No True Scotsman

It was not surprising that the group recently arrested and charged with plotting to kill police officers, then those mourning at their funeral using IEDs have nowhere in the mainstream media been referred to as “terrorists” or even “terror suspects”. After all, they aren’t Muslims. But, that’s not enough for the political right. Apparently, on the “No True Scotsman” principle, it’s also unfair to refer them as “Christians“.

93 thoughts on “No True Scotsman

  1. I can’t help but see the modern concept of Terrorism as an exercise in spin. Sure, delivering explosives to marginal targets by hand involves brainwashing the poor sods that carry the packages and it’s nasty but delivering explosives that kill people by dropping them, shooting them from cannon, loading them on missiles are all nasty. For the most well armed and armoured forces in the world to morally condemn people for not fighting fair seems more than a bit hypocritical. Perhaps the greatest criticism of ‘Terrorism’ is that it has been a military failure and still people keep doing it over and over again; it can never win over more than those who’s anger and hatred overcomes their intelligence. It’s probably been very helpful to those most engaged in making the war on terror popular that Northern Ireland has settled down; US citizens were the biggest financial backers of the IRA for years.

  2. smiths :
    did you support it at the time terje?

    No. I always vocally opposed the invasion of Iraq. It was an aggressive war without any sound basis.

  3. Alice :@sdfc Quote Unquote George Bush’s speech pushing for the Iraq war
    “The terrorists’ directive commands them to kill Christians and Jews, to kill all Americans and make no distinctions among military and civilians, including women and children. This group and its leader, a person named Osama bin Laden, are linked to many other organizations in different countries, including the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
    There are thousands of these terrorists in more than 60 countries.”
    So sdfc – this was just one speech. Where were you when the religious pro Iraq war rants were happening in the United states? Asleep? And you are trying to tell me religion wasnt used to gather support for a pre-emptive strike on Iraq for all the wrong reasons?
    Tell me what you want to deny next and Ill take a note (of the fact that you will have absolutely no credibility on that subject either).
    Do you want more?


    You don’t believe that rubbish do you? Bush was playing to an audience. Iraq was not an Islamic state harbouring terrorists. Bush knew Iraq was not in cahoots with AQ and that they had practically no WMD. Iraq was a victim of US expansionism.

  4. Sdfc – I’m not entirely convinced that Bush was beyond believing his own propaganda. I suspect he was operating in something of an echo chamber.

  5. At the end of the day Terje the secular US attacked secular Iraq because its leaders had a grand vision of increasing US influence in the ME.

  6. I was commenting more about what Bush believed in terms of WMD more so than religion. I do however agree that the over arching objective was to change the course of ME history and culture. I don’t disagree with this aspiration but I don’t think it was worth it or that it couldn’t have been pursued in better ways.

  7. @sdfc
    sdfc – one too many beers doesnt excuse you from not being able to follow the train of your own argument on religion being used as an excuse to invade Iraq by the Bush government…or maybe it does?.

    Try reading my responses, to yours, when you are sober.

  8. @smiths
    Smiths – I wouldnt beleive what Terje says his opinions were on Iraq at the time of Iraq. I wouldnt beleive what he says, now which is

    “No. I always vocally opposed the invasion of Iraq. It was an aggressive war without any sound basis.”

    Terje? Do you have any proof? eg blog quotes? Dates and times etc…

    I could see you in there waving the republican flag for all you were worth in the initial rush to Iraq Terje – it fits ie not much proof in the enviro of blogland but perhaps someone could trace your contemporaneous comments Terje?

    That would indeed be interesting.

    Me? I think you are lying about your opposition to Iraq and Im not surprised…at all.

  9. Hmm, looking at the mugshots, they certainly didn’t appeal to the writer as particularly the sharpest looking tools on the rack.
    If they can bang up young Islamist hotheads for ventilating their anger, why not these nutters?

  10. @charles
    Money gives them a reason to be stupid and a nuisance to human advance. Its always been the way. What are your values? Human advance or engineered obstructionist stupidity for some short term individual profit maximising reason?

    They dont call it the root of all evil for nothing.

