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Author Topic: Cowardly  (Read 5715 times)

Offline ladywithpans

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Cowardly
« on: September 11, 2005, 09:55:16 PM »
From 9/11/01 on, people have called the terrorist hijackers cowardly.  A very odd word IMO for people who completely cast aside their instinct for self-preservation.  But to think that the word fits is a kind of orthodoxy.  Bill Maher paid for challenging the word; William Safire didn't, but his conservative credentials were impeccable.

Today I worshipped at a church in Manhattan, and the pastor spoke of the "cowardly attack."  I told her I thought "cowardly" was the wrong word for people who act in the face of certain death, and she said that maybe in that sense they weren't cowardly.  But I didn't have the presence of mind to ask her in what sense they were cowardly.

Now we sometimes say of people who kill themselves out of despair that they are cowards because they won't face life, but Islamist suicide bombers are not like that.  Terrorist organizations reject depressed people who are trying to end an unbearable life.

Furthermore, "cowardly" seems to be a term reserved for the criminal rabble; we never hear a gangland murder called a cowardly attack.

So what do you think?  In what sense were the 9/11 attackers cowards?
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Offline merm

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Cowardly
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2005, 09:30:52 AM »
I agree with you in the sense that "coward" is probably not the best word to use to describe a terrorist.

I think the closest way you could relate the word "cowardly" to what happened on 9/11 was simply the fact that they chose to kill innocent people who were defensless against them.

According to western concepts of fighting, warriors are supposed to abide by certain rules (even "respect" each other). So in this sense, the idea that these people have a beef with the United States Government, and choose to take out their anger on "innocent" people could be seen as cowardly. The "rules" say that you have to fight someone your own size - this mentality is widespread.

Of course it totally depends on your mindset. I personally know people who, if an angel of light appeared in their bedroom and told them to kill someone would do it without quesitoning. I even know a few Christians that seem to think it's ok to do a certain amount of killing if the result is an increase of the spreading of the "Gospel". I also know a few capitalists, liberals, conservatives, environmentalists who feel the same way. These people could also be labeled as cowards, however I'm sure there's a solid argument out there that would label these people as honorable, or even heroes (depending on the paradigm you argue from).

It seems to me that extremism is not something that's limited to Islam or Christianity (or religion at all), but sadly pervades every aspect of our culture.

I think that calling someone a "coward" maybe is just a way for people to "retaliate" without trying to understand their enemy. I also think that if one could really see all this from "God's" perspective, one might find that we're all not that different from each other (globally speaking) after all.

Offline enigmacat

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Cowardly
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2005, 10:53:12 PM »
i'd call it criminal, vicious, brutal, cruel, inhumane, and completely f---ed up, but i wouldn't call it cowardly.  

i can see what merm means about attacking the helpless, but i probably wouldn't use the word cowardly.

Offline ladywithpans

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Cowardly
« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2005, 03:36:19 AM »
If the church bulletin listed a Website or e-mail address I would e-mail the pastor and ask her in what sense she thought the word was appropriate.  As it is, I'm trying to fathom why those who do think the word is appropriate think it's appropriate.

Right now, I can think only of two reasons:

1. The word is undergoing a semantic drift akin to "dastardly" before it.  "Dastardly" once meant "cowardly" but now means contemptible, as well as "criminal, vicious, brutal, cruel, inhumane, and completely f---ed up."  But people have forgotten what "dastardly" once meant because no one is called a dastard anymore.  The only place I ever saw that word was in Scott's poem "Lochinvar," in which Ellen was about to marry "a dastard in war."  OTOH everyone knows what a coward is, and I've never heard the hijackers referred to as cowards.

2. Other crimes, such as the embassy bombings in Africa, were called cowardly, so it seems consistent to apply the word to an even more heinous act of terrorism.

But this pastor is very thoughtful and very precise in her choice of words.  She never uses a word in her preaching that she doesn't mean.

The "pick on somebody your own size" argument is very plausible.  In _The Wonderful Wizard of Oz_ the Cowardly Lion was called a coward precisely because he picked on Toto.  OTOH it seems that only acts of terrorism are called cowardly.  Child abuse is not called cowardly, nor is union-busting violence.  Even rabid prolifers don't call abortion cowardly.  Further back in history, the massacre at My Lai was roundly condemned but it wasn't called cowardly.

