Thursday, January 7, 2010


Glenn Greenwald Explains: "Why Do They Hate Us?"

Sometimes I just have to marvel at how succinctly Glenn Greenwald crystallizes things that have been bothering me. He has the extra benefit of actually being knowledgeable on issues of terrorism and the law, which is nice. Here's a great passage from today, but you should read the whole post:
[I]t's impossible to grow accustomed to the extreme fantasy atmosphere and self-absorbed blindness that pervades American discussions over Terrorism, especially in the wake of a new scare. The Right, seeking as always to exploit Terrorism fears, falsely accuses Obama of not displaying "war" language and a "war" mentality, in response to which he and his aides step forward to affirm -- yet again -- that WE ARE AT WAR!, and to point to all of the times Obama decreed this to be so and all of the war actions he has ordered. So we've spent the last decade screaming to the world that WE ARE AT WAR!, that we're a War Nation, that we're led by a War President. That we are "at war" an absolute bipartisan orthodoxy that must be affirmed by all Serious people. And we are currently waging some form of actual war in no fewer than five predominantly Muslim countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia); are threatening Iran with "crippling" sanctions and -- from our more deranged quarters -- war; and continuing our unbroken devotion to Israel's causes.

Yet even in the face of all of that, it is bewilderment and confusion that reign when our media stars and political figures talk about attempts to attack Americans.
Why would they possibly want to do this? They must be crazy, or drunk with religious fervor, or consumed by blinding, inhumane hatred. Much of that is probably true for individuals willing to blow themselves up in order to slaughter as many innocent civilians as possible. But it's equally irrational to think that you're going to spend a full decade bellowing WE ARE AT WAR! to the world, send bombs and troops and all forms of death to multiple Muslim countries (both directly and through Israel), and not have that directed back at us. That's what happens when a country is "at war" -- it doesn't just get to blow up things and people in other countries, but its own things and people sometimes get blown up as well. That's how "war" works.

It's truly astounding to watch us -- for a full decade -- send fighter jets and drones and bombs and invading forces and teams of torturers and kidnappers to that part of the world, or, as we were doing long before 9/11, to overthrow their governments, prop up their dictators, occupy what they perceive as holy land with our foreign troops, and arm Israel to the teeth, and then act surprised and confused when some of them want to attack us. In general, the U.S. only attacks countries with no capabilities to attack us back in the "homeland" -- at least not with conventional forces. As a result, we have come to believe that any forms of violence we perpetrate on them over there is justifiable and natural, but the Laws of Humanity are instantly breached in the most egregious ways whenever they bring violence back to the U.S., aimed at Americans. It's just impossible to listen to discussions grounded in this warped mentality without being astounded at how irrational it is. What do Americans think is going to happen if we continue to engage in this conduct, in this always-widening "war"?

You know, if we have been at it, just indiscriminately murdering and torturing people in all these places abroad for a whole decade and more, we really must be botching it rather badly.

I mean, realistically, after all, there are so many people still alive in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine.

Though, I suppose we /may/ suppose that the people of such backwater, unimportant lands might be incapable of knowing when they are not being slaughtered wholesale, and thus will believe ignorantly whatever lies they are told about the evil Americans.

But then, why should we assume that such utter fools and pawns will gain the ability to /detect the lies/ about evil Americans, simply because there are no more Americans in their land?

Fools and pawns hate who they are /told/ to hate; the world is as it was.

If we are over there, or over here, or if America is dissolved and gone in a decade, despots and high priests will use the myth of an evil America for another century of power or more with no trouble at all.

Seriously. Don't kid yourselves.
Nice to see you lower the bar, Cody. It used to be, "Huh? We brought freedom to those people!"

Now it's, "Huh? We haven't killed a high percentage of their populations! You can't win with some whiners."
I don't totally buy this line of argument. Some of the American attacks would fall under "justice" in the eyes of a reasonable person. No reasonable person in Afghanistan could have seen images of the WTC, known that their country was harboring the perpetrators, and thought, "Hey, you're violating our national sovereignty."

