The narrative of terrorism has taken firm hold in the minds of western society today. It began, of course, with the 9/11 attacks in 2001, when a group of fundamentalist Muslims, led by Osama bin Laden, attacked the financial and military headquarters of the US. bin Laden, it must be said, was financed and trained by the CIA in the 1980s through the Mujahideen, whom it supported in its fight against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The 9/11 attack led to the so-called war on terror, a bizarre undeclared war against a noun, with devastating consequences domestically and abroad.
Just as the war on drugs has very little to do with preventing drug trafficking, the war on terror has very little to do with fighting terrorism. The US has aided, funded, and participated in international terrorism throughout the last century and so, clearly, it has no interest in fighting terrorism abroad. Domestically, the establishment media heavily publicises those acts of terror that fit within the narrow framework of what it chooses to call “terrorism”, but it largely ignores the greater threat of actual organised terrorism that occurs within the US. The perpetrators of most domestic terrorist acts within the US do not look like the stereotypical Muslim. They are the neo-fascists, the fundamentalist Christians, the white supremacists; the disgusting underbelly that lurks at the bottom of every society. These days they are collectively described as the alt-right – a term designed to humanise the extremists, probably because many of the financial elites, including the president, are among them.
If you’re black in America you will be shot five times in the back for running away from the police regardless of whether or not you have committed a crime. If you’re a white right-winger you can perform an armed takeover of a government building and get less than two years in prison. If you’re black, the press will describe you as a thug and publicise any tiny blemish on your history. If you’re Muslim, they’ll describe you as a terrorist and connect you to international terrorism. If you’re white, if they describe you at all, it will be as a mentally ill person who needs help and sympathy.
Consider the following attacks. These are from the last five years.
Boston, MA, April 2013: Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, two Kyrgyzstani Muslims, detonated two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring 260 before Tamerlan was killed in an alleged shootout with police. Despite the pair not being connected with any terrorist groups the bombing was described by the press as a “terror attack“. It seems likely that the FBI assassinated Dzhokhar while he was in custody.
Colorado Springs, CO, November 2015: Robert Dear Jr, a white Christian fundamentalist, killed three people and injured nine at a Planned Parenthood. At his trial he repeatedly expressed fundamentalist Christian anti-abortion views. He was adjudicated and reported as being mentally incompetent to stand trial.
Charlestown, NC, June 2016: Dylann Roof, a white supremacist, killed nine people and injured one person during a prayer service in the stated hopes of igniting a race war. The shooting was investigated as a hate crime. The press described him as a sociopath with a history of drug abuse.
Charlottesville, VA, August 2017: James Field Jr, a white supremacist, drove his car into a group of protesters, killing 32-year old Heather Heyer and injuring at least 35 others. The president blamed the protestors for the attack.
New York City, October 2017: Sayfullo Habibullaevich Saipov, a Muslim, drove a pickup truck into a crowd for about a mile, killing eight people and injuring eleven others before being shot and arrested. He was described by the president as “this animal who did the attacking” and his actions described by the press as a “cowardly act of terror“.
Austin TX, March 2018: Mark Conditt, a white right-winger, killed two people and injured five in a series of bombings before blowing himself up. He was described by the police chief and the media as “a very challenged young man“.
Did you notice the pattern? The terrorist label is reserved only for the Muslims whereas the white perpetrators are labeled as mentally ill. The same pattern occurs for mass shootings; for example, none of the five mass shootings listed in the post about the gun problem were described by the press as terrorist attacks, despite the fact that, on average, 35 people were killed and 120 were injured per incident.
To the media there is no such thing as a white terrorist or a Christian terrorist, even though many more terrorist acts are committed by white extremists and Christian fundamentalists than they are by Muslims.
Standing down on the real war on terror
In May 2017 the Trump administration froze funding to groups who were investigating white supremacist and neo-fascist groups. This is a continuation of the willful failure of the Department of Homeland Security to gather the intelligence needed to fight right-wing extremism, which continues the decades-long practice of neglect. In May 2017 the FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a joint intelligence bulletin which stated that white supremacists “were responsible for … more [deaths and attacks] than any other domestic extremist movement” between 2000 and 2016. The Obama administration activated a small unit of six people to investigate domestic terrorist attacks in 2009, but it was dissolved after a short time over concerns of criticism from the far-right groups. Much of the rise of the far right can be attributed to the inaction of the Obama administration, which emboldened it time and time again out of fear of the bad things that the right-wing echo chamber would say about him.
In the meantime, US foreign policy continues to boost Muslim terrorism abroad by:
- supporting ISIS and al qaeda in its fight against the Assad government in Syria;
- destabilising the Middle East, providing an ever-increasing recruiting ground for ISIS and al Qaeda;
- selling arms to Saudi Arabia, which is a fundamentalist Muslim government currently perpetuating a genocide in Yemen;
- continuing its support of Israel and its apartheid atrocities in Gaza and the West Bank;
- continuing its illegal military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, now in their 16th and 18th year respectively;
- continuing to brutalise Muslim civilians with predator drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia (all Muslim majority countries).
It’s almost as if the US is not interested in combatting terrorism at all.
The fascist train is never late
In times of great financial insecurity and fear, the established political order seeks the means by which the anger of the masses that they have been exploiting be directed elsewhere. The easy target is always the “other” – defenseless minorities that look different, speak a different language or practice a different religion. Mob violence is the result, often manifest in the form of fascism. The neo-fascists are present in every society and are allowed to rise up when times are desperate. The US and Australian people are provided with plenty of powerless “others” to which to direct their hate. It is a sad fact of society that those who are most deserving of that hate are never the ones who receive it.