Terrorist? or Patriot?

What distinguishes terrorism from patriotism here in the land of those free to shoot off their mouths without thinking? Apparently it’s the same here as abroad - whether or not you share a deep seated animosity toward the target. In the days following the destruction of the WTC anyone who dared mention the possibility that some of the involved MAY have felt justified in attacking this country for some perceived wrong doing, was shouted down and labeled a traitor. Yet any number of people feel free to qualify the nutter act of the wackjob who burned his own house and flew his plane into an IRS building as potentially having some justification. ‘After all, taxes are evil. People resent taxes, they’ve had enough; is it any wonder this doesn’t happen more often’, so it is said by some of our elected officials. (I suppose at least Timothy McVee will have some company in hell that speaks his language without an accent.)

Obviously most people feel less threatened by this act than the efforts of Al Qaeda (the typing of which no doubt has attracted the attention of some NSA bot somewhere...). I doubt that any software engineers are particularly worried about the personal ramifications of this guy’s acts. Roving bands of patriots are unlikely to storm Apple or Microsoft HQ demanding that they denounce this kind of thing. I doubt my shoes (and those unfortunate fellow travelers nearby when I take them off) or personal hygiene products will suffer any greater indignities at our nation’s airports as a consequence.

What about groups that bomb clinics, terrorize the children of animal researchers, or throw Molotov cocktails at their homes? Some might argue that their agenda has this or that basis but is that not using terror to accomplish a political aim (which I believe is the definition of terrorism)?

Yet hypocrisy and its consort irony are alive and well fed in this land of ours. To me the question is more akin to whether organized crime is worse than crimes committed by an individual. Those that embrace violence as a means to their own ends are all criminals in my simple world. Terrorism is just a subset of the most vile narcissism that allows one to rob the innocent of their lives to make a point that you decided justifies monstrous acts. The victims are no more dead in one instance yet we do feel more ill at ease by the notion of evil organizations than by the threat of being nearby when somebody snaps. Perhaps terrorism is nothing more than cynically recruiting amongst those who have snapped in some way and directing them in a particular direction with better logistics. But murder/suicide is murder/suicide no matter how disenfranchised or well organized. If you fail to dissociate the crime from any real world points worthy of discussion you are opening a huge can of cannibalistic worms. If you open the door to understanding how Mr Nutter came to fly his plane into the IRS building, don’t be surprised when someone asks you about the Twin Towers.


Michael Lockridge said...

Again, it is perspective. Let us go a bit hypothetical. I swore to uphold the United States and its Constitution when I became a soldier. Mustering out of active service did not absolve me of that obligation, nor have I chosen to be free of my oath.

The world changes. Perhaps it becomes clear that the present form of our government is not upholding the Constitution I swore to protect. (Hypothetically.) So, I attack this false government using, say, a bomb. A big bomb.

They would declare me a terrorist. I would claim to be a patriot. Could both conditions be true?

Death is simple. Life is hard.


Pliny-the-in-Between said...

There in lies the crux - it becomes clear to whom that... (insert generic personal or small group perspective). As we all know it isn't hard for a single individual or group to delude themselves in justification for almost anything. There are many people who think the freedoms of the Constitution only apply to people like themselves. That ensuring them for others wrong headed.
To me it's simple. A patriot is one who puts their own life on the line for their beliefs - not one who drafts the innocent as unwilling participants in their bloody spectacle.

mac said...

I think the actions you speak of are terrorism, and should be treated as such.

"To me it's simple. A patriot is one who puts their own life on the line for their beliefs"

I agree with this idea, on condition. I might like to alter it just a bit.

I think a patriot is one who puts his community's well being before himself.
I mean, we sometimes will do what is right, even if it is in contrast to our beliefs. I'm no christian, but would stand up to ensure that christians had the right to believe their nonsense (sorry, I just hadda get in that jab). I'm not a homosexual, but I would fight for their right to equality of social status.

BUt, perhaps that is what I believe. I may comepletely agree with you, I dunno ;-)

Stacy S. said...

The clinic bombers are not terrorists - Sarah Palin said so!

Harvey said...

If one recognizes that we humans are, in a sense, hard-wired to always choose (where any choice exists) that option that we perceive will result in the most "good" or minimize any potential "bad" outcomes, individual acts of "terrorism" must be seen as a form of insanity. One can argue that any "sane" individual would never sacrifice his/her own life for a "principal", unless there was some perceived secondary gain (perhaps for a loved one) that would somehow justify what is essentially suicide. When a person commits suicide for reasons of despair or deep depression, society may not approve such behavior, but at least we can understand the motivation. When someone voluntarily "gives up his life" for the perceived benefit of others, society not only understands this, but often admires this form of what is, after all, still a suicide. How then, should we cope with a suicide attack (like the one that instigated this post) that is not only not an effort to advance the common good, but actually seeks to damage other innocent bystanders? It seems to me that this attack must be seen in the same light as the suicide resulting from despair. It differs from most of these "common" definitions of suicide only in that the individual seeks to cause the deaths or injury of others at the same time. Since these collateral damages will never be observed by or "enjoyed" by the perpetrator other than in the anticipation, I think we can make the case that such acts are always "insane". Terrorist suicide attacks that are carried out under the guidance and with the logistical support of "organizations" like Al Qaida, on the other hand, must be seen, I think, in a somewhat different light. One presumes that the secoondary gain to the individual carrying out the attack derives from religious conviction that (in this case) Allah approves of such behavior, and/or that what the group directing the attack stands for is somehow worth giving up one's life while purposely causing as much collateral damage as possible. Although the differences I point out between the individual suicide attacker and the one(s) directed to such activity by a larger "group" may seem slim, I think that the "terrorist" (in the more traditional definition of the word) can be seen as deluded, rather than just insane, since his/her motives, no matter how misguided, are not entirely "personal"

Michael Lockridge said...

Terrorism is a desperate form of warfare, conducted by a smaller force against a monolithic enemy and with little to no hope of winning. The goal is to cost the enemy as much as possible before the resources of resistance are exhausted.

Sometimes such resistance manages to survive the monolith, which fails for some other reason beyond the disruption caused by the terrorists. Survivors can then declare a "win," and possibly shape the new world according to their own ideals.

The United States may arguably be the consequence of such a rebellion and resistance. From the perspective of the British Monarchy, were not the rebels in the Colonies terrorists?


mac said...

I think that may be the point, Mike.

One cause's freedom fighter is another's terrorist

Abortion clinic bombers, terrorists to most of us - Crusaders for God to their followers.

I don't, but,
I bet a lot of Iraqis think of US forces as terrorists. We did invade their country, an unprovoked attack, I might add.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Ok - how about these definitions: - terrorist - one who uses or advocates violence as a political tool.

patriot: a terrorist who's side ends up winning and getting to write history books....

mac said...

Yep, that seems right on the mark, Pliny.

You should write a dictionary.

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