March 24, 2008 By: erik Category: Complaining, Musings, Politics 505 views

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Have you ever noticed how, every time there is some sort of terrorist attack, the very first thing that all the politicians do is say, “I condemn this attack.” And the second thing they say is that the attack was an act of cowardice and that the attackers are cowards. This confuses the hell out of me. Perhaps someone can explain it to me. It sure seems to me that someone committing a terrorist attack, whether it be a suicide bomber in a crowded market, or an airplane hijacker, or even a pistol-carrying assassin, is anything but a coward.

How, exactly, are they cowards? Because the people they kill aren’t equally armed? Is the only way to bravely kill someone to have a formal duel? Are guerrillas cowards for hiding behind things? Is the only truly brave way to have a battle to do it the old British style of lining up on opposite sides of a field and firing at each other? How brave is it to launch a missile from 500 miles away? That’s what we “non-terrorists” do.

Kamikaze pilots were lauded for their bravery, but suicide bombers are cowards. Is it a matter of killing soldiers vs. civilians? Is it just premeditated murder of civilians that is cowardly?

Don’t get me wrong. Terrorism, like murder of any kind, is horrible and morally reprehensible, and I’m certainly not praising it. But I just don’t get why everyone insists on calling it cowardice. Good and bad are not synonyms for bravery and cowardice. Can someone enlighten me on this? If you agree that terrorism is cowardly, can you explain why?

It seems to me like this is just a habit that our public speakers have gotten into without actually thinking about what the words mean. The terrified survivors of an attack want to be told that they are good and strong and their attackers are the weak ones, despite the fact that they feel exactly the opposite.

  • I think you’re right in your last paragraph, at least in part about the narrative content of the politician’s statements. The paragraph beginning with “Kamikaze” gets close to the logical content, I think. An underlying assumption is that acts of war aimed primarily (or maybe even in significant part) at civilians circumvent the rules of war by which the West has long played. And we know what we think of rule circumventers — they’re cheating cheaters who win by cheating. But “cowards” is shorter, and gets you to about the same place.

    That’s an assumption worth examining, to be sure. If you leave a faction stripped of persuasive political power and set them up against an enemy they can never hope to defeat in battle… I don’t know. Maybe the rules then are different.

    But an elected official would have to be crazy to examine that premise publicly. The simple story (and they’re sticking to it) is that one does not attempt political change by attacking civilians unless one is too cowardly to (a) meet the enemy at the negotiating table or in the press (or some other non-violent forum) or (b) meet the enemy on the field of battle.

  • Oh, also: why do you hate America?

  • Excellent comment, Lance.

    If you leave a faction stripped of persuasive political power and set them up against an enemy they can never hope to defeat in battleÂ… I donÂ’t know. Maybe the rules then are different.

    You’ve really hit the nail on his towel-wrapped head. The rules of war have changed completely since WW2. It’s no longer about tanks and bunkers. Like strong antibiotics causing a virus to evolve, our superior military technology has caused the enemy to evolve. Is it brave or stupid to walk out onto a battlefield when a missile from miles away that you’d never see coming can track your infrared heat signature?

    Is it really more brave to “meet the enemy at the negotiating table” than to drive an explosive vehicle into a checkpoint? Frankly I know which one I’d have the balls to do.

    Oh, also: why do you hate America?

    Thank you for bringing up this Ad hominem, Mr. O’Reilly.

  • It takes a coward to kill innocent people when the innocent people have no means to fight back. You cannot compare the Kamikaze to a person who drives a truck into a public place to blow it up. The Japanese had ships and planes trying to shoot them down. Totally different.

    I would bet that the vast majority of suicide bombers would not stand and fight on near equal terms given the chance. They would run and hide is my bet. But given the option to have instant death (no pain) in an effort (in accordance to what they believe) to go to “heaven” they select the cowards way of doing it. They kill people that can’t defend themselves. It puts them in the safest situation (to die) and very little risk. Cowards.

    You asked, “Is the only way to bravely kill someone to have a formal duel?” Well, yes to some degree it is. But you can’t blow it out of proportion like Mr. O’Reilly would and say you need to just line everyone up and start shooting. That is just stupid.

    Ironically enough the Anit-spam word for this comment was LIFE. Ha!

  • Thank you for your comment, Husar. Not many people are willing to touch this taboo issue.

    I would bet that the vast majority of suicide bombers would not stand and fight on near equal terms given the chance. They would run and hide is my bet.

    So the suicide bombers aren’t the same people that you see throwing rocks at tanks in the Israel/Palestine conflict? That takes some balls, in my book.

    My main point, I think is that, in such an uneven, unfair conflict, it’s ridiculous to call people cowards for fighting the only way they have available to them. Don’t you think the terrorists would much rather be in a tank or fighter jet than with dynamite strapped to their chest? Calling the enemy a coward, because of the extreme imbalance, is a meaningless statement. Don’t you think the folks fighting the US troops in Iraq get together and say, “Those cowardly Americans hiding behind their tanks and fighter jets and high-powered rifles…if it was hand-to-hand combat, I’d show them who’s brave!” The truth is that, until you put the two warring factions on even footing, saying that one side is cowardly for fighting the best way they can is meaningless.

    And meaningless statements annoy me.

  • Paul

    Suppose our aggression in Iraq had backfired badly (no, I mean REALLY badly), and our current roles were reversed. Our top government officials murdered. Iraqi caravans powering down our Interstate highways. American-looking stooges (David Dukes?) running for and winning the “Presidency”. State governments converting one-by-one to regional governancies, except those that still have students throwing stones, and young patriots out-witting their Iraqi conquerers by sewing dynamite to their clothing and sacrificing their lives.

    Actually, during the last 15 years, as America has dumbed itself down to a level that is probably a several millennium mankind low, we have simultaneously laid the foundation for raising suicide bombers. Give me any 30 13 year-old American (southerners) and $100,000, and I’ll give you back 5 willing kamikaze pilots within 90 days.

    One man’s cowardice is another man’s bravery.

  • Indeed. Excellent point.

    It would be interesting to observe (from a safe distance) the time when the 2nd amendment about a regulated militia is actually needed. I highly suspect/hope that it will not happen in my lifetime. But it will happen.

    Don’t be greedy. You don’t need the $100K to accomplish that. Ninety days of food for 30 teenagers and some whiteboards are all you need.

  • Paul

    Hey, I’m an American. Without profit, I’m not interested.