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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Battle Causes of Terrorism - Iron Blogger Democrat - Closing Statement

Once again, let me extend my sincerest thanks to the whole community here, including the readers, the judges, and the Chairman. This week certainly stands in stark contrast to last, and I appreciate how you've all stuck with us. I would also like to thank the Challenger for providing me with by far my most challenging Battle--I learned much from this and actually had a lot of fun, even without the snark.

I think this is because the Challenger and I have been playing an excellent variation on that old chicken/ egg game. As I said in my Second Rebuttal, "An ideology without recruits is just so much hot air." His position all along has been something like (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Recruits without ideology are just so many mannequins."

So the Challenger spent a lot of time talking about the specific ideology of jihad, and, eventually, terrorist ideologies in general. He defends his narrow focus by saying, "To my mind, the terrorism of the sort propagated by al Qaeda is the reason we are even having this discussion. The very real fact that al Qaeda is such a threat to the US and the world has brought the issue of terrorism to the front." Not surprisingly, I will agree with what he says. I have been married too long now to still run around trying to argue with the truth. But in doing so--in focusing solely on systems of belief, no matter how terrible--the Challenger ignores the most fundamental element in this complex system: The terrorists themselves.

The Challenger, in his Opening Statement, tried to avoid even considering the issue of the individual terrorists, asking, "Can we really know another's motivation [. . .]? The answer of course is no, we cannot." And, later, in his Second Rebuttal, the Challenger tried to offer some alternate motivations that do not hold up to scrutiny, while insisting that the ideas, beliefs, and values of the groups these people join are the dangerous elements, and not the terrorists themselves. Merely explaining the ideological foundations behind a particular terror group (as in the Challenger's Opening Statement) or a generic terror group (as he did in his Second Rebuttal) just doesn't do a thing to explain why there terrorists are even there in the first place.

On the other hand, from the very start of this Battle, I have maintained that there is an unquenchable desperation motivating those who become terrorists (or join hate groups or gangs). This makes them susceptible to the terrorists' ideology, makes them willing to kill and die. This is especially true since, as the SPLC link from my Opening Statement noted, these groups specifically tailor their messages to attract the desperate. The world-view that these groups espouse, full of in-group/ out-group conditioning, neatly provides a framework that fits their recruits' desperation, explains perfectly who they are, why they feel so desperate, and how to get back a feeling of power.

Remember that, according to the 2004 Rand Study (.pdf link), ideology is just a tool; there must be something about the terrorists themselves that has made them want to use that tool, receptive to it, able to override their cognitive dissonance and violate fundamental laws of nature and humanity. As I wrote in my opening, it's not religion, oppression, or poverty that causes people to buy into the terrorist ideology. In response to the Challenger, I made it clear that mere desire for power, status, wealth, companionship, or revenge is not enough to do it, either.

There must be something else, something more deeply rooted in the psyche that shows up in common among those destined for terror. Again, I aver that it is desperation that does it. Despite the unique and varying circumstances that spawn terror, all terrorists from all terrorist groups share this trait. I've tried to demonstrate that by writing, not just about the theory, but about individual terrorists, from the Lackawanna Six to John Walker Lindh. I've tried to draw the parallel between the way hate groups and gangs in this country recruit and maintain members--by offering alternatives to the desperation and exploiting the in-group/ out-group dichotomy--and the methods of the terrorists.

And when you add it up (or, at least, as I add it up from my biased perspective, natch), all signs point to a near-universal trait that these terrorists share that makes them easy prey for those with a dangerous ideology to sell. The Challenger's argument, that it's all about the ideology, just doesn't add up.

In the end, I imagine the best solution to terrorism will be somewhere in the middle. (As a post-modernist literary critic by training, I've always been a both-and, not an either-or, kind of guy.) We have to do something about the "charismatic leaders" of these terrorist organizations that I spoke of in my Rebuttals, though without letting them become martyrs. We must try to stop the spread of violent ideology, though without suppressing civil liberties. And we must, somehow, alleviate the conditions that lead to desperation, though without finding ourselves in some untenable neo-colonialist situation.

I bet that both the Challenger and I will likely accept this to be true, as he has admitted that desperation is a part of the puzzle as much as I have admitted that ideology is also important. This is a complex and multi-faceted topic, and, like the chicken/ egg question not one with black-and-white answers or two opposing sides.

