Terrorism denialism

I was reading two articles on disparate subjects and found them oddly linked in my mind. The first former terrorist Bill Ayers’ explanation of why he didn’t respond when Obama was smeared by association and the second P. Michael Conn and James V. Parker writing for the WaPo about the escalation in recent years of animal rights terrorism.

What struck me about both these articles is the interesting divide between how terrorists justify their behaviors and diminish their objectives of striking fear into their opponents, and the reality of what the subjects of such acts perceive. Conn and Parker are quite right to use the label “terrorist”, as even though the ALF has been unsuccessful in actually killing someone so far, they’ve come close, demonstrated carelessness for human life, and ultimately are using acts of violence to intimidate others into changing their behavior.

Now frequently AR terrorism been downplayed in discussions on this blog as property damage, or mere economic assaults on research science. As an example of this mentality, listen to Ayers downplay the Weather Undergrounds violent activity:

I never killed or injured anyone. I did join the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s, and later resisted the draft and was arrested in nonviolent demonstrations. I became a full-time antiwar organizer for Students for a Democratic Society. In 1970, I co-founded the Weather Underground, an organization that was created after an accidental explosion that claimed the lives of three of our comrades in Greenwich Village. The Weather Underground went on to take responsibility for placing several small bombs in empty offices — the ones at the Pentagon and the United States Capitol were the most notorious — as an illegal and unpopular war consumed the nation.

The Weather Underground crossed lines of legality, of propriety and perhaps even of common sense. Our effectiveness can be — and still is being — debated. We did carry out symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war and racism, and the attacks on property, never on people, were meant to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the Vietnam war.

Notice the weasel language of “Symbolic acts”, “extreme vandalism” of monuments to war and racism (the Capitol?), “attacks on property”, and “respect human life”. This is total nonsense. Bombs communicate one thing, even if they don’t kill people – stop doing what you’re doing or you’re next. Similarly AR terrorists have said their burning of buildings, or cars, or flooding of researchers houses, or fires set at their houses aren’t directed at people but meant to preserve life, or convey their outrage. Guess what? It’s still terrorism! When the KKK burns a cross on a black family’s lawn, the fact no lives are lost is beside the point. When violent acts, even those resulting only in property damage, are used to intimidate and make people fearful for their lives it is terrorism.

Fortunately, Conn and Parker don’t mince words and call it what it is:

Terrorists have struck again. In the predawn hours one morning last month, they used an incendiary device to destroy two cars. You may not have heard about this, even though it followed a series of firebombings of homes and other vehicles. The attack didn’t take place in Mumbai or Baghdad but in Los Angeles. Yet the news couldn’t break through the reports on the holiday season and our economic woes.

The intended target of this violence, a researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles, was a scientist who uses animals in his work. But the terrorists, reportedly from an organization known as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), had bad aim. The burned cars belonged to people with no relationship to UCLA or even to animal research.

Black comedy? No, because lives hang in the balance, and not just those of the intended targets, their families and anyone who happens to reside nearby. Because of such terrorism, many medical researchers are rethinking their choice of profession, putting all of us at risk of losing out on medical advances that can dramatically improve, and save, our lives.

Some of our own colleagues in Portland, Ore., have had to endure black-hooded “ALF-ers” chanting in front of their homes, “2, 4, 6, 8, we know where you sleep at night.” The message is clear: Continue your research at your peril.

Terrorism is the use of violent acts for the purpose of coercion and advancement of a political ideology with no regard for the safety and welfare of others. Bombing houses, burning cars, and threatening researchers lives and the lives of their children counts and I’m glad that Conn and Parker are willing to call it what it is. This goes beyond the usual stupidity of groups like PETA and their denialist campaigns challenging the efficacy and usefulness of research (or their billboards linking milk and autism the disgusting liars). This is about human lives, those being put directly at risk by the terrorists and the thousands or millions of lives that may be lost with the loss of animal research.

Comments

  1. #1 Kagehi
    December 8, 2008

    Not to mention that bankrupting a company, destroying the car of someone that may have it as the only way to get to a job they depend on, etc., even over stressing someone that might have medical problems, can kill, drive to suicide, lose people their jobs, or starve someone. It’s not just the “immediate” result that is the problem, or the threats made.

  2. #2 Zandalow
    December 8, 2008

    Read the book by the FBI insider about the WU. Those people used to sit around and seriously discuss rounding up millions of people who had different politics, and how best to exterminate the ones who would not change their views. Even though they never acted beyond a few “symbolic” bombings in the real world, they were (and are) some sick, depraved people. You can almost invoke Hitler without incurring a Godwin violation.

  3. #3 dean
    December 8, 2008

    “You can almost invoke Hitler without incurring a Godwin violation”

    I would really stress the “almost” in this. I have a serious problem comparing people to Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol-Pot, etc., based on their talk alone.

    I’m not arguing that they are/were very bad people, but unless their actions equate to the standards, I would not put them on that level.

  4. #4 D. C. Sessions
    December 8, 2008

    These people aren’t terrorists. We know this, because the Department of Homeland Security (well, and in some States God) has kept the United States safe from terror for seven years.

  5. #5 Chris H.
    December 8, 2008

    The US definition of terrorism includes property crimes that are “dangerous to human life.” See 18 USC 2331:

    the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—
    (A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
    (B) appear to be intended—
    (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
    (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
    (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
    (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

  6. #6 Ticktock
    December 8, 2008

    He doesn’t deny being a terrorist in the quote you provided. I think it’s important for him to clarify exactly what he did, so that people don’t think he flew planes into buildings or drove up to a checkpoint and detonated himself. There is a very big difference. Modern terrorists have zero respect for innocent life, and the terrorists in the 60s were trying to prevent the death of innocent people.

    There’s another reason to bomb empty buildings – to attract attention to your cause and to make a point about that atrocious acts of violence never seem appropriate on the receiving end of the bomb. How is their act any different than U.S. soldiers in Vietnam raping and burning villages and dropping napalm indiscriminately over populated forests? It’s a double standard, and the Weather Underground made that point abundantly clear with their attacks.

    I’m not saying that their strategy was effective, but Bill Ayers should be allowed to put his acts in context of the times, and to clarify his misdeeds to the public. You seem to be saying that by simply stating his perspective of the events, that he is exonerating himself and washing his hands of the acts. His quote says the exact opposite.

  7. #7 dean
    December 8, 2008

    TickTock, about:
    “He doesn’t deny being a terrorist in the quote you provided.”

