Does the word "coward" apply?

In today’s column, Jon Carroll of the Chronicle says “cowardly” is exactly the wrong adjective to describe the hijackers. They were brave. It would be good to understand what made them brave.

I think I can agree with him. The Unibomber was a coward, hiding behind the mail service to deliver his death. Keeping a low profile. Denying involvement. This is different, and it dilutes the efforts to bring people to justice when we use words that don’t ring true. Evil, yes. Demons, yes. Crazy, good chance. Cowardly…not the way it’s usually used.

Ive been thinking this. Bush, Blair and others have been calling them cowards but I don’t think thats the right word.

It takes guts to take over a plane and fly it into a building causing your own death. I dont think I could do it.

It also takes guts to declare war on the United States. Bin Laden (if it was him) must have known he’d be prime suspect and that the US would come looking for him.

He could have stuck to doing small scale operations (embassies, ships etc) which wouldn’t have resulted in a full-scale invasion of Afghanistan but he deliberately chose to raise the stakes to a point where the western world would have no choice but to destroy his operation and kill his comrades.

I’m not sure what definition of “cowardly” ties in with all this.


You’ve said exactly what I’ve been thinking for ages not just with regard to this attack but many attacks, but wasn’t brave enough to say. I didn’t want to be seen as defending crazy murderers. But now that you’ve said it, you force my hand; yeah, I agree with you. I would kill any one of those terrorists with my bare hands. They are evil, sadistic and depraved; they consider the deaths of innocent people more valuable than their own lives. But are they cowards? I have no logically defensible argument that they are.

This post probably belongs in the BBQ pit, as there’s going to be some MAJOR flaming in it, but I feel the need to make it here, as I would like to know that T Bill, Danimal, and xanakis actually read it.

The attacks on New York, Washington, and the plane that crashed in Pensynvania were COWARDLY.

You seem to negate how cowardly these people are by clinging to definitions of the word. You use words like “brave” and phrases like “It takes guts”.

I think of cowardice as attacking people who have no chance of defending themselves.

I think of cowardice as murdering innocents because they represent a lifestyle you disagree with.

Have these people stood up and said “I did this…”

Are these people prepared to accept the resluts of their actions?

I’ll tell all three of you something…You must have known that your posts might not have conformed to “popular opinion”, especially given how emotional the nation is about this subject…So I ask you this…

The next time you make a post like that, why don’t you put your name, address, and phone number along with it? Something tells me you wouldn’t do that…

looks like the number of cowards has just grown by 3

[address deleted]

[Edited by Eutychus55 on 09-14-2001 at 07:54 PM]

Just because you think this should be in the BBQ Pit doesnt mean you are allowed to make a personal attack.

I would agree that the acts are not cowardly. The terrorists gave their live to hurt America as much as possible. I don’t thonk it would have taken more bravery to attack and get killed by our armed forces, it simply would have had less of an impact.

I would descibe the acts as dishonorable, because they involved innocent non-commbatants. For some reason in this country it is worse to lack courage than it is to lack honor which is why we call these acts cowardly. I personally think it should be the other way around.

Ummm, how would that prove anything??

Hooty McBoob
123 Random St.
Anytown, MN 55555
(320) 629-1234

Kibitzing Moderator’s Notes

Personal names and addresses are NOT going to be posted on this board; either your own or anybody elses.

Thank you.

Damn. I was going to post my name and address and invite ol’ Osama over for a rumble. If he didn’t show, it would have proved he is a coward.

The people doing the attacks could just as likely been afraid of living as most are afraid of dying. The people who set up the terrorists with the resources they needed for the attacks are the ones who are afraid.

I do see what the OP was getting at, in that the terrorists weren’t cowardly in the same sense that the Unibomber was cowardly.

But I think we’re also in coward territory when we’re looking at people were deliberately ignorant. They didn’t have the courage to examine their own beliefs. While in some weird way we might understand someone being raised in isolation to hate Americans, I can’t get over the fact that these people presumably lived in the US for some amount of time. They must have seen their neighbors’ children out playing the yard, chatted with clerks at the grocery store, heard the guy at the newsstand always say “have a good weekend!” They went to flight school, surely they must have met instructors who were dedicated to helping them learn and accomplish their goals (I don’t mean their ultimate horrible goal, but the general goal of achievement in a given field of study). None of this made them say “Gee, I would feel like crap if this little girl who lives across the street was on one of these planes, or anyone’s little girl, maybe we better rethink this.” They weren’t brave enough to choose the more difficult path of leaving their nasty little terrorist buddies.

