Chris Hedges, a former Pulitzer prize-winning correspondent for the New York Times and author of the highly recommend War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, recently wrote an excellent piece for Truthdig.com on the differences between terrorism (as defined by the 9/11 attacks and the recent events in Mumbai), and state-sponsored terrorism (i.e. the U.S. wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, or Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon), that is worth reading in its entirety. In short, the biggest difference is whether one uses an F-22 or a box cutter:
The Hindu-Muslim communal violence that led to the attacks in Mumbai, as well as the warnings that the New York City transit system may have been targeted by al-Qaida, are one form of terrorism. There are other forms.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, when viewed from the receiving end, are state-sponsored acts of terrorism. These wars defy every ethical and legal code that seek to determine when a nation can wage war, from Just War Theory to the statutes of international law largely put into place by the United States after World War II. These wars are criminal wars of aggression. They have left hundreds of thousands of people, who never took up arms against us, dead and seen millions driven from their homes. We have no right as a nation to debate the terms of these occupations. And an Afghan villager, burying members of his family’s wedding party after an American airstrike, understands in a way we often do not that terrorist attacks can also be unleashed from the arsenals of an imperial power.
Barack Obama’s decision to increase troop levels in Afghanistan and leave behind tens of thousands of soldiers and Marines in Iraq—he promises only to withdraw combat brigades—is a failure to rescue us from the status of a rogue nation. It codifies Bush’s “war on terror.” And the continuation of these wars will corrupt and degrade our nation just as the long and brutal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank has corrupted and degraded Israel. George W. Bush has handed Barack Obama a poisoned apple. Obama has bitten it.
Antiwar Radio’s Scott Horton conducted a engrossing interview with Hedges the other day regarding this article, which you can listen to here. Also, for what it’s worth, one of the first pieces I ever had published was on an address at a Hedges dared to deliver at a college graduation in 2003 on the morally corrupting nature of war, which resulted in a predictably fascistic response from the campus and talk radio brownshirts.
[Hedges] dared — dared! — to warn of the soul-destroying effects that can be wrought by war and empire. “For the instrument of empire is war and war is a poison,” said Hedges, “a poison which at times we must ingest just as a cancer patient must ingest a poison to survive. But if we do not understand the poison of war — if we do not understand how deadly that poison is – it can kill us just as surely as the disease.” In these United States, it has become that pointing out the horrors of war and the pain and suffering which accompany it is now tantamount to “hating America” in the popular eye.