It’s an old saying: “One man’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.”

 It brings up the question, “What exactly IS terrorism?” The general definition states that terrorism is the use of violence for political ends. That’s…quite broad. According to that definition the Boston Tea Party was an act of terrorism. Then… is terrorism the purposeful targeting of civilians? Most of 20th century warfare would be considered terrorism. The bombing in WWII and Vietnam was committed in order to “demoralize the enemy:” the enemy being everybody including civilians who contributed to the opposition’s war effort.

Western countries of course conveniently excuse their own actions saying that terrorism is a crime of non-state entities. That argument ignores the word’s very own origin. Terrorism derives from the French word, terrorisme, which referred to violence officially sanctioned by the state against its own citizens.

Of course the same holds true for the other side. Those that are labeled as terrorists consider themselves to be freedom fighters. They feel they must resort to immoral actions out of necessity. The sheer power of the enemy renders military confrontation useless. The only option is to create an atmosphere of fear that will deter military action.

By expressing his or her anger and bitterness, the freedom fighter hopes to inspire others within their community to take up the cause and at the same time demoralize the enemy. There’s a risk that the enemy might retaliate. However, severe retaliation will only create more followers of the cause. 

In the end “terrorist” and “freedom fighter” are merely political terms. The good guys are “freedom fighters”; the bad guys are “terrorists.” This holds true regardless of which side one supports. This is why “-ism” words are so useless. Their meaning depends on the person using them. Terrorist or freedom fighter: Does it matter? Either way the result is killing. Whether that killing is justified is determined by the one who holds the power…