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August 26, 2006

Terrorists
Posted by Patrick at 05:14 AM *

Bruce Schneier on what the terrorists want.

My only disagreement with Bruce is where he says “I am not saying that the politicians and press are terrorists”. Bruce may not be saying that, but I am. Entire political parties and media networks are embarked on an explicit program to make us afraid, in order to gain power and status thereby. This is the very definition of terrorism, and they are terrorists, who deserve to be treated as such with all due diligence of public sentiment and the law.

Comments on Terrorists:
#1 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 05:59 AM:

It has often occurred to me that terrorism is dependent on mass media to exist: the atrocities are a form of bloody publicity stunts, geared for maximum impact on TV and in newspapers.

The World Trade Center was not attacked because it had any military importance, or because it was the "vulnerable heart" of the American economy... but mainly because it was the tallest landmark in the country, the most well-known in the world, in the world's most famous city.

But what can one do? If someone blows up a federal building in Oklahoma, it's news.... if there is a car crash in the street, people are compelled to go look at it.

#2 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 06:19 AM:

I'm not 100% certain that it's right to call the politicians who exploit terrorism, to justify the apparatus of totalitariamism, "terrorists". And it certainly provides a toehold for the frothing wingnuts of the blogsphere.

I'm not sure that "fascists" is the right word either, but with the fannish example of "Fuck the Tories" from a quarter-century ago, it is so tempting.

"Racketeers", perhaps? As in, "Nice little free society you have here; it'd be a shame if anything happened to it."

And then some politician "accidentally" nudges a vase off of a plinth, one that happens to be labelled "due process".

#3 ::: Brian Morrill ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 08:54 AM:

Governments and the media have been in the business of shaping public opinion and fears for centuries. Hitler used it, so did the Spanish during the Inquisition. McCarthy and the Puritans made witch burning real. It's been known for a long time that the various media outlets lean towards one political or ideological slant and report what they choose to.

Mass media makes terrorism a viable tool, but it's us who watch and listen and then choose to believe without question that are to blame.

Terrorists use the tools available. That doesn't make the tool bad.

#4 ::: Tuxedo Slack ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 09:14 AM:

It's a song of assassins
Ringin' in your ears
We got terrorist thinking
Playing on fears!

...

I don't think there are any Russians
And there ain't no Yanks
Just corporate criminals
Playin' with tanks
— The Call, "The Walls Came Down"

#5 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 09:16 AM:

You get some pretty funny results if you search Google on "capitalists rope hang themselves". People seem to think that Marx, or Lenin, or Khrushchev came up with the famous quote, and they seem to think the idea is anything from "the communists will give the capitalists the rope to hang themselves" (why would they do that?) to... Well, I always thought the idea was: "The capitalists will happily sell us the rope we'll hang them with."

Politicians and media who have embarked on this project to make us afraid are just capitalists, in my view, and the people who want to do us harm understand that and are happy to, you know, buy the rope they are selling.

I should point out here that I am a capitalist, I believe in free-enterprise, and that I am still naive enough to believe that something like "enlightened self-interest" can still exist, given the right circumstances.

Unfortunately, what we get from these politicians and the media is the unenlightened sort.

#6 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 09:44 AM:

#3: I don't know if you meant it literally, but witches weren't burned during the 1790's witchhunts. Mostly they were hanged; one guy was crushed to death with stones (his last words were "More weight!").

They certainly made witchhunting real, and that would bring McCarthy and the Salem Puritans into the same breath.

#7 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 10:09 AM:

I would call the media and politicians opportunists. The folks who are blowing people up are the terrorists. In my opinion, branding these opportunistic fear mongers as terrorists is going too far. It's like calling Republicans "fascists."

#8 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 10:19 AM:

Can we call them opportunofascists and send them to Gitmo?

#9 ::: Brian Morrill ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 10:47 AM:

#6: You are correct, wicthhunting is a better choice.

#10 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 10:59 AM:

"The folks who are blowing people up are the terrorists"

The folks who are blowing people up are murderers. The point I'm trying to make, none too subtly, is that the practice of terrorizing large populations in order to bend them to your will is not limited to people who do so by crashing airliners or blowing themselves up in crowded markets.

Of course governments have always done this, but "'twas ever thus" isn't an argument, it's an attitude.

