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Politicked Off

Rusty - May 16, 2007

So I was watching the Republican debate last night, not because I really care what the 59 different candidates have to say, but because my friends were there and I wanted to hang out and eat freshly-made gingersnaps. Not only was I again reminded why I no longer identify as a Republican but it’s always a good time to make fun of the freakshow that is American politics. Question avoidance, resume reading, unfunny canned jokes, endless platitudes, faux-indignance, etc. I especially loved watching each candidate retrofit their scripted platforms as answers to unrelated questions. Good stuff.

From what I could tell it seemed to be all the usual conservative talking points, everyone generally agreeing with each other…except Ron Paul. This dude had no chance before this debate started and has even less of a chance now that it’s over. He took the contrary position on almost every topic, you’d think he was a Democrat who wandered into the auditorium and they told him to get on the stage. But one moment stood out above the rest and that was when he was talking about our failed Iraq policy and suggested that those in the Middle East don’t like us because we have been in their lands making trouble for decades. He suggested that that was part of the reason they attacked us on 9/11 (not because they “hate our way of life and hate our freedom”). At that moment Rudy Giuliani interrupted, exasperated, and said that he’s heard a lot of explanations for 9/11 but has never heard that one. Extremely offended at the remark he suggested that Ron Paul retract his statement and apologize (something Ron Paul did not do). After the debate and even today Rudy is still talking about it, flabbergasted that any presidential candidate would hold that position, let alone a Republican.

I have two questions:

1) Is Rudy seriously suggesting that of all he’s heard in the aftermath of 9/11, that he’s never heard the suggestion that our foreign policy was what incited the 9/11 attacks? Really? I mean, I could understand if he hadn’t heard the chocolate bunny explanation or the martian robot explanation, but the failed foreign policy explanation? He’s surely much less informed than I had thought.

2) Do people really believe that they hate us because of our way of life and hate us because of our freedoms? Really? Come on. Any kid on a playground will admit that they hate the bully more than the rich kid.


  1. I think they do hate what they see as licenciousness and decadent corrupt culture that they see resulting from our culture. They hate that we will tolerate so much that they do not. To borrow your analogy, it is never good to be both the rich kid and the bully. There is a lot of truth in both viewpoints.

    Comment by Doc — May 16, 2007 @ 3:13 pm

  2. So Doc, if licentiousness and decadence is the problem should the world hate Europe way more than the U.S.?

    Comment by Geoff J — May 16, 2007 @ 3:39 pm

  3. Rusty, you have said before that you get all your news from Jon Stewart, and that you are not ashamed of that. There really are very good, very smart people who disagree with your analysis, which sounds like it came straight from Rosie O’Donnell. That fact alone should give you pause.

    To answer your questions -

    1 – I’m sure Giuliani has heard people say that the U.S. caused 9/11. He has also heard that the Holocaust didn’t really happen. I think he was expressing surprise that people who promulgate those views are actually taken seriously as presidential candidates.

    2 – I don’t think that the situation in the Middle East can be described in terms of rich kids, playgrounds, and bullies. Hatred existed there long before 1776.

    Comment by Mark IV — May 16, 2007 @ 3:50 pm

  4. I completely agree with you Rusty. They may hate us for our liberal lifestyle, but, I honestly think they hate us more because of our trying to push that lifestyle on them, and our crappy foreign policy over the decades. It is amazing that people refuse to even think about the possiblity.

    Some politicians would rather view the situation as black and white. Terrroists = evil, America = Good. There is a refusal to see a grey area where we might have somehow caused some of the problem and it’s now coming back to bite us in the butt.

    Comment by Ian M. Cook — May 16, 2007 @ 4:00 pm

  5. Ian, you’re a mind reader. I really do, in my heart of hearts, think that terrorists = evil. And for the most part, I think that liberal democracy = good.

    Comment by Mark IV — May 16, 2007 @ 4:17 pm

  6. They may hate us for our liberal lifestyle, but, I honestly think they hate us more because of our trying to push that lifestyle on them, and our crappy foreign policy over the decades.

    Are you kidding? Do you really think it can be simplified down to we have/had crappy foreign policy?

    This may not be a direct response, but it certainly sheds some light on things. From Victor David Hansen

    Prince Bandar bin Sultan, former Saudi ambassador to the United States and high cabinet official in a monarchy that funds much of the world’s radical Islamist madrassas, is selling his 56,000-square-foot mansion in tony Aspen. The asking price is $135 million — the most expensive home ever put up for sale in the United States.

    What are we to make of these incongruities and others like them?

    First is the obvious hypocrisy. Allying with radical Shiites in Lebanon, anti-American Syrians or Islamists in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia does not seem to disqualify Middle Eastern politicos from appreciating the freedom, security and opportunity of the United States.

    For all the talk of America’s faults, no Middle Easterner worries about vengeful Americans kidnapping or car-bombing his relatives. And few seem to consider that if the worldview of a present-day Lebanese militia or Saudi Arabia ever sweeps the globe, there would be no Dearborn or Aspen for their kin to find sanctuary.

    Second, the wide gap between what many in the Middle East say and do should be a reminder that much anti-Americanism is poorly thought out or mostly for show. Many who decry America to the press and cameras privately prefer to send their loved ones here to take advantage of our success brought about by secular education, gender equality, meritocratic democracy and the primacy of law.

    Third, the families of leaders of autocratic nations often hostile to the United States are kept safe and sound in this country precisely because of our openness and respect for guests and foreigners. Unlike most of the Middle East, where it is nearly impossible for Christians, single women or homosexuals to live openly and freely, Americans are a tolerant people who are not captive to tribal, religious or sectarian vengeance.

    Comment by MAC — May 16, 2007 @ 4:34 pm

  7. So is it good or evil for a liberal democracy to give money and material aid to terrorist groups when its suits the liberal democracy’s purposes, such in Afghanistan, circa 1986? (or Nicaragua, Grenada, Chile, etc.)

    It is somewhat understandable that many Americans are puzzled as to how our foreign policy has screwed up the Middle East – since we haven’t done a whole lot of historical meddling there, comparatively speaking. The real mess results from what the British did there in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

    I think its more accurate to say that we were attacked on 9/11 largely as the result of a long history of failed Anglo-American policies in the Middle East.

    Comment by lief — May 16, 2007 @ 4:41 pm

  8. First of all, I want to mention that I’m not personally suggesting that the reason 9/11 happened was a because of our bad foreign policy. I was just saying that I’ve heard that explanation MANY TIMES and was surprised that Rudy had never heard it before. Secondly, my second point is only a refutation of the “it’s because they hate freedom” line, not an endorsement of the “bad foreign policy” line. My personal view? I think it’s deeply complicated, some parts religion, some parts bad US foreign policy, some parts long history, some parts extremism, some parts money, some parts clash of ideals, and many other parts. I think it’s ludicrous to simplify it down to “they hate freedom” and wash our hands of it. But that’s just my probably-not-very-accurate opinion.

    Mark IV,
    I’ll forgive your misquoting me. I said that the only news I get from television is The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, not the only news I get. I do a lot of reading, both online and the newspaper.

    I do agree with you that there are smart and thoughtful people who disagree with me, many of whom I’m related to. But contrary to what you may be thinking, I don’t hold all of the liberal views. In fact I think I’m quite conservative on many things (and middle-of-the-road on others, liberal on some and undecided on the rest).

    And Mark, Rosie O’Donnell loves her mother, the fact that you do too should give you pause.

    You could very well be right.

    Comment by Rusty — May 16, 2007 @ 4:58 pm

  9. Forget the Ron Paul thing. My favorite part was the Jack Bauer reference…

    Comment by Cheryl — May 16, 2007 @ 5:42 pm

  10. Rusty, please accept my apologies for misremembering your statement.

    I have no idea, nor do I care, whether your views are right, left, or center. I care that you appeared to be blaming America for 9/11, and I wasn’t going to let that go without a challenge. I consider that opinion to be the equivalent of saying that European Jews deserved what they got 65 years ago, or that Mormons got what they had coming in Missouri in 1839.

    Of course America has made some mistakes; of course we should have acted with greater prudence in the Mideast; nevertheless, I believe that America has been and continues to be a great force for good in the world. Over the past decades, we have done a lot more meddling in the internal affairs of Japan and Germany that we have anywhere in the Middle East. It is not responsible to assert that we were attacked on 9/11 because we forced self-government on the poor Arabs.

    It requires no intellectual rigor to love one’s mother, since it is a natural, emotional response. Rosie makes a habit of wading around in the shallow end of the thinking pool, so I was just giving a friendly warning not to make any swan dives around her. And guess what, Rusty? You probably love yourself, and I love you, too. That fact should give us both pause.

    Comment by Mark IV — May 16, 2007 @ 5:44 pm

  11. The facts vindicate Ron Paul. Imagine that.

    Comment by Connor — May 16, 2007 @ 5:51 pm

  12. It might be noted that after the Sean Hannity poll, Ron Paul came out ahead of everybody else…

    Comment by Cheryl — May 16, 2007 @ 5:53 pm

  13. Connor, you support a man for president who has the same opinions as Osama Bin Laden. Imagine that.

    Comment by Mark IV — May 16, 2007 @ 6:03 pm

  14. Mark, your assumption that they share the same opinions is quite laughable. Simply because Paul understands the man’s history and motives better than most doesn’t imply that he agrees with the man.

