ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Terrorists and Freedom Fighters

Updated on August 22, 2012
(Courtesy of the CIA)
(Courtesy of the CIA)

I have frequently heard the expression "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." Well, let me state from the outset that I think that is totally bogus and I will explain why. First of all, the reader needs to know that I am a former intelligence professional with experience in counterrorism analysis so I have some familiarity with the subject. Let's begin with the "official" Department of Defense (DoD) definition of terrorism which I believe is a more than adequate definition:

"The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological." (Department of Defense Dictionary of Military Terms)

The key words are "unlawful," "violence," "fear," and "coerce." Now some people may believe the difference between a "terrorist" and a "freedom fighter" depends upon what side of the fence you're on. Well, I think of a freedom fighter as someone who is fighting to overthrow an oppressor and attacks the instruments of that oppressor (i.e., military targets, infrastructure, etc.). Consider the French Resistance in World War II. Faced with occupation by a brutal, Nazi regime, French Resistance fighters attacked German soldiers, blew up bridges, disrupted transportation, and generally harassed the Germans from the rear. In fact, they contributed significantly to the liberation of France:

"The French Resistance played a significant role in facilitating the Allies' rapid advance through France following the invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944, and the lesser-known invasion of Provence on 15 August, by providing military intelligence on the German defenses known as the Atlantic Wall and on Wehrmacht deployments and orders of battle. The RĂ©sistance also planned, coordinated, and executed acts of sabotage on the electrical power grid, transportation facilities, and telecommunications networks." (Authors Walton Booth and Waldron Moran as Quoted in Wikipedia.) These type of activities took place throughout Nazi-occupied Europe, especially in Russia and, late in the war, in Italy.

Flag of Free France
Flag of Free France

What they did NOT do was to infiltrate Germany and blow up German children on school buses, plant bombs in night clubs in Berlin , nor they did strap explosives around themselves and detonate them in the presence of German "targets." Those actions are the actions of terrorists, not freedom fighters. These are the tactics of Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, the IRA, and the like. When I served in Vietnam in 1966, I was put in charge of cataloging Viet Cong (VC) initiated incidents. I read reports of VC brutality every day. (Yes, the VC attacked military targets. They also raided villages, brutally murdered village chieftains, raped and pillaged, and generally killed anyone against their cause.) Not long after I arrived in Vietnam, I witnessed a group of Vietnamese civilians, including children, that were rushed into our compound. They were bloodied and in terrible shape. From what I was told, they were gathered to watch a government broadcast on a television set and a VC tossed a hand grenade into the group. What I saw were the ones who had survived (at least, up to that point). That is a "picture book" example of terrorism.

Sbarro pizza restaurant bombing in Jerusalem, in which 15 Israeli civilians were killed and 130 were wounded by a Hamas suicide bomber.
Sbarro pizza restaurant bombing in Jerusalem, in which 15 Israeli civilians were killed and 130 were wounded by a Hamas suicide bomber.
Destruction of an Israeli kindergarten by a rocket fired from Gaza.
Destruction of an Israeli kindergarten by a rocket fired from Gaza. | Source
Results of VC terrorism in Saigon in 1965.
Results of VC terrorism in Saigon in 1965.

I'm sure the members of the terrorist groups I mentioned above believe they are "freedom fighters" within their own (warped) definition of freedom. I'm sorry, but I cannot sympathize with anyone, regardless of their cause, who uses terror tactics to advance their belief system. That includes terrorists on both sides of the political ledger, from Timothy McVeigh to Major Nidal Hasan to the "gay activist" who recently tried to shoot members of the Family Research Council because they oppose gay marriage and abortion. That includes the members of the Islamic extremist groups who are trying to destroy Israel simply because it is there. (Yes, I know the Israelis employed terrorist tactics back in the late 1940s - that, in my opinion, was wrong as well.) Deliberately targeting, and killing and maiming innocent civilians, men, women and children, is NOT a legitimate activity for ANY cause, no matter how dear to one's heart.

If you think that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter," think again. It is demonstrably NOT so.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • mio cid profile image

      mio cid 4 years ago from Uruguay

      I agree with your take on terrorism and freedom fighters, I think a way to separate ones from the others would be the limitations they would be willing to impose upon themselves and how they would discriminate who and what they would consider an enemy target, as well as the level of clemency they would afford the "enemy".good hub.

