Governments employ force, monopolize violence, employ terror: abroad, but also at home, as deemed necessary. Then they call opponents outside their control terrorists.
The US says that Osama binLaden orchestrated the World Trade Center attack of 9-11-1. Now it’s announced that we’ve killed him: nearly a decade later. (If we’re in hell, that is, belong in hell, and a devil is torturing us, are we allowed to kill the devil? I suspect we should leave the devils along no matter what the devils are doing to us.) I’ll reconstruct my terrorism section of K. below.
Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains:
Knatz.com / Teaching / Society / Social Order / War / Terror /
pk on Terrorism, 2001 09 19
Reading Man’s Fate by André Malraux constituted my first acquaintance with terrorism. Fortunately for me that was in the late fifties while the scenes took place in the thirties. I didn’t take it personally. I neither oozed myself over it, as a scent marking, nor did I inure myself to it, shrinking from it as other. Thus, by the time I read another astonishingly great novel with terrorism an intimate part — I refer to another from the short list of great twentieth-century novels: The Little Drummer Girl, by John le
Carrénote I was receiving the story with some measure of objectivity, including a healthy amount of sympathy for the Palestinians.
I remember a Columbia classmate studying political theory and pronouncing that war was policy’s next step after policy had failed. (I put the memory in italics rather than quotes because it’s a paraphrase from forty-odd years ago.) States can try diplomacy. If diplomacy fails states can always try war.
Conquest vs. Annihilation
War used to come in two flavors. Now war comes only in one. Once upon a time some group got in your way, or frightened you … you tried to obliterate them. Picture a band of Cro-Magnon man annihilating a band of Neanderthal (or visa versa). The Cro-Mag isn’t trying to assassinate the Neanders’ chief man because maybe his successor will pay a better price for the Cro-Mags’ flints. The Cro-Mag does not stop midway in the slaughter and think, Hey, why don’t we just enslave the rest? Or: Yikes, look at the tits on that one. Face is ugly as sin, but you could always fuck her from behind. No: in a war of annihilation, you annihilate: men, women, children. You leave no survivors. You burn their houses; you don’t move in.
Civilization can be confusing because the rhetoric of war is always the rhetoric of annihilation: Bomb the Cong into the Stone Age. But the reality of war is that we don’t have any wars of annihilation. All our wars are wars extending policy. We’ll kill and kill and kill … until you give up … and allow our MacDonald’s franchises. We’ll never kill more than 10% of you: our purpose is exploitation, not extermination. We want to rule you … Or at least prevent you from ruling us. We’ll talk about religion but all we really want is your oil. Sell us your oil when we want, how we want, at a price we want to pay, and we don’t care what you believe, or do with your women, or practice in the privacy of your own temples. (Later note coming up below.)
So. What did the Dodgers do when the Yankees won again?
Wait until next year.
What did Nixon do when Kennedy won?
Wait four more years.
What do you do once Uncle Joe, no matter how nicely Adolph has asked him, refuses to let the Nazis just waltz down to the Caspian Sea any time they like?
Blitz the bastards. Never mind that you’re allies. Obliterate Stalingrad.
If I crowd you on the bench, you can always move to another bench. But what do you do if there are no other benches? No other places to sit? No place left to stand?
What do you do if Uncle Joe, and Old Winston, and Weird Franklin have given your Palestine to some Jews who somehow survived Europe in the 30s and 40s? Very sad for the Jews, but what does that have to do with you? Now they’ve bombed your village, killed your family, hunted you into the mountains … What do you do? Wait till next year? Wait four more years? You can’t blitz them: they’ve taken all your weapons, killed all your allies …
In other words, pk says that terrorism is sometimes the only political card you’re dealt.
Maybe you can’t win, but at least you can hurt them. The Nazi has killed your grandparents, killed your parents, killed your sisters and brothers, robbed your bank accounts, stolen your property, silenced your worship, interrupted your prayers … Now the Nazi is about the kick you in the balls. Again. For the fifteenth time in fifteen days. The Nazi is wearing a boot. You’re wearing nothing but those silly camp pajamas. No nut case. No jock. Not even a couple of layers of cotton between your genetic ancestry and his boot. Last night the Nazi slept on a mattress in a heated room. The mattress was covered with sheets and a blanket. You slept standing in a sewer while a rat nibbled your eyelid. The Nazi has had eggs with sausage and potatoes for breakfast. You last ate … oh … you can’t remember how long ago … Two nights ago, actually: you caught a spider and ate it. Now the Nazi is going to kick you in the balls again. You can’t avoid it. They’re holding you down. Ah! They holding you to keep you from protecting yourself; they are not holding you to keep you from endangering yourself. As his boot swings toward you, you thrust your hips toward his foot: he’s relaxed: aim at his toe.
Ow! You’ve caught the Nazi by surprise. He’s sprained his toe because your balls counter-attacked his boot. Blissfully, you’re now dead. No more fear of the oven for you. But the Nazi is infuriated. How could you have tricked him so? Just goes to prove … everything said about the Jews … is short of the awful truth.