    Comment by Connor — May 16, 2007 @ 6:09 pm

  15. Extremists in the Middle East do not hate us because of our freedoms. The sooner Republicans start realizing this, the quicker we will have a sounder policy towards the Middle East. But unfortunately, the Republicans must first remove themselves from the same room as men like Dobson who believe the Bible holds America’s foreign policy answers towards the Middle East

    Dobson: Joel, we’ve just read quotations telling us that a nuclear attack on the United States in the long run is inevitable. Joel, does that fit your point of view, not as a scientist, but as one who reads the scripture and one who has been remarkably successful in understanding the times? We know that appeasement never works. How can you negotiate with people whose stated intention is to kill you?

    Rosenberg: you can’t. This is unnverving. Unless you begin look at this as a student of the Bible, a follower of Jesus Christ, and begin to say, OK, the Bible gives us some guidance on this. We can’t say for sure that this is a prophetic event, but as followers of Jesus Christ, our command is to “be strong and courageous.” That’s what God said to Joshua four times in the first chapter of Joshua. We who have the Holy Spirit in us should not cower in the face of this, because the Muslims are lost, and because they are lost they are being driven I believe by THE ENEMY in a way that will confront us but we know that Jesus Christ is powerful and we know he is moving in the Middle East. I think what is most exciting in the Middle East is a story the media is missing: that in the last 30 years in Iran, there are now more than one million Muslims who have converted to faith in Christianity in Iran. If that’s not evidence that we are living in the last days, I don’t know what is.

    Dobson: We know the Lord is in control. We know that he has never lost a battle. And we know he loves us, and he loves the nation of Israel and has made that clear for thousands of years. So what should we do?

    Rosenberg: I think the botttom line is found in Matt 28, verses 18-20, where Jesus says “All authority under heaven and earth has been given to me, therefore go and make desciples of all nations.” Jesus is calling us to go reach the nations of the Middle East, Russia and elsewhere.

    Dobson: Well Joel, let’s explain to everybody how Ezekiel 38 turns out because Israel is about to be attacked and a huge number of troops from Russia and Iran are coming toward Israel to destroy it and what happens?

    Rosenberg. Well, God is going to move. You won’t find in the Scriptures that the United States is coming to rescue Israel or the European Union, but God says he is going to supernaturally intervene, we’re talking about fire from heaven, a massive earthquake, diseases spreading through the enemy forces. It is going to be such a clear judgement against the enemies of Israel that Exekiel 39 says that will take seven months to bury all the bodies of the slain enemies of Israel. And the birds of the air and the beasts of the field are going to eat many of these slain soldiers. I think this is the end of radical Islam as we know it, Ezekiel 38 and 39, and in the aftermath, millions, even tens of millions, including radical Muslims, will come to faith in Jesus Christ. And given the events going on in our world today, people at the Pentagon, people at the CIA, people at the White House are asking to sit down and talk about these issues, to understand the Biblical perspective, because it is uncanny what is happening out there and it deserves some study.

    Dobson: Joel, you are doing a great work. What you just mentioned of people in the Pentagon and the CIA are asking you for interepretations of what you see that allowed you to write these books. I think that’s done by divine inspiration. And I appreciate it.

    Can Republicans extricate themselves from this kind of lunacy? Their track record to this point is quite dismal.

    Comment by Dan — May 16, 2007 @ 6:20 pm

  16. Connor, coyness does not become you. OBL says he attcked us because we are involved in the Mideast. Paul says OBL attacked us because we involved in the Mideast. OBL is a nut. What excuse does Paul have?

    Comment by Mark IV — May 16, 2007 @ 6:25 pm

  17. What is odd, Dan, is that the only person in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 who said that America deserved it was Pat Robertson. That now appears to have become the majority view.

    Comment by Mark IV — May 16, 2007 @ 6:28 pm

  18. Mark,

    Opinions and facts are two different things. When OBL and Al-Qaeda tell us point blank why they’re attacking us, and politicians use their newspeak dictionaries to interpret such statements to mean that they instead hate us “for our freedoms”, methinks that something fishy is going on. Paul’s citing a stated reason for their opposition is not supporting OBL’s opinion, it’s referencing a factual statement showing why they’re so pissed off to begin with.

    Comment by Connor — May 16, 2007 @ 6:37 pm

  19. AIM has an article worth reading on this issue.

    Comment by Connor — May 16, 2007 @ 6:41 pm

  20. 1) Isn’t this the Rudy that forgot how many times he was married?
    2) I don’t believe they hate us because of our freedom (what little we have left) and liberty (now where did we put that?)

    The real terrorists have been in Washington D.C for many, many years – by their fruits (stealing nearly 50% of our life blood), ye shall know them.

    Mark IV reminds me of the people in 1 Samuel 8

    Comment by ed42 — May 16, 2007 @ 6:42 pm

  21. Connor,

    The Son of Sam attacked and killed people because he said his neighbor’s dog told him to. I think OBL is every bit as loony. Why should we take his statements at face value?

    And I actually do think Ron Paul agrees with OBL, but I am willing to be corrected if I’m wrong. So enlighten me – does Paul think we should get out of the Mideast, or not? If he does, then I think his opinions are indistinguishable from OBL’s.

    Comment by Mark IV — May 16, 2007 @ 6:47 pm

  22. ed42,

    To the extent your comment about the real terrorists is comprehensible, you seem to be saying that filling out your form 1040 is worse than flying airplanes into crowded buildings. You seem to be valueing the “life blood” of taxes more than the lives of the people in the WTC. Assuming that is what you meant, it is not only irresponsible, but offensive as hell.

    As for my desiring a king, well. . .Shhhh! Don’t blow my cover! Of course you have me pegged as a hopeless dupe of the Gadiantons. Please pray for my benighted soul.

    Comment by Mark IV — May 16, 2007 @ 7:03 pm

  23. Mark IV,

    So you think OBL would have still attacked us on 9/11 even if we had had no presence whatsover in the Middle East at the time? I’m sorry, but that seems a little ridiculous.

    Comment by Tim J. — May 16, 2007 @ 7:53 pm

  24. Crap, It would be stupid and worthless to ask OBL or any other terrorist what they beleive wouldn’t it? I mean, it’s much easier for us to project on them what we think they beleive, and probably more accurate to boot.

    I mean, the antis have it right about us Mormons, they must know more than we do about ourselves, why would they bother asking?

    Comment by Ian M. Cook — May 16, 2007 @ 7:54 pm

  25. …does Paul think we should get out of the Mideast, or not? If he does, then I think his opinions are indistinguishable from OBL’s.

    I think Paul is far from the only person in Washington who agree with OBL that we should get out of the Mideast.

    Your comparison is quite flawed.

    Comment by Tim J. — May 16, 2007 @ 7:56 pm

  26. I rarely interject into political discussions, but I find it frustrating that individuals, Connor on this thread, take OBL at face value. OBL follows a form of Islam that forces fellow Muslims to practice as he does. There is no foreign policy rational for that. He attacked the US, and chances are it has nothing to do with foreign policy – we are infidels and heathens. He seems to be smart enough to figure out that a number of Americans like to blame the US first, so why not use that in his statements – that way he is just preaching to the choir anytime he blames the US for his terrorist acts.

    Comment by Gilgamesh — May 16, 2007 @ 8:15 pm

  27. Tim,

    So you think OBL would have still attacked us on 9/11 even if we had had no presence whatsover in the Middle East at the time? I’m sorry, but that seems a little ridiculous.

    Tim, what I am saying is that our policy decisions should not be driven by what OBL says, since he is off his rocker. During the decade of the 90s, we imposed sanctions on Iraq. OBL says he attacked us because of that. The rightness or wrongness of the sanctions should be discussed without reference to OBL. In WWII, Hitler objected to the presence of our ships in the North Atlantic. Should we have re-routed our ships because of that little pissant’s opinion?

    Ian, in general, I am able to make distinctions between my fellow Mormons and terrorists. Are you saying that you cannot?

    Comment by Mark IV — May 16, 2007 @ 8:21 pm

  28. There is no foreign policy rational for that.

    This is a point that Paul made several times. Middle Eastern politics are an irrational beast.

    He attacked the US, and chances are it has nothing to do with foreign policy – we are infidels and heathens.

    If that’s the case, where are the attacks on any number of other “heathen nations”? Why focus on the USA?

    Comment by Connor — May 16, 2007 @ 8:40 pm

  29. Saying that some actions and policies of the government made and make a terrorist attack more likely is not the same thing as blaming the U.S. for 9/11. It’s like a person walking alone at night who gets mugged. The only people who are responsible and culpable for the mugging are the scumbag perpetrators. But that doesn’t mean that the victim didn’t put himself at risk by being out alone at night. The way I see it, the foreign policy of the U.S. has us walking out alone at night, more vulnerable to being victimized. We may have compelling reasons to be out alone at night. It might be the right thing. Sometimes you just have to go out. But it’s legitimate to question whether it’s prudent to do so in a given situation. And it’s wise to avoid dark alleys and dangerous neighborhoods if at all possible.

    One dark alley is Israel. I’m not at all sure that the U.S. needs to be such a staunch supporter of Israel. I don’t know enough of the ins and outs of that situation to say for sure. But it’s obvious to me that our support of Israel over the years has made it so that we’re more likely to be reviled and attacked by enemies of Israel. I can’t see it any other way. It’s also true that we’ve stepped on toes around the world and that we continue to step on toes. We may or may not be justified in doing so in a given instance. But one thing I know is that we have to be able to have that debate without being accused of blaming the victim or of being traitors. The stakes are too high to just believe that our own policies and actions can’t make it more likely that we be attacked.

