COLUMN: Sincerity doesn’t justify attacks

Leslie Arntz

The use of suicide bombers has become an effective means of inciting terror in those living in the Middle East, Russia and Sri Lanka. In 1981, Lebanese suicide bombers set precedent for the modern tactic we know today. Suicide bombings have been used in more than 25 countries since.

Terrorist organizations embrace this means of warfare for many reasons. It is inexpensive and relatively effective. The attack is less complicated than other terrorist acts, and no one has to worry about what is generally the most difficult part: the escape plan. The main attraction is the immediate payoff – the media functions 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Various political and religious cells actively recruit bombers. The average suicide bomber is young, middle-class and educated, sometimes with college experience. He or, increasingly, she, lives in a country undergoing political upheaval or in a nation with very little political freedom.

The bomber is usually fervent about his religion or politics. He is taken into a cult-like community which provides the when, where, why and how. Coercion and deception may sometimes be a factor, but most believe that they are committing a holy act. They will be rewarded in the afterlife and go forward willingly.

The expression of religious or political dissent through violence and the murder of civilians is unacceptable. The bombings of restaurants in Bali that occurred Monday are no more justified than the bombing of an abortion clinic in the United States. Using evil to bring about good is never right if you play by nonconsequentialist rules.

The issue becomes grave when victims move beyond the boundaries of military personnel and move onto civilians: women and children.

Through this indiscriminate method of killing, terrorists have been used effectively to eat away at a nation’s confidence in the government’s ability to protect its citizens. But that’s the extent of the damage. Tourism might take a hit, but aside from the personal tragedy of the victims’ families, life goes on as usual in the targeted country. Democratic policies do not change. Areas of military occupation remain occupied.

Suicide bombings have become an entity separate from the disaffection that gave birth to the practice. The deeply human desires – vengeance, glory, purity and eternal reward – of the so-called martyrs are fulfilled. They just so happen to strap explosives and random shrapnel to their torso, place themselves in public areas and kill themselves and others in the process.

The human element of the victims is lost on the terrorist. They are not people: They are “infidels” or merely a tool that can be used to gain attention, be it local or worldwide.

Heightened security measures have quelled the number of bombings in the Israeli/Arabic conflict, but for how long? Checkpoints and fences can only do so much when faced with thousands upon thousands of people – all of whom could be the one carrying explosives.

The only thing that will stop suicide bombings is an extreme change in the culture from which they come. Sacrificing your own life for a noble cause is commendable. Killing yourself with the intention of sending scraps of metal into as many people as possible is not. Murder doesn’t become justified because the killer was sincere.

Leslie Arntz is a sophomore magazine journalism major and a point/counterpoint columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].