Archive for November, 2008

What do you have to do to be called a terrorist?

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

After a three-day standoff with militants ended amid a fire Saturday at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel, the removal of the bodies from the wrecked 105-year-old landmark began… 

On Wednesday night, when a married couple in their 70s went to their third-floor window to see what was happening after hearing gunfire, the attackers blazed away with assault rifles, killing them both. Shards of glass still hung in the panes on Saturday.

When several attackers seized a Jewish outreach center, Nariman House, on Wednesday, neighbors mistook the initial shots for firecrackers in celebration of India’s imminent cricket victory over England. But then two attackers stepped out on a balcony of Nariman House and opened fire on passers-by in an alley nearby. They killed a 22-year-old call center worker who was the sole financial supporter of his widowed mother.

When a tailor locked up his store for the night, half a block from the Taj Hotel, a gunman spotted him and killed him instantly, said Rony Dass, a cable television installer. “We still don’t know why they did this,” he said, mourning his lifelong friend. Somini Sangupta and Keith Bradsher, NY Times

What do you have to do to be called a terrorist?

This question comes to mind when the word ‘militant’  is used in almost all of the media accounts of the Mumbai attacks.

In addition to the usual targets of  Westerners and Jews, the gunmen murdered anyone available — old men and women, anybody they felt like shooting.

When terrorists detonate a bomb, they know they are going to kill indiscriminately, but they don’t usually look their victims in the eye. In many cases these terrorists carefully aimed at their victims, most of whom were ordinary Indians.

“One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter”, Jeremy Bowen of the BBC famously said, no doubt having in mind Palestinian terrorists and thereby proving himself a moral idiot. I suppose his logic is that he would prefer not to offend anyone, no matter how ignorant that person may be.

But for whom are the Mumbai terrorists ‘freedom fighters’?

Is it necessary to call them ‘militants’ so as not to offend the homicidal sociopaths among The Times’ readership? How many of them could there be?

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