    Comment by Tom — May 16, 2007 @ 8:43 pm

  30. Connor:

    If that’s the case, where are the attacks on any number of other “heathen nations”?

    Spain, Bali, Britain . . .

    Comment by Mark IV — May 16, 2007 @ 8:44 pm

  31. Thanks Mark IV – and adding attacks in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

    Comment by Gilgamesh — May 16, 2007 @ 8:55 pm

  32. “Spain, Bali, Britain”

    Spain and Britain were both in Iraq at the time they were attacked–remember SPain pulled out immediately following the bombings.

    The attack in Bali specifically targeted Austrailian (another U.S ally and invader of Iraq) and British citizens–well over half the victims in that bombing hailed from these two countries.

    You’re proving our point.

    Comment by Tim J. — May 16, 2007 @ 9:03 pm

  33. Tim,

    And you are proving my point. Do you really want to give people like OBL veto power over U.S. policy?

    Comment by Mark IV — May 16, 2007 @ 9:07 pm

  34. What veto power? What are you talking about?

    I seriously don’t understand your stance on this. It seems clear that Al-Qaeda is targeting countries who are trying to “take over” the Middle East as seen from their POV. I don’t think they have a checklist of freedom-loving countries that they’re going to attack next.

    Comment by Tim J. — May 16, 2007 @ 9:11 pm

  35. Rusty, I haven’t read all the replies, just the main post, and the reason Ron Paul doesn’t fit the Republican mold is because he’s actually a Libertarian who got elected on the Republican ticket. He’s got a lot in common with Reps, but on social and moral issues you’ll find him on the left. Personally, he’s my guy for 2008, but I’m LP so I guess I’m biased.

    Comment by David J — May 16, 2007 @ 9:18 pm

  36. If you’re saying OBL shouldn’t decide our foreign policy, well, I’d say he already has.

    Comment by Tim J. — May 16, 2007 @ 9:18 pm

  37. Tim,

    Thanks for allowing me to try to explain. You seem (and please correct me if I’m wrong) to be saying that we should get out of the Mideast because al-Qaeda will attack us if we don’t. I’m saying that we might have good reasons to be there. We can debate the legitimacy of those reasons, but I am unwilling to let the our decisions in the Mideast be driven by what OBL might think. That is what I mean by giving him veto power. His POV is pretty twisted, and I’m wary of U.S. politicians who sound like him.

    Comment by Mark IV — May 16, 2007 @ 9:21 pm

  38. I haven’t said one way or the other if I think we should leave the Middle East. That is completely beside the point.

    The point is simply, why did Osama Bin Laden attack us on 9/11?

    If I say it had a lot to do with our interests in the Middle East at the time, apparently you believe that I think we should no longer have interests in the Middle East. It would be like you believing that he attacked us solely for being freedom-loving, therefore I believe that you think we’re too freedom-loving.

    Hopefully you see there’s a big disconnect.

    Comment by Tim J. — May 16, 2007 @ 9:27 pm

  39. Tim,

    You haven’t said we should leave the Mideast, but Ron Paul has. Since this thread is really about what he and Giuliani think, and not what you and I think, it is not beside the point, therefore there is no disconnect.

    The point is simply, why did Osama Bin Laden attack us on 9/11?

    The question presupposes that OBL’s actions are capable of rational explanation. I do not believe that they are.

    Comment by Mark IV — May 16, 2007 @ 9:35 pm

  40. “The question presupposes that OBL’s actions are capable of rational explanation. I do not believe that they are.”

    This is one of your many mistaken beliefs. However much Bin Laden’s motivations, goals, dreams and beliefs might not be explained rationally, his actions follow a very well-thought out strategy that is quite clear in his many writings.

    Giuliani, of course, unlike much of the current administration, is both well-informed and rational, and his feigned outrage was nothing but demagoguery.

    One that I was surprised at was that Steven Spielberg, hired to produce the Beijing 2008 Olympic opening and closing ceremonies only recently found out about the situation in Darfur and the Chinese complicity in that regime’s crimes. Now he’s not quite sure what to do (having preached to us in Schindler’s List, after all). Darfur has only been big news for 5 or 6 years now. Maybe, like President Bush, he doesn’t read the papers.

    Comment by Bill — May 16, 2007 @ 10:56 pm

  41. 1. I often wonder about this as well. The ‘failed foreign policy explanation,’ not to be confused with the ‘Maybe the terrorists are right explanation’ (there is a difference), has been bandied about by just about every foreign policy and intelligence group in the world, including the American intelligence agencies … but not those creepy American thinktanks. Is Rudy unaware, or is his head in the sand … or has he just leapt on the chance to say ’9/11′ a few more times, since that’s his only reason for running?

    2. From my reading and experience, foreign policy decisions have definitely made moderate Muslims more extreme. I have read that most Westerners underestimate the significaance of the Palestinian situation in the Islamic world. There is a sense that the West is too free and corrupt, especially relating to women, but recruitment for extremist groups has been more political and less cultural. That’s based on Foreign Affairs articles.

    Comment by Norbert — May 17, 2007 @ 12:26 am

  42. Rusty right, Mark wrong. Sorry, Markus. I still love you.

    We make a terrible mistake in painting our enemies simply as loons and ignoring their rhetoric. Understanding some of the man from Braunau am Inn’s arguments, some of them justified (e.g. Versailles), does not make one an apologist for said Braunaer.

    And beware a Giuliani rant: he’s a lame 9/11 opportunist. He knew what point Paul was making, but ignored that in order to score political points. I share Rusty’s pain.

    Comment by Ronan — May 17, 2007 @ 12:35 am

  43. It dawns on me that Giuliani didn’t know what Paul was talking about, viz., that the US and the UK have been bombing Iraq since 1992. (Collective amnesia is a powerful drug.)

    Now, recognising that said bombing has irked Bin Laden, his cronies, and the “Arab street,” does not necessarily mean that the bombing was not justified, nor that it “excuses” 9/11, but with foreign policy you have to deal with the actual grievances and not junk myths like “they hate our freedom.”

    In short, there’s a debate to be had on US foreign policy, but Giuliani doesn’t want to have it, because pumping the 9/11 handle does him a power of good.

    Bollocks, all of it.

    Comment by Ronan — May 17, 2007 @ 1:35 am

  44. Mark,


    The question presupposes that OBL’s actions are capable of rational explanation. I do not believe that they are.

    If you are to get a healthy understanding of your “enemy,” then you ought to take his own reasoning at face value. Just because you see him as a genocidal maniac does not mean that that is actually the case. Don’t get caught up in the techniques he employs, because doing so means you don’t see the real rationale (however rational or irrational) behind his actions.

    Frankly, from seeing the way he’s planned everything out, he’s as rational as you and I, just, well, bloodier than you and I. But see, Mark, do you rationalize the use of violence to get your means? Did you back the war in Iraq? That’s all it is, the use of violence to get your way. The difference is that outwardly we don’t target civilians. The problem is that we accept civilian deaths as “collateral damage,” and as such in the eyes of the people we attack, they don’t see a difference between us and our “enemy.” They kill civilians, we kill civilians, just who is for the civilians?

    Comment by Dan — May 17, 2007 @ 3:49 am

  45. Anonymous Liberal has an interesting point about “agreeing” with Bin Laden.

    Guess who has agreed with Bin Laden a lot, and who has used his “irrational” beliefs to bolster his own views? Why none other than your dear president, George W. Bush:

    In a long rant about Congressman Ron Paul’s performance at the second GOP presidential debate, Jonah Goldberg somehow manages to type the following words without collapsing into a hypocrisy induced coma:

    Even more annoying, [Ron] Paul seems to invest in bin Laden a certain strategic omnipotence and takes his word for everything. This is usually a leftwing trope. The terrorists are “delighted” we’re in Iraq, he claims, because Osama bin Laden says so. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t . . . But either way, why on earth is their opinion dispositive?

    He asks: “So, in other words, Osama bin Laden & Co. get to determine the legitimacy of our policies . . . ?”

    George W. Bush, September 5, 2006:

    These terrorists hope to drive America and our coalition out of Afghanistan, so they can restore the safe haven they lost when coalition forces drove them out five years ago. But they’ve made clear that the most important front in their struggle against America is Iraq — the nation bin Laden has declared the “capital of the Caliphate.” Hear the words of bin Laden: “I now address… the whole… Islamic nation: Listen and understand… The most… serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War… [that] is raging in [Iraq].” He calls it “a war of destiny between infidelity and Islam.” He says, “The whole world is watching this war,” and that it will end in “victory and glory or misery and humiliation.” For al Qaeda, Iraq is not a distraction from their war on America — it is the central battlefield where the outcome of this struggle will be decided. . . .

    Despite these strategic setbacks, the enemy will continue to fight freedom’s advance in Iraq, because they understand the stakes in this war. Again, hear the words of bin Laden, in a message to the American people earlier this year. He says: “The war is for you or for us to win. If we win it, it means your defeat and disgrace forever.” . . .

    Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them. The question is: Will we listen? Will we pay attention to what these evil men say? America and our coalition partners have made our choice. We’re taking the words of the enemy seriously.

