For the purposes of a war on terror we have come to accept the understanding of a terrorist as someone willing to perform acts of violence resulting in the deaths of innocent people to achieve some political objective. Of course, everyone acknowledges the base immorality of killing innocent people for any reason, not only to achieve some political objective. Where we seem to have difficulty is in applying the same principles in dealing with this terrorism.
We seem to have admitted the notion that it is acceptable to kill innocent people if they live in a country accused of harbouring terrorists. People seem to find themselves lost in the arithmetic when dealing with the reasoning that it is morally acceptable to kill one small child in order to save the lives of thousands of people. However, an area of discussion that has been excluded from debate is the question of what courses of action are available to a persecuted people facing constant oppression, humiliation, violence, destruction of their property and murder if the international forums for justice are skewed against them and they do not the luxury of military force to fend off their oppressors.
There are some obvious contradictions in the way we formulate and apply our present definition of terrorism. If someone carries a bomb into a public place and detonates it killing themselves and a hundred people this is terrorism, but if someone drops a bomb from an aircraft flying at 35,000 feet and kills a hundred people in a village below, this is not terrorism. There is clearly a distinction between what aggrieved individuals from other countries do to us and what our governments do to them.
This distinction seems to have been widely accepted. True, there has been a lot of media advertising and public relations to achieve this but fundamentally, we must still expect that mature adults are capable of logical thought and moral reasoning.
This particular distinction having gained wide acceptance we must therefore exclude it from the present discussion. But there are things to be clarified even in the accepted definition of terrorism as applied against us. For instance, the killing of innocent people is not necessarily a requirement. For example, in 1993 when the IRA managed a public relations coup by destroying a building in London on a Sunday with a truckload of fertilizer and diesel mixture at cost of £1bn and without a single life lost this was still denounced as an immoral act of terrorism.
If someone exploded a toxic bomb over a reservoir poisoning the water supply of a large city, this would be considered an act of terrorism. The killing of innocent people doesn’t seem to be a necessary element of the definition – if done to us.
The Principal Ingredient
It seems that it is possible to perform an act that has the same practical consequences as terrorism without attracting the label of terrorism or the moral condemnation that goes with it. For example, when Union Carbide released vast quantities of toxic gas into the atmosphere at Bophal in India killing 2000 people and injuring many others this was not regarded as an act of terrorism. Of course the victims were poor and politically ineffectual people in India, not us so a key ingredient is missing.
Another difference is that Union Carbide did not intend to release the gas, it was an accident; criminal negligence notwithstanding. Also, we would call it a (valid) commercial objective, as opposed to a political one, that Union Carbide was seeking to exploit the cheap labour in India and cut costs by avoiding safety regulations in other countries, yet we call it a political (and morally questionable) objective when China maintains a low value of the Yuan to maintain high competitiveness of Chinese goods, taking away the jobs and livelihoods of people in other countries.
Despite our inclination to count as terrorism destructive acts that do not involve the killing of innocent people, we exclude such acts as vast oil spills that cause widespread environmental damage, degradation of quality of life of people affected and the destruction of many livelihoods. Again, there is the issue of intention and somehow we accept these events as “accidents” even when the organizations responsible have engaged in deliberate measures to avoid the safety regulations and overlooked outrageous acts of criminal negligence as a matter of ongoing policy.
The latest environmental disaster in Hungary, a chemical toxin spill poisoning multiple river systems and contaminating a vast area is probably the most outrageous expression of commercial contempt for concerns about risk of environmental damage that anyone could imagine. Hungary’s beautiful Lake Belaton has probably ended it’s time as Hungarians’ favourite holiday destination. Media coverage is already engaged in the creation of two worlds of treatment of the event.
