Many of our own politicians typically react with the same statement whenever there is an incidence of terrorism. This is the expected response and standard rhetoric. Par for the course. And almost a requirement of protocol.
Paul Krugman in this column wonders why this inappropriate term is used at all in this context. He quotes from an article that appeared in The Slate in September 2001 :
“In truth, notions of "cowardice" and "bravery" are entirely irrelevant when we contemplate the horrors of terrorism.To call a terrorist “cowardly” is to substitute testosterone for morality. Somehow it isn’t enough to abhor an act of terrorism or even to promise to make the terrorist pay dearly. The rules demand that the terrorist be branded a sissy. This is not only a childish reflex, but one that weakens the moral force of the condemnation and thereby dishonors terrorism’s victims. After all, we don’t want brave people to slaughter innocent people any more than we want cowardly people to do so. Still, the public seems to demand that our presidents call terrorists cowards, and our presidents are too–well, cowardly–to deny them.”
Is it any better if a murderer of innocent people is a “brave murderer” instead of a “cowardly murderer”? The Slate article adds,
“Terrorism is inhumane and unforgivable--an offense to morality, patriotism, international law, and almost everything else we hold dear…The terrorists who commandeered the planes that leveled the World Trade Center and struck the Pentagon are mass murderers. In committing murder, they also committed suicide. That hardly makes them heroes. But in what sense does it make them cowards?"
It hardly matters what words we use to describe such reprehensible acts, but we cannot downplay the importance of semantics either. Politicians must learn to use more appropriate terms.