(Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Recent news events such as this week’s brutal killing of a British soldier in London, the Boston Marathon bombings, and the Congressional hearings on the Benghazi attacks have renewed a debate that has simmered since 9-11: What qualifies as terrorism?

Guests:
Mark Danner, Chancellor's Professor of Journalism and Politics at the University of California at Berkeley
Frank Gaffney, President and CEO, Center for Security Policy; formerly the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy in the Reagan administration.
Laura Beth Nielsen, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Legal Studies at Northwestern University
Danielle Pletka, Vice President, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at American Enterprise Institute

  • USA Run By Crooks

    False flag attacks, in which one party perpetrates an attack while pretending to be another party, constitute most of what we are being told is “terrorism”. These attacks are being perpetrated by states like the USA (on 9/11, in OK city etc) and Israel (USS Liberty) in order to build public and political support for police state laws, concentration camps, pervasive spying, and disappearing of dissidents like just happened to Adam Kokesh.

    • thucy

      “concentration camps”?

      What, specifically, in this era in the US, are you talking about?

      I’ll grant you this: as journalist David Simon has argued, the US war on drugs has constituted a “holocaust in slow motion”. So in that sense, the US for-profit prison system has effectively concentrated with no real justice, an entire race of men – specifically African-American men. Is our prison system technically a concentration camp? I don’t think so, although the results may be similar enough.

  • thucy

    Dave Iverson: the Prince of Pretentiously Ponderous Pauses for Presumed Effect.

    What could make me miss Krasny? This character could.

    For KQED’s next fundraising drive, I propose a contest for who can best impersonate and elaborate on Iverson’s soi-disant “style”.

    • disqus_63X8zNMKNl

      wow. although your other comments seem right on target, as it were, I don’t understand how you could have such animosity toward Dave Iverson. I think he’s a very competent moderator, and at least he doesn’t put himself into the discussion with self-aggrandizing comments every 5 minutes.

      • thucy

        I’ve found Iverson’s interviews to be really weak. The recent Google interview with Wojcicki stands out. Look, I understand KQED needs Google’s money, but I think we can’t afford to let media get more acquiescent than it already is.
        Scott Shafer, OTOH, is PERFECT.

      • Chris OConnell

        It could be a matter of personal taste. Some people love or hate punk rock, some people love or hate opera. And with radio hosts, the same thing. It is not necessarily saying one is good or one is bad. And I have the same taste as thucy on this, it appears.

  • Andrew Leonard

    Unfortunately, I believe that the use of “terror” in our political and electoral rhetoric is indicative of a greater issue: our embracing of a culture of fear. Far more people die every year from things like automobile accidents and (legal) drugs like alcohol and prescription medications, but we evoke far more – perhaps irrational – fear by using such a loaded word with the high frequency that we do.

  • Chemist150

    To define terrorism, one simply needs to use a description that encompasses all cases deemed terrorism and that is cannot be more concise.
    This is my attempt but it does not necessarily mean I support the definition.

    Terrorism:

    1) An attack on a government structure or on someone employed or thought to be employed by the government.

    2) Any attack by a non-national.

    3) A situation in which law enforcement wishes to use lethal force and ask questions later without the threat of detrimental review.

  • Chris OConnell

    Glenn Greenwald answers the question posed here: “It is very hard to escape the conclusion that, operationally, the term has no real definition at this point beyond ‘violence engaged in by Muslims in retaliation against western violence toward Muslims.'”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/23/woolwich-attack-terrorism-blowback

  • johnqeniac

    I’m more interested in ‘why is terrorism?’

    Nearly every ‘terrorist’ who we bother to interview, says his/her motivation is the acts of violence by the US. We insist that they want to establish sharia law in Peoria, Illinois, or that they are envious of our large American breasts and iPhones.

    My question is: why do we refuse to listen to the reasons that every terrorist gives for his/her action?

