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"Mom, you're not going to like this."
October 6, 2005 7:40 AM   Subscribe

"Mom, you're not going to like this." A mother of a U.S. soldier tells her son about the latest Iraq torture admissions, only to be told that his unit routinely beat and abused Iraqis. "...suppose you visit an Imam and you want him to call off IED attacks in his neighborhood. If you just go in and ask him politely, he'll tell you he'll try to help; but, he won't . . . But, if you go to that same guy and beat him up thoroughly, then ask him to knock off the attacks, he'll respect you and he'll try to help. . . ." The mother reports that her son was "under the impression that the conduct was in line with military policy."
posted by insomnia_lj (172 comments total)

 
Wah, wah, wah. If they shot him through the head from 1000 meters away we wouldn't even be reading about it. That's military policy too. Why should I revolt at news of beatings and torture when cluster bombs, maverick missiles, .50 caliber sniper guns, and depleted uranium are delivering much worse than a beating on suspected insurgents every day in that miserable country. A beating is far more humane than any of the many other choices the Pentagon has at their unquestioned disposal. If the US Army could stop killing Iraqis and just use to fisticuffs, I'd say that would be progress.
posted by three blind mice at 7:54 AM on October 6, 2005


TBL: Heh.

(obviously the idea is you only shoot at someone to protect yourself. If you're in a position to beat someone, they're not that much of an immediate danger)
posted by delmoi at 7:56 AM on October 6, 2005


Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free and I will beat them so senseless that with their dying breath, their lips will be able to mouth nothing other than U-S-A, U-S-A.
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:00 AM on October 6, 2005


Well, this unofficial policy would seem to employ an understanding of how "respect" is created - through threats, intimidation, beatings, shows of force, and retaliatory strikes - that is rooted in a Mafia awareness where the rule of law is assumed to be undesirable, irrelevant, or non-existent.

The Mafia model works fairly well ( leaving ethics out of the discussion ) when employed by agents within their native cultures.

But, the model doesn't export well when practiced by foreign occupying forces against a cultural dissimilar population.

I've long thought that while drawing parallels between Vietnam and Iraq are interesting, another illustrative comparison to make is Napoleon's occupation - and the ensuing guerrilla war, with extravagent brutality practiced by both sides of the conflict - of Spain.

See: Goya's "The Horrors of War"
posted by troutfishing at 8:00 AM on October 6, 2005


Meanwhile, in today's speech, The Only President We've Got ...also took on war critics in the United States.

"There's always a temptation in the middle of a long struggle to seek the quiet life, to escape the duties and problems of the world and to hope the enemy grows weary of fanaticism and tired of murder," he said.


Yeah, like five weeks in Crawford?
posted by alumshubby at 8:05 AM on October 6, 2005


Yawner.

I wouldn't hesitate to throw someone a beating to get some cooperation. Starting with fellow servicemen.

It's a man's world out there, insomia_lj, and nobody said it was pretty.
posted by jsavimbi at 8:06 AM on October 6, 2005


Here we go with the evil army bullshit again. I mean, over and over I read these 'evil army' threads and it's the same nonsensical approach to war, over and over; kill them with kindness right? Perhaps if we had knocked some heads around earlier, we could have prevented 9/11, but that probably would have offended someone so...
posted by j.p. Hung at 8:12 AM on October 6, 2005



posted by matteo at 8:13 AM on October 6, 2005


can I say, over and over just one more time? ugh...

.
posted by j.p. Hung at 8:13 AM on October 6, 2005


...he'll respect you and he'll try to help.
Right. I guess all that newly won respect is the reason why things are going so well in Iraq.
posted by cheerleaders_to_your_funeral at 8:16 AM on October 6, 2005


"I wouldn't hesitate to throw someone a beating to get some cooperation."

...and I hope someone returns you the same courtesy someday.
posted by insomnia_lj at 8:18 AM on October 6, 2005


Perhaps if we had knocked some heads around earlier, we could have prevented 9/11, but that probably would have offended someone so...

You were, and it obviously did.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:19 AM on October 6, 2005


Yeah, when I want people to help me out I give them a few well-aimed boots to the temple.

Like the other day, when I wanted that old priest to help me out with a tenner for a bottle of jack...
posted by spazzm at 8:22 AM on October 6, 2005


of course, this relies on the rather stupid assumption that the inam in question has any control over the ied attacks ... if he does, you may have persuaded him to stop it ... or bide his time until he can really stab you in the back

if he doesn't have anything to do with it, congratulations - you've just made a new enemy

seems to me that if this sort of tactic was going to work, it would have by now
posted by pyramid termite at 8:22 AM on October 6, 2005


Eenie, meenie, meinie, moe

Catch an Iraqi by the toe

If he hollers

Make him pay

By forced anal sex everyday

Eenie, meenie, meinie, moe



My mom told me you are not it you dirty old Rumsfeld you.
posted by j-urb at 8:23 AM on October 6, 2005


You were, and it obviously did

Now now, there you go again expecting Americans to remember things! Don't you know that's illegal?
posted by aramaic at 8:24 AM on October 6, 2005


"Perhaps if we had knocked some heads around earlier, we could have prevented 9/11, but that probably would have offended someone so..."

It's always amusing to see the rats come out of the woodwork to defend routine beatings of local religious leaders in occupied a free Iraq.

The U.S. have been knocking heads around in the Middle East -- either directly or through proxies -- ever since oil became an issue in this world. Has it perhaps occurred to you that such behavior might just possibly have been related to 9/11 in the first place?

If the terrorists really hate freedom, why didn't they attack a country that was more free than ours?
posted by insomnia_lj at 8:25 AM on October 6, 2005


I wouldn't hesitate to throw someone a beating to get some cooperation. Starting with fellow servicemen.

Oh yeah, tough guy? And I wouldn't hesitate to laugh my arse off when they send you down for several years in the slammer as a result of your willingness to act like a goddamned savage and abuse other people's human rights.
posted by Decani at 8:25 AM on October 6, 2005


So yeah, it's nice to not get blown up but if the ultimate goal is to win over the hearts and minds of Iraqis and win them to democracy, this helps how? And if your local police operated like this, you'd be cool with that? (And don't give me that this is war crap. Would you want these tactics in your backyard or nor?)
posted by Skwirl at 8:26 AM on October 6, 2005


Perhaps if we had knocked some heads around earlier, we could have prevented 9/11, but that probably would have offended someone so...

Actually, I think 9/11 can pretty easily be traced to the fact that we did "knock some heads around earlier." This isn't how you prevent terrorism; this is how you make terrorists out of erstwhile moderates, and prove to the whole world that Osama had you pegged all along.
posted by jefgodesky at 8:27 AM on October 6, 2005


jsavimbi - "It's a man's world out there, insomia_lj, and nobody said it was pretty." - Ah yes. A man's world.

Indeed, and men have these things called "brains" : which tell some us that beating up clergy in an occupied land is - to put it mildly - dumb. It's wildly counterproductive, and any honest US Pentagon or Army counterinsurgency specialist would concur.

_______

j.p.Hung - "Here we go with the evil army bullshit again." - that is not argument, it is propaganda. Something of yours is hanging out alright. Better zip up.
posted by troutfishing at 8:29 AM on October 6, 2005


"seems to me that if this sort of tactic was going to work, it would have by now"

The reality is it works quite often, that's why it's been used in EVERY conflict in history. I'm kind of surprised at the holier than thou approach to War here. Nice soundbites I guess but completely unrealistic in the real world that is War. I wonder how many would have a problem if smacking around an SS soldier yielded info that ended up saving millions of jews.

What is (rightfully) so disturbing about all of this, is the fact that WE STARTED THIS ONE. How can I blame some Iraqi for not wanting to give up the info? I can't, frankly. But in the end, there are a lot of bad seeds in Iraq, we have the dead soldiers to prove that so I'm a bit torn on this one. We aren't leaving Iraq and these stories unfortunately, have some weight with the Islamic nations, so in the end, it's probably NOT in our best interests...but again....it's War.
posted by j.p. Hung at 8:32 AM on October 6, 2005


Decani's really bought into the logic of infinite justice: a savage is one who attacks an American serviceman. Human rights exist only to protect us. When we attack others, we are not savages and they have no human rights.
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:33 AM on October 6, 2005


It's a man's world out there

Actually, after reading the reports of the types of torture methods, I'd say it seems more like a sociopathic, closeted homosexual, adolescent boy's world.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:36 AM on October 6, 2005


J.P., your analysis of the history of warfare is lacking a critical element--that in all the previous conflicts you allude to, there was an organized military hierarchy and a nation-state that existed within Cartesian space, both of which were vulnerable to attack. The tactics that work in a war against hierarchy do not work in a war against rhizome. These kinds of tactics try to drive towards the center; but there is no center.
posted by jefgodesky at 8:36 AM on October 6, 2005


j.p. Hung writes 'I wonder how many would have a problem if smacking around an SS soldier yielded info that ended up saving millions of jews.'

Yeah, or if raping a little girl had saved the dinosaurs! Guess you have to rethink your position on rape, huh?
posted by signal at 8:36 AM on October 6, 2005


signal, that was the best thing I've ever read here.
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:39 AM on October 6, 2005


"but if the ultimate goal is to win over the hearts and minds of Iraqis and win them to democracy, this helps how?"

Well, it isn't the goal. Does anyone believe we went there to bring them democracy? Does anyone believe we aren't going into Iran? Does anyone believe that China and Russia won't have something to say about that?

troutfishing, War is propaganda. I'm not making an argument there - obviously. It's a simple statement based on previous threads on the blues and this thread continues to support it.

And enough with the 9/11 is our fault crap already. Christ, did we do stuff to piss of other countries? Hell yes. Do we keep doing it? Yes. Are we too often pompous and arrogant...probably. But c'mon already. A guy down the street blows up your house because you smacked him around, or said something mean about his religion? Is that "your" fault? I suppose it is.
posted by j.p. Hung at 8:40 AM on October 6, 2005


I wonder how many would have a problem if smacking around an SS soldier yielded info that ended up saving millions of jews.

We wouldn't have a problem with that. Are these imams secretly members of SS death squads? Beating a religious leader in order to force him to use his influence on the community to stop potential minor terror attacks on combat soldiers is not exactly the same thing as getting info out of a person with direct life or death consequences for millions of people. I think the problem may lie in that there isn't a distinction being made.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:40 AM on October 6, 2005


signal...not the best of the web and completely off the mark.
posted by j.p. Hung at 8:41 AM on October 6, 2005


it's probably NOT in our best interests...but again....it's War.
posted by j.p. Hung at 8:32 AM PST on October 6


So anything goes, huh? I guess we shouldn't have convicted all those Nazis of war crimes because hey, it's War. Rape of Nanking? Hey, it's War.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:43 AM on October 6, 2005


not the best of the web and completely off the mark

I'll agree with you on that one, news/agenda-filter. It does illustrate an important part of our world though, not that it won't be highlighted in myriad ways and threads.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:44 AM on October 6, 2005


"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stomping on a human face -- forever." -Orwell
posted by clevershark at 8:44 AM on October 6, 2005


And enough with the 9/11 is our fault crap already. Christ, did we do stuff to piss of other countries? Hell yes. Do we keep doing it? Yes. Are we too often pompous and arrogant...probably. But c'mon already. A guy down the street blows up your house because you smacked him around, or said something mean about his religion? Is that "your" fault? I suppose it is.

Understanding your enemy's motives is a very different thing than justifying them. Even admitting that your enemy has valid motives is not the same as saying the actions were "deserved." The U.S. didn't "deserve" 9/11, and it wasn't our "fault"; anymore than Iran "deserved" the Shah.

There's a difference between excusing massive attacks on civilians, and trying to pretend that these things occur in a historical vacuum.
posted by jefgodesky at 8:45 AM on October 6, 2005


I wonder how many would have a problem if smacking around an SS soldier yielded info that ended up saving millions of jews.

Why is it that wingnut hypotheticals on this subject are always such obviously stupid hyperbole?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:47 AM on October 6, 2005


jefgodesky writes "The U.S. didn't 'deserve' 9/11, and it wasn't our 'fault'; anymore than Iran 'deserved' the Shah."

...or any more than the Imam "deserves" to be beaten up, or that Iraq "deserved" to have the US bomb the living shit out of it either.
posted by clevershark at 8:49 AM on October 6, 2005


It's probably NOT in our best interests...but again....it's War.

aah, war.... anything goes right?

wrong.

You've been watching way too many crappy 80's American propaganda gung ho war movie shit imo.

John Wayne a hero of yours?
posted by twistedonion at 8:50 AM on October 6, 2005


A guy down the street blows up your house because you smacked him around, or blew up his house and said something mean about his religion? Is that "your" fault? I suppose it is.

Fixed it for ya.
posted by wah at 8:53 AM on October 6, 2005


You've been watching way too many crappy 80's American propaganda gung ho war movie shit imo.

Wooolverines!!!
posted by wah at 8:55 AM on October 6, 2005


The people who argue that 9/11 was a direct result of us "slapping around" some Muslims are arguing against the facts. To make that argument, one has to ignore some pretty damning facts. For one, we have the testimony of UBL that his prime motivation is the restoration of the caliphate---not revenge. Bin laden testified that 9/11 was revenge for the humilation from "80 years ago" a reference to the destruction and partitioning of the former Ottamon Empire following the Sykes-Picot agreement after World War II. The motivations of the Bin Ladenists has nothing to do with the Geneva Convention. It is completely based on a belief that Islam should be re-unified, the caliphate restored, and the House of Islam should be purified.

How does one think such beliefs relate to abusive terrogation tactics? The 9/11 planes had nothing to do with that. When the bombers blew up the resorts in Bali just recently, was that in retaliation for Gitmo? No. It was an act of Islamic imperialism directed at an area that was not acting in accordance with shariah and, as the bombers in Bali time told us, it was revenge for the crime of the liberation of East Timor.

