A Culture Of Terror

I live in The United States of America, a country which has had few significant terrorist attacks, the most notable being the attack on the World Trade Centers, September 11, 2001. The number of civilians who died on September 11th (2,996) is roughly comparable to the number of civilians my country has killed with drone attacks just in Pakistan alone:

  • Total strikes: 366
  • Total reported killed: 2,537 – 3,581
  • Civilians reported killed: 2000 – 3000
  • Children reported killed: 368 – 997
  • Total reported injured: 1,174 – 1,465

Does the fact that it wasn’t a terrorist cell, but the American military establishment that perpetrated drone attacks in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and elsewhere lessen the terror felt by the people there? I don’t think it does. The US government recently admitted to killing four of its own citizens in drone attacks. Before that, they claimed that no civilians had been killed in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, yet there are estimates as high as 98% of drone strike casualties being civilians:

“Press reports suggest that [between 2006 and 2009] drone strikes have killed about 14 terrorist leaders. But, according to Pakistani sources, they have also killed some 700 civilians. This is 50 civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent.” New York Times

So, who is really responsible for the terror? Is it the 2% of targets who were actually “suspected” terrorists? Or is it my government who thinks it’s alright to kill fifty civilians to get one alleged bad guy?

What is it about my country that, when a disturbed man shoots six people on the campus of a college, he is labeled a terrorist? In nearly every headline, there was that blasted word “Terror.”

Is he labeled a terrorist simply because his name was John Zawahri? Is that enough to call someone a terrorist, even though he claimed no ideological mission? He left a note apologizing for his actions, but he did not say why he shot six people and he certainly didn’t say it was for a Muslim extremist cause. My heart goes out to the families of the victims in Santa Monica, but this was not a terrorist attack. This was a case of a man gone terribly mad.

“Assault weapons,” “high-capacity magazines,” “terror,” “terrorist,” “Muslim”… these are all words bandied about by the media without any basis of fact. Fact doesn’t matter. Fact doesn’t sell newspapers. One disturbed man shooting six people, two of whom were his relatives, without a “terrorist” motive doesn’t sell.

What is it about my country that allows major media sources to jump to conclusions like that? We see it again and again, any time there is a tragedy. We saw it at the Boston Marathon bombings as I discussed here. And here we are, a few months later discussing terrorists in Santa Monica. What is it about my country that not only allows the media to be so incredibly irresponsible, but that citizens gobble it up?

What is it about me that when I see a man just standing on a sidewalk carrying a large bag like I did at lunch today, my first thought was that something was not right? This man was just standing there. He was doing nothing, but the very fact that he was doing nothing in the middle of purposeful walking people singled him out. He was an anomaly. What is it about me that I allowed myself to think that way, if only for a second? I caught myself falling into the terror trap.

What is this culture of terror in my country? Where did it come from? Why do we tolerate it? We are the terrorists. Ask anyone in a bombed-out village in Yemen or Pakistan. We are the bad guys. We are not just the victims; we are the perpetrators of terror. America is hypocritical. We started wars with countries that had nothing to do with September 11th. We deposed Saddam Hussein and killed Osama Bin Laden, while some Americans cheered.

I don’t want to live in a country that is essentially a big schoolyard bully, keeping everyone in line through intimidation and violence. I don’t want to live in a secretive nation keeping tabs on citizens phone records. I don’t want to live in a country that has shipped countless people, even some of its own citizens, off to Guantanamo Bay Cuba where they are deprived of justice, due process and any spirit of constitutionality. I don’t want to live in a country where I find myself suspicious of people doing nothing.

This country used to be free. It used to be founded on the principles of equality and liberty. Those qualities are dead or dying in a secret bunker somewhere. You are far more likely to die in a car accident in America than to die by a real, honest-to-god terrorist attack. Muslim extremists are not the greatest terrorist threat; America is.

Stop labeling criminals as terrorists. Stop the misinformation and lies. Stop the prejudice and suspicion. Stop the fear-mongering. Stop believing everything you read. Stop the terror.


image from 3iffromwithin.com

There are 51 comments

  1. donofalltrades

    Violence only begets more violence. Imagine how many otherwise indifferent middle easterners suddenly hate the US because we killed one of their loved ones for no good reason. We make more enemies the more people we kill.


