It’s time to let the old terrorist go

I have always believed that a person’s actions define what one is. And the bad deeds always prevail over the good deeds. So if one has killed hundreds of people and then, years later becomes “good”, then one’s still a terrorist, a murderer, because the years one has spent without killing anyone do not negate or erase what one’s done before.

It’s like this ancient joke about a Scotsman drinking in a local pub and talking to himself: “Built this bridge myself. Alone. Cut the trees, moved them to the river, built everything with my own hands. But does anyone call me McQuinn the bridge builder?” He takes another sip and continues: “Built this mill myself. Alone. Brought the bricks, laid them on my own, with my own hands. But does anyone call me McQuinn the mill builder?” Takes another sip and then says: “But when I once had fun with that sheep…”

Jokes—no matter how stupid—are born from life itself. The moral of that joke is, whatever good a person may do, he’ll always be remembered by the bad they’ve done.

Some people, of course, are different. Take Yasser Arafat. A long-time terrorist, has the blood of thousands of people on his hands. Then, suddenly, becomes “good”. Stops using violence for gaining his goals—at least on paper—and suddenly wins a Nobel Peace Prize. Is revered as a great negotiator, a freedom fighter for his people (no matter he was an Egyptian and there is no such nation as “Palestinians” he supposedly fought for). Accepted as a “head of state” by the entire world.

At the end of the day, still a murderous terrorist.

Or take Nelson Mandela. A long-time terrorist, has the blood of thousands of people on his hands. Spends 27 years in prison for his actions. Then, suddenly, becomes “good”. Stops using violence for gaining his goals, wins a Nobel Peace Prize. Suddenly loved by everybody, elected president and thought of as the greatest human being in the known history.

Two terrorists hugging. What more is there to say?

Two terrorists hugging. What more is there to say?

At the end of the day, still a murderous terrorist.

It’s important to understand that a person’s previous deeds—even if one claims one’s changed, even if one’s done time and has been “rehabilitated”, whatever the fuck that means—do not disappear. They’re still there, and the person responsible is still responsible.

I’m a strong supporter of bringing criminals to justice. For example, I strongly believe we as the human kind have, to this day, the obligation of bringing nazi war criminals to justice. 70 years have passed since their crimes, and even if they have lived these seventy years without committing even a traffic offence, they’re still criminals responsible for their actions. And after they’ve been punished, they still remain criminals. Nothing can ever erase their past.

So why are some people different? Or, rather, why are some people treated differently?

At the end of the day, they are no different. Nobody in their right mind would justify the actions of Josef Mengele, Adolf Eichmann or Heinrich Himmler. How on earth can we justify the actions of Nelson Mandela?

Of course, nobody in their right mind would justify what was going on in South Africa for five decades. Nobody could justify apartheid, racism, segregation, oppression. What happened in South Africa was inhumane and should have never happened.

But that doesn’t justify Mandela’s or his ANC’s actions, the terror, the murder. It just doesn’t. As a good friend of mine recently said, Mandela did a lot good for his country, but he did it in the wrong way. I agree completely.

Now that Mandela is on his deathbed, the euphoria over his life has taken enormous proportions. But unfortunately, everybody remembers him as a freedom fighter and a president, not as a cold-blooded murderer and terrorist that he really is. Again, our collective memory has forgotten the bad deeds of a man.

And again, I must emphasise, the good deeds do not erase the bad ones.

I think the time has come to let the old terrorist go in peace. He’s 94 years old and he has lived a long life. He has lived a hell of a lot longer life than his victims.

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