Mrs. Hillary Clinton’s views on terrorism
By Neville Ladduwahetty
Mrs. Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner Democratic candidate in the 2008 US Presidential Election has stated at an interview that all terrorists cannot be lumped together even though they are connected by the thread of terror tactics, because the goals they are fighting for are different (The Guardian Unlimited, October 23, 2007). Since there is a strong possibility that Mrs. Clinton may become the next President of the US, whose primary concern is to keep America safe, she would also be expected to have a clear vision regarding global security, with the US being the world’s sole super power. It is critical therefore that that she iterates clearly her understanding as to whether the response of the free world towards those who engage in terrorism, for whatever reason, warrants a common global approach or not.
The fundamental premise of Mrs. Clinton is that if an entity such as the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) sets it a well-motivated goal, the nature of the tactics used to achieve that goal should not matter. Accepting such a premise would mean that the LTTE cannot be faulted for engaging child soldiers in war, nor could they be faulted for committing genocide, or for using civilians as human shields. Its use of suicide bombers, chemicals and every other means to achieve its goals under cover of the sanctity or loftiness of its goals would be equally acceptable. This premise postulates that terrorism used as a tactic in the pursuit of a goal is inconsequential, provided the motivations for that goal are worthy.
Even principles of Just War require that certain established ground rules are followed as laid out in the Geneva and Hague Conventions. They require that deliberate harm to non-combatants should be avoided at all cost. This is the very antithesis of terrorism as generally accepted. As a tactic, victimizing innocent civilians is what distinguishes the terrorist from the freedom fighter and anyone intentionally resorting to such tactics qualifies to be branded a terrorist regardless of the cause. This common thread of victimizing innocent civilians is in fact what justifies the Al-Qaeda, the Basques and the LTTE to be painted with the same brush.
Mrs. Clinton states that terrorism has been used throughout history. However, Rules of War did not exist at all times in history. As warfare became more brutal, a code of conduct gradually evolved, whether it was for single combat, civil wars or wars among nations. These codes became the Queensberry rules of combat. Without such codes wars among men would be inhuman. These codes set apart civilized man from the rest. In order for mankind to conform to such codes, universal instruments were developed over the ages and when they were violated, collective action was taken to punish the offenders.
However justifiable the motivations the means deployed to achieve a goal is as important. Mrs. Clinton appears to say that it does not matter. If, as a potential world leader, Mrs. Clinton believes in this concept, every group that identifies a cause would be justified in resorting to any and all means at their disposal to have their cause fulfilled. This can lead to global instability of an order never seen before. This surely cannot be the world she wants to bequeath to future generations.
Since the proposition advanced by Mrs. Clinton is a very significant shift from the position taken by the current administration since 9/11, this single issue of who should or should not be considered a terrorist, could be THE defining issue as to whether US foreign policy as perceived by her would ensure America’s safety as well as ensure global security.
- ASian Tribune -