When terrorism isn’t terrorism, to America
I find my White American students – even the very bright ones – totally confused, the moment I ask them if White police brutality against Black people in America amounts to terrorism. Most White students attribute the killings of black people by White police as undesirable, accidental, or simply due to bad judgment by the proverbial "bad cops". Mostly Black students impute the killings to racism, and state-sponsored terrorism. Some of them even think White policemen who kill Black people for no genuine reasons or justifications are actually crypto-KKK activists in police uniform.
The truth might be in between the two extreme opinions. Various reports indicate, presently the KKK or Ku Klux Klan has three to six thousand active members in America. Although from any definition of terrorism, the KKK is a terrorist organisation par excellence, there are strong reservations and taboos among White American politicians, intellectuals, government officials, and common people that never allow an open and candid discussion in the US about the prevalence and even growing surge of White extremism in the country. They always try to prove the KKK and discriminations against Black people only happened in the past.
However, historically America has never been a land of the free and brave. Neither the slave owners nor their slaves were ever free; the former was bonded to their greed, hate, and power, the latter to their miserable fate, determined by their White masters. Apparently, the end of slavery in 1865, and the grant of civil rights to the Black people a century later (1964) made every American equal in every sphere of life. This is, however, not true. Ron Paul, a former US presidential candidate in 2008 and 2012, calls his country "the empire of lies", and affirms:
"Truth is treason in the empire of lies…. There is an alternative to national bankruptcy, a bigger police state, trillion-dollar wars, and a government that draws ever more parasitically on the productive energies of the American people."
Many White Americans are proud, conceited, and complacent. They think the country of theirs is the best, and is also the "Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave". Many of them don't believe Americans ever killed millions of innocent people, from Hiroshima to Hanoi, Baghdad to Benghazi, and Kabul to Waziristan; and ever resorted to state-terrorism in Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and elsewhere since the end of World War II. They also deny America has ever been an empire.
What's pertinent to understanding the nature of the American Empire is its fundamental difference with major empires in the past, Britain, France, Spain, and the Netherlands. Unlike empires in general, which monopolise markets, plunder wealth, and exploit cheap labour of the colonies, the American Empire mainly exploit its own people. What Bernie Sanders is telling today, Reagan's Assistant Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts explained this earlier: "Washington's empire extracts resources from the American people for the benefit of the few powerful interest groups that rule America. The military-security complex, Wall Street, agri-business and the Israel Lobby use the government to extract resources from Americans to serve their profits and power…. That is how the American Empire functions."
America's military intervention, which many consider to be state-terrorism at home and abroad is integral to its neo-imperialist design. Having different names and forms, excuses and exigencies, American military intervention starts with unnecessary invasions in resource rich or strategically important countries, with a view to changing or coercing into submission of unfriendly regimes in those countries. Again, the invasions – during the last seven decades – got the stamps of legitimacy (through the compliant UN, and the US Congress) as just wars for democracy, freedom, and human rights.
Racism by default or design is the mother of America's state-terrorism. We believe those who resort to racism, or deny its existence, also indulge in terrorism. Racism is pure, unadulterated terrorism. It involves discrimination against certain people only because of racial differences, with a view to subjugating others to plunder their wealth, or making them render cheap/slave labour to the subjugators. Since racism involves coercion, threat, intimidation, and even actual violence or terror against non-White people, we must re-define racism as terrorism. Then again, thanks to the Civil Rights of 1964, racism has become subtle, but has not disappeared at all.
Many White Americans consider racism to exist only in the past. They believe the ongoing killings of Black people by White police officers are either accidental, or due to bad judgment of the concerned police officers. Despite the denial by White American police, lawmakers, jury, judges, and prosecutors that they have never been racially prejudiced against any Black person, the frequent denial of justice to Black victims of racial attacks, killing, rape, and torture, especially by White police officers, tell altogether different stories.
American bias against Muslims is so well entrenched that even six years before 9/11, on April 19, 1995 when two White Americans – Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols – bombed a government building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people, American media and analysts jumped to the conclusion that Muslims were behind the terror attack. Interestingly, after the police had tracked down the original terrorists, American media, analysts, and intellectuals imputed the attack to some mentally disturbed, deranged young men. They, however, never give any Muslim terrorist – from the Shoe Bomber to the Underwear Bomber, from Major Nidal Hassan to the Boston, St. Bernardino, and Orlando killers – the 'privilege' of getting branded not as terrorists but as "mentally deranged or disturbed" individuals.
I cite another example of when terrorism is not terrorism in America. The US administration and White Americans in general conveniently denied there had been any terrorist attack on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building in Austin, Texas that killed the terrorist and an IRS employee. On February 18, 2010, one Andrew Joseph Stack deliberately crashed his single-engine plane into an IRS building, killing himself and an IRS employee. Only two US lawmakers from Austin considered the incident as an act of domestic terrorism, and a USA Today headline used the expression "a chilling echo of terrorism". One wonders, how would have White America reacted had Muslims been involved in the Oklahoma City bombing, or the suicide attack on the IRS building in Texas!
Meanwhile, the simmering anger of Black Americans against White police brutality is a disturbing development. Black activists are decrying the lack of any justice and security for Black Americans. The movement called Black Lives Matter (started in 2013) is posing a new challenge to White supremacists. On Thursday, July 7, 2016, Micah Johnson, a Black lone wolf terrorist killed five White police officers in Dallas, apparently in retaliation against the killing of two alleged Black suspects by White policemen in Minnesota and Louisiana, on Tuesday and Wednesday. The police later found explosives and a bomb making manual at the killer's house. Yet, for some strange reasons, neither the Obama Administration nor the American media ever used the "T" word to classify the attack as domestic terrorism.
One isn't sure as to how the selective use of the "T" word will do any good to anybody! One wonders if White America's prejudice against Black Americans, Muslims, and Afro-Asian-Latin American countries will ever disappear, and if America will pay heed to the ideals of freedom and human rights, guaranteed by its own founding fathers in the 18th Century! Unfortunately, America is on the path to a "permanent war", and has become hostage to its own arrogance and greed of the "one percent", which Bernie Sanders has pointed out as the single biggest obstacle to just peace, within and beyond America.
The writer teaches security studies at Austin Peay State University in the US. He is the author of several books, including his latest, Global Jihad and America: The Hundred-Year War Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan (Sage, 2014). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org