Carlos the Jackal: Terrorist or Freedom Fighter?

Some serious questions about the global portrayal and true story of the Jackal as a ruthless hit-man...
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Some serious questions about the global portrayal and true story of the Jackal as a ruthless hit-man...

'It's great when you're..oh, forget it...'

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On watching director Olivier Assayas quite superb movie, Carlos, that tells of the life and times of the so called terrorist and hit man, Carlos the Jackal, AKA Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, I was confronted with one overwhelming reality which was that your man was not the pay for kill ‘terrorist ‘ that so many newspapers dubbed him as, but a man who fought and killed for what he believed in. As a member of the Popular Front For The Liberation of Palestine, he fought against what I believe to be the tyrannical weight of the US backed Israeli Zionist fascist right wing and their terrorist arm the Mossad who, for so long, have exercised a genocidal attack on their Palestinian neighbours, and he risked his life in doing so.

In effect he was a soldier and, just like the French resistance of WW2, was fighting a guerrilla war. Consider this – had the Germans won would the French resistance be viewed as the freedom fighters they were or terrorists? I think the latter. And what were Fidel Castro or Che Guevara–freedom fighters or terrorists?  And what is worse: a man who goes out and murders those who commission the annihilation of unarmed civilians or those that send in tanks to obliterate communities of innocent women and children? I know the answer.

The problem with any historical document is that those in power are the ones that sanction the publication of said history (which is in fact his story – that is the story approved by of the conquerors or those in control) and, as such, men like Carlos get the worst end of the stick. Still imprisoned in La Sante prison in suburban Paris for the murder of three cops who tried to arrest him, Ramirez is still not regarded as a soldier fighting a legitimate battle for a thoroughly brutalized country, but as a terrorist. Yet he has allies. In November 2009, Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, defended Ramirez Sánchez during one of his speeches and maintained that his compatriot was an important "revolutionary fighter" who supported the cause of the Palestinians and was unfairly convicted.

And what is worse: a man who goes out and murders those who commission the annihilation of unarmed civilians or those that send in tanks to obliterate communities of innocent women and children?

"They accuse him of being a terrorist, but Carlos really was a revolutionary fighter," Chavez claimed during a televised speech to socialist politicians from various countries, who applauded. But enough of my pontificating, it’s a great film with a gobsmackingly superb turn by Edgar Ramirez in the title role, aided by ridiculously excellent performances by every single cast member. It features a superb script by Dan Franck and Assayas, great cinematography by Denis Lenoir and Yorick Le Saux and is superbly executed to the last inch. Assayas admitted that, as far a exact scenario is concerned, some of the movie is speculation but he does get the man’s motivation and underlines the reality that Carlos, contrary to the stories written by the press at the time, was not going out and killing any Joe Schmo for bundles of readies. He had a political agenda which, in light of Israeli president Sharon’s ethnic cleansing in the subsequent years is entirely legitimate and justifiable.

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Even Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, has admitted that Israel has conducted state-sponsored genocide against the Palestinians for decades and intensively in Gaza. Now that baffles me. You’d think that after WW2 and Auschwitz and the gas chambers the Israeli’s would be somewhat more empathetic. But no… they’re certainly not.

Carlos is now available on DVD in two versions – the 5 hour original Canal + mini-series or a two-hour theatrical version.