Was the Woolwich killing terrorism?

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Marshy
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Was the Woolwich killing terrorism?

Post by Marshy » Mon Jun 03, 2013 12:44 pm

This was a great article a week back, it is great because it exposes the double-standard we have when it comes to labelling people as terrorists.





Two men yesterday engaged in a horrific act of violence on the streets of London by using what appeared to be a meat cleaver to hack to death a British soldier. In the wake of claims that the assailants shouted "Allahu Akbar" during the killing, and a video showing one of the assailants citing Islam as well as a desire to avenge and stop continuous UK violence against Muslims, media outlets (including the Guardian) and British politicians instantly characterized the attack as "terrorism".

That this was a barbaric and horrendous act goes without saying, but given the legal, military, cultural and political significance of the term "terrorism", it is vital to ask: is that term really applicable to this act of violence? To begin with, in order for an act of violence to be "terrorism", many argue that it must deliberately target civilians. That's the most common means used by those who try to distinguish the violence engaged in by western nations from that used by the "terrorists": sure, we kill civilians sometimes, but we don't deliberately target them the way the "terrorists" do.

But here, just as was true for Nidal Hasan's attack on a Fort Hood military base, the victim of the violence was a soldier of a nation at war, not a civilian. He was stationed at an army barracks quite close to the attack. The killer made clear that he knew he had attacked a soldier when he said afterward: "this British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."

The US, the UK and its allies have repeatedly killed Muslim civilians over the past decade (and before that), but defenders of those governments insist that this cannot be "terrorism" because it is combatants, not civilians, who are the targets. Can it really be the case that when western nations continuously kill Muslim civilians, that's not "terrorism", but when Muslims kill western soldiers, that is terrorism? Amazingly, the US has even imprisoned people at Guantanamo and elsewhere on accusations of "terrorism" who are accused of nothing more than engaging in violence against US soldiers who invaded their country.

It's true that the soldier who was killed yesterday was out of uniform and not engaged in combat at the time he was attacked. But the same is true for the vast bulk of killings carried out by the US and its allies over the last decade, where people are killed in their homes, in their cars, at work, while asleep (in fact, the US has re-defined "militant" to mean "any military-aged male in a strike zone"). Indeed, at a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on drone killings, Gen. James Cartwright and Sen. Lindsey Graham both agreed that the US has the right to kill its enemies even while they are "asleep", that you don't "have to wake them up before you shoot them" and "make it a fair fight". Once you declare that the "entire globe is a battlefield" (which includes London) and that any "combatant" (defined as broadly as possible) is fair game to be killed - as the US has done - then how can the killing of a solider of a nation engaged in that war, horrific though it is, possibly be "terrorism"?

When I asked on Twitter this morning what specific attributes of this attack make it "terrorism" given that it was a soldier who was killed, the most frequent answer I received was that "terrorism" means any act of violence designed to achieve political change, or more specifically, to induce a civilian population to change their government or its policies of out fear of violence. Because, this line of reasoning went, one of the attackers here said that "the only reasons we killed this man is because Muslims are dying daily" and warned that "you people will never be safe. Remove your government", the intent of the violence was to induce political change, thus making it "terrorism".

That is at least a coherent definition. But doesn't that then encompass the vast majority of violent acts undertaken by the US and its allies over the last decade? What was the US/UK "shock and awe" attack on Baghdad if not a campaign to intimidate the population with a massive show of violence into submitting to the invading armies and ceasing their support for Saddam's regime? That was clearly its functional intent and even its stated intent. That definition would also immediately include the massive air bombings of German cities during World War II. It would include the Central American civilian-slaughtering militias supported, funded and armed by the Reagan administration throughout the 1980s, the Bangledeshi death squads trained and funded by the UK, and countless other groups supported by the west that used violence against civilians to achieve political ends.

The ongoing US drone attacks unquestionably have the effect, and one could reasonably argue the intent, of terrorizing the local populations so that they cease harboring or supporting those the west deems to be enemies. The brutal sanctions regime imposed by the west on Iraq and Iran, which kills large numbers of people, clearly has the intent of terrorizing the population into changing its governments' policies and even the government itself. How can one create a definition of "terrorism" that includes Wednesday's London attack on this British soldier without including many acts of violence undertaken by the US, the UK and its allies and partners? Can that be done?

I know this vital caveat will fall on deaf ears for some, but nothing about this discussion has anything to do with justifiability. An act can be vile, evil, and devoid of justification without being "terrorism": indeed, most of the worst atrocities of the 20th Century, from the Holocaust to the wanton slaughter of Stalin and Pol Pot and the massive destruction of human life in Vietnam, are not typically described as "terrorism". To question whether something qualifies as "terrorism" is not remotely to justify or even mitigate it. That should go without saying, though I know it doesn't.

The reason it's so crucial to ask this question is that there are few terms - if there are any - that pack the political, cultural and emotional punch that "terrorism" provides. When it comes to the actions of western governments, it is a conversation-stopper, justifying virtually anything those governments want to do. It's a term that is used to start wars, engage in sustained military action, send people to prison for decades or life, to target suspects for due-process-free execution, shield government actions behind a wall of secrecy, and instantly shape public perceptions around the world. It matters what the definition of the term is, or whether there is a consistent and coherent definition. It matters a great deal.

