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October 1, 2001
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Ignoring for a second that he is probably a mass murderer, do you think that Bin Laden's fight is a just one? I'm not asking about his method, that is obviously appalling, what I am asking you is whether you think that his cause is fair/right/just. Try putting yourself in Arab or Muslim shoes, then consider whether you would support his general plight. (the commentary on Bin Laden starts next to the paypal icon on the left, so scroll down if you are busy, otherwise don't as the rest of the article is quite a good crack.)
posted by Wet Wednesday (89 comments total)

 
We can understand his anger, but his method is not only not justified but "stupid".
posted by incubus at 1:59 AM on October 1, 2001


His stated aim to drive out all western influences from Saudi Arabia is totally impossible to achieve. If you need an example of how ridiculous it is for a fundamentalist Islamic regime to attempt to purify its society, you need look no further than the example of Iran. I also predict that the Taliban will be on the ash heap of history soon with or without military intervention.
posted by MrBaliHai at 2:10 AM on October 1, 2001


Of course not! Even Islamic people (not his sect) are horrified. Canada has serious issues with some of our enviornmental and criminal punishemnt policies but killing 6 thousand to make a point? NO WAY.

The crimes the Taliban commit on women and children is worth the effort if nothing else.
posted by Dome-O-Rama at 2:23 AM on October 1, 2001


By the same token, are we to consider the not-quite-so-heinous actions of al Turabi in the Sudan to be "just" simply because he is motivated by his Islamic beliefs? Are we to sympathize with the actions of any person as long as they are motivated by their religious convictions? Call me an ingenue, but I "believe" in the framers of the US constitution in respect to the righteousness of separation of church from state. I have no sympathy for him or his cause.
posted by Aurantiacus at 2:29 AM on October 1, 2001


The word "just" bothers me - I don't really know what it means. Is it the moral equivalent of lawful? If so, then the question is misleading as that's not what the article was about. It's possible to understand someone's motives without approving of their actions.

Also, since no-one seems to have mentioned it, this post (more specifically, the poster), is being discussed on Metatalk (link at the top of the page).
posted by andrew cooke at 3:11 AM on October 1, 2001


He leads a great cause and a just one. Not unlike the way Hitler wanted a bigger and better Germany.
posted by Postroad at 4:56 AM on October 1, 2001


Bin Lauden wants every non-Muslim out of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, UAE and other "Islamic" countries. If Bush was to say "only Christians should be allowed to set foot on the holy soil of the United States, and everyone else must leave" man, you'd be howling louder than anyone , WetWed.

What a stupid question. What a stupid post.
posted by darren at 4:57 AM on October 1, 2001


There is no level of anger, poverty or repression or (fake) spirituality which would get a normal person to do what he advocates and has done.

Moreover, OBL et al has the resources to know/learn that the United States is, while not perfect (whatever that means), a positive force in the world. The US opposed the Communist USSR their war in Afganistan; kicked Iraq out of Kuwait, and hasn't overrun Saudi Arabia since being there. Islam is practiced in the United States.

Stop trying to understand these people (and stop posting threads to that effect). Whether they are deranged because or in spite of Islam (I'm far from sure). Just stop. Just pray, or hope (whichever your preference) that US forces (who will get tragically little assistance from cowardly nations "on our side") and Washington can do something about this demon ASAP, without some nuclear or chemical device going off on some Interstate highway or container ship near or in San Francisco, New York or Seattle. Or Chicago.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:03 AM on October 1, 2001


Guys, I know some of you are thinking "these are old issues now" and you also think the matter is already wrapped up, but here is some more food for thought:

We are told that the attack at WTC involved very complex and GENIUS planning.

CLAIM #1:
The terrorists lived in the USA for a "LONG TIME" and were "TRAINED IN FLORIDA" where they learned how to fly, had US addresses, etc.
ISSUE #1:
a)Why would "GENIUS" planners, who are "TRAINED PILOTS" be stupid enough to leave a "FLIGHT TRAINING MANUAL" in a car?? Did they learn how to fly a jet on the way to the airport?
b) Why was the manual in Arabic? They lived here for years, trained in Florida, etc.

CLAIM #2:
The terrorists subscribed to a (STRICT INTERPRETATION OF ISLAM) where dying for "God" is a guaranteed way to enter heaven. Then they say the terrorists were "DRINKING HEAVILY" in a bar.
ISSUE #2:
Drinking Alcohol is a MAJOR crime according to that (STRICT INTERPRETATION OF ISLAM) so they couldn't be (STRICT MUSLIMS) if even Muslims.

CLAIM #3:
The 4th plane (that crashed in PA) according to the media as a result of heroic acts by passengers who saved the white house.
ISSUE #3:
WHERE IS THE PLANE?? we saw the crash site, no plane! they found pieces 6 MILES AWAY. 6 MILES AWAY. It didn't crash, we SHOT IT DOWN!

CLAIM #4:
Bin Laden is the "PRIME SUSPECT"
ISSUE #4:
HOW? WHY? Just because all the TV channels tell us this guy "DID IT" doesn't mean we have to believe it. We NEED an enemy, and that's why they tell us it's him, because we don't REALLY know who and America hate him already, so it works out. Well, not for me, I wanna know who REALLY did it.


CLAIM #5:
Several phone calls were made (calmly) from the plane,
"HIJACKERS ARE TAKING OVER", etc.
ISSUE #5:
If I made that call I'd say: "ARABIANS" or "BLACK" or "FOREIGNERS", why just "HIJACKERS"! Did they look (NORMAL?) to ALL the callers? i.e. WHITE!!!

CLAIM #6:
Some "FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS" were behind it.
ISSUE #6: Are we really going to believe that a government backed this attack?
We are the ONLY super power in the world, they know we can wipe out ANY country behind this attack? We are giving ourselves an excuse to bomb EVERYONE so we get closure.

CLAIM #7:
They found a passport belonging to one of the hijackers from the WTC attack.
ISSUE #7:
GIVE ME A BREAK. The fire (over 1600 degrees) melted the steel but couldn't burn a passport?
And from the over 5000 dead, only THAT passport appeared?
ALSO, since when does flying from Boston to LA require a PASSPORT? Surely they had IDs (living in USA for that long, DRIVING, etc).
posted by acrobat at 5:13 AM on October 1, 2001


In response to some of Acrobat's claims...

Claim #1: Yes, they were trained pilots, but not experienced pilots. So having a flight manual handy, and one in their native language, makes sense.

Claim #2: No one has ever said these particular terrorists strictly adhered to their religion. It could be said they acted like "Americans" to fit in. There's is not so much a holy war as a war against American ideologies and actions.

Claim #3: The plane that went down in Pennsylvania did not at a very steep descent. The impact zone looks appropriate for such a crash. A piece of the plane being somehow carried six miles is suspect as is the fact there is a large Air Force base in Akron, Ohio. The USAF easily had enough time to scramble jets and shoot it down.

Claim #4: Bin Laden is the prime suspect based on our intelligence reports, not the media. Believe me, the media is not that smart, I'm part of it. The government has never said he had knowledge of these particular attacks, they've said they can link the suspects to him and his money.

Claim #5: Now you're getting nuts. In fact, at least two phone calls identified the men's ethnicity. Looking at the pictures of the hijackers, some do not immediately strike me as "Arab." They could have easily been Indian and at least one guy looks African-American. What's normal to me is not "white." I've never heard normal described as white.

Claim #6: Take a look at Afghanistan's recent actions. They do not fear us. In fact, they are beckoning us. Iraq and Libya have done the same in the past. In countries that are ruled by tyrants, the tyrants fear no one. They feed off the emotions of their own people and turn them against an enemy. The Taliban abuses the people of Aghanistan and cares nothing about them. They've said they are harboring Bin Laden and have been for two years when 189 nations in the world have condemned him as a terrorist and asked that he be handed over. That's not supoorting terrorism? What is?

Claim #7: A passport could survive the crash if it was expelled from the plane before a fire could burn it up. If you've ever been on the scene of a fire, you'd know the strangest thing can survive. Did they actually find a passport of a hijacker? No clue. As for your argument that he did not have a driver's license; I've been a licensed a driver for ten years and I currently do not physically have a driver's license. It was stolen two years ago and I use my passport as my primary form of identification. The terrorists travelled internationally often and recently, according to press reports. Considering it was a suicide mission and these men wanted to be martyrs, having all and any identification on their persons make sense.

With regards to ParisParamus; it's important that we understand these people to prevent further actions and to come to terms with what has occured.

You cannot simply say, "They're wrong, we are right." That is how they feel about America. U.S. foreign policy dictates certain things and I agree with it for the most part. But that foreign policy does have a negative impact on some people in the world.

We find their actions deplorable, as do the vast majority of people in the world. But some find our government's actions deplorable as well. It is important to understand as many actions, thoughts, theories, ideologies, etc. as possible. This is how we learn and this is how we evolve.
posted by BenMeddle at 5:32 AM on October 1, 2001


Fundamentalism = BAD
Any more questions?
posted by nofundy at 5:41 AM on October 1, 2001


The terrorists subscribed to a (STRICT INTERPRETATION OF ISLAM) where dying for "God" is a guaranteed way to enter heaven. Then they say the terrorists were "DRINKING HEAVILY" in a bar.

