This answer is usually described as ‘a matter of perspective’. It is claimed that one side’s heroes are ‘naturally’ seen as the other’s villains.
As an example (and a safe one at that from an era that is long gone), Chingis (Genghis) Khan remains a hero to Mongols and large numbers of Central Asian people of Turkic or Mongol origins. Elsewhere, he is generally viewed with horror.
But this ‘explanation’ is surely not good enough. It cannot be the case that we do not know what is right or wrong.
We should be able to determine without any doubt who the ‘freedom fighters’ are as against ‘evil terrorists’ who exact death and destruction. Shouldn’t we?
Perhaps, the freedom fighters are the evil terrorists.
And likewise, the evil terrorists are also freedom fighters.
Regardless of whom we support, both warring sides usually see themselves as freedom fighters.
This is the case even with clearcut cases of aggression, as we saw in the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. Yet the Americans tend to justify their regular aggressions around the world as somehow in the cause of ‘fighting for freedom’, and they describe their hapless victims and their rudimentary weaponry as ‘evil terrorists’ with ‘weapons of mass destruction’.
And both ‘freedom fighters’ and ‘evil terrorists’ regularly employ violent means with ease. Mercilessly. Brutally. Often against unarmed civilians by design.
There is so much beauty in the world. Yet human beings seem to always find a way to fight rather than negotiate.
We all hate. Even though we are ashamed of admitting it, it is undeniable that love is not the only driver in human relations.
But we justify our hate through some ideological self-deception that paints a picture of a ‘just’ cause such as ‘freedom’ in our minds.
A wonderful act of propaganda turns mass murder into an act of love for ‘freedom’ or ‘country’ or ‘god’ or some such balderdash.
So a short answer to the question put is: There really is not much of a difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist!
A freedom fighter is a terrorist because he fights with hate and a brutal determination to kill, and without hesitation usually.
There is no real ‘lesser of two evils’. Rather, there are two hateful, murderous evils trying to portray themselves as angels to themselves and others.
From a neutral perspective, villains and heroes behave in the same manner in war, and it is only in the judgement made by others that they become separated as ‘opposites’ in a ‘moral’ sense.
And therein lies the central weakness of ‘morality’ as a driver for war. No cause justifies war.
Instead, I would suggest we should focus on restraining the link between our naturally existing hate and our propensity to violence.
We have managed to remove ourselves from the food chain. So it is time to relax and put a lid on our ‘hate’ and ‘fight’ instincts, and thereby become more civilised.
Better to fight it out on a football field than a battle field.
On the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofia in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, a member of “Mlada Bosna” (Young Bosnia), which is said to have led to World War I.
We live in interesting times, unfortunately.
Not long ago, the terms ‘secular’ and ‘democrat’ seemed conjoined, at least in some capitalist countries.
But not in the Middle East. Not before, and not now.
Today, Middle Eastern secularists are back to old form and busy themselves with:
– violently rejecting outcomes of elections they lose, as was the case in the 2009 Iranian elections
– attempting to overthrow the democratically elected government in Turkey
– And now deposing an elected government – the first and only in Egypt’s history – in collusion with remaining elements of the previous regime in Egypt. Some revolution!
Let’s stay with Egypt.
Morsi certainly has mismanaged his opportunity. His biggest failure was perhaps in not being inclusive in how he managed the transition. And he did not see the military coming. Plus, his stance on Syria was awful. Don’t even mention the economy!
Still, he inherited a total mess to sort out with a four-year term through popular elections, and the time to judge his performance was agreed by all who participated in the elections to be 4 years later, not 1 year later.
Who exactly had the authority to make such a decision? Did the votes of over 50% of the Egyptian electorate not count? That’s the wishes of several million people trampled on by a minority.
They have put the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in a situation where they have to either accept total defeat and humiliation by the military (as they have on several occasions in the past since the time of Nasser), or to resist, peacefully or otherwise.
There certainly is no rule of law for them to appeal or resort to.
Worse still, the violent Islamic groups that have shown no trust or belief in democratic methods will feel vindicated. By showing no respect for the rule of law, the Egyptian military is in effect bolstering the cause of the region’s jihadists. And it’s driving members of the Muslim Brotherhood toward greater radicalism, right across the region.
And the implications may go deeper. We are living in a period when a large section of secular actors in the Middle East show a disdain for democratic ideals, and the most democratic Middle Eastern actors appear to be the moderate religious parties. Not to mention their obvious popular appeal through the ballot box.
What will be the future slogan of such secularists? “I’m superior!”?
