Monday, May 16, 2005

suicide bombing

This is an intersting article on the psychology of suicide bombing along with the history. After giving atour of these things it says: "These are concepts which are very difficult for westerners living largely comfortable lives to grasp. Honour is meaningless to us; we have replaced it with a preoccupation with status and self-fulfilment. We dimly grasp self-sacrifice but only apply the concept to our raising of children."
One thing it misses though, I think, is the way that we talk about 'the Fallen' and the rhetoric of Remembrance: here the language is of sacrifice and of giving ones life. What we need to recall is what these phrases actually highlight and elide. (In saying this no disrespect is meant to men [usually] and their families who 'paid the ultimate price' or 'made the ultimate sacrifice'; whatever my view of the endeavour they were engaged in, I recognise that they were doing right by their own lights and/or in a position where little else could be done, seemingly.)

What is highlighted is something rather akin to suicide bombing: the voluntary giving of life for a cause. The language used makes it sound like a suicide mission, though in fact, what is elided is that for the most part these were ordinary guys who were engaged in trying to avoid being killed [for the most part] whilst trying to do things that would kill and maim the sons of other mothers. What, I suggest, outrages us about suicide bombers is the expose of the rhetoric of war that we indulge ourselves in as an ideological sham. These people really do intend to die, whereas most warriors intend to live, but have a back-up socially acceptable understanding that will lionise them if they fail to survive and so 'win glory'. This at least comforts those left behind and allows them to send more of their sons and brothers to their deaths -if the lottery of battle does not let them live. It also helps to sustain the warrior onto the battlefield until the adrenaline and fear set in; at which point it is too late to realise that an 'honourable' death may be of little comfort. The suicide bomber, having no hope of survival, is freer from these equivocations.

We should recall the figures that show how many men in battle are just so scared that they are pretty bad at harming the enemy [this is probably the real reason for remotely technologising warfare -its better efficiency with ordinance]. Suicide missions at least are effective in this way as well as their psychological effect of disconcerting the enemy. It exposes the difference 'we' believe in our cause; 'you' don't really; so 'we' will win -'you' don't have what it takes.
Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Honour and martyrdom:


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