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An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
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Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Did I hear that right?

You'd think I'd get sick of it and not tune in to NPR anymore, but like a glutton for high blood pressure I continue to listen. During a report on the terrorist crisis in Russian I actually heard the reporter say the following (my paraphrase):

"The Chechen rebels holding the school, whom the Russians refers to as terrorists..."

Ummm...okay, so if you take 400 children and parents hostage and threaten to kill them unless your demands are met you are an "alleged" terrorist? Maybe I'm just in a politically foul mood, or just particularly sensitive for these poor kids on their first day of school because it was my kids' first day at school...but I feel like I could vomit.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 4:05 PM [+]


Well, technically speaking Terrorism used to refer to a very specific type of evil. Namely, a terrorist or terrorist group kills and destroys in order to terrorize. Terrorists, for example, don't take hostages and make demands. They never have. Their means of meeting their political goals requires that they put fear in people, terrorize them. Then they pressure governments to bend to their requests because those governments are supposedly now terroized.

This new thing of calling everybody who commits a crime a terrorist was started by George Bush, and now Putin is jumping on the band wagon to look and sound more western. Also, if he can convince the Russian parlament and the Russian people that the Checyen rebels are terrorists or have terrorist ties, then they won't get so mad at him next time he scorches the earth of Chechnya, reducing the entire small republic to a heap of rubble like they did about a half a dozen (or was it a dozen?) years ago already.


By Blogger Basil The Wandering Fool, at 10:15 AM  


... mind you, don't take my comments to mean that I'm not equally appalled at the lack of any trace of humanity in these evil villians that wander around our globe killing the innocent because it makes them feel good.

But my point is, that Bush has redefined the word terrorism to basically refer to any act by a group of people that causes others loss of life or property. Formerly a terrorist was somebody who would go into a school of 1000 children and just blow it up. They wouldn't take hostages and make demands. We have another word for that, it's called kidnapping and hostage taking. Generally kidnappers and hostage takers can be negotiated with, people released and all that sort of thing. Whereas terroists don't even try to negotiate with somebody. It isn't a part of their creed.

And there is a very definite politic to Putin using that specific word. The Russian state has received negative feedback for years because of their merciless treatment of the break-away republic of Chechnya. Putin is deliberately using the word Terrorist and quite deliberately trying to find connections to known terrorist groups, in order to gain political support for more military involvement in Chechnya.

Or course, it is natural for the English (or Russian) language to evolve. In this case it is evolving with a certain politic behind the evolution.


By Blogger Basil The Wandering Fool, at 10:27 AM  


Hey Vasili,

If your wife and daughter were in that school now, would you be terrified?No politics about it, for my part...I'm kosher with the term terrorist here. I suppose we could split hairs over the terminology, but it seems to me that Putin has it right and that the ones letting politics decided terminology are those who would say they are not neccesarily terrorists.

I'd be terrified. And in a small way (at least as much as my self-centered heart will let me) I am.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 11:48 AM  


Regarding Chechnya:
Let's say that, in the period immediately after the attacks on Washington, D.C., and the World Trade Center in NYC, an organized group of people of Hispanic background seized control of, oh, Arizona, and declared their independence from the USA. (By the way: this is an *example*: Do not in any way read anything to impugn the character of the people of Hispanic background in this.)

Would you wish them well, and say, "Yes, go in peace, and be prosperous. And yes, it was wrong of us to have incorporated your land into ours." Or would you have acted to maintain the territorial integrity of the US, and put down a rebellion against the lawful authority of the state and the nation?

When the rebellion was put down by the Russian military -- and I'm not defending the tactics used -- the Chechen rebels turned to using tactics of terror to disrupt the attempts to restore order to the region. What else can you call exploding bombs in houses in Moscow, taking hostages in a theater in Moscow, exploding bombs in the subway in Moscow, attacking a hospital in Ingushetia, blowing up airplanes in flight, and taking children at gunpoint while threatening to blow them up in their school if anyone attempts to rescue them? In my book, that is "terrorism." President Putin is not stretching the meaning of the term when he calls them "terrorists."

