Over the last few months I've had a handful of back and forth exchanges with a few Skeptic Ink colleagues over a disagreement about the effectiveness and morality of the United States' drone war, the causes of the attacks upon the US homeland and its citizens abroad, and how to best solve this dilemma. After looking at the evidence and examining the reasons the terrorists have given for their attacks, it seemed clear that many of the actions by the West have mightily contributed to these many acts of terrorism, including the dreadful day of 9/11. One of my colleagues, The Prussian, doesn't agree with this assessment and believes that religion is the sole cause. I've written about why I disagree on this point several times in the past. However, here is one example of US actions directly contributing to calls for violence by Arabs.
In a much publicized case of the murder in Afghanistan of a pro-government Afghan police commander named Mohammed Daoud Sharabuddin and several members of his family in 2010 by U.S. special forces, the surviving family members pledged their hatred for the U.S. and their desire to kill Americans. When being interviewed by British investigative journalist Jerome Starkey the surviving members of the family told him, ”All our family, we now don’t care about our lives. We will all do suicide attacks and [the whole province] will support us.”  It must be kept in mind that this is the family of a pro-government and anti-Taliban Afghan police commander who was being trained by the U.S. military. Now, their allegiance with the U.S. has been shattered because of Daoud’s murder at the hands of the American military.
Of my main argument about how to stop the attacks The Prussian writes,
The basic argument is that if the United States leaves the Muslim world alone, they’ll stop randomly killing civilians over here.This is a bit of a simplification and he's neglected some important things. Yes, I do believe that by pulling all military forces out of the Middle East that would be a good start in quelling much of the anger. However, other important aspects he left out are my recommendation to sincerely apologize for all of the acts of violence that the US has brought to their country and to help prop up the economies. This two-prong strategy would help to quell much of the motivations for young men and families to join groups like al Qaeda. Finally, the issue of the horrible treatment of the Palestinians at the hands of the Jewish state is also another hot-button issue, which The Prussian doesn't address at all.
He continues by quoting John Derbyshire, who advocates a brutish form of violence that I think is uncalled for. But what is his argument? Derbyshire writes,
Ah, but Mark, there is rubble, and there is rubble. Of the 13th-century Mongol horde it was said that when they had once bestowed their attentions on a city, you could afterwards ride over the place where that city had stood without your horse stumbling. If the indignities suffered in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Grozny are the root causes of present-day Islamic terrorism, then I submit that the indignities were insufficiently severe.I believe he is essentially arguing that if the Mongols destroying the Middle East wasn't enough to cause acts of retaliatory violence, then the actions of the US in their country couldn't possibly be the cause of the Arab world's grievances. I think all I need to do to refute this is to quote the above reason (and all of the others l've cited in other posts). In addition, in my piece about how to stop terrorism I demonstrated that al Qaeda's attacks first occurred not long after the US aided Israel in their brutal and unnecessary bombing of Lebanon. And the individual I quoted cited precisely this event that caused him to become radicalized against the West. I don't know about you, but I think that's pretty much a slam dunk case for why the terrorists do what they do. Trying to bomb them clearly isn't going to do anything; it's only going to make them want revenge. And as noted earlier, the bombing of Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. has only exacerbated the issue. As a matter of fact, even US government officials recognize this very obvious truism! For instance, a 1997 Department of Defense study concluded:
Historical data show a strong correlation between US involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States. This study goes on to note that even after bombing Libya after a retaliatory attack it was believed this would stop any further acts of aggression, but they were wrong:
When evidence pointed to Libya as the culprit behind the LaBelle Disco bombing in Berlin, which killed two US soldiers and injured many, the United States retaliated with an air strike in April 1986 against specific Libyan targets in Tripoli. The popular belief for years was that this US attack suppressed Libyan activity in support of terrorism. However, an examination of events in subsequent years paints a different picture. Instead, Libya continued, through transnational actors, to wage a revenge campaign over a number of years as summarized in Figure 2. (pg. 15)Long before 9/11 the government knew that large bombing campaigns would only lead to more and escalating violence but the leaders ignored these facts.
