Fighter/Terrorist : A Dying Role
by Melissa Rosenblatt
I wonder what Mohammad Atta was thinking as he flew American Airlines Flight 11 directly into the World Trade Center, killing not only himself, but thousands of others too. Did he have butterflies in his stomach and feel a bit anxious or was he excited and happy right before his own self-imposed death? He called himself a freedom fighter. The press in America said he was a terrorist, a fanatic, a crazy lunatic. What kind of man would sacrifice his life to make a statement to western civilization? Having suffered a hugeloss on September 11th, we as Americans like to believe this to be true. However, what Mohammad Atta did is not dissimilar from acts we've seen done in the past. We've seen methods of self-sacrifice used all throughout history, no matter what time period or geographic location.
Some say that one persons terrorist is anothers freedom fighter, one mans hero is another mans enemy. They both fight and kill in war, be it a revolution, civil or a holy war. Often it is war that brings about drastic change and it is these people, the terrorists and freedom fighters who are willing to risk their lives and fight that deserve the credit for this change. Eric Hoffer describes these people as being poor, misfits and sinners, but others view these people who are willing to die for something they believe in as heroes. I hold these self-sacrificing people responsible for any good changes that have been madethroughout history. War and conflict seem to be the most effective methods to achieve goals and change and only those willing to sacrifice their lives can make that change occur. What happened on September 11th and afterwards just proves once again that war, self-sacrifice and determination still are being used as ways of accomplishing goals. And while America places the blame on Al-Queda and Osama Bin Laden, the blame should be placed on both sides of this war. After September 11th, America has proved to be the "terrorists" we're so quick to call others. But we know this isn't a situation America hasn't faced before. America has been in countless wars making it the unique place it is. It has helped us to know to fight when need-be or when we too have to be cruel. Today in 2002, as we engage in what the president calls a "war against terrorism", it is even more important to understand the history of the "free" country we live in, how it became the nation we live in today, and the way it should be in the future.
America: Home of the free and land of the brave and boy, we must really be brave. As soon as any immigrant reaches our harbor, they're greeted with the Statue of Liberty saying, "Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" It's called the "melting pot", with inhabitants from every country in the world. We have people of every race, gender, nationality, ethnicity and social class living in our country. We have congested cities with the elite, upper class living around the corner from the low-income, welfare dependants. What makes America even more unique is that no matter what category one fits into, there is a place for others like them. San Francisco and Christopher Street have a high gay and lesbian population. California and New York both have there own Chinatown. How did a country with such diverse communities andfreedom begin? WAR!
The Revolutionary War not only shows people willing to self-sacrifice but also how it can bring about drastic and well-needed change. Before 1776, England was the leading nation in the world. With colonies scattered throughout Asia an India, England was a powerful country. When England's religiously oppressed crossed the Atlantic and found the North American continent, King George decided he would make colonies there too. The land that we now know as America was rich with natural resources. King George knew he would make a good profit from this land. Whether it be from farming or the tobacco industry, England would definitely benefit from the American colonies. Thirteencolonies formed, all under England's rule. They paid taxes to England and were governed by English generals. Some colonists came to America seeking freedom, others money and work. King George was delighted that America was running so smoothly. What King George didn't anticipate was an uprising from the colonists.
The colonists decided they didn't want to be ruled anymore, they wanted to rule themselves. They tried peaceful methods of betraying England like the throwing taxed tea off the boat in the Boston Tea Party and forming their own trade with India for tobacco and tea. When they started being successful without the mother-country, England put up a fight. At the time, England had the biggest army in the world. They had ammunition and supplies and more then 50 percent more man power then the colonies. One might think that the colonies, with so much going against them, would just recede and remain in the state they were in. The exact opposite happened. The men in the colonies formed militias and decided to fight. They weren't going to stay under the rule of King George and they would do anything to defeat him. Knowing they were fighting the largest, strongest and most powerful army in the world had to have been intimidating. The men in these militias knew the odds were that they'd probably die. If they didn't die from shot wounds from England, it would be because of the cold weather and lack of food and supplies. Did that deter them in any way? Absolutely not. These men were "true believers". They saw an opportunity for change and decided they wouldachieve it, even if it meant dying. These small militias ended up defeating England and forming a country, the United States of America. The great America that I talked about earlier was only successful because of men risking their own lives so that their children and many others would have freedom. America was designed as a refuge to all people. The first president of the United States, George Washington was a general, fighting for America to be free. He had determination and will-power. Most importantly, all these men were willing. Willing to leave their family and everything they had worked for, willing to fight and especially, willing to die. The men who founded our country were freedom fighters. They fought to make America exactly what England wasn't...tolerant. Once it was proven that peaceful tactics weren't working, the colonists fought. I'm sure England didn't refer to them as freedomfighters. They may have been referred to as "traitors" and not "terrorists" but they definitely instilled a feeling of terror into the British army. To the people of this new, free country, the men who fought, risked their lives and died were heroes.
