the politics of fear

comment from Paul Woodward
@ The War in Context:

Definitions of terrorism easily get confused by focusing on the perpetrators and the methods of violence that they employ, but the essence of terrorism is the use of fear to achieve political aims. The Pentagon's own definition is this:

The calculated use of violence or threat of violence to inculcate fear.

When President Bush or Vice President Cheney suggest or imply that their opponents might be "weak on terror" they are using the threat of violence to inculcate fear. This is an act of political terrorism.

Obviously a head of state with all the instruments of government and unparalleled access to the media does not need to explode a bomb, or have anyone else do so, in order to inculcate fear and exploit that fear to achieve political aims. We live at a time where there is no shortage of people willing to articulate threats upon which others are then only too eager to take a political ride.

So long as we remain clear that fear as a political instrument- and not the particular methods used to generate that fear- is the defining characteristic of terrorism, then it's much easier to understand why terrorism is not simply a tool of asymmetric warfare. "Terrorism" is really the only fitting name for the politics of fear.

If one considers the degree to which George Bush, Dick Cheney, and their cohorts have successfully exploited fear in order to control the deployment of massive economic and human resources in the service of political agendas whose nature often remains obscure, then this cadre of besuited operatives rank as truly the most successful and powerful terrorists the world has ever known.

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