Politics Of Terrorism
If there is one thing that defines the political order in the twenty-first century, it must be the global concern with terrorism. If we are to believe the political leaders of the non-rogue countries, terrorism is the most substantial threat facing global civilization. According to them, all the countries very conveniently fall into blocks consisting of good and evil countries. As Bush would say, you are either with us (good) or against us (evil).
This whole hullabaloo about terrorism is an instructive illustration of how a particular strand of thought, quite independently of reality, can assert itself and prevail in popular consciousness. I use the word hullabaloo, because I think that is what it is. However, let me clarify emphatically that terrorism is, indeed, a threat and must be dealt with effectively. The deviation from reality that I am lamenting is in the generally supposed extent and potency of that threat.
Many people and indeed governments had always despised the West in general, and the US in particular. That has been very common, but there is no evidence to suppose that they have acted on that hostility in any significant manner. All the acts of terrorism came from isolated groups of people who were sometimes helped by repressive governments. But it must be noted that they never had mass support, in the sense of actually helping them carry out acts of terrorism. It may be argued that there was mass approval, but it is improper to suggest that there was mass support. One would think that all the aggrieved parties (mostly the West) with their military might can easily deal with these groups and no sane person will have legitimate complaints about that.
But what we are seeing is completely different. There is a systematic attempt by the US to ascribe this threat of terrorism to what it deems as evil regimes. There is absolutely no evidence to support that view, except in the case of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
The popular consciousness is so concretely set in this way that it is rare to see rigorous analyses of how this particular situation came about or what its nature is. It has almost become an axiom to believe what is believed today. While that may very well be true, I am just arguing for more critical thinking. If contemporary terrorism is treated as in isolated event in the present, without any relation to the history of last few decades, then it will never be totally defeated.
What is troubling about today's world is the blind certainty that some people/countries are good and others are bad. But the truth is that throughout history, good was always what the powerful said it was. Right now, the United States says Iran is an evil regime and hence it is. For all practical purposes, that is the case. When Hamas bombs an Israeli shopping mall, we all call it terrorism. When Al-Qaeda attacks London subways we all call that terrorism. And they are.
But when the US invades Iraq and thousands of Iraqis die (30,000 according to this, more than 100,000 according to this) in the resultant mess, we simply think that it is an act of self-defense. When the CIA air-bombs a Pakistani village (to kill a terrorist), we think that it is just war on terrorism.
I am not saying that these acts of the US are equally reprehensible. They may be, they may not be. All I am saying is that the analysis can not end simply by a statement that because the US did, it is OK by definition. I am afraid that is how most people think about this issue.