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Squabbling over the Name won’t make Terrorism go away

May 27, 2010

Squabbling over the Name won’t make Terrorism go away

The moment a suicide bomber detonated in a peaceful procession

Whether it is called a ‘War on Terror’, War on Terrorism’ or ‘War on Fluffy the Cat’ it would still be the same. There is vagueness about the definition of words that often gives people a loophole that would redefine their behavior as being acceptable whereas the same behavior by others is not. When it comes to terrorism the vagueness increases as people try to justify and explain why their violence is not violence at all. In many cases it is recast as self defense and the final action that must be taken to save you from destruction. Blowing up a café in the Middle East maybe seem like no brainer when it comes labeling it as terrorism. However with enough warped logic and twisted reasoning the victims can be portrayed as oppressors and the bombers as the oppressed.


We are left with an argument forwarded by some apologists that there is no such thing as an innocent bystander on the other side. They are at best collateral damage and at worst collaborators with an ‘evil’ regime. Therefore in the minds of the apologist they become a legitimate target because they are guilty by association. Shooting hostages or cutting off their heads in front of a video camera is given the veneer of respectability because the victim is nothing more than a means to an end or the victim is inherently guilty by association. It does not matter how tenuous the association is because an intelligent person can shamelessly argue the case.


Some of the terms created after the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Centre were very clumsy and often vague to the point of being meaningless. The ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner behind George Bush as he delivered a speech on an aircraft carrier begged the question: ‘What Mission and how the accomplishment was measured?‘Islamo-fascism?‘ Yet there was little meaning in this term other than to add confusion to a debate about fanaticism, extremism and violence. The ‘War on Terror’ should have been called the ‘War on Terrorism’ because as it stood it was meaningless. How does one declare war on ‘Terror’? You might as well declare war on ‘Fear’. However in terms of marketing the purpose of the phrase was to get the message out in an easy to quote sound bite. Those who adore semantic arguments can have a field day splitting hairs but for the rest of the world the meaning was clear. The situation where terrorism was allowed to flourish had to stop.

A genuine suicide vest captured in Sri Lanka along with the female bomber.

Much can be said about the way in which the challenge of Terrorism was handled. There is plenty of scope for criticism of the simplistic short term attitude toward problems that had taken decades to build up. There is also much to criticize about the way that old ideological enemies were used as whipping boys and blamed for what third party terrorists did. However there is also much to blame in the way that some people have decided to side with the terrorists because the Bush Administration went after them. This is extremely partisan thinking from my viewpoint and not helpful in the long term. Left and Right kick each other over old policies just as Conservatives and Liberals kick each other over old policies. Settling long running scores in a culture war only distracts from the fact that a terrorist attack has occurred. Terrorism and terrorists get a free ride to respectability because their agenda can be used to beat down opponents in a democratic parliamentary debate. It becomes a farce after a while where only the terrorists can see the funny side.


A poor argument against terrorism is to broaden its definition until means any form of war crime. Broaden the definition further and every action in war becomes a version of terrorism. The firebombing of Dresden in WW2 may have been tactically pointless and a war crime but was it an act of terrorism? If we broaden the definition far enough then the answer is yes. However in common language used by the vast majority of people it was not terrorism. Judgment over the culpability of the Dresden bombing is another matter. Yet if people start from a position that ‘the West can do No Good’ then everything it does is evil and the debate is closed.


We still have some major problems with terrorism in the modern world that should be tackled. A change of President in the USA will not make those issues suddenly disappear. Nor will repeating the mistakes of the past make things better.

The biggest problem is definitely the flow of armaments to terrorist groups. Millions upon millions of copies of the Russian designed AK47 have been produced and distributed around the world. In many cases the average cost of production is $50. Many were produced in the Cold War and shipped out to continue a worldwide revolution financed by Moscow. These days millions more are still being produced and sold to anyone who has the cash. The Chinese have also mass produced a version of the same weapon called the Type 56. Along with moving guns terrorists have progressed onto RPG’s (Rocket Propelled Grenades) and anti tank weapons. In more recent times heavy artillery has been sold to terrorist organizations such as the 130mm cannons used by the LTTE (Tamil Tigers). Claymore mines have been deployed for assassinations in urban areas. It is not a romantic joke to let such weapons fall into the hands of terrorists because they will use them.


Money is the key to many organizations because they need money to purchase weapons and ammunition. However the effort to close down the flow of cash to terrorism is often hampered by a myriad of front organizations masquerading as aid organizations. The LTTE profited upwards of 320 million dollars annually from such fronts and that money transferred into weapons purchases.


A third area that needs to be tackled is the propaganda fronts of terrorist organizations. They can often seem quite rational until you realize that their purpose it to excuse acts of terrorism. One line of argument forwarded by such people is the ‘genocide’ argument. They redefine ‘genocide’ to mean any ethnic clash where a minority group is involved. Most people would view ‘genocide’ as an attempt to kill everyone within an ethnic group. However the mantra of ‘Cultural Genocide’ repeated often enough becomes just ‘Genocide’ with no effort to clarify the point. Hence all actions are then rationalized as a survival tactic against a genocidal enemy. Is it any wonder that we have suicide bombers?


Words sometimes do lose meaning when they are poorly chosen. However reality is beyond words. Do we really need to accept all arguments by terrorist apologists just because we did not like George Bush and Carl Rove? Answering in the affirmative to this question would speak volumes about what values people are willing to sacrifice for their partisan glories.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. similimodo permalink
    June 2, 2010 9:59 am

    Dear Damo,

    A firm, unflinching faith, or belief in anything is almost impossible to break.

    The early Christian martyrs believed firmly they would go to heaven if they allowed themselves to be killed by infidels and pagans (read: Diocletian & other emperors – the Roman Martyrology) without resisting.

    Today, we have suicide bombers who firmly believe they will go to their heaven if they kill others while blowing themselves to smithereens.

    Then you have the multitudes (those who take one side or the other, but never put being killed or killing others into practice). Read: opinionated and ignorant bloggers who sit on the fence without ever having built a fence, and so they mistake it for a soapbox. And while they sit on the fence, they sprout their erroneous, ill-formed philosophies and warped theology on the issue of ‘justice’, in-between preaching on how a fence should be built, without one reference to St Simon Stylites.

    David …


    • June 3, 2010 1:19 pm

      David Thanks for your comments.

      Unflinching belief may indeed be impossible to break. In my mind it only matters where that belief becomes hostile action. The rest of the time I could not care less whether people believe in flying sausers, equality with the animals and seperate states. Once the person starts collecting guns or strapping on a bomb we have problem.

      I am reminded on occassion about a small group who collectivesly came to take issue with something I posted on WordPress. They were not willing to discuss the matter but set about trashing the author. Some people see any challenge to their beliefs as a ersonal attack uon themselves. And so they lash out irrationally.


  2. similimodo permalink
    June 10, 2010 10:37 am

    Dear Damo,

    Yes, the touchiness of people in relation to what they believe is quite astounding – considering what they do believe.

    As for these attacks. Are those neo-Nazis still around?

    David …


    • June 11, 2010 1:37 pm


      The neo-neo-nazis still exist.
      They are grinding their teeth and keeping grudges like the enlightened people that they are.


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