No single definition of terrorism has gained universal acceptance. For the purposes of argument, lets use the definition of terrorism contained in Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(d). That statute contains the following definitions:
- The term "terrorism" means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.
- The term "international terrorism" means terrorism involving citizens or the territory of more than one country.
- The term "terrorist group" means any group practicing, or that has significant subgroups that practice, international terrorism.
- The U.S. Government has employed this definition of terrorism for statistical and analytical purposes since 1983.
Thus, we can apply this definition towards the actions of many parties throughout the world, including sovereign states, governments, individual citizens, autonomous groups, etc.
Lets apply these definitions to both the US and Iraq. The USs intention to bomb and invade Iraq meets the definition of terrorism because:
- It is premeditated
- It is politically motivated
- It will largely harm non-combatants (just like the Gulf War)
- It will definitely influence an audience (i.e. the Middle East)
The only thing that is missing is the fact that the US is not a subnational group or necessarily clandestine (the CIA notwithstanding). But, does this stand in the way of our definition? If we follow the logic of the above definition, no group in power of a state could actually commit terrorism. Thus, Saddam Hussein could not be a terrorist, since he is the head of a government. The same would go for the former Taliban in Afghanistan.
This is, of course, ridiculous. I submit that it is even more important to label those in power as terrorist when they do the above, because:
- They have the overwhelming power to avoid it
- Their violence can be even more extreme than those out of power
- In theory, the righteous ones should stand above the others, morally, and not stoop to their level
Anyone can be a terrorist, not just the USs official enemies. If it is to be a truly respected idea and definition, it must be fairly applied to everyone, our allies and even ourselves. Remember that old saying your mother taught you? Dont point your finger at others (because when you do four fingers point back at you). The same is true in international politicsor at least should be.
If the most powerful military power in the world failed to turn the mirror on itself to ask the important and difficult questions, where is its ethics? Indeed, failing to challenge the violence of US actions is devoid of morality. Americans have an obligation to not do the same heinous actions that we accuse others of. Is it not obvious?
The US governments War on Terrorism is illogical and immoral for the following reasons:
- It ignores political motivations
- It is being executed militarily, not politically
- It is based upon revenge
- It has skirted International Law and other protocols of mediation and intervention
- It targets human beings, not terrorism itself
- It creates further double-standards in US foreign policy
- It does not outline clear distinctions of terrorism
- It fails to analyze the terrorism of official allies and the US government itself
- It inflicts terror upon equally innocent human targets
- It works to achieve results not under the stated purpose, such as war industry profits, US hegemony gains, continued energy reserve domination, etc.
- It involves incredible reductionism in logic and rhetoric from politicians and military personnel
- It is being used as a justification for domestic repression of immigrants, people of color, civil liberties, political activists, and others
- It violates widely shared belief in the Golden Rule
- It fails to discriminate between terrorists and those who share the ethnic, religious, and political beliefs of terrorists.
- It is reactionary and not preventive
- It lacks transparency in justification and application
- It acts as the moral justifier to continued and increased economic and military repression throughout the world
- It is a catch-all phrase which creates unquestioning obedience from citizens of our leaders
- It will replicate and spread the conditions for further acts of terrorism
- It operates on the false presumption that two wrongs make a right
No just end is justified through unjust means and methods. Thus, if any of the preceding is true (and I assert it is), the War on Terrorism is an unjust policy and requires the resistance of those who believe in justice. Resistance to injustice does not mean support of terrorism. In fact, resistance to injustice is the best way to fight terrorism, since terrorism itself is an act of injustice. It is morally reprehensible to adopt the same methods and motivations of terrorists themselves to rid ourselves of terrorism.
One does not fight terrorism by causing further terror no more than one makes friends via abusive words. Gandhis classic observation is of immeasurable importance: An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
To turn Bushs notorious sound bite (and fallacy) youre either with us or the terrorists around: youre either against violence of all kinds or youre for violence of all kinds.