War and terrorism have been interchangeable the reason behind the most recent wars fought between the United States of America and the Islamic organizations in the countries they occupy. Islamic "terrorist groups" justify their actions of terror in the U.S. and other parts of the world based on the tragedies that befell them in the past from an enemy that enjoyed the supported of the U.S. Government. On the other hand, the United States excuse for war activities in Islamic countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan is claimed to be based on defending and protecting U.S. territory and citizens from further terrorist attacks, after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Kellner, suggests that the September 11, 2001 attacks marks a new dimension in terrorism which highjacks all the available power for playing the game terrorists victims. A substantial amount of lives and properties have been lost to both terrorist attacks and the war against terrorism, yet terrorist claims their cause - "Jihad", is supported by their religion and justified by their sufferings. As victims of international oppression, they have to fight back their oppressors. The U.S. government claims that not taking the war to terrorist in order to stop further attacks would result in further bloodshed. The excuse behind war and terrorism might be plausible and justifiable by members of either opposition, however, wars do not yield tangible solutions; reconciliatory dialogue does.
The sad story behind every terrorist attack is the fact that terrorist relay messages of request or disapproval about a specific situation to an identified enemy or negotiator; by taking the lives of innocent people. A vivid example, which is also one of the most remarkable terrorist attacks that the world has ever witnessed till date is the September 11, 2001, attack that took place in the United States. Terrorist attacks have claimed thousands of lives, infrastructures, and properties. Regardless of all the indicators that points directly to the fact that terror is not the solution terrorists continue to perpetrate terror. From a different point of view, terrorist attacks seem more like an insatiable hunger for revenge. A terrifying aspect of terrorism is the fact that there are likely no exceptions, and no limits to the targets and level of extremity, with which terrorists operate.
American Values and Justification for War against Terror
According to the documents containing information about U.S. policies with respect to the Middle East and terrorism, the U.S. clearly states the reasons for its war activities to be the following fundamental truths summarized as:
- Affirming that all humans are born free and as such entitled to equal dignity and rights;
- Also that the government has a legitimate role in protecting humans when needed, and to provide the necessary conditions for human flourishing;
- To affirm that humans are entitled to seeking the truth about their purpose in life;
- The right to religious freedom and freedom of conscience are human rights that should not be violated under any circumstances;
- Lastly, the greatest betrayal of universal religious faith is the act contrary to universal faith; the act of killing fellow humans in God's name.
In the midst of the war intentions of the United States of America, there is a core moral context that plays out it admittance to the pursuit of "unjust and misguided principles." Regardless of how faulty its foreign policies might be or have been there are no palatable justifications for the innocent lives taken when a terrorist attacks. America admits its failure to abide by its own principles not because it grew too arrogant, but because it practices a democracy that does not depend on culture alone, but on the opinion of the members of its society. Nonetheless, America claims not to have a full knowledge of the factors that motivates terrorists to perpetrate attacks on its territory and society at large; asides from the religiously acclaimed reasons of Islamic terrorist groups such as al-Qaida’s. This further insinuates that the reasons for the attacks America and Americans suffered so far from terrorists have emanated from the hatred of the way of life in the American society. America also insinuates the September 11th, attacks were perpetrated just for the sake of "making a statement", due to the fact that the perpetrators of the attacks did not make any specific demands. Furthermore the fact that the leaders of Al-Qaida who were considered to be the masterminds behind the September 11th attacks consider Americans to be "the head of world infidelities" shows that America was attacked based on the way of life practice in America. Not because of the inconsistencies of its foreign policy. Therefore, America believes that the way of life in the American society reflects its core values, and its values reflect explicit self-understanding based on universal human values. These values are attractive enough to the extent that almost anyone could become an American. In fact, people come from all over the word to take advantage of American values, which explains why people of different nationalities from around the world have become Americans.
Core American Values
- A conviction that innate human dignity is a birthright, therefore, each person must be considered as an end, and not exploited as a means.
- The belief that universal moral truth exists and is accessible by all in relation to "Laws of nature and nature's God."
- Admittance to the imperfections associated with collective and individual truth, which results in the openness for the view of others, a reasonable argument, and civility; all in the pursuit of truth.
- Freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.
