Insulting the Terrorists

Here’s an article in which the author essentially asks… wouldn’t it be better to call terrorists names – “bastards, lowlife, cowards, scum” – than use the more, um, antiseptic terms usually reserved for them?

He belives that:

We should not minimize the thirst for respect among terrorists and their potential sympathizers. When we treat terrorists only as tactical foes, as though we’re too jaded for moral talk, we raise the self-respect of terrorists and their appeal to young people.

I’m sympathetic to that, to some extent. (FWIW… I think treating terrorists as if we are at war with them is self-defeating. If its demoralizing to be treated as “scum”, its probably more demoralizing to be treated as an idiot for believing that somehow with a few bombings, however spectacular, they can derail a system of government and a way of life like ours.)

I’m also kind of conflicted. Regular readers know I think that people who write a textbook saying X, and then become economic advisers saying something diametrically opposed to X and at no time were willing or able to show X was wrong, should not be treated with the same respect as if they stuck with X. And those that deliberately shade and obfuscate data to try to imply something that the figures don’t show, and do so repeatedly when they know better, are hacks, and should be treated as such.

On the other hand… at whom do the insults stop? In recent years, we’ve seen all types of accusations hurled between people at different ends of the political spectrum. As an example, even in comments to this site, some readers have suggested that those who think the invasion of Iraq was planned and handled poorly are somehow supporters of Saddam Hussein who presumably wished Hussein long life and happiness torturing and mutilating to his heart’s content.

There’s also the question of where the insults stop? The author of the piece suggests calling them cowards. As Bill Maher said… there are a lot of things one can say about some of these terrorists, but many of them cannot be called cowards. Perhaps Osama and people at that level of the organization who send other people out to die are cowards – I do not know. But someone who gives his life for a cause, however misguided, is probably no coward.

So what do you think?