The radical Islamists don't hate us because we might slap around some Muslims. They hate us for reasons wholly apart from that, although I concede that it might make them hate us a bit more. But one surely cannot argue that everything would be alright if we merely follow the dictates of the Geneva Convention.
posted by dios at 8:56 AM on October 6, 2005


can I post links to my friends blogs, too? What if they link to my livejournal at the top? can i post it with a link to other posts I've made, as well? you know, just to get my agenda across?

awesome.
posted by shmegegge at 8:56 AM on October 6, 2005


seems to me that if this sort of tactic was going to work, it would have by now

yeah, oddly enough!
posted by funambulist at 8:56 AM on October 6, 2005


(Apologies for not proofreading better. Please let me know if the argument is too muddled because of mistakes, I'll take another shot at it).
posted by dios at 8:57 AM on October 6, 2005


can I post links to my friends blogs, too? What if they link to my livejournal at the top? can i post it with a link to other posts I've made, as well? you know, just to get my agenda across?

Matt has already asked insomnia to stop that, but apparently insomnia doesn't care. And if we stop permitting posts in this vein, then his contribution index will fall to 0.
posted by dios at 8:59 AM on October 6, 2005


can I post links to my friends blogs, too? What if they link to my livejournal at the top? can i post it with a link to other posts I've made, as well? you know, just to get my agenda across?

i was just about to catalog all of the ways in which this post sucks. thanks for saving me the time.
posted by probablysteve at 9:00 AM on October 6, 2005


Surely we can also argue that, because respecting laws doesn't make everything alright, we should not respect laws.

Anarchy!
posted by funambulist at 9:00 AM on October 6, 2005


But one surely cannot argue that everything would be alright if we merely follow the dictates of the Geneva Convention.

Here's the classic Dios straw man in action. He doesn't just come right out and say that Americans should feel free to ignore the Geneva Convention, but tacks on a totally bogus comment at the end that sort-of-kind-of-half-way implies it.

Who is claiming that "everything would be alright if we merely follow the dictates of the Geneva Convention"? The question is, do we have a good reason for not following them?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:03 AM on October 6, 2005


I think I got it dios, and for the most part I think I agree with it. I also think that on top of the stated agenda ObL has some personal axe grinding to do as additional motivation. The attempts at his life probably didn't give him much of an added warm fuzzy feeling about us. ObL himself aside, nothing drives more moderates to extremist views like desire for revenge.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:04 AM on October 6, 2005


"can I post links to my friends blogs, too?"

I have over 600 LiveJournal "friends", but that doesn't mean I'm personal friends with over 600 LiveJournalers. Rather, I do what lots of bloggers do out there... I research other weblogs for interesting news and information.

I've never met the mother in question. She found my journal through my work in developing an online community for soldiers and contractors in Iraq.

I'm LiveJournal "friends" with Cory Doctorow *AND* I've met him in person several times, so does that mean I can't link to anything on BoingBoing.net?
posted by insomnia_lj at 9:07 AM on October 6, 2005


For one, we have the testimony of UBL that his prime motivation is the restoration of the caliphate---not revenge.

Bin Ladin wasn't flying the planes. By that, I mean that the motivations of a "leader" does not necessarily coincide with the motivations of his followers. Ultimately, yes, they want a caliphate, and 9/11 was less about "attacking America" than uniting the Muslim world, but people don't join al-Qa'ida to establish a caliphate. People don't fight and die for such philosophical ideals; those are the things that you write in manifestos, not the things that make you burn in the trenches. No, what's motivating al-Qa'ida is anger at their neocolonial oppression, perceived rightly or wrongly (more rightly than most Americans think; more wrongly than most of the rest of the world thinks), directly or indirectly, to go back to the United States. The vision of the caliphate is what unites them; it's neocolonial oppression that drives them.

The radical Islamists don't hate us because we might slap around some Muslims. They hate us for reasons wholly apart from that, although I concede that it might make them hate us a bit more. But one surely cannot argue that everything would be alright if we merely follow the dictates of the Geneva Convention.

It's my contention that, absent our abuses of the Middle East in the post-war period, UBL & Co. would be to the Islamic world what "Christian Exodus" is to us--primarily a laughingstock. The reason that UBL is hailed as the Mahdi by a growing percentage of the earth's population is because his vision unites and focuses the simmering anger of the Middle East against the decades of oppression they have suffered. Revenge? Yes, I suppose you could see it that way--but I suspect they'd drop even that pursuit if they could be free of neocolonial rule and American meddling.


posted by jefgodesky at 9:14 AM on October 6, 2005


Does anyone believe we aren't going into Iran?

Given the sub-40% Presidential approval rating and a fairly thoroughly-stressed, if not overtaxed, US Army, I'm beginning to doubt the likelihood of anything beyond airstrikes on their nuke sites. ISTR reading on this site this past winter that we'd invade in June, but it seems more unlikely now than ever.
posted by alumshubby at 9:21 AM on October 6, 2005


Oh yeah, tough guy? And I wouldn't hesitate to laugh my arse off when they send you down for several years in the slammer as a result of your willingness to act like a goddamned savage and abuse other people's human rights.

Beatings are actually fairly common in the armed services of every country and have been so since the beginning of time. That's a matter of fact. The threat of a beating, or a beating itself is the easiest method to get a bunch of people to cooperate and behave in the manner prescribed. Cops don't carry batons, pistols and handcuffs for decoration. They imply the use of force with those malevolent who cannot abide by the laws. Are cops evil, savage, sociopathic, closeted homosexual, adolescent boy's? Some of them, probably, but most are decent human beings who would like nothing less to avoid violence. (I make no excuses for jerks, though)

But what we're talking about here is a bunch of [armed] kids let loose in a foreign country, given minimal training to deal with civilians, supervised by equally untrained superiors and without a clear-cut policy from their government or lawmakers at home. What do you expect to happen? Hey, if I can avoid having to go back home missing a limb, my face or just plain dead, I'll line anyone up with influence and commence the beatings until cooperation improves.

They're just kids with some basic infantry training, not honest US Pentagon or Army counterinsurgency specialist. Or would be personal agenda-driven nuts like insomnia_lj.
posted by jsavimbi at 9:22 AM on October 6, 2005


"Matt has already asked insomnia to stop that..."

To stop linking to the blogs and journals of people who I've exchanged some minor level of communication with in the past? No he hasn't.

Let's see... that would be basically all of LiveJournal's management, Ben & Mena Trott, Ev Williams, The Butthole Surfers, Larry Page, Nancy Pelosi, Jello Biafra, Joi Ito, Meadowlark Lemon, Penn Jillette, Juan Cole, Annie Sprinkle, Dave Winer, Margaret Cho, Mojo Nixon... oh, and Matt, too.

I'm sure I'm leaving out a few thousand people, but...
posted by insomnia_lj at 9:24 AM on October 6, 2005


Here's the classic Dios straw man in action. He doesn't just come right out and say that Americans should feel free to ignore the Geneva Convention, but tacks on a totally bogus comment at the end that sort-of-kind-of-half-way implies it.

Who is claiming that "everything would be alright if we merely follow the dictates of the Geneva Convention"? The question is, do we have a good reason for not following them?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:03 AM PST on October 6


Armitage, I'll bet you five bucks he does not respond to that post.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:25 AM on October 6, 2005


But wait! Aren't these people supposed to be greeting us with flowers and smiles?...or maybe it was Candy and Kisses?
Ponies and lap dances?
Beads and Trinkets?
Coffee and Doughnuts?

posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:27 AM on October 6, 2005


If Russia invaded the United States and your pastor or priest said "Please don't attack the Russians any more, or they'll beat me again." would that make you more or less likely to attack the Russians?
posted by I Foody at 9:27 AM on October 6, 2005


No, what's motivating al-Qa'ida is anger at their neocolonial oppression, perceived rightly or wrongly

I understand your point about how there might be a divergence of views between the leaders and the followers, but what evidence do we have that it is so in this case? What evidence do we have that your view that the followers are angry because of colonial oppression? What evidence do we have that would contradict the view that I put forth? While UBL's manifesto's are just that, the underlying beliefs are the same things that are taught in Wahhabist and Salafist schools. It is perfectly reasonable to believe that the people are willing to fight because they agree with the manifest principles that UBL espoused and that they learned in their education. In that regard, they wouldn't be different than radical pro-lifers who learned the points about life from their religious training. So too can a person in a Muslim country sit though Wahhabist training and come out a believer that it is right to die for the cause of the restoration of the caliphate and the purification of the House of Islam. We have documentation of al Qaeda's goals. I don't think we have documentation supporting your argument about the followers beliefs.

Yes, I suppose you could see it that way--but I suspect they'd drop even that pursuit if they could be free of neocolonial rule and American meddling.

I might agree that if we totally withdraw, capitulate or surrender to the demands of al Qaeda, then we will be left alone. Unfortunately, I refuse to accept such an isolationist position wherein we leave the world to let it go however UBL wants it. His demands are unreasonable. We cannot acquiesce to a restoration of the caliphate and subjugation of millions of people to strident shariah law. To the extent you are right that we can be safe by hiding in our own borders, it is a solution which is unacceptable to me. If it is acceptable to you, then it is a difference of opinion of which we cannot find consensus on.
posted by dios at 9:29 AM on October 6, 2005


You dropped something there, insomnia.
posted by highsignal at 9:29 AM on October 6, 2005


"would be personal agenda-driven nuts like insomnia_lj"

I don't currently work for any organizations or political parties, so where is this personal agenda you are speaking of? You've said it, so you're going to back up your assertions, right?

Is my personal agenda that I want my government to respect human rights, comply with international law, and ideally not deceive its people into questionable wars in the first place?

Call me just another agenda-driven nut, but I would rather live in a country that is still "a great experiment" in democracy. One that lives up to its ideals, rather than one that sinks down into the gutter with the worst of them.
posted by insomnia_lj at 9:35 AM on October 6, 2005


so in the end, it's probably NOT in our best interests...but again....it's War.

I'm not sure here but am I right to assume that War:war::God:god or something like that?
posted by JackFlash at 9:36 AM on October 6, 2005


Who is claiming that "everything would be alright if we merely follow the dictates of the Geneva Convention"?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 11:03 AM CST on October 6


The argument is apparent in this thread, though not exactly in the words I put forth. For instance, look at this comment by the poster:

The U.S. have been knocking heads around in the Middle East -- either directly or through proxies -- ever since oil became an issue in this world. Has it perhaps occurred to you that such behavior might just possibly have been related to 9/11 in the first place?
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:25 AM CST on October 6


or here:

Actually, I think 9/11 can pretty easily be traced to the fact that we did "knock some heads around earlier."
posted by jefgodesky at 10:27 AM CST on October 6


The argument is apparent that 9/11 was caused because we didn't treat Muslims correctly, and in the context of this post, treating Muslims correctly was not complying the Geneva conventions.

That argument was wrong, and it was the one I was addressing.
posted by dios at 9:36 AM on October 6, 2005


dios, I understand your point about Osama Bin Laden and 9/11, but what did that have to do with Iraq?
posted by Floydd at 9:36 AM on October 6, 2005


The radical Islamists don't hate us because we might slap around some Muslims. They hate us for reasons wholly apart from that, although I concede that it might make them hate us a bit more. But one surely cannot argue that everything would be alright if we merely follow the dictates of the Geneva Convention.

We shouldn't be trying to convert the radicals. We should be preventing the normal folks from becoming radicals. Beating religious leaders doesn't do alot to convince the normal folks.
posted by ryoshu at 9:38 AM on October 6, 2005


Pardon?
posted by dios at 9:38 AM on October 6, 2005


Beating religious leaders doesn't do alot to convince the normal folks.
posted by ryoshu at 11:38 AM CST on October 6


To that argument I have no quarrel. I was critiquing the sloppy argument put forth that the radical terrorist acts, i.e. 9/11 were caused by something akin to what is at issue here. That is not the case.
posted by dios at 9:41 AM on October 6, 2005


I start all of my negotiations with a good, thorough beating. I find it just gets us right through all of the small talk and bullshit and right down to how much of their lunch money I'm going to be getting everyday.

That this has been adopted as SOP is pretty pisspoor and wrong. How in the hell do you win the respect of people by kicking their teeth in? That's not respect, that's fear and there's a monstrous difference between the two. But I would expect our assholes in charge to have any concept of fear backed up with the threat of violence and calling it respect.
posted by fenriq at 9:42 AM on October 6, 2005


I think I agree with ryoshu... I'm not concerned with the hearts and minds of Islamo-fascist. They are lost.

First, these practices hurt us with fence-sitters and next generation of Islam. The cultural memory of these people is different than the cultural memories of Americans. This practice is not in our long-term interest.

Secondly, these practices serve to erode our ideals at home. We can not continue to lower the bar on the basic moral standards that make America the hopeful continuing experiment it is.

I agree with McCain from last night:

"What I do regret, what I do mourn, and what I do care very much about is what we lose, what we -- the American serviceman and woman and the great nation they defend at the risk of their lives – what we lose when by official policy or by official negligence – we allow, confuse or encourage our soldiers to forget that best sense of ourselves, our greatest strength – that we are different and better than our enemies; that we fight for an idea – not a tribe, not a land, not a king, not a twisted interpretation of an ancient religion – but for an idea that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights."

I know the distance between the realities on the ground and the ideals of our Constitution seem great at times. But we can't lose sight -- in everything we do -- of our most basic fundamental beliefs.
posted by mania at 9:42 AM on October 6, 2005


The reality is it works quite often, that's why it's been used in EVERY conflict in history.

but i notice you don't claim that it works ALL the time ... and i also notice that the bombings are still going on in iraq, so it hasn't worked yet

when it stops, then you can claim it works ... but you can't claim it now
posted by pyramid termite at 9:43 AM on October 6, 2005


insomnia_lj, from what I've seen in your postae, your personal agenda is to take attention-whoring up to a new level.

That's my opinion, and I'm entitled to it. Aside from what you've written, I have no factual basis to substantiate that, however, I will point out a common theme prevalent in your postings:

1. total lack of research or experience regarding the topic.
2. no credible source material from which to base your assumptions.
3. psychotic unwavering belief in your initial assumption, regardless of the additional facts/arguments provided throughout the discussion (mine aside)
d. a remarkable similarity between you and Falafel Bill. Which I really hate.
posted by jsavimbi at 9:49 AM on October 6, 2005


"That argument was wrong, and it was the one I was addressing."

