I do not think I need to add anymore to my fairly well-publisised view on violence however what does need to be looked at is the perception of who the aggressor is in many of the instances of “terrorism”. It is a much-vaunted mantra that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, but does the evidence support the claim?

If you take Ireland as an initial example, the problems stem from the British occupation and the planned migration of many protestant Scots to the hitherto Catholic Ireland and principally the northern Ulster province. Britain needed to drive the indigenous population as far away from the coast as possible to avoid them giving assistance to the Catholic Jacobite rebelllions which were taking place to undermine the accession of William of Orange. (Bonnie Prince Charlie and all that) Hence for many years the Irish had been fighting the English in what would legitimately have been called an independence struggle but would have been seen by the British as terrorism. In the other 3 Irish counties fighting stopped after the gaining of Irish independence after the First World War but a part of the independence conditions were the retaining of the six counties of Ulster by England as part of the United Kingdom. It is interesting that people regard partition generally as a very bad thing and see unification as an ultimate goal -look at the perception of Germany in 1990, and yet they do not understand why there are still problems in Ireland. Of course the situation of the six counties is tricky because of the Protestant contingent (the Loyalists) who do not want to go from being part of the protestant UK to part of the Catholic Republic of Ireland and the Catholic contingent (the Republicans or Nationalists) who for obvious reasons do not want to stay part of the UK. The original IRA was a Irish organisation fighting for an Irish nation pre-1922. After the treaty granting independence the organisation split many times before becoming what was known as the Provisional IRA (Provos) which is what most people think of when you mention the acronym nowadays. Generally it is accepted that the Irish had a right to fight for their autonomy and yet somehow an arbitrary line has been drawn in the sand declaring it unacceptable for those still in Ulster and remaining under British military rule to continue their struggle.

Now take the examples of the Palestinians who previous to 1948 had their land and post Israel settlement had large sections of it confiscated for the creation of a nation that has no geographic precedent (Like the Irish it was in fact the British that caused the shit in Palestine too!). Like the Irish the Palestinians had their territory occupied by a difference ethnic and religious group and this caused friction. Like the Irish the Palestinians chose to resist this in many different forms and the less electoral influence exacted the more violent tactics and civil disobedience was employed. When civil disobedience comes up against the most heavily armed force in the world it is clear that something is going to have to give. The less empowered people feel the more likely they are to take drastic measures. Unlike the Palestinians who do not have widespread representation in the Israeli Knessit, the Irish never felt the need to use suicide bombers because they always had a foot in the electoral door too which has eventually led to the potential for change. It would however be folly to suggest that the Irish question would have been in the agenda of any British premier were it not for the possibility of the IRA bombing the shit out of London. No, I do not agree with the bombing of civilians, but I also categorically disagree with the marginalising of peoples by oppressive governments leading people to believe that the only thing they can do is fight back violently. This is why I can understand the disenfranchised desperation that can lead to such actions even if it is not the course I take myself. Do not make the mistake in thinking that suicide bombing is a new or specifically Islamic thing. The military tactics of the whirling Dervishes as well as the Kamikaze Japanese pilots are a couple of examples. The most common and widespread use of suicide bombers is by the Tamil Tigers who are not islamic but a secular Marxist group fighting for autonomy in Sri Lanka. To take the example further there are Western soldiers lauded as heroes who, when the die was cast, decided if they were going to die they’d take as many of the enemy with them as possible. It’s the old cornered rat analogy. This is seen as a legitimate military tactic in war-time, which is exactly the perception of reality of many groups using such tactics today

There are a myriad assortment of other struggles from East Timor’s occupation by Indonesia, the FARC’s battle against the repressive Uribe regime in Colombia, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Marxists in Nepal, Pro-Democracy movement in Burma, ETA in the Basque country in Northern Spain etc. etc. etc. However these are not high-profile cases because on the whole the incumbant regimes have done little or nothing to tick off the US, in fact in many cases the regimes have supported the US openly such as in Colombia and Central America and have therefore received funding, training and hardware courtesy of the jackbooted Uncle Sam. Basically if you have tactical significance or natural resources heaven help you if you democratically elect anyone that you’re not supposed to. You can vote for anyone you like as long as it’s the ones they tell you to.

The common thread through these conflicts is that there is a clear aggressor, whether you agree with the reasons or simply accept the way history has panned out or not, in the Ireland question it is the British, in the case of Palestine it is Israel and in Iraq as so many others it is the US. Thus the way the oppressed feel towards the oppressor determines how they feel it necessary to act in order to free themselves. In the case of many of the former Eastern Bloc countries the oppressive governments were overthrown by peaceful demonstrations whilst in Romania Ceaucescu was seen as a more entrenched despot and his use of the Securitate meant there was considerable bloodshed and battles like Timisoara in order to change the status quo. It may not even be the actual facts of the agressor that is important but the perception of the agressor and this is the part that can be used as a recruiting sergeant. The Americans have for many years used the Big Bad Wolf theory to justify many things in particular some homeland security measures and the defence budget to back up a very agressive foreign policy. The Big Bad Wolf theory requires there to be a threat from a monster, a renegade or a rogue state and looking back there has been one for the Americans for most of the modern era from Hitler direct to Stalin to Kruschev to Castro etc. etc. through Gadaffi, Ayatollah Khomeni, Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Mullah Omar, Osama Bin Laden etc. There is always one, as soon as the threat from one is neutralised there must be another to take his place, the maintaining of the heightened state of public alert is paramount.

