Terrorism Justifying Violence Through the Uses and Abuses of a Term
Perhaps I should lay all my cards on the table at the outset and confess that I believe that the primary reason that we have words like “terrorism” is the need for some linguistic devices for helping to justify violence against other persons. Once one has typed someone a “terrorist,”for example, then one may proceed to kill him, which is to say to become a terrorist oneself. I have toyed with the idea of a title such as “From WOE to MAD and Beyond: A Brief History of these
Terrorist United States.”
The word “anti-terrorism” now serves the same essential political purposes formerly served by such phrases as “national security” and even “patriotism.” The word “terrorism” and all derivatives terms have indeed become politically-loaded terms rarely serving any useful function, indeed serving no function at all except for justifying more violence, which is to say more terror. Indeed, in U.S.
state-sanctioned discourse (i.e., presidential speeches, press releases, campaign advertisements, etc.) the concept of “terrorist” has become synonymous with the idea of “the enemy,” and thus “counter-terrorism” has come to serve effectively the same functions that “national defense” and “national security” served in an earlier epoch.
The terms “terrorist” and “terrorism” have thus lost most of their utility–except as political rhetorical devices. As commonly used, the concepts of “terrorist” and “terrorism” are vacuous concepts. If “patriotism” was, as Samuel Johnson said, the “last refuge of the scoundrels,” then the same could
have been said for the concept of “national security” as used by U.S. presidential administrations during the Cold War. One may now say the same thing for the concepts of “terrorist” and “terrorism.” Those concepts have become the “last refuge of scoundrels,” including those who hold high office in the United States government, among others. Nor are these holders of high office mere “scoundrels.” According to the usual definitions, they are war criminals, and those who support them share in their criminality.
Since at least the 1980s, the era of Ronald Reagan, Republicans in the United States have consistently used the term “terrorists” to refer to those who fight by using non-traditional methods.
The claim is made that U.S. military policy does not fall into the category of “terrorist” activity, since it ostensibly does not target non-combatants. This claim is, of course, a blatant lie. U.S. foreign policy has always targeted women and children among other non-combatants, going all the way back to the War of Extermination (WOE) systematically waged against native Americans, and
continuing into the era of “Mutual Assured Destruction” (MAD), which depended for its force on the stated U.S. willingness to wipe out not only entire cities but entire cultures in the name of “anti-communism” and “national security.” Given the casualty figures among the Iraqi population since the U.S. invasion destabilized Iraq and the entire region, the U.S. tradition of behaving as a terrorist government and nation continues. Although it might sound like rhetorical excess to say so, the day might come when some persons will say that the world could not have been any worse if Hitler had won World War II–if only because the present U.S. policies in the Middle East could conceivably ultimately come to fruition in nuclear holocaust for Israel and possibly the entire world.