Thursday, November 28, 2013

What is the Role of Religion vs. US Foreign Policy Around the World?

My former Skeptic Ink colleague, The Prussian, has asked me to peruse his posts titled “Friday Jihad-Round-up” and find out once and for all how many are truly due to foreign policy and how many are because of religion. I will go through most of posts in his series and briefly discuss a number of the examples of the violent acts done by Muslims.

The Prussian and I have disagreed over the role of religion in Islamist attacks, with him believing their motives are entirely religious, with my view being more nucanced, believing that US foreign policy is largely to blame, and admitting that religion does play its role, but it is not as large as policy issues in many cases. To reiterate, I do acknowledge the fact that religion does play a role in many attacks. In addition, there is a lot of sectarian strife taking place in the Middle East. However, what The Prussian does not seem able to grasp is the fact that many attacks have nothing to do with religion, or with sectarian violence. I've looked at a few of his posts and have seen some acts of violence that have been because of foreign policy and not religion, so I already know he has mistaken a U.S. Policy motive for religious ones in some cases.

The first post I will examine was posted on August 31, 2013.

One of his links, citing the case of Hindu children being attacked by Muslims for singing, was dead so I cannot confirm it, but assuming his description is accurate, this account does appear to be religiously based.

The fourth example, where he cites the Boston bombing I've already discussed this act of violence in a previous post. I cited a hand-written note by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev himself that the reason for the Boston bombing attacks was “retribution for U.S. military action in Afghanistan and Iraq.” One of my other Skeptic Ink colleagues vehemently disagrees with this assessment, and claims religion was the only motive, but I've yet to see any first hand evidence of this, or any direct quotes from Tsarnaev stating religious reasons. Until more evidence comes to light I will continue to maintain religion had very little - if anything - to do with it.

The thirteenth example cites a group of Muslims who attacked a Christian church. The Prussian must not have read the article very closely because this incident had very little, or nothing, to do with religion. The article is explicit: “A Muslim mob with knives and iron rods injured several members of an Anglican church in Nasarawa state on Aug. 17 over a dispute about less than one cent in change, area Christians said.”

The article discusses what took place,

Area residents said they got cuts on their heads and other parts of their bodies when about 30 Muslims attacked with motorcycle chains and wooden clubs, along with the other weapons.

An area member of the Evangelical Reformed Church of Christ in Lafia, Joshua Nuhu Kuju, told Morning Star News that a Muslim woman incited the Muslims to attack after she had an argument over payment with a young Christian man who runs the church's water borehole (a way to get water).

"The Muslim woman sent her children to purchase water from the church's borehole, and then a misunderstanding over about five naira (less than one US cent)," he said.

"The Muslim woman then went and invited some of her Muslim neighbors, who stormed the church and attacked the members of the church."
I agree this act of violence is reprehensible but the issue at hand is distinguishing between religious and non-religious acts of violence. This clearly was not because of religion. Now, I think religion may have been an exacerbating circumstance and caused greater violence than would normally be caused over such an incident, but the clash was over a purely non-religious reason: a disagreement over money.

The next “”Friday Jihad Round Up I will examine was posted on September 6, 2013.

In one of the links at the liberal news organization The Guardian he complains that they are upset that Obama is discriminating against innocent Muslims ("Meanwhile the Guardianistas whine that Obama is being mean to Muslims. I could put up with this if, for once, you’d hear some complaints about how infidels are treated from this crowd.") She writes about the NYPD program that sought to target Muslims all over New York for surveillance:

As we've witnessed time and time again domestically, most recently with the Associated Press revelation that the NYPD designated Muslim houses of worship and community centers as terrorist organizations, the United States is no stranger to legalizing discrimination. In the elusive pursuit of true equality, President Obama has made considerable and long overdue progress in securing the rights of the LGBT community. But he in no way can tout the badge of "basic morality" until he acknowledges that many Americans are being confronted with institutionalized discrimination in every tier of the government hierarchy. Racism, Islamophobia and prejudice run amok in our society, but when discriminatory practice is etched into law, it harkens back to a sinister time in our nation's history.

Regrettably, branding mosques as terrorist enterprises doesn't exactly move the needle given the NYPD's history of targeted surveillance and monitoring of the region's Muslim community. Invidious policy and religious profiling are not confined to the NYPD either. This is just the latest in a mounting string of offenses by government agencies against Muslim Americans. The FBI maintains an intimidatingly lengthy catalog of 15,000 spies, three times as many as there were 25 years ago. In a post 9/11 climate many of them operate as informants in mosques throughout the nation. The mosque that I grew up attending in Irvine, California, was infiltrated by one such informant, who worked so hard to plant seeds of violence and terrorism in the minds of its congregants that members of the mosque immediately reported him.

An excellent book about this – and how this program in 99% of cases – targeted innocent people and failed to produce any leads of terrorist plots, by AP investigative reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, is Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD's Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden's Final Plot Against America. I sympathize with the many law abiding Muslims who are discriminated against because of the actions of a few. Many people need to get something straight: Just because someone is a Muslim does not make them a terrorist or mean that that they want to commit any crimes.

Another example cited is this Muslim who wants to try to dispel the myth that Islam is all about violence and The Prussian writes, “...just hope the guy isn’t using the 'All kaffirs are not innocent' dodge.” If this series is supposed to be about Muslim extremists how in the world does this man – who is calling for peace and understanding – count as an example?

In another Round Up The Prussian cites the recent attack upon a mall in Nairobi by al-Shabab. In a now defunct post at my former Skeptic Ink blog The Prussian and I discussed this attack and I cited a video of one of the leaders of the attack stating their motives. In the video he said,

“The attack at [the mall] was to torment the Kenyan leaders who have impulsively invaded the Islamic [could not understand the word used]. It was also a retribution against the Western states that supported the Kenyan invasion and are spilling the blood of innocent Muslims in order to pave the way for the mineral [most likely means oil] companies. So make your choice today and withdraw all your forces from the Islamic [could not understand the word used], otherwise be prepared for an abundance of blood that will be spilled in your country, economic downfall, and displacement.” (This statement takes place at approx. 1:57).

When faced with this damning evidence that religion had nothing to do with this attack The Prussian had no response; only accused me of wishing to “appease” terrorists, which is by far not the case. But my point has been proven. Religion is not the only motivator of attacks. Often it is US foreign policy.

