Recently, I was asked by a friend to comment on an opinion article he had linked to on Facebook. The article being, “Murder in a Friendless World” posted on al Jazeera. Instead of me posting my reply on his Facebook page, I decided to message him, so that a flame war might be adverted (my opinions run contrary to the writer of the article). But in a spirit of accountability, I asked if we could post the thing on my blog. Jake assented. So here it is.
(I should note that none of this will make sense if you haven’t read the article. So, lets be honest, this’ll be a long read, as I didn’t have time to edit my thoughts to make them more concise.)
Let me simply begin at the beginning and address the synopsis sentence and first paragraph. Synopsis: “The Tsarnaev brothers can be seen as just one element of a global blowback against a world system of war and violence.” With the summary sentence, we have the writer suggesting that two individuals who bombed innocent civilians did so due to our foreign policy, thus, they are in effect, our fault. The actual beginning sentence “What does it mean to live “without a friend” in a world “without values”?” is a either a genuine question, a query into the attackers mind set, or a question that begins with assuming the that the attackers grievances are legitimate. We’ll see which of these match best, or if more than one do. The writer goes on to ask if this question will be asked of the younger brother. And here we’ve run into our first stumbling block. The younger brother, unlike the older, had many friends. To ask this question of the younger brother is a non-starter. It simply doesn’t apply. I highlight it because the next question that is asked seems to be linked in the writers mind to this one. That next question is: “Or will the case be so overdetermined by the accusations of terrorism that any possibility of drawing a broader social meaning from the murders and mayhem they unleashed will be frustrated?” We have in 3 sentences the implication that the older brother was motivated by living in a valueless world that kept him from having friends. Because of such a world, the younger brother will never be asked if he has social beef (which if he did, he had a terrible way of expressing it), and thus the broader social implications of our foreign policy will never be addressed, so more terrorists will rise to kill us, and justifiably so.
I’ll pause here, for your reply. I want to make sure that you agree I’m presenting an unbiased reading of the writer so far. If so, I’ll move onto the use of the word terrorism and so on.
Also, with your permission, I’d love to post our unedited conversation on my blog. I message you on this because it’s such a charged issue, and I would like to be as honest and open about it as possible without a flame war ensuing. I ask to post not merely because I don’t want to be seen as someone who dodges an argument, but more importantly, shows to the light of day, arguments as they happened, for the rest of the world to judge. Work for you?
For sure! And it is from the opinion section, so I looked at it that way. I don’t think on the whole she was saying the brothers were innocent, and her point about what we call terrorism was flimsy. But overall, the challenge to us (US) to give pause and think how we can address this without more killing or villainizing Muslims. The story about the beard on fire struck me as particularly apt.
Word. I went a-googling to find what the rest of the world was saying. That was the first article I clicked on. I almost stopped reading a couple times cause my bs radar went off. But it touches on that question of; ok, someone cold-cocked us. Maybe we wanna understand why before we break a beer bottle in half.
Not we get a very good question of why these bombers are called terrorists and Adam Lanza is NOT. A subtle point and well said. Yet, it must be noted, these bombers ARE TERRORISTS. There is no way to argue that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had a personal grudge against every possible person who could have been in the blast range, much less Dzhokhar. Their act was one designed to cause terror. It’s difficult if not impossible to build a plausible case stating otherwise. As for the writers point about Adam Lanza not being called a TERRORIST, I completely agree. While, it’s been shown that he may have had some connection to the school, he had no connection to the children, and as far as I can see, no lack of killing would have stopped him. Which to me sets apart the terrorist from the violent criminal. “You screwed my girlfriend?”, I’m going to kill YOU, not everyone around you. Lanza qualifies as a terrorists. Terrorism in my reasoning requires an attack that is random so as to terrorize. If you have no beef with people you wouldn’t be scared. But if someone says or acts in a way as to say, “All (group) deserves to die” then that group can admit to being terrorized. Lanza and the Tsarnaev’s both fall into this terrorist category.
This then renders moot the next few paragraphs of complaint about how the word is used.
I will add this though. The complaint about “enemy combatant” status. This was advocated by John McCain and Lindsey Graham. However, the administration did not go that direction. So this complaint is at best, indignant at those senators, or at worst, conflating proposed ideas of idiot senators as equal to the acts of an administration, all for rhetorical effect. From my reading of the full article, I’m inclined to see it as the latter.
In the next section we get one worthwhile sentence, “…a homemade bomb that kills three people is called by the federal prosecutors a ‘weapon of mass destruction’, while an AR-15 assault rifle with a high capacity clip is not…” This makes a good point, badly. The fact that the bomb only killed 3 is not evidence of its inability to kill others. It’s a bomb for christ sake. It’s perfectly reasonable and rational to categorize these as “weapons of mass destruction” in the literal sense of those words. The reason an AR-15 rifle isn’t listed is that it can’t blow-up a building. Its destruction is not “mass” in the sense used with “WMD”. So this point is moot. The good point that’s missed here is that AR-15’s can cause just as much or more death than a bomb. It won’t bring down a building, but it could kill everyone in it. So, if we get past the tedious and misguided harping on definitions, there is a real case for gun control here. But, it should be obvious by now, the writer isn’t really interested in gun control, other than as a cudgel with which to point out apparent hypocrisy. The writer is interested in definitions. The reason the AR-15 is brought up is to be used as a counter example against the evil terrorist. “Aren’t these guns worse? How can we be so obsessed with a bomb that only killed 3?” Which, as I’ve shown above, is a disingenuous argument, and clearly is being used as an attempt at moral equivalence; “You gun owning Americans are just as bad. In fact, in terms of death toll, worse.”
