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Bomber Motivated by Religion?: Media Regurgitates Government Propaganda

Posted on 24 April 2013 by Danios

Bush

(Update I and II below)

After the September 11th attacks, many Americans wondered, “why do they hate us?”  President George Bush gave his now famous explanation: “They hate our freedoms.”  Radical Islam, we are told, is to blame.

When someone dares counter this argument by pointing out that “Muslim rage” is due to U.S. foreign policy, accusations of disloyalty quickly abound.  Ron Paul was chastised when he had the audacity to claim that they didn’t attack us because of our freedoms, but rather “they attack us because we’ve been over there [bombing them].”  In other words, they terrorize us because we’ve been terrorizing them.

Yet, the terrorists themselves consistently explain why they attack us.  Osama bin Laden himself responded to George Bush:

Contrary to what Bush says and claims — that we hate freedom –let him tell us then, “Why did we not attack Sweden?” … Bush is…misleading you and not telling you the true reason.

The real reason, explained Bin Laden, was that

we had to destroy the towers in America so that they taste what we tasted, and they stop killing our women and children… Your security is in your own hands. Any nation that does not attack us will not be attacked.

Subsequent terrorists have consistently confessed similar motivations, whether it be the Times Square bomber or the Fort Hood shooter.  Time and time again, the terrorists give the same explanations: they attack the United States because the United States is attacking Muslims.

With the Boston Marathon bombings, once again Americans repeat Bushian explanations.  The vapid radio personality Adam Carolla explained:

They hate our culture. They hate our way of life.

Why Americans simply can’t fathom that it is U.S. foreign policy that motivates terrorists is understandable: it would be too difficult on the American psyche to admit fault–to admit that our own foreign policy is criminal and the ultimate source of a legitimate grievance.  It is far easier to lay the blame on another religion.

So, once again, we are told that the Boston Marathon bombers were “motivated by religion.”  This is what “anonymous U.S. officials” told the media, who then unthinkingly regurgitated it:

Two U.S. officials say preliminary evidence from an interrogation suggests the suspects in the Boston Marathon attack were motivated by their religious views but were apparently not tied to any Islamic terrorist groups.

The two brothers, from southern Russia, practiced Islam.

The U.S. officials spoke Monday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation.

Notice that the U.S. officials “were not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation”–but they discussed it with reporters anyways.  This is typical of the U.S. government-media relationship: journalists grant anonymity to government officials, who can then freely spread their propaganda while at the same time hiding behind the wall of anonymity when challenged.  (Glenn Greenwald has written extensively on this practice.)

And so, Americans will continue to believe the myth that the terrorists attack us simply because of their religious views.  This successfully shrouds the real underlying reason: U.S. foreign policy.

“Muslim rage” toward the United States has to do with the fact that the United States has been continuously bombing, invading, and occupying multiple Muslim countries.  This is a process that began in the early 1990′s–over two decades of U.S. warmongering in the region.  (And actually, U.S. interference in the Middle East begins way before that.)

The Tsaernev brothers may well have been becoming more religious.  But, that’s only half the story–and it’s the half that’s less important.  The more important half is what the government and media isn’t telling.

The Tsaernev brothers were ethnically Chechen.  As has been pointed out by many in the media, Chechens don’t necessarily have a particularly antagonistic view towards the United States.  Why should they?  Their “beef” is with the Russians.

However, the Tsaernev brothers were becoming more religious.  As such, it is only natural that their affiliation and self-identity became closer tied to Muslim.  Once they started identifying themselves more as Muslims, they naturally grew closer in affiliation to the Muslim community worldwide (the Ummah).  This sensitized them to conflicts in the Muslim majority world, including the U.S.-led incursions in the region.  Therefore, the turn to religion did facilitate their eventual commission of the terrorist attacks, but only because it caused them to identify with the people who are being attacked by the United States.

It is true that the Koran commands believers to come to the defense of other Muslims:

And why should you not fight in God’s cause when defenseless men, women, and children are being oppressed and cry out, “Lord, rescue us from this land whose people are oppressors! By Your Grace, give us a protector and give us a helper.” (Koran, 4:75)

But, is this not a universal moral principle?  Few people, aside from extreme pacifists, would argue that it is immoral to defend “defenseless men, women, and children who are being oppressed.”

That the Tsaernev brothers would respond to this call means that they identify the United States as the oppressor.  It is less that the religion itself caused the Tsaernev brothers to plan these attacks, and more the fact that the U.S. is bombing, invading, and occupying Muslim lands.  If this weren’t the case, the Tsaernev brothers would hardly have identified the U.S. with the oppressors mentioned in the Koranic verse.

Islam does advocate fighting oppressors to save the oppressed, but this is hardly something immoral.  Rather, it would be immoral to deny the right of the oppressed to defend themselves against the oppressors.  Where the Tsaernev brothers left the Koranic injunctions and Islamic tradition was in their targeting of civilians instead of military targets. The Koran declares:

Fight in God’s cause only against those who wage war against you, but do not commit aggression, for surely, God does not love aggressors. (Koran, 2:190)

The Prophet Muhammad is said to have explicitly forbidden the targeting of non-combatants, specifically women and children.

Islamic extremists like the Tsaernev brothers are not following the Koran or Islamic teachings when they commit acts of terrorism against innocents.  Rather, they are flouting long-held Islamic prohibitions against targeting non-combatants.  The extremists justify this departure from Koranic and Islamic law by claiming that the times are so exigent that an emergency suspension of this prohibition must be declared, i.e. the only way to stop them from killing our civilians is by killing theirs.  This twisted logic is the same used by many in the West to justify nuclear warfare.

Other Muslims counter the Islamic extremists by invoking Koranic and Islamic injunction, declaring such suspension of the religious law to be religiously baseless.  So, it is misleading to say that the Tsaernev brothers were motivated by religion and just leave it at that.  Islamic extremists like the Tsaernev brothers follow the Koranic injunction to come to the defense of the innocents (at least in their minds that’s what they are doing), but they suspend and contravene the religious laws regarding the conduct of such defensive war.  In other words, they uphold (part of) the Islamic jus ad bellum (right to wage war) but refuse to follow the Islamic jus in bello (conduct of war).

It is thus important to remember that:

(1) the right to wage war that these Islamic extremists invoke is rooted in not just Koranic scripture, but is part of universal moral principles (and is enshrined in the Just War Theory).

(2) The U.S.’s actions, not religious scripture (since, as discussed in point #1, it is a shared universal moral principle),  are the ultimate cause of inspiration for terrorists.  If, for example, the Koran still existed but the U.S. hadn’t been continuously bombing, invading, and occupying Muslim lands, it is very unlikely that the Islamic extremists would have selected the U.S. to target.  (As Osama bin Laden asked, ”Why did we not attack Sweden?”)  On the other hand, if the Koran and Islam never existed, the people in the Muslim world would still seek to defend themselves against U.S. aggression, the only difference being that their resistance would be colored in national or ethnic instead of religious colors.  (One could reasonably argue that religious motivation instills greater fanaticism to resistance movements, but nonetheless, people of any or no religion would seek to defend themselves against invaders.)

(3) The Tsaernev brothers may have been motivated by religion, but they ignored that same religion when it came to the conduct of war, which reinforces point #2: resistance is colored by religion only, but really it is a universal human desire to fight back against invaders.

Of course, it’s more reassuring to Americans to think that these terrorists keep attacking us because of their religion.  It’s far easier to point the finger at some other extrinsic cause rather than at oneself.  This makes us feel good about ourselves: we are the good guys being attacked by the bad guys.  It’s hard to accept that the pan-ultimate motivator for why they attack us is our own actions in their lands: bombing, invading, and occupying them for over two decades.

One could argue that I don’t know for certain that U.S. foreign policy is the ultimate motivator for the Tsaernev brothers because this information has yet to be released, but it’s a matter of such obviousness–and it has been proven over and over again once the motivations of previous Muslim terrorists were revealed–that I say it with utmost certainty.  It’s a simple answer to the question “why do they attack us”, as opposed to the simplistic answer that they hate us for our freedoms or because of their religion.

The Boston Globe declared: “It doesn’t matter why they hate us, they just do.” If fellow Americans really don’t think it matters why they hate us–or think “they just do” for no legitimate reason at all–we shouldn’t expect an end to such horrific terrorist attacks, and we can’t just keep claiming to be absolutely flabbergasted when the next attack comes.

UPDATE:

Incidentally, Glenn Greenwald just published an article on the very same topic, and it is very much worth the read.

UPDATE II:

Just as I predicted: the Huffington Post reports (hat tip: JD):

Boston Bombing Suspects Motivated By Afghanistan, Iraq Wars: Report

The two suspects in the Boston bombing that killed three and injured more than 260 were motivated by the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials told the Washington Post…

So, the primary motivation to target the United States was not religious but political.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.  Due to a hectic work schedule, Danios took a “sabbatical” from LoonWatch in 2012, but he plans to write from time to time in 2013, as time allows.

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Boston Marathon Bombings in Perspective: Is Dzhokhar the Joker All Al-Qaeda Has Left?

Posted on 22 April 2013 by Danios

boston-marathon-bombing-suspect

Predictably, the Boston Marathon bombings have spawned a renewed interest in “jihadist” (why is this in quotes?) terrorist activity.  We are once again reminded of the “looming threat of radical Islam.”  We are told that this is the existential struggle of our generation.  Terrific events such as these are reminders that we ought not slip into complacency about our perennial Muslim foes.  Rest assured, anti-Muslim demagogues are keen to keep us hyper-vigilant against the all-powerful Islamic menace.

Yet, if we step back and take a wider perspective, it becomes apparent that the Boston Marathon bombings actually indicate the exact opposite and display how truly weak Al-Qaeda and the “jihadist” threat is.  This may seem like a shocking statement to my fellow Americans.  After all, we’ve been trained by our government and media to think of radical Muslims as extremely threatening–the greatest threat of our time.  This is something we are taught from a very young age.  (Famously, the children’s show Sesame Street used an Arab man to explain the word “danger.”)  It is one of the reasons why Americans are fearful of Muslim Iran, which does not possess nuclear weapons and clearly just wants to be left alone, and meanwhile brush off North Korea as “a joke”, even though North Korea not only possesses nuclear weapons but routinely threatens the United States.

As horrific as the Boston Marathon bombings were, they were hardly another 9/11.  Only three people died, as compared to the almost three thousand that died on September the 11th, 2001.  Despite their efforts, Al-Qaeda and company have been “successful” in killing very few of us since that day, well over a decade ago.  In 2012, I wrote an article entitled Annual Report: Zero Civilians in U.S. Killed by Islamic Terrorism… Just Like Every Year Since 9/11.  Using official data provided in annual reports by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), I was able to show that “Islamic” terrorists killed zero civilians in the U.S. between 2005 (the earliest year that data was published) and 2011.  (The 2012 report has not yet been published.)  The RAND Corporation’s 2010 list indicates that in fact zero civilians in the U.S. have been killed by “Islamic” terrorists since 9/11.

The 2013 NCTC report will no doubt include the three innocents killed in Boston.  Again, as horrific as that is, the threat must be taken into perspective: three people in the span of well over a decade (excluding 2012 as official data has not yet been published).  More Americans die from their own furniture than that.

CNN’s Peter Bergen noted:

[I]n the years since 9/11, actual terrorist bombings in the U.S., like the ones at the Boston Marathon, have been exceedingly rare.

As Bergen’s article notes, “Islamic” extremists have not been responsible for most of these bombings:

Of the 380 individuals indicted for acts of political violence or for conspiring to carry out such attacks in the U.S. since 9/11, 77 were able to obtain explosives or the components necessary to build a bomb, according to a count by the New America Foundation.

Of those, 48 were right-wing extremists, 23 were militants inspired by al Qaeda’s ideology, five have been described as anarchists and one was an environmentalist terrorist…

The only bombing attack carried out by an extremist in the United States during the past 12 years was in 2004 when Dennis Mahon, a white supremacist, sent a homemade bomb to Don Logan, the African-American city diversity director of Scottsdale, Arizona, who was maimed when the package exploded in his arms.

