Pundits and politicos incessantly invoke but seldom define “terrorism.” Like the phony “war on drugs,” the phony “war on terrorism” promotes economic interests and serves political agendas. Neither war reduces drug use or violence. Nor are they designed to.
“Terrorism” – past and present – pervades the US psyche and economy. “Terrorism” – the fear thereof – blunts our minds and shrinks our hearts. This contrived national obsession gives the Pentagon, the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security their ever-expanding powers. It tightens their grip. It swells their coffers.
Their bloated budgets, like the Congress that appropriates their funds, march to corporate drummers. Since World War II, terrorism/militarism has been exceedingly profitable for the “defense” industry (think Lockheed Martin et al). The high-tech war industry – the US economy’s warped backbone – enriches the rich while depriving the poor.
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Military spending sucks the life out of civil society. That barely monitored spree finances death-dealing, profit-intensive projects; these preempt job-intensive, life-serving ones. Pentagon budgets assure grossly underfunded housing, schooling, health and infrastructure development. Like the nuclear arms race of yore, the perpetuated terrorism/militarism nexus drives both economic disparity and domestic repression.
Some terror – i.e. the use, or threat, of violence against civilians for political/economic ends – isn’t contrived. Some terror is all too real. And it has deep roots:
- The continent-wide armed robbery of Indigenous lands. Thanks to their higher-tech weaponry, European invaders ethnically cleansed Native Americans – mostly non-combatants. Like the Israelis, we militarily occupy stolen land.*
- The wholesale abduction of Africans – robbing them not only of their labor, liberty and dignity, but of their offspring. Without a whip at her back, a noose around his neck, no human endures such rape and servitude. See the film 12 Years a Slave.
That terrorist regime lives on today with mass incarceration and what author Michelle Alexander calls “The New Jim Crow.” Police assassinating young Black men mirror Ku Klux Klan lynching. Both go unprosecuted. (Note the enduring intersection of impunity and racism.)
We’ve been conditioned to believe terrorism is violence perpetrated by the “other” – the non-white other. Blind to the origins of white supremacy and privilege, we are the legatees of our previous terrorisms. Only when terrorism is defined do we see Manifest Destiny and slavery for what they were. Only when terrorism is defined do we see that today’s “war on terrorism” for what it is: a war of terrorism.
The “war on terrorism” – quotation marks are a must – features aerial bombing of tribal people and people of color who can barely shoot back: the Anglosphere globalizing its centuries-long terror track.
Since August 6, 1945, the world has been chilled by US nuclear blackmail. Since the grotesquely one-sided air onslaught on Vietnam, and since the 2003 “shock and awe” terror attacks on Baghdad, the world knows it resists the Imperium at its peril.
Nukes and B-52 terror can’t neutralize, but they do provoke non-state terrorism and/or resistance. The hunter/killer MQ9 Reaper drone and its cowardly ilk seem for now to be just the thing for taking out “bad guys.” But for each “bad guy” assassinated, many others are either killed or recruited. Not smart … unless, of course, you profit from keeping the pot boiling.
Here in Upstate New York, the Syracuse Post-Standard newspaper normalizes the hunter/killer Reaper drone operating out of Hancock Air Force Base (AFB). Like the KKK and the Wild West cavalry, these robots are deployed to kill with impunity. The Post-Standard ignores Reaper illegality, its evasion of due process, its violation of others’ sovereignty. The newspaper sanitizes Reaper transgressions against human bodies and human rights.
It barely mentions the drone “collateral damage” incinerating and dismembering mostly women and children and other noncombatants, both within and beyond “legal” war zones. The Post-Standard ignores the backstory behind the blowback – always called “terrorism” – of those avenging and resisting US aggression and domination. Further, perhaps sensing what a boon to business arms races are, the newspaper ignores the deadly prospect of drone proliferation.
A December Post-Standard article reports that the Reaper now is actually flying – not just being remotely controlled – out of Hancock AFB and from Syracuse’s civilian international airport. The Page 1 story, festooned with color photos, is headlined “REAPER DRONE MAKES HISTORY IN SYRACUSE.”
With no pretense to journalistic balance, such stories fail to note that since 2010, there have been recurring anti-Reaper protests at Hancock AFB, home of the 174th drone Attack wing. The increasingly militarized local police, at Hancock’s bidding, arrest these protesters exercising their First Amendment right to petition the government for redress of grievance. Multiple incarcerations ensue.
But the Post-Standard doesn’t acknowledge such erosion of civil liberty. Nor has it investigated allegations of Hancock war crimes. Further, the newspaper has been eerily silent about the role that domestic drones may well soon play in policing and intimidating dissidents and people of color.
Like the 1950s’ “Atoms for Peace” hype masking the dark side of the then-emerging nuclear industry, mainstream media downplay the dark side of drones. The Post-Standard doesn’t want to jinx upstate New York’s becoming the Silicon Valley of an emerging domestic drone money machine. Over the next several years, Governor Cuomo will be subsidizing that industry with tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.
What does domestic drone development and deployment have to do with terrorism? Plenty. Like the manned aviation and the nuclear industries, the domestic drone industry (again, think Lockheed Martin) will maintain the industrial base – facilities, research, engineering expertise, skilled labor and operators – for the Pentagon’s war of terror.
As long as perpetual war keeps yielding corporate profit, state terrorism will keep “making history.” If we let it.
* If the US-as-occupied-nation concept seems outlandish, ask why the interstate highway system was built to military specification, or why the NSA monitors our phones and email, or why the police are so heavily armed, or why the judiciary recognizes neither the First Amendment nor International Law, or why the US has such a vast prison system, or why military bases proliferate throughout the land.