Is the suicide bomb an ethical weapon?
Many believe that no weapon is ethical, that bred within it is the cause for violence. There are those, also, who scale the ethics of weaponry as something that can be civilized vs. uncivilized. There are clean(er) ways of killing people, for instance, a predator drone or a gun. One can hardly imagine a film like Rambo where, instead of killing hundreds with a gun he decides to take them all out with a knife or his bare hands.
As weapons evolve, so does the death count. If we look at the trajectory of human development, as the population increases, so does the weaponry increase to kill more and more people. A hydrogen bomb, for example, or the machinery of the Nazi holocaust. The more space you put between you and someone else, the easier it is to kill, the less you feel it.
Whereas man used to be in touch with his violent side, confronted every day with the torments of violence in his world, nowadays we can comfortably kill people thousands of miles away and not feel a thing. The violence of the industrialized slaughterhouse also comes to mind.
So where do we rate the suicide bomb? Go to Nablus and you are confronted with posters and shrines to those who died or are imprisoned, a few of whom were suicide bombers or accomplices. Someone recently told me this was a glorification of violence. Open a Jane’s Defense and tell me who’s glorifying violence.
In a place like Nablus, death is all around you. It stares at you from the walls, the wreckage, the bullet holes in the walls. It echoes in the eyes of others as they tell you their stories. Each death is like a blow to the face here. Mao once said, “To die for the reactionary is as light as a feather. But to die for the revolution is heavier than Mount Tai.” Compare it to the nameless, faceless coffins shipped back from Iraq.
Suicide bombers are not mindless drones lured by the temptations of heaven. They are human beings with families. They have to say good-bye and make preparations for their violence. They look their targets in the eye. They smile. They decide to go home when they see a baby carriage in a cafe. Predator drones don’t back down – the victims of wedding parties and funeral processions can tell you that. The human being in Nevada fires a missile and goes home to his family. The suicide bomber feels the weight of his or her decision with their entire body. It is literally the most important decision of their lives. The soldier in the foxhole tossing grenades can hardly say that each pull of the pin requires such forethought and soul searching.
Why is it that killing someone with your body is considered more barbaric and more cowardly in western civilization than killing someone with a tomahawk missile? Does the violence tickle that part of us left behind since the industrialization of war? Perhaps once we start to analyze the methods of war as closely as we do the reasons for killing will we rediscover the horror of taking lives.