    – greg slater

    • aa aa

      Violence by the US is not the only motivation, (jihadists attack all sorts of non-Muslims who have not done what the US government does: Copts in Egypt, Buddhist Thais, Philipino Christians, etc.) and the resentment against the US has a lot to do with simply not being a Muslim power. Jihadists like OBL compared the US to Roman Empire, and urged other Muslims to attack it as Muslims attacked the Roman Empire. The Muslims attacked the Roman Empire offensively not because it had done anything to them:it couldn’t because it had no control over inner Arabia where Islam arose. Muslims attacked Roman Empire and took as much Roman land as they could (the Levant and North Africa –even attacking Constantinople 3 times before 720 AD), because they believed that rule by non-Muslims was inherently illegitimate, and only Muslims have the right to rule states. Christians like Obama (or the Philipine pols in Mindanao) in the view of jihadists, only have the right to live as political subordinates to Muslim powers, not rule states themselves.

  • Chris OConnell

    Frank Gaffney says Obama has turned over large swaths of the Muslim world to the Muslim Brotherhood. Only if one believes the US owns the world could one make this ridiculously imperial statement. Either that or Obama Derangement Syndrome strikes again.

    • thucy

      from Glenn Greenwald:

      “This is such an under-appreciated but crucial aspect of the Obama legacy. Recall back in 2008 that the CIA prepared a secret report (subsequently leaked to WikiLeaks) that presciently noted that the election of Barack Obama would be the most effective way to stem the tide of antiwar sentiment in western Europe, because it would put a pleasant, happy, progressive face on those wars and thus convert large numbers of Obama supporters from war opponents into war supporters. That, of course, is exactly what happened: not just in the realm of militarism but civil liberties and a whole variety of other issues. That has had the effect of transforming what were, just a few years ago, symbols of highly contentious right-wing radicalism into harmonious bipartisan consensus. That the most vocal defenders of this unprecedented government acquisition of journalists’ phone records comes from government-loyal progressives – reciting the standard slogans of National Security and Keeping Us Safe and The Terrorists – is a potent symbol indeed of this transformation.”

  • optikool

    I think Frank Gaffney missed the point of what the President said. Glenn said the President said we are done, when that wasn’t what the President said. What he said was we are not going to continue invading countries because of an ideology and will instead concentrate on going after al qaeda directly. Basically saying you don’t need to invade a country to do that and that’s what his administration will do. He also acts like we own those large swaths of Muslim lands.

    • thucy

      translation:
      “might as well face it, he’s addicted to drones.”

      • optikool

        i’d rather use a drone then put people on the ground any day of the week… though reports say drone attacks have been going down….

        • thucy

          That sentiment elides just how drone attacks have created huge anti-US sentiment. As a 9/11 survivor, I can tell you that for several years, any civilian plane flying overhead made many New Yorkers feel uneasy. Now imagine that the planes aren’t civilian, but drones. Imagine the anxiety the Women and children in Yemen feel. You like drones because they allow you to deny, deny, deny what our gov’t is doing.

          • optikool

            I like drones because we don’t need to send in a 5 man team to do the same thing. As a Marine, I have concerns about innocent women and children being killed, but at the same time, they know what’s going on in their community. They can’t be that naive that extremest are plotting to kill people in other countries. They should understand that at some point those extremest will be taken out and if they don’t get some distance then that’s on them.

          • Chris OConnell

            Yes, and you don’t know what’s going on in their community and often the WRONG PEOPLE are targeted and innocents are killed. Newsflash: the US military makes the IRS and EPA look like the most perfect institutions in terms of mistakes and wrongdoing.

          • thucy

            You’re kidding, right? I mean, if I live in an apartment building, and the guy on some other floor is up to no good, I deserve to die?
            You know, most Marines I know are a lot more thoughtful than you seem to be.

          • optikool

            If you lived in an apartment building and some guy on the other floor is up to no good, you’d probably hear alot of sounds coming from that floor as the swat team and CIA busted in on the person doing no good…

            However if you were in Yemen and you didn’t know what was going on, I’d say you probably had your head in the sand…

          • thucy

            “I like drones because we don’t need to send in a 5 man team to do the same thing.”
            It would have to be a five-man team, and not a three-man, two-woman team, if the current sexual assault numbers in the military are any indication.

          • optikool

            Figure of speech guy… don’t get to fixated on the words, but what is trying to be conveyed.

          • thucy

            are the sexual assaults numbers also “a figure of speech”? Maybe it’s time to get deprogrammed from the macho nonsense you learned in basic training. I know a few wise Marine vets who can help with that…

          • optikool

            Are you changing topics? You should really give a heads up if you are….

