Imad Mughniyah, one of the targets of the US war againsy terrorism, was assasinated Tuesday night in Damascus, Syria, a victim of, all things, a car bombing. Car bombs are one of the favorite weapons of Middle Eastern terrorists. So, perhaps it is poetic justice that Mughniyah met his end that way.
Hisbollah, the Lebanese Shi’ite group of which Mughniyah was a member and according to Western intelligence, one of their most important military commanders, immediately blamed Israel for the assassination. I suppose that is a very plausible accusation, but, from all I’ve read in the media today, there were a number of countries, including the USA, of course, who had reason to want him dead. After all, the US has offered a reward pf $5 million for him, I assume dead or alive. Someone stands to come into a fair amount of change for what they did Tuesday night. Whether they will be publicly acclaimed is not clear.
The thing that I want to open for discussion because of this incident is this: in many Western countries, people like Mughniyah are branded terrorists and are hunted down and captured or killed by Western intelligence operatives, and I use operatives in the broadest and most sinister way possible. Sometimes, the “hero” who brings some terrorist to “justice” is even more despicable than the terrorist.
But in his own country or in his own political circles, a man like Mughniyah is a great hero, a man to be admired and emulated. He is, from that perspective, not a terrorist, but a revolutionary hero, someone like Nathan Hale from our own revolution or, more recently, Nelson Mandela. Even many of the current and former leaders of Israel were once considered terrorists. Many of these pillars of Israeli society resorted to the same sort of tactics as Mughniyah and Hizbollah.
It strikes me as quite hypocritical for these people – the Israelis and others – to paint the so-called Islamic terrorists in terms that make them appear to be evil incarnate. Why are they evil incarnate and you who used the same methods not that long ago in the fight for a Jewish state are not evil incarnate?
Please note that I am not singling out the Jews here. We Americans have no more right to brand someone as evil incarnate as the Israelis. There were many acts of American terrorism both during and prior to the American Revolution. I am sure that the British considered, and perhaps still do, the Boston Tea Party an act of terror. Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox” from South Caroline during the Revolution, led a band of American irregulars – not regular army – in many raids on British installations, both political and miliary. Would he not be considered a terrorist?
What about someone like Caribaldi in Italy, the man who was involved in political revolutions in both Brazil and Italy? What about Benito Juarez of Mexico, the mestizo revolutionary who become President of Mexico? I am sure both men had significant prices on their heads. We cam add many other “national heroes” to this list of people who started out as terrorists in the eyes of at least the government they were fighting. The French Directorate that ruled France during its Revolution, responsible for sending hundred to the guillotine: isn’t that period referred to in American history books as the “Reign of Terror?” Or the Puritan Protectorate in England? That’s called the Glorius Revolution. Sounds like what the Russian historians used to call the October Revolution of 1917 prior to the fall of the Soviet Union and the removal from power of the Commubist Party.
Perhaps the difference between a terrorist and a national hero is that the national here won, while the terrorist lost or the outcome is still in question. Or, perhaps it is a matter of perspective. I seriously doubt that the Lebanese people consider Mughniyah a terrorist. Whether they consider him a national hero, I don’t know, but it would not suprise me. Hezbollah certainly does.
So, the definition of terrorist is dependent on who is doing the name-calling. For the current US admibistration and for the Israeli government, it appears that any person of the Islamic faith who is working for the liberation of their homeland, real or imagined, that does not fit into the designs of either the Bush Administration or those of the Israeli government, even if neither of those two political entities is the actual political target of the particular revolution, then that revolutionary is not a national hero but a terrorist.
For instance, Mughniyah wanted to establish an Islamic state in Lebanon, but that is not in the best security interests of Israel, or so Israel and the United States claim. But, rather than allowing the Lebanese people to decide for themselves whether they want an Islamic state or not, the US and Israel, in the name of democracy (sarcasm here), declared that these Islamic revolutionaries were evil incarnate and nothing more than brigands, outlaws, and terrorists that needed to be eliminated and the governments of Israel and the US were willing to pay large amounts of money to insure that these terrorists were eliminated.
Which goes to prove only one thing, everyone has their price, if you are willing to pay it. Even polirical and religious idealists can be bought and compromised if there is enough “incentive.” That is a very sad commentary on our society as a whole. But not surprising since we sold the son of God for thirty pieces of silver.