That spells terrorist, or tɛɹəɹɪst if you want to know its correct English pronunciation. The word is on the lips of everyone in presidential office, in each government, on police forces and in military all over the globe. It is used by democracies, dictatorships, military juntas, and autocracies the like. Anyone my age may remember that such was not the case for thirty or forty years ago. What happened?
Let’s go back to the definition, albeit even the definition has been adjusted to a moving target nowadays. Here it is (according to Wictionary):
terrorist (plural terrorists)
- A person, group, or organization that uses violent action, or the threat of violent action, to further political goals. quotations ▼
- An agent or partisan of the revolutionary tribunal during the Reign of Terror in France.
It seems fair to start by ignoring the good folks of France during the late 1700s as they share the word in name only.
The number one of the list above is our target for today.
‘Terrorist: A person, group, or organization that uses violent action, or the threat of violent action, to further political goals’
Thirty years ago, terrorists came in groups and committed what most of the world would pronounce to be criminal acts using excessive force or violence against non-military targets. A single person committing heinous criminal acts was not a terrorist but a criminal. Without exception, the terrorists of that era were representing a political goal or trying to force politicians to certain actions or views. In this context, the Irish IRA can be named, as can de Palestinian PLO. The American KKK would more than qualify as a domestic terrorist organization today, but am doubtful if it did back in its heyday if you can call it that.
USA’s War on terror
This War was announced by George W Bush after the 9/11 attacks in New York in 2001. The culprits were quickly specified as Islamic extremists from the Al Qaeda terrorist organization. This war against terrorism led to the USA and its allies invading Iraq and Afghanistan, and subsequent wars stretching some twenty years, leaving the regions in chaos. The number of civil casualties from these wars by far exceeded the victim count of the 9/11 attacks in the USA. Were these collateral damage or did these define the USA as terrorists in these actions? We’ll never know because according to GW Bush, you were either with them or against them. Whilst there were protests, Europe decided to help the US both in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- 9/11: ~3.000
- Iraq and Afghanistan wars: 500.000+, of which ~10.000 US military
Terrorist or terrorist…
Meanwhile, those not in alliance with the War on terrorism picked up a trick or two from the free world and its leaders. This led to the replacement of the word revolutionary with terrorist. Any country with a non-democratic system, or those boasting the word democratic or the word people’s in their country’s official name, had been provided permission by the world to join the war on terrorism, albeit locally. Because terrorism is something we can all agree on that has to be stopped.
The same can be said on Nazism, that’s something nobody wants to be referred to officially. So this gave prez putin of russia the incentive to attack Ukraine. Their war on terrorism was adapted to a more understandable War on Nazism for the russian population, though the word War was carefully avoided by Special Military Action. Any military action abroad can be seen as an act of war, it being Special or not in any way makes no sense and does not make it less than a war. When the US invaded Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, it was war, nothing else and nobody tried to call it anything else. The Special Military Action is an invention to specifically mislead the russian people having only access to russian state controlled media.
It can be concluded that since 9/11 any government having to struggle with an opposition trying to radically change the ways of the country by means of opinion or by means of violence can be announced to be terrorists and handled that way. Actions against these so-called terrorist groups that de facto are political opponents are described as anti-terrorist actions and should therefor be acceptable in the international community. The argument has even been used by UN representatives within its General Assembly.
Whilst the word terrorist previously was reserved for organizations spreading terror by violence, it can today be used by any government to describe anything from the political opposition to armed criminal militia spreading fear and violence amongst the population. The latter can be described as a misusage of the terms terrorist and terrorism. This result is not what can be called progress.
Some states announced to have to battle terrorism in some form:
Some types of terrorism:
- political terrorism
- religious terrorism
- domestic terrorism
- ecological or environmental terrorism
Some terrorist organizations (not all are active to date):
- IRA (though nowadays seemingly solely a political organization)
- Al Qaeda
- Al Nusra Front
- Bader Meinhoff gruppe aka Rote Armee Fraktion
- Brigate Rosse
Paul, October 2022
Reader’s comment, 2022-11-19:
Using the expression ‘terrorism’ in various contexts (somewhat milder than war) contributes to word inflation, a tendency where the common meaning of a word apparently no longer suffices to deliver the message. At present there is this need to inflate one’s emotions about even trivial issues.
Mega, giga, super, hyper, entirely (fully, completely) fantastic as prefixes used to enlarge every excitement however slight.
Our teens ‘hate’ everything they don’t like.
The dominant adjective is “f***ing” which we can hear in every sentence once or twice. Every negative event mentioned by the MSM during a couple of days in a row blows up to a crisis.
Hyperboles no longer are exaggerations, they replaced the everyday language.
Today we say: “it took forever to…”, “I walked a million miles to get there”, “my feet are killing me”, “the seconds passed like geological eras”. Police actions became nazi methods, etc.
Oddly enough, a terrorist in the true sense of the word but applied by a single person is euphemistically relabeled as a confused man.