Barry Eisler

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Don't Worry, US Imperialism is Cost-Free

UPDATED BELOW

Recently I watched a terrific exchange between Glenn Greenwald and Bill Maher on Maher's show Real Time.  Maher was arguing that there's something peculiarly violence-prone about Islam; Greenwald countered (devastatingly, in my opinion) that Muslim violence is likely caused more by US imperialism than by anything intrinsic to Islam itself.



This led to an odd post by David Atkins at the excellent blog Hullabaloo (Digby, who runs Hullabaloo, has her own response to Atkins here) in which Atkins argues that because we haven't seen in other countries and cultures subjected to US imperialism the kinds of reactions we've seen in the Islamic world, it means Islamic violence is not being caused by US imperialism -- quod erat demonstrandum.

There's something that's been bugging me about Atkins' post (bugging me beyond the fact that he attributed to Greenwald something that not only did Greenwald not say -- "Imperialism is to blame for everything" -- but that Greenwald specifically and repeatedly disclaimed).  What's been bugging me is Atkins' logic.  Or, more precisely, his lack of it.

I tweeted that the shorter version of Atkins is "If blowback doesn't happen everywhere, it can't happen anywhere," and that's part of what I find illogical about his overall argument.  But here's another way of understanding it.

Suppose I walked up to a dozen people at random and spit in each of their faces.  Maybe some of them would ignore me.  A few might cry.  Others might spit back.  Some might sue.  Some might respond with their fists.  Some might respond with lethal force.  A few might even track down my family members and kill them to teach me a lesson.

The point is, my spitting would likely provoke a range of reactions, each of them different on the surface (different people, like different cultures, will respond to the same stimulus in a variety of ways), but all of them having in common the fact that each is a reaction to my spitting.

What Atkins is arguing is that if some of the people I spit at did nothing significant in response, it means the behavior of the other people must have nothing to do with my spitting.  But this makes no sense, neither the methodology nor the result.  The proper way for Atkins to test his thesis would be ask, "The one guy who went after my family after I spit in his face, even though the other eleven people reacted differently… would he have done so had I not spit in his face?"

(And look, let's not get too sidetracked by my spitting analogy, all right?  Even if you believe that when America supports dictators, and invades, occupies, and drones other countries, it is doing nothing other than protecting these benighted cultures from their own savagery and magnanimously gifting these countries with the blessings of freedom and prosperity, you can't seriously argue that the recipients of these gifts will view them as you do.  In other words, I'm arguing here not about US intentions, but about perceptions of US actions by the people on the other end of those actions).

This is pretty basic, is it not?  If someone theorizes that "Y is being caused largely by X," the most obvious and logical way to test the theory is to remove X, and see if Y persists.  On some level, I think Atkins realizes this.  He mentions America's experience in Vietnam, after all.  There, Vietnamese violence against western forces ceased when western forces departed.  Yet judging from Atkins' conclusions, it's as though he believes the Vietnamese cessation of violence was just a coincidence and had nothing to do with America's withdrawal.

So the question Atkins should really be asking -- and it's so obvious as a matter of logic I can't help wonder what's preventing him from asking it -- is this.  If America withdrew its support for dictators in the Muslim world, and withdrew its military forces from the Muslim world, what would be the likely effect on Muslim violence against the west?

The only reason to avoid asking this question is that the answer is so obvious -- and so obviously uncomfortable for anyone intent on arguing for the benefits of imperialism while determined to deny its costs.

If there's one thing I find continually strange about political discourse in America (actually, there are many things, but this is a big one), it's naiveté -- naiveté to the point of denial.  I would respect (though I would disagree with) an argument such as, "The world is a messy, dangerous, chaotic place.  It needs a strong policeman to enforce rules and order, and that policeman is America.  Certainly many people will resent America's self-appointed role as policeman, and among them some will react violently.  But violence in response to our policing is just a cost of doing business, a cost worth incurring if we're to secure the overall benefits our policing entails."

Instead, what we're continually fed -- and what many people eagerly ingest -- is a self-serving narrative about how they hate us for our freedoms and/or how violence against America is intrinsic, innate, and spontaneous among the people who engage in it (don't you love that phrase "self-radicalized," for example, as though someone is sitting quietly in a room and just -- poof! -- suddenly becomes a radical, all by himself?).  According to this narrative, violence against America never has anything to do with American behavior.  If there's an example of psychological denial more profound than this, I'd like to know what it is.

(I'm not talking specifically about Atkins in the paragraph above -- these aren't his arguments, and in fact he explicitly argues that Islam seems no more violent than various other religions.  But what he does argue is that violence against America is primarily caused by something other than American behavior -- according to Atkins, fundamentalism).

