Living with Terrorism

By: Troy J.

Well like most New Yorkers I was alarmed and personally concerned with the report of a terrorist truck filled with explosives discovered in the Times Square area. As a frequent theater go-er I felt vulnerable with this revelation, and like many others I wondered why anyone would want to endanger innocent civilians in a crowded metropolis. As a survivor of September 11, 2001, I couldn’t help but think back to that day.

We quickly learned that a Pakistani man with sympathies for the Taliban is the accused. We’ve been told for years that the Al-Qaeda were terrorists, but that the Taliban, while objectionable totalitarian militarists in Afghanistan, were not a threat to these shores. Why the abrupt change? I’ve heard little or nothing about this recent development, but it’s become painfully clear to me. We receive muffled reports of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. Fifteen civilians in one town slayed in crossfire, a dozen in another village as a miscalculated bomb hits a town square; Afghanistan civilians caught in the maelstrom of war. There are no obituaries of these deaths in our newspapers, just a statistic, or as the government now labels them “collateral damage.” Dead civilians for no reason – women on their way to a market; children heading home from school. Our potential drama last week which we alluded would have been described as tourists strolling around Times Square, or folks on their way to see a Broadway play – all innocents in both nations.

I went to the theater this week to see the limp and irrelevant “Enron.” There was more drama on the street than on stage as uniformed officers were in great evidence with Terrorist Squad on their lapels providing a false sense of security. I appreciate and applaud their presence as a possible protection, but we all know that a single individual can cause havoc. Timothy McVeigh demonstrated that in Oklahoma City, as did Charles Whitman from the Texas tower at the University of Texas in Austin back in the 1960s, an incident that inspired the late Harry Chapin, of “Cat’s In The Cradle” fame, to write his song “Sniper.”

The real answers to Taliban rage and retaliation is to remove the troops from Afghanistan. American military men, whose purpose is still unclear to me, and who’s presence is a continual reminder to people in the Mid-East that their lives are perceived as irrelevant in our undefined pursuit. We were lied to about Viet Nam, and we were lied to about Iraq. Every day the myth is perpetuated. It’s seventh inning at Yankee Stadium before Kate Smith belts out, “God Bless America”; the announcer dedicates it to our boys in service with the added nugget, “They are protecting our freedom.” In fact these soldiers’ lives are in danger, and their presence over there rather than protecting our way of life is endangering our safety. Terrorist retaliation is a desperate political voice.

Amidst all of this insanity and duplicity Gail Collins in the New York Times this week reports this startling fact, “There seems to be a strong sentiment in Congress that the only Constitutional rights suspected terrorists have is the right to bear arms.” NRA, National Rifle Association, mouthpieces in Congress, while challenging Miranda rights for the accused, won’t place limitations on who can gather weapons. In addition to the lies we have incompetence and stupidity; literally fueling ammunition to those who might want to harm us.

By: Troy J.

The war in the Mid-East was begun with lies, it continues on with mythology. The threat is on our doorstep every time we ride the subway or walk the streets of this magnificent city. But the war nurtures the rage, and the arms are available, for anyone who wants to fulfill their anger. Where is the logic? Where is the sanity? How many senseless deaths will it take and for what?

I’m Troy J., out on a limb.

12 Comments on “Living with Terrorism”

  1. This may sound a little Orwellian, but the establishment *needs* the “terrorists” (a term that’s very arbitrarily defined, BTW) to perpetuate its own existence – if there was no “other” lurking around every corner, they would have no excuse to construct a monstrous “law” enforcement apparatus, nor would they have anyone to motivate the average persons to circle the proverbial wagons to defend against (effectively distracting the common man from the established order’s own faults and shortcomings via forced “patriotism”). In short, the “terrorists” are the new Emmanuel Goldstein.

    Welcome to the world where war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength – 2+2=5! And thus it shall remain until this self-destructive course our society is headed towards runs full circle…

  2. We can’t truly expect anything less from a society that has historically resolved all its conflicts with violence and lives by the code of guns, the great equalizer. The circle draws viciously around and tighter and tighter. I have to agree with Christopher. Terrorist has become a convenience word. Whoever is perceived as the enemy of today is the one who is plotting to overtake us with violence, when the true perpetrators are our obsession in enabling our law making bodies to use violence to discourage any opposition to their policies.