In another example The Prussian believes Muslim fighters wishing for independence for themselves against the “brutalities” at the hands of India is about religion. I'm sorry, but it is not. This is a separatist movement, who want peace and “self-determination” for their people from India. The article quoted one of the protesters:
The protestors waved black flags and shouted: "Our struggle will continue til Kashmir is freed", and condemned Indian "brutalities", as Salahuddin appealed to the government and people of Pakistan to fully support Kashmiri independence.
At the end of this post he writes, “Someone mind explaining to me how this is only about the United States, again?” As I noted, not all acts of violence can be attributed to US foreign policy, but I demonstrated how many of them are. This example is one in which this has nothing to do with either the US or religion. But I think this proves my point. Isn't this series supposed to be about religious violence by Muslims? But here we have a purely non-religious separatist movement.

In the final “Round Up” post I will look at The Prussian cites an article that he argues proves that the mall attack in Nairobi discussed above was religiously, and not politically motivated. Sorry, but as I've said before, motivations can be mixed and can be motivated by more than religion, as the video cited above demonstrates. But even the article cited by The Prussian noted how this had more to do with politics than religion:
Al Qaeda has since realized that the indiscriminate killing of Muslims is a strategic liability and hopes instead to create a schism between Muslims and everyone else, whom they consider “kuffar,” or apostates.

“What this shows is Al Qaeda’s acknowledgment that the huge masses of Muslims they have killed is an enormous PR problem within the audience they are trying to reach,” said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, director of the Center for the Study of Terrorist Radicalization. “This is a problem they had documented and noticed going back to at least Iraq. And now we see Al Qaeda groups are really taking efforts to address it.”
It appears he did not read the entire article.

Throughout these posts The Prussian has made snide remarks, such as, “Again: this is the fault of US policy, how?” “...again, not religious reasons?” Etc. However, he badly misunderstands these situations around the world and continues to misconstrue my position. This is not black and white. These various acts are not simply the result of religion, or protests against US foreign policy. There are many different groups who have varied motivations for their actions and ascribing only one motive is very close-minded and one-dimensional. There are many motivations, as I've demonstrated without a shadow of a doubt. Many examples The Prussian cited were about religion, but several were not.


I believe this should demonstrate the fact that The Prussian needs to be more careful in the future before labeling an act of violence as being motivated for religious reasons, because many of his examples were not about religion at all. If they weren't about foreign policy, then they were sometimes about other matters, such as independence in the case of India and Kashmir.

As I said above, and elsewhere, there are many different groups around the world, who have different motivations for the actions they carry out. Yes, many of them are precisely because of religion as many of the examples cited by The Prussian have shown. But there is a lot more than just religiously-inspired violence happening in the Middle East and in other parts of the world, as I demonstrated above. And, as I've demonstrated in previous posts U.S. foreign policy is a common reason for violence and unrest. This cannot be denied. Citing 100 other religiously-motivated acts of violence does not magically make those examples go away, from the 9/11 attacks to the Nairobi mall attack, US foreign policy has resulted in its share of innocent victims.

Just as getting rid of religion will not magically end violence in the world, neither will a change in US foreign policy. However, these two influences in the world remain two of the largest motivators of violence in the world. It is wrong to neglect one and not the other, because both play their role. Obviously, I have focused a lot on US foreign policy related violence but I do so because its role is often swept under the rug or outright denied, and I think someone needs to stand up and explain how many of the US's policies are fueling the very violence these policies are meant to put an end to. Pouring fuel on a fire is not an effective way to put out a fire, just as invading countries, killing many innocent people, and destroying their lives, is not an effective method of combating terrorism. Violence will only beget violence and more diplomatic and pragmatic solutions need to be found. I've explored some of these alternatives in past posts.

As I've noted elsewhere in posts about this issue, in some cases violence is necessary, but these actions must be focused on those who wish to do others harm and not on innocent people and the civilian infrastructure. This is only going to inspire hatred and spite, and will result in “blowback,” exactly the kind we've been seeing, such as the Nairobi mall attack recently, which was in retribution for US foreign policy or the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the “underwear bomber,” who tried to detonate a bomb because of the drone attacks that kill many innocent people. In a statement at his trial he said quite clearly: “I had an agreement with at least one person to attack the United States in retaliation for US support of Israel and in retaliation of the killing of innocent and civilian Muslim populations in Palestine, especially in the blockade of Gaza, and in retaliation for the killing of innocent and civilian Muslim populations in Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan and beyond, most of them women, children, and noncombatants.” (emphasis mine)

After looking at all of the evidence, it ought to be clear. Religion is not the only motivation for violence. Often that motivation is US foreign policy.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Diplomacy, Not Imperialism: The Key to a More Peaceful Future


The title of this post is the message I have been trying to get across to many proponents of US intervention in Middle Eastern countries. This post is a response to a fellow Skeptic Ink blogger, The Prussian, about how to best solve the conflicts raging in the Middle East. His post is a response to an earlier post of mine about how to achieve that. His most recent piece is a response to my response.

I'd like to begin by stating that I can understand where The Prussian is coming from. As it so happens, I'm very good at seeing things from other vantage points and I can understand his views on the issue. However, my views are informed by facts and historical context, in which The Prussians do not appear to be. I believe he sees the Arab world as a violent, irrational place, filled with people that cannot be rationalized with. Therefore, bombing and killing them all is our only choice. At least this is what his view sounds like according to his writings on the subject.

With this post (and all previous ones) I've tried to dispel these misunderstandings and show that the Arabs, by and large, are not that different from you or me. Obviously, there are those minority of extremists, but those are not the people I'm talking about, but I lay out a plan of action against these people – and it doesn't involve carpet-bombing an entire civilization in order to do it.

When you use such extreme tactics, such as war, countless innocents are needlessly killed and I cannot understand this viewpoint, no matter how hard I try. But, as I demonstrate below, there is a more effective way. A more moral and humane way that doesn't leave lifeless bodies in our wake.

I hope that my point will come across more effectively than it did previously. However, that requires that The Prussian take a step back and look at the larger picture. I will try to explain that picture now.