After the last ten years, if they really hated us for our freedoms, don't you think they'd hate us a bit less by now?  With two successive presidents claiming the right to imprison people indefinitely without charge, trial, or conviction, and to spy on Americans without warrants, and with our current president claiming in addition the power to execute American citizens without any recognizable due process, we have a lot less freedom to hate.

I guess we just haven't given up enough freedom for them to stop hating us.  We really should give up even more.

Or, instead, we could try invading, occupying and droning Muslim countries a little less, and see if that helps.  Maybe prop up fewer corrupt and tyrannical Muslim regimes.

Nah.  Islamic violence against America has nothing to do with any of that.  It's all hatred of our freedoms, or something innate to Islam, or it's just that violence is what fundamentalists do.  I mean, people never react violently to violence.  After all, look how calmly and rationally America responded to 9/11.

The most amazing thing about this topic?  That it even needs to be discussed.  Martin Luther King pointed it out almost fifty years ago, when he described America as "The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."  Violence carries terrible costs.  We ought to accept those costs, not deny them.  Not least because the denial is such a large part of what enables the violence.

UPDATE:  Shame on me for not linking to this excellent post by actual middle east expert Juan Cole on Islamic violence and violence we might attribute to other religions.
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30 Comments:

Blogger navajo51 said...

You should read Imperial Hubris

Sunday, May 12, 2013 2:15:00 PM  
Blogger J.M.Cornwell said...

While I'm sure that some of this is true, how does that explain centuries of Muslim/Islamic violent takeovers of countries and subjecting them to Muslim rule? There are the Moguls in India and the jihads in Spain, for starters.

Sunday, May 12, 2013 3:28:00 PM  
Blogger Zach said...

J.M. Cornwell: It's a complete sham of an argument to point to something that really has no bearing on this article and ask what about something doesn't really have any bearing. What about any centuries old religious conflict? There have been religious wars for quite sometime now of all kinds of religions, but the fact is that the US has been the dominant imperial force in the world post WWII. The US continues to push for a foreign policy in which no state can challenge our hegemony. We've got military bases throughout the middle east and of course invaded two countries in the last decade, with more military actions in about a dozen other countries. All of US history is built on conquest, first on the North American continent, but continued on to countries we deemed within our "sphere of influence" that included the Caribbean and South America. Then lets not forget the Philippines either. We're a nation of conquest and our CIA has a long storied history of forcing regime changes for political and economic reasons. No one is excusing Islam of everything bad that's come about in it's name and because of the hierarchy codified within the religion. There are obviously issues with Islam and more specifically with extremist Muslims just like the US experiences problems with extremist christians bombing abortion clinics and such. What's important is not to excuse our role in the middle east which is what Maher was trying to do. When he stated we didn't cause theocracy in Egypt because we weren't there he missed the fact that we had been supporting Mubarak throughout his reign. The real question is that does it surprise anyone that a hierarchal religion is trying to achieve political control of a region? History is full of religions and states that go hand in hand, and while in the west generally secularism is preferred there hasn't been a US president in quite some time that hasn't gone out of his way to proclaim faith in a christian god. Don't you think that many christian sects offered the chance would love to become more politically dominant given the chance? The reason the Muslim Brotherhood gained support is because it was against the Mubarak regime and it's US backers. A similar thing happened when the Taliban came to power because they were the resistance against the USSR.

Sunday, May 12, 2013 4:19:00 PM  
Blogger John Duncan said...

Michael Scheuer former head of bin Laden unit has strong views on this:

See:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieCCQNoiOaE

Sunday, May 12, 2013 4:26:00 PM  
Blogger politicwatcher said...

Cannot agree with your statements there. Al Qaeda attacked the US on 9/11 for what? Invading and occupying Muslim lands? I do not think so. The US troops stationed in Saudi Arabia were guests of the government. In fact, NATO with the help of the US, stopped Serbia from massacring whole Muslim populations. They also rolled back an Iraqi invasion and brutal occupation of Kuwait.

Politicwatcher: http://politicwatcher.blogspot.com.au/

Sunday, May 12, 2013 4:38:00 PM  
Blogger MackTheKnife said...

