Terrorism. The word is thrown around so much and has been so completely distorted of meaning that very few people really understand what it means. As an example, I show this definition taken from an article written by Daniel MacAdams for the Ron Paul Institute.
Now, I have tremendous respect for the Ron Paul Institute and believe that MacAdams is doing yeoman work for the cause of liberty. In an otherwise excellent article, it is too bad that this definition was used. To give MacAdams the benefit of the doubt, though, it is not likely he could have found anything better in any of the “established” word definers.
This definition of terrorism is not exactly accurate in my opinion. Notice the words “the unlawful use…” According to this, if violence or threats are practiced legally, that is, through the normal law-making process of any individual government, then it is not terrorism. No matter how many civilians or foreign governments are intimidated or coerced through violence and/or threats to use violence, a legal assault is not considered terrorism.
I ask you. Did George W. Bush and his puppet-master, Dick Cheney, attack the sovereign nations of Iraq and Afghanistan? Did they exercise violence and threats against the civilian populations there which are still reverberating today? Did they topple established governments for the purpose of furthering political, social, and ideological objectives? Did they terrorize ordinary citizens for their own purposes, i.e., financial rewards and increased power? Did they rape, torture, kill, and steal in the name of all that is good and holy or was it because they had the “lawful” power to do so?
But, but, but…are the sputtering replies to these questions and others like them. After all, Congress did give their assent to these actions by granting the administration “emergency authorization powers” (a.k.a., green light), which simply means that Congress (which holds the purse strings and could have cut off funding) approved the actions…by abdication of responsibility, thereby making them “lawful”.
Is it a coincidence that almost the entirety of the word lawful is awful? Not as inspiring awe, but as extremely bad. Just saying.
If we modify the definition of terrorism to mean simply “frightening, scaring, intimidating, etc., people through the means of violence or the threat of violence”, then it is plain to see that governments world-wide are the largest perpetrators of terror and the 800-pound gorilla in the pack is the one located in our own back yard–Washington, D.C., USA. (I offer abject apologies to the species of gorilla for the comparison.) Further, over the 20th century, it cannot be denied that various governments, including our own, ‘terrorized’ billions of people, even killing up to 100 million of them, perhaps more, in the never-ending quest for “furthering political, social, and ideological objectives.”
2 thoughts on “Terrorism: Hitting Close to Home”
The definition of terrorism is inherently squishy. I don’t believe that there is a settled framework. Further to your example, some limit the term to non-state actors, yet others point to Hiroshima and Dresden as terrorist events.
Perhaps violence or threats against civilian populations is about all that can be said as the definition. Any appendages only offer the possibility for exceptions.
Thank you, Bionic.
Terrorism can be broken into three parts, I think.
The first would include assaults against individuals or groups of individuals for personal gain, i.e, robberies, rapes, murders, extortions, etc. Always small scale.
The second would be aimed at any aspect of the civilian population with the express purpose of destabilizing governments, i.e., bombings of government buildings, assassinations, massive Las Vegas style shootings, etc. These instances are designed to create and spread fear among the civilian population and it is expected that legal retaliation and hard crackdowns will follow, which will escalate the situation to the next level. Timothy McVeigh, et al.
The third, of course, is action taken by established governments (gangs writ large) which terrifies civilian populations and directly increases the power of said governments. Think Covid-19, the Kennedy assassinations, or the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan at the end of World War II.
One is petty criminal and does not affect more than a few people. The others are far larger and affect whole populations.