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August 3, 2005 12:54 PM   Subscribe

A Brief History of Slime, or How The Current Wave Of Global Islamic Terrorism Was Precipitated By A B-Movie Actor.
posted by 31d1 (56 comments total)

 
I second the motion
posted by Mephistopheles at 12:58 PM on August 3, 2005


Juan Gets An "F"
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 1:04 PM on August 3, 2005


I'd argue Islamic terrorism has its roots in British and American colonial activities in the Middle East in the early 1900s, but Reagan certainly did his part to move the process along.
posted by Rothko at 1:05 PM on August 3, 2005


Say it ain't so!
posted by Stynxno at 1:07 PM on August 3, 2005


This thread is destined for greatness.
posted by The Dryyyyy Cracker at 1:08 PM on August 3, 2005


Every other blog entry by Mr. Cole is compelling, but the ones in between make me cringe and wonder how he ever became a respected professor. I can't really see how he's breaking any new ground here.
posted by dhoyt at 1:10 PM on August 3, 2005


dhoyt, he may not be breaking new ground, but I'd rather you took issue with specific points rather than dismiss the whole thing.
posted by Mephistopheles at 1:19 PM on August 3, 2005


Okay, most of this is fair enough, but there is some rather unfair summarization towards the end especially .

Sweeping generalizations do not a good argument make.
posted by Parannoyed at 1:20 PM on August 3, 2005


Waitaminute... so like, those people who were protesting Reagan, they were actually against terrorism? But the right wing said such nasty things about them! So Reagan supported terrorism? But I thought that republicans had God on their side? I'm so confused! Maybe dios will help me understand how Reagan and Bush can be in rhetorical opposition, and both still be 'murica loving patriots.

"They are the moral equivalent of our founding fathers." -Reagan on terrorists
posted by modernerd at 1:21 PM on August 3, 2005


Reagan supported those against Communism without regard for their own atrocities. It's that simple.
posted by Mephistopheles at 1:22 PM on August 3, 2005


In the meantime, the Bush administration put virtually no money or effort into actually combatting terrorist cells in places like Morocco, as opposed to putting $200 billion into the Iraq war and aftermath. As a result, a string of terrorist attacks were allowed to strike at Madrid, London and elsewhere.


"As a result"? I think maybe Mr. Cole left out a step or two.
posted by alumshubby at 1:29 PM on August 3, 2005


Steve_At_Linnwood, thanks for the link. I was unaware of the background on this. It certainly puts Cole's point in perspective for me, I wouldn't give him an F though.

dhoyt, sure there's no new ground being broken here, but the way a debate is framed is arguably as important as the content. One can be factually correct and yet lose an argument becaue the facts weren't presented effectively. To me, this is a brilliant example of clear, concise, and compelling presentation of some interesting facts that are usually not linked together so well.
posted by 31d1 at 1:34 PM on August 3, 2005


I bridle when I read Reagan described as a B-movie actor. He appeared in a lot of A-list films with many of the greatest actors of the time. He sucked as a president, though.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:36 PM on August 3, 2005


Was he a good actor? I honestly don't know.
posted by Mephistopheles at 1:42 PM on August 3, 2005


I didn't say he was a good actor. Just not B-movies. (Frankly, he was a decent actor. His parts usually weren't very complex so you couldn't quite judge him as a great actor, but he did justice to the roles handed to him.)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:53 PM on August 3, 2005


For a good Reagan flick, I'd have to recommend Kings Row. "Where's the rest of me?" What a line...
posted by alumshubby at 1:59 PM on August 3, 2005


I can't really see how he's breaking any new ground here

Cool, I'm to know that you've come to realize that Reagan and Bush Sr. planted the seeds for both the first war in Iraq and the 9/11 attacks.

