In October 2001, I wrote a piece for the Prospect [see “Excusing Terror”] in which I criticized “the politics of ideological apology” -- the excuses that some on the left were making for terrorism. No one was justifying terrorism, but we were often asked to “understand” it. I argued that terrorism as a political strategy had to be condemned and opposed without regard to the causes that the terrorists claimed to serve. In fact, terrorism served no decent cause.
Even before September 11, hardly anyone was
advocating terrorism--not even those who regularly practice and support it. The
practice is indefensible now that it has been recognized, like rape or murder, as
an attack upon the innocent. The victims of a terrorist attack are ordinary men
and women, eternal bystanders. There is no special reason for targeting them. The
attack is launched indiscriminately against the entire class. Terrorists are like
killers on a rampage, except that their rampage is purposeful and programmatic.
It aims at a general vulnerability. Kill these people in order to terrify those.
A relatively small number of dead victims makes for a very large number of living