COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
One time I found myself browsing over a printed compilation of Internet chats carried on by different citizens of the world a few days after the 9/11 attack at the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon. Among those who were chatting were mostly American citizens while some others came from New Zealand, Brazil, Mexico, Croatia and a few undetermined places of the globe. With Cyberspace, people of different nationalities are interacting directly with each other, simplifying the world into one global community.
This time however, the issue that has been projected to a global scale is terrorism. To my mind though and simply following the news, terrorism is an American phenomenon—it’s corresponding affliction. Only that Americans are found in many countries around the world and the US government’s interests are spread across the globe that terrorism has acquired an international status.
Interestingly enough in the course of the conversations, most of the American nationals were in an introspective mood and tone, asking themselves where have they gone wrong. They were questioning about their government’s foreign policy and were even enumerating the accompanying violence that went with that policy. (i.e. bombing the Serbs in Kosovo or a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, economic sanctions in Iraq, etc.)
They were realizing that the principles of freedom and democracy they so fervently espouse were not replicated abroad. Instead, their own government is supporting repression and militarism in other lands if only to ensure the liberty and freedom of the individual American living inside and outside of the US mainland.
Before the September 11 event, any US government’s fight against those they considered terrorist were usually met with derision from other nationals as another form of imperialism or simple foreign intervention. But after that home ground attack and more than half of the world’s population sympathizing with the Americans, the US government has acquired a tacit approval from the global community for any counterattack operation.
Yet the most interesting result of the Sept. 11 bombing is that the US government has somewhat acquired an international license—though not through the United Nations—to pursue any terrorist. By the same token, terrorism has acquired an all-embracing meaning. The US government is taking the authority to define who the terrorists are. And oddly enough, the Philippines’ National Democratic Front (along with its ilk Jose Maria Sison et al.) which has been struggling for a belligerency status all these years is now being reduced to a terrorist organization.
The problem with the US government’s fight against terrorism is its arbitrary declarations of who are the terrorists. Unlike its previous fight against communism, it is taking a freer hand in clamping down terrorists primarily because of the vagueness of the nature of terrorism itself.
Terrorism knows no bounds of territory, race, or nationality for it is a war of symbols. Terrorist attacks are usually sporadic, a desperate attempt at hitting in piecemeal an all too powerful enemy. The motives for each terrorist attack cannot even be ascertained. Economic, political, and religious causes often overlap with each other complicating matters more. Then as of late, the conflict of civilization or the war against culture is being highlighted as probable cause.
Unlike a revolutionary movement that pushes for a new idea to replace an existing one, like democracy over monarchy or socialism over capitalism, terrorism does not advance any coherent ideology. It appears to be a plain reaction from perceived annihilation—a desperate attempt at survival; in recent case, of Islam.
If we try to thresh out the trimmings that surround terrorism as we see it in the late 20th century onwards, we see its roots as plain violence. The violence inflicted by a strong nation to another through economic exploitation, political domination, and cultural obliteration. The case is plain disrespect for other people living in this world. In the case of the United States of America, what it so zealously fight for its people in terms of individual freedom and liberty it flagrantly denies the same to those people it employs for its own interests. No wonder a lot of American nationals ask: “Why do they hate us?”
History tells us that most people cowered in this kind of violence, although there were a few brave souls who made heroic marks at resistance. And it was through this successful resistance that justice has been gradually acquired and violence is being lessened.
For several decades now, some countries in the Middle East populated mostly by Muslims have been experiencing this kind of violence from a superpower. Fortunately for them, they’ve got the blood, the faith, and the determination to resist being held by their throats. Any terrorist acts attributed to them have been faint reactions to the inherent violence inflicted on their people.
Guerilla warfare is the only means of fighting an enemy that is so much greater than your self. And what happened in New York and Washington DC is the same kind of resistance conducted by guerrillas through ambush attacks. What made it so catastrophic is simply that it occurred in the 21st century where a few square meters of land can be accommodated by thousands of people through a multistory structure. Advanced knowledge and modern technology aided the terrorists, while sophistication lent its piece.
Indeed, much as we profess ourselves to be civilized, modern day humanity is far from being humane with its forerunners being ruled by raw emotions of hatred, envy, and greed. If violence continues to be inflicted by the strong over the weak, limiting other nation’s right at self-determination, then terrorism is here to stay.