I do believe that if we were to remove ourselves politically and militarily from the Muslim world we would see that the majority of our current opponents would find others to harass. However realpolitik dictates that we retain our presence. A less intrusive posture would not go amiss, though. There are sects within Islam, e.g., the Wahabists, who interpret the words of the Prophet to mean that the entire world must be converted to Islam. These will always be a thorn in the side of the non-Islamic world. It is estimated by some that there are over a billion followers of Islam in the world today and that only 20% or less wish death to the infidels. A minority to be sure, but a minority that approaches the current population of the United States. These people will never be appeased no matter what we do. Can we condemn every Muslim for the actions of a minority? No more than we can condemn every gun owner for the actions of the Sandy Hook Butcher.

Sunday, May 12, 2013 4:43:00 PM  
Blogger Barry Eisler said...

Thanks for the comments everyone.

JM, Zach has already ably responded to your comment. Pointing to a behavior as widespread as conquest and attributing its occurrence in the Muslim world particularly to Islam seems an odd way to argue. It's especially odd when you consider America's own history of conquest (the whole southwest of the country used to be Mexico, and much of the rest used to be Native American). So much of human history is about conquest; why would you only want to discuss Muslim conquest and attribute Muslim conquest to something about Islam rather than to something about human nature and history?

JM and John, thanks for mentioning and linking to Scheuer. My favorite part of the Fox interview was when the moderator in effect said to the other guy, "Wait a minute, Scheuer is a Legitimately Serious Person -- he's not against invading Muslim countries, he just says we have to do it with additional savagery!"

Always entertaining (and depressing) to see what passes for establishment media Legitimately Serious Person credentials.

Politic watcher, we can't know for sure why al Qaeda attacked America on 9/11 (no more than we can know for sure why anyone does anything. Even our own motives elude us). But there's at least some evidence in al Qaeda's own statements regarding their motives:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motives_for_the_September_11_attacks

You'll note that al Qaeda doesn't mention freedoms or culture or globalization or anything like that, but rather US policy, US military actions, and US support for Israel. Because I can't imagine they would deny being motivated by hating our freedoms (for example) if our freedoms were in fact motivating them, I can only conclude: (i) they were motivated by hatred of our freedoms but weren't aware of it; or (ii) they're motivated more or less by the things they say are motivating them. I find (ii) more likely than (i).

I understand you're disputing the honesty of their claim to have attacked on 9/11 in response to the US presence in Saudi Arabia. For you, the US presence in Saudi Arabia was a good and noble thing. But as I mention in my post, even if you believe US military policy is a good and noble thing, you can't reasonably expect the people on the other end of it to share your views. Do you really think al Qaeda shares your understanding of the good and noble purpose and effect of the US military presence in Saudi Arabia, and attacked us for some other reason?

Hint: ask a cop what happens when he intervenes in a domestic dispute. Are the combatants universally happy that he intervened? Or do they often close ranks against the intrusion of an outsider?

Or to put it another way: how would you feel if China sent troops into America to restore the government's adherence to the Constitution? Would you welcome them as liberators and guarantors of your Constitutional freedoms?

Mack said, "However realpolitik dictates that we retain our presence [in the Muslim world]."

I have no idea what this means. What is this powerful force that dictates what we must do, even when what it dictates is so manifestly harmful to us?

As for the rest, can you provide some links to whatever surveys you're drawing on that demonstrate that 20% of Muslims "wish death to the infidels?" That's a rhetorical question, of course… there are no such surveys. What's interesting is that even though I've now pointed this out to you, your belief in the false and crazy statistic you just cited will be unshaken. Facts and logic, alas, are much less persuasive than we might like them to be.

BTW, just updated the post to include an excellent article by actual middle east expert Juan Cole. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, May 12, 2013 5:31:00 PM  
Blogger MackTheKnife said...

Tell ya what, Barry, you don't make unfounded assumptions about my ability to adjust to reasoned argument, and I will do you the same favor. Admittedly I misstated my characterization of that 20% figure. Instead of saying people who wish death to infidels, I should have said potential jihadists. Here is the line of reasoning for that number. Total number of Muslims in the world today, 1.2 to 1.5 billion (revised number). Based on polling numbers from Muslim countries not "contaminated" by Western imperialism ( Palistine and Iran to name two, an admittedly small number) votes for militant Islamist candidates and parties run about 60%. If we apply sex and age filters to that number, eliminating women, men above the age of 30 and children less than 18, we are left with about 200 million people as being of the right age and philosophical leaning to be potential jihadists. Is this profiling? Damn straight. Of that number, probably no more than 1% have the means and opportunity to become actual jihadists, about 2 million. Is this based on a long list of assumptions? Yep. Is that a reasonable number? I think so. Come up with a better one.

Realpolitik. Again I got in a hurry. Should have said as perceived by The Powers That Be. Although, would you have us return to the isolationism that preceded WWI and WWII? That worked out well. I do agree, however, that we should greatly reduce our meddling in other country's internal affairs.

