Fighting Terror with Terror

The Dutch pacifist, Bart de Ligt, promoted the idea that revolutions can not adopt the means of their oppressors without also adopting the ends of their oppressors (i.e., becoming oppressors themselves).

In the recent fictional film, Avatar, the commanding officer of a Blackwater-esque mercenary force shockingly declares that they will have to “…fight terror with terror…” in order to overcome the “terrorist” indigenous people of the fictional planet that is the subject of the story.  This declaration is shocking because of its honesty.  In reality, such a direct admission is absent from the lips of our leaders–but it is present, nonetheless.  It was present, for example, when Dick Cheney vocalized a need to operate on the “dark side.”  It was also present this weekend when Joe Lieberman and other politicians insisted that the changes and upgrades which have allegedly been made recently to facilities at Guantanamo have actually made it okay for us to continue its operations (completely ignoring the arguments for its closure in the first place; the operation as a whole–not just the facilities–is unconstitutional and inhumane).  The continuance of Guantanamo and our counterterrorist initiatives will never produce anything but more violence.

“For it is a fixed law that all means have their own abiding end, proceeding from the function for which they came into being, which can only be subordinated to other, loftier ends as far as the latter are attuned to the essential and, as it were, innate end.  Besides, every end suggests its own means.  To transgress this law inevitably brings about a tyranny of the means.  For if these lead away from their intended goal, then the more people use them, the farther they get from the objective and more their actions are determined by them.  For example, it is impossible to breathe by coal gas.  Life must have fresh air.  And freedom must be awakened and stimulated by freedom and in freedom.  It can never be born of violence.  At the most, we may seek liberty as an antidote to our bondage, just as we cry out for fresh air when we are threatened with asphyxiation.”

– Bart de Ligt: The Conquest of Violence (1937)

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