As the body count mounts in Iraq, it has become evident that the terrorists, along with the homicidal sectarians, have developed a new form of argument that is not found in Aristotle’s Rhetoric.
The philosopher’s civilized inclinations never prompted him to include, among such acknowledged forms of argument as Argumentum ad Populum and Argumentum ad Hominem, the terrorist oratorical mainstay, Argumentum ad Homicidium. In other words, argument by murder.
We might also note that Aristotle neglected to include it even though he himself had to flee threats against his life by his former, and apparently much disgruntled student, Alexander The Great.
How does the terrorist and sectarian argument proceed? By killing as many people as required to horrify the American public enough to demand that our troops leave Iraq. Is there a fallacy in the approach? Yes, and a rather large one.
They have soiled themselves with the blood of their own people. After they triumph, which they are likely to do, they cannot bring back to life those they have killed nor cheer up the families of the dead, who will continue to mourn, and detest those who caused their sorrow. Remorse will also be the lot of the perpetrators. They have murdered, and, as the result of the iron bar of natural justice, they have become murderers. There is no escape.
We know how low they will go. They will kill however many people they must to achieve their goal. Of course, that brings up another fallacy in their method of argumentation. Among the families of the murdered are people who will argue back with the same tactic. So it seems that the argument is circular. It will spin on until enough of the people who practice this form of argument learn that Argumentum ad Homicidium is a two-way firing range.
Is it too much to hope that one day they will pick up Aristotle’s fine little treatise and learn the more congenial forms of rhetoric?
Tom Attea, humorist and creator of NewsLaugh.com , has had six shows produced Off-Broadway. Critics have called his writing “delightfully funny, " “witty, " with “good, genuine laughs" and “great humor and ebullience. "