Will they be trying to divert political discourse in the same racist direction as their American and Israeli counterparts have already? Razzmatazz and ‘god’s-own-country’ and ‘them-commie/muslim-b’stards’, and self-obsessed, terminal exceptionalism?
Without the requisite moral fibre, what will become of the region’s secularists?
The great majority of Western powers and intellectuals alike make it very difficult for progressive activists to push for democracy and secularism in the world today.
The crunch is this: Western secular types typically describe themselves as more ‘rational’ and ‘human rights oriented’ than others. They use condemning and condescending language in their common conversations even. Sure, no one is perfect. We all have to grow and learn to treat each other better as the globe shrinks in our perception.
Western hypocrisy is the bane of secular democrats everywhere.
The West commits mass murder and invades other countries through NATO and the UN, if they can get away with it. Their regular ‘regime changing’ rampages that are routinely supported by their supposed ‘intelligentsia’ – as was the case in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and is today in Syria – are accompanied by a flood of ‘local’ freedom fighters who more often than not turn out to be any hotchpotch of international mercenaries that will do it for some reason or the other and regardless of what kind of crazy ideology they might subscribe to. Al Qeada, Halliburton, CIA, Mossad, freelancers, you name it. Even cannibals are found on the side of the West’s agenda.
It really doesn’t matter why they do it. Some mercenaries will do it for the love of killing, some for the money, others will do it for the love of dying. But mercenaries, by definition, are not democratic in their core.
In fact, should Saudi Arabia turn democratic, it is very unlikely that it would continue to act like USA’s poodle in the Arab region. This has happened to some extent in Egypt and Tunisia already.
Independence, democracy and even secularism for subservient nations under imperial control would run against the interests of the imperial master. Why rock the boat if you are the captain?
It is therefore of no surprise that the CIA would work with the Saudi government and Mossad and Qatar, for example, to destabilise the only secular, independent nation – Syria – in the region. Of course, they scream about democracy and freedom while the fighters they pay for and arm are literally eating people’s hearts on camera and using chemical weapons in Syria.
The Real Axis of Evil today is the West-Israel-Al Qaeda one, funded by Arab monarchies, for whom no cause appears too low to kill for.
On a more personal level, anyone who takes up a weapon and tries to shoot their way toward democracy in an offensive operation (rather than a defensive operation against a direct threat to one’s life) simply doesn’t understand what s/he is doing.
People who use brute violence supposedly for the sake of ‘democratic freedom’ must ask themselves why it is that violence is justified to them.
And why is it that instead of a majority of people being in their camp, they are actually having to kill for their cause?
This is not to claim that no cause is worthy of use of violence. That discussion is just too difficult.
But, if there is a need for greater ‘democratic freedom’, how can murder help it grow?
Some would claim that it’s worth it in the long run. But how to know that democratic reform wouldn’t have happened peacefully in the long run? Why kill for the long run?
Saddam Hussein was violently removed 10 years ago. A lot could have happened in 10 years in Iraq. We will never know, but we do know what Iraq looks like now and what its prospects are for the next 5 years or so.
So the question arises: what is the Real reason for all these Orwellian non-causes for war after war?
It happens to be the case that when a violent uprising or yet another US/NATO attack takes place somewhere, the war-oriented economy of the West benefits somehow or the other, be it through war equipment, services or weapons sales; loot; or cheap energy grab.
Apparently so are the corporations, particularly the energy and weapons industries, always moving hand in hand like true global soul mates, forever growing in energy and fire power.
The average Westerner therefore believes that s/he benefits from imperial plunder, even if indirectly. This may help explain their lethargy when war and loot continue to recur with alarming regularity in their name, for their alleged beliefs, and in large part paid for by their taxes.
Civil society in Action indeed. Mafia style global protection.
Problem is, this barbaric image of the West is predominant in the rest of the world.
And this means that the causes of democracy and secularism are hard to defend in the world today.
In short, the West has given democracy and secularism a bad name.
What makes matters worse for secular democrats in the world is that the Chinese model of a ‘benevolent dictatorship’ is gaining traction globally, including in the West. Many progressives are losing hope not just in the current political elite in the West – as a corrupt and inept bunch in the face of a financial collapse caused by powerful thieving bankers – but they are also losing hope in the ability of the general Western public to rise to the challenge.
Some are questioning the morality and efficiency of democracy itself as an organising principle. This rising support for ‘benevolent’ authoritarianism is matched by a rising fundamentalist challenge – a subject that we shall return to in the next blog.