    I didn’t say he wasn’t a terrorist: if this was aimed at me, you misunderstand my point.

    If it wasn’t aimed at me, I misunderstood yours, and apologize.

  8. #8 CW
    December 8, 2008

    He doesn’t deny being a terrorist in the quote you provided.

    In the full statement he does actually say “Peaceful protests had failed to stop the war. So we issued a screaming response. But it was not terrorism”

    It was.

    But I must admit that blowing up the haymarket statue twice still kind of tickles me.

  9. #9 bob
    December 8, 2008

    Ticktock: What about when the buildings aren’t actually empty, because a researcher was there working late? Are they still not “real” terrorists to you then? Do you give them points for trying?

    Not a hypothetical, by the way … it still crosses the minds of grad students working late here at UW-Madison. That the bomb was set off late at night is precisely zero consolation, trust me.

  10. #10 synapse
    December 8, 2008

    I do animal research, and my lab used to do research on larger, cute, fuzzy-type animals. I am afraid of these people. What really gets to me is how stupid some of them are. I mean, a bunch of their bombs in UCLA failed to detonate, in LA they put a bomb on the wrong doorstep, and in Santa Cruz they put a bomb under the car of a person who doesn’t even do vertebrate research. They can’t even make their slogans rhyme! These are clearly people who don’t appreciate the value of education or of scientific research- how are we supposed to talk with them?

  11. #11 Rob W
    December 8, 2008

    @bob: TickTock isn’t saying they aren’t terrorists; he’s pointing out that even though what the WU did was wrong, foolish and dangerous (and Ayers fully agrees), people nowadays assume that anyone branded a “terrorist” is morally comfortable with flying an airliner into a building.

    That’s the real danger of massively-charged terms like “terrorist”. Notice Zandalow invoking Hitler in the second comment, for example. That’s downright silly. Even if you just tally up the psychological trauma (the aspect of terrorism we’re talking about), that’s ludicrous. It’s like comparing the school bully who pushed you on the playground with the Columbine shooters.

    I’m certainly not condoning the ALF’s actions in any way — I’m saying that they didn’t, for example, slaughter 3,000 members of the faculty and student body (I’m sure we’d all be rather more nervous if they had)… but *that’s* what people think of when they think “terrorist” nowadays.

    Even the KKK burning crosses wouldn’t have been nearly as traumatic if they hadn’t ALSO be lynching people, shooting people, and blowing up churches full of people. So again, not the same.

    I also want to emphasize (@Zandalow) that we cannot assume that someone is sick and depraved because they *talked* about committing an atrocious act. I know a few perfectly law-abiding people who respond to anger and frustration by planning horrific reprisals; by the time they’ve gotten halfway through the details they start calming down… it seems fairly therapeutic (though they obviously risk being overheard by the wrong people…), and they aren’t violent people in real life.

    If the WU included some people who proposed far more violent ideas, and *discarded* them after discussion — that’s a fairly strong sign of NON-depraved and NON-sick behavior in a roomful of people as angry and desperately frustrated (and young and naive) as they were. They were hearing & reading constantly about massacres and horrors going on in Vietnam, death tolls mounting, no end in sight, etc., normal protests seemed to have no effect, and the government & large chunks of the citizens seemed to be perfectly happy to let the atrocities go on indefinitely… it seemed to them (a bunch of 20-year-olds, remember) that stopping this greater horror could justify a lot.

    I think (to sum up here a bit…) we can gain a lot more from actually addressing the frustration and anger that’s motivating people like the WU, ALF, etc., and encouraging as much rational dialogue as possible, to bleed off the anger from some of them, and to stop the “closed room full of angry people” effect, RATHER than slapping on the “terrorist” label and wishing them to hell and Guantanamo. What does that accomplish besides widening the gulf, and making each side look even less human to the other?

    For the record, I *also* think we should have fairly strict laws for “extreme vandalism” (or however you choose to label it) — that takes into account the psychological damage that very visceral threats of violence cause. As long as there’s a *legal* way to bring about change (like convincing enough voters of the importance of your issue… ideally the citizens are rational and well-informed), and regular communication between conflicting groups — then we as a society are particularly justified in shutting down the “dirty tricks” approach to change, because only the loonies will ever feel the need to try it.

  12. #12 Jane
    December 8, 2008

    At least one non-governmental terrorist is a rather important figure in US history — John Brown < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Brown_(abolitionist)>. That is how the ALF people see themselves.

  13. #13 Oldfart
    December 8, 2008

    I don’t think TickTock was talking about ALF at all. He/she was talking about Ayers and WU. I never understood the WU and that ilk. Blowing up sub-stations would make more sense. Make people uncomfortable and prove to them that the government is NOT in control. That kind of thing. Blowing up empty buildings and statues doesn’t do that…. And, before any of you believe that I am confessing to atrocities committed in my past, I am not. It’s just that I was trained to be a good little guerrilla while in the 5th Special Forces back in the early 60′s and can’t help a little professional criticism….

  14. #14 DuWayne
    December 8, 2008

    Sorry Rob W and Tik Tok, but Ayers and the WU were terrorists. And the ALF are absolutely terrorists.

    Killing people is not a requisite to make something a terrorism. Terrorism is the use of fear to attempt to change behaviors and activities one disagrees with. Blowing up someone’s fucking car isn’t vandalism, it is an instrument of terror. Breaking into someone’s house with the intent of terrorizing their family is terrorism. Blowing up labs late at night is an instrument of terror. The fact that some terrorists are more extreme than others, doesn’t make the lesser acts of terrorism something else.

    Were I alive during Korea or Vietnam, I quite likely would have been an anti-war demonstrator – I have been in regards to the invasion of Afghanistan and the war and occupation of Iraq. I am an activist and a rabble-rouser, though I have toned it back since becoming a father. I have been maced by cops, I have been thrown around by cops and I have been arrested for engaging in peaceful civil disobedience on more than one occasion. When my kids have gone their own way, I expect that I will probably find causes to fight for again, though I hope that those I have already fought for will be won by then.

    Terrorist tactics do not foment positive change. What they do manage, is to really piss sane people off, people who all too often equate what I do with what those fucking terrorist scumbags do. The first year I went to smoke-out the capital, there were less than thirty of us – there were nearly as many cops as there were protesters. I got my face ground into the pavement, by a cop who considered me a fucking terrorist, because this happened not too long after some actual terrorists had blown up some logging equipment in Oregon. All I did was light a fucking joint on the front lawn of the MI capital building.