    • Dennis AuBuchon profile image

      Dennis AuBuchon 4 years ago

      Great hub. You presented the topic in an informative and clear manner. Voted up

    • AlexDrinkH2O profile image
      Author

      AlexDrinkH2O 4 years ago from Southern New England, USA

      Dennis and mio cid - thank you, I appreciate your comments.

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 4 years ago from Southern California

      Alex

      I think a big component to differentiate between the two is attacking civilians as soft targets on purpose.

    • AlexDrinkH2O profile image
      Author

      AlexDrinkH2O 4 years ago from Southern New England, USA

      ib radmasters - good point.

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      DoD's definition of terrorism has problems with the part about "unlawful violence" - how do You define unlawful violence when the United States is not a participant in the International Criminal Court (ICC)? Of course, if it was Bush the Second might be awaiting his trial in the Hague right now for the Iraq invasion (together with his partner in crime, Mr. Blair).

      "I think of a freedom fighter as someone who is fighting to overthrow an oppressor and attacks the instruments of that oppressor (i.e., military targets, infrastructure, etc.)" - I agree here. That is why the Taliban are seen by many people as freedom fighters: they are fighting Imperial America.

      When the Zionist paramilitary group, the Irgun bombed the King David hotel in '46 and killed almost a hundred people, they were seen as freedom fighters by many people (and probably still are). Others though, considered the Irgun a murderous terrorist organization.

      The same may be said of any such group of fighters - depending on which side You are, You may see freedom fighters or You may see terrorists ...

      "The truth is rarely pure and never simple." - Oscar Wilde

      All the best.

    • AlexDrinkH2O profile image
      Author

      AlexDrinkH2O 4 years ago from Southern New England, USA

      Mr. Happy - thanks for the input but I respectfully disagree - thank God we are a sovereign nation and not under the jurisdiction of some kangaroo court.

      "That is why the Taliban are seen by many people as freedom fighters: they are fighting Imperial America." What "Imperial America?" You think we want to colonize Afghanistan? The Taliban is nothing but a bunch of brainwashed thugs who want people to live in the dark ages.

      "The same may be said of any such group of fighters - depending on which side You are, You may see freedom fighters or You may see terrorists ..." that is precisely the OPPOSITE of what I was trying to point out.

      Oh well, as we say in Italian, tutti i gusti sono gusti . . .

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      "The military of the United States is deployed in more than 150 countries around the world" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_militar...

      Now historically speaking, the Unites States Empire was built through covert operations on the part of the CIA, toppling governments world-wide and installing dictators/puppets who would do whatever Washington asked of them.

      I can give countless examples of how the United States government worked to establish control over other governments and countries over the years:

      Syria in 1949, Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, Cuba in 1959, Iraq 1960-1963, Chile 1970-1973, Afghanistan 1979-1989, Nicaragua 1983 ... and I can go on and on and on. I even skipped some examples in between.

      Manifest Destiny is the name of the ideology in the History books. The United States goes around the world imposing its beliefs and principles on other nations, building army bases on foreign soil and is constantly involved in "regime change" - whatever benefits the Empire but in the name of spreading freedom and democracy.

      And in respect to my first comment about the fact that the DoD cannot talk about unlawful violence when the United States does not respect International Law, I guess my logic stands.

      "The Taliban is nothing but a bunch of brainwashed thugs who want people to live in the dark ages" - Yes, I see You understand. And who is anyone to tell them not to live in the dark ages if they wish to do so? Ohh, I forgot ... this is where Manifest Destiny comes in again and we say: "Hey, we are civilized, smart and educated: we have to teach them how not to live in the dark ages!"

      That is exactly the same mentality the colonizers had when they first reached the Americas and they started their genocide on the people of the First Nations. The civilized Europeans came-in to show the Aboriginal people how not to "live in the dark ages" as You would put it and started killing them.

      Interesting perspective You have.

      Thank You for the conversation.

      P.S. This is not a matter of taste/gusti - this is a matter of facts. : )

    • AlexDrinkH2O profile image
      Author

      AlexDrinkH2O 4 years ago from Southern New England, USA

      Mr. Happy - "Syria in 1949, Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, Cuba in 1959, Iraq 1960-1963, Chile 1970-1973, Afghanistan 1979-1989, Nicaragua 1983 " I see - and are these American colonies today? Of course not. "Manifest Destiny" went out in the 19th century.

      The Taliban - "And who is anyone to tell them not to live in the dark ages if they wish to do so? " We did nothing to the Taliban until we were attacked 11 years ago yesterday. And how about the people the Taliban FORCE to live in the dark ages? It's not just those Taliban members who "wish to do so," it's the people who suffer living under an extremist, totalitarian government.

