Terrorist, Guerilla or Freedom Fighter?

Last night I went to the cinema to see "The Baader Meinhof Complex", an excellent film about the rise and fall of The Red Army Faction (RAF), an urban guerilla movement started by disaffected students in West Germany in the 60s who carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations, and robberies in an attempt to bring awareness to the corruption in the West German government which, they felt, was being run by former Nazis with the support of large American corporations. Were they terrorists, guerillas or freedom fighters? It all depends on who is telling the story.

I totally recommend this film although it’s not for the faint of heart and you won’t come out of the cinema feeling uplifted or positive about the state of the world. The issues that the RAF were protesting in the 60s are still around – and in a worse state – today. American imperialism runs rampant across the globe, using the ‘free media’ as its propaganda tool and manipulating the minds of the populace with suggestion that an Obama is really more than a couple of degrees different from a Bush.

The film stars a couple of familiar faces –

Horst Herold, who played Hitler in the brilliant DOWNFALL (which has served for unlimited parodies on YouTube) and here plays the president of the Federal Police, and warns the politicians that the guerillas won’t stop until their issues are actually addressed, something none of the politicians wants to hear.

Moritz Bleibtreu who I remember as the lead role in DAS EXPERIMENT, another brilliant film, and here plays Andreas Baader, the flawed but fearless leader of the RAF. As his girlfriend says at one point "Andreas has more revolution in him than the rest of us put together."

Anyway, go see the movie.

With the question of "terrorist or freedom fighter" fresh in my mind, I was reading from Robert Fisk’s excellent book "The Great War For Civilisation – The Conquest of the Middle East" today and the following lines jumped out at me. He’s writing about Afghanistan in the late 70s:

For "terrorists", read "guerillas" or – as President Ronald Reagan would call them in the years to come – "freedom fighters." Terrorists, terrorists, terrorists. In the Middle East, in the entire Muslim world, this word would become a plague, a meaningless punctuation mark in all our lives, a full stop erected to finish all discussion of injustice, constructed as a wall by Russian, Americans, Israelis, British, Pakistanis, Saudis, Turks, to shut us up. Who would ever say a word in favour of terrorists? What cause could justify terror? So our enemies are always "terrorists." In the seventeenth century, governments used "heretic" in much the same way, to end all dialogue, to prescribe obedience. Karmal’s policy (CR Note: Karmal was the President of Afghanistan who was in support of the Russian invasion) was simple: you are either with us or against us. For decades, I have listened to this dangerous equation, uttered by capitalist and communist, presidents and prime ministers, generals and intelligence officers and, of course, newspaper editors.

Click on the book cover to order the book from BookDepository in the UK – free worldwide shipping!

As Fisk points out – every time you read or hear the word "terrorist", be aware that it’s being used to shut you up. It’s a manipulative word, a weasel word, and the use of it by politicians or the media should tell you something about their true agenda.

4 thoughts on “Terrorist, Guerilla or Freedom Fighter?

  1. I often use Mandela as a classic example. It was only in the last decade or so that he didn’t need to get special permission to enter the USA as he was on their “terrorist” watch list. Sometimes the difference between being a terrorist and a hero is 30 years.

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