    I’m not interested in justifications and excuses. It’s all bullshit. I felt very much the same as the terrorists who blew up the logging equipment. I had the same beef they did and would have happily chained myself to a fucking tree to make a point, were I out there. I would have happily engaged in peaceful protest and dealt with the consequences to help make a point and bring exposure – and peaceful protest brings exposure – especially when protesters get arrested for trespassing (been there and helped garner media attention). But blowing shit up pisses off the people that pay attention. I mean sure, some codgers are gonna get riled over trespassing and chaining oneself to trees, but for the most part the attention is a net positive.

    Terrorism is never a net positive. Using instruments of fear is just as sick as flying planes into buildings. The goal is the same – to terrorize people.

    Fuck that. It’s bullshit.

  15. #15 Militant Agnostic
    December 8, 2008

    Anytime terrorists like the ALF or Earth First start a fire in a supposedly unoccupied building they are endangering the lives of the responding firefighters. These property crimes are acts of violence.

  16. #16 Brian Carnell
    December 8, 2008

    Occasionally I run across these types who don’t believe that firebombing a research lab is really terrorism because the ALF does whatever it can to minimize the threat to human lives.

    Of course very few of the people who agree with that statement will take the logical next step and assent to the very same principle if we change “research lab” to “abortion clinic.”

    Essentially this is no different than the folks who are able to rationalize away terrorism that does claim human lives — a suicide bomber in a crowded market isn’t terrorism provided it is in support of *our side* regardless of the merits or lack thereof of the cause.

  17. #17 SES
    December 8, 2008

    I was in dental school in New York City when Ayres’s “comrades” blew themselves up in the East Village. One of my professors was a forensic odontologist with the NYC Coroner’s Office and helped investigate the crime scene. He told us that the bombs which were under construction were apparently filled with metal pieces to act as shrapnel. That’s the type of bomb one would make if trying to kill people, not the type you’d make to do damage to property.

  18. #18 Zandalow
    December 9, 2008

    @Rob W

    Read the book about the WU. These were not people reacting in anger to a shocking event. That’s a completely off base comparison. These were people with PhD’s sitting around and calmly discussing, in all seriousness, the best way to exterminate millions of their fellow humans who disagreed with their precious ideology.

    The reason they never acted on it, obviously, is that they were never in a position of power to do so.

    And their frustrations? Oh, the poor wittle things! Most of the ones I ever met were frustrated that the big bad real world refused to conform to their ideologically utopic visions, and that humanity was not a set of robots to program up nice and tidy. They get frustrated to the point of violence because they are adults with the emotional sophistication of third trimester fetuses.

  19. #19 CW
    December 9, 2008

    The reason they never acted on it, obviously, is that they were never in a position of power to do so.

    Maybe, but the fact that they never acted on it means it never happened. What they did was certainly terrorism, that’s true. But equating the WU to Hitler or al Qaeda is simply ridiculous and your appeal to their thoughtcrimes doesn’t make it any less so.

  20. #20 Rob W
    December 9, 2008

    @DuWayne – I think we’re actually agreeing on many particulars.

    Sorry Rob W and Tik Tok, but Ayers and the WU were terrorists. And the ALF are absolutely terrorists.

    I think you misread me; I’m agreeing those are terrorist acts; they are what I called the “dirty tricks” approach to change.

    Terrorist tactics do not foment positive change. What they do manage, is to really piss sane people off, people who all too often equate what I do with what those fucking terrorist scumbags do.

    100% agreed. I actually had a part of my post talking about this which I cut because I was rambling on too long…. But yes, it does far more damage than good, ESPECIALLY in a place like the US where there are plenty of ways to protest and get visibility legally and without endangering others’ lives.

    I got my face ground into the pavement, by a cop who considered me a fucking terrorist, because this happened not too long after some actual terrorists had blown up some logging equipment in Oregon.

    See, this is *exactly* the response I’m trying to fight against. Those cops labeled *you* as the same as people who were blowing up logging equipment. Now we’re saying the people blowing up logging equipment are the same as folks who kill thousands of people. Or Hitler. It drives me crazy.

    It’s NOT the same.

    Using instruments of fear is just as sick as flying planes into buildings.

    How is what you’re assuming now different from what the cop was assuming? How can they be “just as sick”? I’m angry as well at the stupidity and the damage done, but we don’t solve problems like these by mischaracterizing them or exaggerating them; we solve them by understanding them realistically first.

    I’m not interested in justifications and excuses.

    I’m not interested in *accepting* their justifications or *swallowing* their excuses. But I’m *very* interested in understanding their justifications & excuses, because the more holes we can poke in those, directly & publicly, the better.

  21. #21 Dunc
    December 9, 2008

    Virtually everyone agrees that the use of violence to achieve political ends is at least occasionally acceptable. Unless you are an absolutist pacifist, you agree that the use of violence to achieve political ends is acceptable. The only remaining disagreement is to the nature of those ends, and the level of violence to be used.

    People using violence to achieve ends you approve of are typically called soldiers, freedom fighters, patriots, and heroes. People using violence to achieve ends you disapprove of are called terrorists, insurgents, murderers and monsters. All of them really, truly believe that they’re doing the right thing and that their actions are fully justified, and indeed necessary.

  22. #22 MarkH
    December 9, 2008

    People using violence to achieve ends you disapprove of are called terrorists, insurgents, murderers and monsters. All of them really, truly believe that they’re doing the right thing and that their actions are fully justified, and indeed necessary.

    Hopefully without opening a can of worms as to whether all groups of soldiers do or don’t commit acts of terror etc, this is incorrect. This isn’t the mere use of violence which I don’t disagree with, I’m not a pacifist, as is almost no one else really because we inevitably agree that certain wars were necessary. It’s the use of violence against soft, civilian targets for the purpose of creating fear in a population.

    Soldiers are, ideally, professionals, with a command structure, leadership, accountability, and hopefully an understanding of some basic rules of war designed to protect civilians and noncombatants. This ideal is rarely achieved, but there is honor and integrity in the notion of a professional soldier who is disciplined and trained to be cautious to protect civilian life. To compare them to people who put bombs in buildings is somewhat offensive Dunc.

    Terrorists specifically target civilians with violent acts to instill fear in a population. Big difference. I reject the nonsense that the only difference between a freedom-fighter and a terrorist is who wins in the end. It is possible for there to be honor in warfare.