Yep it really is old news isn't it?
posted by aaronscool at 2:00 PM on August 3, 2005


Increasingly, I don't think that MetaFilter is overly liberal. I think that there are so many posts trying to combat that supposition that it all balances out.
posted by Mephistopheles at 2:01 PM on August 3, 2005


Juan Gets An "F"

That's the most compelling complaint you could find about the whole piece? Huh.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 2:27 PM on August 3, 2005


good to discover that had it not been for TheActor, all thoses hater-filled schools in Saudi Arabia, and in Afghanistan, and in Pakistan would not have taken on suicide roles...question: can you find any post by Cole in which things are not the fault of his country?
posted by Postroad at 2:28 PM on August 3, 2005


Those particular hater-filled schools probably wouldn't have survived without US help.
posted by Mephistopheles at 2:35 PM on August 3, 2005


Follow the links in Juan Gets an F and you can wind up here.

Which is why you have to love the internet.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:50 PM on August 3, 2005


Radical and Terroristic Wahabbist sect of Islam's problem with the US is because of Reagan in the 1980's?

I would have thought that a professor of Mid East Studies would know a bit more. There was this guy a millennium and a half ago named Mohammed who said that Islam is divided into the House of Islam and the House of War. That everyone who is not in the House of Islam is an infidel and enemy to Islam. Surely Mohammed was referring to the Ronald Reagan issue when he made those proclomations (under the Wahabbist understanding). Mohammed was a prophet, you see, and could probably foretell the coming of Reagan.

I suppose the defeat at the gates of Vienna in 1683 of the Islamic Empire by the West----which Bin Laden explicitly referred to on multiple occasions--- where the Caliphate was dismantled and triggered the regression of Islam ever since... I suppose that was caused by Reagan's policies.

I also suppose the Muslim Brotherhood---the forerunner of al Qaeda---was reacting to Ronald Regan in 1952 when it burned down buildings in Egypt.

And Sayyd Qutb, who was hanged in the 60's and is the intellectual godfather of the bin Laden approach, was surely writing about Reagan back in the 50's. Qutb probably didn't like Reagan's movies.

And I suppose in bin Laden's declaration of jihad in 1998, when he mentioned the reason for the jihad being the "humiliation and disgrace suffered by Muslims for the last 80 years"---a reference to the final crushing of Ottoman Empire by the British in 1918----was really a reference to the policies of Ronald Regan.

Juan Cole is an idiot. He is some blogger who filled a void on the web of a leftist Islamic expert. He ignores even bin Laden's own sayings in his attempt his own political agendas.

There are numerous and extensive historical beefs that bin Laden and his cronies have. Cole puts blinders on to these real issues and should be disgraced for it. How he ever gets called an academic is a disgrace to the word.
posted by dios at 2:52 PM on August 3, 2005


There are numerous and extensive historical beefs that bin Laden and his cronies have.

Beefs don't contribute money and arms.
posted by Mephistopheles at 3:00 PM on August 3, 2005


So you and Cole assume that bin Laden's war against us would not have existed but for the money spent on covert ops in the 80's? That's fairly implausible given the nature of their actions today and how little its actually tied to real dollars spent in Afganistan.
posted by dios at 3:05 PM on August 3, 2005


As I think about it, Bin Laden would be long dead or rotting away in a Soviet prison somewhere if Reagan and his cronies hadn't given him a helping hand. But I have to admit, it must have seemed like a good idea at the time.
posted by donfactor at 3:08 PM on August 3, 2005


Bin Laden would not have such power and influence if he was not caused to flourish by US assistance. Without his power and influence, he would not have the ability to gain so many followers. The CIA created a monster. If the bases in Afghanistan are so irrelevent, why are our armies there?
posted by Mephistopheles at 3:09 PM on August 3, 2005


Juan Gets An "F"

That's the most compelling complaint you could find about the whole piece? Huh.


Seriously. I was all like "Ooh, Reason's gonna set me straight!" and then ... d'oh.