On the one hand, the physical event being sensationalised as if it in the manner of some natural disaster that will entertain the masses until the ratings drop and then be forgotten. On the other, the incompetence and culpable negligence of this man-made event will be played out as a condemnation of a “few bad apples”, absolving the upper levels of leadership of all responsibility and meticulously avoiding any question of the principles and values inherent in the commercial processes that inevitably result in such events – profit, progress and economic expedience are sacred. It’s no different to the treatment of a “few bad apples” who brutalise and abuse prisoners of war or kill civilians for sport who bear the sole responsibility despite the Nuremberg principles established after WW2, which explicitly carry responsibility to the highest level of authority and equally exempt from questions about the flawed principles and values inherent in illegal, violent, aggressive war for immoral purposes.
We have witnessed in Iraq, among many other outrages, probably the most outrageous act of criminal irresponsibility within the reach of human capability – the use of Depleted Uranium (DU) in weaponry. Adored by the military for the capacity of these heavy DU atoms to penetrate armour when propelled at high velocity by explosives (and probably also by other branches of government as a cheap means of nuclear waste disposal), they have the unfortunate side effect that they have a half-life of millions of years and persist in the environment, dispersed with the dust in the desert winds, perpetuating genetic disease and horrendous birth defects. To ordinary rational individual someone capable even of contemplating such an act seems to be obviously insane. Yet somehow, as a collective, we have accepted this as a perfectly reasonable measure. War seems to be the ultimate excuse for anything.
Who Needs Terrorists?
In the face of an economic system (incidentally, one also fraudulently posing as a social system) capable of trading (quite cold-bloodily) lives for commercial advantage and profit, irresponsibly willing to embrace environmental damage on a vast scale as some kind of unfortunate but necessary risk and willing to invest incomprehensible sums of money into war as a means of securing resources and perpetual growth one has to ask the obvious question: “Who needs terrorists?”.
Clearly, we can do perfectly well without them.
This self-serving system that seems to have taken the reins of all human reason and cast common sense asunder has succeeded in subjugating the human destiny as the coal-shoveller to it’s own doomed furnace. The key to this success seems to be it’s understanding of competition. When we are down to two people having complete ownership of all known property and capital there will be a desperate race between them for dominance that will be ruthlessly fought to the death without regard to cost or consequence. It seems to understand that competition favours the one who is not circumspect in his pursuit of profit, lacks the intelligence that might distract him in music, art or literature from the single driving core obsession of wealth accumulation and lacks the morality that might deny him recourse to corrupt, criminal or other immoral advantage. In short, stupid psychopaths inevitably lead us.
Most insidious among its devices is the vicious circle associated with the automobile. Our clumsy inefficient cities are full of highways and car parks and a reticulation of minor roads, streets and driveways that provide automobile access to every front door. They pose a vast, permanent threat to human health, life and safety on a scale far beyond the imagination of even the psychotic, nuclear terrorist of our media-manufactured nightmares. Yet human beings are instilled with a deep commitment to these private spaces in the public world cum status symbols that have become the prime centre of egotistic fixation.
We shun public transport, perceive them as a necessity, and will not forsake them because we must survive in cities that are designed and built for the automobile with an obvious, scathing contempt for the pedestrian that is self-evident at any pedestrian crossing or intersection. We will not admit of any discussion of redesigning our cities in any other way; for improvement of energy efficiency, aesthetic quality for human lifestyle or even human health and safety because we need them the way they are for the convenient use of our automobiles. Madness!!
As China approaches rates of automobile production of one million a week, the traffic jams pile up on motorways that consume exponentially growing fortunes in taxpayer funds denied to hospitals that treat the victims, the human carnage of road accidents and poisoned air dwarfs the human cost of the immoral wars we fight for oil. As our cities degenerate into foul, polluted places full of non-breathable air and without green spaces for living we dream, like deluded imbeciles of the automobile that “runs on water” and kid ourselves that the “alternative” energy supplies that will further compound our problems are not in fact, additional energy supplies.
Fundamentally it is our energy inefficiencies, principally those surrounding the automobile, that will probably spell the death knell for our already very sick planet. We proceed regardless like sleepwalkers, as if this were some kind of inevitability because the principles of the capitalist system that lie at the heart of it are beyond question.
No, indeed, we don’t need terrorists, capitalists are doing a very fine job and we have only ourselves to blame.
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|Allen L. Jasson|
|William John Cox|