Sunday, May 12, 2013 6:56:00 PM  
Blogger MackTheKnife said...

BTW, my name is Bob Tinsley.

Sunday, May 12, 2013 6:58:00 PM  
Blogger Heywood J. said...

Greenwald (and Barry) certainly make some great points. A lot of this is blowback. And a good place to start for rationales for terrorism emanating from that part of the world would be the Balfour Declaration, and maybe Cities of Salt.

However, Maher was originally asking (and he's asked it quite a few times before) why Islam -- or at least a seemingly substantial Muslims -- are prone to exceptional bouts of violence at what we in the West would regard as harmless provocations; i.e., cartoons caricaturing the Prophet (PBUH).

Maher used The Book of Mormon as an analogy; not only did Mormons not protest the musical, they bought full-page ads in the playbill. Imagine if someone were foolhardy enough to make a musical lampooning Islam. It would make what happened to Salman Rushdie look tame.

Sunday, May 12, 2013 7:47:00 PM  
Blogger Heywood J. said...

BTW, I recently read Be the Monkey, and enjoyed it a great deal. It's certainly inspired me to continue to try my hand at e-publishing. Big thanks to you and Joe Konrath for the inspiration contained therein.

Sunday, May 12, 2013 7:50:00 PM  
Blogger Barry Eisler said...

Mack the Knife (Bob) said:

"Tell ya what, Barry, you don't make unfounded assumptions about my ability to adjust to reasoned argument, and I will do you the same favor."

Bob, you're right, and I apologize. I engage so many people who cite baseless statistics and it seems like none of them ever responds when I ask for a cite. I realize that over time I've fallen into the trap of assuming that everyone who makes an evidence-free assertion is going to ignore me when I ask for a citation. That's unfair and unhelpful on my part. I appreciate you calling me out for it, and again my sincere apologies.

I have to add: such, I suppose, is the danger of profiling. ;)

You still haven't supplied any cites for your revised figures and arguments. I'd be grateful if you would. I'd also be curious about your methodology in selecting countries "not 'contaminated' by western imperialism." I think these might be hard to find in the Muslim world. And I think your logical leap from "supports a militant Islamic candidate" (do you have a definition of "militant Islamic"?) to "potential jihadist" is a huge and radically oversimplified one. Have you tried applying your methodology to voters for Christian Democrats in Europe, or to voters for the born again George Bush in the States? If you did, you'd probably find the world rife with Crusaders.

You ask, "would you have us return to the isolationism that preceded WWI and WWII?" I'm not much of a historian, but whatever the policies you're referring to consisted of, are they our only alternative to a decades-long series of support for dictators and of invading, occupying, and droning Muslim countries? In my experience, there is usually a broad range of choices in such matters, rather than a simple either/or one. But I could be wrong about this.

Sunday, May 12, 2013 11:14:00 PM  
Blogger Barry Eisler said...

Heywood observed:

"Maher was originally asking (and he's asked it quite a few times before) why Islam -- or at least a seemingly substantial Muslims -- are prone to exceptional bouts of violence at what we in the West would regard as harmless provocations; i.e., cartoons caricaturing the Prophet (PBUH)."

This is true, but it raises a larger (and for me, very interesting) point. Why is Maher so focused on one kind of violence (violence in response to perceived insults to religion) and so incurious about, say, violence perpetrated by the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today? Or why he would want to ignore the various examples Greenwald offered on his show, or that Juan Cole offers in the post I link to in my update?

I don't mean to suggest that Muslim overreactions to perceived religious slights aren't worth discussing. I think they are. I just wonder why Maher would want to define problematic violence so narrowly. It strikes me as a kind of cherrypicking: "western violence; violence perpetrated by zealots of other religions; violence resulting from nationalism... none of that is a problem. It's only Islamic violence that's worth discussing."

It's almost as though Maher thinks the other kinds of violence are themselves by definition *not* problematic. And that's a strange argument to make.

Sunday, May 12, 2013 11:20:00 PM  
Blogger Yamin Zakaria said...

@politicwatcher - I cant believe you are that IGNORANT or do you chose to be that?

//Cannot agree with your statements there. Al Qaeda attacked the US on 9/11 for what?//
The invasion and sanction and the routine killing of women and children, 500,000 Iraqi children perished through the sanctions. And Israel roams free violating every sanction under the the earth killing Palestenians at will. Your world is Israel is always 'defending' itself like the US accross the Atlantic so it came to Iraq to fight a 'defensive' war. I guess you think Iraqis were launching scuds at the US mainland!