Previously, I published an article entitled All Terrorists are Muslims…Except the 94% that Aren’t: using official FBI data, I was able to show that Muslims accounted for only 6% of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil from 1980 to 2005 (as far as the database goes).  This point comes into even clearer focus when we look at much of the rest of the Western world: Europol Report: All Terrorists are Muslims…Except the 99.6% That Aren’t.  In this follow up article, I used Europol’s official data to show that Muslims were responsible for a negligible percentage (less than half of a percent) of terrorist attacks in Europe.

It is precisely because “Islamic” terrorist attacks in the West are so rare and ineffectual that right-wingers the government and media must play up incidents like the Boston Marathon bombings for all that they are worth.  It is these isolated events that must be highlighted and focused on in order to justify the U.S.’s multiple wars in the Muslim world.

If there was a justifiable reason to go to war in 2001–to incapacitate and destroy Al-Qaeda–even that reason has seemed to vanish.  The U.S. military has pulverized Al-Qaeda’s bases in Afghanistan, such that even our own government says that there are “fewer than a hundred” Al-Qaeda operatives left in the entire country.  In fact, government officials have stated that, for all intents and purposes, Al-Qaeda has been rendered “operationally ineffective.”  The terrorist organization is debilitated, if not dead.

How truly weak the extremist group has become is apparent by the Boston Marathon bombing itself.  According to a CBS News article, Al-Qaeda wants to claim the terrorist attack as their own:

CBS News senior correspondent John Miller said. “They’re saying, ‘We think this was us. We want it to be us.’”

It is telling that Al-Qaeda is so broken that it doesn’t even know whether the bombers were on their own “payroll” or not.  That seems like amateur hour for the seasoned terrorist organization.  The bomber, Dzhokhar the Joker Tsaernev, was a nineteen year old kid who, along with his older brother, used pressure cookers as makeshift bombs.  These were amateurish bombs made by amateur bombers that Al-Qaeda is seeking to claim as their own.  Al-Qaeda is really scraping the bottom of the barrel here.

If we step back and look at the conflict between the United States and radical Islam on a global and historical scale, what we actually see is a grossly unequal match up.  On the one hand, the U.S. is considered a hyper-power, with the strongest military the world has ever seen.  In its wars in the Muslim world, the United States inflicts hundreds of thousands of deaths using high-tech weaponry, including the latest in F-16′s, bombers, missiles, and drones.  Meanwhile, all Al-Qaeda and radical Islam have are the likes of Dzhokhar the Joker.  This is truly the essence of the phrase “asymmetric warfare.”

It is this unequal power distribution which results in the far greater level of violence committed against Muslims by Americans than by Muslims against Americans.  Using what I consider to be a conservative estimate, this means well over 100 Muslim fatalities for every American lost.  We Americans kill far more Muslims than they kill of us.  There is in fact no comparison.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, some Muslims (and non-Muslims) were quick to point this out.  An interesting discussion ensued, in which Muslims discussed whether or not it was appropriate to discuss this topic.  Was it disrespecting the victims and their loved ones?  Regardless of the appropriateness or not, the fact is that it is very much true.

When one compares the overwhelming force displayed by the United States in the Muslim world to the showing by the “jihadists” on American soil–namely, Dzhokhar the Joker–it seems inappropriate to always be talking about how “Islamists”, “jihadists”, and other ridiculous terms the West coins, are the greater problem.  There is in fact another, more intuitive overarching meta-narrative.  Americans view the (so-called) Global War on Terror as the response of the West to the Muslim “jihadist” threat, whereas it is exactly the reverse: it is the response of the Muslim “jihadists” to the warring and aggression of the West.

The inversion of victimhood is not unfamiliar to American history.  The Boston Marathon bombing occurred on April 15th.  On this same date, just under 300 years ago, the Yamassee, a tribe of American Indians, tortured and killed four white traders, in what came to be known as the Pocotaligo Massacre.  In the weeks that followed, the Yamassee Indians killed scores more, including over a hundred white people–men, women, and children.  They terrorized the settlements, killing off 7% of South Carolina’s white citizenry.  If the suicide bomb is radical Islam’s choice of weaponry, scalping was the terror tool of the Yamassee.  If an angry “Allahu Akbar!” is the chant of the Muslim terrorist, then the Yamassee Indians had the “death whoop.”

Historian Pat Hendrix writes on page 23 of his book Murder And Mayhem in the Holy City:

[T]he Yamassee continued to appear on the Carolina frontier, killing and spreading terror throughout the colony. One contemporary recalled the barbarity during the second phase of the conflict:

[T]he Yamassee Indians…harboured in their breasts the most inveterate ill-will and rancour to all Carolineans, and watched every opportunity of pouring their vengeance on them…[T]hey often broke out on small scalping parties, and infested the frontiers…One party of them catched William Hooper, and killed him by degrees, by cutting off one joint of his body after another, until he expired…

The account goes into much greater and gorier details of the terror tactics used by the Yamassee. One colonial soldier described the terror of scalping, and then explained that after

[b]randishing the scalp, [the Yamassee] utter a whoop which they call the “death whoop”….[T]hey behave in an extremely cruel manner towards those they kill or the dead bodies.  They disembowel them and smear their blood all over themselves.

Such brutality was inflicted “against the defenceless frontiers” and “poor settlers.”  This is how the conflict was characterized by the white colonialists at the time.

No sane person would justify the acts of terror committed by those American Indians.  But, at the same time, it is clear to most reasonable people today that in the conflict between American Indian and white settler, the aggressor was clearly the latter.  The American Indian response, extreme though it may have been at times, was a response nonetheless.  To ask why the American Indians hated the white settler–why they “harboured in their breasts the most inveterate ill-will and rancour” towards the white colonialists–would seem too obvious to even bother answering.  Today, however, Americans are absolutely confused as to “why they hate us”–is it our freedoms?  Is it our way of life?–even as we bomb, invade, and occupy their lands.

The United States has been in a constant state of war ever since it was founded, as I analyzed in my article “We’re at War!” — And We Have Been Since 1776: 214 Years of American War-Making.  The desire for war has always been to stretch American power, first West against American Indians, then South against the Mexicans and other Latin American countries, then to the Pacific, then to Asia, and then to the Middle East.  It has been the constant march of Manifest Destiny.  During each conflict, some brown victim has been portrayed as the villain–whether it be American Indians, Mexicans, other Latin American peoples, or Asians.  Arabs are simply the next darker-complexioned victim of American aggression.  The pattern is predictable: attack a people, wait for them to respond, and then use that response to justify the attack.

That Americans think that you can bomb, invade, and occupy multiple Muslim countries (fourteen Muslim countries in between the U.S. and its erstwhile ally Israel) without a response is as unbelievable as the white settlers being completely befuddled as to why the American Indians would ever want to attack them back.  A U.S. veteran of the Iraq war once said to me, describing his experience: “I couldn’t understand why the Iraqis hated us so much.”  How a soldier who was part of an occupying force could not understand why an occupied peoples would hate him is simply beyond me.

This befuddlement–why oh why do these Muslims hate us, it is a complete mystery to me!–is clearly evident in the discussion of the Boston Marathon bombing.  News reports are being released that the bombing suspects were turning more religious and that their turn toward radical Islam motivated them to carry out these attacks.  This is not an unreasonable thought, but it is an incomplete one.  The million trillion dollar question is: why do radical Muslims target the United States?

The underlying assumption of Western media outlets is that radical Islam itself instructs Muslims to wage war against the unbelievers, and that this is the reason why the “jihadists” attack us.  But, radical Muslims call this war against the United States a “defensive Jihad”–which is the only reason that lone wolves like the Tsaernev brothers could initiate attacks on their own, without the approval of the Muslim Caliph or Imam (or their parents for that matter).  When the enemy occupies Muslim lands, the “jihadists” are told, they must fight back.  Only time will tell, but it will be unsurprising when details of the Tsaernev brothers’ motivations emerge and they match up with the reasons given by the Times Square bomber and countless Muslim terrorists before him.

Of course, there seems to have been a strong psychological component at play.  The Tsaernev brothers were immigrants and had a very difficult time adjusting to life in the United States.  They didn’t fit in–they were isolated and didn’t have American friends.  In the words of their uncle, they were “losers.”  It seems this emotional isolationism found refuge in a reassuring fundamentalist religious worldview.  They didn’t fit in in the West, and therefore, it was not difficult for them to see the West as the enemy.  The appeal of an us-vs-them mindset to disenchanted, lost youths can be understood in this way.

Ultimately, the bombings of innocent civilians is unconscionable–morally repugnant.  But, so too were some of the more violent attacks launched by the American Indians almost three hundred years ago.  It is clear as day to us that the only way for the American colonialists to have avoided American Indian excesses was to stop invading their lands and stealing their resources.  Historical examples exist not to simply read about them in schools, but rather to learn from them.  The only way to bring an end to “Islamic” terrorism is to stop creating the grievances that recruit Muslim terrorists in the first place.

But, instead of recognizing the inescapable fact that a nation simply cannot invade another without experiencing serious blowback (just as the American colonialists could not invade American Indian land without facing serious and sometimes excessive reprisals)–and instead of recognizing that “Islamic” terrorist attacks on U.S. soil are actually exceedingly rare and ineffectual in the context of the large-scale wars against multiple Muslim countries–many Americans simply understand the caveman logic: Muslim attack us, we attack Muslim–simpleton logic that is not dissimilar to the “jihadist” understanding.

Many Americans wish to place the onus on Muslims: why can’t you Muslims stop the terrorists from within your own ranks?  Yet, we know from U.S. history that American Indian elders could often not stop radicals from their own ranks–especially “hotheaded” youths–from using more violent means of resistance.  Similarly, there is simply no way for the Muslim population to police every single one of its over one billion adherents.  This is not to say that radical Islam shouldn’t be intellectually challenged by other Muslims.  But, it does mean that the only way for the West to win the war on terrorism is to not participate in it.  In the words of Noam Chomsky: “Everyone’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s really an easy way: Stop participating in it.”

*  *  *  *  *

photo of boat

On a (somewhat) related note, Micah Daigle posted the following about the apprehension of the terror suspect, and I think it is worthy of repost here:

On Friday at 7:05pm Eastern Time, Boston Police received a report that suspected terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was hiding in a boat in Watertown.

At 7:15pm, the low buzz of a drone was heard overheard. Seconds later, an enormous explosion engulfed the area, destroying the boat and several nearby homes. Sources say 46 Watertown residents were killed in the missile strike, including 12 children.

Of course, that’s not what happened. But if it did, wouldn’t we find it unconscionable?

If so, then why are Americans okay with our government doing this to people in other countries?

In Pakistan alone, the U.S. government has killed more than 3,000 people with drone strikes… and only 1 out of 50 were suspected terrorists. The rest were bystanders, rescue workers, and children.

Let’s stop this madness now.

It should be pointed out that the U.S. can no longer hide behind the “we only target military targets, not civilians” defense.  In drone attacks, the U.S. “presum[es] any military aged males in the vicinity of a war zone [to be] militants.” According to such twisted logic, the Watertown boat owner would be classified as a militant and thus licit to kill.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.  Due to a hectic work schedule, Danios took a “sabbatical” from LoonWatch in 2012, but he plans to write from time to time in 2013, as time allows.

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Warrior Monks: The Untold Story of Buddhist Violence (I)

Posted on 29 July 2012 by Danios

This is a part of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series.

The basic plank of Islamophobia can be summed up as follows:

Islam is uniquely violent compared to other world religions.

Of course, it’s just not true.  In previous articles, I’ve taken a Thor-sized hammer to shatter this myth by proving that Judaism and Christianity are scripturally and theologically just as violent, if not more so.  The Bible is far more violent than the Quran, and both the Jewish and Christian traditions have been just as problematic.

It’s also not true from a historical perspective.

