Apparently you believe that calling something irrelevant is the same thing as having it be irrelevant. The thing that in this case you call “pretty much irrelevant all the way down” are causes that people are willing to risk their own lives for and the lives of their families and their friends. These causes apparently are even more irrelevant when I point out to you that people are seldom willing to risk their lives to stand for causes that they believe to be wrong. Even if you aren’t happy with the causes involved—even if I’m not happy—our reasoned and apparently superior powers of understanding and our apparently superior ability to discern relevancy couldn’t concern the people who actually matter less.
Those people would be those folks who would actually be willing to do the dying, as opposed to those of us who would simply be willing to say that they weren’t relevant.
It is not silly to say that people are reluctant to fight for causes they disagree with. Your saying that it’s silly and irrelevant doesn’t make it so. I wish we could dispose of other people disagreements with us so easily. Your wish that people we think of as terrorists — and which even I think of as terrorists fairly frequently—would realize that they were basically evil jerks and would skulk off in shame and die, as any self respecting gangster ought to do, is basically missing the point.
These people don’t see themselves that way. If there are gangsters and jerks to be seen, they believe we are the ones who fit the role, and they, as we, feel justified in acting in accordance with our conclusions. They, as we, have a perfectly reasonable set of stories and facts and fictions carefully selected from the full range of possibilities that prove their point of view as convincingly for them as ours do for us. These are not a special sub-species of human being specially created to be instructed in the truths of the world by us superior cultural beings who have gotten enlightenment from western civilization, the sole font of all truth. They are in fact fully as deluded as we are about cultural myths, simply from a different perspective.
I’m sure the whales, the japanese and the arabs are collectively suffering under the delusion that Americans and many of the non- muslim westerners are in fact mammals and not fish. I am not personally in any hurry to disabuse them, despite the fact that we, as westerners with a different point of view, understand things in a more enlightened fashion. Despite their unfortunate disagreement with us, they still have a right to their way of looking at things, even if they’re wrong.
Or perhaps I’ve gotten your message about Japanese and whales and fish and their silly misunderstanding of the real way things work all turned around somehow. I’m not sure when you start going on if I’m supposed to be amused by these Japanese folks and their cultural backwardness, or not trying to impose my own cultural stereotypes on them or whether I’m actually supposed to...what was that phrase you used? Oh yes!...just think about it... Apparently, If I meditate long enough your point will clear up.
My own meditations have led me to the conclusion, apparently not sophisticated enough, that there aren’t very many people who are willing to do things that actually make they think of themselves as being bad and evil people. I have met a few murderers who’ve been willing to make that jump, I must confess. But even most of them blamed what they did on other people, and felt themselves pushed into their actions.
The terrorists that you talk about tend to be fairly abstract folks, I notice. The Iraqi “terrorists,” near as I can tell, were created by U.S. actions in Iraq. No Al Qaeda there before we invaded. No weapons of Mass Destruction. At least one superbly wretched dictator, yes, but we haven’t used that as a reason to topple any other government we weren’t particularly already looking for a reason to topple. And I suspect that we’ve killed as many people in Iraq by now as he did, if you have a look at the figures published a few years back by The Lancet and by Amnesty International. In fact, if I remember correctly, Saddam cleared his initial invasion of Kuwait with George H.W. Bush before going into that country in. when, 1990? 1991?
If you’ve followed the coverage on the Arab Israeli conflicts in the more neutral news organizations, like The Christian Science Monitor over the past 30 to 35 years, you know that most of the news we get over here is a basic tissue of lies. You know that there’s more than enough idiocy and guilt for everybody, Palestinian and Israeli, to share with plenty left to justify generations of suffering to come, should anybody be silly enough to want to insist on everybody paying up in full. You could safely call almost anybody in the area an innocent or a terrorist and build a darn good case either way. To select one side out to be the bad guy is not only simplistic, it’s a way of making the situation worse, not better.
So, when I say, “Do you think they're taking those risks in fighting us because they think we're the good guys?” I’m not asking for a facile and unthinking answer that suggests that this too is another and irrelevant question stupid. Irrelevant, I believe you said about that last question, that asked if the “terrorist” cause was so silly, why would people be willing to think of themselves as bad guys to fight and sometimes dies for it. “Irrelevant” is what you said then, and when I brought it up again, you gave the same flip and, I think,
clueless response. If the first answer was “irrelevant;” well, “As is this one.”
I’ve got to say, though Brad, I don’t give up easily once I think I’ve actually got a point worth making. “Most of us think we're the good guys; but do you think these other guys think the same thing?”
I mean, you’d think that there’d be some reason for humans to have invented diplomacy, to talk instead of trying to kill each other to the last enemy still alive. Instead of making sure that there was no single stone standing on any other and that all the fields were sewn with salt. In order to do that, you have to be able have some basis for discussion. If one side or the other gets too nasty or self-righteous, we end up with a treaty of Versailles situation, right? Then it’s back to war again. That’s what happens when you don’t allow yourself to see your enemy as a person with a legitimate intention and point of view. When you don’t deal with respect.
“Still, with the good guy/bad guy thing?”
Yes, Brad; still with the good guy/bad guy thing. People have a really tough time dying for causes they thing really aren’t worth dying for. On the whole, I’ve found people want their lives to have a sense of meaning. So far, Brad, I don't think I've said anything so wrong-headed.
“So far, you haven’t said much of anything....
“They certainly see us as the bad guys, but let's be clear: they are not fighting for freedom. I suppose you can argue self-determination, but that's just not the same thing. . . . I see no leap in logic unless you want to argue that “fighting for freedom” means pretty much anything and everything. I don’t think it does. I don’t think it should.”