    Seriously, what planet has Goldberg been living on for the last few years? Quoting Bin Laden has been a staple of the President’s war rhetoric for a long time now. Bush’s entire point is that we have to “take his word” and that his statements “determine the legitimacy of our policy.” This argument has been a fixture of nearly every speech the President has delivered for at least the past two years. Yet somehow this style of argument “annoys” Goldberg when he hears it from a lower-tier Republican candidate. He complains that it’s such a “leftwing trope.”

    Good grief.

    It is disingenuous of anyone to criticize them using the words of Bin Laden to understand Bin Laden when that person’s own president, the man he supports, does the exact same thing. Bush uses Bin Laden’s words to justify Bush’s actions in the Middle East. What does that say about Bush?

    Comment by Dan — May 17, 2007 @ 4:36 am

  46. Gentlemen:

    It was a debate among candidates. Of course Rudi was making political hay. My point is that Mr. Paul was, too. That format, in which you only have a few seconds to respond, is not the place or time to engage in a serious analysis of the causes for 9/11. I distrust anyone whose first answer to that question in that format is: We made them do it to us. Candidates running in 1944 managed to refrain from saying that we provoked the Japanese and Germans, (although some our policies undoubtedly contributed to the war) and it is not asking too much to ask that Mr. Paul find a different venue to sell Fortress America. Paul made naked, cynical use of that tragedy to push his isolationist views, and Rudi then made use of him. So it goes. It is my opinion, however, that a world with an isolationist America is a dangerous world. See 1917 and 1939.

    It isn’t that I think we shouldn’t take OBL seriously. I think we ought to be careful about assuming he is rational. This is a man who believes that Jews drink the blood of Arab children. How, exactly, do we make sense of that?

    Comment by Mark IV — May 17, 2007 @ 5:29 am

  47. Mark,

    I agree with your first paragraph in #46, but not the second.

    One of the big fallacies in America is that “there’s just no understanding them crazy folk.”


    FBI profilers do it all the time. Crazy people are eminently understandable and predictable if you pay attention and devote some brain power to it.

    But if it comes to that, I don’t see Osama as particularly “crazy.”

    He’s just taking the same stance against us that he did against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. I actually read US magazine articles about the guy back in the 1980s. Back then, he was described as a canny and resourceful freedom fighter. If he had flown a plane into a downtown Moscow office building in 1986, what would the world reaction have been?

    Well, I like to think we would have been saddened at the civilian deaths. But honestly, don’t you think that an awful lot of Americans would have felt that the USSR “had it coming?” Would they have been right?

    I’m not equating 2001 USA with 1980s USSR. I just bring it up to raise the point that there’s more than one way to view Osama bin Laden and whose side you are on makes a difference.

    If you want to talk about senseless acts of destruction, consider the US fire-bombing raids over Dresden and Tokyo. The US warplanes would carpet large swaths of Tokyo with incendiary bombs. US military scientists had figured out that if you could start enough relatively small fires throughout a city, eventually all the fires would start to suck in the needed oxygen all at once. The result was often 100 mile per hour winds as multiple large blazes sucked in air from the surrounding metropolitan region. These hurricane force winds created a massive explosion of fire within the fallout zones of Dresden and Tokyo (like when you blow on a campfire). People were incinerated on the spot. Civilians suffocated to death in bomb shelters as all the oxygen was expended. In Tokyo, where all residences were largely made of wood and paper, the effect was catastrophic. Entire neighborhoods were vaporized. Civilian death skyrocketed. Not just factories were being targeted – schools, residences, churches all got caught in the death zone.

    The raids on Tokyo actually caused more death and destruction than both atom bombs combined.

    These raids were conducted deliberately by US military strategists with the aim of demoralizing the German and Japanese people. They knew they were targeting civilians specifically and felt that US aims in the war justified it.

    Yet you talk to the pilots who flew over Dresden today. One or two express a bit of remorse. But they immediately point out that we were at war and “the krauts had it coming to them.” They were soldiers and did what they were ordered.

    Where’s the line here? Who’s right? And don’t try to tell me it’s clear-cut. The world isn’t divided into “normal people” on one side of the playground and “crazy people” on the other. Your typical suicide bomber tends to be young, idealistic and well-educated. Not hopeless losers in abject poverty with nothing left to lose. Nor are they necessarily unhinged maniacs.

    Seriously, can you see no situation in which you wouldn’t be willing to blow yourself up for a divine ideal?

    Also realize that just because the US spent more money in bombing Dresden, had a more organized command structure, and a semblance of democratic legitimacy for the destruction, that doesn’t change what it was at it’s heart – a targeted attack on civilians of incredible destructiveness. For sheer destructive power, the raids on Tokyo dwarfed the World Trade Center collapse.

    The battlefield today is different. The Gulf War proved that none can compete with the US by conventional means. Any Islamist who tries to get into a strait-up firefight with the US is going to lose badly.

    So why do we keep expecting them to “fight like a man?” Or “fight fair?” They’d be stupid to fight to our strengths. You want to fight the US today, the only successful and proven method is exactly what al Quaeda is doing.

    I don’t rule out the possibility that Osama bin Laden is mad. But I actually doubt that he is. Ideologically one-sided yes. Ruthlessly brutal yes.

    But then, so was General Patton, so was General Sherman.

    I don’t know Mark. Your view of the terrorists is pretty common in the US, especially in red states.

    But I think it’s overly simplistic and one-sided.

    Painting the enemy as a one-dimensional monster is an intellectual cop-out in my mind.

    Comment by Seth R. — May 17, 2007 @ 6:30 am

  48. Ronan, I am surprised to see you roundly refute the idea that Muslim terrorists hate the freedoms and democracy of the West, and of the United States in particular. Of course, war is complicated and the reasons for the 9/11 attack certainly relate to US and UK foreign policy, but none of that means that Muslim terrorists and fundamentalists want that brothel around the corner from your flat in Vienna to be legal, as it is. In fact, Muslim terrorists and fundamentalists (as I thought you well knew) wish to institute a new caliphate in which Sharia governs. Under Sharia, Ronan, as you well know, not only that brothel around the corner from you goes, but also the Buddha statues, any semblance of a right to religious freedom, speech, assembly, press, the right to exist unoppressed for women or even to walk around without full body covering, and a host of rights and freedoms much too long to catologue right here. Chief among those, however, are such “cultural” things as the due process of law.

    Muslim terrorists and fundamentalists are killing moderate Muslims. The Sunni terrorists are killing the Shiite terrorists. All of them are just freedom fighters, killing anyone who disagrees with their preferred caliphate. The agenda is to force everyone, not just the West, to live in this caliphate. In many ways it appears that these religious aspirations, fully political and genocidal in nature, are independent of whatever foreign policy is pursued by the target of the violence. OBL and his peers want to kill all Muslims as infidels as well who do not share his vision of the Islamic future, not just big Western countries who have foreign policies.

    Comment by john f. — May 17, 2007 @ 6:34 am

  49. Ronan lives around the corner from a brothel? I knew it . . .

    Comment by Mark IV — May 17, 2007 @ 6:43 am

  50. Seth,

    You make some sense, but I do not agree with your conclusions.

    I am able to see the difference between Patton and Sherman on one hand, and OBL on the other. Sure, our policies in WWII targeted civilians, and Sherman said that he “intends to make Georgia howl”. I would compare our policies to radical chemotherapy as treatment for cancer, where you almost have to kill the body in an attempt to save it. The fact is that the warmaking of both Patton and Sherman resulted in greater self-determination for those they defeated. I do not believe that OBL has such benign intentions for us.

    Painting the enemy as a one-dimensional monster is an intellectual cop-out in my mind.

    Seth, brother, you’re preaching to the choir. My only purpose on this thread has been to argue against the idea that America is the great Satan.

    Comment by Mark IV — May 17, 2007 @ 7:01 am

  51. Mark,

    My only purpose on this thread has been to argue against the idea that America is the great Satan.

    I don’t think anyone on this thread is saying America is the Great Satan. But we’re not innocent angels either. Can you acknowledge an in between where America has done some pretty bad things, as well as good?

    Comment by Dan — May 17, 2007 @ 7:16 am

  52. Dan,

    Sure. I know for sure that America has done some absolutely rotten things. I can acknowledge that and simultaneously hold the opinion that American influence is a force for good in the world.

    Comment by Mark IV — May 17, 2007 @ 7:25 am

  53. is doing

    Comment by Chino Blanco — May 17, 2007 @ 7:28 am

  54. Hey guys,

    We were attacked on 9-11 because we stand in the way of the establishment of a Islamic Caliphate that would overrun the middle east and eventually spread as far as possible.

    The reasons are much much deeper then 15-20 year old US policies in the middle east.

    They go back to the 7th century and a vision of Islamic supremacy governing the world under Sharia law.

    They see it as Islam vs the infidels a religious war. Our enemies are un-hindered by PC notions about the situation.

    Comment by bbell — May 17, 2007 @ 7:35 am

  55. bbell, you’ve been bamboozled.

    Comment by Chino Blanco — May 17, 2007 @ 7:37 am

  56. I guess a more interesting question is whether there are really people who do not believe that the goal of Muslim terrorists is to rid their society of infidels and to impose Sharia in a new caliphate.

    Comment by john f. — May 17, 2007 @ 7:41 am

  57. Bali happened before Iraq. Check your dates


    There is something much deeper going on then western foreign policy.

    Brits and French did not help by setting up the current map of the middle east of course. thanks Ronan……Limey :)

    OBL started attacking us in 1993 after all. Troops in Saudi in 1990 made him a bit mad but its the Caliphate and Sharia in the end.

