Sunday, November 9, 2008

Three Bali Bombers Executed

Indonesia has executed the three terrorists convicted of the 2002 bombing of a Bali night club which killed 202 people. The N.Y. Times reports that in spite of many delays the execution by firing squad was allowed to proceed.

Tied side by side to wooden posts, the bombers — Imam Samudra, Amrozi and Mukhlas, also known as Ali Ghufron — were simultaneously shot in a field on a small prison island off western Java, officials said.

The executions brought an end to years of uncertainty about the fate of the three men, who were convicted in 2003 but whose deaths was put off many times because of government fears about a political or terrorist backlash.

One thing I couldn't help noticing is that in Indonesia a process that they describe as slow with many delays takes six years while ours takes 20. I'm not sure what that means.

Another idea that comes to me is that at first what seems to be a cold calculated crime, planned and executed by sound minds, turns into something quite different with the defendant's statement.

In a letter written several weeks ago and posted on a sympathetic Islamist Web site, Mukhlas said he felt no remorse for the killings. “I am neither afraid of prison nor the death penalty,” he wrote. “I am not content with lenience or freedom. And I was not mournful when accused of killing people in the path of God, and at this moment I’d proclaim: ‘In the name of God, I have won.’ ”

To me a guy like this is not of sound mind at all. He's dangerous for sure, but in my opinion does not merit execution. What do you think? How do these guys compare to the mafia hit men on the scale of culpability? How do they compare to the violent damaged killers?

What's your opinion?


  1. Mike,

    What evidence do you present to show that he's not of sound mind?

    The fact that he isn't afraid to die? Does that mean every soldier every was insane?
    How about the firemen and cops that rushed into the Twin Towers, especially after the first one collapsed?

    Martyrs have always been willing to suffer and possibly die for their beliefs. The fact that he is aware that he killed people, to me, shows that he is sane.

    These types of murders, to me, are worse then someone like a mafia hit man. Because the bombers know they are unlikely to change anything but they do it anyways. The fact they target innocent people, that they try to create terror makes the crimes worse.

    One of the hardest things for me is to wrap my mind around this fact: There are people out there trying to kill me and destroy my way of life and their religion requires them to do that.

    If I accuse this man of being crazy because of his beliefs, Am I also crazy because I have a religious belief?

  2. If I accuse this man of being crazy because of his beliefs, Am I also crazy because I have a religious belief?

    must... not... start religious flamewars on other people's blogs... must... restrain... atheistic snarkiness...

  3. Nomen,

    Sorry to tempt you so much. Just trying to understand Mike's viewpoint.

    Thanks for the restraint

  4. Bob, Another reason I may not have always answered your questions in the past is that I sometimes take them to be rhetorical, more statement than question.

    But in keeping with my new resolve, I'll respond to your comment. You asked, "Does that mean every soldier every was insane?" The implication of that question is what, that every soldier is not afraid to die? That's false Bob. Normal mentally healthy soldiers are scared shitless when facing death. These Bali bombers are not normal mentally healthy young men by any stretch.

    You asked, "If I accuse this man of being crazy because of his beliefs, Am I also crazy because I have a religious belief?" Well that depends on what the beliefs are, doesn't it? And, before we go on, Islam does not encourage anyone to do violence; that's a misreading of the Koran. One can misread the Bible in a similar way. People who choose to interpret their holy books this way, in my opinion, can be called crazy without in any way disparaging the beliefs of "normal" adherents even when those beliefs may seem like superstition to outsiders (like Nomen maybe).

  5. So any soldier who isn't afraid to die is Crazy?

    Also not to get into a religious discussion, but I have met many people who are so secure in their faith that they do not look at death the same way I do. Are they nuts?

    Also, I'm rather curious if the Bali Bomber was telling the truth, or just bluffing...or saying what he thought he should say.

    Just a few reflections

  6. Mike,

    Nice dodge on interpreting my questions. Soldiers are people who accept the fact they may and likely will engage in activities that will get them killed. Are they afraid to die, in most case yes. You can't prove that these killers weren't also afraid to die. They were willing to die for for their beliefs, just like soldiers are.

    I might not have phrased it the best, but you get my contention. Just because someone is willing to do for their beliefs doesn't mean it is prima facia evidence of insanity; which I thought what you were trying to argue.

    Every religion or philosophy can sound irrational. Christians get a lot of grief for believing in a God that spoke the universe into existence but can not the case be made it's more irrational to believe that the universe simply "started" existing. That for the first time ever, there was an effect without a cause. Again, I thought your argument was that religious belief made for evidence someone was crazy; if so does that mean everyone who has a belief system (religious or not) is insane?

    I'm just trying to find out how you justify a claim of mental illness.

  7. Bob, Put that way: "They were willing to die for for their beliefs, just like soldiers are." I can go for it. And I agree that doesn't constitute mental illness. But blowing up a disco full of civilians does. Are you going to try to say that's covered under religious beliefs?

  8. Mike,

    America blow up two complete cities, full of civilians; Nagasaki & Hiroshima. Neither was destroyed because of religious belief of the ones who dropped the bomb. Were the people who made such a decision insane?

