Article Overview:    What is the definition of Terrorism?   Is it a senseless act of violence against innocent people for political reasons?   Or, is it an act of self-sacrifice at someone's expense, and doesn't require the deaths of innocent people to be ranked as Terrorism?   Or, is Terrorism's definition the "absence of Vigilance?"    Find out.


Friday, March 12, 2004—Ground Zero Plus 912
Define Terrorism, Please!
Is It The Absence Of Vigilance?

Cliff McKenzie

     GROUND ZER0, New York, N.Y.--Mar. 12, 2004 -- Last night I sat in the second row of the World Policy Institute's discussion on Terrorism, my ear cocked as the panelists did their best to try and define the word "Terrorism."
      It was a greased pig.

The panelists tried to define the word "terrorism"

    One of the panelists, Allen Greenspan, an expert on the Middle East from the Switzerland-based May Group, claimed that Terrorism such as suicide bombings and the attack on the World Trade Center was a "theater," and the play was designed not to Terrorize the citizens of the nation under attack, but to prove to the people in the "audience" of the Terrorist's nation that the individual was willing to simply "die."
       Greenspan's point was the "Terrorist Act" was the objective, not the residual impact on those who were victimized by it.   A suicide bomber who blew himself or herself up without hurting anyone else had achieved the ultimate goal.  Whether others were killed or maimed, according to Greenspan, was not relevant to the act.
        This kind of "Non-Objective Terrorism" was the most dangerous of all, he claimed, for it was not driven by political agenda.   In other words, there was no negotiating its end, for the end itself was the act.


       Moderator Ian Cuthbertson, Senior Fellow and Director of the World Policy Institute's (WPI) Counter-Terrorism Project, offered up a more palatable explanation.  He spoke to "Traditional Terrorism" where acts of violence were directed against the innocent for political reasons.   He offered a simple formula:  VIOLENCE--MESSAGE--DEMAND!
         The act of violence provides a platform for a message, followed by some demand.
         In all cases, the panelists referred to Terrorism as the Cult Of Death, where no matter the goal of the act, death was delivered.

Brooklyn Law School

Professor Allan

   Richard Allan, American Scholar-in-Residence at the EastWest Institute and a Professor of Law, felt the definition of Terrorism was far too narrow.   He argued that Terrorism was being used as a word to define acts outside the United States, and brought into focus his concern that "Domestic Terrorism" was being swept to the sidelines.    The Oklahoma City bombings, for example, and the threats of radical right wing groups within the United States posed just as great a threat as any foreign threat.    He also eluded to the "Terrorism" of a father against a child as an example of Terrorism's long arms.
            The discussion came on the heels of the recent Terrorist bombing in Madrid which has killed hundreds and wounded thousands.   During the Question and Answer period, the questions ranged from the threat of nuclear Terrorism by rogue nations to whether America had fostered Terrorism by supporting radical groups in the past.
           The ultimate point underscored by all three panelists was that America is facing another attack in the near future by one or more sources, either from within or without.   The goal of that attack can be driven by the engines of radical politics seeking concessions or retribution, or, from an act that is nothing more than a attempt at martyrdom, and has little concern as the ripple effect.

Mr. Greenspan said we must help liberal Islam change the attitude of radical Islam to reduce the threat of Terrorism

          The only solution given to reduce the threat of Terrorism was from Mr. Greenspan who said we must do what we can to help liberal Islam change the attitude of radical Islam.  He cautioned the audience that no outside influence could effect that change, and that it must come from within.    He noted that many members of Islam were protesting senseless acts of violence, and that was a good sign.
             I was frothing at the bit.
             It seemed to me that each person in the world should be exposed to the Pledge of Vigilance, and given instruction on its use in their lives, and its impact on the Children's Children's Children.
            If Mr. Greenspan was right, and I believe he was, Terrorism can only be neutralized from the inside out.    Whether it is the nation of Islam, or a Complacent America, Terrorism will not go away without an effort.    Vigilance is its counterpart, and only by providing an antidote can the poisons of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency be replaced with Courage, Conviction and Right Actions for the Children's Children's Children. 

         The second reason I was excited was to hear an expert on Terrorism, Professor Allan, demand consciousness of Domestic Terrorism.  His claim that we have narrowed Terrorism to a bandwidth limiting it to external foreign elements blinds us to the dangers of what is happening in our own backyards.
            I believe the roots of Terrorism begin at home, whether it is a nice, middle-class home in suburban America or a hut in Palestine.    Only when we become Sentinels of Vigilance can we counter the Beast of Terror.
           I went to bed last night a little more comfortable.
           I knew the definition of Terrorism.
          It wasn't what Terrorism is--a set of confused definitions.   Terrorism's true definition  is what keeps Terrorism from growing and morphing into various shapes and forms that defy accurate definition.  It is Terrorism's opposite--Vigilance.
          Defining Terrorism is like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.   But Vigilance is clear, precise, concise.
           It is a state of readiness for the unexpected.  It is the innate concern a mother or father has not only for the safety and security of his or her children, but for the safety and security of all children, regardless of their race, their creed, their ethnicity.
          This fundamental readiness means that naturally, within us all, born in our parental souls, is the awareness that Courage counters Fear, and that Conviction trumps Intimidation, and, Right Actions that benefit the Children's Children's Children will always overpower Complacency in all its nefarious forms.

Terrorism often includes shoving one's viewpoints upon others

      Terrorism is the absence of Vigilance.   Terrorism is all about selfishness.  It is about protecting one's views, one's world, from the integration and imposition of another.   It includes, often, shoving one's viewpoints upon others with barrel of a gun or blast of a bomb.   It also takes the form of a backhand across the face of a child, or a vicious tongue lashing of a child's self worth by a parent who Terrorizes the child for the sheer pleasure of his or her power over the innocent.
            Unchecked Terrorism thrives.   It continues to grow unless dams and blockades are established.   Those dams and blockades are the Principles of Vigilance.  Only when the solid concrete of Courage, Conviction and Right Actions for future generations stands in the way of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency will Terrorism be contained.
           It will never be defined, just as water behind a dam cannot be held into one place, for it will constantly swirl and ebb and flood while the concrete holding it remains solid, entrenched, guarding its desire to flood and ravage the land.
            Last night was a good example of understanding the threats of Terrorism.   It reminded me that without Vigilance, we can never define our enemy.
           And, as the panelists said last night, the enemy of our enemies is our friend.    That would mean that Terrorism's greatest enemy is Vigilance, and therefore, Vigilance should be our best friend.

Embrace Vigilance and banish Terrorism

         But last night, I don't recall the word "Vigilance" spoken once in the discussion about Terrorism.  Had the panelists spent the same time defining Vigilance, perhaps the definition of Terrorism would have been clear.   That Terrorism is the absence of Vigilance.
          You can make Vigilance your best friend.   Just take the Pledge of Vigilance now.  Define Terrorism as the absence of Vigilance.    Remind yourself that if you are not living in a State of Vigilance, you are in a State of Terrorism.  
           Make the enemy of our enemy your friend.   Embrace Vigilance and banish Terrorism.


Mar 11--Quieting The Soul

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