web analytics
September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



On Feeling the Pain of a Bombing Victim

The pain inflicted by the Boston terror bomber or bombers is greater than anything non-victims can ever feel themselves.

Louis Rene Beres

Louis Rene Beres

Following the Boston Marathon bombing, one crucial point will likely remain overlooked. The most loathsome aspect of this or any other terror bombing attack on civilians will always lie in the inexpressibility of physical pain. While all decent people will abhor the idea of bombs expressly directed at the innocent, whether here or in other countries, none will ever be able to process the very deepest horrors of what has been inflicted.

Never.

Human language can never describe such pain. Always, this pain is private and incommunicable. Always, the unique inhumanity of all terror violence must be reduced to a more or less anesthetized inventory of numbered casualties. This reduction will include both the counted fatalities and the “merely wounded.”

Upon reflection, the limiting idea of hard or impenetrable boundaries between humans is not hard to understand. After all, everyone who is human has suffered physical pain. And everyone who has suffered will concur that bodily anguish not only defies language, but is also language-defiling and language-destroying.

Significantly, this inaccessibility of pain, this irremediable privacy of torment, can have markedly wider social and political consequences. For example, in the particular case of recurrent Palestinian terror bombings against Israelis, it has sometimes stood in the way of recognizing such cruel assaults as the visceral expression of sheer jihadist barbarism.

There is never, from the terrorist point of view, any persuasive expectation of being able to transform victims’ pain into influence or power. On the contrary, and also quite predictably, any resort to terrorist carnage and mayhem will stiffen even the most forgiving hearts. So why, then, do terrorists continue to enthusiastically inflict grievous pain upon innocents, gleefully tearing up their unprotected bodies without even a plausible hint of pragmatic benefit?

This is a key question. Are these criminals, whatever their personal and group motives, simply nihilistic, believing in certain distinct patterns of killing for their own sake? Have they merely exchanged one murderous playbook for another, now preferring to trade in Sun-Tzu and Clausewitz, for Bakunin, Fanon, and De Sade?

Here is a partial answer. Recalling that terrorism often is a perverse species of theatre, all terrorists, in precisely the same fashion as their intended audiences, are imprisoned by the stark limitations of language. Even for them, the pain experienced by one human body can never be shared with another. This is the case even if these bodies are closely related by blood, or by any other tangible and usual measures of racial, ethnic, or religious kinship.

In the final analysis, much as we might wish to deny it, the split between one’s own body and the body of another, is always firm and always absolute. Whatever we may be taught about empathy and compassion, the determinative membranes separating our individual bodies, one from the other, ultimately trump every formal instruction. These “membranes,” after all, are stubbornly and irreversibly impermeable.

Sometimes this split may allow even the most heinous infliction of harms to be viewed “objectively.” Here, especially where a fashionably popular political objective is invoked – as in the case of Hamas or Islamic Jihad or Fatah or Hizbullah attacks on Israeli noncombatants – terror bombings can conveniently masquerade as “national liberation.”

For terrorist bombers and their supporters – whether suicide “martyrs” or the more long-distance kinds of killers who employ precision timing devices and who prefer not to die themselves (as was initially the case in Boston) – the violent death that they mete out to their victims is an abstraction. Doctrinally, it is always justified or rationalized, in the name of “political necessity,” or “citizen rights,” or “self-determination,” or “national liberation.” Nothing else needs to be said. Psychologically, if not jurisprudentially, these self-justifications always amount to a full “pardon.”

Physical pain within the human body can destroy not only ordinary language but can also bring about a hideous reversion to pre-language human sounds; that is, to those guttural moans and cries and whispers that are anterior to learned speech. While the victims of terror bombings writhe in agony, from the burns and the nails and the razor blades and the screws (and from shrapnel dipped lasciviously into rat poison), neither the public that must bear witness nor the murderers themselves can ever begin to know the real meaning of what is being suffered.

About the Author: Louis René Beres, strategic and military affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, is professor of Political Science at Purdue University. Educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), he lectures and publishes widely on international relations and international law and is the author of ten major books in the field. In Israel, Professor Beres was chair of Project Daniel.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “On Feeling the Pain of a Bombing Victim”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
A Muslim social media campaign against ISIS was begun by the British Active Change Foundation.
Muslims Tell ISIS: #NotInMyName [video]
Latest Indepth Stories
Cannabis Greenhouse

Research shows that high doses of marijuana can produce acute psychotic reactions, lower IQ in teens

donny pic

The current missionary problem in Samaria is still relatively unknown throughout Israel&to most Jews

Jewish Holidays' Guide for the Perplexed

Rosh Hashanah is a universal, stock-taking, renewal and hopeful holiday,

The New York Times building is only the cover page for what goes

No mutual clash between parties, it was Jews repeatedly attacked by Arabs, not the other way around.

Israel would love to be in the coalition,but it’s never going to happen, because, in the end, most of America’s allies would walk away if Israel were on board officially.

Why has his death been treated by some as an invitation for an emotional “autopsy”?

SWOT analysis: Assessing resources, internal Strengths&Weaknesses; external Opportunities&Threats.

Strategy? For the longest time Obama couldn’t be bothered to have one against a sworn enemy.

Seventeen visual skills are needed for success in school, sports, and everyday life.

We started The Jewish Press. Arnie was an integral part of the paper.

Fear alone is substantial; without fusing it to beauty, fear doesn’t reach its highest potential.

Fortunate are we to have Rosh Hashanah for repentance, a shofar to awaken heavenly mercy.

Arab leaders who want the US to stop Islamic State are afraid of being dubbed traitors and US agents

National Lawyers Guild:Sworn enemy of Israel & the legal arm of Palestinian terrorism since the ’70s

More Articles from Louis Rene Beres
Louis Rene Beres

President Obama’s core argument on a Middle East peace process is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Louis Rene Beres

Once upon a time in America, every adult could recite at least some Spenglerian theory of decline.

President Obama’s core argument is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Specific strategic lessons from the Bar Kokhba rebellion.

Still facing an effectively unhindered nuclear threat from Iran, Israel will soon need to choose between two strategic options.

For states, as for individuals, fear and reality go together naturally.

So much of the struggle between Israel and the Arabs continues to concern space.

An undifferentiated or across-the-board commitment to nuclear ambiguity could prove harmful to Israel’s’s overall security.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/on-feeling-the-pain-of-a-bombing-victim/2013/05/22/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: