In the midst of some pretty rank letters responding to Madeleine Bunting’s article on suicide bombers, someone points out what should be the obvious:
In the muddle linking terrorist suicide bombings with, variously, Soviet and Japanese pilots ramming military targets during the second world war and Christian and Buddhist martyrdom that risked no one else’s lives, Ms Bunting misses the reason why such suicide bombings are morally revolting – namely, the intentional slaughter of people who are not legitimate targets of war. Our feelings of horror and moral revulsion do not arise from the means employed, but the targeting of the innocent.
Which is why this point in another letter is so wrong:
Is the loss of life due to suicide bombings in Iraq really more shocking than the slaughter in Falluja?
Yes it is.
As David Guberman said: the intentional slaughter of people who are not legitimate targets of war ie innocent civilians, is the difference between the tragedy of war and the outrage of terrorism.