Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Terrorism or Not Terrorism That is the Question

 ("Boston Suspects Are Seen as Self-Taught and Fueled by Web")

While the events that took place in downtown Boston were horrific, were they in fact acts of terrorism? If, as it now appears, the Tsarnaev brothers were not affiliated with, financed or armed by what we would classify a terrorist organization, then what makes this, while clearly intended to terrorize, terrorism?

Are we to deem anyone influenced to undertake large scale attacks by general fundamentalism rhetoric a terrorist?

If so, do not the shootings by Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood in 2009, in which 12 were killed and 31 injured, more clearly meet that definition? We know that he was in email contact with Anwar al-Awlaki and we have all come to understand how the administration perceived al-Awlaki. Hasan's  contact with radical fundamentalists would seem, at least for the moment, far less remote than that of the Tsarnaevs.

Is terrorism to be defined merely by the choice of target or weapons used? Shouldn't it require a real and intimate connection to a known enemy?

Terminology does matter here, both for the present psyche of the public and for historical clarity.

The brutal killings that took place near the finish line on that clear Monday afternoon deserve to be looked upon as acts of almost unfathomable depravity. But maybe, in the final analysis, we will have to re-examine the words used to describe them.

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