You are arguing, basically, that 9/11 wasn't caused by how the U.S. has treated the Arab world in the past, but you overlook the arguments that were made.

I said "Has it perhaps occurred to you that such behavior might just possibly have been related to 9/11"

Note the word related -- to be connected or associated with. In other words, how we treat people matters, in that it has a causal effect -- of, relating to, or constituting a cause. Not "the cause", as you would like to suggest, but certainly "a cause".

Or, in other words, you're arguing against a straw man, and not what others have said. If you applied your argument to what people actually said, you'd logically have to admit that both ideology AND treatment of foriegners are causal effects in terrorism. In other words, you'd have to change your statement to something more along the lines of "That argument was only partially correct" or "That argument was incomplete".
posted by insomnia_lj at 9:55 AM on October 6, 2005


Who is claiming that "everything would be alright if we merely follow the dictates of the Geneva Convention"? The question is, do we have a good reason for not following them?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:03 AM PST on October 6


I don't know how closely the dictates are/are not being followed, but I can think of one good reason for interpreting the rules more loosely: to save fellow soldiers.
posted by davidmsc at 10:00 AM on October 6, 2005


I am sorry but when the time will come america should pay for all this and for sure there will be no mercy !
posted by zouhair at 10:02 AM on October 6, 2005


I don't know how closely the dictates are/are not being followed, but I can think of one good reason for interpreting the rules more loosely: to save fellow soldiers.

You'd also support the right of other countries to do the same thing then, yes?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 10:03 AM on October 6, 2005


insomnia, abusive treatment was not a producing cause of 9/11. I don't know how to say it any plainer. Any meaningful discussion of causation involves a "but for" relationship. You saying abusive treatment was a cause to 9/11 is plain wrong. I outlined above why that is so. Abusive treatment might be related to other things such as ongoing hostility in Iraq, but you are clearly wrong when you suggest that 9/11 was caused/related to direct acts of abuse. It shows a fundamental lack of understanding over the nature of the stated grievances of al Qaeda and how it relates to their religion.
posted by dios at 10:05 AM on October 6, 2005


"total lack of research or experience regarding the topic."

I've been overseeing a community for soldiers and contractors in Iraq for two years now. I know over 100 soldiers, and interact with them regularly. I research the war exhaustively. I've been in contact with well over a dozen Iraqis regarding the war. I've personally talked with Janis Karpinski, who was the officer in charge of all MPs in Iraq.

Strike one.

"no credible source material from which to base your assumptions."

In this case, I linked to a direct statement by someone I know to be a mother of a soldier in the 10th Mountain Division, telling her story about what her son told her about his time in Iraq. This is as direct and as credible as many things you get routinely in the newspaper, but if you want to examine my previous posts, I regularly link to major news sources as well, including some sources directly from the U.S. military.

Strike two.

"psychotic unwavering belief in your initial assumption, regardless of the additional facts/arguments provided throughout the discussion"

But, of course, you did not deny a single thing that I reported in my post. You merely attempted to justify it as acceptable behavior.

But hey... thanks for playing!
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:07 AM on October 6, 2005


Let's see... that would be basically all of LiveJournal's management, Ben & Mena Trott, Ev Williams, The Butthole Surfers, Larry Page, Nancy Pelosi, Jello Biafra, Joi Ito, Meadowlark Lemon, Penn Jillette, Juan Cole, Annie Sprinkle, Dave Winer, Margaret Cho, Mojo Nixon... oh, and Matt, too.

Wow, I for one am impressed. Name dropping taken to a new level. Your ego could block the sun.
posted by justgary at 10:11 AM on October 6, 2005


In other words, you'd have to change your statement to something more along the lines of "That argument was only partially correct" or "That argument was incomplete".

insomnia_lj: This is way too nuanced an argument for an inveterate club-fisted crusader like dios (btw, don't change dios--I like you this way)... It's exactly this kind of namby-pamby, overly-nuanced and cool-headed thinking that now threatens to loosen our grip on cultural and economic supremacy in the world, or didn't you know? The terrorists may hate our freedom, but the defenders of freedom more than anything hate basic critical thinking skills...
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 10:16 AM on October 6, 2005


insomnia, abusive treatment was not a producing cause of 9/11."

And again, you're arguing against a straw man.


I said the following:
"The U.S. have been knocking heads around in the Middle East -- either directly or through proxies -- ever since oil became an issue in this world."

That's not just an issue of individual cases of abuse, but rather a critique of U.S. policy in general in the Middle East during the last century.

Here are two simple questions that you should answer if you want to continue this argument

1> Do you deny that prior U.S. foriegn policy relating to the Middle East did not have a causal effect in prior acts of terrorism, such as those of 9/11?

2> Do you deny that abusive military policies today could have causal effects in acts of terrorism in the future?
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:17 AM on October 6, 2005


What you not understanding, insomnia, is that the problem with the policy has nothing to do with whether it was rough or not. The problem is that the policy had an effect on possibility of the restoration of the caliphate.

Had our Middle East policy been nothing but Hare Krishna love and flowers and nice words, if the end result is the partitioning of the House of Islam and the elemination of the caliphate, 9/11 would still have occurred. You have understand what they want in order to know what they are mad about. They aren't mad because we play rough. They are mad because we played at all and won. So your first question is wrong in as much as your problem with the policy is that it was aggressive, not that it existed.

As to your second point, yes, abusive policies from here on out might have some effect, but they still aren't the main problem. The problem is a virulent strand of Islamic rhetoric. Even if we played nice, the problem would still be there. Yes, we should play nice. But to suggest that it is a determinative cause would be plain wrong.
posted by dios at 10:23 AM on October 6, 2005


"I understand your point about Osama Bin Laden and 9/11, but what did that have to do with Iraq?"

Man, haven't we all been asking that since Bush turned from Afghanistan and started talking shit about Iraq...

pyramid, you are right, I didn't say it worked all the time. The point was it DOES work sometimes and I suppose those odds are good enough for the war mongerers. This is not unusual behavior when put up against history. Wrong? Sure, no argument. But it simply is not unusual in Wartime.

And fenriq, I'm going to side with reason and say that the SOP isn't to torture first and be nice later. I've seen the images of American troops trying to be the kinder/gentler army. It works sometimes and doesn't others. Is torture wrong on it's face? Of course, I'm not an anarchist. But I don't buy that the first thing the troops do is to start kicking heads in.

and insomnia, let me pose you a question...

Do you deny that radical Islamic teaching did not have a DIRECT and CAUSAL effect on acts of terrorism?

You see, the thing is that everyone wants to kick the Americans. We aren't perfect and God knows our government has yet to learn some hard foreign policy lessons but name me another country that does as much humanitarian work for the globe? I hate we invaded Iraq. I hate even more that so many have bought into the 'big lie' sold to us by dear Leader but I reject that "America" is some big global ogre.
posted by j.p. Hung at 10:24 AM on October 6, 2005


Let me restate this because some people will intentionally read against what I wrote:
Yes, abuse isn't right and good. In an ideal world, we wouldn't use such tactics. In this world, though they aren't right, they will occur.

Look at it this way: I personally think abuse is wrong. I wouldn't condone it. I think others shouldn't engage in it. That being said, if I have a child who was kidnapped and in a position they might die, and I find the kidnapper, you can be damn sure that I'm going to use any means necessary to get the information about my child. And it would be wrong in Universal Moral Principle sense of the term wrong. But it would happen because of the circumstances.
posted by dios at 10:28 AM on October 6, 2005


but name me another country that does as much humanitarian work for the globe

If you're making the claim that the United States does more humanitarian work than any other country, it's incumbent on you to back it up with facts. Otherwise it's just another bogus assertion like "Americans are the most generous people on the planet" (which is regularly stated and then rebutted with statistics showing it isn't so).
posted by Armitage Shanks at 10:34 AM on October 6, 2005


"Had our Middle East policy been nothing but Hare Krishna love and flowers and nice words, if the end result is the partitioning of the House of Islam and the elemination of the caliphate, 9/11 would still have occurred."

In other words, you are arguing that if the U.S. had fully respected the rights and territorial integrity of other nations in the past, if such benevolent policies somehow led to the same results as more heavyhanded, authoritarian policies, then the results would be the same.

All I can say is:
1> Boy, is that a logically weak argument.
2> It's an argument that really isn't likely, as it would greatly decrease the likelihood that the U.S. would've been the target of such an attack, which would more likely be targeted at a more beligerent nation that was more directly involved in such policies.
3> It's also an argument that you cannot prove.

If that had indeed been U.S. policy, then it wouldn't have been U.S. policy to forceably partition the Middle East, except as a less directly involved member of a much larger international consensus, with the U.S. not playing a major role in it.
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:38 AM on October 6, 2005


I am sorry but when the time will come america should pay for all this and for sure there will be no mercy !

Bush supporters, are you paying attention? (Earlier comments from zouhair.)
posted by russilwvong at 10:40 AM on October 6, 2005


j.p. Hung writes "it's probably NOT in our best interests...but again....it's War."

You know, the guy who beheaded Nick Berg probably thought the exact same thing (although, one would assume, in Arabic).
posted by clevershark at 10:40 AM on October 6, 2005


insomnia, is isn't logically weak if you take the time to understand their motivations and goals. What they want is a pure House of Islam, undivided and under the control of the caliphate. Thus, it is the effects of policy which prevents that which is what causes offense. Thus, a violent or peaceful policy with the same result would be no different when you goal is to have a pure House of Islam, undivided and under the control of the caliphate. It is a rather simple logical point when you understand their problems.

And if it is such a weak argument, then how about responding to it beyond calling it weak? Surely you have some great authority that shows that their problem is with treatment that you can show to refute it? Surely, somewhere, you have something which indicates that the if they were treated better, they wouldn't have a problem with the US?
posted by dios at 10:46 AM on October 6, 2005


diosmkII, this is a tired argument. As has already been addressed, if you actually read the entirety of the thread, there is no evidence that these Imams were working hand-in-hand with a local death squad. Can you name one historical instance where an act of spontaneous torture would have saved lives? (Actually, jp hung's canard about the SS officer and "millions of Jews" is telling, since America new damn well what was going on in those camps after 1942 and decided not to bomb them.)

Simple question: Is America in Iraq to defeat it or democratize it? Is beating/terrorizing the Iraqi populace more suitable to accomplishing the first or latter goal?

As for ObL and the restoration of the caliphate, you speak like this is news to anyone with a modicum of understanding. ObL is a nutjob, but as others have said, to try and understand his motivations is not to accept them. So what? Iraq and the "War on Terror" are related, but in Bush's own words this morning, we are "liberating" that country, whilst trying to crush the forces of Islamic radicalism. You can't have it both ways.

Also, please practice what you preach and stick to the discussion, rather than grinding your perpetual axe with posters you disagree with.
posted by bardic at 10:48 AM on October 6, 2005


It's appropriate you mention the guy who beheaded Nick Berg... before he did that horrible act, he read a statement claiming that his acts were in retaliation for U.S. abuse of Iraqis.
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:49 AM on October 6, 2005


"Thus, a violent or peaceful policy with the same result would be no different..."

Except that violent and peaceful policies tend to be fundamentally different in nature, and would not have the same result... and that it would be hard to point to a single incidence of terrorism against a nation that was attacked because of its peaceful policies.
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:52 AM on October 6, 2005


But, of course, you did not deny a single thing that I reported in my post. You merely attempted to justify it as acceptable behavior.

For the circumstances, it is acceptable behavior.

Am I defending it? No, but like I said, if need be, I'd do it myself. If all it takes is a couple of smacks and some bruised egos in order for more kids to come home in one piece then so be it. The war is lost anyway.

Your problem is that you're just some ego-driven webnerd who doesn't have the guts to put himself in a position where'd he have to actually make a decision that could determine wether or not someone lived or died.

And I'm already familiar with your "experience"...

I've been overseeing a community for soldiers and contractors in Iraq for two years now. I know over 100 soldiers, and interact with them regularly. I research the war exhaustively. I've been in contact with well over a dozen Iraqis regarding the war. I've personally talked with Janis Karpinski, who was the officer in charge of all MPs in Iraq.


Wow. Impressive background. So when were you in Iraq? Because, after all, sounds like you have first-hand knowledge.

You forgot to mention your "connections" with Sy Hersch, btw. The name-dropping is great. Wonder why none of these people every mention you? Probably because you're a joke.
posted by jsavimbi at 10:55 AM on October 6, 2005


Playing the devil's advocate, however...

Let's say that the U.S. was attacked, despite its history of peaceful, benevolent policies and practices.

Would it not be in a better moral and ethical position in its relations with other countries to act in a unified manner against such terrorists?
posted by insomnia_lj at 11:00 AM on October 6, 2005


we are "liberating" that country, whilst trying to crush the forces of Islamic radicalism. You can't have it both ways.

Those two concepts are not mutually exclusive.

As to the rest of your comment, you are asking me to defend abuse, which, as I said at least three times now, I don't defend. I was arguing against a sloppy formulation by insomnia and others that tried to argue that abusive treatment caused 9/11.

And what the hell is "diosmkII" suppose to mean? It is suppose to be funny? Clever? Offensive? Am I suppose to learn something from that name? Because I don't understand it, so whatever your purpose is, it is lost on me and you can save your time. And what exactly does such behavior add to the dialogue? I ask that you stop it. That's all I am saying on this matter.

it would be hard to point to a single incidence of terrorism against a nation that was attacked because of its peaceful policies.
posted by insomnia_lj at 12:52 PM CST on October 6


Why did the bombs blow up in Bali? What was the abusive actions taken by that government? The bombers explained why they bombed Bali last time: because of the liberation of East Timor.

So in other words, the bombing had nothing to do with abusive behavior by the attacked government and everything to do with the motivations of terrorists regarding the partitioning of East Timor out of the House of Islam.

This can't be any clearer.
posted by dios at 11:05 AM on October 6, 2005


"For the circumstances, it is acceptable behavior. Am I defending it? No, but like I said, if need be, I'd do it myself."

