Sunday, April 11, 2010

All of Orientalism stands forth and away from the Orient: that Orientalism makes sense at all depends more on the West than on the Orient, and this sense is directly indebted to various Western techniques of representation that make the Orient visible, clear, and “there” in a discourse. And these representations rely upon institutions, traditions, conventions, agreed-upon codes of understanding for their effects, not upon a distant and amorphous Orient.
—Edward W. Said, Orientalism

The act of terrorism is defined by the United State Code as “any activity that involves a violent act or an act dangerous to human life… [or] appears to be intended… to influence the policy of a government”. As we can already see, the line between a terrorist and a criminal seems to be, at least in the sense of their definitions, pretty fade; however, in the grand scheme of things, these two titles spur very different reactions. On one hand, criminals are people who are everyday robbers: people who are harmful, but could be left in prison for a said amount of time before release. On the other hand, terrorists are those who are unforgivable, those who need to be put into special prisons, those who must be rooted out of the society, and those who are dangerous enough to go to war with. Of course, after 911 terrorism was at the height of everyone’s worries, people needed some way to relieve their anxiety; they needed a scapegoat to blame. The rest of that story is history. America found its scapegoat and we invaded the Middle East. My argument is not whether or not the intervention in the Middle East is justified; rather, my argument is whether or not the discourse of “the war on terror” is justified (ie the way that people are represented by this discourse, who it represents, and how we are responding to this representation). There are obvious implications when people call someone or some country a terrorist: people become scared, military intervenes, and eventually war is declared. Edward Said, a professor in Columbia University, believes that this discourse of “the war on terror” does not stem from terrorists but rather from an old lapse in our culture: orientalism (better known as xenophobia). Said believe that the word “terrorist” is specifically constructed to other-ize the other; to distinguish an enemy of the empire. Said wrote in 2005 that the use of this word in fact got us into interventions, or rather war, in the Middle East and it also conjured, or widened, a gap between a “rational” west and an “irrational” orient (Greek for East). Said emphasizes the point that modern construction of the word “terrorism” does not revolve around rooting out a certain group, but rather the word serves as justification to root out a whole population. Now, I am not as radical in thought as Said. No I am not an anti-American (I know some of you will think I am). Yes, I actually do think that in some ways it is a good idea to intervene in the Middle East; I think it is a good idea to take out bad dictators and prevent other corrupt officials from taking over a country. However, I also believe that saying “war on terror” is not an appropriate reason to start intervention, especially when people designated a specific population (i.e the Arabs) and a specific location (i.e the Middle East) to represent “terrorism”, which is a title that should be suitable to any international criminal.

"[An] act of terrorism, means any activity that (A) involves a violent act or an act dangerous to human life that is a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State; and (B) appears to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by assassination or kidnapping."
—United States Code Congressional and Administrative News

1 comment:

  1. It seems like you were more focused on the semantics of "War on Terror" than the actual war itself. But more importantly, I disagree with the argument that the American people needed a scapegoat to vindicate their vengeful spirits. Because after all, the American people were not the ones who declared war in Iraq, it was the Bush Administration. However, I would agree with you if you instead argued that the Bush Administration used 9/11 as a scapegoat for invading Iraq. If the revised argument was your initial intention, that would be ironic because of how you meticulous in defining "terrorism", "criminals", etc.
    I am surprised by the fact that you actually went through the effort of beginning your argument with an epigraph and how you used quotes throughout your entirety of your journal, but whatever floats your boat.