I'd like to declare a jihad against your use of quotation marks. Instead of emphasizing the quoted words, they cast doubt on them. For example: You've done a lot of "excellent" research on the attacks.

Grammar aside, if a suicide bombing is a guaranteed route to Heaven, it doesn't matter what you did the night before in a bar.

Also, the body of one of the flight attendants on a plane that hit the WTC was found on the roof of a nearby building. I'm sure many other things made it out of the plane to the ground, considering the debris that shot out of the building after the collision.
posted by rcade at 5:41 AM on October 1, 2001


I'd like to declare a jihad against your use of quotation marks

But the ELBOW in your FACE capital letters are "ACCEPTABLE", nudge NUDGE????!!!!

Sign me up, Cadenhead.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:11 AM on October 1, 2001


Stop trying to understand these people

Yeah, that's an effective, rational approach.

Guess you've don't agree with the old maxim, "Know thy enemy?"
posted by rushmc at 6:11 AM on October 1, 2001


response to acrobat claims, part two ...

1) my roommate is vietnamese. his parents moved here from vietnam. their native language is vietnamese. they've lived in the US for some 25+ years. accordingly, his parents still read/speak in vietnamese. why? it's their native language.

2) had they subscribed to a strict interpretation of islam, they wouldn't kill themselves or other people. i can't say i know of any organized religion that suggests murder or suicide. generally, it's a bad thing. i think the term you were looking for is 'manipulated interpretation.'

3) i wouldn't have an issue either way. if it WAS brought down by heroic passengers, they were indeed great americans. if it was shot down -- well, would you rather have had it crash into another civilian compound or the white house, killing hundreds plus? i honestly wouldn't want to know if it was or wasn't. i plead blissful ignorance on that one.

4) i may be wrong, but something tells me the national government doesn't obtain their evidence from CNN. and if you think the media is knowledgable about everything the government does ... i can't help you.

5) as someone else said, some did identify them. and yes, from the photos i've seen of the alleged hijackers ... they could have easily been indian, etc. besides -- i imagine i'd be somewhat panicked and would use the term 'hijacker' or 'dudes' or 'fucking maniacs' as opposed to any sort of racial identification.

6) why wouldn't they? they don't fear us, or anyone. fighting someone with no fear of death is a pretty damn hard fight to win.

7) i've been present at ONE fire, that of a friend's house ... and it was indeed odd some of the stuff that survived a fire that otherwise gutted the house. random scraps of paper, etc.

fact is, this is just more alarmist/conspiracy building bullshit. while i don't advocate believing everything one reads, there's a point where you say 'well damn -- the evidence i'm presented sure as hell points in X direction.' unless there's some HUGE conspiracy -- i think it's safe to believe that the al-qaeda is, indeed, behind all this.

but i could be wrong.

glad *I* don't have to be the one to push the buttons.
posted by aenemated at 6:13 AM on October 1, 2001


I think in the wake of the WTC attacks, seperating the method from the 'cause' is pointless. We can discuss causes and problems with rational people, not terrorists.
posted by brucec at 6:15 AM on October 1, 2001


[Bin Laden is the "PRIME SUSPECT" -HOW? WHY? Just because all the TV channels tell us this guy "DID IT" ]

CNN reported Tony Blair saying he had seen "incontrovertible evidence" that Bin laden was behind the attacks. I suppose he's part of the conspiracy as well though huh?
posted by revbrian at 6:23 AM on October 1, 2001


Sorry, old rushmc, but there is definitely something corrupting about trying to understand people who commit unspeakable acts.
All you get, even if you try really hard - Max Weber's or even Wittgenstein's verstehen and all that - is another ununderstandable proposition. I.e., because "God made me do it" or "because I enjoy raping children".
There is no understanding possible. They understand. Or they don't. We can't. Understanding is highly problematic and overrated as a basis for prediction of such ununderstandable acts.
These guys killed thousands of people. They died, they had a reason. But only the first sentence should matter to us. The second only mattered to them.
That is the problem.

I don't mean to sound glib, this is just so complex, but it's an eternal question, at the root of modern social anthropology and so on. Getting into a "mind-frame" or whatever is not really possible without a dangerous degree of identification.

Knowing your enemy has more to do with finding out what he'll do, not why. I hate to say it but we all know terrorists, with diferent motivations, will continue to kill innocent people.
The motivation is irrelevant - what can you do, convince them of how wrong they are? We can only try to protect people from acts like this, which have been perpetrated since time began, for the widest possible range of "reasons".

Hate is all we need to understand. But can a normal person hate to that point?

Just asking.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:32 AM on October 1, 2001


From my biased western perspective, the only justified course of action for Bin Laden's cause is to change the policy of the Arabian governments that tolerate and profit from American influence. If he was blowing up strip clubs and Wal-Marts in Saudi Arabia or Egypt, I could see how that could be justified, but declaring an all-out war on a country does not seem to be doing very much about the problem he is complaining so much about.
posted by rmolenda at 6:37 AM on October 1, 2001


As alluded to by Postroad, it is similar to trying to justify any type of racial genocide. Do we try to understand the KKK? Ethnic cleansing in other parts of the world? I think not. Just because someone feels strongly about something (or even fervently), it does not make them right. And it (their 'cause') certainly doesn't warrant our attentions.
posted by eas98 at 6:50 AM on October 1, 2001


He doesn't have a "cause". He's a meglomaniacal madman who likes to blow stuff up. He didn't make demands. He didn't blow up militaristically strategic targets. He hasn't even claimed responsibility. Just to kill Americans is satisfaction enough for him.

So no, it's not "just". And fuck you for suggesting so.
posted by glenwood at 6:51 AM on October 1, 2001


HOW? WHY? Just because all the TV channels tell us this guy "DID IT" doesn't mean we have to believe it. We NEED an enemy, and that's why they tell us it's him, because we don't REALLY know who and America hate him already, so it works out. Well, not for me, I wanna know who REALLY did it.

This is so ridiculous. This time we've GOT to get the right people because the Government can't afford for this to happen again. They can't brush this problem under the rug and lie to us dude - THE WORLD TRADE CENTER WAS BLOWN UP! Do you really think they're going to just pinpoint some guy to make us feel better?
posted by glenwood at 6:54 AM on October 1, 2001


The crimes the Taliban commit on women and children is worth the effort if nothing else.

And the crimes the US commits against women children and men in other countries is not worth the effort of cleaning our own house? or taking action against our own suit-and-tie, government-appointed terrorists?
posted by locombia at 7:03 AM on October 1, 2001


Not only isn't his cause "just," it's illogical. The government of Saudi Arabia, concerned that Iraq would continue past Kuwait and into their country, specifically asked the Western powers to intervene (which, of course, required them to be in Saudi Arabia). If this is truly his real cause, his principal anger should be directed against the governments of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait (but, of course, it's not).

The long and short of it is this: if we let every idiosyncratic religious belief "trump" the decisions of legitimate governments, society as a whole would collapse. Hypothetical: A small but long-standing Christian sect truly believes in the "purity" of white America, and strongly believes that the country has to be rid of any person whose ancestry can be traced back to Africa. I frankly don't see how that's different from bin Laden and his ilk, and I don't think anyone would describe it as just.

In any event, I'm starting to feel a little ill at all of this "poor bin Laden! can't we try to understand him" business. If you slaughter thousands of innocent people, it just doesn't matter why you did it -- it's unjust.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:12 AM on October 1, 2001


Well, as I wrote straight from the beginning, that was food for thought. Your responses to my comments did not (could not) present any evidence. Yet, US gov and media have been known to rush to judgment without evidence before. I'm not a conspiracy freak and I could give you a list of things past, but I prefer to copy/paste a bit from a Michael Albert article (What's going on?) from Znet:

"The U.S. response to September 11 seeks to benefit elites in the U.S., and, to a lesser degree, around the world. There are various goals.

Destroy the bin Laden network.
Topple the Taliban.
Build a coalition fighting selected terrorists internationally in exchange for trade and foreign aid benefits and the right of coalition partners to pursue their own dissidents locally.
Channel fear and anger to cut education, social services, health care, and other socially desirable expenditures.
Expand military spending.
Enlarge police and surveillance budgets.
Curb civil rights.
Deny and even aggravate just grievances around the world when doing so serves corporate interests even if it also fuels the despair that breeds terrorism.
Ignore international legality to curb notions that the U.S. ought to obey international law.
Avoid defining terrorism as any attack on civilians for political ends, to avoid indicting the U.S. and its allies."

Please also note the reduced use of quotation marks and caps :)
posted by acrobat at 7:15 AM on October 1, 2001


i commend acrobat for questioning things...a thing that not alot of people do it appears. your points were very good.

1) the genius part is questionable, the trained pilot part is questionable and length of time lived in the US is questionable. oh one thing though is that although the planners are supposed to be geniuses the people executing the plan might not have been. but,the fact that they were trained here means that they probably should have had english manuals with rules based on certain models of american planes so that should have been in english as well. the arabic manuals thing is odd.


2)yeah okay, the average american is going to get wasted before doing a very crucial thing in their life...and the average american wants to believe that these islamic folk are hypocrites and would like to believe that they got wasted before killing themselves and whole lot of other people. i don't believe it. i don't believe that these people were devout if they got wasted, and i don't believe that they got wasted if they were so devout that they would do this act. good point.


