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When is Terrorism not Terrorism?

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This is an easy question for Represenative Peter King, current Chair of the Homeland Security Committee and defender of the Irish Republican Army, to answer:

“I understand why people who are misinformed might see a parallel. The fact is, the I.R.A. never attacked the United States. And my loyalty is to the United States.”

That’s just great, Pete.  While my proclivities on the Irish question are of a clear nationalist bent, this is ludicrous.  The majority of incidents on this list, limited to Great Britain (it takes no imagination to suggest that a similar list for Ireland would be considerably longer), were done in the name of a “legitimate force battling British repression”.  I find it difficult to accept a definition of these events that does not only include, but is limited to, the word “terrorism”.

Yes, it was a “dirty war” on both sides (though I’ve yet to find an empirical example of a “clean war”), but denying that the IRA were terrorists is disingenuous as one chairs a hearing into the supposed “radicalization of American Muslims”.  Nearly 30 years ago, King once said: “We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry”, but he forgot to mention Birmingham, London, Manchester, etc.  I’m further curious where he would place the Omagh bombing in his convenient taxonomy.

Coincidentally, one of my lectures tomorrow deals with the trade-offs between civil liberties and security inherent to the “war on terror” in a comparative framework.  I cover the four Prevention of Terrorism Acts from 1974-1989, the Acts of 2000 and 2006, and the much beloved PATRIOT Act in the US.  I may just have to bring up Rep. King tomorrow to see how my (mostly British)  students respond to his definition.

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