A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

London Terror Attack Update

An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal today, by Caleb Carr. It echoes much of what Mojo, Troy, John and myself have been saying about divisions in the West and putting blame where it belongs. The basic arguement is that fear and indecisiveness make a country an appealing target for terrorists-- that England and Spain were targeted not because they supported the U.S. led war on terror, but rather because they started to waver from their conviction that it was the right thing to do.

Key passages:
In all of these examples, then, the "trigger" for terrorist action was not any newly adopted Western posture of force and defiance. Rather, it was a deepening of the targeted public's wish to deal with terrorism through avoidance and accommodation, a mass descent into the psychological belief, so often disproved by history, that if we only leave vicious attackers alone, they will leave us alone. It is hardly surprising that by actively trying -- or merely indicating that they wished -- to bury their collective heads in the sand, the societies were led not to peace but to more violent attacks. Al Qaeda and terrorist groups in general have tended to press their campaigns of violence against civilians in areas where they have sensed disunity and a lack of forceful opposition. In the manner of clinical sociopaths, they seem to "smell fear" -- and to find in it, not any inspiration to show mercy or accept accommodation, but a compulsion to torment all the more vigorously those who exude it.
What the result of that violence will be is by no means certain. Early polls suggest that the majority of the British public has been sharply and tragically reminded of what its true interests and who its true friends are, whatever the momentary shortcomings of this or that government or administration in London or Washington. Is this only a temporary reaction to outrage? Perhaps, but this much is certain: While we in the West, in our efforts to defeat al Qaeda's terrorist network, occasionally elect unwise or even duplicitous leaders and courses of action, there is no lack of wisdom so profound (to paraphrase the often duplicitous FDR) as that produced by fear. As it feeds historical distortion and ignorance, so does fear feed terrorism -- indeed, it is terrorism's very DNA. Citizens afraid of future attacks, along with ignorant protestors and careless celebrities, do no good -- do, in fact, the work of terrorists for them -- when they divide the members of the most important Western alliance by displaying faintheartedness at a time when the West needs above all to maintain its unity. Just now, that unity must be defined as seeing the Iraq endeavor through to some sort of safe conclusion, if only because al Qaeda have themselves made it clear that their fate hangs on their ability to demonstrate their potency, as well as gain a new home, in Iraq.
Interesting thoughts. On a more encouraging note, this is most definitley not propoganda or whitewash. Key bit:
The underlying problem with Islam, observes Manji, is that far from spiritualising Arabia, it has been infected with the reactionary prejudices of the Middle East: “Colonialism is not the preserve of people with pink skin. What about Islamic imperialism? Eighty per cent of Muslims live outside the Arab world yet all Muslims must bow to Mecca.” Fresh thinking, she contends, is suppressed by ignorant imams; you can see why she has been dubbed “Osama’s worst nightmare ”.
Now if only it didn't feel like Manji's voice is falling on deaf ears throughout the muslim world....

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I have heard Irshad Manji before, and I believe that Nick is dead-on-balls-accurate (to steal his industry term) when he says that her words are not propaganda or whitewash. She is, to quote Office Space, "just a straight shooter with upper management written all over [her]." Unfortunately, I also share the concern that her words are falling on deaf ears within islam.

It would be nice if, in the wake of the July 7th attacks in London, Manji would be picked up by the MSM in the U.S. (and worldwide, for that matter) so that she and her views could become better known. I think that her being heard could help dispel the belief by some that we, in the war on terror and its bringing of some form of democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan, are infringing upon another culture without welcome. I'm not going to hold my breath on that, though.

Also, I continue to think that it will take a few more terrorist attacks before the West starts to embrace the concept that negotiations with terrorists, or the appeasement of terrorists, are futile efforts in ending the violence. It would be nice if Carr’s article could push people in that direction sooner, but I have very little hope of that happening.

Rather, I remain of the opinion that average citizens will eventually attack anything and anyone muslim (on a large scale, that is; not just a few boot boys cracking skulls) in retaliation for terrorist attacks, bringing the war on terror to nothing more that a feud between the West and islam. We saw in Oklahoma, in 1995, what happened when a few people got "fed up" with the government. How many more islamic terror attacks before people similar to McVeigh get "fed up" with islam and use the same terror tactics on an islamic center or a mosque in anywhere USA?

I believe that things will get worse before they get better, so I'll stick with my Cato the Elder meme: Cuncti Islami delenda est.
The underlying problem with Catholicism ... is that far from spiritualising Western civilization, it has been infected with the reactionary prejudices of Middle Europe: “Colonialism is not the preserve of political powers. What about Christian crusadism? Eighty per cent of Christians live outside Italy yet all Catholics must submit to the Vatican.” Fresh thinking ... is suppressed by ignorant bishops; ....

Her words are opinion. Whether they are whitewash or propanda depends to a large extent on whether you agree with them.
The underlying problem with the left is that far from uniting America, it has been infected with the reactionary prejudices of politically correct special interest groups...

We can all switch the names and actions around, invoking moral relativism. If and/or when a new crusade is launched by some in the West against islam, those same moral relativists will be sure to tsk-tsk anyone criticizing the turning of tables, won't they? After all, one man's terrorist is just another man's freedom fighter. Who are we to judge? After all, it's just opinion.
Yes, you can switch the nouns around all you want.

