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Found 1 result

  1. Spies Who Commit Suicide

    Recently there has been some talk on this forum about the ethics of suicide. In my view it is a mistake to argue that suicide is universally right or wrong, moral or immoral. Like all judgments of human behavior, context is critical. With that in mind, perhaps we can focus here on an unusual type of suicider: the captured spy. Sometimes a spy is captured, or about to be captured, by the enemy, and he or she decides to suicide rather than cope with whatever future awaits them. Let's consider a couple specific examples, which I've found on a list at Wikipedia. Meir Max Bineth was an Israeli agent who spied on Egypt in the 1950s. He got caught during a failed operation and was then tortured for months. The Egyptians wanted to put him on trial, but the night before his court date Bineth killed himself in jail. He did not want to give the Egyptians the satisfaction of publicly executing him. I think this is a perfectly justifiable reason to kill oneself. While some might argue that Bineth could have enjoyed a day or two more of imprisoned life, I would counter that such a brief and pointless extension of life might be utterly worthless compared to the final psychological satisfaction in knowing that one's suicide will deprive the enemy of a public victory. Sarah Aaronsohn, a Jew working for the British during World War 1, was part of a large network who spied on the Ottomans in the Middle East. The enemy discovered Aaronsohn and tortured her for days. She refused to reveal any secrets. Her captors then let her return to her house to change clothes. While inside she grabbed a hidden pistol from her bathroom and shot herself in the head. Aaronsohn killed herself rather than suffer more torture and possible betrayal of both her fellow conspirators and their greater cause in pursuit of a Jewish homeland. Not betraying her friends was clearly a more important value than the continued physical and psychological torment that awaited her. Such cases of captured spies killing themselves are perhaps the closest thing we have to a truly moral suicide. They are done with great and serious purpose, which might be condemned but certainly cannot be denied or evaded. The purpose is not merely to escape the pain of torture, but to deprive an enemy of the value which is the spy's own self. By killing themselves, they are maintaining the integrity of their chosen purpose in life, which is to fight the enemy and give them nothing. Spies like Bineth and Aaronsohn probably died with whatever joy they could get from knowing that they remained true to their purpose until the bitter end.
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