#11 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 11:16 AM:

The point I'm trying to make, none too subtly, is that the practice of terrorizing large populations in order to bend them to your will is not limited to people who do so by crashing airliners or blowing themselves up in crowded markets.

Right. I think people get that. Or, at least I do. It helps if you live in a city that at first suffered a devastating terrorist attack and then, relatively soon after, was picked by the Republicans as the host city for their national political convention.

#12 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 01:10 PM:

Yeah, we really had a chance to to compare them up close, didn't we.

If you've gotta have terrorists in your city, in my personal opinion I think it's better if they're dead, other things being equal. Which they aren't, ever.

#13 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 01:23 PM:

Apparently the one about the guy who panicked TSA by dropping his iPod in the airplane toilet hasn't made the headlines.

#14 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 02:37 PM:

The thing is, terror means that we all know that the front is the rear and the rear is the front. We also expect our governments to protect us. When our governments start telling us that we have to behave as if we're at war, we believe them. Then we discover that what the nice gentlemen and ladies in the suits with the bodyguards discreetly carrying Uzis behind them are saying is 'You're in the army now and must follow orders.'

What bothers me is that there are people who believe that

(a) it is the case that to fight terrorists we must be dragooned into a militarised state;

(b) that actions by the government which terrorise the population don't count as terrorism; and

(c) that giving the government unlimited power is a good thing.

#15 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 08:54 PM:

If the goal is to become a society that cannot think for itself or use common sense and must defer the most assinine "judgement calls" to the FBI, then I think they* have succeeded.

*for some convenient definitino of "they".

#16 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 08:54 PM:

Avram, it was on the local NBC station news last night.

#17 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 09:04 PM:

short version:

Army Corps of engineers holds public forum about what to do about dam. Joe Public (Jim Bensman) goes to meeting and suggests the dam be torn down, that dams amount to corporate welfare to shipping freighters who need them. Newspaper reports that Bensman said "he would like to see the dam blown up and resents paying taxes to fix dam problems when it is barge companies that profit from the dam"

Army Corps guy (Dooley) sees article calls FBI. FBI calls Bensman and asks if he is a terrorist threat.

Dooley isn't offering apologies, casting the agency's deferral to the FBI as a judgment call.

Let me get soemthing straight, Dooley, you made no judgement call because you didn't exercise ANY judgement. Instead, you defered the situation to have the FBI make a judgement for you.

"I don't want to dispute anything with Jim at this point," Dooley said. "We're not going to debate whether this is oversensitivity or undersensitivity."

In other words, Dooley gets he's a coward and tries to preemptively say we're not going to get into whether or not he was a coward.

Dooley noted that when it comes to determining security threats "there's probably a lower threshold after 9/11

No threshold. THere is zero threshold. At this rate of stupid nonsense, someone's going to drop an iPod in an airplane toilet, an attendent will see it, and scramble the F-16's who will shoot the plane down, just in case.

#18 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 09:29 PM:

This is classic hysteria. As in Rumor, Fear, and the Madness of Crowds. If you want to know what happens next, refer to the Mad Gasser of Mattoon, Illinois, only subsitute "terrorist" for "gasser."

#19 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 09:40 PM:

Patrick, I understand your point, but I am uneasy with calling fearmongers and manipulators like Bushco and FOX NEWS terrorists. I don't think we disagree one bit about the wickedness of these people and their deeds. I just save the label "terrorist" for the murderers. Terrorists are not merely murderers, there is a political agenda attached to their murdering which is why we call them terrorists.

Jim said, "Can we call them opportunofascists and send them to Gitmo?"

I know you were being sarcastic, but, mislabeling people to manipulate opinion, and then to deprive those people of their civil rights, basic human rights, and protections afforded to them under the Geneva Convention are what these opportunists have been doing. It's not what WE DO. That's my problem with all this. I am opposed to Roveian tactics, methods, and actions. I will not brand my opponents terrorists and lock them up without due process, and I would not support that behavior.

We have plenty against these people. If we had a Democratic congress that acted like a real opposition party, I believe that we could actually try Bush and convict him. His people have lied repeatedly, have violated our rights, have manipulated the numbers to misallocate funds, enriched their cronies, it just goes on and on. We don't need to figure out even more nasty names to call them, and we could have them locked up if we had a party with the votes and the will to do so.

