Eye of the Beholder

I decided to write this blog entry to play devil’s advocate and to pose some all important questions.  We’ve recently began bombing and launching missiles into Libya as part of an international coalition to establish a no-fly zone so that Libya’s dictator, Gaddafi, can’t kill his own citizens that are rising up against his government.  In a recent interview, one of Gaddafi’s sons said the US will soon realize its mistake and that it is supporting the terrorists.  Terrorism is a word that has been thrown around a lot since the 9/11 attacks, so I decided to delve into it just a bit in terms of this scenario.

Terrorism is defined as the use of force and violence to intimidate, subjugate, etc., especially as a political policy.

Now, before I go too far into this, I want to make it absolutely clear that I do not, under any circumstances, support the Gaddafi regime, and I feel that this authoritarian regime needs to fall as the others have done prior to it.  With this now said, is it possible that the US is supporting terrorists in Libya?  And what determines who is a terrorist?  Are there guidelines or something?  Gaddafi, himself, was once considered a terrorist (and in some regards, still is), especially after the Lockerbie bombing that brought down a commercial jet.  He only came off that “official” list after he started taking on al Qaida.

Let me pose the situation this way… in terms of our own revolution here in the US against our colonial power.  If we are to consider the rebels in Libya as terrorists, wouldn’t that make our Founding Fathers and our militias terrorists, too?  We used powers of intimidation against British officials and even Tories (ordinary citizens loyal to the British crown).  And we did take up arms against them, as well.  In winning the war against Britain, we consider these men as heroes and as great men.

In the current situation, the rebels of Libya are like the rebels of colonial America.  The Gaddafi regime is that of King George III.  And the international strike force that is putting up a no-fly zone and coming to the aid of the rebels is analogous to France entering the war on the side of the colonies.  Where the line gets drawn in this argument is what the end-game will be in Libya.  If the rebels win, they will be heroes.  If they lose, they will be terrorists… much the same our own Founding Fathers would have been had we lost.

So another question now emerges (to go along with my ones from above).  Is there such a thing as a good terrorist?  If we are to consider people like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, etc. as terrorists (under the scope of the British ministry of the time), then wouldn’t that answer the question in the affirmative?

In the time of The Cold War in the mid to latter half of the 20th century, there were good authoritarian regimes and there were bad ones.  Both kinds of regimes could do the exact same thing, but if they were good (meaning that they were US allies), we would turn a blind eye to those actions.  And if they were Soviet-allies, then we would raise our voices and make a huge outcry.  We see that authoritarian regimes that have been loyal to the US… Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, and Egypt where the government has already been overthrown… that there still is this “good” and “bad” regime label depending on if they are an ally are not.  And though Libya has been an ally only in the last few years, they still have the “bad” regime label attached to it.  So if the “bad” regime label is still attached to the Gaddafi regime, does that mean that the rebels are just ordinary citizens that want to take back their countries as has already been done in Tunisia and Egypt or should they still be considered terrorists?  And because the people were successful in Tunisia and Egypt, does that automatically mean that they can’t get that same label and instead just get to be called protestors?  And again… where is that line drawn?

We’ve considered the religious fundamentalist group of al Qaida to be a terrorist organization since long before the attacks on 9/11, but what about the hard-lined, fundamentalist Christians.  Is there really any difference between the two sides?  Those extremist Christians, too, would wage a holy war against al Qaida and the Islamic world and do drastic things in order to win… just like the other side would.  But as a “Christian” nation, do we unknowingly keep that label off that group of people and turn a blind eye as to what they are capable of doing if given the chance?

When it comes down to it, I view the rebels in Libya the same way I saw the “protestors” in Tunisia and Egypt… ordinary people rising up and trying to take back their country and their government.  I don’t see them as being terrorists even though I realize that their own government does.  As to the US becoming involved, I am torn on that issue.  I find it hard not to be involved when there is systematic mass-murdering of the population.  But the other side of me sees the US becoming entangled in another conflict that has no decisive end-point and could last years and cost billions.

So what are your answers to the various questions that I’ve asked throughout this piece?  There is always more than one side as I have clearly shown you.  This wasn’t designed to be an entry on what I thought, but to initiate thoughtful and intellectual conversation between all sides.  And the questions are just the starting point.


One Response to Eye of the Beholder

  1. Deborah Mraz says:

    Labels! Labels! It’s all about the label! What we ‘call’ a group, an action, a system of beliefs, denotes that group or action or belief systems motive and intent as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ according to the one viewing it doesn’t it? The military and governments, not just the U.S., but every country, tends to sugar-coat. For example, ‘bombing’ becomes an ‘offensive’ and a ‘war’ becomes a ‘conflict’ it downplays what is actually transpiring. Now, having said that…I believe this is done because it is more palatable to the citizens, ‘good’ or ‘bad’ it’s political word-play and every government does it, so I cannot simply pick on my country and my government in this respect. As far as Libya goes currently and the question as to ‘who’ or ‘what’ constitutes a terrorist and a terrorist act….this question is a complicated one as it relates to your piece! I never saw it as this complicated, but you’re absolutely correct with your analogies. I think that perhaps the question of terorism lies in the intention of the party committing the act. If the intention is destructive then it’s terrorist, if the intention is a rebuilding through protest and takeover (read the Libyan rebels) for the good of their country, then I would say that their motive is not terroristic in nature. The U.S. has become, over the years, the world police force (and don’t even get me started on this one) for good or bad that seems to have become our role in the global world. It’s a moral and ethical role that the U.S. has played. Can we allow, morally and ethically, as a society to stand by and watch as a man like Gaddafi kills his own people? Can we do that? Is it okay to step in or are we dictating ‘our’ morality to another nation who may not share our belifs, morals, ethics, etc.? Personally, I could not stand by and watch while a group is being persecuted by a ruthless leader (read Gaddafi/Hussein/Hitler or a host of others)no. To stand by and do nothing cheapens us as human beings and cheapens us as a society to become morally and ethically bereft!

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