    Comment by bbell — May 17, 2007 @ 7:44 am

  58. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharia

    Neutral info. not very partisan. Its hard to look outside ones political paradigms sometimes

    Comment by bbell — May 17, 2007 @ 7:59 am

  59. Here’s an article worth reading on the Paul/Giulani debate issue.

    Comment by Connor — May 17, 2007 @ 8:02 am

  60. bbell,

    9/11 did not happen because of the Caliphate. It happened because Bin Laden wanted us out of Saudi Arabia. He’s observed us well enough to know we’re fairly predictable in our reactions. Attacking Iraq was a predictable response.

    OBL started attacking us in 1993 after all. Troops in Saudi in 1990 made him a bit mad but its the Caliphate and Sharia in the end.

    I’m curious, (because I really haven’t studied OBL’s words—to me he really is just a cave-dwelling thuggish millionaire), but what has Bin Laden himself stated about the Caliphate?

    Secondly, what are the differences in how Sunnis and Shi’ites see the Caliphate? Bin Laden, being a Sunni, might have a different viewpoint than the Ayatollah of Iran about what the Caliphate is all about and how he will “return.”

    It seems this really big divide in the Muslim world is not well understood in America. Sunnis and Shi’ites really fundamentally disagree on the interpretation of Islam. And, if I am not mistaken, most of the Muslim world is Sunni, whilst Shi’ites are mostly in Iran and southern Iraq. The rest of the Muslim world is Sunni. So, the Caliphate is what, a Sunni or a Shi’ite? If it is a Shi’ite, just what does that mean for the Sunnis? If it is a Sunni, just what does that mean for a Shi’ite? Do Americans honestly think that Sunnis will readily accept a Shi’ite Caliphate? Do Americans honestly think that Shi’ites will accept a Sunni Caliphate? Seeing that this Caliphate won’t actually have real godly powers, because there is only one Jesus Christ and only one God, what evidence does anyone have that this Caliphate will have any power to convert the other half of the Islamic world to his side?

    Comment by Dan — May 17, 2007 @ 8:04 am

  61. Connor,

    Your link doesn’t work.

    Comment by Dan — May 17, 2007 @ 8:04 am

  62. One more try:


    Comment by Connor — May 17, 2007 @ 8:19 am

  63. Bali happened before Iraq. Check your dates.

    But not Afghanistan.

    From the article you linked:

    “A week after the blasts Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera put to air an audio-cassette purportedly carrying a recorded voice message from Osama Bin Laden saying that the Bali bombings were in direct retaliation for support of the United States’ war on terror and Australia’s role in the liberation of East Timor.[6]“

    Comment by Tim — May 17, 2007 @ 8:24 am

  64. bbell,

    I’m looking at the wikipedia description of the Caliphate, and well, frankly, I’m wondering where the bogeyman is in all that. Really. It actually looks like something possibly good for the world of Islam. I mean it was under Caliphates that they excelled, that they advanced. Seriously what has the Islamic world done in the past 80 years that has been of any worth to the world around them?

    Comment by Dan — May 17, 2007 @ 8:30 am

  65. Rusty – You’ve really created a firestorm here. I haven’t seen this much interest or passion in any of your previous posts. Good Job!

    I wish I was well enoughed versed in Middle East politics to be able to respond to the comments made above. My basic belief is that Ron Paul made a legitimate point in simply saying theat the U.S. is not totally innocent in the whole 9/11 issue. But for me it is as much a domestic policy issue as foreign policy. I’m not sure how old the rest of you are but I was in the middle of my college career when the first major oil crisis occured. Gas prices quarupled and we all vowed to search for alternative energy sources. And we did begin to look at alternatives for the energy that heats and cools our homes. But in more than 30 years we have done next to nothing to reduce our dependence on oil to operate our cars or to promote public transportation.

    Comment by Lamonte — May 17, 2007 @ 8:33 am

  66. Sorry I hit the button too fast and didn’t finish.

    In the past 30 years we have, in fact, increased our dependence on oil. Even hibrid cars STILL use oil products. And so we find it necessary to remain planted in the middle east. Is there any other good reason for us to be there. Oh yes, we are friends with Isreal and they need our help. I support that issue but I think that sometimes, as their friend, they need a kick in the butt from us as much as anything else. And blind support for everything they do will not bring peace to the region.

    Comment by Lamonte — May 17, 2007 @ 8:37 am

  67. john f,

    I do agree somewhat on the sharia issue, but note that the countries attacked by Al-Qaida were not chosen because they are “free,” but were chosen because of their involvement in the Middle East. No-one attacked Sweden or Switzerland.

    Yes, there is a brothel 2 minutes from my house. “Red Hot 69,” or something. (Sorry for the Google pull on that one, Rusty!)

    Comment by Ronan — May 17, 2007 @ 8:55 am

  68. Seth, my boy, you made an excellent point. There is a cold, cruel logic about OBL’s tactics.

    Comment by Ronan — May 17, 2007 @ 9:03 am

  69. And I can’t resist:
    John, if you were mayor of Vienna, would you try and close the brothels?

    Comment by Ronan — May 17, 2007 @ 9:04 am

  70. Ronan,

    In the US it would be good politics for a politician to go after houses of ill repute. (Exception is Las Vegas). That could change someday though.

    Comment by bbell — May 17, 2007 @ 9:46 am

  71. Ronan, I’m glad you asked that. That’s why I chose the brothel example. Maybe I would push to close it. Morally, I would feel that it the right thing to do although a careful look at the policy arguments behind legalizing them might change my mind–i am after all interested in helping victims of abuse, which prostitutes are in constant danger of experiencing. Whatever I would do as mayor of Vienna, her is what I would not do either as mayor of Vienna or as a regular old joe: strap a bomb to myself or to my kids or wife and blow up a school or a police station or an office tower in order to force people to comply with a caliphate that I want to set up in which everyone is subject to sharia.

    I used the brothel example because a brothel is something that many people, both religious and ireeligious, can agree does not belong nestled among family dwellings with children running around, etc. But the other things on that list are things that only a few who really do hate democratic feedoms would want to eliminate. From my observation, Ronan, Muslim terrorists and fundamentalists really do want to cleanse society of those freedoms precisely so that they can live in a new caliphate governed by sharia.

    As you will notice from my comment above, I agree that US and UK foreign policy decisions in the Middle East contributed to OBL’s specific intent to do 9/11, but that is only part of what is going on here. Moreover, as you know, it is rarely appropriate to blame victims of such atrocity for bringing it on themselves. For example, no matter what Bush I and Clinton had done for foreign policy in the Middle East (let’s remember that 9/11 occured only a few months after GWB came into office) Ms. X, lawyer, Mr. Y, investment banker, Mrs. Z, janitor, etc. had nothing to do with it–most of those who died had probably never been to the middle east and yet the Muslim terrorists considered them legitimate–even prime–targets.

    Let’s not say the US “deserved” 9/11, unless we’re really willing to take such a severe view of Clinton’s legacy (and again, since when does a mere foreign policy merit mass murder in response?), which we shouldn’t be. Also, let’s not say that just because there really are things in US and UK foreign policy that really angered Muslim extremists, that Muslim extremists don’t hate our freedoms and our democracies. We know they do hate things. They are fundamentally incompatible with their vision of a new caliphate and a society subjected entirely to a totalitarian and intrinsically cruel sharia.

    Comment by john f. — May 17, 2007 @ 10:13 am

  72. Please excuse the typos in my last comment. I am typing on a blackberry at the moment.

    Comment by john f. — May 17, 2007 @ 10:23 am

  73. john f.,

    Wait, why are you blaming Clinton’s policies towards the Middle East, when in reality OBL’s hatred stems from events pre-Clinton? It wasn’t Clinton who put American soldiers in Saudi Arabia. In fact, in regards to the Middle East, Clinton has done one of the few things that could possibly undermine Bin Laden’s goals and beliefs: make peace between Israel and her Arab neighbors. Clinton got a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan.

    I take exception to criticism of Clinton regarding the Middle East. Few presidents have made as many efforts to bring Muslims and Jews closer together and at peace than Clinton has.

    And if you bring up Somalia, it was again, not Clinton who sent Americans into Somalia, and it wasn’t Clinton who voted for the withdrawal of troops from Somalia either. That was George H. W. Bush who sent the troops in, and Republican Senators and House members who voted for their withdrawal against Clinton’s advice.

    I know Republicans don’t like Clinton, but really, let’s not take any swipes at him when it isn’t necessary…

    Comment by Dan — May 17, 2007 @ 10:24 am

  74. mere foreign policy ?

    Is our royally botching the job in Iraq merely foreign policy?

    Geez, I’d hate to be on the receiving end of someone else’s foreign policy if they happenend to model theirs after ours.

    Let’s not say Iraq “deserved” us, unless we’re really willing to forsake everything just to help Bush with his CYA-until-08 project.

    Comment by Chino Blanco — May 17, 2007 @ 10:42 am

  75. Dan,

    Done. We tag anything that has “Democrat”, like your handle’s link.

    Comment by Tim — May 17, 2007 @ 10:59 am

  76. Ronan,

    Imagaine for a moment what wouild happen if Sharia law was implemented in Vienna. This is a possiblity in the next 100 years by the way.