#20 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 10:21 PM:

Sean --

There are, conservative estimate, a hundred thousand dead Iraqis due to American bombs and bullets.

That total is the direct result of the fearmongering and the manipulation; that's the specific end the fearmongering and manipulation were seeking to create.

That makes the 3,000 dead in the World Trade Center look positively candy-ass, doesn't it?

You lost reasonable possibility of due process redress when it became obvious than the votes were not counted and the people of the United States did not rise up in anger. A significant plurality or small majority are just fine with disenfranchising poor people, black people, and people whose views differ significantly from their own.

The choices you have now are between indefinite servitude and least-sufficient-means effort leading to total victory.

Defeat happens in the other guy's head -- at what point are the Dominionist Christians, the corporatist pirates, and aristocratic authoritarians going to give up and admit that they're wrong?

Given the political arena you've got, refusing to demonize your opposition is equivalent to surrender.

By all means, prefer to demonize them with incompetence or lawlessness, but acknowledge that the naked threat of force is their preferred means of changing the conduct of others.

#21 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 10:48 PM:

Terrorists are not merely murderers, there is a political agenda attached to their murdering which is why we call them terrorists.

Actually, we call them "terrorists" because they attempt to frighten people into doing your will. Murder is not required by any means. Violence is often used, but the threat of violence is sufficient. And there are nonviolent threats, especially if one has access to state power -- overt or covert. Not that most death squads have ever been covert in anything but name.

The HUAC period was an era of terrorism backed by the threat of state power. People were coerced into silence, into incriminating others (whether they were "guilty" of anything or not), into refusing employment to people who had not only committed no crime, but were not even formally accused of such a thing. Indeed, the idea that America was a country that respected political freedom got swept under the rug, which did far more damage to America internationally (not that postwar America gives much of a crap about its international rep) than any "subversion" did. Were there card-carrying Communists in the US? Sure. Were any significant fraction of them interested in the violent overthrow of the country's political system? Hell no. (Indeed, one of McCarthy and Cohn's favorite judges was on the Soviet payroll, and busily went after people he knew had no ties to Moscow, both to protect the handful who were and, frankly, to make the proceedings look stupid.)

I will not brand my opponents terrorists and lock them up without due process, and I would not support that behavior.

Who asked you to? The idea that the label "terrorist" removes a person from the realm of humanity -- even if that person has demonstrable guilt -- is a tactic of state terrorism. Nobody is suggesting that Bush and Rove be sent to Gitmo; Leavenworth will do just fine, and Club Eichmann* will by then have been vacated, burnt, and a memorial left as a warning to others. And nobody has suggested locking up Rush O'Malkin for lying outrageously in public, or even denying them a forum; what has been called for is pointing out the lies in a very public way. The Der Stürmer** crowd won't notice, but that is an inherent element of open public discourse, another one being that it's, well, open.

Part of that openness is that you get to choose your own terms of discourse. But if you can find a difference between kidnapping people without any established guilt and killing them freelance, and kidnapping people without established guilt and killing them with your army,*** you run with it.

*One.
**That's two.
***Waffen SS commanders complained bitterly that having their soldiers murder unarmed Russians was ruining them as fighting men, and sometimes making them useless for any duty at all. And that's three.

#22 ::: cap ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 11:05 PM:

I was thinking this morning about all of these false alarms, and people being hassled and scared over what generally turns out to be nothing, and it all sort of reminds me of what it was like to be a middle-schooler in the days, months, and years following the Columbine shootings.

I remember my school was evacuated when a teacher found a note in the girls' bathroom, declaring Brett is the bomb.

Bomb threats became so regular (okay, maybe a few times a year) that although the administrations sent home notes to parents, and the papers reported the potential threats, the students really didn't care anymore. It became a joke.

I know that threats to blow up planes are obviously much more serious, and this is all on a much larger scale, but I still find myself wondering how much of these threats and dangers are things that the everyday passenger should actually waste energy worrying over.

#23 ::: sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 11:12 PM:

Graydon: You know you have a principle when it costs you something. I will not demonize anyone, nor do I consider that tantamount to surrender. I will live by my principles, even if that means I lose rather than using Bush's tactics. Your argument is essentially "ends justifies the means" and that's not what I believe.