3)i think that it could have been shot down, i actually heard that idea in many sources of the media. but i would like to think that there were heroic passengers who crashed the plane rather than letting it hit a building of importance.


4)i think that bin laden is the primary suspect because of the government's suspicion that he was responsible for previous acts. he was named the prime suspect after an hour (?) of the attack. that is a little fishy. but the american people need someone to blame, to place a face as responsible for the horrible attack.

5)i absolutely agree that the average american is likely to hold anger/have fear towards the folks from the mid east/arab/muslims. the average american would have named the hijacker's ethnicity. do you all remember when this first happened, didn't you think that an arab/muslim person did it? isn't that what the media has trained us to believe? remember Oklahoma? i think that it is very, very fishy that the passengers did not all say that the hijackers were arab. regardless of whether they look indian, black etc., if they were brown they would have been viewed as arab/muslim (not the same thing i know!)

6)anything is possible.

7)yes it is too remarkable that we would be able to have evidence of the ethnicity of the hijacker via their passport. too convenient. too crazy. i would have believed it if it was the pentagon, there were more things intact and found there, but not the wtc.
posted by m2bcubed at 7:24 AM on October 1, 2001


If he was blowing up strip clubs and Wal-Marts in Saudi Arabia or Egypt, I could see how that could be justified

In this era, where any grievance can be heard in the court of world opinion, there is never any justification for blowing up anything with people in it to make a point. bin Laden and his cronies are murderers, and deserve a murderer's punishment. Using religion to try and make it reasonable, though typical, is just simple bullshit.

I would like to see you try and raise the question of justification to David Brandhorst, 3, of Los Angeles; Christine Hanson, 3, of Groton, Mass.; Dana Falkenberg, 3, of University Park, Md. Three three-year-olds who died screaming so that bin Laden could make a point about how western civilization has affected Islam. He took away everything they had, and everything they were ever going to have, to make a point.

If you can come up with a justification for that, I'd love to hear it.
posted by UncleFes at 7:31 AM on October 1, 2001


What a stupid question. What a stupid post.


Actually, I thought the article was very interesting. Of course, none of the above comments seem to indicate that anyone (pro- or anti- the 'understand Bin Laden' movement) has the least interest in the writer's views expressed in the article.

As someone who has had the pleasure of getting shitfaced drunk with more than one member of the Saudi royal family, and who has heard horror stories from people inside the kingdom, I can at least agree with those who identify the Saud family as enormous hypocrites. I worked for the Saudi royals, and was owed money for two years afterwards by people who had five luxury cars in their driveway. It was only after I resorted to threatening to publicise their disgraceful behaviour that they found the money to pay me. In fact, my client had the gall to come to my country (canada) to contract work from my company that they then took back to Saudi without paying for. All in all, I find them unbearable. Typical of what you would expect from people who never had to work a day in their lives.

And KSA is now paying the price. The Islamist movement there is gaining momentum with every new revelation about playboy princes. A favourite bit of dialogue I once had with an emir:
me: Does Saudi Arabia have a problem with guns?
Emir: Oh, yes.
me: Like, handguns?
Emir: No, machine guns.

Of course, my biggest peeve is that I was supposed to go to Egypt this winter, and now that looks unlikely to say the least
posted by fellorwaspushed at 7:32 AM on October 1, 2001



What on earth is so wrong with trying to understand someone else's point of view? How can it "corrupt" you to learn how to look at the world through the eyes of someone you despise? This is no fantasy world; there are no cartoon villains here. Bin Laden is a real person with human motivations, and you do yourself a disservice by dismissing the beliefs that drive him as some kind of homicidal mania.

If you slaughter thousands of innocent people, it just doesn't matter why you did it -- it's unjust.

That may be, but the reason it was done matters very much to anyone who is interested in actually understanding what's going on in the world instead of reflexively bombing anyone who pisses them off.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 7:37 AM on October 1, 2001


What on earth is so wrong with trying to understand someone else's point of view?

Fuck their point of view. When did they bother to try and understand our point of view?

Personally, I care about their motives to the point that I can identify like-minded criminals. And for that, I don't need the molecular explanation, and I certainly don't need a bunch of Osama-apologists fretting over their bullshit justification. If you murder 6000 people, your position is officially "shit." End of story.
posted by UncleFes at 7:42 AM on October 1, 2001


Of course, none of the above comments seem to indicate that anyone (pro- or anti- the 'understand Bin Laden' movement) has the least interest in the writer's views expressed in the article.

Speak for yourself, buddy.
posted by locombia at 7:45 AM on October 1, 2001


If you slaughter thousands of innocent people, it just doesn't matter why you did it -- it's unjust.

It is! It is unjust! I sort of hopped every American felt that when the planes bombed streets, buildings, refugee convoys, schools and churches in Yugoslavia, to mention just one very recent example.
posted by acrobat at 7:47 AM on October 1, 2001


This is a not fight to save Islam because what Bin-Laden is not true Islam. This is a fight to feed Bin-Laden's sadistic ego. Bin-Laden might be able to enter an insanity plea but not a self-defense plea. Murder is rarely justified. And what I am more concerned about now is the US government's instistence on waging all-out war. The US Govt, in effect, will be murdering a country of innocent civilians that are already so near death anyway. We can't bomb Afghanistan back to Stone Age because they are already there. Just check out _Temporal Vertigo_ in this week's NYT Magazine.
posted by CraftyHotMelt at 7:51 AM on October 1, 2001


fellorwaspushed, oh my god, you are putting a saudi royal in the same category as the taliban follower? are you kidding me? a follower of the taliban movement, a fundamental muslim as the same as a playboy saudi royal?
posted by m2bcubed at 7:53 AM on October 1, 2001


"Knowing your enemy has more to do with finding out what he'll do, not why. I hate to say it but we all know terrorists, with diferent motivations, will continue to kill innocent people." (Miguel)
"Do we try to understand the KKK? Ethnic cleansing in other parts of the world? I think not." (eas98)
Good talking points but I for one disagree. You both seem to be trying to make terrorism based on fundamentalism into some sort of mystical, a-logical act, an absolute "un-understandable". First of all, religious acts of violence can be placed into historical contexts, and always attributed at least in part to social pressures. It's not as if a charismatic religious genius can appear in ANY situation and mystify susceptible innocents (or criminals) into becoming terrorists: rather, as many philosophers of history would argue (starting with Hegel I suppose), the time must be right for a charismatic figure...

Now, historical forces can be judged to be good or bad. For example, bacteria in a petri dish is subjected to a sort of historical mini-force which forces it to grow until its population crashes, and that's a bad force. So on the face of it, one way to re-evaluate what we are asking with this question "is OB-L's cause just" is, "are the historical forces which spectacularly manifested on 11.8.01 good for (humankind, earth, whatever) as a whole, or bad, or indifferent, or can we not tell?" Obviously these forces are bad for the deceased and their relatives, and also for those who stand to lose money in the short term due to market forces. They are also bad for citizens in the U.S. and Israel because of an increased risk for the future, and because of the costs of our countermeasures (in many cases necessary and in many other cases futile).

Could it be, however, that the forces which oppose the interests of U.S.-lead globalization might be, oh, the kind of factor which, together with others, and however unpleasant, might prevent a bacteria-like destruction of the petri dish?

Now, as to "just", as in, is this a just cause by "our standards", or perhaps, is this a just cause by "their standards", whoever "they" might be (Islam as a whole? The interests of the Arab world as a whole? The interests of the "third world" as a whole, even?). It is not at all clear to me that their action was unjust from "our standards" ie if you put Christianity as it is put to use on a sociopolitical level in the position of a persecuted, backward nation trying to preserve its religiousness at all costs, wow, i can picture that.

Now, does it jibe with some sort of abstract perfect moral code that has never been applied seriously to any nation-state, seeing as how nation-states act like vicious animals fighting for survival? No, it does not.
posted by mitchel at 7:59 AM on October 1, 2001


Mars: "But... but that's so un-American!" he said with a wink and a nudge. But there's one line in the article that rings true: "To understand is not to condone." It appears that many people overlooked this; perhaps they didn't read the article?

UncleFes: If you murder 6000 people, your position is officially "shit." Ah, so the collective position of the US and all major countries, for that matter, is "shit".

This article tries, and I give it full credit, to help us understand exactly why this would occur. A lot of the media has written off the answer to that question as, "They hate Americans." But why? What could make people so very angry and full of hatred that they would seek this type of revenge?

UncleFes, do you know for certain that these people didn't try to understand our point of view? I'm not saying I do, mind you. But what if you had the American point of view rammed down your throat all of your life, telling you what is good and bad? Supporting selective countries and regimes with weapons, money, and power? Maybe, say, regimes you hated? You can hypothesize the reasons why this would happen, here.

And we still have no positive evidence that bin Laden really was the Big Guy behind this. Still. We've been told it's so. But that's exactly what we collectively wanted to hear. We wanted to hear that we had a suspect; we wanted to hear that we knew where he was; we wanted to know where to get a picture so we could print up cheesy t-shirts.

