Terrorism: Can You Trust Your Bathtub?

Recently a well-known institute in Washington, DC, sponsored a conference on “Combating Terrorism, Preserving Freedom.” Although many educated and informed insights were presented at this forum, the chairman of the institute, as well as one of its policy analysts offered unexpected viewpoints. The chairman cautioned the audience to “…put terrorism in perspective. Less than 2,000 Americans total have lost their lives to terrorists,” he stated, “which is far less than fatalities on our interstate highways each year.” The analyst went further to imply that more Americans lose their lives to ladders and bathtub accidents each year than to terrorism. Unfortunately this viewpoint by the institute set the tone for the entire conference.

The Terrorism Research Center disagrees with the inferences made by the representatives of this institute and feels the comparison to be ludicrous, crass, and irrelevant. This institute failed to realize the fundamental nature of terrorism. Terrorism is a crime, consisting of an intentional act of political violence to create an atmosphere of fear. Although ladders and bathtubs cause more deaths than terrorists in America, these inanimate objects do not cause death for a political cause. These deaths are accidental. There is no accident when it comes to terrorism, except that the victims happen to be in the wrong place and the wrong time. Terrorists use violence to make a political statement about a government or policy with which they disagree. The victim may be symbolic or random, but the act itself is always political.

Acts of terrorism are premeditated by their perpetrators and are conspiratorial in nature. A ladder or bathtub manufacture that conspired to cause death would feel the full weight of the justice system. Terrorists conspire their acts of terror to generate fear. Fear is not the ends of the terrorist, but the means to bring to pass their goal, yet the affected society is often completely consumed with this fear. It is by this generated fear the terrorist hopes to motivate the public, group or government to make changes whereby the goals of the terrorist might be realized. It is the government’s responsibility to secure society from this threat.

–Terrorism Research Center, 12 September 1996

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