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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Closet Terrorist?


           I am venturing into a topic that is fraught with confusion, misinformation, and a whole lot of misunderstanding, depending on how you view the topic. It has to do with terrorism in general and what is a terrorist in particular.

          For some time now I have been debating with myself whether I wanted to step into this mine field. What pushed me over the top has been the continual defining of a terrorist by our own government, specifically the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). For the past several years I have noticed that various groups are singled out as being potentially terroristic, at least from the point of view of the DHS.

           On the web site for International Terrorism and Security Research I found this description for terrorism that is intentionally ambiguous. “Terrorism is not new, and even though it has been used since the beginning of recorded history it can be relatively hard to define. Terrorism has been described variously as both a tactic and strategy; a crime and a holy duty; a justified reaction to oppression and an inexcusable abomination. Obviously, a lot depends on whose point of view is being represented. Terrorism has often been an effective tactic for the weaker side in a conflict.” .

          All this begs the question: What or who then is a terrorist?

          Well, if you go by the definition of terrorism as provided by the DHS, I would have to say that I clearly qualify as a terrorist. Admittedly, this is a shocking revelation to me. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

          Terrorism, according to DHS, is defined under the Homeland Security Act of 2002, as “any activity that involves an act dangerous to human life or potentially destructive of critical infrastructure or key resources; is a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State or other subdivision of the United States in which it occurs; and is intended to intimidate or coerce the civilian population or influence or affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping. See Section 2 (15), Homeland Security Act of 2002, P.L. 107−296, 116 Stat. 2135 (2002).”

          So here’s my beef: The definition of terrorism is just vague enough to place almost anything or anyone under its heading.

          Some of those identified loosely as potential terrorists are: American military or retired military members, especially those who have been in combat (law enforcement personnel also qualify); Americans who believe in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, particularly the 2nd Amendment – the right to bear arms; Americans who are subjectively classified as “right-wing,” or “far right-wing;” Americans who identify themselves as Christian – particularly Evangelicals; Americans who regard themselves philosophically and politically as being Conservative; Americans who believe in the sanctity of life and are opposed to abortion; Americans who see a danger in an overgrown and out of control federal government (this can also include state and local governments);

In studying this topic I read the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) report, entitled, “Hot Spots of Terrorism and Other Crimes in the United States, 1970-2008,” published in January of this year. The definition of terrorism used by the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), which is maintained by START, is: “the threatened or actual use of illegal force by non-state actors, in order to attain a political, economic, religious or social goal, through fear, coercion or intimidation.”

It is both fascinating and chilling to see what these researchers suggest in identifying those who might be potential terrorists. Mind you, this is not aimed at foreigners. This is targeting American citizens. The following is a sampling of a list of descriptions of potential terrorists taken from the report. They are, “fiercely nationalistic (as opposed to universal and international in orientation, such as a one world government, or the U.S. being under United Nations authority); suspicious of centralized federal authority; reverent of individual liberty; believe in conspiracy theories; a belief that one’s personal and/or national ‘way of life’ is under attack; a belief in the need to be prepared for an attack either by participating in paramilitary preparations and training or survivalism; impose strict religious tenets or laws on society (fundamentalists); insert religion into the political sphere; those who seek to politicize religion; supported political movements for autonomy; anti-abortion; anti-Catholic; and anti-nuclear.” You get the picture.

So by our own government’s definition of terrorism and terrorists, I would have to conclude conclusively that I am a terrorist. Gosh, and all this time I thought I was just a red-blooded American male who loves his country.

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