January 29, 2004
The Rectification of Names: 'Suicide Bombers'By Thomas Lifson
Editor's Note: The American Thinker believes in calling things by their proper names. Euphemism is a tool of misrepresentation and ultimately of control, stripping away accurate and evocative connotations, and substituting false associations. George Orwell wrote eloquently of the political importance of controlling language. To a great degree, with the press and education establishments largely in the hands of leftists, the American vernacular has become a weapon wielded by the left.
'The Rectification of Names' is a term familiar to all historians of
The American Thinker believes in drawing on the rich heritage of all humanity, selecting the best ideas, artistic creations, and other cultural artifacts, for our own edification and improvement. Today's essay on the term 'suicide bombers' begins an occasional series on the language, its use and abuse, under a rubric of Chinese origin, The Rectification of Names.
Once again today, Israeli bus riders have been slaughtered by a bomber who strapped explosives to his body, and murdered innocents in the name of his cause. The killer of at least ten people, a Palestinian policeman from
The Western mind, schooled in the sanctity of life and the belief that the survival imperative is intrinsic to all living creatures, recoils not only from the barbarous act itself, but also from the notion of conscious self—destruction as a weapon. We struggle to create a term adequate to denote an act which we really can't understand.
The first time Americans en masse encountered suicidal weapons—bearers, the World War II Japanese kamikaze pilots, we simply adopted the foreign term itself, entirely avoiding the problem of finding adequate words of our own to describe that which we could not grasp. By the late stages of the War, when kamikazes began crashing their airplanes into our aircraft carriers, the American public had already been largely persuaded that the Japanese were Wholly Other — incomprehensible to us, and therefore not worth the effort.
The behavior of
Sixty—some years later, we live in a different world, one wherein broad brush caricatures of entire racial groups are not permitted, and in which some Americans openly sympathize with the cause of those slaughtering innocents while taking their own lives.
Our media rarely label the killers of bus—riders, pizza—eaters, and just plain ordinary pedestrians as jihadist ('holy warrior') bombers. This may be partially because they fear incomprehension by part of their audience. But I suspect that it also reflects the insistence of many Islamic groups that 'jihad' also means a non—violent struggle to improve oneself. I have personally met a number of Muslim males in
'Martyr bombers' is another possible term, but has received virtually no usage. Martyrdom is an honorable concept in Christianity, with a profound grounding in theology. It is simply unacceptable to many in our society to appropriate this term and use it in reference to vicious murders.
Instead the term 'suicide bombers' has been most commonly employed. Some have objected to this term, in that it emphasizes the self—sacrifice of the criminal, and, by omission, denigrates the victims. Suicide, per se, is not the nature of the act; murder is.
Fox News Channel, and a few others, on occasion used the term 'homicide bomber' to describe those who kill others by killing themselves. But bombing of people is inherently homicidal, so the term reeks of redundancy. It could also describe those who plant a bomb and then run—away, so it also inexact. It is simply not catching—on with the public, and for good reason.
In order to find a better locution, we need to examine the political context which has created the act as an all—too common phenomenon. If we understand the origin, maybe we can capture its essence, and rectify the name.
Today's Jerusalem Post contains an insightful essay by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, which is very helpful. Here is the essence of their argument:
I always wanted to be the first woman who sacrifices her life for Allah. My joy will be complete when my body parts fly in all directions.
These are the words of female suicide terrorist Reem Reyashi, videotaped just before she killed four Israelis and herself two weeks ago in
She was driven by her aspiration to achieve what the Palestinians call "shahada," death for Allah. She had two distinct goals: To kill and to be killed. These independent objectives, both positive in her mind, were goals greater than her obligations and emotional ties to her two children....
Palestinian society actively promotes the religious belief that their deity craves their deaths. Note the words of a popular music video directed at children, broadcast hundreds of times on PA TV, which depicts the earth thirsting for the blood of children: "How sweet is the fragrance of the shahids, how sweet is the scent of the earth, its thirst quenched by the gush of blood, flowing from the youthful body."
This conviction that the deity thirsts for or craves human death as tribute and sacrifice has its roots in ancient beliefs. The Bible cites ancient cultures of the
As recently as 500 years ago, South American tribes used to leave children to die on mountain tops as presents to their gods. The common denominator driving human sacrifice cults was the belief that the deity craved the death of innocents.
Any realistic understanding of not only the Palestinian suicide killers, but also the Saudis, Egyptians, and other Al Qaeda mass murderers who hijacked our airliners and flew them into buildings, should begin with an understanding that we are dealing with a death cult.
Therefore, The American Thinker proposes that in the future, we should call those who attach explosives to themselves, those who hijack airplanes to crash them, and those who [God forbid!] carry biological or nuclear weapons into our cities and unleash them, by their proper name: 'death cult killers.'