The Barbarity of “Terrorism”
January 21, 2012
“It has generally been acknowledged to be madness to go to war for an idea, but if anything is more unsatisfactory, it is to go to war against a nightmare.” Lord
Salisbury quoted in Ideal Illusions, p.238.
“The notion of a ‘terrorist pathology’ offered both Washington and human rights leaders a potent brew of the diseased, the barbaric, the uncivilized, the not like us – those, in short, at war with human rights.” [p. 238]
And then read this description of what must have been a “terrorist” act: “it was an outrage, an obscenity. The severed hand on the metal door, the swamp of blood and mud across the road, the human brains inside a garage, the incinerated, skeletal remains of an Iraqi mother and her three small children in their still smoldering car…by my estimate more than 20 Iraqi civilians.”
But “As it happens, this is a description of the collateral damage caused by two missiles from an American jet….It is an example of the proportionality that makes ‘us’ different from ‘them’ because our intention was not to kill these civilians, even if, as a Palestinian journalist has remarked, ‘this is deliberate killing – killing deliberately by mistake.’ The killing is premeditated ‘in the literal sense that it is clearly foreseen and contemplated beforehand, with the repeated claim that those killed are the very minimum to be expected…’ This is the fine distinction that makes us different from them.” [p. 239]
Isn’t the logic here a bit Jesuitical? Isn’t it like the logic of “double effect” that some Catholics use to justify some abortions needed to save a mother’s life? “Our intention was to save the mother’s life and, inadvertently, we killed the baby. Oh, I am sorry. We aborted the fetus.” And isn’t there something about dropping bombs on human beings that seems different than blowing them up while standing next to them or even using the planes as bombs? Notice how we say we “bomb” human beings, not that we incinerate them. No, Jews were incinerated in concentration camps; but the Japanese in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Germans in Dresden, were not. Except that they were.
These are the fine distinctions we like to make so as to justify what we are doing to other human beings. And they are “fine,” but only if our actions have no effect on our souls, only if our rationalizations can, in fact, cleanse our souls. That this may not be possible is testified to by those who come back from war with what is today labeled PTSD, which is a jargon that also serves to disguise what it is we are doing to our souls. As Jefferson said about slavery, “I tremble for my country when I remember that God is just.”