Take Judaism for instance:  According to the foundational narrative in the Bible, for instance, the Hebrews were persecuted in Egypt, forcing them to flee to Palestine.  When they found the Promised Land to be already occupied by the native Canaanites, Moses and the Jews invoked their warrior god to mercilessly slaughter the indigenous population in what can only be called a genocidal holy war.

The Jewish kingdoms were then overrun by outsiders.  Eventually, the Jews came under the rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who sought to replace Judaism with his own religion.  The Jews revolted and overthrew him, leading to the emergence of the Jewish Hasmonean Dynasty.  Just previously facing down the barrel of religious oppression, the Jews did not lose a beat and immediately set out oppressing non-Jews.  By force of arms, they sought to expand their borders and to ethnically cleanse the land of infidels, either killing non-Jews, forcibly converting them to Judaism, enslaving them, or simply running them off the land.

This Jewish kingdom fell as well, and the Jews would have to wait until the twentieth century to rule again.  They faced several centuries of oppression and finally ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Nazis, but eventually regrouped in Palestine.  Just yesterday having chanted “never again!”, they seamlessly transitioned to the task of ethnically cleansing Palestine of its non-Jewish population.

Although it’s true that Jews have been on the receiving end of oppression for a great deal of history, it’s also true that they have oppressed when in a position of power.  Is oppression then a matter not of religion but simply of opportunity?

Christians had more opportunity for violence than any other religious group on earth, and it is therefore unsurprising that, from a sheer numbers perspective, they have been responsible for the most acts of warlike aggression than any other.  It is true that Jesus himself never engaged in violent action, but again, this seems to be an issue of opportunity rather than moral repulsion to violence: he was never in a position of political power and was in fact killed by the authorities.  But, according to the Biblical narrative, Jesus will return to earth as a conquering warrior king, flanked by a massive army of earthly and heavenly beasts.  He will then kill all his enemies.

The early Church was not pacifist as many modern-day Christians claim.  Instead, the early Church fathers enlisted themselves as prayer warriors for the imperial Roman armies.  The very minute Christianity rose to power with the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine, war in the service of empire and religion was adopted wholesale.  Once persecuted by pagans, Christians now set out to destroy paganism in Europe.  They sent forth armies to conquer new lands in the name of Christ.  Eventually, almost all of Africa, Australia, Europe, South and North America–as well as huge swaths of land in Asia–came under the boots of Christian soldiers.  Even today, the Religious Right in the U.S. leads the country down the path of war.

Not a single inhabited continent was spared by the Christian conquerors, so it is very difficult to accept the idea that Islam is somehow uniquely violent.

Of course, there is no denying that Islamic history had its fair share of violence.  Just as the Christian Church came under the tutelage of the Roman state, so too did many ulema ingratiate themselves to the rulers.  Expansion of the state was religiously justified, and the armies of Islam poured out of the Arabian Peninsula, conquering lands from China to Spain.

Islamophobes often complain that Islam gobbled up a significant part of the Christian world, which is true.  Yet, the Christians themselves had conquered these lands aforetime.  Is this simply not a case of Christians crying foul play when another religious group does to them what they did to the rest of the world?

It seems clear that Westerners of the Judeo-Christian tradition have no leg to stand on when they single out Islam.

But, what about Eastern religions, such as Buddhism?  Is violence merely a problem of the three Abrahamic faiths, as some would have us believe?

Westerners imagine a stark contrast between supposedly violent Muslims on the one hand and pacifist Buddhists on the other.  When we recently linked to a story about Buddhist oppression of the Muslim community in Burma, an Islamophobe quipped:

So, Buddhists acting like Muslims for once?

This remark reveals a profound ignorance of history.  Stereotypes notwithstanding, the Buddhist tradition is no stranger to violence.  This little known story is retold by Professors Michael Jerryson and Mark Juergensmeyer in the book Buddhist Warfare.  Jerryson writes:

Violence is found in all religious traditions, and Buddhism is no exception.  This may surprise those who think of Buddhism as a religion based solely on peace.  Indeed, one of the principal reasons for producing this book was to address such a misconception.  Within the various Buddhist traditions (which Trevor Ling describes as “Buddhisms”), there is a long history of violence.  Since the inception of Buddhist traditions 2,500 years ago, there have been numerous individual and structural cases of prolonged Buddhist violence. [1]

Prof. Jerryson writes in Monks With Guns: Discovering Buddhist Violence of armed Buddhist monks in Thailand.  He notes that the West’s romantic view of Buddhism

shield[s] an extensive and historical dimension to Buddhist traditions: violence. Armed Buddhist monks in Thailand are not an exception to the rule; they are contemporary examples of a long historical precedence. For centuries monks have been at the helm, or armed in the ranks, of wars. How could this be the case? But more importantly, why did I (and many others) hold the belief that Buddhism=Peace (and that other religions, such as Islam, are more prone to violence)?

He then answers his own question:

Buddhist Propaganda

It was then that I realized that I was a consumer of a very successful form of propaganda. Since the early 1900s, Buddhist monastic intellectuals such as Walpola Rahula, D. T. Suzuki, and Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, have labored to raise Western awareness of their cultures and traditions. In doing so, they presented specific aspects of their Buddhist traditions while leaving out others.

It should be clear that such “propaganda” need not necessarily be construed as something sinister.  Proponents of other religions–including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam–will, for obvious reasons, often give a positive spin to their faith traditions.  Many Buddhists believe their history to be relatively peaceful, because they view their religion to be so.  This is no different than Muslims claiming that Islam is “the religion of peace”.

The difference is that the politics of the War on Terror have caused the religion of Islam to be put under heavy scrutiny.  Therefore, there is great incentive to refute Muslim “propaganda”, an incentive which simply does not exist for Buddhist “propaganda”.  The enemy, after all, is Muslim, not Buddhist.  Thus, Buddhism flies under the radar, and Buddhist “advertising” is taken at face-value.

Buddhism’s relative inconspicuousness shields it from the harshest blows of public criticism.  Case in point: the Bible and the Quran are well-known and easily accessible to the public.  Finding the violent verses in them is just a click away on the internet.  Meanwhile, Buddhist scriptural sources are more obscure, at least to the average Westerner.  Most people don’t even know what scriptures Buddhists follow, let alone what is contained within them.

As a consequence, many modern-day Buddhists believe that their scriptural sources are in fact devoid of violence, that this is a problem only of the Bible or the Quran.  But, Prof. Stephen Jenkins points out that this is just not the case.  In fact, ”Buddhist kings had conceptual resources [in the religious texts] at their disposal that supported warfare, torture, and harsh punishments.” [2]

For example, the Nirvana Sutra, a canonical Buddhist text, narrates a story about one of Buddha’s past lives: in it, he kills some Hindus (Brahmins) because they insulted the Buddhist sutras (scriptures):

The Buddha…said…”When I recall the past, I remember that I was the king of a great state…My name was Senyo, and I loved and venerated the Mahayana sutrasWhen I heard the Brahmins slandering the vaipulya sutras, I put them to death on the spot.  Good men, as a result of that action, I never thereafter fell into hell.  O good man! When we accept and defend the Mahayana sutras, we possess innumerable virtues.” [3]

Porf. Paul Demieville writes:

We are told that the first reason [to put the Brahmins to death] was out of pity [for them], to help the Brahmans avoid the punishment they had accrued by committing evil deeds while continuously slandering Buddhism. [4]

Here we arrive at a disturbing theme found in Buddhist thought: “compassionate killing”.  Killing is normally forbidden because it is done with evil intent (hatred, vengeance, etc.), but if it is done with “compassion”, it becomes something permissible, even praiseworthy.

The Buddhist does the unbeliever a favor by killing him, “an act of charity”:

In the Zen sect in Japan, they interpreted the argument for taking another’s life as “attempting to bring the other’s Buddha nature to life” (Buddha nature exists in virtually every living being), “by putting an end to the passions that lead astray…”

They make killing an act of charity. [5]

This is of course a disturbing belief to most of us.  As Prof. Bernard Faure puts it: “‘Killing with compassion’…remains a dubious oxymoron.” [6] One is reminded of the odd Christian belief that a Christian soldier can love his enemies even as he kills them.  Of what relevance is such “love”?

Jenkins writes:

If he does so with compassionate intentions, a king may make great merit through warfare, so warfare becomes auspicious. The same argument was made earlier in relation to torture, and the sutra now proceeds to make commonsense analogies to doctors and to parents who compassionately inflict pain in order to discipline and heal without intending harm. [7]

He goes on:

General conceptions of a basic Buddhist ethics broadly conceived as unqualified pacifism are problematic.  Compassionate violence is at the very heart of the sensibility of this sutra.  Buddhist kings had sophisticated and practical conceptual resources to support the use of force…The only killing compatible with Buddhist ethics is killing with compassion.  Moreover, if a king makes war or tortures with compassionate intentions, even those acts can result in the accumulation of vast karmic merit. [8]

There was a second reason to kill the infidels: to defend the Buddhist faith.  Prof. Demieville writes:

The Buddha’s second reason for putting them to death was to defend Buddhism itself. [9]

Faure notes:

Another oft-invoked argument to justify killing is the claim that, when the the dharma [i.e. the Buddhist religion] is threatened, it is necessary to ruthlessly fight against the forces of evil…promoting the need for violence in order to preserve cosmic balance… [10]

What about the first precept of Buddhism, which forbids murder?  Demieville writes:

In another passage, this same sutra (scripture) declares that there is no reason to observe the five precepts [the first of which is the taking of life], or even to practice good behavior, if protecting the Real Law is in question.  In other words, one needed to take up the knife and the sword, the bow and the arrow, the spear and the lance [to defend the faith].  ”The one that observes the five precepts is not a follower of the [Mahayana]!  Do not observe the five precepts–if it concerns protecting the Real Law…” [11]

The Nirvana Sutra reads:

The [true] follower of the Mahayana is not the one who observes the five precepts, but the one who uses the sword, bow, arrow, and battle ax to protect the monks who uphold the precepts and who are pure. [12]

The dye is cast for defense in the name of religion.  Elsewhere in the Nirvana Sutra, we are told of a king who goes to war in defense of rightly-guided monks:

To protect Dharma [Buddha's teachings], he came to the defense of the monks, warring against the evil-doers so that the monks did not suffer.  The king sustained wounds all over his body.  The monks praised the king: “Well done, well done, O King!  You are a person who protects the Wonderful Dharma.  In the future, you will become the indispensable tool of Dharma.” [13]

This king too was Buddha in a past life; Buddha declared:

When the time comes that the Wonderful Dharma is about to die out, one should act like this and protect the Dharma.  I was the king…The one who defends the Wonderful Dharma receives immeasurable recompense…

Monks, nuns, male and female believers of Buddha, should exert great effort to protect the Wonderful Dharma.  The reward for protecting the Wonderful Dharma is extremely great and immeasurable.  O good man, because of this, those believers who protect Dharma should take the sword and staff and protect the monks who guard Dharma

Even if a person does not observe the five precepts, if he protects the Wonderful Dharma, he will be referred to as one of the Mahayana. A person who upholds the Wonderful Dharma should take the sword and staff and guard monks. [14]

Demeiville notes:

Along these lines, the Buddha sings the praises of a king named Yeou-to, who went to war to defend the bhiksu (monks). [15]

The general idea is that “[h]eresy must be prevented and evil crushed in utero.” [16]

As for the Brahmins whom Buddha killed, they were in any case icchantika, those who neither believe in Buddha or Buddhism–historically, the Buddhist equivalent of infidel.  Buddha says in the Nirvana Sutra:

If any man, woman, Shramana, or Brahmin says that there is no such thing as The Way [i.e. Buddhism], Enlightenment, or Nirvana, know that such a person is an icchantika.  Such a person is one of [the demon] Mara’s kindred [Mara = the Lord of Death].  Such a person is not of the world… [17]

An icchantika is “sinful…[because] he does not act in accordance with the Bhuddas’ injunctions.” [18]  ”Because the icchantika lacks the root of good,” he “falls into hell.” [19] In fact, “it is not possible…for the icchantika not to go to hell.” [20] The icchantika is “the lowest” and “has to live for an eon in hell.” [21]

