This article discusses the connection between terror and what the author calls "violent justice," or how states punish acts of terrorism. Findlay, the author, calls for "a more detailed empirical examination of the relationships suggested between terrorism and violent justice." He feels that the justification for using violent justice to respond to terrorism comes from the worlds of journalism and politics, not from validated research. This paper establishes a theoretical framework that the author believes can guide this empirical research.
The first question the author examines is the utility and purpose of violence, both in acts of terrorism and in the response of the justice system. While the author states that both terror and its punishment have elements of what he calls "purposeful justice," he believes that if the violence of the response to terror approaches the magnitude of the terror itself, its utility is limited.
The author also states that the "contested meanings" of truth among those who perpetrate terror and those who punish it must be examined as part of the necessary empirical research into this area. He uses examples, such as the violence in Ireland, to demonstrate that truth is relative in terrorism and its punishment.
The author also examines the idea of the "victor's justice" and the denial of victimhood to terrorist communities. The punishment of terrorism validates the idea that the state should have hegemony over other groups. The author believes that the image of a victim drives the international response to terror, but this paradigm runs the risk of alienating the terrorist communities. The author calls for the recognition of the subjective meaning of violence in the larger communities of which terrorists are a part rather than seeing their acts as unmitigated evil. The author states that looking at terrorism through the dichotomies of us versus them or good versus evil is not as useful as looking at terrorism as a rational act. He believes that while controversial, examining the connections between terrorism and violent justice is more conducive to providing effective responses to the war on terror.