(Being one myself), I don’t think that all religious people are blind and stupid sheep. But when your religion (and I don’t mean Islam, I mean whatever demented corruption of that faith that is preached by their leaders) starts telling you to fly a hijacked plane into an office building, then you better have the courage to stand up and say “So sorry, but I’ve got to go hang out with normal people now.”

So not traditional cowards, but cowards none the less.

The etymology goes on to note that a coward is one who “turns tail”. Did any of the hijackers show fear as the buildings got bigger and bigger in the windshield? They obviously didn’t “turn tail”.

I think what we have here is people who are trying to hurt the terrorists in the only way we can, at least at the moment. If you call them “evil” they’d probably just laugh. Of course they don’t think they’re evil; they think they’re Holy Warriors for God. They would likely shrug off epithets like “baby killer” too. But they probably wouldn’t like to think of themselves as cowards–any group of people which glorifies suicide bombings must put a high premium on physical courage. So maybe if we call them “cowards” it might get under their skin a little. Mind you, I think it’s pretty futile. But I think maybe that’s what people are instinctively trying to do by using the word. Also, we hate to ascribe any virtues to people who are demonstrably evil. The fact is though, people can be intelligent, brave, dedicated, and kind to little fuzzy animals, and still be evil.

Personally, I would use words like “fanatics” and “murderers” and “evil”, but not “cowards”.

moozilla: :rolleyes:

I would not consider the terrorists on the planes as cowardly. The ones who should be labeled cowards are the ones who planned these attacks. Not only did they choose defenseless people to attack, they didn’t even have the balls to come out and say “We did this for such and such a reason.”

Euty left my address because I’m special.


::smooches Euty::

Well, what they did could be seen in many lights.

If you looked at it in one particular way you could say that they stabbed us in our backs. Rather then coming out to face us they chose to sneak around behind us and hit us when we weren’t looking. They are more then willing to put up their lives and yet deathly afraid to put up their cause. This because in most such battles they already lost. Bin Laden for example is unable to live in his home country, Saudi Arabia, and lives basically in exile in Afghanistan, one wonders if he can even participate in the Hadj. (did I spell that correctly?) And many Muslim nations are moving away from this form of extremism, even Iran has thawed recently. Pretty much all across the areas that they care most passionately about they are losing ground.

So that is why I would call them cowards, because they flee the world. They are deathly afraid of the influence of the world. They are afraid of modernity and of freedoms. Where did they turn tail? They did so when they fled from world society and the organizations that we as a world have at our disposal. If they were brave they would be more like Castro who comes to NY and lectures us in big long speaches that last for ever in the UN. He is not afraid to face us. He’s still wrong but he’s brave.

I also wouldn’t necessarily consider any of them brave because according to their value judgements it was a trade-up to die in that cause. According to them they gained something worth more then what they lost.

I agree with the above points made by MEBuckner and I can see the point that delphica is making but I think we need to distinguish between “cowardly” and “misguided”.

From what I’ve read (up to now) the terrorists kept themselves to themselves while they were in America and didn’t mix much with the locals. But, in any case, they will have seen themselves as undercover agents on a mission in enemy territory.

A terrorist group is small compared to a State - Bin Laden only has about 2000 followers. So Bin Laden (or any terrorist group) cant just march up to America’s front door and say “Do you want a fight?”.

They would obviously lose so they have to use more devious techniques in order to even out the playing field. This is a war in which the US has a huge advantage because it is starting out from the position of being a rich and powerful nation state with a 260 million population. Not to mention all the best weapons in the world.

So if you see it through the eyes of the terrorist, this attack was the only way he could fire a cruise missile at New York. Just as America did to Bin Ladens camp in Afghanistan.

And, in fact, I’ve been wondering if this whole thing wasn’t all about Bin Laden’s revenge for that attack.

Bin Laden may have been hiding in the background until now but I’d say he’s pretty much invited us in now, wouldn’t you say?

So he’s probably prepared to die for his cause. He may be misguided but not cowardly.

Bear in mind Bin Laden is considered a hero across parts of the Arab world (Algeria, Iraq, Libya, Syria). He’s not afraid of the world as Osirissays.