I thought the main link was an amazingly concise summation of the current political situation in Afghanistan and Iraq. I haven't read a better version (as brief). As a response to the Totten piece, it's even better.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:15 PM on August 3, 2005


Mephistopheles, surely you can see the misplacement of blame in this. There is a virulent strain in Islam that exists for reasons that have nothing to do with the operations Afganistan. That is, this strain of thought would exist without anything Reagan did in the 80's. If we had disengaged from the Middle East, the problem wouldn't have gone away. There are trillions of dollars made in oil by Saudis and by bin Ladens only family. And look at the type of actions taken by al Qaeda---they don't require money or training. Bin Laden would have occurred regardless of that.

The blame is to be laid at his abortion of Islam and the virulent teachings of people like Qutb that are spread throughout Wahhabist maddras. To say that we engaged in an action in Afganistan during our war with Russia, and that is the cause of (or even complicit in) the actions taken by al Qaeda against us shows a misunderstanding of cause and effect and an inability to properly place blame
posted by dios at 3:17 PM on August 3, 2005


So you and Cole assume that bin Laden's war against us would not have existed but for the money spent on covert ops in the 80's?

Finally. You get it.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:17 PM on August 3, 2005


So you and Cole assume that bin Laden's war against us would not have existed but for the money spent on covert ops in the 80's?

No, he and Cole "assume" that the American right supported, trained, had dealings with, and elevated many of the people that are now actors against us.

That they may have still followed the paths they have followed is not the point here. The point is that the neocons were happy to work with them when we could point them at Communists, as well as being willing to label them freedom fighters and such, whereas now they are pushing them as unilaterally evil, and conveniently forgetting the role of, for example, our Secretary of Defense, in arming, training, and fraternizing with these "folks".

The American right may not be solely responsible for Islamic terrorism, but they need to be held responsible for their history of shady dealings and moral turpitude. Face it, our actors and their actors are most intimately involved. That is the point.

Seriously, look at the legs some lies about a Swiftboat had, and we're supposed to give "a free pass" to people that acted like this?
posted by 31d1 at 3:21 PM on August 3, 2005


While we are at it, Cole should probably blame the Wright Brothers becaus they created planes, and that allowed bin Laden to fly fuel into the Twin Towers.
posted by dios at 3:22 PM on August 3, 2005


If the Wright Brothers left Kalashnikovs to Bin Laden in their will, that would be fair enough.
posted by Mephistopheles at 3:24 PM on August 3, 2005


There is a virulent strain in Islam that exists for reasons that have nothing to do with the operations Afganistan. That is, this strain of thought would exist without anything Reagan did in the 80's.

Absolutely. However, it would be, more than likely, comparitively impotent. It would not have the influence and power to wage the jihad of today.
posted by Mephistopheles at 3:25 PM on August 3, 2005


There was this guy a millennium and a half ago ...

Well, maybe this could have tipped off the neocon gang that we might not want to get involved with them? That truth, justice, and the American way should preclude us from arming them, even if it is tempting? Or is the notion of doing the right thing another quaint relic of a simpler world?
posted by 31d1 at 3:26 PM on August 3, 2005


War needs leaders. Bin Laden was that leader. His power was a gift from the CIA, who chose to be blind to the risks of that power.
posted by Mephistopheles at 3:32 PM on August 3, 2005


I suppose Reagan was responsible for Sayyid Qutb? Zarqawi? These people arise out of vaccums.
posted by dios at 3:34 PM on August 3, 2005


So you appear to be saying that Zarqawi's Iraq-internal terrorism is unrelated to Al Qaeda... and so the war in Iraq is an irrelevant smokeshield with no relation to the true threat to the west, except that it causes west-bound bitterness and resentment among prospective suicide bombers. Excellent.
posted by Mephistopheles at 3:40 PM on August 3, 2005


These people arise out of vaccums.

(terrorist mastermind comes storming out of the head of dios . . . )
posted by hackly_fracture at 3:45 PM on August 3, 2005


Dios, are you practicing logic or rhetoric here? False premises can yield any conclusion. There can be more than one cause for any effect.
posted by warbaby at 3:46 PM on August 3, 2005


dios writes "These people arise out of vaccums."

