– Glenn Greenwald, The sham “terrorism expert” industry (via fariyah)
But the most pernicious attribute of this “terror expert” industry, the aspect that requires much more attention, is its pretense to non-ideological, academic objectivity. In reality, these “terror experts”, almost uniformly, have a deeply ideological view — a jingoistic, highly provincial understanding — of what Terrorism is and is not. They generally fixate on Muslims to the exclusion of all other forms of Terror. In particular, the idea that the U.S. or its allies now commit Terrorism is taboo, unthinkable. Their views on what Terrorism is track the U.S. Government’s and, by design, justify U.S. government actions. They are not “experts” as much as they are ideologues, rank propagandists, and servants of America’s establishment power centers.
The best scholarship on this issue, in my view, comes from Remi Brulin, who teaches at NYU and wrote his PhD dissertation at the Sorbonne in Paris on the discourse of Terrorism. When I interviewed him in 2010, he described the history of the term — it was pushed by Israel in the 1960s and early 1970s as a means of universalizing its conflicts (this isn’t our fight against our enemies over land; it’s the Entire World’s Fight against The Terrorists!). The term was then picked up by the neocons in the Reagan administration to justify their covert wars in Central America (in a test run for what they did after 9/11, they continuously exclaimed: we’re fighting against The Terrorists in Central America, even as they themselves armed and funded classic Terror groups in El Salvador and Nicaragua). From the start, the central challenge was how to define the term so as to include the violence used by the enemies of the U.S. and Israel, while excluding the violence the U.S., Israel and their allies used, both historically and presently. That still has not been figured out, which is why there is no fixed, accepted definition of the term, and certainly no consistent application.
Brulin details the well-known game-playing with the term: in the 1980s, Iraq was put on the U.S. list of Terror states when the U.S. disliked Saddam for being aligned with the Soviets; then Iraq was taken off when the U.S. wanted to arm Saddam to fight Iran; then they were put back on again when the U.S. wanted to attack Iraq. The same thing is happening now with the MEK: now that they’re a pro-U.S. and pro-Israel Terror group rather than a Saddam-allied one, they are magically no longer going to be deemed Terrorists. That is what Terrorism is: a term of propaganda, a means of justifying one’s own state violence — not some objective field of discipline in which one develops “expertise.”