Global Incidents

  • The Syrian government and its opposition were considering a ceasefire for a religious holiday beginning on October 26. The ceasefire had been proposed by the UN and Arab League envoys. But almost immediately the government indicated that the cease fire would probably fail because it claimed there was unified opposition leadership to sit at the opposite end of the negotiation table. Then today the UN special envoy to Syria said that the government agreed to a ceasefire and that “some” opposition armed groups agreed “on principle”.
  • The American Civil Liberties United has filed Freedom of Information requests to gain additional information about the American drone program in addition to learning about the alleged drone killing of an American teenager. The claim is that the program and the killing has been kept under a veil of secrecy that is unnecessary to the national security of the United States.
  • A mixed bag: The first half of the story is that while new data recently released by the IEA paints a picture that the US and EU sanctions against Iran have been quite successful and have impacted that nation’s oil industry the collateral effect has been that tanker insurance has been crippling for Iran. In addition, Iran’s national currency has lost 40 percent of its value in the last month. As this Editor learned at a presentation at New York University from a U.S. Under-Secretary of the Treasury, the crippling restriction placed upon Iran’s banking and currency system has prevent Iran’s central bank from operating in the world banking system.

The other portion of the mixed bag is revealed in an article in The Atlantic by Charles Recknagel. “The U.S. and European Union have to be very careful in not shooting themselves in the foot about it (the fiscal sanctions), because the global economy remains quite sensitive right now and quite vulnerable to any kind of immediate price shocks.”

  • Reuters reports: “Violence is returning to what has long been the most tranquil region of Afghanistan, where fears of a resurgent Taliban are as stark as the ragged holes left by the bombing of two ancient Buddha statues in cliffs facing the Bamiyan valley. Bamiyan had been seen as the country’s safest province due to its remote location in the central mountains and the opposition of the dominant local tribe, the Hazara, to the Taliban.”
  • Inside Politics reports: United States Representative Peter T. King a New York State Republican (Editor’s note: who generally speaks in hyperbole ) and happens to have the press at his command because he is the Chairperson of the House’s Homeland Security Committee announced that al Qaeda is a greater threat now than it was before the terrorist attacks September 11, 2011. He went on to say that this was the consensus of most intelligence experts. Editor’s Note: Two things must be noted: first, the Congressman said “intelligence experts” not the US intelligence government, and second his remarks were broadcast on CNN a day before the second presidential debates. One has the right to wonder aloud.
  • Steve Emerson’s blog noted that a senior Muslim Brotherhood official denied that the group’s leader called for a holy jihad against Israel even though “strikingly similar language” remains on their website. All this precedes the arrival in Jerusalem of the newly appointed Ambassador from Egypt to Israel who, when presenting his credentials (after an absence of almost 2 years of any ambassador rank person), alleged that all is well between two old friends and agreements between the two nations will be upheld.
  • In an area of the world that we in the West rarely looks at the latest news is that Russian security forces have killed 49 alleged rebels in the North Caucasus region.
  • A snap shot of Africa reveals that in Nigeria, Islamist militants have once again launched a deadly attach against that country’s soldiers in the north east. While the Argentinean government has older more that 300 of its sailors to evacuate a ship that had been seized by the authorities

Commentary: The Indiscriminate Use of the Word Terrorism

The second presidential debates raised the issue –whether intentional or not—of the meaning of the words “terrorism” and “terrorist attack”. Clearly, the President utilized the word “Terrorism” and the counterattack, after the debate in the spin room, was to try to limit its definition. The more important issue today is not that semantic game that took place in the debate but the indiscriminate use of the word “terrorism” in general.

Let me start from an excerpt from the Washington Post: “Americans were shocked to learn that the prime suspects were not foreign terrorists but men from the nation’s heartland. The plot was not hatched in Beirut or Baghdad but possibly in the backwoods of … by a paramilitary cell ….. (The suspects) are products of Middle America.”

These words were written 17 years ago in 1995, by Dale Russakoff and Serge F. Kowalski, both then staff writers for the Washington Post. This long article is chilling more so because it was two Americans with terrifying and unpredictable cunning, who after planning for an extended period of time, heaped violence of horrific proportions on other Americans. Their sheer brutality brought alarming headlines across the entire nation. Some of their victims were adults but many, far too many, were children playing in a day care center when the defendants bombed the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. This was not a hate crime. The targets were neither black nor Hispanics nor “foreign” looking. The defendants were not racists.

The two killers sought and intentionally murdered citizens of not some distant nation but those who were born and lived within their own country. The incident became domestically and internationally known as “The Oklahoma City Bombing”. No prior set of domestic violence in anyone’s recent memory could have predicted or even explained a domestic act of violence as catastrophic as the Oklahoma City bombing. Until that date one could have predicted how the average reader would have defined domestic terrorism. But to create the mental imagery of such an event was unheard of. We were well aware of and thought we understood the nature of international terrorism. Until that time it was an act of violence far from our shores, attributed to people who hated Americans, American interests and ideals. And then, while not directly articulated, the purveyors of that violence “weren’t Americans…they were foreigners”. Domestic violence of the nature of the Oklahoma City bombing—killing of one’s own —-was an anathema and so much more because of what appeared as a normal or accepted relationship between those killed and the killers.

Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the two main actors in The Oklahoma City bombing were from middle America—as describe in the Washington Post article– two “kids from the heartland of America” who met in early adulthood, became obsessed with guns and the enemies of the American way of life, as they envisioned both an enemy and what was to them the “American way of life”. Then a historical event occurred that monopolized the headlines for days across America: The firestorm in Waco Texas and the shootout between federal agents and the followers of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians that left 80 dead. Both adults and children. The attack against the Branch Davidians was touted by many as “instigated” by federal officers—the United States Government— thought by many as oppressors who declared war on innocent people and whose self defined individual freedom had been encroached upon not by some foreign entity but the federal government.

That event propelled McVeigh to define who he was and what steps he had to take to defend his country and his sense of individual rights. The question for him was: who was the “wrongdoer” at Waco, and the answer to him was simple and straight forward: The federal government and all it stood for. This conclusion easily fed into his obsession to protect his guns and their use. It is reported that he became enthralled and spelled bound by the Battle of Lexington, which as history has taught us, was the firing of the first shots that began the American Revolution for individual freedom from the tyrannical King of England.

The question then becomes how should we characterize or define McVeigh and Nichols? They were not part of a lynch mob in some southern state, they didn’t ride through some slum of a city with a poor immigrant population and throw handmade gasoline bombs, they weren’t high on some potent drug and shot-up a high school prom that they had been denied access to, they weren’t two malcontents who lost control of their emotions. And, equally important, they didn’t fit into any of the usual slots in our statutory criminal justice system. They were terrorists. They were terrorists who were born and raised in the United States. They did not go to some foreign land to learn the art of violence. They were not financed by any foreign nation, religion or foreign political entity. They did not even envision the total overthrow of the United States Government and its replacement, they were eager to “merely” change its structure and definition to fit a less authoritarian and dominating form. They sought a movement which they believed had to be imposed by force in order to attain their model of what they believed to be the original definition of individual liberty. They were terrorists. Terrorists who were born and raised in the United States, whose target was a “federal” office building filled with “federal” employees.

The problem in the ensuing years, as we became more accustomed to acknowledging the idea that terrorism in all forms exists, was the overuse of the word terrorism. With the least provocation, the word became an euphuism for anything and anyone who frightened us with violent behavior; we were thus “terrorized by terrorists”. In late 2002, what began as a robbery and a murder of three in Louisiana and Alabama and that initially produced no national headlines, culminated in screaming headlines of “terrorism” in Washington, the Nation’s Capital. During a three week period, following the murder in Louisiana and Alabama, people drove in fear in Washington and suburban Virginia. The headlines spoke of fear and terrorism, as random shots rang out, and one at a time, over 21 days, ten people were murdered and at least three others were critically injured by unknown sniper fire.

“Terrorism”, “terrorists” and “terror” were the three main words repeated over and over. All the television networks provided live coverage of each attack, with some broadcasts lasting for hours. The New York Times covered it extensively and as it was discovered later, most of its sensationalized reporting was fabricated to create the aura of a series of terrorist attacks. In truth, it was one man with a teenage accomplice that created the carnage. His aim was to cover his tracks. He had murdered his wife and was now attempting to create a picture that his wife had been a victim of a string of random killings. Did these killings terrorize the inhabitants of the Washington Beltway, and the answer is clearly: Yes. Did the killer attempt to create the aura of terror and fear? And the answer was clearly: Yes. But he was neither a terrorist nor can his acts be described as terrorism.

On August 5, a man walked into a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee and killed six people before he was seriously shot and, thereafter, committed suicide. The first words heard on the news were that there was a terrorist attack at a Sikh temple. It was reported that he thought he was killing Muslims. For hours after the attack and the death of the attacker, the local police, speaking to the worldwide news media, talked of and described the incident as an “act of terrorism”. It was not. The killer was a racist not a terrorist.

Whether it be the “white warriors”, or a “neo-Nazi white supremacist”, or an “Aryan Nations” member, or an individual connected to the “racial holy war” movement or any generic white supremacist interest group spread across the United States, they are not terrorists…domestic or international. They are racists. Yes, they have committed terrible atrocities by killing scores of people in a day care center or killing a Filipino American postal carrier or in a drive-by shooting in a racial holy war. Or even at a Sikh temple in Milwaukee. These killers were not terrorists, they are racist ideologues.

The word “terrorist”, alongside the misguided phrase “war on terrorism”, superimposed with the careless use of the word “terrorism”, has taken on meanings far beyond, not merely what is necessary, but what is misleading and dangerous for the proper platform to discuss how to approach the definition, interdiction and prosecution of certain acts of violence. There has been a world-wide proliferation of definitions for the word “terrorism”, and much of it depends upon who you represent and where you reside. It depends upon your religious bent and your political and cultural motivation. In addition, we—individually, in the media and by some law enforcement authorities, continually employ the word “terrorism” in a dangerously indiscriminately manner. Probably, what is more clearly understood, or should be, is what the word terrorism does not encompass what that emotional word embraces.

Richard Allan,
The Editor

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