  23. #23 daedalus2u
    December 9, 2008

    Rob W, very well said. If the definition of terrorism includes acts on civilian populations intended to injure them, to instill fear and to intimidate, then it has to include what is called “collective punishment”. It doesn’t matter which group applies what collective punishment on what population, it is still terrorism.

    That would include embargos of medical equipment, food and humanitarian supplies into Cuba and the occupied territories.

  24. #24 The Chemist
    December 9, 2008

    Indeed, Nelson Mandela was absolutely a terrorist.

  25. #25 Rob W
    December 9, 2008

    @SES — I saw a documentary about the WU years ago (so I don’t remember many of the details) but I believe that’s correct. I think the plan was to bomb an officer’s ball — and I don’t know if they intended to give warning as usual to allow for evacuation… or if they actually intended to kill people (the shrapnel isn’t a good sign, honestly). There was a constant battle in the WU between members who felt killing people was justified and those who didn’t; this may have been a plan managed by the more violent members.

    @Zandalow: I think you’re confusing my efforts to understand with sympathy. I’m not saying you should find ALF members to pat them on the back and say “there there”. I’m saying simply demonizing them wins you exactly nothing in an effort to STOP them from using such techniques.

    The reason they never acted on it, obviously, is that they were never in a position of power to do so.

    This is nonsense — if you’re already on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list, but you can still plant a bomb in the Pentagon (but call ahead to tell them to evacuate), you can simply SKIP that call and time the bombs to explode during the busiest time of day.

    I’m not saying you should ignore it if you overhear your neighbors planning to blow up the block — but talking about is one thing, preparing for is another, attempting is another, and accomplishing is another still.

  26. #26 Dianne
    December 9, 2008

    It’s the use of violence against soft, civilian targets for the purpose of creating fear in a population.

    So you would call, for example, the British “de-housing” bombings in WWII but not targeted bombings of war industry by the same to be terrorism?

  27. #27 MarkH
    December 9, 2008

    See, this is just what I wanted to avoid. A distracting conversation about every bad thing every government has ever done from Hiroshima to WWII. This is pointless. No my government is not perfect, nor is any other. Further the rules of war and civilized conduct are evolving. The actions of the US firebombings in Germany and Japan these days would be considered war crimes, they were not then, it was the status of how war was waged. We have done bad things. There is no doubt.

    That does not mean soldier=terrorist. It’s beside the point and frankly pisses me off. There is a huge difference for those of you not being so goddamn obtuse.

    As a further aside I’d like to republish this letter from the NYT today from a CUNY professor:

    The Weather Underground was actually planning a major bomb attack at Fort Dix, N.J. The explosive that killed the members at the March 1970 town house explosion in Greenwich Village was meant to be used at a noncommissioned officers’ dance for new recruits and their dates at Fort Dix. The bomb was a homemade antipersonnel device filled with nails, meant to cause as much harm to human beings as possible.

    If it had gone off where planned, it would have killed hundreds of innocent victims, and possibly more. It was hardly an effort that, as Mr. Ayers once wrote, “aimed only to educate.”

    Of course their actions proved inadequate to end the war earlier. All they did was provide much ammunition to supporters of the war, by undermining the antiwar movement’s motives and goals, thus allowing supporters to paint it as not patriotic and supporters of Communist revolution. In the case of Mr. Ayers and the Weatherman group, this charge was accurate.

    Ronald Radosh
    Martinsburg, W.Va., Dec. 6, 2008

    The writer is professor emeritus of history at CUNY and adjunct senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

    This is an excellent summary.

  28. #28 Casmall
    December 9, 2008

    @Mark,
    Ayers actually admits that bomb was meant to kill in his Nov NPR interview.

  29. #29 Dianne
    December 9, 2008

    A distracting conversation about every bad thing every government has ever done from Hiroshima to WWII. This is pointless. No my government is not perfect, nor is any other. Further the rules of war and civilized conduct are evolving. The actions of the US firebombings in Germany and Japan these days would be considered war crimes, they were not then, it was the status of how war was waged. We have done bad things. There is no doubt.

    The trouble is it isn’t a distraction. How you deal with violence committed in the interests of good causes* and/or by groups you believe in or believe have legitimate reasons to use violence is central to the issue of what is or is not terrorism. Someone who can’t admit that people on their side of the argument have committed crimes is a potential terrorist recruit or apologist. (Not saying that that’s what you’re doing–it clearly isn’t, but just trying to clarify why historical questions are, IMHO, not pointless or just distractions.)

    *Um…we all do think that stopping the Nazis was a good cause, right?

  30. #30 DuWayne
    December 9, 2008

    Dianne -

    I think that in the context of discussion terrorism, it really is a distraction. What was done in WWII were acts of war, wrong or right, not acts of terrorism. We could spend all day picking apart the history of war and find all sorts of atrocities that would be considered terrorism today. There were times when descending on a civilian population, killing all the men and brutally raping the women, then putting everything to the torch was a legitimate tactic of war. Today we call such acts genocide or try to pretty it a little and call it ethnic cleansing.

    There is certainly a place for such discussions (indeed, I have been engaged in a similar discussion with an email list over the last few months) and I would even argue that such discussions are very important. But trying to push them into a discussion of terrorism and modern terrorist tactics absolutely is a distraction.

    RobW -

    See, this is *exactly* the response I’m trying to fight against. Those cops labeled *you* as the same as people who were blowing up logging equipment. Now we’re saying the people blowing up logging equipment are the same as folks who kill thousands of people. Or Hitler.

    Ok, had I not been distracted by penning my rant directed at you, I would have touched on the ridiculous notion of comparing them to Hitler. But the notion that the folks blowing up logging equipment are like those who killed thousands is not a matter of difference, it’s a matter of degree.

    Blowing up the equipment was only a more visible tactic they used to get exposure. The same people were also spiking trees that had been tagged for cutting. In case your not familiar, when a logger comes through and cuts into a tree that has been spiked, it often breaks the chain or kicks the saw right out of the cut. As often as not, this results in significant injury and occasionally death to the person or persons running the saw.

    The people who commit these acts are trying to foment change through fear and destruction, with wanton disregard for human life. Many of them are comfortable taking human life. The fact that some terrorists are willing and/or able to wreak heavier damage and loss of life, does not make the comparisons wrong. At best, it calls for recognition that acts of terrorism very by degree.

    How can they be “just as sick”?

