"Terrorism": The World Itself Is Dangerous

By Whitbeck, John V. | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March 2002 | Go to article overview

"Terrorism": The World Itself Is Dangerous


Whitbeck, John V., Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Special Report

The greatest threat to world peace today is clearly "terrorism"-not the behavior to which the word is applied, but the word itself.

For years, people have recited the truisms that "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" and that "Terrorism, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder." With the world's sole superpower declaring an open-ended, worldwide "war on terrorism," however, the notorious subjectivity of this word is no longer a joke.

It is no accident that there is no agreed definition of "terrorism," since the word is so subjective as to be devoid of any inherent meaning. At the same time, the word is extremely dangerous, because people tend to believe that it does have meaning and to use and abuse the word by applying it to whatever they hate as a way of avoiding rational thought and discussion and, frequently, excusing their own illegal and immoral behavior.

There is no shortage of precise verbal formulations for the diverse acts to which the word "terrorism" often is applied. "Mass murder," "assassination," "arson" and "sabotage" are available (to all of which the phrase "politically motivated" can be added if appropriate). Such crimes, moreover, are already on the statute books, rendering specific criminal legislation for "terrorism" unnecessary. Such precise formulations, however, do not carry the overwhelming, demonizing and thought-deadening impact of the word "terrorism," which is, of course, precisely the charm of the word for its more cynical and unprincipled users and abusers. If someone commits "politically motivated mass murder," people might be curious as to the cause or grievances which inspired such a crime, but no cause or grievance can justify (or even explain) "terrorism," which, all right-thinking people agree, is the ultimate evil.

Most acts to which the word "terrorism" is applied (at least in the West) are tactics of the weak, usually (although not always) against the strong. Such acts are not a tactic of choice but of last resort. To cite one example, the Palestinians certainly would prefer to be able to fight for their freedom by "respectable" means, using F-16s, Apache attack helicopters and laser-guided missiles such as those the United States provides to Israel. If the U.S. provided such weapons to Palestine as well, the problem of suicide bombers would be solved. Until it does, and for so long as the Palestinians can see no hope for a decent future, no one should be surprised or shocked that Palestinians use the "delivery systems" available to them-their own bodies. Genuine hope for something better than a life worse than death is the only cure for the despair which inspires such gruesome violence.

In this regard, it is worth noting that the poor, the weak and the oppressed rarely complain about "terrorism." The rich, the strong and the oppressors constantly do. While most of mankind has more reason to fear the high-technology violence of the strong than the low-technology violence of the weak, the fundamental mind-trick employed by the abusers of the epithet "terrorism" (no doubt, in some cases, unconsciously) is essentially this: The low-technology violence of the weak is such an abomination that there are no limits on the hightechnology violence of the strong which can be deployed against it.

Not surprisingly, since Sept. 11, virtually every recognized state confronting an insurgency or separatist movement has eagerly jumped on the "war on terrorism" bandwagon, branding its domestic opponents (if it had not already done so) "terrorists" and, at least implicitly, taking the position that, since no one dares to criticize the United States for doing whatever it deems necessary in its "war on terrorism," no one should criticize whatever they now do to suppress their own "terrorists." Even while accepting that many people labeled "terrorists" are genuinely reprehensible, it should be recognized that neither respect for human rights nor the human condition are likely to be enhanced by this apparent carte blanche seized by the strong to crush the weak as they see fit. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

"Terrorism": The World Itself Is Dangerous
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.