The spread of Islamic murderousness this decade has focused some minds, and ever more people are not willing to accept a moral equivalence that refuses to recognize the nature of the danger and the simple evil of the murderers. This, Hoyt tells us, has caused the writers at the Times to be willing - however gingerly and hesitatingly - to apply the term when it really would be indefensible not to. In the recent attacks in Mumbai, for example.
This is a step in the right direction, but far from enough. Moreover, Hoyt's description of the editorial deliberations at the paper prove that the fundamental issue is still not clear:
Susan Chira, the foreign editor, said The Times may eventually put that label on Lashkar, but reporters are still trying to learn more about it. “Our instinct is to proceed with caution, not rushing to label any group with the word terrorist before we have a deeper understanding of its full dimensions,” she said.
The idea apparently is that such a potent term, even if it's now once again permitted, cannot be used except for black-and-white cases (i.e Mumbai), but not for complex ones such as Hamas:
To the consternation of many, The Times does not call Hamas a terrorist organization, though it sponsors acts of terror against Israel. Hamas was elected to govern Gaza. It provides social services and operates charities, hospitals and clinics. Corbett said: “You get to the question: Somebody works in a Hamas clinic — is that person a terrorist? We don’t want to go there.” I think that is right.
Let me suggest that the distinction should be moral or legal, not political. Morality is always a matter of intent and choices, and any legal system recognizes this. In order for the taking of a life to be murder, there has to be the intent to kill irrespective of the acts of the victim. When the killing was not intended, even when it was the result of stupidity or sloppiness, it's manslaughter not murder, and of course, killing in self defense isn't even criminal.
This simple self evident truth can be applied to any context impartially. A man arming himself and purposefully and randomly killing people where his own life is not in immediate danger, is a murderer. When he kills as an act of politics he's a terrorist; when he kills to force a group out of a territory he's an ethnic cleanser; when he kills to eliminate an ethnic or national group, he's a genocidaire. (Terrorist is not the worst one can be). This is true whether the man is an Israeli shooting Muslims at prayer, or an ex-serviceman blowing up a building, or a gunman shooting commuters at a train station. You don't need to take time to research his political agenda and decide if you can agree with it a wee bit or not at all.