terrorists : typical violent criminals :: shock jocks : talk radio.

Acts of terrorism are generally designed to be shocking. People are killed in greusome manners, things people take for granted (a night at a bar) are targeted. Someone being beheaded live on the internet makes people feel more scared than, say, someone being shot in a dark alley.

This effect (I guess you could call it a psychological effect) is the key difference between terrorism and other forms of violence and, in truth, is the real point of terrorism: make someone so scared of something (you? your cause?) that they're willing to do just about anything to make it go away.

As example of this effect, I would say that the aversion to flying in the aftermath of 9/11 is an excellent example. After some terrorists hijacked planes with box cutters, people were scared to fly. The safety precautions put in place by the government really have done little to actually make us safter. ("No nail clippers on the airplane!") Rather, they were intended to make us feel safer. It was a response designed to undo the psychological effect of seeing two airplanes crash in to the twin towers. While these regulations were just as irrational as people's sudden aversion to flying, they were probably not a totally bad idea.

So anyhow, that's terrorism as I see it. It's a violent act (I don't think I specified that earlier, but I think it's safe to restrict it to violent acts) designed to generate a certain irrational response from its target(s).

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seekingprometheus
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quote:
What he accomplishes is killing 20-50 Isrealis. This is the direct result of his action. However, killing 20-50 Isrealis isn't his goal. Rather, he (or, more likely, whoever sent him on this mission) has an objective of scaring Israelis away from doing things they normally do (like go to bars and the like).
Ivan--this is strategy. When a legitimate military operation is implemented to bomb an airfield, the end goal is not to scar up a particular swath of ground--the objective is to prevent airplanes from taking off and landing.
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Colin JM0397
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2 books to start with...

Walid Shoebat
quote:
Born in Bethlehem of Judea, Walid's grandfather was the Muslim Mukhtar (chieftain) of Beit Sahour-Bethlehem (The Shepherd's Fields) and a friend of Haj-Ameen Al-Husseni, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and notorious friend of Adolf Hitler.

Walid's great grandfather, Abdullah Ali Awad-Allah, was also a fighter and close associate of both Abdul Qader and Haj Amin Al-Husseini, who led the Palestinians against Israel. Walid lived through and witnessed Israel’s Six Day War while living in Jericho.

As a young man, he became a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and participated in acts of terror and violence against Israel, and was later imprisoned in the Russian Compound, Jerusalem's central prison for incitement and violence against Israel.

After his release, he continued his life of violence and rioting in Bethlehem and the Temple Mount. After entering the U.S, he worked as a counselor for the Arab Student Organization at Loop College in Chicago and continued his anti-Israel activities.

In 1993, Walid studied the Tanach (Jewish Bible) in a challenge to convert his wife to Islam. Six months later, after intense study, Walid realized that everything he had been taught about Jews was a lie. Convinced he was on the side of evil, he became an advocate for his former enemy.

Driven by a deep passion to heal his own soul, and to bring the truth about the Jews and Israel to the world, Walid shed his former life and his work as a software engineer and set out to tirelessly bring the cause of Israel to tens of thousands of people throughout the world: churches and synagogues, civic groups, government leaders and media.

Walid has written several online books including "Dear Muslim, Let Me Tell You Why I Believed" and "Israel, And The World's Mock Trial”, where he exposes anti-Semitism and the hatred of Jews in both the Islamic Christian and secular worlds.

Walid is an American citizen and lives in the USA with his wife and children, under this assumed name.

The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements
quote:
"Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves.

"The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.

"A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business.

"This minding of other's people's business expresses itself in gossip, snooping and meddling, and also in feverish interest in communal, national and racial affairs. In running away from ourselves we either fall on our neighbor's shoulder or fly at his throat."

"The burning conviction that we have a holy duty toward others is often a way of attaching our drowning selves to a passing raft. What looks like giving a hand is often a holding on for dear life. Take away our holy duties and you leave our lives puny and meaningless. There is no doubt that in exchanging a self-centered for a selfless life we gain enormously in self-esteem. The vanity of the selfless, even those who practice utmost humility, is boundless."

Fanaticism... was a Judaic-Christian invention... And it is strange to think that in receiving this malady of the soul the world also received a miraculous instrument for raising societies and nations from the dead -- an instrument of resurrection."



[ December 04, 2006, 09:49 AM: Message edited by: jm0397 ]

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rightleft22
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Will to power, perhaps for the leaders, those who encourage and enable the terrorist.

Will to pleasure, perhaps for the bored and the sick.

Will to meaning… to re-define circumstance. Noting like a war or cause to “give purpose”. Manipulate the human need to “matter”, that we can make a difference and people will literally and figuratively blow themselves up. ..


