Who were the bad guys in Star Wars' original trilogy?
by Alison Brooks
"They call it The Force, you know, like it's supposed to be used for domination and hurting people. They use light sabres - real peaceful badge of office, those. I remember one whose idea of an appropriate response in a bar-room brawl was to cut the guy's arm right off without even a warning or anything. And they call themselves the good guys?" - Dani, mystic.
We only have the Rebel's word for it that they're the good guys and the Empire are the bad guys. Even the least cynical can see that they might just have a vested interest in portraying themselves as heroic underdogs, fighting for freedom and apple pie. There are, however, enough publications for us to examine the evidence for ourselves. In order to maintain the necessary objectivity, the self-styled "Rebel Alliance" will be referred to as "the Terrorists".
The Terrorists would have us believe that all their operatives are pure-hearted idealists operating from the highest of motives. One example frequently cited in Luke Skywalker. Records of his recruitment , however, show that he joined after being misled. The war criminal Kenobi told him that Lord Vader had killed his (Luke's) father despite knowing  that Vader was, in fact, Luke's father. Kenobi and his partner Yoda later regretted the fact that Luke had found out the truth . Malicious breaking of family ties hardly seems to accord with terrorist propaganda about their motives.
Other Terrorist recruits are less savoury, however. Numerous publications record the desire of the terrorists to recruit other criminals, be they mercenaries such as gorgeous pouting Kyle , pirates , renegade Imperial officers who make it clear that they wish to defect solely for financial considerations , or smugglers .
The fraudulent trader Solo is only one of the latter, but perhaps the best known. Lest it be thought that pirates are all jolly yo-ho-ho types and smugglers are enterprising lads evading unjust tarrifs (the terrorists would love to have you believe that. Ask anyone who's been mugged if the muggers are loveable. Ask anyone who works with Crack addicts if smuggling is fun), the career of Solo is known in some detail.
It is common knowledge that Solo was up to his cute smile in debt to a particularly sadistic crimelord . What is less well known is why. This information was revealed in a recent document . He had in fact been smuggling a drug used as a particularly revolting truth drug manufactured in a particularly revolting manner. Let's get this straight. He was smuggling a cargo which he knew would be used for torture by a noted sadist, and was forced to dump it when challenged by Customs. This is one of the "heroes" of the terrorists. I believe the term "hero" is better used for the customs officers who, at the cost of their own lives, forced Solo to abandon the cargo so that it could do no further harm.
Later, after he had been completely corrupted by the terrorists, Skywalker attempted to recruit this same sadistic criminal (Jabba) .
We note from the recruitment package  that of the 24 types of beings specifically targetted by Terrorist recruitment, fully one half are criminals (Pirates), traitors (Retired Imperial Captains) or the deluded who don't know what they are letting themselves in for (Ewoks).
Compare this with the Imperial attitude. The Empire recruit beings who will become efficient professionals dedicated to Service and Duty. The distaste of Imperial officers towards bounty hunters  is very much more high-minded than the attitude of the terrorists.
Receiving stolen goods
The terrorists' casual approach to common lawbreaking is seen elsewhere in the career of Skywalker. Having bought two droids which he had every reason to suspect were stolen , he later found out that this was in fact the case. Did he attempt to return the droids to their proper owner or his next of kin? No, and his ownership of those droids was unquestioned amongst the terrorists. Sounds like receipt of stolen property to me.
The terrorists make much of their egalitarian approach. They claim that the Empire is run by and for white human males with English accents. Are they serious? Does anyone actually believe a galaxy-wide civilization could be usurped by such a small group? In any case, they are wrong. Vice-Admiral , later Grand Admiral  Thrawn reached the highest ranks of the Imperial navy, despite being a non-human.
But are the terrorists so squeaky-clean in that respect? Oh, they have members from all sorts of species, as is to be expected. But where are the non-humans in the upper echelons? Actually, I can tell you the answer to that. They are in command of the warships. The large capital ships of the terrorists are controlled by their builders - Mon Cal - because of design features which only Mon Cal can understand  (if the Imperials used that excuse, it would be called speciesism!)
The Mon Cal allow other species to help with the menial tasks aboard ship, while retaining control themselves. The Mon Cal claim that these massive ships, comparable in size and power to Imperial Star Destroyers, were originally built for peaceful exploration [9,10,11]. Yeah, sure pals. Earth history shows us that Athens dominated the Greek federation by having control of the ships. It seems the Mon Cal are doing the same with the terrorists.
