Can Terrorism Be Justified?

(This was a speech I wrote for speech and debate in my Freshman year of high school. This was for a debate about whether or not terrorism could ever be justified. I decided to argue for the underdog side and say it could be justified.)

The 9/11 terrorist attacks. Arguably the most disturbing, painful, and terrifying moment in modern US history. Almost three thousand dead, with countless injured. 2, 977 of those were American civilians and rescue workers. Clearly, these horrible acts cannot be justified, but is this, the only form of terrorism there is. Looking at the terrorist acts on 9/11, it can be easy to say terrorism is evil. And this is somewhat true. The 9/11 attacks were evil. But it is too much of a stretch to say that all terrorism is evil. That is why I’m negating the resolution saying “Terrorism can never be justified.”

My first contention is that terrorism is much broader than just what we think automatically. The definition according to the oxford dictionary for terrorism is the unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. The Merriam Webster dictionary claims that it is the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal. It’s interesting that the main thing that makes it terrorism according to the oxford dictionary, is that it is an unofficial act. It turns out that the last time America officially declared war on another country was during World War Two. In a way, one could consider the entirety of the cold war as a series of terrorist acts by the Russians and the Americans, as we unofficially used violence in foreign countries to stop the spread of the enemies influence. The nuclear arms race was also a form of intimidation to try and ‘terrorize’ our enemy. there was a certain group of people who were protesting for their cause, and were leading to disturbance of the peace, would it be unjust to have the police force them into backing down by fighting back?

My second contention is that terrorism is relative. One could be considered a patriot to some, and also be considered a murderer by others. Take the American Revolution for example. The Boston tea party was essentially economic terrorism. By destroying thousands of pounds worth of an essential trading good, these extremists were sending a political message to England, attempting to scare them to the point of taxing them less. Also take the battle at Lexington and Concord. This was an unofficial attack by rebels on the people who controlled the Thirteen Colonies. Hundreds of British Loyalists were killed in the course of the war by these rebels, with a clear message to the British. To get off of our land. If we deny that this was justified than you might as well say that England was in the right, and America was in the wrong. Yet, we still don’t usually consider these acts of terrorism. Why? Because what American wants to say that their country was built off of terrorism. Look to any terrorist group in the world, whether they are considered one or not, and see if they believe their cause is justified.

My last contention is that the government shouldn’t be allowed to tell us what is just and what is not. Justness regards morality. A Christians, we should have an idea of what is just according to God. Some people say justness is determined by nature. Others say there is no such thing as just or unjust, or right and wrong.  But when we get our idea of what is just or unjust from whatever is the law of the land or what is official, we become robots, and can easily be told what to do by the government. The government is made up of flawed people like you or I, who have their own ideas of what is just or unjust. Terrorism apparently is unofficial acts of violence used to intimidate, and according to the affirmatives argument, terrorism can never be justified. The big question is, who decides that what’s terrorism? The so called official people. What gives them the right to have an act of violence, and those who oppose them not be able to.

Terrorism is a lot more complicated than some would think, and much, much broader. The argument comes down to the relativity of both terrorism and justness, making us have to ask not if terrorism is justified, but rather what is terrorism.  It is much too broad of a term to be considered always evil, and therefore there may be justified freedom-fighters, or protestors, or whatever word you would like to replace terrorist with.


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