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"I've been writing about torture, [mass] surveillance, and putting people in prison with no charges and drones and warfare," explained Greenwald, "and every time any of those policies are raised, the government has a one word answer for all of it: terrorism." (Image: Public domain)

Terrorism, Terrorism, Terrorism: The Word That Fuels Endless War

Journalist Glenn Greenwald explains the importance of challenging how this powerful word is used by those who always say only describes the violence of others and never their own.

Jon Queally

Journalist and columnist Glenn Greenwald appeared on MSNBC's Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on Tuesday night to address recent violence that took place in Canada, in which soldiers of that nation's armed forces were targeted, and reiterated his position that understanding and challenging the way the word "terrorism" is employed in such cases is critically important in the context of the ongoing and so-called "War on Terror" that has kept western armies at war in the Middle East and Central Asia for well over a decade.

The consistent problem, argued Greenwald, is that both U.S. and Canadian officials, in addition western media outlets and the public at large, repeatedly characterize "terrorism" as something "only non-government groups can do" and that this "conveniently excludes ourselves and our allies... from the definition. We target with drones and missiles and bombs all the time people who are not deployed: sleeping in their homes, riding in cars with their kids... This kind of warfare is extremely common in terms of how we fight."

Why it's important to stress the point, he continued, is because the word "terrorism" has taken on an extremely powerful role in terms of global geopolitics, but also proven essential in shutting down "the rational faculties" of those who use it casually or towards their own ends. "I've been writing about torture, [mass] surveillance, and putting people in prison with no charges and drones and warfare," explained Greenwald, "and every time any of those policies are raised, the government has a one word answer for all of it, which is: terrorism."

Greenwald described being in Canada for most of last week, subsequent to the attacks that killed one soldier on Monday and a separate attack near Parliament that killed another soldier on Wednesday, and said that the power of the word was palpable. "More than anything that I feel most disturbing about [the word 'terrorism']," he said, "is that it prevents us from looking at our own actions. Under President Obama alone, we've dropped bombs on seven different, predominantly Muslim, countries. So when we call these other people "terrorists" and make ourselves seem the victim, I think it very much creates this misleading idea that we're just the victims of violence and not the perpetrators of it. And often the violence that we do is very similar to what we call 'terrorism.'"

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