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Terrorists and Freedom Fighters
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 Résistance 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.
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.
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.