The roots of terrorism, both ideological and tactical, are thousands of years old, although our awareness of it seems new. The goal of terrorism, too, has remained the same--to use fear as a weapon of social or political change. But we must not fear ideas: We should not fear religion, even fundamentalism. We should not fear communism, even if it is anathema to our own way of life. That seems to be the Challenger's position in this Battle. Instead, I say, look at the people; look at those who are actually willing to kill and die for those ideas.

Those poor, desperate bastards.

Respectfully submitted,
Jay Bullock, Iron Blogger Democrat
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Battle Causes of Terrorism - Challenger - Closing

I give you the desert chameleon, whose ability to blend itself into the background tells you all you need to know about the roots of ecology and the foundations of a personal identity.

-Book of Diatribes
from the Hayt Chronicle

from Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

Humans are social animals. Few people can exist by themselves without human contact. And being social animals, we form groups; social, political, and religious. Many of us belong to more than one group and all of these groups affect and often shape our behavior and belief.

Groups can be as simple as a small tribe or as complex as a whole civilization. We form sub-groups within larger groups. The Iron Blogger supplied us with many links describing group behavior and the formation of in-groups and out-groups. Classically, groups have their own reason for existence and they formulate rituals, myths, historical contexts, and in-group mannerism that distinguish them and give them identity.

For instance, if you were a member of the Bensonhurst Chapter of the Raccoon Lodge, or more formally the International Order of Friendly Sons of the Raccoons, you would wear a double-breasted military jacket with oversized epaulets on each shoulder, white shirt, dark tie and a hat with a raccoon tail. If however you were Morris Fink, the Grand High Exalted Mystic Ruler of the Bensonhurst Chapter of the Raccoon Lodge in 1953, you would wear three tails on your hat to signify your exalted status.

Yes, when you arrived at the Raccoon Lodge meeting you would sing the Marching Song

In the West and in the East
There's a mighty little beast
For courage there is no other.
When the chips are all at stake
We are proud to call him brother.
So with our noble tails entwined
And a spirit strong of mind
We'll have hearts that cannot melt.
In the forest, in the trees
On the land or seven seas
We're brothers under the pelt.
Raccoons, the noble Raccoons

And you would then hold up your glass and recite the official toast:
Fingers to fingers, thumbs to thumbs, watch out below, here she comes.
When greeting a fellow Raccoon, you would perform the secret handshake by touching elbows (first right then left), followed by a "Woooooo" sounding cry as you wiggled the raccoon tail on your lodge hat and end by chorusing: "Brothers under the pelt."

All the while you would look like these two gentlemen:

Apachesm



Groups have leadership and members. You either in the group or you are out.

If you are in the group, you hold the values that the group has in common. Some of the values a group may have in common is opposition to another group.

Classic literature is rife with examples of struggles between groups and the innocents that caught in the middle. Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" is a classic example that shows us how a group as fundamental as a family can, through differences of opinion result in murder, suicide, and tragedy.

That some groups are fundamentally opposed to another should not surprise us, we see it all the time. We've grown up with the Cold War if nothing else. That some groups are murderous while others are peaceful also should not surprise us. A groups will act in accordance with it's values and ideology.

Just as there is great variation among the behavior of individual humans, it should not surprise us that there is great variation between groups comprised of humans.
And while most humans function to a greater or lesser degree as good socialized animals, some don't. Just this fact alone should tell us that it is the same with groups.

But as all humans act in accordance with their imperatives, so too will groups act in accordance with their reason for existence; their ideology.

Why do people join murderous groups? I don't know.

But I do know that once in the group, individual members will act in accordance with the group imperatives.

And some group imperatives lead the members to engage in terrorism.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I want to thank the Chairman for giving me the opportunity to participate in this great experiment for which I give my full support. It can't be easy and I encourage you to stick with it.

I would like to thank the judges for the time and attention you spend to determining these matches. I think we here on the Internet are part of a new conversation that the human "tribe" is having. More and more people will participate over time. And having a forum where people can really discuss issues, present evidence, and have the strength of their presentation assessed is invaluable to the rational discourse that needs to go on.

Keep up the great work.

And finally, I want to thank the Iron Blogger Democrat, Jay Bullock, for a great debate. Differing in the intellectual arena should never result in personal attacks or animosity. We just think differently. We may still be good folks despite our "wrong-headedness". The Iron Blogger has treated me with respect and honored my arguments. I hope I have managed to do the same.

