JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: FURTHER THOUGHTS ON WHAT TERROR IS – THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN “ORDINARY KILLING” AND TERROR KILLING – USING “TERROR” AS A LABEL LIKE “WITCH” – NATIONS USE THE WORD “TERROR” TO SERVE SELFISH INTERESTS – A GREAT DEAL OF DELIBERATE CONFUSION IN OUR PRESS WITH THE WORD “TERROR” – STATE TERROR PLAYS AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN OUR WORLD   1 comment

John Chuckman

EXPANSION OF COMMENT POSTED TO AN ARTICLE IN CONSORTIUM NEWS

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Response to another commenter who offered a different interpretation of what terror is:

 

No, sorry, the definition of terrorist is not “Someone who commits acts of Terror on a mass scale.”

In fact, that definition is rather circular and leads you nowhere. And terror does not have to be “on a mass scale.” It quite often is not.

The existence of a manifesto certainly does not tell us that someone is a terrorist. Manifestos have been used by madmen and others, various criminal types, time and again. They mean very little. The famous Unabomber, sought for years by the FBI in the United States, was a very good example.

He had a manifesto, a long one, and it made about as much sense as a poor madman rambling on the streets about being Jesus. As it turned out, he was a tragically afflicted man, a greatly gifted one, once a brilliant young mathematician with a promising career, his mind destroyed by late-onset paranoid schizophrenia.

Genuine terror is the tool of the powerless against power, generally power that is oppressing them. It is always a political tool. Indeed, there’s not much point in having a special word for abhorrent violence if there is no political purpose. Otherwise these acts are just violent crimes.

If you will, an operation like France’s Résistance movement in WW II was a large and well-organized terror operation against a powerful occupying German army. We, of course, don’t call them that because we are in sympathy with their aims.

The word “terror” in recent decades has gained a new connotation as a result of events in the Middle East. “Terror” today is often used as a way branding someone or something as a kind of Twentieth Century witch, so they become automatically hated by others. This use is effectively what the military call a “psy-op.” It actually makes little sense on an analytical level, but most of the ways the general population reacts to words and events, ones which are incompletely explained, are not on an analytical level. Otherwise, we would have no such things as panics and ugly mobs and lynchings. It has proved a very effective label, the public reaction to it closely resembling that of villagers in the Middle Ages on hearing the charge of witchery, as we can see from its widespread use and misuse, over and over, in the press.

This use of “terror” also has the effect of setting an opponent apart from civilized norms, thus legitimizing the people using the term, who may in fact themselves be just as guilty of abhorrent violence. Israel and the former PLO provide the perfect example of this. Modern Israel was, of course, born in terror and violence, and it has extended the violence indefinitely by occupying and abusing millions of people against their will. An outfit like the original PLO, indeed a genuine terror organization, somehow got labelled first, so that they are not viewed as the WWII French Résistance, but that is really what they are in every respect. The successful labelling perhaps wasn’t just a matter of being first out the door. All of America’s major press and broadcasting are notably Israel-friendly, highly biased in fact, and the Palestinians never did develop effective means to tell their story to others, either enough good English speakers or the press to cover them. We see in recent years what a healthy impact quality new English press in Russia has had in telling Russia’s story to counteract the immense waves of bias from Washington.

Characterizing too many violent acts as “terror” has a knock-on effect, too, a highly undesirable one. A good many people hearing and reading the word all the time become a bit paranoid about it, much as they do from some urban American local television stations which squeeze every ounce of juice they can from local crime reporting. Some people do truly get the idea that it’s not safe to out the front door. This a real phenomenon that I’ve witnessed in an American city, and it’s clearly unhealthy. In the case of “terror” being repeated all the time, a lot of ordinary people only become further conditioned to accepting government’s terrible excesses – spying on everyone, increasing censorship, torture, improper imprisonment, extrajudicial killing, more wars and bombing, and the stream of violent abuses they plainly see coming from Israel.

