One People's Terrorist Is Another People's Freedom Fighter

This article explores how our assessment of certain figures and movements is subject to biases and prejudices. The notion of: "One people's terrorist is another people's freedom fighter", or as the saying goes: "One people's hero is another people's villain".Let us first start with examples of how some people are viewed differently, either from the dimension of time, or the dimension of society.



Terrorist or freedom fighter? Simple.

Either one deliberately targets civillians or one does not. Either one uses human shields or one does not. There is nothing vague or subjective about it.

I'll add:
Either one wears a distinctive recognizable uniform, or one does not(Illegal combatant).

The definitions are specific, and under the GCs, it only takes two brigade commanders to render a field judgement and sentence(hanging or firing squad). Failure to punish illegal combatants is an insult and danger to every soldier or legal combatant(freedom fighter) everywhere that follows the conventions and laws of war.

Hope that helps.

Not so clear cut

You are conflating several issues. Regular armies vs. ad hoc militias vs. terrorism acts.

Your point about uniform does not make sense in defining who is a lawful and unlawful combatants. In many parts of the world, wars are fought by militias, and not by standing armies who can afford a well recognized uniforms. In those parts of the world, there is no central government that has a single army for the state. The factions are within one state, but are divided across ethnic, linguistic, religious, economic and/or political lines. Look at Somalia, Afghanistan, Uganda, Darfur, and other places. Uniform means nothing unless it is two well defined state with central governments that orders the army to attack/defend against another army.

The term Unlawful combatant is not what you think it is. The Bush administration has invented a term to suit its policy of detaining those it deems as such, without either giving them Geneva convention rights, nor the protections of regular US laws.

It is a good thing that Obama has vowed to shut down Guantanamo, and restore to the USA the credibility it earned by acting good in the past.

As for targeting civilians, there are several arguments to the contrary.

First, history proves it. For example, the Israeli Irgun and Lehi (Stern Gang) engaged in assassinations of non military people, hotel bombings as well as massacres. They were described as terrorists by Western media at the time, and leaders were wanted as terrorists. However, later, those same leaders were Prime Ministers and hailed as heroes of independence for Israel (e.g. Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, among others).

Second, when an invasion from a regular army that does not target civilians intentionally, but the results is death on a large scale (tens of thousands of civilians in Iraq for example, tens of thousands in Afghanistan), then intent is farcical at best. The result is what matters.