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29-06-2018, 15:15   #1
nigel_wilson
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Are terrorists really 'cowardly' as some people claim?

I think most people in the Western World had "don't really give a sh*t about terrorists" stance until 17 years ago when 9/11 happened. It seems that every discussion that follows from the average citizen to politicians is "terrorism is a cowardly act".

My question is why the use of a word? Does it even make sense? I thought cowardly refered to someone who lacks excessive courage From talking to people and reading what they have to say online, I figure people condemn terrorism as cowardly for these two reasons.


1.)
They attack "innocent civilians" (term which I thing is too emotionally charged). This point is that attacking them is an "easy way out" and they don't want resistance.

I have a few problems with that, firstly in the case of September 11th, the 19 hijackers a.) didn't have the resources to attack the military so one could argue that they became innovative and decided to bring the battle to america and b.) would a military attack make sense? Would the 'Islamic war' have really affected Americans lives if Bin Laden had decided ''not to be cowardly'' and instead attack American troops in the Middle East? Doesn't seem so to me

2.)
They kill themselves i.e. suicide is a cowardly act. Firstly I think that's very disrespectful for people who kill themselves and don't involve anyone else but also, is it really? I can understand the concept behind it; staying alive to accept the consequences of your battle but going back to 9/11, how could the hijackers have murdered 3,000 people without a suicide mission being involved? Al-Qaeda terrorists aren't notorious for "taking the easy way out" as some would like to say. Ramzi Yousef, the man who attempted to bomb the WTC in 1993 is in a Supermax prison. He didn't kill himself.


I would like to hear your opinions on this. Obviously I understand the emotional aspect of this with people having their relatives murdered but hopefully we can have an objective discussion.
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29-06-2018, 15:56   #2
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It's not so long ago that a couple of thousand of civilians were murdered at the hands of terrorists in Ireland alone, hence I would disagree that the horror and outrage at these acts was something which was born 17 years ago.

Al Qaeda did most certainly attack the military, e.g. 17 Americans were killed when they attached the USS Cole. The clear motivation for 9-11 was pulling off something spectacular, which you have to concede it was, regardless of what side of the argument you are on.
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29-06-2018, 16:00   #3
 
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I suppose it depends on what side of the fence you're sitting.

If you believe in the terrorists cause, then they are brave. If you don't then they are cowardly.

Neither is necessarily true.
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29-06-2018, 16:02   #4
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1) Not wanting to go up against a ridiculously superior force in weaponary and support is not in any way cowardly. It's just simple common sense. Attack the weak points of the states you wish to war with. It's like calling someone a coward for using long range weapons rather than a sword.

2) People willing to die for a cause are the least cowardly people you could imagine. People fear death and pain, these people consciously choose to face it at their own expense to further their cause.

There is no difference between a terrorist and a solider in many of these efforts other than the threat of violence upholding 'legality'.

The countries have been pillaged economically and militarily for decades. What we see is an end result of that and poor education.
If you believe these people are cowards, then you're* just as brainwashed as any terrorist. There are no good guys and bad guys here. Its a pot of animalistic humans operating in a complex world with incredible power and disparity of resources.

*General you, not you specifically OP.
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29-06-2018, 16:52   #5
 
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While I abhor violence in all forms I agree with a lot of what is in the OP.

I don't see how a US soldier can consider themselves braver than a member of Al-Quaeda, though I despise what Al-Quaeda do and stand for. But it's easy to join the side the side that's always winning, that has all the resources.

It's also easy to call the 9/11 hijackers cowards when you have a nice life in the richest country in the world. Maybe if things were a bit better in these other countries those lads wouldn't want to fly into a skyscraper and take down a large symbol of corporate globalization. I mean, on some level I understand why they did it (if in fact it wasn't a false flag but we'll not go there rn). I don't see it as cowardly tbh. They were willing to kill themselves just to wound an enemy that they had no chance of destroying or beating, rather than just stay alive and let who they see as the oppressors get away with it all unharmed. To me it's clear that the former takes some bravery to pull off.

I don't understand stuff like shooting or bombing a bunch of teenagers at a concert as much. I guess it's just a bit of revenge, cause horror and pain to a country, but I still think it makes a lot more sense to at least go after some people/structure that are directly supporting the government/army/organizations that are oppressing you - an embassy, a barracks, a financial institution. To me, that's more resistance and guerilla warfare while killing random civilians is just terrorism

To me, brave is Palestinians throwing rocks at armed soldiers or Tianenman Square tank man. But being brave like that can also be quite a stupid thing to do, and taking a small army to go toe to toe with a word power would fall into that category.

US drone strikes are hardly brave, are they? And they kill plenty of civilians, children etc.
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29-06-2018, 18:05   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by manonboard View Post
1) Not wanting to go up against a ridiculously superior force in weaponary and support is not in any way cowardly.
Agreed.

That said, there is a very marked difference between guerilla war type tactics such as those deployed by Collins/Barry etc. versus the British (and even to some extent the actions of the PIRA in later years in attacks on the British Army) and attacking civilians.
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02-07-2018, 10:37   #7
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Originally Posted by nigel_wilson View Post
They attack "innocent civilians"
Targeting civilians is prohibited by the Geneva Convention and the Hague Convention. It is seen as wanton violence to attack civilians and their property. The practice is outlawed and those who do it are liable to prosecution in the Hague.
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02-07-2018, 11:32   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by manonboard View Post
1) Not wanting to go up against a ridiculously superior force in weaponary and support is not in any way cowardly. It's just simple common sense. Attack the weak points of the states you wish to war with. It's like calling someone a coward for using long range weapons rather than a sword.
Right, that's the difference though. Civilians and civilian targets (such as hospitals and businesses) have never been considered a part of the infrastructure of the state with whom you're at war. The belligerents are the governments (whatever form that is) of the entities who are in conflict.