My point, which I admit was subtler, was that the things she was saying about Islam can also be applied to Catholicism, with, I feel, equal validity. While you may feel disposed to SAY that the 'left' has a tendency to ward colonialism, I haven't seen any evidence of it.

I do admit that I only reviewed the quote Nick supplied; it is possible that in other parts of her article are items that are more specifically damning.

But there I go again with that cursed liberal tendency to allow for differing points of view.
My point, which I admit was subtler, was that the things she was saying about Islam can also be applied to Catholicism, with, I feel, equal validity.

So, instead of presenting an argument, either pro or con, on the actual points in the quote that Nick posted, and instead of reading the entire article to get a better picture of her differing [point] of view, you simply re-worded the quote to show that what Manji had said could be, in your opinion, equally applied to a Western religion (namely, Catholicism). It would seem to me that your subtler point is either that her position lacks credence because similar points can be made about another faith, or that the West has been similarly offensive and, as such, we have no right to judge.

I never said that the left has any tendency towards colonialism. I did not intend to make that inference. Rather, I was trying to make that point that, much as you had done applying Manji's quote to Catholicism, one could easily apply her quote to nearly any group and set of actions. As well, re-wording of the original quote in that manner seems to imply an attempt to make the points presented therein to lose weight or credibility through an application of moral relativism.
The actual point, mojo, was that while Nick and others are totally up in arms about Islam, the same tendencies in cultures which are closer to home go without remark.

As I said, subtler. It's not that HER point lacks credence; it's that it's not a onesided issue as it is presented. The world was f-d up before radical muslims started blowing innocent people up; furthermore, people OTHER than radical muslims are blowing shit up.

I'm not a Catholic or a Muslim; I've got no horse in this race.

Please define "Moral relativism"
I define moral relativism as the view that the moral values of any given group or society have an equal or relative validity to the moral values of other groups or societies. Basically, I see moral relativism as an individual who witnesses someone of a different background whose actions are different or opposed to the viewers culture, and the one who observes those foreign actions says, "It may be strange to me, but since my actions are most likely strange to him as well, who am I to judge?"

When I read ...while Nick and others are totally up in arms about Islam, the same tendencies in cultures which are closer to home go without remark..., that is what I hear. I hear you saying that Westerners, Catholics as a specific example, have behaved just as badly in the past as muslims who commit terror today. As such, your argument really seems to be that we can't have harsh words towards islam and its murderers because we aren't sufficiently distanced in time from, or we haven't properly atoned for, the acts that have been previously committed by those in the West.

When was the last time Catholic terrorists flew aircraft into buildings? When was the most recent Catholic car-bombing? More importantly, when did Catholic terrorists (such as the IRA) not get condemned immediately by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and the majority of Catholics for their horribly unjustified attacks?

An article in the Telegraph from about two weeks ago best sums up my position. Below are some significant excerpts, but you may want to read the entire article.

"When Britain was afflicted by Irish republican terrorism, most Irish people repudiated that terrorism. It was nevertheless the case that the great majority of the terrorists - more than 95 per cent - were Irish, or of Irish origin, and they drew overwhelmingly on Irish people to help and hide them.

This was not a funny coincidence. It was because the IRA preached a doctrine about Ireland and called on the loyalty of a perverted version of Irishness. Therefore, the words "Irish" and "terrorist" went together, hard though this was on the majority of Irish people. The Brian Paddicks of the day would have been appallingly negligent if they had not concentrated their investigations among the Irish. And the vigilance of the public, which the police then and now rightly call for, inevitably directed itself towards Irish neighbours, Irish accents, Irish pubs.

So it must be with Muslims in Britain. In fact, the situation is more serious because we are dealing with a religion, not merely a national aspiration, and the demands of a religion are more absolute than anything else. If fanatics can persuade people that their religion insists that they kill others (and often themselves) in its service, then they will obey. And whereas the IRA, though utterly sadistic and fanatical, kept in mind a political aim which, once achieved, would mean that they need kill no longer, the religious fanatic lacks even this check on his behaviour.


If you look at the Koran, you will find many glorifications of violence. In Sura No 8, for example, God is quoted as saying: "I shall cast terror into the hearts of the infidels. Strike off their heads, strike off the very tips of their fingers!" This punishment comes to them for having "defied God and His apostle". It seems reasonable to ask Muslims what this sort of remark means in the modern world.

Some will counter that there are plenty of equally nasty dictums in the Old Testament. This is true - though it is surely significant that they are very much harder to find in the New Testament. History is full of violent deeds done in the name of the Christian God.

But it is an important fact about Christianity in the past two or three centuries that it has conducted a great reinterpretation of these texts and of how the faithful should follow them. The struggle against the enemy in the Book of Joshua, say, or in Judges is now seen as a strictly spiritual one. The idea that these are divine 007 licences to kill has been explicitly repudiated."

You say that you don't have a horse in this race, and that's fine if that's your opinion. You are, however, a Westerner and, more specifically, and American; those two designations make you a target for islamic terrorists. I just hope, for your sake, that you or yours aren't in the area of a future terror attack, or that a building that you have designed is the target of such attack.
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