But we don't care about why. We don't look at the condition of Afghanistan with sadness; we look at it and say, "Well, when we do blow it up, that rubble will be even smaller rubble!" and "It doesn't matter, you wacky Afghans, we don't want your useless country! We don't want your land!" but we don't take the time to wonder how that land and that country became so desolate, so barren, so devoid of any semblance of life.

Perhaps the enemy is us.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to hop in my $45,000 automobile and get a $10 coffee.
posted by hijinx at 8:02 AM on October 1, 2001


Speak for yourself, buddy.

I always do, and for no one else. If everyone else did the same, we'd be talking about Linux apps or something instead of dead children and terrorists motivations.

And what I am more concerned about now is the US government's instistence on waging all-out war.

A valid concern, but so far, no war. If anything, the government is taking every precaution to avoid all the things, especially the deaths of innocents, that we all decried in the last two weeks. The scared boohooing about big bad America stomping poor little Afghanistan into the ground - which simply isn't happening - is starting to get a little repetitious.
posted by UncleFes at 8:02 AM on October 1, 2001


One person's terrorist tends to be another person's freedom fighter.

I can't say whether I would support bin Laden if I were Muslim/Arab, but his "war" is certainly understandable and his tactics are certainly effective.

The guy obviously has a good stategy in mind and has succeeded in setting up a whole slew af terrorist cells. His fanaticism is obviously not imparing his rational thinking, in other words.

The dumbest thing we, as Americans, can do is dismiss his (and many other Muslim's) gripes with the West. It may be easy to do so, but not very prudent.
posted by Witold at 8:03 AM on October 1, 2001


I'm sorry but the point of asking "Why would anybody do this?" which so many non-philosophers asked out loud on September 11, is precisely that it is not a question worth asking. I.e. there is no reason for doing something like that. No reason at all.
This is what we have to understand; not the killers!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:06 AM on October 1, 2001


Miguel: So do you firmly believe that this was done with no true sense of purpose? And, more importantly, do you not care why it was done at all?
posted by hijinx at 8:12 AM on October 1, 2001


Ah, so the collective position of the US and all major countries, for that matter, is "shit".

I don't recall us flying loaded passenger jets into Afghanistan's capital, but hey, there was a long weekend there, I might have missed a few CNN reports.

But what if you had the American point of view rammed down your throat all of your life, telling you what is good and bad?

You can either agree or disagree. And "rammed down your throat"? Since when? Individuals decide good and bad for themselves, not based on what the US tells them.

Maybe, say, regimes you hated

They do! To a lesser extent. Not only that, but my taxes are used to do it - my money! That I earned, that was taken from me and my family, to support (for example) errant missle fire in Gaza that kills families just trying to make a life for themselves? You damn right I don't like it! But you know what I don't do? Blow up buildings. I email my congressman, support candidates that I agree with, spout off on the internet - but I do NOT blow up buildings.

And we still have no positive evidence that bin Laden really was the Big Guy

There will never be enough evidence for a lot of people. What do you want, a photo of him with an AK talking about blowing up Americans? Um, wait, talking about blowing up Americans in the WTC? Er, OK, bin Laden AT the WTC with a AK and a "death to America" t-shirt?

Perhaps the enemy is us.

And perhaps it is not. Perhaps the enemy is exactly who we think it is.
posted by UncleFes at 8:13 AM on October 1, 2001


m2bcubed: I was not referring to the Taliban when I mentioned the Islamist movement. Those people are Saudis, not Afghans, and they are operating in KSA.

It is also worth noting that Islamists in many Arab countries gain popular support because they are seen as the only viable alternative to corrupt governments. In Egypt, for example, Islamists are the only people building schools and hospitals. Now whether they teach Bin-Laden-like aggression or English as a second language matters only to those of us who are looking from a distance, to the poor and disenfranchised, they are offering hope, which puts them ahead of the governments of those countries. Any education is better than none at all, it is only after that point that we can make value judgments regarding the content taught.

In any case, my point is not to compare the relative evils of one or the other, only to point out that the Saudi royal family are scumbags, a point similar to that made in the article which headed this thread, and which is based on my own personal experience.
posted by fellorwaspushed at 8:15 AM on October 1, 2001



No and no.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:15 AM on October 1, 2001


For all of you that can't read; loads of ya that is, I was asking you to forget entirely what he had done (if it is him that hit the WTC) and simply comment on what you thought about his cause.

Saudi, Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, Qatar, Oman all have oil and gas, all are supported by the US or Britain and none are a democracy. They are untouchable, but where is there right to govern?
posted by Wet Friday at 8:23 AM on October 1, 2001


And we still have no positive evidence that bin Laden really was the Big Guy behind this.

Some evidence has started to trickle out. Also, Secretary of State Colin Powell has said he is "absolutely convinced" that Bin Laden's terrorist network was behind the attack, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday he has seen "incontrovertible evidence" linking Bin Laden to the attacks.
posted by rcade at 8:32 AM on October 1, 2001


For all of you that can't read; loads of ya that is

You must be very intelligent!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:34 AM on October 1, 2001


OK, reading the effing article.... :)

...done. I think bin Laden and this writer are wrong for exactly the reason that darren mentioned. I would add that if you don't want to play with America, if you don't want our culture polluting yours (as if!), stop taking our largesse and using our armed forces to fight your battles. It's that simple.
posted by UncleFes at 8:54 AM on October 1, 2001


Wet [today] ... I know that you were asking us to look past what bin Laden actually did {ok, "allegedly" did, but I think that may be the most pointless "allegedly" in recorded history}, and focus on his "cause." Speaking for myself, my point was that it's impossible to separate the two. You render your cause unjust when you indiscriminately murder 6,000 innocent people in furtherance of that cause.

There is, no doubt, a time and a place for debating America's past foreign policy; and I don't disagree that our hands aren't clean. But that debate should have absolutely no bearing on how the US must respond to this incident. Too many people want the US to somehow temper its response simply as a kind of "self-punishment" for its own past actions. "Thank you, sir, may I have another?"
posted by pardonyou? at 9:05 AM on October 1, 2001


I think the only lesson we can take from this is that we do need to make changes in our ME policy, but we needed to make these changes whether Bin Laden existed or not.

Like most madmen, and unlike most terrorists, his actions seem to not have a logical consequence. What he seems to be hoping for is a nihilistic fight which will corrupt the world and turn it into a day of judgement, or something along those lines. Who knows. He doesn't want policy changed, he doesn't want negotiation. So looking at his actions through the prism of policy and negotiation makes no sense.

If he were a rational man, and he wanted US policy changed he would have built up his fortune and started hiring lobbyists, hosting lavish dinners, and setting up PACs all around the country to push his agenda.

Again, we do make some major mistakes in the Middle East, primarily our dealing with Israel and our inability to get the Israelis to conform to either international law, the Geneva Convention, or dozens of UN resolutions. Take away that flame and much of the fire dies down. But that has nothing to do with Bin Laden, except for maybe his ability to recruit people into his cult.
posted by cell divide at 9:13 AM on October 1, 2001


Miguel, allow me to be more blunt in my refutation of your position.
"All you get, even if you try really hard ... is another ununderstandable proposition. I.e.,
because 'God made me do it' or 'because I enjoy raping children'.?"
First of all, that's a rather unpleasant tactic isn't it, tacitly equating someone with a rapist of children. Being a self-styled philosopher no doubt you could give us all the technical name for it :)
Secondly, nobody said Bin-Laden necessarily is acting only because God made him do it. Perhaps he has an agenda, such as embroiling the U.S. in a war with as many Islamic nations as possible. Perhaps you've heard this theory?

Now, might that war be just?

That's a complicated question, isn't it? You can't just paint all terrorists with a "mindless religious robots" tag and expect to be taken seriously, can you?

I firmly believe all so-called religious motivations can be easily explained by social and political forces.
posted by mitchel at 9:18 AM on October 1, 2001


UncleFes: OK, so the qualifier for you is "blowing up buildings", then? I just want to be sure.

In any event, I maintain that the actions the US has taken in many other countries - including Rwanda and Afghanistan - can be equated in some fashion to the WTC attacks. Were they on the same level? Of course not, because those countries don't have two 110-story towers. They do have embassies, residences, places of business... you get the idea. We have had a long, long history of fighting the wars of others. We don't "blow up buildings", but instead we help keep societies at a lower level than our own.

And "rammed down your throat"? Since when? Individuals decide good and bad for themselves, not based on what the US tells them.

Since when? Since the end of the Cold War! Since the end of WWII! America is great and we are number one and therefore, our society must be interjected into your country's society, too. Why do we have any military presence in the Middle East at all? Why do we provide weapons and cash to selective sides in civil and regional wars? Why do we provide our services?

but then... stop taking our largesse and using our armed forces to fight your battles. It's that simple.

No, it's not. We feel we have a right to, say, arm Israelis. Why? We consider them allies; we say, "Your cause is much like our cause. We'll help you." But we don't provide anything to the Palestinians... although many Palestinians live in America. They are enemy-by-proxy. So if Israel stopped relying on US support, what would happen?

Then, what would happen around the world? We'd be going Isolationist again - letting things happen without our physical intervention. America as a country is far, far, far too self-indulgent to let that happen. But more than ever, this is the time we need to at least think and consider the other countries and individuals involved - without continuing our policy of interjecting American society and values into countries we don't fully understand.

