The Islamo-Fascists we now fight in this World War that began five years ago have emptied the category of the innocent. They claim butchery as their right, slaughter as their legacy. The deep moral and political significance of this change has been too often – and too consciously – ignored by those in the West pandering to Islamic blackmail. And this could have graver consequences because of the deep-rooted cowardice of response in the media and academe.
On this fifth anniversary of 9/11 it is important to note that too many in the Canadian media have once again begun to question the meaning of what terrorism is and by whose definition. This query would get sterling grades in any university’s political science department because it exhibits a total grasp of moral relativism, political equivalency and complete inability to reach a just conclusion. This is what passes for intellectual rigour today. Tarring the righteous with the same brush as the barbaric; compromising truth with the half-truths of apologists.
It reminds me of what one Canadian writer said about another’s book he had reviewed. The writer, said the reviewer, could think of “ no solutions” to the problems he had devoted his book to examining. Rather than asking why bother writing the book, the reviewer – in typically correct Canadian fashion – went on to compliment the author with the accolade that, “This is not a weakness but a credit for it is proof of his intellectual honesty.” If weakness be honesty then perhaps this nation needs rogues with courage.
Too many Canadian journalists seek the “neutral” path, and litter their articles with copious quotations to support their contention that it is impossible to define terrorism and that the word is pejorative at best. They are wrong and here’s why.
Terrorism cannot be smugly dismissed by the old canard that “One person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.” Terrorism is characterized by five singularly identifiable elements.
- Terrorism seeks the destruction of civilian populations as the rule not the exception.
- Terrorist activities are carried out by killers driven by psychotic and homicidal hatreds of peoples based not so much on any political grievance but more on revulsion toward their victims’ race, color or creed.
- Terrorists measure their success in sheer bloodlust and body parts ( particularly today’s Jihadist variety ) divorced from any agenda of freedom from oppression.
- In fact, as we see today, terrorism is employed not by movements of resistance and liberation, but by movements of tyranny and oppression.
- Terrorism is almost exclusively practiced by actors, state and non-state, for the purposes of aggression and acquisition not for the purposes self-defense and self-determination.
Any violent actions that meet these five criteria can, and must, be labeled terrorism with the utmost vigour and vehemence. Anything less would be nothing but submission to appeasement and cowardice resulting in the slow undoing of our most cherished liberties.
The present-day terror of Islamic fundamentalism is not the modernist version of the past politics of assassination. This is not about the killing of particular people thought to be guilty of particular acts. This terror is random murder and thuggery. A radical transformation of past practices of political violence characterized by unknown victims innocent of any act.
Let me relate a few examples. Not bedtime reading or fairy tales. But in this depraved world where, “…one must be a hero just to be a man…”, they have an almost perversely transformational comforting remembrance of times past.
*In the 1870’s, a group of Russian revolutionaries decided to kill a Czarist official, the head of a police agency, a man personally involved in the repression of radical activity. They planned to blow him up in his carriage, and on the appointed day one of their number was in place along his usual route. As the carriage drew near, the young revolutionary, a bomb hidden under his coat, noticed that the official was not alone. On his lap he held two small children. The revolutionary looked, hesitated, and decided not to throw his bomb. He would wait for another occasion. As Camus wrote in “The Just Assassins”, “Even in destruction, there is a right way and a wrong way—and there are limits.”
*During the years 1938-1939 the Irish Republican Army waged a bombing campaign in Britain. In the course of this campaign, a republican militant was ordered to carry a pre-set time bomb at a London power station. He traveled by bicycle, the bomb in his basket, took a wrong turn and got lost in the maze of the city. As the time for the explosion drew near, he panicked, dropped his bike and ran off. The bomb exploded killing five passers-by. No one in the IRA thought this was a victory for the cause and no one took credit. The campaign had been carefully planned to avoid the killing of innocent bystanders.
*In November 1944, Lord Moyne, British Minister of State in the Middle East, was assassinated in Cairo by two members of the Stern Gang. The two assassins were caught minutes later by an Egyptian policeman. One of them described the capture at his trial : “We were being followed by the constable on his motorcycle. My comrade was behind me. I saw the constable approach…I would have been able to kill the constable easily, but I contented myself with shooting several times into the air. I saw my comrade fall off his bicycle. The constable was upon him. Again I could have eliminated the constable with a single bullet, but I did not. Then I was caught.”
It is clear what is common in these cases. A line drawn between people who can and people who cannot be killed. The political equivalent of the line between combatants and non-combatants. The very word, terrorist, was inapplicable. A triumph, however minor, for some notional values of civilization.
From New York to New Delhi the obliteration of this line is the critical feature of contemporary terrorism. The Islamo-Fascists we now fight in this World War that began five years ago have emptied the category of the innocent. They claim butchery as their right, slaughter as their legacy. The deep moral and political significance of this change has been too often – and too consciously – ignored by those in the West pandering to Islamic blackmail. And this could have graver consequences because of the deep-rooted cowardice of response in the media and academe.
Trotsky once said that “The revolution has its code of honour.” Maybe it once had. Previous revolutionaries were not necessarily good or gentle people but they realized there were limits on violent action. Everything was not permissible for a very practical reason. The revolution should not be “ …loathed by the whole human race…”.
We must stop being confused, frightened, defensive, and merely weakly indignant. It is these new barbarians who have completely and consciously rejected the old codes. To be sure, those codes were nothing more than the most meagre and minimal standards of political decency. But reasserting minimal standards would, at this time in history, already be a great advance for civilization. The least we must do is to marshal our resolve to revive the courage to loathe. It is only the first step to victory, but victory there will be. That is the promise of our memory and witness to the victims of that horrible day five years ago and of all the victims that followed. So let us begin.