Terrorism, Accountability, and the Capitol Mob
One of the interesting things in studying terrorism is all the questions you encounter right away. The most basic, still intensely debated, is “what is terrorism?”
But another question that soon creeps into the discussion is this: “who is responsible for terrorism?”
The terrorist, yes. The person who hurts and maims and destroys. But think about it some more.
Who did we, do we, blame?
Well. We blame A LOT of people.
The extremist clerics who preach messages that led to the terrorism. The radicalized madrasas which teach even the youngest of children to believe in a message which supports or glorifies terrorism. The businessmen and patricians who fund terrorism. The politicians who incite, incentivize, use, and even reward terrorism. The people in the streets who cheer for the terrorists, who defend them, who harbor them, who protect them, the people in the regions where terrorist cells recruit freely.
In the Global War On Terror we actually go after all of these people and institutions. All of them.
We freeze back accounts, enact harsh and targeted sanctions against individuals, specific communities/regions labeled as friendly to terrorism, and entire countries. We pressure governments to close specific schools, limit travel visas for radical clerics, shut down websites and media outlets, call for entire political parties to disband, and label politicians, political appointees, and political advisors as enemies of the free world. No mercy.
Some of this works and some of it doesn’t and some of it absolutely makes the problem worse. Some of this is effective and a lot of it is not. But all of these counter terrorism policies come with a fundamental recognition that it’s not just the people who carry out an act of terrorism who share in the blame for the destruction and death they leave in their wake.
So why would we not see this phenomenon in the same light today? More Americans have now died from the Capitol terrorist riot this week than died in Benghazi, after all.
Why wouldn’t the politicians and pastors and media outlets and financial donors in this country who helped create this mess have a share in the blame? Why wouldn’t the regions of our country – states, counties, congressional districts – who helped to enflame this situation, and all those who cheer or defend those who incite, have some share in the blame?
I don’t think we should do to our society what we have done to so many countries in the Middle East, because many of these policies from the GWOT turned out to be ineffective and unjust and carried very destabilizing consequences.
But I do think we should remember how we treated radical and political terrorist movements when they were in countries “over there”. And we should ask ourselves if the same standards of blame and accountability should still apply “over here”.
How can we talk about any of this, how can we move forward from this, if we don’t hold these many layers of our society accountable for empowering and legitimizing a criminal and undemocratic message, for inciting violence in our Capitol, for funding all of this madness, or for lying relentlessly to people until they are so mad and afraid they feel they have no choice but to act?
To ignore all of these people and the roles that they played for some half baked unity goes against every standard for addressing political unrest that we have applied overseas.
And yes, that standard has often done a lot of damage of its own. But this is *our* country. This is not us telling another sovereign nation how to rule or fix their problems. This is us needing to figure out very seriously and very quickly how best to fix *our* own social and political problems.
Just because a lot of bad policies and military actions should never be repeated again, here or abroad, doesn’t mean that the fundamental recognition of who is to blame, or who needs to be held accountable on some level, is also wrong or needs to change.
If we reduce it to “well, it is only *really* the fault of those who directly committed the crimes” we will be hypocrites. But more than that, we will not fix these problems and the violence and destruction will get worse.
We must acknowledge that we have a widespread problem, a cultural illness, which has now lead over 40% of registered Republicans to think the riots inside the Capitol were a good thing and over 60+% of Republicans to truly believe the election outcome was not fair, legitimate, or true.
We need to name and hold accountable, preferably socially (through private methods) and electorally (through our votes), all of the people who are making that kind of delusion and deficit of civic truth possible.
We need to encourage everyday people to see these lies for what they are, and to repent of the ways they have been influenced and deceived by them.
We need to hold the lie tellers most accountable of all. Stop listening to them. Stop voting for them. Stop donating to them. Stop treating them as respectable public figures. Stop calling their positions and their approaches to politics “a difference of opinion”. Call them out for what they are: insurrectionist liars who intentionally deceive and incite people for more power and higher ratings and more money and more votes and more sales and more influence.
Tell the truth, and don’t be a hypocrite.
Hold them all accountable for the damage they have done.
Above Image by Win McNamee/Getty Images via NYT