Rémi Brulin: Terrorism is Terrorism and States Sometimes Engage in Terror, Too.

Roundup: Talking About History

Rémi Brulin is research fellow and adjunct associate professor at New York University.

In his rebuttal to Glenn Greenwald's critique of the "terrorism expert industry," Daniel Trombly profoundly mischaracterizes both my research and the specific points on which Greenwald's post quoted me verbatim. Trombly writes:

"[Greenwald] rejects 'terrorism' as a useful term altogether, arguing, along with scholar Remi Brulin, that the term terrorism is primarily 'propaganda' for 'justifying one's own state violence'-- especially of the American and Israeli variety -- rather than a possible subject of expertise."

My research, presented in my recently completed Ph.D. dissertation, in a book chapter, and in an extensive 2010 conversation with Greenwald at Salon, addresses the definition and deployment of the concept of terrorism in American political discourse since 1945 and, more specifically, between 1972 and 1992, when this discourse was born. Much more narrowly, in Greenwald's post I attempt to show how "terrorism experts," in this case scholars writing for the two main "terrorism studies" journals, Studies on Conflict and Terrorism and Terrorism and Political Violence, have wrestled with the definitional issue in the specific context of American policies in El Salvador in the 1980s.

Replying to a comment that noted his focus on "non-state groups," Trombly notes: "Author here: I apologize for the lack of clarity. I was explaining the origin of the term as applied to non-states, which was almost a century after it was first used to describe the French revolutionary regime. My point was that even in its origin of its later application to non-state groups (which is now the common use of the term), it was not a term of propagandistic condemnation, but self-identified tactical and ideological description. Obviously state terrorism exists." (Emphasis mine.)..

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