Does Terrorism Have “A Distinctive Moral Significance”?

Does Terrorism Have “A Distinctive Moral Significance”?

Why A Recent Philosophical Trend Is Dangerously Mistaken.

By Professor C.A.J. Coady (Centre For Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics)

November 05, 2016         Picture: Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters.

This article is part of The Critique’s November/December 2016 Issue “The Great War Series (Part III): Defeating ISIS”.

The threat of terrorism has had a dominant role in foreign policy concerns for nations around the world in the 21st century, and organisations like ISIS have been the focus of much of this concern in recent years. In connection with this, there has recently been a development in the philosophical discussion of what the special or “distinctive” significance of terrorism might be. This scholarly trend seems stimulated by more widespread popular concerns amongst politicians, commentators, and the general public about the damaging impact of terrorism worldwide. I think that this trend is misguided, occasionally confused, and in some respects politically dangerous, as I shall try to show in what follows. At the very least, I shall try to argue these points in regards to the two authors considered below, although more work would be needed to demonstrate that similar points apply more generally.

The search for distinctive significance would seem to require clarity about the definition of terrorism since seeking some special significance for a phenomenon surely requires some general agreement on what it is. This is especially so regarding a highly polemical and contested concept like terrorism for which a multitude of different and often incompatible definitions exist in legal, philosophical and political literature. Nevertheless, as we shall see, some of the philosophers searching for this special significance not only purport to go beyond definition, but show a scant regard for it. We shall see reason to think that this disregard impairs their enterprise.

Their project is to explain why we take the phenomenon of terrorism so seriously and rank it so highly as a political and moral concern. Jeremy Waldron has made a contribution to this enterprise and more recently Samuel Scheffler and L. K. McPherson (Waldron 2010; Scheffler 2006; McPherson 2007). There is also a related contribution by Karen Jones (Jones 2004), though she is not directly addressing the issue of “special significance”.

There are other philosophers who try to show some moral element in terrorist acts that mark them off as distinctive resorts to violence, but many of them, though not all, tend to build the element into a definition and so are beyond the scope of my argument here, and would often be ruled out by my arguments for the tactical definition I favour. [i] Igor Primoratz, for example, has discussed and effectively criticized some of these thinkers (Primoratz, 2013, Ch. 7), including criticism of Scheffler’s approach that in a way partially overlaps with my objections below, but with a different emphasis, omitting a discussion of the potentially dangerous political consequences of Scheffler’s thesis.

I discuss Jones and McPherson’s views on terrorism in a book on “The Meaning of Terrorism” nearing completion for Oxford University Press. McPherson does not look to outcomes for distinctive significance, but to the normative source of terrorism. In this essay I want to focus on Scheffler and Waldron, starting with the former.


Scheffler and destabilizing the existing social order

Scheffler argues that it is possible to be relatively neutral about definitional matters and still pose his question. There are echoes here of the political scientist, Walter Laqueur’s much earlier approach. Laqueur also disclaims any concern for definition but asserts that terrorism “is an attempt to destabilize democratic societies and to show that their governments are impotent.” (Laqueur 1986: 87) This creates serious problems about how to characterise terrorist attacks on non-democratic societies, problems that Scheffler avoids by taking a more general line on the destabilisation account, applying it to all societies.

To achieve neutrality about definition, Scheffler chooses certain examples of politically oriented violence that, he claims, people “would not hesitate, prior to analysis, to classify as instances of terrorism” (Scheffler 2006: 2) and he seeks to analyse what is distinctively morally repellent about them. The answer is that such acts are committed “in order to induce fear or terror in others, with the aim of destabilizing or degrading (or threatening to destabilize or degrade) an existing social order.” (Scheffler 2006: 3) These he calls “the standard cases” though curiously this nomenclature is not intended (he says) “to beg the very questions of definition that I said I would not be addressing.”

I call this curious because a selection of standard cases to the exclusion of what others would equally readily pre-theoretically classify “unhesitatingly” as terrorist acts is an obvious definitional move, even if it is definition by selective paradigm case rather than explication of necessary and sufficient conditions. Significantly, many of these other excluded cases are clear counter-examples to Scheffler’s thesis, so he treats them as somehow peripheral instances of terrorism, or, for one set of cases, as not terrorism at all but “terror”.