Glancing back through this before I put it up, I realize that I must come back and follow a couple of strands. 1) make sure my 2 kinds of war is clear and recapitulated 2) make sure my implications of policy’s next step are spelled out 3) discuss terrorism as policy 4) discuss true and false terrorism: the terrorism of the wholly disenfranchised vs. the terrorism of the impatient, state terror vs. private terror, state terror masked as disenfranchised terror. Sometimes the marine will masquerade as a guerrilla: how often will the guerrilla masquerade as a marine? don’t forget that Banquo’s murderers didn’t wear uniforms reading “Sent by Macbeth.” [note]
These things never go the way I intend. But I do think I get some good stuff said anyway.
Now people are mailing envelopes of powder around and calling them by the names of diseases.
How many people realize that diseases are a product of civilization? That’s true whether the disease is associated with man or with animal stocks. Germs breed, evolve, die out, mutate … in nature just like anything else. An individual, a family, and whole band of a dozen or more people could be wiped out by some peaking germ. So what? That band didn’t know any other band, weren’t known by any other band. The germs died with the people.
Some bird, some family of birds die from some peaking germ. So what? Same reasons. It’s men living in cities with animals living in overcrowded cages who are vulnerable to plagues. If we burned our cities and fled to the hills, all diseases would die with the cities. Most men would die in the hills. By murder, by failure … So what? Some men would survive. And if they had any sense, they’d never gather in cities again.
Few things would be easier than to spread some disease. The “health” industry would be overwhelmed in no time, the faster as factitious “order” evaporated. It’s astonishing that it hasn’t been done already. And I don’t mean by Muslim extremists. How about just by plain old Americans who have no political cards, only their balls, to attack with?
2001 10 16 Yesterday’s file was three times this length, but further on the writing had gotten increasingly frenetic, enthymic … allusive more than conclusive. I move the balance to a new file the more easily to isolate its problems for editing.
2001 11 07
It occurs to me that the last war of annihilation that kleptocracy paid any attention to W.W.II. Hitler there didn’t just fight on two fronts: he fought two different kinds of war. His war of conquest against the Soviets was intended to allow Germany free movement through Asia to the Middle East. Hitler had no intention of killing all Russians or all Persians. No, he’d rule them and trade with them. Hitler’s other war seems genuinely to have been a war of annihilation. He wanted the Jews dead. He wanted them gone. Hitler’s war with Russia was a political war, an economic war. Hitler’s war against the Jews was a holy war: he wanted the Jews expunged from the earth. When it seemed clear that Germany was losing the political and economic war, he redoubled his efforts to kill more Jews before he himself was killed.
See? That’s “sincerity”.
American colonists fought the French, fought the British. Those were political wars. When we fought the Mohawk, the Cheyenne, the Lakota, the Apache … those were wars of annihilation. (In simple. In fact, the types mixed. A particular skirmish with a particular native or a particular tribe may have had an economic factor: but overall, the invaders were wiping out the natives. We never had any intension of killing 10% of the Apache for terror and then selling Cokes and MacDonald’s to the surviving majority for the rest of our lives.
The Jews got good press, so we’ve heard of the “Holocaust.” The Ojibwa got no press: so we have little awareness of what we’ve done. General Philip Sheridan phrased it: “The only good Indians I ever saw were dead.”
See Jared Diamond’s The Third Chimpanzee, p. 286, for a chart of genocides. Diamond finds animal precedents for human annihilations. Chimpanzees and wolves kill both males and females of victims. Gorillas and lions kill the males and spare the females.
This post has been a scrapbook of tidbits on terrorism all along.
Generals of the Roman army protected their advantages by the expedient of decimation: if there was a mutiny, the mutineers were punished by decimation: one tenth of the company was stoned to death, who chosen by lot. Roman soldier feared decimation more than they feared whichever people the army was beating up on. It was unjust, it didn’t distinguish individuals: so what: since when did Rome care about justice? Not compared to power.
“Setting an example on a large scale always involves a degree of injustice when individuals suffer to ensure the public good.”
Isn’t that something? This writer equates the endurance of the Roman army with the “public” good! No, no: that’s “private” “good”: turning commons, and traditional territories, into “property”.
So long as humans tolerate armies like Rome’s legitimate social organizations cannot develop, don’t deserve to flourish
Hey, there’s a new classification I never thought of: novels by authors with an acutely accented “e” somewhere in their name.
I’m joking of course. But I’m serious in that I spend a great deal of time thinking about the semi-arbitrary nature of classification systems. Biologists these days classify critters by whether nor not they have a backbone for example. Dewey catalogued books by whether they were “math” or “lit,” subcatalogued them by whether they were “geometry” or “trig” … You could classify your books by “those you have read” and “those you haven’t read,” “those you like,” “those you don’t,” “those you expect to finish,” those you don’t” …
Sent by Macbeth:
John Case’s The Syndrome features a plot to camouflage party robots as independent crazies. The conspiracy camouflages itself very well: successfully for decades.
I’ll post the other terrorism pieces from a decade ago in diary order here: next post, next post …
Next: World Trade Center: 9/11/01