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To your history of suicide attacks, you may add the Japanese kamikazes in WW2. With the Tamils, this suggests that suicide attacks have something to do with modernity, not religion.

In the Middle East, there is the additional fact that Hizbollah (or their predecessor) is probably the only organisation in history to actually win wars with terrorist attacks, kicking the US, and, later, Israel out of their country this way. That may have given a big push to others who thought they could do the same thing.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sun Jun 5th, 2016 at 03:03:24 PM EST
The Kamikazi pilots were acting within their Shinto religious beliefs - that it was honorable to deliberately sacrifice your life in defense of your emperor and country. And Seppuku was an honorable way for a Samurai to die under the code of bushido in certain circumstances. In Homer's  Odyssey Ajax goes mad when Odysseus is awarded Achilles' armor and kills the Achean's flocks. Disgraced, he falls on his own sword. It was not considered a 'sin' by the Greeks, who didn't, as far as I know, at that time have any concept such as sin. I suspect suicide is more acceptable in strongly honor code based societies.
 

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere." (But it helps!)
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Jun 5th, 2016 at 04:53:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wanted to chart only the continuous part of this history: the Tamil Tigers weren't a separate development, they were inspired by Hezbollah (their first suicide attacks were car bombs with drivers), and Hamas in turn imported suicide belts. But I wonder whether Kamikaze pilots inspired Islamic militants in any way.

I very much agree that Hezbollah was inspirational with their success; that also helped the Shi'a to Sunni cross-over mentioned in the diary. But quibbling, I contest the notion that all of Hezbollah's attacks that contributed to the kicking out of the US and later Israel, especially the attacks on the US and French barracks and the attacks on Israeli military, should be counted as terrorism.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Jun 6th, 2016 at 03:36:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
is a loaded term.  The IRA were terrorists to some, and freedom fighters for others. However one can perhaps describe a method of attack as terrorist without taking sides in conflict - chiefly one which involves an indiscriminate attack on civilians, or an attack on a military target with no regard for the likelihood of even greater civilian casualties.  By that definition the bombings of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Dresden were terrorist attacks, regardless of your view on the justification of the WW2 in general.

The purpose of a terrorist attack is often not to achieve a military objective, but to, quite literally, strike terror into a general civilian population, with a view to cowing or suppressing them as a potential source of opposition, regardless of their own individual sympathies.  Many civilians are simply caught up in an attack by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It is, and always should be, a war crime.  But of course only the losers are ever prosecuted. The US could simply have demonstrated their military superiority by detonating a nuclear bomb over the sea within sight of Tokyo accompanied by an ultimatum to surrender.  Dresden was simply an act of revenge. Much of modern day middle eastern originating terrorism is an inchoate response to the overwhelming military power of the US and Israel which makes any conventional response impossible to sustain.

The problem with terrorism is that it destroys both those it is directed at and those who use it - as the rise of Trump and the degradation of US political culture so eloquently testifies. The failure to prosecute Bush/Cheney and their acolytes for the Iraq war is the proximate cause - as is the ongoing failure to recognise the international court of Justice in Den Haag. American exceptionalism is breeding a terrorist monstrosity simply because there is no means of regulating the beast.  Will we have to wait for the US to be defeated in a nuclear exchange for that to change?  I hope not.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jun 6th, 2016 at 06:21:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Terrorism" is a conclusory term designed to conceal, not reveal.  It is a label slapped on violent (and often on nonviolent) opposition by the current authorities to demonize that opposition and avoid having to recognize, let alone address, the issues giving rise to it.
by rifek on Mon Jun 13th, 2016 at 05:32:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One reason suicide attacks are a relatively modern phenomenon is that they have been enabled by modern explosives and motor vehicle technology, and to a lesser degree by modern automatic weapons.

Assassination has always been possible, and the option to commit suicide by cop/soldier has always been there, but actually harming large numbers of people in a spectacular fashion is not easy without, at the very least, something like dynamite. Motor vehicles vastly amplify the killing power of explosives by making them mobile and relatively difficult to stop.

We live in an era where one well-motivated individual can, with some study and practice, become a destructive force vastly greater than was possible in the past.  This makes a difference, and the rise of suicide tactics is at least in part a response to this new technology.  The motivation has probably been there for hundreds of years, it's just the ability is newer.

In my opinion this has been part of the reason behind the end of outright colonial rule.  Colonialism and Imperialism were just vastly more profitable when it was harder for the oppressed to fight back, when they had to form actual armed groups with training and tactics and expensive weaponry to accomplish anything.

by Zwackus on Tue Jun 7th, 2016 at 05:27:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Agree on the end of colonialism.

Interesting reasoning on suicide bomb cars. In a way the fire ship can be seen as a precursor. That went out of style with the wooden ships, but remains a common ingredient in sci fi movies where the doomed hero (but not the real hero, because he gets the girl in the end) valiantly steers a aircraft/spacecraft into the evil aliens spacecraft (or an asteroid or whatever) and everything explodes. Of course that is brave and heroic, nothing like the cowardly attacks of suicide bombers...

by fjallstrom on Tue Jun 7th, 2016 at 11:31:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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