September 19, 2004

"Militant" = Terrorist

Nelson Ascher, for those of you who don't know, is a Brazillian journalist based in Paris who also writes in English at his blog called Europundits. He speaks, reads and writes, gosh, I don't know how many languages. He is also a poet and a professional translator. He has forgotten more about languages than I have ever learned with my quarter-knowledge of Spanish and my minimal understanding of Arabic.

So when he writes about words and languages, as he often does, I pay attention. Today he posted an interesting essay about the mainstream media's use of euphemisms for "terrorist," such as "militant," "rebel," and even "dissident." I've always figured the use of such words, especially "dissident," unintentionally slanders the likes of the French Resistance, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Those people do not deserve to be lumped in with the likes of Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Baathist dead-enders.

Anyway, Nelson Ascher thinks the use of these euphemisms isn't working as the media intends because it simply changes the meaning of the euphemisms themselves. That goes hand in hand with what I've always thought, but he takes it a step further. Those of you who cringe (as I do) when a gang of thugs who cut off the heads of innocents are called anything other than terrorists are encouraged to read what he has to say.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 19, 2004 06:43 PM
Comments

Oh, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

They're not evil, they're just misunderstood.

What about all the terrorism perpetrated by America/Israel/whitey ?

/chaneling a Liberal

Posted by: David at September 19, 2004 07:07 PM

Great article and quite valid but it still leaves the problem of 'intent'.
If the MSM cannot or will not call an evil by its true name,that we all understand its nature anyway is only part of the issue.
The 'intent' to either deceive or more likely 'sugarcoat' the reality will show itself in not only the words used as description but in the descriptions themselves.The failure to use the 'right' word is only indicative of the failure to use the 'right' description and context for the actions of these deadly new barbarians.
If as I predict it will come down to 'you are either with us or against us',the media by choosing to gloss over the truth will be coming down on the wrong side------- AGAIN
We deserve better than these cynical and 'sophisticated' propagandists.

Posted by: dougf at September 19, 2004 07:09 PM

David,

I consider myself a liberal and I certainly have no problem calling the FARC and the AUC in Colombia terrorists as well as Hamas, Hizbollah, the Red Brigade, the IRA, Baader-Meinhof, Al Qaeda, and anyone else who engages in violent attacks on civilians terrorists.

I haven't yet read anyone on the right, however, condemn this and I wonder why:

A little-noticed but chilling scene at Opa-locka Airport outside Miami last month demonstrates that the Bush administration's commitment to fighting international terrorism can be overtaken by presidential politics — even if that means admitting known terrorists onto U.S. soil. That's what happened when outgoing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso inexplicably pardoned four Cuban exiles convicted of "endangering public safety" for their role in an assassination plot against Fidel Castro during a 2000 international summit in Panama.

Now before you accuse me of being a Castro sympathizer, please read my blog or at least ask Michael, who I'm sure will tell you I am anything but a Castro opponent.

So what was the nature of the assassination attempt?

Panamanian prosecutors said they had planned to detonate 33 pounds of explosives while Castro was speaking at a university in Panama. Had they not been intercepted by the authorities, the blast not only would have killed the Cuban president but quite possibly hundreds of others gathered to hear him speak during the inter-American summit.

Sound like terrorists to me, yet three of them were welcomed as heroes in South Florida and the fourth, well he is believed to have slipped into Honduras on a fake US passport:

The fourth man, Luis Posada Carriles, was the most notorious member of this anti-Castro cell. He is an escapee from a prison in Venezuela, where he was incarcerated for blowing up an Air Cubana passenger plane in 1976, killing 73. He also admitted plotting six hotel bombings in Havana that killed one tourist and injured 11 others in 1997. Posada has gone into hiding in Honduras while seeking a Central American country that will harbor him, prompting Honduran President Ricardo Maduro to demand an explanation from the Bush administration on how a renowned terrorist could enter his country using a false U.S. passport.

Bombing aircraft, hotels, murdering diplomats. Sound like terrorists to me. So if you think that this is confined to the left, let me assure it is not.

Posted by: Randy Paul at September 19, 2004 07:56 PM

That guy's essay starts out like a bad Jerry Seinfeld. "Why do we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?"

Dammit, how many times do i have to tell you people!! Comparing "terrorist" to militant, rebel, or dissident is like apples and oranges. Militants, rebels, and dissidents can all exist without terror.

Terrorism isn't something you can objectively use to describe a person, it's a mean to an end. Americans in the Revolution were terrorists, burning down homes and killing those loyal to the Crown. Union forces in the Civil War were terrorists, burning down entire towns in the South. The African nation of Tripoli was a terrorist nation during Thomas Jefferson's presidency, collecting "tribute" (nice word for extortion) from European nations to not pirate their ships in the Mediterranean. When we invaded them for hijacking our ships, they were pissed at us for disrupting centuries of tradition. The considered us terrorist punks.

