The classic definition of “terrorism” is the use of violence against civilians to achieve a political goal. But the word ultimately has been transformed into a geopolitical insult. If “our” side is the target, it’s “terrorism,” even if it’s a case of local militants attacking an occupying military force. Yet, when “our” side is doing the killing, it is anything but “terrorism.”
This double standard reinforces the notion that “only Muslims” commit acts of “terrorism,” because the Western news media, by practice, rarely applies the t-word to non-Muslims (and then only to groups opposed to the United States). By contrast, it is both easy and expected to attach the word to Muslim groups held in disfavor by the U.S. and Israeli governments, i.e. Hamas and Hezbollah.
Because of this double standard, few are willing to admit that Militant Zionists employed terrorism as part of their campaign to establish Israel as a Jewish state in the 1940s. The terrorism included killings of British officials who were administering Palestine under an international mandate as well as Palestinians who were driven violently from their land so it could be claimed by Jewish settlers.Yet, when Lebanese militants responded to the U.S. shelling by driving a truck bomb into the U.S. Marine base at the Beirut airport, killing 241 American troops, that was widely deemed “terrorism” in the American news media, even though the victims weren’t civilians. They were military troops belonging to a country that had become a participant in a civil war.
The American press corps have developed such an engrained sense of this double standard that unrestrained moral outrage would pour forth when acts of “terrorism” were committed by U.S. enemies, but a studied silence or a nuanced concern would follow similar crimes by the United States or its allies.
Basically, when President George W. Bush and his corrupt administration carried out the brutal invasion of Iraq, there was no need to suggest that the destruction was an act of terror that ultimately lead to the deaths of countless hundreds of thousands of Iraqis— despite the fact that it was specifically designed to intimidate the Iraqis through acts of violence.
Many Muslims and others around the world denounced Bush’s Iraq invasion as “state terrorism,” but such a charge was considered far outside the mainstream debate in the United States. Instead, Iraqi insurgents were labeled “terrorists” when they attacked U.S. troops inside Iraq, a pattern that still continues today.
The radicalization of the Christian Right is a serious threat to world peace.
Just like the Norway slaughter, many examples of domestic terrorism in the United States have emanated from the Right’s hostility toward multiculturalism and other policies of the modern American state.
Such cases of domestic terrorism have included the gunning down of presumed liberals at a Unitarian Church in Kentucky; violent attacks on gynecologists who perform abortions; the killing of a guard at Washington’s Holocaust Museum; and the shooting of a Democratic congresswoman and her constituents in Arizona.
From Breivik’s manifesto urging European Christians to rise up against Muslim immigrants and liberal politicians who tolerate multiculturalism, it is also clear that the Nordic/Christian mass murderer was inspired by anti-Muslim rhetoric that pervades the American Right. That bigotry has surfaced in ugly campaigns to prevent mosques from being built across the country or even an Islamic community center that was deemed to be too close to 9/11’s Ground Zero.
“We tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al-Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims.” –Feisal Abdul Rauf
When Rauf made that statement in Australia, both the United States and Great Britain had invaded and occupied Iraq, with a death toll spiraling from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands with some estimates of war-related deaths in Iraq now exceeding one million.
Far from “defending bin Laden violence,” Rauf’s comments simply reflected the truth about the indiscriminate killing inflicted on the Muslim world by U.S.-British interventions over the decades. British imperialism in the region dates back several centuries, a point that Emerson also ignored.
Anti-Muslim propaganda has infected the ability of the U.S. political system to deal fairly with Middle Eastern issues.
But we live in an unjust world with propagandists who have managed to associate the crime of “terrorism” almost exclusively with Muslims, when the ugly reality is that the blood of innocents covers the hands of adherents to many other faiths (and political movements) as well.
It is that sort of anti-Muslim bigotry which feeds the Christian Right terrorism of an Anders Behring Breivik.
Robert Parry contributed to this article.