Article Information

Author: Scott Schiffmacher
Date Written: Sometime in 2005
Author’s Note: I wrote this way back when, and I really don't feel like updating it now. Take it as is, and when I feel up to it, I will improve it.

Suicide Bombers, Courage or Cowardice?

Let us take a hypothetical situation that can readily be applied to real life. A suicide bomber straps some Semtex to his chest, walks into a crowded cafe and kills himself and everybody inside. Is the person a coward, or are they courageous? Either view is defensible from a certain standpoint. Suicide bombing shows a lack of courage, the courage to take the more difficult non-violent approach. We will also look into the mind of the bomber, and the courage it takes to sacrifice one's own life for a cause.

Let us take a hypothetical situation that can readily be applied to real life. A suicide bomber straps some Semtex to his chest, walks into a crowded cafe and kills himself and everybody inside. Is the person a coward, or are they courageous? Either view is defensible from a certain standpoint. Suicide bombing shows a lack of courage, the courage to take the more difficult non-violent approach. We will also look into the mind of the bomber, and the courage it takes to sacrifice one's own life for a cause.

The other side of the coin is the mentality of the bomber and those who support them. Take their point of view for a moment. They are fighting a noble cause, and every man believes it so utterly that they are willing, perhaps even eager to give their lives for it. The bomber who gives their live are heroes, courageous people giving their lives for what they believe in. Normally, this would be an admirable quality, even something to be celebrated. But they way they choose to end their lives and advance their cause overshadows any courage or honour that may be bestowed upon them.

Finally, there is the objection that as members of a society that is considered fair game by suicide bombers, what right do we have to criticize their morals when out own are what makes us targets in the first place. We must argue that our moral position is superior because we do not, in the terms of their argument, condone the killing of innocents in the course of war. But as a matter of course, we do intentionally kill innocents. We are also targets for people who we are not even at war with. They view our actions elsewhere, and our culture in general as reprehensible, which makes us fit targets. The fundamental difference though is that they kill innocents intentionally while we do not.

The definition of courage seems clear. Those who give their lives for their cause are courageous, but that does not apply in the case of the suicide bomber. They give their lives to defend a cause in a morally indefensible way. They lack the courage to take the high road in the advancement of their cause. It follows then that the view of these bombers as cowards is an apt one, when the preceding arguments are taken into account. The taking of innocent life to make a political statement and further a cause that could be pursued by another, more peaceful means negates any attribution pf courage that one might make to the bombers. They are cowards, despite their courage.