Scheffler’s strategy means that he excludes from consideration the numerous examples of (what would otherwise be) terrorist acts in which the aim of the perpetrators has nothing to do with “destabilizing or degrading an existing social order”, such as terrorist acts aimed at securing the release of political prisoners, or the removal of a newly arrived occupying force, or the removal of grave human rights abuses perceived to be at odds with an existing social order. There are numerous contexts in which violent acts with such limited purposes would unhesitatingly be classed as terrorist. [ii] None of these need aim at the degrading or destabilizing of the existing social order to which the victims belong; the attackers need not care about that social order, other than for its influence on the specific grievances they hope to remedy; or it may be that they are defending the existing social order against authorised violations of it.

Of course, the expression “destabilizing or degrading an existing social order” is open to unconstrained interpretations, and one can imagine political commentators who would view any removal of a government, or pressured release of political prisoners as “destabilizing or degrading an existing social order.” I doubt, however, that Scheffler wants to count himself in that camp. Nor, as he admits, does a great deal of what is commonly called state terrorism have his favoured aim, indeed much of it aims to bolster the existing social order, and, for this reason, he wants to call it “terror” rather than “terrorism” thereby exhibiting a previously disavowed interest in definition, though this time a purely stipulative one.

In short, Scheffler’s version of the moral significance of terrorism helps promote a distorted understanding of terrorism that could have serious consequences for sensible policies for responding to it. Some terrorist attacks may indeed have something like the purpose that Scheffler identifies, but making this the prime focus of our moral concern with terrorism has dangerous implications.

One is that the degrading or destabilizing story shifts attention away from possibly remediable grievances that many terrorist acts are concentrated upon. It seems clear, for instance, that much of the stimulus to terrorist activity directed against the United States and its allies arises in the first place not from some wholesale rejection of democracy but from hatred of certain American military and geo-political strategies and activities, especially in the Middle East.

Prior to the 9/11 attacks in the USA, the presence of US military bases and other troop facilities, often supporting or countenancing despotic or unpopular regimes, combined with almost wholesale support for regionally-detested Israeli policies, were potent causes, often invoked in terrorist literature.

This point about Islamic terrorist aims in the Middle East was made vividly clear in an interview in 2011 with the London Times by Michael Scheuer, a former CIA agent who directed the “Alec Station” dedicated bin Laden CIA team during the 1990s. As Scheuer put it:


“There are almost 900 pages of primary sources on bin Laden – sermons, speeches, etc … There is almost nothing in there about waging a war against the West for its freedoms or liberty or gender equality or drinking alcohol (…) It is support for Israel, support for the Saudi police state, it’s our presence in the Arab peninsula, it’s support for the Russians in the Islamic Caucasus. There is no more effective recruiter for al-Qa’ida than the status quo of American foreign policy.” (“Al Qaida Winning War against the West” by Tom Coghlan, The Times, May 28, 2011).


Where terrorist attacks are part of a campaign to achieve, for instance, decolonisation, removal of foreign military bases or forces, or what is seen as a foreign invasion or occupation, then the more cosmic destabilisation/degradation story obscures this reality in favour of what may well be a fantasy in some instances, or a less significant factor in others.

Many of the more recent terrorist attacks in Western countries, such as the UK, France and Belgium are not aimed at some grandiose objective like subverting the entire social order in those countries, but rather at hitting back at what the attackers see as morally outrageous attacks upon countries and groups with which they identify. Consider the numerous episodes in the wake of the Iraq invasion and the Afghanistan intervention where civilians, including a whole wedding party, or doubtfully identified terrorists, have been killed by “ordinary” bombing and drone attacks [See Finlay on the morality of targeted killings]. These provide enough material for motivating grievances without resort to the “degrading” hypothesis. Ignoring or downgrading this aspect of terrorist activities could have serious consequences for counter-terrorist strategies.


