When Did Terrorism Become ‘Collateral Damage’?

FIRST PERSON-Could somebody explain to me why an unprovoked and senseless attack by Salman Abidi in 2017 on an audience of predominantly innocent children watching an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England is called “terrorism,” while systematic government-sanctioned unprovoked attacks on predominantly innocent children in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and elsewhere are referred to as "collateral damage"? 

I have no desire to defend either form of terrorism but would argue that in both cases there is a tribal dehumanization and stereotyping of "The Other.” And in each case, the perpetrators are justifying their actions by rejecting their core values – values that ironically are held by the three Abrahamic religions which seem now only to give lip service to their shared commandment, "Thou shall not kill." 

See if you can come up with any objective standard that allows us to differentiate between the terrorism practiced on both sides without reverting to an irrational, racist, and culturally chauvinistic demonization of "the other:" 

  1. After the attack in Manchester at the Ariana Grande concert, President Trump described those attacked and killed as "so many young and beautiful people." Did Trump or anybody else ever describe the innocents we are incessantly bombing in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere as "so many young and beautiful people?" Why not? 
  1. If your family or a good portion of it was senselessly destroyed, even though they were innocent, might the response to such violence motivate more violence from family members or others whose subsequent acts of irrational terrorism only mirror the terrorism that has enraged them? 
  1. Each side justifies its own fanaticism by depicting the other as having corrupted their respective core values. Does the American press ever consider the anti-democratic regimes like that in Saudi Arabia which we unquestioningly support without ever mentioning the anti-democratic reality their people endure? 
  1. What is the difference between what is happening now and events like the Thirty Years War from 1618-1648 in Europe that took the lives of 3 to 11.5 million Christians for the sole "crime" of being either Catholic or Protestant? Was that historic internecine war any different than the present endless warfare between Sunnis and Shiites that endangers peaceful human development? 

Humanity seems to be headed toward a precipice of even greater magnitude than it has ever experienced. The words of Jesus -- the Prince of Peace -- seem to take on a more prescient meaning when describing the human condition on earth: "My kingdom is not of this world." This enlightened message seems to be steadfastly ignored by people of all faiths who have the chutzpah to call themselves believers despite what they actually do to keep this world in chaos.


(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles, observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second- generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at [email protected].) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.