There is ample scholarship proving that the term has no such clear or consistently applied meaning (see the penultimate section here, and my interview with Remi Brulin here). It is very hard to escape the conclusion that, operationally, the term has no real definition at this point beyond "violence engaged in by Muslims in retaliation against western violence toward Muslims". When media reports yesterday began saying that "there are indications that this may be act of terror", it seems clear that what was really meant was: "there are indications that the perpetrators were Muslims driven by political grievances against the west" (earlier this month, an elderly British Muslim was stabbed to death in an apparent anti-Muslim hate crime and nobody called that "terrorism"). Put another way, the term at this point seems to have no function other than propagandistically and legally legitimizing the violence of western states against Muslims while delegitimizing any and all violence done in return to those states.

One last point: in the wake of the Boston Marathon attacks, I documented that the perpetrators of virtually every recent attempted and successful "terrorist" attack against the west cited as their motive the continuous violence by western states against Muslim civilians. It's certainly true that Islam plays an important role in making these individuals willing to fight and die for this perceived just cause (just as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and nationalism lead some people to be willing to fight and die for their cause). But the proximate cause of these attacks are plainly political grievances: namely, the belief that engaging in violence against aggressive western nations is the only way to deter and/or avenge western violence that kills Muslim civilians.

Add the London knife attack on this soldier to that growing list. One of the perpetrators said on camera that "the only reason we killed this man is because Muslims are dying daily" and "we apologize that women had to see this today, but in our lands our women have to see the same." As I've endlessly pointed out, highlighting this causation doesn't remotely justify the acts. But it should make it anything other than surprising. On Twitter last night, Michael Moore sardonically summarized western reaction to the London killing this way:

I am outraged that we can't kill people in other counties without them trying to kill us!"


Basic human nature simply does not allow you to cheer on your government as it carries out massive violence in multiple countries around the world and then have you be completely immune from having that violence returned.






Yes, this discussion might be controversial, but I think people on this forum are more open-minded than some at other boards, such as WARTB, where I was slaughtered, all because I said on a thread that was dedicated to a R who was killed in Afghanistan that may he "RIP", and may the government bring back the troops so that more of them don't die in needless wars.

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Post by 1 Bobby Hazell » Mon Jun 03, 2013 12:52 pm

Good man Marshy. You'll find a few of us on here who see things the same way as you. In fact I made a similar argument to the article re the definition of terrorism a while back in a thread in the IS forum.
"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality" - Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Post by Hunter S Thompson » Mon Jun 03, 2013 1:55 pm

Excellent article Marshy.
QPR shit but local

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Post by SheepRanger » Mon Jun 03, 2013 5:22 pm

I've said all along that the reasons for Iraq II were different to the propaganda. For all the ''threats'' against the western world that were supposed to exist, not one Muslim in a world of many millions, ever walked through Times Square with an AK47. In a country where guns are so common, that seemed very odd to me.

The anger seems to be building and that scenario might happen yet though.

I wonder what the USA would think about collections from British Muslims to fund that and the comparisons with IRA collections in Irish American Bars back in the day.

People arent getting fooled by Govt propaganda like thsy used to. Unfortunately, most Americans seem too thick to challenge what they're being fed.

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Post by Montag » Mon Jun 03, 2013 11:27 pm

I am surprised that the Mods have allowed this emotive subject to be aired on here. I suspect there are many of us who prefer not to verbalise how we feel about what happened. But are they terrorists or are they traitors? I'd say the latter.
"Go, muster men: My council is my shield ; We must be brief, when traitors brave the field."
Richard III, Act IV, W. Shakespeare

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Post by Sizzle dick » Tue Jun 04, 2013 7:57 am

:( Stop trying to find excuses for these evil scum who are home grown terrorists traitors and no lovers of our liberal way of living in the west.
Christians all over the Muslim world are facing persecution and even death
At the hands of fanatics of the Muslim faith. Should we take up arms
against Muslims who live amongst us because our fellow Christians brothers
and sisters are being slaughtered somewhere else in the world ? No and that's because we don't have Christian leaders telling us to kill kill kill the
non believers or infidel pigs like the mad imams have been allowed to get
away with for years.
Our liberal laws have let us down with these hate preachers and now the whole population will have to suffer stricture laws and more big brother intrusion into our every day lifes.
We kept turning a blind eye to what was going on and now we have seen
at first hand the result of our stupidity or our tolerance.
You know and I know these nutters won't just give up and go away, we will
have this problem untill we get these barstards off our streets.
4.000 + of these fanatics living amongst us and that's only the tip of the
iceberg.
We have a big big problem here in Europe and we have allowed it to go unchecked for years. :(

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Post by Jamie » Tue Jun 04, 2013 8:58 am

Obviously, you didn't read that article as it was too wordy and have gotten your information from a sufficiently dumbed down source such as the Sun or that Tommy Robinson EDL prick.