Moving on.... The Prussian continues to argue that a major complaint by the Arab world is homosexuality and drugs, etc. He argues,
Ah, but will that be doing enough of what they want? It might not. For example here is Sheikh Muhammad al-Gamei’a – head imam in New York – has expressed himself as follows:Excerpts of this interview can currently be found at this website.
“You see these people [Jews] all the time, everywhere disseminating corruption, heresy, homosexuality, alcoholism and drugs. Because of the Jews there are strip clubs, homosexuals, lesbians everywhere. They do this to impose their hegemony and colonialism on the world…”
Right then, we’d better repeat gay marriage something sharpish, and while we’re at it, criminalize homosexuality. Then go on to ban strip clubs, alcohol, get rid of freedom of speech (I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Muslims take ‘heresy’ quite seriously)… To be on the safe side, time to reset relations between the sexes to at least 1950s. Why, we even let women be heads of government and then wonder why we’re despised? Actually, as I recall, Osama listed Clinton’s “abominable acts” as part of his casus belli, so stone the adulterer to death! These suggestions have been also been tabled before.
To ensure it's clear let me repeat what The Prussian just said about this quote:
Right then, we’d better repeat gay marriage something sharpish, and while we’re at it, criminalize homosexuality. Then go on to ban strip clubs, alcohol, get rid of freedom of speech (I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Muslims take ‘heresy’ quite seriously)… To be on the safe side, time to reset relations between the sexes to at least 1950s. Why, we even let women be heads of government and then wonder why we’re despised? Actually, as I recall, Osama listed Clinton’s “abominable acts” as part of his casus belli, so stone the adulterer to death!This is the full text of the quote cited, including a few of the interviewer's questions. I've placed the quoted part in bold:
Q: "The media has reported firing on mosques and harassment of Muslim women, and the situation has gotten so bad that Arabs are murdered in the streets. What about harassment you and your family have suffered?"After reading this quote in context it should not be difficult to see that The Prussian took al-Gamei’a out of context. He was clearly referring to his anti-Jewish views and attacking Jews specifically (likely due to the rivalry that has existed between the two groups for decades because of the Jewish state's treatment of the Palestinians). He was also discussing the anti-Muslim violence and discrimination that occurred after the 9/11 attacks. He was in no way referring to grievances done to him by the US as The Prussian makes it appear. After this he also claims that former president Bill Clinton's sexual escapades was a reason bin Laden decided to attack the US. Unfortunately, he cites no sources, and I've never heard of such a thing. I think I can safely dismiss this argument because resorting to speculation isn't convincing. The very fact that he has to resort to such things appears to be evidence that he had trouble finding evidence that would back up his view that US drone attacks and wars in the Middle East are not a cause of terrorist attacks.
Gamei’a: "It’s true. The Muslims are being persecuted by the people and the federal government. This is the result of the bad image of Muslims created by the Zionist media, and of their presenting Islam as a religion of terrorism. That is why the Americans have linked the recent incidents to Islam. I personally have suffered; my home was attacked and my daughters were harassed."
Q: "What did you do about this harassment?"
Gamei’a: "When a group of people attacked my home, I went out to them and asked why they were doing this. They said that because we were Muslims we were linked to terrorism. I explained to them that what they were doing was uncivilized and was, in effect, a twofold crime, you let the criminals go free and attack innocents. This does not suit a modern state and a modern people, and is opposed to human values." "During my conversations with this group, it became clear to me that they knew very well that the Jews were behind these ugly acts, while we, the Arabs, were innocent, and that someone from among their people was disseminating corruption in the land. Although the Americans suspect that the Zionists are behind the act, none has the courage to talk about it in public."
Q: "Why can’t they talk about it? It’s their country, and the Jews are a minority."
Gamei’a: "When I asked them whether they had the courage to talk about it openly, they said: ‘We can’t.’ I asked why, and they said: ‘You know very well that the Zionists control everything and that they also control political decision-making, the big media organizations, and the financial and economic institutions. Anyone daring to say a word is considered an anti-Semite.’"
