L. Neil Smith's
Number 308, February 27, 2005

"Too busy... to pick up a pitchfork and start the revolution."

A Terrorist by Any Other Name...
by L. Reichard White

Special to TLE

Newspapers and other publications keep what they call "stylebooks" to let the folks who write for them know what's acceptable to the publication and what isn't. Many factors determine the rules that are included in a stylebook, many, but not all of them, economic.

What these stylebooks reveal, however, is much more than just preferences and economics. What is a "terrorist" for example——

For the record, here's the [Minnesota] Star Tribune style entry, word for word: "The Star Tribune permits the use of the word 'terrorist' to describe nongovernmental groups that carry out attacks on civilians. Other words —'gunmen,' 'separatist,' 'rebel' and 'suicide bomber,' for example —usually are more precise and therefore are generally preferred. In the case of Al-Qaida, the use of 'terrorist network' or similar terms is permitted. Also, referring to the Sept. 11 attacks as 'terrorist attacks' is permitted." —Jim Boyd: Using word 'terrorist,' or not, [Minnesota] startribune.com, Apr 5, 2002

It seems that if a "governmental group" does exactly what a nongovernmental "terrorist group" does—"carrying out attacks on civilians," etc.—it isn't called "terrorist."

Can you think of any "governmental group" currently carrying out attacks on civilians?

Thought so. Me too. So, we know that governments attack civilians — regularly. And the results are predictable and the magnitude horrendous —

New York, NY - An early July column in the Wall Street Journal by R.J. Rummel confirmed what most libertarians already know: that government is the biggest scourge of mankind. According to Rummel's research, governments of all kinds ... have killed 119 million people in the twentieth century. The second runner up, war (also sponsored by governments, usually) has killed "only" 35.7 million. —AMERICAN LIBERTARIAN Vol. 1 no. 2, Aug. 1986, pg. 8 [1]

This record (154.7 million) has been substantially "improved" since Rummel's 1986 research —— in Afghanistan (by Russian Government), Nicaragua, Bosnia, Iraq 1991 (200,000+ by U.S. Coalition), Guatemala, Chechnya (100,000+), Somalia (by U.S. Government), Rowanda, Grenada (by U.S. Government), East Timor, Panama (by U.S. Government), Kosovo 1999 (by U.S-NATO Coalition & Yugoslav Government), Yugoslavia 1999 (7000+ by U.S.-NATO Coalition), Waco, Texas (60+ including 23 children by U.S. Government), Afghanistan 2002 (4000+ by American Government), Palestine (Israeli Government), Iraq 2003-05 (15,000+ [1] by U.S. led "Coalition"[2]), etc.

You can see Rummel's research for yourself. Amnesty International claims the government kill figure is now closer to 200 million (200,000,000) men, women and children.

A 2004 study by Holocaust researchers gives the prize for the world's largest genocide to America and the U.S. Government for killing-off record numbers of Native American "Indians." [3]

Notice that 119 million—about 77%—of the 154.7 million killed in Rummel's research alone were "civilians," killed, apparently, by their own governments, without even the benefit of "war" as an excuse. (Russian Kulaks, German Jews—Native Americans, Weavers, Branch Davidians, Mormons, Hawaiians, Bonus Marchers, etc.)

So why do we give this startribune.com "governmental" vs. "nongovernmental" dispensation to those groups calling themselves "government?" Clearly these organizations carry out way more attacks on civilians—and kill way more of them—than ordinary run-of-the-mill "nongovernmental" terrorists could even dream of.

Do we give this dispensation to all so-called "governments?" Or just to "our" own?

The right to keep and bear arms, recognized but not granted by The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, had nothing to do in our ancestors' minds with the "right to hunt" as ex-president William Jefferson Clinton consistently tried to imply:

The existence of an armed populace, superior in its forces even to a standing army, and not a paper bill of rights, would check despotism. Noah Webster promised that even without a bill of rights, the American people would remain armed to such an extent as to be superior to any standing army raised by the federal government. —Stephen P. Halbrook, TO KEEP AND BEAR THEIR PRIVATE ARMS: THE ADOPTION OF THE SECOND AMENDMENT, 1787-1791, Originally published as 10 N. Ky. L. Rev. 13-39 (1982)

The idea is that, confronted by an armed populace, a "government" will be a lot more "polite"—and a lot less likely to massacre "its" civilians en masse. And if it tries anyway, it will be a loud and expensive operation.

Postscript: How will Rummel's research classify the approximately 100,000 Iraqis so far killed [4] as a result of the U.S. Government attacking their territorial area?


[1] To get current figures, click here. return

[2] The so-called "Coalition of the Willing" consisted of 89% Americans, willing or not. General Sanchez said he was "very happy" with the current level of allied forces in Iraq - 120,000 Americans and 15,000 troops from other countries [89% Americans -lrw] ... No further troop contributions from other countries, other than perhaps a small contingent from Japan, are expected. U.S. Troops Are Expected to Remain in Iraq The Dutch have 1300 troops in Iraq. -Andrea Mitchell, CNBC, March 17, 2004, 20:11:03 The Spanish also have approximately 1300 troops in Iraq—but are now expected to withdraw them. Etc. return

[3] You can find the article drawing attention to the study here, and the encyclopedia containing the study here. return

[4] According to a study released by the prestigious medical journal Lancet on Friday, October 29, 2004, there were at least 100,000 excess deaths in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, most caused by violence and most of those caused by "coalition" air strikes. Since, in the words of U.S. General Tommy Franks, US CENTCOM, "We don't do body counts," the Lancet figures are the most accurate figures available. As might be expected, a government sponsored disinformation campaign ensued, but was thoroughly discredited by a well reasoned rebuttal from Lancet and others. return

L. Reichard White lives several houses up from the site of the old Black Horse Tavern, a birth place of the Whiskey Rebellion. He supported his writing habit for over 30 years by beating casinos at their own games. He is currently working on "The Hi-jacking of Civilization," which, based on the anthropological record, reframes theories of the origin of government and explains why free trade in free markets and "spontaneous order" trump "central planning" every time. You can find his web site at http://www.thespiritof76.com/NEX_NEWS/NN_INDEX.HTM


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