Scapegoating Terrorism & the Denial of Accountability

“Osama is not a product of Pakistan or Afghanistan. He is a creation of America. Thanks to America, Osama is in every home. As a military man, I know you can never fight and win against someone who can shoot at you once and then run off and hide while you have to remain eternally on guard. You have to attack the source of your enemy’s strength. In America’s case, that’s not Osama or Saddam or anyone else. The enemy is ignorance. That only way to defeat it is to build relationships with these people, to draw them into the modern world with education and business. Otherwise the fight will go on forever.”

Greg Mortenson, author of

“Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time”


It’s exhausting, and I know I am not the only one. It never seems to end. Terrorism, terrorism, and more terrorism. There is a constant panic as global citizens await the next major headline. While the international traction of these headlines is justified, as senseless killings are never acceptable, and the frequency in which they are occurring is picking up speed; it is nonetheless starting to sound like the teacher from Charlie Brown … waaahh, waaa, wahhhhhhh, woannnn.

Blaming terrorism and terrorists for every societal ill is wrong and since the spotlight is so heavily set on terrorism, little else is given screen time. Since the first plane hit the World Trade Center in New York City that day, terrorism has been to blame for everything. In the West and in the East, the narrative of many countries and many governments remains the same – the enemy is out there somewhere. The enemy is not found within, the enemy is the other;  one that looks, acts, eats, speaks, and thinks differently. The enemy must be found and defeated.

Instead of turning inward and reflecting on the changes that are needed to have holistic, well-functioning societies, the blame is shifted elsewhere. In 2017 we are no longer allowed to remain insular and ignore global atrocities, but taking time to look inward is important. Like the boogie man under the bed, we cannot continue to hide behind terrorism. Terrorism can no longer be our global scapegoat. But there seems to be a fear of saying “we need to take the spotlight off terrorism”, because terrorism is a serious issue. Syria has been ripped apart by the Islamic State, terrorist attacks are taking place around the world, and war seems to be the new norm. Trying to turn the spotlight onto other issues is dangerous for fear of repercussions or a sentiment that these events are not meaningful, when in fact they are.

This underlying fear in reflection comes across as almost supporting radical terrorist organizations. No, the answer is that no logical person could support these rouge groups that are causing international fear, panic, and trepidation. I have met many people with distorted perceptions of the world, but never have I met a terrorist sympathizer. These groups have no sympathizers, because they are poorly organized and their mandate is unclear at best.

What happens at ISIS board meetings? How do you maintain membership? Are there dues?  As if these sickos sit around and have board meetings; someone takes minutes, someone else changes the coals on the shisha pipe. The picture is surreal but ultimately, disgustingly kind of humorous. Imagine these men sitting around a conference table asking the jihadist next to him to pass the dates.

The problem is that these men cannot be blamed for every ill in the world. 2016 was an awful year for many reasons, but not even a post 9/11 world terrorism cannot be blanketed as the cause for every societal ill. Terrorists did not elect Donald J. Trump as President of the United States of America, terrorists did not stop Fidel Castro’s heart from beating, terrorists did not cause the tropical storm that rocked Haiti, terrorists are not responsible for the poverty that still grips millions of people, and terrorists did not keep children from accessing basic medical care.

A dangerous narrative has been created that shifts blame over and over again, and once the narrative starts, it is impossible to stop or correct it. Sometimes the biggest terrorist is the one controlling the narrative. Sometimes the captain is really the pirate. Many things are terrifying and worth being afraid of. What is terrifying is not having universal access to universal education. What is terrifying is poverty. What is terrifying is not having clean water and sanitation. The message is clear. Many things are terrifying that extend beyond the modern definition of terrorism.

Terrorism has not created a world that is unfair, unstable, and unpredictable.

It was this world that created terrorism.


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