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Christian martyrdom in new book, Suicide Bombers
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Big_Bird



Joined: 31 Jan 2003
Location: Sometimes here sometimes there...

PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2005 11:52 pm    Post subject: Christian martyrdom in new book, Suicide Bombers Reply with quote

Honour and martyrdom

Suicide bombing isn't as new or alien as westerners imagine

Madeleine Bunting
Saturday May 14, 2005
The Guardian

One of the most chilling aspects of the Iraqi conflict is that suicide bombings have now become a matter of everyday routine. During April there were 67, a new record. On Wednesday there were no less than five separate suicide attacks across Iraq, killing 71 people and injuring scores of people.

The rate of suicide bombings - the seemingly endless supply of people prepared to blow themselves up - leaves a western audience utterly bewildered. What kind of psychology motivates people to such violent extremes? The incomprehension prompts revulsion that this form of warfare is historically unprecedented and reveals a peculiar, aberrant irrationality - a kind of inhuman madness. All too quickly, Islam is blamed for deluding its believers into martyrdom with promises of 72 virgins; the old prejudices about Islam as a faith uniquely associated with violence and unquestioning belief are fanned into life again.

But such prejudices won't get us very far in trying to unpick which elements of this violent phenomenon are in fact unprecedented and which are not - or to understand why the strategy has been adopted.

There are two obvious factors. First, the plentiful supply of volunteers crossing into Iraq reflects the radicalisation of a generation of the newly urbanised, under-employed, fast growing populations of many Muslim countries in the Maghreb and the Middle East. Second, suicide attacks are the single most effective weapon against the vastly superior armed force of the US in their heavily defended camps. Along with more conventional resistance tactics, suicide bombings are helping to cripple Iraqi reconstruction and fuelling resentment of the occupation. This has successfully derailed US hubris in a "regional redesign". How else could all these aims have been achieved?

But even while grasping this, suicide bombings still profoundly outrage western sensibility. There are two separate aspects of the current wave: the use of suicide as a tactic of war; and the tendency to deploy it recklessly against soft or civilian targets outside the theatre of conflict. The latter is a familiar feature of different forms of terrorism - so nothing much new there. Suicide attacks also have historical precedent; but what does seem new, first in Palestine and now in Iraq, has been the combination of the two and their frequency. It is that particular combination of individual motivation to kill oneself and the cold ruthlessness to stand among the people one is going to kill before detonating oneself which is hardest to understand.

Tracing the history of how suicide has been used as a weapon and as a protest through history offers up many illuminating parallels to what might motivate those who undertake the suicide missions in Iraq. It was the Japanese who made the use of suicide as a military strategy so feared, and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka in the 1980s who applied it as a technique for assassinations. Both were part of wider military efforts which were not always easily distinguishable from a suicide mission. The line in war between a suicidal mission and a reckless disregard for one's own life can be very blurred.

This was true in the Soviet struggle against the Germans in the second world war. Some Soviet pilots undertook explicit suicide missions to ram bridges in Germany in 1945; many others went into battle knowing they would die, and saw their death as a sacrifice for the "motherland". It is the powerful who determined how such events are understood; while the Japanese and Islamist militants are feared as inhuman, the Soviets are celebrated for their courageous defiance of nazism.

The idea of suicide to serve a set of beliefs is also deeply rooted in history. The staging of the current brilliant production of Julius Caesar in London pointedly refers to Iraq with its US military fatigues and the set of a military warehouse. Several suicides in the final scenes lead to Brutus's poignant comment that swords have been turned "in our own proper entrails". Roman republicanism, imperial Japanese militarism: both elevated suicide as an honourable part of military valour.

Even more closely related to Iraq's suicide bombers is the fascinating description of early Christian martyrdom in Farhad Khosrokhavar's new book, Suicide Bombers. The suicidal recklessness of a large number of early Christians, aimed precisely at bringing about their martyrdom, bewildered and horrified contemporary commentators. But martyrdom was an astonishingly effective propaganda tool designed to inspire awe - and converts. The Greek origin of the word martyr is "witness". Interestingly, it prompted exactly the same sorts of criticism among pagan Romans as today's Islamist militants do in the west: the Christian martyrs were accused of dementia and irrationality. Such was the flood of Christians in pursuit of martyrdom by the third century that the theologians had to step in to declare this thirst for a holy death to be blasphemous.

That concept of using your death to bear witness to a cause, without killing others, has prompted more than 1,000 suicides since 1963, when a Buddhist monk set himself on fire in protest against the oppression of Buddhism in Vietnam. Global mass media ensure that this individual protest has impact across the world; it is a desperate but hugely effective way to give the cause prominence.

