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The Morally Blasphemous Essay

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In the following essay, I will argue that modern day suicide bombers are not morally blameless by Camus’s standards.

To be morally blameless in Camus’s terms, modern day suicide bombers must absolutely meet two vital criteria. For suicide bombers to be morally blameless, Camus stresses that these terrorists must have a just cause, and secondly meet the qualifications of proportional atonement. Since some suicide bombers have a just cause, but all do not meet the criteria of proportional atonement, they are therefore considered not to be morally blameless by Camus’s standards. In the following paragraphs, I will lay out the framework and foundations to explain why the majority of suicide bombers do not meet the criteria for proportional atonement. Secondly I will attempt to demonstrate how some of the terrorism committed by these people, may be in the name of justice but then again look at fluent counter arguments that point out that suicide bombers are breaking one of Camus’s important deontological constraints.

Proportional atonement for Camus is the ability for any terrorist, and in this case Kaliayev, to reflect on his actions after having committed the act of violence against the Grand Duke.

The terrorist or suicide bomber must then have the courage to pay the ultimate price with their own life. In Kaliayev’s case, this means to refuse any form of acquittal and to suffer the punishment. For Camus, paying with one’s life is the highest price an individual can pay. Therefore a terrorist willing to go through with his or her plan must understand that by doing so, he or she is acting under the pretenses that they are giving up everything. Those who provide an argument in saying that terrorists do pay a proportional price, bring forth the idea that by blowing themselves up, suicide bombers are clearly paying with their life, and are therefore accepting to pay the maximum price. Whether a terrorist like Kaliayev, kills one person by blowing up the Grand Duke’s carriage, or whether it be the back bombers who blew themselves up killing 191 Spaniards in Madrid, these terrorists are paying the ultimate price for what they see as committing an act of justice.

The number of people you kill, be it one or ten thousand is irrelevant as a person only has one life to give since we cannot kill ourselves over. For those who hold this true, what they are failing to realize is that suicide bombers, although they are paying the ultimate price, are often celebrated as heroes back at home and monetary compensation is often rewarded to the family members of the suicide bombers. Therefore, you might say that terrorist do pay with their lives but minus the amount of post-mortem social prestige. In his book Driven to Death, author Ariel Merari discusses the effect that monetary compensation has on helping to recruit suicide bombers. In his book, Merari states that families receive money from many sources, including local charities as well as terrorist recruiter groups like modern day Al-Qaeda and the Palestinian authority. In Iraq, before the fall of Sadam Hussein’s regime, his government would give between $20,000 and $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers, often given the goal to blow up and kill American troops or Iranian Shi’ites. 1 1Merari, Ariel. “A Controlled Study of Would Be Suicides.”

Driven to Death. New York: Oxford UP, 2010. 132-33. Print This brings me to my next point which discuses the power of what I call selfish reasoning. Another method is to try and compare modern day suicide bombers, (which we unfortunately have to generalize as Muslims) to Kaliayev. In my estimation suicide bombers blow themselves up for much ore selfish reasons. This would include the Islamic tradition of securing a place in paradise. Thus it could be far fetched to say that their death is an act of repentance but rather a quick way of going right up to paradise. Of course we do have to recognize that this may not be true for all suicide bombers. Unlike these suicide bombers Kaliayev is content to die for his cause, which is for securing a better life for the Russian people. Throughout the play there is absolutely no talk of heaven or paradise but rather the act of death as merely the end. During one of his arguments with Stepan, Kailayev notes that he joined the revolution because he loves life and is willing to give it up for the group’s cause.

2 The final foundation I wish to discuss is this idea of repentance. After having killed the Grand Duke, Kaliayev was forced to go on living in prison for a short amount of time, forced to focus and repent on his action. Even for the short amount of time, Kaliayev was forced to live knowing that he was a murderer and knowing of his dirty blood stained hands. Unlike Kaliayev who is forced to reconcile and repent, suicide bombers blow themselves up immediately, removing any bit of suffering, self reflection and pity from their agenda. This of course brings me to the next idea, which will focus on Camus’s first argument of being able to fulfill la just cause. 2Camus, Albert. “The Just Assasins.” Trans. Stuart Gilbert. Caligula And 3 Other Plays. New York: Random House, 1958. 243. Print. To say whether or not suicide bombers have a just or unjust cause is a very tricky question to answer. Since we are talking about modern day examples, let us assume we are referring to modern day suicide bombers recruited for groups like Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda’s objective is to stop the evils of American-Western oppression and economic control in the Arab world.

In the last century, America has secured a dictatorship in Iran, invaded Iraq on a number of occasions, invaded Afghanistan overthrowing the Taliban and has stationed troops in Saudi Arabia in an effort to maintain a partnership that would give the United States cheap oil. Certainly having felt the oppression, suicide bombers and terrorists networks who do not have the means to take on the American military head on and engage in what is called guerilla or asymmetrical warfare. Suicide bombers will target the populations of western countries in order for the people to demand policy changes from the government out of fear of further attacks. After the dreadful Madrid bombings in 2004, the Spanish government pulled out of Iraq. A parallel can be drawn to the terrorist organization in the “Just Assassins”, unable to take the Russian military head on, the oppressed proletariats resort to unconventional warfare of terrorism against the leaders of governments in order to achieve their goal of freedom which Camus would define as clearly a just want for both those in the Arab world and for the proletariats of Russia.

All this being considered, those opposed to the granting terrorists the “just cause” stamp of approval, we must consider that suicide bombers unlike Kaliayev are engaging in the violation of one of Camus’s largest moral constraints which includes the killing of innocents, along with the guilty. When a suicide bomber blows himself up, he usually does so with the goal of killing as many people as possible. In the story, kalayev cannot bring himself to kill the Grand Dukes niece and nephew because they are innocent; a group consensus follows his decision. If the Madrid back pack bombers wanted to get Camus’s morally blameless stamp of approval, perhaps they would have blown up the Spanish government rather than commuters. Having considered all the factors that have been discussed, for suicide bombers to be morally blameless by Camus’s standards they must first have a just cause and secondly practice proportional atonement.

Whether or not some suicide bombers have a just cause is certainly up for interpretation and can be seen in many different lights, factors would include whether blowing up civilians is morally just and on what account they can be seen as blameful for even supporting a government that oppresses a people. On the other hand, assuming that the given suicide bombers have a just cause, it is evident for the reasons stated above that no modern day suicide bomber can fit the criteria of proportional atonement. Therefore anyway you put it, modern day suicide bombers are not morally blameless because they cannot meet both criteria successfully.

Works Cited

Camus, Albert, and Stuart Gilbert. Caligula & Three Other Plays. New York: Random House, 1958. Print.

Merari, Ariel. Driven to Death: Psychological and Social Aspects of Suicide Terrorism. New York: Oxford UP, 2010. Print.

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