Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Anything But Cowards

I don't know why so many Americans continue to associate the word coward with suicide bombers. There are quite a few words that I can think of to describe these individuals, but "coward" certainly isn't one of them. Regardless of how one feels about suicide bombing -- as a pacifist I abhor violence in all forms -- I think it should be easy to see that purposely blowing one's self to smithereens is not a cowardly act.

Individuals who join the armed forces or serve as policemen/women know that, on any given day, they may die in the line of duty. Being able to cope with this knowledge takes a certain amount of courage. But it's a completely different animal when you KNOW that in carrying out your mission you will die -- no ands, ifs or buts.

So, one word that could be aptly used for suicide bombers is bravery.

But that's not the only word that could apply. Another word that I believe fits is misguided. Why anyone would think that harming innocent fellow human beings would bring one glory and closer to one's God is wholly irrational. Almost every religion that I'm aware of frowns on the act of suicide and yet that's precisely the act a suicide bomber is committing, besides wholesale murder.

And this leads to another word, manipulation. I fear that many of these poor souls who are blowing themselves up (along with a number of random others) have been manipulated into believing it serves some higher purpose. I'm sorry, but, in my book, slaughtering scores of people serves no purpose other than slaughtering scores of people.

And this leads me to my final word for this entry, fanaticism. Fanatics -- regardless of their philosophical or religious bent -- are dangerous people. Most all of them suffer from the grandeur of self-importance. They tend to lead and manipulate others to do some really evil and nasty stuff, while they sit back on the sidelines. Their world view is myopic, rarely extending farther than their tip of their own nose.

There are many others words that we could employ to talk about the issue of suicide bombings, but I firmly believe the word coward doesn't belong in the conversation.

If you disagree, then I got a question for you: Would you be willing to blow yourself to kingdom come for a cause?

I don't see anyone raising their hand.


  1. Many, many years ago I attempted to enter into a career in the military and as part of the induction process I attended a week long program at Fort Gagetown (the Canadian Forces army training centre.) One of the things that was pointed out to us was that an officer often has to send people to their deaths. This is not negotiable and many times it is with the full knowledge of both officer and men.

    Another thing people might think about is that during WWII the first suicide attackers in airplanes were American, not Japanese. During the battle of Midway a squadron of dive bombers flew on after they had passed the "halfway mark" on their fuel. This meant that they would not have enough petrol to make it back to their carrier and would end up crashing in the sea.

    As luck would have it, this group of bombers were able to sink several Japanese carriers because of another suicide attack by torpedo bombers. Those men attacked without fighter escort and were slaughtered by the Japanese zeros. But this meant that the Japanese fighter cover was chasing torpedo planes when the dive bombers appeared, which let them attack the carriers and sink them.

    Non-military people have a naive view of what wars are like and what it means to be a fighter. In a situation where one side has high-tech weaponry and huge resources, the only option that an organization may have is the willingness of an individual to die for the cause.

    I don't offer this comment because I support Alcaida. But as General Sun said all those hundreds of years ago, a leader who understands both himself and his enemy can fight a hundred battles and never lose. I suspect that the leadership of the American army understands neither itself nor its enemy. In such a situation failure is almost assured.

  2. Yes I would agree with 'misguided bravery'. It is strange that while everybody equates suicide bombers with cowardness and fanatical, the same terms are not used when referring to kamikaze pilots in WW2, or allied troops that voluntered to be first out of the trenches.


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