Real terror is fear

| November 9, 2006 | 9 Replies

I remember in my college days in the late 70’s and early 80’s taking a course in International Law with Professor Jean-Robert Leguey-Feilleux Ph.D.  The course included a discussion of terrorism. Dr. Leguey-Feilleux told us one of the issues before the United Nations and the international community was a definition of “terrorism.” The best definition of “terrorism” I remember, and the one I believe my instructor endorsed, was “the taking of innocents for political purposes.”

Terrorism was not killing, but may cause death and certainly fear. Terrorism is political. In another class, I read that David Easton defined “politics” as “the authoritative allocation of values.” So “terrorism” is the taking of innocents in an attempt to influence how people or peoples allocate their values. The primary motivator in any such effort is fear. The absence of fear negates the intent of the terrorist. But fear may motivate others to seek gain from the tactical terrorist efforts for strategic purposes. I believe such is the goal of the Bush administration and the Republican Party in the United States.

During the 40 or so years of the Cold War, the Republican right could be counted upon to rant about Democrats being “soft on Communism” and take an electoral victory in the White House which was only interrupted by Kennedy’s “missile gap,” Johnson’s “Great Society” (following JFK’s assassination) and the blip of Jimmy Carter after Watergate.  After the rise in expectations after the growth and success of the Solidarity movement in Poland, due in large part to Pope John Paul II, and similarly after Democrats forced increased emigration from the old USSR though Jimmy Carter’s “human rights” focus upon US foreign policy, the Cold War ended.

Now there was a conundrum for the right. No more “soft on Communism” to run national elections strategies upon anymore. There ensued two terms of Bill Clinton. 

Clinton infuriated the right into heretofore unseen levels of spastic fits of yobbo yapping and a renewed commitment by the right and its corporatist supporters to an electoral victory in 2000. After nearly a billion dollars of campaign spending to support a candidate which the corporations invented and called “George Bush,” Bush v. Gore ensued. “W” was then anointed president thanks to the one vote of Sandra Day O’Connor, along with the rest of the Republicans on the US Supreme Court. But “W” was an unproven commodity and he foundered in his early days in the Presidency, until 9/11.

George Bush likes to repeat the mantra “9/11 changed everything” and he’s right.  9/11 gave the political Right an opportunity to claim Democrats are “soft” on terrorism just as they had in the past claimed Democrats were “soft” on Communism. George B. Shaw said; “Everyone is entitled to his opinion, but no one has a right to be wrong on the facts.”  Let’s look at the former Soviet Union and its satellites as a threat and compare them to our latter day foes in the “Global War on Terror (GWOT)”.

At a minimum, the Soviet Union had hundreds of thousands of soldiers and sailors in arms. It had thousands of tanks, planes, ships and submarines. The Soviets had over 15,000 nuclear warheads, most targeted on the US.  Their nukes actually worked. We may not now know where they all are but, there were thousands. 

The Soviets had numerous substantiated chemical, nerve and biological weapons.  In short, real WMD existed. The Soviets had a skilled professional army with special forces, weapons and tactics which challenged the United States for over 40 years. The former Soviet Union was governed by a philosophy completely antagonistic to our way of life and our system of government.  The U.S.S.R. was dedicated to “burying” us. The Warsaw Pact nations had tens of thousands of tanks, millions of armed citizens, and access to the latest in Soviet weaponry and tactics, including anti-tank weapons and anti-aircraft weapons.

If we look at the current forces of “global” terror, we might come up with, say, 100,000 people dedicated to using innocents for political purposes.  Modern day terrorists have no standing army, no tanks, no planes, no nukes, no chemical, nerve or biological weapons. Modern terrorists have no identifiable nation state backing (outside of Afghanistan and its drug lords), although most of the 9/11 terrorists were from our friend Saudi Arabia. We have identified Osama bin Laden, a 6 foot 7 inch diabetic in need of weekly dialysis as a target but, we can’t or won’t find him.

The last I heard, there were over 300 million people in the United States. How may a global “force” of 100,000 so poorly equipped pose any credible threat to our nation? It’s simple.  They don’t. But, what W and the Republicans want you to fear is that they do. Why? To rule the government, suppress dissent and enact an agenda completely against the self-interest of the average American. 

According to The Cato Institute, the number of US citizens killed by international terrorists since 1960 (when we started counting) is about the same as the number of Americans killed over the same period by lightning, accident-causing deer, or severe peanut allergies. I now declare that there must be a global war against lightning strikes! We must have Homeland Security arm us all with lightning rods, arrestors and all manner of safety equipment so as to deter any strikes against the unarmed citizenry of America! We must commit untold billions or even trillions of dollars and sacrifice our every civil liberty to defend us against this threat! Or, we could just come in out of the rain.

Oooops, we just did that on November 7, 2006.

(I still reserve the right to waste all Bambis and/or to get Jimmy Carter and the rest off the peanut farms when there is any future need for a straw man to allow me to keep my new power, as needed or desired by me.) 

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Category: American Culture, Military, Politics, Psychology Cognition, The Middle East

About the Author ()

imothy E. Hogan is a trial attorney, a husband, a father of two awesome children and a practicing Roman Catholic in St. Louis, Missouri. Mr. Hogan has done legal and political work in Jefferson City, Missouri for partisan and non-partisan social change, environmental and consumer protection groups. Mr. Hogan has also worked for consumer advocate Ralph Nader in Washington, DC and the members of the trial bar in the State of New York. Mr. Hogan’s current interests involve remaining a full time solo practitioner pioneer on the frontiers of justice in America, a good husband and a good father to his awesome children.

Comments (9)

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  1. whatadope says:

    this is an article for bozos to believe. Modern tech allows the few to kill the many. 10 low yield cruise missiles launched on each coast to 20 american cities from smuggled/hijacked cargo containers will effectively end American civilization for quite some time.

