“One Man’s Terrorist is Another Man’s Freedom Fighter”
Gerald Seymour, 1975
While this quote might be dated and not necessarily applicable to 21st century terrorism it is indeed applicable to what’s happening in Syria. This
quote opens up a very difficult question that polarises many, what is the difference between a “terrorist” and a “freedom fighter”? Honestly I
am not equipped to answer that question; we have no definition for either terrorist or freedom fighter so we cannot presume to know the difference.
Yet it is this same conundrum that leads some to argue that the forces fighting against Assad’s forces in Syria are “freedom fighters” or
“rebels” and others to declare them “terrorists”. It is an argument that raises its head all the time, are the west supporting “rebels”
There is no right answer to this question, nobody is ever going to win the debate as to whether or not the forces fighting Assad are legitimate
freedom fighters or terrorists. This is because the answer to that question is very much dependent on one’s perspective.
If we first take the perspective of the international community, the big players who all oppose Assad, they will all argue that the forces fighting
against Assad are “freedom fighters”. In their view these forces are a band of Syrians (and yes some other nationalities) who have come together
to fight against the repression of a despot leader whose legitimacy to power has long gone. They see this as a nations fight against a corrupt leader
for their right to self-determination.
However if we then look at the perspective of this “illegitimate leader”, Bashar al-Assad and his supporters, namely Russia and Iran we see these
“freedom fighters” in a very different light. To Assad and his allies the forces who oppose him are the enemy, they seek to over though the
legitimate head of state of the sovereign state of Syria and to do this they have adopted a crusade of violence and intimidation. As such to Assad and
his allies they have been branded as “terrorists”.
This is a perspective that has been picked up by the Syria, Russian and Iranian press as well as many in the alternative media industry to promote an
argument that anyone who aids the forces fighting against Assad is supporting “terrorists”.
So is this true?
Well again we reach the perplexing conundrum at the heart of this thread if you side with the “rebels”; no, those who support them are not
supporting terrorists, they are supporting the freedom fighers, but if you’re a advocate of the Syrian regime then yes they are supporting
terrorists. There is of course a third answer and that lies in the grey area amongst those who take no sides but for now let’s not complicate
Now I take some issue with the idea that the forces fighting Assad are terrorists, and it’s not because I disagree with that statement necessary but
rather the connotations that go with it. When we hear people proclaim that “the west is supporting terrorists in Syria” there is an implication
that these are the same terrorists we have just spent a decade fighting. That is simply not true and ironically the perception of Assad shows us this.
You see we have spent the last decade fighting terrorists who have a religious ideology motivating their violence, for want of a better phase we have
been fighting “Islamic terrorists”. Assad’s “terrorists” are not the same, they are not Islamic fundamentalists, they are mostly secular
nationalists seeking to remove a leader they view as corrupt. You could think then of groups such as the FSA as being Assad’s IRA (kind of) and not
The award for Syria’s “Al-Qa’ida” goes to groups like Al-Nusra, who “we”, the west are most definitely not supporting. Particularly
America who has sent CIA agents out to vet groups that receive American aid to ensure they are not “the bad terrorists” and have designated them
as a foreign terrorist organisation because of their very strong links to “the bad terrorists”, Al-Qa’ida.
For me personally that is the only problem I have with anyone who calls the groups who are fighting Assads forces “terrorists”, they do not
differentiate between nationalist terrorists and Islamic terrorists, they use the word as a umbrella name for the entirety of the forces fighting
Assad. This lack of any differentiation between these two groups has led to some very misleading articles and fuelled a perception amongst some that
by the West supporting the Syrian National Council and their paramilitaries they would be supporting the same people they have been fighting against
for the last decade.
Such a perception is not true while yes it is true that no one can ever answer the question are they freedom fighters or are they terrorists at the
very least we can deduce what type of terrorists they are, they are, in their current form, a nationalist terrorist group in the eyes of Assad. That
his who we in the West are backing, a nationalist terrorist group but not the same Islamic fundamentalists we have been at war with for over a decade.
edit on 15-5-2013 by OtherSideOfTheCoin because: (no reason given)