Wednesday, August 17, 2005


On Terminology

Michael Yon divests himself of a particular pet peeve:
Particularly among fanatics, there seems to be an intentional misappropriation of meaning in the liberal misapplication of labelling words. Let's start with the BIG ones: suicide-bombers and martyrs.

Suicide is a term that should evoke empathy, if not sympathy, for a lonely and despairing act. A distressed soul, harboring a crushing, agonizing
lebensmude, weary of the strain of a terrestrial existence, perhaps seeking mere relief, or just an end to psychic pain, may be contemplating suicide. If this person straps a bomb to his or her chest and walks out into the solitude of the desert and detonates, they would then be properly called a "suicide bomber." But when the media reports every day on "suicide bombers," they are talking about different people.

A fanatic who straps a bomb to his chest and walks into a market crowded with women and children, then detonates a bomb that is sometimes laced with rat poison to hamper blood coagulation, is properly called a "mass murderer." There is nothing good to say about mass murderers, nor is there anything good to say about a person who encourages these murders. Calling these human bomb delivery devices "suicide bombers" is simply incorrect. They are murderers. A person or media source defending or explaining away the actions of the murderers supports them. There is no wiggle room.
Indeed! (Although for those who insist on describing the means of delivery, I like the term "human bombs". Changing "suicide bomber" to "homicide bomber", as some do, is meaningless.)

We may be stuck with the incorrect terms, though. Like "ghetto", which today evokes an economically-depressed neighborhood difficult to escape from (but used to mean a community surrounded by high walls and armed guards, which was illegal -- and possibly suicidal -- to attempt to escape from), the term "suicide bomber" may be with us to stay.

As is usually the case with Mr. Yon's posts, there's a lot of meat there, well worth checking out.

On the subject of the ongoing Gaza withdrawal by Israel -- a subject I find increasingly depressing, as Hamas uses it as a pretext to declare victory and find inspiration for ever more terror -- James Lileks has a mini-screed for us:
The news of the day, I suppose, is the withdrawal of Israel from Gaza – one of those things that’s understandable, unavoidable, and unwise all at once. Perhaps it was a waste of resources to defend 8500 settlers living next to 1.5 million Muslim refugees; unfortunately you can’t give up the land without the sweet lads at Hamas claiming victory and wishing to press their momentum. I have no doubt that Gaza will be a launch pad for more attacks, and I don’t doubt that whatever economic conditions exist there today will exist in 10 years – and they’ll still be blamed on occupation. Should the rockets continue to fly out of Gaza in a year – and they will - it’ll be blamed on occupation of the West Bank. And if they give up the West Bank, they’ll be hammered for having occupied them in the first place.
I exaggerate, of course, but not by much; I think many on the progressive left would not be troubled much if Israel just “went away,” somehow. If anything it would save them the trouble of defending a culture that got the West Bank and Gaza and continued to wage war.
Indeed. Where but in the Middle East could the term "assymetric warfare" take on so many different meanings?

Of course, this too is a perversion of standard terminology. For Hamas to claim "victory" -- as though their endless campaigns of indiscriminately murdering children was, somehow, superior to a democratic state defending its own -- is obscene. It serves a useful purpose, though: when Hamas declares victory, we know, once and for all, what they really wanted in the first place. (As though there was any doubt!!)

Cox & Forkum, as usual, say it more concisely:

UPDATE: Jeff Harrell finds the Gaza evacuation incredibly poignant. (My hat's off to him; he's not even Jewish. But he gets it. Boy, does he get it. I wish he wouldn't call Jewish houses-of-worship "churches", but I can ignore that; the rest is good.)

I'm going to take the liberty of quoting him in full. I hope you don't mind, Jeff; it's that good, and I want to remember it:
And this morning I wake to find that, halfway around the world, soldiers stormed a church to force people from their homes. If these people were anybody else, and these homes were on any other piece of land in the whole world, this assault would be condemned in every assembly as a horrible crime. But because they’re Jews and the land from which they’re being removed is land the world has sort of silently agreed they shouldn’t be allowed to have, nobody listens. Nobody cares.

These people aren’t occupiers. They’re not an oppressing army. They’re just people, like you and me. People with hopes and beliefs and jobs and families. They’re not squatting in trenches firing rifles into the trees. They’re going to church and having babies. And as they’re forced to leave, some of them are setting fire to their own homes.

They’re setting fire to their own homes.

Does this mean I’m opposed to this withdrawal from Gaza? Hell, I don’t know. I know that Arabs are going to keep killing Jews until something’s done, and I sure as hell don’t have any better ideas. But if this is the best we can do, if this is the very best idea that all the smart people in the world could come up with, then how are we supposed to hold on to our faith? How are we supposed to keep believing that justice protects the innocent and that everything will work out in the end?
Answer: stay tuned.


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