Harold Jaffe's docufiction

Monk & Suicide Bomber
by Harold Jaffe

cover image of Terror-Dot-Govfrom Terror-Dot-Gov
(Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2005)

     Do you pray?


     For whom do you pray?

     For the long-suffering, the dispossessed.
     Mothers of murdered children.
     The family whose small house is exploded because the son is suspected of defending his people with stones.
     The martyrs themselves.

     You pray for the martyrs?

     I do.

     Aren't the martyrs already assured of ample reward in the next world?

     I pray for them nonetheless.


     What of the dispossessed among your victims?
     Do your prayers include them?

     I do not understand.

     Your bombs kill children, mothers. Their violent, untimely deaths leave those who love them dispossessed. True?


     But they are not in your prayers?

     They are, collectively, our sworn enemy.
     I cannot think of them as individuals.
     To do so would prevent me from my primary obligation which is to liberate our people from the enemy's long and brutal oppression.      To protect the innocent.


     Are there not those among your sworn enemies who are innocent?

     The brutal context will not permit it.

     Do you believe that?

     I must.

     Like yourself, your enemy professes to be God-fearing.
     Even if their God is different.
     Your enemy, then, also prays.
     Is it possible that some among them pray for you?

     For me?

     For you and your people.
     Do some among your sworn enemy pray for the very people that their government oppresses and murders?

     It is possible, I suppose.
     I doubt it.
     Well, it could be that a minuscule number among them recognize their barbarity and feel guilt but are unable to do anything practical about it because of their government's iron fist.

     So they pray.

     They pray for their own expiation.
     Where nobody can hear them.
     What does it matter?
     When it is a country's undisguised policy to exterminate or at the very least dispossess an entire nation, of what use are a hundred people who profess to be against genocide?
     How prepared were the Nazi holocaust victims to forgive those Germans who claimed they disapproved of their country's genocide, but were, they insisted, impotent to modify it?


     The fact is our own situation has become more grave, not less.
     Rather than extermination or existing under their brutal occupation, we have chosen our own deaths.

     You refer to the suicide bombings?
     Exploding school busses.
     Commercial aircraft.
     Concealing bombs in straw baskets and blowing up restaurants where working people come to eat and have a cup of coffee.

     Let us have their weapons technology.
     Their planes and tanks and missiles, their helicopter gunships.
     Their depleted uranium which poison our people and our crops.
     We will exchange them our children's stones.
     Our donkey carts.
     Our straw baskets with home-made bombs inside them.
     We will bomb their school busses and working class restaurants from above the cloud cover so that we cannot hear the screams.
     So that we view the devastation abstractly, on our computer screen instead of in actual time, and feel virtuous.

     As they, with their advanced weapons technology, do?


     Whereas you defend yourself the only way you--a poor country--can.
     Suicide bombing.


     You trust the leaders on your side who select the enemy targets and arm the suicide bombers?

     Our leaders lead at our behest.
     They are God-fearing.
     Committed solely to our people's welfare.


     Whose faces do I see plastered on the battered walls?

     Those are our fighters, our martyrs.

     I see faces of children.
     Teenage girls.

     Our young freedom fighters.
     They believed in peace when there were legitimate hopes for peace.
     When those hopes died the only honorable option left was to sacrifice their lives for their people.
     With God's grace.

     I read where one of your leaders said that "the body of the exploding martyr has the fine odor of musk."
     Is that an appropriate remark to make to children who are perhaps not disposed to murder themselves and others?

     I will not pass judgment on what our leaders are reputed to have said.


     Will your people and their people ever be able to live side-by-side?

     That is a question you should address to them.
     I used to believe--or wanted to believe-that it was possible.
     Now I cannot say.
     In truth I think it is not possible.
     To them we are contemptible.
     You have seen those photographs and videotapes of torture the torturers themselves took?


     How their soldiers not only tormented but degraded their prisoners.
     Then admitted that the majority of those prisoners were not even combatants.
     They were merely Muslims snatched off the streets.
     To the colonizers it does not matter, torture one, murder another.
     Bomb our milk factories, bomb our holy shrines.
     To them it is the same.
     Collateral damage.
     You can understand, then, that to us they are the most savage of colonizers.


     We wish to live in peace.
     Worship God and try, with God's grace, to elevate our lives and actions.
     But we will not turn the other cheek.
     That is the advice of the other God, which in any case is never heeded.
     Our God demands that we combat murderous infidels-whoever they might be--to the death.

     My understanding is that your God forbids the murder of the innocent and forbids suicide under any conditions.
     I also understood your God to forbid the murder of humans or animals by fire, which would proscribe suicide bombings.

     Your understanding is disputable.
     Extraordinary conditions demand extraordinary measures.
     If we stand pat we are genocided or dispossessed from our land, our burying grounds, our holy sanctuaries.
     We are a poor people.
     If we fight conventionally we cannot compete with their advanced weaponry, their depleted uranium which poisons our children.
     Thus we fight back any way we can.
     Which, in our understanding, is what the holy books counsel.
     If they turn our ancestral land into a black hole, they will be sucked into the blackness along with their intended victims, you can be certain.


     Yourself, you are a priest?

     I am a Buddhist monk.

     I recall Mahatma Gandhi being asked how he would counsel the Jews to respond as they were led to the gas.
     His answer was that they must look their executioner in the eye.
     Perhaps he was thinking of the British.
     In any event his response was misinformed.
     You look a Nazi in the eye and he plucks it out of your head.
     You have to know your enemy.
     Our enemy is implacable.
     We must then use any and all means at our disposal to resist and if need be to eradicate them.

     I see.


     Gandhi was Hindu or Buddhist?


     Didn't your Buddhists set themselves on fire during the Americans' violent occupation of Vietnam?

     Yes, a number of Buddhists: monks, nuns and laypeople, immolated themselves.
     It did not appear to affect the immediate situation.
     Individual suicide is not the same as suicide bombing.

     You approve, then, of individual suicide?

     As a tactic against war or occupation, it may in certain instances effect change.
     As Gandhi did in his hunger fasts, which would have become suicide, had the British not relented.

     Our enemy is not British.


     How, then, would you have us respond?


     Call for a cease fire.
     Enlist the mediation of outside countries who have no stake in the war.
     Reopen discussion with the other side.
     Pray for the innocent and even the non-innocent on either side.
     Do not lose faith.

     Will you offer this same counsel to the other side?

     If they are willing to listen, yes.

     And if that initiative, however well-intentioned, amounts to nothing?
     As similar initiatives have amounted to nothing?
     What then?
     What would you counsel then?


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