Which is exactly what's happening here. "I don't understand that Afghanistan, but that's wrong!" What's our justification? The article that Wet Wednesday linked to attempted to offer an explanation of justification on the terrorists' end of things. What's the American justification? "Protecting the American way of life" is not a fair answer, mind you.

There will never be enough evidence for a lot of people. What do you want, a photo of him with an AK talking about blowing up Americans?

Thanks to rcade for providing a couple of links; they help with my fears. I found it suspicious that everyone came out right away after the attacks claiming, "Yes, bin Laden is suspect #1" but not providing any information as to why. We were just told he was the prime suspect. People questioned what the news previously said about Bush, Clinton, and other politics; why was this not questioned?

As cell divide suggests, some of these changes should have happened anyway. It is tragic beyond words that it took an event of this magnitude to wake us up.
posted by hijinx at 9:19 AM on October 1, 2001


This has all been argued out on Mefi countless times since 9-11. The bickering on either side is about as productive as arguing about abortion rights. People have their opinions and they'll stick to them. The US is going to do what our government sees as in our best interests and we assume our adversaries will as well.

Perhaps it is true that the US was not responsive to Bin Laden's postion before 9-11. We sure as hell aren't more likely to care about his cause after, nor should we realistically be expected to.

When a woman I know was raped, we didn't expend a whole lot of energy on "why". We did though, on who, what, where and when. We all want peace, but to some of us peace is our goal, not the process by which we get there.
posted by revbrian at 9:24 AM on October 1, 2001


pardonyou? I completely agree with what you say. However, I was not asking whether US policy was bad in the past etc. That is an irrelevance as you say.

My question was whether his cause was right/just from his perspective, and from the perspective of normal arabs/muslims that live in that region. Would you be on his side as the person that you are, but if you were of muslim/arab persuasion. I'm probably not putting the question forward very well; do you get the difference?
posted by Wet Friday at 9:24 AM on October 1, 2001


"I will surely cast him into the fire of hell. Would that you knew what the fire of hell is like! It leaves nothing, it spares noone; it burns the skin of men. It is Guarded by nineteen keepers." - KORAN. From, 'The Cloaked One'(74:29) Im suprised noone has caught this yet. What a co-winky-dink.
posted by newnameintown at 9:27 AM on October 1, 2001


Yeah, that's an effective, rational approach.

Guess you've don't agree with the old maxim, "Know thy enemy?"


What you need to know is known. The point is not to over-analyze evil and somehow turn it into something other than it is. They are evil people led by maniac(s). Kill them. Drop bread and leaflets and radio broadcasts in Afganistan, yes, but kill them.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:36 AM on October 1, 2001


I love how, even when asked specifically to do so, many people still cannot discuss motive as separate from means.

"What do you think about the cause Bin Laden is fighting for?"
"It's wrong because he killed people."

or

"We cannot engage in rational discussion about any cause which could lead its followers to commit murder on this scale."

Well, sorry, but we have to do that. It's a critical thinking skill we were supposed to learn in elementary school. Being able to separate an idea from what is done by those who misinterpret it, or even a group from its most radical members, is necessary in understanding ALL aspects of religion. Otherwise, you're oversimplifying, and basing your evaluations on a fallacy. An example:

"So, what do you think about the Catholic church?"
"It's evil because Torquemada killed people."
posted by Hildago at 9:42 AM on October 1, 2001


OK, so the qualifier for you is "blowing up buildings", then? I just want to be sure.

Yeah, that’s my qualifier. No blowing up buildings (sigh).

We have had a long, long history of fighting the wars of others.

What we have is a long history of being invited in to help. We got to places where there’s trouble. We go their to help preserve or, in some cases, remake the peace that got ruined by the locals. We don’t just hop into countries willy-nilly – if we did, there’d be a LOT more warfare in places like Aruba and Jamaica.

We don't "blow up buildings", but instead we help keep societies at a lower level than our own.

For as long as I can remember, we’ve been attempting, mostly in vain, to bring societies up from their current, generally self-imposed, level, by engaging them in trade, looking to expand commercial interests, arming them against violent neighbors so they may defend themselves, and generally trying to exemplify the benefits of democracy and freedom. As opposed to the superior (?) conditions that exist in places like, say, Afghanistan. What is it, exactly, about that country that’s so special that Americanization there is BAD?

America is great and we are number one and therefore, our society must be interjected into your country's society, too. Why do we have any military presence in the Middle East at all? Why do we provide weapons and cash to selective sides in civil and regional wars? Why do we provide our services?

First question: because we’re asked. Because the middle east is a violent place, and we prefer peace. To the second: someone must win in any conflict. We support our friends. When one of your friends gets into a fistfight with a stranger, do you pin his arms back so the other guy can get a good shot in?

We feel we have a right to, say, arm Israelis. Why? We consider them allies; we say, "Your cause is much like our cause. We'll help you." But we don't provide anything to the Palestinians... although many Palestinians live in America. They are enemy-by-proxy. So if Israel stopped relying on US support, what would happen?

I don’t know. But as we also arm the Israelis, we have also time and again required them to discuss peace with the Palestinians. Armed conflict in Israel is not in our best interests – so, along with arms, we send diplomats, and demands.

America as a country is far, far, far too self-indulgent to let that happen.

Would not isolation, not intervention, be the self-indulgent position?

But more than ever, this is the time we need to at least think and consider the other countries and individuals involved - without continuing our policy of interjecting American society and values into countries we don't fully understand.

I still don’t understand how interjecting America society and values (to the extent that we do that, which I believe is nowhere near what you believe it is) is necessarily a bad thing. What’s so wrong with freedom, democracy, secularism, and trade?

What's the American justification? "Protecting the American way of life" is not a fair answer, mind you.

The American justification? “Murdering innocent families is wrong” will do for a start.

It is tragic beyond words that it took an event of this magnitude to wake us up.

Tragic… but not indefensible, hmm?
posted by UncleFes at 9:45 AM on October 1, 2001


i think that bin laden is the primary suspect because of the government's suspicion that he was responsible for previous acts.

I would propose the following strategy (somewhat analogous to the market share theory used to sue drug companies when one can't prove who was injured by whose specific brand of a drug): once a group has demonstrated the desire and ability to kill people, subsequent acts need not be traced to a specific group; it suffices that the does not condemn what has happened (which is the case here). So OSM et al is a fair target. This is, in effect was the Bush administration has set out to do. Hopefully, they will stick to this policy and not wimp out.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:51 AM on October 1, 2001


The American justification? “Murdering innocent families is wrong” will do for a start.

Yet everyone admits that if we go to war with Afghanistan, innocent people will be killed. Will we condemn ourselves as strongly as we are condemning Bin Laden now? Of course not. We'll say that we were at war, and some level of collateral damage is to be expected. Still, we will not see the irony.
posted by Hildago at 9:52 AM on October 1, 2001


Irony is for stand-up comics and english literature. ParisParamus is right; the government extracts taxes from the citizenry in part for national defense. bin Laden has shown that he is capable and willing to kill American citizens, therefore the government is obligated to try and stop him from doing that by the best, most efficient means at their disposal. Do the citizens of Afghanistan really expect anything less? Do they really believe that we could even conceive of doing nothing in response? And are the WTC dead any less innocent than the residents of Kabul?
posted by UncleFes at 9:59 AM on October 1, 2001


simply comment on what you thought about his cause

I can take a crack at this. There's this one guy who can't stand what's happening to his world, and has adjustment problems. He looks at the world today and says, It ain't what it used to be. Then, because he's not 10 years old anymore and can't just go crying home to Mommy, and because he has several million dollars to play with, he plots out his revenge fantasies at some figurehead he's picked to blame for the world's problems as he sees them, and lashes out to cause as much hurt as he can.

Yeah, he's one "just" motherfucker, his is the holiest of causes -- the belief that he knows better than millions of other of his own people what's best for them.

It's too bad Islam doesn't have false messiahs instead of terrorists -- one kind of raving lunatic is much less dangerous than the other....
posted by mattpfeff at 10:08 AM on October 1, 2001


mitchel, with all respect, this is not a war. The killers killed without even dignifying their actions with a justification. We still don't know who they are or what they want. This is unprecedented. You don't go out and kill thousands of people without at least a statement of purpose. These people almost give previous terrorists, who owned up to their own murders, a good name.
So forgive me, please, if I find it a little sick-making that it falls to MeFi members, of all people, to try and understand killers who nobody knows who the fuck they are or what they want.
They remain silent and hidden. And - please excuse the provocation, but I come from a rhetorical culture - don't you think they'd profit by reading all the terribly sensitive and preoccupied possible justifications and presumable grievances that keep appearing here and everywhere else?

Who knows? Some well-intentioned and intelligent person may yet give them an idea to help justify what they did, when and if they are brought to justice.

Yes, Justice. Real justice.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:09 AM on October 1, 2001


Yet everyone admits that if we go to war with Afghanistan, innocent people will be killed.

As in Iraq, I suspect intervention will cause different innocent deaths, not more innocent deaths. The Taliban is killing people, both will bullets and with their policies (as is OBL et al).
posted by ParisParamus at 10:17 AM on October 1, 2001


Maybe this will help you understand.. (Yes, it's by O'Reilly, but it's totally on the money.)
posted by eas98 at 10:56 AM on October 1, 2001


UncleFes: Would not isolation, not intervention, be the self-indulgent position?