Having been so impressed with the success and accomplishment of America, France's poor decided they would revolt as well. Things weren't good for common people in France at the time. As Charles Dickens wrote in A Tale of Two Cities,
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way-"
"True believers" were everywhere. Anyone in France besides the rich aristocrats fit almost all of Hoffer's categories. They were the "poor, misfits, outcasts, minorities, ambitious, impotent, selfish and sinners"(Hoffer, Part Two). They saw the power of the people in America and how they were able to fight and defeat the British and were inspired. Having absolutely nothing to lose besides their lives, they fought and the French Revolution began. Anyone thought to have betrayed the poor of France were imprisoned in the Bastille or beheaded. Even royalty were beheaded, including Queen Marie Antionette, who when told the people in her country were starving and had no bread to eat, replied,"Let them eat cake" (http://www.encyclopedia.com/articles/08065.html). After a cruel and gruesome battle, the people overthrew the French Monarchy and attempted to start there own government. This was only able to occur because of men and women willing to risk their lives so that others to come after them would have a better life. Unlike the American Revolution where the people had distinct goals and plans as to what would happen if they won, the French just wanted change. They didn't want to be living in the streets, sick, poor, and hungry while the upper class were living wonderfully. The colonies wanted a country, but the French just wanted the country they were already in to be governed differently. They didn't know what would happen once they overthrew the king, but what they did know was that anything was better then the life they were living then. We know that later on in history, Napoleon took over and dictated France but the French revolution shows the willingness of the people to risk their lives and die for a cause. They were fighting for freedom. They were freedom fighters.
More recently, America decided to help defend Afghanistan from communism. In the early 1980's, a communist Soviet Union wanted to take over Afghanistan, spreading communism. America didn't want anymore communism in the world then already existed and helped anyway they could. They sent supplies and equipment over to Afghanistan. The CIA trained soldiers and sent in what they referred to as "freedom fighters". These men were willing to risk their lives so that communism wouldn't spread to their country. Who were these brave men America helped out? They were Osama Bin Laden andothers from the Taliban. They used our guns and explosives, our tanks and missiles. They ended up being so strong, the Soviet Union withdrew their troops, ended their invasion and Afghanistan was no longer in risk of communism. America thought these men were terrific. They weren't our own people, yet they were willing to fight for their lives and they didn't show any fear. America wasn't sacrificing any men yet they were still fighting communism indirectly. They were given a goal, a mission, and would do anything to accomplish it. Did anyone think of the faimilies of the Russian soldiers that would be killed in war? As one Russian, Vladislav Tamarov said, "Some called us heroes, others called us killers." What anyone was termed wasn't important. All the Americans cared about was Osama Bin Laden and his men had tactics that would definately kill the Russians, in a sloothy, concealed way. These men sound very similar to those who fought in the past wars mentioned. They all are willing to self-sacrifice and now they are using those sneaky measures against us. Now that the victim is now the United States and no longer Russia, they're suddenly called terrorists.
