Sunday, September 11, 2011


To begin with, I wasn't planning a 9/11 post, but as usual Facebook got me wound up.  I came home from lunch and a trip to the grocery store to see this on a couple of friends' walls, titled Perspective:
 Obviously, the idea here is to remind us that yeah, a lot of people died on 9/11, but a whole lot more people died other times, so let's...Hell, I dunno that part.  Stop feeling sorry for ourselves?  Stop considering it a day of change in how our world was put together?  Look at it from an historical standpoint?  God alone knows (I somehow doubt most of the folks who posted it put much thought into doing so).

Being who I am, I looked at that and thought "Well, shit.  Nothing else there is a terrorist attack.  Not really a proper comparison, is it?"  So I picked an arbitrary time period and fired up teh Google machine and a paint program and came up with the following:

You can tell I don't exactly have mad graphic design skillz, but that's not the point.  Point is, when you look at actual terrorist attacks, you see the true size and impact of what happened 10 years ago today.  Going beyond the last 20 years doesn't change the list that much.  It certainly does not alter the position of the 9/11 attacks.

If you leave out all the terrorist attacks in Iraq and call them mere acts of war in a civil conflict, the list would get much shorter, but 9/11's position would not change.

More than THREE TIMES as many deaths occurred on 9/11 as in the next-deadliest terrorist attack.  You have to go into acts of war and acts of God to find worse numbers.

Now, you can ask yourself some pretty big/important questions because of this list, depending on your political leanings.  Did America indirectly cause all those deaths in Iraq?  Why hasn't American media covered most of these other attacks?  Is there a common thread in the 15 or so deadliest, and if so, what is it?

All of that is valid.

But if you're going to give 9/11 a ranking, then rank it properly dammit.  Compare it to other such events, not other events that will give you the results you want.

Because that's not really a true perspective, is it?


Anonymous said...

Are you seriously trying to suggest that the Holocaust wasn't an act of terrorism? If ghettoizing an entire ethnic group, forcing them systematically into concentration camps, and gassing and working them to death by the millions ISN'T terrorism, what the hell is?

You should really check yourself before you accuse other people of not thinking before they post things on their Facebook page.

Sabra said...

Terrorism, as generally understood, is not state-sponsored. The Holocaust was. Ergo, no, the Holocaust was not terrorism. Nice try, at Godwinning, but next time pick your target better, okay?

Anonymous said...

So, you're saying what Israel and Palestine do to one another isn't terrorism? Are you saying that what Pinochet did wasn't terrorism? They're all state actors. You might say it's not, but the vast majority of people who report on it would disagree.

And I'm sort of curious, how did you draw this distinction, i.e., that terrorism "generally understood," isn't state-sponsored. You might want to Google "state terrorism." You'll find enough to keep you reading for a while.

This really has nothing to do with "Godwinning," since it can be just as easily applied to many of the other atrocities in the original Facebook post, which I pointed out to begin with.

Sabra said...

If you are truly positing a moral equivalency between people who are protecting their lawful country and those trying to destroy every Jew who lives in said lawful country, any further conversation is useless, but I'll bite anyway.

Words have meaning. Genocide isn't terrorism. Acts of war aren't terrorism, unless you buy into that "one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist" claptrap. You cannot just call anything and everything that is evil terrorism. By your amazingly loose definition, Communism would be terrorism. God knows Stalin and Mao both killed plenty of their own people.

Can terrorists be backed by a State? Certainly; we all know Saddam Hussein paid families of Palestinian suicide bombers, and the House of Saud at least indirectly influenced the 9/11 hijackers. (OK, well, there are some people out there who don't pay attention & so conflate the two, and even more out there who have no clue about either, but that's scarcely the point.)

But terrorism exists to destroy a country, and as fully evil as the Holocaust was, Stalin's pogroms were, as any "ethnic cleansing" is, its aim is to strengthen a given country. Fucked up and evil? Of course. But it is a different sort of evil, with different causes and different sorts of people involved, and different remedies. (Well, barring nuking them into a glass parking lot. That's always an option.)

Anonymous said...

I don’t know what you mean by “positing a moral equivalency.” Terrorism is terrorism, no matter who does it. It’s equally repugnant when Osama bin Laden or Anders Breivik or Yasser Arafat does it.

Also, I completely agree that Israel has every right to exist in peace. But so does Palestine. And while I’m not completely sure this is what you’re saying, to suggest that Israel’s foreign policy is wholly defensive doesn’t really seem to jive with common sense.

The problem here isn’t with what I’m asserting, since I haven’t really say “this is what terrorism is” or “this is what terrorism isn’t,” it’s the strictness of your own definition. I’m not offering any definitive account of the word; if you read what you’re saying, you’re the one claiming to know what terrorism is, and what it isn’t.

Your distinction of “strengthening” or “destroying” seems a little firm to recognize the full sweep of historical reality. The goal of most (notice that I’m using the word “most” here, instead of making a generalization) terrorists is to subvert the status quo by scaring civilians and governmental actors into submission, especially by making civilians hate one of the governments in question so much that they want to rebel against it. To some extent, this fits in with your idea of terrorism existing to destroy another country. Look at what the Chechen rebels do: they go to Moscow, blow up the trains, all the while hoping desperately that Russia will invade Chechnya (which they did), thereby making sure that Chechens will hate Russia even more than they already do. So, they were successful in their goal. Bin Laden wanted to scare America out of the Middle East altogether; of course, that’s the opposite of what happened, but it seems that it was still his original goal.

A lot of what you’re saying applies to large swaths of what we recognize as terrorism. I’m just saying that it’s difficult to say make assertions like “terrorism is not state-sponsored,” since clearly sometimes it is.