This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Saturday, 13 October 2012

On the War of Terror

From May 2008:

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the War On Terror.
I believe I’m far from the first person to point out that you can’t have an actual war on terror, because “terror” isn’t something one can fight. One might as well say one is declaring war on phobias, or something similar.
Now if one is going to talk about “terror” as being synonymous with “terrorism”, then too you can’t have a war on terror, because “terrorism” is a tactic. If one wants to make war on terrorism, therefore, one might as well say one is making war on bombs, or trenches, or something. As soon as it becomes necessary and useful, they’re going to use it again.
In any case, I believe we need to answer this question: what is terrorism, anyway? If you mean it the random killing of “innocents”, well then, the sort of war hero who shells towns from the safety of a fortified green zone or the bomber pilot who raises firestorms or A-bombs a city is as much a terrorist as the best of them.
Clearly, we need a proper definition of the word. Here is my attempt, therefore: terrorism is any strategy that seeks, through the application of fear, to get a people or an administration to modify its behaviour in accordance with the wishes of the user of the strategy. Fair enough?    
Now if you agree that my definition is correct, we suddenly find some other uses for this oh so very convenient word. If you now say, on the eve of an election, that “if my opponent wins, then rivers of blood will flow in the streets because the evildoers (in whatever form they come) will have a free hand”, and if the populace, terrified by the visions you raise, vote for you, is that or is that not terrorism? If you claim that mushroom clouds will rise from your cities unless you immediately invade a hapless land on the other side of the globe, and your people, brains numbed by the images you bombard them with, agree to the invasion, is that terror, or isn’t it? If you claim that unless “tough new laws” – meant, of course, to apply only to members of certain well known racial or religious minorities – are immediately promulgated, “the terrorists win”, is that not terrorism? In all this, if you conveniently hide the fact that the average person’s chances of being run down in the street by a drunk driver are ten thousand times greater than of dying at the hands of “terrorists”, that’s another piece of the application of mental terror.  
It’s not coincidental that the casualties of the War On Terror (including Jean Charles De Menenzes, remember him? He was shot on the London Tube by British police who then, falsely, claimed he’d been running. Well, if a gang of characters suddenly began chasing me with guns, I’d have run too) far outstrip the casualties caused by “terrorists”. It was always meant to be that way – to make an example. See, we’re so tough we won’t hesitate to blow away innocents!  You better watch what you say or do! 
It’s a War OF Terror. That’s the only way it makes sense. 

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