/I do not think so. The US troops stationed in Saudi Arabia were guests of the government. //

Yes 'guests' of a US puppet, that is so easy.

//NATO with the help of the US, stopped Serbia from massacring whole Muslim populations.//

The massacare had alrady taken place (e.g Sebranica) due to the arms embargo and only stepped in to prevent further destabalisation in Europe.

/They also rolled back an Iraqi invasion and brutal occupation of Kuwait. //

Oh yeah poor Kuwaitis get invaded for 3 days you are there, Palestenians invaded for 60 years no sign of you. I guess you were moved by sympathy for these Kuwaiti Ayraaaabs! Right?

Monday, May 13, 2013 2:58:00 AM  
Blogger MackTheKnife said...

First I have to admit being afflicted with a bad case of Monkey Mind. I take on an obsession on a subject then spend a couple of months grooming the nits out of the fur before seeing something shiny in the distance and moving on. My Islamist period is a couple of years old and my memory is imperfect. My reading list for the period was dominated by books and articles by Walid Phares, Mark Gabriel, Stephen Schwartz, Ahmed Rashid and Lawrence Wright. The demographic data can be found in the Pew Research Center publication "The Future of the Global Muslim Population", January 2011. My calculations from that data are my own. The "not contaminated" countries I consider to be those with a government not installed by or supported by Western nations. Since I now live on a 28-foot sailboat, I no longer have access to those books to refresh my memory. As for the 60% number, I can't remember all the details, but I looked up the results from the 2012 legislative elections in Iran and found that the hard-line party received 66% of the votes. To me that connection to "potential jihadist" is a bit more than tenuous. To me, a potential jihadist is inimical to the presence of Western interference in their internal and/or religious affairs (on its face, an understandable resentment) and has exposure to, if not belief in, the Wahhabist/Salafist philosophy. As a side note, excluding the Islamic references, the same could be said of the Founders of our country. There were a great many "potential revolutionaries" in America between the years of 1760 and 1774. I suspect more than 1% of the population.

All that being said, accepting the somewhat shaky numbers, I feel that the number of 1% of the Muslim population being willing AND able to take up arms against their perceived oppressors is reasonable, just as I feel that the same number is reasonable when applied to Christian Fundamentalists, Christian Democrats or whatever other extremist party/organization you care to name. It's just the raw numbers that are smaller.

Again, I agree with you that we need to get the hell out of the internal afairs of other countries. There are other choices than Isolationist/Imperialist, it's just that, and here comes an unfounded conclusion of my own, from what you write here, I get the impression that isolationism would be very attractive to you. I could be, and probably am, totally wrong about this, but that's the impression I get. Feel free to tell me I'm full of shit!

Bob

Monday, May 13, 2013 8:42:00 AM  
Blogger Heywood J. said...

Barry:

I just wonder why Maher would want to define problematic violence so narrowly. It strikes me as a kind of cherrypicking: "western violence; violence perpetrated by zealots of other religions; violence resulting from nationalism... none of that is a problem. It's only Islamic violence that's worth discussing."

I couldn't recite it chapter-and-verse, and won't pretend to, but I've watched Maher's various shows for some years, and he's addressed the very real issues of blowback, as you have and as Greenwald was trying to do, many times. Had he not, he would certainly be, as you say, cherry-picking.

And in fact, in the context of Benghazi and its much larger extenuating issues, he was cherry-picking to some extent.

It also ties into the other questions Maher and many other observers have asked about the routine subjugation of women. No society is perfect when it comes to empowering women, but the sort of existence women lead in, say, Saudi Arabia is incomprehensible to most Americans.

Even scholars such as Cole don't really have an answer for that (at least as far as I've read from Cole), aside from the obvious -- Islam hasn't had an Enlightenment or Reformation; no central religious authority; the politico-religious power of the umma; there are more moderate strains of Islam (such as Sufism) but Westerners only hear about the fanatics.

Monday, May 13, 2013 9:29:00 PM  
Blogger JessicaYogini said...

