One Persons Freedom Fighter Is Another Persons Terrorist.

Topics: Terrorism, Che Guevara, Guerrilla warfare Pages: 10 (3514 words) Published: July 21, 2011
The terrorist attacks in America have since publicized controversial attitudes in understanding and defining terrorism. There is a misconception of terrorism as it was only in actuality brought to light after the attacks in America on 11 September 2001 (Best & Nocella, 2004); this has guided many to assume that terrorism arose in light of the 11 September attacks, when actually terrorism did not begin in 2001; nor is it restricted to extremists in the Middle East. Here is where much of the difficulty lies in defining terrorism; thus the now famous quotation, “One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter’. This essay will look at both the way this phrase can be beneficial and inversely cause issues in the objective to define terrorism. It is apparent that there are objective distinctions that can be made that separate the true terrorist from the true freedom fighter. Regardless of derogatory labels or national political ideology these distinctions do exist. Therefore the aim of this essay will be to critically examine the notion that "One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter" through examining three existential differences that can help to draw a theoretical line between a freedom fighter and a terrorist. They lie first in tactical theory; second, in sources for motivation; and third, in the discrepancies of the justifications for the actions of each. It is these three distinctions in contrast to the quote’s implied similarities that will assist in achieving an accurate definition of terrorism. To examine the wider processes involving the application of the terrorist label, the Cuban Revolution’s major figure Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara will be used as a framework and a practical source to refer to as the essay unravels the application of a terrorist label in relation to the abovementioned phrase. This somewhat superficial phrase can be useful as it suggests that the motives and the methods used may be separable. Terrorism is merely a phrase. It is tactical choices in which those who chose to employ terror can ideally do so in achieving any cause they desire (Caplan, 2006 pg.92). Consequently it is indeed possible for any people who are validating themselves as fighting freedom from an unjust authority to make the choice to use terrorism as a tactical choice in achieving their goal. Secondly the phrase advocates that defining terrorism can become a moral issue. The definition depends wholly on the subjective outlook of the definer.

The terrorist label
The struggle in defining the 'terrorist' has been apparent throughout history. Scharf (2001) has also made this discovery as he states that 'the problem of defining 'terrorism' has vexed the international community for years'. Conceptual issues are not the only problem in defining terrorism. Labelling actions as 'terrorism' promotes condemnation of the actors; a definition may therefore reflect ideological or political bias (Silke, 1998). Silke (1998) goes on to suggest that a misleading trend is a result of ‘attribution bias’ and that it has done nothing other than “taint terrorism with a pathology aura”. Many of the terrorist labels that have been employed over the years are based on community and individual perceptions creating a subjective definition (Jenkin, 2006 Pg. 3). Following the 11 September 2001 attacks, the use of the word terrorism or terrorist has become an offensive label (Ganor, 2002). These labels may lead to further implications for how countries, populations and individuals define terrorism (DeAngelis, 2009). The psychology of terrorism is marked more by theory and opinion as opposed to scientific research. Assisting in DeAngelis' findings are many articles implying that many of the individuals who engage in 'terrorist' activity will contest that they are terrorists but rather freedom fighters (Schwartz, Dunkel, & Waterman, 2009; Whiteley, 2010). This tethering in with the now famous phrase; "One person's...
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