Imperialism is the Ultimate Issue

Undergirding many of these terrorist attacks is the issue of imperialism. Yes, I'm sorry to have to break it to you, but the US is an imperialist nation (Obama even said as much in front of the UN about a week ago, saying that he would use any means necessary, including military force, to acquire oil) and this is the broader picture that many don't seem to see. While the US no longer has colonies, per se, what it does have is its “colonies” of over 725 military bases that span thirty-eight countries. In 2001 alone the number of both military and civilian personnel that remain on these bases is approximately 531,227 people. [1]

The host nations (“host” is putting it mildly since many places, such as the Middle East, the US used its military force to place bases in the region against the desire of the population during many of its recent conflicts, such as in Iraq) that have its land usurped by the US military industrial complex which then then foists oftentimes very one-sided Status of Forces Agreements (or SOFA) which essentially cedes that part of the land entirely to US control and jurisdiction. Two experts on SOFA, Andrew Wells and Rachel Cornwell, write,

Most SOFAs are written so that national courts cannot exercise legal jurisdiction over U.S. Military personnel who commit crimes against local people, except in special cases where the U.S. ,military authorities agree to transfer jurisdiction.” [2]

There are many examples of injustice due to these “agreements” with host nations, however I will cite only a few to save on time. My sources contain more examples if you feel so inclined to research these incidents yourself. To quote Chalmers Johnson,

In Korea, [criminal] suspects still get handed over to local authorities only after being convicted by a U.S. military court. Similarly, in Italy, the American fliers charged in 1998 with flying so low that their jet cut a ski-lift cable, plunging twenty skiers to their deaths, were returned to the States for a military trial where, to the outrage of Italians, they were exonerated of responsibility. [3]

For those who may argue that these bases are there to ensure peace, I would remind you that the rationale for these bases has changed over time. First, the excuse was to contain the Communist threat. Next, it was to contain terrorist threat and it seems the US has mightily seized on this rationale for its current imperialist adventures. These are mere excuses to expand the US empire and sphere of control and influence. To give one example, in April of 1997 the US Secretary of Defense William Cohen said that the US intended to “keep its forces stationed in Korea even if the two Koreas reunite.” [4] There is no reason for this. Therefore, it stands to reason that the only reason for the military presence in Korea, as elsewhere, is purely due to the US's imperialist ambitions. And, as I quoted Obama above, he has come out and admitted this.

The unpleasant role of the US in the world is long and varied but more often than not, it is to the determent of the local populations and a boon to the US. Where is the fairness or purpose in that?

Terrorism is Often a Response to Imperialism

The video I posted in a comment to an earlier post was posted only as further evidence of what I've said in the past: that many terrorist actions were a response to US imperial actions, such as the invading of Middle Eastern lands for oil that the video mentioned as a reason for the attack upon the mall. Of this video The Prussian writes,

In a nutshell, the difference between us is that AA believes that atrocities like the Kenya mall attack should lead us to accede to the killers demands and betray our friends, while I say that they should lead us to redouble our support for our friends and shoot the killers like rats.

Now I know what will be said: “Who said anything about betraying our friends?” Unfortunately, that is what the practical flip side of pandering to the jihadists is. That is most obvious in the case of Israel, but it is a case that remains real across the board. I have spoke with no end of secular Hindus from India who are filled with baffled rage at the US’s continued indulgence of Pakistan. A similar point regards AA’s comments on this atrocity, where he emphasizes the West’s support for Kenya’s smashing of the Islamic Courts Movements. Now, he infers that “the US should change its policy”, by laying off the Al Shabab, and presumably cutting support for Kenya’s fight against them.

That will be seen by Kenya and Christian Africa as betrayal, pure and simple. President Obama’s brother, Shabik Obama, has come on record saying that he is appealing to his brother to keep the faith. Those are simple and powerful words – and if Obama fails to come through on them, I will think even less of him than I do already.

The belief that the only choice is to “win hearts and minds” in the Muslim lands leads to suicidal acts of stupidity, the attempts to build democracy in this part of the world, the relentless flattering of thuggish “community leaders”, the ongoing flow of aid, the refusal to switch our oil dependency, continued flow of unchecked Islamic immigration etc.

Firstly, I do not see the point in responding to the video since it had nothing to do with my post. I merely posted it to further drive home my point that US actions cause these kinds of violence. I in no way advocate allowing people to needlessly harm others. What I want to see is the cycle of violence to stop, and those who advocate further violence, like the Prussian, are simply prolonging the conflict, leading more violence and more death to innocent people. I cited evidence of this fact in my last post.

The US's past and current imperialist actions are a direct cause of these acts. The Prussian has it entirely backwards. It is not that I want to give free reign to terrorists to commit atrocities. I call on the US to change its tactics because these very tactics the US employs to “fight terrorism” is what causes these acts of retribution. This, along with the US's past and current imperialist actions, as was cited in the video. I've already discussed in several previous posts what I view as a more effective and moral solution. However, in brief, I advocate a law enforcement approach, which has been proven effective countless times over the years to capture violent people.

Now, as I noted in the previous post of mine, many of these hangovers from the US's imperialism, such as its military bases and troops stationed permanently there, are a direct cause of violence and it is this I think the US should abandon, pack up their billions of dollars worth of bases and personnel, and this would help put a stop to much of the violence. In addition, if the US wants oil, it should enter into negotiations with Middle Eastern governments, as it did in the in the early 1900's, rather than invade a country, take over their oil fields, and simply take it by force.

Many Actors, Many Motivations

I am well aware that these issues are not the only issues causing violence in the Middle East. I am also well aware of the religious conflicts, particularly in Iraq at the moment. I think an irony that must be stressed is that it was the US invasion that created much of this sectarian violence in the first place. [5]

It must be remembered that religious extremists are a minority in the Middle East. If you take on a large bombing or drone campaign, who are you killing? Sure, you might kill several extremists (as the US has) but at the same time, you will also end up killing many innocent people. This causes many issues. One of which is you give motivation to those who may have been on the fence, or hostile to the extremists, and oftentimes these victims of US attacks join radical groups simply to seek revenge for the killing of loved ones. Second, by killing many innocents and destroying a town's infrastructure, you also destroy any hope of gaining stability in the region, further causing disorder and providing opportunities for the extremists to come in and try to take over. These are all very bad outcomes, but it is precisely what has been occurring in the Middle East because of these war-like tactics the US has engaged in. Military force is not a reliable solution to this conflict.

The Prussian continues with an argument he's used before. He writes,

No, there is no restraint, no quarter, no peace, no mercy for such people. The US should be sending some of its drones to support the Nigerian Christians in shooting this lot like rats. And if the argument is “we can’t just keep on doing this, it’ll inspire more terrorists”, let me assure you that they will be shot like rats too.