The next section about women is deeply confused, not simply for its bad grammar. It mistakes the FBI clearing the older brother of Jihadi involvement, as equal to not looking into, or seeing him as a threat. They did. Which is why they looked into him. As for domestic abuse disqualifying him for citizenship, this has nothing to do with the politicians referenced and everything to do with the relevant law on the books.
Next, this sentence; “the terror experienced by abused women (or any abused partners or children such situations) is among the most profound types of terror” is clearly meant to juxtapose and equate itself (seeing a theme?) with an actual terrorist attack. This theme is then continued in the next paragraph. This is sick. I can fight against domestic abuse with my whole heart and soul, and still know better than to equate it with an act that killed 3 and maimed more than 250 innocent people. These are not morally equivalent acts, even if both are worthy of the utmost condemnation. So to highlight spending on each issue is depraved. Not only because funding is not mutually exclusive. Every dollar spent on fighting terrorism abroad is not a dollar taken from domestic abuse prevention. There’s a lot of money in our national budget. One is an active attempt to kill as many strangers as possible, and create fear in an entire civilization. The other seeks dominance (not death) over one individual through violence (not mortal) or the threat of it.
And then, we get to it, “It is also highly unlikely that any serious national discussion will take place as to how, assuming we can take at face value the apparent claim by younger brother Dzhokhar that the US invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq were behind the attacks…” This strikes me as highly naive at best. This “discussion” has been half of Noam Chomsky’s career. Read any Glenn Greenwald. This discussion is always had by those who seek to blame their own country for any actions taken against it, or who feel a great deal of guilt, much of which is probably merited. However, the second part of the quote is very telling, “…American policies which have had no direct impact on them could outweigh anger at Russia, coupled with all the opportunities life in the US afforded them, and lead them indiscriminately to kill Americans.” (my emphasis) This is as big a concession as one could ever hope to get from even ones strongest critics. The US has done nothing but give these men opportunity. What then could possibly have caused them to indiscriminately bomb civilians? There is one very clear answer to this, yet, “There is in fact a trajectory, HOWEVER SERPENTINE, which joins the US to Russia… (my emphasis)”. Ah. So the elephant of militant Islam is discarded in favor of the most convoluted of attempts to pass off their attack onto anything other than religion.
I could (and will for the night) leave it at this.
Carrying on. “Indeed, the Tsarnaev brothers can be seen as just one element of a global blowback against a world system that for centuries has produced war and violence on a massive scale.”
I take issue with this sentence. If the writer were to commit a crime, does he think it would be an exonerating argument to state that the US gov’t (or any gov’t) has committed horrific acts, therefore he is no longer an agent in his own decisions? I should hope not. Yet, he seems to view not simply Middle Easterners, but even those of a serpentine descent, as incapable of making moral judgements on their own.
You and I both have a great deal of qualms with our current gov’t and its previous administrations. I’m a good deal Native American. I too, can find a reason to commit atrocities by this logic, however serpentine my logic needs to be. So, I present this idea: Every individual is required to make their own moral decisions. I cannot give up my ability to act morally. “Sitting Bull was killed, thus I cannot but bomb all Americans.” This is not a sentence I’m capable of making. To claim such leeway for others becomes a bias (dare I say racism) all its own.
In conclusion: We have the last section which begins with the very premise I so despise.
“A natural byproduct
Do Americans want to admit that as a society they produce an incredible amount of violence, and that sometimes the structure of the society helps produce people like the Columbine, Newtown or Boston murderers?
To which I answer: No. Columbine, Newtown, and Boston are so different in cause, circumstance and effect that I’m frankly appalled at the comparison. Bullied High School students killing their classmates are not an expression of the “structure of society”. Nor is the murder committed by the child of a mother who distrusted gov’t to the Nth degree. Nor are the Boston attackers, motivated by a radical religious ideology, a product product of American Society. If all these people can be connected (and dismissed), as simple products of American Society, then what can’t be? If anything can be included in a definition, then what good is that in defining things? Well, only good so far as you wish to deflect blame onto an amorphous non-entity.
I’ll leave you with this thought:
“the present occupant of the White House thinks that killing thousands of people by remote control is the best way to deal with the threat of terrorism that his – as much today as his predecessors’ – policies have CREATED and sustained? (Emphasis Mine.) I could have quoted this last bit at the beginning and called it a day. But I trudged through the whole damn thing, for intellectual consistency reasons. However, this is the biggest bit of bullshit in the whole piece. America has not created terrorism any more than it has created religious extremism, any more than it has created violence. Is it complicit in creating circumstances around which terrorists can rally? Yes. Did we create them? No. And will they exist without us? Yes. That last bit, and why, is the actual issue at hand. But, I’ll save it for another time.
Here’s the article I might have linked to.
Muslims have rightly complained about the Israeli government labeling them anti-Semitic for legitimate criticism of Israeli policy, but today Muslims (along with liberal apologist allies) are doing the same thing with their broad use of the “Islamophobia” label against the “new atheists.”