What is Terrorism?

Posted on Sunday 13 August 2006

Define: Terrorism

This is the definition according to Wikipedia.

Terrorism is the systematic use or threatened use of violence to intimidate a population or government and thereby effect political, religious, or ideological change.[1][2] Terrorist attacks are designed to influence the broader society to which those killed, injured, or taken hostage belong. The dramatic focus of mass media is often ascribed as amplifying and broadcasting feelings of intense fear and anger that make terrorism more effective in the modern world. As a type of unconventional warfare, terrorism is designed to weaken or supplant existing political landscapes through capitulation or acquiescence as opposed to subversion or direct military action.

Princeton.edu has this definition:

Terrorism, act of terrorism, terrorist act: (the calculated use of violence (or threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear)

Terrorism and the United States

By these definitions, the current government of the United States is a de facto terrorist organization. The Bush regime has used the threat of violence, albeit from a third party—actual terrorists—in order to gain political influence and consolidate its control over the people in the United States.

The best way to resist terrorism, is to not give into terrorists, and to not allow them to win. When our government makes knee-jerk reaction policies to terrorist threats that infringe on civil rights and liberties, then the terrorists have won. But, then again, maybe that is goal of the Bush administration and the Republican party.

According to Boing Boing only traitors try to make us afraid of terrorists, based on this Cato Institute paper, . Here are a couple of excerpts from the paper that may help to put terrorism in proper perspective.

“Frantz Fanon, the 20th century revolutionary, contended that “the aim of terrorism is to terrify.” If that is so, terrorists can be defeated simply by not becoming terrified—that is, anything that enhances fear effectively gives into them.

The shock and tragedy of September 11 does demand a focused and dedicated program to confront international terrorism and to attempt to prevent a repeat. But is seems sensible to suggest that part of this reaction should include an effort by politicians, officials, and the media to inform the public reasonably and realistically about the terrorist context instead of playing into the hands of the terrorists by frightening the public. What is needed, as one statistician suggests, is some sort of convincing, coherent, informed and nuanced answer to the question: “How worried should I be?” Instead, the message the nation has received so far is, as a Homeland Security official put (or caricatured) it, “Be scared; be very, very scared—but go on with your lives.” Such messages have lead many people to develop what Leif Wenar of the University of Sheffield has aptly labeled ‘a false sense of insecurity.’”

The Bush regime has given into the terrorists, and become one of their strongest supporters by creating an unreasonable atmosphere of terror and fear. Osama bin Laden predicted that America would invade an oil-rich Islamic country and occupy it, which is exactly what GWB has done. To add insult to injury, the Bush regime has also broken laws and infringed on the civil liberties of the American people in the name of fighting their “War on Fundamentalism,” yet has accomplished little, if any, real progress to identifying or halting the terrorists either abroad or in the domestically.

A much more sane response to terrorist attacks is one that was written about here. I wrote about this post previously, here. Bruce Schneier has a good op-ed piece on how we should be dealing with terrorism in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune. He concludes:

“And if you want to know what you can do to help? Don’t be terrorized. They terrorize more of us if they kill some of us, but the dead are beside the point. If we give in to fear, the terrorists achieve their goal even if they were arrested. If we refuse to be terrorized, then they lose — even if their attacks succeed.”

The Cato paper continues and says:

“For all the attention it evokes, terrorism actually causes rather little damage and the likelihood that any individual will become a victim in most places is microscopic. Those adept at hyperbole like to proclaim that we live in the “the age of terror.” However, while obviously deeply tragic for those directly involved, the number of people worldwide who die as the result of international terrorism is generally only a few hundred a year, tiny compared to the numbers who die in most civil wars or from automobile accidents. In fact, in almost all years, the total number of people worldwide who die at the hands of international terrorists anywhere in the world is not much more than the number who drown in bathtubs in the United States…”

If the Department of Homeland Security was really about keeping Americans secure, it would invest more of the money it is spending on healthcare research and automotive safety. Heart disease, cancer, strokes, accidents, diabetes, pneumonia, Alzheimer’s Disease, and suicide are all greater risks to the American populace as a whole than terrorist attacks are. I’ve written about this previously, as you can read here.

However, the Department of Homeland Security is not concerned with keeping Americans safe, but a political institution primarily designed to help the current government consolidate and expand its powers—at the cost of civil liberties, privacy and personal freedoms. The “War on Fundamentalism” is also serving to help put money in the pockets of companies that are affilated to the Bush regime, like Halliburton and BlackWater USA.

Terrorism is an excellent political foil to help strengthen support for the current regime. Using the fear cause by the specter of terrorism has allowed George W. Bush to stay in office, through a second very questionable election, and consolidate power for his administration. The Cato Institute points out:

“There is no reason to suspect that President Bush’s concern about terrorism is anything but genuine. However, his approval rating did receive the greatest boost for any president in history in September 2001, and it would be politically unnatural for him not to notice. His chief political adviser, Karl Rove, declared last year that the “war” against terrorism will be central to Bush’s reelection campaign.”

If terrorism is the real problem, shouldn’t our government be doing as much as possible to reassure the people that it isn’t really a significant threat. Terrorist attacks are very high-profile media events—heart attacks are not, drunk driving accidents are not, diabetes complications are not. Yet, in the long run, which kills more Americans? It also might be worth listening to this story over at NPR.org.

Just my opinions and some food for thought.

2 Comments for 'What is Terrorism?'

    August 13, 2006 | 6:18 pm

    Good points. Another thing that drives me crazy is all the talk about the “war on terror”. First of all terror is a human emotion so how can you have a war against it? Secondly terror is something that the “others”, the “terrorists” are trying to create in us, you and me. If I refuse to feel terror, there is no terror. I have already won the war on terror.

    In any case Bush seems to have adoptedd a new terminology this week for the enemy. They are no longer the “evil ones”, the “terrorists”, or just plain “terror”. They are now “Islamic fascists”. I suppose that is a reasonably accurate description. But does that make Mussolini a “christian fascist”?

    August 13, 2006 | 6:30 pm

    Actually, that would make Bush a Christian Fascist.

    I don’t know if Mussolini was religious to any degree. Bush definitely is, and has shown his Christian Conservative biases.

    I’d have to agree, how do you fight an emotion?? You can’t declare a war on an emotion.

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