January 27, 2005

HAVE TO? (via Matt Murphy):

The devastating power to die (Terry Eagleton, January 28, 2005, The Age)

While insurgents have been blowing themselves apart in Israel and Iraq, a silence has prevailed about what suicide bombing actually involves. Like hunger strikers, suicide bombers are not necessarily in love with death. They kill themselves because they can see no other way of attaining justice; and the fact that they have to do so is part of the injustice.

It is possible to act in a way that makes your death inevitable without actually desiring it. Those who leapt from the World Trade Centre to avoid being incinerated were not seeking death, even though there was no way they could have avoided it.

Ordinary, non-political suicides are those whose lives have come to feel worthless to them, and who, accordingly, need a quick way out. Martyrs are more or less the opposite. People like Rosa Luxemburg or Steve Biko give up what they see as precious (their lives) for an even more valuable cause. They die not because they see death as desirable in itself, but in the name of a more abundant life all round.

Suicide bombers also die in the name of a better life for others; it is just that, unlike martyrs, they take others with them in the process. The martyr bets his life on a future of justice and freedom; the suicide bomber bets your life on it.

To imagine that Zarqawi and company give rodent's rump about justice and freedom is merely ignorant, but to compare the desparation of the Falling Man to those who caused his death for no other reason than to act out their fantasy ideology is despicable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 27, 2005 10:50 PM

Harry's Place did a nice short take on this piece: http://hurryupharry.bloghouse.net/archives/2005/01/26/taking_them_at_their_word.php

Posted by: Peter Caress at January 27, 2005 11:03 PM

There is no Decent Left.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at January 27, 2005 11:13 PM

Thanks for posting, OJ.

Mr. Schwartz is right: No. Decent. Left.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at January 27, 2005 11:47 PM

Suicide as a military tactic (or strategy) is really beyond the comprehension of westerners.

Even Germans, barely westerners, would not do it, though toward the end of World War II some of the fanatics among the Nazis tried to encourage it.

Americans fought with suicidal courage against desperate odds in 1942, but they were not suicidal.

Yet the Japanese turned eagerly to suicide even when they were in the militarily dominant position. The 'Three Human Torpedoes' is the key incident.

The deal is, these people really are not like us.

They don't think like we do, they don't care about what we care about and I doubt whether any of us -- me included -- genuinely gets what motivates them.

But not getting it does not mean we have to fail to draw conclusions.

Most Americans seem to have drawn the conclusion that appeasement will appease them.

I think that's crazier than joining up as a suicide bomber.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at January 28, 2005 4:10 PM

Ah, when we do it that's suicidal courage but when they do it's crazy?

Posted by: oj at January 28, 2005 4:36 PM

It's not so difficult to understand what motivated the Japanese. Loss of face, misplaced nobility, desparation at the discovery of a surprisingly strong enemy - take your pick.

The Islamofascists are similar, except the meaning of "face" is different. The gangsterism and lust for violence is about the same. So is their view of America (as a weak, decadent sow).

If the US pursued our current enemy as we did following Pearl Harbor, it's fair to say that at least 3 or 4 other countries would have changed governments by now (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and probably Sudan).

I think Harry was talking about courage in battle (in the Philippines, etc.), as opposed to homicidial mania in killing civilians.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 28, 2005 11:21 PM

Was Paul Tibbets manic? Or trying to win a war?

Posted by: oj at January 28, 2005 11:56 PM