The ‘T’ Word

Terrorism n : the calculated use of violence (or threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature.

— WordNet ® 2.0, © Princeton University

I never thought I would one day be writing these ‘definition’ articles, seeing as I would definitely not be called a proficient linguist. Yet, there is one word that has been the mantra since 2001, but, as often as it is repeated, its meaning is lost on almost everybody in our world.

Yes, that word is terrorism.

The violence and bloodshed these past few years has made us, the bystanders, have a distorted view of war, jihad and struggle. We have come to view B-52 bombers as legitimate, but human bombers as grotesque. We consider a war waged by a country as correct, but self-defense by citizens of a near-nonexistent homeland as wrong. We deem attacks on military targets as terrorism, but stay silent at carpet-bombing of residential areas.

I always thought terrorism was, as the above meaning states, attacks engineered to hurt civilians to get a message across. On April 21, Italian Judge Clementina Forleo reiterated my view. According to Reuters, she ruled that what separates terrorism from legitimate struggle during a war or occupation is the target; if the military or state interests are in the crosshairs of the guerrilla fighters, it is not illegal, thereby not terrorism.

However, what seems to sound as an accurate judgment, the Judge’s decision is being termed “stomach turning” and “extremely wrong”. There is also a disciplinary investigation being initiated against her for alleged negligence.

So, now, anyone who even hints that those who the West has united to attack have a right to fight back are being scrutinized and not just by them, but Muslim governments as well. It is alright for a superpower to attack a country impoverished by war, drought, poverty, sanctions, over one man who has not even been tried by a court of law to judge his guilt. It does not constitute terrorism for that same superpower to go on and destroy another country racked by sanctions, illnesses and isolation, over dirty lies -” and I am sorry, but that is a fact -” and yet, gloat at how right it was. It is perfectly fine for a state to occupy another people’s land, throwing them into refugee camps, build a wall to separate themselves from the natives and position their army in what the others still have left of their country.

All the while, those who retaliate, targeting the occupying army, are termed terrorists. Is it really terrorism to fight for your right? To force the occupation forces out of your homeland? To go after a soldier who killed your father in front of you? To have your sights set upon the base or the supply line of troops to attack it under the cover of the night?

Pre-emptive strike has become an accepted reality, while self-defense is nothing but terrorism. Our civilized world has surpassed all boundaries of humanity, has it not? Let us all take pride in opposing people who we have fought, bombed, assassinated, displaced, starved, isolated, maimed, killed, tortured, jailed and still, have the world call them the terrorists.

And here I thought I was bad at linguistics.