Terror is a tactic -- an attempt to undermine the morale of a much stronger foe, whom the “terrorists” know they cannot defeat in traditional battle.
When we sent John Paul Jones to burn the shipping (and steal some silverware) in the English port of Whitehaven during the American Revolution, that was an attempt at terrorism -- engaging English non-combatants (who had little if any say in their King’s colonial wars) on the home front in an attempt to convince the British Parliament that this seemingly remote and distant war was not a good idea, when we knew darned well our fledgling Navy wouldn’t have stood a chance in a fleet action against the Royal Navy.
Making war on a tactic is just silly. Imagine the New York Yankees taking the field against the Baltimore Orioles, and announcing their opponent this night is not the Orioles themselves, but that instead they are waging a “battle against the bunt.” They could bring all seven of their defensive players well inside the base paths, and pretty successfully stop the bunt. Of course, the Orioles would circle the bases like merry-go-round ponies after hitting what would otherwise be easily-caught flies to the outfield. But darn it, the bunt would be defeated!
Imagine Franklin Roosevelt announcing on Dec. 8, 1941, that we were declaring war not on Japan, but on the evil tactic of the sneak attack via aircraft carrier.
Wising up, the Japanese could easily have agreed to scuttle all their aircraft carriers, and instead stationed battlewagons just off Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sydney and Seattle, shelling those cities to smithereens.
Imagine Roosevelt, Marshall and McArthur responding, “Well, that’s OK then. We have no objection to the shelling of our major west coast cities, so long as it’s done by conventional battleships and not those darned, sneaky aircraft carriers. This was a war against sneak attack by aircraft carriers, after all, and with Admiral Yamamoto’s gracious scuttling of the Japanese carrier fleet, we consider that we’ve brought our war to a successful conclusion, even though the Japanese still occupy all of East Asia as far south as Australia. The residents of our West Coast cities will just have to move further inland, that’s all.”
Terrorism is a tactic. It makes no sense to launch a war against a tactic, no matter how nasty, because it ignores the fact the enemy can simply choose another tactic. What tactic will we make war on next, the artillery barrage? The amphibious landing? Chess players resorting to the devilish fianchetto?
No one knows what the heck a “War on Terror” really means except the permanent institutionalization of the predictable paranoia of tyrants afraid their oppressed peasant classes will eventually wise up and shoot back. Making the absurd claim that we’re fighting a “war on terror” easily justifies anything that makes our rulers “feel safer,” starting with the random search and disarming of domestic airplane passengers, subway passengers, and down-on-their luck residents being expelled at gunpoint from their homes in sunken New Orleans by guardsmen who have brought home the skill and habit of disarming all civilians from their deployments to Bosnia and elsewhere, just as I’ve long predicted.
(Last week, I wrote on a Nevada woman who believes she was placed on the airport “watch list” because she was wearing an anti-Bush button as she passed through Oakland Airport security this August. On page 40 of his recent book “The Bush Betrayal,” James Bovard cites a May 2003 terrorist advisory in which the Homeland Security Department urged local law enforcement agencies to keep an eye on anyone who “expressed dislike of attitudes and decisions of the U.S. government.” It doesn’t get much clearer than that.)
The Russians have been invading and terrorizing Chechnya for 150 years. They’ve leveled whole cities. But the only “terrorists” are the Chechens when they fight back with the only means left to them? Would we have considered the Jewish irregulars in the Warsaw ghetto “terrorists”?
And why would a “war on terror” ever end? There will always be at least one loony left out there, anxious to blow something up. Right?
Why all this misdirection -- arresting peaceful anti-Bush picketers for standing in the wrong place (ie: close enough to be seen), tracking bank deposits and gold purchases supposedly to catch Arab money-launderers, when we all know the real beneficiary is the IRS? Is it all so we can avoid confronting the simple but Politically Incorrect act of naming our real enemy?
We’re at war with a considerable bunch of radical, fundamentalist Middle Eastern Islamic men, who unfortunately draw comfort and support from a much larger mass of mewling Muslims (even here in the West) who may not be actively taking up arms (though they do seem to be out to burn every automobile in France, these days), but who are willing to lend both moral and financial support to these indiscriminate murderers, whining, “Well, what do you expect when there is no justice for the Palestinian people who were kicked out of Jordan by the son-of-a-dog Jews after the regrettable events of September, 1970?” -- at war with a bunch of wild-eyed Middle Eastern Mohammedans who hope to expel any remainder of post-15th-century cultural progress from their homelands, the better to lead their people back to a vicious 14th century religious tyranny, complete with the stoning to death or beheading of rape victims, Christian missionaries, and any woman who goes out in public with her forearms exposed.
They’re nuts, but there are a lot of them. The answer is to leave them alone behind really big fences, allowing those who wish to live in freedom to immigrate (while concentrating on restoring our previous freedoms right here at home), so long as they embrace the separation of church and state, acknowledge they have no right to demand that our women dress up like bag ladies at the beach, etc.
Then we could and should have a sensible debate in Congress about how to locate and kill those who have attacked us, and whether this struggle properly fits any standard definition of a “war,” and how best to prosecute it.
For instance, the Constitution still allows the equipping of private warships under “letters of marque” to make war on selected foreign enemies -- just like John Paul Jones. Might not the retention of such mercenaries, giving them a “license to kill” those designated enemies and seize their stuff anywhere away from our shores, make more sense than undertaking, oh -- I don’t want to be TOO ridiculous here -- the task of rebuilding the entire infrastructure of the cobbled-together and decrepit state of Iraq, while taking fire from every disgruntled towelhead who can lay hands on a Kalashnikov and scrape up bus fare to Baghdad?