As I pointed out in my last piece, this use of all out war and murder will only lead to more violence (I even cited a government document admitting the same!). Regarding this argument, I've actually responded to it in an earlier post about the drone war, though I did not cite where I found the argument, since it is fairly common. You can find my legal and moral arguments in the section titled “This is WAR: “[T]here was ‘before’ 9/11 and ‘after’ 9/11. After 9/11 the gloves come off. ” – Cofer Black, 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, September 26, 2002

Needless to say, The Prussian's choice of tactics will only lead to more deaths and more violence. Even more disturbing is the stark similarity with this view to that of the neocons is frightening. When George W. Bush occupied the White House and it was suggested that the Bush administration begin a dialogue with Iran and Dick Cheney replied, “We don't speak to evil.” [6] Similarity, neocon nutcase Ann Coulter said of the Middle East: “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war.” The Coulter quote, with the exception of forced conversion to Christianity, is eerily similar to The Prussian's statement above. And it is just as inhumane and counterproductive. How in the hell did this ludicrous neocon war nonsense creep into the general population? Let alone that of supposedly liberal, intelligent atheists? Any atheist who says such a thing sounds exactly like the right-wing reactionaries just quoted. Of course, I realized exactly this odd (and frightening) phenomenon several months ago, when I mentioned it in a previous post.

He continues,

This is not about the US. Please look at any of my weekly Jihad round ups and explain to me how these are all down to US policy.
Is it US policy why the Islamic fanatics just killed twenty six students? Is it US policy why they murdered in East Timor? Is it US policy why they cut Theo van Gogh’s throat? Is it US policy why they killed two million Christians and Animists in the Sudan? Is it US policy why they try to destroy India?

This is about more than you. Get with it.

Obviously. And I said as much in my last response but it appears he has ignored it. I wrote,

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.

As I alluded to earlier, I understand very well that not all attacks are due to US actions abroad, but a large part of them are, particularly those directed toward the US, which again, has been my main focus because, as I noted above, the issue being discussed was drones and I was writing my post in that context. I had hoped I explained myself as clearly as possible my reasons for focusing on what I did, but I suppose not. Or perhaps it is a case of cognitive dissonance.

He continues,

AA says that he is sorry that I’m irritated about this, but there is a parochial tone that works on my nerves. Given my quotation of the violent anti-Semitism of the New York imam, AA comments:

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.

Leaving aside the gratuitous dig whereby anti-Semitism is justified because of Israel (as though Islamic anti-Semitism hasn’t existed for over a millennium), AA misses that that was exactly the point I was making. The tides of Jihad wash against many shores more bloodily than they do against the United States’. Now, if you wanted to argue that this isn’t any of the US’s business, it has to look to its own affairs – okay, I’d say that was contemptible, and ignores that the US has always been a beneficiary of the other Western nations, as well as that of the globe, but it would still be, just about, defensible.

However, in point of fact – vide the support for Pakistan, vide the ongoing Saudi relationship, vide Kerry running his ignorant yap… Neutralism just isn’t an option here. It’s a matter of whose side you’re on.

If, as he says, his argument was essentially to cite this single individual, from an obscure interview, to somehow “prove” that Arab hostility towards Israel is not due to their treatment of the Palestinians, I do not know what to say to such myopia. Finding one obscure interview doesn't automatically wipe out the years and years of quotes one could cite, showing that Arab emotions are highly charged due to how the state of Israel treats the Palestinians. It must also be understood that anger towards Israel is often bundled with anger towards the US because the US supports Israel militarily.

Finally, I should note that his alleged anti-Semitic views may not even be due to actual anti-Semitism. It may be he was simply lashing out in anger at Jews, saying whatever insults came to mind, due to his feelings about the Palestinian issue. But all this is speculation since we cannot read his mind and he doesn't elaborate on why he said what he said about the Jews in the interview. Oftentimes, those who criticize the critics of Israelis or Israeli policy wrongly conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.

He continues,

The fact that this begins and ends with religion.

AA makes a projection that doesn’t hold water: the distinction between religion and politics. However, in Islam, religion and politics have always been one and the same – year one of Islam is the hijrah, which marks the dawn of Islam as a political project. AA focuses on what he thinks of as political points – but, to the believing Muslim, matters such as the West’s permission of homosexuality and usury are every bit as much political. AA dismisses my point that the Al Qaeda declaration of war against the West included a section on Bill Clinton’s promiscuity:

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.

I am tempted to respond that someone who hasn’t done his reading isn’t very convincing… There is a very small book, easily obtainable and cheap at the price: The Al Qaeda reader. If you go and read it, you will find exactly that quotation, along with a whole number of other lines. You will also find Zawahiri declaring that “democratic Muslim” means about as much as “Christian Muslim” – such a person is an “apostate infidel”. You will also find out that Zawahiri explicitly says that deposing an impious regime is justified – mandated – rebellion against an Islamic tyrant is not.

It's not just all about religion. I do not see how this fact can be denied, and I do not know how many times it will take to get it through so many peoples' thick skulls. It's not just about religion.

Yes, religion certainly is a factor, but many of the most common reasons are purely political, having to do with the US's foreign policy. I suppose I could return his volley about my lack of reading and argue that he clearly is ignoring many of the stated reasons for the attacks even in his very own sources (ie. The Al Qaeda Reader).

I found the letter by bin Laden explaining his motivations cited in The Al Qaeda Reader titled, “bin Laden's 'letter to America,” and even here he makes clear the political nature of his grievances. As a matter of fact, his first stated grievance is: “Because you attacked us and continue to attack us. ” I don't think it could get much clearer.

Having said this, he also does cite religious issues as well. However, it appears that this is all The Prussian is able to see. But what about the killing of men, women, and children (“It will suffice to remind you of your latest war crimes in Afghanistan, in which densely populated innocent civilian villages were destroyed, bombs were dropped on mosques causing the roof of the mosque to come crashing down on the heads of the Muslims praying inside.”), the support of Israel, and their brutality against the Palestinians (“These governments have surrendered to the Jews, and handed them most of Palestine, acknowledging the existence of their state over the dismembered limbs of their own people.”), and the theft of Middle Eastern resources (“You steal our wealth and oil at paltry prices because of you international influence and military threats. This theft is indeed the biggest theft ever witnessed by mankind in the history of the world.”)? Many of these reasons I've cited – and more – are all there. But he ignores each and every one of these obviously policy related grievances. Perhaps he ought to re-read the letter to get a fuller picture of the grievances listed.

