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"Terrorism": A Ruse By Any Other Name
08 May 2002
The writer is a U.S. citizen currently applying for immigration to Canada. On the application is the question: "Have you used, planned or advocated, or been associated with a group that used, uses, advocated or advocates, the use of armed struggle
or violence to reach political, religious or social objectives?" Does being associated with the U.S. count?
The writer understandably chooses to use a pseudonym.
DEFINITION OF TERRORISM
: the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion
- ter·ror·ist /-&r-ist/ adjective or noun
- ter·ror·is·tic /"ter-&r-'is-tik/ adjective
terrorism: "...the systematic use of terror or unpredictable violence against governments, publics, or individuals to attain a political objective. Terrorism has been used by political organizations with both rightist and leftist objectives, by nationalistic and ethnic groups, by revolutionaries, and by the armies and secret police of governments themselves."
Terrorism is defined in the U.S. by the Code of Federal Regulations as: "..the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives." (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85)
The FBI further describes terrorism as either domestic or international, depending on the origin, base, and objectives of the terrorists:
• Domestic terrorism is the unlawful use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States or its territories without foreign direction committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.
• International terrorism involves violent acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any state, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or any state. These acts appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or affect the conduct of a government by assassination or kidnapping. International terrorist acts occur outside the United States or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to coerce or intimidate, or the locale in which the perpetrations operate or seek asylum.
Terrorism: A Ruse By Any Other Name
Johnny hits Billy. Billy hits Johnny (or those he thinks are Johnny's friends). Who is the terrorist? What if Billy is a cop?
It is requisite when making a point to define terms. The above definition(s) provides the purported backdrop for the present U.S. "War on Terrorism". In effect, the definition justifies the actions of the definer. The key word in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations is "unlawful". Thus, those who make the laws cannot be terrorists.
For discussion, let's put the word "unlawful" aside temporarily. If terrorism is a behaviour, acting accordingly, under the aegis of law or not, should or should not justify such behaviour. (Does acting within the law automatically confer ethicality or morality upon the act?)
"The use of force or violence against persons or property":
Violence seems the easier of the two methods of terrorism to understand. Violence, after all, suggests physical injury or destruction. Most of us do not, however, consider mowing the lawn, slaughtering of livestock, or cancer treatment as violent. What about physical injury or destruction of other humans? Self-defense, capital punishment, corporal punishment, and accidents all exonerate the perpetrator from guilt of violence.
What about the use of force? (I see the terrorism police at my door the next time I take action against a jar that doesn't want to open.) Force, again because it refers to the use of power, exonerates those who have the power. Nonetheless, force suggests action taken against another where the other has no choice but to acquiesce. (Ah, now I understand the U.S. "Patriot Act".) Foreign (or domestic) aid from a government - does that constitute force. Trade injunctions - do they constitute force? A military draft? Taxes? Licensing?
"…to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof":
Well, now we are getting somewhere (?). Intimidation and coercion are methods of force. The above conditions (governmental aid, trade injunctions, draft, taxes, licensing,…9/11 and aftermath explanations without proof…name your own) are not intimidating or coercive, are they? Does going along with the force mean that one is not intimidated or coerced? Is the referred to "government, the civilian populations, or any segment thereof" only those of the U.S.?
"…in furtherance of political or social objectives.":
We will set aside the U.S. election of 2000 from this discussion…as it should have been set aside then. Every act of a government (and, it could be said, of individuals) has some political or social objective. But, I have here to recall the means invoked in the definition: "The use of force or violence".
Is not war intended as the furtherance of political and social objectives? Are not punishments consequent to violations of law included for the furtherance of political and social objectives? Force and violence are regularly used in furtherance of political and social objectives. But, this discussion is not about whether that is right or wrong.
A definition should serve to help one discern what it includes and what it does not. Yet, perhaps this definition has done so: the definer is excluded from the definition.
"War on Terrorism" is a misnomer. Call it "War on War" or, better, "Terrorism on Terrorism". But, we can't do that. We don't make war, the government does: the same government that makes the laws.
That returns us to the word "unlawful" in the U.S. government's (does anybody know who that really is?) definition of terrorism. It is assumed that everybody follows, and must follow, U.S. law. (Not international law…the U.S. is rapidly exempting itself from that.) Lawful behaviour, by the definition, cannot be terrorism. Behaviour outside of law is. But that has been easy to fix…if you are the one who makes the laws, if you are the definer.