Now introducing... the "I'm not defending torture" defense of torture!

For the circumstances, violating your ass with a florescent lightbulb is acceptable behavior. Am I defending it? No, but like I said, if need be, I'd do it myself.
posted by insomnia_lj at 11:06 AM on October 6, 2005


Am I defending it? No, but like I said, if need be, I'd do it myself. If all it takes is a couple of smacks and some bruised egos in order for more kids to come home in one piece then so be it. The war is lost anyway.

I had no idea The Art of War had been translated into Slacker.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 11:10 AM on October 6, 2005


I don't know if insomnia_lj actually deserves all the trashing he's getting here or not, but it seems to me this is one of those discussions that could benefit from an infusion of hard facts. Anyone got any hard facts from the world of science to support the idea that beating someone else up makes them more likely to respect you and more likely to engage in desirable behaviors? I know, in the short term, punishment can be an effective behavior modifier, but I'm pretty sure positive reinforcement (specifically, rewarding desired behavior) is a demonstrably more effective way to influence human behavior over the long run...
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 11:16 AM on October 6, 2005


insomnia_lj writes "It's appropriate you mention the guy who beheaded Nick Berg... before he did that horrible act, he read a statement claiming that his acts were in retaliation for U.S. abuse of Iraqis."

Meh. It's actually pretty clear from the video that the video didn't match the audio, so who knows what the guy actually said, but I'm sure that at some point he must have thought "this is probably a bad idea, but I can commit any atrocity because this is war."

That's why this is such a dangerous attitude to have.
posted by clevershark at 11:17 AM on October 6, 2005


Dios -- nobody is denying the detestable ideology of these radicals, but that's what they are. Radicals. They are far outside the bounds of ordinary behavior and beliefs in their society, but ironically, everytime the U.S. does something horrible to other followers of Islam, followers flock to them. If not for the policies of the U.S., of Britain, of Australia... followers wouldn't flock to them, and wouldn't target the citizens of these nations.

I'm not denying that acting like thugs can scare some people into a grudging compliance, but that's asking for a small tactical victory at the cost of larger strategic failure.

Our policies help Osama Bin Laden recruit terrorists, and help polarize a reliable minority of the followers of Islam against us. It's telling that after four years, a $30,000,000 reward on his head, and such abusive policies, nobody has sold out Osama Bin Laden yet.

Everytime we abuse Iraqis, we help convince people that Osama Bin Laden was right.
posted by insomnia_lj at 11:34 AM on October 6, 2005


I understand your point about how there might be a divergence of views between the leaders and the followers, but what evidence do we have that it is so in this case? What evidence do we have that your view that the followers are angry because of colonial oppression? What evidence do we have that would contradict the view that I put forth?

Michael Scheuer's Imperial Hubris is, essentially, a very good compilation of that evidence.

Unfortunately, I refuse to accept such an isolationist position wherein we leave the world to let it go however UBL wants it.

If the rest of the world prefers UBL to Uncle Sam, who are we to tell them "no"? And if the rest of the world doesn't like UBL, then they won't accept him and his power will wane.

"Defensive jihad" is basically a no-holds-barred free-for-all. Just like we would consider anything justified fighting off someone invading the U.S. "Offensive jihad" is bound by rules of war; it is traditional war, conducted by a caliph. Historically, caliphates have been the most open-minded and reasonable of all the religio-political formations we've tried. I doubt UBL is interested in rebuilding Cordoba, but he's not eligible for the caliphate himself--and they'd have to share that caliphate with an ummah that does not always agree with him. Just like Iran, over time, the caliphate would grow significantly more moderate. Meanwhile, we are capable of winning handily against an offensive jihad, but a defensive jihad is something we don't know how to fight.

The argument is apparent that 9/11 was caused because we didn't treat Muslims correctly, and in the context of this post, treating Muslims correctly was not complying the Geneva conventions.

No, there are plenty of ways to be evil bastards and comply with the Geneva Conventions.

insomnia, abusive treatment was not a producing cause of 9/11. I don't know how to say it any plainer. Any meaningful discussion of causation involves a "but for" relationship. You saying abusive treatment was a cause to 9/11 is plain wrong. I outlined above why that is so. Abusive treatment might be related to other things such as ongoing hostility in Iraq, but you are clearly wrong when you suggest that 9/11 was caused/related to direct acts of abuse. It shows a fundamental lack of understanding over the nature of the stated grievances of al Qaeda and how it relates to their religion.

Dios, the links between the neocolonial abuses of the Middle East to the origin and formation of al-Qa'ida are very clear. Even among their own statements, UBL makes much more frequent mention of U.S. abuses than of a caliphate. No movement can be formed entirely as a reaction. Al-Qa'ida is primarily a reaction to U.S. involvement in the Middle East. However, it must also be more than that. It cannot define itself only in what it is against; it must also be for something. The caliphate is what it is for. But that is decidedly secondary to the issue of neocolonial abuses of the Middle East. See also, Bernard Lewis's The Crisis of Islam. To look at the caliphate as their "primary" goal is a fundamental misunderstanding not only of al-Qa'ida, but of the nature of reactionary movements and human psychology itself.

Had our Middle East policy been nothing but Hare Krishna love and flowers and nice words, if the end result is the partitioning of the House of Islam and the elemination of the caliphate, 9/11 would still have occurred.

Nonsense. Al-Qa'ida's goal of a united caliphate arose from the observation of the Middle East's neocolonial state. UBL percieves all the conflicts in the Middle East as mere fronts, with the United States consistently backing the dictators and despots who oppress the region. Thus, they are all fronts of a much larger struggle against the United States to free Islam. This emphasizes al-Qa'ida's primary goal: uniting the Muslim world, helping them to see that they are not pressed on all sides by various enemies, but locked in a single, apocalyptic struggle against one, global enemy--the United States. Once al-Qa'ida's thinking reached this point, it was married to ruminations about the caliphate that were ambient in certain theological circles, and have been since the 1920s. But these ideas recieved serious attention only when they served the reactionary desires of ridding the Middle East of neocolonial influence and power. Thus, it is very easy to confirm that they are secondary, a supporting structure to wide-spread resentment, rather than vice versa. Ergo, absent any neocolonial actions on the part of the U.S. since World War II, there would have been no al-Qa'ida, no 9/11, and ruminations on the restoration of the caliphate would remain points of academic debate for some circles of Islamic teachers, passing with all the care we attach to "Christian Exodus."

You have understand what they want in order to know what they are mad about. They aren't mad because we play rough. They are mad because we played at all and won.

Relegating your enemies to two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs of archetypal "bad guys" does not count as "understanding." They do not hate us for our freedom; they hate us because we're the reason they aren't free.

The problem is a virulent strand of Islamic rhetoric. Even if we played nice, the problem would still be there.

The Islamic world has been looking for something--anything--to end neocolonial power for a century now. They tried Communism, and it didn't work. Nasser and others tried out the republic, and it didn't work. The Ba'ath party tried secular fascism in Syria and Iraq, and it didn't work. Only Islam worked--in 1979--so they're going with that.

The Islam portion is secondary. They are pursuing Islam because it worked. If Saddam had succeeded in standing up to the U.S., they'd be going with secular fascism, instead. If Nasser had been more successful, they would be going with our style of democracy instead. They didn't. They failed. Islam did not fail, so they're going with Islam. I don't know how much more clear it could be than this, that they didn't immediately take up Islam--they experimented, trying anything with the slightest hope of challenging Western power, and went with Islam only when it proved the only successful alternative.

Do you deny that radical Islamic teaching did not have a DIRECT and CAUSAL effect on acts of terrorism?

I do. Considering how often terrorism has been employed by non-Islamic, and even non-religious elements, it would seem very misguided to say that Islam somehow is the cause of terrorism.

We aren't perfect and God knows our government has yet to learn some hard foreign policy lessons but name me another country that does as much humanitarian work for the globe?

I am an anarchist, and I don't hate the U.S. any more than I hate any government, but this is a bad example to throw around. Most countries do more humanitarian work around the world. Per capita, no one's stingier than the average American. The reason UBL got his start, was that he paid for more humanitarian work in Afghanistan personally than the entire United States. Al-Qa'ida isn't beloved because it blows up Americans; they love UBL because he pays for schools and hospitals.

No one can win by coercion alone, as you pointed out, J.P. Not the U.S., and not al-Qa'ida. Both do nice things to get people on their side; both are willing to be positively brutal when that falls through. Let others comment on the immorality of torture; I'll point primarily to its lack of effectiveness. You can never trust anything you extract under torture, if only because you extracted it under torture. They'll tell you anything you want to hear, true or not, just to make the torture stop. Even if we were close to any kind of truth or compliance when we began, our use of torture has now left us so far away from that, that we'll probably never get close to it again.

To say nothing of how it radicalizes the erstwhile moderates, bolsters al-Qa'ida's ranks, and proves UBL right.

What they want is a pure House of Islam, undivided and under the control of the caliphate.

In the same sense that I would like to win the lottery, though. It's not their main motivation, it's their daydream of what they're going to do when they win.

Why did the bombs blow up in Bali? What was the abusive actions taken by that government? The bombers explained why they bombed Bali last time: because of the liberation of East Timor.

So in other words, the bombing had nothing to do with abusive behavior by the attacked government and everything to do with the motivations of terrorists regarding the partitioning of East Timor out of the House of Islam.


You are familiar with U.S. involvement with East Timor under Kissinger, no? The "liberation of East Timor" in question is first and foremost liberation from U.S. neocolonial power. If that succeeds, you need to replace it with something, so why not a caliphate?
posted by jefgodesky at 11:39 AM on October 6, 2005


The two sides to this debate essentially disagree on one point: that the United States behavior in the Middle East (dismantling democracy in Iran, coopting the leadership of Saudi Arabia, siding with the totalitarian governments and against Islamic movements, and yes, abusing prisoners and citizens in Iraq) has anything to do with the ability of people like OBL to wage terrorist war against the West. To me the connection is obvious to the point of pain. I can only assume that those who deny it are so deeply bought into the current regime that they have to deny it in order to maintain their fealty. Else I don't know what motivates them to deny it. Dios's arguments are partitioned to point of nonsense and don't help me at all.

The blustery support of "prisoner abuse" (our nice term for torture) expressed here is based mainly on movie and TV show versions of reality and don't consider the difficulty of knowing who has what information before the torture begins.

I like the "man's world" comment; reminds me of a joke.

Q: Why don't women have any brains?
A: No dick to put them in.

Peace, y'all.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:41 AM on October 6, 2005


For the circumstances, violating your ass with a florescent lightbulb is acceptable behavior. Am I defending it? No, but like I said, if need be, I'd do it myself.

So I guess that me pointing out in this thread (and in previous threads) that you're academically incompetent is justification for you to sodomize me with a florescent lightbulb?

Man, you've got issues.
posted by jsavimbi at 11:51 AM on October 6, 2005


jsavimbi, if you didn't get the point, that was me turning your words against you. I actually wouldn't sodomize you with a florescent lightbulb, even though this is, after all, "a man's world".

I'm sorry, but if you respond to serious issues with arrogance, macho posturing, and slander, but completely fail to defend your arguments and make your case, you will be laughed at around here like the lightweight that you are.

And yes, people are laughing at you. The sad thing is, they would find it more amusing if there were fewer other fools like you out there.
posted by insomnia_lj at 12:10 PM on October 6, 2005


jefgodesky, You make some good points, and I can hardly respond to everything (and I agree with several things), but let me offer a few areas of disagreement

Al-Qa'ida is primarily a reaction to U.S. involvement in the Middle East.

This is incorrect. The group al Qaeda as originally formed in Afghanistan was not a reaction against the U.S. It was formed originally as a reaction against Soviet imperialism in Afghanistan as it appeared that the Soviet Union was trying to seize and partition Afghanistan into the Union. That was the formation of the group. Yes, the US funded it under theories of realpolitik. But it was not formed as a reaction against the US, but against Soviets.

The Islam portion is secondary.

I don't know how you can say this. You mentioned B. Lewis' book, and he expressly rejects this. What he argued in that book is that for a millennium, the Islamic world was at the forefront of human endeavor. They were the most scientific, most artistic, etc. But then they started falling behind. A dialogue was had in the Middle East about how to make the House of Islam strong again; not what other systems should be attempted in the alternative. It was proposed that a stronger military would make the difference; it didn't. It was proposed that a freer market economy would make a difference; it didn't. It was proposed that the secret to Western success was representative government; but that was attempted and failed. They tried Nationalism; it failed. There was very brief dalliance with Communism; but that failed, too. Throughout it all, the fundamental issue was how to make the House of Islam strong again. We are trained to see ourselves as one state, with many different religions. The Islamic world is trained to see Islam as one religion, broken down into false distinctions of states. The emphasis is important, because through it all, the primacy and importance of Islam is sacrosanct. Never can one argue that "the Islam portion is secondary." The fact that you are arguing that Islam is an experiment, as opposed to the deeply held beliefs of a people, strikes me as a shocking argument.

Finally, on your point about neo-colonial rule: I'm not sure we are far apart on this point. The problem lies in the area of emphasis. You seem to be suggesting (if you are in the insomnia camp) that the problem with the rule is the abusive nature of it. I disagree. I would also disagree that it is, in fact, colonial rule. I don't see any colonial rule from the United States in the Middle East. There is certainly involvement and meddling, but there is no colonial rule.

But we can agree, perhaps, that the problem is interference. The question then becomes, why is the interference a problem? And, going back to my argument, is that the problem is the partitioning of the Islamic world, the expropriation of Muslim lands into free and non-Muslim countries. I would submit that it matter little whether that interference was humanitarian, peaceful, and purely diplomatic. The problem was the result, which was the further partitioning of Muslim lands. If you are suggesting radical Islam's problem with the interference was that it caused the people to suffer under the lash, then I would disagree. It might be a complaint, but it is not the real issue. In the same sense, if you steal my car, I might complain that you also scratched my CD in the disc player, but my real complaint is going to be that you stole my car.

