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Friday, January 16, 2009


People complain that V for Vendetta glorifies terrorists, promotes anarchy, and touts violence as the solution to the world's problems.

Munich cautions against using retaliation as a means to get justice.

And today I got to thinking back on American history.

In coming to the Americas "we" didn't exactly treat the Native Americans very well. In fact, many of the things "we" did were downright evil. And yet, for the most part, we let those things slide in favor of where we are today. Let's not rock the boat. And since no viable solution seems to exist, we acknowledge the wrongdoing but decide we can't really do anything more.

Then we start getting pushed around by "our" king, and decide we would rather have a say in our taxes and laws. So "we" rebel, employ some guerrilla tactics for a while, do a few public demonstrations, and eventually make enough of a nuisance of ourselves--and kill enough people--that "we" gain "our" freedom.

[Aside: I will now dispense with the "we"s and "our"s. I just wanted to make it clear that I realize that we weren't alive then, so the "we"s are much more in the informal Royal We sense... which, in reality, makes no sense, but I'm doing my best here, people.

If you are lost, please ignore this aside. I'm just reveling in the cleverness of me <smile>]

After that, some upstarts in the lower regions start making a stink about taxes and other stuff, and the upper regions start taking an interest in productivity, manpower, and the unwritten rules of our nation. This leads to war, death, and destruction.

Eventually something happens and a couple tall buildings come down, killing friends, family members, and doing a tremendous amount of harm.

And so I ask:

1. Who are the terrorists?
"V for Vendetta" points out: One man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter.

2. What are "proper warfare" tactics?
History seems to imply: Whatever was used by the winning side to win.

Which brings us to the quote that goes something like:
He who wins writes the history.

So what's with this horribly simplified--and quite possibly errant--synopsis of American history? Well, today I came across this and this after reading my feed from here (the blog of which I am no longer able to read, so if you're the author, I'd love to be on your "approved reader list" again). There are also several heated threads on the Sonlight Forums discussing the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

I've read the threads and considered the comments. I've also heard bits and pieces from "the media." But the only personal experience I have in this area is with a friend of mine who recently visited Israel. He brought me back this shirt:

Free Palestine

He said he couldn't believe how poorly the Palestinians were treated and, he admitted, he wasn't too fond of the Israelis he encountered. From the descriptions he gave me of how things were over there, I was happy to wear to the shirt and support people who were mistreated.

At the same time, I realize that terrorists groups are very real in that part of the world. I know Israel has been picked on for a long, long time. I "get" the hatred, especially since I've spent time with a couple guys from my church who had a hard time learning to get along because one is a Jewish background believer and the other is a Muslim background believer. They know the tension and issues first hand.

So, what do we make of all this?

I don't know. And so far, I have yet to talk to someone who really does. But as I look back on history, the world is only black and white if you listen to the history written by the victorious. When those powers are no longer in charge, history tends to be less glowing in their favor.

Just a few musings from my trip around the world via the blogosphere.

~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father


maryjack said...

Wow! And right on. My Dad, a veteran, shares your opinion, and has been pointing out the "other fella's POV" for years. Thanks to him, history is my favorite. I point it out to my own children as well. Nice to know there is someone else who thinks about it that way!

Karen Joy said...

I know this isn't quite your point, but I have mixed feelings about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. When Abraham chose to father Ishmael, he sort of shot Isaac’s descendants in the foot. And, God promised to care for Ishmael’s descendants, too. (Hey, btw, did you know the Palestinians are descended from the Philistines??)

Donna T. said...

Hi, Luke. I've wanted to post about the current situation, but I just can't find the words to contain and express my feelings. I started my blog, in part, because I do, in fact, have something to say! But, my own passion overwhelms me and I lack clarity. So, I keep scribbling on paper and my blog is quite bland. Anyways... I'm reading a book that I want to recommend to you. It is entitled, Blood Brothers. It was written by Elias Chacour, a Palestinian Christian. It's his personal account of what was happening in his village when the Zionists showed up in 1948. It is a lifechanging book. I can't put it down and my eyes are bugging out from the tears. Pray for the children of Ishmael and Isaac. I know you do. God bless you. Look for the book if you've never read it. You won't be able to put it down.

Touchstone said...

Hi Luke,

Interesting post! Up front I will say that while I'm a long time and ardent supporter of Israel, I think what has been happening in Gaza reflects terribly on the Israelis in recent days, and is reasonably reviewed as possibly being atrocities and war crimes, the extreme examples. But it should also be pointed out that shooting missiles into populated Israeli territory indiscriminately is similar a violation of the rules of war.