Respectfully submitted
Frank LoPinto
Took an untrodden path once, where the swift don't win the race,
It goes to the worthy, who can divide the word of truth.
Took a stranger to teach me, to look into justice's beautiful face
And to see an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

I and I
In creation where one's nature neither honors nor forgives.
I and I
One says to the other, no man sees my face and lives.
-Bob Dylan (Copyright © 1983 Special Rider Music)


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Friday, July 30, 2004

Battle Causes of Terrorism - Iron Blogger Democrat - Second Rebuttal

First off, let me apologize for, at least in the Challenger's mind, seeming to "abandon" my original position that it's a sense of desperation within an individual that leads to a life of terror. Serves me right, I guess, for agreeing with the Challenger's assertion that "desperation is not enough." I thought I made it clear that I see the Challenger and me as being on the same side of the fence--just at different places along the fence.

The Challenger claims his section of fence in his Second Rebuttal: "I am afraid the only way we can accurately discuss this is by talking about the group, and its ideology." The problem with the Challenger's position here is that an ideology without recruits is just so much hot air. We can spend all day talking about what ideology drives everyone from ETA to the World Church of the Creator to the unfortunately-acronymed MILF. But doing so gets us no closer to understanding what drives individuals to those groups in the first place.

And that's the section of fence I'm claiming for myself.

The Challenger, giving up on his initial attempts at declaring that my part of the fence didn't need to be considered, opens his Second Rebuttal with a very cute tactic: He brings up just about the worst thing one can say about Islam (citing "Arabist" Dr. Kobrin--and if you read his link, you might think the better epithet would be "racist") while claiming that he "would not go that far." In other words, "Some people say Arabs are misogynist, masochistic savages--but not me!" Sorry, Challenger, that dog won't hunt here at the Iron Blog, and I personally resent your implication that I am making a similar argument.

After that, the Challenger lists some other plausible motivations for terror: love of power, desire for status, companionship, even revenge. The trouble, of course, is that all of these can be satisfied through other means, except when those other means are unavailable. Sometimes, even when other paths to power, status, wealth, comaraderie, even revenge are available, people choose the terrorist ideology instead. My contention all along has been that those most likely to choose the path of terror either don't have other means to fulfill their needs and desires (i.e., alleviate their desperation), or that their desperation makes them easy to recruit for unlawful paths.

Besides, undermining the list the Challenger provides is actually pretty easy. For example, someone who blows herself up on a bus is unlikely to be seeking power. The FARC are certainly after "status they could not get anywhere else," since they're desperate for some of that communist redistribution of wealth. The "comradeship afforded to [terrorists] by no one else" describes exactly the whole in-group/ out-group dynamic I brought to the table. As for revenge, in this country we typically have legal remedies available for those who have been wronged (at least until tort reform passes); if you're desperate for revenge and there's no legal system to help you where you are, you don't need to join a terror network to kill for revenge.

Beyond that, well, we all desire all of those things he named. Who wouldn't like a little more status, better friends, or redress of wrongs done to us? There's got to be something different about those who would choose to kill to get those things.

There's also something different about those who don't kill but still use terrorist networks for power and personal gain. Osama bin Laden, perhaps the most powerful terrorist in the world, has never personally carried out any acts of terror, near as we can tell (discounting any fighting he may have done in the mujahadeen). I am not defending the man, of course--just questioning whether in his position he's less a terrorist and more the "charismatic leader" I spoke of in my First Rebuttal. We see those same kinds of "charismatic leaders" abusing legal structures all around the world for power and their own personal gain as well (this is an election year!); this is nothing exclusive to terrorism.

Speaking of bin Laden, I never said (though I can see how it could be inferred) that the United States ever "directly supported" him. Whether or not we gave him money or arms, we certainly created conditions that allowed him to parlay family connections into leadership of a loose terror network.

