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July 27, 2010 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Metafilter derail from this thread...on terrorism and responses to terrorism. 1) Is this the appropriate way to use MetaTalk, and 2) let's continue the conversation, if it should continue.

I ahve been advised (on another site) that terrorism is the ultimate weapon. It can come from anywhere, any person might turn out to be a terrorist. There is no defense. You never know whom to retaliate against. This is similar to your statement, _cave, that lashing out against a population that is completely uninvolved in attacking the United States would make no sense at all. But then, acts of senseless destruction are committed all the time, and lots of people believe that they serve some purpose. Why did terrorists destroy the World Trade Center, killing people who had never attacked or harmed those terrorists in any way? It's actually worse than that. If Osama bin Laden planned the attack (which has been challenged earlier in this discussion, but which nonetheless appears to be the case) he was an ally of the US, which had given him tremendous assistance in defeating the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Then he turns around and bites the hand that fed him. Or the terrorists from Saudi Arabia or Egypt - the US has been good to those countries. The US defends them and gives them foreign aid.
So, we can consider outselves to be helpless in the face of terrorism, or we can adopt the ultimate weapon for ourselves and also be terrorists. Crazy, yes, but we live in a crazy world. Terrorists come from cultures that understand the use of terrorism and would be impressed by it if we used it against them. We are not speaking to people in their own language.
posted by grizzled at 11:25 AM on July 27 [+] [!]


grizzled, this is turning into a derail that I'd be delighted to talk about elsewhere but am not sure is appropriate for this thread (I suck at Metafilter conversational rules sometimes)?
posted by _cave at 11:36 AM on July 27 [+] [!]
posted by _cave to Etiquette/Policy at 11:42 AM (98 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

grizzled: So, we can consider outselves to be helpless in the face of terrorism, or we can adopt the ultimate weapon for ourselves and also be terrorists. Crazy, yes, but we live in a crazy world. Terrorists come from cultures that understand the use of terrorism and would be impressed by it if we used it against them. We are not speaking to people in their own language.

grizzled is Batman: confirmed.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:46 AM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Reposted:

Why did terrorists destroy the World Trade Center, killing people who had never attacked or harmed those terrorists in any way? It's actually worse than that. If Osama bin Laden planned the attack

The entire problem here is one of incorrectly framing the issue. The destruction of the World Trade Center was not an attack-- it was a criminal act. Bin Ladin (or whomever) was not acting on behalf of any government or international body, but rather on his own, for his own purposes-- this constitutes a criminal act. It is not an act of war, but of lawbreaking. Thus, we are not helpless in the face of terrorism, because terrorism poses no threat to our nation, any more than shoplifting or armed robbery or serial killers. Terrorists are not going to invade America, annex our land, or impose inhumane laws in occupied territory. It isn't a war. Thus, efforts to 'win' are useless, because there is no entity to win over, no other to conquer, no force to stop. Like any other crime, we attempt to prevent it, and when that fails, we bring to justice the criminals involved.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:51 AM on July 27, 2010 [50 favorites]


Please repost to Metattack.
posted by gman at 12:02 PM on July 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


grizzled is Batman Noam Chomsky: confirmed.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:06 PM on July 27, 2010


It gets even weirder when you consider the World Trade Center attacks were planned and executed by Mossad underground lizard people, who were secretly financed by the American Government in a false flag event. Is this terrorism?
posted by KokuRyu at 12:08 PM on July 27, 2010


Where does the RAND Corporation fit into that story?
posted by proj at 12:11 PM on July 27, 2010


Crazy, yes, but we live in a crazy world. Terrorists come from cultures that understand the use of terrorism and would be impressed by it if we used it against them. We are not speaking to people in their own language.

The correct response to "We live in a crazy world" is not to extend or embrace that craziness, but to do our best to bring some sanity to it.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:13 PM on July 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


I guess it’s better to have the underground lizard people here than in the original thread, but anyway...

The problem with treating something like terrorism as crime is that you can’t actually expect that you will influence the behavior of terrorists through criminal sanctions. That doesn’t even work against criminals, who for the most part aren’t as motivated to offend as someone who engages in violence for political or other ideological reasons.
posted by _cave at 12:13 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is not an act of war, but of lawbreaking.

Hey, hey, hey, calm down, you two. New Shimmer is both a floor wax and a dessert topping!
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:15 PM on July 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


> The problem with treating something like terrorism as crime is that you can’t actually expect that you will influence the behavior of terrorists through criminal sanctions

Well, going full war mode just makes them commit terrorist acts against US troops and local citizens in Iraq and Afghanistan rather than targets abroad, so Mission Accomplished?
posted by Burhanistan at 12:21 PM on July 27, 2010


Didn't Bin Laden declare war back in 1996?
posted by Kirk Grim at 12:22 PM on July 27, 2010


Where does the RAND Corporation fit into that story?

RAND Corp.-->Ayn Rand-->Rand Paul-->Paul Lynde-->Linus Pauling-->Zionists control the economy!

WAKE UP SHEEPLE
posted by Mister_A at 12:22 PM on July 27, 2010 [11 favorites]


And this is a stupid thread responding to stupid comments from a stupid person. Let's not fight stupid with stupid–let's fight it with name-calling.
posted by Mister_A at 12:24 PM on July 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


The problem with treating something like terrorism as crime is that you can’t actually expect that you will influence the behavior of terrorists through criminal sanctions.

The strongest argument for treating terror acts as criminal acts lies not in future punishments, sanctions etc but in using police (as opposed to military) methods to track them down and bring them to justice.

In other words, don't mobilize armies and bomb the hell out of various regions, thus dragging entire nations into the mess, just get your real-world James Bond and Jason Bourne types on the case and let them do what they do. As I recall, the article discussed how this was how French had learned to do it after making such a mess of things in Algeria ...
posted by philip-random at 12:25 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The strongest argument for treating terror acts as criminal acts lies not in future punishments, sanctions etc but in using police (as opposed to military) methods to track them down and bring them to justice.

Of course then you have the problem of police forces becoming more and more militaristic, so it's sort of pointless to make the distinction.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:29 PM on July 27, 2010


just get your real-world James Bond and Jason Bourne types on the case and let them do what they do. As I recall, the article discussed how this was how French had learned to do it after making such a mess of things in Algeria ...

Yes, but now you have covert, unaccountable hit squads running assassination campaigns on targeted individuals, all in the name of the the world's leading democracy (ie, the US of A).
posted by KokuRyu at 12:30 PM on July 27, 2010


I'm confused.
posted by slogger at 12:32 PM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


> Yes, but now you have covert, unaccountable hit squads running assassination campaigns on targeted individuals, all in the name of the the world's leading democracy (ie, the US of A).

This has already been happening in Afghanistan for years with both UAVs and special forces hit squads (of both CIA and regular military flavor). I don't like that, but it's preferable to massive occupying forces with assbackward pretenses of nation building and corrupt no-bid contracts.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:39 PM on July 27, 2010


Well, going full war mode just makes them commit terrorist acts against US troops and local citizens in Iraq and Afghanistan rather than targets abroad, so Mission Accomplished?

We aren't really going full war mode, it just looks that way because we deployed hundreds of thousands of troops to two other countries...

But no, the problem with terrorism policy is that we try to control violence in ways that don't actually control violence. Shakespeherian is right thinking about terrorism as just another form of crime, in a way. Crime is preventable, though not so much through court-ordered sanctions or indiscriminately killing people who haven't actually done anything wrong (?). I mean, there's a whole body of evidence surrounding crime prevention that's been applied to nations all over the world, but we treat terrorism like its own special violent snowflake that isn't anything like other kinds of crime.
posted by _cave at 12:42 PM on July 27, 2010


> We aren't really going full war mode, it just looks that way because we deployed hundreds of thousands of troops to two other countries...

Er, semantics. Massive deployments of troop and armor are radically different than surgical special forces strikes against individual suspects.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:46 PM on July 27, 2010


Crime is preventable, though not so much through court-ordered sanctions or indiscriminately killing people

What is meant by "prevention" in this case? I don't think anyone, anywhere has actually managed to wipe out crime through prevention. I would think that murder and theft are much more common than terrorism. Although it's entirely possible I'm missing a hell of a lot about this discussion.
posted by Kirk Grim at 12:53 PM on July 27, 2010


Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom

That's all I've got. Other than that I have no idea what's going on.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:54 PM on July 27, 2010


You know, my uncle died on 9/11.

He fell out of a guard tower!

Wait, no...hmm.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:56 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Terrorists come from cultures that understand the use of terrorism and would be impressed by it if we used it against them.

One, I have a tremendous problem with that statement. My response: Says who? Many, many, many wars have been started with just such an argument: you know, those people just aren't like us. They are something less than us. It doesn't hold up to reason, anyway. The US has turned out a fair share of terrorists, and I'd bet very few Americans understand them, or support them, or respect them.

Two, the end game in terrorism against the US is to get us to punish ourselves. If we throw our money down a sinkhole trying to stop some nebulous danger, they win. If we curtail our own civil liberties, they win. If we look suspiciously at each other, they win.

The only effective and sensible way to fight "terrorism" is to treat terrorist acts as the crimes they are. Be vigilant, try and stay in front of them with intelligence, and prosecute them if they act.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:03 PM on July 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


you can’t actually expect that you will influence the behavior of terrorists through criminal sanctions

We can't? Don't you think it would influence AQ's behavior a little if we actually arrested OBL, tried him, and locked him up? Don't you think the Nuremberg war crimes tribunals, the trial of Adolf Eichmann, and the current prosecutions at the World Court have been somewhat influential?

I'd add that that Bader Meinhof, the Red Brigade, and the IRA for that matter aren't still around, and would argue that effective prosecution had plenty to do with that fact.

I work in the criminal justice field. I'd never expect to stop terrorism through prosecution of terrorists, but I certainly think prosecution has a deterrent effect. Going to jail just isn't a glamorous, martyr like thing to do.

On the other hand, invasion and warfare do breed glamorous martyrs, and more terrorists. So would a deliberate U.S. policy of retaliatory terrorism.
posted by bearwife at 1:09 PM on July 27, 2010


There are a lot of problems with dealing with terrorism, one of the fundamental ones is accurately defining it. Much less what the appropriate response to terrorism IS.

Take 9/11 for example. I think it is erroneous to say that 9/11 happened in a vacuum, that there was "no reason" for it. To be sure the reasons behind it hardly justify the response. And like most acts of violence actually did nothing to address the (possible) legitimate primary complaints. 9/11 could be seen as an attempt to provoke the US into a response that would then justify Al-Qaeda existence and mission, in which case they succeeded.

Fundamentally, weather we treat it like a crime, or a act of war, we are seeing an increase of extra-territorial groups asserting their existence by use of violence, the extremes of this is fueled by transportation, communication and weapon technologies.

When IEDs, and high powered firearms are relatively easy to obtain and manufacture, and there are multiple routes to get anywhere in the world with in days, if not hours: couple this with massive wealth and power imbalances: add manufactured political/religious/culture outrage and yes, you are going to have violent sub groups who perpetuate atrocities. Frankly one should not be surprised about these things happening, but that they are relatively rare.

And sometime we act with a hammer, when all that is needed is a lock. When all is said and done 9/11 could have been averted with cockpit doors that where locked or designed in such a way they where not accessible from the main cabin.
posted by edgeways at 1:09 PM on July 27, 2010


Terrorists come from cultures that understand the use of terrorism and would be impressed by it if we used it against them.