  2. grumpypilgrim says:

    Indeed, terrorism is a political act, not a military one; thus, "fighting" terrorism with a massive military campaign, as the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld cabal has done, fundamentally misstates both the nature of the threat and the optimal response. This might help explain why their "shock and awe" response has been a disaster.

    We can also quickly see that the main justification Republicans have given for remaining to Iraq — namely, "we must fight the terrorists over there, so we don't fight them here in America" — is utter nonsense. It suggests that "the terrorists" will all hop onto transport ships, follow our aircraft carriers back to US shores, and invade our cities. Republicans have been using Cold War rhetoric to equate the terrorist threat to that of a Russian thermonuclear attack, when it is, in reality, not even close. They rely on terrorism — i.e., propaganda — as much as do "the terrorists."

    More posts about this topic can be found at the following links:
    http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=496 http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=470 http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=426 http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=367 http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=339

  3. Dan Klarmann says:

    Why worry about $600,000.00 apiece cruise missiles (these are the bargain variety, add a million for a nuke) when one guy with a pound of fertilizer can shut down air travel for a day?

    There is no way to secure the borders completely. Hammurabi and Lao Tzu and every savvy military thinker since them understood that penetrator technology always passes shield technology, at a much lower cost. The trick is to take certain reasonable precautions, and not to fear.

    Those Saudis on 9/11 did trillions of dollars worth of damage in the long run, due to predictable and hoped-for overreaction over here. They couldn't have dreamed of the more-than-matching grant of extra Americans that we have used up in Iraq, producing a better breeding ground for terrorists.

    If we simply spent the billions that we blow on political TV ads for foreign capital aid (reforestation, education, sanitation, etc), terrorists would lose most of the popular support for attacking us. But then, how would politicians publicize and profit from this? Fear sells.

  4. grumpypilgrim says:

    whatadope says: "this is an article for bozos to believe. Modern tech allows the few to kill the many. 10 low yield cruise missiles launched on each coast to 20 american cities from smuggled/hijacked cargo containers will effectively end American civilization for quite some time."

    To the contrary, American cities have been frequently destroyed by natural disasters — hurricanes, floods, tornados, etc. — yet American civilization is none the worse off. Indeed, such disasters often unite the nation, suggesting that "American civilization" might actually benefit in some ways from disasters. Similarly, the widespread destruction of cities across Britain, Europe and Japan in WWII did not end their civilizations, either. Nor did American carpet bombing of cities in North Vietnam. In fact, throughout human history, terror bombings have NEVER ended civilizations. Invasions have ended civilizations, but never bombings alone.

    Thus, the belief that a few terrorist bombs would "end American civilization" is just plain wrong. It is a Big Fat Lie that has been spread by neocons seeking to gain political power by deliberately spreading irrational fear across America. It is a lie that people like whatadope need to realize is a lie if we are ever going to confront the actual threats facing America and the world.

    I'll go one step farther. I mentioned the widespread destruction of cities in WWII, but I didn't mention that America (and the Soviet Union) played a large role in rebuilding those cities. Thus, one reason the civilizations in those countries did not end might have been that they had outside help.

    Now, consider the arrogant, swaggering jackass we have sitting in the White House: a man who has alienated America from virtually every ally it ever had on our planet. If a large number of American cities were to be destroyed by terrorist cruise missiles, exactly who would America turn to for help in saving its "civilization?"

    Bottom line: whatadope is flat wrong. We live in an interdependent world — one where bad leaders are a greater threat to American civilization that are a few terrorist bombs.

  5. hogiemo says:

    Hey! This bozo wants to know how 10 cruise missiles will hit 20 cities (last I heard they weren't MIRVed-which technology by the way we invented and the Soviets offered to ban but, we declined–until they did a better job of it!).

    Launches from smuggled/hijacked cargo containers? Gee, not with the great job of port security 'W' and the neocons are giving us! Really, I went out and walked down a cargo container, pretty standard sized and thought how a missile, launcher, launch crew and equipment could fit into such a space, not bloody likely pet! Of course, maybe there's a smaller version of cruise missile, equipment, launcher and crew available on the terrorist ebay, eh?

    It is the submission of the right to the irrational fear of an imagined future that has made them completely lacking in credibility and resulted in their rejection by voters. With little apology to my atheist friends, Thank God!

  6. grumpypilgrim says:

    hogiemo asks: "This bozo wants to know how 10 cruise missiles will hit 20 cities…."

    whatadope's original wording, which makes the mystery clear, reads: "10 low yield cruise missiles launched on *each coast* to 20 american cities" (emphasis added). Since America has two coasts, ten missiles launched on *each coast* equals twenty missiles and twenty cities.

    That aside, rightwing politicians did, indeed, nail their own political coffins shut with the irrational fear they imagined and spread. Fortunately, rightwing voters are much smarter than are rightwing politicians.

  7. hogiemo says:

    I stand properly, and promptly, corrected upon the numeric issue. My apologies to whatadope and any others. Thank you for your attention and concern.

  8. Cathy says:

    "After the rise in expectations after the growth and success of the Solidarity movement in Poland, due in large part to Pope John Paul II,…"

    Don't you realise? The Pope (any pope) is intrinsically of the same twisted mindset as the Bush Gang! Obviously you don't.

  9. Cathy says:

    Dan Klarmann says: FEAR SELLS and he is absolutely right about that! It sells particularly well in tyrannical religious cultures, like the USA for instance! And its doing brilliantly here (Ireland) too, now that our "Christian" government has given our country over to Corporate America. Its what us Good Christians do; we just like back while the "Liberators" invade (rape) us!!!

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