I've never denied that there is a religious element to this conflict, but the majority of the Arab world's stated grievances are over US foreign policy. If The Prussian were being honest with himself he would see that this is not just about religion. The Arabs do have several legitimate grievances that must be dealt with if this conflict -between east and west- is to have an end.

As far as bin Laden being angry over Clinton's sexual misconduct that was a stated grievance, one that I hadn't come across before. Thank you for pointing it out. However, I think it would have helped had he cited his sources the first time. I searched the internet for quite some time looking for this connection between Clinton and bin Laden and the only thing I found were news reports about bin Laden's alleged plot to kill Clinton.

One final point on the political vs. religious justifications. A book I've read that details these and many other foreign policy grievances by the Arab world, was actually read by Osama bin Laden and he had this to say about it:

If you have a genuine will to achieve security and peace, we have already answered you.

If Bush declines but to continue lying and practicing injustice [against us], it is useful for you to read the book of "The Rogue State", the introduction of which reads: If I were a president, I would halt the operations against the United States.

First, I will extend my apologies to the widows, orphans, and the persons who were tortured. Afterwards, I will announce that the US interference in the world's countries has ended for ever.

The full text of Blum's is as follows:

“If I were the president, I could stop terrorist attacks against the United States in a few days. Permanently. I would first apologize – very publicly and very sincerely – to all the widows and the orphans, the impoverished and the tortured, and all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism. I would then announce that America’s global interventions – including the awful bombings – have come to an end. And I would inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state of the union but – oddly enough – a foreign country. I would then reduce the military budget by at least 90% and use the savings to pay reparations to the victims and repair the damage from the many American bombings and invasions. There would be more than enough money. Do you know what one year of the US military budget is equal to? One year. It’s equal to more than $20,000 per hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was born.

“That’s what I’d do on my first three days in the White House. On the fourth day, I’d be assassinated.” [7]

Blum's books, of which I own most, are filled with the immoral foreign policy decisions of the leaders of this country over the last several decades that has often lead to acts of retributive violence against the West. I looked into The Prussian's recommended book. I extend to him the same offer. Read several of Blum's books and then you will understand many of these actions that the US has carried out that are immoral.
Earlier he had argued,

AA makes a projection that doesn’t hold water: the distinction between religion and politics. However, in Islam, religion and politics have always been one and the same – year one of Islam is the hijrah, which marks the dawn of Islam as a political project. AA focuses on what he thinks of as political points – but, to the believing Muslim, matters such as the West’s permission of homosexuality and usury are every bit as much political.

The Prussian has horribly misunderstood what I argued. In my original post I wrote:

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.

The study I linked to demonstrated that the vast majority of the Muslim world wanted democracy. It appeared to me that The Prussian simply ignored this fact and locked his sights on only one aspect of what Muslims want: Islam in Political Life. He was attempting to argue that Islam and Democracy were two entirely incompatible ideas, arguing that Muslims want their religious beliefs (which can often be anti-democratic) to be a core part of their political process.

I responded by citing scholarly literature describing Muslim countries that were also democratic and the complex issues involved, given the sometimes fundamentalist views of some Muslims. Of course, despite their highly religious society democratic values still existed. This fact completely refutes his claim that the two cannot co-exist.

While I agree it can be a tricky situation, this really all depends on the level of religious devotion of the society. Given that extremists are a minority, there is no reason democratic values cannot thrive in an Islamic country (as they in fact have).

In this reply, he has ignored these facts once again and restates his original argument. Yes, Middle Eastern politics and religion are are often bound together, but that is not the point. The point is at what level of religiosity is Islam anti-democratic and at which level of religiosity are democratic values still upheld, given the very religious nature of the society (ie. how much religious freedom is there, personal freedom, etc.)?

The Prussian continues,

I am getting increasingly tired of these snide little asides. This is that parochialism once again. The 9/11 attacks were horrible, but the cartoon riots enabled Islam to have a de facto veto over freedom of expression throughout the Western world. Which of these is the more dangerous, civilizational speaking? This is also the basis for my pessimism about Muslim desires for freedom – if Muslim minorities in already democratic societies can effectively assault the most important freedom we have, what are the chances that the Islamic heartland desires liberty?

I stand by what I had said. My posts were about the US's relations with the Middle East, which has nothing to do with Denmark. I'm sorry that he doesn't care for someone dismissing his arguments, but when they miss the point of someone's argument I don't know what else to say. However, if he'd like to discuss religious extremists let's discuss it and what we can do about it in more detail.

As I alluded to earlier, a military campaign is not the way to handle religious extremists. Bombs, drones, etc. all cause massive causalities and destruction of both civilian and government infrastructure. This obviously causes mass amounts of civil war, poverty, medical emergencies, and numerous other depressing outcomes for the inhabitants who may become a victim to such attacks.

It must be remembered that religious extremists have a minority of support. [8] The best way to handle this group of fundamentalists is to isolate them. Don't bomb entire villages, killing many innocents. That only makes the surrounding population feel sympathy for the extremists and it often leads to new recruits who want revenge. If you aid the majority of people out of poverty, show them true democratic reform, and they will aid in isolating the extremists. Bombing and drones will not accomplish this. There is not a military solution to this problem. Not if you want to see a possible end to the conflict. Violence only begets violence. Even the US government said the same thing! A DoD report said,

Historical data show a strong correlation between US involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States. […] 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)


War will not work. Hate will not work. Ignorance of the facts will not work. Diplomacy and smart, targeted, and limited actions to suppress aggressors, and bring genuine help to the majority of the population, are the best tools to fight extremists.

I've tried to demonstrate over and over again the wrong-headed views that have been promulgated the last several years. These views come from right-wing extremists, like Dick Cheney and other neocons, and somehow this ludicrious viewpoint has gone largely mainstream, even though it violates every domesitc and international law known to man.

This is not about “appeasing terrorists.” It is about diplomacy and treating fellow human beings with respect.

I can hear it now: “Why should we treat them with respect, when they try to kill us!? Are you nuts??!!”

The US began these long series of conflicts with its many covert operations in the Middle East that toppled elected leaders, and invaded and killed innocent civilians, while taking control of their land's resources, and supporting other imperialist nations, like Israel.

