Sunday, July 1, 2007

Terrorism -- In the Eye of the Beholder

Pick up a newspaper in the United States and it's very obvious who the "terrorists" are. It's those radical Islamic zealots!

Pick up a newspaper in the Arab world and it's very obvious who the "terrorists" are. It's those soldiers, predominantly from the United States!

That's one of the key problems with the word, terrorist. It's always aimed at the folks on the other side of the equation. No nation looks at the terror they may be responsible for; it's always the "other guy" who gets slapped with that highly emotive label. Heck, the folks on your side are freedom fighters!

We're all so used to hearing or reading the word "terrorist" that we often forget that it's not a word that was used much before the latter half of the twentieth century. It's certainly NOT the kind of word you see used in terms of the American Revolution.

If it had been used during that time, our founding fathers are the ones it would have been used in reference to.

The British occupying forces had superior firepower and numbers in comparison with General Washington and his rag-tag army. The English had professional soldiers who had honed their teeth on wars in the European theater.

Faced with these kinds of obstacles, the new Americans knew they couldn't follow the standard military protocol of the day by lining up face-to-face with their adversaries. Too many battles like this would mean the end of the American dream of independence.

So, what did they do? They employed a new military strategy -- guerilla warfare. They'd take a few potshots from the woods, picking off a few of his majesties finest, and then disappear back from whence they came.

From what I've read, after awhile, this tactic terrorized the British army. They never knew when or where the next shot would come from. Consequently, if the word "terrorist was used back then, I'm sure the English press would slapped this label on the American Minutemen.

Another group who most assuredly would have called the Americans terrorists is the various native people who resided on the their/our lovely territory. There are numerous examples of the US Cavalry swooping into an Indian settlement and shooting anything that moved (e.g., Custer's slaughter of unarmed Indians on the Washita River).

Not only did the soldiers gun down woman and children, but they burned villages to the ground, slaughtered thousands of bison and destroyed crops. Like the current Islamic zealots, religion -- this time Christianity, not Islam -- was one of the driving forces behind this wanton desire to exterminate "infidels".

So, just remember, who the terrorists are is in the eye of the beholder.

4 comments:

  1. Interesting. Makes a lot of common sense, yet I'd never really thought of it that way.

    In a more abstract view, could that not be said of any form of propaganda? Categorize an element of opposition or ally with a weighted word in order to construct an emotional association that wasn't previously there?

    I'm sure you'd agree that another great example was the nationwide "terror alert level" right after 9/11. Is that thing even still up? And what are ordinary Americans supposed to do about it anyway? "Our terror alert level is orange! Terrorists are on their way! Be on the lookout for suspicious activities no matter where you are in America!" ...which then results in the circular conclusion "Suspicious/terrorist activity is increasing in America! Vote Republican! Vote yes to troops to Iraq! Increase security! Decrease civil rights!" etc. etc.

    Yeah, I wholeheartedly agree with the premise of your post.

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  2. "In a more abstract view, could that not be said of any form of propaganda? Categorize an element of opposition or ally with a weighted word in order to construct an emotional association that wasn't previously there?"

    Yes.

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  3. terrorism is the latest "ism", in a previous time the "ism" used to market fear to the common people was communism, just the word alone was the patriots call to arms and aggression. It's basic marketing, that people fall for again and again....

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  4. They employed a new military strategy -- guerilla warfare. They'd take a few potshots from the woods, picking off a few of his majesties finest, and then disappear back from whence they came.

    Not quite, this tactic was used by the militias and not the so much the Continental Army and is probably why George Washington won very few battles against the British.

    Not only did the soldiers gun down woman and children, but they burned villages to the ground, slaughtered thousands of bison and destroyed crops.

    You left out the elderly and the use of biological warfare (the giving of blankets taken from Small Pox victims as trade items).

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