    I must admit that the statement this was responding to was a very good example of gratuitous hyperbole. I would ask that you forgive my lapse, I am under a great deal of stress and reacted to this discussion with more aggression than it warranted.

    But I’m *very* interested in understanding their justifications & excuses, because the more holes we can poke in those, directly & publicly, the better.

    You know, when I said I’m not interested in justifications or excuses, it was mostly the excess aggression I mentioned just now. But I think that the sentiment is legitimate.

    The thing is, the reasoning really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t need the holes poked, in the context of terror.

    Because I mentioned it and my sympathy for the cause, lets take old growth logging as an example. I can’t poke holes in the excuses, because I absolutely agree with them on that front. My problem with them isn’t their excuses or justifications, it’s entirely based on their tactics. And really, this is where the differentiation you found so important comes into play and why I believe it’s not such a problem comparing folks like the ALF with folks like the 9/11 hijackers.

    What I was doing when a cop compared me to terrorists, was not different as a matter of degree – it was a whole different realm of protest – hell, what they’ve done doesn’t even qualify as protest. But for folks like the ALF or the terrorists who blew up the logging equipment, the only difference is a matter of degree.

  31. #31 Rob W
    December 9, 2008

    I think the nature of the “distraction” is important, because quite often terrorists justify their actions because “they’re doing it to us.” Military actions use extremely powerful weapons, often at a great distance, and even in modern warfare, strikes very frequently include significant (even exclusively) civilian casualties. The less a government is transparent about the “soft target” costs of their actions, and the less they can justify them by showing morally valuable goals being achieved, the *more* justified terrorists feel about inflicting non-military damage in their efforts to fight back.

    It’s also *not* as if killing soldiers is morally “okay”, or a completely different case. It’s still killing people. The only distinction is the calculation that a soldier is (depending on the situation…) more likely to kill themselves, if they are not prevented, and (again depending on the situation) they possibly cannot be stopped without killing them.

    Getting back to the WU — I believe they felt the Pentagon was a military target, not civilian; likewise the police station. The officer’s ball would have been, say, half-military and half-civilian (the officer’s dates).

    As Dianne said, it’s all about justification of violence. I think in *both* the cases of the WU and ALF, these people were/are justifying their violence on a goal to stop *greater* violence. Regarding ALF: I suspect they believe that cannot wait for slowly changing public opinion, etc. because all of those animals are suffering needlessly — and if a few researchers get scared, that’s a small price to pay for (they imagine) stopping the horribly violent deaths of all of those animals (and they go watch the videos again…).

    There are basic justifications for violence that we all tend to agree on, like much police use of force to stop criminal acts. Governments sometimes fudge and spin the moral calculations enormously: see the Iraq war. Groups like the WU and ALF twist them, in their own ways & due to ignorance. I think we have to *understand* the calculations being made, and get them out in the open, and show the flaws, over and over again.

    Hence my point — they’re not all the same; it’s not all the same thing; it’s not morally equally reprehensible; and we need to understand their rationale to stop them (and teach them better ways to advance their causes), not just draw a big black line around anyone using force not authorized by the government and calling them evil.

  32. #32 DuWayne
    December 9, 2008

    Rob W -

    I have to respectfully disagree.

    Regarding war. I don’t think I made myself very clear in explaining why it’s a distraction. It was not to validate or justify acts of violence, because they are government sponsored. It is merely because it is a whole different discussion from terrorism. Now if this were a discussion about violence in general, have at it – but it’s not. And I happen to believe, as Mark apparently does, that it’s an important discussion to have. In no small part, because I have friends who are at the least sympathetic to domestic terrorists who happen to be on their side regarding this or that issue.

    It’s also *not* as if killing soldiers is morally “okay”, or a completely different case. It’s still killing people. The only distinction is the calculation that a soldier is (depending on the situation…) more likely to kill themselves, if they are not prevented, and (again depending on the situation) they possibly cannot be stopped without killing them.

    But that isn’t the only distinction. Another distinction, is that the soldier doing the killing has no inherent interest in the killing. I.e. whatever their underlying reasons for joining the military, a desire to go out and shoot the people they are shooting is not inherent to the position they are in. That is not true of terrorists. For them, the personal motivation is absolutely inherent to what they are doing. The only point in which this distinction becomes blurred, is when mercenaries are hired to commit terrorist acts.

    Getting back to the WU — I believe they felt the Pentagon was a military target, not civilian; likewise the police station. The officer’s ball would have been, say, half-military and half-civilian (the officer’s dates).

    I don’t care if their target was a military base. About the only distinction that could be made is that rather than an act of terror, it would have been an act of espionage or treason.

    As Dianne said, it’s all about justification of violence. I think in *both* the cases of the WU and ALF, these people were/are justifying their violence on a goal to stop *greater* violence.

    Here is the problem with that logic. Just because we don’t recognize or accept the moral equivalence, radical Islamic terrorists see their cause as very much the same as the WU and the ALF. They believe that the damage to their religion and the danger of western society is an ill that must be stopped yesterday. They can’t wait, can’t slow down and make it happen with reasonable protest and discussion. To them jihad is just as important as the deaths of fuzzy little bunnies is to the ALF. In fact they see it as worse, because they make no bones about taking human lives.

    …and we need to understand their rationale to stop them (and teach them better ways to advance their causes),…

    I would argue the opposite. We really don’t need to talk about their rationale and when dealing with specific terrorists, we don’t need to teach them better ways to advance their causes – we need to put them in prison.

    The way to stop terrorists and convince others not to use terrorist tactics, is to call a spade a spade and treat them as such. I’m not suggesting we throw them in Gitmo (I would prefer we deal with terrorists and suspects quite differently), but I would definitely support laws that add to the sentence of any crime committed, if it happened to also be a terrorist act.

    …not just draw a big black line around anyone using force not authorized by the government and calling them evil.

    Dammit, another distraction…

    First, I don’t think that all use of force not authorized by government is evil. Indeed, I have used physical force on more than one occasion, because I felt it was just and right – not because I had the permission of the state. On most of those occasions it was legal use of force, thus probably fitting your descriptive. But on one occasion it most certainly wasn’t legal. Yet given the same circumstances, there is no question in my mind, I would use force again. Occasionally the law creates untenable situations and violence is a viable and ethical option.

    Second, I quite often would consider the governments use of violence an unmitigated evil.

  33. #33 Rob W
    December 9, 2008

    @DuWayne: Thanks for a very thoughtful response. You make a good point about there being a definite line between protests that risk serious physical harm to people vs. those that don’t.