    1. That brothel would be closed and its sex workers punished. Whippings stonings etc
    2. Alchohol places closed
    3. Art museums and theatres closed
    4. Gays persecuted far beyond even Jerry Falwells wildest fantasies. Rather then being denied marriage they would be imprisoned and publicly executed
    5. Non muslims put into ghettos and forced to pay the Dhimmi tax
    6. Christians Jews athiests etc faced with massive pressure and discrimination in all facets of life from legal to schooling
    7. Converts from Islam to Christianity executed
    8. Women brutally repressed with honor killings, polygamy, genital mutliation, legal Koranic wife abuse……. etc
    9. Bibles shredded by customs officers at the airports and train stations

    A close look at present day Sunni S Arabia and Shia Iran shiow all of these items on my list above

    This is what the jihadists are in the end after. The question is can they….

    1. Become the majority in the islamic world. The struggle of the mod muslims against the extremists is going on now. Its probably 80-90 percent moderate vs 10-20 extremist right now. That could change over time. This is were our FP matters. Nobody really knows what the correct FP is to help the moderates. Abandon Isreal? De-recognize the corrupt arab governments? Nuke the S Arabia capital? (joke), Give Egypt 100BB annually? Walk away from the whole thing and let them work it out?
    If you know what will work then you should be the next Sec of State

    2. Somehow defeat the West and impose Sharia law starting in Europe. The most likely method of winning this is simple demographics spread out over 2-4 generations. It appears very possible

    Comment by bbell — May 17, 2007 @ 11:20 am

  77. and we are doing what exactly to support the mod muslims?

    Oh, right, we’re killing them.

    Good strategy.

    Imagine for a moment that you’re totally wrong.

    Comment by Chino Blanco — May 17, 2007 @ 11:40 am

  78. Chino,

    Then express your take on it. All you are doing is sniping. Not engaging in the realm of ideas.

    Comment by bbell — May 17, 2007 @ 11:59 am

  79. bbell,

    1. jihadists cannot become the majority in the Muslim world, and they won’t. They will for a good long time remain the minority. Muslims are not the anti-Christ. The anti-Christ will be someone who will fool people into believing he is the actual Christ, and well, Muslims don’t believe in the divinity of the Savior, so what Christian is going to believe a Muslim who pretends to be the Savior? As such, we need to tone down on what we think will happen in the Middle East, or prophecy becomes self-fulfilling and we would be at the heart of that violence. The prophecies concerning the last days speak about the world being at war, NOT with the Saints, but with each other, and that the stakes of Zion would be a refuge from that violence. What this means is that the stakes of Zion will NOT be at war with the world around them.

    The problem with the way so many Americans are looking at the problems of the Middle East is that we hyper-hype the real threat and danger from extremists within the world of Islam. Our rhetoric and sabre-rattling only give them more credibility. The violence these extremists do on others is quite strong for what it is, but it pales in comparison to the violence that can be induced by a state against another state. As a good example, look at the death tolls of the various battles between Germany and Russia in both World War I and World War II. Many of the world’s bloodiest battles took place there, where some battles took the lives of well over several million poor souls. These extremists in the world of Islam have nowhere near that kind of potential power of destruction. A state like Iran is not an extremist state in the same sense as these “terrorists.” Sure they use proxy actors like Hezbollah for their skirmishes. But that is all they are. Skirmishes. Iran is a rational actor in the game. I’ve yet to see Iran make a fundamentally bad move. To this point they’ve positioned themselves quite well to emerge as a stronger power in the Middle East and in the world than we give them credit for. Men like Bin Laden do not have this potential or power. The best they could do was team up with a thuggish Taliban ruling over the world’s worst failed state. That’s the best they could do.

    The more we look at the situation realistically, the more we see we are over-hyping the real danger of these terrorists. No doubt they have the ability through bombs and suicide missions to kill people, but, and here is the key important point, they do not have the power of law over anyone. Certainly not over any American.

    2. These guys will never defeat the West, mainly for some of the points I made in the first point. They just don’t have that kind of real power. Their real strength comes from making others react to them. That’s their strength. The more we marginalize them, instead of over-hype them, the more they lose. The more we get Arabs to be at peace with Israel and the West, the more they lose. Peace is the answer, not war.

    And certainly Muslims will not take over Europe, certainly not before the Second Coming. If you look at the numbers, Muslims are a small minority in most European countries—the only countries where they are a large plurality or majority are Balkan states. France has the highest among Western European countries at 9% of the population being Muslim. 9%. That’s it. England is at like 4% if I remember correctly. Germany is at like 3%, and so on. You also have to take into consideration the origin of these Muslims, as the world of Islam is certainly not unified, and the press for a Caliphate is definitely not unified. French Muslims are mostly from Algeria. German Muslims are mostly from Turkey. English Muslims are mostly from Pakistan, and so on. Their origins say a lot about the kinds of Muslims they are. Note that you hardly hear of violence from Muslims in Germany. Yet Muslims in Britain seem to get pretty violent. I think that speaks more about their origin than anything else.

    I’m sorry, but all the hype is not an accurate look at the world of Islam. And I am afraid that our actions are detrimental and self-inflicting wounds that will come back to haunt us.

    Comment by Dan — May 17, 2007 @ 1:24 pm

  80. Tim,

    Why do you tag “Democrat?”

    Comment by Dan — May 17, 2007 @ 1:25 pm

  81. John,
    No-one is talking about “excusing” OBL and you ought not to bring that up. It’s a red herring and a lazy smear.

    I’m aware what sharia entails and I am confident that shrill prophecies of Europistan are inaccurate.

    Here’s how to support moderates in the Middle East: support moderates. Get one’s nose out of Saud’s arse, don’t support Israeli bombings of Christian Lebanon, and don’t promote the death and exodus of Iraq’s middle class. Wait a minute…whoops!

    Comment by Ronan — May 17, 2007 @ 1:41 pm

  82. Ronan,

    I agree that the Saud relationship is a bad deal. I personally think that we should stop propping up the corrupt govments like Egypt or Jordan.

    Not sure how Christian Lebanon is anymore. There has been a mass exodus of Christians along with a real low birthrate amongst Christians.

    Its a demographic test case of what happens when a low reproducing Christian country has a large fecund Muslim minority.

    From Wiki:
    “Religious population statistics
    Note: stateless Palestinians and Syrians are not included in the below statistics, since they do not hold Lebanese citizenship. The numbers only include the present population of Lebanon, and not the Lebanese diaspora.

    The 1932 census stated that Christians made up 55% of the population. Maronites, largest among the Christian sects and then largely in control of the state appartus, accounted for 29% of the total population. But since the 19th century, Muslim birth rates have been continually higher than Christian birth rates, with the fastest population increase among the Twelver Shi’a. Also, far larger numbers of Christians emigrated from Lebanon than Muslims.

    Today, there is general consensus that Muslims constitute a solid majority of the population; the CIA world factbook estimates their share to be 60% [3]. Still, there is no single sect constituting a majority of the population by itself. The Shi’a is the largest community, thought in 1985 to be 41% of the population [4]. Since then, their numbers have increased even more, while other communities have decreased due to emigration, and some sources indicate they may be close to 50% of the population. There is no consensus on this number, and the Shi’a proportion of Lebanon’s population is among the most widely disputed figures of Lebanese demographics. The Shi’a has, as the traditionally poorest community, had a high birth rate, and they have had no natural emigration outlet, while most Christians had extensive contacts with Europe, Canada (especially in French speaking areas, like Montreal), Australia, the United States and Latin America; and the Sunnis could easily relocate to any neighbouring Arab country, since they constitute a majority in most of the country.”

    Also if you add in the presence of stateless Muslim Palestinians and Syrians you get a population that is about 70% Muslim

    Its a cautionary tale that relates to my #2 above.

    Comment by bbell — May 17, 2007 @ 2:06 pm

  83. Dan, I am pretty sure he was kidding (about tagging democrat) because such is not indicated in my software. But it will automatically moderate comments with three or more links. Otherwise, I do not know why some of the comments are being held, but I release them when I see that they are there.

    Comment by Rusty — May 17, 2007 @ 2:28 pm

  84. bbell,

    No, I’m not only sniping. I’m also nodding my head in agreement at everything Ronan writes. I guess you couldn’t see that. Sorry.

    Honestly, I don’t know where to begin. In your case, I’d suggest a couple blogs and call the Economist in the morning for a subscription.



    Comment by Chino Blanco — May 17, 2007 @ 2:31 pm

  85. Yeah, Dan. I was kidding. I hate using the :) because it usually ruins the joke.

    Comment by Tim — May 17, 2007 @ 2:39 pm

  86. Ah, dang internet! I didn’t get the joke until now. My bad. :(

    Comment by Dan — May 17, 2007 @ 4:14 pm

  87. Re # 73: Dan, I referred to Bush I and Clinton in my comment. “Bush I” means George H.W. Bush, or Bush Senior. That’s why there’s a Roman numeral “I” after his name in my comment.

    Re # 74: Chino Blanco, is your argument that the 2003 Iraq War is the foreign policy reason that OBL attacked the U.S. on 9/11/2001? I find that an interesting argument. Mere foreign policy before 9/11 elicited mass murder. What happened in 2003 has no bearing on why OBL perpetrated 9/11 — you’ll notice that 9/11 occurred two years before the Iraq War began. Thus, it appears that the 2003 Iraq War is unlikely to be one of the foreign policy decisions that contributed to 9/11.

