Since September 11, 2001 the entire world changed in as far as the fight against terrorism is concerned falling U.S attack on WTC (i.e. World Trade Center) and Pentagon. This came at a time when U.S, Israeli's allies were alleged of targeting Muslim community in liberation warfare. Since, then U.S together with her allies has entered into steady war on terror. Terrorism can be defined as the systematic usage of terror through coercion whereby violent acts are perpetrated in order to achieve an ideological goal. Terrorist attacks deliberately target a specific class of civilians thereby totally disregarding their safety. Terrorism is both an emotionally and politically charged activity. While some terrorist groups undertake their tasks due to a desire to exhibit social solidarity with the members of their organization, other terrorist groups use this as political platform in which they use to launch and implement their strategic objectives in a bid to achieve political supremacy over other nations (Ganor 8).
At one point, terrorism is regarded as a pejorative term due to the intrinsically negative connotations associated with it as it is used by a nation's or organizations' enemies and opponents with whom open disagreements exists. Currently, what is referred to as terrorism depends on personal point of view. A moral judgment is required in the employment and usage of the term. The decision on referring to an individual or an organization as terrorist is subjective and largely depends on the position held by the person (i.e. whether to sympathize or oppose the concerned group).In case one sympathizes with the perpetrator of the violent act, then the response is more sympathetic and is not regarded as terrorism unlike when an individual identifies with the victim of the violent act, then the act is referred to as terrorism (Coolsaet 74).
The saying that, an individual person's terrorist may be another individual freedom fighter can best sum up the pejorative connotation of the term terrorism. This notion is exemplified especially when a group employing irregular military tactics is fighting against a mutual enemy with the state then later on becomes enemies with its ally state thereby employ the same fighting tactic it was using when fighting their mutual enemy. As drawn from historical manifestations, the fact that applicability of a terrorist in freedom fighting is not possible. This is especially because freedom fighters rage their war against military forces that have been organized while the terrorists target to kill innocent people found in the territories of their labeled enemies.
Distinction between Terrorists and Freedom Fighters
Militants are largely distinguished by their continued use of aggression as well as violent tactics in a bid to pursue certain goals. Members of political parties, labor leaders, religious fundamentalists as well as environmentalists have been given this title especially when involved in such violent activities as breaking barricades during demonstrations. The freedom fighters that largely form armed militia and stage surprise attacks to their enemies are involved in guerrilla warfare (Burns et al 106). Terrorist largely undertake their activities to achieve varied purposes such as freeing their countries from oppression or to achieve international recognition and supremacy. Freedom fighters on the other hand make use of legitimate military tactics and methods during their attacks on legitimate political organizations. Since there is a huge possibility of meeting their targets then, their actions are legitimized. This is unlike during terrorist attacks when the possibility of meeting targets is minimal. Thus, the primary distinction which lies between a freedom fighter and a terrorist is the fact that the freedom fighter/revolutionaries are involved in legitimate fights while the terrorist is involved in illegitimate fights. More often than not the terrorists have feelings of repression which largely motivate their attacks. Since the distinction between these two categories is very minimal as they both employ violence to instigate political reasons, a clear demarcation cannot be established but is fully dependent on an individual presenting the case. For instance, a regime which is threatened by a group will consider it a terrorist rather than a freedom fighting organ. During the fight for liberation In Algeria, the Algerian FLN was largely considered as freedom fighters by the Algerian national owing to the course they were propagating for (Ganor 16). On the other hand, the France who had colonized the nation regarded FLN as terrorists. Since after independence, it is FLN who took leadership ad as such one can rightfully consider them as freedom fighters. The following analysis further explains the claim that double standards exists in the view of freedom fighters as terrorists and vice versa.
