The Cardassian Liberation Front, also known as the Cardassian Rebellion, was a popular uprising led by Legate Damar of the Cardassian Union against the occupation of the Cardassia by the Dominion in 2375. As such, it was one of the most pivotal movements of recent Cardassian history.
Although the revolt had little military impact and was quickly crushed by the Jem'Hadar, the uprising nonetheless had a great effect on the outcome of the Dominion War by forcing the Dominion to divert resources to quelling the rebellion, just as they were poised to launch a massive assault against the Federation, Klingons, and Romulans. Ultimately, the rebellion allowed the allies to win the war at the Battle of Cardassia, although their actions would have devastating consequences for Cardassia Prime.
By 2375, the Dominion's war effort against the Federation Alliance was settling into a bloody stalemate, with the tide steadily turning in the latter's favor. Damar, as leader of Cardassia, was becoming ever more frustrated with his Dominion allies, who had promised to return Cardassia to greatness but instead seemed intent on merely using Cardassia's resources to wage their war against the Federation and its allies. Initially, Damar tried to avoid his self-doubt by drinking excessive amounts of kanar and shirking many of his duties. (DS9: "Treachery, Faith and the Great River")
Eventually, Damar could not ignore Cardassia's problems, and after an unexpected meeting with Dukat — his predecessor as leader of Cardassia, as well as a friend and mentor to Damar — he regained his confidence and resolved to win back Cardassia's standing in the galaxy. (DS9: "Penumbra") When it was revealed that the Dominion was negotiating for an alliance with the Breen Confederacy, Damar was shocked to discover that Weyoun and the Female Changeling were planning to give away Cardassian territories in order to convince the Breen to join the war. Damar's anger only grew further when Weyoun callously sacrificed 500,000 soldiers of the Eleventh Order on Septimus III, supposedly to force the Klingons to commit more resources towards securing "a strategically worthless planet." (DS9: "Strange Bedfellows")
Finally, Damar could stomach the disrespect no further. He conspired with his friend, Gul Rusot, to launch a surprise attack against Rondac III, the Dominion's primary cloning facility. Together, Damar and Rusot recruited soldiers and officers from the First, Third, and Ninth Orders and destroyed the Dominion's cloning facility. Although nearly half of Damar's troops were killed in the attack, the Cardassians were successful in launching a full-scale rebellion. As Damar announced the rebellion's success, he called upon Cardassians everywhere to resist: "Resist today. Resist tomorrow. Resist until the last Dominion soldier has been driven from our soil."
Damar's rebellion came at an incredibly opportune juncture, just as the Dominion was about to launch a massive assault against the Federation, the Klingons, and the Romulans with the Breen energy dampening weapon, to which only the Klingons had developed a countermeasure. Instead, the Dominion was forced to turn their attention inward to try to crush the rebellion, which gave the allies valuable time to try to find a countermeasure for the Federation and Romulans.
Furious with Damar's betrayal, the Female Changeling ordered the rebellion crushed immediately. Weyoun ordered Thot Gor, "I don't care how many Cardassians you have to kill. Find Damar." (DS9: "The Changing Face of Evil")
Although Damar's initial assault had been successful, the rebellion faced many difficulties. First and foremost, the resistance had lost over half of its soldiers in the assault on Rondac III, and were unable to hold the planet against a Dominion counterattack. Damar and his remaining troops were forced to go into hiding at a secret base on Vanden Prime. Recognizing the danger if his infant rebellion were wiped out, Damar reluctantly asked the Federation to send assistance. Although the allies could not spare much material support, they did send a shipment of replicators, along with Commander Kira Nerys, a Bajoran officer specializing in underground resistance tactics. Odo, a Changeling, and Elim Garak also accompanied Kira to Damar's base.
Tensions were extremely high when the two sides met at Damar's base. Damar had previously served together with Kira under Dukat's command on Terok Nor during the Dominion occupation of the station, and there was no shortage of mutual loathing. There was supreme irony in the fact that a Bajoran was attempting to teach a group of Cardassians how to become resistance fighters, after the Bajoran Resistance expelled the Cardassians from Bajor seven years previously. However, both managed to put their personal feelings aside in order to fight their common enemy.
On Kira's recommendation, one of the next moves of the rebellion was to decentralize Damar's forces into small "cells" spread around the Union at various bases, where they could launch small hit-and-run attacks against Dominion installations. A total of eighteen bases were established.
However, Kira ran into more resistance when she recommended launching attacks on bases that were defended by Cardassian troops, even though they were troops loyal to the Dominion. Kira pointed out that anyone not fighting with the rebellion was helping the enemy, and that once the Dominion realized that Damar wasn't willing to attack bases that contained Cardassian troops, they would spread as many Cardassians as possible across every military installation in the Union. Reluctantly, Damar bowed to Kira's logic, and the rebellion launched its first attack against the Dominion-controlled garrison on Adarak Prime. (DS9: "When It Rains...")
A few weeks later, the rebellion launched its biggest attack yet, and destroyed the Tevak shipyards. Odo compromised the security protocols from the station's operations center, and explosives were planted in the station's dilithium storage facilities. The resulting explosion completely vaporized the shipyards. Following this incident, the Female Changeling ordered that Cardassian civilians be taken hostage in and around every Dominion installation. Furthermore, no Cardassian troops were permitted to board Jem'Hadar warships while carrying weapons.
