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War on terror or a war of words?

By Chris Devir - posted Wednesday, 27 July 2005

There is no war on terror. That concept is a myth thrown up by government spin doctors that need a "black and white" scenario to throw to an increasingly inquisitive civilian population.

If you strip back terrorism to its most basic form, you have misguided individuals committing heinous criminal acts with limited resources. This is no war. It can’t be fought with any conventual warfare. Terrorism needs an immediate and collective response from all nations. And priority needs to be applied to the obvious points of unrest such Palestine and US troops in the Middle East. We need to dilute the terrorist argument to the point where the people who carry bombs onto buses and trains are exposed for what they really are: criminally-minded individuals.

Western society is becoming obsessed with terrorism and this obsession is far worse than the carnage any terrorist attack can inflict. When put into perspective, the rationale behind the effort put into combating terrorism seems misguided. In 2001, the year the planes crashed into the World Trade Centre, there were 3,295 deaths, internationally, attributed to terrorist acts. In the same year, in the US alone, there were 29,573 deaths from firearms according to the US Center for Disease Control. The 2 years after September 11, there were 725 deaths from terrorism in 2003 and 625 in 2004. In 2002, there were 30,242 deaths from firearms in the US alone.


Terrorism is a mindset the perpetrators exploit to its full extent. Terrorism’s principal aim is not to kill, maim or destroy people and property. Its main objective is to disrupt the equilibrium of that country’s delicate balance of thinking. When the terrorists hijacked the planes on September 11, they had no knowledge of the complete mayhem they would inflict. It would be bad, but how bad? They couldn’t foresee the future. They couldn’t know the towers would collapse. But they knew the multitude of the attack would reflect on the differences the country would have in responding to the mayhem.

The terrorists played on the very heart of democracy: our freedom of speech and our ability to formulate our own responses to a perceived danger. As for the US, the hijackers and their counterparts knew the conservatives would respond one way and liberals would respond adversely. This is what exactly happened.

Free thought encourages opposing opinions. The conservative media demanded swift retribution and immediately threw up concrete walls around their argument, refusing to budge. The liberal media was scrambling to justify its argument for a more controlled response, but failed to solidify its argument as quickly as the conservatives. Almost immediately the two sides were at loggerheads and split the country nearly down the middle. Terrorists win. The Left and Right seem to spend more time attacking each other than tackling the terrorist problem.

The immediate reaction in the British media after the London bombings was speculative at best, and plain misleading at worst. Even before the facts were known, there were calls for immigration changes, identity cards and more intrusive legislation like the United States Patriot Act. Stopping terrorism requires more astute thinking than draconian laws or calls to curb immigration. Terrorism needs to be analysed more, dissected even, to lay open the causes. The sledge hammer approach has failed miserably. It’s time to be more lateral and open up the debate to look for the reasons someone would strap a bomb to their chest and detonate it in a crowded, public area.

No Western government seems able to address the terrorism issue with any cohesive response. Rather they seem obliged, on the advice of unelected bureaucrats, to have a piecemeal approach that seems to put everybody offside. Ill-conceived and simplistic foreign policies implemented by many nations have led to a much disjointed global society and a muddled attitude to the world’s problem areas. Look to the root of any terrorist demand and you will see Palestine and Israel, Saudi Arabia and now Iraq and Afghanistan. Sort out these areas and terrorism will itself become redundant.

In saying that, this is no easy solution, but the world focus should be supplying solutions rather than festering existing problems. Conciliatory gestures need to be applied to the Arab world that is willing to listen. Ignore the terrorists: focus on the Arab majority who want a stable Middle East and an end to the ongoing hostilities.

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About the Author

Chris Devir is a freelance writer from Bondi Junction. He has set up his blog The Political Monster and he is currently reseraching a book on politics and the media.

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