Well, Brad, I don’t agree. I understand that you don’t think that “fighting for freedom” means pretty much anything and everything. I understand you don’t think it does. I understand you don’t think it should. I think you have just won a resounding victory in a debate with yourself.
In fact, even though you don’t have to convince me, and even though you haven’t, that simply doesn’t matter. There are probably only two people you have to convince. One of them is the guy who’s fighting for what he or she happens to think IS their Freedom, and the other is the person that the first person is fighting against. The person being fought against is most likely already on your side, so your job should be ever so much simpler. All you’ve got to do is convince the person who is so hungry for freedom that he thinks he’s dying that he’s crazy, and that he’s really not starving to death.
You can do this, Brad. I’ve actually known anorexics who were convinced they were healthy as horses and were actually simply on Atkins and exercising 16 hours a day because it felt GREAT. I myself am nervous about gun control, and would feel very nervous indeed about trying to talk somebody into such a thing if they were both starving and armed. I still think that fighting for freedom needs to mean pretty much whatever freedoms anybody who feels oppressed feels they are lacking. Otherwise, perhaps instead of you so crossly quoting Voltaire to me, perhaps you should make a point of quoting him to yourself. To quote your own slightly tart comment, “Think about it.”
They are fighting for their right to determine their own fate, as in the basic principle of No Taxation Without Representation, right?
Well, no. That’s not what “they” say. That’s not what “they’ve” done. They fight for the right to impose Islamic law on other people. They are not fighting for anything resembling classical Liberalism.
And Bob Replies:
I use “they,” here, to refer to the people we have been calling “terrorists” and occasionally “freedom fighters,” as in the phrase, “one person’s terrorist is another person’s Freedom fighter.” This is a fairly common understanding of the use of the word “terrorist.” Please pardon me if I’ve used a locution unfamiliar to you, I thought it was in common use, was indeed such a cliche I found it a bit embarrassing.
Your use of the quotation marks around the word “they” seems a bit of a puzzle to me. While I am not fond of Osama Bin Ladin, my understanding of his original quarrel with the United States is that he objected to having American troops stationed on Saudi Land because both Medina and Medina as well as the presence of the Qa’aba (if I’ve spelled it correctly) and other holy sites were felt by many Saudis, and not just Osama Bin Laden, to be insulted by their presence. Something like a Russian missile base under Saint Peter’s Square might ruffle feathers among Catholics. They were asserting the right to expect — not sharia, as I understand it — proper deference to Islamic tradition in the birthplace of that tradition, both from their own rulers, and from the allies of their rulers.
“The right to impose Islamic Law on other people,” was an issue that came up in respect to the Taliban, and at a later date. You have conflated the two, in some ways understandably. In neither case did it have anything to do with Iraq.
The bombers of The World Trade Center, as you are aware, were Saudi, and this issue of occupation by foreign forces was a major one that could have been addressed well beforehand. And should have been. The issues around the Taliban were certainly partly of our own creation. We used the Pakistani ISA, their secret service, as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy when the Soviets were in Afghanistan. We funneled money and materiel through Pakistan into Afghanistan, and expanded the very conservative ISA, whose fundamentalist Islamic roots brought Jihadis from all over the middle east to fight against the Soviets. We funded Osama Bin Ladin initially, and supplied him with money and weapons, and his connections with the Taliban helped to overturn the Soviet puppet government there. We, Brad, put the Taliban in place and supported the fundamentalist Islamic revolution. We supplied them with RPGs.
We also supported Saddam Hussein as a balance against Iran. The poison gas that we complain was used to destroy those poor Kurds in 1988 (and which did in fact kill about 5000 of them) was supplied by us. The U.S., your friendly local supplier of W.M.D. We knew where that gas was, how much was left after the gulf war I and the post-war inspections (none), and how much of a relationship Saddam and Osama Bin Ladin had. They had none left, it had been used in combat in Iran and with the Kurds and in the South with the Swamp Arabs; and Osama and Saddam loathed each other and had no relationship at all.
It is now about 2:30 in the morning, and I must be up early, but I did want to skip over so many things that I would be better off no commenting on, and settle this statement of yours:
“We already have accepted an agreement without those inclusions. Look at the Iraqi constitution.”
My initial comment is a somewhat stupefied, I BEG your pardon, closely followed by what are you actually saying here?
I think that what you are trying to say here, if I can untangle the thing, is that; 1) there is a such a thing as a constitution, which is an compact among people of a nation about how they shall govern themselves; 2) the Iraqis, being a sovereign people, have a right to establish their own constitution; 3) that the Iraqi people in order to establish a constitution must follow applicable international law and must make sure that they have also taken whatever measures they need to take in order to ensure the practical implementation of their constitution.
So far so good.
But then, if I understand you correctly, for otherwise you could not have said “We have already accepted an agreement. . . . Look at the Iraqi constitution” you seem to have added a completely bizarre; 4) The elements of the constitution must be pleasing to the United States, otherwise you will be indebted to us forever and must give us your oil and anything else of yours we want because you KNOW we got dibs on you and your country. If we don’t accept your constitution, you KNOW your sovereignty is gonna fall off like the face from an old leper.
Pardon me, Father Damien. It wasn’t me that said it, it was that Brad fella. You should hear what he has to say about those poor Japanese folks, and the fish that walk like mammals.
Like we have to accept anything the Iraqis decide about their constitution before it’s legal. As if it’s our country, and we have a right or an obligation to make their decisions for them.
Got to stop for today. I’m in danger of running out of ire.
Best to you, Bob K.