James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Monday, September 06, 2004

Terrorists are us, too

By Andy Driscoll

Terrorism is not a practice limited to Islamic extremists. Terrorism is any technique imposing change or control through intimidation; it is a daily exercise among clashing cultures, armies, police forces, religious sects, and political groups around the globe.

We tend too much in this country to shorten ideas to convenient sound bites, to simplify very complex issues and tag protagonists with short labels as a marketing convenience - and because some among us are desperate to put a picture of a villain in the American mind.

This dangerous form of demagoguery keeps us in a seething state of fear; we stereotype religious or ethnic groups as perpetrators of terror because a few individual members have committed crimes in the name of those same faiths or groups. We are so fearful, we're too easily convinced that dispensing with the fundamental tenets of our way of life will ferret out the boogiemen or women toting every piece of luggage, wearing every tennis shoe, showing every face that looks...well, unAmerican.

We watch on television the terrorism practiced against unarmed dissenters in the streets of New York by armored and armed-to-the-teeth law enforcement officers whose only reason for their dress and behavior is to scare hell out of people and arrest them for exercising their right to speak against, as well as for, the status quo. This form of terrorism stalks groups dedicated to peace and justice, using infiltrators and agents provocateur in quest of discrediting the legitimate aims and attitudes of such "troublemakers" and preventing their influencing public opinion and public policy.

Terrorism is plotted in the Pentagon, in the White House, in the halls of Justice, and most especially in the CIA. They all work to quell dissent, yes, but also to control the governance of other nations by financing military oppression, assassination, and resource exploitation on behalf of American multi-nationals.

Unprovoked war is terrorism, and so must we define our incursion into Iraq as a terrorist act.

It's easier than we would wish to manipulate an entire nation into hysteria once it's been Attacked - even easier to demonize all who look or sound like those who violated our spaces and our peace and took hundreds of lives in the process. Such people claim to be defenders of a god, their god, to view us as the evil ones ­ not the only infidels, but certainly the most powerful and thus the most evil and most challenging.

Less than 3,000 innocents died in New York City on 9/11. More than 15,000 innocents have now died in Iraq. Fifteen thousand.

In wars of the 21st century, innocents die in far greater numbers than the armed forces of any combatant. When the innocents, the guiltless thousands dragged into the line of fire between belligerents, are the victims, we must remember: terrorism is any deadly force used against fellow humans who are simply trying to live.

Our nation, its leaders, its journalists and its defenders have cavalierly dismissed the carnage we have wreaked on at least two countries whose thousands of innocents we claim to have liberated with our death-dealing bombs and military might - Iraq and Afghanistan. Terror incarnate, inflicted upon millions while we searched for two men who have yet to account for the crimes we accuse them of committing, one of them still missing, in fact.

How can we invoke the adjective "Islamic" so facilely when talking of terror and terrorism when our own massive war machinery has been let loose on so many more men, women and children whose only sin was to be living too near a target? We cannot, not in good conscience.
The terrorists R us...too.

(Andy Driscoll is a St. Paul writer, journalist, consultant and community activist currently pursuing a master’s degree in public affairs, innovative leadership and creative writing at the University of Minnesota.)