The One Man’s Terrorist is Another Man’s Freedom Fighter

Janeane Garofolo pulls the old line here on Bill Maher. Interestingly enough, without realizing the irony of Salman Rushdie sitting to her immediate left.

Of course Rushdie had a death sentence put upon him by one of these “freedom fighters” (from somebody’s pov)—namely Ayatollah Khomeini. A man the US labeled a terrorist. One man’s….is another’s…..

So her statement is factually quite correct. Take Khomeini. A resistance leader against the Shah’s brutal oppression (notice I said resistance figure which is more neutral than freedom fighter although he was certainly that to many, many who even did not accept his later rule)? Factually yes. A man who used terror and dictatorially formed his own government of oppression? Factually yes.

In other words, what does “one man’s terrorist is another’s man’s freedom fighter” actually mean? I know what the words mean literally. The question is….so what? Objectively it is a true statement, but what does it mean?

It means I think basically nothing. How do we still decide who is right and wrong given that all the judgments are going to countered by another’s judgments and we will know this counter-view given global communications?

By this same standard, Hitler was simply a German national resistance leader, giving a platform to the voice of German humiliation at loss of WWI, the economic depression, and the onerous and cruel burden placed on the country by the oppressors of Britain and France (who actually I think btw did play a part in the rise of German Fascism with their stupidity at Versailles).

It is easy and seductive to return to not asking that question. To simply return to the position that my country is right, we are the good guys, they are not–whoever they happens to be at the time. Case closed.

It’s easy and seductive to fall into the trap of this relativism.

It is harder to take a pulled back stance and evaluate (in relative terms) both sides.

The actual person that was the cause of the discussion on Bill Maher was Sheik Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah. He a man, also seen as both freedom fighter (for the downtrodden Lebanese Shia, for which he correctly is) and terrorist (relative to their attacks on Israeli civilians with rocket attacks).

A group created by Khomeini’s Iran in response to Israeli occupation.

My opinion in general throughout the Middle East is that the Nasralllah-like figures are going to have to be dealt with bc they offer the only future for the Middle East that is not either 1)dictators (US policy since WWII) or 2)radical hardline Islamists. Strongly conservative Islamism but still nationalistic movements like Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Mahdi Army in Iraq, are not nice. They are not good guys by any stretch. But there is no liberal governance coming out of the current Middle East. It’s these guys, bin Ladenism, or continued Sunni autocrats who create the conditions for the rise of the bin Ladenism/Zarqawism. The trans-national Salafis in other words.

But that is something more subtle than one’s man terrorist is another’s man freedom fighter. Or they are just terrorists. (Might be, but sometimes terrorists are the only ones you have to deal with).

Published in: on September 27, 2007 at 10:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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