The US is responsible for the vacuum in which Zarqawi arose; I don't know how you can dispute that. One of the primary reasons many of us opposed the war in Iraq was because it would create a power vacuum in which terrorism could thrive. The current situation is bearing out some of the worst of these fears.

It's not Reagan's fault, though; I place blame for the decision to invade Iraq a second time entirely on the Bush administration.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:46 PM on August 3, 2005


... a few of whom were in the Reagan administration, and didn't learn any lessons.
posted by Mephistopheles at 3:47 PM on August 3, 2005


(I'm not sure what you mean about Sayyid Qutb arising out of a vacuum. It's my impression that his intellectual foundation is rooted in anti-Western reactionary conservatism and political persecution by the Egyptian state).
posted by mr_roboto at 3:50 PM on August 3, 2005


You can speculate all you want about what would have happened if..., but the facts of the matter is that these people who the U.S. is now spending billions of dollars and thousands of lives to fight where originally placed in positions of power by the actions of extreme right-wing US politicians.
And no amount of speculation and what-ifs can’t erase that.
Now, if one wanted to speculate, you could wonder about the consequences, say in another 30 years, of the pupppet governments and militias being created right now by the same hard right wing.
posted by signal at 4:01 PM on August 3, 2005


where originally placed in positions of power by the actions of extreme right-wing US politicians.

Now you're saying Reagan, who won re-election 58%-40%, is "extreme right-wing"? 58% to 40% would like to disagree with your statement. You can disagree with his politics all you want, and I respect your right to do so, but that is a ludicris claim.
Upon leaving office in 1989, Reagan had an end-of-presidency job approval rating of 64 percent. This would not be matched until 2001, when Clinton left office with 65 percent job approval.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 4:23 PM on August 3, 2005


What do approval ratings or re-election have to do with what his politics where? From a global point of view, he was hard right.
posted by signal at 5:00 PM on August 3, 2005


Just to be clear, Ronnie financed extreme right-wing death squads. He paid people to kill other people because of their leftist politics.
That pretty much fits my defintion of “hard right”.
posted by signal at 5:24 PM on August 3, 2005


Just to be clear, Ronnie financed extreme right-wing death squads. He paid people to kill other people because of their leftist politics.

Wouldn't that be, "hired to kill members of the military from countries based on their countries' governmental political structure" or something similar?
posted by angry modem at 6:02 PM on August 3, 2005


Wow, lotta "Does not follow from..."
It does not follow that because Reagan had broad popular support that he was not hard right. Mussolini was hard right, and had broad popular support. Mussolini was further to the right than Reagan, and had MORE popular support.

It does not follow that Al Qaeda would have existed without Reagan, based on historical trends. Al Qaeda (the specific organization) was founded to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan with US and Saudi money. While there would be plenty of Islamic extremists, they would not have had the credibility, the infrastructure nor the funding without our direct involvement. For a similar example, see militant Christians. Aside from a few scattered incidents, most of their attempts to change the world come through political system, not through violence. Those who do choose violence are generally marginalized and ineffective at large-scale actions.

I'd be more comfortable with Dios if he'd just admit that Reagan played a big part in the formation of today's terrorist threats: that Al Qaeda specifically represents "blow back" for our '80s policies, policies that Reagan was the first to truly impliment. (Though, gotta say, Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski did their share too, despite being canonized by the left).
posted by klangklangston at 6:11 PM on August 3, 2005


Angry Modem: No, it means that Reagan paid people to kill nuns.
posted by klangklangston at 6:12 PM on August 3, 2005


Wouldn't it be interesting if the Russians started supplying the Taliban to undermine our occupation of Afghanistan as payback for our supplying the Northern Alliance to undermine their occupation of Afghanistan?

Steve Coll's Ghost Wars is a comprehensive history of the US's involvement in the evolution of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Democracy Now has a good interview.