Terrorism is in the eye of the beholder. Using children as suicide bombers is wrong, but so is launching missles with high collateral damage rates into residential neighborhoods (Israel, I'm looking at you). When looking for a needle, don't blow up the whole damn haystack.

Al Qaeda is rebeling against something, just because that something sounds stupid to us (or we, like me, don't get it) doesn't make it not true.

Oh, and one other thing - how come if you criticize Israel, you're an anti-semite and if criticize the Palestinians, you're a Zionist bastard? Criticizing one doesn't mean supporting the other.

Posted by: Greg at September 19, 2004 08:00 PM

Randy,

I don't think the story you cited got much circulation. This is the first I've seen of it - although you probably blogged it and I missed it.

I agree with your take on it. And I won't let anyone call you a Castro apologist. I know you are very much the opposite.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 19, 2004 08:07 PM

Thanks, Michael. Obviously we don't always agree, but I appreciate your comments. BTW, Marcela Sánchez has this good take on the story.

Posted by: Randy Paul at September 19, 2004 08:12 PM

Terrorism is in the eye of the beholder---Greg

Really ? I guess them that there can never be actions which in and of themselves are 'terrorist'. And you also manage to make the always important point that 'collateral damage' via un-intended but probably un-avoidable consequences is equivalent to damage which results from a conscious decision to in fact do that damage.Intent counting for nothing in your view.
Wonderful demonstration of that modern illness known as 'moral relativism'.What a blight upon the world that has turned out to be.

Posted by: dougf at September 19, 2004 08:21 PM

Ascher's dissection of the effects of the perversion of language by the elite establishment media is yet another demonstration of the fact that much of today's Left is not only out of touch with reality, but that their arrogance is leaving them increasingly marginalized. Many people are beyond outrage at the establishment media. They simply do not listen to them anymore, because they know a lie when they hear/read one.

People do not need to be told what it means when children are blown up in school, or hostages are beheaded. Call them "militants" if you wish, Dan. And then watch the collective yawn.

The incredibly self-important generation of journalists and academics who came of age in the 60s and 70s is now going down in flames because they refuse to consider the possiblity that they might be wrong about something. Of course, in their world, EVERYTHING is relative, a "social construct", so no judgements are to be made. But what they have failed to realize is that a whole lot of people have made judgements about them and their kind, and they do not like what they see.

Their worldview is fairly well represented in their candidate of choice in this year's presidential election : the vacuous shell known as John Kerry.
Nuance. Sophistication. Gufaaaww !

Dan Rather, Michael Moore, Susan Sontag, Noam Chomsky, the entire lot of them is meltdown mode, and they refuse to face it. The Leftist media-academia titanic is sinking in its own sea of contradictions. But this time the outcome will be different for the elites, because their arrogance is so HUGE that their will be no boats to rescue them.

Apparently, the most clueless people in America reside in places like Malibu, Manhattan and Georgetown.

And some people wonder why the Right dominates talk radio, and why Fox News is killing CNN. Amazing.

Posted by: freeguy at September 19, 2004 09:31 PM

Ascher's dissection of the effects of the perversion of language by the elite establishment media is yet another demonstration of the fact that much of today's Left is not only out of touch with reality, but that their arrogance is leaving them increasingly marginalized. Many people are beyond outrage at the establishment media. They simply do not listen to them anymore, because they know a lie when they hear/read one.

People do not need to be told what it means when children are blown up in school, or hostages are beheaded. Call them "militants" if you wish, Dan. And then watch the collective yawn.

The incredibly self-important generation of journalists and academics who came of age in the 60s and 70s is now going down in flames because they refuse to consider the possiblity that they might be wrong about something. Of course, in their world, EVERYTHING is relative, a "social construct", so no judgements are to be made. But what they have failed to realize is that a whole lot of people have made judgements about them and their kind, and they do not like what they see.

Their worldview is fairly well represented in their candidate of choice in this year's presidential election : the vacuous shell known as John Kerry.
Nuance. Sophistication. Gufaaaww !

Dan Rather, Michael Moore, Susan Sontag, Noam Chomsky, the entire lot of them is meltdown mode, and they refuse to face it. The Leftist media-academia titanic is sinking in its own sea of contradictions. But this time the outcome will be different for the elites, because their arrogance is so HUGE that there will be no boats to rescue them.

Apparently, the most clueless people in America reside in places like Malibu, Manhattan and Georgetown.

And some people wonder why the Right dominates talk radio, and why Fox News is killing CNN. Amazing.

Posted by: freeguy at September 19, 2004 09:31 PM

>>>"I consider myself a liberal and I certainly have no problem calling the FARC and the AUC in Colombia terrorists as well as Hamas, Hizbollah, the Red Brigade, the IRA, Baader-Meinhof, Al Qaeda, and anyone else who engages in violent attacks on civilians terrorists."