John, you said, "Who asked you to?" referring to my rebuttal of Jim's suggestion that we send Bush to Gitmo. In that rebuttal, I also acknowledged that Jim was most likely being sarcastic, but I would consider sending Bush to Gitmo to be tortured to be a violation of what I believe in.

There seem to be two arguments happening, one I respect and one I do not. The first is the argument that Patrick is making, is that by definition Bush is a terrorist. He and I would argue the definition of terrorist. The second argument is that Bush uses lies and distortions to fight his opponents and we must do the same. That is how I would characterize Graydon's argument and that seems to be less about defining a term than a principle. Graydon, if I've mischaracterized your point of view, I apologize.

Nowhere am I defending Bush's actions or intentions. I read the news, I know what the man has done. I would ask if anyone disagrees with my definition of terrorist or of what is acceptable to use in our opposition to Bush, please don't re-explain to me what a bad man Bush is. It frames our differences in terms of me somehow not understanding the scope and gravity of the man's crimes, and that is not the situation.

#24 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 11:18 PM:

cripes, all we need is some knucklehead senator to come forward and announce:

I have here in my hand a list of 205 people that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of Al Queda, and who, nevertheless, are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department

All we'll need after that is anti-Terrorist committees, panels, "loyalty review boards", and blacklists.


#25 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 11:24 PM:

And where is the senator who comes out and decries the "cancerous tentacles of 'know nothing, suspect everything' attitudes"?

We could use one of those. Quick.


#26 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 11:25 PM:

Someone needs to ask Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al:

"Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

#27 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 11:48 PM:

You know, the more I think about this Graydon post, the more I don't like it.

"That makes the 3,000 dead in the World Trade Center look positively candy-ass, doesn't it?"

Playing the tragedy in Iraq off of the tragedy of 9/11 in a false ouchfest doesn't make your argument persuasive to me.


"The choices you have now are between indefinite servitude and least-sufficient-means effort leading to total victory.

...

Given the political arena you've got, refusing to demonize your opposition is equivalent to surrender."

You're about to be enslaved by Christion Dominionists if you don't demonize them! Where have I heard this kind of talk before? Oh, right, "If you don't do what I say, the terrorists have already won!"

The idea that Bush is a terrorist isn't new. I've seen T-shirts with Bush's face on them and the words "International Terrorist" since we invaded Iraq. You can buy one here.

War criminal, yes. Despot, yes. Terrorist, I don't agree. Maybe I'm just too pedantic. But from a pragmatic point of view, if you want to galvanize opposition, I don't think calling Bush and company terrorists is going to help sway people against him. By all means, make the case that they are manipulating fear, military intelligence, and terror alerts to get us to do their bidding. But I think that to most people when you call Bush a terrorist, you sound like the same folks who think that Mossad bombed the WTC.

#28 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 11:52 PM:

Sean Bosker (#23): well, if various administration officials were to be waterboarded, that wouldn't be torture. After all, they themselves said it wasn't.

#29 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 11:56 PM:

Now that's a good point that I completely overlooked. All the legal heavy lifting has already been done on this. And I'm sure Bush's preachers could tell us why it's moral as well, especially after they've been waterboarded.

:: smacks forehead ::

#30 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 12:20 AM:

I dunno, Sean, I kinda think that it's a good interrogation policy that the interrogators shouldn't do anything they wouldn't want done to them. Our local Army Interrogator says that the best interrogation techniques are kind and friendly anyway.

That makes it perfectly just to waterboard the Bushistas. It doesn't make it right, I agree. But just? Yep.

#31 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 02:29 AM:

I think there's a middle ground between Sean and Graydon, and it consists of the difference between "demonizing your opponents" and "not letting your opponents control the language of discourse". For at least the past 20 years, the Christofascists have slowly but surely been taking control of the country by, among other things, controlling the language which is used to discuss political issues. I'm sure we can all think of a few dozen terms which have either become neocon code words for things much nastier or have been hijacked and redefined to something entirely different from their surface meanings.

How do you fight this? Well, first by calling them on it -- every single time. Make them justify the terminology they use, and by more than mere handwaving. Second, by getting someone with real linguistic savvy on board to shape the upcoming Democratic campaigns -- and I don't think Lakoff is the right person. He's good with analysis, but bad at coming up with the counter-sound-bites that we desperately need.

#32 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 03:28 AM:

The Bush Admin aren't terrorists; they're protection racketeers. Leg-breakers on a large scale.