  3. I was in fact talking about this just last night. Our language around violence seems to be changing. We are quick to label people terrorist who may in fact be serial killers or what I like to call people with “falling down syndrome”.

    The facts as they come available in this case point not to terrorism but rather to a frustrated American citizen who happens to be Pakistani, unable to get work and support his family, probably suffering from prejudice. He doesn’t exactly fit with the terrorist profile, but rather a man who had reached the breaking point much like the postal workers of years past.

  4. Christopher! This is awful – I find myself in agreement with you again! At this rate I’ll have to drop you from my list of people I love to hate. Say something to make me angry, quick!

  5. Troy, unlike probably 95% of the people who go on about terrorism, I’ve seen “terrorism” at first hand. I lived in the midst of an insurgency for almost ten years. I’ve watched an insurgent team in the progress of a fundraising operation. I’ve interviewed real live “terrorists”. My only published novel to date is based on insurgency. So you’ll, I hope, agree that I know what I’m talking about.

    Before I begin, I’d like to repeat my definition of terrorism: it’s a term related to the application or threat of application of violence aimed at intimidating a people or political entity to give up or alter their policy. Whether such a tactic is used by a state or non-state actor is immaterial.. In the case of the movie “Avatar”, for instance, the attempt to break the will of the Na’vi to resist by destroying their sacred Tree of Voices would qualify as terrorism.

    Nobody has ever decided to “become” a terrorist for the fun of it. For genuine “terrorism”, there is always an underlying cause, a legitimate grievance, even if the grievance is only in the “terrorist’s” mind. This “grievance”, real or not, can be understood clearly if one looks at it from the “terrorist’s” viewpoint. The two allusions to American “terrorists” you made are in fact, only partly appropriate. McVeigh was a terrorist, if you want to use the term; he was ideologically motivated, and whatever his ideology was, we must recognise the fact that to him it was entirely legitimate and worth causing violence for. Nor was he alone; his final action may have involved only him, but an operation of that magnitude cannot be the result of only one man’s work.

    Whitman, on the other hand, had no such motivation. All he had was a tumour pressing on his brain’s anger centre, and Marine sniper training, aligned with the most ridiculous gun ownership laws in the world. As long as disturbed individuals can lay their hands on guns whenever they wish, you’ll have Whitmans, Cho Seung-Huis, and the like.

    You talk of villages being bombed in Afghanistan. Actually, these bombings are extremely well documented, and far from being accidental, they are just about the inevitable result of US state policy. See here, for instance:
    http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl2521/stories/20081024252100400.htm
    Of course they have had a reaction. It’s only natural. “Terrorism” is the weak side’s answer to the strong side’s cruise missiles and smart bombs. Somehow, if an F16 kills a hundred innocent schoolchildren, it’s not terrorism, even if that killing was a deliberate act designed to break the other side’s will by application of terror. But if a makeshift bomb splutters somewhere, then it’s terrorism. Nice, huh?

    OK, now, since “terrorism” is not blind violence but has a clear rationale, to wit, enforcing a change of policy, therefore there are no – repeat no “senseless” deaths in terrorism. The deaths may be undeserved, unlooked for, and the affected people may be completely innocent – but that is still not “senseless”.

    I applaud your objectivity about Afghanistan, Troy. So overwhelmed and so impressed am I, in fact, by your wonderful, deeply thoughtful and insightful article, that I’m moved to lay down a hypothetical case.

    Suppose there’s a place – an entirely fictional nation, let’s call it the Zionazi Pseudostate, or ZP for short. (I repeat; this place is fictional). This ZP is established on the land originally belonging to a people called, let’s say, the…um…Pelastinians. These Pelastinians were forced off their land to accommodate the citizens of ZP, let’s call them Zionazis, on two grounds:

    1. The deity of the Zionazis had, allegedly, promised their ancestors this land several thousands of years ago. It should be noted that there is no independent confirmation of the existence of this deity, and that apart from Zionazi tradition, there is no confirmation of the grant of this (populated) land to the Zionazis’ ancestors.
    2. Co-religionists of the Zionazis had been among many people of different religious and political persuasion persecuted and murdered in very large numbers by the government of a nation in a far off continent, whom we’ll call the, let’s say, Nizas. The Zionazis, whose occupation project in the land of the Pelastinians had been already quite far advanced when the Nizas began their genocide, use this genocide (which they claim to be an exclusively Zionazi tragedy) to excuse not only the existence of their state (which claims to be the homeland of all the Zionazis’ co-religionists, even though only a tiny fraction of them choose to live there, and many of them reject and abhor its policies) but also any and all acts they wish to perform against the Pelastinians.