Randy,

that's great; then I'm obviously not talking about you. But unfortunately exceptions don't make the rule. It is Liberals who have tried to replace the word 'terrorist' with more value-neutral terms like "militant" and "activist". Just listen to NPR's coverage.

And sorry, it is Liberals who justify terror as self-defense against western imperialism and zionist aggression, etc., or that we had 9/11 coming to us because of our "foreign policy", blah blah blah. If you're not aware of that, then you need to get out from under your rock.

>>>"I haven't yet read anyone on the right, however, condemn this and I wonder why"

It sounds like you have a problem with the Panamanian government, not conservatives. Actually, I'm really not even sure why you linked that article. When you find a conservative that excuses and apologizes for an assassination attempts on U.S. soil by some Cubans, please let me know.

Posted by: David at September 19, 2004 10:02 PM

An explosion, set off in a crowd of random citizens of a given country, is intended to kill an enemy leader...

The attack sucessfully kills either John Zarquai-Doe, leader of the terrorist cell "HotMas", or "Dr. Joe Someone-Allai" major personage in the government.

The attack also kills 8 children, 3 women, 5 men and a dog.

Does it really matter if the explosion came via a suicide bomber or via a largish missile? Does it matter to the children, women, men and the dog, if the target was John or Joe?

It would seem to me that it was an act of Terrorism either way. It would also seem to me that either attacking party was guilty of murder.

Ratatosk

Posted by: Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord at September 20, 2004 08:16 AM

Dougf wrote, "And you also manage to make the always important point that 'collateral damage' via un-intended but probably un-avoidable consequences is equivalent to damage which results from a conscious decision to in fact do that damage.Intent counting for nothing in your view."

Let's look at that in more detail.

First here's the despicable terrorist side. "I'm going to kill whoever I find, likely including some children, to achieve a political and military goal. I'll show the enemy leader he can't have it all his way, I'll retaliate for his latest strike, etc. It's too bad those children have to die, but it's war." If he accepts killing children he's despicable. If he specifically chooses children that might be a little worse, but accepting it as a valid part of the tactic is bad enough.

Now here's the despicable ops side. "I'm going to kill this enemy leader. That will help the war effort. I know there are 10 children close enough to the CEP that I'll probably get them too. It's too bad those children have to die, but it's war."

I say there is no important difference between these.

But the ops side doesn't have to be that way. It could instead be "I'm going to kill this enemy leader. I trust the intelligence that says precisely where he is. The intelligence report doesn't say who else is there, and I don't have time to request clarification about that -- he might leave at any time. Maybe I'd be bombing a kindergarten with 10 classrooms of 12 children each. But I have to take that chance or I won't kill the bad guy. Maybe I'll be lucky and not kill any civilians at all." I'd say this is a little less bad than knowing how many children you're killing. There is that chance that you aren't killing any of them, just like if you're on a firing squad and one of the bullets is blank there's the chance you aren't shooting the victim. But what if you do 5 missions like that? 10? At what point does it turn into knowing that you're murdering children? Air strikes in cities are not so different from suicide bombings in cities, except you get to go home afterward and you don't get as close a look at your target.

OK, it can be still a little less bad. "I'm going to kill this enemy leader. The intelligence report says precisely where he is, and it says there are no civilians anywhere near. Good!" And then it turns out you bombed a children's hospital. Well, you didn't know. It wasn't your fault. It was the fault of the bad intelligence. But what about the third time you trust bad intelligence? By that time you ought to know better. That's just about as bad as the terrorist.

I say there is essentially no moral difference between killing children for a military goal, versus knowing and accepting that the children are killed as collateral damage for a military goal. If you know it's going to happen because of your action and then you do it, in either case you're accepting killing the children as a means to your desired end.

Where is the difference in intent?

Posted by: J Thomas at September 20, 2004 08:22 AM

>>>"Does it really matter if the explosion came via a suicide bomber or via a largish missile? Does it matter to the children, women, men and the dog, if the target was John or Joe?"

Tosk,

does it matter whether women or children are killed in a concentration camp chemical shower and then incinerated in ovens, vs killed in an allied raid on Nazi industrial centers? Are they equivalent in your book? In my book, they're not.

Please answer this question, and stick to this hypothetical first before you venture off into your own. Thanks.

Posted by: David at September 20, 2004 08:28 AM

I say there is essentially no moral difference between killing children for a military goal, versus knowing and accepting that the children are killed as collateral damage for a military goal. If you know it's going to happen because of your action and then you do it, in either case you're accepting killing the children as a means to your desired end.
Where is the difference in intent?--- J Thomas

I am NOT going to belabour this issue.There just IS.
It is the difference between the actions of the animals at Beslan and someone knowing where the animals were before the assault and launching a strike to take them out before they could implement their plan.Should innocents be killed as a result of the pre-emptive strike it is not the same as shooting children in the back as they flee from your evil.
I absolutely,postively,without equivocation despise 'moral equivalency' as all it does is enable inaction, and enoble the depraved.