          • thucy

            not at all, merely pointing out that an inability to reckon with the gross incompetence of the military in handling grosss personnel problems like overwhelming sexual assault cases mirrors perfectly the gross incompetence in “targeting” presumed “terrorists”

            I guess to you it’s the fault of those female soldiers for getting raped, just like it’s the fault of the Yemeni mothers for getting droned.

          • optikool

            That’s a pretty moronic statement and I find it interesting you actually believe the two are the same… If you want to talk about sexual assaults in the military, that’s one thing but to try to merge that into the current conversation just makes me want to let you continue talking just to see just how far down the rabbit hole you plan to take this…

          • thucy

            Suit yourself…

          • optikool

            lol… it sounds like you want an answer to the sexual assaults in the military. Just like what the President said, I also believe people in the military that sexually assaults another member in the military should be treated the same as non military assaults. In fact, so there’s no bias, they should be tried in the public courts and not a military court. And any Marine the sexually assaults another member in the Armed forces does not deserve that title and it should be stripped.

          • disqus_63X8zNMKNl

            wow. “They deserve to be killed because they should have known better than to live anywhere that extremists live.” And you would feel how, if your family were bombed because there was an extremist living in your community? It doesn’t sound as if you consider the “innocent women and children” as very innocent at all.

          • optikool

            If I lived in Yemen and I knew there was an extremest camp near by, which is probably common knowledge in the area, I’d move.

          • disqus_63X8zNMKNl

            right again.

  • thisismyaccount

    Wow why did you have Frank Gaffney on as a commentator. Spend 1 minute Goggling him and it is clear that he is an extremist and whack job. Is KQED now “fair & balanced.”

    • thucy

      I think there’s an argument for having a rep like Gaffney for the whacko side, since, despite Obama’s latest rhetoric, the whacko side appears to have inordinate influence over policy.
      The War on Terror isn’t ending, the President was disingenuous (at best!) in his rambling discourse yesterday.

      • optikool

        rambling??? lol maybe it was just over your head… just like that lady that was pretty much in agreement with the president but because she wouldn’t shut up she didn’t know that…

        • thucy

          “That woman” is in agreement with his rhetoric, not with his quantifiable actions. Is that over your head?
          “That woman” is a hero, not a fabulist.

          • optikool

            Not really… that woman was disrespectful she was no hero. She was like a child that should have been set to her room. I wanted to hear what the President had to say and make my own decisions. I didn’t need to hear her talking over the president. She should have been kicked to the curb a lot sooner. I’ve been known to have a lot of patience but, the President takes the cake on this one. And she is not serious in her endeavors because if she was should would have been advocating to get rid of those in congress that blocked the presidents ability to close Gitmo, after spending the entire primary talking about how Gitmo must be closed and how they would do that on day one. Funny how that all changed when it was this President that put the idea out and the GOP did everything to block him including de funding the program that would have closed Gitmo.

          • thucy

            Do you even know who “that woman” is, and all the sacrifices she’s made to do the things you ignorantly insist she should be doing?

          • optikool

            I know as much as I heard in news reports, but not much more then that because I don’t care about that woman. She gave me the wrong impression of her the moment she spoke. And the fact that she wouldn’t be quiet when the President was speaking made me MAD. And the fact that the President showed her respect and let her speak and she didn’t return that respect made me MADDER…

          • thucy

            It’s sad that democracy makes you mad, but in reality, the President is neither a monarch, nor a USMC commander, and therefore he is accountable to the citizenry. Don’t like democracy? Too bad.

          • optikool

            Yes we live in a country where a disrespectful loud mouth can go interrupt our commander in chief when he’s addressing the country. She should be thankful she doesn’t live in another country where she doesn’t have such freedoms. But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. In any case, she should be happy the president defended her freedom of speech. I doubt the previous president would have done the same or even bothered to entertain her. But she doesn’t have my respect.

          • aa aa

            Sorry, when someone tries to talk over a scheduled speaker, it’s not democracy. Medea has every right to free speech in various fora, including her own scheduled speeches, but this does not include interrupting others’ scheduled speeches.

          • disqus_63X8zNMKNl

            I agree with all you said, thucy. It’s scary how much hatred is let loose by even the suggestion that we should talk about our endless war on terrorism.

    • aa aa

      Ad hominem. If you disagree with Gaffney, specify your points, don’t just call names.