“Wars come from ethnic and religious enmities, competition for trade and territory, the life-and death struggle for scarce resources. But once it is under-way, war is often embraced as a release. A promise to cut the cord of circumstance that tethers average humanity. If war is celebrated, it is because for much of human kind it stands for a dream of freedom.” – Gray

The striving, grasping, crying for meaning slips through our fingers just as we think we found that which will set us free… we don't really want to be free... that is the tragedy.

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EDanaII
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Here's the problem with the whole "if it involves terror, it must be terrorism" argument.

If I take a pinch of chocolate, and put it in some milk, have I made chocolate milk? Or have I poured some milk and put some chocolate in it?

In order for chocolate milk to earn it's name, it must have enough chocolate in the milk so that its flavor dominates.

War will always involve terror. But declaring all acts of war as terrorism simply takes a common denominator and declares it as the primary element. That's like taking my cheese ravioli and declaring that it's cheese. Or putting a pinch in my milk and calling it "chocolate."

So, in order for us to declare something as "terrorism" the act being committed must include terror as the primary goal.

Otherwise, you end up calling a static charge a "battery" or a u-boat an "airplane" ('cause they both gots propellors).

Ed.

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MattP
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quote:
So, in order for us to declare something as "terrorism" the act being committed must include terror as the primary goal.
So the IRA, who's primary goal was to gain independence from the Crown, did not engage in terrorism?
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DaveS
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There's a purpose behind all acts of violence, but each kind is for a different purpose and has its own name and means. Usually, murder is for personal reasons, war uses military means to advance military aims directly, and terrorism uses military means indirectly to advance political aims. I would put "gang violence" in the category of terrorism. Murder can occur in the context of the others.
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Carlotta
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Could it be argued that sometimes "terrorism" is a less violent means of achieving an end? Of course not compared to diplomacy, but if diplomacy is no longer possible? For example: if you behead one person publicly and that dissuades other people from coming against you, haven't you effectively prevented the necessity to kill all those other people too by killing the one?

I am NOT advocating this behavior, but it seems that from the terrorists' point of view they could justify their actions by saying they are actually reducing casualties while securing victory.

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Jesse
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Athelstan-

I'm not arguing that Dresden was any more or less terrorism than V-1 rockets...both were attacks on civilians designed to crush the will to resist.

Me, I just argue against the claims that the Firebombings were not primarily intended to kill Germans.

Michelle-

Plenty of people old enough to think for themselves, like the WetherUnderground or John Brown, have become terrorists without being indocrinated at a young age.

MattP-

The sole aim of the Provisional IRA after the Civil War was not *just* to drive the Crown out of Ulster. Their other aims included pay-back for acts committed by various Ulster Protestant Terrorist groups, and the desire of certain high ranking members to keep being handed fat stacks of cash. We're talking part tribal conflict, part "classical terrorism", part gang warfare, and part Feudalism.

I think, at a certain point, we have to ask ourselves if cirsumstances have any effect on whether or not we refer to something as terrorism. When Jews under Roman occupation stuck daggers into collaborators, the intent was to scare others out of collaborating. Did that make it terrorism?

If Jews living in Rome had started sticking daggers in random Roman Citizens to try to force a withdrawl, I think the case would have been pretty clear cut, but there is always a broad area in the middle that is hard to define.

[ December 04, 2006, 03:22 PM: Message edited by: Jesse ]

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Michelle
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quote:
Could it be argued that sometimes "terrorism" is a less violent means of achieving an end? Of course not compared to diplomacy, but if diplomacy is no longer possible? For example: if you behead one person publicly and that dissuades other people from coming against you, haven't you effectively prevented the necessity to kill all those other people too by killing the one?
I can see both sides of this, but if forced to choose. I would disagree..

In my opinion, a jihadist who beheads a person in public, has given himself a two-point tactical advantage.

First, he has *shocked* the world into submission.
(along the lines of what you said)

Second, It is a ritualistic murder with a message, heard by the faithful.

A jihad is a struggle for what is righteous. The book of laws tells them ,
"The murderer must be decapitated"

The message is the West is murdering Islam....


The ritual slaying, the chanting, the surroundings, etc. lead to a reaffirmation of one's beliefs. (hence my theory that stockholm syndrome plays apart.)

With all this mind, I think certain acts of terror promote more violence, just by thier nature...

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Colin JM0397
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Honestly, to me, what the hell's the difference if something is, by definition, terrorism or not? It's a purely academic premise that doesn't mean much in the real world.

I doubt the folks in the WTC on 9/11 gave much thought to it. Ditto for the people cowering in their Dresden basements, or the refugees fleeing the fighting in The Sudan.

quote:
You wanna know what I think? It don't really matter what I think. Once that first bullet goes past your head, politics and all that sh*t, just goes right out the window.
Delta Sgt "Hoot" from the movie Blackhawk Down
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DonaldD
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Part of this debate is not what the word means, but what we want it to mean. It's a fight over who gets to define the terms.
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Colin JM0397
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Right, but - from my point of view, it matters very little either way you slice it.