Elements of all these precedents can be traced in the research done on motivations of suicide bombers in Palestine, Chechnya and al-Qaida and probably now those in Iraq. A sense of humiliation and the need to avenge honour on the part of their faith and/or people (or a potent combination of both as in Iraq) is emphasised by Khosrokhavar. He also picks up on how hating the world (because of the experience of injustice and oppression) leads to a longing for death - a rejection of this world's vale of tears.

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. Meanwhile, nothing can trump our dedication to the good life of consumer capitalism, and certainly not any system of abstract beliefs. Not having experienced the desperation of oppression, we have little purchase on the extremism it might engender. Meanwhile, we have medicalised rather than politicised the condition of hating the world and longing for death. The gulf in understanding yawns wide.

But our outraged incomprehension of suicide bombing is also partly because it is the opposite of how we have come to believe wars are fought. It is not the high technology of laser-guided bombs, nor the strangely sterile detachment of the aeroplane camera without any images of the screams, smashed bones and blood. The west can only now kill from a distance - preferably from several thousand feet up in the air or several hundred kilometres away on an aircraft carrier. It is the very proximity of these suicide missions which is so shocking. This kind of intimate killing is a reversion to pre-industrial warfare - the kind of brutality seen in the thirty years war, for example. Suicide bombers in Iraq are a new permutation of old traditions; they have no monopoly on the horrors they reveal of the human psyche and its capacity to destroy life.
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schwa



Joined: 18 Jan 2003
Location: sokcho

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 12:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A smart & informative read. Chilling too. Thanks for sharing.

I question your need to highlight segments of it though. Since you didnt post this in response to anything in particular, why impose your own emphasis? The author builds & paces her argument quite effectively without your help.
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Ya-ta Boy



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Location: Established in 1994

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 5:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Tracing the history of how suicide has been used as a weapon and as a protest through history offers up many illuminating parallels to what might motivate those who undertake the suicide missions in Iraq.



Yes, an interesting read.

I was surprised there was no mention of the Assassins, that medieval Arabic cult that sent out members to assassinate political figures at the cost of their own lives. I don't think you should overlook the importance of cultural tradition when studying human motivation, especially since the writer did mention Japanese kamikazes and Vietnamese monks. Why leave out the Arabic example? It would seem the most relevant.

But I was also thinking about something else that might help explain the phenomenon. This may not relate to the Arabic world, but I'm guessing it's a human thing, not a cultural thing. A crap-load of people want to be 'famous'. I'm thinking of the people who go on Dr. Phil and other TV shows of that type where people reveal their dysfunctional behavior for the world to see. Not all of us would do that, but many do. The only possible explanation is that they can brag about having been on TV. Is it such a big stretch for some people to be willing to blow themselves up so they can be on international TV?

The other day someone quoted Clint Eastwood as saying the star of the movie now is the explosion. That is pretty accurate, especially among young males. On another thread, a poster told how he and his friends liked to play with firecrackers when they were kids. A dynamite belt is just a grown-up version of a cherry bomb.

In other articles about suicide bombers, writers have said they tend to be quiet people. "He was a good boy. Never got into any trouble." It's a common observation that many people who can't get attention in one way will get it in destructive ways. Think about the brats in your classrooms.

I guess what I'm saying is that I don't find it all that difficult to understand why someone might be willing to blow himself up. The part I don't understand is the hatred. I just don't get that part. How can someone hate a group so much that you would blow up men, women and children who have little or no power to make political decisions?
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Big_Bird



Joined: 31 Jan 2003
Location: Sometimes here sometimes there...

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 6:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

schwa wrote:
A smart & informative read. Chilling too. Thanks for sharing.

I question your need to highlight segments of it though. Since you didnt post this in response to anything in particular, why impose your own emphasis? The author builds & paces her argument quite effectively without your help.


I felt obliged to highlight a few parts that I felt would be of interest to some on these boards. But mostly, so it didn't look like one long piece of boring text that no-one could be bothered to read! Laughing
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bigverne



Joined: 12 May 2004

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 6:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
It is the very proximity of these suicide missions which is so shocking.


No, it isn't. It's the fact that people are prepared to knowingly blow up civilians; men, women and children, in the name of Allah. The usual cultural relativistic garbage that the Guardian is so famous for.

Quote:
'Islam is blamed for deluding its believers into martyrdom with promises of 72 virgins'


Well, who the hell else is to blame?

