When Extremism is Not Terrorism

I just read two interesting articles from two different sides of the political spectrum, surprisingly both in agreement, on why the Fort Hood shooting was not, by definition, terrorism.

According to the National Review’s Jonah Goldberg (with subsequent update),

Terrorism is, by conventional definition, an attack on civilians intended to strike fear in the non-military population in order to advance a political or ideological agenda. Hasan didn’t attack civilians, he attacked uniformed members of the U.S. Army in advance of their deployment to the frontlines. It was an evil act, but was it an act of terrorism?

The progressive Glenn Greenwald explains the problem with using a more expansive definition of terrorism:

But if one accepts that broadened definition of “terrorism” — that it includes violence that targets not only civilians but also combatants who are unarmed or not engaged in combat at the time of the attack — it seems impossible to exclude from that term many of the acts in which the U.S. and our allies routinely engage.  Indeed, a large part of our “war” strategy is to kill people we deem to be “terrorists” or “combatants” without regard to whether they’re armed or engaged in hostilities at the moment we kill them.  Isn’t that exactly what we do when we use drone attacks in Pakistan?  Indeed, we currently have a “hit list” of individuals we intend to murder in Afghanistan on sight based on our suspicion that they’re involved in the drug trade and thus help fund the Taliban.  During its war in Gaza, Israel targeted police stations and, with one strike, killed 40 police trainees while in a parade, and then justified that by claiming police recruits were legitimate targets — even though they weren’t engaged in hostilities at the time — because of their nexus to Hamas (even though the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said the targeted recruits “were being trained in first aid, human rights and maintaining public order”).

And on this point, incredibly, Goldberg agrees:

In Pakistan, we launch missiles at people’s homes with civilians in or around them to take out al-Qaeda leadership. The attacks are — hopefully — always intended to be something of a surprise. But I wouldn’t call that terrorism. I’m just uncomfortable with the word terrorism metastasizing into “anything the bad guys do to us.” Why not call what Hasan did a war crime? Terrorism is a war crime but not all war crimes are terrorism.

On another note, during World War II, we interned Japanese Americans because their ethnicity alone made them suspicious. It will be interesting to see how the U.S. deals with Hispanic Americans (now roughly fifteen percent of the population) if we someday invade a Latin American country. When will Hispanic Americans disagreeing with U.S. policy be considered sympathetic towards or suspicious of terrorism? With such a large portion of our military personnel being Hispanic, that’s a lot of screening.



Filed under Essays

7 responses to “When Extremism is Not Terrorism

  1. Another note on objectivity:

    When you are so worried about an apologist standoff, and fail to recognise the measure of a trajedy in human lives; ones that are not linked to a particular bias, you invalidate your position.

    Thirteen American service persons; individuals who are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, etc., who did nothing to cause this scenario. Innocent, but any accounts.

    The facts:

    This reprobate had contact with Al Queda; certified.

    This puke made statements on his own webpage that suicide bombers were the “moral equivalent” of an American soldier falling on a grenade to save the lives of his fellow soldiers. (I don’t even know wtf “moral equivalent” is supposed to mean …)

    He, of his own volition, made the choice to use ideology as his primary weapon, against unarmed, unprovoked, unknowing individuals for no other reason than ideology.

    He wore the uniform, accepted the responsibility of the uniform, and then turned on his own; for no other reason than ideology.

    He could have had himself disqualified and discharged; but he chose to kill innocent individuals for no reason other than an ideology comprised of only hate.

    You’re right, terrorism isn’t the proper word for a piece of shit like this; betrayer, traitor, enemy of the State, any of those work far better.

    I wish I could be the one to pull the trigger on him. Suffering would just be the beginning.

  2. eric

    I tend to agree with you here that this person is a criminal that needs to be treated with all of the severity and seriousness of the law. Of course he is not the first military personnel to go ballistic in recent years (a problem becoming way to common). There have also been two other shooting sprees since the Fort Hood one — all leading to the obvious conclusion that we have a problem.

  3. Yes, there are a number of problems concerning the treatment of combat veterans, like the black book published by the Clinton Administration, struck down by the Bush Administration, and reenacted by the Maobama Administration; “Your Life, Your Choices” … which is a suicide manual for disabled combat veterans, explicity for the purpose of installing the desire to commnit suicide for being impaired and being a “burden to family and society” … yes, that wording is actually used in the publication.

    The false claims of PTSS regarding this individual, or the use of PTSS as a scapegoat for his mental distortions, is unfounded and ludicrous. Not so, for many combat veterans though.

    The military does an admittedly piss poor job of helping those who have served; but mostly that is the fault of ninnies/sissies/cowards in this society, with their bogus and moronic pacifist beliefs that war can be stopped. The same one’s who call our service people baby killers, murders, etc.

    The problem for the standard citizen, you know, the one’s who are far too chicken shit to find themselves in a combat situation, don’t understand what it is like to be turned back into the most primal state … and then suddenly thrust back into “civilised society” and be expected to just go about your business as if everything internally can just **pop** change back.

    For many, it can’t, and never will. I have a friend who is a former Seal. He’s a constant threat, not by any choice, but after 18 combat tours, his mind can’t change back.

    THAT is what the military needs to address … well, and that whole bullshit about “civilized society” … LMMFAOROTFL … wow, talk about oxymoron and cognitive dissonance in one not so tidy package … LMMFAORTOFL.

  4. eric

    And we keep sending them back on more tours…

  5. It’s not the tours that concern me, that is how it has been throughout human history.

    It’s the lack of perspective by society at large and the DOD’s self-righteous approach to dealing with real issues of combat veterans.

    Even though it may not seem like it to many, or those at the DOD who do not even care; they are still human, and the kind of trauma they suffer, is not understandable by the lay person.

    Of course, lack of testicles both in society and the DOD when it comes to dealing with actual problems, not the drama of “Reality TV” issues, will invariably continue to be the mainstay.

  6. eric

    Another area where change was promised and change has not come.

  7. Indeed, how’s that hope and change working out for you America?

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