Violence is violence.

Its an academic struggle over something that is what it is all on its own no matter what me, you, or anyone wants to call it.

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Ivan
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quote:
Originally posted by seekingprometheus:
quote:
What he accomplishes is killing 20-50 Isrealis. This is the direct result of his action. However, killing 20-50 Isrealis isn't his goal. Rather, he (or, more likely, whoever sent him on this mission) has an objective of scaring Israelis away from doing things they normally do (like go to bars and the like).
Ivan--this is strategy. When a legitimate military operation is implemented to bomb an airfield, the end goal is not to scar up a particular swath of ground--the objective is to prevent airplanes from taking off and landing.
Right, but airplanes not trying to take off and land from a pot-marked airfield is a rational response, and therein lies the distinction that I was trying to make.
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Carlotta
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Michelle,

"think certain acts of terror promote more violence, just by thier nature... "

Good point. Of course, I doubt that Al Qaeda is engaging in terrorism to avoid more violence, since isn't it their self proclaimed mission to kill all infidels or something? What it comes down to for me is that some acts are so wrong that they cannot ever be justified even for good purposes - in some cases the ends do not justify the means. This is why I don't say that terrorism can ever be justified, if it involves directly killing innocent people, even if it would indirectly save lives. But I think the same thing about some forms of torture - that they can't ever be justified.

I digress. You've given me something to think about.

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Jesse
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But...hasn't being willing to kill innocent people in order to indirectly save lives been our prime strategy for over a hundred years?
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Carlotta
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Jesse,
are you saying being willing to kill innocent people or directly intending to kill innocent people? If you mean the second, and that has been our prime strategy for a hundred years, then I guess I would have to say I'm against it. Let me know which it is - I'm woefully ignorant of modern history. Comes from switching high schools three times.

I see a difference between intending something evil so that good may result and intending something good even though evil may also result. (Difference between intentionally killing an innocent person in order to forestall violence, and the hypothetical example of intentionally bombing a weapons factory even though innocent people may be working there*) *provided all reasonable measures were taken to avoid killing the people, like bombing it after hours when possible.

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Michelle
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Jesse,
I'm not only ornery...I'm ignorant!! lol

I had to look up your John Brown reference to understand what you were saying, but the information I found didn't shed any light.

You are talking about the American Abolitionist-right?

I read just a couple paragraphs, but it pretty much supported my position of indotrination at an early age. He was raised by a very religious family that abhorred slavery. His father was an abolitionist. In fact, John Brown was so engrained that he was willing to *pass* his beliefs on to his children before his sentenced death. He was fighting for righteousness. It was a lesson his father taught him, it was a lesson he taught his children. Here are his last words,

" I believe to have interfered as I have done, . . . in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right. Now, if it be deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children, and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I submit: so let it be done."

Now if you are asking me if he was a terrorist? I have to say, I'm over my head here. I was, and still am, trying to keep my involvement in this conversation on terrorism confined to the current events involving Al Qaeda. (Michelle makes a crucifix symbol with her fingers and waves it at the IRA comments)

But thank-you for bringing him up. I live within driving distance of Harper's Ferry, I always enjoy a little history outing...I'll check it out.

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EDanaII
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Don't feel bad, Michelle, a lot of people don't know about John Brown. He's a (mostly) forgotten, yet all too important figure from the civil war. Many credit him for opening a riff that eventually tore the nation apart.


@ MattP:
quote:
So the IRA, who's primary goal was to gain independence from the Crown, did not engage in terrorism?
If terror is a primary component of their strategy, and not an incedental product of it, then, yes, they're terrorists.

But we're still left with the question "how much chocolate in my milk makes it chocolate milk?"

Ed.

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Jesse
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Michelle, he wasn't raised to believe that cold blooded murder was acceptable.

The Harpers Ferry Raid wasn't all he did, he also led a party that hacked five unarmed men to death one night during the Jayhawk war.

Massacre


He was funded by Melville, Fredrick Douglas, and possibly Thoreau. Funny to think that in a similar situation today, most of those guys would be locked up.

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Richard Dey
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I'm for John Brown. What he did against Virginia, Virginia had done against its own slaves. The Commonwealth of Virginia failed to treat its slave property properly or even decently. Insurrection was entirely justified.

Thoreau (pronounced' THUH-ruh please) was locked up -- for not paying his taxes; he disapproved of the Mexican War which added slave territory.

What imaginable rationale could the Commonwealth of Virginia make for resisting abolitionist pressures to free its slaves? What I love is the Southern rationale that the Civil War was a financial issue, not a slavery issue; yeah, right. Yeah, right. The slaves as property were worth money. Sure the Civil War was fought over money.

