Lee’s note: Here’s a great and timely guest column from Peter Burlingame, AKA VIGunfighter, president of the Self Defense Initiative on St. Thomas. Peter’s work is highly recommended. You can access his You Tube Channel here.
THIS IS WAR! (And like it or not, you’re a combatant)
September 11, 2001 was a day of profound change for the United States. In the immediate aftermath of the event, we did something unusual. We declared war on a thing, rather than a country. The attack was planned in Afghanistan, financed in Saudi Arabia, trained for in several countries–including the U.S of A. The 9/11 attack involved disparate regions of geography, but no government was directly involved. With no enemy country that we could declare war on, no government to focus our anger and need for retribution against, it was time to get creative.
And so, the Global War on Terror (GWOT) was launched. A war that is being prosecuted to this day, fifteen years later, unabated.
Seeing as we’ve declared war on ‘terror’, it might be a good idea to revisit just exactly what terror is. Terrorism is a strategy of using violence (and threats of future violence) against civilian populations so that these civilians will bring pressure to bear against their government to make changes in policy or accede to demands the terrorists make.
To reiterate, there are two components: attacks against civilians to instill terror in them, demands/changes that the terrorists want the targeted civilians to pressure their government to make or accede to.
An example is the infamous attack on the Israeli athletes in Munich Germany during the 1972 Summer Olympics. The terrorists kidnapped a number of the Israelis and were holding them hostage in exchange for the release of some Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.
Another, more general and successful example is Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress. The ANC waged a decades long campaign of terror including atrocities such as ‘necklacing’ (where a tire filled with fuel was put around a person’s neck and lit on fire). Eventually, with the aid of international pressure, the ANC won the conflict, coming to power and making sweeping changes to South Africa.
After a century of struggle, of the tactical use of terror, the IRA finally got Britain to negotiate with them.
FARC, Shining Path, Baader-Minhoff, Red Brigade, these are just some of the groups that espoused the strategy of terror to further their aims.
And then some planes flew into some towers…
If you hadn’t learned the name “Al Qaeda” in 1993, it was certainly burned into your consciousness in the days and months after the September 11th attack. This group, Al Qaeda, masterminded by Osama bin Laden, claimed responsibility for this horrific action against innocent civilians.
And that gives us half of the ‘terrorism’ equation, an attack against civilian targets.
But what about the other half; to have the civilians bring pressure against the government?
If anything, AQ’s actions rallied Americans to the flag, giving Congress and the President carte-blanche to prosecute a war against them.
What was AQ’s motivation? Bin Laden wanted the West out of the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia, home of Islam’s holiest sites. Israel is a thorn in the side of some Arab states. A small country surrounded by enemies whose existence is largely dependent on aid from the U.S. But how often do you hear the Jihadists make these or any other demands? “Pull out of the Middle East or we will make you bleed?” “Stop supporting Israel or we will attack you in your homes!” They are not saying that the infidel must change. They are saying the infidel must die.
A bit more than a decade into the GWOT, another actor springs up. ISIS, ISIL, or if you can’t make up your mind, just IS. They are all abbreviations for the self proclaimed Islamic State who’s goal is a unifying caliphate of Islam.
In between and along the way, we’ve also learned about Bokko Harram and Jemaah Islamiah, other, regional, Islamic based groups that we lump together under the heading “terrorists”.
While the September 11th attack was the costliest that we’ve experienced in the U.S., it wasn’t an isolated incident. I’m writing this days after a weekend that saw three separate, disparate, attacks across the country. These were just the latest in a long, if unsteady line of assaults. A night club in Florida, a recruiting station in Kentucky, a Christmas Party in California, a marathon in Boston, with a sprinkling of smaller, less successful lone wolf shootings and stabbings across the country.
Each and every one of these incidents have been labeled ‘terrorism.”
And I mindlessly agreed. Right up until this past weekend when Mayor DeBlasio’s denial of a ‘terrorist connection’ (which reminded me of the mayor in Jaws denying the evidence of a shark attack to save the tourist trade for his town) caught my attention and made me re-examine the big picture.
I went back to the definition of terrorism. The first part fit. Targeting civilian populations. But I got stuck on the second part. What was the point? What were these individuals trying to accomplish? What did they want the American People to pressure their government to do?
And I couldn’t come up with an answer.
No. They didn’t want us to do anything. They bombed us, shot us, stabbed us because they hate us.
They don’t want us to change.
They want us dead.
Calling this terrorism is our government’s effort to downplay the situation. Terrorism is a smaller scale, random thing compared to war. It’s like a car accident, not likely to happen to you. Terrorism happens to the other guy. As President Bush exhorted “go shopping.” This is no big deal. It won’t affect you.
Sorry George, but this is not terrorism.
While we are fighting a Global War on Terror, the Jihadists are fighting a Global War on Westerners. Make no mistake. AQ and ISIL are waging war against us. It’s not a conventional war, not by a long shot. It is fourth generation, totally asymmetrical warfare. The only kind they are in a position to prosecute. It is global in nature and being asymmetrical, there are no ‘front lines’. No ‘rear areas’ where you are safe from attack. Belgium, France, Germany, England, South East Asia, and the United States– this is a world war.
Instead of a trench line in a field, a firebase in the desert, or a foxhole in the jungle, the attacks come at the mall, on a city street, an office party, or a crowded festival. And as far as the Jihadists are concerned, you are an enemy combatant.
Is that the way you see yourself?
Peter Burlingame, PPS, is an active member of ILEETA and IALEFI, Peter explores the limits of protective practices. The biggest part of his life has been devoted to assisting others to become masters of their own safety and security. But then, it’s not like he has much of a choice in the matter.