Saturday, August 06, 2005

Suicide Bombing Hits Theatre Land


A couple of days ago I read a sarcastic blog post entitled ‘Cult of the Suicide Bomber – The Musical’. Clearly some aspect of it lodged in my self-conscious as, since then, random alternative titles for suicide bomber musicals have been popping into my mind. The list so far includes:

  • A Funny thing happened on the way to Fallujah
  • Ali get your gun!
  • Gentlemen prefer bombs
  • Smartbomb on the Roof
  • West Bank Story
  • Joseph and his amazing technicolour suicide belt
  • City City Bang Bang

and my favourite so far…

  • Seven Suicides for Seven Brothers


Is this sick? Probably. But, as with the author of the post that started me off, I am disturbed by the fact that the ‘news’ organisations have wholeheartedly embraced the notion that this country is now producing suicide bombers and have taken to covering the story in an increasingly sensationalist and (deliberately?) ill-informed way.

The Cult of the Suicide Bomber is the title of a two part documentary that is halfway through being shown on Channel 4. It is presented by a former CIA analyst and offers an ‘insight into the mind of the suicide bomber’. The programme title and the fact that it is being presented by an ex(?) US government spook tells you all you need to know. It is prime quality disinformation and, from what I can tell so far, its aim is to strengthen existing preconceptions that suicide bombers are demented. In a peculiar way, I wish that were so.

Self-sacrifice in combat is as old as the hills, particularly when faced with overwhelming force; from Masada to the Kamikazes, Vietnam to the Tamil Tigers. Suicide attacks are what people do when there is no other way to strike back at an enemy. It is a brutally rational act. By 1945 Japanese pilots flying against American fleets knew they were going to be shot down. So why not, the logic went, make that sacrifice count for something by crashing into an aircraft carrier rather than the sea? I have no doubt similar thoughts pass through insurgents' minds in Iraq and Palestine today.

The Cult of the Suicide Bomber downplays that notion and preaches straight to the irrational fundamentalist psycho market.

So, why is it whenever I hear Muslims discussing terrorism, they talk very specifically about us f*cking off out of their countries and business? The only people I hear talking about fundamentalist moral crusades with irrational objectives are … well, you know who I’m thinking of.

The strangest point in the documentary occurred when the presenter quoted a senior Muslim cleric, one of innumerable people described as ‘Al Qaeda’s second in command’, someone like that. I cannot remember the exact quote but it was something like ‘The path to righteousness is washed with the blood of martyrs’. The intention was to illustrate the bloodthirsty fundamentalist nature of our foes. The strange part to me was how similar, possibly deliberately so, it was to another, much more famous, quote…

‘The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.’

attributed to that raving fundamentalist, and author of the US Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson. Fucking nutcase.


Ordinary people in London should be no more afraid of a suicidal bomber than a bomber with an instinct for self-preservation. A bomb is a bomb. Someone like Tony Blair might be more worried, a suicide bomber has a better chance of breaking through security, that is the whole point. For the rest of us, it makes no difference whether the bomber is suicidal or not. However, for some reason, the media and commentators are obsessed with suicide bombers. Obsessed to a point where extreme mental gymnastics become necessary. Here’s a taste from the BBC this week, referring to the 21/7 bombers…

They stripped on police orders to show they were not carrying explosives and sought assurances they would not be shot -- "hardly compatible with being a suicide attacker. That does seem strange," said Professor Paul Wilkinson, a terrorism specialist at St Andrews University in Scotland.

But he said it could not be ruled out that the suspects had surrendered because they hoped to attack again, rather than because they were not truly committed to their cause.

Of course! The terrorists are planning to delay their martyrdom until after they have completed their ‘25 year to life’ prison sentence. They might even be old enough to qualify for a free bus pass; the cunning, cunning bastards.

It serves our leaders well to play up this nonsense, even if the events of the 7th July have been far from convincingly explained. At the last count, we know the following about the four ‘successful suicide bombers’ (as opposed to the ‘Alleged Failed Suicide Bombers’ of 21/7), they…

  • may or may not have used one of at least three different types of explosives
  • may or may not have used timers
  • apparently did not leave any explanation for their actions, although they carried copious quantities of personal ID so that the authorities could identify them
  • based on what we have been told so far, seem to have been completely lacking in the motivations that lie behind the vast majority of suicide attacks
  • were fully recorded on CCTV, which none of us have seen yet, presumably because that would hamper the police investigation. Given that the bombers are all dead and presumably knew what they did that day, I’m personally struggling with that explanation for the video no-show

Here’s another reason, aside from the obvious ones, why we are scared of suicide bombers.

At the end of the day, aside from our own hides, most of us don’t give a shit about very much at all. I am not a great advocate of dying for any cause but I do recognise that there are some causes worth risking your life for. Fortunately, a lot of people in the past thought the same way. So, what causes do we in the UK in 21st century hold so dear that we’d risk our necks for them, collectively or individually?

  • A government that got into power with a fifth of the eligible vote?
  • The Queen, gawd bless her?
  • Our religion?
  • Our culture?
  • Our morality?
  • Cricket on a village green followed by cucumber sandwiches and warm beer?
  • The right to shop on Sundays?

I fear that the true answer is biff all. Jefferson would not have been impressed.

But those pesky towel heads do believe in something. Strong enough to be passionate about and, if pushed, strong enough to die for.

To the likes of us that is really fucking scary. Blair and Bush have taken lately to talking about a War of Ideas or Beliefs rather than a War on Terror. If George and Tony are going to rely on their ideas or beliefs to win the day they, and we, are going to get severely screwed. Just as well they have all those tanks and bombers to fall back on really.


Northun Munki in Oxford Circus said...

How about:
"Charlie and the Chocolate Fatwa"

The tale of a bumbling Prince, his racist Greek father, his German mother, a cowboy called George, a poodle named To-Tony.
The plot starts something thus - A hurricane in Texas carries George, his legendary red cowboy boots and his faithful ToTony into a magical ancient land where they find lakes filled with oil.

Stef said...

hehe - missed that one...