The purpose of war has virtually always been to take control of resources (and populations), by overpowering your enemies' military capabilities and forcing their surrender or withdrawal. This may involve attacking infrastructure such as power stations or railways, but doesn't involve targetting civilians directly; because killing civilians doesn't disrupt your target's military.

Of course civilians die; because war is not precise. But as pointed out, direct attacks on civilians has been considered a "bad thing" for centuries and in relatively recent times is a breach of international law.

Even "traditional" terrorist groups like the IRA rarely targetted civilians. Obviously the interpretation of "civilian" is a bit fluid here; actual civilians may be targetted due to affiliations. But for the most part the goal was never to kill innocents, rather to strike military targets or force political action through threat and fear.

So to say that targeting civilians because they're a "weak point" is the smart thing to do, ignores the entire purpose of conflict. Civilians are not part of the military. Attacking them does nothing to win your conflict. You do not disrupt your enemy's defensive (or offensive) capabilities by attacking their civilians.

It is cowardly because you're attacking an entity that is not only not expecting your attack, but is completely incapable of defending against it. Your comparison of "long range -v- sword" isn't apt because either way the other party is a potential threat to you.

It's more like trying to defeat a village by attacking their children when the parents aren't around. That is, cowardly.
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07-07-2018, 23:49   #9
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Terrorism is rarely a name those who practice asymetric warfare give themselves. The vast majority of groups, no matter their ideological/political frameworks, see themselves as fighting for noble reasons against a power with overwhelming advantages in the material realm. In many cases they are themselves backed as catspaws against geopolitical rivals - eg the backing of the insurgents in Iraq by Iran as a means to counter US interests.
- Ref: Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism.
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07-07-2018, 23:51   #10
 
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Any man who values his beliefs more than his own life is not a coward, but an idiot, a brave idiot.
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18-07-2018, 10:24   #11
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'Even "traditional" terrorist groups like the IRA rarely targetted civilians. Obviously the interpretation of "civilian" is a bit fluid here; actual civilians may be targetted due to affiliations. But for the most part the goal was never to kill innocents, rather to strike military targets or force political action through threat and fear.'

Ya think?

Belfast 1972, Claudy, the Birmingham pubs, a bus-full of wives and children [Oh, shucks, I forget, they were SOLDIERS' wives and children, so that makes it alright], Warrington, Harrod's, Omagh and all the others, MANY others.

Please count the civilian bombings, and then remind us again how rare these events were.

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05-08-2018, 12:27   #12
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Attacking them does nothing to win your conflict. You do not disrupt your enemy's defensive (or offensive) capabilities by attacking their civilians.
[/QUOTE]

I think the Allied bombing of German cities and the German bombing of British cities during WW2 are instances where attacks on primarily civilian targets were used by what would be regarded as conventional armed forces.

Admittedly, many of the cities did have industrial infrastructure which helped maintain the military capabilities of the opposing sides and this was, and has since, often been the official reason given for the bombing of cities during that conflict. However there is no doubting that the motivation was equally, and in some cases primarily, to break the spirit of the civilian population, Dresden and Hamburg being the most blatant examples in Europe and the most obvious cases of all, Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.

This of course brings us back to the old problem of defining "terrorists". I suppose the name itself is indicative, i.e. those who want to achieve their aims by instilling terror in others. But is this not a tactic that is used to a lesser or greater degree in all conflicts, whether they involve conventional armies and recognised states or guerrilla warfare.

In warfare, maintaining civilian morale and spirit in a states own population is seen to be of great importance. If an enemy can erode that morale it can weaken the states determination to continue to fight. Ultimately, soldiers come from the civilian population. Yes, it is "terrorism" to attack civilian populations, but it is a tactic that is not confined to groups that are labeled as "terrorists" by another group or state.

Are those who engage in "terrorism" cowardly? Well I would pose the question, Who do you mean when you refer to those who employ terrorism as a tactic?

Last edited by Serengeti; 05-08-2018 at 17:50.
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30-03-2019, 01:26   #13
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Politicians try to lead opinion by saying "we don't like them because they are a) attacking the civilians in our country and so are showing themselves to be our natural enemy AND to drive the point home they use emotional talk aimed at group oriented people who willingly use the language of " belonging" or "we / us" language "us against them" "we who are good brave normal against them who have shown themselves to be bad, cowardly, disgustingly unacceptable to us" b) the enemy are also unlikeable people. Our leaders need to encourage a unified response in order to improve morale among the working people and encourage citizens to join the army and do other demanding and difficult things to try and defeat the terrorists and not let them overpower us and enslave us, since they clearly hate us.
The theory of evolution has led some to wrongly think humans are the same as animals!! This, as a rural dweller, is clearly untrue. If you fail to believe in goodness in yourself and others, whilst having due caution, you will experience a self fulfilling prophecy. That is: think you are an animal = you act like one, others react badly, then you might be stuck believing : humans are only animals anyway so there's no hope and life dries up like a dead tree trunk in front of you to become meaningless drudgery punctuated with meaningless high drama expressing wilful despair.
Humans have a much higher capacity for personal dignity and much better at thinking, planning, learning.
It is cowardly to enjoy malice than to face justice as few of terrorists ever did. It's deliberate childishness IMHO to terrorise others in any shape or form than learn how to live with people who are different.
We human beings aren't like mindless bulls and cows that see what they don't understand and charge at it and kill it. A well kept bull or cow could kill the farmer looking after it this way. That's disgustingly stupid thing to happen.
Terrorists or soldiers aren't like that. They can feel morally degraded by things they've done and seen. Humans have a depth to their understanding.
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