Why Terrorism Doesn’t Mean Anything Anymore

2001 saw the beginning of the “War on Terror,” and the adoption of a new focus for all our fears, anxieties, hatred and anger. As we approach the anniversary of the terrible event that gave rise to this incredible lunacy, it’s becoming more and more apparent that we’ve lost sight of the fact that this entire mess is just another example of our selfishness, arrogance and ignorance.

I’ve always found the made for primetime monicker “The War on Terror” to be too dramatic to be taken seriously. I’m sure that makes me three kinds of insensitive in the eyes of the average person, but that’s hardly a good reason to reconsider my position. Seriously, what is the objective of this supposed war? To defeat terror? What the hell is that? How in hell are we going to defeat fear by dropping massive amounts of ordinance or ramming unmanned drones up some Afghani’s ass?

Let’s begin by defining terrorism, since it is held aloft as a tangible target for everything we have been doing for the last eight years.

Terrorism is “The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.” Succinct, relatively all-inclusive and concise, I think. And, more importantly, it’s clear from this definition, and likely any other definition commonly used, that terrorism is a tool to accomplish something. It’s a deed, not a creed. Kinda like how you use a wrench to turn a nut to fix a machine. Terrorism is a tool that is used by certain people to accomplish certain objectives. Terrorism is not, in itself, those objectives or even the reason for those objectives. The objectives are the reason for the use of terrorism. Thus, the “intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.”

So, right off the bat, any war on terrorism is itself essentially useless, because it is targeting a tool, rather than the reason for the use of the tool. You can melt the wrench into a puddle of nothing, and the machine will still be broken and the nut need tightening.

So, what do people who employ terrorist activities want to accomplish? Historically, many many things. Recently, it has a lot to do with Western interference in Middle-Eastern lands. I know, people get all uppity and start randomly accusing people who say things like that of being “liberal,” “conspiracy theorists” or worse. Hell, David Warren and Robert Sibley have written verbose treatises in the Ottawa Citizen about how just such liberal, intellectual conspiracy theorists have watered the once brave blood of Western might.

Fucktards, all.

The truth of the matter is the assholes who flew the planes into the towers weren’t doing it to try and take over the world. They weren’t doing it because they felt it was the first step towards an invasion of the Americas. None of them thought that they were advancing the eventual conquest of richer society by poorer but more pious believers. Those assholes did it because they wanted to show that they could, and because they knew it would scare fountains of shit out of every one of us, and because they wanted that fear to make us do stupid things, and maybe to make us leave the Middle-East alone.

Well, they accomplished all but the last.

But, this isn’t why I started writing this. I started writing this because we need to take the definition of terrorism and throw it out the window, because, for all the hand-wringing we do about freedom and our need to sacrifice on its altar by fighting terrorism, the word doesn’t hold any meaning any more. If it ever did, we’ve successfully sucked any semblence of meaning out of it over these last eight years, and toting it around as the excuse for everything is nothing more than a sad spectacle of self-deluson and hypocrisy.

The Harper government wants to pass a law that will allow victims of terrorism to sue for compensation terrorists and nations that are sponsors of terrorism. This exercise in stupidity from the braintrust of the same is quite transparently political in nature, and, at best, doesn’t seem to make a whole hell of a lot or practical sense. First of all, there hasn’t been a case of domestic terrorism in how long? Shut your gob with the knee-jerk “That’s because we’re so good at stopping it with our guns and stuff,” and just think about it. Has anything happened in Canada or the US? Or are we so certain that something will that passing this law actually makes sense because it prepares us to be able to take someone, probably someone who is in a zip-lock bag as a natural consequence of their methods of choice, to court for punitive damages?

Who is actually going to make use of this law?

Better yet, who won’t be able to make use of this law? I can’t wait to see the first person try and sue Israel. Better yet, let’s wait until someone sues the US. That’ll be worth the price of admission. Atter all, we only allow people to sue the “sponsors of terrorism” that we declare to be the bad guys, not the other sponsors who we, in turn, sponsor. After all, explain to me how Israel, Sri Lanka or even the US can’t be shown to be unlawfully using “force or violence [. . .] against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.” Let’s remember that the war in Iraq was not sanctioned by the United Nations. Let’s remember that the United Nations haven’t exactly approved of Israel’s most recent excapades, nor Sri Lanka’s.

But that’s alright, because we probably call nations “sponsors of terrorism” for good reason, right? I mean, it’s a label that comes with a lot of baggage and weight, right, so surely we don’t just slap it on the unsuspecting little country without some justification?

North Korea has convicted two journalists for several crimes, causing the US to respond with threats of putting North Korea back on the list of nations that support terrorism. This was the list that they were taken off of when the US wanted to show good faith in exchange for the dismantling of the North Korean nuclear ambitions.

Back up a second; North Korea was declared to be no longer a state that supported terrorism as a purely political gesture in order to accomplish very tangible political goals, and is on the verge of being put back on that list, again as a purely political gesture, in order to accomplish another purely political goal. None of this has anything to do with the scourge we have apparently been fighting. All of this has to do with politics. The terrorism label is being used as a stick, ironically to scare someone into doing something.

Someone recently bemoaned the traffic disruptions that the “god damn Tamil’s” had caused in Toronto and how it inconvenienced them. Nobody seems to mind much when Israel bombs a bunch of Palestinian women and children into oblivion, so long as Hamas doesn’t harm a hair on an Israeli head. The democratically elected government in Afghanistan wants to pass a law that seemingly legalizes a husband’s rape of his wife, and suddenly the freedom to self-determination we have fought to give them needs a few constraints. The Taliban are evil and horrid and our comrades in arms are the Northern Alliance, despite the fact that it wasn’t long ago that we trained and armed the freedom-fighter Taliban and aided them in their just war against the evil, inhumane Northern Alliance.

We forget all these things because we look so much better, so much braver, and so much more righteous when we close our eyes and imagine ourselves how we want to be.

I attended a remembrance ceremony on the weekend, and was disappointed to see an otherwise nice and heart-warming gesture become political and cheapened by the insistance on including a declaration against terrorism. What’s worse, is that terrorism is an empty vessel; whatever meaning it had, it’s lost it. The meaning has been taken by our willingness to define it one way, but apply the definition unequally depending on who we’re looking to label with it. The meaning has been taken by people who are willing to use it as a tool for politicking.

I found myself wondering if someone would be right if they said I don’t support the troops, even though I feel I do. I came to the conclusion that supporting the troops has nothing to do with supporting the mission that they’re on. I admire the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to do their duty and follow the orders they have been given. I don’t think I would have the bravery that they show in doing what is asked, without questions, even if it means they might be killed or maimed.

I question shit. Incessantly.

I think it’s the epitome of support to question whether the mission makes sense. We need to ask what terrorism really means, and if the way we’re fighting this war is accomplishing enough to justify the price these men and women are paying. And it doesn’t.

This war on this empty, meaningless label, that we have made empty and meaningless, won’t be won with blood or bullets or bombs. It will be won when we start to admit that we can’t win if we fight the deed, we need to work on fighting the creed.


Dictionary.com: Definition of Terrorism

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