Thursday, January 07, 2010

City progressives and Afghanistan

City progressives are disappointed in President Obama's policy on Afghanistan, even though he made it clear during the campaign that he wasn't going to allow the Taliban to retake that country.

The folks over at Fog City apparently agree with Noam Chomsky that the US is out to conquer the world, and Afghanistan is just part of that plan.

Over at the Bay Guardian's political blog, the thinking is the same, with the unstated assumption that Afghanistan is just another one of those wars launched by the US on unsuspecting countries. Steve Jones came unglued when I made this comment to one of his anti-war posts. No wonder the American people can't trust the left to govern this country!

I wrote:
I understand that progressives agree with Osama Bin Laden that their country is the Great Satan, but I'd still like them to explain how allowing Afghanistan to be retaken by the Taliban won't threaten our national security, since the 9/11 attacks were planned there and the attackers were trained there.

Jones's response:
9/11 was a response to the massive U.S. military buildup in the Middle East during the first Gulf War. That's why Bin Laden declared war on us, as he said clearly at the time in his fatwa. The fact that he was given safe haven by the Taliban in exchange for money doesn't mean that the Taliban is scheming to destroy the U.S. Most Talibs are dirt poor, have never traveled more than 50 miles from their home village, and couldn't find the U.S. on a map.

Of course the threat to our security doesn't come from the Taliban themselves; they seem content to terrorize only the people of Afghanistan. But they and Al Qaeda are doctrinal and political allies, which is why they made the deal with Bin Laden before 9/11 in the first place. By the way, since there are no longer any US troops in Saudi Arabia, shouldn't Bin Laden call off the fatwa now?

Jones wrote:
The fact that most Americans see all muslim fundamentalists as a direct military threat...indicates how dangerously misguided we are in our belief that we can extinguish this threat militarily.

There is a significant minority of Muslims who are a direct military threat, as the Christmas Day attempt to blow up that airliner again demonstrates. Maybe we can't "extinguish" the threat, but we surely have to defend ourselves. Do you think it's misguided to try to defend ourselves? Do you really think we can negotiate some kind of political settlement with Bin Laden and his international followers? If so it would be interesting to learn what a deal like that would look like.

Jones wrote:
You want total war? Against isolated pockets of radicals throughout the world, and involving a country with nuclear weapons? You want to reduce the world's great cities to rubble, again, just like we did in Dresden, Hiroshima, London, Nagasaki, Berlin, and countless others? You want a death toll in the millions to avenge an attack that killed 3,000 or because you're scared that someone might try to blow up an airplane or subway train every few years? You're insane! Have you no sense of proportion? Do you really think we'll just kill them all and live happily ever after? That's a children's fairy tale.

It's not a matter of revenge, but surely we have to protect ourselves. We should abandon our attempts to do so and resign ourselves to having an airplane or a subway train blown up "every few years"? And you call me "insane" and question my "sense of proportion"! How would Obama explain that to the American people? "Don't worry, folks. We're just going to let the terrorists blow up an occasional airliner and/or subway car." The primary nuclear danger the world faces now is from the Islamic fanatics, who, as soon as they get their hands on the bomb, will use it against us, against Europe, or, in the case of Iran, against Israel. The Afghanistan/Pakistan border is a haven for these Islamic terrorists, who would like to take over Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal. No, I don't think we're going to live "happily ever after" in our lifetime. These homicidal/suicidal fanatics are going to keep coming at us for the forseeable future.

Steve Jones wrote:
9/11 was a response to the massive U.S. military buildup in the Middle East during the first Gulf War. That's why Bin Laden declared war on us, as he said clearly at the time in his fatwa. The fact that he was given safe haven by the Taliban in exchange for money doesn't mean that the Taliban is scheming to destroy the U.S. Most Talibs are dirt poor, have never traveled more than 50 miles from their home village, and couldn't find the U.S. on a map. As Marc said, they only reason they'd be motivated to attack the U.S. is if we blew up their family with a predator drone.

The fact that most Americans see all muslim fundamentalists as a direct military threat---such as the above commenter who can't distinguish between a Yemeni and a Talib, even though they're on different continents---indicates how dangerously misguided we are in our belief that we can extinguish this threat militarily. You want total war? Against isolated pockets of radicals throughout the world, and involving a country with nuclear weapons? You want to reduce the world's great cities to rubble, again, just like we did in Dresden, Hiroshima, London, Nagasaki, Berlin, and countless others? You want a death toll in the millions to avenge an attack that killed 3,000 or because you're scared that someone might try to blow up an airplane or subway train every few years? You're insane! Have you no sense of proportion? Do you really think we'll just kill them all and live happily ever after? That's a children's fairy tale.

Now, as far as Matthew's point about using Gutierrez's death to make a political point, it's true that I did, just as supporters of war do in their statements about what this death means, and just as we hear about from the president on down every Memorial Day and Veteran's Day and every time a bunch of American soldiers get killed. And that was precisely my point: the warmongering will stop only when we see deaths like this as the tragic and unnecessary price we're paying for a misguided policy that is doomed to fail. Bring the troops home.
Posted by Steven T. Jones, December 29, 2009
 

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Hitchens on the cultural cringe: "Our own State Department said the Danes should apologize"

Michael J. Totten: Ireland has a new anti-blasphemy law.

Christopher Hitchens: Yes.

MJT: At the same time, Kurt Westergaard was just attacked in Denmark by a Somali nutcase with an axe for offending Muslims with his Mohammad bomb head cartoon. How is it that supposedly liberal Europeans have come to agree with Islamist fascists that people like Westergaard ought to be punished, even if they think he should be punished less severely?

Hitchens: Let's do a brief thought experiment. I tell you the following: On New Year's Eve, a man in his mid-seventies is having his granddaughter over for a sleep-over, his five-year old granddaughter. He is attacked in his own home by an axe-wielding maniac with homicidal intent. Your mammalian reaction, your reaction as a primate is one of revulsion. I'm trusting you on this.

MJT: Oh, yes. You are correct.

Hitchens: Then you pick up yesterday's Guardian, one of the most liberal newspapers in the Western world, and there's a long article that says, ah, that picture, that moral picture, that instinct to protect the old and the young doesn't apply in this case. The man asked for it. He drew a cartoon that upset some people. We aren't at all entitled to use our moral instincts in the correct way.

This is a sort of cultural and moral suicide, in my opinion. It's not exactly comparable to the reaction of the church in Ireland which wants to make it illegal to criticize any religion, which in Ireland doesn't really mean much more than one. Many Irish people I know are already publicly planning to break this law.

There you see, I have to say, a different phenomenon, maybe a different version of the same one, a claim of the right to protection against offense from a church that just lost at least two senior bishops who had to resign because they had not thoroughly enough made themselves aware of the child abuse—why do we call it abuse? The rape and torture of children—where it seems from the Irish government's report that only a minority of children were not made victims of this hideous, iniquitous predation.

The same absurdity is present in both cases. These two religions make very large claims for themselves, that "without us you cannot get to heaven, and without us you will go to hell." They claim the right to high, middle, and low justice over everything from public affairs to private morals. They make these immense claims for themselves and further say they should be immune from criticism. It's not enough to be an absolutist party, but you're not allowed to disagree. This is totalitarianism...
 
The complete interview

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