You know, it's funny how we can forget some aspects of history. Do you recall, Basil, who it was that was pressuring Russia about the treatment of Chechnya? Do you remember when that pressure stopped? The pressure was being applied by the American government; and it stopped in the aftermath of September 11th; especially when it became clear to us that al-Qaida personnel were among those who were fighting on behalf of the Chechens. What brought them to Chechnya to fight the Russians? "It's a Muslim thing..."

Until we get this, we're not going to understand what is going on today with the "War on Terror."

By Blogger Fr. John McCuen, at 6:51 PM  


Sure, I pretty much agree, Fr. John.

I'm just splitting hairs about word-meaning.

I'm horrified at the final conclusion of the whole thing, and our thoughts and prayers should all go out for those children and their families that were suffering at the hand of these godless and lawless characters of evil.

But in terms of linguistics. There are different words for different things. Sure these people are undoubtedly terrorists, or at least some of their tactics are what is traditionally called terrorism. But traditionally terrorists don't take hostages and make demands. Terrorists traditionally just blow things up and claim afterwards that they did so.

And, of course, as James says, I'd be terrified if it happened to me and my family.

I think the bottom line is more and more people are resorting to acts of "terrorism" out of a sense of desparation, rather than out of a sense of organized crime. Traditional terrorism is organized crime, not just random acts of desparation inflicted on society. This was pretty much a random act, I'd say. Certainly not intelligently organized. If they wanted to really strike terror in the world they would have just blown the whole school up all at once killing ~2000 people. On the other hand, they thought they could kidnap people and make demands. Kidnappers who make demands are never successful, because governments who have time to negotiate with them are able to gain some advantage over time. They are able to end up saving some of the people, and in some cases all of the people. And at least in this case, some of the children and parents/teachers, etc., were saved. That's why actual terrorists (organized crime terrorists like AlQuaida, for example) don't ever do that sort of thing.


P.S. What does "links to Al quaida" mean? We hear that all the time about these things. If someone has exchanged an email with a member of al quaida, is that a "link to al quaida"? If one person in organization X was one time "trained" by one member of Al quaida, is that a link to al quaida? I think the expression is a very dubious (almost meaningless) expression that our governments use as often as they can to make us (or try to make us) respect their opinion on a matter. The fact of the matter is, Al quaida is not responsible for this act, but rather some evil people in some other part of the world is: does it make us all feel better to somehow try to place blame on Al quaida? No, but it makes people inadvertently support their government's efforts against rebels in various parts of the world, that's all. It is a political tactic, and nothing more, to constantly say "links to Al quaida." Regards, Basil

By Blogger Basil The Wandering Fool, at 8:10 AM  


I'm not sure this attack was really unorganized...and besides we have in fact already seen some hostage takers be succesfull in Iraq (i.e. the terms of the terrorists were met).

Apparently there are Arabs amongst the terrorists - from an AP report:

Twenty militants were killed, including 10 Arabs...
The hostage-takers had been demanding independence for Chechnya, and the Arab presence among the attackers would support President Vladimir Putin's contention that al-Qaida terrorists were involved in the Chechen conflict
No proof of al-qaida...but certainly evidence of some level of organization and more than just a "random act". And certainly 9/11 was REALLY well organized.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 1:25 PM  



Many of the people of Chyechnya are ethnically Arab. They are at the northern end of branch of land between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, north of the Caucauses, of Georgia and the other Caucasian nations.

I think it is well known that the "Checchyn separatists" are Arabs. The are trying to throw out all the Russians from the area (and probably the population is mostly Russian, but not entirely) and create their own Arab state. That's what the whole conflict is about. So there's nothing special about them being Arabs.

Besides... we're Arabs too (by grafting into the Holy Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch) are we not? :0


By Blogger Basil The Wandering Fool, at 4:04 PM  


Honestly I cannot speak to the specifics of ethnicity in Chechnya...the jist of what I gather from the articles I am reading is that those labelled as "Arabs" are foreigners who originate in the middle east.

By Blogger JamesoftheNorthwest, at 11:45 PM  


I'm not sure GWB did redefine the meaning of terrorism. I remember the reporting of the PLO, the Red Brigade, Bader-Meinhoff, etc, from years ago and it was called terrorism then.

By Blogger i;ajgnlkaj, at 3:59 AM  


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