This is insane. "Impressed"? Seriously?
posted by modernnomad at 1:12 PM on July 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


Don't you think it would influence AQ's behavior a little if we actually arrested OBL, tried him, and locked him up?

I don't know. Do you think that arresting or indeed assassinating Bin Laden would make the rest of Al-Qaeda give up? Or would it just make them redouble their attacks?

Seriously.
posted by Splunge at 1:16 PM on July 27, 2010


Why did terrorists destroy the World Trade Center, killing people who had never attacked or harmed those terrorists in any way? It's actually worse than that. If Osama bin Laden planned the attack (which has been challenged earlier in this discussion, but which nonetheless appears to be the case) he was an ally of the US, which had given him tremendous assistance in defeating the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Then he turns around and bites the hand that fed him. Or the terrorists from Saudi Arabia or Egypt - the US has been good to those countries. The US defends them and gives them foreign aid.

Bin Laden was part of a loose movement called the Mujahideen that included pro- and anti-American factions. To him we are all Crusaders, responsible for millions of Muslim deaths over hundreds of years, all of which must be avenged. We're also allies of the Near Enemy, Israel, & lend support to corrupt apostates in the form of bases that defile the land of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. As for Egypt, one of bin Laden's spiritual mentors (Sayyid Qutb) spent years being tortured in Egyptian prisons. We were never allies in bin Laden's mind.
posted by scalefree at 1:18 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Noam Chomsy is Batman?
posted by bonehead at 1:19 PM on July 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Terrorists come from cultures that understand the use of terrorism and would be impressed by it if we used it against them.

Yeah, this comment jumped out at me too. What about American terrorists like Timothy McVeigh, The Order, and all the other terrorism called for/inspired by William Luther Pierce?

If you're going to talk about "cultures that understand the use of terrorism," which I think is nuts, but if you are, why not start with the last few decades of US culture, and the terrorist acts Americans have carried out against other Americans for all sorts of crazy reasons.
posted by vincele at 1:27 PM on July 27, 2010


I don't know. Do you think that arresting or indeed assassinating Bin Laden would make the rest of Al-Qaeda give up? Or would it just make them redouble their attacks?

Realistically, they'd probably just soldier on, but arresting, prosecuting, and imprisoning Bin Ladin would do an awful lot towards projecting an image of America that is counter to the gung-ho bloodthirsty cowboy bomb-'em-all-to-hell eternal-war disproportionate-response idea of America that has certainly had some influence on Al-Qaeda's attitude towards us. Likewise, telegraphing that we will respond according to international law, with reasonableness and a level head, demonstrating our desire for justice rather than revenge.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:31 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Noam Chomsy is Batman?

Shit, now every time I read the dude I will only hear it intoned in a barely intelligible, guttural rasp.
posted by joe lisboa at 1:32 PM on July 27, 2010


This is insane. "Impressed"? Seriously?

*Bin Laden puts hands on hips, raises eyebrows, whistles one long low note.*

"Hell of an explosion there, Jim. You use plastique for that, or just some kind of flammable liquid? Me, I been experimenting with a basic C-4/cellphone kind of thing in the backyard, but Gloria keeps trying to get me to do it in the driveway instead. Yeah, you know her and her damn rhododendrons. Still, that's a mighty fine explosion you got going on there. Mighty fine."
posted by Greg Nog at 1:32 PM on July 27, 2010 [10 favorites]



Noam Chomsy is Batman?


Naomi Klein: Batgirl or Catwoman?
posted by thivaia at 1:34 PM on July 27, 2010


What is meant by "prevention" in this case? I don't think anyone, anywhere has actually managed to wipe out crime through prevention. I would think that murder and theft are much more common than terrorism.

Well, no one has managed to wipe out crime through prevention activities, but there has been a lot of progress in research surrounding reducing crime in violent places in law enforcement that seems pretty transferable to problems of terrorism. I'm talking about research like gang violence interventions, and the shift towards evidence-based crime policy that's been occurring in the U.S. and in the UK over the past couple of decades. The point isn't necessarily that you will completely eradicate all violent activity, but that you can reduce violence to a more reasonable level.

If you think of terrorism as just another type of crime, then it sort of makes sense that if you want to prevent terrorism, you have to go change the environment that results in the development of that type of violent behavior. The idea that you can make these types of changes to the environment of a nation (right or wrong) is what's being discussed in counterinsurgency literature as being end goal for invading/ intervening in Iraq and Afghanistan (the FM 3-24 does this, and military writers like Kilcullen and Gallula). But because we view terrorism as a problem of culture rather than a crime problem, we tend to look for cultural changes instead of addressing structural factors like social disorder that allow terrorists to develop in the first place.

That's all I've got. Other than that I have no idea what's going on.

Yeah, it's possible that this post wasn't clear. I wasn't trying to call out grizzled as much as start a conversation about terrorism without derailing the Metafilter discussion.
posted by _cave at 1:35 PM on July 27, 2010


1) Is this the appropriate way to use MetaTalk,

No. I don't think grizzled's comment was a derail, since the main discussion topic was over a day old and had pretty much run its course. This could have been addressed in-thread, but of course that would have resulted in a much smaller mob.

and 2) let's continue the conversation, if it should continue.

Well, it surely will now. I wish you all luck solving the terrorism problem.
posted by rocket88 at 1:40 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


> I wasn't trying to call out grizzled as much as start a conversation about terrorism without derailing the Metafilter discussion.

grizzled seems to prefer to continue the conversation there. The thread is a day old so it's no crime if it meanders now (although it might be terrorism). The whole crime vs terrorism discussion is kind of a false dichotomy the way it is being defined. Treating and prosecuting terroristic actions like crimes is obviously going to entail a larger scale than simple criminal acts on individual levels. But, the introduction of "terror" allows for so much wiggle room in overblown responses that the whole thing might be best scrapped.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:41 PM on July 27, 2010


rocket88: "Well, it surely will now. I wish you all luck solving the terrorism problem."

