Friday, July 29, 2005

Rebranding the "war on terror"

I've always despised the term "war on terror" that the Bush administration has used to justify their overseas military actions. Actually, it didn't start out as the war on terror, it started out as the war on terrorism, which was even worse. Terrorism isn't a thing, it's a method or an approach. Fighting terrorism is akin to fighting apathy or sarcasm; it's not something or someone you can actually fight. Can you imagine a global war on sarcasm? "We'll track down those sarcastic bastards, wherever they are." Really stupid. If you want to fight someone, identify an actual group or cause.

The concept of fighting "the terrorists" is equally inane. It makes one think that "the terrorists" are some kind of group or gang. Maybe a team wearing sweatshirts that say "Terrorists" on the back. Yessir, it's the big game, with your hometown team "The Patriots" versus the visiting "Terrorists." We'll whip them Terrorists, you bet we will.

The whole idea of fighting terrorists or terrorism is dangerously misleading (which is no doubt why the Bushies like it) because the term "terrorist" doesn't describe any single group. The IRA in Ireland contains terrorists; the Palestinians are viewed as terrorists by the Israelis; abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolph is a terrorist; and the folks who blow up lumber mills are eco-terrorists. (And let's not forget the fact that terrorism is in the eye of the beholder; one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.) Are we going after all these groups? Of course not. It's not terrorism that the Bushies are against, it's a particular ideology. Bush could care less about the IRA; he wants to stop Islamist fundamentalists.

Which is why, perhaps, the administration has quietly rebranded what it used to call the "global war on terror" to the less-catchy "struggle against violent extremism." While I'm a bit jaded as to why the Bushies changed the nomenclature, I would agree that it's slightly more descriptive than their previous language. Violent extremism is something you can actually get your hands around, more so than the vague concept of terror or terrorism.

Of course, the Bushies still need to take care about people taking them at their word. If the administration is sincere about fighting violent extremism, they're going to have to go after Dr. James Dobson and the whole Christian fundamentalist bunch, who are definitely extreme and close to becoming violent about it. Religious extremism isn't limited to Islam; fundamentalist whackos are present in virtually every religion, and equally dangerous to a free and just society.

But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.

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