Sunday, December 04, 2005

Ahistoricality Alert: World's First Terrorists?

Judith Apter Klinghoffer, in addition to being mostly wrong about policy, isn't much for history, either. She cites Richard Lourie (who, in spite of writing at the NY Times, doesn't qualify as a member of the liberal media she so deeply despises) saying
The world's first terrorists were high-minded young people who believed Russia would be delivered from injustice by the killing of its leaders, setting off a mighty conflagration.
Leaving aside the canard about liberals aiding terrorists, it's historical mush: there were assassin/terrorists in Japan in the 1850s-1860s, there were some vicious moments in the western US during the Civil War era, there were guerilla movements in the middle east in the Roman Era which carried out terroristic attacks on non-combatants (Zealots, yes). And that's just off the top of my head. Can you think of other pre-1879 terrorists? I bet you can.

Why cite these as the "world's first"? Because they're the first that can be tied to leftists, of course. And anything done by anyone on the left ever automatically discredits anyone to the left of the president in the present.

10 comments:

Grant Jones said...

Would some of the fighers in the Jewish Revolt against Rome, the "Frontier Warriors" of Islam c. 7th-8th century (ghiza), the Mahdi revolt and the tribal barbarians who invaded Rome from Eurasia also count as "terrorists."

Ahistoricality said...

I don't think so. Not all guerilla and irregular forces qualify as terrorists, by the usual definitions. For premodern forces, the general lack of what we consider "rules of war" means that our definitions need to be pretty clear. The Huns, Goths, etc., were pretty well-organized forces who raided for profit, not terror. The Jewish Revolt and Mahdi uprising were a pretty organized affairs, too, with guerrilla tactics but not, I don't think, terroristic ones. I don't know enough about the Ghiza to say offhand (and I can't find anything useful via Google, either).

Greg said...

I wouldn't count the frontier warriors of Islam (the ones who fought against the Byzantines) as terrorists. According to even the Byzantine sources, they were pretty well-organized and fought pitched battles against the Greeks.

The Assassins of the Crusades were terrorists, I would argue.

Sharon said...

November 1605. Houses of Parliament, London. Gunpowder. Shitloads of gunpowder. (Failed terrorists are still terrorists.)

Deep Thought said...

Of course, by 'terrorist' she means 'bomb-throwing terrorists' and as we all know from the newspapers of the time the leftist terrorists of Russia used those big round bombs with the sputtering fuses, like in Bugs Bunny cartoons.

Anonymous said...

I have a corollary to the corollary to Godwin's Law:

"When a comparison to Bugs Bunny or Yosemite Sam is made, the thread is over, and whoever mentioned Bugs Bunny has automatically won whatever argument was in progress."

blogista@yahoo.com

Cornish Charlie said...

Surely the Guerrillas of the Napoleonic Wars were terrorists as were the Boer, interestingly the response of the "Authoritories" in both cases was the same reprisals, internment, torture etc!

I do not agree that the Assassins were terrorists as their tactics targeted leaders rather than populations. Perhaps it could be argued that terrorism is the product of mass communication.

Ahistoricality said...

I don't know enough about the Boer wars to comment on that, but the Guerillas don't really qualify because of their focus on military opponents. Terrorism targets populations, not armed, uniformed forces.

The similarity of response is interesting, though.

alison said...

Friday, 22 March, 1622:
"Barbarous Massacre", Powhatan warriors murdered ~30% of Virginia's entire population.
The event was even recorded, by a guy named Edward Waterhouse.

Ahistoricality said...

Again, not my field of study, but I seem to remember that those were part of a series of back-and-forth attacks and reprisals over control of land. Both sides -- Native and settler -- targetted women and children; there was nothing like "laws of war" at work.

Vicious, yes. Terroristic? Doesn't seem like the right label to me.