  11. Alice,
    You do enjoy accusations of lying, don’t you? I remember arguing the point with him then and he has been consistent – and consistently polite, which is more than can be said for you.
    As for your last comment, it shows such an amazing lack of understanding of the role of money in a society that I somehow doubt that you have read much on the topic. Economics 100, anyone?
    Perhaps you should also review the comments policy – at point 2 in particular. I would have thought that an accusation of lying without any evidence at all would constitute a clear breach of that point.

  12. @TerjeP (say tay-a)

    Sorry Terje I misunderstood your point. I have no idea of Bush’s thought processes so maybe you’re right. It was well known the weapons inspections had largely succeeded in disarming Iraq. I read a little book by an ex weapons inspector in the lead up to the war and he said as such.

    They administration may have believed their own propaganda but I don’t believe the intelligence services did. So why did the message not get through? My guess is it was wilful ignorance on the part of the warmongers.

  13. Alice – that you publicly call me a liar and then suggest that the onus to prove otherwise is on me makes an interesting statement about your character. I don’t feel any need to prove anything to you. However because others will read this I will defend myself by offering up some evidence.

    The article linked below was written in late January 2003 just before the Iraq invasion. The author calls himself Strawman and he argued in favour of the war. He asks the following questions:-

    How many people have to be killed in the coming Gulf War for it to not to be justified?

    If the war were to bring human rights, removal of sanctions, and democracy to the 22 million people in Iraq, but were to cost the life of one innocent Iraqi, would it be worth it?

    The challenge to the anti-war lobby is to set the US military an objective. How many innocent deaths would make the war unjust?

    He argued that war or no war innocent people would die in Iraq and that on balance war was a better option because it would remove an evil dictator and create a better place for the people of Iraq. For him the question was merely one of cost as in how many innocent lives was an acceptable price to pay.

    You can see the responces to his article in the links at the bottom of the page. You can see that it includes one from me dated 2003-02-06. That comment by me reads as follows:-

    — Iraqi Deaths – How Many is Too Many? —

    2003-02-06 17:35 Terje Petersen

    If you are one of the people that gets killed then I am sure you might ponder the question quite a bit if it were possible.

    In seeking a better world Hitler might have asked how many dead Jews is too many dead Jews. If he did then it was not a very good question.

    Afghanistan does not yet have a democracy. Hamid Karzai is only an interum leader.

    My reasons for opposing the war with Iraq do not relate fundamentally to the question of how many innocent lives is too many. My concern is with the principle of soverignty and world stability, not to mention the treat of terrorism.

    The arguments for war seem to be:-

    1. Saddam is evil. He abuses his people and practices genocide. 2. Saddam is lieing. 3. Saddam is a clear and present danager to us. 4. George.W.Bush is loosing his patience.

    1. I don’t think the evidence of genocide is at all compelling. However I have no doubt that Saddam is a typical brutal dictator. However he is in a very long list of brutal dictators and we seem to avoid war with the rest of them.

    2. Probably but that is not a good enough argument in my book.

    3. He might be a danger. I don’t think it is clear or present. More like murky and possible in the distant future. More of a good reason to monitor him until he dies of old age. A little like Castro in cuba.

    4. Clearly this statement is true. However it is not relevant or valid no matter how many times George Bush says it.

    My views on the war have evolved somewhat in the last 7 years however my opposition to the war isn’t new and my comments in February 2003 clearly demonstrate that.

    Alice – that is two apologies that you now owe me. However I won’t be holding my breath.

  14. Further to the above I trawled through one of my old email accounts and found several instances of correspondance with acquaitances in 2002 and 2003 regarding the propect of an invasion of Iraq. I’m not going to publish all that correspondance here but if I did it would show a clear opposition to the war. Of course even if I did publish any such correspondance Alice could in any case still just claim that such correspondance is fraudulent. Regardless here is a copy of an email I sent to the SMH on the 8th of August 2002. I don’t believe it was ever published and I think it is poorly written (due to passionate haste I suspect) however it demonstrates my outlook.

