Most revolutions began as guerrilla terrorism. The American Revolution started out as terrorist acts against England. The "Boston Tea Party" is a prime example of terrorism. Colonial revolutionaries sneaked aboard an English Tea Merchant Ships, where they threw thousands of dollars worth of tea into the Atlantic Ocean. Americans today think of that incident as a stride to freedom, but the English look at it as the beginning of countless terrorist acts.
In the 1930s and 1940s, the Jewish underground in Palestine was described as "TERRORIST." By 1942, the Holocaust was occurring, and liberal sympathy with the Jewish people had built up in the Western world. At that point, the terrorists of Palestine, who were Zionists, suddenly started to be described, by 1944-45, as "freedom fighters". You can find in some old books and posters pictures of Israeli Prime Ministers, like Menachem Begin, labeled as "Terrorists" - Reward 100,000 British pounds!
From 1969 to 1990 the PLO, the Palestine Liberation Organization, occupied the center stage as the terrorist organization. Yasir Arafat was described repeatedly by the great sage of American journalism, William Safire of the New York Times, as the "Chief of Terrorism."
In September 29, 1998, it was rather amusing to see a picture of Yasir Arafat to the right of President Bill Clinton. To his left is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Just a few years earlier Yasir Arfat used to appear with this very menacing look and a gun appearing from his belt. I am sure you remember those pictures.
And do you remember the picture of President Reagan, in 1985 receiving a group of bearded men. These were very ferocious-looking men with turbans and flowing garments looking like they came from another century. President Reagan received them in the White House. After receiving them he spoke to the press. He pointed towards them, and said, "These are the moral equivalent of America's founding fathers". These were the Afghan Mujahiddin. They were at the time, guns in hand, battling the Evil Soviet Empire. They were the moral equivalent of our founding fathers!
Up until this time the old adage, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" was still valid. But now there is no such thing as a freedom fighter whether it is the oppressed fighting for liberty in Chechnya, Kashmir or Palestine. Every freedom fighter has been reduced to a "Dirty Rotten TERRORIST".
In August 1998, another American President ordered missile strikes from the American navy based in the Indian Ocean to kill Osama Bin Laden and his men in the camps in Afghanistan.
And yet again another President of the United States, in November 2001 launched a devastating campaign to 'Smoke these men from their caves'.
The embarrassing reminder is that Mr. Bin Laden, the great 'Satan of the East', was only a few years ago the moral equivalent of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson! Now of course Mr. Bin Laden is very angry over the fact that he has been demoted from the moral equivalent of the 'Founding Fathers' to the moral equivalent of Raspoutine.
The reason to recall these stories is to point out that the matter of terrorism is rather complicated. Terrorists change. The terrorist of yesterday is the hero of today, and the hero of yesterday becomes the terrorist of today. This is a serious matter of the constantly changing world of images in which we have to keep our heads straight to know what is terrorism and what is not. But more importantly, to know what causes it, and how to STOP it.
Adapted from Terrorism: Theirs and Ours by Eqbal Ahmad
Related posts from similar topics: