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The View From A Padded Cell: Freedom Fighters Vs Terrorists

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posted on Jun, 23 2011 @ 12:22 PM
Was unsure were to post this so here goes lol this is the 3rd installment of the padded cell series the others are:

Taking a look at Greek Mythology

alternate realities, multi universes and dimensions

This post came about after a rather heated discussion with my husband a few nights ago, every so often we like to debate stuff
last month it was aliens, this months pick was (for some obscure reason) Terrorism and freedom fighters (how we got on to it is a mystery we were talking about Egyptian glyphs
). The basic fact that we agreed on was, that in all simplistic terms, war is an act of terrorism. so technically the wars in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan are act of terrorism, but and its a BIG But, to most of the American /Uk people it is not deemed as such, here is were the difficulty (at least for me) lies.

Over the years i have come to realize a very fine point, the line between these 2 groups is a very fine line and almost invisible it seems. what is a freedom fighter? what is a terrorist? There is a saying that i like it states ''One mans Freedom fighter is another mans terrorist''. When does one cross into the other, and who are we to define a culture for terrorism or define them as freedom fighters? perhaps this is so we can sleep at night, because anything we dont understand tends to get pushed aside and labeled, be it rightly or wrongly. Here in this thread i wanted to take a look at both of these definitions, and perhaps find out what if any the true differences are between the 2, and if its more down to our individual assessments, beliefs, culture and such that defines (for us anyway) what is so called right and wrong.

The confusion comes (at least for me) when looking at past events/riots etc, many people were/have been classified as being a terrorist but are seen now a days to be respectable people, even leaders of independent countries. The leaders of the Stern Gang and the Irgun Zvai Leumi of Israel, Jomo Kenyata and Robert Mugabe of Africa and others were described as terrorists before, but now sit and dine with kings and presidents. The Irish Republican Army is regarded by the British as a terrorist organization, but many Americans think of them as freedom fighters worthy of financial support. While most terrorists are people with no legitimate standing, some are actually government officers and employees tasked with acts of terror. Osama bin Laden was supported by the United States before, not then regarded as a terrorist. But he was regarded as one now. I need not mention the many Latin American leaders who carried out a reign of terror in their countries, installed and supported by foreign governments.

Definitions of both Terrorist & Freedom fighter according to & The Free Dictionary


(Government, Politics & Diplomacy) a person who employs terror or terrorism, esp as a political weapon

An individual who uses violence, terror, and intimidation to achieve a result.


terrorist - a radical who employs terror as a political weapon; usually organizes with other terrorists in small cells; often uses religion as a cover for terrorist activities
act of terrorism, terrorism, terrorist act - the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear
radical cell, terrorist cell - a cell of terrorists (usually 3 to 5 members); "to insure operational security the members of adjacent terrorist cells usually don't know each other or the identity of their leadership"

cyber-terrorist, cyberpunk, hacker - a programmer who breaks into computer systems in order to steal or change or destroy information as a form of cyber-terrorism

Jacobin - a member of the radical movement that instituted the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution

radical - a person who has radical ideas or opinions

sleeper - a spy or saboteur or terrorist planted in an enemy country who lives there as a law-abiding citizen until activated by a prearranged signal

suicide bomber - a terrorist who blows himself up in order to kill or injure other people

Cultural Dictionary

Acts of violence committed by groups that view themselves as victimized by some notable historical wrong. Although these groups have no formal connection with governments, they usually have the financial and moral backing of sympathetic governments. Typically, they stage unexpected attacks on civilian targets, including embassies and airliners, with the aim of sowing fear and confusion. Israel has been a frequent target of terrorism, but the United States has increasingly become its main target.

freedom fighter
One engaged in armed rebellion or resistance against an oppressive government.

(Government, Politics & Diplomacy) a militant revolutionary


freedom fighter - a person who takes part in an armed rebellion against the constituted authority (especially in the hope of improving conditions)
insurgent, insurrectionist, rebel

mutineer - someone who is openly rebellious and refuses to obey authorities (especially seamen or soldiers)

crusader, meliorist, reformer, reformist, social reformer - a disputant who advocates reform

revolutionary, revolutionist, subversive, subverter - a radical supporter of political or social revolution

Young Turk - a member of one or more of the insurgent groups in Turkey in the late 19th century who rebelled against the absolutism of Ottoman rule

Now take a close look at both definitions, do you actually see much of a difference between the 2 of them? Taking a more simplistic view of both, A "freedom fighter" battles soldiers and other official representatives of enemy forces. A "terrorist" deliberately targets and tries to kill innocent men, women and children. But then again there is the confusion, People we would describe as freedom fighters have and do attacked civilians and use terroristic tactics. The Israeli terrorists did so in the struggle for independence, as did the Vietnamese in there struggle against the US. Another example of confused lines would be is the French Resistance fighting Nazi occupation in WWII, regularly killed the innocent family members of French Nazi collaborators. They also blew up trains and cafes with innocent civilians among the dead and injured. Yet they were not condemned for those actions, because they were fighting the Nazis. Other small examples of crossed lines taken from UK answers

To the British, the "minutemen" of the US revolution were "terrorists" but to Americans then and now, they were "freedom fighters".

The Partisans in France, Belgium, Norway, Yugoslavia, Poland etc during WW-2 were "terrorists" to the Nazi Germans but "freedom fighters" to the local population.

The Basque rebels are considered terrorists by the Spanish but freedom fighters by people of Basque heritage.

The "Tamil Tigers" in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) are considered terrorists by the Ceylonese but freedom fighters by the Tamils.

The Palmarch and especially the "Stern Gang" were Jewish freedom fighters to the Jews in British Palestine but considered "terrorists" to the British. The "Stern Gang" only blew up the military wing of the King David Hotel and no civilians were killed.

The Viet Minh and its military wing, the Peoples Army of Vietnam (PAVN) were terrorists to the French during the First Indochina War (War of Independence 1947-1954) but were freedom fighters to the Vietnamese population.

The National Liberation Front of Southern Vietnam (NLF and often wrongly called the Viet Cong) were terrorists to the US and the illegal (under international law and the "1954 Geneva Agreements on Indochina") Republic of South Vietnam but were freedom fighters to the majority of the people in southern Vietnam.

The Algerian Liberation Front were terrorists to the French during the War of Independence, but were freedom fighters to the Algerian population.

The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) was a terrorist organisation to many in Israel and the rest of the world, but to many (Muslim) Palestinians they were freedom fighters. It was the PLO who started attacking civilian targets including civilian aircraft. Hamas and similar organisations are carrying on the actions of the PLO in also attacking civilian targets as well as military

The Mujaheddin, including Al Quaida, (armed and trained by the US) who fought against the Russians were considered terrorists by the Russians, but freedom fighters by the Afghanistanis and the rest of the world.

Now Al Quaida, since it has turned against the materialistic, and in the view of many Muslims, immoral US, the US considers them as terrorists. Many Muslims consider them as fighters for Islamic independence and moral values.

So in actual fact is is very much down to perspective depending on which side of the fence you stand on. As you can see so far in this thread the lines are very much blurred. Many people including various government agencies have struggled to come up with a true definition of terrorist and freedom fighter, one such article called Terrorist, Guerrilla, Freedom Fighter: What’s the Difference? tries its best to define both and IMO does a pretty good job in some ways.

Do terrorists see themselves as terrorists?

No. The French revolutionaries who coined the term "terrorist" in the 1790s thought it had positive connotations, but today, it’s hard to find anyone who wants to be known as a terrorist. Instead, individuals and organizations branded as terrorists tend to prefer calling themselves "freedom fighters," "urban guerrillas," or "holy warriors," among other things. For instance, Ilich Ramirez Sanchez (a.k.a. Carlos the Jackal), the mastermind of numerous terrorist attacks in the 1970s and 1980s, described himself in 1994 as a revolutionary and "above all a family man."

Even though most people think they can recognize terrorism when they see it, experts have had difficulty coming up with an ironclad definition. The State Department defines terrorism as "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience." In another useful attempt to produce a definition, Paul Pillar, a former deputy chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, argues that there are four key elements of terrorism:

It is premeditated—planned in advance, rather than an impulsive act of rage.
It is designed to change the existing political order. It is not merely criminal, like the violence that groups such as the mafia use to get money.
It is aimed at civilians—not at military targets or combat-ready troops.
It is carried out by subnational groups—not by the army of a country.

What is the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter?
It’s tough to say, according to experts—largely because they are overlapping categories. Terrorism is a tactic, and "freedom fighting" describes a motivation, so a person or group could be engaged in both at the same time. Experts say whether one calls a particular group "terrorists" or "freedom fighters" often largely depends on whether one thinks the group’s ends justify its violent means—which, in turn, depends on one’s politics

Can states be terrorists?
Again, it’s a question of definition. The State Department and many leading experts define terrorists as members of subnational groups, not government leaders or states—thereby placing even such dedicated abusers of human rights as Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbia beyond the bounds of the epithet "terrorist." These experts often define Milosevic-style atrocities as human rights abuses or war crimes. But some terrorism scholars do include violence perpetrated by governments in their definitions of terrorism, if these assaults involve state violence intentionally aimed at civilians and designed to instill fear or influence public opinion. Also, states can sponsor terrorism by providing sanctuary; weapons; training; or logistical, financial, or diplomatic support to terrorist groups. The State Department lists seven countries as state sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Libya, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.

In all honesty though am still confused, are you?

another good article i came across was called Terrorists – and Freedom Fighters? it outlines some good points. Here are some snippets of point from the article

Arrested in Donegal near a car loaded with 5,000 rounds of ammunition and 250 pounds of explosives, he was sentenced to six months by a court whose jurisdiction he denied, "I am a member of the Derry Brigade of the (IRA) and am very, very proud of it."

A Londonderry official called him "a cold-blooded ruthless terrorist (who) will weigh up the consequences of his actions only in terms of benefit to the IRA, regardless of the cost in human lives." Another said he was a "fanatic ... responsible for mass murder."

He himself has spoken of the "legal and moral right of the IRA to kill a British soldier at any time," and was once quoted: "Freedom can be gained only at the point of an IRA rifle, and I apologize to no one for saying that we support the freedom fighters of the IRA."

He is Martin McGuinness. And the same March 13 New York Times that carries the picture of millions of Spaniards protesting the murderous terror attack on the Madrid trains has a photo of McGuinness chatting amiably with John Kerry before McGuinness spoke at Harvard.

Is it then true that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter"? After all, many Irish consider McGuinness and his Sinn Fein comrade Gerry Adams, whom Bill Clinton invited to the White House for St. Patrick's Day, as freedom fighters in the tradition of the "martyrs" of the "Easter Rising" of 1916, celebrated by the poet W. B. Yeats.

As the president swears eternal war on terrorism, it is time to ask: Who is a terrorist? Exactly what is terrorism? Have we not ourselves sometimes breached our commitment "never to negotiate with terrorists"? Have we Americans also engaged in terrorism?

Terrorism has been defined as the murder or massacre of innocent men, women and children for political ends. In that sense, 9-11 qualifies, as do the Hamas bombings of buses in Jerusalem.

Ariel Sharon, as head of Force 101, is accused of massacring scores of Palestinian villagers at Qibya in 1953 in a reprisal raid for the murder of an Israel woman and her children.

Nobel Prize winner Yasser Arafat has been charged in the cold-blooded assassination of U.S. Ambassador Cleo Noel in the Sudan in 1973. His PLO is an umbrella group embracing organizations for whom the weapon of choice in the war against Israel is terror.

Nelson Mandela, another Nobel Peace Prize winner, did not get life imprisonment on Robben Island for sitting in at lunch counters, but if memory serves, for plotting terror to overthrow the regime.

Jomo Kenyatta, the "Grand Old Man" of Africa in the 1960s, was the leader of the Mau Mau in the 1950s. Ahmed Ben Bella led Algeria's war of independence, in which terror was the insurgents' weapon and torture the counter-weapon of the French.

What is Nagasaki – the atomic bombing of a defenseless city of a defeated nation – other than an act of slaughter, killing 40,000 men, women and children in minutes to force Japan's warlords to submit to America's will?

But that was war, we say, and Japan was the aggressor. Does that also justify Dresden? Is air terror permissible in a just war if a nation can demonstrate it was the victim of aggression?

Saddam's Iraq did not threaten us, did not attack us, did not want war with us, did not have weapons of mass destruction. Yet, we attacked, invaded and occupied Iraq. And when Iraqis attack our troops, we call it terror and we call them terrorists.

In par with the perception point i decided to ask some people who i know (both on line and off line) to see what they would define as a terrorist and freedom fighter, and who if anyone they would perceive as such, think of it as a little experiment (that obviously has no merit what so ever in the scientific community
) the question i asked was : what is the difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist, and name one person from both groups that would fit the category

Some Answers i got

Locololo - a freedom fighter would be - stalin. and for a terrorist i would pick Joan of arc. the difference between the two is perception. perception wise, stalin was both a freedom fighter, and a terrorist » george washington as well

Chelsea - aged 14 ( my eldest kid) - Terrorists go after people they think are enemy's, but they also fight for their country, religion and beliefs like the 9/11 attacks, but then you can call someone who fights to free their country for beliefs and religion a freedom fighter. bin laden was a terrorist, but to his people he was a freedom fighter. goerge bush was a terrorist to many cultures but a freedom fighter because he fought to free people.