Putting to death unbelievers carries no sin or bad karmic result.  Demieville writes:

Regardless, these Brahmans were predestined to infernal damnation (icchantika); it was not a sin to put them to death in order to preserve the Real Law. [22]

There are in fact three grades of murder, in increasing order of seriousness, but killing infidels is not one of them.  The Nirvana Sutra reads:

The Buddha and Bodhisattva see three categories of killing, which are
those of the grades 1) low, 2) medium, and 3) high.  Low applies to the class of insects and all kinds of animals…The medium grade of killing concerns killing humans [who have not reached Nirvana]…The highest grade of killing concerns killing one’s father, mother, an arhatpratyekabudda, or a Bodhisattva [three ranks of Enlightenment]…

A person who kills an icchantika does not suffer from the karmic returns due to the killings of the three kinds above.  O good man, all those Brahmins are of the class of the icchantika.  Killing them does not cause one to go to hell. [23]

The Buddha says in the Nirvana Sutra that icchantika’s status is lower than that of the ants:

[T]he icchantikas are cut off from the root of good…Because of this, one may well kill an ant and earn sin for doing harm, but there is no sin for killing an icchantika.” [24]

In addition to issues of faith and unbelief, the Buddhist tradition offered sophistic justifications for killing and war:

[H]ow can one kill another person when…all is emptiness?  The man who kills with full knowledge of the facts kills no one because he realizes that all is but illusion, himself as well as the other person.  He can kill, because he does not actually kill anyone.  One cannot kill emptiness, nor destroy the wind. [25]

Furthermore, killing is sinful because of the evil it creates inside the killer’s mind.  But, a true yoga master can train his mind to be “empty” even while he kills.  If the killer has “vacuity” of thought, then the murder “did not undermine the essential purity of his mind” and then there is nothing wrong with it. [26] In other words, killing can be excused if it is done by the right person, especially a “dharma-protecting king”.

The Buddhist canonical and post-canonical texts not only provide the religious justifications for war and killing, but provide examples of meritorious holy figures who engaged in it, examples for all Buddhists:

Celestial bodhisattvas, divinized embodiments of the power of enlightened compassion, support campaigns of conquest to spread the influence of Buddhism, and kings vested with the dharma commit mass violence against Jains and Hindus. [27]

In these textual sources, we see dharma-inspired Buddhist kings who “have a disturbing tendency for mass violence against non-Buddhists.” [28]

Buddhist Warfare provides many other examples of the theological justifications for waging war and killing, but these shall suffice us for now: they provide the religious basis for Buddhist holy war: (1) Killing those who slander Buddhism as a necessity; (2) Anyone who rejects Buddhism is by default slandering it; (3) Killing infidels carries no sin; (4) In fact, it is not really killing at all.

These are not merely theoretical justifications found buried in religious texts.  Instead, these beliefs were acted upon historically, and continue to be so in the contemporary age.  The historical record is something we will explore in part II.

*  *  *  *  *

Disclaimer:

Prof. Michael Jerryson issues the following disclaimer:

Our intention is not to argue that Buddhists are angry, violent people—but rather that Buddhists are people, and thus share the same human spectrum of emotions, which includes the penchant for violence.

I could not agree more with Jerryson here.  My intent here is not to demonize Buddhism, but rather, to underscore the reality that all religious traditions, not just Islam, have had their fair share of violence.  This includes Buddhism.

It’s certainly something uncomfortable for me criticizing a religious tradition in this way, but it seems necessary to dispel the enduring myth that Islam holds a monopoly on violence.

I would also like to take this opportunity to distance myself from those who are using the violence in Burma to further Buddhaphobia.  Such claim that “people are ignoring what is happening to Muslims in Burma”, which is certainly true, but we all know that if the shoe were on the other foot–if it were Muslims in Burma oppressing Buddhists–then many of these Muslims would be the silent ones, or even be justifying such oppression (as I have seen many Buddhists doing now).

What is it other than rancid hypocrisy when some Pakistanis are up in arms about Muslims in Burma, but absolutely silent about the oppression of religious minorities in their own country?

How easily these people are able to transfer the same hatred against Islam that is directed toward them on a daily basis to Buddhism!

What I have learned about religions is the following:

#1: Adherents of a religion will cry foul when their coreligionists are the victims of oppression, but will remain silent or even justify such oppression when their coreligionists are the perpetrators of such oppression.  This includes Jews, Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus–as well as Muslims.

To this, I recall the words of the Prophet Muhammad, who said: “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is oppressed.”  The people asked him: “It is right to help him if he is oppressed, but how we should help him if he is an oppressor?”  Muhammad replied: “By preventing him from oppressing others.”

#2: The corollary to #1 is that religious groups will cry foul when they are oppressed by another religious group, but as soon as they themselves come to power, the very next minute they set to the task of oppressing the religious other.  Yesterday, the Jews were ethnically cleansed by the Nazis; today, they ethnically cleanse the Palestinians.  It is such a seamless transition–it happens with such mechanistic automatism and absolute obliviousness–that it is something quite amazing to witness.

#3: Following from #2, it becomes obvious that humans oppress when they are given the opportunity to do so.  It is not their religious creed that matters so much but rather whether they have opportunity or not.

#4: No major world religion is vastly different from the other when it comes to its propensity to inspire violence.

#5: Instead of using religious violence to demonize particular faiths–instead of using it as a battle ax to split open heads–we should hold in our hearts a continuous candlelight vigil to end inter-religious violence–holding hands with Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus–and start seeing each other as fellow human beings.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

Footnotes:
[1] Jerryson, Michael K., and Mark Juergensmeyer. Introduction. Buddhist Warfare. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. 3. Print.
[2] Jenkins, Stephen. “Making Merit through Warfare and Torture.” Buddhist Warfare. By Michael K. Jerryson and Mark Juergensmeyer. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. 59. Print.
[3] Nirvana Sutra, Chapter 19.
[4] Demieville, Paul. “Buddhism and War.” Buddhist Warfare. By Michael K. Jerryson and Mark Juergensmeyer. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. 41. Print.
[5] Ibid., 44.
[6] Faure, Bernard. “Afterthoughts.” Buddhist Warfare. By Michael K. Jerryson and Mark Juergensmeyer. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. 212. Print.
[7] Jenkins, 68.
[8] Ibid., 71.
[9] Demieville, 41.
[10] Faure, 212.
[11] Demieville, 41.
[12] Nirvana Sutra, Chapter 5.
[13] Ibid., Chapter 19.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Demieville, 41.
[16] Ibid., 39.
[17] Nirvana Sutra, Chapter 22.
[18] Ibid., Chapter 24.
[19] Ibid., Chapter 34.
[2o] Ibid., Chapter 39.
[21] Ibid., Chapter 40.
[22] Demieville, 41.
[23] Nirvana Sutra, Chapter 22.
[24] Ibid., Chapter 40.
[25] Faure, 213.
[26] Demieville, 42.
[27] Jenkins, 59.
[28] Demieville, 63.

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Louie Gohmert: “You See Me Huggin’ Muslims Around The World”

Posted on 23 July 2012 by Danios

Subtle Islamophobia has been a part of U.S. national discourse for a very long time, but up until recently, the rabid, vitriolic, and out-in-the-open form of anti-Muslim hysteria of the cyber-world was limited to websites like Jihad Watch.  This is no longer the case, as it has now infiltrated the United States government, exactly the opposite of what anti-Muslim loons claim, i.e. that “stealth jihad” and “sharia” have infiltrated the government.

First, there was Congressman Peter King, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who planned and held anti-Muslim Congressional hearings–not once, not twice, not three times, not four times, but five times!

Then, there were accusations of disloyalty and “stealth jihad” against the only two Muslim Congressmen in office.

To better approximate the McCarthyism of the 1950′s, five House Republicans have now claimed that the sinister Muslim Brotherhood has “penetrated” the U.S. government and that “officials in highly sensitive positions inside the United States government” are linked to the Brotherhood.  The group sent letters to five federal agencies demanding an investigation.

Such a wacky conspiracy theory is par for the course for loony sites like Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch and Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugs.  But, to see such nuttiness in the mainstream is truly frightening, and a testament to the persistent campaign of Islamophobia waged by online anti-Muslim crusaders.

The congressional charge is led by Rep. Michele Bachmann, a veritable Islamophobe who absolutely hates Muslims.  Other members of the Islamophobic gang include Reps. Trent Franks, Thomas Rooney, Lynn Westmoreland, and Louie Gohmert.

The quintet pointed the finger at Huma Abedin, deputy chief of staff and aide to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: she was linked to the nefarious Muslim Brotherhood.  This led to a critical response by John McCain, who came to Abedin’s swift defense.  He thundered:

Ultimately, what is at stake in this matter is larger even than the reputation of one person.  This is about who we are as a nation, and who we still aspire to be.

When anyone, not least a member of Congress, launches specious and degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more than fear of who they are and ignorance of what they stand for, it defames the spirit of our nation, and we all grow poorer because of it.

But, McCain himself is guilty of smearing an influential Muslim with the Muslim Brotherhood smear: he blithely declared that Mohamed ElBaradei, Nobel Laureate and former Director General of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), “could be a figure hood for the Muslim Brotherhood.”  The difference between Abedin and ElBaradei is that the former is a part of America’s elite political class whereas the latter is just some foreigner.  It will be interesting to see, however, which of the two trumps the other: Abedin’s Muslimness or her eliteness?

Andrew McCarthy, formerly the Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York (who prosecuted several high profile terrorism cases) and currently a columnist for the National Review, slammed John McCain on the same grounds.  He quipped:

…Senator McCain is no stranger to smear. No need to confirm that with Mr. ElBaradei…

But, Andrew McCarthy has a different angle in mind: he actually writes this article in defense of the five Republicans and against Huma Abedin.  In fact, it is a five page screed in support of wild Islamophobic conspiracy theory, of the “Obama-administration['s] coziness with the Muslim Brotherhood.”  (Is it a wonderful coincidence that his last name is McCarthy?)

Andrew McCarthy’s apologia aside, Rep. Louie Gohmert came to his own defense:

Of course, Gohmert’s “you see me huggin’ Muslims around the world” is as absurd as Pamela Geller’s “I love Muslims”.

But, the money quote is actually by Janet Napolitano, the United States Secretary of Homeland Security, who said:

What bothers me, quite frankly, are the allegations that are made against anyone who happens to be Muslim.

This powerful sentence succinctly summarizes the status quo: if you are Muslim, you will be smeared.  You will somehow be linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, which in turn, will be linked to Hamas.  You will then be referred to as the “Hamas-linked so-and-so.”  That is the standard Islamophobic smear and it is hurled against any Muslim individual (or group) who gains even nominal prominence.

The irony, of course, is that Janet Napolitano is the Secretary of Homeland Security, which is overseen by the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security–yes, the same committee that led the anti-Muslim hearings.  There is an Islamophobia circus going on right now, and the venue for this circus has moved from anti-Muslim blogs to the halls of government.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

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Why I Support Jill Stein for President of the United States

Posted on 14 July 2012 by Danios

(Note: This is my personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the views of LoonWatch overall.)

LoonWatch stands for peace, tolerance, and mutual understanding.  It is no surprise then that I would support Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party for President of the United States.   She embodies the virtues and principles that guide our website; more importantly, she represents the best of our nation’s tradition.

For those of you who don’t know her, Jill Stein is a Harvard-educated physician and activist from Lexington, Massachusetts.  She has been involved in politics for over a decade.  Dr. Stein just won the presidential nomination for the Green Party, perhaps the most well-known third party in the country.  Although a long-shot, she would be the first Jew and woman to be President.  More importantly, she is one of the only peace-loving candidates running for office.  She strongly opposes America’s wars and military occupations in the Muslim world, which are both the cause and result of Islamophobia.  She wants to put an end to the militarism which has defined our nation for at least the last decade.