Malayan People Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA)
The MPAJA was made up of ethnic Chinese cadres largely derived from Malayan Communist Party who were formed to resist the Japanese influence over their territory during the World War II. The British was largely involved in training of the troops as well as offering fighting equipment. In this war, the Malayan Japanese Army allied with British troops thus they were regarded as freedom fighters. During the Malayan Emergency, the participating troops referred to as Malayan races Liberation Army were labeled as terrorists by the British (Burns at el 242). The British administration which took over the economy of Malaya after the defeat of the Japanese was trying to repair the Malayan economy so as to benefit form the revenue derived from the country's tin and rubber industries. This move as protested by the Malayan people who became increasingly militant so as to defend their wealth.
The British dealt with the protesters very harshly through administering such measures as arrests as well as deportations. The Malayan emergency was a guerrilla war staged against the British by the Malayan liberation Army. In order to counter the efficiency of the army which had gained the skills and equipments from the British during the World war 11, British used restrictions like banishing the army leaders so that the army would lack consistent leadership thereby collapse (Coolsaet 94). Political parties were also banned and the police were given the powers to arrest and imprison the MPLA leaders and communists without trial. Those suspected of assisting the forces were also arrested in order to fully weaken the force. This scenario clearly demonstrates the double standards which exist in regard to the definition and fight against the vice.
The Afghanistan Mujahedeen was formed in the year 1985 to function as a diplomatic front in regard to world opinion through seeking audiences in such forums as United Nations as well as the Islamic Conference organization. These Afghan insurgents who were funded by the US were organized in different political outfits. During the American administration's fight against the Soviet Union, the Afghan Mujahedeen were extensively used by Ronald Reagan together with other American leaders against the Soviet Union. These Afghanistan fighters who used stringent and extreme version of the Islamic religion to address their cause were loosely referred as Freedom fighters during this war (Coolsaet 96). Twenty years later, the reverse is being witnessed whereby the current American administration has branded the Afghanistan fighters as Terrorists. Osama Bin Laden who was involved in the Afghan -Soviet war is today the most sought after terrorist by the US. With the Al Qaeda, affiliation whose members were originally from Mujahedeen, Osama Bin Laden is a terrorist who has been involved in waging wars against the Americans especially in regard with the US military presence in Middle East. As such this Man is seen to fight for the freedom of his country from foreign interferences.
He is a renowned personality who was involved in liberation struggles. During his struggles to liberate South Africa he was referred to as terrorists especially by the western governments as well as media. Later on when liberation was achieved he was referred to as a statesman by the west and other similar organizations. The acts of resistance staged by the South Africans under the leadership of Nelson Mandela due to the oppressive apartheid regime witnessed in the country went unnoticed until violent activities were exhibited (Burns et al 261). The violence and riots thus changed the perception of the wars from merely freedom fighting tactics to terrorism activities. Nelson Mandela's imprisonment was as a result of his inability to order his followers to denounce violence and was therefore regarded as instigating terrorist attacks.
The clich, an individual person's terrorist may be another individual freedom fighter has presented a massive obstacle in regard to the ongoing war against terrorism. Since academics, politicians as well as security experts have their different ways of defining terrorism based on the actual mode of operation, characteristics as well as motivations of the terrorist attacks different responses are elicited by individuals in regard to what is terrorism and what fighting for freedom is. Depending on individual point of view, terrorism is regarded as a tactic, strategy, holy duty, crime or a justified retort in regard to injustices. All terrorist activities have three perspectives: the general public, victim's as well as the terrorist himself. Since the terrorists believe they are legitimate combatants and they are fighting for a cause they largely believe in, they always justify their actions. The victims of terrorist attacks who suffer the blunt of the terrorist attacks do not justify the terrorist attacks especially because they are leveled against innocent people.
Burns, Vincent, Peterson, Kate and Kallstrom, J. Terrorism: a documentary and reference guide. New York, U.S.A: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005.
Coolsaet, Rik. Al-Qaeda, the myth: the root causes of international terrorism and how to tackle them. Gent, Belgium: Academia Press, 2005
Ganor, Boaz. Defining terrorism: is one man's terrorist another man's freedom fighter? Herzliya, Israel: Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya,