The pirates who hijacked the Maersk Alabama last week, taking the ship’s captain hostage and demanding ransom for the vessel, its cargo and the captain, are just that – pirates. Call them criminals if you prefer, or armed robbers and kidnappers. International men of mystery. Swashbucklers, if you will.
But terrorists, they aint:
Terrorism is, most simply, policy intended to intimidate or cause terror. It is more commonly understood as an act which (1) is intended to create fear (terror), (2) is perpetrated for an ideological goal (as opposed to a materialistic goal or a lone attack), and (3) deliberately targets (or disregards the safety of) non-combatants. Some definitions also include acts of unlawful violence or unconventional warfare, but at present, there is no internationally agreed upon definition of terrorism.
Emphasis mine, in order to highlight the common conception of the term “terrorist” – think al-Qa’ida, Hamas, Hezbollah (and not the Tofu kind) – armed militant groups, seeking to overthrow the government in order to enforce their own ideology, in part by targeting civilians.
“There are statements in international law that say pirates are the ‘enemies of all mankind,’ and that goes back to the 1600s,” said Linda A. Malone, director of the human rights and national security law program at the William and Mary Law School in Virginia.
“It’s a form of terrorism, but it’s not done for political reasons. It’s done for financial gain, although those lines are starting to blur,” Malone said. “It’s one of the oldest international criminal law offenses.”
– crimes committed solely for financial gain are…well, crimes: murder, theft, kidnapping, etc.
I can see the headlines now: “Sexting Terrorism Paralyzes US Economy.” Mike Galanos will have a field day with that story.
A band of merry heathen veg*n pirate/terra-ists.
P.S. For more, see: Best, Steven and Anthony J. Nocella II, eds. 2004. Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals. New York: Lantern Books.
Don’t worry, I’m sure y’all can write it off as a business expense, given how you toss the term around with abandon.