The Republican Party has been taken over by hate- and war-mongers.  But, the Democratic option has failed us miserably over the course of the last four years.  President Barack Obama has expanded the misguided “War on Terror”, which is not just the cause and result of Islamophobia, but is itself responsible for causing more terrorism than anything else.  Obama has in fact done nothing but establish bipartisan consensus towards the Bush/Cheney world view.

In the past, I’ve spoken favorably of Ron Paul’s foreign policy views.  To be sure, Dr. Paul should be credited for bringing national attention to this matter, if but fleetingly.  But, the libertarian candidate’s opposition to the wars is based more on Constitutional procedure than moral fortitude, more on financial necessity than humanitarian concern.  While opposing U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Iran, for instance, Paul seems to have no problem with an Israeli attack on both of these countries.  Jill Stein, on the other hand, opposes such warmongering on moral grounds, no matter who engages in it.

Not surprisingly, Stein’s domestic views are much more in line with my progressive politics than Paul’s.  We should be investing more in social welfare, healthcare, education, and the environment, not less.  In fact, by de-funding America’s wars and military, the U.S. can easily afford to focus on these sectors.  (Additionally, Jill Stein has not sullied herself like Ron Paul has with racist newsletters.)

From a moral standpoint, there is no question that Jill Stein is the superior candidate.  There is an argument to be had about practicality and the utility of voting for a third party in a system that makes it virtually impossible for anyone other than a Democrat or Republican (the difference between Coke and Pepsi) to win.  Surely, progressives living in non-swing states should vote with their hearts and choose Jill Stein.

But, what about swing states? Is there an argument to be had that the Republican side is just so extreme that Barack Obama must be selected as the lesser of two evils?  My personal opinion is that the last four years have proven this argument, logical though it is, false.  At least when a Republican was in power, the “progressives” in the Democratic party opposed many of the more extreme measures in the War on Terror.  With the ascension of one of their own to power, even this feeble protest has died.

Furthermore, when it comes to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, is there really any substantive difference when it comes to their warrior credentials?  Democrats and Republicans merely disagree on which Muslim countries to bomb (Afghanistan vs. Iraq), but they all agree on bombing some Muslim countries.  When it comes to the general contours of the War on Terror narrative, there is bipartisan consensus–which is exactly why I look to a third party now.

Nonetheless, I am open to discussion of the question (should those in swing states vote for Obama as a means of choosing the lesser of two evils?) from a purely tactical standpoint, and I could be swayed in the other direction.  For now, however, Jill Stein has both my heart and my ballot.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Hateful Quote Makes Its Rounds on Facebook

Posted on 29 June 2012 by Danios

The Global Secular Humanist Movement (GSHM) Facebook page recently posted this drivel from Ayaan Hirsi Ali:

To back this claim, GSHM linked to a 2007 MSNBC article with the propagandistic title of Some young U.S. Muslims approve suicide hits, which in turn cited a Pew study that found that “[o]ne in four younger U.S. Muslims say suicide bombings to defend their religion are acceptable at least in some circumstances.”

This Facebook post is now making its rounds around the internet.  Seeing as how LoonWatch monitors anti-Muslim loons–and Ayaan Hirsi Ali is among the best of them–I thought a response would be worthwhile.

First of all, it should be noted that suicide bombing by itself is not illegal under international law.  In a section entitled “Suicide Attacks and International Law”, Human Rights Watch (HRW) notes that “[s]uicide attacks are a method of warfare that in themselves do not violate the laws of war.”  This is the case if the tactic is used by legitimate combatants against purely military targets in a time and place of war.

In fact, HRW finds that “as weapons [suicide attacks] are very discriminate: a suicide bomber is able to detonate with an accuracy that exceeds that of the most sophisticated guided weapon.”  An Iraqi resistance fighter would inflict far fewer civilian casualties from a suicide attack against a U.S. military installation than a U.S. bomber would inflict from carpet bombing Iraqi cities.  But because U.S. soldiers are the victims of suicide bombing and not carpet bombing, Americans hold the former as the epitome of evil and the latter as perfectly acceptable: hey, it’s war!

The American mentality is very easy to understand: they suicide attack our soldiers, so it’s terrorism and morally atrocious.  We carpet bomb them, so it’s perfectly acceptable: what do you expect in a time of a war?

Forget just carpet bombing: “A Gallup poll in August [of 1945] revealed that 85 percent [of Americans] approved of the use of the atomic bomb against Japanese cities.”  In fact, a poll for Fortune magazine found that another “22.7 percent of respondents agreed with the sentiment: ‘We should have quickly used many more of the [atomic] bombs before Japan had a chance to surrender.’”  Worse yet, a “December 1944 Gallup poll found that 13 percent of respondents favored the killing of all Japanese” after the war: men, women, and children; or, in the words of the chairman of the U.S. government agency the War Manpower Commission, “[t]he extermination of the Japanese in toto.”  (All quotes in this paragraph taken from pp.13-14 of Prof. Sahr Conway-Lanz’s Collateral Damage.)

This is not just some sentiment of a bygone era.  To this day, a “majority of Americans surveyed think dropping atomic bombs on Japan during World War II was the right thing to do.”  I guarantee you that a sizable portion of Americans, if polled today, would agree with nuking Mecca, Medina, and/or Tehran.  Even more would be comfortable with carpet bombing Muslim cities, which is what our military already does.

That such sizable percentages of Americans support carpet and atomic bombings should really cause us to understand Pew’s poll results–and Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s rantings–with some much-needed perspective.

What MSNBC’s article, Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s quote, and the Global Secular Humanist Movement’s posting, fail to mention is that an even greater percentage of Americans–of many different religions or no religion at all–justify the targeting and killing of civilians.  This is something I pointed out in an earlier article of mine: Gallup Poll: Jews and Christians Way More Likely than Muslims to Justify Killing Civilians.  This showed that an overwhelming majority of U.S. Muslims (78%) stated that it is never morally justifiable to target and kill civilians, compared to only 38% of Protestants, 39% of Catholics, 43% of Jews, 33% of Mormons, and 56% of people with no religion/atheists/agnostics:

The wily Islamophobes feebly argued back, saying:

The survey is of American Muslims, who are unlikely to be representative of Muslims in Muslim countries or of Muslims in Europe.

To this, I published a follow-up article: Surveys Show Muslims in Every Country Less Likely to Justify Killing Civilians than Americans and Israelis.  In it, we saw the following results:

Percentage of people who said it is sometimes justifiable to target and kill civilians:

Mormon-Americans 64%
Christian-Americans 58%
Jewish-Americans 52%
Israeli Jews 52%
Palestinians* 51%
No religion/Atheists/Agnostics (U.S.A.) 43%
Nigerians* 43%
Lebanese* 38%
Spanish Muslims 31%
Muslim-Americans 21%
German Muslims 17%
French Muslims 16%
British Muslims 16%
Egyptians* 15%
Indonesians* 13%
Jordanians* 12%
Pakistanis* 5%
Turks* 4%

*refers to Muslims only

Of course, the Global Secular Humanist Movement will quickly put up its hands and say: “But, we’re atheists!”  To this, I point out that U.S. Muslims were much more likely to say attacks against civilians are never justifiable (78% vs. 56%).  Aren’t these “secular humanists” beholden to scientific means?  Why then don’t they mention in their posting the results from the control group(s)?  Doing so would of course nullify their thesis.  The fact that U.S. Muslims are more likely to condemn attacks aimed against civilians completely negates their argument that wow, look at how many Moozlums support suicide attacks!

Anti-Muslim ideologues always link present day Muslim violence to Islamic scripture: the implication is that such a sizable percentage of young Muslims believe in suicide bombing because of their religion.  In fact, the opposite holds true: these young Muslims believe in suicide bombing in spite of their religion.

Indeed, such a large percentage of Muslims abhor the targeting and killing of civilians because of their religious canon, which–unlike the Jewish and Christian counterparts–condemns such a thing.  Whereas Moses in the Bible orders his soldiers to “kill all the boys[] and kill every woman” (Numbers 31:17), Muhammad explicitly forbade targeting civilians on numerous occasions, saying:  “Do not kill an infirm old man, an infant, a child, or a woman.” (Sunan Abu Dawood, book 14, #2608)

The Quran also forbids suicide, which is why the overwhelming majority of Muslims oppose suicide bombing, even against purely military targets.  Admittedly, it is true that there exists a debate in some Muslim circles about the morality of suicide attacks against both soldiers and civilians.  However, it is very simplistic to draw the following conclusion:

X percent of Muslims say suicide bombing is sometimes justifiable.  If there exist Y number of Muslims, then that’s a lot of suicide bombers!

This is an erroneous and hasty conclusion.  Rather, X percent of Muslims stating that suicide bombing is sometimes morally justifiable is often simply a manifestation of their sympathies and solidarity with Muslims fighting occupation, specifically Palestinians.  The MSNBC article reads:

…Radwan Masmoudi, president of the Washington-based Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy…said most supporters of the attacks likely assumed the context was a fight against occupation — a term Muslims often use to describe the conflict with Israel.

Many of these Muslims may fear that condemning such tactics entirely would rob the resistance fighters of their moral high-ground.  It does not mean that they themselves will go out and suicide bomb, no more than it would mean based on the poll results above that an average American would go out and start shooting Muslim civilians.

That a small but sizable portion of Muslims would justify Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians in the Occupied Territories may sound horrifying, but it ought to be understood in perspective: American and Israeli Jews are more likely to justify targeting and killing civilians (see results above).  Disturbingly, a survey conducted by Haifa University’s Center for the Study of National Security found that a majority of Israeli Jews support a policy of ethnic cleansing against Palestinians.

To this day, Americans debate the morality of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with an unsettling majority of them thinking these attacks to be justified.  It would not surprise me if some American readers of our site would go on to justify atomic bombing of Japan in the comments section below.

To be perfectly clear, I find both suicide bombing and atomic bombing to be morally repugnant.  But, atomic bombing is more atrocious by an order of magnitude: it is the ultimate indiscriminate weapon of mass destruction.  A minority of Muslims thinking that suicide bombing is sometimes morally justifiable is hardly as worrisome as a majority of Americans thinking that atomic bombing is perfectly morally justifiable.

*  *  *  *  *

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s quote can be further criticized for focusing on Muslims in only one decade of life (aged 18 to 29).  One could easily inflate the number of Christian, Jewish, or atheist/agnostic Americans who believe that targeting and killing civilians is permissible by focusing on that demographic with the highest results.  For example, older Americans are more likely to think this way, meaning those percentages would be even higher.

As the MSNBC article itself notes, “nearly 80 percent of U.S. Muslims say suicide bombings of civilians to defend Islam can not be justified, 13 percent say they can be, at least rarely.”  That 13% pales in front of the 58% of Protestants, 58% of Catholics, 52% of Jews, 64% of Mormons, and 43% of people with no religion/atheists/agnostics who argue that it is sometimes morally acceptable for the military to target and kill civilians.

As I wrote in my earlier article:

Of course, it would be worthwhile to consider actual results on the ground: we Americans have (at minimum, using conservative numbers) killed 30 times as many Muslim civilians as Muslims have killed of ours, whereas Israelis have killed many-fold the number of civilians as Palestinians have killed of theirs.  Clearly, what people and states do is far more relevant than what they merely believe.

Lastly, I would like to close with a message to the Global Secular Humanist Movement: shame on you for promoting an anti-Muslim demagogue and hatemonger like Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  It is the equivalent of posting up a quote by David Duke on Judaism.  But of course, the GSHM would find it very easy to levy attacks against an embattled minority in the U.S. (Muslims), but would never dare upset Jewish people in the same way.  Muslims are easy targets; GSHM knows that if it did the same thing to Jews, it “would get f*@king buried.”