In this most recent case, it was someone who didn't witness American attacks. He didn't know the people affected. He was well removed from the situation. He was seduced by an ideology that empowered a previously insignificant person.

It's no different than the ignorant upper middle class kid in the U.S. who smashes a Nike store window because he heard some 3rd hand report of worker exploitation in Indonesia. In his mind, he's not some loser who listens to emo anymore, he's a hero for "the cause."

Sure, the more intervention by the U.S. the more likely it is that we commit some greivous injustices, and those are likely to invite some blowback. But, to categorically claim that all of our attempts at redress are futile and self-defeating, leaves us as the world's punching bag.

He wasn't saying that we should be a "punching bag" and accept indivudual attacks as excusable or justified. The point was only that those attacks should be expected given that the American forces have been wreaking havoc and hurting people around the globe for years.

Bob, your post of this Glen Greenwald article is impeccable timing. Thank you very much. It says so much and is so true. Here, Greenwald totally nails it.

Except that Clinton helped Muslims against Christian Serbs in the Yugoslav civil war, US helped Kuwaiti and Saudi Muslims against Iraqs Baathist invasion. US provides hundreds of millions in aid, technological know-how and military support to Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia etc.
US troops in Saudi only exist since 1991.
Oh, not to mention, US helped the mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 80s against Soviet Union.

I will say it again. If the problem was solely Muslims attacking the US and UK, then Greenwald's explanation could hold. But the whole globe over, Muslims are waging jihad against very different peoples - Hindus in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh; Buddhists in Thailand; Hans in China; Jews in Israel; Christians in Philippines; Hindus in Bali, Indonesia;

This of course, has nothing to say about whether US actions themselves are justified. I am anti-war, and hence, I say they aren't. But Greenwald's explanation fails.
Thanks for the article. Glenn Greenwald nails it.

Pretty amazing to read through 10 pages of comments and no one accused him of anti-semitism or of being part of the Hate America Crowd (at least not blatantly).

Until these issues are brought to the mainstream debate, nothing is going to change.

Actually, with the Military Industrial Complex fueled by the Fed's fiat dollars, nothing is going to change anyway...
Contemplationist: Greenwald's explanation doesn't fail, but I'd say he doesn't widen the explanation why there is so much terrorism.

Yes, sometimes these are just crazy fanatics, but usually, the reason is that governments are imposing themselves on them. These are, in almost every case, separatist movements that want autonomy for themselves. This does not excuse their actions or their goals. They want tyrannical islamic mini-states.

I think these should be allowed to exist. They'll end up like communist states of old. Cut off from prosperity and behind the times. They'll collapse. In the end, they'll have to abandon some of their more hard line principles. Turkey is a good example of a conservative islamic state that liberalized.
Greenwald is right that we should have expected blow-back from pre-9/11 ventures in the Middle East. So what? Is he arguing that fear of blow-back should have kept us from those policies?

To some degree Greenwald is a victim of Arab revisionist history. According to Arabs, they would have defeated Israel in 1948, and every war afterwards if the US hadn't supported Israel. The truth is that the US tried to remain neutral through all of the wars and only resupplied Israel in the 1973 war and then only after Israel had already won. Fear of blow-back from Arabs constrained US policy throughout Israel's history.

Al Qaeda is a child of the Muslim Brotherhood which was formed after WWI in order to brink back the Caliphate. That is Al Qaeda's goal as well and has been since the beginning. They will use current events to add fuel to the fire, but the Caliphate has always been their goal and it will not change.

The MB and its daughter organizations such as Al Qaeda adds to the Arab historical revisionism by claiming that they would have overthrown every Arab regime in the ME and established the Caliphate if the US hadn't propped them up. Again, it's total fiction. The collapse of the Shah is Iran is just one of many historical examples that prove the MB wrong.

The main mistake of the US was and is to have people in the state dept who are totally ignorant of Arab thought, especially the history of the MB. Had they known it, they would have been able to predict the blow-back.

That said, should the US have attacked Iraq in 1991 to free Kuwait knowing it would cause blow-back? I don't think that should have been a consideration. I don't think the invasion was wise, but for other reasons. Blow-back should always be expected, but it should not determine policy.
"Blow-back should always be expected, but it should not determine policy."