    Daniel McCormack (SMH letters 08/08/2002) suggests that there are parallels between an attack on Iraq and the history of WWII. At a recent get together the Arab nations pledged that an military attack on one Arab nation would be regarded as an attack on all Arab nations. Iraq was present and included in that pact. To boldly declare war on Iraq would be to repeat the folly that Hitler engaged in by believing that an act of aggression can be successfully contained and would not bring other parties into the conflict. Hitler made that mistake. Why should we.
    Iraq has asked the UN to negotiate terms for letting weapons inspectors back into Iraq. They want clear terms because last time the UN looked for weapons they spent many years looking, found nothing and still would not lift economic sanctions. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people have died as a result of those sanctions. Iraq quite reasonably wants to know that if there is no evidence of a weapons program on the next series of searches then will sanctions be lifted and can it get on with rebuilding its broken infrastructure. At the moment there is no evidence of a weapons program in Iraq there is just conjecture, opinion and posturing.

    Iraq may be undemocratic. However so is Pakistan and they already have weapons of mass destruction. So is China. So is Saudi Arabia. And on the list goes. Are we to invade every nation that does not meet our democratic ideals. Not with my blood thankyou.

    What September 11 has to do with weapons of mass destruction or Iraq is beyond me. Saudi terrorists hijacked airplanes with $5 box cutters. There is no link. There is just blind rage and fear.

    The only reason we should go to war is in self defence or to assist our allies in self defence. Declaring war on Germany was the correct decision. Declaring war on Iraq after it invade Kuwait was the correct decision. Declaring war on Iraq today is not.

    Terje Petersen

  15. @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Terje says

    “Alice – that is two apologies that you now owe me. However I won’t be holding my breath.”

    Thats a shame Terje and judging by the length of some of your recent posts…you clearly didnt.

  16. @Andrew Reynolds
    Andy – Im flattered you keep trying to make a point with me but I barely recall addressing any point to you in this thread???

    Normally I dont – you have such a rosy view of unregulated markets and the precendence that individual liberties and free choice should take over any other forms of market structure organisation – well I can only honestly say I dont share your views.

  17. @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    But perhaps Terje…on your views on Iraq as traced back by you….I agree with what you said back then. So thats one apology…. yet not on your auto pilot anti government stance and certainly not on your peddling of denialist AGW agendas.

  18. I always thought the argument for a war with Iraq was: Sadam Hussein lives in a foreign land: Hilter lived in a foreign land. Sadam Hussein has a mustache; Hitler had a mustache. I had never recognised that so much thought had gone into the justification.

  19. I’m pretty sure the reason they are not being referred to as “terrorists” is that they were not targetting civilians.

    They people in this story were targetting police officers who are in effect the ground forces of their claimed enemy (the US government).

    Whatever the word “terrorist” originally meant, it nowadays is pretty much only applied to people who explicitly target civilians in order to achieve a political goal (as opposed to armies that target civilians in order to achieve a military goal e.g. The bombing of London in WWII). . People who target soldiers are (enemy) soldiers.

  20. Under this definition the nutters who blow up abortion clinics are terrorists, because Doctors are civilians. These nutters who targetted cops are not terrorists, nor are the people who targetted US armed forces on their own bases like this guy In fact he hasn’t been charged with any terror-related offenses, only murder.

  21. Yobbo – I agree. That was the point I made earlier that somehow lead to accusations that I supported the invasion of Iraq. It is pretty tribal on the John Quiggin blog. The mentality seems to be that if you’re not with us on every issue then you’re obviously against us on every issue.

  22. @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Totally wide call remark Terje – but I muist admit Ive noticed people and the general consensus against you more often than not…
    however I was pleased to see you had some decent views on Iraq.

  23. I dont suppose its ever crossed your mind Terje that some (quite a few) here see you as being tribal in your libertarianism…seeing as accusations of tribalism are flying around (emanating from you).

  24. Yobbo #25

    They could be terrorists if they had succeeded in doing anything as the press is not that fussy about labels or fine distinctions.

    The point that Prof Q was making was that in dog whistle politics there is something of a blindness to the behaviours emanating from the fanatical right lunatics in the USA – which has in recent years given us Timothy McVeigh and Waco. What concerns me is that the hard right in the USA have dog whistled up people who don’t know where to draw the line and the GOP has not made any attempt to moderate language in response to the kinds of threats made after the passage of the weak health changes.