Xavi1000 - i would say Rebels in Libya are terorists, but in every nation it is different, every conflict is different.For example Western media call albanian rebels freedom fighters in Macedonia conflict in 2001. but i KNOW they are terorists, im from Macedonia

Goathief - That's not a simple answer roni - the lines have been blurred a lot recently. » A lot depends on which side of the fence you are sitting on, and also the targets. I would say that freedom fighters tend to target infrastructure, terrorists target civilians. That's the biggest difference for me

Daddybear - Maybe I should tell you the real story of a freedom fighter named Goyaałé, back in the 1860's this Goyaałé was just your normal Apache running around the southwest... when he and as his father went into a mexican town to trade for goods his village was attacked...he learned that his wife mother and all his kids were killed. reports say Goyaałé cried by the river that day weeping in sorrow and loss. the other men in the tribe decide a reprisle was called for so all these apaches attacked a small mexican town. Goyaałé was so greifstricken he fought the killer of his family with wild abandon. can you guess what nicname the Mexica army gave him????....geronimo. my answer is that is how you go from a normal family man to a freedom fighter.... of course he would have been a terrorist to the Mexicans.

Rising_Against - A “freedom fighter” fights for what is right in the name of freedom. I.e. Giving freedom to others whom deserve it for example... A terrorist purposefully causes terror in the name of terror itself. I.E. A purposeful attempt at "scaring" or tormenting others for whatever reason. People claim the US can be designated as terrorists but personally, I don’t believe they’re purposefully causing terror therefore to me they’re not terrorists at all. Picking one person from both categories? ..Hmm, It's the harder question. There's no telling what motivates any single person. And I mean what truly motivates them to do what they're doing. Anyone can fit into the definition of terrorist at some point.. It's who should be designated as one which is where the debate lies IMO.

Maurice - The war in iraq is an act of terrorism in my opinion, Mandela was also seen as a terrorist to his governemt and other people but he was seen as a freedom fighter by forgein governemtns. In reality there is no difference though, because in each senario people die needlessly all in the name of so called freedom.

Ricky - Its a tough call, martin luther king was seen by thousands to be a fighter for the freedom of black slaves and for equality, to the KKK and some other factions he *could* have been deemed as a terrorist, to the kkk and such his antics could have been perceived as acts of terror. HOWEVER thats a poor analogy and not one i agree with
it all depends what you believe, how you were raised, your culture and society. Another way to look at it, moses in a way was a freedom fighter, he fought for his people, The knights of the round table - when fighting the crusades to many cultures could be deemed as terrorists. again its how you perceive people/groups

Jordan - aged 8 (one of my sons) There is no difference, people kill and die for stupid things in the end. the war is wrong, if you want to be free, you have to be good.

Abby - aged 15 ( my eldests friend) - Hitler was a terrorist pure and simple, he ruled through fear of the jews and of the unknown. i dont really know any true freedom fighters because to some people they think they are terrorists, like the us president and the UK government, we go to another country to fight, bomb and kill people in the name of freedom. but tell me who is the true terrorist in it us or them.

The above is just some views from people i have asked. So really its about perception imo, what do the rest of you think about it?

ATS Related thread

Terrorist or Freedom Fighters?
Terrorist is Freedom Fighters
Terrorists vs. Freedom Fighters... a debate
The GunPowder Plot
Insurgent vs Freedom Fighter
What is the difference between a Terrorist and a Ressistance fighter?
U.S. has Mandela on terrorist list

Some links that may be of interest

Freedom Fighters

Is One Man’s Terrorist Another Man’s Freedom Fighter?

The difference between freedom-fighters and terrorists is not perception but terminology

Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters

edit on 23/6/11 by ronishia because: spelling gremlins

edit on 23/6/11 by ronishia because: (no reason given)

edit on 23/6/11 by ronishia because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 23 2011 @ 12:32 PM
The difference is not perception or terminology, to claim it’s only a matter of semantics … that there is no fine line, is disgusting and all thats wrong with these kinds of debates.

A terrorist uses physical force and violence with intent and malice against an unarmed groups in order regardless of their participation in the wider conflict to coerce or eliminate achieve some political end.

A “freedom fighter”, guerrilla or whatever term you apply uses force exclusively against other armed organized groups to achieve a desired political/social end.

Ethics is all about intent.

Engaging an armed opponent and killing unarmed non combatants happens all the time, but was the intent to kill the armed adversary and physically neutralize them or was the intent to kill the unarmed non combatants to influence the survivors into acquiescing to your demands?

edit on 23-6-2011 by SirMike because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 23 2011 @ 01:08 PM
reply to post by ronishia

The name "Freedom Fighter" doesn't stick until their side wins and it goes down in the history books as such. Plenty of Freedom fighters have become footnotes in history and we also see plenty of supposed Freedom fighters for who they truly are. It is nothing more than a label they have applied to themselves. Che Guevara comes to mind. A power hungry thug who used any means to achieve his desire for power.

Plenty of fine arguments here.

This debate is a old stand by for me and my friends when we find we agree on the topics of the day. Can't have that.

I like how you include the kids and their friends into the discussion. Good job.


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