Religious tolerance is a key feature of secular, liberal democracy in the American tradition.  Although I am not one to engage in nationalistic tribalism, I do deeply admire my country’s legacy of religion-friendly secularism, which stands in stark contrast to the religion-hostile (and un-American) French-style secularism.  Indeed, this latter style of secularism was born out of, and led to, an orgy of violence.  Intolerant secularists like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the Global Secularist Humanist Movement emulate the religious intolerance they supposedly decry.  One can hardly tell the difference between the rantings of “secularist” Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Christian Islamophobes; in fact, one will find the two routinely sharing notes and being very cozy with one another.  Case in point: GSHM’s quote of Ayaan Hirsi Ali has become very popular among Christian Islamophobic circles.  New Atheists like Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens lost all their credibility by jumping on the Islamophobic bandwagon; GSHM loses its credibility by posting Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s hateful screed.

Perhaps GSHM has taken up Ayaan Hirsi Ali because, as noted in yesterday’s featured article, “Ayaan Hirsi Ali (an exmuslim) has replaced Hitchens as the one of the Four Horsemen of New Atheism.”  The truth is that she can hardly be considered a horseman: she’s just an ass.  Ironically but unsurprisingly, it is asses like Ayaan Hirsi Ali who do more to undermine the cause of secularism and liberal democracy in the Muslim majority world than anybody else.  But more on that another time.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

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Most Victims of Islamic Terrorism are Muslims… And Why America is to Blame For It

Posted on 18 June 2012 by Danios

(Updated – see below)

Following the 9/11 attacks, President George Bush signed into law the Patriot Act and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA), both of which gave “the government sweeping authority to spy on individuals inside the United States.”  IRTPA also established the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which began publishing annual terrorism reports since 2005.  The 2011 report, released to the public last week, ominously warned of “the persistent treat terrorism poses.”

Yet, the NCTC’s own data belies its predetermined conclusions: the threat of terrorism to the average American is virtually non-existent.  In the entire year of 2011, exactly zero civilians in the U.S. were killed by terrorism.  In fact, not a single civilian in the U.S. has been killed by Islamic terrorism since 9/11, well over a decade ago.  Put another way: more Americans are killed from being crushed to death by their television sets than by terrorism, a realization that should put “the persistent threat” of terrorism into some much-needed perspective.

The same is the case across the pond: Europol has released yearly terrorism reports since 2006.  Going through these, one cannot find a single civilian in Europe who has been killed by Islamic terrorism.  (It should be noted, however, that the as of yet unreleased 2012 report will no doubt reflect the Toulouse shootings, which resulted in the death of four civilians.)  Indeed, the truth is that less than 1% of terrorism in Europe is done by Muslims.

In other words, the threat of Islamic terrorism in the Western world is very minimal.  It has been grossly exaggerated in order to justify the multiple wars being waged in Muslim majority countries.  The charge is led by anti-Muslim ideologues, but the overarching premise–that Islamic terrorism is a great threat to Western civilization (even an existential threat to it)–is accepted by virtually all segments of American society.

*  *  *  *  *

Not only do Muslims inflict zero civilian deaths in America and Europe, they bear the brunt of terrorism in the Middle East and South Asia.  The 2011 NCTC report found that the vast majority of deaths from religious terrorism were in fact Muslims.  The report reads:

• In cases where the religious affiliation of terrorism casualties could be determined, Muslims suffered between 82 and 97 percent of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years.

• Muslim majority countries bore the greatest number of attacks involving 10 or more deaths, with Afghanistan sustaining the highest number (47), followed by Iraq (44), Pakistan (37), Somalia (28), and Nigeria (12).

• Afghans also suffered the largest number of fatalities overall with 3,245 deaths, followed by Iraqis (2,958), Pakistanis (2,038), Somalis (1,013), and Nigerians (590).

The bulk of these terrorist attacks were carried out by Sunni extremists, including Al-Qaeda and the Taliban (see p.11 of the report).

Based on these two facts–1) that Muslims are the number one victims of Islamic terrorism, and 2) that Sunni extremists such as Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are most responsible for this—the American mind, fully ensconced in the national mythology, reaches the conclusion that Muslims ought to support America’s War on Terror; or, worded in an even more imperial tone:

Muslims should be grateful to us for fighting for them against the Bad Guys.

And yet, grateful is the last word to describe Muslim sentiment.  Muslims around the globe (including in Afghanistan and Iraq), overwhelmingly disapprove of the so-called War on Terror.  In fact, they hold very negative views of the United States (at least in regard its foreign policy), viewing “‘U.S. interference in the Arab world’ as the greatest obstacle to peace and stability in the Middle East.”  This, in spite of the majority holding very negative views towards Al-Qaeda and its tactics.

So, why aren’t these Moozlums grateful for all that we’ve done for them?

It’s because they know what is painfully obvious: it is U.S. military intervention in the region that is most responsible for creating the problem of terrorism.

This becomes very clear if we look at the three countries that have reported the highest number of terrorism-related fatalities (according to NCTC data):  Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.  These three countries alone accounted for 64% of terrorism-related fatalities in 2005, 74% in 2006, 77% in 2007, 59% in 2008, 61% in 2009, 66% in 2010, and 68% in 2011.

Iraqis specifically have suffered the most from terrorism: according to the NCTC, from 2005 to 2007 some 55-65% of terrorism-related fatalities occurred in Iraq alone.  The 2009 report declared: “Since 2005, Iraq continues to be the country with the most attacks and fatalities due to terrorism.”

The report also stated that the group most responsible for terrorism was (and continues to be) Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).  What the NCTC failed to point out, however, was that (in the words of Barack Obama) “Al-Qaeda in Iraq…didn’t exist before our invasion.”  Al-Qaeda in Iraq was founded with the intent to “[e]xpel the Americans from Iraq” and topple the interim government propped up by the United States.  The Iraqis can thank the United States for creating the conditions that spawned this terrorist group, as well as for the resulting violence.

In fact, is it very easy to see the correlation between the U.S. invasion and terrorism in Iraq using the RAND Database of Worldwide Terrorism Incidents (RDWTI), which has tracked terrorist incidents for several decades.

In the year before the Iraq War (from 3/19/2002 to 3/19/2003), there were only 13 terrorist attacks and 14 terrorism-related deaths in Iraq.  In the year after the Iraq War (from 3/20/2003 to 3/20/2004), there were 225 terrorist attacks and 1,074 terrorism-related deaths.  In other words, the U.S. invasion of Iraq resulted in an over 1600% increase in terrorist attacks and an over 7500% increase in terrorism-related deaths in just one year.  

At the height of the Iraq War, there were 3,968 terrorist attacks, resulting in 9,497 deaths–which amounts to an over 30,000% increase in terrorist incidents and over 67,000% increase in terrorism-related deaths as compared to pre-war years.

Here is a graphical representation to help visualize the data from RDWTI:

With the U.S. invasion Iraq went from having a virtually non-existent terrorism problem to becoming the world champion of terrorism, a title it continued to hold up until 2010.  It is difficult to attribute this to mere coincidence.

In 2011, Iraq dropped to second place, being overtaken by another one of America’s arenas of war: Afghanistan.  This war-torn country is a second example of how U.S. military intervention created the problem of terrorism.

According to the NCTC reports, the Taliban have been responsible for the vast majority of terrorism-related deaths in Afghanistan.  Yet, prior to the invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban were not terrorists, at least not how the term is commonly employed today by the United States.  Certainly, they were theocratic tyrants who imposed a frighteningly fundamentalist interpretation of Islam on the Afghan people.  But, the Taliban at this time weren’t associated with Al-Qaeda style tactics such as suicide attacks, car bombs, or IED explosives.

The RAND Database of Worldwide Terrorism Incidents supports this assertion, recording only two incidents involving the Taliban in the year prior to 9/11: an assassination attempt of a rebel leader and a rocket attack.

As government documents reveal, it was only after ”[t]he Taliban was driven from power in late 2001, during the course of a United States-led invasion of Afghanistan” that “the Taliban has operated as a violent insurgent organization–bent on driving the United States and its allies from Afghanistan…resort[ing] to armed violence: car bombings; suicide strikes; rocket attacks; kidnappings; and murder.”  The Taliban resorted to terrorist tactics in their fight against foreign occupiers and the U.S.-installed puppet regime in Kabul.  This conflict, almost wholly a result of U.S. actions, is responsible for the violence and wave of terrorism that has rocked Afghanistan for the last decade.

Using the data from RDWTI, we find that in the year just prior to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, there were only three terrorist attacks in the country, resulting in eight fatalities.  By 2008, the number of terrorist attacks had jumped to 450 and the number of terrorism-related deaths to 1,228.  In other words, the U.S. War in Afghanistan resulted in a 15,000% increase in both terrorism related incidents and deaths. 

Here’s what it looks graphically:

The U.S.-led War in Afghanistan has created a worsening terrorism problem for Pakistan as well.  There are many complex reasons for this spike in violence within Pakistan (which are beyond the scope of this article), but all are ultimately rooted in America’s War on Terror.  Using the RAND Database of Worldwide Terrorism Incidents, we find that there was an over 650% increase in terrorism-related fatalities in Pakistan as a result of America’s war (568 deaths in 2008 as compared to 73 in 2000).

Lest Democratic supporters be tempted to think that the blame belongs to George Bush’s administration alone, let them be informed that war-making has bipartisan consensus.  President Barack Obama has continued the legacy of warring in the Muslim world.

We can actually trace American war-making using Muslim corpses as an indicator.  Obama promised to shift focus from Iraq to Afghanistan.  U.S. troop levels in Iraq were a quarter of what they were in 2011 as they were in 2007; coincidentally, in the same time span Iraqi fatalities from terrorism fell to a quarter of what they were (according to NCTC data).

Meanwhile, Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama tripled U.S. troops in Afghanistan between 2008 and 2011.  According to NCTC data, between 2008 and 2011 there was an over 130% increase in terrorist attacks and 68% increase in terrorism-related deaths in Afghanistan.

Obama has also stepped up the war in Pakistan.  NCTC data reveals a 500% increase in terrorism-related fatalities in Pakistan from 2005 (338) to 2011 (2,033).  For the past few years, Pakistan has earned the dubious rank of third when it comes to terrorism, behind only Iraq and Afghanistan.

*  *  *  *  *

Before the so-called War on Terror, levels of terrorism in Muslim lands were similar to what they were in other parts of the world.  For example, the RAND Database of Worldwide Terrorism Incidents indicates that, up until the U.S.-led War on Terror, the Middle East and Latin America had similar incidents of terrorism; it was only after the U.S.-led War on Terror that terrorism in the Middle East shot way up:

In the year 2000, there were a total of 404 terrorist attacks in all of the Middle East and South Asia.  By 2006, this number jumped to 5,738–an increase of more than 1300%!  This is what America’s War on Terror has done for terrorism in the Muslim world.

The same trend holds for terrorist attacks globally.  In the year 2000, there were 1,151 total terrorist attacks.  By 2006, this number had rocketed up to 6,660.  In other words, the U.S.-led War on Terror caused a more than 470% increase in worldwide terrorism.

Islamophobes would have us believe that it is Islam itself that is responsible for the upsurge in terrorism.  Most Americans, even many liberals, believe that “radical Islam” is the root of the problem.  The data, however, suggests that it is the United States of America that is most responsible for creating the conditions on the ground that inexorably lead to terrorism.

It is difficult to deny the correlation between the U.S.-led War on Terror and the rise of terrorism worldwide.  Is it not a great irony of our times that the very policies designed to combat terrorism are most responsible for creating terrorism?  To add another layer of perverse irony, the steep rise in terrorism–a direct result of U.S. action–is used to justify further such action.

In the words of Glenn Greenwald:

How could any rational person expect their government to spend a full decade (and counting) invading, droning, cluster-bombing, occupying, detaining without charges, and indiscriminately shooting huge numbers of innocent children, women and men in multiple countries and not have its victims and their compatriots be increasingly eager to return the violence?

But it is Muslims who not only have to deal with American “inva[sions], droning, cluster-bombing, occupying, detaining without charges, and indiscriminately shooting huge numbers of innocent children, women and men”, but also have to bear the brunt of the terrorism that inevitably follows.  It is truly a double whammy for them.

The vast majority of Americans will never face religious terrorism in their lives: less than 1% of victims of religious terrorism are U.S. civilians.  Meanwhile, up to 97% are Muslims.

