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Yes, But What Have You Done Lately?

What IS a Terrorist?

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, October 03, 2001.

The attack on the World Trade Center, September 11, 2001, is now three weeks and one day old. How are we doing? Well, if one can judge by the endless parade of people to the microphone yesterday at the United Nations, we cannot even agree on a definition of terrorism. This is a fake and arbitrary debate designed to elicit benefit for their individual causes. So, I encourage everyone to finalize in their own minds the definitions they will be using and be able to explain they are using.

Terrorism as a term arose in World War Two. It was used to describe that portion of violence directed upon a civilian population not directly supporting opposing military forces simply to cower the citizenry and inspire a collapse of morale. The Japanese bombing of Nanking was arguably the first. The Nazis waged terrorism against Jews, many of whom were loyal citizens. Both Nazis and Soviets waged terrorism against the farmers of the western Soviet Union who during the best of times barely had enough time and machine to carve out a living for themselves. The United States was previously guilty of terrorism in the Philippines and certain segments of Latin America. Because we were uncertain of who the enemy was, we were guilty of it in Vietnam. Not to wiggle out of it by academic means, but it must be recalled that the infliction of barbarity must be the result of policy, not on the individual ground actions by traumatized soldiers.

Therefore, by this definition the actions of Bin Laden are sometimes those of a terrorist and sometimes not. The attack on the U.S.S. Cole was not, because it was a warship in dangerous waters perfectly capable of defending itself against the contents of a Zodiac rubber boat. And, an attack against the Pentagon is arguably not a terrorist act, because it is not only a defended military target but the utterest military target of all. The attack on the World Trade Center by any definition was pointless terror.

The attack on the planes themselves was terrorism, inarguably. Consider this. What if all four planes had attacked the Pentagon? It probably would have destroyed the building and done actual damage to our war fighting ability. With the World Trade Center standing, would anyone absent the United States be calling this an act of Terrorism? It would have simply been an act of war, with a military target. There is still the horror of the people aboard, but the attention of the world would not be on Terrorism but on the pinpoint attack on a target that is not beloved anywhere and feared greatly. And Israel would be viewed with much hostility by the American public. "If it weren't for you...." type of reasoning.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, they could have bypassed all the battleships and just burned all the fuel dumps, which was easy to do. The United States' ships at Pearl Harbor would have been immobile for lack of fuel. The Japanese could have simply maintained a blockade. They could have effectively achieved much if not all of the goals they actually did in the first few months, because it is not at all certain that the United States would have gone to war absent the unifying image of the Arizona and all those deaths. That they didn't speaks to the fact they did not understand the United States, which is to say they did not understand the dynamics of a free press and voting public, and despite the quotes attributed to Admiral Yamamoto by a worshipful staff after the war, our continued ignorance of the Orient in general did not hold a candle to the ignorance of Japan about the United States. It was a very stupid attack.

And the WTC attack is even more so. An attack exclusively against the Pentagon could have achieved far more for their alleged cause. When the argument gets around, and it rarely does, to what the Islamic militants are fighting for, the bottom falls out. Theirs is a world of patriarchal feudalism, of subservient women, veiled and without the vote. Theirs is a world of puffy ignorance and stagnation. Name one artistic or scientific advance of note to humanity that has appeared out of the Islamic world since the Moors were forced from Spain. Just one. One.

Here is the rub again: in its current construct, Islam is not producing or even tolerating secular government under which it could flourish and prosper and regain its image of educational and scientific and compassionate advancement. There are a few exceptions. As long as Bin Laden and Islamic extremists keep the argument on what they are fighting against, they can achieve an amount of global sympathy. After all, nobody really thinks Israel has been totally truthful in its handling of Palestinian civilians. There is great excess.

But if the Taliban is their ideal, a group that destroyed ancient Buddhist temples because they existed, what does that say for the world they want? That's as bad as German General Ludendorf blowing up French castles in the German retreat in 1918. And that, pretty much, is why Bin Laden chose the WTC. If the West has to address honestly how Israel was allowed and encouraged to exist and at what cost, the truth is that absent war, most Muslims, especially Muslim women, would be better off in Israel than in most countries where they are in power. You cannot help but think that the Palestinians, at least under current leadership, are not coming to power in their own nation. They'd have to learn to compromise and to obey, at least temporarily, political rivals. They seemingly cannot do it, and apparently know they cannot do it. That I think is why they can only come close, then face the subtraction of their absolute powers both at work and home, and they rebel, and blame others, and seek diversional help.

And the United States is so full of skyscrapers.