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Sunday, 31 May 2015

Whose side are you on? Matt Bianco (1985)

Yesterday evening I got a remarkable question from 2 girls (15+12): what do you think of terrorists? I preferred their second and final question: how did you meet our mother? Their first question came as a surprise and I had to consider from which angle to approach this question. At first, I stalled for some time by asking whether they were serious as it might be a provoking joke. Well it was not.

Firstly, the concept of terrorists depends on which side you are on in any conflict. Secondly, whether that side is winning or losing. Lastly, whether the winning side controls the government. In other words: terrorists can become freedom fighters and then become revolutionaries. Obviously, the same can happen the other way around. We have seen that process several times over the past decades.

In 1948 the United Nations decided to grant the surviving Jews of World War II their own state to be safe from future harm. A noble gesture combined with poor execution. That gesture has become the root for many acts of terrorism since 1948. Depending on which side you are in that conflict, those acts of terrorism can easily be construed as freedom fighting. Both sides refuse to resolve this dilemma as they would then need to share power. Perhaps Pope Francis can make a difference.

The island of Cuba was claimed by Christopher Columbus for Spain in 1492. After the Spanish–American War of 1898, Cuba gained nominal independence as a de facto U.S. protectorate in 1902. The fragile republic endured increasingly radical politics and social strife. In 1952 this resulted in a dictatorship by former president Fulgencio Batista (Wikipedia). The terrorists Ernesto "Che" Guevara and Fidel Castro received more and more popularity and emerged as freedom fighters and revolutionaries (1959). While Castro became Prime Minister (1959) and President (1976), Che Guevara always remained a terrorist-freedom fighter-revolutionary until he was killed in Bolivia. 

Egypt is even a more interesting case. Since 1952 the country has been ruled by the military (Naguib, Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak, Tantawi, el-Sisi). For a brief period (28 November  2011 - 3 July 2013), the formerly considered terrorists of the Muslim Brotherhood were in control of the government. Ironically, by a wave of massive widespread protests, Mohamed Morsi first gained control (25 January 2011) and then lost control (3 July 2013). The military is now firmly in control again and many members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been given a death sentence. (Wikipedia)

The Russian government backed terrorists in the Ukraine have been winning so far (e.g., Crimea) which allows them to present themselves as freedom fighters rather than as terrorists. Now they have set their eyes on Odessa. A future Russian military alliance with Greece would put Turkey in a difficult spot. The Russians haven't forgotten on whose side Turkey was in WWII.

Northern Ireland was created by the British in 1921 as that region had many Protestant descendants of Great Britain. The Catholic minority in Northern Ireland preferred to be part of (Catholic) Ireland. Since the 1960s, Northern Ireland showed some thirty years of intense violence. (Wikipedia) The former terrorists are now in government and relations between Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK are normalised. This outcome shows that negotiations are the only way forward to peace. 

Whose side are YOU on? Song by Matt Bianco (1985)