American in Spain


March 24, 2008

Have you ever noticed how, every time there is some sort of terrorist attack, the very first thing that all the politicians do is say, "I condemn this attack." And the second thing they say is that the attack was an act of cowardice and that the attackers are cowards. This confuses the hell out of me. Perhaps someone can explain it to me. It sure seems to me that someone committing a terrorist attack, whether it be a suicide bomber in a crowded market, or an airplane hijacker, or even a pistol-carrying assassin, is anything but a coward. How, exactly, are they cowards? Because the people they kill aren't equally armed? Is the only way to bravely kill someone to have a formal duel? Are guerrillas cowards for hiding behind things? Is the only truly brave way to have a battle to do it the old British style of lining up on opposite sides of a field and firing at each other? How brave is it to launch a missile from 500 miles away? That's what we "non-terrorists" do.

Kamikaze pilots were lauded for their bravery, but suicide bombers are cowards. Is it a matter of killing soldiers vs. civilians? Is it just premeditated murder of civilians that is cowardly?

Don't get me wrong. Terrorism, like murder of any kind, is horrible and morally reprehensible, and I'm certainly not praising it. But I just don't get why everyone insists on calling it cowardice. Good and bad are not synonyms for bravery and cowardice. Can someone enlighten me on this? If you agree that terrorism is cowardly, can you explain why?

It seems to me like this is just a habit that our public speakers have gotten into without actually thinking about what the words mean. The terrified survivors of an attack want to be told that they are good and strong and their attackers are the weak ones, despite the fact that they feel exactly the opposite.