Just you watch - this'll be another one of those "MetaFilter saves X" threads (in this case, the world instead of two girls). And you'll be remembered as the nattering nabob of negativity.

C'mon folks, we can do this!
posted by charred husk at 1:43 PM on July 27, 2010


It's like Salt. Or like when a snake eats a hippo.
posted by anniecat at 1:44 PM on July 27, 2010


I notice my previous comment seems to have lost something in translation.

Specifically, I'd intended to reference an article I read maybe a year after 911 (was it in Harpers? New York Times? I wish I could remember because it was a good one) wherein it was argued that old school procedural police methods were considered far more effective for identifying and tracking down alleged terrorists than were military methods (which inevitably got entire nations involved with all manner of "collateral damage").

The key point was that the French had sort of figured this out the hard way via various military screw ups (Algeria in particular) and, up until GWB and his crowd got their hands on things, America was leaning this way as well.
posted by philip-random at 1:54 PM on July 27, 2010


Just you watch - this'll be another one of those "MetaFilter saves X" threads (in this case, the world instead of two girls).

I am collecting for the Save The World Fund. If you could all just forward me all your monies I'll have this whole world thing sorted in a jiffy.
posted by Babblesort at 1:56 PM on July 27, 2010


Terrorists come from cultures that understand the use of terrorism and would be impressed by it if we used it against them.

Impressed?

I have a hard time imagining two Iraqi women sitting down, having a cup of tea and saying, "Say what you will about the Americans, but they sure do know how to kill children. My, oh my. Quite impressive. We really shouldn't try to bother them about our petty little struggles for consistent electricity and clean water. And I hope my little boy grows up to be just like them."

So ... fuck that nonsense.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:57 PM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Do you think that arresting or indeed assassinating Bin Laden would make the rest of Al-Qaeda give up?

Shakespeherian answered this better than I could, but since you wanted my response:

No, I don't. I do think that dismantling AQ by prosecuting its leadership, beginning with OBL, would weaken and eventually pull the fangs from AQ.

I also think that it is clear that declaring war on criminals 1) glorifies them 2) creates new criminals 3) corrupts the government waging the "war" without being bound by normal criminal procedures and protections and 4) hurts and kills innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. In addition, I can't remember a time that any government ever won such a war.
posted by bearwife at 2:02 PM on July 27, 2010


Impressed?

I have a hard time imagining two Iraqi women sitting down, having a cup of tea....


We're not showing off for the women and children, we're showing off for the fighting men. They're all like "Hey, USA is a bunch of sissy-men, they don't know how to fight. Look at me, I'm a USA soldier, lalala, I am so weak, I wouldn't blow up a building with a plane full of people."

So then we're all "Oh yeah, we'll blow up a city square with a muvva fukkn' Good Year Blimp full of explosive gas and shit. You like apples? Huh? Then what do you think about these Granny Smiths of Firey Doom and shit?"

So the terrorist dudes would be like "Whoa, you USA soldiers are pretty manly. We give up, you're totally more bad-ass than we are."

And we'd say "Yeah, that's how we roll. Don't step up unless you want to be blown up. Yeah!" And we'd all give each-other high-fives and we'd be cool after that.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:07 PM on July 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's amazing that so many people are "but terrorism is growing and getting out of hand!!!".

This shit goes back (at least) to the 50's. Shah Pahlavi. SAVAK. Mossad. Sadam.

Hell, we armed the Mujahadeen (including Osama bin Laden) to the teeth and taught them the big boy's way of doing things. We operated on the stupid "the enemy of my enemy" principle, even thought the Mujahadeen were severely fractious. They all hated us, though.

And, today, we're still playing that same game in Aghanistan. We are arming anybody who promises to use those gifted weapons against the Taliban. Some of them will and some of them won't, but none of them are our friends.

We've been poking at the nest for decades. Do we really have the right to call foul when the hornets start stinging?
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:12 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's amazing that so many people are "but terrorism is growing and getting out of hand!!!".

This shit goes back (at least) to the 50's. Shah Pahlavi. SAVAK. Mossad. Sadam.


It wasn't Terrorism until it happened here. It was just, you know, something that happened somewhere else and sometimes you could make a cool movie about it.
posted by philip-random at 2:15 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Or the terrorists from Saudi Arabia or Egypt - the US has been good to those countries. The US defends them and gives them foreign aid."

Exactly, good to those countries. People aren't happy being beaten with sticks even if it's the People's Stick Provided by Friendly Foreigners and they may take umbrage with those foreigners.
posted by Mitheral at 2:15 PM on July 27, 2010


The idea that you can make these types of changes to the environment of a nation (right or wrong) is what's being discussed in counterinsurgency literature as being end goal for invading/ intervening in Iraq and Afghanistan (the FM 3-24 does this, and military writers like Kilcullen and Gallula). But because we view terrorism as a problem of culture rather than a crime problem, we tend to look for cultural changes instead of addressing structural factors like social disorder that allow terrorists to develop in the first place

That's assuming a lot and has a number of problems at first glance. My impression was that Iraq wasn't a hotbed of terrorism prior to the US invasion, so I have some difficulty accepting that the "end goal" of invading Iraq was to bring about structural change that eradicates terrorism. It was to take out Saddam for being a bad guy that GWB didn't like, and scare (sorry, shock and awe) others. I have a hard time accepting that the "GWOT" is related at all to terrorism or in practice anything other than a pretext to invade countries of geopolitical importance at will. In fact, I would imagine that most countries involved in GWOT will continue to use terrorists as military force by proxy against enemies whenever it's convenient as they always have. It's not going anywhere, and ultimately I doubt anyone wants it to anyway except when directed at them.

Looking at people like McVeigh and Kaczynski and the anthrax letters and even the Washington sniper should show that terrorism does not necessarily arise from social disorder anyway. It also often comes from crazy.
posted by Kirk Grim at 2:20 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Full moon yesterday.
posted by adamvasco at 2:20 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I notice my previous comment seems to have lost something in translation.

Jeez, next time you should just write it in English in the first place.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:20 PM on July 27, 2010


I notice my previous comment seems to have lost something in translation.

Jeez, next time you should just write it in English in the first place.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:20 AM on July 28 [+] [!] [quote]


eponyste... actually, fuck it, I hate that word.
posted by doublehappy at 2:31 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


> This shit goes back (at least) to the 50's. Shah Pahlavi. SAVAK. Mossad. Sadam.

It goes back to the Middle Ages, and as far as I can tell, it has never worked.

The first known terrorist organization is the Hashshashin, a branch of the Ismaili Shi'ites. Enraged with the Sunni leadership, Hassan i Sabbah sent men he called "hassasin", or "Holy Killers" with the sole purpose of killing the Sunni leaders, and dying in the process. This word lives on today: Assassin.
The Hashshashin didn't succeed, in fact they only served to strengthen Sunni influence in the area, leading to an eventual downfall by the Mongol invaders, led by a Sunni caliphate.

I can't think of a single act of violent terrorism that served some long-term purpose.

So I don't know if MeTa is the right place to discuss it, but I'm comforted by the fact that we can talk about it somewhere. If 9/11 was an attack on democracy, there's hope in the idea that we still have the freedom and the forum to discuss and disagree.
posted by karminai at 2:40 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Didn't Bin Laden declare war back in 1996?

Honest question: can a person declare war on a nation? I mean, yes, obviously, he can, since he did, but are he and AQ a body that can be considered "at war?" I know this is pure semantics, but I'm curious. They can declare jihad, but this clearly is not that. Some of those who support AQ talk about it being a holy war for Allah, but Bin Laden and others have made it clear that it is political, not religious. Or perhaps they are inseparable in this fight.

Noam Chomsy is Batman?

Now there's a plot that would appeal to teenage boys and those in search of more intelligent movies. I mean, if anyone sleeps furiously, it's Batman.
posted by tzikeh at 2:45 PM on July 27, 2010


It goes back to the Middle Ages, and as far as I can tell, it has never worked.

Absolutely true. I was referring to ham-handed US involvement in the Middle East.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:49 PM on July 27, 2010


Honest question: can a person declare war on a nation?

Strictly speaking, no, but in reality he pretty much did. I posted that in response to something I apparently imagined anyway.
posted by Kirk Grim at 2:51 PM on July 27, 2010


> Looking at people like McVeigh and Kaczynski and the anthrax letters and even the Washington sniper should show that terrorism does not necessarily arise from social disorder anyway. It also often comes from crazy.

I think McVeigh and Kaczynski absolutely stemmed from social disorder. They both believed that the government was perpetuating the downfall of human liberty. McVeigh in the right to bear arms, Kaczynski in the right to own land and live independently.
posted by karminai at 2:51 PM on July 27, 2010


It's unfair to call McVeigh crazy. A disaffected asshole, sure. But he wasn't crazy.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:54 PM on July 27, 2010


shakespeherian &
bearwife

Fair enough. Thanks.
posted by Splunge at 2:56 PM on July 27, 2010


Who cares if OBL declared war? Or if any other terrorist does? Or how correct they believe their cause to be?

Seriously, unless a person is (like Kaczynski) mentally ill, I don't care what their reason is for commiting murder. And even if a murderer is mentally ill, the only real impact that should have is to determine whether they should be handled in the criminal justice system or committed as mentally ill.

I'd also note that there are plenty of tea party type people who have ideologies like McVeighs and Kaczynski, but militias have nonetheless really lost their eclat. Again, criminal prosecution tends to be effective in deterring people from murdering in the name of their groups' beliefs.
posted by bearwife at 2:58 PM on July 27, 2010


What makes people think that McVeigh and Kaczynski were crazy is that they don't fit our cookie-cutter definition of terrorists. That's why the government tried so damn hard to link McVeigh to Islam- because, okay, terrorists wear turbans and come from the Middle East, so as long as it wasn't a white guy acting alone that killed this many people, I can sleep at night.

He said it himself: "You can't handle the truth. Because the truth is, I blew up the Murrah Building and isn't it kind of scary that one man could wreak this kind of hell?"
posted by karminai at 3:00 PM on July 27, 2010


OK, OK, bad use of the word "crazy". I agree, Burhanistan, if you mean it's unfair to call him crazy in the sense of being mentally unfit to stand trial. He knew what he was doing I guess.

That said, some exerpts form his wikipedia entry:


"McVeigh wrote letters to local newspapers, complaining about taxes:

Taxes are a joke. Regardless of what a political candidate "promises," they will increase. More taxes are always the answer to government mismanagement. They mess up. We suffer. Taxes are reaching cataclysmic levels, with no slowdown in sight. [...] Is a Civil War Imminent? Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system? I hope it doesn't come to that. But it might.[18]

McVeigh also wrote to Congressman John J. LaFalce, complaining about the arrest of a woman for carrying mace:

It is a lie if we tell ourselves that the police can protect us everywhere at all times. Firearms restrictions are bad enough, but now a woman can't even carry Mace in her purse?

It is claimed that while visiting friends in Decker, Michigan, McVeigh complained that the Army had implanted him with a microchip into his buttocks so that the government could keep track of him"


"McVeigh claimed to have been a target of bullying at school and that he took refuge in a fantasy world where he retaliated against those bullies.[5] At the end of his life he would state his belief that the United States government is the ultimate bully."


