Over the last nearly two decades, mainstream America–both political and social–has had to come to terms with what, exactly, terrorism is. And isn’t. And, in my personal opinion, it has failed almost unanimously, across the board.
Regardless of the fact that the United States Government can’t even come to the same conclusion on what the definition of terrorism is (part of that aforementioned failure), and examples and comparisons throughout the media (social and mainstream) typically do not analogize, the real light sheds on this lack of understanding once an actual act of terror does occur.
Everyone becomes an expert. Everyone wants their turn to yammer. Even experts end up sounding like dipshits. So you, not being an expert, trying to sound like an expert, just makes you all the more a part of the problem.
That’s not why I am here today. I *am* here to try to clear up some basic shit for readers, writers, and speakers, on why you comparing anything going on terrorism-wise today to anything that happened [by a state actor] in World War II is not only folly, but bottom of the barrel ignorance. (And I have seen a shitload of it lately. Hence, this article.)
In the U.S., we’ve established, sort of consensually, some basic parameters for what terrorism is. Beneath that, there are laws–international ones; whether a nation chooses to accept them or not–meticulously drawn up and debated, defining even the itty bitty little subtleties of what is and is not terrorism.
The U.S. nuking Japan (twice) has nothing at all to do with terrorism. Not that there was much terrorism going on back then anyway, but there was no deliberate targeting of civilians (although this could be argued, it would never have any credibility beyond the shadow of doubt). Those that carried out the bombing were government employees, in government uniforms, using government equipment. If they were to have been shot down, or had somehow come into the hands of the Japanese, there would have been certain rules that would have had to have been applied to those U.S personnel based on the status of their operation.
Now, for now, we’ll stow talking about how the Japanese didn’t give much of a shit about internationally accepted legal conventions. Unless someone would like to open that can of worms… and although I’m not a SERE guy, you know I am always game for worms. There are fundamental and legal differences between an act of terror and a war crime [and a hate crime, for that matter]. No matter how much people just want to be upset about it.
(Somehow, due to this misunderstanding and a fair bit of simple delusion, terrorism has become The West’s absolute cardinal transgression. As a result, every bad thing — from bullying to shitty driving to bad political form–have all been stretched infinitely thin in an effort to somehow tag that shit with a terrorism label. Way to hi-jack and dilute actual evil to fit your bullshit Burbia narrative.)
Pearl Harbor was also *not* an act of terrorism. In fact, it would be a textbook strike aviation success story were *we* to accomplish such a feat at any point, ever.
So, people affecting aggressive political violence (we’ll call that “legalized” warfare; military action is just an extension of politics, remember) on elements of an opponent’s political or military system, and doing it while in uniform and on orders from some sort of legitimate command structure, is not at all terrorism. That should ENDEX this convo. (Even though you know people will continue to drag it out, just to hear themselves talk…)
Example: Look at My Lai. Uniformed men, operating “outside” their chain of command to specifically target civilian/non-uniformed non-combatants. No one ever cried terrorism. Those people went down–in some cases–for war crimes.
There is a publicly perceived gray area here regarding contractors, mercenaries, militias, and SOF bubbas creeping around, but your operational lawyers and bean counters have made damn certain that the vast majority of it is all pretty well fleshed out, legalesed, codified, and run into volumes of operational legal doctrine.
Hitler’s Commando Act. ‘Nother example. Look it up. Operators out of uniform could be killed on site, since that was technically (and still basically is) espionage, and falls under a different set of legal parameters. So, SAS guys and Commandos started wearing uniforms marking them as who they were… and Hitler (through this act) declared that Nazis should go ahead and shoot said operators anyway. War crime. If the guys would’ve been operating out of uniform (as a lot still did), and they got captured, there were no rules really protecting them from any maltreatment.
If you ever had to hand your ID tags/card(s) over to someone and/or sterilize your uniform (or not even wear one) before you went into isolation to go out to play, your shit was operating under some very shaky conditions. But you probably already knew that. Discretionary warfare may be cool on TV, but on top of all the analytical shit done prior to H-hour… exponentially more legal hours get done.