    The leadership of the Republicans has encouraged those who seek Armegeddon and will be inclined to engage in “rebellion” rather than “terrorism”. It will no doubt be some time, if at all, before there is a recognition by the right wing press that the dangers from within are possibly worse than the external threat. This is incredible as it will make it harder for authorities to deal with external threats too but for the Republicans it is their strategy to gain control of Congress. They are a rabble but they are so dangerous because they are an armed rabble.

  25. The whole dog whistling analogy is rather limited in my view. It seems to be a device designed to maintain political correctness. If you express a reasonable mainstream view on immigration (eg we the democratically government will decide who comes to this nation and the terms on which they come) then somehow your in league with the devil to conjure up Nazi zombies who will kill coloured people. It’s a stupid device designed to ignore the substance of what people actually say and instead to judge some strawman position instead. Why not judge people for what they say and do, the good the bad and the ugly, rather than what you imagine that some people imagine they might have meant.

  26. Yobbo, the Fort Hood shootings were regularly described as terrorism

    And, even if you regard police officers as military targets, that can’t be extended to mourners at a funeral. It’s hard to conceive of a definition of terrorism (other than one in which certain groups are automatically excluded) that would not cover the accusations in this case.

  27. “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” (to borrow from Humpty Dumpty) As well as the use of terms terrorist and terrorism, there is also calling suicide bombers ‘cowards’ and their acts ‘cowardly’. There are many derogatory terms that could be used to characterise the acts of suicide bombers, but calling them cowards and their acts cowardly is a very non-standard use of these words. “The question is, who is to be master”, the speaker and the uses of the moment, or the, until then, common usage, “that is all.”

  28. It seems to me that appropriating the word ‘terrorism’ for people and ideas we don’t like is hardly new, and that the Global War On Terror continues this long tradition. In the popular mind, terrorists are caricatured villains, and therefore the label cannot possibly be applied to righteous god-fearing folks who have somehow gone astray. The sordid tale of coverup of the lethal anthrax letters incidents that ocurred after the World Trade Centre atrocities was surely about focusing the public mind on muslim fanatics, and away from the numerous homegrown ones.

    As has already been pointed out in this thread, there is little to differentiate in tactics and results from state as opposed to non-state violence – assassinations, torture and use of bombs in circumstances where non-participants will certainly be killed are all part of the policy apparatus of many of Australia’s allies. Now that the US is wanting to cut back its ruinously expensive military exposure in the middle east, battalions of people formerly known as terrorists have been quietly rehabilitated and made respectable members of nominally sovereign friendly governments. OBL remains the bogeyman of choice, conveniently invisible but mysteriously able to recruit and maintain a never-ending supply of lieutenants, right-hand men, and ‘number 3 leaders’ in his non-organisation whose grainy photographs and names flit across the headlines, recording the white hat wearers’ parade of victories.

    At an institutional level, domestic counter-terrorist administrators have a long history of ignoring threats posed by non-target groups. J Edgar Hoover’s notorious eye-aversion to the activities of the Mob in order to focus on ‘crypto-communists’ had its echoes in ASIO’s ignoring the Ustasha while surveilling MPs and union leaders. To some extent I suspect the many and scary people and grouplets of the right were mollified by the adoption of much of their program and rhetoric by the Bushies. The hysterical reaction to Obama’s mild reform measures points to a likely resumption of violence by the US extreme right. But it’s rarely going to be called terrorism.

  29. J Edgar Hoover averted his eyes from the mob’s existence and activities, and the mob averted their eyes from Hoover’s penchant for dressing up in women’s clothes and preferring the company of men. Seemed fair exchange.

    Another useful word or phrase is WMD, weapons of mass destruction. Under the FBI’s definition (in legislation) WMD includes anything with more than 4 ounces of explosive. The conflation of the idea of WMD and elevation of its status, seems to be a cunning means of minimising the distinction between nuclear weapons and all others. Maybe it is intended to make the use of tactical nuclear weapons, which would only be used on another party that does not possess them, more acceptable. The handy thing about WMD is, given that it is now defined to include 4 ounces of explosive, that your enemy is bound to have some.
    If the US and UK had had the least suspicion that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons, you can be sure they would never have invaded Iraq. The rapidity with which the US shut up about North Korea, when North Korea acquired a couple of small nuclear devices, certainly demonstrated that. Fighting an opponent that has real WMDs involves far too many body bags (or is that ash trays?).