"He also quit the NRA, viewing its stance on gun rights to be too weak"


"In 1993, he drove to Waco, Texas during the Waco Siege to show his support. At the scene, he distributed pro-gun rights literature and bumper stickers, such as "When guns are outlawed, I will become an outlaw." He told a student reporter:

The government is afraid of the guns people have because they have to have control of the people at all times. Once you take away the guns, you can do anything to the people. You give them an inch and they take a mile. I believe we are slowly turning into a socialist government. The government is continually growing bigger and more powerful and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control.[23]

For the five months following the Waco Siege, McVeigh worked at gun shows and handed out free cards printed up with Lon Horiuchi's name and address, "in the hope that somebody in the Patriot movement would assassinate the sharpshooter." He wrote hate mail to the sniper, suggesting that "what goes around, comes around," and later considered putting aside his plan to target the Murrah Building to target Horiuchi, or a member of his family instead."
posted by Kirk Grim at 3:02 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I mean, if anyone sleeps furiously, it's Batman.

Oh yeah? What about Colorless Green Lantern?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:05 PM on July 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


Well, "crazy" really has no place in this kind of discussion other than as a pejorative.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:09 PM on July 27, 2010


Referring to "terrorists" as crazy conveniently relieves us of our duty to explain the ugly reasons why violence was perpetrated against us.
posted by gman at 3:10 PM on July 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have a hard time accepting that the "GWOT" is related at all to terrorism or in practice anything other than a pretext to invade countries of geopolitical importance at will.

That's an interesting statement. I've noticed that the military has a different vocabulary and set of priorities when they discuss counter-terrorism/ insurgency than what politicians tend to use when they talk about the goals of these invasions, and I spent most of the Bush years trying to ignore what the guy was saying anyway.

At some point, though, it seems like priorities in counterinsurgency that are set by the military started to overcome those initial political objectives--look at what happened when Biden tried to move towards an approach to operations that would have involved less engagement with the civilian population, and Obama is dropping the idea that we're going to be out of Afghanistan in the next year.

Although there's the partisan argument to be made, I don't that it's the whole story--there were a lot of objections to the way that Bush and Rumsfeld were doing business that never got much media attention, but were pretty pervasive among general officers, and that played a role in Rumsfeld's resignation. It didn't start that way in the early years, but the military establishment had a huge influence on Bush and still seems to call the shots in a lot of decision making for this administration.
posted by _cave at 3:10 PM on July 27, 2010


> Is a Civil War Imminent? Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system? I hope it doesn't come to that. But it might.

The thing about this is that I think it's true. Read the afterword to Orson Scott Card's Empire.

He says: (*written pre-Obama)
Neither side [the right nor the left] can see any connection between their own fanaticism and the historical examples that might apply to them. People insisting on a Christian America simply cannot comprehend that others view them as the Taliban-in-waiting; those who insist on progressive exclusivism in America are outraged at any comparison between them and Communist totalitarianism. Even as they shun or fire or deny tenure to those who disagree with them, everybody thinks it's the other guy who would be the oppressor, while our side would simply "set things to rights."

Rarely do people set out to start a civil war. Invariably, when such wars break out both sides consider themselves to be the aggrieved ones. Right now in America, even though the Left has control of all the institutions of cultural power and prestige -- universities, movies, literary publishing, mainstream journalism-- as well as the federal courts, they feel themselves oppressed and threatened by traditional religion and conservatism. And even though the Right controls both houses of Congress and the presidency*, as well as having ample outlets for their views in nontraditional media and an ever-increasing dominance over American religious and economic life, they feel themselves oppressed and threatened by the cultural dominance of the Left...

In America today, we are complacent in our belief that it can't happen here. We forget that America is not an ethnic nation, where ancient ties of blood can bind people together despite differences. We are created by ideology; ideas are our only connection. And because today we have discarded the free marketplace of ideas and have polarized ourselves into two equally insane ideologies, so that each side can, with perfect accuracy, brand the other side as madmen, we are ripe for that next step, to take preventive action to keep the other side from seizing power and oppressing our side.

The examples are -- or should be -- obvious. That we are generally oblivious to the excesses of our own side merely demonstrates how close we already are to a paroxysm of self-destruction.

We are waiting for Fort Sumter.

I hope it doesn't come.
posted by karminai at 3:20 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, "crazy" really has no place in this kind of discussion other than as a pejorative

that's how I used it, I thought it was clear in context. I happen to think that the ideas McVeigh was acting on were tremendously distorted, deeply weird takes on reality that I might casually refer to as "some pretty crazy ideas." I also don't think they came from social disorder, unless I'm misunderstanding what this term means.

I'm really not interested in discussing the "crazy" thing further.
posted by Kirk Grim at 3:20 PM on July 27, 2010


Oh yeah? What about Colorless Green Lantern?

Well played.
posted by tzikeh at 3:21 PM on July 27, 2010


Who cares if OBL declared war? Or if any other terrorist does? Or how correct they believe their cause to be?

As I wrote, it was a question of semantics that had no bearing on whether I *care* what he said.
posted by tzikeh at 3:22 PM on July 27, 2010


Sorry, tzikeh. I was responding to karmanai's comment, not yours. And I probably could have phrased what I said less strongly, anyway.

I thought your question was actually pretty interesting.
posted by bearwife at 3:35 PM on July 27, 2010


There's a huge ideological gap between tea party groups and McVeigh and fellow travelers. McVeigh and those who admire what he did, the Pierce-wing of the white separatist movement, want to do away with the US government altogether. They think the system we have now is so corrupt there's no saving it. They generally call the system ZOG (Zionist Occupation Government). White Separatists are virulently anti-Semitic, and less concerned about Muslims.

The tea party groups (there's no unified tea party) believe that the system is fundamentally sound and just needs better people in power. They think they're the better people. That's basically what Democrats and Republicans believe. Essentially that's what most people in the US, at least those of us who are not committed to violent revolution.

Some people in the tea party share the racist and anti-Semitic views of white separatists. Probably a lot of them do, whether they say it or not. On the other hand, "tea party" conservatives generally have the opposite feelings about Muslims and Jews. That and along with the violent overthrow of the US government keep the White Separatists and tea party conservatives from coming together.