I suppose Reagan was responsible for Sayyid Qutb? Zarqawi?

Actually, considering that before invading Iraq Bush passed up two chances to kill Zarqawi, I'd say he's responsible for him.

These people arise out of vaccums.

Not if you change the filters regularly.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:04 PM on August 3, 2005


The same sort of logic can be used to justify the position that we shouldn't have intervened to stop Nazi Germany, since the required supporting the Soviets and thus led to the Cold War.

Both are arguments with the benefit of hindsight, and without regard for what the situation at the time was.

In either case, this argument fails primarily because the structure of the worldwide Islamicist movement would likely have developed without US support, in response to the threat from the Soviets. Furthermore, the support we gave them isn't really a factor today. The stinger missiles are too old to use, and isn't not like they're sitting on this hoard of American dollars, and using them to finance terrorist attacks. Those attack take little actual funding anyway.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:47 PM on August 3, 2005


Bulgar: Well, except for the facts that a) our opposition tactics to the USSR during the Cold War really only really encouraged Stalinism and post-Stalinism as they confirmed the Leninist doctrine of being beset by all sides, thus requiring a mobilized populace and giving an excuse for purges (with the end result of more countries feeling an affinity to the USSR, and weakening our position in places like Cuba, Egypt and India), and b) that we had a pretty good idea that people like Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden were dirty when we dealt with them initially. The hubristic blunder was assuming a constant Cold War, during which we could continue to use them as assets, thus justifying our sleep of reason. They were the evidence of America abandoning the principles that made America great in order to have an advantage in the ideological conflict, which was itself overblown in order to advance domestic policies.
Furthermore, your points about the infrastructure and weapondry are wrong. An Islamist militia that developed without the organizational structure of the West and access to Western weapons wouldn't have been able to solidify into an anti-Western force without the access to US arms during that point in time, as they would have lacked the ability to draw the Soviets into their mountainous Vietnam, and without the tremendous boondoggle of Afghanistan, the USSR probably wouldn't have collapsed. In addition, the Stinger missiles we sold them were used against the Taliban by Northern Alliance soldiers prior to our intervention after 9/11, and are rumored to have been used against Israeli planes both before and after.
US involvement was far from the only factor in creating the terrorist systems which we're in conflict with today, but it was an important factor, and trying to dismiss that out of some misguided desire to read history by Reagan's hagiography will only lead to faulty policy in the future.
posted by klangklangston at 11:21 PM on August 3, 2005


Although a lot of the assetions sound plausible, It's a little alarming that no sources are given except for a mass market book at the end (you'd think that an academic historian would know better, even if it is a blog entry). I don't know enough about most of the details to assess them, but one detail I am pretty sure of that doesn't track is that Iraq's military buildup was almost exclusively Russian equipment, which would suggest that we weren't as intimately involved with Hussein as this piece suggests. We'd give them lots of money and be okay with them propping up the Russian defense budget as the final throes of the Cold War played out-? Doesn't seem to make sense.
posted by DarbyMac at 6:17 AM on August 4, 2005


DarbyMac, historically we has supported Iran (in fact, we had the CIA install our own puppet there, the Shah. Who was kind of fond of torturing his subjects.) while the Soviets supported Iraq.

When Iran became hostile to the US after their revolution (not only had we installed and supported the Shah, but we gave him refuge and medical treatment after he was kicked out), we began to funnel money into Iraq. That resulted in the Iran/Iraq war (which we were very happy with) and the invasion of Kuwait (which we were not so happy with).
posted by cytherea at 8:07 AM on August 4, 2005


These people arise out of vaccums. - god/dios

(terrorist mastermind comes storming out of the head of dios . . . )
posted by hackly_fracture at 6:45 PM EST on August 3


hackly_fracture wins!

I want the detractors of Jaun Cole to point me to even one M/E expert who can even shine his shoes.
posted by nofundy at 12:50 PM on August 4, 2005


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