  30. Freelander you couldn’t be more wrong. The US would have no compunction about invading another state with nuclear weapons, unless they had ICBMs. Tactical Nuclear weapons are no more likely to hit US territory than conventional bombs are. The US maintains total air superiority in most places of the world.

    The reason North Korea is so hard to deal with is not their nuclear capability, which is minimal at best. It’s because they could level Seoul – a city with a population over 10 million – with regular artillery before anyone could blink.

  31. The point that Prof Q was making was that in dog whistle politics there is something of a blindness to the behaviours emanating from the fanatical right lunatics in the USA – which has in recent years given us Timothy McVeigh and Waco.

    I understand Q’s point. My response was that he is imagining it.

    And the lunatics involved in WACO were mostly on the side of the government, They killed 75 people including 25 children for the crime of refusing to leave their house.

  32. @Yobbo
    Yobbo – I hardly think the US for all its war noises is going to go into Iran or Korea and what are they both building?. The US war glory days are over Id say for quite a while. No decisive victory in Afghanistan. No Osama Bin Laden’s head on a plate. No glory from Iraq (and no rebuilding) and lots of unhappy soldiers and families at home. Add a recession, an economy thats tanked and war isnt whats on American’s minds. Its nice to pretend but…its a useless exercise with no political will or mileage in it right now. Its time to play the international diplomat and Obama is doing very well at that game.
    Now he only has to turn the spotlight on the right wing lunatic fringes within the US and get them in line. Time to clean up the homeground.

  33. @Yobbo

    If nuclear weapons are no more likely than conventional bombs then you are saying they are a certainty, because the US has been hit by conventional bombs plenty of times. As for getting a nuke into the US, given the tonnage of drugs that manage to make their way there, that would not appear to be insurmountable.

    If the American’s had the least worry that Iraq could have dropped a nuke on invading US forces they would never have invaded. They only invaded because they were sure they had nothing to worry about.

  34. @Freelander
    Agree Freelander. Iraq was no threat and the Bush regime knew itb and of course all the BS that peredicated that war has come home to roost now and the millions that demonstrated against it across the globe didnt matter one bit – it was the political relief valve for the world trade centre bombings that was going to get Bush’s government political kudos and mileage and at the same timje give them a chance to push the neoliberal agenda by rewarding their private sector war cronies like Halliburton with taxpayers blood sweat and tears *(and even play out some oedipal inadequacy complex for granddady Bush by knocking off his old enemy Saddam) – why the hell do these rich spoilt and somehwhat dumb prats get to run US politics?.

    …even Bush said “we hit the trifecta”.

  35. @Freelander
    I don’t buy the idea that JEH’s choices of targets were entirely, or even primarily, a function of his vulnerability to blackmail. Much more likely he and organised crime formed a working relationship in displacing the legitimate activist leadership of the American labour unions during the 30s and 40s, allowing Hoover to focus the agency’s attentions on what Hoover correctly identified as threats to the American way of life: civil rights organisations and the broad US left. Hoover also performed a service to organised crime in eliminating its anarchic wing and allowing it to prosper in fringe legitimate businesses like casinos and participation, through the compromised labour unions, in commercial cartel arrangements. JEH’s position at the centre of American political power structures was so carefully nurtured during the anti-communist hysteria of the 40s and 50s that he was effectively invulnerable. The Kennedys, who would no doubt have been aware of Hoover’s unconventional sexuality, were unable to dislodge him. But then again Hoover kept quiet about the Kennedys’ equally sensational sexuality. At any event, IMO Hoover saw his mission in life as perpetuating and extending the social and political relations that facilitated the continued accumulation of capital by the US ruling class. This he did very well indeed, and was appropriately rewarded with real power.

  36. They killed 75 people including 25 children for the crime of refusing to leave their house.

    Not doing what you are told is a serious crime. Up there with rape, murder, arson, torture, you name it.

  37. @Hal9000

    The mob did have photos, and Hoover knew if he saw no evil in that direction, no one would see what he liked to do in his spare time. People may have ‘known’ things but having the ‘goods’ is something different.

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