Terror:violence promoted by a group to achieve or maintain supremacy.

Terrorism:the systematic use of terror, violence, and intimidation to achieve an end. (American Heritage Dictionary, college edition.)

Since the vicious and compounded horrors of Sept. 11, U.S. Americans have been forced into a heightened intimacy with “terrorism.” It has come home with a vengeance and in a manner hitherto unimaginable.

Since that dark morning the word “terrorist” has been the media’s mantra. While indisputably apt in this instance, the word is nonetheless loaded. Except rarely, it’s only applied to “them,” to the other, to non-caucasians.

The beauty of this cognitive trick is that it keeps us from asking why Sept. 11 happened. It keeps us from asking why the U.S. government and economic system – for these were the targets – are intensely and widely hated on this bleeding planet. It keeps us from seeing how central terrorism is to U.S. foreign policy and to our commercial expansion.

Since Aug. 6 and Aug. 9, 1945, terrorism – or civilian-targeted warfare – has been central to U.S. military doctrine. It’s been central to our numerous nuclear threats – both implicit and explicit – against those who defy our imperial will. It’s been central to our contempt for international law and treaty obligations.

It’s been central to our small arms and big arms export industry. It’s been central to our propping up of a slew of totalitarian regimes. It’s been central to our invasions of Korea, Southeast Asia, Iraq. It’s been central to our bloody attack on Panama and to our other armed interventions in Latin America. It’s been central to our massive training of foreign military, both here and abroad.

Those who care about our country, and yet believe that ultimately the universe is just, tremble. We knew it was only a matter of time before this malevolence – this sin – began coming home to roost. Those whose metaphysics derive from the street know that what goes around comes around. Those with eastern spirituality call it karma.

Since 1946, the U.S. has harbored Latin American terrorists and has run a terrorist training camp, first in Panama and, since 1984, at Ft. Benning, Georgia. The camp has taught anti-insurgency warfare to over 60,000 Latin American soldiers.

Anti-insurgency warfare is a euphemism for civilian-targeted warfare. It’s also a euphemism for anti-worker (rural and urban) warfare. The School of the Americas is the biggest union-buster of them all.

Periodically, in response to new strategic needs, the camp changes its name. In the 1990s, it won notoriety as the School of the Americas. To evade that stigma, in January 2001 it began calling itself the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Since 1990 a small grassroots, faith-based, organization called SOA Watch has struggled to expose and close the SOA – whatever it’s called.

Every year, on the weekend after Nov. 16, we hold a Vigil Action at the entrance to Ft. Benning. Our Vigil Actions are liturgical and scrupulously nonviolent. Nonetheless, over the years 70 SOA Watchers have been prosecuted and sent to federal prison. Over 20 of these are still incarcerated. The crime? Walking on to Ft. Benning and daring to say the emperor wears no clothes.

Besides these prisoners of conscience, many thousands come to Benning every November who don’t risk arrest. These, by their very presence, eloquently protest the continued operation of the SOA.

This year the vigil action was held on Saturday and Sunday, November 17 and 18. For U.S. citizens, there are few better ways to oppose terrorism than to have taken part in this event.

Ed Kinane, a former prisoner of conscience based in Syracuse, is on the SOA Watch national board.