Q: "Does this mean that the Jewish element played a role in igniting the flame of fitna (internal strife)?"
Gamei’a: "The Jewish element is as Allah described it when he said: ‘They disseminate corruption in the land.’ We know that they have always broken agreements, unjustly murdered the prophets, and betrayed the faith. Can they be expected to live up to their contracts with us? These people murdered the prophets; do you think they will stop spilling our blood? No." "You see these people (i.e. the Jews) all the time, everywhere, disseminating corruption, heresy, homosexuality, alcoholism, and drugs. [Because of them] there are strip clubs, homosexuals, and lesbians everywhere. They do this to impose their hegemony and colonialism on the world." "Now, they are riding on the back of the world powers. These people always seek out the superpower of the generation and develop coexistence with it. Before this, they rode on the back of England and on the back of the French empire. After that, they rode on the back of Germany. But Hitler annihilated them because they betrayed him and violated their contract with him." "We saw these Zionists, just one hour after the event, broadcasting on the BBC, the biggest media channel, that the Arabs, and particularly the Palestinians, were celebrating and rejoicing over the American deaths. [To do this] they broadcast a video from 1991, [filmed] during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. But Allah thwarted them when a professor from a Brazilian university stated that the video was a forgery, because she had a copy of it. These people have a script prepared in advance, and they have the ability to fabricate events in their favor." (emphasis mine)
The Prussian continues by citing a poll, the reason for which I believe is his attempt to demonstrate that Arabs don't want a democracy because they believe that Islam should play a large role in politics. He writes,
So, yes, hundreds of millions of Muslims are perfectly willing to defend the Taliban and Saddam Hussein as representatives and embodiments of Islam. That’s rather my point.He continues,
How have things changed, if at all? Well, just focusing on the Arab Muslim world for a second, here is another poll, worth reading carefully. One question asked which: “World leader (outside your own country) you admire most?”:
1. Hassan Nasrallah, 26%
2. Bashar Al-Assad 16%
3. Mahmoud Ahmadinijad 10%
4. Nicolas Sarkozy 6%
5. Mohmar Qadaffi 6%
6. Osama bin Laden 6%
7. Sheikh Muhammad bin Rashid 6%
8. Hugo Chavez 4%.
Huh. Quite the line up. Even if #4 is something of a comic interlude
This brings me to the bit where my colleague is just flat out wrong when he writes this:I'm “flat out wrong?” Really? Where's the evidence? It appears that all he did was read the title without really digging into what the study said. Let's just look at page one of the study. Right there is a poll that said that in 2012 a majority of Arabs wanted democracy. The breakdown of those who want a democracy in their country is as follows: Lebanon: 84%; Turkey: 71%; Egypt: 67%; Tunisia: 63%; Jordan: 61%; Pakistan: 42%.
Contrary to the US propaganda it is not a “hatred” of Western values or democracy or even freedom that causes much of the Muslim world to hate the US. As a matter of fact, the bulk of the Arab world want precisely that: democracy and freedom.
Or perhaps I should say that you cannot possibly prove that from the study that AA links. That is because the title of that study isn’t “Most Muslims want Democracy and Personal Freedom”. It is “Most Muslims Want Democracy, Personal Freedoms, and Islam in Political Life.”
It sure looks as if the majority of the Middle East want democracy. So, exactly how am I “flat out wrong?”
There appears to be a misunderstanding here. The Prussian seems to believe that a democracy entails a separation of church and state. Let's look at how the word democracy is defined: “a form of government in which people choose leaders by voting;” “an organization or situation in which everyone is treated equally and has equal rights.” Clearly, there is nothing inherent in a democracy that says that it must be secular. Let's take a look at what the study I cited says about what the majority of the Arab world wants: “[D]emocracy continues to be the preferred form of government in the four Arab nations surveyed, as well as in Turkey and Pakistan. Moreover, there is widespread support for specific democratic rights and institutions, such as multiparty elections and freedom of expression. ” (p. 14)
Once you properly define your terms, what the majority of the Arab world wants sure sounds like a democracy.
