In what ways have liberal democratic states in the North deployed state terrorism in the South?

In what ways have liberal democratic states in the North deployed state terrorism in the South?


State Terrorism where torture can often be a tool, is considered to be an act of violence accomplished by state authorities against to civilians, in place of instilling fear for political objectives. According to (Blakeley, 2007), during the last few decades many Northern democratic states have used terrorism along with other forms of repression, against millions of civilians in the South. As argued by (Blakeley and Raphael, 2016), the state terrorism deployed by the liberal democratic states from the North to the South is one of coercive tools of neoliberal forms of globalisation to secure and maintain access to resources and markets. Therefore, this essay will argue about the ways liberal democratic states in the North have deployed state terrorism in the South. The first part of the essay will briefly discuss about the political consequences of existing dominant narratives concerning state terrorism. In the second part of the work, the essay will argue that; liberal democratic countries in the north have long history of deploying the state terrorism in the south, using the example of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, Vietnam and Latin America.

The way in which the phenomenon of state terrorism is analysed by most of the scholars, are influenced by the leading neorealist approaches which tend to accept the offensive methods of foreign policy used by Northern democratic states, particularly by the US. Generally, such states are justified with an excuse of using the force only as a response to reasonable threats or means of protecting general good. However, as Alexander George has noted, on any reasonable meaning of terrorism, the US remains on top of the list by means of supporting, sponsoring and spreading of terrorism all over the world (Blakeley, 2007). The US state department defines terrorism for counter-terrorism as pre-prepared politically intended disorder directed against unarmed targets by subnational organisations, mostly designed to have an influence on public. However, instead of taking a proper definition of terrorism, for the sake of studying the phenomenon which would more effectively lead us to its real causes as well as countermeasures, the US foreign policy is based on propagandistic motion which simply perceive terrorists in adverse to their interests (Chomsky, 1991: 12). Such political position contributes to the misleading counter-terrorism policy which automatically turns back into the criminal activities and has not much to differ from non-state terrorism. Thus, when asking the question of why there is little or no scholarly data available in the key publications that discusses the topic of state terrorism used by Northern democracies, the answer would be very simple: it merely doesn’t match among the established body of reference of dominant scholarship on terrorism. Which of course raises the doubts that the North is guilty of spreading the terrorism over the South.

Northern Democracies have long history of state terrorism in the south through providing financial and military support over the deeply repressive regimes as well as to various terrorist groups. Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor, carried out with very brutal methods, is a shining example of violating international law and state terrorism. According to East Timor’s CAVR, the process of occupation involved inexcusable brutal methods, such are widespread torture, extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and aimless bombing. As documented, the invasion resulted in deaths of between 102,800 and 201,900 civilians in East Timor, of which more than a half were the victims of starvation and illness. Not to mention the overall population that was less than 700,000 at the time. Over the occupation, the region lost tens of millions dollar, that severely hampered development of the East Timor. However, in reality the state was occupied by the US, UK, Australia and other dominant powers, through the use of Indonesia as a weapon. Indonesia was not anything more but the executer of western policy interests in the south. During the period of crises (1975-1999), the above-mentioned allies provided Indonesia with financial, as well as military training, aid, and other forms of diplomatic supports (Nevins, 2009). According to (Chomsky, 1999), The US as well as all its allies knew earlier that conflict was coming and successfully authorized it. In addition, Australian government knew that it would be more beneficial for them to make a deal with Indonesian government about the Timor’s oil and gas reserves, rather than directly dealing with independent East Timor. Thus, at the expense of occupation, Australia gained control over these areas and up to date continues to benefit from the resources. Also, has to be mentioned that; on the basis of the International Law, those oil-rich areas appear to belong the East Timor. On the other hand, despite the fact that the US constitution prohibits the use of its military support for offensive purposes, ninety percent of the weapons used by Indonesian soldiers were provided by the United States, which indicates the benefits received by the US, through the selling military equipment to the Indonesian forces. Based on that and many other similar events, would be reasonable to say; “The primary aims of US foreign policy are to maintain the dominant global position of the US and to ensure access to resources and markets in the South; these priorities are enshrined most openly in the Monroe doctrine, pronounced by US President James Monroe in 1923, when he declared the US the protector of the nations of the Americas from European states, whose efforts to extend their territory could undermine the security and the dominant position of the US in the Western Hemisphere” (Blakeley, 2007).