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. If we don't intervene, and allow injustices to continue, people like me will stand up and say, "Why don't we do anything about this?" If we do intervene, and get in the trenches, and offer supplies, I think we're being just as smug and self-serving. Then, people like me will say, "Why are we going out and fighting wars and the like for others?" There should be a medium - we shouldn't be providing this much support, but likewise we shouldn't turn a blind eye to things.

Right now, we're doing both: our right hand is providing support, and our left hand is saying, "La la la, this is the American Way, la la la" and carrying about business like nothing's wrong.

What is it, exactly, about that country that’s so special that Americanization there is BAD?

I'll be happy to turn that around: What is it, exactly, about America that's so special that Americanization the world-round is GOOD? We are totally, totally convinced that this way - the American Way - is it. We are the supreme country, we are the big guns, we are it. Likewise, we disregard all other countries as being subpar, instead of seeing them as equals.

What’s so wrong with freedom, democracy, secularism, and trade?

The ideas? Not much. The executions of said ideas? Oh, don't get me started. This question, however, is exactly like your last one: it can easily be turned around and applied toward any system of government and society out there.

But because it's us, it's just a-okay. When it's someone else, it's wrong, or it's bad, or it's just not good. Why do we think this?

Is our patriotism clouding our judgment? The O'Reilly article eas98 points to really answers that question. (I'd also like to know where O'Reilly learned that the God involved in the religion of the terrorists actually endorses mass murder - and what he thinks of Americans who "interpret" the Bible to mean that bombing abortion clinics is the Word of God.)
posted by hijinx at 11:02 AM on October 1, 2001


i just finished reading the article fellorwaspushed. i apologize.

and hildago, i wonder what makes some use those critical thinking skills while others are content with accepting the the oversimplification?
posted by m2bcubed at 11:04 AM on October 1, 2001


so article suggests bin laden wants all americans dead because saudis cross the border to bahrain to give strippers a tip. and the question is "do you feel this is 'just'?"

no.
posted by danOstuporStar at 12:12 PM on October 1, 2001


There should be a medium - we shouldn't be providing this much support, but likewise we shouldn't turn a blind eye to things.

That medium is a very difficult position to find, since each person's idea of what consitutes it is different and changeable.

What is it, exactly, about America that's so special that Americanization the world-round is GOOD? We are totally, totally convinced that this way - the American Way - is it. We are the supreme country, we are the big guns, we are it.

First, the “American Way” isn’t about guns, although it is guns that preserve it. It’s about living in the closest approximation of a meritocracy that has ever existed on this planet; it is about giving everyone regardless of what they look like or what their first language a chance at success; it’s about being the most free, richest, most educated and at the same time most diverse, most charitable, most advocating country in the world. We are not perfect, but so far, we have shown the world that our method is the best so far.

Likewise, we disregard all other countries as being subpar, instead of seeing them as equals.

Well, if they were equals, we’d treat them as equals. But they are not. Their cultures are not as free, as democratic, as economically efficient, as charitable, as diverse, etc. as ours. We could certainly treat them more cordially, but treating, say, the culture of the Taliban as equal to the American culture is ridiculous. One is superior to the other. At the same time, they believe their culture is superior to ours, and it colors their dealings with us. Where is the condemnation there? It’s OK for them to act in their own best interests, but it is not OK for America to do the same? Why?

This question, however, is exactly like your last one: it can easily be turned around and applied toward any system of government and society out there.

Not really; our success as a culture is implicit on the precepts of that culture, listed above; if your culture is not successful, and you don’t have these aspects in your culture, perhaps it is not necessarily OUR fault. And yes, we have in some instances not upheld these principles – but overall, we have done so more often than not.

But because it's us, it's just a-okay. When it's someone else, it's wrong, or it's bad, or it's just not good. Why do we think this?

I don’t think we do. Part of our freedom is the ability to self-examine and self-criticize. Americans have not believed that their country has been above reproach for a long time – but at the same time, we certainly have a lot to be proud of, especially compared to some.

Is our patriotism clouding our judgment?

You could just as easily ask, is religion clouding the judgment of everyone in the mideast?
posted by UncleFes at 12:54 PM on October 1, 2001


I don't know if someone eluded to this already, but we should at least understand Muslim history if only to recognize breeding grounds for terrorist activity. We don't have to give a crap about the terrorists themselves, but understanding the forces behind them will help lessen the chances of them influencing too many people next time we position ourselves in a different country.

I still don't understand how interjecting America society and values (to the extent that we do that, which I believe is nowhere near what you believe it is) is necessarily a bad thing. What’s so wrong with freedom, democracy, secularism, and trade?

I may have had a bad economics professor, but here goes. The problem with Americanization (?) or U.S. -ifying of third world countries simply boils down to a matter of natural resources. The United States makes use of these resources, some of which cannot be extracted locally, in order to produce all the things that make this "cradle of civilization" a convenient and comfortable place to live. The countries that we purchase these resources from often depend on our trade (from other countries too) in order to sustain a good economy. When you begin to see Americanization, you begin to see countries saying to themselves "hey, we can make good use of this stuff too!" and "why are we working so hard for such a small price?" I think I'm rambling a bit by now so I hope you get the idea. It's when you get to the point where you can enjoy the end-product from these resources that you truly start to become Americanized (the not so self-centered way of putting it is that you start to see a transition out of the third-world status)...once again I picked this up through high school economics.

Yet more to the discussion. A lot of our frustration has been over the oil reserves that we have rigorously protected in the past. Our presence may only "seem" to serve the purpose of protecting our own welfare even though that was not the only reason we stationed troops (we had the intent of saving lives). But if that is what many people in the Middle East believe, then why should we be respected in within their culture? If our foreign policy is so bad, why should they care about our suffering when we don't seem to care about theirs? And if they are suffering, who is very convenient to blame? I'm not saying that we should make reparations, or that we are even really guilty of anything....but we should try to understand why so many non-terrorists cheered when those buildings collapsed. A lot of the reasons lie in their history...as many of them are tired of being pushed around by different cultures. So...to answer your question, it's a matter of perspective. Yes the terrorists were justified in their minds, somewhat through skewed interpretations within religious context...but mostly because they were capable of making their statement. The non-Taliban members of Afghanistan are a mixture of yes and no, mostly depending on how strongly they feel. I can't speak for other people, but I definitely do not think it was justifiable by any means....it was vigilantism in the worst way, and is totally against what I consider to be civilized. We are not the ones to blame for what happened to the WTC, but we are to blame for our bad foreign policies. That much is clear, the rest is speculative until we figure out exactly who is responsible...but at least it's a good start.
posted by samsara at 1:19 PM on October 1, 2001


Point taken. My contention is that our "bad" foreign policies could have been remedied by means other than the murder of 6,000 innocent citizens, and that by murdering those innocents (and in an especially brutal way), they have GUARANTEED themselves a reaction. IF they wanted peace, they have bought a generation's worth of war; if they wanted to be treated as equals on the world stage, they have bought the suspicion and enmity of every westerner; if they wanted justice, they have bought the ire of all the judges.

If I was a Muslim, I'd be trying to figure out a way to hand over bin Laden's lifeless body, and the bodies of his followers, to the Americans, because it would immediately forestall the coming conflict and save thousands of truly innocent lives AND prove that every Muslim is not necessarily a religious fanatic that targets children's playgrounds with nail bombs.
posted by UncleFes at 1:49 PM on October 1, 2001


This is the single most insane thread in the history of Metafilter. Why is it somehow wrong to judge these people by the fact that they murdered thousands of civilians, when the entire point of this group, by its own admission, is to do nothing but murder thousands of civilians?

These people hate Jews, Christians, and Americans. Even if we immediately caved in to every single demand al-qaeda has made (and they've varied a bit over the years, depending on who was doing the talking at the time), they would merely come up with new demands the next day and keep on killing. There is nothing to negotiate, there are no rational arguments to mull over. They want to kill us and terrorize us until the entire United States (and thus, the rest of the free world by extension) is in anarchy, so that Islam (their own perverted version of it) can become the supreme power on Earth. They admit this freely. They are continually scheming to attain these goals. Our only option is to kill them first.
posted by aaron at 2:25 PM on October 1, 2001



for one to hate this much should there not be a reason, or do you think that the entire non-USA world is unable to have thoughts, values, beliefs, concerns, etc.,

the whole question being asked is WHY?????, why did this happen? "these people", you don't know who exactly you are referring to, you don't know what they are thinking, how to avoid it from happening again.

if someone you barely knew, but knew you quite well, threw a rock at you, would you not want to know why they did, especially since they are holding more rocks in their hand? okay sure you can go grab a big rock and throw it back at them and then run...but...

that's what this thread is about.
posted by m2bcubed at 3:02 PM on October 1, 2001


I'm a first time poster who would like to get back to the original question, a question which is highly legitimate, but has been misunderstood and misconstrued (purposefully, I would guess) to avoid discussing the real issue.

I am not an apologist for these acts. I have come as close as I ever have been to wanting to see some destruction in return. But some people on this board are doing two things (1-refusing to separate sub-issues, so that the philosophical issues can be addressed; and 2-ignoring the big picture), that are obscuring an opportunity to learn something.