On the one hand, the "right" is way more fragmented than it might seem. And there really aren't that many White Separatists out there. On the other hand, the White Separatists are really angry and feel very disenfranchised. And, they've got easy access to big guns. They've also got a cohesive ideology in the works of William Luther Pierce, and it teaches them that race war is inevitable-- all they need is to set it off with chaotic bursts of violence. McVeigh, members of The Order, and another fellow I believe in England all cited Pierce's The Turner Diaries as inspiration for their acts of terror. The OKC bombing was actually a scene in the novel, but in the novel it was carried out in DC.

Just some thoughts.
posted by vincele at 3:39 PM on July 27, 2010


Hell, we armed the Mujahadeen (including Osama bin Laden) to the teeth and taught them the big boy's way of doing things. We operated on the stupid "the enemy of my enemy" principle, even thought the Mujahadeen were severely fractious. They all hated us, though.

RUMSFELD SPEAKS!
posted by Meatbomb at 3:45 PM on July 27, 2010


The inevitable race war theory, vincele, reminds me of Charlie Manson's belief that his little Family's murders would help to set off "Helter Skelter," i.e. race war between whites and blacks.

I do in fact care a little about these theories and beliefs, in the sense that I care to know what they are, because I do agree that these ideologies are potentially dangerous. But no matter how dangerous the beliefs, how committed the group, or how well funded, I still think that criminal activity by ideologues should be treated as what it is -- crime. And I'd point out that prosecution and civil suits have also been quite effective against U.S. racial hate groups.

There are a lot of bogeymen and women out there . . . they do lose some of their scariness if we treat them the way we treat any other criminal.
posted by bearwife at 3:47 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thank you, bearwife. I apologize for getting crabby.
posted by tzikeh at 3:52 PM on July 27, 2010


bearwife: I agree. I'm struggling with how to teach my students that these guys are all around us, especially in PA, and that "terror" doesn't just come from the Middle East/South Asia. It's hard to find a balance without coming across as a nut or fear-monger.
posted by vincele at 3:53 PM on July 27, 2010


Vincele, I like that Wendell Phillips quote -- Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. I also like Edmund Burke"s -- The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [sic] to do nothing. And lastly Frank Herbert's -- Fear is the mind killer.

I.e., we all have to be aware and informed, and we do need to take action against dangerous people for their wrongful behavior, but there is no reason for us all to be terrified.

You know, on 9/11, my husband and I watched the TV as the second plane went into the second WTC tower, and my husband predicted both towers would fall. I called one of my staff members, who I knew never watched TV or listened to news, to let her know what was going on. She was afraid to go to work, because our workplace was a potential target. I told her I knew how she felt, and it wouldn't be a problem if she decided to stay home, but I was going in, because I wasn't going to let terrorists close our building.

So, that's where I'm coming from. I don't think we should allow terrorists to terrorize us. (Or let our government use the existence of terrorists to abrogate our rights and drag us into a wrongful and dangerous war.)
posted by bearwife at 4:20 PM on July 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


The thing about this is that I think it's true

I'm not familiar with Orson Scott Card, but in the blurb from wikipedia McVeigh was talking about civil war "CUZZA TAXES!" rather than any kind of disconnect between the American left and right.
posted by Kirk Grim at 4:31 PM on July 27, 2010


beans.
posted by foggy out there now at 5:39 PM on July 27, 2010


The thing about this is that I think it's true. Read the afterword to Orson Scott Card's Empire.

When reading OSC's oh-so-reasonable sounding quote one should keep in mind that he is a hateful bigot, albeit one who can sound reasonable when he knows he has to.
posted by Justinian at 5:46 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fuck me, we have MeFi's own Frank Kitson theorising away.
posted by Abiezer at 5:55 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


We are waiting for Fort Sumter. I hope it doesn't come.

Bullshit. Every ounce of Card's pasty flesh quivers in anticipation of the next civil war. In 2008, Card advocated overthrowing the government if Prop 8 failed. At that time he wrote:
"Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down ..."
And that wasn't the first time Card savored the notion of civil strife. In 2004 he wrote:
"If America becomes a place where the laws of the nation declare that marriage no longer exists -- which is what the Massachusetts decision actually does -- then our allegiance to America will become zero. ... We will teach our children to have no loyalty to the culture of the American elite ... we will withdraw them at an early age from any sense of belonging to contemporary American culture."
Card, like so much of the right these days, can't wait for another "Fort Sumter." And if, God forbid, that day ever does come, I want a shot at Card.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:04 PM on July 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Orson Scott Card is Frank Miller is Batman Noam Chomsky? What?
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 7:20 PM on July 27, 2010


my new band name: Noam Or Bat-Noam?
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 7:21 PM on July 27, 2010


That's weird. I thought we might be able to take a look at someone's point of view without throwing ad hominem attacks at their religion. My bad.

I disagree with OSC's religious views, but still think that he is an amazing writer and has an amazing mind. Mormonism can be a hard mindset to break free of, especially when it is indoctrinated at such a young age.
posted by karminai at 9:10 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't see anyone "throwing ad hominem attacks" at Card's religion. I'm not, certainly. This has nothing to do with Card's religion or the Church of Latter Day Saints. I'm pointing out that Card is a hateful man who publishes his violent fantasies and who would rather take up arms (or see people take up arms, I don't think Card's much of a fighter) against lawfully elected governments of the United States than live on equal terms with people he hates.

So, you know, I'm sorry you feel like your hero has been insulted, but if you can't bear to see his own words quoted, then maybe you should look for one who doesn't embarrass you.