I think it's important to differentiate between a liberal democracy, which is what the US is and other forms of democracy. Both of these often get wrongly conflated. A liberal democracy is just one form of democracy. A religious democracy is another. For example, there currently are Islamic democracies, such as Turkey and Indonesia, among others.  Due to the autocratic and authoritarian leaders that have ruled the Middle East for so long (and propped up by the US and Europe no less) democracy is in short supply in the Middle East but with the Arab Spring the Muslim world finally sees their chance to change their lives and their governments to one that they want; not one that is forced upon them. How it will all play out is for the future to decide. However, given the fact that there are a few legitimate democracies in the Middle East now, there is no reason to doubt that it cannot happen elsewhere.
If you had a study of a population that said “Most Generics want a long life, good fitness, and to eat huge amounts of sugar and not do any exercise”, would you expect the Generic Male to look more like this or like this?Yes, many Arab countries see Saudi Arabia “favorably.” This section of the poll only demonstrated how one country viewed another. That does not mean that one country wants to emulate the other or that they believed it was a good example of democracy. However, if you shift back several pages there are polls that looked at whether or not many in the Arab world felt that Saudi Arabia was democratic. Those numbers were: Turkey, 18%; Egypt, 67%; Jordan, 64%, Lebanon, 48%; Tunisia, 31%; Pakistan, 52%. The median number was 50. (pg. 11). Clearly, much fewer believe Saudi Arabia is a good depiction of democracy than The Prussian lead his readers to believe. As I said earlier, it did not appear that he read the study very carefully.
You see my point, I am sure. I have no doubt that a lot of Muslims like the idea of personal autonomy and all the prosperity that comes with that. However, how many are willing to pay the price for it – to stand up for freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, separation of Mosque and State?
Taking a shufty at the study cited by Arizona Atheist, I see that 82% of Pakistani Muslims, say they want laws should strictly follow the Koran, 72% of Jordanian Muslims. I’m happy to see that only 17% of Turks and Lebanese do, but they still want laws to “follow the values and principles of Islam”.
Well, what kind of a society would they like then? Well, 23% of Turks, 81% of Egyptians, 90% of Jordanians, 50% of Lebanese, 40% of Tunisians, 95% of Pakistanis rate Saudi Arabia positively.
Granted, they tend to view Iran negatively. Given the aforementioned results, is it likely that this is because they are opposed to theocracy, or because Iran is the center of Shia power – and the Sunni and Shia do not like each other? I think I can guess.As I just demonstrated, the majority in the Arab world does not see Saudi Arabia as a good depiction of democracy so I can rightfully ignore his first argument.
What about the favourable views of Turkey? Admiration for a progressive, secular, Western looking society? Or a hope that the people who once lead Islam to the gates of Vienna could do so again? I’ll let you choose.
Now here’s a detail that comes back to me. I can’t find the study right now, but something like eighty percent of British Muslims believe in jail time for those who attack Islam or caricature Mahomet. Now that means that eighty percent of British Muslims do not believe in freedom in any real or meaningful sense. Censorship is the ultimate dividing line between tyranny and liberty. We can argue about how much of a mixed economy is still free, and the rest of it. But you cannot compromise freedom of speech. If debate isn’t on the table, then the only way to settle differences is through violence, and that means either war or tyranny.
This brings me to my point. This isn’t that the United States has been mean to the Muslim world. This is the clash of civilizations.
His second argument, that this is a “clash of civilizations,” and this is a reason many Arabs hate the US. I suppose I can ask The Prussian to take a look at my posts on the issue and he can view all of the reasons Muslims have given about why they attacked the US or US citizens. And none of them said because of any cartoons. It appears that he is simply ignoring facts.
