A Menagerie of Outspoken Opinions on Science, World Politics, and Geek Culture

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

You First

I've read nearly everything in Steven den Beste's Essential Library; the articles he has archived there are almost certainly among the finest ever published to the web. Without hesitation I urge you, good readers, to look through all of them. Each time you visit USS Clueless for a dose of Steven's unmatchably smart blogging, go to the Essential Library and read something posted therein. When you're done you'll be smarter ... believe it.

There is now a brand-new addition to that library. Steven found and archived this article, which talks plainly about terrorism and its strategic use throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds. Here's an excerpt:

So what is all the fuss about suicide killings? It creates headlines. It is spectacular. It is frightening. It is a very cruel death with bodies dismembered and horrible severe lifelong injuries to many of the wounded. It is always shown on television in great detail. One such murder, with the help of hysterical media coverage, can destroy the tourism industry of a country for quite a while, as it did in Bali and in Turkey.

The author - apparently a Lebanese scientist named Harari - hits on something here that I feel could use a little elaboration. Acts of terror are obviously meant to frighten and impress those they are aimed at - usually the US and Israel - but these terrorists are also fighting a war at home for the hearts and minds of their own civilian populations. The vast majority of Arabs and Muslims are not terrorists, but as Harari also points out:

The problem is that the vast silent majority of these Moslems are not part of the terror and of the incitement, but they also do not stand up against it. They become accomplices, by omission, and this applies to political leaders, intellectuals, business people and many others. Many of them can certainly tell right from wrong, but are afraid to express their views.

My opinion is that the acts of terror aimed at us are also aimed at this "vast silent majority" of Muslims. By striking so dramatically at strong enemies the terrorists say to their own people: We are powerful. If we can do this the mighty Americans, just imagine what we can do to you.

They terrorize us (or try to) with shocking and grisly death; they simultaneously terrorize their own people with their ability to bring such shocking and grisly death to "the enemy". It's a double-edged sword and they're swinging it in both directions.

Further into the piece, Harari continues:

What is behind the suicide murders? Money, power and cold-blooded murderous incitement, nothing else. It has nothing to do with true fanatic religious beliefs. No Moslem preacher has ever blown himself up. No son of an Arab politician or religious leader has ever blown himself.

No relative of anyone influential has done it. Wouldn’t you expect some of the religious leaders to do it themselves, or to talk their sons into doing it, if this is truly a supreme act of religious fervor? Aren’t they interested in the benefits of going to Heaven? Instead, they send outcast women, naïve children, retarded people and young incited hotheads. They promise them the delights, mostly sexual, of the next world, and pay their families handsomely after the supreme act is performed and enough innocent people are dead.

This is hugely important. It echos the sentiment expressed by, of all characters, Wolveriene in the original X-Men film. The villan Magneto is boasting how his plan will sacrifce one mutant (Rogue, who is chained to his "mutantizing" machine) in order to teach the mutant-haters a valuable lesson they'll never forget. Magneto says his goals are noble ... someone has to be sacrificed to bring his plan to fruition, a plan that is for the good of all mutants.

To which Wolveriene essentially says: Yeah? If you're so noble how come it's not you strapped into the machine?

Every last Muslim in the world should be saying something similar to the sick, selfish, corrupt bastards that send children to kill other children with bombs in their backpacks. We're doing this for Allah? For the greater good of all Muslims? Fine.

You first.