It is truly an Orwellian world we live in.  The nation most responsible for creating rampant terrorism lays the blame on the victims of such terrorism.  Muslims are told that “they aren’t doing enough to combat terror”, even while Americans do their utmost to reflexively continue such action as would ensure the continued survival–nay, the rapid proliferation–of terror.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

Update I (6/19/12):

The original version of the article suffered from minor mathematical errors, which have now been corrected (h/t JSB).

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Annual Report: Zero Civilians in U.S. Killed by Islamic Terrorism… Just Like Every Year Since 9/11

Posted on 09 June 2012 by Danios

Following the devastating 9/11 attack, terrorism has become the number one issue for the U.S. government.  Just under 60% of discretionary spending for the 2012 federal budget was allocated to the military–ten times the amount spent on education and health care.  As a U.S. citizen, over half of your income tax goes to sustaining the war state.  Since 9/11, more than a trillion dollars have been spent funding the War on Terror.  Aside from depleting the nation’s treasury, thousands of U.S. soldiers have been killed during these hostilities.

To justify this exorbitant cost, the American establishment must convince its citizenry that terrorism is a major threat to their safety and well-being.  Terrorism is portrayed as an existential threat to all Western civilization.  For this reason, government officials, with the help of the mainstream media, routinely fear-monger about the overwhelming threat of Islamic terrorism.  Right-wing Islamophobes lead the way, but the basic paradigm is generally accepted by both left and right, Democrat and Republican alike.  There is bipartisan consensus when it comes to the basic premise of the War on Terror, with little difference in foreign policy between George Bush and Barack Obama.

To prove the gravity of the threat, various government-affiliated organizations have been documenting terrorism.  The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), for example, has been diligently recording data on terrorist attacks.  Just this week, the NCTC released to the public its annual terrorism report for the year 2011.

Micah Zenko of The Atlantic published an article entitled Americans Are as Likely to Be Killed by Their Own Furniture as by Terrorism.  Although Mr. Zenko’s good intention and clever title deserve praise, I feel that his article is (unintentionally) misleading.  For one thing, Americans are much more likely to be killed by their own furniture than by terrorists.  And for another, the article’s byline is misleading:

Terrorist attacks killed 17 U.S. civilians last year and 15 the year before.

Those of you who regularly read my writing know that I closely follow such data and have proven again and again that, since 9/11, Islamic terrorists have killed a grand total of zero civilians in the United States.  So, why does Mr. Zenko state that 17 U.S. civilians were killed by terrorist attacks in 2011 and another 15 the year before?

It’s unfortunate that Mr. Zenko failed to mention the very important fact that none of these deaths occurred in the United States.  Moreover, all of these fatalities occurred in war zones–in regions that the U.S. is militarily occupying (Afghanistan and Iraq) or assisting in the occupation of (Palestine).  Buried on page 17 of the NCTC report, we read:

Seventeen U.S. private citizens worldwide were killed by terrorist attacks in 2011. These deaths occurred in Afghanistan (15), Jerusalem (1), and Iraq (1). Overall, U.S. private citizen deaths constituted only 0.13 percent of the total number of deaths worldwide (12,533) caused by terrorism in 2011. Fourteen U.S private citizens were wounded by terrorism in 2011; 10 in Afghanistan, three in Jerusalem, and one in Iraq.

In the entire year of 2011, the Afghan and Iraqi insurgencies killed a combined total of 16 U.S. private civilians.  By way of comparison, note that in a single event in March of 2011, “[a]n American soldier went on a house-to-house shooting spree in two [Afghan] villages…killing 16 people…four men, three women and nine children.”  Not surprisingly, this incident–clearly an act of terrorism if that word is to have any meaningful definition (although admittedly, it does not)–does not find its way into the NCTC report.  This is because it’s only terrorism when our enemies (especially Muslims) do it.

This huge double standard is apparent from the NCTC report itself, which declares on the opening page:

In compiling the figures of terrorist incidents that are included in the CRT and the NRT, NCTC uses the definition of terrorism found in Title 22, which provides that terrorism is “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.” (See, 22 U.S.C. § 2656f(d)[2]).

In other words, by definition the United States or its military cannot commit acts of terrorism.  An act becomes terrorism based not on the action but on who commits this action.  If “subnational groups or clandestine agents” kill civilians in an attack, this is terrorism–especially if that group is Muslim or named “Al-Qaeda”.  Meanwhile, if the United States kills ten times as many civilians in an even greater attack, that’s not terrorism at all and will never find its way in the government’s database of terrorist attacks.

If an American soldier guns down 16 Afghan villagers (including three women and nine children), that’s not terrorism.  Meanwhile, the NCTC counted Major Nidal Hasan’s shooting spree against U.S. soldiers on a military base as an act of terrorism. This, in a nutshell, summarizes the American government’s mentality.

A cursory search of news report in 2011 reveals that on a seemingly routine basis the United States killed more Afghan civilians than the 17 U.S. civilians killed by Muslim terrorists in the entire year.  Here is a very incomplete sampling of the victims of various U.S.-led raids in the previous year:

three civilians, five civilians (including one woman and two children), 65 civilians, nine boys, the Afghan president’s own cousin (can you imagine if the Afghans shot and killed a U.S. president’s cousin–or even the president’s dog?), two children, seven civilians (including women and children), six civilians, two women and a child, two civilians (including a 12-year old girl), a boy, a girl, four civilians (including two women), one civilian (shot and killed because he had a flashlight in his hand), 14 civilians (two women and 12 children), 13 civilians (including three women and eight children), two civilians, “up to 16 civilians”, four civilians, six civilians (including an 11-year old girl), a journalist, four civilians, and seven civilians.

Recently it came to light what I suspected long time ago: to minimize reported civilian deaths, the United States government, borrowing a tactic used by Israel, defines “militant” to mean “all military-age males in a strike zone.”  Simply put, wherever an American bomb falls, there lies a militant.  Even using such an absurdly restrictive definition of “civilian”, the United States has killed way more Afghan civilians than the Afghan insurgency has killed American civilians, a fact that is evident from the incomplete list above.

Long before it was revealed that the U.S. was counting “militants” in this way, Gareth Porter of Counterpunch had astutely noted:

Except for a relatively few women and children killed by accident, the civilians who died in the raids were all adult males who were counted as insurgents in press releases and official data released by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Porter estimated that in reality U.S. Night Raids Killed Over 1,500 Afghan Civilians in Ten Months in 2010 and 2011, far outstripping the meager 17 civilians killed by Muslim terrorists as reported by the NCTC.  This is not even to speak of the civilians killed by the U.S. in other Muslim countries, such as Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

But, always remember: they are the violent ones.

*  *  *  *  *

The NCTC has released annual terrorism reports since 2005 (see: 20052006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011).  Going through these, we find that in this entire seven year period, there were only two successful acts of Islamic terrorism inside the U.S. (the Little Rock recruiting office shooting and the Fort Hood Shooting).  Both were against military targets: in the former, Carlos Bledsoe shot and killed a U.S. soldier outside an army recruiting center.  In the latter, Major Nidal Hasan shot and killed 12 soldiers and one military-contracted ex-soldier on a military base.

In other words, at least since 2005, not a single civilian has been killed in the U.S. by Muslim terrorists.  

As for American deaths outside the U.S., the majority of these (over 80%) have been in war zones, according to the data available in the NCTC reports.  Of these fatalities, 97% have been in Afghanistan and Iraq.  From 2005 to 2011, the total number of U.S. deaths outside of war zones has been limited to 17.  This means that, outside of those countries the U.S. wages war in, an average of two American civilians per year are killed by Muslim terrorists.  This, I think, should put Micah Zenko’s article in further context.

*  *  *  *  *

In fact, we can go further back than 2005 using the RAND Corporation’s list of terrorist attacks within the United States.  (RAND is a nonprofit global policy think tank financed by the U.S. government.)  Going through this 2010 report, it becomes clear that Muslim terrorists haven’t killed a single civilian in the U.S. since 9/11.

A similar situation exists in Europe: Europol has been releasing annual terrorism reports since 2006.  As I indicated in my 2011 article Europol Reports Zero Deaths from Islamic Terrorism in Europe:

Zero civilians in Europe have been killed by Islamic terrorists in the last half decade.  In fact, the only injuries incurred from Islamic terrorism were to a security guard who “was slightly wounded.”  Perhaps the “anti-jihadist” blogosphere should find this one security guard and give him a medal of honor and declare him a martyr for the cause.

Unfortunately, since the publication of that article, a French citizen of Algerian ethnicity shot and killed three soldiers and four civilians.  This brings the total civilians in Europe killed from Islamic terrorism (2006-present) to a grand total of four, or an average of less than one person per year.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the great threat of Islamic terrorism in the Western world: you are more likely to die from an allergic reaction to peanuts, being struck and killed by lightning, or being crushed to death by your television set than being killed by a Muslim terrorist.

Nonetheless, the NCTC report states that the “ultimate goal” of the publication “is to maintain global awareness of the persistent threat terrorism poses and the critical need to secure its defeat.”  Could this be anything other than rank propaganda?  Yet, in spite of the horrifically biased methodology employed by the NCTC, the data belies the case being made, a strong indication of how flimsy the ideological basis for the War on Terror really is.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

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Even OBL Admitted that Homegrown Terrorism is Un-Islamic? What the Bin Laden Letters Reveal

Posted on 04 June 2012 by Danios

The United States government recently released a select few letters from a trove of Al-Qaeda documents recovered from Osama Bin Laden’s final hideaway in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  Leaving aside the obvious fact that the release of 17 documents out of thousands is nothing short of war propaganda–and ignoring the absolute vacuous nature of the political punditry that passes as “terrorism expertise” in this country–there was one gem buried in the Bin Laden letters that has gone unnoticed thus far.

In a 2010 letter from Bin Laden to “Shaykh Mahmud” (SOCOM-2012-0000015), Al-Qaeda’s leader mentions the case of Faisal Shahzad, an American Muslim of Pakistani origin who unsuccessfully attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Square.  It is Bin Laden’s views towards Shahzad’s actions that reveal something quite noteworthy.

After the failed Times Square bombing, the cottage industry of Very Serious Terrorism Experts began warning the American people of the looming threat of “homegrown terrorism.”  A CNN article entitled Analysis: The spread of U.S. homegrown terrorism declared:

Nearly a decade ago, a group of Saudis and other men from the Middle East came to the United States to carry out the worst terrorist attack on the U.S.

Not a single one had American citizenship.

Almost nine years after the September 11 attacks, the threat of another major terror strike is still a concern, but where the threat is coming from has changed.

A growing number of American citizens and longtime residents of the United States are becoming radicalized enough by al Qaeda’s extremist ideology to kill their fellow Americans, counterterrorism officials say.

It is difficult to call this “analysis” as the title implies.  Rather, this is another case of the media operating as the government’s stenographer.  The CNN article itself quotes the Homeland Security Secretary:

“In the 9/11 world and in the immediate aftermath, the theory was and the reality was that a terrorist attack, if it were to occur again on U.S. soil, would be someone coming from abroad and coming in to the United States,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said. “That paradigm has changed, and there are now individuals in the United States, some who have grown up here and are American citizens. … They haven’t done anything to violate the law, but yet they have become radicalized to the point of violent extremism and to the point of … considering coming back to the homeland and conducting an attack of some sort.”

As Stephen Colbert put it in his 2006 speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner (via Glenn Greenwald):

But, listen, let’s review the rules. Here’s how it works. The President makes decisions. He’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put ‘em through a spell check and go home.

In this case, the government wanted to spread the idea that homegrown Islamic terrorism is the new threat, and that Al-Qaeda was now actively recruiting American citizens.  In fact, this claim was nothing new.  As early as 2007, President Barack Obama had ominously warned of Al-Qaeda recruiting in U.S. jails:

I will address the problem in our prisons, where the most disaffected and disconnected Americans are being explicitly targeted for conversion by al Qaeda and its ideological allies

Following the failed Times Square bombing in 2010, by 2011 this issue had become such a grave issue that the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security held Congressional hearings “on radicalization in the U.S. Muslim community” to assess the threat of homegrown terrorism.