The "liberation of East Timor" in question is first and foremost liberation from U.S. neocolonial power.
posted by jefgodesky at 1:39 PM CST on October 6


Eww. What an odd way to look at the liberation of East Timor. Yes, I am familiar with Kissinger and that whole situation, but I think you are not understanding the Muslim complaint if you characterize it as a rebellion against US colonialism (when the US never had a colonial interest there).

East Timor has won it's independence following the Carnation Revolution. After it was independent for a very short time, East Timor was subjugated under Indonesian rule, not U.S. rule. For many years, the likes of Chomsky, et. al. stood in solidarity with those who wanted freedom from Indonesia. In 1999, the U.N. led the liberation of East Timor. It was taken out of Indonesian (and thus Muslim) rule. It was that issue that the bombers in Bali, and UBL, had. To chalk that up to a problem with U.S. colonial rule belies a major confusion of the situation.
posted by dios at 12:10 PM on October 6, 2005


And yes, people are laughing at you.

I am, anyway.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:14 PM on October 6, 2005


jsavimbi writes "Man, you've got issues."

You chose his nick to memorialize Jonas Savimbi... as such I'm surprised that the idea of sodomizing someone with a lightbulb would cause you to even raise an eyebrow...
posted by clevershark at 12:16 PM on October 6, 2005


I meant of course "you chose your nick"... I guess that'll happen when I change my sentence at the last minute.
posted by clevershark at 12:17 PM on October 6, 2005


And yes, people are laughing at you. The sad thing is, they would find it more amusing if there were fewer other fools like you out there.

My whole deal is to make people laugh. What did you think this was? A serious debate? It's the internet, you ding-dong.

BTW, I did get your point. I was just a little surprised that you went right for the anus. Very telling. And scary.

Jonas Savimbi was an anti-communist freedom fighter. What's wrong with that?
posted by jsavimbi at 12:23 PM on October 6, 2005


you went right for the anus. Very telling. And scary.

I'm just dying to know what it tells...
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:25 PM on October 6, 2005


jsavimbi writes "Jonas Savimbi was an anti-communist freedom fighter. What's wrong with that?"

Nothing, if you ignore the atrocities committed by UNITA when he was at the organization's head.

Then again as someone who was in Afghanistan fighting the Soviets in the 1980s, I suppose that OBL was "an anti-communist freedom fighter" himself.
posted by clevershark at 12:32 PM on October 6, 2005


It's Freudian

I'm not a doctor, but like Sen. Frist, I can diagnose over the internet.
posted by jsavimbi at 12:32 PM on October 6, 2005


Ah. That was huge let-down.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:33 PM on October 6, 2005


Jonas Savimbi was an anti-communist freedom fighter. What's wrong with that?

Ask Tito Chingunji.
posted by Chrischris at 12:36 PM on October 6, 2005


Ah. That was huge let-down.

Much like this thread.

Then again as someone who was in Afghanistan fighting the Soviets in the 1980s, I suppose that OBL was "an anti-communist freedom fighter" himself.

I think you're right. That's how Reagan and Rambo III portrayed it.
posted by jsavimbi at 12:36 PM on October 6, 2005


And yes, people are laughing at you.

Yup.
Exactly right.
Although I am somewhat offended by his very personal aspersions toward insomnia.

But insomnia, being the better person refused to respond in kind and for that he gets my admiration.
posted by nofundy at 12:36 PM on October 6, 2005


This is incorrect. The group al Qaeda as originally formed in Afghanistan was not a reaction against the U.S. It was formed originally as a reaction against Soviet imperialism in Afghanistan as it appeared that the Soviet Union was trying to seize and partition Afghanistan into the Union. That was the formation of the group. Yes, the US funded it under theories of realpolitik. But it was not formed as a reaction against the US, but against Soviets.

You are correct, of course. Well ... in a way. The term "al-Qa'ida" was first used in Afghanistan, but there are several points which can be pointed to as the group's "birth": Afghanistan, fighting the Soviets; Saudi Arabia, to fight Saddam Hussein; or Sudan, to fight the United States and its proxies in the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia.

A dialogue was had in the Middle East about how to make the House of Islam strong again; not what other systems should be attempted in the alternative.

Yes, but all of this was cultural, not religious. Islam was nearly absent from all Middle Eastern politics until 1979. Culturally, Muslims had been dominant for centuries. Culturally, they were left behind when their innovations were adopted by European barbarians and used for warfare. Culturally, they looked for some way to free themselves of European domination--though no longer direct, just as real a cultural and economic domination as ever before. This was less a crisis of Islam itself, than of the Arab world. They were willing to experiment with many alternatives. Frankly, I'm slightly amazed at how long it took them to try Islam.

We are trained to see ourselves as one state, with many different religions. The Islamic world is trained to see Islam as one religion, broken down into false distinctions of states. The emphasis is important, because through it all, the primacy and importance of Islam is sacrosanct.

That is very true, and why the imposition of Western-style national boundaries on the Middle East has never fit. I would even go so far as to say that nearly all conflict in the world today goes back to the imposition of boundaries by colonial rulers. The borders are arbitrary; traditional enemies are lumped together, and cohesive groups split apart (as with the Kurds).

Never can one argue that "the Islam portion is secondary." The fact that you are arguing that Islam is an experiment, as opposed to the deeply held beliefs of a people, strikes me as a shocking argument.

Because of the reality you outline above, Islam became less a "religion" in the sense we normally think of, and more a cultural allegiance. Allow me to refine my statement, then. The understanding that, "We are first and foremost, Muslims," has always been there, and will always be there. They didn't like being dominated by foreign powers (who ever does?). They wanted to rid themselves of said powers, and tried a number of alternatives. Finally, they came up with one that worked: radical religious doctrines. That became their means of countering Western power and, they hope, liberating their homeland of foreign domination.

Finally, on your point about neo-colonial rule: I'm not sure we are far apart on this point. The problem lies in the area of emphasis. You seem to be suggesting (if you are in the insomnia camp) that the problem with the rule is the abusive nature of it. I disagree. I would also disagree that it is, in fact, colonial rule. I don't see any colonial rule from the United States in the Middle East. There is certainly involvement and meddling, but there is no colonial rule.

Obviously, there is no colonial rule of the Middle East (save, perhaps, in Iraq). Neocolonialism is not the same as colonialism. Neocolonialism is indirect. Through the World Bank and the IMF, the West continues to dominate Third World economies. Culturally, the interests of U.S. businesses have very effectively dismantled foreign cultures (see Golden Arches East for, among other examples, how McDonald's attempted to obliterate the traditional Japanese concept of what constiutes a "meal" in order to more effectively sell American-style food to them). Most of the time, neocolonialism is more an emergent function of the interaction between a complex society, and a less complex society, with the overall effect being very much like colonialism--even if there is no such intent.

Then there is our rule by proxy. For example, there is little doubt that Saudi Arabia would disintegrate overnight from internal revolt and widespread hatred of the regime, but for U.S. support. We keep such despots in power not because of any love of despotism, but because a strong man by his very nature exerts more absolute control than a democracy. A democratic Saudi Arabia would probably decide it was in their best interest to make us pay market prices for oil, for example. This is one of the primary ways that the costs of the "non-negotiable" American way of life are externalized. No one can afford our way of life if we bear all the costs; it is only such externalizing that makes our way of life possible. Thus, the United States supports despots in the Middle East--for all intents and purposes, ruling the Middle East through them as proxies--because the alternative would be the end of our way of life.

If you are suggesting radical Islam's problem with the interference was that it caused the people to suffer under the lash, then I would disagree.

I am certain that even without any abuses, radical Muslims would have complained bitterly against the appropriation of Muslim lands. However, I think you misunderstand, that were that the only complaint, radical Muslims would be a tiny fringe. They are powerful and influential now because so many Muslims have seen their children die in a fireball of napalm, or watched their brothers gunned down by the Fedayeen while U.S. soldiers stood by and watched in 1991 after Bush's betrayal (highlighted very artistically in the movie Three Kings), or have been oppressed by any of the various cruel despots the U.S. supports. We face a problem now not because radicals are radical, but because increasingly, the mainstream finds in the radicals their only hope of escaping the abuses they perceive us as having visited upon them.

In 1999, the U.N. led the liberation of East Timor. It was taken out of Indonesian (and thus Muslim) rule. It was that issue that the bombers in Bali, and UBL, had. To chalk that up to a problem with U.S. colonial rule belies a major confusion of the situation.

The motives of al-Qa'ida and UBL are very different from the increasing mainstream of Muslims who see them as their salvation. Importantly, al-Qa'ida has also fought against the Indonesian regime--one of the cruelest on earth. Also significantly, Indonesia's military dictatorship was one of the many such dictatorships that recieved significant U.S. backing.
posted by jefgodesky at 12:37 PM on October 6, 2005


Skimming, I didn't see anyone post that the Senate has voted to put limits on interrogation tactics.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:38 PM on October 6, 2005


Irony people, irony.

Very personal aspersions? I called him a joke. And I did it based on my opinion, not on fact, thus slander is out of the question. Sounds like the account of very serious injuries sustained by one Raymond Babbitt.

Plus, insomnia_lj has a track record of being somewhat of a pot-stirrer. Unsubstantiated pot-stirrer.
posted by jsavimbi at 12:45 PM on October 6, 2005


[referring to insomnia] Your problem is that you're just some ego-driven webnerd who doesn't have the guts to put himself in a position where'd he have to actually make a decision that could determine wether or not someone lived or died.

You forgot to mention your "connections" with Sy Hersch, btw. The name-dropping is great. Wonder why none of these people every mention you? Probably because you're a joke.
posted by jsavimbi at 10:55 AM PST on October 6


And who the fuck are you, exactly? An internet tough guy who provides Custom Web Solutions?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:58 PM on October 6, 2005


They approved SA1977 to H.R. 2863, after some debate.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:06 PM on October 6, 2005


jef,

Thanks for the quick response. Though, to be honest, I am beginning to see less area of disagreement between your position and mine. I think we aren't too far apart on some issues, and we are following some rabbit trails from my original point. But I appreciate what you have written, and I think you are a worthy person to be engaged in a dialogue with.

But in order to not get too far down a particular rabbit trail, let me restate my position as thus:
1. We had to have some involvement in the Middle East; one cannot envision a scenario in which no Western/US influence would have existed.
2. The primary complaint of al Qaeda and its brethren was the involvement; not the character and nature of the involvement, just the mere fact that Muslim authority was dimished and its lands partitioned.
3. 9/11 occurred as the byproduct of a strain of thought that radically opposes the involvement that resulted in partitioning of its lands and the prevention of Muslim shariah supremacy. The opposition was not based on the kind of involvement (e.g. rough, abusive or indirect; indeed, as you noted, a lot of "neo-colonial" involvement is more indirect).
4. Thus it is incorrect to argue that 9/11 occurred because of abusive behavior as was done in this thread; it occurred because there was any involvement in the Muslim world which prevented the goals of the Wahhabist/Salafit extremists such as bin Laden.
5. Yes, bad and abusive involvement may make the problem worse, but they certainly aren't a significant cause of it. This confrontation was going to occur because of historical facts and because of #1.
6. The bombs in Bali make this point clear: it is not a reaction against abusive behavior; it is a result of a certain ethos. It wasn't violence or colonialism in East Timor that was the problem; it was that East Timor was allowed to become independent again from Indonesia.


Those have been my points made addressing a very particular point prior in the thread. I think I know where you diverge from me on these points, and I hope that we can both understand where our arguments are coming from.

The only think I specifically want to address in your last post is the issue of East Timor, as I think I am not understanding your point there. It seems you are suggesting that the radical islamic complaint about East Timor was that Kissinger helped Indonesia seize it. That is wrong. The radical Islamists supported the Indonesian seizure of East Timor because it brought East Timor back into the control of Islam. The radical Islamists' complaint regarding East Timor---which resulted in a bomb being set off in Bali---was that the UN, in 1999, peacefully pressed for and got granted the partitioning of East Timor to be a free country again because the UN took East Timor out of Muslim hands.

I really must emphasize the point, because it is instructive on the original argument. A peaceful partitioning of East Timor so that the people could have a their own country was considered a grave crime by radical Islamists because East Timor was partitioned from Muslim lands. The reaction to this? Bombs going off in Bali. In this, we see the issue isn't colonial rule, it isn't abusive policies of the US. The issue is that Islamists are concerned first and foremost with the removal of lands from Islam because these Islamists are imperialists themselves: they want the reunification, purification, reinstallation of the caliphate and the commitment to shariah in all Muslim lands.
posted by dios at 1:10 PM on October 6, 2005


The jsavimbi/insomnia debate pales beside the dios/godesky debate. Take note, and let's get a move on.
posted by Hobbacocka at 1:14 PM on October 6, 2005


oh, no. I've been identified on teh intarnets by Optimus Chyme.

Yawn.
posted by jsavimbi at 1:16 PM on October 6, 2005


It's not that I identified you - it is in your profile, after all - it's that you're posing as a hard-ass by critiquing insomnia and then, oh ho ho, turns out you're just a web nerd who doesn't have the guts to put himself in a position where'd he have to actually make a decision that could determine wether [sic] or not someone lived or died.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:19 PM on October 6, 2005


Thus it is incorrect to argue that 9/11 occurred because of abusive behavior as was done in this thread; it occurred because there was any involvement in the Muslim world which prevented the goals of the Wahhabist/Salafit extremists such as bin Laden.

How about this take, dios: 9-11 occurred because American policies sufficiently ticked-off enough ordinary muslims that radicals with extremist goals have had some success in exploit ing the general culture of mistrust resulting from those policies for their own ends... The bottom line is the US has and does engage in foreign policies that contribute to a climate of general suspicion and mistrust. How do troops dispensing random beatings do anything to correct the underlying credibility problem?
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 1:28 PM on October 6, 2005


"you went right for the anus. Very telling. And scary."

Don't blame me for the ol' florescent light up the ass trick... It wasn't me. It was U.S. soldiers in Abu Ghraib, which is a reference you would know if you knew more what happened there.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
posted by insomnia_lj at 1:30 PM on October 6, 2005


turns out you're just a web nerd who doesn't have the guts to put himself in a position where'd he have to actually make a decision that could determine wether [sic] or not someone lived or died.