Why should we care to separate these issues out and discuss the philosophical underpinnings of radical muslims. The answer is very simple. Because it is in OUR OWN long term best interests to do so. Do we really think we are going to eradicate global terrorism? Maybe (hopefully) we will get Bin-Laden. Maybe we will gut the al-Qaeda. Maybe we will even create a period of time in history where the world is essentially free of terrorism.

But the forces which brought about Mr. Bin-Laden's completely unjustifiable actions will not change as a result. We will not be able to create a world in which future generations who believe differently than us are immune from radical thought (or anti-American thought).

Thus, we must understand what makes these people tick, so that we can adjust our own actions. Not to placate them or benefit them, but to preserve our way of life here. If you want to write off Bin-Laden and all those who help him as un-understandable, that's fine. But there are lots of folks over there who have similar beliefs and frustrations about America's role in the region who do not believe in taking such actions . . . . . yet.

That's the key word. There are young people in Afghanistan and Iraq and Iran and many other places who hate the U.S., who think we should stay out of the middle-east or at least re-evaulate our unwavering support for Israel, who think we are a decadent society. Those people, and their children and their children, can go many different ways in their lives. They can decide that Western ways are the best and present us no problem. They can ethically air their differences and seek peaceful change through political action (if permitted to do so in their own county). Or, they can turn into the next generation of Bin-Ladens.

Even if you don't care a whit about those folks for their own humanity, you should care which path they decide to take for your own sake. And you can't have any influence on that if you don't try to understand what they feel and why. So don't try to understand Osama. Kill him, imprison him, whatever. But you better understand those kids of his and those kids celebrating in Palestine, who have not yet done something unspeakably evil. It is not too late for that.
posted by late4thsky at 3:03 PM on October 1, 2001


that's what this thread is about.

Well, no, it isn't. Wet specifically asked us to discuss whether or not Bin Laden's alleged beefs are legitimate and just. I am all for figuring out why he and so many other fundamentalist Muslims feel the way they do, but understanding the reasons why != giving those reasons legitimacy. And that's what a lot of people in this thread ARE doing: Trying to claim they are at least partially (if not totally) justified in what they are doing.

There has been some logical discussion in this thread, m2b, but far too much of it is as I just described.
posted by aaron at 3:20 PM on October 1, 2001



I think that Aaron is right. And I've never felt that any position like that was the right one before. Now is the time for us to be many things:

* fearless and strong and horribly powerful: We must destroy this organization. I would rather see these men brought before the World Court and imprisoned, but that may not be possible.

* honest: Our government's actions on the (insert demolished foreign country here) have been unjust. We must face these facts and try to be Just in our treatment of other nations. We must purge our own government of those that seek to profit from the suffering of others.

* smart: We cannot act to strike or to change with a short view, with a profit motive, with poor judgement or without real, *actually* real statecraft. Our gov. must be able to make more intelligent choices to negotiate the 21st century. Likewise a grass-roots campaign against the lesser-but-still-evil evil of our corporate media is needed. CNN is (in my mind) starting a war to boost their own ratings and they are not alone. This cannot, cannot be... we must be smart enough as a people to see through this kind of thing or we are in danger of becoming like our terrorist foes, actors in a great violence with no _real_ purpose.

All obvious points, for certain. But the big idea is that we cannot give up on the future! To be pessimistic and depressed is the easy road here... the weaker road. We must act in many several ways now -- everyone has a role to play in making this a workable life in 2001.
posted by n9 at 3:22 PM on October 1, 2001


i honestly don't think it is 'just', regardless of the cause to injuring parties not involved is not justified. i am willing and eager to learn why and how bin laden thinks. why and how the taliben works. and why and how it is possible to encourage your youth to believe something, and as i said before, eager to find out how we could fix it w/o injuring more people...if it is at all possible.

aaron, i realize that the thread started off asking about whether bin laden and the act of 911 was just, but these threads take on so many different shapes after the initial post and teach us things...and that's what i want. know what i mean?
posted by m2bcubed at 3:27 PM on October 1, 2001


Cha-ching! And there it is again.

"Our only option is to kill them first."

Ack. Is it only me, or can one easily imagine the nefarious Bin Laden (played by Donald Sutherland in the upcoming TV miniseries) and his scruffy followers saying exactly the same thing about us American in-fi-dels?

But...but...that would mean we are on approximately the same ethical level as those dirty bastards. WTF?

Let's not get into such parallels. Comparisons suck, and who wants to get into all that uncomfortable "thinking" at a time like this, eh?

And let's see...our Muslim friends need to prove that "every Muslim is not necessarily a religious fanatic" by "hand[ing] over bin Laden's lifeless body." Yeah. We definitely need a kind of psuedo-Sopranos loyalty test. Marlon Brandon cast as Big Dick Cheney, sneering soto-voce "Until Bin Laden sleeps with the fishes, it's gonna be a rainstorm of dead horse heads on Afghanistan."

Folks, you know it. I know it. The time for thought has passed. I for one have been able to put up a few hundred flags in the time it would take to ponder the above shamelessly posted antiamerican article. Thinking may blunt our American Fighting $pirit. Who cares what what motivates Bin Laden and his boys. Here's what we do care about -- a LOT of American businesses will pay good Money to have you come in and put up American flags all over their inventory! The new patrioti$m is a marketing dream! God Ble$$ The U$A!

Of course, some of our misguided spoilsport citizens just don't get the party-line...er...*cough*...FACT that America has absolutely no blood on its hand in the Middle East or in the rest of the world. We're blameless. Those bastards killed 6000 of us, and we've never done anything to deserve such treatment. We don't want to hear that those Talibandits or Al-Quaedudes are like us in their desire for justice and redress.

Let's keep it at this level (it's safest): They Just Hate Us. They're Just Envious Of Us. They're Swarthy. And They Want To Conquer The World (Taliban Marines have been sighted off Long Island Sound wearing L.L. Bean waterproof turbans).

So amen and shut up you antiamericans. No more debate. Our only option is to kill them first. Like they tried to do to us...or like we tried to do to them and/or those damned Soviets or Iraquis or Palestinians or Panamanians to try to keep them from doing it to us first. Or something like that. I get confused.

I need my flag.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 4:23 PM on October 1, 2001


Aaron, I don't think it's helpful to try and understand the terrorist in hopes of finding justification, as we already know from their perspective they are justified and we, of course, disagree. But instead it is helpful to understand the environment surrounding and the history influencing them. You have to respect that environment and history because it holds and shapes the lives of many non-Taliban civilians. We will focus on the Taliban only because they are equipping the terroristic ideal. Although, I don't think they are reaching for supreme power as you suggested...from my understanding they really want to purify their own land and see us as preventing them from going forth in their goals. Yet, the moment you fly a passenger jet into a populated building, you've lost your chance to expect most understanding of justification. There is simply no justification for that, whatever the cause. The part that's keeping so many Americans on edge is that the "I-challenge-you-to-a-duel" glove was thrown from a crowd and no one is stepping foward to take responsibility. It's an obvious test to see how quickly the U.S. dives into militant action. Psychological warfare perhaps?

...and that by murdering those innocents (and in an especially brutal way), they have GUARANTEED themselves a reaction.

They equate hatred and violence as a means to resolve issues or provoke a reaction, failing to realize that it has never achieved the desired end result. For example, the KKK/Nazi regimes as previously noted: people who are so full of anger and prejudice that they have never stopped to think, "is any of this making my life better? is any of it securing a safe future for my children?"

These are important questions, but become easily trivial when in the mix of civil unrest. These are definitely not the main values for the terrorist. Instead the message has been diluted into holy conquest, and those taking action against the United States in the form of Jihad are so incapable of answering those two viable questions that they'd rather place their bets on a better future in the afterlife.

So maybe we need to continue looking for responsibility and justice, but not stoop down to their level by killing or causing the death of innocent people...which is very difficult when dealing with terrorism. To the fanatics, we are the fanatics...we have to outsmart that idea by proving them wrong in the many cases it would be politically disastrous to physically attack them. I believe that if they see themselves as evil monsters, the organization will easily break apart due to the fear of religious consequences, as long as they think they are "justified" through God, they will continue to attack our way of life...if we strike back blindly, we are only volleying their justification back at them....and it's a type of conflict that takes a long time to end (as far as blind religious volleying goes). Yet I strongly feel that they will "fall on their own swords" whether we get involved or not. We seek justice and will get involved so I hope we hasten the process, not prolong it.
posted by samsara at 4:33 PM on October 1, 2001


Let me be the 34th person to claim he's the only one to understand the question as originally asked:

Imagine bin Laden expressed the principles of his cause by leaflet rather than by hijacked plane (yes, that would be better, thank you, but that's not the question).

His leaflet says (correct me if I'm wrong): The USA defiles the holy land of Saudi Arabia with its presence. The USA means to destroy Islam. The USA is the barrier to the dream of a purely Islamic state. The USA and its Zionist allies must be [let's reword it nicely for him] opposed wherever they are and weakened until their influence is gone from this world.

Well? What do you think? Do you agree with that leaflet? Try yes or no.
posted by argybarg at 5:57 PM on October 1, 2001


[ Do you agree with that leaflet? Try yes or no.]