    Non-violent protests aren’t completely devoid of the idea of “force” — a huge number of people together making a lot of noise convey power in a much more forceful way than a letter-writing campaign, no matter how large — but I agree, it’s not at all the same thing, and the *results* are very different.

    At best, it calls for recognition that acts of terrorism vary by degree.

    I’m not pushing for abolishing the word “terrorist” or something like that — but mostly the idea that *yes*, it varies by degree, vastly, and the definition of “terrorist” currently in the public mind cannot be equally applied to everyone using related tactics. These people (i.e., ALF members & the 9/11 hijackers, for instance) do not all merit equal punishment, they cannot be stopped or weakened using the same methods, and they are not problems of equal urgency.

    I’ll emphasize that I’m not trivializing equipment destruction, spiking trees, etc. — those people should be in jail — but they shouldn’t be shot on sight, which is more or less how the public thinks of “terrorist” nowadays.

    I personally think that media coverage of these kinds of domestic violent actions should emphasize backlash, show clearly how movements are seriously damaged and discredited by violent protest (the WU is a decent example, actually) and address the goals & techniques of groups *directly*. List them out; show how they’re screwing it up; discuss the moral calculations involved in animal research, and how they add up; show how other, more valid animal rights folks are actually making progress on more logical goals (see California’s prop 2)….

    I imagine these groups usually have a core of extreme hard-liners, but also people who are mostly convinced but are mostly carried along, and various people who won’t help …but won’t rat them out either. The more legitimate doubt that can be sown in the minds of the latter 2 groups, the better. Call it terrorism at a different degree or whatever, but discuss it realistically & directly.

  34. #34 Dunc
    December 10, 2008

    Soldiers are, ideally, professionals, with a command structure, leadership, accountability, and hopefully an understanding of some basic rules of war designed to protect civilians and noncombatants. This ideal is rarely achieved, but there is honor and integrity in the notion of a professional soldier who is disciplined and trained to be cautious to protect civilian life. To compare them to people who put bombs in buildings is somewhat offensive Dunc.

    Meanwhile, back in the real world, they very frequently are the people putting bombs in buildings. Or calling in air-strikes on wedding parties. Or lining up captured civilians and just shooting them dead in ditches. Or gang-raping entire villages before hacking them to pieces with machetes. “Oh, but those are the rare exceptions”, you cry. Balls. Those are the norm. Your ideal of the professional soldier is the exception.

    It is possible for there to be honor in warfare.

    Theoretically, perhaps…

  35. #35 Denice Walter
    December 10, 2008

    I’ve been very hesitant about writing this; although this is not about someone I’ve worked with professionally,I believe that confidentially is important here too.I am very good friends with a person who lost a family member to a terrorist bombing( by none of the groups mentioned previously) a very long time ago.This event has permeated, delineated nearly every facet of her life. I know the horrible details(both physical and emotional)related to the event, as well as the many small echoes and repercussions throughout the many years.Rather than describe these horrors, large and small, I simply ask you to imagine how your life might be if someone( a parent, spouse, or child) was lost this way.Yes, the family members have “gone on with their lives” so to speak, the widow re-married,went back to school and work, the children grew up to have careers and families of their own.But all are profoundly affected , as are people who know them.

  36. #36 Dunc
    December 10, 2008

    A further important argument occurs to me, which gets right to the heart of this post. In the post itself, you state “AR terrorists have said their burning of buildings, or cars, or flooding of researchers houses, or fires set at their houses aren’t directed at people but meant to preserve life, or convey their outrage” and assert that these actions are nonetheless terrorism, yet in a subsequent comment you say “there is honor and integrity in the notion of a professional soldier who is disciplined and trained to be cautious to protect civilian life.” By your own words, what matters is the message being sent, not whether someone actually dies. The protest that professional soldiers are “trained to be cautious to protect civilian life” and therefore not terrorists is really no different to the argument that the ALF go to some lengths to avoid casualties and are therefore not terrorists.

    I completely agree that bombing an empty office is an act of terrorism. I further assert that putting large numbers of heavily-armed men in the streets is also an act of terrorism. You answer a knock at the door to find someone pointing an M-16 in your face, it doesn’t matter whether they intended to shoot you or are just selling Girl Scout cookies – they’re still terrorising you. When a whole bunch of them turn up in APCs, cordon off your street with razor wire and go house to house, kicking in doors, rounding people up at gunpoint and searching their houses, that’s definitely terrorism, even if it’s done with the utmost professionalism and no-one gets hurt. I don’t see how you could possibly argue that that isn’t “specifically target[ting] civilians with violent acts to instill fear in a population.”

  37. #37 DuWayne
    December 10, 2008

    Dunc -

    Before I say anything else, and I have a lot to say, I would point to my comment from the eighth, at 9:58.

    Using instruments of fear is just as sick as flying planes into buildings.

    Did my descent into meaningless hyperbole contribute a damn thing to the discussion? No. And neither does this;

    Balls. Those are the norm. Your ideal of the professional soldier is the exception.

    This is complete and utter bullshit and I’d like to hope that you know this. War is shit, even when it’s warranted – much worse when it’s not. But claiming that the modern professional soldier engages in acts of rape, torture and the wanton destruction of civilians is a crock of shit. Sure, there are places even today, where this is the norm, but overall it is by far the exception. Claiming otherwise completely debilitates your credibility in exactly the same way that my use of hyperbole discredited me and could well have discredited my argument in the eyes of those paying attention.

    Now for the distinction between war and terrorism. First, let me be clear why this distinction is important, then I will get on to what the distinction is.

    Making this distinction is important, because the rules governing war, are different from the rules for dealing with terrorism and terrorists. I believe that there is a very strong case to be made, that there are those in our government and our military who are guilty of war crimes. While I am too cynical to believe that there is much hope that those in the government, the value of charges of war crimes, is that they are hierarchical in nature. Rather than putting the burden square on the shoulders of those carrying out the illegal acts (though it by no means exonerates them) it places the culpability on the shoulders of those who gave the orders in the first place – even charging those in or at the very top of the command structure, who fostered the environment that allowed atrocities to take place.

    Terrorism OTOH, tends to fall into the laps of those actually committing the acts. Take Ayers and the WU for example. Ayers was obviously part of the command structure of the WU, yet he didn’t go to prison for the acts of terror committed by the WU.