Slavery is terrorism, and that's what motivates modern terrorists. They want their womenfolk to remain enslaved, and TV is a window on the world.

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Michelle
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*now if I take 340W for twenty miles....*

Huh? Jesse- are you talking to me? I'm trying to plan a trip here!!

There is alot of neat stuff going on in Harper's Ferry the month of December, including a ghost tour themed the year John Brown was hanged. I probably will check it out.

I can't possibly agree or disagree with you, until I educate myself further.

I also found an article with lots of interesting tidbits here...http://www.wvculture.org/History/jnobrown.html

Richard,
I was in a discussion just the other day where someone informed me that Grant kept slaves after the proclamation was signed. I'm also in the mood to research his (my friend's) point of view, that slaves were only freed in the South, as a military tactic, while the northern neighbors kept thiers. I hadn't heard that before!! lol.. (and yes, he is a fourth-generation disgruntled Virginian which makes for amusing analogies...) His views would probably make for a lively heated thread as well... [Eek!] [Wink]

EDanall,
*muah* thank-you.
I don't feel bad at all! I'm a tour-guide in Washington D.C. and you wouldn't believe how much history I am suppose to remember, but by the same token, it is always nice to find something new to add to a tour so I still feel excited about my job.

For instance,
the link Jesse provided suggested the caning of Senator Charles Sumner had a great affect on John Brown. I know alot about that moment. I have often ran my fingers across the Senator's desk at the Charles Sumner School in Washington. (When nobody was looking- of course!) I also see this as an oppurtunity to enrich my Georgetown tour, what with the C&O Canal running all the way to Harper's Ferry.

John Brown is worthy of his own thread. I'll start one when I get more acquainted with him.

I apologize for derailing the terrorism topic. I'm just so excited about John Brown. [Big Grin]

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EDanaII
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I recommend The American Experience: John Brown's Holy War.. It doesn't take sides, but presents the facts.

Edited to add: BTW, one of the abolitionists mentioned, Richard Henry Dana is a relative of mine. [Smile]

[ December 06, 2006, 10:38 AM: Message edited by: EDanaII ]

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Jesse
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Grant was a slave holder, Lee wasn't. In fact, Lee believed that slavery was abhorrent.

In Homer Simpson terms-

The Civil War was not not about slavery.

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potemkyn
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Jesse,

Jefferson thought slavery was abhorrent, he still had plenty of slaves.

I've never seen any evidence that Robert E Lee wasn't a slave holder. Please justify this claim.

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Michelle
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Does anyone know what group puts out the sound-bite,
"Terrorissm is a method, not an ideology; terrorists are criminals, not warriors."

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Jesse
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Lee was in control of 60 some slaves for a period of a few years, as the executor of his father in laws will. He "inherited" (I'm a little fuzzy on whether they were technically his or his wifes) them shortly before the start of the war, and he freed them all by 1862.
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Tom_paines_ghost
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The Civil War WAS about slavery; it was slavery that created the conflic, and in the long run made it impossible to compromise.

History was revised to neglct this central fact. This was done deliberatly post reconstruction.

The economic effect Texas gets through both being large and buying texts as a state is that K-12 texts are written to be inoffnsive to Texas.

So we learn that Texas rebels against Mexico, to protect their property rights.

But never what sort of property they were protecting.

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Everard
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"In Homer Simpson terms-

The Civil War was not not about slavery."

The Civil War would never have been fought had it not been for slavery. Slavery was not the ONLY issue being fought over, but it was the issue that caused the war.

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Tom_paines_ghost
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Seems like everthing else could have been worked out.

The south just got more and more insane about how justified and right slavery was. The more unreasonable a belief, the arder a person must hold onto it to make it stick.

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KnightEnder
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I hate to argue on the side of terrorism, but...If you or people you care about are being oppressed or harmed by a numerically, financially, militarily superior force then terrorism is a legitimate, neh, intelligent tactic. I never would engage in or endorse the targeting of civilians but I could make a good argument for it. How many civilians has the US killed and maimed in our history? And terrorist attacks against our military is just smart. Ever see Red Dawn? Cheer when the Wolverines ambushed those dirty Commies? It has been said many times but: One mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter. Think George Washington.

KE

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KnightEnder
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quote:
Good point. Of course, I doubt that Al Qaeda is engaging in terrorism to avoid more violence, since isn't it their self proclaimed mission to kill all infidels or something? What it comes down to for me is that some acts are so wrong that they cannot ever be justified even for good purposes - in some cases the ends do not justify the means. This is why I don't say that terrorism can ever be justified, if it involves directly killing innocent people, even if it would indirectly save lives. But I think the same thing about some forms of torture - that they can't ever be justified.

So the US is a terrorist nation? Using this reasoning it must be.

How many civilians were killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? And the reason given was "to save more lives".

KE

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Jesse
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Exactly Ev.

It was not not about slavery.

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