Quote:
when a Buddhist monk set himself on fire in protest against the oppression of Buddhism in Vietnam


Right, a buddist monk burning himself in protest at the Vietnam war is comparable to Islamic militants blowing themselves up in pizzerias.

Amazing how far white middle class liberals will go excuse the worst excesses of radical Islam, an ideology which promotes violent jihad jew-hatred, and the suppression of women.
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Big_Bird



Joined: 31 Jan 2003
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PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 6:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ya-ta Boy wrote:
I guess what I'm saying is that I don't find it all that difficult to understand why someone might be willing to blow himself up. The part I don't understand is the hatred. I just don't get that part. How can someone hate a group so much that you would blow up men, women and children who have little or no power to make political decisions?


In a way it's more honest than these armchair generals who supported bombing some 'ragheads' in revenge for 911, jeering from the sidelines as many people they'd never met and who'd never done them wrong, lost their lives. Thousands of poor b@stards copped it in Afghanistan, thousands more saw their loved ones blown to pieces or maimed for life. And many thousands died of starvation when relief organisations were unable to assist the millions of Afghanis affected by a famine (that had already been predicted before 911). Just to slake the desire to hit back at any poor buggar in revenge for 911. Of course the government wasn't motivated by revenge, but that's a different story. The point is, the government was enabled by the support of many, who felt no compassion for the thousands of innocent Afghanis they knew would have to die, or suffer horrific injury. And I spoke to some US citizens who were gleeful about it!

All the same, to stand among a group of civilians, some of them children, knowing you're going to blow them all to oblivion, takes a certain frame of mind. Few, if any, of them are psychopaths, so they must have found a way to justify it to themselves. But it doesn't seem that far down the road from justifying supporting your President in a brutal assault on an innocent populace in a poor 3rd world country.
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Big_Bird



Joined: 31 Jan 2003
Location: Sometimes here sometimes there...

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 6:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, and before some idiot replies to my last post:

No! I do not support suicide bombings. How dare anybody take another's life! But why is it only suicide bombers are maligned by some of the idiots on this forum.
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bigverne



Joined: 12 May 2004

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 6:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Few, if any, of them are psychopaths, so they must have found a way to justify it to themselves.


It's called Islam, which has many, many texts which condone brutal violence against 'kaffirs.' Moreover, even so-called moderate Islamic groups tacitly support 'resistance.'

Quote:
But it doesn't seem that far down the road from justifying supporting your President in a brutal assault on an innocent populace in a poor 3rd world country.


When the Allies bombed Germany, many German people died. People then did not blame Churchill or Roosevelt, but rightly blamed the Nazis for unleashing war on Europe. Likewise, the Afghan regime allowed a known terrorist leader to operate training camps within it's borders, culminating in an attack on US soil which killed 3,000 innocent people. The Taleban regime, not the US, was to blame for the death of innocent Afghans.

Iraq is another story.
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Big_Bird



Joined: 31 Jan 2003
Location: Sometimes here sometimes there...

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 7:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

bigverne wrote:
Quote:
Few, if any, of them are psychopaths, so they must have found a way to justify it to themselves.


It's called Islam, which has many, many texts which condone brutal violence against 'kaffirs.' Moreover, even so-called moderate Islamic groups tacitly support 'resistance.'
This is not mainstream Islam. Secondly, while Islamic fundamentalism is a heady part of the brew, it's not Islam in the first place that has people suicide bombing. It's part of a wider political struggle.

BV wrote:
big_bird wrote:
But it doesn't seem that far down the road from justifying supporting your President in a brutal assault on an innocent populace in a poor 3rd world country.


When the Allies bombed Germany, many German people died. People then did not blame Churchill or Roosevelt, but rightly blamed the Nazis for unleashing war or Europe. Likewise, the Afghan regime allowed a known terrorist leader to operate training camps within it's borders, culminating in an attack on US soil which killed 3,000 innocent people. The Taleban regime, not the US, was to blame for the death of innocent Afghans.

Iraq is another story.


The US bankrolled and actively encouraged the Taliban and Al Qaida, and had no problem at all when they inflicted death and misery on Russians and Secular Afghanis, including many children. The US was quite satisfied when the Taliban took over. They got frustrated with the Taliban when they refused to play ball and let the US oil companies exploit Afghanistan's geographical location as they liked. Plans to invade Afghanistan were drawn up long before 911. Europe was told (not long before 911) that there would be some military intervention there. The fact was, not one Afghani or member of the Taliban was involved in 911. Much of the planning was done in Germany, and we didn't bomb Germany, did we.

