Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Were Confederate soldiers terrorists?

This time of year in Israel is a pretty special one, starting about a month ago with Holocaust Remembrance Day, later Memorial Day (for fallen soldiers), followed by Independence Day and today Jerusalem Day (celebrating its reunification in '67). I've been mulling something over in my head for a while and I just need to write it out, hopefully to have it make sense in my own mind (if it does for you, well then, that's good but bear with me).

There's a commonly expressed phrase that says "One person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter". While I understand the sentiment behind the phrase, I feel it is completely misguided. The author, whomever they are, and anyone who espouses this idea are trying to make everything politically correct - "let's not offend anyone as they are entitled to their beliefs, just as you are too". This attitude, while I totally agree with it in principle, in actuality is nothing but the removal of the moral fiber from our society.

CNN recently published a
column (who knew they had columnists?) which is entitled: Were Confederate Soldiers Terrorists?. The author writes:
In criticizing me for saying that celebrating the Confederates was akin to honoring Nazi soldiers for killing of Jews during the Holocaust, Rob Wagner said, "I am simply defending the honor and dignity of men who were given no choice other than to fight, some as young as thirteen."
Sherry Callahan said that supporting the Confederacy is "our history. Not hate; it's about heritage and history."
Javier Ramirez called slavery evil, but prefaced his remarks by saying that "Confederate soldiers were never seen as terrorists by [President Abraham] Lincoln or U.S. generals on the battlefield. They were accorded POW status, they were never tried for war crimes. Not once did Confederate soldiers do any damage to civilians or their property in their invasion of the north. The same is not true of Union soldiers."
Realskirkland sent me a Tweet saying, "Slavery is appalling, but was not the only reason for the CW [Civil War]. Those men, while misguided on some fronts stood up for what they felt was right. They embodied that American ideal that the states have a right to govern themselves. THAT is what a confederate soldier stood for."
If you take all of these comments,
don't they sound eerily similar to what we hear today from Muslim extremists who have pledged their lives to defend the honor of Allah and to defeat the infidels in the West?
Growing up in the North my disposition is to be angry at the Confederacy, slavery, and causing the death of thousands of Americans; but the author's desire to paint Muslim's as terrorists is forcing him to call Confederate Soldiers terrorists as well. As if there's no distinction to be drawn between them.

So, what makes one a terrorist? The causing of terror obviously. But it's more than that too - being scared of a soldier doesn't make the soldier a terrorist. The soldier's job is to win, to defeat the enemy - nothing more, nothing less - if he could achieve that without killing he would. The terrorists job is not to win, but to cause the destruction of the enemy through death and destruction and to cause the enemy to lose the internal strength to carry on due to the fear that they have caused.

The author of the quote and the columnist have it all wrong. Fighting for a cause, even one that you disagree with doesn't make the enemy a terrorist, they're allowed to believe what they do. It's theactions which make them wrong - not the beliefs behind the action. I would never call a German (Nazi) soldier a terrorist unless they were active in terrorism - the SS on the other hand might be, but the regular soldier - no, not a chance.

While not specifically on the same topic there's a line out of my favorite episode from my favorite TV show ever (The West Wing, s3e0, "Isaac and Ishmael"):
BOY 1:
Well, don't you consider...I mean, I know they're our enemy, but don't you consider there's something noble about being a martyr?

[pauses, considers the question] A martyr would rather suffer death at the hands of an oppressor than renounce his beliefs. Killing yourself and innocent people to make a point is sick, twisted, brutal, dumb-ass murder. And let me leave you with this thought before I go searching for the apples that were rightfully mine: we don't need martyrs right now. We need heroes. A hero would die for his country but he'd much rather live for it... It was good meeting you all.
There are people in our history that we call martyrs yet place them on the pedestal of history. It's not that these people shouldn't be honored for what they did, but rather they should be seen as heroes too. If the person dies because they want to make a point in doing so, that would seem to be wrong in my book - if, however, they're willing to die but would rather live - then you're a hero in my book.

I don't know if I've made any sense to any of you, but this is my blog so I can live with that, but what I do know is that soldiers are not inherently terrorists no matter how evil their cause. What we're celebrating in Israel during this time, isn't the "luck" that our fathers, brothers, sons, daughters, etc. were able to give their lives to "the cause"; rather we are remembering them because while they were willing to die for their country they'd rather be here now alive with us.

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