The production of Osama bin Laden’s bin Ladenbody — dead or alive — will soon be in our future as will the body of Saddam Hussein hanging dead from its neck.

We will have successfully produced the body — but are we perpetuating the ghost?

Do Osama and Saddam have more value and resonance in death than they had in their lives?

Is there a downside to assassinating charismatic madmen?

By providing their deaths, have we gifted them immortality and martyrdom and a reason for their evil example to be followed by others?

How should bad people be dealt with in the world?

Can we heal the wounds terrorism rips open by engaging in a dialogue with the neighbors of the terrorists?

Is conversation better than condemnation?


Is it Husseinpossible
to somehow provide safety as a value to the neighborhood so when
strangers begin to gather next door, or when a ruckus is made down the
street by the previously good-intentioned, the neighbors on each side
take on the policing and the setting right of the behavior by their own
hands in order to remain a positive force in the community and to stay
in the good graces of the international friendship of people?

When did we lose the value of negotiation and begin to favor demands
set with bombs and bullets?

Why is conversation considered weak while killing innocent neighbors in
the effort to eradicate the bad influence in the community midst is
matter-of-fact policy instead of madness of the mind?

20 Comments

  1. I think creating martyrs, however it is done, is a very short sighted view to take. Be it be suicide bombings, war, or through the legal system, creating one martyr only ever leads to creating more.
    It does nothing to stop the cycle of violence and in fact escalates it.

  2. Hi Nicola —
    Leaders who represent deeply religious people understand the idea of martyrdom is a powerful semiotic to put into play in the marketplace.
    Martyrdom plays especially well when the economy is bad and the populace are disaffected: “Your current station is part of your martyrdom! Relish your poverty for it is the mark of a great people! Now tumble down into your Martyrdom with this suicide bomb.”
    You don’t generally find people seeking Martyrdom from rich communities or prosperous countries. I think the key to fighting terrorism inspired by Martyrdom is to raise the stakes of the poor from a level of malevolence and despair to one of economic comfort and future satiety that risks “losing it all” if your neighbor becomes a successful terrorist.
    Does that mean paying off terrorists not to bomb?
    Doesn’t that happen right now?

  3. You make a very valid point about the links between poverty and martyrdom. When people feel there is nothing left to loose martydom can be attractive.
    “Does that mean paying off terrorists not to bomb? Doesn’t that happen right now? ”
    I think in practice it means having more money and bigger guns and bombs they do – including the nuclear button.
    I suspect the boffins are already working on the replacement for that.

  4. I was listening to Air America — I’ve been monitoring since they filed for BK earlier this year to see what sorts of shake-ups might be happening — and there was talk this morning that President Bush’s father may have gotten to him.
    The new Secretary of Defense and James Baker might mean, according to the Young Turk’s guest, that the administration will move more toward negotiation, rather than action. It will be more of a 41 style, rather than the 43 style so far.
    The guest also suggested that the Dems should keep up the pressure to pull out so that the middle position of helping the Iraqis before we completely bail out — can be reached through compromise.
    While I was driving, I also flipped over to Glenn Beck. (He has a special on Islamic extremism on CNN Headline News tonight at 7 p.m. EST). He suggests that Iran’s clerics might want to get rid of their leader, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, if he keeps up with the “Twelver” talk — since it is dangerous to their power.
    Maybe compromise and cooler heads will win.
    The scary thing is what is happening with the young generations growing up with visions of being suicide bombers. I hope talk will be able to counteract what they’ve been taught.

  5. Nicola —
    I agree power and freedom can go a long way to repressing the want for Martyrdom. But what do we do when Martyrdom has the same chits, bombs, and access to big money? We can’t stalemate because they want us annihilated. Do we pay blood money to maintain our freedom of mind and body? Yes, we do. That’s what we’ve been doing.
    What is a “boffin” and how did you come to learn that term?

  6. Nicola —
    I agree power and freedom can go a long way to repressing the want for Martyrdom. But what do we do when Martyrdom has the same chits, bombs, and access to big money? We can’t stalemate because they want us annihilated. Do we pay blood money to maintain our freedom of mind and body? Yes, we do. That’s what we’ve been doing.
    What is a “boffin” and how did you come to learn that term?