Regardless of a person's religious beliefs, race, background, and language, all the aforementioned values are applicable to everyone without distinction. These values are responsible for the American way of life and as such are the reasons behind the short-comings of its ideals and conducts.
Terrorism as an Act of Revenge
In Osama bin Laden’s Letter to the American People, he accuses the American society (people) of the oppressions Muslims in different parts of the world have endured up until now. He insinuated that since the American people take responsibility for the selection of its government by free-will (democracy), they automatically consent to the "Israeli oppression of the Palestinians". The philosophy behind Osama bin Laden's letter is rooted in a collective defense of Muslims and Muslim countries from Western interference, through foreign policies and political support of those he considered as the enemies of the "Islamic nation." Furthermore, He condemns America as a country that promotes waywardness such as sex-trade, drug abuse and other forms of unpleasant activities that are considered as "sins" under Sharia laws. He also accuses America of going against Sharia laws by creating its own laws. Obviously, these few accusations among many other accusations undermine all the core values of the American people/government. Osama bin Laden claims millions of children and adults have died in (Islam predominant countries) Iraq, Palestine, Somalia, Kashmir, Chechnya, and Lebanon. Further from Osama bin Laden's point of View, Americans are meant to suffer and pay for the atrocities committed by the oppressors of Muslims who receive support from the American government basically because:
- Americans are the employers and recruiters of all the soldier fighting in Islamic countries;
- Americans pay the tax from which war artilleries are being bought and personnel is being paid;
- Enemies such as Israel benefit from the financial aid that is being provided to them from American tax payer's money.
Furthermore, on the basis of the account that several civilians have died as a result of American support or war activities in Muslim countries, Islamic terrorist groups such as Al-Qaida is entitled to a right to inflict deadly attacks on the American society.
Defining Justice and the Justifiability of Terrorism
At this point, one can only wonder if revenge is justifiable through the art of war or terror. Probably yes, and maybe not. The word 'justify" was coined from the word "justice." According to the poet, Simonides was right to have indicated that it is "just to render to each his due." However, Socrates disagree with this definition of justice even when Polemachus the son of Cephalus attempted to explain this definition of justice according to his own understanding by saying that justice is treating one's friends well and treating one's enemies badly. Socrates however, emphasized the fact that it is not just to harm anyone, as such justice should not have elements of violence in it. Furthermore, according to the Socrates, one might end up misjudging a friend as an enemy, and as such harm a good person. The last definition of justice between the Socrates and Polemachus was that "justice is rendering to each, what befits him". Nonetheless, the Socrates were still not satisfied with this definition because it was inconsistent with their ideology of what justice should denote or mean.
Therefore, everyman is capable of defining what justice means according to his own view, but the different interpretations of justice beholds the key to its inconsistencies. America considers its war activities in Iraq and Afghanistan to be just and justifiable because it has to defend the people of the American society and its core values from those who intend to harm and undermine it respectively. Muslim terrorist likewise considers their attacks on America and elsewhere as a just act of revenge. According to Igor Primoratz, terrorism is a complete act of violence, however, it is quite a complex task to determine if terrorism is justifiable or not. Some philosophers consider terrorism to be a justifiable act if it specifically targets only those meant to be responsible for the wrong on a particular issue. This also means that a narrow non-selective terrorism is not justifiable. Since terrorism is categorized as an act of threatening to use or the actual use of violence on innocent people in order to produce the results that will not suffice in other actions are taken; then terrorism is justifiable under certain circumstances. According to Brock, it is coherent for terrorists to hold citizens responsible for the actions of their governments, since they are the tax payers and the voters who elected such governments into power. Furthermore, if those regarded as interveners in the cases of potential insurgency or attacks that may ruin innocent lives based on humanitarian concerns are not held accountable for their actions, then a new form of imperialism might be in process.
In summary, some philosophers uphold the belief that terrorist attacks seem to be justifiable under certain, but not all circumstances. A selective target approach of terrorism is considered to be morally justifiable. On the other hand, neither the U.S. nor the Muslim terrorist organizations have been able to prove with clear evidence that the shedding of innocent blood and lives are good enough reasons to justify their plights and acts of war/terror. Organizations and states who provide interventions and/or prevent potential harms to lives and properties should be mandated to give an account of, and take responsibility for their actions.