I disagree completely. When killing people and/or invading territory is involved, yes, blowback should figure at some point in determining policy. Meaning, is the cost of engaging in this type of behavior too high?
I am new to the Libertarian or anti-war sentiment, recently finding Austrian economics 2 years ago and gradually moving away from the nationalistic pride area. These kinds of thoughts are interesting to me and am still trying to form my true opinions on this area.

However, this post assumes that the US always struck first, does it not? Saying that we were engaging in bombing, occupation, war before 9/11. What about the USS Cole, before that? Before the first WTC bombing?

Before the War with Tripoli.

Refutations of this thought welcome. I am not stating my firm opinions, just somethings I am grappling with.
USS Cole, that was 2000, we have been fucking the Middle East over since WWII. If you can't find the numerous incident, like the shah of Iran, you don't know ME history. War of Tripoli wasn't about terrorist, it was about pirates demanding money, and Statist Jefferson went to war.
Kind of rude Matt. Clearly I knew that Cole was in 2000, that was my point. The point I was making was who struck who first maybe isn't the point. The War of Tripoli was about Muslim pirates attacking US merchant ships and taking US prisoners and forcing them to slave labor. The point was that we could go back to the early history of the US and say that Muslim pirates struck first....
Comparing the Tripoli episode to today doesn't gel. The fact is, Tripoli was about pirates. That they were muslim is secondary. Besides, today's problems center around Israel, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Places where, for decades, either the US has or does occupy militarily, has/had military bases, gives/gave support to a regime through money or weapons, or has/had engaged in drone attacks or covert operations.

I don't think that US military Tripoli excursion had to happen, either. The original victims were merchant ships outside of US government territory, and I don't think it makes sense for a government to go to war over things that happen outside of its territorial monopoly. It was blown out of proportion. If I got killed by some thugs in a border town in Mexico, unless I was connected politically, I can guarantee that no US official would care. Why is it the merchants got special privilege?

I think what happened is that the merchants of that day pressured the government to protect them as opposed to just dealing with the costs of protecting themselves. (I don't know for certain but-- It could also be that, just like today, laws and treaties prevented the merchant ships from being able to arm themselves well enough to stop the pirates, so they decided they had no choice but to lobby the government.)

Islamic terrorism existed long before the U.S. had bombs and planes. Indeed, it existed long before the U.S. was a nation. Examine the Koran and the Hadith and you will find the reason for terrorism.
MattM is right. Read Bernard Lewis or Bat Ye'or. Islam spread initially through terrorism and warfare. If the enemy proved too strong for Muslim armies, they fell back to terrorizing the population on the border in order to persuade them to move farther from the border. Then Muslims would move into the empty homes and land. The ware in Iraq began in the 7th century AD.
fundamentalist said:

Islam spread initially through terrorism and warfare. If the enemy proved too strong for Muslim armies, they fell back to terrorizing the population on the border in order to persuade them to move farther from the border. Then Muslims would move into the empty homes and land. The ware in Iraq began in the 7th century AD.

So Israel must be in the wrong with its conflict with the Palestinians, right?
Prof. Murphy,
Why not take on fundamentalists point that the Muslim faith leads to bellicose and intolerant behavior. I don't see what the current relationship between Israel and the Palestinians has to do with this.

Fundamentalist's description of the Koran fits the book of Joshua to a T. So if the Koran proves that Muslim fighters are in the wrong, then the Old Testament proves that Israel is in the wrong, and by extension us.
Prof. Murphy,

This is why I like your blog, you put so much in just a few short sentences.

The Koran doesn't prove that the Muslim terrorists are wrong; conversely, it states that they are right! Like Christians, a Muslim is to spread the Word of God. Where the two religions differ is in the consequences when one rejects the word.

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus instructs the disciples to merely "shake the dust off your sandals". In the Koran, unwillingness to convert leads to, at a minimum, living the life of a dhimmi (not a pleasant situation), at the worst, death.
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