Monday, July 25, 2005

"Homicide Bombers"

Yeah, I'm a bit late to the party on this one. Two weeks ago, everyone was blogging about Fox's silly insistence on saying "homicide bomber". While the original sentiment behind the introduction of this phrase may be understandable, it has turned in Fox's hands into a sort of unthinking PC-speak, like those strange people who, obviously operating on PC-autopilot, speak of "African-American cats", or of the plight of "African-American Sudanese". Like many others, I came to this conclusion 2 or so years ago, when the President came up with this locution, and Fox adopted it with such enthusiasm. "Homicide bomber" sounds redundant and blurs a significant distinction; after all, every bomber aims to kill others, but it's important to distinguish between one who is also willing to kill himself, and one who is not.

But. On further reflection, this isn't really true.
Historically, many (probably most) bombers with whom we in the West have had to deal in the past, have not been homicide bombers. That is, they did not wish or intend to kill anyone. The IRA, for instance, would generally call in warnings when it planted bombs, so that the area could be evacuated and, they hoped, nobody would be killed. And in the USA, both the Weathermen and the bombers of abortion mills tended to set off their bombs at night, with the aim of minimising or eliminating fatalities. These measures didn't always work, of course, and the bombers were often justly convicted of reckless disregard for human life, but nevertheless their intent was not killing. Homicide bombing, i.e. terrorist bombing with the intent of killing people, has been far from the norm for most of the 20th century.

So it is meaningful to speak of bombers who do intend to kill as "homicide bombers", to distinguish them from bombers for whom the death of any person, if it occurs, is merely an unintended result of their recklessness. And yet, it is still useful to subdivide the category of homicide bombers into those who intend to kill themselves as well, and those who don't; and "suicide bomber" captures this distiction — I don't think there are any bombers who intend to kill themselves but not others, so "suicide bomber" should be taken to imply "homicide bomber" within it, with no need to specify.

6 Comments:

Blogger Kang said...

I still hate 'homicide bomber' as a term. A regular bomber is one who makes use of a device other than his person. A suicide bomber is the bomb.

Tue Jul 26, 10:38:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Milhouse said...

The suicide bomber carries the bomb. He isn't the bomb himself. Unless he swallows the explosives, or has them surgically implanted, or something. Which they may end up doing if they keep getting frustrated by searches, etc...

Tue Jul 26, 06:07:00 PM 2005  
Blogger C.M. Burns said...

I have to say that "homicide bomber" is a stupid term. That applies to virtually all bombers, even the ones who don't kill themselves. And while a suicide bomber may not actually BE a bomb, he's made himself into one, so it applies more. I say we just call them terrorists and let it stick at that.

Wed Jul 27, 09:21:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Milhouse said...

Er. Monty, did you not read the original post, which explained why "homicide bomber" does not refer to "virtually all bombers"?

Wed Jul 27, 09:24:00 AM 2005  
Blogger C.M. Burns said...

I didn't read the whole thing. But I still think Homicide Bomber is a rather worthless term. Tim McVeigh and the guys who did the first WTC bombing in 1993 could quite reasonably be called Homicide Bombers. They also did not blow themselves up. And again, the suicide bomber quite often, for all intents and purpsoes IS the bomb. Homicide Bomber will never be a phrase that enters into my lexicon.

Wed Jul 27, 11:19:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Milhouse said...

Yep, McVeigh and the WTC bombers were certainly homicide bombers, as ugly a term as that sounds. But many other bombers aren't. Which was the point of the original post.

And no, a suicide bomber is not the bomb himself, he is merely the delivery device. Unless, as I said, the explosives are inside his body.

Wed Jul 27, 01:02:00 PM 2005  

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