USS Clueless - What is a terrorist?

Stardate 20011228.0830

(On Screen via long range sensors): Well, somebody had to do it.

The EU has created a formal definition for "terrorism" to become enshrined in European law. Read on, mes enfants, and marvel at the brilliance of the bureaucratic mind:

The definition of terrorist group was agreed to be "a structured group of more than two persons, established over a period of time and acting in concert to commit terrorist acts."

The agreement defined “terrorist act” as intentional acts, which may seriously damage a country or an international organisation, intimidating a population, compelling a Government or an international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act, seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organisation.

Fear, my fellow Americans, for we are all terrorists. Travel not to Europe on vacation, for you risk arrest. The United States is a terrorist organization. It has just engaged in two months of "intentional acts" (bombing) which "seriously damaged an international organization" (al Qaeda), and just in passing also "destroyed the fundamental political structure of a country" (the Taliban government) and also of an "international organization" (al Qaeda).

And this gives the Arab world their fondest dream, because the government of Israel is now officially a terrorist organization. (I guess Belgium is now justified in trying Ariel Sharon in absentia. Luckily he won't get the death penalty.)

Let's consider some of the other things which would qualify. Right off this instantly criminalizes any use by Americans of the last clause of the First Amendment: "...the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." There it is: a "group of more than two persons", "established over a period of time" "acting in concert" and "compelling a Government" "to perform or abstain from performing any act": which means any form of political lobbying is terrorism.

The Republican Party is a terrorist organization. (Somehow I always knew it to be true. Let's start issuing warrants. No, wait a minute: I'm registered Republican. Let's get the Democrats.)

It kind of shreds most of the rest of the First Amendment too, just in passing. If you think about it, the NY Times and the Washington Post also fit this definition.

So does the ACLU. When they go to court to get a court order overturning a law or forcing the government to do something, they're engaged in terrorism.

Defenders of this definition will claim that I'm misinterpreting the word "compel" because lobbyists and political parties and newspapers can't actually force the government to accede to their will. The problem is that al Qaeda can't, really, either. They destroyed the WTC towers and badly damaged the Pentagon, but did not manage to convince us to pull our troops out of Saudi Arabia or reduce our support for Israel or indeed to change anything in any way favorable to their stated positions. "Compel" means to bring big-time pressure to bear, but it doesn't mean that the pressure is irresistible.

In the case of the ACLU it's more than that: when they prevail in court they actually do "compel" the government to alter its behavior because they get a court order. The ACLU is "more than two persons, established over a period of time and acting in concert" to "compel a Government" "to perform or abstain from performing any act" (by compelling it to not enforce an unconstitutional law).

And it's difficult to see how the US government can escape indictment under this definition. The war in Afghanistan comfortably falls within it.

So what's missing? The idea that terrorist acts violate the law. No act which is legal is ever an act of terrorism. That's the dividing line between "political activism" (which had better damned well continue to be legal) or acts of governments, and "terrorism". The first sentence of the second paragraph should have been amended as follows: " intentional acts which violate the legal code having jurisdiction, which may..."

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Captured by MemoWeb from on 9/16/2004