Regarding the study that allegedly says that “eighty percent of British Muslims believe in jail time for those who attack Islam.” I did a search but couldn't find anything. I'd like to see a copy of this data myself before commenting on it.
Look at the cartoon riots. Someone explain to me how the situation in Gaza logically leads lynch mobs to demand the murder of cartoonists living in Denmark? Of course, that’s all balls. The reason for those riots is that Islamic civilization holds Allah and His Messenger as sacred, the West holds the individual mind and freedom of speech and conscience as sacred. There is no, no way to square that circle, no middle ground to be sought. One or the other will give way. And to our shame, it appears that the West is doing the giving way.Yes, I agree that religion played a role in the demonstrations over the cartoons and I also think it's a rather large overreaction by the Muslim community. However, this discussion is about the US and its relation to the Middle East, while the cartoons were drawn in Denmark. What exactly does this have to do with the subject? Nothing. Moving on...
Here, I have finally gotten to the end of The Prussian's post. It is here where he lays out his seven point plan for dealing with the Middle East.
1. Build the Infidel Alliance. What scrapes my nerves about AA’s post is the parochialism. It’s all about the US. Well, in case you haven’t noticed, the overwhelming majority of the victims of the Jihad are not from the US. We need a campaign of maximum solidarity and internationalism with all of our kindred civilizations. The fact is that the civilizations of Latin America, Christian Africa, Orthodox Eurasia, and India are all close kin to the West, fellow children of Rome and Greece. Take a look at the recent slaughter in Nairobi. Europeans died alongside our African brothers and sisters, and Israeli and British soldiers fought alongside the Kenyan to send these bastards into their graves.I'm sorry my post bothered him so much, but perhaps he should have tried to understand why I wrote it, rather than jumping to conclusions. There are two reasons why I focused so much on the US's relationship with the Middle East. 1) The debate that has taken place has mainly surrounded the US's drone attacks in the region. Is any other country currently in the Middle East employing drones that have been killing hundreds of innocent civilians? No. Therefore, I rightfully tried to take a look at relations between the US and the Middle East in an attempt to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, because clearly more violence isn't doing anything to help the situation. 2) I focused on what were the main complains of the Arab world and the vast majority of them cited issues with the US and their foreign policy.
Could the common cause be any plainer? What needs to be understood is that an attack on Kenya is an attack on Nigeria is an attack on Israel is an attack on Germany is an attack on the United States is an attack on India is an attack on Australia is an attack on Britain… Kin calls to kin and we should answer.
What does that mean? In some cases it means outright military aid. In others providing aid by, say, training the Kenyan armed forces to British standard. Or maybe it just means providing aid and solidarity – raising charitable funds, doing blood drives, hell, even writing letters so our civilizational cousins on the front line know they are not alone and are not forgotten.
2. Isolate the House of Submission as much as possible. Where ever possible, all Western nations should seek their oil from non-Muslim sources. The US should take its oil primarily from domestic sources, Canada and Latin America. Such negotiations could form an excellent base for rapprochement between the United States and Latin america and perhaps go some way to repairing the appalling damage that the cold war years did to those relations. As part of it, the US should seek Henry Kissinger’s indictment and trial for treason, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Conversely, the United States should abandon all aid and connections to Pakistan and switch its support to India.I think this sounds reasonable and I very much agree with placing these war criminals on trial. However, I would rather see more resources and time being spent on looking for ways to drastically reduce the world's reliance on oil because as humans use more and more of this natural resource, there will be more wars of conquest for the natural resources in a region (the US and Iraq, anyone?). And of course, eventually, we will run out of oil so I think looking for sustainable energy is a path that we should start now rather than later (of course, big oil and the governments that cater to their whims don't want that).
Europe should seek a closer accommodation with Russia – declaring it, perhaps, the exclusive oil source on the understanding that the Russians quit arming Iran. In general the West should seek to liberalize trade between itself and the nations of Christian Africa.
