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Redefining Terrorism – Dangerous

Posted on Thursday, August 31, 2023
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by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
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3 Comments
terrorism definition in dictionary

Terrorism is a hard topic to discuss – because people differ on what it is, where it comes from, and how best to prevent it. The word gets overused, politically twisted. Not every deranged, incensed, or violent behavior is terrorism, nor – by the way – is speech. So, what is terrorism?

In one sense, you could say any bad act that puts another human in a state of terror, or extreme fear, must be terrorism. Or you could say that people who commit crimes for political reasons are terrorists. Fair enough – but there is more.

These definitions are only partly true, making them inadequate. Any act of violence traceable to anything in society that goes beyond greed and cruelty, creating damage, injury, or death, is extreme – but that does not make it terrorism.

When you start to use words like “terrorism” loosely, splashing all sorts of people with them – especially political opponents, calling half a country “enemies of the people,” going after parents in school board meetings, as this Administration continues to do, you misuse words.

For starters, you water down – change in dishonest ways – real legal meanings, suggesting law enforcement should follow politics into misapplication.  That, all by itself, is dangerous.

Then, if words like “terrorist” are used to smear and frighten people into silence, stop people from speaking up, resisting radical change, reigning in progressive school boards, medical boards, keeping government accountable you defy statute law and the Constitution.

Yet this is what is happening. Rather than seeing crimes as crimes, offensive statements as permitted talk, recognizing passions percolate in politics, people care about society and children, those who speak are increasingly called “terrorists.” In many cases, they are actually prosecuted.

This is utterly wrong. When government coercion is used to intimidate, place in fear, chill, worry, and silence those who speak against abuses by government locally, nationally, in person or with social media, public trust is abused.

To put a fine point on it: Free speech is not terrorism. Political speech is not terrorism. Even depraved crime based on mental health problems, resentment, or extreme anger is not terrorism. The latter are all prosecutable; the former – speech – is not a crime. Neither is terrorism.

Let me share what terrorism is. In November 1997, an oversight team flew to the Middle East, spent time in Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Greece. Briefed by HQ Fifth Fleet, on USS Nimitz, we surveyed damage at Khobar Towers, Dhahran, Saudi.  

At that base, where hundreds of US airmen and thousands of allies lived, we saw in revolting color what terrorism looks like, how foreign terrorist organizations, illicitly financed, ideologically obsessed, terror-driven can deliver sobering, horrifying outcomes.

The base was part of an effort in the 1990s to patrol Iraq’s no-fly zone, keeping the lid on explosive regional pressures. It was supported by Saudi Arabia, but tensions were high.

On the night of June 25, 1996, a sewage tanker truck – with 20,000 pounds of TNT – pulled into a parking lot beside building 131, with two cars. Those in the truck ducked into the cars, left.

The truck stood 80 feet from Building 131, an eight-story, eight-wide apartment building, housing the 58th Fighter Squadron, many asleep. Seconds suddenly counted. about the truck.

A staff sergeant, Alfred Guerrero, checking with sentries rooftop, saw the truck. He knew at once. The three wasted no time, triggered a “cascade” or “waterfall” evacuation, waking top floors which flowed down, many high ranking officers, aviators, all Americans.

Seconds ticked as they shouted, ran, got people to the other side of the building. They got halfway down when the massive bomb exploded, taking off the entire side of the building, sending concrete, glass, and everything else into the interior.

Miraculously, the hardened building did not collapse, allowing most to get out. Nineteen airmen died, hundreds seriously injured. The heroic Guerrero survived.

After that event, force protection around the world – and at home – changed. International terrorism, a threat on par with state-to-state violence, was real. The event was the deadliest since terrorists hit the Marine Corps barracks, Beirut, in 1983.

Standing before the open face of 131 in Dhahran – blood on interior walls of the lower floors – you saw the well-financed, systematic, organized, ideological, ruthless international terrorism.