I've always understood "terrorism" to be defined as threats or force specifically targeting civilians in non-war zones for the purpose of effecting political change.

Calling war "terrorism" has a certain rhetorical and emotional attraction, but it's inaccurate. Civilians do die in wars, because where they live is where the shooting and bombing takes place. When civilians are tortured and/or murdered, specifically and directly, by soldiers, that's a war crime. It's not terrorism because the soldiers aren't trying to effect political change: they're inflicting agony and death for their own gratification.

If this sounds pedantic, I'm sorry. But blurring the meaning of the word "terrorism" to make a rhetorical or political point bugs me in the same way, and for the same reasons, that blurring the meaning of the term "WMD" to include things that aren't WMDs. It leads to sloppy thinking and sloppy policies.

I don't think Bush & Co. are terrorists. I do think they're criminals, in the ordinary, war-crime, and crimes-against-humanity sense(s) of the word.

#33 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 09:02 AM:

I think Lee and CaseyL are on the right track here.

I've been struggling with this for some time now. One the one hand, if your opposition is truly vile, it's unthinkable not to use the most effective weapons one has at hand. On the other hand, one doesn't want to become vile.

All these hands--the main thing is that perfectly clean hands in this dirty world are a sign of insufficient commitment.

#34 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 11:21 AM:

off-topic, but Sean, thank you for the phrase "false ouchfest." It's a lovely capsule description of people using "my pain is worse than yours" or "you don't have it that bad, look at [fitb]" comparisons.

#35 ::: Steven Brust ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 12:19 PM:

Patrick, I don't think it would be possible to come up with a coherent definition of "terrorist" by which Bush & Co. don't qualify. My question to you involves, "in order to gain power and status thereby." Wouldn't you think there's more to it than that?

#36 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 12:36 PM:

Xopher, I diagree that waterboarding is just. My concept of justice includes respect for the rights and dignity of others, even for those who do not respect it themselves. My exhibiting right conduct does not depend on someone else doing so.

It would, perhaps, be emotionally satisfying to waterboard the Bushistas. But maybe not. I don't want to turn into the kind of person who takes emotional satisfaction from inflicting pain and terror.

#37 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 12:46 PM:

Sean --

The folks who own and who run the companies that make the machines that don't count the votes are Christian Dominionists. (A small group of related Christian Dominionists, in the case of the "run" part; the principle owner got rich in the S&L meltdown that Poppy Bush didn't prosecute.)

Care to speculate on why the machines produce fraudulent vote totals if the objective isn't disenfranchisement? Or how systematic disenfranchisement isn't a condition of servitude? (The guys who complained of "taxation without representation" didn't consider that an ambiguous point.)

When comparing corpse piles, my interest has nothing to do whatsoever with questions of pain. My interest is to receive a cogent explanation of how killing people for political benefit derived from the responses of the survivors and onlookers is terrorism in the one case and not the other.

Did Bush, et al intend to derive political benefit from the Iraq war? I don't see how it can possibly be argued that they didn't.

Are they using murder, rape, torture, and collective punishment with artillery in an attempt to induce the people of Iraq to submit? I don't see how it can possibly be argued that they aren't.

So, then, how is using force to create fear to affect political change in the survivors not terrorism?

#38 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 01:32 PM:

In the early phases of an insurgency, the tactical objective of each opposing faction— for both the insurgents and the establishment— is to terrorize noncombatants, making their neutrality more difficult and as close to untenable as possible. It is to force the civilian population either to choose sides and give the other no quarter, no quarter at all, or to make them into refugees, i.e. somebody else's problem.

#39 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 04:14 PM:

Graydon-
As Patrick and you point out, governments also use murder to achieve political goals. Now that you've defined the intentional targeting of civilians as terror, no matter who does it, please give us a new word to mean what terrorist used to mean, when we applied it to stateless rogues like the IRA, Osama, ETA, etc., and used other bad words when governments did it like war crimes, etc.

I personally see a difference between Bush and Osama. Not necessarily a difference in terms of their morality, but of their position. Now that everyone who uses intimidation is a terrorist, we need a new word to describe the people we used to call terrorists.

#40 ::: Steven Brust ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 04:38 PM:

Sean: please give us a new word to mean what terrorist used to mean, when we applied it to stateless rogues like the IRA, Osama, ETA, etc., and used other bad words when governments did it like war crimes, etc.

