It is conventional to describe terrorist attacks as “cowardly”, and world leaders did so in the aftermath of the abomination in Manchester. But I’m not sure it’s the right word to apply to a suicide bomber.
You could argue, I suppose, that self-slaughter is intrinsically cowardly. G.K. Chesterton, for example, saw courage as being “a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die”, and believed that killing yourself was “the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life”. But even if you take this view of suicide in general, it’s an odd way to describe what happened on Monday night.
We are surely dealing here with something darker and more troubling than cowardice. Try to hold in your mind, for a moment, what took place. Young girls, teenagers and pre-teens, spend weeks looking forward to a concert, arranging to go with their friends, planning where to meet for pizza before. On the day itself, they Snapchat each other, co-ordinating what they’re going to wear. They trot excitedly away from their parents, full of anticipation. They end the night shredded by nails and shrapnel.
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