On September 11th, 2001, the World Trade Center collapsed because of terrorist attacks on the United States. American citizens cried while young children in Afghanistan cheered. We wanted to kill the bastards that destroyed our way of life, took away our security, attempted to blow up our government buildings and killed so many in the process. We thought they should suffer and pay. We have since sent men into Afghanistan to find Osama Bin Laden, the man who masterminded September 11th. We have searched mountains and hideouts and still haven't found him. In addition to the lives lost on September 11th, we had combat casualties in Afghanistan and many reporters was murdered. Now, the equipment we once gave these men to fight communism with is being used against us. The mountains we told them to hide in are being used to hide against us.The men we trained and sent explosives to are using those explosives against us and sacrificing their lives to destroy us. The men we once praised and called heroes, men we termed "freedom fighters" now have a new title of "terrorist" Why does America think it is so cruel that the children in Afghanistan and on the West Bank are cheering on September 11th? Don't we cheer when the home team wins a baseball game? Don't we cheer every Fourth of July for defeating England hundreds of years ago? The fact that hundreds of British soldiers died doesn't stop us from celebrating. Wasn't France so impressed with the freedom and power the Unites States achieved that they sent us the Statue of Liberty? The people who won these wars and created the world we live in today were self-sacrificing freedom fighters. To the people of Afghanistan who truly believe in what Osama and the rest of the Taliban and Al-Queda are fighting for, these guys are terrific. It wasn't there people who died in September 11th, and the ones that did were justified because it was for them and their freedom. Just as dying for our country is an honorable way to die, the suicide bombers in Afghanistan are viewed the same way. So who is right or wrong? Who is a terrorist and who is a freedom fighter?
Senator Henry Jackson seems to know the answer to this questions and tells us in his speech in 1979. He says,
"The idea that one person's "terrorist" is another's"freedom fighter" cannot be sanctioned. Freedom fighters or revolutionaries don't blow up buses containing non-combatants; terrorist murderers do. Freedom Fighters don't send out to capture and slaughter school children; terrorist murderers do. Freedom Fighters don't assassinate innocent business men or hijack and hold hostage innocent men, women and children; terrorist murderers do. It is a disgrace that demoncracies would allow thetreasured word "freedom" to be associated with acts of terrorists."
Benjamin Netanyahu feels the same way. He says,
"What distinguishes terrorism is the willful and calculated choice of innocents as targets." It is true that terrorists seem to have a distinct way of getting their message across. They seem to be unpredictable, erratic and sly. They catch everyone off guard and America, having a strict, conditioned army, resents this. However, if the American revolutionaries didn't act impulsively in 1776 and didn't surprise the British army, would we have won the Revolutionary war? No. The minute men forgot all the rules of war and foguth for their lives. Does that make unexpected attacks right? Is murder less horrible according to who is murdered and if they were expecting it? Absolutely not!There is no difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist. They're both willing to lose their lives, they both are willing to kill for something they believe in. The titles of these men change according to who you ask and, as demonstrated with the Soviet Union, people who were once called "freedom fighters" are now termed "terrorists". Why weren't they referred to as terrorists when America was for them? Those who strive for freedom will always have the sympathy and support of whatever people they represent. The bottom line is, terrorism is in the eye of the victim. If one is for the suicide bomber, heis termed a freedom fighter. If one is against the suicide bomber, he is termed a terrorist. No matter what they are called or why they are killing and being killed, their actions are the same. Does it matter of they are fighting for religion, social class, or for independence? Not at all.
Should we blame the men who crashed into the World Trade Center for taking the lives of many people we know and love? Absolutely. The people in the WTC were innocent, unprepared, unarmed working men and women. Are the men who blew up the World Trade Center crazy lunatics? Absolutely not. They are men with an agenda, as were the men in the militias in the Revolutionary War, the French Revolution and more recently, the war between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. They can be called anything. You can call them freedom fighters, terrorists, assholes, or heroes but they're actions all have thesame end result, death. Whether it be to themselves or to others, it is all the same. They have a plan, they're willing and have courage. Isn't courage something to praise in a person? So while we are allowed to be angry at what these people did on September 11th, I feel it is extremely unfair to call them terrorists or to be insulted when their people cheer. If the roles we reversed and we destroyed lives and something that meant a lot to people we despised, we would be cheering too.And now we are in a war against terrorism. We have sent our troops over to Afghanistan to do exactly what the terrorists did to us on September 11th. Men, women and children are dying because we are blowing up their cities and towns, destroying the families and futures of those that live there. We say we are "retaliating" but what are we really doing? We are killing and murdering. What's more, we aren't even specifically killing the members of the terrorist group Al-Queda, whom we know are responsible for the events on September 11th. We are bombing everywhere. What about the innocent farmer or tradesman who is just trying to make a living and provide for his family who dies because we blow up his town? He is in the same boat as our men and women in the World Trade Centers. They are all just innocent bystanders.