If further proof that the terrorists are fundamentally prejudiced on the grounds of species were needed, consider the following. Why didn't the Wookie get a medal ?
While I'm on the subject of egalitarianism, what sort of a Republic is it that has hereditary monarchy ?
The terrorists complain that the Imperial forces are brutal and ruthless. However, the truth is that the terrorists started it, and they are simply complaining about the Empire's natural and understandable heavy response to terror tactics. The Declaration of Rebellion states [9,10,11] "We will fight you with any and all means at our disposal". Now, to declare total war, and then complain when the Empire responds by taking them at their word seems a little hypocritical.
On Earth, conventions of war, up to and including the Geneva Convention have attempted to prevent hostile powers from engaging in this sort of destructive warfare. In particular, the distinction between combatants and non-combatants is vital for the protection of civilians. The terrorists have not merely done away with this distinction, they very often hide their bases amidst civilian centres of population . They are appalled when the Imperial forces destroy this base, with attendent civilian casualties.
It should be noted, however, that the Imperial forces did not bombard the base from space, but sent in specialist troops. They kept civilian casualties to a minimum. I seem to remember the reaction of the West to someone who attempted to use a "human shield". In the conflict which followed, the Western world did bombard civilian areas, supposedly to destroy military targets. By this token, the Empire is morally somewhat superior to the Western world, while the Terrorists are comparable to Saddam Hussein.
Meanwhile, the Imperial forces site their bases well clear of innocent civilians, without detriment to those civilians. For instance, on Endor  the Imperial base coexisted with, but apart from, the natives. If the Imperials were really ruthless and evil, they would have levelled the forest in the vicinity of their base, and eliminated the semi-sentient Ewoks. They didn't. They lived in peaceful coexistence until the terrorists - once again blurring the line between combatants and non-combatants - persuaded the Ewoks to take part in an unprovoked attack.
It is said that the Empire rules by terror, but what is less well known is that it is simply trying to re-establish the law and order which existed previously. The Old Republic's terror weapon was the Jedi , a self-chosen, self-perpetuating, unaccountable body. The mere mention of their name was sufficient to quell rebellion [8,9]. (The terrorists would have you believe that it was a Golden Age when no one wanted to rebel, but the latter source makes it clear that this is a lie. People were simply too terrified to rebel.)
In what way is that different from the Death Star? Is it not misguided to oppose the one while trying to reinstate the other? The only reason to do that is because one intends to be in charge in the "new old republic".
A fairly lengthy quote from the now corrupt Jedi Skywalker makes the Terrorist position clear:
"Now we have a New Republic. The Empire appears to be defeated. We have founded a new government based upon the old" (complete with the corruption that led to Palpatine's rise to power?) "but let us hope we learn from our mistakes. Before, an entire order of Jedi watched over the Republic, offering strength ... and (supporting) the rightful government of worlds." (Whether the people liked it or not). Skywalker continues; "what will happen when we begin squabbling among ourselves over petty matters? The old Jedi helped mediate many types of dispute." (Whether the people liked it or not). "What if there are no Jedi Knights to protect us in the difficult times ahead?" . In short, what is being offered is simple despotism by the Jedi (and who is the only surviving Jedi master?); there seems to be no consideration that just maybe people who have risked death in the name of freedom could rule themselves. However, such is not the agenda of the Terrorist leadership. They simply want power for themselves.
The terrorist Mothma is supposedly both Commander-in-Chief and Chief of State, but only until the death of the emperor . Yet, years after his death, there she is, still in charge [7,8,12,13]. So much for democracy and "checks and balances". Dictator for life seems to be a more appropriate title.
The terrorists are united only in their opposition to the Empire . Some of the elements in the terrorist organisation are "incompetant or corrupt", and some are "morally dubious" . So, even in their own propaganda, the terrorists admit that they employ bloody-handed psychopaths. And their response to discovering this?
"if a Sector Force is not trusted, the Alliance does not commit any starfighters, men or secret intelligence to it. When the Sector Force eventually falls apart, as it inevitably does, Alliance Command then steps in and rebuilds it from scratch. These draconian measures can be cruelly hard upon the ... innocent ... in the Sector."
