By 2011, according to the Oxford dictionary, “terrorism” in English generally meant:
“the unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.”
The key words here are unofficial and unauthorized. That means governments can use violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims, but others cannot. Not just Hamas and Hezbollah, but George Washington and Nelson Mandela too. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. This meaning comes to us from the British Empire.
Here is the incomplete list of unarmed people killed by those using violence in pursuit of political aims:
- 12,000,000 Congolese by Leopold II,
- 5,000,000+ Jews by Hitler,
- 1,000,000+ Cambodians by Pol Pot,
- 400,000 Darfuris by Omar al-Bashir,
- 200,000+ Filipinos by William McKinley,
- 129,000+ Japanese by Harry Truman (Hiroshima, Nagasaki),
- 115,000+ Iraqis by George W. Bush,
- 50,000+ Cambodians by Henry Kissinger,
- 40,000+ Chinese by Hirohito (Nanking),
- 22,700+ Germans by Winston Churchill (Dresden),
- 5,000+ Nigerians, etc, by Boko Haram,
- 3,200+ Kurds by Saddam Hussein (Halabja),
- 2,977 Americans by Osama bin Laden (9/11),
- 1,626 Gazans by Benjamin Netanyahu (Pillar of Defence, Protective Edge),
- 1,000+ by the Islamic State,
- 350+ Pakistanis by Barack Obama (drone war),
- 200+ Native Americans by John Mason (Mystic Massacre),
- 168 Americans by Timothy McVeigh,
- 108+ Native Americans by John Chivington (Sand Creek Massacre),
- 10 French by the Charlie Hebdo shooters,
- 4 Black Americans by Robert Edward Chambliss (16th Street Baptist Church bombing),
- 1 American by Eric Rudolph.
The English Wikipedia in 2015 applied the word “terrorist” only to these:
- Osama bin Laden,
- Boko Haram,
- Islamic State,
- Timothy McVeigh,
- The Charlie Hebdo shooters,
- Eric Rudolph.
Not because they were the most evil, hardly, but because they did not act in the interests of an established government.
In effect, “terrorist” is a term of state propaganda.
- 1940s: the British called Jews who violently opposed their rule of Palestine “terrorists”.
- 1970s: the Israelis called Arabs who violently opposed their rule of Palestine “terrorists”.
The idea of terrorism as a threat to the very being of Western civilization comes from Israel in the 1960s. It was pushed by the Jonathan Institute, founded by Benjamin Netanyahu. The idea was picked up in the US by President Reagan in the 1980s. Reagan mainly applied the term to leftists. The Soviet Union, after all, was still the main threat to US power.
In 1991 the Soviet Union falls. By 1996, Samuel Huntington pictures terrorism as mainly a Muslim thing, part of a “clash of civilizations”. US news and entertainment had been stereotyping Muslims and Arabs as potential terrorists since at least the 1980s.
After 2001 and 9/11, the US uses “terrorism” to excuse stuff like:
- CIA torture,
- indiscriminate slaughter by drones,
- the forever war in Iraq,
- spying on citizens without suspicion of wrongdoing,
- weakening the civil rights of Muslim American men,
- the murder of a Muslim American man by the president.
Like the word “savage”, which in the 1800s helped to make Westerners act more like savages, so too the word “terrorist” is helping to make them act more like terrorists.
– Abagond, 2015.
- Edward Said: Islam as News
- The three pillars of American white supremacy
- 21 ways the US violates human rights
- Samantha Power
- featured terrorists and their atrocities:
- featured non-terrorists and their atrocities:
- British Empire – by definition
- Hitler – The Holocaust
- United States of America
- Saddam Hussein
- Omar al-Bashir – Darfur, The genocide in southern Sudan
- Leopold II – An Open Letter to King Leopold II