Posted by: dougf at September 20, 2004 08:46 AM

>>>"I am NOT going to belabour this issue. There just IS."

Indeed it is. But the mere fact that we are even discussing it is already a victory for the moral relativists.

All they have to do is put some previously unthinkable idea or innovation on the table; then shock gives way to outrage, then to debate, and when what was once a crime becomes a debate, that debate usually ushers the act or belief into common practice and acceptance. Thus moral decadence becomes the norm. History has proven it over and over.

We've already lost this argument. Ten years from now the murderers of Beslan will be seen not as murderers, but as victims who because of their victimization were FORCED by desperation to shoot those children in the back.

Posted by: David at September 20, 2004 09:10 AM

I'm not buying it. A name IS important. Too many names for this Islamofacism is a conscious or "unconscious" manipulation of the MSM to keep a fuzzy image of what it is we are truly dealing with here, trying to keep it in the vapid world of intellectual dalliance and conflicting ideologies and philosophies...

Folks, these guys are right out of the 15th century. They don't want to talk to you, they want to kill you. In the name of "Allah" (The One True God - their definition).

The word your searching for is "Enemy".

Posted by: pkok at September 20, 2004 09:37 AM

Where is the difference in intent?--- J Thomas

I am NOT going to belabour this issue.There just IS.

I think you feel a difference but you don't understand it and you can't explain it.

Often when that happens it's because the believer started out with the conclusions he wanted and tried to work back to why they were right, and failed. Perhaps because they were not right at all.

Sometimes it comes from emotional pictures. If you start out with a picture of the evil skulking terrorist who only wants to kill people, as many as possible. And you contrast that with the clean-cut efficient military officer who's only doing his job as well as he can.... There's no similarity between those pictures. Obviously the terrorist is bad and the officer is good. If the terrorist kills children it's because he wants to kill children, while if the officer kills children it's because there was no other choice.

I'm not being a moral relativist. I'm not saying that killing children is as good as not killing children. You're being a moral relativist, you're saying it's good when we do it and it's bad when they do it. Because you think we have good intentions and they have bad intentions, and that makes all the difference.

You're wrong.

Posted by: J Thomas at September 20, 2004 09:58 AM

>>>"You're being a moral relativist, you're saying it's good when we do it and it's bad when they do it. Because you think we have good intentions and they have bad intentions, and that makes all the difference."

J Thomas,

then what you are essentially saying is that ALL forms of war are terrorism, and therefore a wrong. Which is why I called you a pacifist on a past thread.

Do you really believe all forms of war are terrorism? If not, then please distinguish between terrorism and our traditional understanding of war. What form of war would YOU participate in, heaven forbid, vs one you wouldn't.

Posted by: David at September 20, 2004 10:05 AM

does it matter whether women or children are killed in a concentration camp chemical shower and then incinerated in ovens, vs killed in an allied raid on Nazi industrial centers? Are they equivalent in your book?

Of course not and your poser is not, in any way, related to what I stated. Please try to keep up.

We are talking about explosions in populated areas, with the express intent of killing 1 person (while accidentally killing a number of innocent people). Is there a difference between a suicide bomber trying to blow up a car and kill his enemy, versus the Isreali Millitary shooting missles into a similar situation, to kill their enemy?

I'm not advocating 'moral equivalency' here... I'm saying that using any ordinance in a heavily populated area is morally wrong, period. Any attempt to justify the death of innocents, by saying that the attackers were 'morally justified', is truly moral relativism.

Posted by: Ratatosk at September 20, 2004 10:28 AM

David, when uniformed solders kill other uniformed soldiers, that isn't terrorism. When you put on the uniform you're asking for it.

When you put your military sites in built-up civilian areas, that's wrong; it's encouraging the enemy to kill civilians. When the enemy does so that's wrong too.

So we put our ICBM silos in isolated cornfields. The russians put theirs right next to their cities, so we couldn't hit the missiles without hitting their population. Their view was that it was silly to believe in a surgical pre-emptive strike. They refused to participate in a limited nuclear war, their stand was that if we used nukes at all then they'd hit us with everything they had.

If you try to have a war against an enemy that doesn't have uniforms, chances are it's going to turn into terrorism on your part. Better to get the population to point out the terrorists to the police, and only send in armor to show surrounded terrorists that they can't escape.

I notice that our attitude toward terrorists in occupied territory is far different than that toward terrorists in our own country. When we went after the SLA we mostly destroyed just one building, and that was with bullets. Etc.

Waco was different, we officially went in to protect the children and instead of doing the slow negotiations that usually result in eventual surrenders we did an attack that got all the children and all the adults killed. But that's the exception, domestically.

