Democrats & Liberals Archives

Terrorism is a Crime

What does a “war” on terror mean? It means incessant warmongering against those in the “axis of evil” and against many other nations. It means building a militaristic society and giving up many of our precious freedoms. All of this is wrong because the “war” on terror is metaphorical. Committing a terrorist act is not, or should not be, a war but a crime - an international crime against which all nations can be enlisted to fight against, thus building international cooperation.

I said all this way back in January of 2004. I was called a fool. I'm bringing the issue up again because I think the climate has changed enough so that maybe people will listen. If I'm not mistaken, Bush and his administration seem to be coming to a similar conclusion. Administration officials no longer talk about the "war on terror"; they speak of the "struggle against violent extremism."

Declaring ourselves as being at war with terrorism is detrimental to our goal of conquering terrorism. Terrorism is an international crime and should be treated that way. By calling it a crime, I do not condone it or minimize it. I am merely suggesting another, and I think more effective, way of fighting the terrorism scourge.


Our current approach to terrorism is militarizing our life. Some time ago, the Department of Homeland Security asked 3 companies - Northrop Grumman Corp, BAE Systems Inc. and UAL Corp's United Airlines - to develop plans for a missile defense system for passenger jets. A contract worth $1 billion will be awarded. It is expected that the cost per airplane would be $1 million each.

Get this. We plan to arm PASSENGER planes so that they would be protected from portable surface-to-air missiles. Do you think this will help? Could the "defense system" be used by some erratic pilot for "offense"? Could it interfere with navigation? Whom do you think this system would help more? The passenger? Or the defense company that gets the contract?

After the planes, do we arm ships, subways, busses and trains? Do we arm private office buildings, hotels and factories? And supposing we do, will we be more safe? Or more afraid?

Fear stalks the land, is growing and will grow more as militarization proceeds.

Militarization is accompanied by destruction of our civil liberties. Start with the 3-hour or 4-hour wait at airports to get on a plane for a 1-hour flight. Now the government is talking of checking a huge data base to see if you are a "security risk." But these inconveniences pale in comparison with what two words from the president can do. All he needs to do is call you an "enemy combatant" and suddenly you have no recourse to the judicial system. You are toast!

The war, of course, is between U.S. and those who "harbor terrorists," possess "weapons of mass destruction" or are part of the "axis of evil." We started by declaring war against Afghanistan. Soon after, we were and still are at war with Iraq. Some are advocating war with North Korea, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan. Where does it end?

Unfortunately, bin Laden is getting his way. He wanted to start a war between Muslims on one side and Jews and Christians on the other. If you look at the countries we are targeting, he appears to be winning.

Unfortunately too, the war is isolating the U.S. from the world community. We have trashed the UN and drove allies away from us. People all over the world who previously loved the U.S., now hate us. Our universities used to attract students from all over the world. Now we have erected barriers to prevent them from coming. The gloss on the land of liberty is tarnished.

All because we are fighting a war!


A war takes place between two or more nations. Al Qaeda is not a nation. A war is executed over a period of time after which there is settlement of some kind. Terrorism will be with us for an indefinite period of time.

Terrorism should not be considered an act of war but a crime. A heinous crime, but a crime nonetheless. People or groups attacking other people or groups of people constitutes a crime. Terrorism is as much a crime as drug trafficking or arms smuggling. Mafia gangsters kill people. The "war" on the Mafia is metaphorical, however, like the "war" on poverty or the "war" on drugs.

Crime will always be with us. All we can do is diminish it. The same is true of terrorism. By the way, terrorism is not solely a Muslim activity. An American named Timothy McVeigh was a terrorist. We did not declare war against McVeigh. We arrested him, tried him in the courts and punished him. We should do the same with other terrorists.


We all know what happened after September 11. We were so shocked that we were eager for revenge. We declared war against Afghanistan. This is understandable. Then we got further worked up and declared war against Iraq - where we are currently stuck. And our society is gearing up to face an endless succession of wars.

Here is an alternate path we can still follow to achieve a happier America and a more peaceful world. The approach is based on calling terrorism an international crime:

  1. DEFINE INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM - We should go to the UN and enlist all nations in the definition of international terrorism as a crime. This will make terrorism something reviled by the entire world community.

  2. COORDINATE INTERNATIONAL INTELLIGENCE - At the UN, we could arrange coordination among all national intelligence agencies for the purpose of apprehending terrorists and bringing them to justice.

  3. JOIN INTERNATIONAL COURT - We should become a member of the Court so we may use it to try apprehended international terrorists.

  4. COOPERATE WITH OTHER NATIONS - In addition to cooperating with other nations about terrorism, we should also work towards an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and to mitigate catastrophes like AIDS in Africa and Asia.

Calling terrorism an international crime and working hand-in-hand with the UN to conquer it will have many positive effects. Here are a few:

  • World terrorism will be diminished significantly

  • Instead of a militarized and fearful society, the U.S. will be its old self: a civil-liberties society

  • Our world will be more peaceful

  • U.S. will have more friends in other countries

Posted by Paul Siegel at July 28, 2005 6:02 PM