Elsewhere in this reference, it is admitted that Sector Forces have been known to be incompetant or riddled with spies or just plain weak. It is left unstated that they might be corrupt. I'm reminded that the psychopath "Bloody Bill" Anderson held a colonelcy in the Confederate army during the American Civil War, and used this as an opportunity to murder civilians and unarmed soldiers on furlough.
Seduction of the innocent
As a paradigm of the corruption of innocence which the terrorists will undertake in their pursuit of power, the career of Skywalker is instructive, especially as he became one of the terrorist leaders. Oh, the young Skywalker was no angel, he was prepared to purchase droids which he suspected to be stolen, but he was recruited by falsehoods (and incestuous desire: another crime against the family perpetrated by Kenobi ).
Before long, he was being schooled in hard-heartedness. His friends were being tortured for his sake, but his instructor attempted to persuade him to leave them to suffer . Before long, he was happy to see his own sister held prisoner by the sadistic Jabba . Not to mention his droids, one of which definitely had not volunteered. And his use of his mental powers? Is deliberately using one's mental powers to inflict harm upon another sentient the stuff of the Dark Side or not? The rules  say yes. And what did Skywalker do to a guard who was only following orders to prevent his ingress without proper authorisation ? Why, he hurt him, using his mental powers.
Vader was a ruthless disciplinarian. He executed officers under him who had disobeyed orders in the face of the enemy - allowable under the rules of war. Skywalker hurt others simply, it seems, to show off. Which is worse?
Origins of the rebellion
The Terrorist organisation grew out of the breakdown of the Old Republic [5,9,10,11,14]. To summarise, corruption among the Senators was rife. Palpatine was elected President, simply because he was free from corruption. He then began to quietly restore law and order, and it was noticed that:
"In the midst of chaos, the previously underrated senator began the wheels of government turning" .
He then promised to turn his attention to "eradicate the corruption and social injustice" of the bloated, corrupt senators. It was at this point that Mon Mothma openly, and Bail Organa secretly  began supporting armed revolt to destroy the Emperor. It was not the actions taken against pirates, or crime bosses, or the necessary expansion of the military that caused these Senators into armed revolt. It was Palpatine's promise to clamp down on Senatorial Corruption.
One is forced to ask why. Bail Organa "funneled funds, arms and intelligence" to many resistance movements while he was still a Senator on "many" Appropriation and Military Committees . Let's get this straight; he was responsible for sending military aid to forces that were in direct military conflict with the organisation that he was sworn to uphold. In short, he was the worst kind of traitor, sending troops to die in order to line his pockets.
The single most important piece of propaganda of the Terrorists is the destruction of Alderaan. It has been portrayed as a planet of pacifists who had done no-one any harm . One might justly argue that the destruction of Alderaan was the act of one individual (Grand Moff Tarkin) for reasons that can only be guessed at.
However, the Terrorists, in their praise of Bail Organa, say that "he worked diligently to prepare his people (Alderaan) for the coming struggle, convincing them to renounce ... pacifism ... turning the planet ... into a centre for Rebellion." .
The Terrorists thus admit that Alderaan was a legitimate military target. Alderaan, according to Terrorist propaganda was both a planet of harmless pacifists and a centre of armed rebellion. They can't have it both ways.
Terrorist propaganda has only shown the actions of the Empire military against their own organisation. However, the recently produced reference about the life in the Imperial forces  shows a rather more balanced view of Imperial actions - fighting pirates, establishing a colony in the frontier, bringing peace to a system-wide civil war, and so on. It is also noted elsewhere  that the Imperial military has taken actions against pirates, among others.
Evil galactic empire, or simply trying to uphold law and order against ruthless terrorists determined to wreak havoc on innocents while lining their own pockets? You decide.
Star Wars. Film.
The Empire Strikes Back. Film.
Return of the Jedi. Film.
Dark Forces. Computer game.
Star Wars the RPG. First edition.
Tie Fighter. Computer game.
Heir to the Empire. Novel.
Jedi Search. Novel.
Star Wars Technical Manual. Book.
Star Wars Sourcebook. Game supplement.
Rebel Alliance Sourcebook. Game Supplement.
Dark Force Rising. Novel.
The Last Command. Novel.
Imperial Sourcebook. Game supplement.