@HeywoodJ
The reason that the Mormons respond differently is that they feel secure and satisfied with their control of much of Utah. They feel secure there.
On the other hand, most of the Muslim world is run by governments that have done little if anything to bring their countries the benefits of modern economies. There are complex historical reasons for this. We will all be better off if some day more Muslims enjoy better-run societies. Just as we are all better off that China is developing rapidly and many people there feel some hope for their future. The Communist Party is still oppressive but at least China is not North Korea multiplied by 50. (In the mid-60s, that is pretty much what it was.)
If I were from one of the Muslim nations, I would see the US as a negative factor. I remember during the first Gulf War seeing a list of US allies and US opponents in the Arab world along with some data about each nation. All the countries that had a lot of income but low social indices (high infant mortality, low female education) were U.S. allies. All the countries with low infant mortality and high female education rates were US opponents.
The bottom line is that in exchange for their oil, we have supported a Saudi government that promotes a singularly vicious brand of Islam. A variety that has killed far more Muslims it disapproves of than it has killed Americans. And the rest of the world is is no position to criticize because that is a deal with the devil that all nations have signed off on.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 4:39:00 PM  
Blogger Heywood J. said...

Jessica:

The reason that the Mormons respond differently is that they feel secure and satisfied with their control of much of Utah. They feel secure there.

Either that, or they understand the obvious -- that violence is an inappropriate response to such things. FWIW, I do get that, for example, a riot in Pakistan over a cartoon in Denmark has an intrinsic political component. It's not just about the cartoon.

As for the rest of your argument, I actually agree with the majority of it. The US has not been a friend to the countries in that region, to say the least.

As I mentioned in an earlier comment, a person wishing to get to the root of what drives much of radical Islamism could get up to speed very quickly by reading the Balfour Declaration and Cities of Salt. And as Barry has pointed out, we're not winning any hearts and/or minds by drone-bombing wedding parties and such.

However, it is still accurate that most Islamic societies, with or without Western interference, are content to continue functioning regressively and repressively against their women and children.

It's very difficult to take seriously as a peer a country (Saudi Arabia, for instance) that forbids women to drive cars or ride bicycles, that forbids any non-Islamic articles of other faiths (such as bibles or crucifixes), and literally forces girls to die in a burning school because they weren't fully encased in the proper garments. This is the sort of behavior that is inexplicable to a lot of western observers. I get why they hate us, but I'll be damned if I can figure out why they hate women so much.

Both things can be true -- we have needlessly antagonized them for decades with our greed for oil, and they need to modernize their societal standards, unless they wish to regress into some 8th-century isolationism. At some point, perhaps through a combination of energy conservation and an amalgam of alternative sources, no one will need their oil anymore, and they will have nothing else to offer anyone.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 11:08:00 PM  
Blogger Adil Ehsan said...

Hi, as what seems to be the only Muslim guy here, let me give my two cents. Firstly what everyone seems to ignore is that the terrorists kill far more Muslims than Americans. Al Qaeda has destroyed far more Muslim lives and is far more devastating to Islamic countries than any other force except for....The US. So if you want to know what most Muslims feel - they feel squeezed. On one side they are judged by the work of a small violent minority in a way that no one ever questions US rightwing groups. Secondly welcoming US support to fight the terrorists is also a losing strategy cause the US cares nothing about collateral damage and in fact whether by accident or design goes out of its way to make situations worse. For example you think after seeing what happened in Iraq any oppressed masses are clamoring for US sponsored regime change? In Afghanistan the US has gone from a liberator to being considered on par with the Taliban when it comes to caring about the local population. Of course if you point this out you run the risk of being branded a terrorist sympathizer. Lastly while everyone just wishes for the US to disengage, itself it cannot. Its too tied up with the Gulf monarchies and Israel to have any proper distance to view the region as an unbiased observer. Frankly most US based discourse is just plain disgusting with its holier than thou attitude, quick willingness to paint everything with a clash of civilizations outlook and complete ignorance of history. Most American's are un-educated when it comes to the Middle East but like to talk like experts and get easily rankled if an Arab or a Muslim (They are 2 different things also - the horror) displays the same level of ignorance about the US. This despite the fact that many of the sins of today are rooted in a colonial history less than 100 years old.

Sunday, May 19, 2013 12:16:00 AM  
Blogger jens said...

MackTheKnife wrote:

"If we apply sex and age filters to that number, eliminating women, men above the age of 30 and children less than 18, we are left with about 200 million people as being of the right age and philosophical leaning to be potential jihadists. Is this profiling? Damn straight. Of that number, probably no more than 1% have the means and opportunity to become actual jihadists, about 2 million."

2 million's not a lot of people. If we could identify every one of those 2 million people, and kill them all, we'd finally be safe.

Right?

We could round them up, put them all in camps, and gas them. A Final Solution to the Muslim Problem.

/sarcasm

Problem is, I think this is actually going to happen. And anyone who objects to this purge will wind up in the camps as well.

Sunday, May 19, 2013 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger David Tindell said...