Waldron and the psycho-social condition

Jeremy Waldron is alert to the ways in which understanding terrorism and its broad significance can be important for counter-terrorist strategies. This is one reason why, in his essay “Terrorism and the Uses of Terrorism”, he engages in what he calls “a sort of general reflection that, as I say, resembles definitional inquiry” (p. 50). He also calls it “a definitional discussion” rather than a quest for a satisfactory definition. He declares that his purpose is to “gain insight into the intentional structure of the phenomena that most of us describe as terrorism.” (51-2) While skirting thus around definition, he makes a number of remarks about definition that do not always sit comfortably with each other. In addition, in spite of an aversion to defining terrorism, he offers (as we shall see below) a detailed, typical philosopher’s definition of what turns out to be only one form, though, for Waldron, a significant form, of a terrorist act.

Unlike Scheffler, Waldron does not use the phrase “the distinctive significance of terrorism”, but he devotes one lengthy section of his discussion to similar territory. This is the section that deals with the way that terrorist acts aim at coercion by intimidation. In this section, Waldron seems to argue that all terrorism has this feature, indeed he offers the definition-seeming description of terrorism mentioned above. It goes as follows:


“(Terrorism) …looks to the possibility of creating a certain psycho-social condition, R, in a population that is radically at odds with the range of psycho-social states {N1, N2,….Nn} that the government wants or needs or can tolerate in its subject population. The terrorist group performs various actions—explosions, killings etc.—which tend to put the population or large sections of it into condition R. The terrorist group does this with the aim of giving the government a taste of what it would be like to have its subject population in condition R. And it threatens to continue such actions, with similar effects, until the government yields to its demands.” (p. 65)


In various places I have argued that any such definition (were this a definition) fails as an account of all terrorist acts because there is no one single “psycho-social condition” (even including fear) that must be aimed at by perpetrators of terrorist acts, nor need such acts always aim at any governmental responses (though they often do). And, whether it is called a definition or not, the same is true of a comprehensive description of terrorist acts such as that offered by Waldron.

Curiously enough, Waldron seems to recognise as much later in his essay when he explicitly discusses the ways in which many acts that he acknowledges to be terrorist, do not aim at R. Indeed, he lists seven categories of such acts that do not aim at R and at least four of which do not seem even to aim to influence a government to meet demands. This gives his discussion a rather baffling shape. It is probably best to treat his comprehensive description as a definition-like statement aimed at demarcating only one form of terrorist acts: call that category “demoralising terrorism”. But his extensive treatment of the other categories that don’t fit the demoralising story makes it clear at the very least that the significance of the demoralising motivation and effect is much less than he wants it to be.

To see this, we should attend more closely to the way he characterises R. He begins his path to R by discussing Hannah Arendt’s account of the sort of “bestial, desperate panic” created by totalitarian regimes like Nazism, a state of mind and society that induces a sort of paralysis of will in those subject to it. But Waldron admits that the efforts of sub-state terrorists and “ordinary” government terrorism cannot reach to this extreme; at most the R he seeks operates in some more remote but analogous fashion.

The key explanatory clause is that R is a radical departure from the state of normality that governments rely upon to conduct their business of ruling; at least this seems a plausible reading of the import of Waldron’s words, “the range of psycho-social states {N1, N2,….Nn} that the government wants or needs or can tolerate in its subject population.” Of course, what different governments need and can tolerate of their subject populations may be pretty unpleasant depending on the style of government, but a charitable interpretation of Waldron’s intent would restrict it to democratic or at least “decent” governments (in something like Rawls’s sense) where the government itself doesn’t rule by requiring anything like the sort of abject demoralisation that Arendt talks of. Unless we do this, we risk characterising as terrorist perfectly defensible insurgent attempts that avoid targeting non-combatants but aim to mitigate or eliminate the “normal” conditions of totalitarian or despotic domination.

Restricting thus the scope of a terrorist definition to that directed against democratic states, clearly suffers from some of the drastic problems posed by Scheffler’s account, since many external or non-governmental attacks on the civilian populations of non-democratic regimes deserve the name terrorist. The promotion of R may also fit ill with terrorism directed by non-democratic states (and possibly in some circumstances democratic ones) against their own innocent citizens, since they will be often aimed at enforcing their version of N. But since Waldron admits that his definition-sounding strategy does not encompass all terrorism, we shall set this difficulty aside for the moment.

