Thursday, December 01, 2005

Dining with Terrorists

I have just finished reading the book Dining with Terrorists by British journalist Phil Rees. Basically for the past ten years he has been travelling to different parts of the world interviewing and filming different groups who have been labelled as 'terrorists' by Western governments and media. The real question of this book is what is terrorism. If you define terrorism as deliberate attacks against civilians, such as the 9/11 attacks, then the fire bombing of Japan and Germany by the Allies in World War 2 is terrorism as was the bombing of Indochina during the Vietnam War. I am sure that comparing these acts would not sit comfortably with many.
The groups Rees visited are varied, Basque Seperatists, Kosovas, Algerian freedom groups, Tamil Tigers, Kashmir independence groups and many others. After 9/11, the US government decided to list all these groups as 'terrorist', a blanket term which I tend to think is overused. The war on terror, much like the war on drugs, seems to have no real defined enemy. If the object is to defeat all the groups on the list, then the fight is never going to end. I worry that this term 'terrorist' is being used for those who oppose Western ideals, whatever they may be. Language is a powerful tool and I don't think that loaded words like terrorist are helpful here. Much the same goes for Mr Bush' use of Good and Evil.
Perhaps the worst use of English came with the Yugoslavian breakup. I am still upset by the term Ethnic Cleansing. I am not sure how media outlets around the world decided that this was the term to use, but it really is an abuse of our wonderful language. Reminds me of George Orwell's 1984 and Newspeak.
Anyway, this book is worth a read, anything that helps open minds can't be a bad thing.

San Nakji for President!


Deepa said...

the book sounds interesting. never read about it in Indian media though. I could recommend dozens of such books for you but they would not be available there am sure.

The Archivist said...

Wow. That seems like an intense book.