This historical context must be understood in order to understand the various disputes and conflicts that are now taking place. I do not condone violence by any side, but to understand the violent episodes of blowback that have befallen the United States, it's important to understand this history. The US has much to apologize for and it unfortunately continues to make the same mistakes in believing that war is always the answer. Well, I think several decades of war and blowback and more war and more blowback has proven this strategy to be be entirely unworkable.

1. The Sorrow of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, by Chalmers Johnson, Henry Holt & Co., 2004; 154

2. Ibid.; 36

3. Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, by Chalmers Johnson, Henry Holt & Co., 2004; 44

4. Ibid.; 128

5. Prior to the US invasion, the region was somewhat stable, as far as sectarian strife went under Saddam Hussein. Prior to the US invasion and the Taliban takeover due to said invasion, women actually had rights under Hussein's secular government. In addition, this sectarian strife was “rare to non-existent under Saddam Hussein, when Shias and Sunnis regularly intermarried and Muslims [...]” (America's Deadliest Export: Democracy: The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else, by William Blum, Zed Books, 2013; 324) Prior to the US invasion, “the country had a government that was relatively progressive, with full rights for women; even a Pentagon report of the time testified to the actuality of women’s rights in the country. And what happened to that government? The United States was instrumental in overthrowing it. It was replaced by the Taliban.” (The Anti-Empire Report: America’s other glorious war, January 3rd, 2009 - accessed 9-30-13) Even United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said the same thing in 2006, that Iraq was better off before the US invasion. He said, “They had a dictator who was brutal but they had their streets, they could go out, their kids could go to school and come back home without a mother or father worrying, 'Am I going to see my child again?'”

6. Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the U.S., by Trita Parsi, Yale University Press, 2007; 248

7. The Anti-Empire Report: How I spent my 15 minutes of fame, February 14th, 2006 - accessed 9-30-13

8. In the study I cited previously there is a chart depicting the level of support for such extremist groups in the Middle East, such as al Qaeda, Taliban, Hamas, and Hezbollah. The break down is as follows.

Turkey: 10% support for Hamas; 6% support for Hezbollah; 6% support for al Qaeda; 7% support for Taliban.

Egypt: 39% support for Hamas; 20% support for Hezbollah; 19% support for al Qaeda; 19% support for Taliban.

Jordan: 44% support for Hamas; 29% support for Hezbollah; 14% support for al Qaeda; 10% support for Taliban.

Lebanon: 30% support for Hamas; 40% support for Hezbollah; 2% support for al Qaeda; 2% support for Taliban.

Tunisia: 50% support for Hamas; 46% support for Hezbollah; 16% support for al Qaeda; 12% support for Taliban.

Pakistan: 15% support for Hamas; 15% support for Hezbollah; 13% support for al Qaeda; 13% support for Taliban.

As I said previously, historical context must be understood to understand the current conflicts. All The Prussian sees when he looks at many of these percentages is a large support for terrorists. However, look at which groups have more support, like Hamas and Hezbollah. In the Arab world's eyes they see these groups as freedom fighters, who were created to help free the Palestinians from the oppressive Israeli state. But even support for these so-called “freedom fighters” does not rise above 50%, and most of the population in most of the countries looked at have much less support than that.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Commentary on the Richard Carrier vs. David Marshall Debate

Earlier this year Christian apologist David Marshall debated Richard Carrier over the question, "Is the Christian Faith Reasonable?" After watching the debate I and most other commentators thought that it was about as decisive of a win as Carrier could have gotten, and Marshall has been continuously ridiculed about this debate ever since. For quite some time I considered the idea of giving a blow by blow account of why Marshall's arguments failed in the debate, having refuted the entirety of one of his books as well as a few other essays and blog posts, but eventually I scrapped the idea.

I recently came across a blog post by the infamous J.R. Fraser, David Marshall's sidekick on the forums, who was one of the most vile and dishonest individuals I've ever come across while debating on online fora. In a post dating from March 26, 2013, titled David Marshall v. Richard Carrier debate Fraser does his best (and that's not saying much) to defend Carrier's scathing arguments and rebuttal's to Marshall's arguments during the debate. The only argument covered in this post is Carrier's initial opening statement dealing with the Problem of Evil. You may want to watch the above video before reading on.

What follows will be the entirety of Fraser's post in blockquotes with my responses following immediately after.

Richard Carrier offers an argument against the reasonableness of the Christian faith based on a form of the problem of evil. Carrier argues that Jesus failed to inform people about things like germs, parasites, and proper sanitation and thus it is not reasonable to believe that Jesus is God as Christianity claims. The basic form of the argument can be summarized this way: “if Jesus had been God, he would have done X, Y, and Z; Jesus did not do X, Y, and Z; therefore Jesus was not God.” The fatal flaw in this argument is in justifying the first premise, but that issue can be set aside for the moment. Let’s start by looking at Carrier’s specific examples of what Jesus “should have done.”

Carrier argues that in order to prevent centuries of unnecessary deaths, Jesus should have taught people about germ theory, parasites, and proper sanitation. First, there is a considerable amount of naivety in such a statement. Even modern missionaries who travel to tribal cultures in today’s world can require years to communicate basic concepts of modern medicine to people from non-Western cultures, and that's only after said missionaries have had extensive training in cultural anthropology. While it’s easy to assume that things like modern medicine and science are culturally neutral and value-free, anthropologists know that this is not the case. So the idea that Jesus should have given lectures on germ theory strikes me as misguided. It would not have been understood. On the other hand it might have been a great strategy for him if he wanted to be followed and remembered by nobody.

I must object to Fraser's argument here, since it doesn't even begin to answer the argument Carrier was making. Fraser argues that Jesus could not have given his disciples and other peoples the necessary information about sanitation because it can take “years to communicate basic concepts of modern medicine to people from non-Western cultures, and that's only after said missionaries have had extensive training in cultural anthropology. While it’s easy to assume that things like modern medicine and science are culturally neutral and value-free, anthropologists know that this is not the case. So the idea that Jesus should have given lectures on germ theory strikes me as misguided.”

