August 23, 2013 | 5:09 pm
Posted by Ariel Blumenthal
A military court today found Major Nidal Hassan guilty in the November 2009 Fort Hood killing which left 13 dead. Hassan, who mounted his own intentionally weak defense, followed a clear line: He had simply “Switched sides”.
And yesterday, in Washington State, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales was sentenced to life without parole for the intentional killing of 16 Afghan citizens in March 2012. The coincidental proximity of the decisions in the 2 cases is symbolic: Here are two men who had gone on indiscriminate killing sprees. Major Hassan’s claim to have “simply switched sides” makes the resemblance between the cases even closer, raising moral questions:
Does the fact that Hassan killed US soldiers, not citizens, make his actions less criminal?
Had Bales killed 16 Taliban fighters rather than citizens - still indiscriminately and in cold blood, would he had been sentenced differently?
Would Nidal Hassan go out and kill American citizens with the same moral conviction he expresses for killing American soldiers?
In these questions lies the definition of terrorism. Staff Sergeant Bales is sentenced by his own peers because his action is deemed criminal and an unacceptable conduct in a situation of war. His equivalents on the Taliban side would be celebrated and glorified. It’s safe to say that a pole among Talibs would reflect a mentality where the killing of as many Americans is a worthy goal. American soldiers - I want to believe - don’t hold this view.
The indiscriminate nature of terrorism is what defines it. Egyptian generals, who now put their money on branding the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists, should realize that the indiscriminate nature of their own actions put them under precisely the same definition. Yes, the generals are right: The brotherhood crowd, burning Coptic Churches and executing 25 police officers in cold blood, are terrorists. And so are the Generals. No good side here.
No good side in Syria either. Bashar Assad, who mounted the original branding-as-terrorists campaign against his own enemies, is also the chemical killer of women and children. His Sunni opponents, terrorists indeed, killed 27 with a car bomb in Beirut last week.
Across the Muslim world factions wage their sectarian and religious wars through terrorism: in Pakistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Iran, Yemen - you name it. “Terrorist” in these parts is a synonym for “My enemy”, and despite the erroneous use of the word, they’re all, tragically, correct in so labeling their opponents.
The definition of terrorism in the democratic world is based on moral convictions, not sectarian stances. In his wonderful, surprisingly entertaining documentary “UN Me”, Ami Horowitz presses a UN official to admit that the organization has never managed to agree on a definition to the word “terrorism”. The UN represents the entire humanity, and seeing the stark differences in the way different parts of this humanity regard terrorism, its definition and its moral problematics, makes this UN fiasco soberly natural.
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