    Re # 81: Ronan, I continue to be surprised at you on this topic. Did you think that I was saying that you were saying that we should excuse OBL? I did not say that. Rather, I took umbrage at the position you seem to be taking on this thread that the notion that Muslim terrorists and fundamentalists “hate our freedom and our democracy” is “bullocks”. I find it difficult to believe that you think that Muslim terrorists and fundamentalists do not hate our freedoms and our democracies.

    In none of my comments on this thread have I argued that US foreign policy from the Reagan/Bush I/Clinton era and UK foreign policy for long before that did not contribute to Muslim terrorists’ motivation to attack and attempt to destroy our societies, lifestyle, and freedoms. But the existence of such foreign policy decisions and blunders in no way implies that these people do not concurrently hate the freedoms that thrive in our democracies. These freedoms and democracies are fundamentally inimical to the vision of the world that the Muslim terrorists want to impose.

    Comment by john f. — May 18, 2007 @ 3:09 am

  88. And re # 73, Dan, please see my comment # 71 in which I state

    Let’s not say the US “deserved” 9/11, unless we’re really willing to take such a severe view of Clinton’s legacy (and again, since when does a mere foreign policy merit mass murder in response?), which we shouldn’t be.

    Please see the phrase I have put in bold here, which is also found in the original comment. Correctly interpreted, this means that we shouldn’t be taking such a view of Clinton’s foreign policies toward the Middle East.

    Comment by john f. — May 18, 2007 @ 3:13 am

  89. John,

    I am fully aware that OBL et. al. hate the West and our “sinful” lifestyle. I am also aware that there is an apocalyptic goal to resurrect the caliphate. All of this explains, I agree, some of the malicious hatred they feel. What’s bollocks is ignoring the fact that the reason the US, UK, Australia, Spain, etc. were specifically targeted among a myriad of Western powers (and not sinful Austria, for example) is linked to specific policies.

    BTW, John, it is my view that given that prostitution is an inevitable part of human society, I am happy that it is regulated here. The brothel around the corner doesn’t worry me in the slightest. For all its “sins,” heathen Vienna has the highest standard of living in Europe. I’d take legalised prostitution over the blight of crime and poverty that afflicts every similarly-sized American city any day of the week.

    I meant to say specifically Christian neighbourhoods in Lebanon. I lament every death — Christian, Druze, Jew, Muslim — in that idiotic little war last summer; the point that I was making is that if you want to support the moderate Middle East, you don’t bomb it. Lebanon’s cafe-culture Christians are just one symbol of that. When even the Christians paraded the Hezbollah flag last year, it was a further sign that we are losing the war.

    Now, I’m off to the Salzkammergut for the weekend.

    Comment by Ronan — May 18, 2007 @ 3:47 am

  90. 46:

    Candidates running in 1944 managed to refrain from saying that we provoked the Japanese and Germans…. It is my opinion, however, that a world with an isolationist America is a dangerous world. See 1917 and 1939.


    So what you are saying is that unlike the noble and true politicians of 1944, you would instrumentalize America’s failed foreign policy for political gain?


    Imagaine for a moment what wouild happen if Sharia law was implemented in Vienna. This is a possiblity in the next 100 years by the way.


    Do you have to practice right-wing shibboleths or do they come naturally?

    Comment by Peter LLC — May 18, 2007 @ 5:13 am

  91. All you are doing is sniping. Not engaging in the realm of ideas.

    Is that what you call your dim view of the future of Europe? With all seriousness, there is sometimes precious little with which to engage despite the length of the post.

    Comment by Peter LLC — May 18, 2007 @ 5:28 am

  92. John F.-

    is your argument that the 2003 Iraq War is the foreign policy reason that OBL attacked the U.S. on 9/11/2001?

    Uh, no, that’d be kinda impossible, wouldn’t it? I’m not in high school, John. I graduated from NYU in ’92.

    I didn’t understand your use of mere in your rhetorical question since when does a mere foreign policy merit mass murder in response?

    It makes it sound like the term foreign policy denotes something intrinsically benign, which I found odd, that’s all.

    Comment by Chino Blanco — May 18, 2007 @ 5:33 am

  93. Peter, I think bbell is referring to the shift in demographics that is going on in Europe right now. Lots of Muslim immigrants and the white European population is actually falling due to low childbirth rates. Some analysts predict that ethnically, Europe will look more like the Middle East within about 100 years. It’s an interesting idea, but it may prove to be unfounded, much like the cries of catastrophic overpopulation we heard in the 1970s.

    Of course, it’s a bit of a stretch to further claim that simply because Muslim immigrants are “outbreeding” white Austrians, that Vienna will soon be under Sharia law, or, if it is, that that Sharia law will look anything like what is being practiced in Iran. Seems a bit alarmist to me.

    Comment by Seth R. — May 18, 2007 @ 5:52 am

  94. from



    An in-depth poll of four major Muslim countries has found that in all of them large majorities believe that undermining Islam is a key goal of US foreign policy. Most want US military forces out of the Middle East and many approve of attacks on US troops there.

    But this does not appear to mean that the publics in these Muslim countries want to isolate themselves from the larger world. Asked how they feel about “the world becoming more connected through greater economic trade and faster communication,” majorities in all countries say it is a good thing (average 75%). While wary of Western values, overall 67 percent agree that “a democratic political system” is a good way to govern their country and 82 percent agree that in their country “people of any religion should be free to worship according to their own beliefs.”

    Comment by Chino Blanco — May 18, 2007 @ 5:52 am

  95. Personally, I have to say that the current President’s Bush’s greatest foreign policy blunder was his departure from realpolitik with its focus on real, definable nations into a neo-conservative pursuit of international criminals with the full might of the US military.

    The result has been something akin to going hunting for gophers with a howitzer.

    The “War” on terrorism was an incredibly dumb move.

    The way to handle terrorism is through international law enforcement. The US military is better used to coerce nations. It’s a lousy law enforcement tool.

    Most of our problems today can be traced to Bush’s poor choice of tools to meet US objectives.

    Comment by Seth R. — May 18, 2007 @ 6:00 am

  96. Seth,

    Of course, it’s a bit of a stretch to further claim that simply because Muslim immigrants are “outbreeding” white Austrians, that Vienna will soon be under Sharia law, or, if it is, that that Sharia law will look anything like what is being practiced in Iran. Seems a bit alarmist to me.

    Well said. I think people still don’t realize that the Muslim population in Europe is extremely small when you look at the numbers. France has the highest number at 9%, that’s right a mere 9% of the population is Muslim. That means that 91% of the French population is NOT Muslim. What is it going to take to change that number? Far more time than alarmists are crying.

    Comment by Dan — May 18, 2007 @ 6:54 am

  97. A former commandant of the Marine Corps and a former commander of CENTCOM comment on the debate:


    It is the duty of the commander in chief to lead the country away from the grip of fear, not into its grasp. Regrettably, at Tuesday night’s presidential debate in South Carolina, several Republican candidates revealed a stunning failure to understand this most basic obligation …[and] the close connection between our security and our values as a nation.

    Andrew J. Bacevich, Jr. RIP


    I can only imagine the special agony reserved for a professional military man to lose a child in a war he has now spent years arguing was a mistake … the service and the sacrifice wash the death clean of the folly of the leaders who ordered them into the battle.

    Comment by Chino Blanco — May 18, 2007 @ 7:07 am

  98. One can only hope that the Republican debates come more often and offer more glimpses of what a circular firing squad looks like.

    Comment by Chino Blanco — May 18, 2007 @ 7:23 am

  99. Krugman via Atrios:


    What we need to realize is that the infamous “Bush bubble,” the administration’s no-reality zone, extends a long way beyond the White House. Millions of Americans believe that patriotic torturers are keeping us safe, that there’s a vast Islamic axis of evil, that victory in Iraq is just around the corner, that Bush appointees are doing a heckuva job — and that news reports contradicting these beliefs reflect liberal media bias.

    And the Republican nomination will go either to someone who shares these beliefs, and would therefore run the country the same way Mr. Bush has, or to a very, very good liar.

    Comment by Chino Blanco — May 18, 2007 @ 7:40 am

  100. digby


    As US soldiers were being held prisoner, we have a group of sophomoric “24″ and “300″ fanboys telling the whole world that they just can’t get enough of torture and would really like to torture even more — to the cacophanous applause of a bunch of bloodthirsty neanderthals. More trash talk leadership. (And they have the nerve to complain that congressional debates about withdrawal are hurting the troops.)

    Comment by Chino Blanco — May 18, 2007 @ 7:48 am

  101. You know, there probably ought to be a site in the bloggernacle where people who enjoy regurgitating dailykos and huffington and greenwald can go and do it on one another, rather than on the rest of us.

    It really does get tiresome.

    Comment by Mark IV — May 18, 2007 @ 7:59 am

  102. Hey, thanks, I forgot about dailykos, huffington and greenwald. Will be back shortly, cheers.

    Comment by Chino Blanco — May 18, 2007 @ 8:06 am

  103. I think Joe Alsop was writing about the Nixon administration when he came up with his famous formulation the union of the “phony-tough” and the “crazy-brave.”

    Pardon me if I’ve grown tired of the Nixon administration.

    Comment by Chino Blanco — May 18, 2007 @ 8:10 am

  104. and, btw, if it’s OK to regurgitate administration propaganda and call it “ideas”, I figure I can cut-and-paste and call it “blogging”.

