What is Terrorism?
Terrorism is "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 US Code of Federal Regulations Section 0.85)
Who Perpetrates Terrorism?
Whilst the militant Islamic groups, including "Al Qaeda", have had the highest media profile in recent years, primarily due to their central role in the destruction of the World Trade Center, by the official definition above it is actually the government of the United States of America that perpetrates by far the most terrorist acts worldwide, inflicting the greatest number of casualties. As ex-State Department employee and author William Blum writes in Rogue State: "From 1945 to the end of the century, the United States attempted to overthrow more than 40 foreign governments, and to crush more than 30 populist-nationalist movements struggling against intolerable regimes. In the process, the US caused the end of life for several million people, and condemned many millions more to a life of agony and despair." The US has also been the only nation to persistently use weapons of mass destruction — nuclear weapons on Japan, agent orange in South Vietnam, 300 tons of depleted uranium in the first Gulf war (and then blocking the aid necessary to clean the country up) and then a similar quantity in the Iraqi war. (The US even threatened to use nuclear weapons in that invasion.)
US aggression is primarily targeted at Third World countries, especially those with rich natural reserves, and invariably reported in our Western media as liberating a country or people (destroying them), helping dictators fight rebels (stopping democracy), imposing sanctions (which kill millions — more than 5000 Iraqi children under 5 alone died every month as a direct result of the US's unlawful interpretation and implementation of UN sanctions), destroying weapons of mass destruction (which often don't exist or were supplied by the US in the first place) and destroying drug suppliers (used as a cover to invade a country and stop competition with the CIA). In fact, violence and the threat of violence is the standard reception given to any government that dares oppose American interests. (Democracy is promoted provided it doesn't conflict with the interests of the US.)
Other terrorist organisations include most other Western governments — United Kingdom, France, Australia etc. — the PLO, ETA, the IRA, the Tamil Tigers and various Eastern countries such as Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Cuba, North Korea, Indonesia, Russia, China and the Sudan to just name a few. In fact, it is hard to find a country that does not occasionally use intimidation and violence — terrorism — as a means to political or economic ends (although not to the level that the US does).
What Causes Terrorism?
The biggest cause of terrorism is the lack of political involvement here in the West. Every one of us is paying the price for not being eternally vigilant in both local and national government, swapping our political ideals for vacuous entertainment and rampant consumerism. We have rested on our democratic laurels, foolishly squandering the hard-earned democracy that generations of our forebears lived and died for. Sooner or later we are going to realize that running countries is NOT something that should be left to politicians!
In our absence, our governments have acted like hawks, stirring up political turmoil in other countries and murdering / humiliating their people with military and economic might, all to gain further financial or strategic advantage. Such terrorising foreign policy inevitably creates angry and reactionary populations in Third World countries suffering from the traumas of invasion, humiliation, poverty and destruction, and these populations naturally becoming ideal breeding grounds for further terrorism, especially when the only thing they have left to cling to is their religious fundamentalism.
It is also no coincidence that the greatest terrorist organisations, the United States and the United Kingdom, are also the two leaders in arms sales worldwide, supplying not only both sides of conflicts (very profitable indeed!) but also friendly dictators (like Saddam was) who use the military to ruthlessly suppress their own populations.
Who are the Victims of Terrorism?
We all are, but especially the billions in Third World countries. Countless wars and conflicts in other countries are sparked by Western interference both directly, indirectly (through sanctions, economic "reform" and the WTO). In the Third World, this terrorism has been the cause of millions of deaths over the last few decades. Until recently, our governments' activities and the geographical isolation of Western countries such as the United States have given impression that terrorism is something that insane radicals do in faraway countries.
Since Sept 11, however, terrorism has come home to America, and we are all starting to become acquainted with it as our governments start terrorising their own people in the name of "security". What happened on Sept 11th was deplorable and whoever was responsible should be brought to justice. But strong-arming your way to "justice" by invading two defenseless countries, Afghanistan and Iraq (the latter having absolutely NOTHING to do with 9/11), and murdering hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children only escalates terrorism. This is obvious to anyone with a modicum of intelligence, and assuming that the Western governments, especially the United States, are not imbeciles, implies that this sort of response to terrorism — throwing petrol on an open fire — has been deliberately pursued because it supports government agenda: it provides the opportunity to expand military control into oil regions and reduce the liberty of the Western electorate, the very individuals that have the power to throw out dangerous Western governments. (And it got Bush elected a second time because of the electrorate's fear at perceived outside threats, paradoxically ultimately caused by the West in the first place.)
How Can We Stop Terrorism?
As most terrorism is actually perpetrated by our own governments, giving them more draconian powers by reducing individual freedoms and rights (ironically often in the name of fighting terrorism) is single greatest factor that will ESCALATE terrorism. Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General, stated at a Security Council meeting on counter-terrorism in Jan 02 that: "I believe that in the long term we shall find that human rights, along with democracy and social justice, are one of the best prophylactics against terrorism." The best way to stop terrorism is to maintain open and accountable governments and free citizens. Most high profile terrorist organisations are actually an angry and somewhat rational response to the murderous foreign policies of Western and Western-backed governments.
The very last thing that many governments want is to rid the world of terrorism because that would mean that they no longer have an excuse or justification to increase federal power over their own people and pursue their imperial ambitions abroad. As Herman Goering said at the Nuremberg Trials: "The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."