Red Dawn: America's Love/Hate Relationship With 'Terrorism'

As the remake of the 1984 war porn classic 'Red Dawn' demonstrates, Americans have a strange relationship with 'insurgency'. The terms terrorist, rebel, insurgent, and freedom fighter are all used as if they had different meanings. They do not.

In Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Gaza those who take up arms against the existing power structure are referred to as 'terrorists' and/or 'insurgents'. Meanwhile people who do the same thing in Syria and Libya are deemed 'rebels' or 'freedom fighters'.

The teenagers who take up arms against the invading force in Red Dawn are deemed 'freedom fighters', 'resistance fighters' or, at worst, 'rebels'. The Americans who took up arms against the British were also 'freedom fighters' and 'patriots'. Meanwhile those who took up arms against the US government during the civil war were merely 'rebels'. However, the motives and tactics of these groups were, in many cases, not very different from the the motives and tactics of the 'insurgents' and 'terrorists' of Iraq and Afghanistan.

In reality, all of these terms are political. Their use is designed to make you feel a certain way about the individuals and groups involved. Regardless of who is using the term, be it your neighbor, a politician or a journalist, they are trying to persuade you to think a certain way about the people involved.

All people, regardless of race, nationality, religion or ideology will resist a government which does not represent their views. They will also, even more reliably, resist a controlling force from outside the country to which they do not feel allegiance. Historically, the type and intensity of the resistance will be roughly proportional to the level to which they feel alienated from or oppressed by the government or outside force. They may be passively resistant or actively resistant, they may resist violently or non-violently but they will resist.

The tactics employed will vary according to circumstances. In cases where the forces of resistance are small or ill equipped compared to the forces of their perceived oppressor, they will generally employ guerrilla tactics. No insurgency is going to don uniforms and march into open battle against a organized military armed with state of the art hardware. To do so would be suicidal. In this the American revolutionaries of 1776, the French resistance of WWII, Al Queda and Hamas would be in full agreement. Their adversaries, in every case, considered them terrorists.

As for terrorism, Merriam Webster defines it as "the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion". So, according to the definition any and all war, especially acts of war against a civilian population can and should be defined as terrorism. That includes the attacks of 9/11, the drone bombing of Pakistan, the firing of rockets into Israeli settlements and the bombing of Gaza are all acts of terrorism. They all definitely cause terror, and they are all designed as a mean of coercion.

None of the above is designed to indicate which side is right or wrong, merely to illustrate a tendency to use terms prejudice the public rather than allowing them to look at the circumstances and think objectively. There is not, and never has been, a 'war on terror'. "Terrorism" serves the west at least as often as it threatens the west and, on some level at least, even the US war hawks know that.

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