      The "regime change" the US has been (not always successfully) involved in ? Let's see:

      Imperial Germany - 1918

      Nazi Germany - 1945

      The Communist government of Cuba - 1959 - ?

      The Communist government of North Vietnam - 1965-1975 (roughly)

      The Soviet Union - 1945 - 1991

      Taliban/al Qaeda - 2002 - ?

      Saddam Hussein - 2003

      The ayatollahs in Iran - roughly 1980 - ?

      I don't know about you, but I could live without those regimes!

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Greetings again Mr. Alex,

      I am happy we were able to move the discussion forward.

      I agree with You on many angles: Saddam was a ruthless killer, the Taliban can use some knowledge of human rights (but again we have to keep in mind that the United States does not abide by international law so asking the Taliban to smarten-up will be even harder ...) to say the least, etc.

      You asked if all those examples of covert operations by the CIA resulted in colonies of the United States today. I would like to answer this, as I find the conversation we are having genuine and useful.

      The United States Empire cannot be compared to let's say the Roman Empire, since You are Italiano yourself. This American Empire also does not have a Cesar or a King or Queen. This Empire is controlled by a specific type of aristocracy, for lack of better words.

      Those with billions, the 1% we may say; the lobbyists who buy-out the American politicians and the ones who give these politicians countless millions of dollars to win their political races. These are the people, combined with a few politicians here and there, who control the Empire.

      And the way one gets a colony nowadays is best seen with Iraq. A reason is invented to invade a country, such as the existence of WMDs (reminds me of the Bay of Pigs, doesn't it? haha! history repeats itself quite often ...) and then the take-over begins: the previous gov't is ousted, the constitution is re-written under the careful watch of Imperial America and soon enough American corporations move in (i.e. Halliburton in Iraq) and the 1% start making more money!! And this is how another country gets taken over! (I of course simplified things a little but this is sort of how the cookie crumbles.)

      And again, I have to mention the countless numbers of countries where there are American troops stationed. Did Rome not do that as well? Emperor Trajan left a whole bunch of his soldiers in the land of my ancestors (Dacia) after he sacked the kingdom: gold was stolen (looting in Iraq), a puppet was installed as leader (Donald Rumsfeld installing a provisional gov't in Iraq) and then, the land conquered is practically annexed to the Empire, in terms of foreign policy (Iraq now being a 'partner' of the United States) ... these types of masquerades become a little dull for one who has studied history because they keep repeating themselves. Hence, I am not fond of Empires.

      "We did nothing to the Taliban until we were attacked 11 years ago yesterday." - This is an important part to discuss in my opinion. It is my opinion that it is precisely because of the Imperialistic Foreign Affairs policy which the United States has been practicing.

      If You remember, one of Osama bin Laden's requests was that the United States pack their bags and leave Saudi Arabia. This is another important topic because as we all know, the regime in Saudi Arabia is cruel, despotic and quite violent yet, Bush the Second often walked literally hand in hand with King Abdullah. The double standards are extremely ugly if You ask me and it shows the crookedness of American foreign policy. With this in mind, there should be no questions to why some people chose to fight the American Empire.

      "It's not just those Taliban members who "wish to do so," it's the people who suffer living under an extremist, totalitarian government." - So, let's invade Saudi Arabia! Ohh, I forgot their crimes are protected by the American Empire ... do You see how your argument does not stand? There are countless dictators around the world, many supported by the United Stated government.

      We can talk about Pinochet, or we can talk about Noriega - the United States government used him when they needed some dirty work done and then turned against him. Same thing happened in Iraq with Saddam. First we had Donald Rumsfeld sell him weapons to kill Persians in the eighties and then, the United States decided to take him out. History repeats itself if we do not learn from it.

      "I don't know about you, but I could live without those regimes!" - I could live without the Unites States Empire, does that mean I start an army to invade the States? LOL

      We have to respect each other as people and nations. When You mentioned the Ayatollas from Iran, on your second last line, do You know why the Ayatollas came to power? It was due to the corrupt Shah of Iran who was installed as a puppet, with the help of the CIA though a coup d'état. The backlash to that was the religious revolution. So, in the end the United States aggression and meddling in other nations internal affairs resulted in the dictatorship of the Ayatollah. Kinda like shooting oneself in the foot ...

