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Were Confederate soldiers terrorists?

By Roland S. Martin, CNN Political Analyst
  • Roland Martin says defenders of Confederate soldiers say they were protecting their homeland
  • He says the Civil War was fought over slavery, an indefensible institution
  • Martin says modern terrorists also say they are defending their homeland
  • He says Confederates should not be honored but should be considered "domestic terrorists"

Editor's note: Roland S. Martin, a CNN political analyst, is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of "Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith," and the new book, "The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House." He is a commentator for TV One Cable Network and host of a Sunday morning news show.

(CNN) -- Based on the hundreds of e-mails, Facebook comments and Tweets I've read in response to my denunciation of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's decision to honor Confederates for their involvement in the Civil War -- which was based on the desire to continue slavery -- the one consistent thing that supporters of the proclamation offer up as a defense is that these individuals were fighting for what they believed in and defending their homeland.

In criticizing me for saying that celebrating the Confederates was akin to honoring Nazi soldiers for killing of Jews during the Holocaust, Rob Wagner said, "I am simply defending the honor and dignity of men who were given no choice other than to fight, some as young as thirteen."

Sherry Callahan said that supporting the Confederacy is "our history. Not hate; it's about heritage and history."

Javier Ramirez called slavery evil, but prefaced his remarks by saying that "Confederate soldiers were never seen as terrorists by [President Abraham] Lincoln or U.S. generals on the battlefield. They were accorded POW status, they were never tried for war crimes. Not once did Confederate soldiers do any damage to civilians or their property in their invasion of the north. The same is not true of Union soldiers."

Realskirkland sent me a Tweet saying, "Slavery is appalling, but was not the only reason for the CW [Civil War]. Those men, while misguided on some fronts stood up for what they felt was right. They embodied that American ideal that the states have a right to govern themselves. THAT is what a confederate soldier stood for."

If you take all of these comments, don't they sound eerily similar to what we hear today from Muslim extremists who have pledged their lives to defend the honor of Allah and to defeat the infidels in the West?

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When you make the argument that the South was angry with the North for "invading" its "homeland," Osama bin Laden has said the same about U.S. soldiers being on Arab soil. He has objected to our bases in Saudi Arabia, and that's one of the reasons he has launched his jihad against us. Is there really that much of a difference between him and the Confederates? Same language; same cause; same effect.

If a Confederate soldier was merely doing his job in defending his homeland, honor and heritage, what are we to say about young Muslim radicals who say the exact same thing as their rationale for strapping bombs on their bodies and blowing up cafes and buildings?

If the Sons of Confederate Veterans use as a talking point the vicious manner in which people in the South were treated by the North, doesn't that sound exactly like the Taliban saying they want to kill Americans for the slaughter of innocent people in Afghanistan?

Defenders of the Confederacy say that innocent people were killed in the Civil War; hasn't the same argument been presented by Muslim radicals in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places where the U.S. has tangled with terrorists?

We can't on the one hand justify the actions of Confederates as being their duty as valiant men of the South, and then condemn the Muslim extremists who want to see Americans die a brutal death. These men are held up as honorable by their brethren, so why do Americans see them as different from our homegrown terrorists?

The fundamental problem with extremism is that when you're on the side that is fanatical, all of your actions make sense to you, and you are fluent in trying to justify every action. Every position of those you oppose is a personal affront that calls for you to do what you think is necessary to protect yourself and your family.

Just as radical Muslims have a warped sense of religion, Confederate supporters have a delusional view of what is honorable. The terrorists are willing to kill their own to prove their point, and the Confederates were just as willing in the Civil War to take up arms against their fellow Americans to justify their point.

Even if you're a relative of one of the 9/11 hijackers, that man was an out-and-out terrorist, and nothing you can say will change that. And if your great-great-great-granddaddy was a Confederate who stood up for Southern ideals, he too was a terrorist.

They are the same.

As a matter of conscience, I will not justify, understand or accept the atrocious view of Muslim terrorists that their actions represent a just war. They are reprehensible, and their actions a sin against humanity.

And I will never, under any circumstances, cast Confederates as heroic figures who should be honored and revered. No -- they were, and forever will be, domestic terrorists.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Roland Martin.