My comment here won't attempt to sort all that out, though. The point I have to offer is that I think "terrorism" isn't nearly so amorphous or relative as you construe it here. "Terrorism" points to the strategy of employing gratuitous and barbaric violence expressly for its *psychological* impact on the adversary. The US military has popularized (to some degree to its own demerit) the term "shock and awe", which ostensibly seems like a form of "terrorism".

No doubt "shock and awe" tactics from the US military are psychologically powerful - that is part of the goal. But the shock and awe obtains from the *military* prowess and efficiency of the US -- it's skill and potency in strictly military terms against military targets -- rather than the terrorization of the populace through the brutal and purposeful killing of non-combatants.

That's a crucial and profound distinction, and one that separates the American revolutionaries from "terrorism" as a strategy. Which is not to say American rebels in colonies did not commit atrocities -- that's a predictably lamentable feature of just about any large scale conflict. But the goal of the American rebels was *military*, in scope and execution. "Guerilla", yes, "terrorist" no.

It may be that Israel is engaged in a policy of excessive violence against non-combatants in Gaza just for the horror value, as a display of naked brutality that terrorizes the Palestinians not through the sheer power and effectiveness of the IDF against military objectives (a legitimate effect of military force), but through the example of how many kids and other non-combatants they are prepared to kill in the conflict.

I don't think that's the case, but either way in terms of the facts on the ground, the principle remains the same -- "terrorism" has a distinct principle driving it that *is* distinguishable from "the victors write the history books".

It's often said that terrorism is the strategy of desperation, a way to project force and influence when no military or political power is available. That may be, but it remains a *non-military* strategy, a course of action that goes against the rules of warfare, and indulges in one of civilizations deepest taboos, the targeting innocents, and purposeful killing of non-combatants who have no military value as targets, but only psychological value.

There's plenty of gray areas in that distinction to get hung up about, but blowing up a bus full of school kids in Tel Aviv by detonating the backpack you are wearing is an example of a very lopsided strategy, devoid of military value or justification and useful only for its psychological projection of brutality (and possibly some religious justification too, sadly).

A rocket can be very effective as a military weapon, and can quite reasonably used in a legitimate (non-terrorist) fashion. But letting rockets loose without any reasonable means of controlling where it lands transforms that missile from military ordinance to an instrument of terror when it is launched against populated areas indiscriminately. The IDF firing shells from their tanks into populated areas indiscriminately, even if there are "bad guys" in the general area, is no better, and utterly immoral and condemnable if the *goal* is to terrorize the Palestinians into submission or some different course of action simply because of the horror of such brutal killing.


Luke Holzmann said...

Mary, you make an interesting point: By looking at other sides, history is actually even more fascinating!

Karen, I've got mixed feelings as well! And I've read a few posts about the connection between Palestinians and the Philistines, but further research has yet to convince me. In fact, I've read some arguments that show this to be a myth. <shrug> What do I know? <smile>

Donna, I feel your struggle. I was very nervous as I pushed the "Publish" button <smile>. I'll have to check that book out. As I said in my post: I know guys from my church who are blood brothers in this sense, and I know something of their struggles to interact with each other.

Touchstone, I was so excited when I saw that you had commented! Way cool. I feel like I'm "official" now, or something. I hope to see more of you in the future as I've been very impressed with what I've read of yours thus far (though I have yet to spend time on your blogs, and as I glanced at them the format was throwing me off... totally a side issue... where as I?)...

I completely agree with you: Terrorism is, as a philosophy/practice, very different from war tactics and collateral damage. Completely agree.

On the other hand, I will stick with my original sentiment: Things can be (and are) labeled as "acts of terrorism" by the people in charge. On the other hand, acts of tyranny, betrayal, and even terrorism can (and are) justified under much kinder labels if the perpetrators overcome. And when we have the benefit of history behind us, I think we have the opportunity to see the murkiness and evil deeds of both sides more clearly.

So, I guess my point has more to do with how things are labeled and generally accepted/processed by the populace and media. But you are right: There is a very clear philosophical definition to terrorism. Great point that I completely overlooked in my post.

Thanks for adding so much to the discussion!


Kim & Dave said...

Very interesting.....& thought provoking, Luke.

Luke Holzmann said...

Thanks. <smile>



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