Er...can you first give us another word to describe the effort to enforce one's program through fear? "Terrorism" was first coined to describe the actions of the government after the French Revolution; it was afterwards used by the Boksheviks to describe their efforts to terrorize the counter-revolutionaries after October 1917.

The idea that it is only "terrorism" if is done without the sanction of the state is fairly recent, and I don't think a terribly useful distinction.

#41 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 04:40 PM:

I personally see a difference between Bush and Osama. Not necessarily a difference in terms of their morality, but of their position.

Right. When some shmoe of the street takes your money, its called robbery. When the CEO of a corporation does it, we need a different word. Long ago, there was a notion that everyone was treated equally before the eyes of the law, regardless of race or gender or position. I can see that idea is dead.

Now that everyone who uses intimidation is a terrorist, we need a new word to describe the people we used to call terrorists.

The only difference is the one you pointed out, namely that what you want to call terrrorists are stateless individuals. Bush is head of state. Bin Laden is stateless. But there actions are the same.

Terrorism is using terror for political gains.

The only difference is that Bin Laden types are threatening to do violence to create the terror they want to achieve their political goals. While Shrub generally points to Bin Laden's threats of violence as a way to encourage terror to achieve the political goal's that Shrub wants.

But then again, King George has said that the law doesn't apply to him, US or international, and when he approves and orders the wholesale torture of suspects, imprisonment without trial, isn't Shrub trying to use that violence as a way of creating terror in Al Quada and the US population for political gains?


#42 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 05:07 PM:

The only difference is that Bin Laden types are threatening to do violence to create the terror they want to achieve their political goals. While Shrub generally points to Bin Laden's threats of violence as a way to encourage terror to achieve the political goal's that Shrub wants.

I call this the difference between a terrorist, the guy committing the act of violence, and an opportunist, the guy who uses that violence as an opportunity to commit his own dastradly deeds. As for Bush's actions at Gitmo, as a head of state that makes him a war criminal. Yes, he's doing it to create terror, but he is a head of state and we have an international apparatus designed for dealing with the like of him.

#43 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 05:09 PM:

Incidentally, Greg, do you also believe the press are terrorists?

#44 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 05:17 PM:

Sean --

The intentional targeting of civilians is not necessarily a terror campaign; it can also be undertaken as genocide.

Bush isn't restricting his actions to intimidation -- the threat or potential of negative consequences -- to achieve his ends.

He's using actual violence.

When civilians about their lawful occasions are reduced to bloody gobbets without warning by weapons incapable of precise targeting, intimidation is not the appropriate word. That's what aerial bombardment or artillery bombardment of residential neighborhoods does, and that is what George Bush's orders say to do.

The primary practical differences between Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush are that Osama is sincerely interested in doing things that benefit poor people, and that George has the treasury and armories of a superpower at his disposal.

#45 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 05:27 PM:

Graydon: The primary practical differences between Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush are that Osama is sincerely interested in doing things that benefit poor people, and that George has the treasury and armories of a superpower at his disposal.

Osama wants to help the poor - for some value of help. Just think back to the Taliban for a peek at his flavor of help.

I'd say that they're both evil, and I'm not particularly interested in stack-ranking them by degree of vileness. Although GWB has *way* more impact on how I live than OBL could ever hope to have.

#46 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 05:35 PM:

Osama is sincerely interested in doing things that benefit poor people

Oh my god. Not once have I defended Bush, in fact I've gone to great pains to describe him as a "despot" and a "war criminal" the same terms I would apply to anyone who commits the barbarous acts he has committed. Up until now, I thought the only point on which we disagreed was the definition of the word 'terrorist' which I argue is for someone without a state. That may not be the definition of the word when it was coined, but it does seem to be what most people mean nowadays, terribly useful or useless as that distinction may be.

I do take the constant explanation of Bush's crimes to be an inference that I am some kind of Bush apologist. Either you think I'm not aware of his misdeeds, or you think that I support them. Nowhere in my argument will you see anything I've said to support that position.

At first I thought the "candy ass" remark about the dead on 9/11 was merely callous, but now with this ennobling remark about Osama a different picture of your position is beginning to emerge. I have not once made any excuses for Dubyas horrific behavior, and I said I would not demonize anyone because those are the very immoral tactics that I despise. But now I see that in the holy war between two dangerous fanatics, you discern a difference. Osama is a lesser of the two evils, not because of the lack of magnitude or capability, but because of the purity of his motivation.