One of the examples of R that Waldron gives is the disruption of economic activities, such as that caused by the 9/11 bombings in the USA. These involved the reluctance of people to travel, especially by aeroplane. The nervousness about travel certainly had widespread consequences, and though the acuteness of the fears has subsided with time, the fears were symptomatic of a disruption of the normal expectations of people in a largely comfortable, advanced capitalist community.

But in addition to the economic effects, there were significant changes in the social, legal and political culture of the United States and other countries apprehensive of terrorist attacks that might plausibly be regarded as R effects. These included the passage of highly restrictive laws and regulations, the development of internal political and social policies that flouted existing laws, as in the surveillance of citizens’ communications and the resort to torture. The latter, disguised by such euphemisms as “enhanced interrogation” and “rendition”, involved the legally dubious incarceration by US authorities of terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay and the export of others for torture in foreign countries with no scruples about the practice.

The 9/11 attacks also provided a rationale (if not exactly an excuse) for the mismanaged military intervention in Afghanistan, and the disastrous and (for many, myself included) morally indefensible invasion of Iraq [See Barzagan for the role the U.S’ invasion of Iraq, and other Muslim states, played in facilitating the rise of ISIS]. These forays may not have represented a drastic shift in American cultural attitudes to military adventurism, but the terrorist attacks clearly overrode any abiding reluctance to risk another Vietnam. It is highly doubtful that precisely these changes, or their widespread nature, were aimed at by the terrorists, but the psychic shock of 9/11 made them possible.

Waldron does not cite all these changes as underpinned by the disruption of “the range of psycho-social states {N1, N2,….Nn} that the government wants or needs or can tolerate in its subject population” but he would not I think disagree markedly with my characterisation of the facts at issue. What is notable about most of them, however, is that the government of George W. Bush profited from the disturbance of the attitudes N, since they were able to exploit that disturbance to advance their political agenda related to foreign military incursions and some neo-conservative domestic policies. They did not of course welcome in itself the destruction wrought by the attacks on New York or Washington, but welcomed, encouraged and utilised the attitude N that the attacks promoted. So there is a sense in which it is implausible to think that the Bush government wanted, needed or even tolerated the stability of attitudes N.

It is indeed possible to argue that an ideal democratic government would need these psycho-social states so that a sensible democratic government inspired by that ideal would abhor their absence, and that is perhaps another way to understand Waldron’s claim. But so understood the aim of terrorists to produce R loses most of its plausibility and bite since the terrorists are not likely to be at all concerned with what would damage an ideal democratic government, but rather to promote circumstances that would be unwelcome and disturbing to an actual democratic government hostile to them.

Nor of course are the proposed aims of disrupting N supposed to be restricted to terrorism against democratic governments, and non-democratic governments are unlikely to find disturbances of N states problematic unless they reach such panic status as to undermine their grip on power. More generally, most actual governments seek support and compliance from their subjects as a very high priority (if not above all else) and a disruption of N states can cement such support and compliance.

It may be replied that terrorists nonetheless aim at the disruption of N states either because they do not realise that this effect will often be welcome and beneficial to the enemy government, or because they think that such benefits will be short-lived and the overall longer-term outcome will be detrimental to the enemy government’s counter-terrorist efforts against them. Call the first leg of this disjunction “the ignorance response” and the second “the provocation response”.

The ignorance condition may well be met by terrorists who aim to produce R, but, if so, the significance of R as something very notable, perhaps unique, about the intent of terrorist acts is dramatically reduced since their failure in the circumstances is testimony not to alarming cunning in the production of damaging governmental and community disarray, but to a confused and doomed purpose. Of course, the terrorist acts will still have done something terrible, i.e., injuring and killing innocent people, but the further “distinctive significance” of terrorism will be beside that point.

On the provocation argument, I have argued elsewhere [iii] as a criticism of the necessity of the fear element in a tactical definition that terrorists may sometimes want to create reactions of anger rather than fear as an inducement to over-reaction. Hence I am certainly open to the suggestion of the provocation response that terrorists could aim at producing longer-term goals other than immediate fear or panic or even aim at other psychological states altogether to procure those goals. The aim of producing over-reactions in order to mobilise more support for one’s cause in those who are then badly affected by the violent or coercive over-reactions has long had a place in some revolutionary and counter-revolutionary theory and practice.

