Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The other side of the coin

I have to clarify few things regarding my previous post. Even though al-Rashed’s article sheds light on a major source of the problem, which is terrorism carried out by Muslims, he just presents one valid side of a very complicated problem. Blaming Muslims and Muslims religious leaders doesn’t remove the blame from America, Israel, and other countries and it doesn’t make them more innocent or virtuous. America is a major player in the spread of terrorism. In fact America is a terrorist in many ways, as much as those Muslim terrorists are. So if we are keen on understanding the problem and on trying to find solutions for it, we have to acknowledge all sources of the problem. Focusing on one side and ignoring the other doesn’t help… it just creates more confusion.

Now regarding al-Rashed’s article, it certainly fails to present the other different sides of the problem. He focuses on Islamic extremism but fails to mention or even hint at America as being a contributive party in the emergence of this Islamic terrorism and also in committing terrorism in the region. America’s recent invasion of Iraq killed atleast 11,000 innocent civilians. If that is not terrorism, I don’t know what is. And let us not conceal it under the guise of liberation and freedom. Innocent people die by the hundreds and thousands, and so we have a serious problem… humanity in its entirety is in jeopardy.

One more thing I wish to address is death and the view of death in those atrocities we see today and why the American military is not receiving the same kind of stern criticism and repulsive reaction Muslim terrorists do.

I will rely on David Grossman’s analysis in his book On Killing to tackle this issue. In his book, Grossman compares the atrocities of Hamburg (1943) and Babylon (689 B.C.) and poses the question: What is the difference? A valid question to ask today would be: What is the difference between the death caused by the American military and the death caused by the Islamic fundamentalists?" “There is no distinction in the results – in both, the innocent population involved died horribly ..” Grossman answers his question. “The difference is that, emotionally, when we dwell on the butchers of Babylon or Auschwitz or My Lai, we feel revulsion at the psychotic and alien state that permitted these individuals to perform their awful deeds. We cannot understand how anyone could perform such inhuman atrocities on their fellow man … But when most people think of those who bombed Hamburg or Hiroshima, there is no feeling of disgust for the deed, certainly not the intensity of disgust felt of Nazi executioners. When we mentally empathize with the bomber crews, when we put ourselves in their places, most cannot truly see themselves doing any different than they did. Therefore we do not judge them as criminals.”

Today Muslim terrorists are regarded as being more culpable than America because of this psychological factor Grossman mentions. One way of killing should not be glorified over the other. Killing is ugly… killing is bad and especially if it results in the death of innocent civilians and that’s exactly why we have to acknowledge and fight all sources and forms of terrorism for it seems to me that the term “terrorist” has been recently defined by the media as inclusive of only non-governmental entities and guerrillas which happen to be mostly Muslim, as if no western government is eligible of being associated with this term, whether partially or completely and that undermines the process of solving the problem because despite all the great things in America (the nation), America (the government) is responsible for a great deal of the terrorism the world is facing today and that kind of terrorism should be equally feared and denounced.


At 4:31 PM, Blogger Scorpio said...

There is an absolute moral difference between those who set out deliberately to kill civilians and those civilians killed accidentally in war. While the distinction may not matter much to the civilian being killed, it sure matters to the rest of us and its mistaken to put them on the same moral level.

Whatever one may feel about America’s invasion of Iraq – and I completely opposed it – their troops obey specific rules of engagement which mean that they don’t set out to kill civilians. Moreover, America’s military has worked on smart weapons that greatly lessen the number civilian casualties.

If America followed the Islamists and decided to actually target civilians they’d be able to end the insurgency in the time it takes a nuclear tipped cruise missile to leave a sub in the Eastern Mediterranean and reach Baghdad.

At 1:20 AM, Blogger global soul said...

Thank you Scorpio.

What you’re saying makes perfect sense. On a moral level, killing innocent civilians by accident is very different from killing innocent civilians deliberately. No question about that.

Maybe Grossman’s comparison wasn’t the right example to set, but I wasn’t trying to put the American military and the Islamic terrorists on an equal moral level in terms of the killings of innocent civilians. What I was trying to convey through my post is that America is responsible for many crimes against humanity that are just not being acknowledged as such.