    The point that I'm trying to make is that murder in and of itself isn't evidence of mental illness. People can coldly, rationally, in sound mind decide to do heinous acts. Other then the act of murder, there is no evidence of insanity.

    These people consider themselves to be at war with everyone who doesn't believe the same as them. If a soldier killing on the battle field isn't insanity, then their acts (however despicable) aren't either.

  9. Bob, That's total nonsense. Comparing the acts of terrorists to soldiers on a battlefield is what the terrorists do to justify their actions. I can't believe you're talking like that, you of all people. You're a guy who has a strong sense of right and wrong. I think you argued yourself into a corner with the murder doesn't equal insanity idea. I never said it always does, but when a person believes it's God's will that he kill innocent people, I say that's insanity. What would you call it?

  10. I would argue that he didn't think he was killing "Innocents" any more than the 9-11 Hijackers thought they were killing "Innocent Civilians"

    ...they were killing Americans, and in their sick eyes we are all enemy combatants.

  11. Mike,

    That is exactly the point that I was trying to make. While we wouldn't make that comparison, they did.

    If soldiers fighting on the battlefield are doing rational, sane acts; so are the bombers who murder civilians.

    It wasn't an act of insanity for America to drop 2 atomic bombs on Japan. It was a cold, rational, logical decision to kill civilians. I don't see the Bali bombers decision to be any less rational. They had a goal, developed a plan and executed it to try to achieve a goal.

    Why is it insanity to kill if a person thinks it is God's Will?
    The Koran states it is acceptable to kill to achieve the caliphate, isn't what they did consistent with that?

    I would argue insanity only if the bomber's actions went totally against their religious tenets. This clearly isn't the case with Islamic extremists.

  12. i agree it wasn't an insane act for the USA to nuke imperial Japan. of course, i would also strongly argue that it was a war crime, so that might not be agreement you want to hear.

    what we should be asking is why acts of war can be considered sane and reasonable, and perhaps thinking about war crimes can help us tell the difference between sanity and something-else in this area.

    My Lai was a war crime, everybody vaguely reasonable (which to this day doesn't include all Americans by a long shot) agrees with that. but why? because, i would claim, it served no rational, sensible, useful purpose in the war; it did not help the U.S. Army achieve thise things it needed and wanted to achieve at the time, and it killed defenseless people who weren't fighting us for no good reason. it was a useless slaughter, and therefore indefensible, and therefore criminal. question to chew on: was it insane? why or why not?

    i'd argue My Lai was on the edge of insanity, if perhaps not over it. still criminal, still sane enough that a "not guilty due to insanity" plea should not have been allowed (not that one was tried, AFAIK), but getting close to it. that gives me some sort of baseline; compared with that, acts of terrorism seem clearly over the edge and into the just plain nuts. maybe what used to be called "criminally insane", as in "guilty but insane", but insane nevertheless.

    but that's my personal judgement. comments, anyone? the way: the reason it's insane to kill on divine command is that it's wrong to effing kill people. we stretch that for self-defense, and we stretch it to nearly the breaking point (and sometimes past that) for warfare, but "gods" do not get to tell us to stretch it one frigging millimeter. some god wants some killing done, let him/her/it do their own damn wet-work. morality is not, not, NOT just what some deity commands. morality involves making our own choices, not just following orders --- not even if they come from a god.

  13. Bob, Let me put it this way. When a Protestant Christian believes that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, that this actually happened, literally, we usually don't call him insane. When a Roman Catholic believes in Transubstantiation, that the bread and wine actually become the Body and Blood of Christ, we usually don't call him insane. But when a young Muslim boy believes it's the will of God that he kill people, we certainly do call him insane.

    Perhaps the dividing line could be if your religious beliefs hurt no one you're sane, if they hurt others, you're insane.

    How does that sound?

  14. Mike,

    Sorry to be slow to respond, I forgot to check back in.

    I can see your reasoning but I disagree with your conclusion.

    Killing is still killing regardless of the reason, but some reasons are justified. If someone is standing in my doorway with a knife, saying he is about to kill me; it is not wrong for me to kill him. Self Defense is a natural right.

    What I also disagree with is who is insane? I think it is a simply an excuse. God told the people in the Old Testament to kill thousands, he destroy entire cities, wiped out the entire world, directed kings and prophets to fight and kill many tribes. So, either it is completely crazy to believe in God or the belief is rational (I figure this will not go while with Nomen. I will state that I will not argue this with him). It may not be logical, but not all belief or thought has to be logical to be rational.

    We may not agree with a religion or belief system, but that doesn't make the average practitioner insane. Be it Wiccan, Satanism, Christianity, Liberalism, Hedonism, Conservatism; do most of the average people of those show signs of insanity? Most people of the Muslim faith don't go around killing people but they believe in the same faith, the same sacred writings. I'm not sure how we can't divide the sane and insane solely on their beliefs or even if they act on it. I think the divide is between right and wrong.

    I hope this makes sense.

  15. well they really made bali hell on earth.