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Chattanooga Shooting, If Linked to ISIS, is a Act of War, Not “Terrorism”

I’m not a fan of war or of killing of any kind, but the labeling of the deadly attack by Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez on two US military sites in Chattanooga, Tennessee as an act of terror is absurd.

Maybe Abdulazeez will turn out to have been a nut-case bent on committing “suicide by police.” There are plenty of those kinds of psychos in the gun-soaked culture of America. But what we’re hearing, increasingly, is that he was somehow linked to Middle East jihad, and ultimately to ISIS, and that he is therefore a “terrorist.”

That is ridiculous!

If it turns out that Abdulazeez was in any way linked to ISIS, then his action in attacking US military personnel in the US and killing them has to be seen not as terrorism but as a retributive act of war. That is no dishonor to those Marines killed. It simply makes it clear that they were killed in a war, not by some crazy person.

US citizens need to start accepting the reality that if the United States is going to go around the world blowing up people with fighter-bombers, special forces actions and drone missile attacks, eventually the targets of those aggressive acts of war will start responding against the US in kind. And they would have a legal right to do this under the rules of war.

If Abdulazeez turns out to have been retaliating against the US for its attacks on ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria, he was a combatant, not a terrorist. Had he been captured instead of “neutralized” as the police reported in their sterilized lingo, he would properly have been treated as a prisoner of war, at least in any country that actually adheres to the Geneva Conventions to which the US is a signatory. Of course, the US has long since tossed those hoary conventions into the trash bin, considering itself to be an “exceptional” nation not bound by international law, but that’s another matter.

The point is, you reap what you sow, and the US, in its Global War on Terror, has sown a lot of death, murder and destruction, which will inevitably return to US shores as the same kind of thing.

Abdulazeez, if he was a combatant, deserves credit really, at least for following the rules of war. He appears to have focused his killing remarkably well on actual military personnel. There were no civilian casualties in his attacks, no children killed or even wounded.

Compare that to the US record. According to most experts outside the government, the US drone war in Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and other venues has primarily killed civilians, and disproportionately, children. Only a relatively small number of actual enemy fighters have actually been successfully hit.

Authorities in Washington and patriotic yahoos in the media want to call every shooting, including shootings of US military personnel in the US or even abroad, acts of “terrorism,” because they don’t want to admit that they are acts of war. To do so might well lead even a reflexively patriotic and intellectually challenged American public to start asking how all this US military aggression abroad is actually contributing to their safety here at home.

That would be a dangerous question if people started asking it, since clearly none of America’s wars or military adventures since 9-11 has made the.American people any safer.

Calling the killing of American troops like the latest incident in Chattanooga, or even ones in Afghanistan, where everyone knows US forces are engaged in a full-scale war, acts of “terror” fits in with a kind of one-sided story line where we are just a peaceful nation minding our own business, while these “evil ones” out there, and even here in the US, are just out to get us.

Calling such people “terrorists” lends more support to the false argument that we Americans should happily surrender more and more of our precious and hard-won freedoms to the burgeoning police state in hopes that it will protect us.

If the government were to acknowledge the reality, which is that by unilaterally going out and killing people abroad in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere, the US is inviting inevitable retaliation in kind back here in the “homeland,” one has to hope that some Americans would start to question the wisdom of such an aggressive policy.

I raised this question two years ago when the Pentagon decided, instead of decommissioning an obsolete US Naval Air Station in Horsham, PA, just a couple of miles from where I live, to convert it into a drone piloting base, where US Navy Reserve personnel could put in their service commitment hours piloting deadly drones in Pakistan and elsewhere. As I wrote after interviewing military law specialists, including some at the US War College, that drone base near me, because it was launching strikes abroad, had become a front line in America’s wars. Not only was the base itself a “legitimate target” now for anyone from the targeted countries who might try to put a stop to the attacks, but the pilots and personnel on the base would be legitimate targets, and not just while they were in uniform and on the base, but even when they punched out and got in their cars and drove home to be with their families in the evening.

A soldier is a soldier, I was told.

And here’s the kicker. If some foreign fighter decided to attack one of those drone pilots by pulling an explosives-laden truck up to her or his house and detonating it, blowing up perhaps four homes and some passing cars, that would be a “legitimate act of war,” if the target was the pilot. Anyone else killed in the attack would be “collateral damage” as long as they were not deliberately targeted.

So this is the real world our brilliant leaders in Washington have created.

I’d guess, as long as it continues — and there’s no indication that this crazy US “War on Terror” is going to be ended anytime soon — these kinds of attacks like Chattanooga are going to continue, or even increase in number, and what the Pentagon likes to call the “collateral damage” of such attacks will no doubt increase too.

Better that we start calling them what they are: acts of war.

As long as we diminish them by calling them acts of terrorism, nobody’s going to demand a halt to the War on Terror. And that “war” is the real act of terrorism, when you come right down to it.

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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