Meanwhile, Starfleet was having great difficulty developing a countermeasure for the Breen energy-dampening weapon. Although Rusot objected to doing Starfleet's "dirty work", Damar agreed to launch a raid on the Kelvas facility, with the goal of obtaining a functioning example of the Breen weapon to turn over to Starfleet for study. In the operation, Kira, Odo, Damar, Rusot, and Garak successfully boarded a Jem'Hadar attack ship (with Kira posing as a captured prisoner of war being taken to interrogation), and took control of the ship's bridge. However, Rusot pulled a weapon on Kira and proposed that he and Damar take the Breen weapon for themselves, and use it to restore the Cardassian Empire. With little choice regarding the situation, Damar shot Rusot, sadly observing, "He was my friend. But his Cardassia is dead, and it won't be coming back." Ultimately, the team was successful in hijacking the ship and escaping to Deep Space 9 with the Breen weapon, where it was delivered to Starfleet. (DS9: "Tacking Into the Wind")
After handing over the Breen weapon to Starfleet, Damar went to Cardassia Prime for a secret meeting with Gul Revok and Legate Goris, who were offering to lend their support to the rebellion—a boost of over half a million soldiers to the cause. However, Revok double-crossed Damar and Goris by selling them out to the Dominion: Goris and his aides were killed by the Jem'Hadar, and Damar's ship was destroyed in orbit shortly after Damar, Kira, and Garak beamed to the surface. The Dominion immediately announced Damar's supposed death to the population.
The situation only got worse from there; the Dominion managed to compromise the security of the entire resistance movement and in a massive coordinated offensive, all eighteen of the rebellion's bases were wiped out within a single day, bringing a sudden end to the military rebellion. (DS9: "The Dogs of War")
Although Damar was apparently dead and his resistance movement crushed, the Dominion was still unable to launch a full-scale offensive against the Federation and its allies. Diverting its efforts to crush the rebellion had drawn valuable resources from the front line and cost the Dominion's recent momentum. Furthermore, with the help of Damar, all Federation and Romulan ships were now immune to the Breen energy dampening weapons, nullifying the Dominion's final trump card. The Female Changeling ordered a withdrawal from all enemy territory and established a new tight defense perimeter within the Cardassian core worlds. The Female Changeling's hope was that the Allies would merely recuperate within their regained space, allowing the Dominion the chance to rebuild.
In addition, the Dominion leadership believed that the Cardassians would submit once they heard Damar was dead and the rebellion was crushed. However, the Cardassian populace refused to believe that Damar was dead. Rumors spread like wildfire: "Damar's alive — my cousin saw him on Kelvas Prime!" "Damar faked his death; he's plotting a new offensive from his secret mountain hideaway!" Kira realized that their resistance had actually turned Damar into a living legend, a new champion for a people tired of the Dominion and the war.
To continue spreading the enthusiasm about Damar, the trio launched a small attack on the Cardassian capital city, destroying a Jem'Hadar barracks. Appearing to the gathered crowd, Damar called upon everyone to rise up and fight the Dominion. (DS9: "The Dogs of War")
Eager for success, Cardassians across the planet rallied together and planned for a series of major disruptions that would coincide with an all-out allied assault on the Cardassian home system. Power, transportation, and communications systems planetwide were all sabotaged, cutting off the Dominion from all ground support.
In retribution, the Female Changeling ordered the destruction of Lakarian City by the Jem'Hadar. In a matter of seconds, over two million men, women, and children were killed. Weyoun announced to the people that another Cardassian city would be destroyed for each further act of sabotage against the Dominion.
However, the Dominion's punishment and the threat of further reprisals had the exact opposite effect — instead of giving up, the Cardassians only became more resolved to rid themselves of the Dominion. In space, as the Federation, Klingon, and Romulan forces fought their way towards Cardassia Prime, the Cardassian warships suddenly switched sides, creating mass confusion in the Dominion's defensive lines and giving the allies a chance to seize the advantage.
Finally fed up with the unrest, the Female Changeling ordered that the entire Cardassian population be wiped out. As Jem'Hadar troops began rampaging across the planet, killing every Cardassian they came across and demolishing buildings block by block, a few remaining resistance fighters, led by Damar and Kira, launched a bold attack against Dominion Headquarters. Bogged down near the building, the group was able to enter when Legate Broca (Damar's opportunistic successor) was brought outside for execution. Sadly, Damar was killed in the short but intense firefight in the building's cargo bay. His last words were an urge for everyone to keep fighting. The rest of the assault team took up the battle cry "For Cardassia!" and fought onwards.
Kira, Garak, and Ekoor managed to make their way into the command center itself, killing every Jem'Hadar they came across and actually capturing Weyoun and the Female Changeling. Although she initially refused to surrender, Odo, having recently beamed down from the USS Defiant, eventually managed to convince the Founder that the only option was to stand down. The war was suddenly over.
Although the loss of life was staggering — over 800 million people were killed before the Jem'Hadar stopped their rampage — the rebellion was ultimately successful in freeing the Cardassian people from the Dominion. Despite the devastation, a new Cardassia would rise from the ashes of the old - one that would hopefully learn from the mistakes of the past. (DS9: "What You Leave Behind")
By the end of the Rebellion, they were known to operate 18 bases.
- Legate Damar (leader)
- Gul Rusot
- Commander/Colonel Kira Nerys (adviser and Federation representative)
- Elim Garak
- Legate Goris
- Mila (sheltered Damar, Garak and Kira during the uprising)
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