The examples! Desert One. Assault team wore civvies (with issue boots, Navy peacoat, and issue black beanie) with an American flag patch sewn onto the sleeve and covered with tape. Once the mission reached a certain point–which it never reached–that tape had to come off so the operators would be operating under very specific *uniformed* legal conditions. Not that the Islamic Republic would’ve given much of a shit, but the US could use that, legally, to its advantage.
Where were we? Oh yeah. Neither Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, nor Nagasaki (which always gets left out) were acts of terrorism, legally, or otherwise. Sure folks got scared… maybe even terrorized. But nothing that occurred in any of those three military actions, in any legitimate way, crossed over into terrorism.
This is a fine line…maybe. But it’s a very well-defined one for anyone who decides to get edumacated on it. Black and white. The US conventionally bombed the shit out of towns all across Japan, but nobody bitched about that. Houses, factories, temples, probably some kittens and little bunny rabbits. It was only when we started vaporizing people that anyone started to give a shit. In fact, the Japanese gov/mil didn’t actually give much of a shit then, either. The whole victimization shit cropped up later, mostly because the US was the first to medically respond to both strike sites. But whatev.
Not judging how the U.S. stopped that war. Just telling you that if you or anyone else refs it as terrorism, please accept my express permission to laugh that shit off.
If a non-state actor detonated a nuke anywhere, at any time–in the known universe–it would be a terrorist act. If a state actor did, it would very likely be a war crime–though due process would be in play at that point. (I’m lookin’ real hard at you, North Korea…) And if a non-state actor managed such an amazing act, there would be some serious due diligence to find out if a state was behind it somewhere along the line.
Terrorism may include murder, but murder is murder. Murder for political gain by a non-state actor is terrorism… but so are many other things. Selling a gun to a non-state actor to commit said murder is also terrorism. It’s a long list, but more or less specific. And again, has nothing at all to do with WWII. And none of the three listed major engagements (if you could even call any of them that) would not seriously even be considered war crimes. At least not by any legitimate military command or JAG. Or even by any real international conventions, then or now.
And, with regards to our nukes, we *did* warn them–repeatedly–and even asked nicely that Japan stop doing the shit it was doing. And even said that if they did not stop we would bring down the fires of heaven on them. I think we held true to that promise. Our warnings and surrender requests were legally tendered and issued, which meant–to a great degree–Japan was in absentia accepting responsibility for what would follow. Of course, no one knew what we were going to do, but that doesn’t change the legal rules, really. Cities melting just kinda adds to the gravity of thinking your bullshit decisions through a little better.
I’ve seen and heard comments about the Hiroshima strike being terrorism, or a war crime, because we targeted civilians. We targeted a military headquarters building. And it was hit dead the fuck on. No joke about that. But the extent of the destruction was definitely inclusive of civilian infrastructure (and civilians). The blast radius was pretty small. It was the radiation fallout that was the real kicker in that attack. And in other news, the Japanese government has proven pretty good at giving their citizenry that very same radiation through negligence. But I wouldn’t call that terrorism. (Can of worms, numero dos.)
And, no offense, but personal opinions don’t hold much in these convos. I mean, I respect opinions, and I’m not at all disrespecting anyone’s opinion here or anywhere–unless you are full of shit and trying to spread that shit. Again, there are some socially accepted definitions of terrorism, but as to my original statement, I am only going on actual legal–and internationally agreed upon–definitions. Opinions on terrorism or counter-terrorism amount to only two things:
Yes (‘nother example), by our current definition, the Continental Army as a whole would be considered an insurgent force. Some elements and actions would have even been labelled as terrorists. Funny how that all works out, isn’t it. The special-, clandestine-, black-, guerrilla-operations convo is yet another can of worms (Number Three.)
This shit is all out there. It’s not thuper thecret thquirrel. One reason people who know about this shit scoff at, eye-roll, or just ignore people who don’t know about this shit–yet still yammer — is because not only are you *not* educated on this… but you are choosing to continue to be not educated.
In the end, I sure as shit don’t care who understands terrorism/counter-terrorism. As long as those who make the decisions and take the actions understand.
Featured image courtesy of USN