Attitude Media Crime and Punishment

Justice for an Unjust World

by, John F Groom

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Terrorism: Who is a Just Target?

      A terrorist is someone who kills, injures, or threatens those with no direct connection to a military target, with the idea that the larger society will be “terrorized” and exert pressure on policy makers or others to take action to placate the terrorists. The 9.11 attacks in the US are the most famous of modern terror attacks, and to most Americans terrorism seems like a modern development, but bombings by anarchists and others were common in 1920s America. In fact, the tactic of striking fear into the hearts of non-combatants has probably been around as long as organized warfare.
      One of the prime tenets of our position on Crime and Punishment is that there are rules to the game. We don’t believe in winning at any cost; the ends don’t justify the means, as we explain in our Living Sanely. It may be permissible to attack an enemy, but only if the target is the actual enemy, not simply if they represent the enemy in some way. The President of the United States may be a legitimate target of those waging war on behalf of militant Islam , after all, he is Commander in Chief of the US Armed Forces, and ordered the assassination of their spiritual leader Osama bin Laden.
      Terrorists and their sympathizers have justified the attacks on innocents by saying that anyone who votes for those in power, or who pays taxes to support them, is a legitimate target. Of course that is ridiculous; people pay taxes because they are forced to, whether they agree with the military ventures those tax dollars fund or not. Of the thousands killed in the 9.11 attacks none could by any reasonable standard be held responsible for US military policy. And, of course, some of those killed in the attacks were practicing Muslims.
      The central tenet of any just system is that it treat people as individuals, not as members of groups. So an individual is held responsible for their actions, but no one else is held responsible; not their family, or their neighbors, or their employer, or the society in general. There should be a bright line between responsible individuals and everyone else, a line that cannot be crossed. It cannot be overemphasized that a just society deals with individuals, not people as members of any group.

The end objective of the 9.11 attacks was not to kill Americans, but to spur America to change policy, and withdraw all troops from predominantly Muslim countries. Policy change did occur, although not perhaps in the direction that the terrorists contemplated. America adopted a war on terror, and, as a result, ended up staging the country’s longest wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The end results of the war on terror are far from clear, and won’t be for many years, but what is not debatable is that they cost America very dearly in both life and treasure. Almost 3,000 people died as a direct result of the 9.11 attacks, but far more died in the resulting US countermeasures; more than 6,600 US servicemen, and perhaps 130,000 Iraqi citizens and 18,000 Afghani citizens.
      The 9.11 attacks are a perfect example of one of the prime tenets of Valuism; How much easier it is to destroy value than to create it. The 9.11 terrorist attacks cost perhaps $400-$500,000, including planning over two years. They resulted in

perhaps $2 trillion in damages, and that does not include the cost of the counter responses of American military action in Iraq and Afghanistan which has been estimated at $3-$6 trillion. (The two trillion figure includes the loss of the hijacked aircraft, destruction of World Trade Center buildings, other property and infrastructure damage, job losses, increased federal security costs in the US, loss of air traffic revenue, and other costs, but does not include financial market losses.)

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