    Now, the (remember that it’s fictional) Zionazi Pseudostate claims that it has a right to self-defence, and to enforce that right it has acquired an immense arsenal of weaponry and proceeded to conquer, occupy, and in some cases annex territory where the Pelastnians it expelled at gunpoint from their original lands are living in squalid refugee camps, to use as buffer strips. Most of these Pelastinians – if not all – have been reduced to a position of utter and complete degradation, without access to housing, food, medicines, etc, and having corrupt collaborators foisted on them as a “government” by the Zionazi occupiers. If they choose to elect, freely, a non-corrupt regime whom they hope can better their lot, they have to suffer mass punishment for their act.

    Now, Troy, wouldn’t you say that anyone who accepts that the “terrorist” attacks on the US are blowback caused by illegitimate American occupation actions in Afghanistan must also accept that any act by the Pelastinians to strike back at their Zionazi enemies is at least as legitimate? Perhaps it’s even more legitimate given that virtually all adult Zionazis of military age are, by law, armed and serve on reserve forces, and that very many of them actually live in settlements that are clearly and unambiguously illegal under international law?

    And, also, therefore, wouldn’t you agree that anyone who claims that the Afghan resistance is justified, but that the (fictional) Pelastinian resistance is evil, unjustified, and must be destroyed, is an arrant hypocrite? I’m sure you would, being an honourable man.

    But then I’m only a rabid bigot, so what would I know, isn’t that so, Troy?

  6. I would have to say that the U.S. has practiced MASS terrorism in Iraq. Halliburton has been responsible for child prostitution, not to mention the countless other instances of interference and abuse by U.S. corporations. If you don’t want terrorism, quit creating a reason for people to become desperate enough to USE terrorism. Hatred, greed, and bigotry have just about destroyed the planet on which we all live. If we can’t learn to get along any better than we have been, maybe it’s just as well that the plug is pulled on all life on the planet.

  7. @Bill,

    To respond to your claim that “terrorism” is “…the application or threat of application of violence aimed at intimidating a people or political entity to give up or alter their policy. Whether such a tactic is used by a state or non-state actor is immaterial.” You do realize that every war (waged by a state or non-state entity) can qualify as “terrorism” under the definition you provide, right? It matters little what the motivation to fight is, what’s at stake if fighting does not occur or which side is the initial aggressor – all parties involved can be called “terrorists” by definition provided.

    From where I stand, the idea of “terrorism” is a modern concept – the only purpose it serves is to label the violence used by one entity as “evil” and the violence used to counter that entity’s violence as “good” in the eyes of the unwashed masses. But in the end, it matters very little which violent acts are “legitimate” or not: what really matters is whether one is strong enough to deal with the violence – either strong enough to repel the attacks and topple his opponent. The “legitimacy” of the perpetrators is decided by history long after that violent chapter concludes, and history is written by the victor.

    Well, you wanted me to make you angry – how does that do? Regardless, it should serve you well as an uncensored reality check: that actions carry no intrinsic “moral” value – rather the attain value post facto and what value they attain is determined solely by whether or not they succeeded in carrying out their intended consequences.

  8. Christopher…

    You’d better stop. Any more and I shall agree with you even more.

    State terrorism is alive and well and the only way one can call it anything but state terrorism is if one claims it’s not terrorism as long as a country does it, said country being on the “good side” (as defined by propagandists) of course.

    On the other hand, when you call all wars “terrorism”, that’s true only when you’re talking of the “total war” era. There have been times in the past when only the militaries did the fighting, and civilian trade and intermingling went on almost uninterrupted. Not that there weren’t civilian casualties, but the deliberate targeting of civilians to try and break opposition morale is probably a post World War Two (re)invention.

