From Outside the Beltway:
Some commonly applied definitions of terrorism:
– “Systematic use of violence, terror, and intimidation to achieve an end.” (Webster’s)
– “The calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.” (Defense Department)
– “International terrorism is terrorism conducted with the support of a foreign government or organization and / or directed against foreign nationals, institutions or governments.” (State Department)
– “Terrorism is the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” (FBI)
Taheri’s act qualifies under some of those definitions and not under others.
From what we know now, he was acting alone and this was a one-time event. So, it was not “systematic” nor “with the support of” anyone and would not qualify under the Webster’s or State Department definitions. It would, however, seem to fit the DoD and, especially, FBI definitions.
Still, it sounds like the guy is just a less-than-stable loser rather than a calculating jihadist. Indeed, one has to be a complete moron to hit fifteen people with a Jeep with the intent to kill them and somehow manage not to kill anyone. My guess is that he’s a “terrorist” in the same way the looters yelling “Rodney King!” while running down the streets with their television sets were “militants.”
This is a postmodernist argument. Words only have the meaning we ascribe to them, and so to call it terrorism depends on your agreed-upon definition of terrorism. I’ve changed my mind since my original post. If it is in fact terrorism under some definition which we can all agree, then we owe it to ourselves to call it that. The only way things get better is to address them. But, it still might not actually have been terrorism based on some of those definitions above. I think this incident raises a lot of important questions about what terrorism is, what we all think it to be, especially in a post-9/11, Iraqi War world.
Because if the Pit incident is terrorism, then the isolated nature of the event leads me to believe the War on Terror is a war we can’t win unless we obliterate the ideology behind it, which, unfortunately, involves several selective attacks on Islam. Given America’s dedication to tolerance and understanding, I don’t see such a selective attack as being possible or feasible. The ideology will therefore be allowed to fester indefinitely, and the war on terror will be perpetual, incapable of ever being won.