Posted by: J Thomas at September 20, 2004 10:41 AM

>>>"When you put your military sites in built-up civilian areas, that's wrong; it's encouraging the enemy to kill civilians. When the enemy does so that's wrong too."

J Thomas,

so given that we agree purposefully endangering civilians is wrong, what do you suggest should be the appropriate military response? simply ignore that target and reward them for endangering their people? Ignore the target? Please explain what is appropriate in such a case for Israel to do in Gaza, or for the U.S. to do in Najaf. What would past muster for J Thomas.

I expectantly await what should be a short and succint response; it needn't be an essay, because essays are used to obfuscate and water down. Just short and sweet if you may. I do believe we are close to an understanding, if not an agreement.

Posted by: David at September 20, 2004 10:51 AM

>>>"I'm not advocating 'moral equivalency' here... I'm saying that using any ordinance in a heavily populated area is morally wrong, period."

Tosk,

German civilians died by the thousands in allied raids on Nazi industrial zones.

But I pose to you the same question I posed to J Thomas. If those factories pumping out Panzer divisions had been placed in more populated areas, what would have been the appropriate Allied response? ignore the target?

Short and sweet if you please.

Posted by: David at September 20, 2004 10:54 AM

David,

It is a difficult question to answer. In War, one must accept that there will be casualities. There is no way around that problem. I am not stating that it is always unacceptable to kill civilians.

My problem is that somehow people see a moral difference between one group who use explosives to hit a target (while killing bystanders) and another group who use explosives to hit a target (while killing bystanders). Dead is dead, it matters not to the innocent if it was plastic explosives or an ICBM, they're still dead.

The overarching issue (as I see it), is the intent. If one blows up a bus full of people, in order to force a country to change their policies, that is Terrorism. If someone blows themselves up, while standing near a specific individual, I call that gurellia warfare. If someone sends a stinger missle into the heart of a busy street, in order to take out an enemy, its warfare.

However, all of these kill innocent people.

The first example is insane. Intentionally blowing up a busfull of innocent people is obviously BAD, Wrong, Terrorism, Evil.

The second example is one of sloppy, lazy gurillia warfare (a sniper rifle could have achieved the objective without killing innocents).

The third example is one of sloppy, lazy warfare (Black Ops could have achieved the objective without killing innocents).

I see no difference between number 2 and number 3

Posted by: Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord at September 20, 2004 11:08 AM

>>>"It is a difficult question to answer."

Fair enough. THAT, I pose to you, is why one is different from the other; why targeted assassinations are not the same as suicide bombings at schoolbuses. One is a difficult question to answer, the other is not.

>>>"The overarching issue (as I see it), is the intent."

Exactly. So why do we disagree?

Posted by: David at September 20, 2004 11:30 AM

David,

I don't know why we disagree. My initial post was talking about the lack of distinction between a suicide bomber attempting to take out a particular target (surrounded by innocents) and a missle being used to take out a target (surrounded by innocents). It was not talking about bombing schools, busses or driving airplanes into buildings, which I see as simply 'acts of terrorism'.

To say that 9/11, Madrid or Beslan are anything other than blatent acts of terrorism is foolish.

However, to my mind, there is no seperating a rebel who blows themselves up trying to take out a political target and Isreal shooting missles into the heart of a Palastinian city. The only difference I see, is that one is 'in power' and the other is not. That distinction is not a great one.

Either its ok to have heavy civilian casualities when fighting for your ideals, or it is not ok to have heavy civilian casualities when fighting for your ideals. One cannot have it both ways.

Posted by: Ratatosk at September 20, 2004 11:58 AM

>>>"However, to my mind, there is no seperating a rebel who blows themselves up trying to take out a political target and Isreal shooting missles into the heart of a Palastinian city."

Ok. I consider both legitimate targets if they're at war. I would call the former "guerrilla" warfare, and the latter just regular war. The fact that he's a suicide bomber is inconsequential; the TARGET is the important distinction.

Collateral damage also is inconsequential to this distinction. That's why war IS hell.

In Iraq, I distinguish between 'insurgents' and terrorists. The former targeting U.S. and Iraqi troops, the latter targeting civilians to create instability and fear, terror.

Posted by: David at September 20, 2004 12:31 PM

Actually, I'm really not even sure why you linked that article. When you find a conservative that excuses and apologizes for an assassination attempts on U.S. soil by some Cubans, please let me know.

Actually, David I linked to that because the president is always speaking of moral clarity and was completely silent on the pardon of these terrorists. If one believes that terrorism is unacceptable regardless of where it takes place as I believe so, then it doesn't make any difference whether it takes place on US soil or not. Bombing a jetliner is an act of terrorism. Bombing tourists hotels is an act of terrorism. If the president were consistent, then he would speak out on the pardon of these men.