And so, back to bed.[/i]
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Offline ladywithpans

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Cowardly
« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2005, 07:34:35 AM »
I just Googled the names of the church and the pastor and found out that the church does indeed have a Website and an e-mail address.  But I'd still be interested in anything any of you have to say.
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iLoveCheese

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Cowardly
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2005, 10:10:59 AM »
I think, in the minds of the attackers, (not that I ever spoken with them) it was an act of desperation. People, I think, call this act cowardly because they want to dehumanize the attackers, for better or worse.

It was fucked up, and so is what this country is/has done.

daveed

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Cowardly
« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2005, 12:34:28 PM »
Quote from: iLoveCheese
I think, in the minds of the attackers, (not that I ever spoken with them) it was an act of desperation.


If you take into account that the attack was being planned for at least 18-20 months, then I don't think it was an act of desperation.

It was a deliberate, calculated strike that used the technology that was available to them as the primary means of delivery -- people. It was low-tech and extremly effective, tactically.

And no it wasn't cowardly. It was perfectly in line with the behavior of people who belong to a death cult. It clearly demonstrates their willingness to disregard the value of human life -- theirs or anyone else's -- in order to advance their brand of Theo-fascism.

iLoveCheese

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Cowardly
« Reply #7 on: September 13, 2005, 01:20:51 PM »
by "desperation" I mean that it was a desparate act. A desperate act can be planned. I was at least as disgusted as you, by it. I was an emergency worker at that disaster, by the way, and I saw s___ you wouldn't believe. I'm saying that, however distorted their view may have been, I think that thier mindset was that this is what they needed to do do survive. That is consistant with reports.

I also think that what the Bush administration has done in Iraq, and what they haven't done more recently in the Gulf, is a reckless disregard for human life
Quote from: daveed
perfectly in line with the behavior of people who belong to a death cult.


I'm not defending thier behavior. Nor ours. Mass murder is the most repulsive thing going, no matter who's doing it.

daveed

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Cowardly
« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2005, 02:11:19 PM »
iLoveCheese, I'm not calling on you to defend yourself vis-a-vis 9/11. And you don't know to what extent I was disgusted by what happened because I haven't said so.

But back to topic, calling it a desperate act (no matter whatever these reports say) is incorrect.

"Desperation" implies that the perpetrators were left with, or could not see, any alternative. Not true. This was not some sort of last resort after all other options were exhausted. This was a deliberate hostile act, just a part of a 20-year war they've been waging against their enemies.

These are not desperate people who don't know any better. They are committed, determined and extremely dangerous. Let's at least give them the benefit of calling them adversaries, not some victimized group.

If the 9/11 planners thought up the idea 20 years ago of crashing jet liners into buildings they would have done it then.

You could also argue that the entire War on Terror is a desperate act in that the United States had no option but to resort to military action to prevent future terrorist strikes. After all, it's what this country needed to do to survive as well, right?

Offline megc

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Cowardly
« Reply #9 on: September 13, 2005, 02:32:14 PM »
Quote from: daveed

You could also argue that the entire War on Terror is a desperate act in that the United States had no option but to resort to military action to prevent future terrorist strikes. After all, it's what this country needed to do to survive as well, right?


"War on Terror" barf.  I have always found that designation as pointless.  

This country's government policies, through its invasion of Iraq, has pretty much guaranteed that there will be future terrorist strikes.  The invasion has pissed enough of the young people off, that they may very well grow up and express their anger in harmful ways.

Right after 9/11 this country had a great opportunity to change things for the better on a global level, without the overbearing use of force.  I had great hope then, and was severly disappointed when BushCo made the decisions they made.

iLoveCheese

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Cowardly
« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2005, 02:35:57 PM »
I am not saying they were desperate. I'm saying they may have believed themselves as such. In their minds. And I say this in relation to the discussion about whether or not they were "cowardly" because I see it as related.

And no, I don't think we needed to invade Iraq to survive. Particularly since Iraq didn't attack us or have weapons of mass destruction.