In fact, the Taliban offered to hand over Osama Bin Laden, if the US would give them some proof of his involvement. A very reasonable request in my view. Surely you wouldn't want the US to hand over a terrorist suspect to China, without first verifying that he was indeed a likely suspect. The US didn't follow up on this offer, because the last thing they wanted was a reason not to go to war.
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bigverne



Joined: 12 May 2004

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 7:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
This is not mainstream Islam


In the Arab world, radical Islam is now very much the mainstream. It is taught in madrassas from Pakistan to Palestine.
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bigverne



Joined: 12 May 2004

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 7:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
if the US would give them some proof of his involvement


After 3,000 of your own citizens have been incinerated, you don't negotiate with a regime that has allowed a known terrorist (who had orchestrated many previous attacks on US targets, and who had declared a 'jihad' against the USA) to operate within it's borders.

What do you think Bin Laden was doing in Afghanistan? Playing cricket?

Afghanistan let Bin Laden operate within it's borders for years, training and providing funds to jihadists to go out into the wider world and cause murder and mayhem. They were asked to hand him over. They didn't, and they were bombed.
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bigverne



Joined: 12 May 2004

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 7:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
The fact was, not one Afghani or member of the Taliban was involved in 911. Much of the planning was done in Germany, and we didn't bomb Germany, did we.


A ridiculous comparison. Germany did not tacitly support terrorist training camps within it's borders did it? Afghanistan knowingly did, and then refused to hand over those responsible for funding and training a network of global jihadists. That is the difference.
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flakfizer



Joined: 12 Nov 2004
Location: scaling the Cliffs of Insanity with a frayed rope.

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 8:08 am    Post subject: Re: Christian martyrdom in new book, Suicide Bombers Reply with quote

Big_Bird wrote:
Honour and martyrdom

Suicide bombing isn't as new or alien as westerners imagine




Even more closely related to Iraq's suicide bombers is the fascinating description of early Christian martyrdom in Farhad Khosrokhavar's new book, Suicide Bombers. The suicidal recklessness of a large number of early Christians, aimed precisely at bringing about their martyrdom, bewildered and horrified contemporary commentators. But martyrdom was an astonishingly effective propaganda tool designed to inspire awe - and converts. The Greek origin of the word martyr is "witness". Interestingly, it prompted exactly the same sorts of criticism among pagan Romans as today's Islamist militants do in the west: the Christian martyrs were accused of dementia and irrationality. Such was the flood of Christians in pursuit of martyrdom by the third century that the theologians had to step in to declare this thirst for a holy death to be blasphemous.

Did this guy also write that book about how Jesus was actually married? I'll bet pagan Romans were horrified that Christians displayed a "suicidal recklessness...aimed at bringing about thier own martyrdom." Didn't they know they were supposed to be mauled by lions first?


That concept of using your death to bear witness to a cause, without killing others, has prompted more than 1,000 suicides since 1963, when a Buddhist monk set himself on fire in protest against the oppression of Buddhism in Vietnam. Global mass media ensure that this individual protest has impact across the world; it is a desperate but hugely effective way to give the cause prominence.

When someone believes in a cause so much that he will kill himself for it, it is shocking. When someone believes in a cause so much that he will kill himself and several other random people who happen to be in the area, it is vile, vile, vile.



]
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mithridates



Joined: 03 Mar 2003
Location: President's office, Korean Space Agency

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 8:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I think we're getting off-topic by going on about Afghanistan. The main focus of the op was that suicide bombings / attacks / martydoms can and have been carried out by people of all stripes.
Usually it's an act of desperation. It's a lot easier to bomb a place if you don't have to worry about the getaway plan after the act is carried out. That's why it's done by places with inferior technology to the people they regard as enemies. It also makes them almost impossible to negotiate with as they have already decided on death, a kind of failure if you will but one they have already recognized as being less important than the mission itself.
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Ya-ta Boy



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Location: Established in 1994

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 4:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
The US bankrolled and actively encouraged the Taliban and Al Qaida, and had no problem at all when they inflicted death and misery on Russians and Secular Afghanis, including many children. The US was quite satisfied when the Taliban took over. They got frustrated with the Taliban when they refused to play ball



Apparantly, it is not possible to change policies when conditions change. You must live in a very strange world.

You make no distinction between terrorists and a state going to war. OK. Do you then make no distinction between a terrorist and a serial killer? Between a terrorist and a Mafia hit man? What about a worker going postal and machine gunning his office?
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