In 1786, US envoys Thomas Jefferson and John Adams met in London with Sidi Haji Abdrahaman, the envoy of the Muslim leaders of Tripoli. The Americans' purpose was to negotiate an end to the practice of Muslim pirates, sailing out of North African ports, seizing US ships and citizens in international waters. Jefferson and Adams asked the envoy by what right his people extorted money and took slaves in this way. As Jefferson later reported to Secretary of State John Hay, and to Congress:
"The ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Musselman (Muslim) who should be slain battle was sure to go to Paradise."
The ambassador added that a commission paid directly to Tripoli, and another paid to himself, would grant the US temporary lenience. Jefferson became president 15 years later and instituted military campaigns against the pirates which led to their defeat.
If anybody today thinks the radical Muslims will lay down their arms if we just go away, you are living in a dream world.

Monday, May 20, 2013 2:12:00 PM  
Blogger Dean Barrett said...

Global Islamic terrorism today arises from the jihad imperative within Islamic theology; not from anything the West has done. Islam is hate: blow up the great Buddhas in Afghanistan, behead Buddhist monks in Thailand, send planes into buildings in USA, blow up trains in Spain, subways in England, kill hundreds in Bali, and then whine and say oh no those weren't REAL Muslims. It's the Press! What rubbish!

Friday, May 24, 2013 8:09:00 PM  
Blogger Dean Barrett said...

I studied the Quran a great deal. I came away from that study with the conviction that there have been few religions in the world as deadly to men as that of Muhammad...it is the principal cause of the decadence so visible today in the Muslim world and, though less absurd than the polytheism of old, its social and political tendencies are more to be feared, and I regard it as a form of decadence rather than a form of progress in relation to paganism itself." Alexis de Tocqueville

Mohammad poisoned the sources of human felicity at the fountain, by degrading the condition of the female sex...and he declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion, against all the rest of mankind. The essence of his doctrine was violence and lust: to exalt the brutal over the spiritual part of human nature" - John Quincy Adams

"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog...No stronger retrograde force exists in the world (than Islam)." Winston Churchill

Friday, May 24, 2013 8:31:00 PM  
Blogger Birdman said...

And if twelve people spit on one person or a few persons, we should place the blame on all twelve people, not the one whose policy decision it was to go do the spitting.

Friday, May 24, 2013 10:39:00 PM  
Blogger jens said...

"Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster."

--Nietzsche

Saturday, May 25, 2013 8:02:00 AM  
Blogger ginger said...

It's entirely an Israeli/Neocon argument - that they 'hate us for our freedoms, not the Apartheid'

Bush and the Neocons repeat it because the Israeli argument REQUIRES that the only reason Palestinians fight against the Israelis is that they are ANTI-SEMITIC, and that it has nothing to do with the settlements or the ethnic cleansing

If the true explanations are given then the Israeli/Neocon house of cards collapses and everybody sees they are just a bunch of racist, violent, Northern South Africans running an Apartheid Ponzi scheme

Saturday, May 25, 2013 6:23:00 PM  
OpenID Gareth said...

Two concepts from psychology are, I think, worth mentioning: the 'fundamental attribution error' is where we attribute negative characteristics readily to groups defined as 'other'; the 'self confirming bias' is basically the opposite. They kill out of a hatred of democracy, we kill out of a love for it.
Prior to the 20th century, religion was arguably the greatest cause of death as a result of human agency. The purges of Stalin and Mao probably did enough to negate that assertion. In any event if you go back far enough, history can be used/abused to validate violent movements. Serbian nationalists used a battle in 1316 to justify the killing of Kosovar Albanians in the late 1990's. The rhetoric of Irish Republicanism still refers to 800 years of British occupation (begun by the Normans, who were, technically, French). Even if clearly stated, and with historical precedents, justifications can still be spurious. That does not mean they should be ignored if we are to understand the underlying motivations. As Mr Eisler points out, Bin Laden took offence at US troops 'occupying' Saudi Arabia, even if at the request of the Saudi government.
Adil Ehsan writes how Muslims feel squeezed by violent forces. It reminded me of an episode from the Algerian War of 1954-62, where an Algerian Muslim described his existence as being like a cigarette burning at both ends. If he supported the French, he would be killed by Algerian nationalists. If he supported the nationalists, he'd be killed by the French.
The standard distribution or 'bell curve' used in statistics describes how characteristics are distributed among a population, whether that characteristic is height, weight or extremist beliefs/attitudes. With a worldwide population of a billion plus we may expect to find a substantial number of Muslims/Christians/Buddhists etc etc with extremely violent opinions, plus an equally substantial number with extremely non-violent opinions, and the vast majority somewhere in between. We need to remember the body of the bell curve, which represents the bulk of a population--whether US or Muslim. Adil makes an important point regarding the use of violence against civilian populations. When one of the extremes squeezes harder than the other, it pushes the main body towards the other side.