The reason they hate America is nothing to do with what George W. Bush has been saying. They don’t hate your way of life or your democracy or your freedom. They object to your religion.

Every religion believes that it is the right one and every religion has it’s extreme edge where its followers can’t accept the idea of “live and let live”. So they believe non-believers are evil and must be banished.

So Bin Laden wants ALL Christian influence out of the muslim world. At the moment that means the US but it would be the same whatever Christian country was there - the UK or whoever. The US has 1000s of troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, Islam’s most holy country. Bin Laden feels you are defiling it by being there because you are “heathen”.

The vast majority of muslims recognize this for the bullshit it is but this is his basic problem with America.

He doesn’t hate you because you are Americans, he hates you because you are Christians in a muslim land.

In fact, he may well even think Christians are great as people. No problem at all. He just doesn’t want Christians controlling Muslim lands. Remember he lived in the UK for a few years (before he got famous).

Yes, I cling to definitions of the word. How could I judge whether something is cowardly or not without knowing the definition of the word?

These things you describe are evil and contemptible, I assume we both agree. Are they cowardly as well? All throughout the Kosovo campaign, American airmen bombed people who had no chance of defending themselves. But those airmen were in great danger from persons other than the people they bombed, and from the very activity of flying. Were our airmen not brave?

How is it cowardly to murder innocents and thereby turn the righteous wrath of the whole civilized world against you? I would truly like to know; it would give me positive pleasure to call these terrorists cowardly, if only I could defend it logically.

No, they have not. When Carlos Hathcock, the decorated U.S. Marine sniper, was risking his life to kill the enemy, he did not stand up in front of the Vietcong after a fatal shot and say, “I did this.” He would have been stupid to do so.

I will not call Carlos Hathcock a coward because he did not stand up and say, “I did this.” Will you?

The results of the hijackers’ actions are that they are dead, and in dying they have murdered innocents, including women and children, whom they deliberately targeted. They evidently accepted that.

Apparently your address and phone number has been edited out, and I would be violating board rules by posting my own. If for some reason you want to communicat them to me, then e-mail them to me and I will reciprocate.

Am I a coward for not conforming to popular opinion? I think not. I may be wrong. But whether I am wrong or right, true cowardice on my part would have been to stay silent while people piled on T bill, even though my reason compels me to agree with him.

So their way of “fighting,” sneak attacks on non-combatants, hit-and-runs and hiding in groups of children/women is not cowardly?

Just because they decided on their fate, that they would die in the surprise murder of thousands of innocents, does not make them any less cowardly. That they are not around to face the repercussions of their actions only lends to their cowardice. Had they been persons of any integrity or strength of character, they would have fought in a manner other that this. Instead, they attack when they know that no retaliation can be directed upon them directly because they will already be dead. That is not bravery, that is cowardice.

Mind you, I am not talking about those that instructed them, gave them their orders or lead them (who, it seems everyone agrees, are cowards, too), I am talking about those that struck without fear of reprisal. They are not brave, they knew that they would not have to account for their actions and that, IMO, makes them cowards.

[sup]FTR: those that would employ tactics including hiding snipers and bombs in groups of women and children to dissuade those that wish to stop them (or to protect themselves from harm) are immense cowards, relying on innocents to shield them from the danger they bring upon themselves.

Those that create, bring upon, join or participate in war-like actions using innocents as pawns, shields or targets are the weakest, most despicable cowards there can be. They are not fit to be called worms, much less human.

I think that this one will have to be moved to the BBQ Pit, despite the intentions of the OP. Sorry.

Well, they certainly were committed to their plan, but I think its correct to label the actual hijackers as cowards.

Consider the Japanese kamikazi pilots in WWII:[ul]
[li]They were defending their homeland against invasion[/li][li]They were fighting in a declared war[/li][li]They were attacking offensive military targets[/li][li]They knew the target’s defenses would most likely kill them first[/li][/ul]
None of the above is even remotely true of the hijackers. For them, it was like shooting fish in a barrel.

I’m not muslim or even particularly religious, but even in terms of being religious soldiers their deaths were without honor and cowardly.

Correction. I said

which is what he most certainly. He is afraid that our morals and our culture will poison what he sees as Islam. Which is why he hates the governments in Saudia Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait. Because he feels that they have been led astray by an immoral west. And which is why the Taleban has banned so many or the objects and tools that deliver western culture to the world, TV, internet etc.