No. But I certainly agree he has the right to print all the copies of that leaflet he can afford.
posted by revbrian at 6:01 PM on October 1, 2001


Getting into a "mind-frame" or whatever is not really possible without a dangerous degree of identification.

Surely you do not truly believe this! That no one--not psychologists, not sociologists, nor writers, philosophers, no one--is capable of successfully and usefully modelling in their minds the mindset of another person, with its idiosyncratic biases, assumptions, values, and conclusions? That, to me, seems an outrageous claim!

I am baffled, too, by the claim of some posters that if we draw too near the deadly brink of understanding that we will all at once be forced to concede legitimacy to bin Laden, et al's beliefs and rationales (or to "identify" with him or them, as Miguel puts it). Your assumption clearly (and inexplicably) being that his logic and purpose IS at least fundamentally persuasive, if not laudable, and that we will be unable to resist its siren call if we don't turn a blind eye and shield ourselves from it forthwith.

And you guys have the gall to accuse those of us who seek to understand (but not condone) of being sympathizers!

Understanding neither equals nor implies acceptance, approval or approbation. It is not for bin Laden's sake that we should seek to understand, but (as late4thsky and others have also pointed out) for our own.
posted by rushmc at 7:33 PM on October 1, 2001


I am baffled, too, by the claim of some posters that if we draw too near the deadly brink of understanding that we will all at once be forced to concede legitimacy to bin Laden ...

I think the following quote goes over the brink:
His leaflet says (correct me if I'm wrong): The USA defiles the holy land of Saudi Arabia with its presence. The USA means to destroy Islam. The USA is the barrier to the dream of a purely Islamic state. The USA and its Zionist allies must be [let's reword it nicely for him] opposed wherever they are and weakened until their influence is gone from this world.
It's like poring over Mein Kampf to find things that show Hitler's good side. Bin Laden interrupts weddings to read poems he has written celebrating the death of the sailors on the U.S.S. Cole and calls Afghanistan under the Taliban the perfect manifestation of a godly government. His principles, if you can use that word at all in reference to his beliefs, are a tool to inflame the poor and oppressed to strike against all enemies real or perceived.
posted by rcade at 8:19 PM on October 1, 2001


It's like poring over Mein Kampf to find things that show Hitler's good side.

How is it like that? How is it like that AT ALL?
posted by rushmc at 8:38 PM on October 1, 2001


My point is that I disagree with bin Laden's means and his beliefs. The problem was not just using planes to destroy buildings, but that his beliefs are misguided and hateful. I would have wished that more Americans in the 1930s had quoted or summarized Mein Kampf; we would have better understood how dangerous Hitler was and might have acted more forcefully.
posted by argybarg at 8:51 PM on October 1, 2001


I would have wished that more Americans in the 1930s had quoted or summarized Mein Kampf; we would have better understood how dangerous Hitler was and might have acted more forcefully.
(argybargy)

This is a good point, I'm afraid.

So is this: Understanding neither equals nor implies acceptance, approval or approbation

Perhaps there's a linguistic devil at work, though. "I understand", in Anglo-American terms, does have a connotation of empathy. That, i object to.

Your assumption clearly (and inexplicably) being that his logic and purpose IS at least fundamentally persuasive

Well, yes. I am afraid. Lord - just look at the effects such persuasion has had and will continue to have! The problem with genocidal ideologies is that they are persuasive and lead human beings to destroy others while thinking they're doing them and us a favor!


People who spend too much time with mass murderers(for example, the late Lord Longford in England and the Myra Hindley case)do end up by understanding in a semi-sympathetic way. I emphasize the mass murderers
Nobody here is dissing psychology, philosophy or literature.

If you mean understanding in the simple sense of being informed; know what or whom you're dealing with; in a reading Jihad manual/Mein Kampf sort of way, I'd have to agree. But that is just policework; factual knowledge; not true understanding.
Old Wittgenstein said, over and over, that understanding could only mean describing - that it could not go beyond that. But I fear it can...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:18 PM on October 1, 2001


Old Wittgenstein said, over and over, that understanding could only mean describing - that it could not go beyond that. But I fear it can...

Sure it can. But I can't accept the suggestion that if you take a random, reasonably moral person of average intelligence or better and explain the terrorists' reasons for their recent actions, that that person would suddenly and inevitably become a Patty Hearst and embrace them, forgetting their anger, thirst for vengence, and the fact that such methods are just plain wrong.

You make a good point about the empathetic connotation of the word, "understand." I think it's pretty subtle, though, and the primary sense of "comprehend" does stand alone in a rational, Sherlock Holmesian way. I "understand" many things which I don't approve of.
posted by rushmc at 6:12 AM on October 2, 2001


His leaflet says (correct me if I'm wrong): The USA defiles the holy land of Saudi Arabia with its presence. The USA means to destroy Islam. The USA is the barrier to the dream of a purely Islamic state. The USA and its Zionist allies must be [let's reword it nicely for him] opposed wherever they are and weakened until their influence is gone from this world.
Well if that's what he is saying I do not agree with him at all.
1. The Saudi regime (from which his family has made billions) has invited the US presence and has always been close buddies with it since time immemorial. I disagree with US military presence in the Mid East certainly, but surely his prime gripe should be with the ruling elite (and his family is included here) that invited the US forces in the first place. Questions of illegitimacy of the Saudi government cannot be a part of his argument since a) the Saudi government is the most fundamentalist Islamic state (barring the Taleban of course); b) his ideal society is certainly not democratic in any sense (especially given his admiration of the Taleban) and c) his money comes from them.
2. The US not only does not want to destroy Islam but it has used, funded and helped the most fundamentalist faction of Islam as a spearhead against all popular progressive/secular/democratic governments in the region. Cases in point: Afghanistan (where the Najibullah regime, with all its shortcomings was a bastion of secularism), Nasser in Egypt (where the crackpot islamist Muslim Brotherhod was financed and supported by the US against Nasserism even after their assassination of Saddat), Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states (where the most fundamentalist regimes are supported by the USA), Iran (where the undermining of the popular Tudeh (Communist) party led to an increased support for the Ayatollahs), Bosnia and Kosovo (where the US did not object at all to the presence of "Afghani" volunteers and allowed them to proselytize and recruit with no major obstacle).
3. If the US is the barrier to a "truly Islamic state", given that the closest to "a truly islamic state" according to Bin Laden probably means "Hard Core Taleban", then all power to the US.
But since the US gave the Taleban the means to come to power in Afghanistan and a few months ago was coughing up around 45 million $ to them (as part of the ludicrous "war against drugs"), and given the Saudi connection mentioned above, one can hardly accuse the US of being "anti-Islamic".
4. I don't see the USA's Zionist allies having much to do with the attack. Even the most fucked-up fundamentalist Hamas member would surely object to such a strike against the US, if only for reasons of politics. In the sordid collection of middle class, brainwashed fanatics that were a part of the terrorist attack, there is not a single, not one, Palestinian. This by itself should speak volumes.

To recap: Bin Laden is the son of a Saudi billionaire with lots of ties to the US, who "saw the light", rushed to Afghanistan to fight the infidels, was trained by the CIA, used American weapons against the Soviets and then decided that his patron's presence in his native country was not to his liking. His ideology is the Muslim world's version of fascism.
The first point that truly, needs thinking about is not his motives, but the ease with which he recruited and brainwashed, nice, middle-class, Arab kids, to use as suicide bombers. That is indeed due to US policies in the region and that is something that the citizens of the US should ponder. The US has created a breeding ground for fundamentalist lunatics.
The second point that also needs thinking about is the fact that these fundamentalist organizations were organized, funded and supported by the US, in its fight against "Communism" (meaning any Mideast government that wasn't a US stooge). The folly of this strategy has now become painfully apparent and I am surprised that no one is bringing the CIA geniuses that thought of this to trial...
Sorry for the long post... got carried away!
posted by talos at 8:18 AM on October 2, 2001


"Old Wittgenstein said, over and over, that understanding could only mean describing - that it could not go beyond that. But I fear it can..." WHAT IS FUNNY, WHAT REALLY TAKES THE CAKE....HITLER AND LUDWIG WENT TO THE SAME REALSCHULE(MIDDLE SCHOOL) wet wedsdays question is fallical in nature. Fes is right and so is Aaron to a degree. (Kill all terroists) Man, ya gotta love mossad. Ive talked to people who read Mein Kampf before the war, most thought it was just feather ruffling(which is short-sighted given the beasts rhetoric towards our jewish brothers and sisters)
posted by newnameintown at 9:04 AM on October 2, 2001


How is it like that AT ALL?

The "leaftlet" presented in this discussion doesn't represent the views of Osama Bin Laden. It represents a sanitized version of his views that leaves out relevant details, such as his belief that all non-Muslims are infidels who should be killed in the name of jihad and his suggestion that his followers attack children at playgrounds.

The impulse to do that -- to view Bin Laden as if he had a legitimate point to make amid the murderous madness -- gives him either sympathy or legitimacy (take your pick).

He doesn't deserve either.

I also question whether any amount of understanding with a terrorist really matters much at this point. He wants to kill us. He wants to undermine our society -- to instill fear, disrupt our economy, and bring us down. He will wreak as much havoc as he can until he is stopped. What else do we need to understand?
posted by rcade at 4:35 PM on October 2, 2001


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