Funny you should mention "assassination attempts on U.S. soil by some Cubans." One of those pardoned by Moscos was Guillermo Novo who was involved in this act of state-sponsored terrorism that took place in Washington, DC in 1976:

In power, Pinochet oversaw the murders of enemies real and imagined. One of them was Ronni Karpen Moffitt. Her offense was to sit alongside an exiled Chilean diplomat, Orlando Letelier, as they rode to work at a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 21, 1976. The car exploded. Letelier was torn in half. Michael Moffitt, Ronni's husband, was hurled out a rear door. Flying metal slashed open an artery in Ronni Moffitt's neck. She drowned in her own blood on the streets of the western hemisphere's oldest democracy, killed by the men who had overthrown its second-oldest.

He was convicted and sentenced to 40 years for conspiracy in the 1976 assassination of former Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and his American colleague, Ronni Moffitt, in Washington. (His conviction was subsequently vacated on a legal technicality.) Novo also once fired a bazooka at a UN building. Yet nothing but silence from the White House on the pardon of these terrorists.

Posted by: Randy Paul at September 20, 2004 12:33 PM

David,

Then we are in agreement... of sorts.

:)

Posted by: Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord at September 20, 2004 01:24 PM

Randy,

ok, so you're equating "silence" by conservatives to actual moral equivocating by Liberals. Their "silence" to you is a form of moral equivalency.

I don't agree, unless they had some affirmative duty to speak out. If an unknown assailant assassinated the prime minister of Sweden in a mall, does conservative silence equal their moral equivocation? Of course not.

A duty would have been created to speak out by any number of things, such as direct or indirect involvement, or perhaps the murders were committed in the name of conservatives (such as islamic terrorism creating a duty in muslims to dissavow it).

Had conservatives known you'd blame them for their silence, perhaps it might have occurred to one or two of them to say something, just to cover their ass. Aside from that, I see no duty of care.

Why do you feel it was their duty to speak out?

Posted by: David at September 20, 2004 02:19 PM

>>>"Then we are in agreement... of sorts."

I'll take any kind of agreement you can offer.

Posted by: David at September 20, 2004 02:19 PM

Why do you feel it was their duty to speak out?

Because these people are terrorists, David. Because it's called being consistent. Do you think that if, for example, someone had pardoned the man convicted for the bombing of Pan Am 103, that the Bush administration would have been silent? I don't, nor would I have been silent.

If you base your campaign against terrorism on a position of moral clarity, then your failure to condemn the pardon of terrorists is hypocritical, period.

Posted by: Randy Paul at September 20, 2004 02:33 PM

Randy,

I partly agree. But I don't place that in the same category as actually apologizing for terror.

If I did, it would make me a moral equivalentist, and I'm not.

They're different.

Posted by: David at September 20, 2004 02:37 PM

Michael, I saw the headline "Militants behead hostages" in the local fishwrap today and it infuriated me.

Thank you for this post, it's a great relief.

Posted by: WichitaBoy at September 20, 2004 05:40 PM

Al Queda is not rebelling against anything, it is taking a conscious action FOR something, Islamic Fascism, and neither Jews nor Christians fit into that objective.

The Muslim religion was hijacked by fanatical "Al Queda", much like the Christian religion was hijacked by fanatical "KKK" and neither of these causes of hate deserve any recognition, acceptance or acknowledgement.

The Muslim world must condemn Fascist Islam, no more cheap and pathetic excuses.

Since both groups behave and operate in exact form to one another, imagine if this subject were about the KKK, instead of Islamic Fascist, does this mean Michael Moore would label those 'white-hooded' fanatics "militants" since, in Michael Moore and the left field's universe, 'black-hooded' militants are okay? Sick, sick, sick the whole bunch.

The left is no longer left with moral clarity.

Posted by: syn at September 20, 2004 07:36 PM

so given that we agree purposefully endangering civilians is wrong, what do you suggest should be the appropriate military response? simply ignore that target and reward them for endangering their people? Ignore the target? Please explain what is appropriate in such a case for Israel to do in Gaza, or for the U.S. to do in Najaf. What would past muster for J Thomas.

I'm not sure I can say this quick, explaining to somebody like you who appears to have such a limited moral vision. I'll try.

Since we agree that it's wrong to purposefully endanger civilians, we agree that our WWII campaign to terror-bomb cities was wrong, correct?

And our post-WWII plan to atom-bomb cities was also dead wrong, correct?

And in both cases we went right ahead and based our official strategies on these utterly morally wrong approaches because those were the tools we had handy. "When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail."

Of course, terror-bombing the germans was only natural since they'd done it already to the british. And the british had dropped poison gas bombs on the iraqis in the 20's. I'm not convinced we should go by precedent about such things. "Mom, Jerry is killing my civilians!" "Mom, he killed my civilians first!"