Ok, I'll admit to the nerdism, but a man has to feed himself somehow. However, I also served my country and fought in a foreign war, and have been put in the position to make a life or death decision. Did not enjoy it, came back in one piece.

Even though I disagree with the current state of affairs and the baboons who run this so-called show, I take my frustrations out on the baboons, not on the rank and file kids who didn't create the situation and are only trying to survive.

Insomnia_lj simply uses someone else's tragedy to further his own attention-whoring. He ought to spend his time and energy looking for the real criminals, but alas he's a little too ignorant for that and instead delivers one of his "nuggets" to this forum every couple of weeks. Slow pitch softball, if you now what I mean.

I find it funny that he gets all riled up about whatever one of his fellow bloggers has out there. If the man only had common sense, he'd be a danger to us all.
posted by jsavimbi at 1:35 PM on October 6, 2005


If you had just said that fifty posts ago, I wouldn't have had to out you as a nerd. >:(
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:39 PM on October 6, 2005


Don't blame me for the ol' florescent light up the ass trick... It wasn't me. It was U.S. soldiers in Abu Ghraib, which is a reference you would know if you knew more what happened there.

I'm appalled at your grammar.

I wasn't at the prison, and neither were you. I'm sure plenty went on there that neither of us will ever know about. Or really want to know.

And by the way, my reference to driving up to someone's house and throwing them a beating, if need be, was not an endorsement for torture. Those are two different things.
posted by jsavimbi at 1:42 PM on October 6, 2005


If you had just said that fifty posts ago, I wouldn't have had to out you as a nerd. >:(

Dude, the mere fact that I'm aware of the existence of Metafilter directly implies that I'm a nerd. Was that not obvious?
posted by jsavimbi at 1:43 PM on October 6, 2005


Understanding your enemy's motives is a very different thing than justifying them. Even admitting that your enemy has valid motives is not the same as saying the actions were "deserved."

Amen. I don't suggest the CDC stop trying to understand ebola just because I don't want it in my lungs, nor do I think understanding its biological imperative to survive and multiply means I'm suggesting it belongs in my cocoa pebbles.
posted by phearlez at 1:58 PM on October 6, 2005


The only think I specifically want to address in your last post is the issue of East Timor, as I think I am not understanding your point there. It seems you are suggesting that the radical islamic complaint about East Timor was that Kissinger helped Indonesia seize it. That is wrong. The radical Islamists supported the Indonesian seizure of East Timor because it brought East Timor back into the control of Islam. The radical Islamists' complaint regarding East Timor---which resulted in a bomb being set off in Bali---was that the UN, in 1999, peacefully pressed for and got granted the partitioning of East Timor to be a free country again because the UN took East Timor out of Muslim hands.

That is indeed al-Qa'ida's position. And, were that all to the story, then al-Qa'ida would be a marginal fringe group in the region utterly lacking the numbers and sophistication to pull off any attack whatsoever.

This is not the case at all. Remember, al-Qa'ida also supported the rebels against Indonesia in the Aceh province. Yes, Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, but it is also one of the secular, military regimes backed by the U.S. that oppresses the Muslim world. This is why al-Qa'ida has such strong support through the region--even among the majority of people who really couldn't care less about the caliphate.

If al-Qa'ida were primarily about the caliphate, they would be a fringe group that no one cares about. They are important, and powerful, because they have made their ultimate goal--the caliphate--subservient to something the average Muslim cares a good deal more about: freedom from neocolonial power.

I think this is emblematic of our differences, dios. You see the motivations of al-Qa'ida on one particular issue, and conclude that this is the primary factor in play. You also misunderstand the rhizomatic nature of al-Qa'ida. In such a rhizome network, there is no real "leadership." UBL's tapes are less command than inspiration. Cells undertaken missions of their own accord; they undertake missions they see as important, according to the goals they find most critical. For nearly all of them, that has less to do with the caliphate than simply removing their various despots.

The media has tried to paint this as a recent development, but this is precisely the structure that UBL and the mujahideen perfected in Afghanistan against the Soviets in the 1980s--multiple nodes, operating independently, and the liberal use of "open source warfare" and 4GW tactics. It is very well suited to UBL's vision of the war against American imperialism--fought on multiple, simultaneous fronts, against all of the proxy-regimes of neocolonial power.

It also means that the vision of the leadership is never nearly as important as the vision of the group as a whole. Very few of those care about the caliphate. Once the U.S. is removed, some government must take its place--why not a caliphate? But it is primarily a fight against neocolonialism. I think your argument would turn the American Revolution into a fight to establish a state based on the ideas of John Locke--rather than a fight against percieved British exploitation, and then a turn to Locke when they needed to come up with something to take the crown's place.

Every sufficiently complex society has a radical fringe. The reason 9/11 occured was because Muslim society was radicalized--events began to skew the distribution of radicalism to favor more radical groups. With greater numbers, al-Qa'ida--a group which would under ordinary circumstances have been a relatively harmless bunch of quacks--became a dangerous, radical fundamentalist, rhizomatic network. That afforded them the manpower, funds and sophistication to concieve of an attack meant to unite, and further radicalize, Muslim society.

I would argue that the reason of that original radicalization--the ultimate cause of 9/11--was the neocolonial exploitation of the Middle East. (This is a very different thing than saying we brought it upon ourselves; this is merely an acknowledgement of the effects of history.) I would further argue that with the invasion of Iraq, we have fulfilled al-Qa'ida's aims and helped to further radicalize the Muslim world in a greater way than al-Qa'ida alone ever could. Finally, the subject of this thread--the routine abuse of Iraqis by U.S. soldiers--is the ultimate way of substantiating al-Qa'ida's goals in this regard, and will radicalize the Muslim community still more.

We all have our radicals; shudder for the day they become mainstream.
posted by jefgodesky at 2:06 PM on October 6, 2005


Hey flamers: maybe you can finish your flame war in the grey or something. I'm just sayin'.
posted by whir at 2:07 PM on October 6, 2005


I just want to thank jefgodesky and dios for sharing a good dialogue...
posted by mania at 2:14 PM on October 6, 2005


"Even though I disagree with the current state of affairs . . . I take my frustrations out on the baboons, not on the rank and file kids"

If you had read the post, you would notice that I criticized the fact that "the conduct was in line with military policy", but didn't criticize any "rank and file kids".

You, however, said "Am I defending it? No, but like I said, if need be, I'd do it myself. If all it takes is a couple of smacks and some bruised egos in order for more kids to come home in one piece then so be it."

That's not all it takes, however, and it never has been. If beating one theoretical Iraqi imam -- who may or may not even be aware of who is causing the violence -- is a potentially good thing, then obviously a policy of routine beatings of many Iraqi imams -- or any other Iraqi, for that matter -- is a great thing, right?!

Point me in the direction of this mythical Iraqi I can beat, who, by doing so, will save the lives of all our soldiers. I would beat the man myself, but, in truth, he doesn't exist.

Frankly, a good, sharp beating of Dubya might be more likely to accomplish this mythical feat.
posted by insomnia_lj at 2:15 PM on October 6, 2005


Playing the devil's advocate, however...

Let's say that the U.S. was attacked, despite its history of peaceful, benevolent policies and practices.

Would it not be in a better moral and ethical position in its relations with other countries to act in a unified manner against such terrorists?


"Playing the devil's advocate" means advocating a position which one does not personally hold.

Saying "I don't think X will happen, but even if it does let's see what we can conclude from that," like you are here, is not playing devil's advocate; it is granting X for the sake of argument.

Sorry for the derail, but for some unknown reason I feel an obligation to see that the term is used correctly.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:22 PM on October 6, 2005


Regardless of who's perspective you agree with — and I found the American Revolution and John Locke analogy damn near epiphinal — there's been some great information-rich posts on this thread. Thank you.
posted by Haruspex at 2:25 PM on October 6, 2005


I think your argument would turn the American Revolution into a fight to establish a state based on the ideas of John Locke--rather than a fight against percieved British exploitation, and then a turn to Locke when they needed to come up with something to take the crown's place.

I think that a more accurate assessment would be somewhere in between these two points. The leaders of the American Revolution were already familiar with the ideas of Locke, and they almost certainly used these ideas to formulate their own idea that they should be free of unjust British rule. They didn't just "turn to Locke" - he informed their conception of how the state and society should interact.
posted by me & my monkey at 2:26 PM on October 6, 2005


True; and for the Muslim world, the idea of the caliphate informs their idea of how government and society should interact. That doesn't mean the Founding Fathers would have raised a revolution without British exploitation, any more than we'd see such a powerful, widespread rhizome network, without the pressure of Western neocolonial exploitation.
posted by jefgodesky at 2:30 PM on October 6, 2005


That doesn't mean the Founding Fathers would have raised a revolution without British exploitation ...

True enough.

... any more than we'd see such a powerful, widespread rhizome network, without the pressure of Western neocolonial exploitation.

I'm not so sure about that. There seem to be several things in play here. I think that a bigger issue isn't Western neocolonial exploitation, but simply the fact that we cooperate with the repressive governments in the region so that we can keep the oil flowing. The fact is, we'd cooperate with whoever was in power there, because we depend on their oil. I don't think that really qualifies as neocolonial exploitation, though.

As for the "rhizome network" bit, the plain fact is that they organize the way they do because it's the only option, not because it's generally superior to other organizational mechanisms. If they organized in a hierarchy, they'd just be rounded up by the repressive governments in the region and shot.
posted by me & my monkey at 2:47 PM on October 6, 2005


jef, I will be heading home shortly, but I am satisifed where we stand. I am sure we could both go on and on, but I think we got enough on the table to marinate over.

But quickly before I go, let me address one last point. You suggest that the figurehead of Bin Laden and his manifestos that he puts out are different than the everyday Muslim. Your comparison to the American Revolution is a bit strained, however. There is a distinction and that is that UBL's position is the fulfillment of a reading of the Koran, something that all Muslims are familiar with. Moreover, as B. Lewis has noted, Muslims have a much greater understanding, knowledge and appreciation of history, so they are fully aware of the things that bin Laden is saying. Contrast that with the American Revolution. It is distinguishable because even if you were to say that the intellectual leaders were pushing it for some sort of Lockean purpose, the everyday man would not know about Locke or be familiar with his argument.

This not how things are in the Muslim lands. The same brand of Islam that Bin Laden espouses is spread throughout Muslim countries in hardline schools, funded often by Saudi dollars, in which the same thing Bin Laden argues is indoctrinated into the Muslim populous. Radical Wahhabism, Salafism, and the teaching of Qutb are well known to vast majorities of Muslims because they are taught it. So it is not a situation where the beliefs of the leaders is different than the belief of the followers. They really believe it, too!

To the extent you are arguing that the intellectual heads of these groups are somehow arguing for different thing than the bodies of these groups, I would disagree. These people believe the rhetoric as spiritual fact. They too want restoration of House of Islam, complete with shariah. It is a virulent strand of Islam that is widespread and growing. The rhetoric is not just of Bin Laden's. He is not a Koresh that is formulating his own views.

But that is all for the day. Thanks for the dialogue.
posted by dios at 2:55 PM on October 6, 2005


"...but simply the fact that we cooperate with the repressive governments in the region so that we can keep the oil flowing."

This falls under the rubric of neocolonialism in my view.
posted by mania at 2:56 PM on October 6, 2005


might be a little late to chime in, but I recently saw an episode of frontline I believe about this man: sayyid qutb

Hopefully, you'll read that link. I think the episode linked the heriarchy of the muslim brotherhood to the formation of Al Qaeda. The war in Afghanistan gave them power, but their roots are in the muslim brotherhood. Also, I think it illustrates that the main beef, especially in the early years, was with both oppression AND the western culture. The two were not necessarily united and its actually the aversion of western culture that drove him twords radical islamic thought. Which is a pattern that you would also find in the 9/11 hijackers (from when they were in Germany).

Also, just like leaders in the western world. What the redical muslims say in the media as justification for their actions might not actually be the real justification. Their goal is to bring the moderate muslims into the fold. You don't do that by saying you want to exterminate the infidels.
posted by kookywon at 3:10 PM on October 6, 2005


This falls under the rubric of neocolonialism in my view.

Why? We cooperate with repressive governments elsewhere, because it benefits us. We cooperate with China, for example. Is that neocolonialism, or just pragmatism?
posted by me & my monkey at 3:14 PM on October 6, 2005


I'm not saying neocolonialism can't also be pragmatism in places.
posted by mania at 3:43 PM on October 6, 2005


I'm not saying neocolonialism can't also be pragmatism in places.

Uh, ok. That doesn't answer my question, though. My question was simply, why does our involvement in the Middle East qualify as neocolonialism? What exactly do you mean by neocolonialism anyway?

If we're going to throw "neocolonialism" around so freely, it's worth bringing up Nasser's nationalization of the Suez Canal, and the US response under President Eisenhower.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:49 PM on October 6, 2005


I think this description of neocolonialism fits this discussion.

My only point was that the the oil commerce and trade policies you mention above could -- and in my view do -- fall under the broader definition of neocolonialism. Perhaps neocolonialism is not as precise as you would prefer.
posted by mania at 4:11 PM on October 6, 2005


I think this description of neocolonialism fits this discussion.

My only point was that the the oil commerce and trade policies you mention above could -- and in my view do -- fall under the broader definition of neocolonialism. Perhaps neocolonialism is not as precise as you would prefer.


The Wikipedia description you posted doesn't fit the situation in the Middle East at all, as far as I can tell. It fits most of Africa quite well, where we have all sorts of companies essentially running the countries, doing all sorts of terrible things to the inhabitants for the sake of profit.

But that's not the situation in the Middle East at all. We don't run anything - far from it. We ally ourselves with repressive governments not because they serve us, but because we need what they can provide to us. Of course, that doesn't make us too popular with the repressed, but that's a far cry from neocolonialism. I'm ignoring the whole Israel thing here, but I think that even without our support of Israel, we'd have problems with everyone else over there.