Sunday, May 26, 2013 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger Lucy Doyle said...

A few notes worth considering about Muslim violence:

1. Many of the extremists make it quite clear that they intend to continue their actions until global and/or national domination. That's why giving them control of countries rich in resources and weaponry is foolish. It reminds me of those honorable british gentlemen in the '30s who said that German rearmament was to be accepted as they had a right to it. That it was only fair. Many of them lost their lives for it.

2. Many muslims don't assimilate as well as other immigrant groups and often whine, gripe, and resort to violence against their host countries. This happens in France, Britain, Denmark and even Sweden. By the way, the media is oh-so careful not to mention that the rioters in Stockholm are muslims. It's seems that they too have bought the Islamophobia lie and been cowed by it.

3. Islamic terror is not limited to countries with soldiers or interests in the middle-east. For instance, the stockholm suicide bomber in 2010 was not blowback as Sweden has not invaded any muslim country. Many swedes believe that they are the one undergoing invasion. Similarly, attacks against Danish and France journalists and cartoonists make it clear that any pretext, no matter how trivial, can be used as an excuse for violence.

You may also find islamic terrorism in the philipines. Is that blowback, too?

4. Muslim terror hurts muslims more than anyone else. Is this blowback? In what way, precisely? In what way is the situation in Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and other countries due to international forces? Muslim extremists kill more muslims because it's easier and they may likely kill others as well as it becomes easier. While it's not the fashion to talk about it, Christians in many muslim countries are in grave danger and many are fleeing. Naturally, the white-liberal media doesn't care. It may make their case for multi-culturalism harder to sell.

5. Many of the attacks are homegrown, whether in the US or Britain or France, signifying that these extremists have an identification problem: they view themselves as muslims first and citizens of their countries second. Many of them wish to impose islamic laws on their country. I imagine that Glenn Greenwald would call them islamic-firsters, if it suited his agenda.

6. The violence of arabs (who later became known as palestinians) against Jews predates the 1967 war and even the establishment of israel. It includes various episodes of slaughter such as the one which took place in Hebron in 1929 (though other arabs also helped hide jews to keep them from being slaughtered). The PLO itself was established before the 1967 war.

The ostrich is now apparently an endangered species. Members and cultures of other species who bury their head in the sand risk a similar fate.

Cheers.

Monday, May 27, 2013 9:34:00 AM  
Blogger Barry Eisler said...

http://www.juancole.com/2013/05/western-invaded-millions.html

Monday, May 27, 2013 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger Lucy said...

Barry,

I read his article. Why is he starting with 1798? Why not start earlier when Islam was winning? Most muslim countries today are the result of conquest, subjugation, and forced conversion. After all, the whole Iberian peninsula was once muslim (and some muslims claim it to this day as muslim land). The muslims who controlled Spain had already crossed over into what is today France where they were stopped by force. Likewise, the Ottoman empire, which once extended well into Hungary, Serbia, Romania and Greece, didn't stop its expansion into Europe due to its kindness. It was stopped by force.

If Europe had been weak instead of strong we would have had Islamic colonies in Europe (and those would never have been given independence).


Add to that the massive slave trade that Arabs had been involved with and you may consider how many deaths can be attributed to them.

The fact that British, French, Swedish, American, Danish, and other muslim citizens of western countries feel a greater affinity to Islam than to their countries and the desire of extremists to create Sharia states in those countries are the underlying causes of these problems.

Had these extremists still lived in their native lands they would have been murdering muslims and local christians and buddhists and whatever else (as happened in Sudan). (Jews had already been driven out of most of these countries long before). In fact, Christians are now feeling the heat in Egypt and other African nations. But they're not white christians and today's media cares little for them.

Attacks in London, Sweden, Denmark, France, etc. have little to do with the colonial history of any of these countries (and some of them have no such history in today's islamic lands). This is a cultural struggle. Those rioters in Sweden have been admitted to one of the best countries in the world from some of the worst countries in the world and had been given immense resources at the expense of the local population (the same goes for other European countries whose welfare systems have deteriorated). These rioters, instead of being grateful, want more and nothing will be enough. If they had access to guns there would be dead policemen in Stockholm today.

The horrible thing is that those muslims who truly wish to become integrated members of their new countries and adopt liberal democratic values will suffer for it.

Monday, May 27, 2013 12:11:00 PM  

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