  • Tierney Hamilton

    Mr. Gaffney: Where precisely in Sharia does it say that violence is required inevitably?

    • aa aa

      I would suggest you start with a few scholarly books: Patricia Crone, an impeccable scholar of early Islam, gives a reasonable summary of Sunni Sharia’s ideas about violence, including the open-ended nature of jihad in “God’s Rule.” Also OK is David Cook’s “Understanding Jihad.” For the history of Sunni Muslim states developing an ideology of perpetual warfare against the E. Roman Empire in the medieval period see Michael Bonner’s “Arab-Byzantine Relations in Early Islamic Times.” This discusses the fact that medieval Sunni scholars even taught it was obligatory for Muslim leaders to at least raid Roman borders every year when full-scale war was not possible. And some individuals went out to live on the borders and did just that when they felt was the Islamic states were too lax about attacking non-Muslim states, a little like modern jihadis.

  • lbrmouse

    There seems to be a question of “who is a terrorist?”

    Oklahoma City, Aurora, CO, Sandy Hook, CT; all disgruntled and off-balance perpetrators. Times Square (attempted) bomber: known to be an “operative” of the Sharia motivation your guest describes. The Boston Bombers were not specifically “operatives,” but their disgruntlement was apparently fueled by Islamist postings on the Internet (or possibly in-person meetings while the older brother was away from the US).

    Is this a distinction that ought to affect the answer to whether we should escalate or de-escalate the “War on Terror” which, I agree, sadly, looks like lasting forever?

    Larry Rosenfeld
    San Francisco

    • aa aa

      Oklahoma City and the Islamist terrorists you mentioned were terrorists because of their ideological agendae. OK city bomber had a political ,anti-government ideology, but without significant religious justification. Islamists have a jihadist ideology: they want to, as individuals, revive medieval Sunni ideas and practices of jihad. (Jihad is Islamically justified warfare. A reasonable summary of it can be found in Patricia Crone’s “God’s Rule.”). Sandy Hook & Aurora look more like mentally ill psychopaths, who were callous to human life but had no ideological agendae.

  • Steve

    I think Mr. Gaffney may have not fully understood President Obama’s
    speech. Obama did in fact address the greater issue of Islamic
    extremism, or “jihadism” if you will. But he pointed out that it is
    impossible to combat that through military means. We are talking
    potentially hundreds of millions of people, or more. You can’t kill or
    detain that many people. President Obama pointed out that we need to
    wage a campaign of ideas, and promote our agenda of freedom and equality
    for all, and that is how we will ultimately prevail.

    • aa aa

      You fail to understand why promoting these won’t appeal to jihadists and other Islamists. Jihadists and other Islamists are by definition against freedom of speech: they do not think criticism of Islam or Muhammad should be legal, which is why many act violently, even killing civilians when prominent cases of ridicule or even mild criticism surface. (Muhammad cartoons, “Innocence of Muslims” case, riots over Pope’s remarks, even though they were quoted from a non-ridiculing, respectful historical-theological dialogue, etc.) They do not believe in freedom of religion: they threaten or tolerate violence towards apostates from Islam (see the Barnabas Fund for many cases). And they do NOT believe in equality because they want to revive or tighten laws–based in medieval interpretations of Islamic law–that give women and non-Muslims fewer rights than male Muslims. Islamists are by definition Muslims who, unlike some other Muslims, reject current international legal standards about freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and legal equality.

  • Chris OConnell

    We have been so submissive in the face of their jihad and we are emboldening them, says Gaffney.

    What planet does this guy live on to make a laughably ridiculous statement like this in the face of the past almost 12 years of the “War on Terror”!! Statements like this should disqualify someone from a reputable radio program. They have NO credibility.

