Give me liberty or give me death!

A Tibetan man, identified as Jampa Yeshi, screams as he runs engulfed in flames after self-immolating at a protest in New Delhi, India, ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to the country. Macau Daily Times, 3-27-12

Suicide bombers are an important tool in the arsenal of wars in the Middle East; daily somewhere in the Middle East, at least, one erstwhile mujahid straps on his bombs, goes into a group of people and blows himself up; the explosion may cause anywhere from one death to hundreds, depending on the size of the bomb and the size of group of people surrounding the bomber.  The idea of a suicide solider is not new and especially not new in the Middle East.  The famous Assassins of the middle ages, expected to die when they attempted to kill unbelievers, unrighteous leaders and invaders .  It is said that the first assassins were trained in the remote Alamut mountain region; the assassins were formed to rid Islam of the crusaders.  Along with learning  skills for being unnoticed and dissembling, they were given hashish (from which we get the word assassin) and supposedly shown a wonderful valley, filled with wine, women and possibly even song;  a taste of the heaven that was to be their reward.  The location of the training and some of the incentives may have changed in the last thousand years, but one incentive remains – God’s reward of an eternity in heaven for the mujahid’s sacrifice.  It is a common theme for suicide assailants everywhere.

The Japanese during WWII raised suicide missions to a level of national military strategy with the kamikaze. They too were god’s messengers, God’s Spirit, the Divine Wind.  I have always thought that the tactic was somehow foreign to our values and our culture; not so it would seem.  Two  hundred and thirty-seven years ago this week, Patrick Henry delivered his famous speech.  He said two things that would resonate with any suicide bomber today  – Almighty God, Forbid it! – the loss of freedom – and the simple if I can’t be free than I choose to die in the attempt.

“It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Patrick Henry, 3-23-1775, Wikipedia

I started thinking about the subject of willing dying while reading a delightful little book about England’s 19th century colonial expansion and what the author calls, Queen Victoria’s Little Wars.  The century for the British was one long war, they fought Napoleon and the French, the Peninsula War, Russia in the Crimea and against a myriad of opponents in  South Africa, Egypt, Sudan, Afghanistan, Persia, India, Burma, Canada, the United States and of course on the seas – Britannia Ruled the Waves after all.  Many, many English, Irish and Scottish young men spent their entire life in the service of crown.  Some were officers in command of troops by the age of 16 and many saw combat before even younger than that.  Garnet Wolseley, was one of those young men, a third generation solider, commissioned at 18 and in battle by 21 – he fought against the forces of the guerrilla leader Myat Toon in Burma in 1853;  Toon resented and resisted England’s annexation of the Kingdom of Burma.  Like most of his peers, Wolseley was eager to get to war, to be in combat and to make his mother, his queen and his country proud.  He was more than willing to die in the process, oh, but please God, not before I have done something heroic.

When Field Marshal Lord Wolseley was asked if he had ever been afraid in battle he said: there was little time during the action to be afraid, but he admitted to having been anxious before battles.  “I can honestly say the one dread I had – and it ate into my soul – was that I should die without having made the name for myself which I always hoped a kind and merciful God might permit me to win.”  Queen Victoria’s Little Wars, Byron Farwell, Victorian Book Club, 1950, page 65

It would seem that given a reason, and apparently it does not take much of a reason, young men have always been willing to die for glory and for god – and it does not seem to matter how many people will die to give them that glory.  In those long ago jungle days of my youth,  I knew one such man, he was older than I was, married and the father of 6 children; he was a refugee from Czechoslovakia and wanted very much to be an American war hero.   Given a chance for the medal of honor he would have done whatever it took, dying was in his mind a small price to pay for glory.  I enjoyed that life, it was exciting most of the time, but I had no desire to die, there were other things in life I wanted then, but for the life of me I can’t remember what they were.

There are thousands, if not millions of people, however who are willing to die for glory, god or freedom.  I once thought as soon as Saddam Husein quit offering $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers the phenomenon would go away – just how many of those willing young bombers can there be,  I wondered?   How naive was I?  The violence is not going to end because there is a shortage of suicide bombers, the supply is endless  – just ask that young man from Tibet.  Oh, wait you can’t ask him, can you?


2 Responses to “Give me liberty or give me death!”

  1. 1 Howard Mcghee March 27, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    It’ll never “go away”

  2. 2 Tribal Wars 2 Hack September 24, 2014 at 4:02 am

    I’m impressed, I must say. Rarely do I encounter
    a blog that’s both educative and interesting, and without a
    doubt, you have hit the nail on the head. The problem is something
    not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I’m very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something regarding this.

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