On the other hand, after the World War 2, the US military training of forces in the South has been significantly expanded, and at present, the US has its military bases in about 150 different countries all over the world. However, the US military expansion was most intense in Latin America between the years of 1950-1993; during this time the US managed to train over 100,000 Latin American military forces, included police personals. The primary reasons for training the Latin American forces, lies in the fact that the US government prefers the local authorities to carry out the US interests in the South. Much of those trainings involved the torture and other unethical activities. Thus, the forces trained by the US, would automatically become indispensable allies solving unwanted cases for them more effectively (Blakeley, 2007).

The war in Vietnam is another obvious example of the US involvement in State Terrorism. Exactly the same principle as in East Timor, the torture was also the part of the CI strategy during the US invasion of Vietnam. This was directly executed through the Phoenix program. Douglas Valentine states, “Phoenix was, among other things, an instrument of counter-terror – the psychological warfare tactic in which VCI members were brutally murdered along with their families or neighbours as a means of terrorising the neighbouring population into a state of submission. Such horrendous acts were, for propaganda purposes, often made to look as if they had been committed by the enemy” (Valentine, 2000: 13). According to the William Colby, who served the Phoenix program between 1968-1971, confirmed the deaths of 20,587 local civilians as a result of Vietnam War. However, the South Vietnamese government claims the number to be over 40,000 (Blakeley, 2007).

Whether state terrorism involves acts limited to a small number of victims and a limited audience, or whether it is targeted at a much wider section of the population, the methods used always involve the deliberate targeting of persons protected by international law. Such methods include kidnap, disappearances, arbitrary or secret detentions, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment, assassinations, and mass murder. All of these acts are prohibited under international law, both in peacetime under International Human Rights Law(IHRL), for example the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), or during war under International Humanitarian Law (IHL), specifically the Geneva Conventions. Even combatants are protected: while it is legitimate to target armed enemy combatants directly participating in hostilities, assassination, torture, rape and other inhumane treatment is always prohibited” (Blakeley and Raphael, 2016).


All things considered, we can conclude that the liberal democratic states from the north have been guilty in supporting the state terrorism against the civilization in the South. Taking into account the various forms of the support provided by the US and allies to the Indonesian government during the conflict, we can conclude that the US, UK and Australia along with other northern powers, are guilty for the occupied territory of East Timor through the Indonesian intermediary. The soldiers were Indonesian, but the interests as well as support were mostly those of the Western powers. Above all, other productive direction for further examination would be to consider various methods in which state terroristic methods, including arbitrary detentions, torture along with other anti-human rights practices were used by the USA, during the war on terror. Which over time has become accepted and integrated by means of internal and external law enforcement agencies from a number of the states in the north, most of whom are now claiming to be liberal democratic. Overall, the essay argues that the North have a long history of state involvement in terror; the Latin America is an obvious example of activities where the US government has carried out its interests through the operation using terror tactics, including the death squads and war veterans. To the end must be noted, the primary aim of the North foreign policies, has always been to maintain and secure and maintain their access to resources in the South.



Blakeley, R. (2007). bringing the state back into terrorism studies. European Political Science, [online] 6(3), pp.228-235. Available at:

Blakeley, R. and Raphael, S. (2016). Understanding Western State Terror. In: R. Jackson, Routledge Handbook of Critical Terrorism Studies, Routledge, pp.159 – 169.

Nevins, J. (2009). Embedded Empire: Structural Violence and the Pursuit of Justice in East Timor. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, [online] 99(5), pp.914-921. Available at:

Chomsky, N. (1999) Why Americans should care about East Timor. Available at: (Accessed: 4 January 2017).

Valentine, D. (2000) The Phoenix Program. New York: Morrow.



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