What's so horribly wrong-headed about this argument? It is the fact that if Jesus is supposed to be god then Jesus should have all of the knowledge god has, which is about everything. Therefore, it stands to reason that, armed with this knowledge, it would have been a simple thing for Jesus to inform others about the benefits of doing something as simple as washing one's hands after certain activities, or simple methods of sanitation. This argument does not at all require any “modern” knowledge since god is supposed to know everything, after all. If god is supposed to be omniscient, gracious and all loving, then certainly such a god would happily provide his creations with this necessary information. God allegedly gave his creations laws and codes of conduct, why not information to help them avoid disease by something as simple as sanitation? Or even simpler, as Carrier opines, simply eliminating said germs and parasites.

Fraser might argue that this argument is illogical because Carrier and I don't really know what god would do. However, this cuts both ways, since Fraser cannot say with any certainty what his god might do. I do think Carrier's argument is more powerful because Christians supposedly know what kind of being god and Jesus are. I just cited a few of the attributes, and given these few alone, there is no reason why a loving god who knows everything would not want to share his knowledge with his creations.

Finally, I will nitpick something he said. Fraser wrote, “Carrier argues that Jesus failed to inform people about things like germs, parasites, and proper sanitation and thus it is not reasonable to believe that Jesus is God as Christianity claims.” [emphasis mine] Carrier never said this, nor even implied it. Quoting from Carrier's opening speech, this was Carrier's argument summed up: “Notably, nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus or god impart any correct knowledge or information about the world, that wasn't already known to men at the time. Thus apparently, Jesus and his god were as ignorant as every other first century human.” Later he says, “Jesus and his god didn't do anything god-like. Just as their knowledge was ignorantly human, so was their ability.” This argument is one of his justifications for his larger point: “The Christian religion is simply not believable in the face of this evidence. Neither Jesus or Christianity as a whole has exhibited any special source of information about the world. Nothing distinctive of actual divine communication. They didn't know about germs, they didn't know about parasites. Christians have no more evidence of having a pipeline to a kind and all-knowing god than any other religion in history has, and that's the principle point, here. The fact that it took Christians 1800 years -- do the math on that, 1800 years -- to figure out that germs and parasites even existed, and it might be a good idea to kill them before they kill our kids -- proves that Christianity is a man-made religion, and not something received from any real god.”

But even supposing that this knowledge could have been accepted and understood by those first century Jews (which is simply not realistic), so what? Would these apostles of good hygiene have then been responsible to take that message to the Romans, and would the Romans have been expected to adopt it themselves? Perhaps in Carrier’s mind, if God had wanted to come to earth as a human being he would have done so as something other than an ancient Jew. Perhaps God should have made himself into a time-travelling 21st-century Westerner, because that’s what Richard Carrier would do. This appears to be the honest force of Carrier’s words.

Fraser provides no reasons why Carrier's scenario is “not realistic.” He has not provided any reasons why, given the attributes I cited, a loving god would not want to provide the knowledge to save countless thousands from death. Fraser's digression, asking whether or not Jesus' disciples would have taught the Romans, completely misses the point. And it seems obvious that Fraser is still unable to grasp the argument Carrier was making. There would be no need of time travel since god is all knowing. He already has the knowledge. Therefore, Fraser's argument is pointless.

Thus the premise that if Jesus had been God that he should have done X, Y, and Z has the dubious foundation that it simply starts from Carrier’s own assumptions about what God should do – and of course one of those assumptions is that teaching about things like repentance, sin, faith, reconciliation to God, and life after death don’t matter because – well, presumably because Carrier doesn’t think those things are real or rational. If Carrier DID think those things were real, he would probably have a correspondingly higher view of how important they are – and perhaps a different evaluation with regard to whether or not Jesus did what he should have done. If Jesus’ mission was to prevent as many premature deaths as possible, then perhaps Carrier is right, and Jesus should have taught about germs (even given the likelihood that such a teaching could never have been effective in the cultural context). If, however, his mission was something else (such as inaugurating the kingdom of God), then it’s possible that Carrier is totally off base. Rather than being a strong argument against the reasonableness of Christianity, Carrier’s argument turns out to be simple question-begging.

Richard Carrier did not state explicitly the attributes of god to give his argument its foundation, which I believe is justifiably implied, since I think Carrier's argument is just another derivation of the argument of evil, which takes into account god's allegedly loving nature. Given this foundation, this argument is anything but “question-begging.” Due to Fraser's lack of reasonable criteria or reasoning why he doesn't believe god would provide such information, I think he could be accused of question-begging.

Fraser's argument is irrational and goes against the very attributes his god is supposed to have: omniscient, gracious and all loving, among others. So, according to Fraser, his god and Jesus would rather preach their beliefs and try to convert people, rather than save childrens' lives.

There are other problems with Carrier’s argumentation which are more nitpicky. Carrier alleges that Jesus said “nothing we put into us can harm us,” and implies that this is simply wrong because of course germs can make us sick. My best guess is that Carrier is doing a botch paraphrase of Mark 7:15-23 or the parallel passage in Matthew 15:11-20. However, Jesus does not say that nothing we put into us can harm us, he says that no food can make anyone “unclean,” meaning in the Old Testament ceremonial sense.

This is a bit of a surprising gaffe by Carrier – any lay person who has attentively read the Old Testament will have noticed that there are a lot of foods which are “clean” and others which are “unclean” for the Jews. This is known as kosher. Jesus was certainly not saying that nothing we eat can harm us, he was saying that food does not defile a person spiritually. This is a significant theological point but it has nothing to do with what Carrier seems to think it does, namely physical health.

Carrier also says that according to Jesus not even poison can hurt us (although the verse actually only applies to believers), but this verse is found in the long ending of Mark which almost all scholars agree is not authentic. Carrier should know that full well.

I will deal with Fraser's first two paragraphs. Had Fraser more closely listened to Carrier's opening statement he would have known that Carrier specifically mentioned how Jesus is claimed to have said in the Gospel of Mark that “nothing we put into us can harm us.” He then cites the passage in Mark 16:18 where Jesus tells his disciples that “they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all.”

Fraser is simply being disingenuous because it's obvious that Carrier is discussing sanitation, but Fraser argues that the passages are not referring to this specifically. I'm sure Carrier is well aware of this. However, his point is that many others during the time washed their cups and other utensils (Mark 7:4), but Jesus tells his disciples not to do this. Yes, it was for religious reasons, but if Jesus is god and god is all knowing, then surely stopping the spread of disease is more important than mere religious ritual. If not, that is just immoral. That is Carrier's point.

