Please keep in mind that this post is more than 3 years old. Opinions change. Tastes change. Everything changes. I may still agree with or like this, or I may not. But everything is kept up here for archival purposes.
Terrorism / October 27, 2004
“Let’s take the War on Terrorism. This is a very powerful phrase, to the degree that it’s offensive for anyone to say they don’t support it. But it’s also dumb, because nobody knows what it actually means. Clearly, we are not about to rid the world of terrorism, because you can’t defeat an “ism”. Terrorism will be with us for as long as desperate, insane people exist; the best we can do is to mitigate the damage such people can do, and try not to encourage them.
— Max Barry
Barry is admittedly a good writer. (I recommend his Jennifer Government). But he comes so close to making an important point, and then veers off to the road MORE taken.
This “war”–the War on Terrorism–is not the modern homage to the metaphorical War on Drugs. While there was very real fighting and dying in coca fields and on city streets, there was just as much education, propaganda, and outreach. But this war, once again declared by the White House, has nothing to do with anything except wholesale slaughter of anyone who doesn’t live up to Western morals. And this is going to do nothing but instigate a even greater spread of Terror and terrorism.
Terrorism comes from people who are scared. It comes from people who are suffering. And it comes from people who are desperate. It often involves people sacrificing themselves because they no longer see another option. And no invention of man creates these circumstances so well as actual war.
The Palestinians are perhaps the most obvious example of this. The international community, through their silence and refusal to intercede, has granted Israel unlimited license to literally destroy these people’s homes, businesses, crops, and lives. We’re not talking the occasional attacks mentioned on CNN. This is an every-day occurrence. Without warning, Israel has repeatedly cut off access to their jobs for tens of thousands of Palestinians. Without jobs, and without crops, how do you even eat? American slaves were treated better than this. It’s no longer shocking that people — homeless people, hungry people, people with dead family members — are willing to turn themselves into walking devices of vengeance (and hence, terror). Good or bad, this is a message. Terrorism is always a message.
Everywhere people are desperate and oppressed, terrorism will break out. My own country’s history celebrates many acts of terror our citizens have committed. The Boston Tea Party. The Raid on Harpers Ferry. Timothy McViegh was never labeled a Christian Terrorist. Apparently, if you’re American, and desperately want to make a point, you’re free to act without fear of bringing down retribution upon your entire group of people.
You can fight the people who are committing acts of terrorism. But you cannot physically assault the cause of terrorism. It is not a man in a robe in a cave somewhere. It is not an aging military dictator, governing on a whim. Killing those people is like taking a throat lozenge. It makes you feel better, but it doesn’t make you any safer, any better, or any less in trouble.
If we’re going to ‘fight terrorism’, we have to wipe out the things that scare people. We have to wipe out hunger. We have to wipe out diseases like Malaria and AIDS which are ravaging populations worldwide. We have to deal with resource scarcity. We have to deal with land scarcity. These attacks and invasions will only stretch the tensions even further, and lead to more desperate acts; many by people who formerly were satisfied with or accepting of the status-quo.
This War on Terrorism is not an attempt to stop terror. This is a “War of Opportunity to Get Rid of People and Places We Find Offensive”.