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The Xenophile Historian

K. U. P.

(Kimball's Unauthorized Perversion)

The Seven Deadly Sins of Terrorism

In the aftermath of history's worst terrorist attack, I have received all kinds of e-mails on the subject. The one I liked best was this essay, which shows how terrorists are the new barbarians. It was taken from The New Republic, September 15, 1979, page 19-21:

The wrong approach to terrorism is to see it as one of many symptoms of a deep-seated malaise in our society . . . . This analysis usually ends in the meaningless and defeatist conclusion that society itself is to blame: 'We are all guilty.'

International terrorism is not part of a general human problem. It is a specific and identifiable problem on its own. . . . It is a remediable problem. To say it is remediable is not to underestimate the size and danger of the problem. On the contrary: it is almost impossible to exaggerate the threat that terrorism poses for our civilization. . . .

One reason why it constitutes such a grave and growing threat is that very few people in the civilized world--governments and parliaments, TV and newspapers, the public generally--take terrorism seriously enough.

Most people, lacking an adequate knowledge of history, tend to underestimate the fragility of a civilization. They do not appreciate that civilizations fall as well as rise. . . . There was a common factor in all these great falls. They occurred when the spread of metals technology and the availability of raw materials enabled the forces of barbarism to equal or surpass the civilized powers in the quality and quantity of their weapons.

For in the last resort, civilization stands or falls not by covenants, but by the sword. . . .

Menacing improvements in terrorism have been brought about by the international availability of terrorist support, supply, and training services. Terrorism is no longer a purely national phenomenon, which can be destroyed at the national level. It is an international offensive--an open and declared war against civilization itself--which can only be defeated by an active alliance of the civilized powers. The impact of terrorism . . . is intrinsically evil . . . for a number of reasons--what I call the seven deadly sins of terrorism.

First - Terrorism is the deliberate and cold-blooded exaltation of violence over all forms of political activity. The modern terrorist employs violence not as a necessary evil, but as a desirable form of action.

The Second deadly sin is the deliberate suppression of the moral instincts in man. Terrorist organizers have found that it is not enough to give their recruits intellectual justifications for murder: indeed the abandonment of any system of moral criteria becomes an essential element in its training. (Recruits are made to experience and participate in moral depravity like murder or rape because they cannot be expected to be an effective terrorist as long as they retain moral elements of a human personality.)

Third is the rejection of politics as the normal means by which communities resolve conflicts. To terrorists, violence is a substitute for the entire political process. [Which means that Osama bin Laden is worse than Yasir Arafat and Gerry Adams, because they used terrorism as a bargaining chip to gain themselves a place in the political process, but now that they are at the table, want to participate in the political process.]

The Fourth Deadly Sin is that it necessarily and actively assists the spread of the totalitarian state. Countries that finance and support terrorism are without exception despotic states.

Fifth, international terrorism poses no threat to the totalitarian state. That kind of state can always defend itself by judicial murder, preventive arrest, torture of prisoners and suspects, and complete censorship of terrorist activities. Terrorism can only get a foothold in a state where the executive is under some kind of restraint, legal, democratic, and moral.

Sixth is that terrorism exploits the apparatus of freedom in liberal societies, and thereby endangers it. In meeting the threat of terrorism, a free society must arm itself, but that process of arming itself threatens the freedoms, decencies and standards that make the society civilized, because of the emergency actions that must be taken. These actions may threaten those freedoms.

The Seventh deadly sin is that if a free society reacts to terrorism by invoking authoritarian methods, it damages itself. But even worse, if free societies in their anxiety to avoid authoritarian excesses, FAIL to arm themselves against the terrorist threat, then the terrorists triumph.

Thus, the deadliest sin is that terrorism can sap the will of a civilized society to defend itself. We have seen it happen. We find governments negotiating with terrorists . . . to concede to their demands. We find governments providing ransom money . . . releasing convicted criminals in response to demands . . . conceding them the status of political prisoners. . . . We find newspapers and TV networks placing democratic governments and the terrorists on a level of moral equality. We find governments failing time and again, in their duty to persuade the public that terrorists are not misguided politicians. They are criminals.

They are extraordinary criminals, indeed, in that they pose a threat not merely to the individuals they murder without compunction, but to the whole fabric of society.

In short, the seventh and deadliest sin of terrorism is its attempt to induce civilization to commit suicide.

U.S. armed forces, the true freedom fighters.

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