Terror may also be an act of vengeance by the powerless against power. That is precisely what most of the so-called “international terror” in Europe has been. Angry young men seeking revenge for what has been done to their friends and families and countries by Western operations in places like Syria. After all, countries like France and Britain have been secretly assisting the United States for years in its violent efforts to create “a new Middle East,” in its so-called Neocon Wars, wars which have both conventional aspects, as in massive bombings, and employ all kinds of rag-tag terrorist mercenaries and dark operations.

The kind of terror events we’ve seen in Europe have no hope of overturning the societies they attack or of defeating their armies, with whom they never even engage, as in theory, at least, a Résistance or a PLO did. They are acts of angry vengeance, but it should always be kept in mind that the desire for vengeance has a cause. In these cases, it is a response to government violence by countries like France and Britain who long secretly bombed or supplied covert special forces in many parts of the Middle East, killing many people.

In many cases, the word “terror” is abused by our press. Our politicians and press embrace, for example, Israel’s own description of its opposition in the Middle East. Even outfits like Hamas – a democratic organization which has worked to organize the desperate people of Gaza and give them some hope – and Hezbollah – a Lebanese organization born out of Israel’s years-long illegal occupation of Southern Lebanon, one which finally succeeded in driving them out – are called terrorist, not because they actually carry out terror in Israel but because they oppose Israel’s efforts to dominate their places.

Of course, as I said, modern Israel was itself born in terror. Organizations like Irgun, Lehi, and Haganah assassinated people and carried out classic terror operations such as bombings and ambushes. In 1948, Israeli groups actually slaughtered many hundreds of innocent villagers, including women and children, in order to terrorize the Palestinians and send them fleeing for their lives. And they did run. That is how, for example, Gaza became such a densely occupied space. And the terror at some level really has never stopped. A recent book counted 2,700 assassinations by Israel. Every leader of any ability who arises from the Palestinians is threatened with assassination, often openly.

Terror has also been widely employed by powerful states like the United States as a covert means of getting what it wants or hurting those it dislikes. The phony jihadists (actually recruited mercenary gangs) of Syria or Libya are examples. These people have been trained, supplied, paid, and provided all kinds of special assistance from transportation to intelligence by the United States or, in large part, by one of its cooperative allies in the region, such as Saudi Arabia. The recent country-wide electricity blackout in Venezuela, causing hardship for millions and undoubtedly a number of deaths and injuries, is terror as surely as, say, planting a bomb in a vital facility.

The CIA’s long and costly efforts against Fidel Castro, from the late 1950s right through a fair part of the 1960s, was the purest example of state terror. That long campaign went from attacks on ports and ships from boats and attempts to set crop fields on fire and setting various bombs to supplying weapons to Castro opponents and to many assassination attempts – quite apart from the invasion of the country by paid, trained, and supplied gangs of men who had previously emigrated from Cuba to the United States. For these purposes, there were secret camps in the United States, and other places, which made Osama bin Laden’s efforts in the mountains of Afghanistan resemble a boy-scout outing.

And, on an even larger scale, it might be fair to call many of America’s unilaterally-declared wars since WWII, terror operations because they had no other purpose than extracting concessions or privileges from other people through violence. They were in defense of nothing. The methods used definitely have involved the worst kind of terror. In Vietnam, carpet bombing was used to terrorize an entire population, and it did. In the CIA’s Operation Phoenix, which continued for a number of years, somewhere between twenty and forty thousand village leaders of various descriptions had their throats cut by night-crawling special ops. And in the invasion of Iraq, what do you think a name like “shock and awe” was about? I don’t insist on the point, you might look at these wars as just mass killings, but they are sure in keeping with a country so ready to use and support terror, so long as it’s terror for the “right” reasons.

 

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Posted March 17, 2019 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

One response to “JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: FURTHER THOUGHTS ON WHAT TERROR IS – THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN “ORDINARY KILLING” AND TERROR KILLING – USING “TERROR” AS A LABEL LIKE “WITCH” – NATIONS USE THE WORD “TERROR” TO SERVE SELFISH INTERESTS – A GREAT DEAL OF DELIBERATE CONFUSION IN OUR PRESS WITH THE WORD “TERROR” – STATE TERROR PLAYS AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN OUR WORLD

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