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October 06, 2001

Media Spin Revolves Around the Word "Terrorist"

( Norman Solomon ) During the first two days of this month, CNN's website displayed an odd little announcement. "There have been false reports that CNN has not used the word 'terrorist' to refer to those who attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon," the notice said. "In fact, CNN has consistently and repeatedly referred to the attackers and hijackers as terrorists, and it will continue to do so."

The CNN disclaimer was accurate -- and, by conventional media standards, reassuring. But it bypassed a basic question that festers beneath America's overwhelming media coverage of recent weeks: Exactly what qualifies as "terrorism"?

For this country's mainstream journalists, that's a non-question about a no-brainer. More than ever, the proper function of the "terrorist" label seems obvious. "A group of people commandeered airliners and used them as guided missiles against thousands of people," says NBC News executive Bill Wheatley. "If that doesn't fit the definition of terrorism, what does?" Full Article

Defining Terrorism:
It's essential. It's also impossible.

( Michael Kinsley ) Now may seem like an odd moment to be worrying that one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter. If ever there was a man of violence who didn't pose this issue, it is Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden is triply easy to classify. First, the attack of Sept. 11, assuming he was responsible for it, was on a murderous scale that makes quibbling over definitions seem absurd. Second, his political vision is the opposite of freedom: a repressive clerical state. Third, his method is "terrorism" in the narrowest definitional sense. It is designed to spread terror, almost apart from any larger goal. Full Article

This Loose Conjecture is Unlikely to Cut Much Ice with the Arab Nations

( Robert Fisk ) The Americans are finding it a hard sell in the Middle East, and the British Government's document "proving" Osama bin Laden's responsibility for the 11 September atrocities is unlikely to rally the Arab world to the West's "war on terrorism". Only nine of the 70 points in the document relate to the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, and these often rely on conjecture rather than evidence. Claiming that "an operation on the scale of the 11 September attacks would have been approved by Osama bin Laden himself" (point 63) is not going to cut much ice in Saudi Arabia or other Gulf states. Full Article

Forward Into the Past: US War Aims

( Vijay Prashad ) The US State Department-Pentagon has a bad record on war aims. During the lead-up to the Gulf War, the Bush administration, Part 1, argued that the US was needed to liberate Kuwait. The invasion of a state of 2.2 million people, in which only 28% earned the right to citizenship and a part of the oil wealth, was to be liberated by the full force of the US military. As ships and aircraft went toward the Gulf, those of us in the peace movement wondered about the size of the deployment and the war aims of Bush I: will it really take so much firepower to dispatch the Iraqi army from Kuwait, and does the US really need to amass such a broad coalition for this purpose? Full Article