It was just two nutters.
No one is making excuses, but a lot of people appear to be assigning a threat when there isn't one.
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Post by Dunc » Tue Jun 04, 2013 9:11 am

Good article.
'Live every week like it is shark week'

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Post by Marshy » Tue Jun 04, 2013 9:35 am

I always thought we were a club with intelligent fans who were wise and not brainwashed by the politicians and media, but when I saw some of the responses I got on WATRB, I thought I might have been wrong. It however makes me happy to see, reading the comments from Hazel, Hunter, Sheep, Jamie and Dunc, that my initial feeling was right, and that we indeed do seem to have a considerable number of fans who are able to think for themselves, and see the trees from the forest.

Ultimately, it is people like these who will be able to make a difference to the world, and lead us away from perpetual warfare, fear-mongering, and inequality.

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Post by DannyBlue » Tue Jun 04, 2013 9:35 am

It's a good article. And worth pasting, because if you just put the link nobody reads it, not least because it has the word 'guardian' in it

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Post by UxbridgeR » Tue Jun 04, 2013 9:39 am

Jamie wrote:Obviously, you didn't read that article as it was too wordy and have gotten your information from a sufficiently dumbed down source such as the Sun or that Tommy Robinson EDL prick.
He has changed his tune these days. I liked him better during his Glad to Be Gay period.

Then again, "2-4-6-8, Preachers of Hate" has got a nice ring to it
Are headphones getting bigger, or are idiots getting smaller ?

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Post by Sizzle dick » Tue Jun 04, 2013 10:07 am

:) Jamie let's get a couple of things clear here mate. I'm no sun reader an
I'm no EDL supporter. I think you need to wake up mate if you think it was
only two nutters. There are a lot of fanatics walking about with the same hatred towards us.
We have been lucky so far with our spooks being one step ahead but this
won't always be the case and we will see innocent people killed again on our
Streets.
Can't always bury our heads and hope it will go away. :wink:

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Post by Dunc » Tue Jun 04, 2013 10:19 am

It does beg the question: if this is such an easy thing to do, and there are so many of these ‘nutters’ in the country, all goosed-up on religious fanaticism, then why doesn’t this happen every day? It doesn’t take much planning to go buy a knife and then start stabbing people with it – I doubt many plots like this are being foiled, as it doesn’t require a plot at all, just a spontaneous action.

Likewise with the point about America where it is so easy to obtain a firearm, why aren’t the fanatics shooting people dead every minute? Is it possible that there aren’t actually as many scary people out there as some sources would have you believe?
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Post by Lee Gib » Tue Jun 04, 2013 10:24 am

Marshy wrote:I always thought we were a club with intelligent fans who were wise and not brainwashed by the politicians and media, but when I saw some of the responses I got on WATRB, I thought I might have been wrong. It however makes me happy to see, reading the comments from Hazel, Hunter, Sheep, Jamie and Dunc, that my initial feeling was right, and that we indeed do seem to have a considerable number of fans who are able to think for themselves, and see the trees from the forest.

Ultimately, it is people like these who will be able to make a difference to the world, and lead us away from perpetual warfare, fear-mongering, and inequality.
I can only speak for myself, but it's this sort of condescending shite that makes me despair about Guardian readers. Do you really think that only you and people that think like you are intelligent enough to see through the fog and lead the world into enlightenment? That is a very high horse you've placed yourself upon.

As for the article, what was the point exactly? I don't necessarily disagree with the point about terrorism, although I'd have to argue that by such a definition the IRA were not then terrorists. But when I read that article I couldn't help but notice a veiled attempt to give some sort of justification to the assailant and the horrible murder they're supposed to be reporting on.

Guardian and Daily Mail readers have one thing in common, they all have some issues grasping reality. One is just better at masking it than the other.

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Post by Dunc » Tue Jun 04, 2013 10:39 am

Lee Gib wrote:
Marshy wrote:I always thought we were a club with intelligent fans who were wise and not brainwashed by the politicians and media, but when I saw some of the responses I got on WATRB, I thought I might have been wrong. It however makes me happy to see, reading the comments from Hazel, Hunter, Sheep, Jamie and Dunc, that my initial feeling was right, and that we indeed do seem to have a considerable number of fans who are able to think for themselves, and see the trees from the forest.

Ultimately, it is people like these who will be able to make a difference to the world, and lead us away from perpetual warfare, fear-mongering, and inequality.
I can only speak for myself, but it's this sort of condescending shite that makes me despair about Guardian readers. Do you really think that only you and people that think like you are intelligent enough to see through the fog and lead the world into enlightenment? That is a very high horse you've placed yourself upon.

As for the article, what was the point exactly? I don't necessarily disagree with the point about terrorism, although I'd have to argue that by such a definition the IRA were not then terrorists. But when I read that article I couldn't help but notice a veiled attempt to give some sort of justification to the assailant and the horrible murder they're supposed to be reporting on.

Guardian and Daily Mail readers have one thing in common, they all have some issues grasping reality. One is just better at masking it than the other.
That was the point.
'Live every week like it is shark week'

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