Finally, so what if the endings in Mark are known to be unauthentic? Unauthentic or not, it was basic Jewish practice not to wash their hands and utensils, but had Jesus or god told their followers that this can lead do disease, he would have saved many lives. Even if the passage was added much later it would still not change these facts. These rituals existed despite this passage.

Carrier charges Jesus with incorrectly teaching people to eat without washing their hands in spite of the unhygienic nature of such advice. Clearly, argues Carrier, Jesus could not have been God and have made such a statement. Again Carrier’s argument flops because of his evident lack of understanding of rabbinic Judaism. The neglect of hand washing which the Jews who charged Jesus with(actually the charge was against Jesus’ disciples) was not simple hand washing for hygiene. It was the ritual hand washing that they believed good Jews were supposed to practice before, during, and after meals. Without the ritual hand washing, they believed the disciples were ceremonially unclean.

I've already anticipated and responded to this disingenuous argument. I wrote: Carrier's point is that many others during the time washed their cups and other utensils (Mark 7:4), but Jesus tells his disciples not to do this. Yes, it was for religious reasons, not hygienic, but if Jesus is god and god is all knowing, then surely Jesus and god are well aware of how to stop the spread of disease. When they saw their disciples not washing their hands, surely this thought must have crossed their minds, but they said nothing. It appears that mere religious ritual is more important than saving countless lives. If so, that is just immoral.

A bit of background is necessary here. The rabbinic system of ritual hand washing is not found in the Torah, but was later developed by the Jews. Thus Jesus responds to the challenge by challenging them: why do they break the commands of God because of traditions made by men? Jesus’ response to the question of hand washing was that food doesn’t defile a person spiritually, rather it is evil desires which motivate evil actions which defile a person. The entire discussion of hand washing (which is found in only one passage in Mark and Matthew) has to do with ceremonial cleanness and the theological discussion about the status of the Torah, a discussion which continued into the early church. Again, it’s an important theological point, but it has nothing to do with the use that Carrier wants to make of it. The idea of washing your hands for simple hygiene is not even in view. Carrier is misreading a theological discussion as a medical one.

I've already responded to this above.

Carrier’s entire argument also fails in principle. The argument is based on the premise that if a good human being would do X if it was in his or her power, then God should also do X. However, unlike human beings, God sees “the end from the beginning.” He is not so limited in his perspective as to see only the immediate effects of some action or inaction. We can make an analogy from parenthood. Very often as a parent I have to make a decision, sometimes painfully, to not do what my children would like me to do or to make them do what they do not want to do. Because I fail to do what they would do if they were in my position, from their perspective it would appear that I have fallen short of their moral standard. Often when this happens they announce, “No fair!” However, as a (hopefully) wise parent, I am able to make judgments about what is best which they are not yet able to make.

This argument is just plain ridiculous. Fraser actually argues that “God sees 'the end from the beginning'. He is not so limited in his perspective as to see only the immediate effects of some action or inaction.” In fact, it is precisely because god is able to see so far into the future that he would have known about the lives Jesus could have saved had he or Jesus mentioned these facts about the germ theory of disease and simple concepts of sanitation. Essentially, Fraser has utilized an entirely immoral argument, because he's just admitted that god and Jesus condemned millions to death and that this was the most “wise” decision. I beg to differ, and I think anyone with a properly working moral compass can also clearly see this.

The analogy to God is imperfect, because God’s wisdom is not merely significantly different in degree from ours in the way that mine is from that of my children. My children will grow up and in a few short years reach the level of understanding of an adult and perhaps one day become parents themselves. God’s wisdom, however, will always be above us, so it is not certain that anyone knows what God should do in any given situation. It’s even conceivable that they might be way off, possibly coming to a conclusion which is the opposite of the truth as God sees it.

Thus the basic form of the argument as it stands is not effective for the simple reason that it begins with the very dubious premise that Richard Carrier knows exactly what Jesus should have done if he had been divine. It’s a variation on any number of skeptical arguments from evil – if there is a God, he should have done X, or he should have prevented Y from happening. The basic justification for the premise is that any good human being would have done X or prevented Y if it was in his or her power, so God should do the same, most often accompanied by an emotional appeal which Carrier also makes heavy use of. It seems to me that it is rather more likely that if God exists (which I am convinced that he does), that he would do things which nobody would expect. A God who only did what humans expected or thought he should do would be no god at all.

Once again, had god or Jesus known of these scientific advances they could have prevented millions of deaths. I'm playing devil's advocate here, but surely Jesus and god are well aware that murder is a sin, according to god's own laws? The sixth commandment is “Thou shalt not kill,” but through their inaction they have violated their own laws. Given this fact, clearly both god and Jesus are aware that killing is wrong (it's right there in the ten commandments!) and surely all sane human beings are aware that killing is wrong, so we can easily surmise that god and Jesus would not want to willingly put innocent people to death. Given these facts, Fraser's argument that we cannot know what god or Jesus would have done is not supported by the facts, so long as they adhered to their own principles and laws that they laid down.

Obviously, they did not follow their own commandments and this is easily seen throughout the bible in both the cases of god and even Jesus. This leaves only three possibilities: either the Christian god and Jesus are immoral, or they did not and do not exist. The final option would be – and this was Carrier's entire point – that this is strong evidence that Jesus and all other persons from that time period had only the knowledge from that time period, and had no connection to any divine source of information, and further casting doubt upon other supernatural claims of Christianity. Therefore, the Christian faith is unreasonable because it is incoherent and doesn't even follow from its own premises.

Like every argument I've seen from J.R. Fraser, this post was all too easy to refute. He failed to state any logical premises from which he drew his conclusions, and he seemed to misunderstand some of Carrier's arguments. Fraser might fancy himself as some knowledgeable Christian apologist, but the fact of the matter is that his arguments are just as factually flawed and irrational as every other Christian apologist out there.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How to Really Stop Terrorism: A Response to Criticism

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.” [1] 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. [2]
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:

“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.
Excerpts of this interview can currently be found at this website.

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?"

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)
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.

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.
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
He continues,
This brings me to the bit where my colleague is just flat out wrong when he writes this:
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.”
Emphasis mine.
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%.

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. [3] 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.

He continues,
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?
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.
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.

He continues,
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.
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.
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.

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.

Moving on....
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
I agree with this. I think marginalizing the extremists is a fine strategy.
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.
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.
I agree each of these last points as well.

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