Osama has not benefited poor people, interested or not. And his brand of Salafist Islam has done tremendous damage to moderate muslims worldwide, not to mention the unconctionable position it takes on homosexuals, women's rights, democracy, and anything else a liberal American would value.

I don't apologize for Bush, the war criminal, nor do I have anything but vehement loathing for Osama. They are cut from the same cloth, those too, and I can see them being fast friends under slightly different circumstances.

#47 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 07:22 PM:

Xopher: I don't know that I would use the terms, "kind and friendly."

Interrogation is often manipulative, and curt. It is also often abrupt and mechanistic. The source has information. I want it.

If making nice gets it, fine, I'll make nice. But if I can just ask questions, by rote; and quickly, that will do.

What separates good interrogation from bad, is the info. It's usually easier to get info from someone who thinks one, at least a little, sympathetic.

TK

#48 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 07:27 PM:

I call this the difference between a terrorist, the guy committing the act of violence, and an opportunist, the guy who uses that violence as an opportunity to commit his own dastradly deeds. As for Bush's actions at Gitmo, as a head of state that makes him a war criminal. Yes, he's doing it to create terror, but he is a head of state and we have an international apparatus designed for dealing with the like of him.

the word is terrorist, not stateless individuals threatening violence to terrorize the populationist.

That two people can commit the exact same action and one is a terrorist and one is a war criminal is not pedantic. In fact it is anti-pedenatic, since you are ignoring the etymology of the word and creating an artificial barrier that says "these people are terrorists, and these aren't" based on something outside the basis for the word, i.e. whether they are stateless or not.

So, if the word were "fearmonger", then Bin Laden and King George and the press would all be fear mongers. The fact that Bin Laden and King George monger fear for their own political gain makes them fearists. But you've decided that only OBL is a terrorist, not because Bush doesn't take advantage of terror for political gains, not because Bush hasn't actual CAUSED terror with his torture houses, not because Bush used phantom terror of non-existent WMD's and non-existent links between Iraq and al queda to launch an unjustifiable war against a sovereign nation, but because Bush is president.

That isn't being pedantic, that is being arbitrary.

Personally, I don't use the word terrorist specifically because folks like you compartmentalize the word to apply to whatever is the convenient enemy, rather than focus on individual behaviour, that could apply to anyone from Joe Schmoe to King George. The poitn of compartmentalization is simple: it establishes that "they" are evil, and "we" are not, and that the labels ahve nothing to do with behaviour, but everything to do with the color of your skin or where your house sits on a map.

Bin Laden, King George the Mad, and the media are all fear mongers. OBL and KGtM both use force and fear for their own politcial gains.

I don't care what label you use. But arbitrary boundaries for words isn't helpful.

#49 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 08:05 PM:

#43

Like I said, I don't like the word terrorist. Mostly because I don't want to give them a label that frames the situation where they win. If I call someone using violence of threat of violence to create terror a "terrorist", then that sort of puts you at a disadvantage, memetically speaking.

I'd rather use terms that are more specific about their actions. suicidal saboteurs, criminals with explosives, murderers.

But if the term "terrorist" is a label for anyone who uses violence or threat of violence to instill fear for their own advantage, then, yes, I'd call the media that hypes up the news in order to sell papers terrorists. At the very least, they're fear mongers selling fear, on a similar take as fish mongers selling fish.

The paper who took the guy's comments at a Army Corps of Engineers public meeting when he said they should take the dam down, and reported it as someone should blow it up, is either mindnumbingly stupid or monging fear.

The other reason I don't like the term "terrorist" is because the label "terrorist" has become the new "communist", a meaningless term used to justify state sanctioned violence, with arbitrary boundaries created to put your enemies into the label but exclude yourself based not on your actions but your position.

It seems the whole point of your question about media being terrorists was simply to try and find a boundary, any boundary, that I would admit to so that you could present your boundary as justifiable. And I don't buy it.

#50 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 08:16 PM:

Sean --

You might more properly understand the distinction about the concern for the poor as a dire condemnation of the leader of nation-state.