Walking up damaged floors of the second building, soon razed with the first, one saw the devastation and heartless nature of organized, highly surveilled, planned, and executed terror.

More than 25 years have passed.  Once again, we think we have the luxury, as some did then, to reimagine terrorism, think no one will touch us weak, despite a live Taliban and global hate.

Instead, many in power think we can redefine terrorism as something other than the bulk – worldwide – of what it was then and still is – ruthless, international, overtly anti-American.

They think we have the luxury to play politics with the word, mis-define, redefine, refocus on stopping those who – they say – are “enemies of the people” because they do not agree with leftwing politics, or resist government overreach, or care about their children. Well, there is a word for that – and the word is “wrong.”

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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PaulE
PaulE
7 months ago

Very well written and thought-out article RBC. In saner and far more rational times, this would of course all be a given by most of society. Unfortunately, today we clearly live in neither with the term terrorism being one of the many words redefined by the left in this country to describe virtually anyone who does not conform to and fully support all the tenets of the Marxist ideology they preach and seek to impose on society as a whole. When the so-called POTUS, AG, FBI Director and others in positions of authority all routinely re-classify and state anyone that opposes the current ideals of Marxist ideological dogma we are all supposed to robotically accept without question, you know the ship has sailed and NOT in a good way.

This is all the sort of actions that are far too typical in most repressive and despotic regimes around the world. Something most Americans could never of conceived of being accepted here in the United States just a few years ago. That the American people have apparently chosen to largely accept, or at a bare minimum tolerate, this sort of behavior from their own government just demonstrates how far the country has fallen in so little time. Of course, both our allies and enemies abroad have watched all this happen in real-time, which explains why we see the re-alignment of alliances throughout the Middle East, South America and Southeast Asia over the last 2 1/2 years to our detriment.

Yes, redefining terrorism in the way the left in this country has done so is indeed “wrong”. However, the larger question is what, if anything, are the American people prepared to do about it as it is merely a symptom of a much larger festering problem? Time is of course NOT infinite in which to enact positive change, as each passing day simply emboldens the left to push for even more repressive actions.

SusanW
SusanW
7 months ago

Thank you, Robert, for making an effort to enlighten us all to the true meaning of the word “terrorism”. For those of us who have spent a considerable amount of our lives abroad, “terrorism” is not a word you confuse with others. Many of us have experienced it in real time. In our country today, it appears that few are truly paying attention to all the “mudslinging and name calling” that is going on. Disagreeing over a school board decision or even political disagreements, is not “terrorism”. It’s more of pushing the limits of the freedom of speech amendment or simply the result of exhaustion over what is happening or not happening on both sides of the aisle. We have had both domestic and international terrorism in our country. The bombings in Oklahoma in April, 1995, was an example of domestic terrorism, and, of course, the 9/11 attack on September 11, 2001.Both, unforgettable! I don’t know what it’s going to take to make things “right”, but I won’t give up trying.

Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
7 months ago

Truth and respect, and respect for the truth, are at the foundation of this important issue. Very good article Robert, providing an understanding of the proper definition of terrorism. I am thinking of a comparison, an analogy with a driver who would intentionally run a red light and someone who misjudged the speed , time , distance consideration in approaching a traffic light about to change. Possibly a distraction like unexpected sun glare could have some bearing on a driver going through a traffic light, or some manner of mechanical trouble, like some object that interferes with the braking system. So, the crime involved would pertain to the driver who intentionally ran the red light. And the description of what that act was all about would be important to distinguish it from a truly accidental situation with the same circumstances .Your statement at the end of the article makes it very clear about the redefining, the mis-defining of terrorism by calling people enemies of the people because of a disagreement with left wing politics — how that is wrong . Well, that is the right way , the truthful way to think about it. A respect for the truth should be in place instead of that wrong outlook you described. This article presents a clear way of thinking about about the ethics of using language correctly — and truthfully. Well Done !
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