Friday, December 16, 2011

Is It Terrorism?

Recently I was looking up some of the details of the 1916 explosion at Black Tom, New Jersey. The explosion occurred on July 30, 1916 at a warehouse/rail yard/shipping depot where ammunition was stored before being shipped. It was suspected that it was the work of German saboteurs, but it was never proven who did it, although the German government did pay reparations from a civil lawsuit over the incident.

The thing that struck me while looking at various accounts of this is that there is now a plaque at the site that reads:

"Explosion at Liberty! On July 30, 1916 the Black Tom munitions depot exploded rocking New York Harbor and sending residents tumbling from their beds. The noise of the explosion was heard as far away as Maryland and Connecticut. On Ellis Island, terrified immigrants were evacuated by ferry to the Battery. Shrapnel pierced the Statue of Liberty (the arm of the Statue was closed to visitors after this). Property damage was estimated at $20 million. It is not known how many died. Why the explosion? Was it an accident or planned? According to historians, the Germans sabotaged the Lehigh Valley munitions depot in order to stop deliveries being made to the British who had blockaded the Germans in Europe. You are walking on a site which saw one of the worst acts of terrorism in American history." (emphasis added)

According to the plaque itself it is not known:
(1) Who did it.
(2) Why they did it if it was in fact caused by a human agent.
(3) Whether anybody did it or if it was caused by some kind of self-ignition.

I am willing to believe that German agents probably were responsible, but if so, how is that terrorism? The British and Germans are engaged in a war, the British are blockading the Germans; the Germans blow up an ammunition depot in a supposedly - but not actually - neutral country to prevent their enemies from getting ammunition. What definition of terrorism would include an act such as this? Why is it that every act of violence against the US meets the definition of terrorism, but said definition never applies when we bomb countries that have not attacked or even threatened to attack us?

A friend of mine was in the Marine barracks in Lebanon when it was blown up and is always quick to correct anybody when they refer to it as a "terrorist bombing." He points out that it was a legitimate military target. The same could be said of the bombing of the USS Cole, sometimes referred to as a "terrorist bombing."

When we bomb another country, it "sends a signal," but when any country does anything to us, it's "terrorism."

The US is currently trying to extradite a guy from Canada by the name of  Faruq Khalil Muhammad ‘Isa. Mr. 'Isa is an Iraqi who had the audacity to attack military personnel of an invading army. The fact that they were US military personnel meant that his actions fit the elastic definition of "terrorism." It would be difficult to draw a distinction between Mr. 'Isa and the members of the French Resistance, who are considered heroes for fighting an invading army.

The US government has been making threats against Iran for several years because the Iranians are supposedly trying to build a nuclear weapon. The Iranians deny any such project as do the intelligence agencies of the US government, but it seems expedient to have a pretext for attacking them whenever we decide to. If our government attacks Iran for building or trying to build a bomb, how will this not be terrorism?

One of the lessons that could be learned regarding nuclear weapons is that if you want security from being attacked by the US, acquire a few nuclear weapons. We never seem to attack any country that actually has them.

Terrorism is a term that should be abandoned since it defies precise definition.

According to the FBI website:
 "There is no single, universally accepted, definition of terrorism. Terrorism is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85)." (emphasis added)

Does this mean that if the police or military act "unlawfully" in trying to disperse or control a demonstration that they are guilty of terrorism? If the police should act unlawfully - beyond the scope of their authority - in trying to disperse something like the Occupy Wherever movement or pro-life demonstrators, are they guilty of terrorism? What about the National Guardsmen at Kent State? 

If charges are ever brought in an incident like any of these it's probably going to be concluded after an "investigation" that officials acted "according to procedure."

The Senate passed a bill on Thursday (12-15-2011) allowing indefinite detention of people suspected of terrorism. Only 13 senators* voted against it. The other 86 should be voted out of office no matter how "good" they are on other questions. Traitors should not be rewarded.

* The 13 senators who voted against the bill were Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).

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