In fact, I think that one of the primary motivations behind the war in Iraq was to change this situation. We'd generally much rather deal with other Westernized democracies than the existing governments in the region, I think. Personally, I oppose the war, largely because of the lies used to justify it, but I think that some large-scale violent change needs to happen to solve the problems of the region.
posted by me & my monkey at 4:26 PM on October 6, 2005


...Dave Winer, Margaret Cho, Mojo Nixon...

Putting Dave Winer in a list with Mojo Nixon makes the baby Elvis cry.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:57 PM on October 6, 2005


Do you think the Eisenhower Doctrine can be viewed by the pan-Arab movement as neocolonialism? Didn't Nasser himself ask Arabs to reject neocolonialism and move to socialism?
posted by mania at 4:57 PM on October 6, 2005


"Putting Dave Winer in a list with Mojo Nixon makes the baby Elvis cry."

I intentionally mixed up the names I listed in such a manner as to cause a kind of ironic dissonance. If that causes Baby Elvis to cry, then sobeit.

The point wasn't namedropping, btw. I don't regularly interact with most everyone I listed, with a few blogging exceptions. Everyone has brushes with the moderately well-known. Just because you do, that doesn't mean that they're your friends, or if you choose to write about them, it's cronyism.

I ran into Tiffany in an elevator at NME once, but I didn't do her. Honest...
posted by insomnia_lj at 5:27 PM on October 6, 2005


My mistake. It was at the Gavin convention in S.F., not NME.
posted by insomnia_lj at 5:29 PM on October 6, 2005


I was just funnin', insomnia_lj. God knows after my last interaction with Mr Winer I shouldn't make jokes about him, but sometimes I can't resist.

I'd also like to thank both dios and jefgodesky especially for the kind of informed debate that started me coming and kept me coming to MeFi years ago, the kind we see all too infrequently, especially in political threads, these days.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:09 PM on October 6, 2005


jsavimbi writes "I think you're right. That's how Reagan and Rambo III portrayed it."

Incidentally UNITA propaganda back in the day prominently featured a photo of Savimbi shaking Ronald Reagan's hand. Ah, the irony.
posted by clevershark at 6:32 PM on October 6, 2005


Do you think the Eisenhower Doctrine can be viewed by the pan-Arab movement as neocolonialism?

No. I don't see how; it was the exact opposite of neocolonialism. It offered military assistance to Arab countries upon request. I don't see how defending Lebanon from Egyptian invasion, at Lebanon's request, is neocolonialism.

Didn't Nasser himself ask Arabs to reject neocolonialism and move to socialism?

I don't know what Nasser said about neocolonialism, actually. I think he was much more concerned about Arab nationalism rather than socialism, though. Prior to Eisenhower's intervention, the British and French were in the process of attacking Egypt to reclaim the Suez Canal after Nasser nationalized it. Nasser was happy to play the US against the Soviets, and vice-versa, if I recall correctly. I will readily concede that I'm no expert on the subject.
posted by me & my monkey at 6:40 PM on October 6, 2005


kookywon writes "The war in Afghanistan gave them power, but their roots are in the muslim brotherhood."

Afghanistan taught them that if they fight long and hard enough they can defeat the mightiest army they have ever seen. Back then that happened to be the Soviets'.

Also by bringing together all these very radical, ascetic fighters from all over the Muslim world and into a more-or-less coherent whole (at least while the Soviets were around), the CIA effectively created a huge social club of the world's angriest and most violent people and trained them to use all sorts of modern weapons.

When the Soviets went, the Afghans kept fighting each other for a few years, but most of the Arab fighters went their way, either back home or to the West. They formed veterans' organizations which spread the extremist religious message to which they were accustomed, and soon enough they started asking themselves, "we've toppled empires before, why not keep going?" The veterans' organizations provided them with an ideal network by which they could plan for these things.

But those Soviets got beat though! They were such a threat to every day life. Of course Russia is completely different now, they're sure no longer ruled by an autocratic politician with a personality cult and a KGB past... oh wait...
posted by clevershark at 6:49 PM on October 6, 2005


dios - Very good discussion. But I imagine you sitting in Dallas, not having known many Muslims. I don't know too many, but probably have known 30 fairly well in my life. I've never met a radical "Bring back the caliphate' type Muslim. And the Muslims I've known assure me they don't know folks like that either. A bit of anecdotal evidence, but I think most folks would agree with it.

The entire world is divided over many of the same issues that divide this country, fundamentalism being the biggest current divide. It is wrong to think there's no popular unrest against shariah law in shariah dominated countries. Emigration is also playing a role in removing the strongest dissenting opinions from the Middle East.

Most importantly, there is the new model for Arab states like Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. They are not perfect states, but they may well demonstrate that a form of democracratic government and Islam can co-exist. The dominance of radical factions of Islam within Muslim society has not been a long-standing historical fact and should not be a foregone conclusion.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 8:24 PM on October 6, 2005


Giving beatings to one another may indeed be "normal" in Iraqi male culture...I seem to remember that Saddam Hussein and his henchmen used to think so!
posted by bunky at 10:09 PM on October 6, 2005


America: now bringing you Saddam Hussein and his henchmen, remixed! just an effort to preserve traditional Iraqi male culture. Of course.

You funny people.
posted by funambulist at 3:07 AM on October 7, 2005


dios above trots out the idea that the Islamic extremists formed their strategies and goals independent of the imperialistic muckings about in their region. Maybe it's true that Muslim extremists want to see a large powerful theocracy in a strong global position. Why do they have these inspired dreams? Because what they actually see around them is (perceived and real) imperial domination by the West and cause for some degree of strong resentment.

Tossing out all of the history of Western meddling in the Middle East between the partitioning and 2001 because it couldn't possibly affect 9/11, based on some UBL press release, is astoundingly silly. Wahhabism has not arisen in a historical vacuum.

This argument reminds me of the argument that the U.S. Civil War was about states' rights, not slavery. Maybe you can find some speeches in that language, but that sort of argument only fools people who don't want to acknowledge slavery.
posted by fleacircus at 4:00 AM on October 7, 2005


I don't know if this thread is still going on, but if it is, then here is my response to insomnia's response to me:

If you have 600 lj friends, then please consider it a good idea to never ever link to any of their blogs again. Why? Because they're your lj friends. Furthermore, it's generally considered a bad idea to link to boingboing here, anyway, because a fair portion of us will have heard of whatever it was through our own channels, anyway, if not directly from boingboing itself. So, don't do that either, no matter how many times you do or don't speak with Cory Doctorow.

What you seem to be willfully ignoring is that this post sucks. It's a post to the personal blog of someone relating a THIRD HAND account of beatings in iraq. then you link to yourself, albeit as a mefi thread. furthermore, the first link links to YOU at the top of the page. In what way is any of this worth the front page? You consistently post these unreliable personal blogs of people who are fans of your livejournal like you're breaking shocking news that will scandalize the nation and act outraged when we say that you're wasting everybody's time. Stop. Is it any wonder that people accuse you of agenda-whoring and attention-whoring when you consistently post links to people you're in some way connected to? Is it any wonder when those same blogs you link to aren't worth reading?

But hey, I'm sure you'll ignore it and immediately hit the blue with whatever other random schmoe happens to link to your livejournal next.

Oh, and as I understand the post you linked to, the dude was beating an iraqi so that that iraqi would stop trying to kill him, right? Do you know what other techniques soldiers use in war to get someone to stop trying to kill them? They kill that person. It's called fighting a war. This war is bullshit, but if you want to post about it, at least find something of substance to post.
posted by shmegegge at 8:04 AM on October 7, 2005


Decani's really bought into the logic of infinite justice: a savage is one who attacks an American serviceman. Human rights exist only to protect us. When we attack others, we are not savages and they have no human rights.

I've bought into what? Sorry... I have no idea what you're talking about.
posted by Decani at 8:50 AM on October 7, 2005


I think that a bigger issue isn't Western neocolonial exploitation, but simply the fact that we cooperate with the repressive governments in the region so that we can keep the oil flowing.

Not just cooperate--support. When they try to overthrow these regimes--and they do--they are mowed down like so many blades of grass, with American military hardware. They're well aware that they can never be free so long as the United States is involved with the Middle East. So the logical conclusion is--remove the United States from the Middle East. Then your insurrection might stand a chance.

As for the "rhizome network" bit, the plain fact is that they organize the way they do because it's the only option, not because it's generally superior to other organizational mechanisms. If they organized in a hierarchy, they'd just be rounded up by the repressive governments in the region and shot.

This is true. They're not yet aware of the superiority of rhizome to hierarchy; they simply use rhizome because it is the only way for a force like theirs to counter hierarchy. They try to establish a hierarchy whenever possible, but as soon as it appears, we easily blast it to bits. This is why we're not too far from the conflict shifting from the use of rhizome as a tactic, to the championing of rhizome as an ideal. See Jeff Vail, "The New Map: Terrorism in a Post-Cartesian World," A Theory of Power, 26 September 2005.

This not how things are in the Muslim lands. The same brand of Islam that Bin Laden espouses is spread throughout Muslim countries in hardline schools, funded often by Saudi dollars, in which the same thing Bin Laden argues is indoctrinated into the Muslim populous. Radical Wahhabism, Salafism, and the teaching of Qutb are well known to vast majorities of Muslims because they are taught it. So it is not a situation where the beliefs of the leaders is different than the belief of the followers. They really believe it, too!

Always and everywhere, I hold this to be true: most people are just trying to get by. Qutb despised American culture, but he was perfectly content to let the decadent West rot in its own filth--so long as it didn't "infect" his homeland. These are the kinds of ideas that are always used to support a revolution; they're never the ideas that start it.

They too want restoration of House of Islam, complete with shariah.

True. In the same sense that most Christians look forward to the day when the entire world is converted to faith in Christ and the Rapture happens. But most Christians go to church on Christmas and Easter, and these are simply things in the back of their minds. Now, introduce an element of foreign domination and make Christianity the best rallying point of opposition, and you'll start to see a lot more radical Christians. Most of those Christians probably wouldn't care too much about conquering the whole world for Christendom--but now that the choice is either that, or foreign domination, yeah, they'll go with global Christendom. Same situation. If this is all about the caliphate, why didn't any of this start until 1979? Why was there 20 years of no caliphate, with no significant movement towards it? Why is this move to establish the caliphate only undertaken when every other avenue of resistance has been defeated? This isn't an offensive campaign; it's defensive.

Also, just like leaders in the western world. What the redical muslims say in the media as justification for their actions might not actually be the real justification. Their goal is to bring the moderate muslims into the fold. You don't do that by saying you want to exterminate the infidels.

In any such movement, it is the most radical who assume leadership. That means everyone else involved is less radical than the leaders.

Why? We cooperate with repressive governments elsewhere, because it benefits us. We cooperate with China, for example. Is that neocolonialism, or just pragmatism?

Neocolonialism is pragmatic. China is an example of cooperation, because China is a peer. Third World debt, the systematic destruction of non-American cultures, and the military support of various dictatorships (without which those dictatorships could not persist) is neocolonialism. The dictators become, in effect, proxies of American rule.

This happens much less than the rest of the world thinks, but much more than the average American believes.

We ally ourselves with repressive governments not because they serve us, but because we need what they can provide to us. Of course, that doesn't make us too popular with the repressed, but that's a far cry from neocolonialism.

Most of these same regimes would collapse overnight from internal strife if not for American military aid. When the revolts are brutally slaughtered, they're slaughtered with American military hardware. The last thing so many of the rebels against Saddam Hussein saw before they were shot, was "Made in America" stamped on the side of the gun. That doesn't win friends and influence people.

I would consider as neocolonial any dictatorial regime which is dependent on American military aid to continue its existence.

We'd generally much rather deal with other Westernized democracies than the existing governments in the region, I think.

Then we're fools. Democracies have a bad habit of looking to their own interests ahead of ours. Saudi Arabia may well find it in their best interests to raise the price of their crude, for instance. That's why we keep the dictators in power--to make sure they keep our interests in mind, even when it means screwing over their own people.

No. I don't see how; it was the exact opposite of neocolonialism. It offered military assistance to Arab countries upon request. I don't see how defending Lebanon from Egyptian invasion, at Lebanon's request, is neocolonialism.

That was standard operating procedure for Roman invasion, actually. The invasion of Gaul was all about playing the conflicts of the various tribes, and coming in "by invitation." Tribe by tribe, Caesar gobbled up Gaul in a very short time.

Nasser was one of the earliest attempts to challenge foreign domination. He failed.

And the Muslims I've known assure me they don't know folks like that either. A bit of anecdotal evidence, but I think most folks would agree with it.

On the other hand, I believe this is primarily a cultural/political issue, rather than a religious one--so I would expect an American Muslim to have more in common with an American Christian on this matter than a Middle Eastern Muslim.
posted by jefgodesky at 9:19 AM on October 7, 2005


"If you have 600 lj friends, then please consider it a good idea to never ever link to any of their blogs again."

Bite me, you arrogant ass. Nobody appointed you the arbiter of what is appropriate here, and I was in complete compliance with MeFi's posting guidelines. If Matt has a problem, he will let me know, thanks.

I noticed that people on MeFi posted about Interdictor's LJ several times during Hurricane Katrina, but by your logic, I, as a LJ user, would not be able to do so, especially if I added him as a "friend" to follow his journal and if I contacted him for more information. That simply makes no sense. LJ "friends lists" are nothing more than a blog aggregator, capable of importing LJ user's posts, community posts, *AND* syndicated feeds, allowing the importation of practically all other blogs as well.

Sorry, but a glorified RSS newsreader does not a friend make, especially when you do the kind of web-based reporting that I routinely do, interacting with soldiers, Katrina victims, victims of last year's tsunami, etc. I categorically refuse your assertions that I shouldn't use MetaFilter to share the stories of ordinary people effected by extraordinary events.

As for my post being somehow remote from the source, that's bullshit, plain and simple. I'm not supposed to link to something a mother heard directly from her own son about what is going on in Iraq, but somehow it's alright for me to link to what a local paper's editor chooses to print from a story that went across the wires, after being edited and possibly recontextualized in New York and Kuwait, screened by the military, from what a reporter in Baghdad wrote about some inaccurate thing that an Iraqi official said that was given to him from a series of junior officers? You're out of your gourd.