OK, back up. It could be argued (by somebody who didn't know much game theory) that there were only a few bombing raids on germany that amounted to anything. There was a hydroelectric dam they were using for uranium enrichment among other things. There was a ball-bearing plant. And there were the oil facilities. Oil was their critical resource, the thing in shortest supply, and bombing it was mostly the only thing that mattered. So (the simpleminded argument would go) we didn't need to bomb civilians unless they happened to be next to refineries etc.

But that fails because if we only bombed oil facilities the germans would concentrate all their air defenses there and we'd lose a whole lot of planes. We might lose so much the bombing didn't even work. We had to bomb enough other targets so we could get them to spread out their air defense. And so we bombed not only cities that did war production. We bombed Dresden (which had no military significance at all) because we wanted the germans to spread their antiaircraft guns etc that much more. If they tried to defend their most-useless cities we'd hit their oil very hard. If they didn't, we'd punish them by hitting their undefended civilians.

Was this moral? Hell no. But it was war. We had to do what we had to do.

So how come when the enemy does things that are immoral but not as bad as us, we say they're awful people? We give ourselves a free pass because it's war but we hold them responsible.... It's reasonable in a way because they're the enemy. If we win we'll hold war crimes trials, if they win they'll hold war crimes trials....

You might wonder why I say we're worse than terrorists who kill children. Well, we did more than 40 years of MAD. The last 10 of those and also all the years after MAD we had it set to do automatic launches on warning. We were set to destroy hundreds of cities-ful of children if we ever thought we were about to get a nuclear attack ourselves. It could have happened, all it would take would be the guy on duty not pushing the manual override quick enough, once. Maybe the fallout would kill everybody in the world. Maybe our bombs are clean enough it wouldn't, nobody really knows. How much more evil does it get?

Well, but we had to do it. It was the Cold War. And we have to keep doing it because there are still nuclear powers, russia is still one, and china, and we have to be prepared to kill everbody if anybody attacks us. We get a free pass on that. Unless there is a God.

See, pretty often in warfare it turns into a choice between doing atrocities or trying for a negotiated settlement. And if you negotiate you don't completely win, and also the enemy might get time to do whatever would make them stronger. So the obvious thing is to go ahead and do the atrocities and justify it by being at war. What should israel do about gaza? I dunno, if the people in gaza would just all surrender and do whatever the israelis told them to, it would all work out. They could all get one-way tickets to chad or wherever the israelis could bribe to take them, and that would be the end of it. But they don't surrender and they don't go away. Short of a negotiated settlement of some sort, all israel can do is keep killing them, and if they get fed up enough with killing more of them every year, then kill them all. (There's a quote from some german early in the war, justifying killing jewish children. "Why should we spare them now when they inevitably will grow up to be our implacable enemies?" Same logic.) Maybe no negotiated settlement is possible or acceptable. That sucks, then they'll have to win (genocide or ethnic cleansing) or lose or keep killing.

See, the question is never "How can my nation avoid atrocities?". The question is "How can my nation achieve the most efficient victory possible, and also avoid atrocities?".

For the americans in Najaf, that one is easy. We don't have to defeat anybody unless they try to overthrow the democratic government. Al Sadr hasn't done that yet. We shut down his newspaper and tried to arrest him. (The arab press believes that we prematurely put out pamphlets saying he was killed resisting arrest, and then we didn't get him.) Clearly we did want him dead or alive, preferably dead. He hid in the shrine in Najaf where we wouldn't be stupid enough to go after him, and we were stupid enough to go after him. So various influential iraqis worked out a deal. Drop the bogus arrest warrant and let a Sadr party run in the elections, and he stops making trouble. Deal. But then we broke the deal, we said the deal wasn't with us, we were still going to get him for that arrest warrant, dead or alive and preferably dead, and we weren't going to let any Sadr party run for election. He ran back to the shrine. We were stupid enough to attack a second time. This time Sistani and Allawi said the arrest warrant would be dropped and there could be a Sadr party.

It's very clear what we could and should have done. Don't try to kill him or put him in Abu Ghraib, and let his party run for office. Then there didn't have to be any Najaf problem, we wouldn't have to bomb the city, democracy reigns.

Sadr (or his representative) might be a prick in the assembly, but so what? He represents his voters. That's democracy. We ought to let Ba'ath guys run whoever they want in the election too. If they're evil that's OK, evil people get to vote for their guy if it's a fair election. And they'll be insurgents otherwise. "If you can't join them, try to beat them."

So there it is. People do terrorism or state-terrorism because they see no better way to win. You can say "Terrorists are evil because they do evil things. But my side is good, we only do evil things because we have to, to win." That doesn't make sense but it's par for the course. Don't worry too much about the hypocrisy, practically everybody does it.

Posted by: J Thomas at September 20, 2004 09:35 PM

J Thomas,

a persuasive post. I'll ruminate over it and get back to you. Though the portion relating to Najaf was just a rant against U.S. policy in Iraq.