      All in all, I want to say that the United States has to leave all its military installations from foreign lands, refrain from supporting violent regime changes and placing puppets as heads of governments. When all this stops, the violence against Unites States will cease. Not only that but the United States might actually start to be looked at with respect and kindness.

      All the best!

    • AlexDrinkH2O profile image
      Author

      AlexDrinkH2O 4 years ago from Southern New England, USA

      Mr. Happy - I'll have a longer response to your previous comment later but what do you think of the thugs that attacked our embassies yesterday? "Freedom fighters???"

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      I honestly do not know who attacked the Libyan Embassy yesterday and it would be thoughtless for me to give a specific answer. I do not think anyone claimed responsibility yet. So, I cannot label them but it would be interesting to ask Libyans this question, or at least people from the Middle East, in the region where this has happened.

      If I were to take an assumption (which might be wrong), this attack on the Libyan Embassy could be seen as the attacks on the United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in 1998. And this is what I have been trying to explain to many people over quite a long time now: the United States Imperialistic policy over the course of its EXISTENCE, has produced hatred and animosity all over the world. Such attacks are not a surprise at all, after all the chaos the United States has created in countless countries in our recent history, only for its own benefit.

      The invasion of Iraq has not made the United States any safer, it has actually endangered the safety of the American people world-wide.

      So, the question is not whether the attack was of thugs or freedom fighters, the question is why are American Embassies attacked world-wide over decades and decades? Why aren't Romanian Embassies attacked? Why aren't Belgian Embassies attacked? These are questions a counter terrorism analyst should ask, in my opinion and I would say that since neither Romania nor Belgium (just as two quick example, I could have said Switzerland and Venezuela or any other peaceful nations ...) have violent, conquering governments, their embassies and personnel are safe. There is some logic here ... in my opinion.

      Cheers!

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Your inquiring of who were the people that attacked the U.S. consulate send me to read some articles on this matter. As I wrote in my above post, I have no idea who is responsible. Could be anyone from an organized terrorist organization, to a group of local thugs (as You mentioned) but I can think of more sinister ideas too, such as the KGB.

      Nonetheless, as I was reading an article from a Canadian news source, I came across a couple of interesting paragraphs about the situation in Egypt now:

      "The crowd grew throughout the evening with thousands standing outside the embassy. Dozens of riot police lined up along the embassy walls but did not stop protesters as they continued to climb and stand on the wall — though it appeared no more went into the compound.

      The crowd chanted, "Islamic, Islamic. The right of our prophet will not die." Some shouted, "We are all Osama," referring to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Young men, some in masks, sprayed graffiti on the walls. Some grumbled that Islamist President Mohammed Morsi had not spoken out about the movie." http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2012/09/11/cair...

      This is something that should be a concern for the United States government: people shouting "We are all Osama" ... Kill one and ten more spring-up. As long as the United States keeps military bases on foreign soil, invades nations and props-up dictators and puppets, it will never be safe. It just cannot because its violent foreign policy just back-fires ...

      A sad story really because people keep dying. And for what? For American capitalism to be spread world-wide because the neo-conservative war-hawks came-up with the idea of a New World Order/Manifest Destiny?

    • AlexDrinkH2O profile image
      Author

      AlexDrinkH2O 4 years ago from Southern New England, USA

      @Mr. Happy - your worldview is so completely different to mine that it is impossible to convince you. I do not consider America as an "imperialist" power - when we occupy another country (however you wish to define "occupy") when the host nation wants us out, we leave. And I don't regard spreading democracy as imperialism. Even Pres. Obama (whom I loathe) has spoken about spreading American ideals throughout the world. If we actually acted the way you describe, we would just stay permanently in Iraq and Afghanistan. And speaking of the Bay of Pigs, we could walk over Cuba and take it over in a matter of days but we allow this pimple on our ass 90 miles off the coast of Florida and have done so for over 50 years. By the way, I regard radical Islam as the biggest threat to democracy since communism and, in some ways, it's worse. One other thing - there WERE weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      "Even Pres. Obama (whom I loathe) has spoken about spreading American ideals throughout the world."- I just heard that on the news and I thought: "Wow ... You still don't get it Mr. Obama: not everyone in the world wants capitalism in their countries, nor are all nations ready for such a sociopolitical system (i.e. Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iran, etc,). Admitting that You will continue trying to impose your ideas on the whole world endangers your national security."

      It is appalling to me, that people do not understand this. And sad at the same time because this is a main reason for countless people dying, for hatred and extremism. This spreading of American values world wide is what is fueling Islamic fanatics ...

