Thursday, January 13, 2005

A Terrorist by Any Other Name

Why use the word terrorist at all? Call the people who perpetrate violence against others "people" or "criminals" or "war mongers" or "fanatics". The use of the word "terrorist" has created more fear and killing than I want to think about or hear about anymore. The Bush administration used it to fool a lot of people into approving of the Iraq war, which is a horror, pure and simple, which is terrorism of an order of its own. I have felt terrorized by the use of the word terrorist. That word is just bullshit propaganda. Drop it. (Comment by Anonymous)

Merriam-Webster online dictionary
the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.

Title 22 of the US Code, Section 2656f(d)
The term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.

the use of violence against noncombatants for the purpose of achieving a political goal, on a scale smaller than full-scale warfare. Acts of terrorism can be perpetrated by individuals, groups, or states, as an alternative to an open declaration of war, and are often carried out by those who otherwise feel powerless.

My personal preferred definition...

The planned, organized use of fear as a weapon in order to terrify or paralyze the victim to the place they cannot resist oppression.

So my definition lines up more with the dictionary than with the U.S. government.

Wikipedia later succumbs to the tendency to “explain away” indefensible violence:
The use of the terms terrorism and terrorist are politically weighted, and are often used to polarizing effect, where 'terrorism' is simply a relativist term for the violence committed by an enemy, from the point of view of the attacked.

By this definition, whoever is committing violence against you is a terrorist, and this makes even a simple police action against a criminal "terrorism." No, no, no.

Wikipedia continues...

As political violence can be generally categorized as either 'violence in support of an establishment' or 'violence in opposition to an establishment,' 'terrorism' can be simply defined as the common euphemism for the latter.

This now does away with the whole idea of right and wrong, and states that simply opposing the establishment violently, with no distinction between whether the establishment is abusing you or you are abusing them.

What is left out of the mix is what makes terrorism so terrifying: violent acts against those who don’t deserve it.

Of course I’ve made a moral judgment here. But terrorism is an affront to our morals, an outrage. That’s why we are “offended” by the idea of attacking non-combatants or civilians with violence.

Terrorism is such a low blow that it strikes fear into us. Terrorism is designed to produce terror, or intense fear, and that’s what makes it terror-ism: an important concept that we don’t want to "white out" of our collective thinking.

There is a difference between blowing up civilians to demoralize an enemy, and using guerilla tactics to go after a legitimate target. These are not the same. And there is a danger here of confusing terrorism with freedom fighting.

Both use tactics of guerilla warfare.

The American Revolution was won by Freedom Fighters who used guerilla warfare. But they didn’t target civilians, and they weren’t known for killing “for effect.”

Terror-ism uses innocent victims to do “double damage.” Once for the “real” damage of killing, maiming, destruction. Then again for the psychological damage, or “for effect.”

That “effect” is what terrorists are going for. And that “effect” is designed not only to rob you of your life or freedom but to do further damage to your soul or psyche, and to those who are with you, who see you. The "further damage" is what makes it terrorism.

Terrorists know how powerful it is, and that is why they historically target innocent victims, mothers, children, teenagers.

There is a difference between being at war and being a terrorist. There is a difference between being a murderer and being a terrorist. Killing someone who comes between you and your goal (whether criminal or military) we see differently as killing someone on purpose, just for effect.

So we can call terrorists “Freedom Fighters” but they don’t deserve the name, and that’s an affront to all the “real” Freedom Fighters who fought their way out from oppression without resorting to terror.

We can call them “insurgents” but that, too, legitimizes their methods as well as their cause and insults their targets.

Or we can do what we all do once someone nearby has been senselessly ripped from health or life, and call them "terrorists." For that, gentle reader, is what they are.

What we refuse to name is our master.


Blogger M+ said...

This was such an incredible post for someone like me. I love words, and language, and this uses both in a very powerful and thought provoking way.
I pity those individuals who've embraced "political correctness" because it suits their ideology, while it destroys our ability to have a reasoned debate or discussion. It saddens me that people would put ideology above the seeking of truth. Even to the point of defending the indefensible.

January 14, 2005 at 8:01 PM  
Blogger Drae said...

Thanks, M+. Writing this post clarified for me how important it is to not call them insurgents or anything else but to keep saying (and admitting to ourselves) that they are terrorists.

Here's a link that talks about what I have heard the Iraqis say on it:

Insurgents Not Heroes to IraqisCheck it out.

January 15, 2005 at 12:36 PM  
Blogger Drae said...

Oops. Meant to mention that link came from Hidden Nook in a comment to a post on Democracy in Iraq (Is Coming)Thanks!

January 15, 2005 at 2:08 PM  
Blogger Drae said...

Poisoning Pigeons agrees.

The all time worst use of terrorism:


February 3, 2005 at 11:54 PM  
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November 21, 2005 at 2:11 AM  

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