Monday, July 14, 2008

Terrorism

Terrorism works, that's why people do it

(2017 ed. -- This was from an editorial in the Spartan Daily I wrote back in the day)

In a February 2005, speech to the New York Council on Foreign Relations Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defense, acknowledged that America was losing the propaganda war for the “hearts and minds” of the Muslim world. He spent the majority of his time talking about possible solutions to the problem, with the primary conclusion being that we needed to beef up our public relation efforts.
The complex and ongoing “War on Terror” thing has apparently been reduced to figuring out how to control the spin.

What Rumsfeld didn’t talk about was the legitimate grievances that fuel the violence in the Middle East: America’s long history of changing regimes that don’t support us, our continued support for oppressive dictatorships, our history of oil exploitation, and, number one with a bullet, our support for the state of Israel.

He also didn’t talk about the biggest dirty secret of all -- that sometimes terrorism works.
In 1946, Menachin Begin, a future prime minister of Israel, was part of a Jewish terrorist group known as the Irgun. On July 22 of that year his group planted explosives in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem and leveled the seven-story building to the ground, killing 91 people — men, women and children.

Shortly after the explosion, the British gave up their United Nations mandate to govern Palestine and left the country.

In 1983 a truck loaded with explosives and driven by a member of the terrorist group Hezbollah drove up to an apartment building used to house an American force trying to stabilize a crumbling Lebanon. The truck detonated, leveling the building and killing 243 Marines.

Two months after the explosion, the Marines evacuated Lebanon.
In 1976, a stylish, young female Sri Lankan smiled and placed a wreath around the head of Rajiv Gandhi, then the prime minister of India, and triggered a belt-bomb that blew his body to pieces.
Shortly after, Indian peace-keeping forces left Sri Lanka and its government got on with its war with the Tamil guerrillas.

Terrorism has also worked to change political regimes.

The 1916 Easter uprising lead to the formation of the Republic of Ireland and the Madrid bombings of 2004 helped change the ruling party of Spain.

In America we tend to see terrorism as a great evil inflicted on us, but from the terrorist point of view it’s a way of waging war against something too strong to attack directly. It keeps strongly felt positions from being ignored and can, in the case of Palestine, give a sense of identity to a stateless people.

In times of war it has always been a tradition to make the enemy less than human, to color their motivations with black and white shades of evil. We find ways to objectify and depersonalize those we are at war with. It’s easier to fight demons than people; it’s less real and easier to get up for.
But the “War on Terror” is different.

We are fighting an enemy without soldiers, only “enemy combatants” without legal rights or standing. We are not fighting on a piece of land; we have no fixed assets to target with our military. The only real measurement of progress in this war is found in a negative—if nothing bad happens, we win. Unlike most wars, it’s hard to see any endpoint where we can say it’s over and get back to “normal.”

Rumsfeld has it wrong, it’s not about spin or media bias, it’s about what we have done and how that has been perceived by the rest of the world.

We launched a preemptive war in Iraq with all the responsibilities that entails. That’s a fact, and any discussion about our faulty intelligence, our historical motives, and our long term goals are all legitimate items for discussion. The fact that people violently disagree with us does not make them demons or evil and the more we bring that fact into the light of day, the faster we can find a compromise in diplomacy that allows us to be safe in our own country.

Or we can build a 20-foot barrier wall around our interests and hope for the best. Israel could help us with any technical difficulties in its erection; they should have their wall up in the next year or so.

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