  • EIDALM

    The war on terror is bogus, Alquida is a paper tigir, bunch of stupid misled idiots whose stupid actions was used by the Neocons including FRANK GAFrNEY, DANIAL PIPES, BERNARD LEWIS, and the rest of the the hate monger Likudnik who lies their way to take us wars that killed millions, destroyed countries, and ruined the U S economy…Terrorism is a police matter and should be treated accordingly

    • aa aa

      The economy has troubles mainly because of foolish macroeconomic policies of the last thirty years that have little to do with the wars. (Inter alia, lowering estate, income and property taxes on the well-off while raising them (sales tax) on the poor; tolerating mass low-skilled immigration during a time when Americans and legal immigrants in the bottom half of the income ladder aren’t paid enough to stimulate the economy much, depressing real wages in the bottom half. The army is actually still one of the venues where a low-skilled American can make a living wage, although I certainly wouldn’t support wars just for that reason).
      Whether al-Quaeda are idiots is irrelevant. Idiots can be very dangerous, and al-Quaed is. They do harm civilians around the world and, promote a theocratic vision that is the cause of many problems in the Islamic world. At a minimum our leaders should be protecting us from them.

  • Chris OConnell

    I never thought I’d look forward to a pledge break but if it gets Danielle Pletka off the air, I welcome it.

    • aa aa

      Ad hominem. If you have a problem with Pletka’s ideas, please specify.

  • disqus_63X8zNMKNl

    Faulting President Obama for being “ambivalent” and “leadership” in his speech about terrorism last night seems faulty itself. Given the present mood of Congress, how far would Pres. Obama get if he were to present his thoughts about the way we view terrorism in an uncompromising, unthoughtful, dictatorial way? He knows that there will be a landslide of opposition to even considering that we should question our War on Terrorism. I think he has opened the discussion in the best way possible…putting out the idea for thought. Frank Gaffney’s frightening attitude is exactly what the president is up against. I hope the US can start being rational and thoughtful about the issue, although given the power of fear mongering, I am not hopeful.

    • thucy

      “Frank Gaffney’s frightening attitude is exactly what the president is up against…”

      Frank Gaffney’s frightening attitude is exactly what the president has been implementing since he took office.

  • EIDALM

    It is real bad choice of forum to have as guests the merchant of hate Frank Gaffney and the woman from the American Enterprize Institute that created PNAC and advance the concept of perpetual wars.

    • aa aa

      This is ad hominem. If you have a point of disagreement with Gaffney or others, specify them more clearly, don’t just call people names.

  • Tyranipocrit

    first of all–the war on terror is a delusion. Your guest is the terrified terrifying. The same tired old rhetoric. He has nothing good to say.

    Secondly, by calling an end to this delusional fabricated war–Obama can say–we can say the war is over–so when these petty criminals attack individuals in the street or even blow up an embassy or a building–they look like the bad ones–because we honorably called an end to the conflict. BY doing so Obama cleverly turns the table–making them the bad guy once again. Moreover, he decelerates the hostile rhetoric and arms race–toning down the violence and making peace a goal if not reality–rather then continually stepping up the hateful rhetoric and big man talk of guns blazing and smoking em out.

    Furthermore, one could argue we all-ready won the war so Obama is not surrendering. he got osama! Eye for an eye. If you believe osama was real–i do not–but for sake of argument. Many of the powerful influential leaders of the rage-movement have been destroyed.

    technically–we Americans are the terrorists, the sadists. The jihadists”–are just in a rage-movement, a rage-campaign–a reaction to our terror. Obama is doing the right thing by calling an end to our terror–even if its only rhetorically.

    Now, he can’t really do that–because the 1% corporatocracy control his adminisitration and all american interests–but he is smarlty negotiating this dark playing field by drawing down the rhetoric.

    This guest is a maniac! And a terrorist–fear-mongering! And Forum is quite pathetic by not challenging him as a true journalist entity should–not just giving him a platform to spew his idiocy and hostility.

  • Tyranipocrit

    the rhetoric around the war on terror–is political correctness–get a grip terror lovers. the whole conversation is an delusional illusion. The war on terror is a manufactured reality–fabricated by your governemtn and your corporatocracy. the real terrorists are in washington dc.

  • Tyranipocrit

    we should stop using the word terrorist and war on terror. We should call it what it is–a rage-movement. they rage against the machine, against our terror. We should call them the ragers.

  • James Bryer

    if You don’t know the sharia threat doctrine, then please feel free to educate Yourself as Your ignorance is a National Threat to this Great Country and Your Family…Frank Gaffney is an Authority on such matters…

    • James Bryer

      So is Tom Trento and Diane West and Many Others…

      • James Bryer

        as there is an islamic flag flyin’ next to OURS and this usurper has embraced and promotes and embolden OUR enemies against US…OPENLY, right under Your nose…WAKE UP…

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