Terrorism. It’s a word that strikes fear in our hearts. For most Americans, hearing it uttered produces those awful images of the Twin Towers engulfed in flames. Those who lived through that fateful day have these images ingrained in their brains. Yet freezing these images in our collective memory was not the only damage done to our psyches that day.
The attacks kicked off, or rather restarted, the American government’s thirst for blood. It was the perfect reason and the perfect time to send troops, guns and money all around the world in the name of peace and democracy. It was yet another moment for the U.S. to demonstrate to the world what could happen if you cross it. For the past 16 years, the world has learned its lesson. Meanwhile, many of us back home sit in fear, fooling ourselves into thinking some extremist is plotting to find us and ruthlessly kill us because we believe in freedom and liberty.
Does anyone really buy that? It might seem preposterous to think people could be convinced into fearing an enemy so unknown and so distant that we likely wouldn’t recognize it if it knocked on our front door to deliver a pizza. But if we think about the awesome power of the thought-shaping mass media, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that most people just accept this invisible enemy as the greatest threat to their security. By that virtue, they accept the government’s never-ending quest for war and destruction.
Fortunately, we have the internet. We don’t have to just sit quietly and take the oligarch-controlled media’s word for it. We can think freely and bring up the harsh contradictions we see every day so that the truth cannot be buried and forgotten. To change the dialogue around terrorism, we need to be ready to face some harsh facts. Some facts we might not really want to talk about because they call into question some of the things we’ve come to hold most dear. But it is our duty, and our responsibility, to avoid staying quiet. The next time you hear the word “terrorism,” consider the following:
There’s No Clear Definition of Terrorism
Based on what we see and hear in the news media, terrorists only come wearing turbans and screaming victory in the name of Allah. Well, the U.S. government knows the threat is much bigger than this, so it took to modifying the definition of a terrorist so that many more people could be considered terrorists—in other words, a threat to government power.
To get an idea as to how this has been put into practice, all we need to do is take one quick look at the famed PATRIOT Act—or the Official Police State Act as it should probably be called. According to Section 802 of this infamous piece of legislation, someone is deemed a “domestic terrorist” when they “do an act ‘dangerous to human life’ that is a violation of the criminal laws of a state or the United States, if the act appears to be intended to: (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.”
At face value, this might not seem like a huge deal, but when we look more deeply at the phrase ‘dangerous to human life,’ we can see just how ambiguous this terminology is. By rights, making toast in the morning or driving to work could be considered ‘dangerous to human life;’ all the government really needs to do is establish some sort of intent, and thanks to the Obama administration’s expansion of watchlist procedures, the government’s burden of proof is remarkably small.
So the “fact” to be taken out of this is that the government has set up the terms and conditions around terrorism so that virtually anyone can be deemed a terrorist, even you.
There Are a Ton of terrorists
As proof of this, one simply needs to look at the size of this “terrorist watchlist.” These numbers are hard to come by, but in 2007 the Inspector General of the Justice Department reported over 700,000 names on the list (find the numbers on p. 4 of the report) and said this number was growing by 20,000 per month.
If this has held constant over the past 9 years (and there is certainly reason to believe the pace of names being added to the list has increased), that means there are currently just under 3 million names on this list. One of the reasons the list might be growing is because of how easy it is to get on it. A simple Facebook post or a handful of questionable Google searches can be enough, making the use of a Virtual Private Network virtually essential for anyone looking to avoid headaches with the government. Also, the people that end up on this list are often starkly different from that typical image of a terrorist the media is so happy to push upon us.
What’s really terrifying about this, though, is what the government can do once you are on this list. For example, search and seizure rules essentially go out the window. The government can get one warrant from one district court where the alleged terrorism took place and use that to search and seize anything related to you or your organization. This means that if you are part of an activist group protesting the way the government prosecutes disadvantaged minorities (or any other policy, really) and your group gets on the list, the government can get a warrant in one of the cities where you operate and search the homes and offices of everyone involved in your organization in any city where it is located.
Getting on the list also means you can have your assets seized with virtually no probable cause. The whole thing is ripe with police state tactics, and admitting this truth hurts, as it asks us to throw away so much of what we have been told by the U.S. government.
The U.S. Government Is Supporting Terrorism
Perhaps one of the most shocking truths about terrorism no one wants to admit is that despite all the rhetoric around fighting terrorism is the U.S. government feeds it at many angles. The existence of an unknown, far-away enemy is strategically useful for the government’s attempts to control the population. It is much easier to keep people subdued when they fear someone could come and blow them up for doing nothing.
But this isn’t some preposterous conspiracy theory; this is what is actually happening. Adam Curtis’ brilliant 2015 documentary “Bitter Lake” highlights nicely how the terrorism we see today is very much the product of U.S.-Saudi partnerships that traded oil for security. Fearful of Wahhabism in their own country, the Saudis worked with the U.S. to export extremism to other parts of the region so that they didn’t have to deal with it and so that oil supplies would remain strong, of course.
Nowadays, things aren’t much different. In January of this year, Representative Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii made a “secret” trip to Syria, and she stated how the number one question asked by the Syrian people was, “Why does the U.S. government keep supporting the rebels? There are no ‘moderate’ rebels.” The U.S. government insists the support it offers is to fight extremism, and it is understandable why no one would want to support the Assad regime, but if the Syrian people see no difference amongst the rebels, what is the U.S. government seeing?
This type of confusion is reminiscent of what we saw on the ground during the U.S. invasion of Iraq, as outlined by the remarkable film “The Road to Fallujah.” People just didn’t understand the reasons behind all the death and destruction. It didn’t seem necessary to them, so why did it seem so to the U.S. government?
The Real Cost Comes from the Response
When we think of the cost of terrorist attacks, it is normal to think about the damage caused and the property lost as a result. While this is certainly a major factor, it is only a fraction of the “cost” of these events. For example, a 2011 article published in the New York Times indicated the 9/11 attacks cost, in total, around $3.3 trillion.
This shocking number made headlines and likely helped boost ratings for the 24-hour cable news infotainment industry, but a quick look into the numbers reveals only $177 billion of these losses came from the damage to the buildings and the subsequent economic slowdown. The other $3.3 trillion dollars has come from Homeland Security costs, war and ‘future war.’
Labeling these expenses as “costs” implies they were necessary, but when we consider the role the U.S. government plays in manufacturing and selling weapons to the world, perhaps the word “investment” fits better here. The U.S. war machine was set into full swing after 9/11, exactly how it was supposed to happen.
However, the real fact that comes out from all this no one wants to hear is that we are virtually powerless against this. Anyone willing to speak out against this nation’s obsession with war—or its blind respect for those individuals who carry it out without so much as asking why—is deemed blasphemous, un-American. But the most “American” thing anyone can do is to speak out against the government, to call attention to unchecked power and to resist tyranny in all its forms. So while it might seem like an uphill battle, talking about the things no one wants to hear is in many ways our duty, as it’s the only way we’ll ever get to the truth.
About the Author
Sandra is a blogger and freelance writer. She is passionate about the truth and is constantly frustrated by the injustices created by government efforts to block it and media malaise in uncovering it. Her work covers topics ranging from internet freedom to terrorism to civil liberties. Above all else, she is tired of hearing about terrorism and hopes the truth can help bring an end to what seems like an infinite war against nothing.