  7. Chris!
    I agree the father has finally stepped up to correct the son in the most public way. YAY! That is their dyad and the son has no idea how far is too far unless and until the father sets the boundaries.
    Iran is the key to peace in the Middle East. That’s why they’re pushing so hard to acquire the bomb: Once they have it they will never give it up and if you want their help, you will have to accept their progress and their sovereignty over the bomb.
    Nothing good can happen until the Israel/Palestine conflict is resolved. Once there is a solid agreement to get along, then Iran can step in and negotiate the situation in Iraq for us and we can finally go home and lick our wounds.

  8. Chris!
    I agree the father has finally stepped up to correct the son in the most public way. YAY! That is their dyad and the son has no idea how far is too far unless and until the father sets the boundaries.
    Iran is the key to peace in the Middle East. That’s why they’re pushing so hard to acquire the bomb: Once they have it they will never give it up and if you want their help, you will have to accept their progress and their sovereignty over the bomb.
    Nothing good can happen until the Israel/Palestine conflict is resolved. Once there is a solid agreement to get along, then Iran can step in and negotiate the situation in Iraq for us and we can finally go home and lick our wounds.

  9. boffin – noun, Brit colloq a scientist engaged in research, especially for the armed forces or the government. (Chambers Dictionary)
    Term originates from 1940’s the Boffins developed boucing bomb. Enigma Machines, etc etc.
    I learnt the term from my parents.
    My father was one in some respects he worked with “experimental units” before and during the second world war. He was part of the unit that tested motorbikes for military use. From what I remember him telling me this involved stripping them down to the bare bones and then adapting them and seeing how long it took to run them into the ground under various conditions. They would adapt materials used to the conditions.
    My mother used to transport them around when she was in service in the RAF as well. She spent a lot of time driving and flying the boffins and brass around.
    I suspect that while we are paying them blood money – the boffins are working on the next generation of weapons to regain our supremacy.

  10. Thanks for that definition, Nicola! I see “boffin” is in my Oxford dictionary, too. What an interesting word!
    What are the military uses of a motorbike? To deliver information? They aren’t hardy enough to be used in direct combat, are they?
    I agree we pay through one nostril while betraying through the other. It’s a vicious cycle of commerce and contempt.

  11. Here’s an interesting take on using money to remove the lure of terrorism:

    Violence cannot stop violence. We have to break the cycle of violence, renounce violence, start practicing creative active nonviolence on a level that the world has never seen, and reach out and embrace the world’s poor by meeting their every need. Then, we will win over the world, and no one will ever want to hurt a Westerner again. On that new day, we will sow the seeds of love and peace and discover what a world without terrorism, war, poverty, and fear is like.

    http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0710-23.htm

  12. From recollection they were used mainly behind the lines, courier , depatch, delivery and scouting work. Small and fast.
    My father spent most of the war the wrong side of the line in Italy.
    “BSA supplied 126,000 M20 motorcycles to the armed forces, from 1937 (and later until 1950) plus military bicycles including the folding paratrooper bicycle. At the same time, the Daimler concern was producing armoured cars.”
    Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birmingham_Small_Arms_Company
    I sense another visit to the loft to hunt for photographs and some more research coming on.
    I like the quote from common dreams.

  13. MD – my heart is screaming “why are we not doing anything?” at our politicians at every opportunity and donating what it can to the big agencies that are trying to on a practical level.
    David – futher to the common dreams quote – I think it is imperative that we move away from the language of violence as well. Those in power, those who have the power should not use the language of violence or the language of terror.
    The following phrase was proclaimed loudly/ hurled agressively by Mr Blair in the debate following Queens Speech. It was met by rapturous applause and was the *sound bite* of the day – relayed hundreds of times throughout the evening on TV and radio shows.
    “The next election, it will be a flyweight versus a heavyweight. And however much he may dance around the ring, at some point he will come within the reach of a big clunking fist.”
    The language of the boxing ring has no place outside of the boxing ring, beacuse outside of the boxing ring it becomes the language of the brawl, thuggery talk has no place in politics, and unless we want a brawling aggressive society it has no place there either.
    In this country much is being made of *anti social* behaviour – violent agressive behaviour, loutish behaviour, drunken behaviour.
    What kind of message does this send? Take it up a level to the language of warmongering and posuturing on the world stage ?

  14. Nicola —
    The world today seems to be about who is tougher and who carries the bigger stick. That is why we may start seeing more women leading us from the political arenas. Women seem to, if not innately and stereotypically, to not lead from violence and testosterone, but from the idea of doing the right thing for the most people. It will be an interest couple of years watching the women rise in the USA as national leaders as they have never risen before.