Why Terrorists Are Not Typical Murderers
We have had our fill of serial killers over the past 40 years. We have analyzed them, written books about them, made movies about them, glorified them, and vilified them. They are renegades from the human race, an aberration on the face of civilization, shunned by all of us with any modicum of intelligence and humanity.
They work secretly, often by night, and arrange their crimes to ensure that they are not captured for as long as possible.
Terrorists also kill people - many more than a lone killer ever could. But their goal is not to kill to satisfy some inner lust. They work in the brightness of daylight and the glare of media attention. The deaths are merely a sideline to their goal: to sow paralyzing fear into their targeted victims. While we shake in our shoes at the thought of someone we love falling victim to their vile plots, we must maintain our balance and objectivity in the face of naked hatred and unveiled violence.
The fact is that we are much more likely to get killed in a car accident on the way to the airport than to be blown out of the skies. Should we be cautious and aware? Of course we should. Should we be so afraid that we are willing to trade personal liberties and hard won civil rights to increase our sense of safety? In the 1930s, people were so tired of the uncertainties and confusion of democracy that they handed themselves over to fascists who brought order, calm, and made the trains run on time.
Terrorists don't win when they kill people - murders happen all the time. They win when we become so terrified that we are willing to trade anything for a sense of security.
We have spent 300 billion in Iraq towards, we are so often told, establishing a dream of democracy and freedom. Even supposing that it worked, what is it worth if we lose our freedoms at home?