Four Days in September

I doubt anyone knows who the distinguished, stately looking gentleman below is:


His name was Charles Burke Elbrick and, at one point in time, he was the United States ambassador to Brazil. His interesting tale is recounted in the 1997 Brazilian film Four Days in September. In 1969 Ambassador Elbrick was kidnapped by a guerilla/revolutionary group called MR-8. The group sequestered the ambassador in order to bring attention to their struggle against the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil and to exchange his life for political prisoners.

Now why do I here recount this somewhat arcane piece of guerilla lore? Well, the movie brings up a good point: is there such a thing as "good" terrorism? In the U.S., we have been conditioned to think of terrorists as muslim fundamentalists who hate "freedom", and I don't deny that those kind of people exist. But there is also a long history of people who have used terrorism in order to fight for democracy, "freedom", etc. In Brazil, for example, the revolutinary groups struggled against a dictatorship that suspended human rights, freedom of press, and tortured and dissappeared thousands of Brazilians. Thus, was it okay for them to kidnap Mr. Elbrick? Something to think about.

Another interesting note from this story concerns one of the kidnappers, Fernando Gabeira. After the kidnapping, Senhor Gabeira went on to become a member of the Brazilian congress. That would be kind of like a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army becoming a congressman. Kind of.