Islamofacist! Islamofacist! Islamofacist!
The demonizing of an enemy is quite primal, and must have been functional on savannas long ago, or it would not grip us so tightly now. It might still be functional. For we do have sworn enemies and, in the end, we may just have to kill them all. The more we can convince ourselves that they are evil demons, the easier that will be to do.
But, having gotten the deadly war cry and team cheer off my chest, and, not being in position to immediately commence battle, it seems to me that, both for curiosity's sake and my own moral good health, I can take the time to consider the human beings to whom we have attached this derisive label.
For from my own moral standpoint, killing is killing whether in cold blood or hot, ultimately leading to the same very unpleasant karmic consequences. So if you must kill, do so in cold blood and at least preserve your self-respect by not hiding behind the "irredeemable and demonic evil" of your enemies. Such practices merely pile pointless lies on top of manslaughter.
So be Cardinal Richelieu, and not Torquemada, and kill men with a clear mind in preference to a clear conscience, if you must kill men at all. Because if you do, that clear mind has at least some chance to lead you to genuine moral remorse and a clear conscience certainly doesn't. And moral remorse, followed by remedial action, is the only hope of forestalling any of the consequences of any killing.
Cold blood is useful, also, when considering an enemy's humanity. For your chances of besting him increase if you understand his weaknesses. If he is an evil demon, he has none, and you will best him only by luck.
Over on One Hand Clapping I had a cut-and-thrust with Reverend Sensing recently about a remark of his that the insurgents in Iraq had "no ideas"--which is why Democracy would win out in the end. I pointed out to him that his earlier fine post on the Bush Inauguration specifically quoted the ideas behind the insurgents' critique of Democracy and that those ideas derived from the premise of absolute submission to God's will. I don't believe in the premise in the first place, Reverend Sensing would accept it, I think, only with reservations, and would not agree that it leads to a valid critique of Democracy, but the premise is an idea, as are the conclusions drawn from it, even if both the Reverend and I agree (and we do) that it is a bad idea leading to false conclusions. I think the Reverend's hot blood and the demonizing impulse got the better of him here.
Our enemies have cold blood enough to actually drive explosive-laden cars which kill them when they detonate for our destruction. Would you do that for Democracy? I don't think I would.
Gambling with death in battle merely takes courage, and the longer the odds, the greater the courage, which is why we have things for soldiers like the Congressional Medal of Honor or the Victoria Cross, for the greatest courage of all. But even with the longest odds there is always a chance of survival, not all medals for highest valor are given posthumously, and any surviving winner of them, I think, would say their valor was aided considerably by the immediacy and speed of the crisis in which it was displayed.
Suicide car bombing is betting against a rigged wheel in order to lose. There is no crisis compelling you to act swiftly and bravely to grasp the slender chance of survival, if it be there. You have to think about impending death and choose it in as calm and unhurried a condition as any driver might chose a freeway exit. Only ideas give anyone the nerve to do such things, ideas and, maybe, utter despair. The despair is there in occupied Palestine, though we refuse to see it because we are largely partisan in that quarrel--our media seldom cover the reasons for the Palestinian despair, and we are not inclined to read or watch them when they do.
But Iraq? There is no reason for despair there, and there is every reason for hope, unless you happened to be so high in the councils of Saddam Hussein that his fall is yours. A handful of people only meet such a criterion, not thousands of insurgents. No, it is Suicide for an Idea.
We'd better look cold-bloodedly at the idea of absolute submission to the Will of God and not deceive ourselves by demonizing our enemies. The last time we faced something like this it was called kamikaze. To forestall the very real likelihood that an entire country would be willing to commit suicide piecemeal, in the ideal of kamikaze, we had to cold-bloodedly drop the first atomic bombs.
No one should have a clear conscience over this, and everyone should have a clear mind about it, and about what it might imply for our future. For even if we might be generally unwilling to kill ourselves for our ideas, we may have to kill a great many other human beings, and not evil demons, for our ideas.
If we do, who among us will feel moral remorse after it is done?