There are many popular misconceptions amongst the general population about terrorism. This is due to a combination of ignorance and misinformation, which are in turn the result of lazy and misleading media framing, and deliberate state propaganda.
The Obama administration’s decision to assassinate American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki without any shred of due process sets a very dangerous precedent for executive power in the United States, and is further evidence of President Obama’s complete disregard for both domestic and international law.
Someone recently told me that they could not imagine what would compel a terrorist group to do something as abhorrent as targeting civilians. It was a very reasonable statement, and indeed targeting civilians is a horrible thing to do.
I do not wish to demonstrate the audacity required to say that I could explain such a decision, since I’ve never been in a situation where such a decision needed to be made. However, I think a short thought experiment would be useful to at least attempt to put oneself in the mindset of desperation required to turn to such a method. I won’t draw any parallels to any specific group or country, in order to keep the concept as universal and objective as possible.
“The basic aim of a nation at war in establishing an image of the enemy is to distinguish as sharply as possible the act of killing from the act of murder by making the former into one deserving of all honor and praise”
Jesse Glenn Gray, philosopher and soldier
“Everyone believes in the atrocities of the enemy and disbelieves in those of his own side, without ever bothering to examine the evidence.”