By all accounts, state terrorism has been one of the greatest sources of human suffering and destruction of the past five centuries. Employing extreme forms of exemplary violence against ordinary people and specific groups in order to engender political submission to newly formed nation states, transfer populations, and generate labour in conquered colonial territories, imperial powers and early modern states killed literally tens of millions of people and destroyed entire civilizations and peoples across the Americas, the Asia-Pacific, the subcontinent, the Middle East, and Africa. Later, during the twentieth century, modern states were responsible for the deaths of 170 million to 200 million people outside of war (Rummel 1994), a great many of them murdered during notorious campaigns of state terrorism such as Stalin’s great terror, Mao’s Great Leap Forward, and Kampuchea’s return to Year Zero, and the rule of various dictatorial regimes in Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Uganda, Somalia, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq and dozens of other countries. During the great wars of the twentieth century, millions of civilians were killed in atomic attacks and ‘terror bombing’ campaigns designed specifically to undermine morale and intimidate into submission – a case of randomly killing some people in order to influence others, which is the essence of the terrorist strategy (Grosscup 2006). Disturbingly, state terrorism remains as one of the single greatest threats to human and societal security and well-being today. Certainly, in comparison to the terrorism perpetrated by non-state insurgent groups, the few thousand deaths and injuries caused by ‘terrorism from below’ every year pales into relative insignificance besides the hundreds of thousands of people killed, kidnapped, ‘disappeared’, injured, tortured, raped, abused, intimidated, and threatened by state agents and their proxies in dozens of countries across the globe in places like Chechnya, Kashmir, Palestine, Iraq, Colombia, Zimbabwe, Darfur, Congo, Somalia, uzbekistan, China and elsewhere. Even more disturbingly, government-directed campaigns of counter-terrorism in the past few decades have frequently descended into state terrorism by failing to distinguish between the innocent and the guilty, responding highly disproportionately to acts of insurgent violence, and aiming to terrify or intimidate the wider population or particular communities into submission (Goodin 2006: 69-73). Consequently, the victims of state counter-terrorism have always vastly outnumbered the deaths
caused by non-state or insurgent terrorism, including in the ongoing global war on terrorism. Given that state terrorism is incontrovertibly far more prevalent and destructive than non-state or insurgent terrorism, it is surprising that it has not yet received the attention it deserves within the international relations (IR), security studies or terrorism studies fields (Jackson 2008; Blakeley 2008), even though human rights activists and scholars have studied state repression more broadly for several decades. In fact, despite the truly vast growth in terrorism-related research since 11 September 2001, the subject of state terrorism remains poorly understood, theoretically under-developed, lacking in the kind of rich empirical data needed for advancing knowledge, and largely neglected in terms of the wider study of the terrorism phenomenon. It is in this context – the continuous and widespread suffering caused by persistent state terrorism and the relative lack of scholarly analysis of its nature, causes, and prevention – that we offer this collection of theoretical writings and case studies. Our aims are fairly modest but nonetheless important. First, we aim to provide a clear and unambiguous defence of the concept of state terrorism and to contribute to further theoretical development regarding the aims, nature, causes, and consequences of state uses of terrorism, both domestically and internationally. Second, we aim to provide a rich and diverse set of empirical case studies of contemporary state terrorism which can then be used to explore theoretical notions, generate new questions, and provide a resource for further research. Third, we aim to contribute to the growing critical-normative approach to the study of terrorism more broadly, and to challenge dominant approaches and perspectives which assume that states, particularly Western states, are primarily victims and not perpetrators of terrorism (Blakeley 2007). Last, the volume aims to broadly map out the current state of knowledge and suggest a future research agenda for the critically important study of state terrorism. We believe that such a study is intellectually and politically timely for a number of reasons. In the first place, there is an emerging ‘critical turn’ taking place in the wider terrorism studies field which is calling for, among other things, a greater focus by scholars on the more serious problem of state terrorism (see Jackson et al. 2009). This volume is, in part, a direct response to this call. Second, there is growing public concern over the consequences and impact of the global War on Terror. In particular, there is increasing concern about whether Western forms of counter-terrorism sometimes cross the line into state terrorism (such as when they involve torture, rendition, and the ‘targeted’ killing of suspected terrorists), and whether some key Western allies, such as Pakistan, Israel, Egypt and others, are systematic perpetrators of state terrorism. Third, the legacy of colonialism continues to contribute to state terrorism currently taking place, from various parts of Africa, to Central America, to the Indian subcontinent, to South-East Asia and the Middle East. Last, in places like Chechnya and Tibet, we find contemporary state activities in many ways similar to the cases in this book. In this context, a volume devoted to the examination of state terrorism takes on particular significance.