Our definition of terrorism needs to be expanded

Terrorism is the use of violence or threat to achieve a political, religious or ideological aim.

Terrorism is the use of violence or threat to achieve a political, religious or ideological aim.

It is illegal and a war crime when it targets non-combatants (read civilians) to exploit them with fear to achieve the terrorist’s goals.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said terrorism was “any act intended to cause death or bodily harm to civilians for the purpose of intimidating them to abstain from any act.” When any group attacks innocent people, this is unacceptable, and fits into the definition of terrorism.

Historically, Guy Fawkes was a terrorist.

The French Revolution’s Reign of Terror and the Inquisition also fit this definition. Whether their cause is just or not, criminal acts intended by individuals or groups to harm the innocent are inhuman, illegal and have no place in civilized society.

This subject was discussed at a recent gathering locally when the topic of the Pennsylvania tree clearance came up.

The Constitution Pipeline has invoked public domain to take down about 90 percent of the maple syrup trees on a farm in Susquehanna County. Elliott Adams, a local forester and former mayor of Sharon Springs, has protested there against this action, saying “the eminent domain law is meant to be for the public good, not the profits of private companies.”

Adams lives near the proposed Constitution Pipeline in Schoharie County and is urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to withhold the final permit for its construction in New York. He is not alone in this protest here.

A federal judge in Pennsylvania authorized law-enforcement officers to arrest anyone who tried to stop the cutting of these trees, saying such actions would constitute contempt of court.

It is hard not to hold in contempt any court that would send heavily armed officers in bulletproof vests to “hold back” peaceful landowners who are objecting to the destruction of their main livelihood on their own property.

When you think about it, how else could you categorize some other recent actions of domestic terrorism?

The gas leak in southern California; the water contamination in Flint, Michigan and Hoosick Falls; the takeover of a wildlife refuge in Burns, Oregon; the threats to residents by oil train derailments; earthquakes in places where none have been before, such as Oklahoma and Ohio (almost certain to have been caused by fracking and storage of frack waste); the oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere; and, internationally, the murders of environmentalists like Honduran activists Berta Cáceres (winner of the international Goldman Environmental Prize) and her colleague Tomas Garcia.

Same result as attack

Those events may or may not have been intentional, but they were avoidable, and their result was the same as a terrorist attack.

A terrorist is not always a foreigner with a bomb. Sometimes the terrorist is a company who makes toxic chemicals for our farms, water, medicines or food. Their actions cause harm to innocent people for the purpose of profit.

Businesses and banks that make toxic loans resist regulation for the enhancement of their own bottom lines. They can threaten retaliation or loss with now-legal actions that exploit fear and keep the victims in line.

This expanded definition of domestic terrorism to include economic aims can be useful when we consider the general withdrawal of our citizenry from political involvement.

The prevalent feeling of “What’s the use?” is guaranteed to lower voting numbers, civic involvement and justice activism. The Black Lives Matter movement is an example of a response to terrorism that is actively making a difference, and the anti-fracking movement in New York worked, too.

Now if Gov. Cuomo would just tell the state Department of Environmental Conservation to act to stop the pipelines, frack waste dumping and oil trains in New York, we could breathe easier for our futures here.

Domestic terrorism for economic ends is not acceptable, is a major threat to society and is illegal, if not a war crime.

When will we see the perpetrators stopped or jailed?

When there’s no money in it.

Karen Cookson lives in Sharon Springs and is a regular contributor to the Sunday Opinion section.

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