Is a dead terrorist a good terrorist? | QUICK HITS 34

Is it ok to kill terrorists regardless of the circumstances? Is a dead terrorist a good terrorist? In this Quick Hits podcast, I look at the pros and cons of taking out terrorists using lethal force.

In this podcast, retired Canadian intelligence analyst Phil Gurski discusses the subject of terrorism: what it is (and isn’t), trends, developments and more. Phil Gurski, author of five books on terrorism, is not shy to wade into controversial matters and provide his perspective honed from more than three decades in intelligence. From Canada to the greater West to the world, subscribe to listen to the thoughts of a person who ‘worked at the coalface’ for many years.

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Phil Gurski
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3 thoughts on “Is a dead terrorist a good terrorist? | QUICK HITS 34

  1. There are special arguments with respect to killing terrorist leaders. It is insufficiently appreciated that, unlike regular armies, many if not most terrorist groups do not have structured, agreed succession plans and well-groomed individuals ready to take over immediately should their current leaders die. More likely is a period of turbulence and diminished operational capacity as new would-be leaders compete for command, and as the newly-emerged leader endeavours to cement his control of the group’s members and tries to learn his operational business. And also not well-appreciated is the fact that the assassination of a leader, despite considerable security measures, leads surviving members to view their comrades suspiciously—which one provided to the the intelligence on the leader’s whereabouts that led to his killing? Finally, the amount of time and energy required to remain safely hidden from counter-terrorist forces is time and energy not devoted to planning and executing attacks. For example, the assassination of Hizballah’s operations chief, Imad Mughniyeh, in downtown Damascus in 2008—virtually under the noses of Syrian security—sent the clear message that Israel’s enemies are not safe from attack anywhere, and hence, must devote much effort merely to staying alive.

  2. Very interesting and a subject close to my heart. First, I concur that we must be transparent in our CT activities but the mention of putting TERR on trial, sentencing and then handing down a sentence raises a weary smile; the age old definition of TERR creeps back, are they freedom fighters, insurgents or criminals? Should they be afforded the protection of the Geneva Conventions, Law of Armed Conflict or the criminal code of Canada – or a mixture?

    Second, if a TERR is taken out to preserve another innocent life and there is no other way of preventing the attack – good to go; but it has to be carried out in a transparent manner, with all protocols and policies followed, any other way creates ‘Martyrs’ and recruits more terrorists, and finally

    Third, sometimes it is ‘better the devil you know’ – In my past career I worked a Theatre of operations for a long time and we knew who the leaders were; if we had taken them out, we could not definitively state what the chain of command now was. Will be tuning in for more of these chats, very thought provoking.

    1. Thank you Barry for taking the time to comment. I agree that the terrorist-militant-insurgent-freedom fighter bandwagon is frustrating. Every time I post an article where someone calls the Taliban ‘militants’ I cross it out and put in ‘terrorists’. Stay healthy!!

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