    Comment by Chino Blanco — May 18, 2007 @ 8:16 am

  105. Rudy Giuliani – When will the media expose his utter ignorance on foreign policy and national security issues?


    McCain Skips Ten Out Of 14 Latest Iraq Votes
    Liz Oxhorn, a spokeswoman for Reid, told The Hill, “Sen. McCain has spent considerable time defending the president on Iraq and catering to the Republican base on immigration, but has only managed to show up for four of the last 14 Iraq votes and parachute into [yesterday’s] immigration press conference at the last minute. Who is the real John McCain?”


    Unclaimed Territory’s not loading for some reason, oh well, I’ll get me some Greenwald later.

    Comment by Chino Blanco — May 18, 2007 @ 8:27 am

  106. The best talk I’ve ever heard was about love? :-)

    Comment by Chino Blanco — May 18, 2007 @ 8:38 am

  107. Mark,

    You know, there probably ought to be a site in the bloggernacle where people who enjoy regurgitating dailykos and huffington and greenwald can go and do it on one another, rather than on the rest of us.

    It really does get tiresome.

    I offer my blog for your services. :)

    The Good Democrat


    Comment by Dan — May 18, 2007 @ 8:40 am

  108. Andrew Sullivan shows how the Republican Leadership in Michigan is attempting to keep Ron Paul off the Primary debate there.

    Comment by Dan — May 18, 2007 @ 8:50 am

  109. Mark,

    I don’t read the Daily Kos, Greenwald, or Huffington.

    Comment by Seth R. — May 18, 2007 @ 8:54 am

  110. I also find it odd that this is news to Rudy. On the presidential candidate level, Ralph Nader was saying over and over that it was our foreign policy int he middle east that incited those that perpetrated 9/11. For Rudy to claim this is offensive is one thing. A stupid thing, but not ignorant. To claim that he has never heard of this is either a lie or a sign of amazing ignorance.

    Comment by a random John — May 18, 2007 @ 9:11 am

  111. Mark IV,

    If you’d like to engage, I’m up for moving beyond sniping and wanton linkage.

    In that spirit, I wonder what you make of this graf that I posted above:

    But this does not appear to mean that the publics in these Muslim countries want to isolate themselves from the larger world. Asked how they feel about “the world becoming more connected through greater economic trade and faster communication,” majorities in all countries say it is a good thing (average 75%). While wary of Western values, overall 67 percent agree that “a democratic political system” is a good way to govern their country and 82 percent agree that in their country “people of any religion should be free to worship according to their own beliefs.”

    I ask because you earlier commented:

    #5 I think that liberal democracy = good.

    #10 It is not responsible to assert that we were attacked on 9/11 because we forced self-government on the poor Arabs.

    It would seem that most muslims agree with you that democracy = good, but they would disagree wholeheartedly with your assertion that pre-9/11 we were doing anything to promote Arab self-government. Response?

    In all this, please take my word for it that I hope only for American success, not only in Afghanistan and in bringing the folks responsible for 9/11 to justice, but in all aspects of securing our place in the world such that Americans derive maximum benefit without forsaking our values beyond our shores.

    Comment by Chino Blanco — May 18, 2007 @ 9:25 am

  112. OK,


    Lets accept you poll data as fact….

    Why is it then that if the majority seem to accept liberal democracy principles in the 4 largest Muslim countries then why in fact do the Governments not practice these principles?

    My answer.

    1. Strongman type totalitarian regimes are in charge propped up by western aid and support
    2. There is no tradition of liberal democracy or a western concept of human rights in Islamic countries.
    3. Western style marketplace of religion is forbidden in the Koran. Non islamic religions and peoples get “Dhimmi” status

    What would replace say the Mubarek regime in Egypt if an election was held? Would a liberal pro democracy party tolerant of the Coptic Church win or would an Islamic fundy party with links to the Muslim Brotherhood win?

    I personally think that the fundy party would have decent shot at winning.

    If there was a new census in Lebanon and we got proportional representation in the country who would win the next election and form the new government? My opinion is that Hezbollah would win anybody disagree?

    So then we get to realpolitik. Should the US support open and free election is say Egypt and risk an Islamist gov or continue to support a marginally secular Mubarek regime?

    Hamas just won after all.

    Turkey seems on the verge of an eventual Fundy takeover as well. Turkish secular military stands in the way… (classic demographic case, like Lebanon)

    Anybody want to be the State department Middle east guru?

    Comment by bbell — May 18, 2007 @ 10:05 am

  113. bbell,

    The Mosaic law also states that an adultress should be stoned, yet somehow modern Israel seems to have moved beyond that.

    Is there any reason that Sharia law can’t progress in a similar fashion? We founded democracies from Christian principles. Is there any reason the Muslims can’t do the same from Islamic principles?

    Comment by Seth R. — May 18, 2007 @ 10:13 am

  114. Seth,

    That would require a reformation similar to what the christian world exp a few hundred years ago. This takes many decades and a few generations to accomplish.

    I guess the question to be asked is a reformation occurring right now? It could be.

    Actually if I really think about it. The reformation has to occur eventually if you are orthodox LDS. There needs to be LDS missionaries in these countries.

    Sharia law would have to modified in order for Muslims not to face a death sentence for conversion.

    The whole Islamic question is a serious one for us LDS. It has to be reformed to allow for conversion and freedom of religion just like Communism in the East had to fall.

    Some of you may know that in 1993 I was involved in the conversion of a South African family from Islam to LDS. They were targeted for death by their Imam and eventually sought and recieved refuge in the US. An attempt was literally made on their lives. Needless to say we were from that point on forbidden to teach muslims.

    Comment by bbell — May 18, 2007 @ 10:31 am

  115. kudos, bbell

    Likewise, I’ll take your answers as fact. As to your questions …

    I see two options here:

    1) Adopt the position that democratic development should be allowed to take its course, wherever that may lead. We would actively support moderate players, but ultimately, allow the electoral process (such as it is) to determine outcomes. Accept that in the near-term, we may find ourselves dealing with multiple Irans. Expect that we can successfully integrate such states into the international order, albeit at the risk of unexpected disappointments, since we’d be operating from the basis of negotiating our interests with governments beholden to their electorate rather than to our interests.

    2) Adopt realpolitik. We all know what it is, nuff said.

    I’m nowhere near being a State department Middle east guru, so I won’t suggest which option serves us better in the region.

    I would only suggest that if we choose Option #2, that we should also, at the very least, decide to finally give up our penchant for bemoaning the lack of appreciation shown us by the masses of people affected by our choice. In other words, if you’re going to subscribe to realpolitik, then get real about what that means to the unrepresented masses affected by our real policy and stop accusing your fellow Americans of “blaming America” whenever one of your compatriots makes the point that choices have consequences.

    Personally, I’m not such a fragile thing. The thought of exercising American power does not send me into a faint. What annoys me are the folks who want to talk realpolitik but then play innocent when the chickens come home to roost.

    Comment by Chino Blanco — May 18, 2007 @ 10:34 am

  116. The whole Islamic question is a serious one for us LDS. It has to be reformed to allow for conversion and freedom of religion just like Communism in the East had to fall.

    bbell, the whole “Islamic question” is, go figure, also a serious one for many Muslims.

    You come awfully close to sounding like a Crusader here. What’s the equivalent word for Caliphate in our tradition? Whatever it is, you seem to be describing it.

    I appreciate your enthusiasm for spreading the good news of your faith, but I’d suggest caution that you don’t inadvertently create linkages in the minds of your intended devotees that will shut more doors than you might otherwise open.

    Comment by Chino Blanco — May 18, 2007 @ 10:55 am

  117. UH,

    Chino this is an LDS site. My espousing an LDS view on Missionary work and how it relates to conversion and the 2nd coming should be at some point anticipated.

    IF any LDS posters have a doctrinal objection to my comments in conversion/2nd comiong relating to LDS ideas let me know

    Comment by bbell — May 18, 2007 @ 12:08 pm

  118. I object that bbell didn’t use, in his comments, an obligatory scriptural citation, general authority quote, and internet-circulated inspiring story of questionable origin.

    I also object that he didn’t begin with a joke and how he came to be blogging here today.

    Comment by Seth R. — May 18, 2007 @ 4:11 pm

  119. —————————————-
    Any time a Brazilian would ask if we were CIA, we’d chuckle as we’d ask to make an appointment with them so that they could hear for themselves the message we were spreading in their country.

    Later, as was so often the case, we’d find ourselves at the appointed hour clapping in front of an empty house.

    We knew the house wasn’t really empty, but as I called in the air support, I’d always smile to myself. CIA? Yeah, right. CTR, baby, CTR. 3rd Division, Dunk or Die.

    Comment by Chino Blanco — May 18, 2007 @ 6:49 pm

  120. I had a bunch of drunk Japanese college students one morning on an otherwise quiet train platform making jokes about how maybe we were CIA and might shoot them.

    They were mortified when I finally turned around and addressed them in fairly fluent Japanese. I spotted some of the other early morning commuters quietly grinning though.

    Comment by Seth R. — May 18, 2007 @ 7:15 pm

  121. Good times. Nobody does “mortified” better, do they? Although, we’re pretty good masters of the mortified look here in Taiwan, too.

    Oh well, time to stop getting all weepy and nostalgic for younger days, and get back to work.

    bbell, if I were to object to what you’re espousing on the grounds that promulgating such views is counterproductive to LDS missionary efforts, would that be the kind of starting point that might allow us constructively engage?

    Comment by Chino Blanco — May 18, 2007 @ 9:32 pm

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