      "If we actually acted the way you describe, we would just stay permanently in Iraq and Afghanistan." - The statistic is as I stated it above: "The military of the United States is deployed in more than 150 countries around the world" - These are not ideas of mine, invented ... What other country on this planet has military installations all over the world?

      "And speaking of the Bay of Pigs, we could walk over Cuba and take it over in a matter of days but we allow this pimple on our ass 90 miles off the coast of Florida and have done so for over 50 years."- See, in my opinion this statement smells a little of arrogance. Who is the United States to "allow", or "not allow" other nations to exist? Cuba never-ever attacked the United States ...

      And please, can You show me proof of where "there WERE weapons of mass destruction in Iraq". Because from what I know, most people in this world agree that no WMDs were found in Iraq.

      All the best and thank You for the conversation!

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Actually, You know who clearly understands what I am saying here, in the United States Congress? Congressman Ron Paul. Smart, honest man!

    • AlexDrinkH2O profile image
      Author

      AlexDrinkH2O 4 years ago from Southern New England, USA

      Ron Paul - it figures. I'm sorry, I can't tell you the source of my claim about WMD - you'll have to trust me on this. Remember, WMD does not necessarily mean a warehouse full of atomic bombs - think gas, and think artillery shells.

    • AlexDrinkH2O profile image
      Author

      AlexDrinkH2O 4 years ago from Southern New England, USA

      Mr. Happy - try this for size: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Dfk0s71BVU

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      I would love to know what You meant by "Ron Paul - it figures" - lol made me giggle.

      I am sorry I cannot trust hear-say. I like the song to the clip You linked but the information ...

      Sources: Fox News (LOL), then Senator Rick Santorum (I can quote Congressman Ron Paul saying otherwise ...). After that, the FBI director, Mr. Mueller (but You could have put Collin Powell because he too at one point was showing the United Nations some goofy satellite photos pretending Iraq had WMDs and then, nowadays Collin Powell speaks openly about how all that intelligence was faulty - I can quote him too if You wish so).

      At 0:50 in your clip, it says: " ... we presume ...". Geez ... You invade a country because You "presume"? And then You wonder why American interests abroad are threatened and attacked? Come on ... let's get real for at least a minute ... the United States government's foreign policy has serious suicidal tendencies.

      Think of the Roman Empire stretching too thin and going broke around the 5th century (or the British Empire after WWII) - that is where the United States Empire is at the moment. All Empires have their end, history teaches us such things.

      All the best, Mr. Alex! I enjoyed the conversation and learning about your perspective. Thank You.

    • profile image

      sgt.lewis 4 years ago

      the war is going to continue if the terrorist leaders keep hiding and not turn them self in to the army, and people will die if they keep attacking the U.S.A and other countries . BLAME THE TERRORIST IF ONE OF YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS DIED IN THE WAR WE SHOULD GET REVENGE ON THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      See Mr. Alex, people have no understanding of what is going on.

      Sgt. Lewis wrote: blame the terrorist if one of your family members died. Well, when a drone drops a bomb in a northern village in Pakistan (or Yemen, or Afghanistan) and innocent civilians die (I can write specific examples is needed), those civilians in those countries say: "blame the western terrorists" ... and so, we bomb and kill one another and blame it on each other like little kids in a school yard ... why is it so difficult to understand that one man's terrorist is one man's freedom fighter and vice-verse?

      It boggles my mind when I see people who can think but don't think far enough ... like their thinking stops at a certain point and they cannot understand a point from a different perspective.

      All the best!

      P.S. I wrote my last article (a while back) related to this article here. Thanks for that.

    • AlexDrinkH2O profile image
      Author

      AlexDrinkH2O 4 years ago from Southern New England, USA

      Mr. Happy - I did not comment on what sgt. lewis wrote because, frankly, I wasn't sure what he was talking about!

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      I guess I speak gibberish too: he asked "terrorist leaders" (whoever those are ... maybe he was talking about Patraeus - ohh wait, he already handed himself in lol, sorry I couldn't resist ...) to give-up and hand themselves into the hands of the United States army (or its allies I suppose). Also something about people dying if they keep attacking the United States and "other countries" (I presume anywhere where the U.S. has national interests) and lastly there was the blame on "terrorists", plus REVENGE! Haha ... geez these are the people attacking innocent civilians in Asia and the Middle East, as part of the United States army and then, we wonder why we are being blown away by suicide bombers here in the west ... tragic, really.

      All the best.

    Click to Rate This Article