And Card's a mildly clever, mildly successful writer of genre novels. At his best, he's competent and entertaining. He'll never be "amazing" in his life.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:49 PM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I had to go back through the thread and saw nothing about mentioned about Mormonism. But a google search revealed Card's a global warming critic, is critical of people he calls "Darwinists", and is against same-sex marriage because marriage is a magic word or something. Whether or not those views are rooted in his religion is beside the point that he's clearly wrong and has "some pretty crazy ideas."
posted by Kirk Grim at 10:03 PM on July 27, 2010


Octobersurprise wrote: And Card's a mildly clever, mildly successful writer of genre novels. At his best, he's competent and entertaining. He'll never be "amazing" in his life.

His early novels and short stories were amazing. I've never read anything else quite like Hart's Hope or Kingsmeat. It looks as though he lost his Muse; nothing he's written in the past twenty years is half as good as his earlier stuff.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:55 AM on July 28, 2010


I don't see anyone "throwing ad hominem attacks" at Card's religion.

Well, when someone posts When reading OSC's oh-so-reasonable sounding quote one should keep in mind that he is a hateful bigot, albeit one who can sound reasonable when he knows he has to.

Isn't that pretty much the definition of an ad hominem argument? I mean, it sounds like an attack on the character of the person making an argument (Card), presented as evidence against the (otherwise "oh-so-reasonable") argument that person is making. Although perhaps that's an ad hominem attack on Card's religiously-derived political opinions, rather than his religion itself.

That said, a civil war in modern day America seems unlikely to me; we've all heard of the the McDonalds war theory - that, one or two examples to the contrary, countries with large middle classes have a level of prosperity that makes war on their own soil risky and unpalatable.
posted by Mike1024 at 3:35 AM on July 28, 2010


Sun Tzu is a quasi-mythical strategist credited with writing The Art of War around 500 B.C. The interesting thing about The Art of War if you read is that the author(s) stress that actually going to war is an indication of a complete failing of intelligence infrastructure and effort and going to war should be one of the last actions considered. Things that this/these authors considered better than going to war included spying, political manipulations and assassinations.

Obviously, politicians are in conflict of interest to a lot of these tactics and strategies because assassination sets a bad precedent and political manipulations could be equally dangerous.

I personally tend to agree with these Taoist scholars, though. If people are going to pay prices for power grabs and for leading countries, cults or militia in a way that doesn't get along with other countries, cults and militias, I'd personally rather those individuals pay those prices than that entire countries and regions do.

Which means I support the idea of criminal investigations over making war over terrorist policies and actions.

Also, I think that terrorism is a failing of the representative political process. As C.J. Cherryh puts it in Cyteen, what terrorism is is an internal or external individual or group of individuals attempting to bypass established political process (and count more than the democratic majorities) by using fear-based power moves. As citizens of a well-established political process in the U.S., for example, U.S. citizens' correct reaction to terrorism should be keeping calm and carrying on, as the Brits put it during some of the terrorist acts carried out on their soil and attributed to Al Quaeda. I also think that we U.S. citizens should respond harshly to attempts to co-opt or bypass our political process from within the system. That sort of bullshit should not be tolerated either from within or without our political system.
posted by kalessin at 5:36 AM on July 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


America blew it after 911. Bush + co get all the blame but all they were doing was giving the mob what it wanted. They claimed they were going to hunt down and kill whoever was responsible by any means necessary and the roar from the mob was palpable. Fuck off to reasonable discussion and debate; just a full-on charge down an increasingly slippery slope.

Consciously or not, Osama + co did exactly the right thing on 911 if their goal was to trigger maximum instability (absurdity) in what they perceived was the world's reigning neighborhood bully.
posted by philip-random at 8:01 AM on July 28, 2010


The entire problem here is one of incorrectly framing the issue. The destruction of the World Trade Center was not an attack-- it was a criminal act. Bin Ladin (or whomever) was not acting on behalf of any government or international body, but rather on his own, for his own purposes-- this constitutes a criminal act.

Clausewitz: War is politics by other means.

Bin Laden's motives were political.

However, non-state actors are usually punished by criminal laws.

However, Bin Laden had state sponsorship from the Taliban.

So, what do you do?

(1) take out taliban; (2) arrest bin laden and subject him to trial.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:57 AM on July 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


America blew it after 911. Bush + co get all the blame but all they were doing was giving the mob what it wanted. They claimed they were going to hunt down and kill whoever was responsible by any means necessary and the roar from the mob was palpable

I'm no fan of Bush or the invasion of Iraq, but motherfucker did fly a plane into a building in my city. That makes him a threat. It isn't so easy as this. What reasonable discussion are you referring to?
posted by Ironmouth at 9:58 AM on July 28, 2010


I mean, it sounds like an attack on the character of the person making an argument (Card), presented as evidence against the (otherwise "oh-so-reasonable") argument that person is making.

If Card's argument is that the left and the right are both extremist, it's not ad hominem to point out why he thinks the left is extremist.

They claimed they were going to hunt down and kill whoever was responsible by any means necessary and the roar from the mob was palpable.

Yes, but then they DIDN'T DO THAT. They backed local warlords in Afghanistan for a war on the cheap, then focused on Iraq, which had fuck all to do with 9/11 or terrorism.
posted by me & my monkey at 10:02 AM on July 28, 2010


I have heard the name Orson Scott Card, but have no idea who he is.
That bit quoted upthread there is moronic in its own right - no need for ad hominem.
posted by zoinks at 11:37 AM on July 28, 2010


Orson Scott Card is a writer of decent science fiction whose earlier books are better than his latter. Anything else you want to say about him will have baggage one way or the other. I'm conflicted. I like his fiction writing, hate his politics. I'll probably never read another of his books, but I think "Ender's Game" is essential for any over bright 12 year old. When he dies I'll still be sad which is more than I can say about a lot of the people that hold his beliefs.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:16 PM on July 28, 2010


The use of white phosophor on civilian populations is no less terrorism than flying a plane into a building.

All I've got.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:24 PM on July 28, 2010


Is "genre novel" an insult?
posted by cucumber at 4:57 PM on July 28, 2010


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