    That’s a practical point for the distinction, but not necessarily heady enough for an abstract discussion, such as this. But there it is also important to make this distinction in the abstract.

    First, because it is necessary to recognize that whether we like it or not, there is and will continue to be conflicts that meet the definition of war. Moreover, whether we like it or not, some war is and will be necessary. Now it can be argued that there have been few wars since the inception of the U.S. that meet the criteria for being necessary – in that you’ll get no argument from me. I have and will continue to argue that this is the case. Though we might disagree to some small extent, I suspect that we would not be all that far off from each other on which were and which weren’t.

    If we are to accept that there will continue to be wars for the foreseeable future, it behooves us to be a part of the abstract discussion of what war should look like and more importantly, what it should not. If one refuses to accept the distinction between acts of war and acts of terrorism, they effectively eliminate their voice from that discussion. Too, we are unfortunately going to be dealing with terrorism and terrorists for the foreseeable future and the discussion on how to deal with that has really just begun. Unless (and really even then) one agrees with the methods used by the Bush administration, we are finally going to make real and important decisions about how exactly we should deal with terrorism on many levels and with great detail. Again, if one refuses to make the distinction, they have effectively removed themselves from that discussion.

    Please understand that I am not trying to denigrate the importance of either discussion. I am not an apologist for war, or the often horrendous behavior of soldiers and mercenaries employed by our government or any other. Nor do I think it any less important than dealing with terrorism – as far as I’m concerned, these are both critical issues of equal import. Indeed, it is because of the importance of both discussions that I argue so voraciously for the distinction.

    So what is the distinction?

    This is a very tough question. Mainly because the definition of war is very dependent upon the region and even the nations in question. What most of the world, both East and West, would reasonably consider war crimes, are commonplace methods of war in other places.

    Take many of the conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa. It brings some tears to my eyes, every time I think about it – now is no exception. But right now, this very moment, there are people being raped, tortured, children as well as adults, both the targets of and perpetrators of the violence. By any rational definition, such acts are acts of terror and/or the most heinous of war crimes. Yet in the minds of those living in such war zones, these are the accepted methods of waging war. And historically, they’re right. These societies are very much, primitive feudal societies and as horrifying as we might find it, these methods have always been the methods of war in primitive feudal societies.

    Outside of such conflicts, war becomes easier to define, excepting the greatest failure of modern warfare, the alleged war on terror. But even there the failure isn’t so much in the ability to define it, as it is the methods used to fight it. Terrorism is and should be treated as a law enforcement issue, not a matter of armies and war. For the simple reason that war is overarching in scale and in that scale it is easy for the target of the battles to slip through the cracks.

    But as far as war goes, when we bring a large scale of professional troops to the field, it is very definitely war. Occasionally the tactics of war appear very similar to the tactics of terrorism. This is especially true when the battlefield is an urban setting – more so when the enemy is blended firmly with the general populace. This also happens to be exactly why terrorism should be a law enforcement issue, rather than a military issue (which is not to say that small, special ops units are not appropriate for use in law enforcement exercises).

    To make it simple, the difference is that war involves large scale military incursions. And OTOH, small special ops units that are being used to root out terrorists, may well commit acts of terrorism in the process. Which is another important reason to make the distinction between terrorism and acts of war – because our government, our military, has utilized terrorist tactics in the past and probably will in the future.

    This is a very important point, because I for one, believe this to be absolutely unacceptable. While there are tactics that we use in war that are also unacceptable, we can work on changing that. Tactics of war are constantly evolving, in part because of these abstract discussions. But if we fail to make the distinction between war and terrorism, we will continue to find ourselves using tactics of terrorism – losing too much of great value in the process.

  38. #38 Rob W
    December 10, 2008

    I want to make a few comments, back on the subject of domestic terrorism specifically — in the original post here, MarkH is arguing that labeling it “terrorism” is a big step to stopping it; DuWayne, I think you generally agree with that; I’m unsure on that point, since I think the current definition of “terrorist” has become so strongly defined since 9/11 as “psycho jihadist” that the label won’t ring true for many people… I think there are more effective fronts to push on for *stopping* it — particularly educating the general public about the damage that these kinds of tactics do to a cause, and to the people affected (even when someone gets killed, people tend to think “eh, just one guy… that’s nothing compared to 9/11 — why are they shouting about terrorism all of a sudden?”, when in reality, well, see Denice’s comment above). People lives are changed completely due to a constant feeling of threatened violence, even no one is injured yet.

    …and we need to understand their rationale to stop them (and teach them better ways to advance their causes),…

    I would argue the opposite. We really don’t need to talk about their rationale and when dealing with specific terrorists, we don’t need to teach them better ways to advance their causes – we need to put them in prison.

    I agree with “prison”, but I think that’s only half of the answer. It’s treating the symptom. You said you’d gone to prison for protesting, right? Did it make you rethink whether your (non-violent but disruptive) tactics were wrong? I’m sure you got shouted at by some cops and called names — were those thoughtful moments? (I’d imagine “no”). Can’t you picture someone wearing it as a badge of honor that they “did hard time” for their cause, after getting nabbed blowing up equipment?

    I would definitely support laws that add to the sentence of any crime committed, if it happened to also be a terrorist act.

    I think this makes sense — though you’d have to define “terrorist act”. Lots of people use violence and threats of violence, for various reasons; it’s not all terrorist acts, but drawing the line specifically can get tricky.

    But then again, this still leaves the root cause untouched. People will continue to make very skewed moral calculations based on false information, lack of communication, and drastic misunderstandings about what the results of a particular action will be (i.e., threats and various forms of violence).

    I’d bet money that long-term reductions in terror tactics on animal researchers would be best brought about by:
    1) clear outward signs that researchers are weighing the moral weight of their research; e.g., maybe proposals for research conducted on animal subjects should include a moral justification available for public review, perhaps there should be forums for public discussion and explanation of the moral analysis.
    2) when someone *does* try to advance their cause through terrorist tactics, the media should be interviewing the people affected, as well as non-violent proponents of the similar cause — because they’ll be royally pissed off at the damage being done to their cause. Gotta get the word out as clearly as possible that this screws up people’s lives, including plenty of people who have nothing to do with the “targets”, and actually harms the cause.
    3) jailtime.. though I haven’t thought through this far enough to know how to define a terrorist act from other violent crime and property destruction — all of which has long-lasting repercussions. I still remember when I finally realized how serious rape was — it just didn’t sink in automatically.

