What so "special" about "Suicide Bombings"?

Why does the notion of a person willing to strap explosives to themselves and blow themselves and anyone in their immediate surroundings cause some much “Terror”? How different is it from a gunman with an automatic weapon opening fire upon a group of people? How different is it from dropping an atomic bomb from a plane and blowing up an entire populated city?

It’s different because when the terrorist is not intentionally committing suicide, as in your other examples, then there’s a likelihood that if the terrorist fears he might die (e.g., strong enough police presence or military deterrence) he might not decide to strike, so ordinary people don’t fear these so much if they have confidence in their defenders. A suicide bomber, on the other hand, is committed to his own death - what can possibly deter him/her? The ordinary citizen thereby feels less defended, and thus more terrorized, by suicide bombings.

Bombing cities and entire peoples is “defending the democratic way of life”.

Suicide bombers are fanatics who dress differently, speak differently and were born evil.

Before anyone goes ape, I am being ironic. Whole countries are bombed because the bombers have the arms and power to weild to the job big. Suicide bombers seem to be the desparate response the the formers policies. The war machine of those without the power.

Neither resource is recommendable to sort out any differences in my opinion but it is important to try and understand why people do it.

I think part of the thing about suicide bombers is that:

a) There is nothing you can do to stop them - they’re determined to die and take as many people with them as possible - it’s not like you can threaten to do anything to them that would frighten them. And secondary to that, you can’t bring them to justice. Military action, ultimately, is answerable to international law, and war crimes.

b) You can’t see them. That guy sitting over there could be a suicide bomber and you wouldn’t know it.

c) They tend to strike residential areas. Government sponsered bombing tends to hit military or strategic targets.

d) Their sole aim is to cause death and injury to the maximum number of people, and they’re ordinary people doing ordinary things like having a cup of coffee in a cafe. Military action tends to have specific objectives (occupy land, eliminate a threat)

e) There’s something frightening and confronting about someone who is not only prepared to die for their beliefs, but does. It makes us wonder how and why they believe so strongly, and causes us to question our commitment to our own beliefs.

I’m with robinc308: the thing about terrorism is that it ISN"T comprehensible to most of us. It’s frightening because there is no rhyme or reason to the action. Suicide bombing is particularly scary because most of us associate wanting to die with some depressive/psychotic state, and being confronted with otherwise sane and committed people who are prepared to die for a ‘cause’ is incredibly threatening.

Hey, that’s a great way to put the Western world’s view into words, Barsa Loner!

Definitely has quotation potential. I’m thinking of making it my sig.

Robinc’s point (e):

I agree up to a point, but I don’t think it causes us to question our commitment to our own beliefs. The Japanese Kami-kaze pilots during World War II were certainly frightening, and made us wodner how and why they believe so strongly… but we reject their beliefs and their ideology, entirely. I don’t think we ever questioned our own commitment: “wow, those Japanese pilots are willing to kill themselves for their military cause, does that mean that we should pull out of WWII and go back to isolationism?”

Nope. We said that their self-less devotion to the Japanese military leaders was pathetic idiocy.

The difference is that the Palestinian suicide bombers get great Public Relations and great press. They’ve got us convinced that they do it out of “desperation at their plight” rather than out of devotion to their religion or a rabid desire to kill Jews… and we also overlook the large sums of money paid to their families by the terrorist organizations, the Palestinian Authority, the Iraqis, etc.

My lord I love this quote “The difference is that the Palestinian suicide bombers get great Public Relations and great press.”

The more you look at the facts the less it is about religion, and the more it is about: desperation of their plight and desire to kill (or hurt in anyway) as much Israelis as posible. The money is also a nice touch, but if I doubt it has a big factor in the minds of sucide bombers.

I would have to guess that anger and desperation are the top ones.

C K Dexter Haven, you got one thing right. Both the IJ Kamikaze pilots and suicide bombers have one thing in common: they are both acts of desperation. The IJN was powerless to stop the US behemoth the same way that the Palestinians were powerless to oust the IDF war machine.

Not only is there no rhyme or reason to Middle Eastern suicide bombers (I am excluding Japanese Kamakazis, crazy people and so on), their action is self defeating. They can’t be reasoned with, they are unwilling to comprimise at all, their targets only serve to drive public support AGAINST their cause and in the grand scheme of things, their random violence is not enough to actually acheive their objectives.

Take for example the Palestinians. If you go in to Israel and start blowing up random civilians, why, in your wildest dreams, would you think that the Israelis (who are equally stubborn) would not retaliate with all the military might at their disposal? Now the goal may be to create a conflict that spirals so out of control that the international community has to step in. The problem with that strategy is that most of Palestine will probably be destroyed before an agreement is ever reached.

I think one reason the Palestinian suicide bombers are especially feared is that they are targetting civilians.

Military actions can be dealt with, by winning (or losing) a war. But how do you placate someone who just wants you to die?