  2. AR Neal

    Thank you for this very thoughtful post. You just made me think of something…So, folks get shipped to Gitmo, which is in Cuba. A country we supposedly have an embargo with. A country that, by visiting, caused JayZ and Beyonce to become an evening news story. Really? I would love to go and spend time in Cuba! My husband is a percussionist (conga, timbal, etc.) and it would be a fabulous trip, just for the music. But I can’t just up and do that…


  3. prog4

    I think patriotism is a large part of the problem. The patriotic mindset is a basis for “us and them” mentality. As the late Bill Hicks said “It’s a round planet last time I looked”


  4. twindaddy

    Reblogged this on Stuphblog and commented:

    Please take a few minutes and head over to Fish of Gold for this very thought provoking, and well-written post. Just who are the terrorists?


  5. twindaddy

    Goldy, I agree with you 100%. I don’t pay much attention to the news these days. I was aware of the drone strikes, but I had no idea about the statistics you cited. That just fucking sad. So we’ll go to war with a country because it killed some of our citizens, but we’ll turn around and do the same thing. That’s nice. And liberals want a bigger government.


  6. dhonour

    People want a ‘bad guy’ to blame. Before the end of the cold war, there was a balance of ‘super-powers’ between the USA and the USSR–he said/she said; they did/we did; ‘them’ and ‘us’. It balanced, each one canceled out the other. Now Americans have no one to blame, no one to fear, no one to direct their fear and loathing toward….until the government and the media points them in the right direction. What the government does is bad enough, but the way the media manipulates the public is almost worse. So it is ‘okay’ to do things in the name of defense, in the name of security, in the name of protecting the public. The combination of the two has created, as you point out, a culture of fear. And that culture of fear works it’s tentacles into every aspect of American life: it makes us hate, it makes us question, it makes us justify, but mostly it keeps people afraid enough to keep their heads in the sand deep enough to see what’s going on.


    1. goldfish

      Yes. You’re right. We do need a bad guy and it couldn’t possibly be us. The media positively disgusts me with its malevolent manipulation of speculation, not fact. But Americans eat it up.

      The Cold War terrifies me. I wrote about that here: http://fishofgold.net/2013/04/20/my-cold-war/ It is and always has been a balancing act between paranoia and succumbing to it. Even though that particular cold war is over, that doesn’t mean we’ve stood down. We could very easily destroy this planet.


  7. aliceatwonderland

    So very true! I also feel for our military being sent out on orders of the government. Many probably joined for a college education and have been getting their tours extended and extended and extended. It’s sad all around. I do wish we could find some way to have some peace. I don’t think that’s going to happen as long as we keep our noses in the Middle East. Trying to mind every other country could be what’s promoting hatred against us to begin with ironically.


    1. goldfish

      Oh, yes, I feel terribly for the soldiers who are sent to fight these sham wars for an education, for a job because there are none in their communities, or even because they believe in the cause. These brave young men and women, if they come back at all, will be mentally or physically scarred forever. And for what? Oil rights? To further the cause of democracy? Please. How about some democracy at home by getting rid of Citizens United first? But that’s a story for another time. I’ll get off my soapbox now.


  8. queenlorene

    “Terror” is an operative word. Any time guns are used in violence it will now be used. The goal? Get rid of guns in America. Disarm the people. Why? Find out why 1.6 billion rounds of Halleburten ammo have been commissioned and 3500 citizen tanks and hundreds of “FEMA” camps and millions of coffins. “Terror” allows us to kill with drones and buy up reserves to take out anyone who doesn’t agree with the government. That is the road we are going down. And Americans are just sitting on their fat asses and letting it. This was an excellent beginning. Keep walking down the path.


  9. Doggy's Style

    Then we wonder why everybody hates us.
    I’m sick and tired of having to “explain” the international policy of our government, and why we feel entitled to do the things we do.
    Great post Goldie, I agree with 100%


    1. goldfish

      I can only imagine how difficult it must be for you living overseas. I cringe at my country and try to explain it, and I’m in it. The sad thing is, I don’t think there is ever a good enough excuse for why we feel entitled to do the things we do. Blanket killing of civilians over the course of a decade or more is just morally, ethically and militarily wrong.

      Thanks for the reblog, dear.


  10. Kyla

    You mean it is unpatriotic to object to the Bill of Rights being unilaterally trashed? I’ll have to Email my Congressman. Nevermind-the gov’t has already seen this as soon as it is posted. I love my country but hate what the regime has become. If being in the military is the highest service one can do for the nation, how come we’ve never seen the Bush or Obama girls serve?


    1. goldfish

      What is this Bill of Rights you speak of? I’ve heard tell of a great nation that believes that all men are created equal, and welcomes tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free, but I’ve never seen it.

      Ha! I do wonder if someone in the government actually reads posts like this. I am inclined to believe that my little corner of the web means little in the greater scheme, but who knows.

      *waves for Homeland Security*


      1. duffy1958

        I couldn’t agree more Goldfish. We have every right to believe there is an intentional erosion of our country.

        I think the information is out there but it DOES get skewed by media and undo influence by our government. Have we ever really seen a more oppressed time?

        We have the Internet, information highway. Cell phones, iPads instant access to what the news is between twitter and Facebook. Now we find the cell phones have been hijacked by the government. Every, EVERY tweet from inception of twitter is stored in the Library of Congress.

        Our Department of Homeland Security is rife with prostitutes, pornography, child pornography and how many heads have rolled? I’m sure all prostitutes used by these perverts are all of age.

        The list goes on and on. Maybe the next blog? It’s important and looks like you stepped up. Thank you.

        I think of all of the things which have been put in place, which will multiply our problems and we’ll be finding out in the future. I don’t know what they are but this administration has zero accountability.

        Honestly, it’s time to act like a doomsday prepper. We are doing everything we can to be self sufficient. All you can do, is all you can do and then you just have to have peace.

        I’m not afraid of death but watching what is happening is a slow painful death. I love our country. I believed my teachers as we went through the Bill of Rights year after year. Because I was abused at home the idea of liberty, i bought it. I loved it. I lived when JFK was president and was executed.

        We are moving into a new era. It’s gonna be bumpy. I’ll hang on with you! Thank you for the blog. Don’t underestimate how important it is.


        1. goldfish

          You’re right: this administration (and a few preceding it) has zero accountability because no one is paying attention and the people are apathetic. Americans rail about social issues, and jobs and the economy, but what about foreign policy? If we took even a quarter of the astronomically inflated “defense” budget and put it into infrastructure, a lot of people would have work and the country would be way better off. There would be no crumbling bridges on the I-5.

          I think partly because we do have access to so much information all the time, a lot of the details get lost. A little NY Times article about drone strikes against civilians doesn’t reach the masses. It only reaches those of us who are paying attention, which sadly, is the overwhelming minority. More people need to know what their country is doing and care for anything to really change.


  11. Kozo Hattori

    America has always been about questioning authority. Our founding fathers built this nation in response to the false authority of England. I admire your honesty and courage to point out the hypocrisy not only in the media, but also in your own thoughts. I couldn’t agree more, Goldfish: Stop the terror. {{{hugs}}}} Kozo


    1. goldfish

      That is true in a limited sense. We elected the government and we support the media, but they are ultimately responsible for what they do. And the fact that most people don’t seem to care just endorses it.

      I vote and I don’t watch/read media sources that tell lies or give slant, but what can I, as one individual, do about it? All I can really do with my one-vote-power is raise awareness by writing posts like this one.


      1. El Guapo

        That is all you can do. But don’t sell the power of it short.
        It’s a wonderful thing to be able to speak out for what you believe like this, and hopefully, it will slowly gain momentum.


  12. viveka

    I totally agree … and so long as we … interfere with other countries – there will be terror attracts – because who give us the right to kill civilians in other countries – and call them casualties of wars. I liver personally in a country that are working for keeping peace .. out in many places around the world, but still we lose our men and women for somebodies else war. Brilliant post. Glad there is more that think like me.
    But I must admit that US is in very tricky position, because so soon there is problems somewhere they are asked for help – but still they don’t have the right to kill innocent people – like the wedding in Afghanistan they bombed, by mistake ??????!!!! Today nobody has to be killed by mistake … with all the advanced weapon there is.


    1. goldfish

      Nothing gives any country the right to kill civilians. If we are asked for help, that’s different. Yet, most of the times we are asked, we won’t get involved. The US still refuses to get involved in Syria, where countless civilians are killed every day, even though our criteria for getting involved has been met. At the same time, we’re bombing Pakistan and others. It’s hypocritical.


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