Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Phony War on Terror, Part 1

I'm still waiting for even one element of the mainstream media to have the honesty and integrity to expose the grand "War on Terror" ruse being perpetrated on the American public by the Bush administration. To understand why it is impossible to wage a war on terror one needs to be clear on what terrorism actually is. Terrorism is not war. Terrorism by itself cannot and is not intended to accomplish goals such as the capture of territory or the political/military conquest of a nation. Politically motivated violence is a tactic that serves a concept or an ideal. This tactic is typically aimed at accomplishing a specific political goal or goals. Terror is not a group, a state or a military entity that could be the target of warfare. Terrorism is used by groups around the world to address their particular political grievances. It is not a unified worldwide phenomenon. The IRA used terrorist bombings in England to force British withdrawal from Northern Ireland. The US government asserted that the Oklahoma City bombing was meant to avenge the deaths of the Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas. Palestinian terrorism against Israel is motivated by a desire to end Israeli occupation and oppression of Palestinians and to facilitate the creation of a Palestinian state. None of these groups that have used terror had any association with any of the other groups. Efforts to suppress one such group would have no effect on the others. Their political goals are independent of one another. What they have in common is the tactic of terror.

One cannot wage military war on a tactic, or on an idea. Thus, the War on Terror is nothing but a fiction. Ideas outlive people. One can kill a terrorist but not the idea that motivates him. One cannot kill terrorism. As long as a people harbor a grievance so powerful that it moves them to resort to a campaign of violence, as long as that grievance is not satisfied, there will be those who are willing to sustain that campaign at the risk of their lives. Recall that the American Revolution began with acts of terrorist violence by the Colonists against the British. The British were again the target of terror, this time at the hands of Menachem Begin and his Irgun in their struggle to establish the State of Israel. Throughout history terror has frequently been directed at the perpetrators of Empire. And it is no surprise. Empire, whether in the old form of conquest and political colonialism, or the new form of economic colonialism, nevertheless involves domination, oppression and exploitation. Not things that a population suffers passively.

President Bush asserts that al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. and continues to threaten us because they “hate freedom” and our way of life. I find it hard to believe that no one in the media (not that I’ve seen) has looked carefully at this notion. The idea is absurd on its face. What can he possibly mean? That they think they can destroy our free society with a few bombs every few years? That they are going through all this trouble to punish us for being free? Please!

His assertion means nothing. It is blather meant to distract us from demanding an understanding of what really is motivating this terrorism. People don’t go to these extremes frivolously or for sport. Bush’s people want us to believe that the terrorists “do not value human life” (including their own?). They don’t want us to wonder deeply just why someone would sacrifice his life for an idea. We might then want to know what that idea is. And if we actually found out we just might start having some doubts about American foreign policy. But we have a head start. We already understand and accept the sacrifice that our troops are making. In reality, war is calculated suicide. By consenting to go to war a person knows that there is a real chance that she will not survive. In this regard, the difference between an American soldier and a suicide bomber is merely a few degrees of certainty. If we hail the bravery and sacrifice of our soldiers as noble, how can we not believe the same of a terrorist? After all, it is only the motivating principle behind their acts that differs. Truth is our government has a dual standard when it comes to terrorism. When the violence is perpetrated against us it is terrorism. When our country perpetrates or pays for violence against others it is “defending freedom” or “supporting democracy”. When we pick up weapons to defend an idea we are acting in the proud tradition of America. When others with whom we disagree do the same they are subhuman, demonic fanatics.


Dave said...

Terror and terrorism are different, because terror is state sponsored.

Think Argentenia and the disappearances and you are thinking terror. Armies all over South and Central America engaged in terror. Terror begins with dehumanization. Dehumanization is easy to arrange. Statistics dehumanize.

Terrorism and terrorists acted on 911.

We are consistently told that there are terrorists in Iraq. Sometimes the more accurate word insurgents is used. Rarer still is the dreaded guerrilla, which is even more accurate and even less something that we Americans can stomach.

If we here in the U.S., we'd be doing out best to make the occupiers give up. We'd engage in the full spectrum of warfare from terrorism, guerrilla conflicts, and outright organized armies. The occupiers would engage in acts of terror.

I suppose that as we fought off the occupiers, we would be fighting to get our freedom and our way of life back, but somehow nobody noticed when we lost that, or that those that would run us now, don't particularly care about that.

PaxRomano said...


I think many people in this country, if not the world, agree with what you have said. I think it was Jon Stewart who said, "War on terror, that's not even a noun! We've declared war on an emotion!"

Frankly, I truly believe that most of the rank and file just does not care. We are in the grip of some sort of revenge fantasy thanks to 9/11 -- as long as we can identify someone or something as the enemy, then its bombs away.

That's what you get when an ersatz cowboy leads the free world.