I think the motives of the suicide bombers is also at least partially to derail the peace process as well, which is awful scary to those who have suffered thru all kinds of terrifying things since 1948.


Actually, kamikaze pilots were involved in the first attacks against the US during Japan’s attempt to expand its empire. Not really a “desperate” act, IMHO.

Also, not too many people look at the Jones’ Town massacre or the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide and think, “Wow, such dedication maybe Jim Jones is Jesus reborn, or maybe that comet really was an alien space ship come to take our spirits to a better world.”

Well you are right about all but the last, though if they spoke English and wore suits, then they’d be fanatics who dress similarly, speak the same language, and perform evil acts.


Say what you will about the worthiness of their beliefs, it is difficult to doubt the sincerity of those beliefs.

That is a very rare, and perhaps qualifies as “special”.

Agreed. Although, I see it as special in an interestingly bizarre way. Like the the people who tattoo, cut, pierce, and burn their bodies to look like other animals. It takes a dedication I don’t understand. Although, maybe it’s a mental illness (Delusional Disorder?).

I don’t know - Sometimes I wonder if we’re talking sincerity or bullshit rationalization. Hard to get inside such a mindset, but I wonder how much of it is “sincere” and how much is simply “suicidal” and bereft of any real belief system. i.e. Kambuckta’s point about suicides holds - Some of these people may just be more than willing to kill themselves because they consider their lives worthless ( or are just fucking nuts ), and take any given rationale and reason to do so. i.e. They mouth all the appropriate catch phrases and perhaps even convince themselves of that, but all they are really interested in doing is dieing and making a spectacle of it.

But I admit it may just be that I’ve never understood the tactic of suicide bomb attacks on civilians. I can understand the suicide military attacks on enemy soldiers ( sorta ) - The idea that if you’re going to die you might as well take as many of the enemy with you can. But targetting civilians is so ineffably evil ( and utterly unproductive from a political standpoint ), so alien to most belief systems ( including Islam, the bullshit rationalizations of a motley assortment of insane mullahs aside ), that it really boggles the mind. The kamikaze, I get - Palestinian ( or IRA or UDF or whoever ) terror attacks, not so much. I suppose sometimes it’s just a matter of hatred knowing no bounds, but it still makes no sense from an organized standpoint.

Speaking of kamikazes, while it is true there were incidences of suicide attacks in the early days of the war, these were generally of the “wounded, final run” sort. The famous kamikazes however, the dive-bombing pilots specifically sent on one-way suicide missions, were a late-war development. They were a desperation tactic as Japan gradually lost air superiority due to high attrition ( in both equipment and their most experienced combat pilots ). As a result of severe manpower shortages they figured the best chance of doing some damage with their inadequately trained new pilots with their outdated planes, who otherwise were not good for much outside of target practice for American pilots, was to use them as gigantic human bombs.

  • Tamerlane

You mean Pearl Harbor? Any link to that?

What’s the point of this?

That is an astute observation of Israeli actions in the Occupied Territory.

I agree. I guess I’m more talking about it on a personal level. We ask ourselves whether we are prepared to die for what we believe. If the answer is yes, we wonder and fear that this makes us like “them” (even though it doesn’t necessarily). If the answer is no, we wonder about whether it’s a lack of commitment, or whether deep down we think we could be wrong. (Again, it’s not necessarily either of these). It’s not that we believe wrong things in the first place, and it’s not that we change our course of action, we just ask ourselves some very confronting and uncomfortable questions.

Then there is the whole other question “if they believe that so strongly, could they be right and I be wrong?” We don’t necessarily answer yes, but it crosses our minds, and that is uncomfortable - unconfortable that we might be wrong, and uncomfortable that we would think such a thing in the first place.

suicide Bombers see themselves as their nations only army, their only weapon against their enemy. The only way (they see) for their cause to be recognised.

they work on the belief that they can scare their opponent into acknowledging their demands. they cannot attack the opposing army as they have no weapons. so they make themselves the weapon.

Unfortunately, it is the only future they see. Israel should be spending they money they spend on their military on helping out Palestine, Showing them, not just telling them, that they wish to co-exist with them. by helping them, helping to build infrastructure, set up an educational system that isnt dominated by radical extremists, create a workforce and facilities for industrial investment in palestine. Agree a boarder and stick to it.
Israel should kill the Rebellion with Kindness.

I know It has very little chance of happening, but if Israel could show to Palestinians that they want to be part of the solution, and not the problem, this war could be over a lot quicker.

The point is that the ability of suicide bombers to die for their cause doesn’t convince me of the validity of it nor question my beliefs any more than the above examples of people who were willing to die for their beliefs does.

Do you doubt your religious beliefs because of any of these examples? Does it make you question your moral values?

I have been much more persuaded by the peace marchers on both sides than the bombers and their fanaticism. If anything I find the suicides’ to be less rational and therefore less convincing a philosophy.

Also, I stand corrected about the kamikaze pilots. It was done in desperation.