Posted by: David at September 20, 2004 10:23 PM

J Thomas,

Well said!

David,

The bit about Najaf may indeed have been a rant, but it was one with some thoughtful points.

Tree Rat

Posted by: Ratatosk at September 21, 2004 07:02 AM

See this at HonestReporting for the real reason the word "terrorist" is not used by al-Reuters, according to their global managing editor.

http://www.honestreporting.com/articles/45884734/critiques/Reuters_Admits_Appeasing_Terrorists.asp

Posted by: Anne Lieberman at September 21, 2004 09:22 PM

Murderers.

Anywhere else in the world they are called murderers.

Both sides of the game use different terms depending upon which dog in the fight they are rooting for. This is all old news in that we all seek to sway others to our general frame work of thinking daily. Human nature, but on a grander scale.

So yes we should address the people who kill in the name of a political message murderers. But what do we call our own soldiers and those who direct them when they are responsible for more civilian causualties than those we claim to be protecting against?

Please don't think this means I wish our soldiers any harm. Only showing a viewpoint of a growing number of Iraqis that America is an occupier and not a liberator or protector. That more have lost loved ones due to American actions than have been lost due to "insurgents, terrorist, militia, freedom fighters, patriots, traitors" or Saddam's bloody regime.

It's all in a word isn't it?

Posted by: IXLNXS at September 25, 2004 01:07 PM

IXLNXS, I get the impression you're referring to the recent claim that the USA has killed twice as many iraqi civilians as the insurgents have.

It seems plausible to me that this claim is bogus.

We have made no attempt to count how many iraqi civilians we have killed. The early claim was "We don't do body counts". Of course, as we continue to fight blind we have been doing body counts. Lacking any better strategy we've fallen back on the one we used in vietnam. When insurgents attack us, or when we attack them, we suppose that they're getting so many casualties that they'll give up. We do report insurgent casualties, except in the big fights where it might bother the public that we're killing so many. We're doing more airstrikes and artillery strikes in urban areas; no telling how many since the media mostly isn't around. We probably don't get an accurate count of insurgent casualties from those, or civilian casualties, or even both mixed.

Meanwhile our estimates of the murders of civilians by insurgents are bound to be way low. We only notice when it's somebody reasonably important or we happen to find out. Some low-level guy doesn't show up at work, we maybe call, maybe send somebody to visit his home, if we don't find out anything we hire somebody else. People hired by the interim government we'd hear even less about. Maybe the IG finds out about it. Maybe the IG bothers to tell us. Then when it's just civilians.... Say some civilian gets kidnapped by insurgents who want money. The difference between insurgents kidnapping people and garden-variety kidnappers kidnapping people is that the insurgents will spend the money for insurgency purposes. So, say it falls through and they kill the kidnappee instead of getting their money. How likely is it the US press will hear about it?

We get numbers on violent deaths in part of iraq through the iraqi morgues. The claim is that lots of deaths don't go through there, the tradition is that people often get buried very quickly unless for example they're wounded and get sent to a hospital. It's a lot of violent deaths in that part of iraq. Maybe they can tell the difference between people killed by M16s versus people killed by AK47s, but I doubt they can tell from body parts who got killed by a car bomb versus an airstrike. And there have been examples where we said it was a car bomb and eyewitnesses said it was an airstrike.

So the comparison simply can't be done adequately. Assuming we count civilian collateral damage as insurgents whenever possible and don't count it at all unless somebody else reports it, our estimates of US-induced civilian deaths will be way low. And our estimates of insurgent-induced civilian deaths will inevitably be way low because we mostly don't notice what they do.

So those guys who claim we've killed twice as many civilians as the insurgents have, are talking through their hats. They have no clue how many civilians we've killed or how many the insurgents have killed either one. It could be a 4:1 ratio or an 8:1 ratio or even a 1:1 ratio and they wouldn't know.

The US government basicly doesn't know what it's doing, and it doesn't even give us its honest best guesses.

Posted by: J Thomas at September 25, 2004 05:21 PM

Al Queda is not rebelling against anything, it is taking a conscious action FOR something, Islamic Fascism, and neither Jews nor Christians fit into that objective.

The Muslim religion was hijacked by fanatical "Al Queda", much like the Christian religion was hijacked by fanatical "KKK" and neither of these causes of hate deserve any recognition, acceptance or acknowledgement.

The Muslim world must condemn Fascist Islam, no more cheap and pathetic excuses.

Since both groups behave and operate in exact form to one another, imagine if this subject were about the KKK, instead of Islamic Fascist, does this mean Michael Moore would label those 'white-hooded' fanatics "militants" since, in Michael Moore and the left field's universe, 'black-hooded' militants are okay? Sick, sick, sick the whole bunch.

The left is no longer left with moral clarity.

Posted by: Strivectin at September 29, 2004 08:17 AM
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