The dreadful beheadings of kidnapped journalists staged by the Islamic State organisation in 2004, and other such acts, were plausibly analysed by several commentators as aimed precisely at goading Western powers into increased military interventions in Iraq and possibly Syria with short-term disadvantages to IS but longer term benefits in the shape of a tragic re-run of the 2003 intervention in Iraq, or, at any rate, and less dramatically, considerably increased local support and recruitment for ISIS. In the suggested provocation or strategic adjustment of Waldron’s story, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 could then be seen as a plausible strategy for al Qaeda, though its eventual success for them is far more debatable: it may be that the outcome for both provoked and provocateurs (judged in their own terms) is already dismal, and may prove in the future to be more so.

The further point to note about the provocation argument in connection with Waldron’s claim is that he himself sees the creation of R very differently. In the full quotation I cited from him earlier he says that the terrorist group tries to create R “with the aim of giving the government a taste of what it would be like to have its subject population in condition R. And it threatens to continue such actions, with similar effects, until the government yields to its demands.” (p. 65)

This explanation is much shorter term than the provocation one usually is, and trades upon the target government’s negative reaction to the disruption of N to the point of conceding terrorist demands. The purpose is one of creating anxiety and weakness, whereas the provocation purpose is one of creating anger and overconfidence. But I will explore the strategic provoking purpose as a possible manoeuvre that Waldron might have used in order to rescue the significance of R from the criticisms made.

Evaluating the recasting of Waldron’s position in terms of a provocation strategy requires a more subtle account of R and N than he provides or than is more generally imagined in much of the “distinctive significance” literature. We need to appreciate that the N states as defined by Waldron can and do vary with circumstances, so that what is normal and desirable (by the government and perhaps the people) at one time may be quite different from what is normal and desirable at another. Governments can welcome one set of N at time t1 but welcome its disruption and partial or even whole replacement when that turns into something more advantageous to them in different circumstances at t2.

On the provocation account of intending to produce R, the terrorists can then be interpreted as aiming at turning one state of N into a different state of N with the purpose of producing the over-reaction effect. But then it becomes clear that the aim is not one of general disruption of N states since the attackers may well seek to produce a situation in which the target government is more secure (at least for a time) in its community support so that it can pursue the policies of over-reaction that the terrorists want.


Concluding Remarks

Having examined these two different accounts of the distinctive significance of terrorism, I conclude that they have failed to make a convincing case for their different versions of the distinctiveness. But if these or others like them fail, are we to say that terrorism has no morally distinctive significance?

My answer is that we should first of all seek what distinctive moral significance terrorism has in the tactical definition of terrorism already given. Terrorism is best seen as a tactic of politically oriented violence that aims to kill or otherwise seriously harm innocent people or their significant property. As such, it brings the infliction of grave harms into the arena of civilian life in a particularly alarming way by making subject to direct attack those people who have done nothing to make them in any reasonable sense liable to such attack.

This in itself is significant and distinctive enough without further ventures into the psycho-social effects such an alarming status might have or might be intended to have. When and if such targeting tends to destabilise a society or a government, this will no doubt be a matter for alarm, anxiety, regret or condemnation (depending upon the nature of that society or government) additional to what regret or condemnation the act itself has.

The current fashion for exploring the “distinctive, moral significance” of terrorism as some matter beyond this, and independent of any clear definition of terrorism, is, at least as shown in the case of Scheffler and Waldron, not only mired in confusions, but likely to promote the misunderstanding of actual motivations behind the employment of the terrorist tactic by sub-state groups, deflect attention from the terrorism of states, and exaggerate the significance of the occurrence of many terrorist acts by non-state groups and the threat those groups pose.

When sub-state terrorism is directed against people in societies, or segments of society that have hitherto enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle and a high degree of stability and sense of security, their alarm can readily generate real and rhetorical responses that view the attacks as much more important and dangerous than they are by casting them as “attacks on (our) civilisation”, “undermining our basic values” and so on.