If you're trying to make an exception for Bush because he's President and that in some way makes his category exceptional, yeah, you're a Bush apologist. If you're unwilling to acknowledge that Bush's conduct has removed whatever presumed legitimacy of authority he could ever have been said to possess, you're a Bush apologist. If you're looking for a reason that the United States isn't in its executive every bit as evil as the people the bought-and-paid for American media propaganda organs have been demonizing for the last half decade, you're a Bush apologist.

If you're trying to find a way for it not to be that bad, because it isn't on purpose or it isn't meant to do that, you might just have a problem facing facts, rather than being a Bush apologist. If you're accepting the whole "Islamofascism" frame of the conflict, same deal.

#51 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 09:11 PM:
When some shmoe of the street takes your money, its called robbery. When the CEO of a corporation does it, we need a different word.

And we've got it: Organized crime.

Okay, two words, but 'racketeering" is so dated.

#52 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 09:31 PM:

Graydon #44: Osama is sincerely interested in doing things that benefit poor people

That may have been true once. I doubt it's true any longer and I'm doubtful it ever was true. I recommend The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright. The first half is basically an examination of Osama Bin Laden: his history, the underpinnings of his thought, and what he's done. Without going into the man's psychology (a journey I am not qualified to make) it's pretty clear as one reads the book that compassion for the poor is not a driving force in his life.

#53 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 10:10 PM:

Bush administration end-runs military lawyers (after promising to pay attention to them).

Are we terrorized yet?

(Jim Macdonald -- IIRC you were able to reconnect Boston Globe links to something that wouldn't disappear within a day; if you can, please fix and let us know the trick.)

#54 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 11:55 PM:

"we don't want to overthrow the nation; we simply want to restore the Bill of Rights."

#55 ::: Josh ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2006, 01:53 AM:

Here we go. Nice, accurate summary:

Without the media, there would be no terrorism.
- Marshal McLuhan

#56 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2006, 03:14 AM:

Small comment here: the word "terrorist" has yet to be satisfactorily defined in the context of international relations by the United Nations (the ideal body to ensure such a consensus). So, here's a list of things the word "terrorist" has been used to describe:

* People fighting to force a change of government personnel rosters
* People fighting to force a change of governmental system
* People fighting to describe and create a national identity
* People fighting to describe and create a national border

Yes, it's a pretty broad list of terms. Oddly enough, it corresponds strongly with terms like "soldier", "freedom fighter", "revolutionary", "political criminal". Whether there's an actual *difference*, aside from the direction you're facing as you place the labels is another question entirely.

#57 ::: Mina W ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2006, 03:41 AM:

Marilee #54 - "we don't want to overthrow the nation; we simply want to restore the Bill of Rights."

Who is that great quote from?

Meg #56
Hasn't another use of the word terrorist (in the using the word to demonize an enemy sense) been for natives of a country resisting the invasion of an occupying force? Like the Native Americans resisting the original American takeover of their land? What they're calling *insurgents* now.

#58 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2006, 02:49 PM:

Mina (57): I'm pretty sure that quote is either from Heinlein's "If This Goes On-" or from Poul Anderson's "Sam Hall". I'm feeling too lazy to walk to the other end of the house to check my library to see which one.

#59 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2006, 05:40 PM:

Lizzy L in #36:

It would, perhaps, be emotionally satisfying to waterboard the Bushistas. But maybe not. I don't want to turn into the kind of person who takes emotional satisfaction from inflicting pain and terror.

That's good-hearted of you, but everyone knows that Republicans don't feel pain the way people do.

#60 ::: Vian ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2006, 06:44 PM:

re: Meg #56 and Mina #57

Is it possible that we are dealing with one of those irregular noun forms?

I'm a freedom fighter
You're a revolutionary (if I like you)/insurgent (if I don't)
He/She is a terrorist

#61 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2006, 07:57 PM:

Mina (57), Lee (58) is right in the latter choice. I'm reading Poul Anderson's Going into Infinity, a literary journal and "Sam Hall" is in it. I've read about half the stories in it before, including "Sam Hall," and many of them still affect me. "The Saturn Game" left me divided between tenterhooks and I-told-you-so even though this is probably the sixth time I read it. The really good part, though, is that Anderson uses the introductions to cover his career and how SF changed during it.

#62 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2006, 08:00 PM:

I'm waiting to hear Bush* say "You're either with us, or you're against the terrorists."

*or one of the ilk

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