1. Instil fear in the populace
2. Justify large military budgets
3. Excuse extra-judicial assassinations
4. Deflect attention from one's actions to another's.
Following 9/11, the US and its “coalition of the willing” entered into a “war on terror”. The so-called “war on terror” conveniently served all of its uses.
As a means to instil fear, those who bandied about the terms terrorist and terrorism seldom took the time to make clear what the terms meant.
Is it terrorism if an enemy attacks a military organization, or does it apply only to attacks on civilians?
When the American military attacked the Iraq military, would that fit any definition of terrorism? Or would it apply only to the attacks on civilians?
Calling on the same logic, can the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon (military) be on a par with the attacks on the World Trade Center (civilian)?
When these places are attacked, are the only terrorists non-governmental, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza or suicide bombers in the West Bank?
A woman whose son was killed said: "Israel took my home in Jaffa, now they come and kill us here, and they say WE are the terrorists."
During the Algerian war of the 1950s, the Arab nationalist guerrilla insurgency won the title of "anti-colonial freedom fighters" while the French government, military and settlers were branded "torturers" and "terrorists".
Do acts of terrorism apply only during peacetime? Or are they applicable during wartime? The activities in both Iraq and Afghanistan have both been referred to as wars.
Does it matter if an act called "terrorism" is done for a good cause? Does it matter if those performing the acts have been oppressed or prevented from enjoying their fundamental human rights?
Ironically, who are the “terrorists” and who are “freedom fighters” have yet to be determined in the US war on terror.
It's important to consider these questions very carefully before labelling anyone or members of any group, simply by virtue of their membership, as terrorists.
What some governments, particularly the United States and Israel, call terrorists, others have called resistance movements. Their members have also been called "freedom fighters".
According to Wikipedia, "a resistance movement is a group or collection of individual groups, dedicated to fighting an invader in an occupied country..."
During the Cold War the term freedom fighter was used by the United States and other Western bloc countries to describe rebels in countries controlled by communist states or otherwise under the influence of the Soviet Union.
Rebels against the Soviet Union were never called terrorists. Clearly, the distinction between terrorist and freedom fighter is nothing more than political labelling.
According to John Farmer, writing for the New York Times this week, "several federal officials warned that “home-grown terrorists” represent the nation’s greatest emerging threat".
Robert Mueller, FBI chief, has said that Al-Qaeda “has looked to recruit Americans or Westerners who are able to remain undetected by heightened security measures”.
This has led Janet Napolitano, the secretary of Homeland Security, to conclude that “homeland security begins with hometown security”. And hometown security begins with locally-based observations of “suspicious” activity.
Can "home-grown terrorists" be "freedom fighters" as well? Welcome to Nineteen Eighty-Four. Big brother is watching you.
By Paul J. Balles
Paul J. Balles argues that the United States’ ill-defined “war on terror” poses a real and present danger to US civil liberties, as evidenced by US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s exhortation that “homeland security begins with hometown security” and hometown security begins with locally-based observations of “suspicious” activity.
Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years. For more information, see http://www.pballes.com.