And since we are talking about innocent bystanders, both Israelis and Palestinians have had their share. As recently as April, 2002, Israel and Palestine are once again in a feirce battle over land. Hundreds of people are being killed. The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas is blowing up synagougues during the Jewish holidays and Israeliís are holding men captive in the most holiest of places, the Church of the Nativity. The Isrealis are calling the Palestinians terrorists because of the suicide bombers being sent into Israel and Palentine is calling the Israelis terrorists because they are holding men captive. Again we are all stuck wondering, exactly who are the terrorists and who are the ones being terrorized?
What should America do about the situation we are in?Target! As soon as the tragedy on September 11th occurred, American citizens were angry. We wanted revenge and our president responded to this and once again, America declared war. If we look at the wars in the past, we see it always brings about great changes but it is time we ask ourselves, "What can this war change"? The groups of individuals that hate the values and beliefs of the west and are striving for a Pan-Islamic world will always exist. They will always feel justified, calling themselves freedom fighters, and we will always feel attacked and call them terrorists. We have to take these words out of context and look solely at the actions of both parties. How can we stop people from being killed because of religious and moral differences? It is time to eliminate both the terrorist and the freedom fighter because for the first time in history, neither seem to be making a huge difference. If America feels that what Al-Queda did on September 11th was so horrible, why do the same thing back? All we are showing the world is that if you blow us up, we'll blow you up. What will be solved? Nothing at all. And maybe it is easier for me to say this because I didn't lose anyone close to me in the past 6 months but unless we able to target the specific people who attacked us,we shouldn't have responded at all. If we were able to identity exactly who was responsible for the hijacking of the planes and whose idea it was, we should punish them. We aren't doing that though, we're punishing the whole country of Afghanistan and most of the members of Al-Queda are too smart to be residing there. Mohammad Atta spent a large portion of his life in Russia. Osama has traveled many places, including other countries in the Middle-East and even Africa. So basically, America picked a country they believe most members of Al-Queda live, and blew it up. Does this sound like the wise, experienced, intelligent country I described earlier? I think not.
By fighting back and retaliating, we're adding fuel to the fire. We're giving them even more reason to hurt us and our country and now the roles seem to be reversed. Afghanistan is being victimized and now, even those who didn't originally encourage or support the suicide bombers and terrorist/freedom fighters will quickly change their minds, giving these men even more ammo. Afghanistan terrorists will become freedom fighters and we Americans will become the terrorists.
America was attacked and lives were lost. Unfortunately, this can't be changed. However, hopefully it can be prevented in the future. We know these men who are willing to die for a cause can really prove their points. We've seen this done all throughout history. So what changes can these men make today? They can make a change in themselves. All of the lives that have been lost are getting these men nowhere on either side of this war. We still haven't captured Osama and they will never change our way of life. America represents everything unholy, everything against tradition, because as I've already demonstrated, it's so varied and unique. Our country was founded on this belief and it will never change. The members of the Taliban believe that by doing this, they will be rewarded in a spiritual life after death. It's time to realize that blowing ourselves up is useless and we should open our eyes to reality and live for today, not the afterlife. Today, in 2002, we need to stop all of these holy wars. The only way to stop this is to stop retaliating, join other countries and create a world-wide coalition, not only to show unity but isolate those against us.
Today I sit in my home in New Jersey, watching bombing in Israel on television and listening to speeches given by our president and somehow, I feel safe. I always knew that the world we live in today is a great, diverse one but it wasn't until I looked back in history, did I really begin to appriciate it. With this new appriciation comes a realizization that we have to save the world in which we live in order for it to get even better. And in this new,greater world we are striving for, there isn't any room for the terrorist or the freedom fighters. Sure, they have benefitted us in the past. They have taken us so far in history; forming new countries and promoting democracy but now it has gone too far. Today, Instead of helping the world,these terrorist/freedom fighters are hurting the world. The world needs to unite together to stop these men. We all deserve freedom and tolerance and in America we have it. That's why the World Trade Center in New York City was blown away. That's why we, as New Yorkers, are still standing tall. But this freedom and tolerance should be shared amoung all of the nations all over the world. People of every country should be able to live in freedom and not in fear. All people should be able to not only welcome change, but be able to hold on to tradition as well. When that happens, America will not be as unique a place. America has people from every nation living together in one country. After all, the world in just one big New York City...just without so much traffic.
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