Thursday, December 23, 2004

Suicide bombing or homicide bombing? 

Reuters: "Suicide bomber behind Mosul bloodshed"

FoxNews: "Homicide Bomb Suspected in Mosul Attack"

The old debate re-emerges. Many people in the past have objected to the tag "suicide bomber/bombing" because it focuses all the attention on the perpetrator instead of the victims who are, after all, the targets of the attack. The "true" suicide bombing would, of course, be one where only the carrier of the explosives dies.

Is "homicide bombing" a better alternative? Yes, in a sense that the obvious desire of the perpetrators is to kill as many people as possible in as gruesome circumstances as possible. But all terrorist bombings in that sense are homicide bombings, and so if we were to follow this usage we wouldn't maintain a useful distinction between the cases where a person straps oneself with explosives belts or drives a car laden with explosives, and on the other hand the cases when somebody places an explosive device and walks away before the detonation, for one reason or another being reluctant to oneself pursue "martyrdom."

It's probably too much to expect that the media would solve this problem by adopting a similar terminology to that used on those sad occasions where wife/husband kills the other spouse and the children, before taking own life: murder/suicide. Regardless of any questions of conscious or subconscious bias, the media will probably keep going for something shorter, snappier and now - rightly or wrongly - in common usage.

Unless you have some other brilliant ideas?


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