    DuWayne, I agreed with a lot of what you said in your last comment; I’d add to it that we always have to remember that “the terrorists” are a fluid group. Using war tactics or terrorist tactics to “root them out” will likely impact enough innocent lives horrifically enough that we’ll create far more terrorists than the ones we were trying to root out in the first place.

  39. #39 DuWayne
    December 10, 2008

    Rob W -

    I’m unsure on that point, since I think the current definition of “terrorist” has become so strongly defined since 9/11 as “psycho jihadist” that the label won’t ring true for many people…

    But this is exactly the point of value it could have. Realistically, the media defines these terms for a large percentage of the population. If the media were to come out and call this what it is, the public is going to buy it and the public is going to equate these assholes with Ted Kazinski, if not al qaeda. Ironically (if you’ve paid attention to the discussion of he who shall not be named) this is a very good example of the value of framing.

    I think that if the descriptive is domestic terrorism, there is only a cursory, yet very important, connection to psycho-jihadists. Small enough for the label to ring true, enough to make people really angry. Even just the connection to McVeigh and Nichols, would turn the tide of public opinion to the point that there is no support for these people left.

    You said you’d gone to prison for protesting, right?

    No, I spent nights in jail – I’ve spent longer periods in jail for vagrancy (Do Not Hitchhike in Georgia – especially if you’re broke). I am talking about real prison.

    Can’t you picture someone wearing it as a badge of honor that they “did hard time” for their cause, after getting nabbed blowing up equipment?

    Yes, which is why the framing is important. And I also think it’s important to make the penalty harsh enough that people will think long and hard before committing terrorist acts. Yeah, it could be a badge of honor, but that’s small comfort if you get an extra 2-10 years in prison, on top of the penalty for the actual crime.

    I think this makes sense — though you’d have to define “terrorist act”.

    But that is the value of this sort of discussion and also an important reason for not getting distracted by comparing acts of war with acts of terrorism.

    But then again, this still leaves the root cause untouched. People will continue to make very skewed moral calculations based on false information, lack of communication, and drastic misunderstandings about what the results of a particular action will be (i.e., threats and various forms of violence).

    The problem is that there are a great many things that motivate people to commit these acts. This is just not a viable preemptive measure. But it is a very good measure to take after/while these acts are happening. It effectively reverses the intended impact of the terrorist acts. Couple that with the assholes who committed the acts sitting in prison for an extra long time and it makes the terrorism look like a shit idea.

    But ultimately, focusing on the acts themselves is also important. It’s one thing when we are talking about something that’s easily debunked, such as the ALF. It’s quite another when we are talking about terrorist acts committed in the name of reasonably valid causes. What do you say to debunk those who object to the logging of old growth forests? How do you have public discussions about the value of “tactical” nukes? It’s important to recognize that there are violent fucking assholes who support very reasonable causes.

    I’d add to it that we always have to remember that “the terrorists” are a fluid group. Using war tactics or terrorist tactics to “root them out” will likely impact enough innocent lives horrifically enough that we’ll create far more terrorists than the ones we were trying to root out in the first place.

    I agree whole heartedly. Which is why I think it’s important to deal with terrorism as a law enforcement issue. But I also think that it’s not unreasonable to utilize military units in some anti-terrorism operations. Sending in full military might is a bad idea, sending in special ops units is not.

  40. #40 Dunc
    December 11, 2008

    But claiming that the modern professional soldier engages in acts of rape, torture and the wanton destruction of civilians is a crock of shit. Sure, there are places even today, where this is the norm, but overall it is by far the exception.

    I was taking a rather broader historical perspective.

  41. #41 DuWayne
    December 11, 2008

    I am curious Dunc, do you not see how that is a almost completely irrelevant distraction from the conversation that Mark was trying to foster here?

  42. #42 Dunc
    December 12, 2008

    You mean the conversation about “the interesting divide between how terrorists justify their behaviors and diminish their objectives of striking fear into their opponents, and the reality of what the subjects of such acts perceive”? No, not really. In fact, I think it’s a rather good example.

    Pardon me for not uncritically accepting the justifications of those classes of violent action which you regard as justifiable.

  43. #43 DuWayne
    December 12, 2008

    Dunc -

    No, not really. In fact, I think it’s a rather good example.

    Pardon me for not uncritically accepting the justifications of those classes of violent action which you regard as justifiable.

    So one of three things is going on here. Because it’s obvious that you haven’t the first clue about anything that I wrote in my initial post to you.

    Either my six year old outshines your reading comprehension, you’re pretending I didn’t say what I said, or you’re choosing to respond to me, based on a fraction of what I actually said – assuming you know what I said without having read much of it. Regardless of which of those is actually true, you’re obviously not worth engaging – having nothing of any use to contribute to the conversation.

  44. #44 Cleyus
    June 10, 2009

    As co-founder and leader of the Weather Underground, Ayers does indeed bear responsibility for loss of life. March 6, 1970 3 weather underground members were killed when faulty explosives exploded in a townhouse they were staying in in Greenwich Village. The bomb was intended for an officers dance at Fort Dix army base. Ayers is partly culpable for their death. It was also only after this incident that Ayers and his fellows renounced murder as a means to an end, although they still discussed the necessary “extermination” of up to “25 million capitalists” once his revolution was successful.

  45. #45 Cleyus
    June 10, 2009

    Terrorism is a TACTIC; nothing more, nothing less. Using the term “terrorist” to describe people who commit terrorist acts is stupid. A War on Terrorism is like FDR declaring a war on aviation after Pearl Harbour. The guys who flew planes into the twin towers, they were Jihadis who used terror as a tactic, the WU were marxist revolutionaries who used terror as a tactic, and yes, during WW2, every party involved used TERROR as a tactic.

    I’m not arguing the merits of doing so. But we have to describe things clearly and correctly, and not just label everyone who commits violent acts “terrorists”. To defeat them you have to understand their fundamental underlying beliefs, as well as the goals they use terror to further. Equivocating between different, barely related groups only muddies the waters.

  46. #46 Cleyus
    June 10, 2009

    “Meanwhile, back in the real world, they very frequently are the people putting bombs in buildings. Or calling in air-strikes on wedding parties. Or lining up captured civilians and just shooting them dead in ditches. Or gang-raping entire villages before hacking them to pieces with machetes. “Oh, but those are the rare exceptions”, you cry. Balls. Those are the norm. Your ideal of the professional soldier is the exception.”

    Don’t ya just love unfalsifiables?