  9. Here’s a repost from my blog:

    Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the War On Terror.

    I believe I’m far from the first person to point out that you can’t have an actual war on terror, because “terror” isn’t something one can fight. One might as well say one is declaring war on phobias, or something similar.

    Now if one is going to talk about “terror” as being synonymous with “terrorism”, then too you can’t have a war on terror, because “terrorism” is a tactic. If one wants to make war on terrorism, therefore, one might as well say one is making war on bombs, or trenches, or something. As soon as it becomes necessary and useful, they’re going to use it again.

    In any case, I believe we need to answer this question: what is terrorism, anyway? If you mean it the random killing of “innocents”, well then, the sort of war hero who shells towns from the safety of a fortified green zone or the bomber pilot who raises firestorms or A-bombs a city is as much a terrorist as the best of them.

    Clearly, we need a proper definition of the word. Here is my attempt, therefore: terrorism is any strategy that seeks, through the application of fear, to get a people or an administration to modify its behaviour in accordance with the wishes of the user of the strategy. Fair enough?

    Now if you agree that my definition is correct, we suddenly find some other uses for this oh so very convenient word. If you now say, on the eve of an election, that “if my opponent wins, then rivers of blood will flow in the streets because the evildoers (in whatever form they come) will have a free hand”, and if the populace, terrified by the visions you raise, vote for you, is that or is that not terrorism? If you claim that mushroom clouds will rise from your cities unless you immediately invade a hapless land on the other side of the globe, and your people, brains numbed by the images you bombard them with, agree to the invasion, is that terror, or isn’t it? If you claim that unless “tough new laws” – meant, of course, to apply only to members of certain well known racial or religious minorities – are immediately promulgated, “the terrorists win”, is that not terrorism? In all this, if you conveniently hide the fact that the average person’s chances of being run down in the street by a drunk driver are ten thousand times greater than of dying at the hands of “terrorists”, that’s another piece of the application of mental terror.

    It’s not coincidental that the casualties of the War On Terror (including Jean Charles De Menenzes, remember him? He was shot on the London Tube by British police who then, falsely, claimed he’d been running. Well, if a gang of characters suddenly began chasing me with guns, I’d have run too) far outstrip the casualties caused by “terrorists”. It was always meant to be that way – to make an example. See, we’re so tough we won’t hesitate to blow away innocents! You better watch what you say or do!

    It’s a War OF Terror. That’s the only way it makes sense.

  10. By its simplest definition, terrorism is an act that strikes spontaneous terror within a collective community. War on terrorism is an oxymoron as its application is also a means of striking terror. I’ve watched with ironic amusement the adept way spin doctors incorporate accusatory terms to manipulate public response in favor of their agenda. Environmentalists were quickly coined, “eco-terrorists” to imply that environmental policies would freeze the development of natural resources, when in fact it is simply a means of taking environmental factors into consideration before developing a utilization plan. The real eco-terrorists are those who ignore the consequences to environment, thereby creating an instant formula for catastrophe.

    The most vogue spin label now is the freely bantered around word, “Nazi”. When honest concerns speculated that our present atmosphere of unbridled racism and intolerance could produce a Nazi regime, the word was quickly bandied by the Corporate special interest club in order to instill enough fear in the well-manipulated public not to cut their puppet strings and venture a few rational and practical thoughts beyond their emotional siege of terror.

    Now that the implications of an Orwellian Nightmare produced through paranoid fear has been used as a comparative study, i expect the Ministries of Truth and Peace will quickly invent a spin to make it seem their own agitation is for the prevention of tyranny. The Ministry of Truth formulates a lie; the terrorist is at your back door and only their invention can save you from the consequences. The Ministry of Peace is at war with all things social. If you group or congregate in a manner that reflects a harmonious agreement that is not supported by the ministry agenda, you, your group, your organization, are terrorists. The truth, as exposed by the ministry offices, is that the only true “patriots” are sociopaths. The highest percentage of domestic violence offenders are among military personnel and law enforcement agents. The highest percentage of sociopath behavior is among highly successful business men, executives and top ranking financial managers. That is the face of the Ministry of Truth, violent and successful.

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