To the editor:
Regarding your editorial of April 16, “Marathon bombing was a vicious, cowardly act,” I strongly disagree with the word “cowardly.”
The 9-11 terrorists willingly died in their attack, but many of us labeled them “cowards.” Surely Osama bin Laden knew that he would likely die the way he did, in a shower of American bullets, or perhaps live out the rest of his life in a tiny cell in Guantanamo, but far too many of us called him a coward. Imperial Japan attacked us, and our president, Franklin Roosevelt, called them “dastardly,” even though they knew that they were attacking a nation that was much more powerful than their own.
The Boston Marathon bomber or bombers put their futures at risk, and unless they are utterly crazy and delusional, they know that they’ll very likely spend the rest of their lives in a prison or die when they the police come to arrest them.
I do not defend the leaders of Imperial Japan, al-Qaida and bin Laden, or the marathon bomber or bombers. They deserve our loathing. But they were not or are not “cowards,” as much as some of us my feel comfort in dehumanizing and demonizing them in that way.
And think about it. Our unmanned drones kill our enemies, along with innocents on the other side of the world, with no risk to any American. Even when American service men and women actually pull the trigger, they are often far away, in a jet or in a ship, at sea. The president, safely on the other side of the planet, gives the order.
I do not assume that our jihadi Muslim enemies did this terrible act. Many of them condemned attacks on civilians after 9/11 as specifically forbidden by Islam, and jihad-minded Muslim-Americans and other residents of the United States in fact have gone to Muslim world to fight rather than attacking us here, soft targets that we are. The marathon seems an odd target for them, too.
I even support our drone program, in part because it actually kills far fewer non-combatants.
However, I merely mean to ask if putting a bomb in a trash can and going somewhere to hide is “cowardly,” then what of our nation’s own remote-control bombings?
And we have killed “innocents” even longer than we have been a nation. Native Americans didn’t simply give us this land and happily go off to their mass graves or their wretched reservations, after all. Our bombs, which drop out of the sky, kill women and children, babies and old men still. We attacked Iraq, a nation that had never attacked us and that even lacked the capacity to do so, and killed tens or hundreds of thousands of innocents, and set off a civil war that killed hundreds of thousands of innocents and that continues to kill them.
“Innocent” has two meanings, after all: without guilt and naive. Ours is a democracy. We elect our leaders and we know what they’re doing, so the blood that is on their hands is on ours as well. Our addiction to oil has been a major motive for our wars, just as the greed for land drove our wars against the original inhabitants of the United States.
We are not free from guilt. But far too many of us cherish that other kind of innocence.