If I interact with a lot of soldiers in Iraq, it's because I want to hear their side of the story, unfiltered. That's what I try to share with people on MeFi. Many of them appreciate my posts for this reason, but if you don't, I strongly encourage you to skip them and read something else.

"You consistently post these unreliable personal blogs of people..."

Earth to shmegegge -- every blog link is potentially unreliable, specifically because it *IS* personal. People write blogs. Incidentally, every news story out there is unreliable too, if you haven't noticed. It's commonplace for U.S. military reports of battlefield incidents in Iraq to be completely erroneous, for instance... and wasn't it the British government who just last week reported that they didn't break into a building to free two of their soldiers from Iraqi police, and who later had to change their story? Why yes... yes it was. Wasn't the initial reporting of the shooting of an innocent Brazillian on the London underground just as fraudulent? Why yes. Yes it was.

I would argue that blogs are actually more reliable than news stories nowadays. Why? Because, people read blogs with a skeptical, questioning mindset. They don't seem to question the news to a similar degree, however.

Please, for the sake of respect for the truth, let the people of MeFi draw their own conclusions about the motives of this mother and her son about what is going on in Iraq. Believe me, they are far better equipped to make such a decision for themselves than you are for them.
posted by insomnia_lj at 11:03 AM on October 7, 2005


It might be fair to say I'm a fan of insomnia_lj's LiveJournal...as much as I am a fan of Daily Kos or MeFi or Reuters...

I find interesting information at many web sites I visit regularly. I believe in crediting my sources; so, I linked to insomnia_lj's LiveJournal in my post to TaosBlog. If I'd first read about Capt. Fishback on MeFi or DK, that link would be in my TaosBlog post instead.

insomnia_lj has reason to believe my TaosBlog post is a true account. It is.

When I first saw the traffic yesterday, I didn't know where it was coming from. I didn't have time to find out because I was just getting ready to pack my laptop & camera & head off to a photo shoot. So, I doubled TaosBlog's bandwidth & didn't get back to it until evening.

I found this thread via TaosBlog's raw logs & read every single post, even the ones I would normally skip after the first sentence. I fell asleep reading last night & continued reading this morning.

I am emotionally conflicted about this. A prominent link from MeFi is certainly a boon to a baby blog such as TaosBlog. I wrote that post because I think what my son told me is terribly important to the questions Capt. Fishback has raised & corroborates the captain's assertions that confusion over adherence to the military's already codified standards of conduct is widespread. Yet, I knew folks were reading what my son told me about routinely beating Iraqi males - regardless of their status as combatant, suspect or civilian - because it's their culture.

Of course I published what my son told me so folks would read it; but, that's still pretty hard to take. I said in my post that I "wanted to look away," & that's true. It's hard not to flinch; but, I am convinced that we all, America, must address this issue unwaveringly if we are to retain "the idea that is 'America.'"

I can see that my original post wasn't clear enough on this point.

Apparently, my son's command disregarded the military's already codified standards of conduct in favor of a 'when in Rome, do as the Romans' philosophy. I think this breakdown of military discipline occurred in at least two different divisions in the US Army because the highest leadership, the CinC & Secretary of Defense, have misled our military.

At the end of WWII, we were not confused. Instead of simply shooting the bad guys we captured, we put them on trial. If we had adopted a 'when in Rome, do as the Romans' philosophy at the end of WWII, would the Nuremberg trial have occurred? The Marshall Plan? I think not.

We set a standard for 'humane' then that only begins with the Nuremberg trial, the UN and the Geneva Conventions. It seems to me that it is our own crassly commercial hegemonic interests that have led to America's increasing rejection of the ideals for which our parents & grandparents fought & died.

In Iraq & Afghanistan, the least we owe the people & ourselves is the treatment we gave the Axis. Back then, in a sense, we adopted the philosophy, 'we are Rome & you shall do as we do.' Then we asserted the democratic rule of law. We cannot liberate Iraq, nor shall we spread democracy, by now finding that rule of law inconvenient.

My son's leadership has done him a terrible disservice by teaching him that American Infantrymen can go with the 'when in Rome, do as the Romans' philosophy. I really am a fan of Robert's captain, who brought his company home with no one killed. But, Robert's captain has also been done a terrible disservice by his leadership.

The "idea that is 'America'" is that great American assertion of the democratic rule of law, especially in the face of incredible brutality. America has long been degrading our adherence to our own assertion of the rule of law. If we are to have anything to offer the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan, and ourselves, we must, for ourselves, reestablish our willing & rigorous assertion of the rule of law our parents & grandparents created.

That's it: we either play by our own rules or we have nothing to sell anyone except crassly commercial hegemony. That's not my America; &, in Capt. Fishback's words, "I would rather die fighting than give up even the smallest part of the idea that is 'America.'"

Thanks for the link, insomnia_lj.
posted by taosbat at 12:11 PM on October 7, 2005


There are major cultural differences between the "average" American and the "average" Iraqi, (this goes for other Arabs too) and I think a lot of needless casualties have been inflicted by both sides in situations where there is cultural miscommunication. Among other things, it is quite conceivable that a large percentage of the general population in Iraq does not have the same perception of the intangible benefits of democracy and individual rights that many Americans do. We were "sold" on the percieved benefits of these things during the years of our schooling; in Iraq, by all accounts, they were exposed to Ba'athist propaganda which included textbooks that encouraged kids to call him "Papa Saddam". While democracy may be desirable for the Middle east in theory, you can't plant a seed without properly preparing the soil.The people in the highest levels of our government were in a position to know that besides the existance of the afore-mentioned propaganda, there has long been a lack of good books about democracy and the ideas behind it in the Arabic language. Where is this information? Easily available from a respected publication widely circulated in academe. http://chronicle.com/weekly/v51/i19/19a03301.htm (sorry, password req.) Culturally, Iraqis may well be like the ancient Celts...just accustomed to a lot more pain and torture from each other than *we* Americans are comfortable with. Only lots of media in Arabic (a public education campaign) about how it is wrong to interact with each other through beatings and that this is not to be considered an acceptable mode of public discourse can help the situation. Oh wait, we haven't done it in our country yet!
posted by bunky at 12:33 PM on October 7, 2005


jefgodesky - I agree that I'd expect American Muslims to have more in common American Christians that Arab Muslims. I should have made clear I was referring for the most part to emigre Muslims I've known from Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and Africa that are living in Europe.

My point was really that for all the similarities you can't paint Muslims with too broad a brush. We're talking about cultures spanning from Western Africa to Indonesia. To say Muslims truly want a caliphate is like saying Christians demand democracy. To quote a hero, all politics is local.

I guess you summed up my point: Always and everywhere, I hold this to be true: most people are just trying to get by.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 5:51 PM on October 7, 2005


insomnia, if you'd come down off your high hose for long enough to read thoroughly, you'd realize that I never claimed the woman's account was fradulent or questioned her motives. furthermore, I never said that livejounal's couldn't be posted. and lastly, i never claimed to be the arbiter of what belongs here. but mefi DOES self-police, and if you don't like it, then gyob. oh wait, you already did, you just keep posting it to the blue. you can call me names all you want, but none of your arguments address the actual issues. namely:

1. your history of doing this has given you a reputation for agenda pushing and suspicion of being an attention whore.

2. you linked to yourself TWICE in this post alone.

3. you're not sharing anecdotes, here. You're trying to scandalize the war with what you no doubt see as damning evidence of this administration's encouragement of torture overseas. (normally, I have no problem with this, except that the evidence isn't damning. it's hardly even there.)

then, you go and respond to criticism of the post like a personal attack, and an attack on the truth. all of this suggests that, despite having your own blog, you want to make a name for yourself as some sort of grassroots journalist of the 21st century, and you're trying to use mefi's page hits to do it. I don't know if that's actually your motivation, but anything that points that strongly to such a conclusion poisons your post and the front page.

mefi isn't your soapbox, if you don't care about the community enough to to tone down the agenda a bit, then go elsewhere.
posted by shmegegge at 9:44 PM on October 7, 2005


No, shmegegge... you're offbase, as are your claims.

Specifically...
1. your history of doing this has given you a reputation for agenda pushing and suspicion of being an attention whore.

My history of doing this? Let's be plain. The complaints have stemmed from incidents where:

- Someone else on MeFi linked to a series of photographs that a soldier gave to me which were taken in Iraq.

- I have previously linked to the journals of soldiers in Iraq.

The thing is, not only are you trying to hold me responsible for posting a link that I didn't post, you are also saying, on one hand, that LiveJournals CAN be linked to on MeFi, and, that I shouldn't link to them.

"2. you linked to yourself TWICE in this post alone."

Actually, no, I did not. If anyone wants to search the source code of this page, they will see that there isn't a single link to LiveJournal.com, much less to my LiveJournal. What I *DID* do is link to the weblog of a LiveJournaler (and a MeFi'er, too) who, in a much larger story about her son, linked to my journal once, in passing. Again, I encourage people to to search the source code of her post for "insomnia". They will see that I am telling the truth.

"3. you're not sharing anecdotes, here. You're trying to scandalize the war with what you no doubt see as damning evidence of this administration's encouragement of torture overseas. (normally, I have no problem with this, except that the evidence isn't damning. it's hardly even there.)"

To be precise, I shared the personal account of a mother (and a MeFi'er) whose son told her that abuse of Iraqis was so routine during his two deployments in Iraq that he believed it to be a standard policy.

It seems odd to me that there are literally hundreds of claims which have been filed within the military alone of widespread abuse against Iraqis -- reports which the DoD fought tooth and nail to not release and which we still wouldn't know about if it weren't for the actions of the ACLU and other organizations trying to get at the truth of the matter -- and you have the gall to tell us that the evidence is "hardly even there".

The evidence *IS* there, even though the DoD has done its best to surpress it, censor the soldiers, and silence all dissent.

I interact with soldiers every day who are afraid for their careers and who feel that they have to shut down their weblogs/journals or close them to the public so that they can communicate with their family, friends, and others about their experiences. They aren't afraid of violating OPSEC -- none of them would willingly reveal information that would help the enemy kill their fellow soldiers -- but they *ARE* afraid of their government.

Take a look at what Captain Fishback reported -- there is a pattern of abuse. He came forward to report it, even after seventeen months of the military refusing to investigating his case, after threats, and after being confined to base and denied access to his congressional representatives. Do you honestly think that this soldier, after all the barriers he had to hurdle to report what he saw, was somehow the only one out there who witnessed such abuse?

I'm not trying to scandalize the war. I'm trying to see that the full truth of it is known and reported, and the best way I can do that is to share the stories of those who are most closely effected by our government's policies. While I agree that MeFi isn't my personal soapbox, I do feel that I have a right to making posts that do not conflict with the posting guidelines.

I believe that these posts are ones that "most people haven't seen . . . before", that "there is something interesting about the content on the page", and that "it might warrant discussion from others". All of those are Matt's definition of a good post, and, after 167 comments, are criteria I think I've met in this post, in spades.
posted by insomnia_lj at 1:30 PM on October 8, 2005


In other news: War-dead-for-porn Web site raided - but not for the war-dead photos, just for the porn
posted by homunculus at 2:33 PM on October 8, 2005


I should clarify that in my last comment, I did, infact, add a link to a soldier with a LiveJournal who no longer feels that they can speak publicly about their experiences in Iraq, due to overly restrictive regulations by the military on public communications.

These soldiers, who fight and die on our behalf, should have the right to say whatever they want so long as it doesn't violate OPSEC, conflict with their duty as soldiers, or insult the chain of command. They should have these rights as citizens of the United States, but increasingly they do not.

My point stands, however. I'm not in the habit of linking to myself on MeFi, much less twice, as shmegegge falsely claimed.
posted by insomnia_lj at 3:29 PM on October 8, 2005


you linked to a blog that links to you. that counts. just because you're abusing guidelines loopholes doesn't mean it's not a self-link. then you linked to your own old post.

again, the issue is your constant drawing attention to your cause.

furthermore, you misunderstand what I'm saying when I say "the evidence isn't even there." I agree that there's privately sanctioned torture happening in iraq, and that it needs to be brought up. but this woman's blog isn't proper evidence of that. it's a 3rd hand account of someone saying "we beat up a guy so he wouldn't keep trying to kill us." it's the kind of grasping-at-straws sensationalism that undermines the current anti-war movement. but even THAT would be forgivable if it weren't yet another link to somone you're acquainted with through your blog, and who even links to you on the page. that kind of thing belongs on your livejournal, not here.

hell, if you think it's important enough, there's already a standard practice of people posting to MeTa to say "i'm concerned about conflict of interest if i post [x]. can someone post it for me, or should I just gmob?"

also, I didn't say that YOU couldn't post livejournals. I'm saying no one should post livejournals of people they're in some way involved with. what constitutes involvement? well, how about a link to you on their blog? that's a good start. I've got friends on livejournal involved in projects that they'll even blog about on their lj that I think the community might be interested in knowing about. but just because I want my friends comic book to get publicity doesn't mean I get to abuse my posting privileges here. maybe one day I'll go to MeTa about it and see if anyone else thinks ti's worth posting enough to do it for me, but I won't just post it to the blue and attack anyone who tells me it's inappropriate.

and lastly, every time you address my points, you go on about the rights of soldiers to be heard and the truth, etc... not only am I not arguing against those things, but the fact that you relentlessly try to make them the topic between us indicates that you really are trying to insist on your agenda at all times. i wouldn't keep insising on this point if you didn't keep giving me reason to.
posted by shmegegge at 8:47 PM on October 8, 2005


oh, and some of the most commented on threads on this site are the worst ones. not to mention that ANY thread, no matter how crappy, about the current scandals surrounding this administratin will get 100+ comments nowadays. comment number is simply not a gauge of a good post anymore. there have been multiple discussions of this in meta recently, if you cared enough about the community here to read them.

nah, you're probably right. heavy inthread discussion must mean it's a valid point. here are some examples that demonstrate this.
posted by shmegegge at 9:00 PM on October 8, 2005


How the hell did I miss this thread?
posted by Balisong at 3:38 PM on October 12, 2005


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