The idea, that Americans need to fear their fellow Muslim compatriots, is very troubling from a sociological point of view.  Throughout American history, various minorities–such as Jews, Catholics, and Japanese–have been portrayed in the fifth column role.  Indeed, Islamophobes of the worst order have made a living selling books warning of the “stealth jihad” being waged by American Muslims right here in the United States.

We are told by these anti-Muslim conspiracy nuts that Islam itself permits “holy lying” (a dubious translation of the word taqiyya).  To bolster this claim, they reproduce an isolated text from a corpus attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, in which he says “war is deceit.”

I have addressed this issue numerous times in the past.  For example, when Major Nidal Hasan used his military clearance to kill U.S. soldiers, I wrote an article explaining why this was in fact strictly forbidden (haram) from an Islamic law point of view.  American Muslims must obey U.S. laws, and certainly are not permitted to harm the state or its people.

This is because the Quran–and Islam in general–affirms the importance of “covenants”, i.e. peace treaties, Visa and citizenship agreements, etc.  The Quran declares emphatically:

And fulfill every covenant.  Verily, you will be held accountable with regard to the covenants. (Quran, 17:34)

As I noted in my earlier article, “[t]he Quran does say that if the believers are being oppressed in some land, then the Muslims should come to their assistance.  But it forbids fighting against those with whom a covenant exists.”

In the case of American Muslims, they cannot aid their fellow Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere–at least not militarily or in any way that would constitute treason against the United States.  Of this, the Quran states:

If [your coreligionists] ask for your aid in religion, then you must help them, except against people with whom you have covenants with. (Quran, 8:72)

Nonetheless, right-wingers have worked Americans into a frenzy by fear-mongering about how American Muslims supposedly want to overthrow the democratic government of the United States and replace it with a “Sharia state.”  This, however, would constitute an act of treachery and treason, which is clearly proscribed in Islam.

American Muslims must constantly remind their fellow citizens of this fact, routinely reaffirming their loyalty to the country.  But, Islamophobes insist that this is just a watered down or sugar coated version of Islam, which American Muslims just try selling to Western audiences while behind the scenes they plot the downfall of the government.  To them, the Times Square would-be bomber wasn’t hijacking (or rather, carjacking) Islam, but rather, he was faithfully carrying out the commandments of Allah.

However, what the Bin Laden papers reveal is that even Osama Bin Laden–the nefarious leader of the world’s most feared Islamic extremist group–admitted that such homegrown terrorism is not proper, at least from a theological point of view.  In the 2010 letter I referenced above, Bin Laden writes to ”Shaykh Mahmud” (emphasis is mine):

Perhaps you monitored the trial of brother Faysal Shahzad. In it he was asked about the oath that he took when he got American citizenship. And he responded by saying that he lied. You should know that it is not permissible in Islam to betray trust and break a covenant. Perhaps the brother was not aware of this. Please ask the brothers in Taliban Pakistan to explain this point to their members. In one of the pictures, brother Faysal Shahzad was with commander Mahsud; please find out if Mahsud knows that getting the American citizenship requires talking an oath to not harm America. This is a very important matter because we do not want al-Mujahidin to be accused of breaking a covenant.

So, here we have even the poster boy of Islamic terrorism saying that Faisal Shahzad violated Islamic law by taking American citizenship and then harming America.  Islamophobes would be quick to dismiss these words by OBL as taqiyya (“holy lying”), but remember: these were words contained not in a public Al-Qaeda statement but in a private letter between Bin Laden and his associate.  This letter was not intended for an outside audience, and was only released by the United States government.

How then could it be a case of taqiyya?  Unless Osama Bin Laden wrote the letter in 2010 knowing that two years later the United States would raid his compound in Pakistan and then release his letter.  Those wily Islamic terrorists!

Of course, Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda are anything but consistent.  Despite Bin Laden disavowing Faisal Shahzad’s actions–and recognizing the Islamic principle that prohibits such “homegrown terrorism”–Al-Qaeda’s spokesman Adam Gadahn approved of Major Nidal Hasan’s actions and called on American Muslims to to attack the United States.  One could probably find similar inconsistencies in Bin Laden’s own words.  (In fact, most of Al-Qaeda’s bread-and-butter acts of terrorism are forbidden in Islam just based on the issue of covenants and the prohibition of being treacherous–even leaving aside the more important issue of non-combatant immunity.)

It’s also true that this doesn’t mean that homegrown terrorism isn’t a major problem. (Other articles of mine point out that homegrown terrorism is highly exaggerated.)  But, the point is that even Al-Qaeda’s head honcho, Osama Bin Laden himself, admitted that Islam prohibits homegrown terrorism, even while his group encouraged it.  He conceded that Islamic law forbids breaking a covenant, treaty, or trust–that it proscribes treason and treachery. This reinforces what is well-known to real experts of Islam, which is that A-Qaeda and other Muslim terrorists aren’t following Islam at all, despite what the Islamophobes continue to claim.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.  

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Further reading:

Why Islam forbids “homegrown terrorism”

Everything you need to know about taqiyya

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Blackface, Brownface, Yellowface, Arabface, Jewface, and Purpleface

Posted on 07 May 2012 by Danios

Ashton Kutcher recently embroiled himself in some controversy by starring in a commercial for Pop Chips.  He was featured in the ad in brownface.  Kutcher used brown make-up to darken his face in order to play Raj, a Bollywood producer “looking for love.”  Many Americans of South-Asian ethnicity were offended and protested the racist stereotyping of Indians.  Duly chastened, Pop Chips removed the ad.

Comedian Hasan Minhaj, himself of South Asian ethnicity, didn’t think this sufficient and issued a video response blasting Pop Chips:

The Huffington Post also wrote an article about Minhaj’s response:

One common reaction to the ad’s use of stereotypes, both on Twitter and in comments, has been, “How is this any different than Sacha Baron Cohen doing ‘Borat’?”

Minhaj’s response was decisive: Borat is not in brownface.

“As a man of Jewish descent, Sacha Baron Cohen uses the character of Borat to ridicule antisemitism, misogyny, and bigotry,” Minhaj told HuffPost. “What was the point of the ‘Raj’ character? Oh yeah, to sell Pop Chips by blatantly laughing at Indian people.”

In fact, Sacha Baron Cohen has now appeared in Arabface in the heavily anticipated movie The Dictator.  Cohen depicts Admiral General Shabazz Aladeen, a fictional Arab character.

You know how many Americans have protested this movie?  Exactly three and a half people.  There is absolute silence, approving acceptance, and in fact gleeful admiration for the blatant racist stereotype that is the movie’s main character.

As Hasan Minhaj explained, the reason Pop Chips thought they could get away with brown face is

because that’s the way it is now.  They wouldn’t do that with any other ethnicity.  There’s a barbecue flavor of Pop Chips.  Why didn’t you make him black faced and Tyrone? Why didn’t you do that?  Because you knew you would get f*@king buried, Pop Chips, that’s why!

Well, at least Pop Chips removed the ad.  It’s even worse for Arabs and Muslims: nobody has given two damns about The Dictator.  If a major motion studio made a movie about a character in blackface, yellowface, or Jewface–they “would get f*@king buried.”

I know what you’re going to say to justify it: Cohen portrays a tyrannical Arab dictator, not just any ole’ Arab.  Here’s why I’m not buying it.  Can you imagine, just for a fleeting moment, if an Arab Muslim dressed up as an evil Jewish person–in Jewface no less–and made a movie out of it?  Can you imagine how “f*@kingburied” that person would be?

If Sacha Baron Cohen is justifying racist stereotypes under the guise of “just portraying an evil Arab tyrant”, could Arabs make a major motion film featuring a Jewfaced actor–complete with hooknose, dreadlocks, and a skull cap–starring as an evil Israeli politician?  If an Arab American or an American Muslim did such a thing, we all know how “f*@king buried” they’d be.

But, here we have  Jewish actor, Sacha Baron Cohen, depicting an Arab in a racist way. The double standard is obvious: a Jewish person can get away with playing a stereotypical Arab Muslim, but an Arab Muslim would be likened to Adolf Hitler if he portrayed a stereotypical Jewish person.

Cohen’s mother was born in Israel and Cohen himself spent time in Israel.  He also has associated with a Zionist movement, Habonim Dror.  Thankfully, Habonim Dror is actually very moderate in its views towards Palestinians.  Naturally, none of this is a crime, but it certainly means he is all the more audacious in portraying an Arab in Arabface.  Imagine, for instance, the reaction of the media (Fox News!) to an Arab Muslim who is part of CAIR–or an Iranian American with ties to Iran–portraying a Jew in Jewface.  Any Arab, Muslim, or Iranian who did such a thing would be “f*@king buried” alive in America.  He’d lose his job, be labeled an Anti-semite, and become a social outcast forever.

Really, the truth is that one simply cannot imagine a major motion film being made using any other type of face: can you imagine the outcry over blackface?  Is there even a question about that one?  We’ve seen the reaction over brownface: the Pop Chips ad was removed.  (Meanwhile, The Dictator marches onward without a single peep from any corner of American society.)  As for yellowface, I sincerely doubt that Sacha Baron Cohen could get away with painting his face yellow and squinting his eyes.  Jewface?  Yeah, right!

The rules are clear:

Blackface?  Not a chance!

Brownface?  Maybe, but probably not.

Yellowface?  No way, Jose!

Jewface?  You Anti-Semite!

Arabface?  We love it!

Stereotyping and racism against Arabs and Muslims is perfectly OK, because they occupy the lowest rung of the social totem pole in America.

I know people will rush to justify The Dictator, “because it’s funny.”  I’m not denying it’s funny.  I’ve seen the trailers and they are, quite honestly, hilarious.  But, does being funny give one a pass to be blatantly racist?  If a white actor made a comedic film in blackface, portraying a tribal African in native dress–with a bone through his nose and riding a cheetah–would this be acceptable so long as the jokes were funny enough?

True, comedy is a special world, but I just can’t imagine too many white comics making fun of blacks in a pejorative way and then justifying it by saying “it’s just comedy!”  Certainly, black comedians can poke fun at their own community, just as Jewish comedians do to their own community.  But, making fun of another race–especially one which historically has been at loggerheads with your own (i.e. white vs. black, Jewish vs. Arab, etc.) seems to me to be very questionable.

Another justification will be raised, which is that Jewish comedians, including Sacha Baron Cohen himself, make fun of Jews also.  As I said above, it’s one thing to make fun of your own community.  It’s quite a different matter to attack another.  Furthermore, there’s a difference between relatively benign* (yet unhelpful) stereotypes (i.e. black people are good at basketball, have large you know what’s, etc.) and very malignant, extremely hurtful ones (i.e. black people are violent, prone to criminality, are apes, etc.).  The jokes about Jewish people that Jewish comedians make are almost always of the former type and not the latter.  Meanwhile, racist portrayals of Arabs and Muslims are often of the latter type, depicting them as violent terrorists and oppressors of women.

Compared to prevailing Arab and Muslim stereotypes, Ashton Kutcher’s Raj was significantly less offensive.  How an Arab Muslim would long to be the “exotic”, funny-talking Apu character from the Simpsons instead of Achmed the Dead Terrorist.  Trust me, you’d rather be stereotyped as the guy who works at a convenience store than the guy who blows it up.

*To be clear, I am opposed to all racist stereotyping, whether benign or malignant.  The word “benign” is itself a bit misleading, because even these stereotypes have associations with malignant stereotypes: for example, black men being nothing but gladiators or sexual beasts.  On the other hand, I recognize that it would probably be difficult to eliminate all stereotyping in comedy routines.  Poor Russell Peters would be left with 2 minutes of material.  Certainly, however, even Russell Peters understands and respects the difference between “benign” and malignant stereotypes.

Nonetheless, I have a huge problem with the fact that we define non-white people by their race.  All we see, at least when we look at minorities, is a black face, a yellow face, and a brown face.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

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