And what Meg said.

daveed

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Cowardly
« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2005, 02:53:16 PM »
Quote from: megc
This country's government policies, through its invasion of Iraq, has pretty much guaranteed that there will be future terrorist strikes.  The invasion has pissed enough of the young people off, that they may very well grow up and express their anger in harmful ways.


You forgot to say, "not that I'm saying that's right." Is it me, or does this smack of schadenfreude? Hey, if that's your thing, fine. Just call it for what it is: you think the US 'had it coming, right? Would you have felt differently if 9/11 happened on Al Gore's watch?

Don't be so quick to demonize our society and way of life and fail to look at what these Theo-fascists would most likely do to any of us for even discussing this stuff on an open forum.

Look at it another way, if you're willing to do that:

Quote
Al Qaeda's terrorist policies, through its planned and indiscreminate use of violence against civilians, has pretty much guaranteed that there will be further military action against them. 9/11 (or London, or the beheadings, or suicide bombers, or Theo Van Gogh, or Bali, take your pick) has pissed enough Westerners off that they may very well express their anger by volunteering for the military.


BTW, I never brought up Iraq. I'm talking about the war on terror. Or, if you will, the war on Theo-fascism. Iraq is an embarassing, costly and fruitless distraction.

Quote
Right after 9/11 this country had a great opportunity to change things for the better on a global level, without the overbearing use of force.  I had great hope then, and was severly disappointed when BushCo made the decisions they made.


What should we have done? Seriously, b/c I've never gotten a satisfactory answer from anyone who thought that we should "change things for the better". All we have seen for 4 years is a bunch of hand-wringing doubt on one hand, reckless intervention on the other, both of which with heavy doses of political agenda.

Quote from: iLoveCheese
I am not saying they were desperate. I'm saying they may have believed themselves as such.


OK. I did think you were saying that. My mistake, sorry. :)

However, I really don't think they believe themselves as desperate, either. After all, according to their stated aims/goals, they believe that their cause is divinely-inspired or sanctioned, that the conflict (jihad) was historically inevitable, and that victory ("God willing") is therefore assured. The self-rightous are rarely desperate.

Offline megc

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Cowardly
« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2005, 03:04:30 PM »
Quote from: daveed
Quote from: megc
This country's government policies, through its invasion of Iraq, has pretty much guaranteed that there will be future terrorist strikes.  The invasion has pissed enough of the young people off, that they may very well grow up and express their anger in harmful ways.


You forgot to say, "not that I'm saying that's right." Is it me, or does this smack of schadenfreude? Hey, if that's your thing, fine. Just call it for what it is: you think the US 'had it coming, right? Would you have felt differently if 9/11 happened on Al Gore's watch?


I dislike what looks like your putting words in my mouth.  Schadenfreude hadn't entered my mind.   The War on Terror is linked to Iraq by the current Administration.  For the record, I believe 9/11 was a horrible thing and very painful.  I wish it hadn't happened.

I don't like being insulted as you have above, and I'm not going to continue this discussion if it continues.

daveed

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Cowardly
« Reply #13 on: September 13, 2005, 03:09:42 PM »
megc, my intention is not to insult you or anyone. You're probably not going to find me agreeing with you or just about anyone else here on this issue. Or maybe you will, but you don't seem interested in finding out. If you rather not continue the discussion, that's fine.

iLoveCheese

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Cowardly
« Reply #14 on: September 13, 2005, 03:27:09 PM »
who said anything about Al Gore?

Terrorists (and most of the rest of the world) usually hate the United States. Invadeing Iraq has only angered this set even more, and created a chaotic haven for those plotting against the United States to hide out.

We *did* express our anger through violence. So why wouldn't you expect them to do the same? We're just continueing a circle of hatred and violence instead of being brave and ending it and making this planet a better place to live.

Just because we may not know what we should've done doesn't mean the only thing the only thing to do was blow two other countries to smitherines. I think, however, that trying to figure out what conditions lead to this kind of divide would be a start.

I do, by the way, think they considered themselves desperate. They have nothing and the world's economic power is controlled by this country. It isn't happy people that join a "death cult". It doesn't justify what happened, but I think they must've thought that taking us out was the only way they could suvive. Why else would they do it?

PS. It *is* you. Nowhere did megc imply "schadenfreude".


 

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