I will clarify what I mean through the following points:

(1) Speaking of morality, America’s entire war on Iraq can be regarded as being immoral and illegitimate because it is resulting in the death of innocent civilians (be it accidental or not) for no justifiable reason. Where are the WMD? And wasn’t it America who gave Saddam WMD some two decades ago to fight against Iran while he was notorious for being a vicious dictator and a human rights violator? (this argument is becoming a cliché already)

(2) The amount of innocent civilians accidentally killed by American troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other parts of the world far outweigh the amount of innocent civilians deliberately killed by Muslims terrorists. When death is involved, I think the quantity of people killed is a huge moral factor to be considered.

(3) You say that the American troops obey specific rules of engagement, which means that they don’t set out to kill civilians. I am sure American troops were also told not to abuse prisoner in jails, but guess what, we have Abu Graib. Even though killing was not involved in that incident, it is only one example of how orders are not always obeyed. I am sure the same occurs in the battle field, I don’t have specific examples to back my point, but in war with all its arbitrariness and when you have 17 and 18 years boys in charge of the most advanced weapons and artillery, it doesn’t require one to have a wide imagination to visualize how easy it is for these weapons to be misused in the expense of innocent lives.

(4) America seems to have this unconditional support for Israel and Israel’s record of killing innocent civilian is quite a hefty one. One has to only recall Qana massacre that resulted in more than 100 deaths, mostly women and children to Mohammad al Dora’s video to Jenin etc etc.. Yet, America continues to provide a remarkable military support for Israel. And then you have America providing Saddam with weapons as I mentioned earlier and training Al Qaeda to fight the Russians while Al Qaeda and Taliban’s fundamental ideology towards the west was the same since its inception. Those are few examples that reflect America’s inconsistent actions in terms of human rights.

Given that record of the United States, it is hard not to be skeptical about its efforts in Iraq. True, maybe America is not deliberately killing civilians, but it is sure willing to accidentally kill thousands of them to secure its political and economic interests which were, quite frankly, no where close to being threatened by Saddam who was in his weakest state when the war started.

To many Arabs and Muslims it is absolutely heartbreaking to see their fellow citizens being killed from both sides- the “American liberators” and “Islamic mujahideen”.

At 4:31 PM, Blogger Scorpio said...

Thank you very much for spending the time to write a detailed post. I’d like to make a couple of points in response to the above:

1) I don’t know whether I’d agree that the invasion of Iraq was obviously wrong – for me it was on balance the wrong thing to do, but there were justifiable reasons for getting rid of Saddam and if the whole operation didn’t come with the whole Project for a New American Century baggage I might have supported it.

2) I cannot agree that more civilians have been accidentally killed by Americans in Iraq, Afghanistan and various other places since 911 than have been deliberately killed by Muslim terrorists – especially when you consider what Islamist Khartoum is doing in Darfur and the massacres by the Taliban of Hazaras.
Moreover, given the chance Al Qaeda would have continued to use Afghanistan plot to target more civilians. So America or any one else civilized has had no choice but to clear them and their Taliban sponsors out of Afghanistan.

(3) It was disgusting what went on in Abu Graeib but the perpetrators are being prosecuted with the first one in fact being imprisoned today. I find a lot of the outrage n the Arab world slightly dubious considering what goes on in prisons in the region. Another blatant case of double standards.

(4) Agree, but America’s relationship with Israel doesn’t mean that it cannot speak and act morally; it just creates the suspicion in that what it does in the Middle East relates to Israel’s objectives.

Great weblog by the way.

At 10:33 PM, Blogger global soul said...

Hmm… I guess we agree on some things and disagree on others. I am not defending any side, I just believe that to every problem there is a solution.. and in my opinion, the solution to the problem we have in the Middle East consists of two parts:

(1) A fundemental change in American foreign policy in the Middle East.
(2) A serious effort in the Arab/Islamic world to interperet Islam differently and to marginalize those fanatic impulsive religious leaders who mobilize the massess in the wrong direction

Until then, everything being said is as useless as blowing into a peirced balloon!

At 10:43 AM, Blogger Scorpio said...

On the fundamentals I think we agree.

At 1:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I challenge you to find out who has killed more innocent in the middle east ( including the number of foreign soldiers) Terrorist organizations or th US Military.. Count em up.... Remember terrorism has been going on the Middle East since before we started counting time......


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