Thursday, April 14, 2005

On Terrorism

By: UnrepentantNewDealer

Eric Rudolph was sentenced yesterday to four consecutive life sentences. I can only regret that when he dies the first time, his remaining three life sentences will be commuted to time already served.

Though I vehemently oppose the death penalty, I despise how Rudolph got off with just life in prison. Yes, he made a plea bargain, but the evidence against him was pretty irrefutable. The only reason prosecutors did not go to trial with this is that the FBI knew how many pounds of explosives Rudolph had stolen and it was far, far more than the amount contained in his bombs. Rudolph told them that he had hidden the explosives all along the North Carolina border. He offered to tell them where the explosives were hidden... but for a price. You can guess what that was.

Thinking about the case of Eric Rudolph and the hate-filled manifesto he released railing against abortionists and homosexuals prompted a reflection on the nature of terrorism itself. In these post 9/11 days, "terrorists" are supposed to be A-rab "Islamofascists." Yet here we are confronted with a white native-born American who turned to terrorism. The divisions between foreign and domestic terrorism seem tenuously thin.

Islamic terrorists derive justification from a false view of their religion, as do Christian terrorists like Eric Rudolph, Timothy McVeigh, and Terry Nichols. Islamic suicide bombers often pack their bombs full of nails. When the bomb explodes these nails become thousands of tiny deadly projectiles travelling at the spead of a bullet. A person might survive a conventional bombing. It would be hard for a person in the vacinity of an exploding bomb filled with nails to avoid having any vital organs punctured by this shrapnel. It is an inhuman method of upping the body count and increasing the suffering of the victims. Eric Rudolph also packed the bombs he exploded at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, two abortion clinic, and a lesbian bar, full of nails.

It occurrs to me that terrorists everwhere, including both Islamic and Christian, have not just shared tactics, but shared ideologies, shared mentalities of hatred. The terrorist, no matter what cause he serves, divides humanity neatly into only two categories: comrades and targets. Anyone who does not join the forces of Good in a violent struggle against the forces of Evil is a target. Thus, there is no "collateral damage." There are no "innocent civilians" being killed, only individuals complicit in maintaining an injust system. The most extreme example of this can be found in the attack on the school in Beslan, Russia by Chechan terrorists last fall. The children were not innocents to the terrorists; by not actively joining the armed resistance, they made themselves targets. Thus, the Butchers of Beslan, like Pontius Pilate, claimed to have washed their hands clean of the matter.

This highlights the fundamental difference between war and terrorism. In war, opponents attack only military targets. Thus, regardless of justification, Pearl Harbor was an act of war, not terrorism. The same could be said of the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen in October 2000. On the other hand, the 9/11 attackers attacked civilian targets (the World Trade Centers). The Pentagon is not a military target due to the civilian control of the military. Most of the people killed at the Pentagon that day, and most of the people who work there, were office workers, not uniformed military personnel. Even if the Pentagon was a legitimate military target, hijacking a passenger airliner and killing the passengers in the execution of the attack, is a terrorist act, not an act of war.

So it seems we have a fairly straightforward definition of war (targeting the armed forces of a nation or group) and terrorism (targeting non-military personnel). This definition can lead to some disconcerting conclusions. For example, take the firebombing of Tokyo in March, 1945, killing over 100,000 Japanese civilians. Or the firebombing of Dresden, with at least 25,000 civilian casualities. Neither were really military targets. Tokyo had military forces, but far more civilians. Dresden was the cultural and artistic center of eastern Germany, a city swelled to overfilling with panicked refugees. The strategy of napalming these civilian targets was to wear down the resolve of the civilian population, just as it was in the atomic bombing of Nakasaki and Hiroshima. If that rationale sounds familiar, it was the same motive of the 9/11 hijackers and Eric Rudolph: to wear down the resolve of the civilian population to continue their government's "oppression." So, if we're truly being honest, let's ackowledge the state-sponsored terrorist attacks carried out by the United States in WWII. (Note that I'm not saying these terrorist attacks weren't necessary to win WWII--though I don't beleive they were; I'll save that for another post--simply that they were terrorist attacks by both intent and result.)

All this notwithstanding, Eric Rudolph had a grievance against the federal government. Instead of resorting to terrorism like a coward, he should have gone to Fort Bragg or some other military base to make his point mano-a-mano. Or more like mano-a-brigado. Ok, more like mano-a-3rd Infantry Divisiono. To be sure, the battle wouldn't have been a "fair" one. But Eric Rudolph would have gotten a "martyr's" death. And his victims would still be alive today. Eric Rudolph could have done that. But then, he wouldn't have been a terrorist, now would he?