We are fed propaganda in a way similar to WWII but most people don’t see it as such. There is the belief that since we have so many different sources of news that we cannot be hoodwinked how we once could. This is a total misnomer and one of the biggest smoke screens of all. This will be discussed in Session 5 the Media.

Song Of The Day ~ Martha Reeves & The Vandellas – Heatwave

Original Comments:

haywood made this comment,
funny how one factor runs a line straight through money money money mon…….ey, yea ehhhh.
comment added :: 2nd August 2005, 02:46 GMT+01

Mark Ellott made this comment,
Minor historical correction – although it doesn’t alter the gist. The Jacobites fighting in Ireland against the usurper William of Orange were supporting King James II – Bonnie Prince Charlie’s grandfather. He was let down by the French who had promised support – that and tactical blunders cost him the battle of the Boyne – the rest, as they say, is history. Incidentally, had Charles continued south from Derby, he would probably have succeeded and the Stuarts retaken the throne.
As for freedom fighter/terrorist – those who write the history books usually decide. Having said that, they cross the line when they deliberately target civilians who have no control over the policies of their governments. Even the ballot box offers no real control. Would our middle eastern policies be any different had we a conservative government? I don’t think so.

-Redbaron responds – you are quite right about the initial Jacobite rebellions not being Bonnie Prince Charlie, tho’ there were of course a number of Jacobite rebellions in support of both the Old and the Young Pretender and the influx of ‘Blue Scots’ continued as the threat of support from Ireland for the Catholics remained. You are correct to mention the Battle of the Boyne as being something of a watershed in the level of threat from Ireland.

The victor’s version of events is definitely the one that history records. As for the policies of terrorism. It is easy for us as fairly comfortable and lucid men who find expressing ourselves easy to be able to say that civilian targets should not be acceptable when we both agree that the electoral alternative is a hollow choice. There are many who do not share our pre-disposition for discussion whether thru’ choice or lack of ability in that area and it is a fertile recruiting ground for violent extremism that they should have no other way to express their dissolution. This is why I understand it whilst not necessarily agreeing with it. These are after all the tactics of war. Hiroshima was hardly a legitimate military target, it was a civilian one set in order to bring the Japanese military to its knees. –

comment added :: 2nd August 2005, 09:18 GMT+01 :: http://longrider.blog-city.com
rocky made this comment,
great post, as always.
i agree with mark – the line is definitely crossed when innocents are targetted, whether the innocents are children in palestine or bus passengers in london or people going in to work, to the world trade centre on 9/11.

perhaps, had these ‘freedom fighters’ successfully or unsuccessfully targetted the white house or 10 downing street, we would not label them ‘terrorists’ as easily…but anyone (be it a palestinian suicide bomber or a british paki one) blowing up civilians/innocents is NOT a freedom fighter, in my opinion, he is a misguided murderer and an idiot.

-Redbaron responds – But there are so few examples of serious revolution/change etc. that do not come about within the climate of loss of innocent lives. One could maintain that soldiers are only the pawns in the games of the masters. At what point should the line be drawn? In an ideal world no violence, no death should be necessary as an expression of disenfranchisation and yet that is just not the real world. It may well be that our non-violent ideals are all very noble but conceivably outdated and ineffectual against the tactics employed by the status quo who do not shy from violent confrontation. At some point the ends have to justify the means but I cannot say what point that is. Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, in my view yes, so that means sacrifices are necessary, the question is how far should one have to sacrifice? –

comment added :: 2nd August 2005, 11:40 GMT+01

Mark Ellott made this comment,
Simplistic though it may be, the line is the difference between a military target and a civilian one. Soldiers sign up for active service and know exactly what they are letting themselves in for and are armed, so may fight back. Civilians have no control. The only blurring of the line occurs when soldiers are conscripted and have no choice.
The analogy of Japan – and by inference London and Dresden is an interesting one. However, with hindsight we may criticize. Those making the decisions believed that the tactic would bring the war to an end more quickly and therefore minimise casualties. If we must judge them, then we should do so on the sensibilities of their times, not ours.

-Redbaron responds – I think the line regarding Dresden and Hiroshima are more blurred, the US would have dropped the first A bomb on Dresden had it been ready in time. As it was they had to satisfy themselves with napalm. In the case of Dresden it could be argued that Germany was militarily finished by this point. Likewise in the case of Japan. But I agree hindsight is 20/20 and thus genuine critcism is reserved for hypotheses.-

comment added :: 2nd August 2005, 11:53 GMT+01 :: http://longrider.blog-city.com