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Is terrorism always evil?

By Jim Holt   June 2002

Are acts of terror always evil? The answer to this question may depend on a rather ill-understood moral principle, invented by Catholic casuists in the middle ages-the doctrine of double effect.

The broadest definition of terrorism is the deliberate killing of non-combatants. That is how Caleb Carr characterises it in The Lessons of Terror. For this he was taken to task in a review by Michael Ignatieff, who insisted that if the slaughter is carried out by “a state army under regular command, as part of a formally declared campaign to defeat another state” then it ought not to be…

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