Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

27 July 2005


Monday on All Things Considered they had some guy who was the first Muslim ever elected to British Parliament or something. He was on there talking about the difference between the use of terrorism in Iraq and the use of terrorism in the middle of London. Robert Seigel kept trying to get him to define his position... how can terrorism be okay in Iraq (and Israel) but not okay in London? The Muslim Parliament guy kept saying that if civilians died, the people setting off the bombs were terrorists. I am blown away by this.

Can we still be this confused on our definition of "terrorism?" I don't think it's that difficult a concept to grasp. Terrorism is a tactic used by political bodies to enact political change. Terrorist organizations are political groups who have political goals but use military means as their way of achieving them. A terrorist act is a usually violent, almost always spectacular military attack, but for the military action to qualify as "terrorism," the goal of this attack must be "to create terror." Terrorists hope to achieve their goals through fear. Their enemies (usually occupying factions) will ideally become frightened and give in to the terrorists' demands. The IRA used terrorism in Ireland and I always considered it totally justified. They were an occupied nation fighting for their own freedom. I saw Michael Collins. Another great film about (completely justified) terrorism is Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers.

I am not sure what the point of this post is, completely, but listening to this British legislator made me frustrated all over again with the misuse of this word "terror." I don't think terrorism is always bad: when used to fight occupation, it is, often, the only tactic that will get the downtrodden any traction. I had been thinking about this a couple of days and then this morning I read that the U.S. administration is now using different terminology to describe the war in Iraq. It's no longer a global war on terror; it will now be called the struggle against violent extremism. I think the new phrase is infinitely more accurate.