As part of the process of isolation, all Muslim immigration should be halted for at least two decades, combined with a vigorous program of refugee aid for those infidels fleeing the House of Submission to come live in the West. One might also impose on Russia to accept the Orthodox refugees from Syria, but there is no reason why, say, Germany, could not absorb a large Coptic population, and if any of the Hindus and Sikhs still stuck in Pakistan are still there, they would be more than welcome. Naturally, that goes double for all atheists. When the moratorium expires, it should at first only be lifted on the non-violent Islamic sects, the Ahmadi and the Ismaili. Immigration of our fellow infidels should be encouraged.
3. Pursue a policy of strict Kemalism. I do not know how many have read Ataturk‘s magnificent reforms, but they are just what the doctor ordered. Islamic preachers kept out of the armed forces and the prisons. Mosques that advocate terror or Shariah to be closed. Hate preachers to be expelled. That kind of thing.I agree with this. I think marginalizing the extremists is a fine strategy.
And in case anyone starts wailing that this is ‘discrimination’ – Germany has been heavily discriminating against neo-Nazis and other riff-raff for the last seventy years and it hasn’t done us any harm. For my American readers, please don’t pretend you aren’t down with discrimination and persecution. The test is easy: try writing an article saying that racial segregation is a good thing and you want it back. You’ll lose your job, your friends and maybe your family. Say it loudly enough, and you might lose your life. Now, you can say that that is fully justified persecution – it is and I agree with you – but it is still persecution, a valuable tool in maintaining a civilized society.
4. Declare total war on the Islamic slave trade. This is a standing disgrace. This is the twenty first century and there are still something like one million black slaves under the lash of the Koran. The slaves ships should be seized, their crews hung, and the slaves freed. The trade in human flesh is an abomination.I agree each of these last points as well.
5. Establish funds to support apostates. Any Muslim apostate takes his life in his hands. There should be large body of funds set aside to provide the necessary protection and support for those that take such a momentous step, combined with a more general social solidarity.
6. Defend women’s rights. Women’s emancipation is the single most powerful weapon that we have. This should be a top priority; women like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Sabatina James should be defended and their organizations lavishly funded.
7. Wage a long cultural war. Through internet, radio etc. it should be carefully explained that the violence, oppression, poverty and whatnot in the Islamic world is the direct result of Islamic doctrine. Reach out to any mind capable of hearing and understanding – make them realise they aren’t alone, and that if they are willing to free their minds and throw this madness off, they will not stand alone.
There is only one thing that is missing from his prescription. The stated grievances of the Arab world. I do not see how one could offer solutions to a problem if you don't address the core issues. However, I do very much like his ideas and I think if our two plans were merged I think we'd have a pretty good plan overall that could very well see some success. Unfortunately, this also means that The Prussian needs to take a look at his current views about what drives the extremists because, if not, this plan is not going to work.
In the end, no I do not believe for one second The Prussian offered an effective response to my arguments. In many cases he misread me and my sources. He also continues to ignore the facts that I've tried to hammer home repeatedly: US foreign policy is largely to blame for the attacks that have befallen it.
To conclude, in order to propose the best solution to a problem you've first got to figure out the root cause of the problem. I think everyone could agree with this. Second, should your initial strategy fail, such as the last ten years of bombing and killing many innocents (along with a handful of lower level al Qaeda members) what has the US achieved? Is the US any closer to that elusive goal of “stopping terrorism?” No. As a matter of fact, it hasn't put a dent in it at all. It's only caused more misery and more violence. This is why I propose an entirely different solution, one that actually takes into account the grievances and causes of these acts of violence against the US. In my mind, ten years is long enough, let's give something else a try. I would bet my life savings that attacks upon US persons overseas and attacks against the US homeland would then cease because they would have no reason to attack.
1. Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, by Jeremy Scahill, Nation Books, 2013; 342
2. US Department of Defense, Defense Science Board 1997 Summer Study Task Force on DoD Responses to Transnational Threats, October 1997, Final Report, Vol. 1; 15 - accessed 9-26-13
3. Council on Foreign Relations: Middle East: Islam and Democracy - accessed 9-26-13