The irrationality of so much talk and action about “the terrorist threat” to such countries from militant Islamic extremism is exemplified by the former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s ludicrous warning that ISIS is “coming to get us”; as if the basically miniscule, though vicious, semi-state in parts of Syria/Iraq with an army of approximately 20,000 is about to invade Australia.[iv]

An even more explicit peddling of this fantasy was produced by Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump as recently as October 12, when he claimed that the election of his rival Hillary Clinton would actually mean the takeover of the United States by ISIS who therefore were “hoping and praying” for Clinton to win (“Donald Trump says Isis will take over US if Clinton wins” The Guardian, October 13). This kind of exaggeration is of course bizarre, but it may well have short-term political benefits for a beleaguered political leader, given that it relies upon and also fuels widespread fears of a dimly understood threat. The appeal to and confirmation of such irrational degrees of fear and panic may produce reactions that ironically themselves threaten “our” values, and give comfort to tyrants throughout the world who can clothe their repression in anti-terrorist garb, sometimes with “our” assistance.

Over-reactions based on such fears may also provide encouragement to terrorist groups such as ISIS by boosting their own assessments of their power and significance and even increasing their appeal for disaffected youth within Western countries. It would be unfortunate if philosophical elaborations of the supposed distinctive significance of terrorism made even a small contribution to the respectability of such developments.

Footnotes & References

C.A.J. Coady, Morality and Political Violence, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2008.

Karen Jones, “Trust and Terror”, in Moral Psychology: Feminist Ethics and Social Theory, (eds.) Peggy DeAutels and Margaret Urban Walker, Rowman and Littlefield, New York and Oxford, 2004.

Lionel K. McPherson, “Is Terrorism Distinctively Wrong”, Ethics, 2007.

Igor Primoratz, Terrorism: A Philosophical Investigation, Polity Press, Cambridge, 2013

Samuel Scheffler, “Is Terrorism Morally Distinctive?”, Journal of Political Philosophy, 2006.

Jeremy Waldron, “Terrorism and the Uses of Terrorism”, in Waldron, Torture, Terror, and Trade-Offs: Philosophy for the White House, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2010.


[i] For my tactical definition and a defence of it see C.A.J. Coady, Morality and Political Violence, Chapter 8. For further brief elaboration of the definition and some of its features see endnote 2.

[ii] Definitions like various forms of the “tactical definition” that I (and others) favour would include these examples. A tactical definition is one that treats terrorist acts as means to political ends with the consequence that they can be used by agents of any kind. My own preferred version for a terrorist act is: ““A political act, ordinarily committed by an organized group, in which violence is intentionally directed at non-combatants (or “innocents”) or their significant property with the aim of causing them serious harm.” Other tactical definitions include a reference to intention to create fear, but as will be argued later in the main text, I have reasons for excluding it as a necessary feature. Any definition of a loaded political term like terrorism will involve some degree of stipulation, and mine does so with, I believe and have argued elsewhere, significant moral and political advantages, as well as having an eye to some key features of common discourse. For some further definitional discussion see inter alia Coady, Morality and Political Violence, Chapter 8.

[iii] In numerous places, but see particularly Coady op. cit

[iv] Abbott’s remark in full, as a response to then recent attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait, was (as quoted on Australia’s ABC radio on June 27, 2015) :”This illustrates yet again, as far as the Daesh death cult is concerned, they’re coming after us. We may not feel like we are at war with them, but they are certainly at war with us.”

Tony Coady
Tony Coady
J. (Tony) Coady is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne, Australia. He has been a prominent figure in fostering applied philosophy in Australia and has been a regular contributor to public debate on ethical and philosophical dimensions of current affairs. His book Testimony: A Philosophical Studyhas been influential in promoting a new field of epistemology, and he has published extensively on issues concerning war and terrorism, including his book Morality and Political Violence (Oxford University Press, 2008). In 2005, he gave the Uehiro Lectures on Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, and in 2012 he was Leverhulme Visiting Professor at that university.
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A mortar round left by Islamic States fighters is seen in Bartella, east of Mosul, Iraq October 20, 2016.  REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic - RTX2PQFMA militant Islamist fighter waving a flag, cheers as he takes part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. The fighters held the parade to celebrate their declaration of an Islamic "caliphate" after the group captured territory in neighbouring Iraq, a monitoring service said. The Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot previously known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), posted pictures online on Sunday of people waving black flags from cars and holding guns in the air, the SITE monitoring service said. Picture taken June 30, 2014.  REUTERS/Stringer (SYRIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT) - RTR3WKMT