Which is what al Qaeda is, by the way. Osama bin Laden doesn't head some monolithic far-reaching empire at all. al Qaeda isn't even al Qaeda's name for itself, just a name "coined by the United States government based on the name of a computer file of bin Laden's that listed the names of contacts he had made in Afghanistan, which talks about the organization as the 'Qaida-al-Jihad'--the base of the jihad." And according to the Cragin and Daly Rand Study (.pdf link) the Challenger and I have both cited,
while Osama bin Laden apparently remains al Qaeda's ideological and inspirational leader, the organization's affiliated groups still rely on their various leaders to maintain a unity within al Qaeda. Many of the terrorist groups allegedly affiliated with al Qaeda [. . .] recruit members and conduct attacks without oversight from al Qaeda. (33)
al Qaeda as it exists now is not interested in ruling anything. They will never "take the reins of a nation-state," as the Challenger suggests, as the goal of the affiliated groups is to bring back the Caliphate, not to be the Caliphate. bin Laden had his chance to take political power when he returned to Afghanistan in 1996 as the Taliban warlords consolidated power, but he (and his Afghani fighters) chose instead to remain outside the political realm and engage Western targets through terrorism.

I've tried to present not just the theory behind why terrorist groups--like hate groups and gangs--can recruit people to engage in these terrorist acts, but also examples of the sorts of people who have done such a thing, and they have all faced some desperate situation. The Challenger does agree with me here; despite the protestations in his last post, I distinctly recall reading, "I am not willing to discount this theory outright because there is no doubt that desperation is a motivation for someone to join a terrorist group." Perhaps in my zeal for my own point of view I read too much enthusiasm into the Challenger's words there, but he has not provided any other substantive explanation for why terrorists opt for that path instead of some gentler path that answers the "who the hell am I?" question.

And while The Challenger's right that we may never know the exact combination of decisions that lead a person to commit a terrorist act, I've tried to show that these people all have this one thing--desperation, a lack of better choices for fulfilling their needs--in common. Do we know exactly what it was that drove Kamal Derwish to recruit for bin Laden? No, but the desperate straits he found himself in before signing up certainly provide a clue. How about that formerly sweet American boy who wound up a Taliban? Like most kids coming out of a madrassa, John Walker Lindh didn't see any choice but to fight as he had been instructed.

Again, I do not want to leave the impression that I don't think ideology is an important thing, but (forgive me, Vince Lombardi) it is not the only thing. The desperation, the confusion, the pre-programming from a terrorist-funded school--all of these are just as important to consider. And we must consider this all carefully, for whatever we decide is the "cause" of terrorism, that informs our responses, our attempts to prevent it.

I don't really like any of the answers it seems like we're hinting at; the Challenger picks up my desperation thread and follows it to "if we could just fix this social problem, or economic problem, or psychological condition, we could eliminate terrorists," a solution he suggests won't work. I concur; following my answer to the extreme will lead to nanny-stateism, a dangerous neo-colonialism. And we're seeing now, 50 or 100 years after the fact, the deadly results of our first attempts at colonialism:
In many colonial situations, the European colonial powers favored specific minority groups as part of the divide and conquer strategy. They used these favored minorities as surrogates to help maintain order and dominance over much larger majority populations. When the colonists withdrew after World War I and World War II, little or nothing was done to establish more democratic governing systems, or to redress the relative disadvantages that had been created.

In other cases, the ruling systems, monarchies or regimes that were left in power continued to exploit out-groups for their own benefit, or failed to move their countries forward in the global marketplace. In either case, out-groups developed heightened expectations for their future but remained frustrated at their inability to change their disadvantaged situation.
This is boiling over now in Indonesia, the Philippines, the Indian sub-continent, northern Africa, South America, and, yes, the Middle East. I fear that too many attempts to "free the people from brutal regimes," or even to try to quell everyone's desperation, would be just bad, bad voodoo.

On the other hand, following the Challenger's notion that terrorism is all about ideology, we also end up somewhere dangerous--an Orwellian world of thoughtcrime where we punish people preemptively for what they believe, not what they do. One of the most fundamental tenets of our lives as Americans is that the answer to bad speech (and, by extension, bad ideology) is not to suppress it, outlaw it, or ignore it; no, the answer to bad speech is good speech, more of it and louder than the bad speech. I can't imagine living in a world where holding a belief is all it takes to be branded as a terrorist.

That's the world of the Challenger.

Respectfully submitted,
Jay Bullock, Iron Blogger Democrat
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Thursday, July 29, 2004

Battle Causes of Terrorism - Challenger - Second Rebuttal

The Iron Blogger, when referring to the essays I have presented thus far, said:

his words on ideology have been right on the mark. But you can't discount what I am saying, that before the ideology, there has to be something about terrorists that makes them receptive to that ideology.


And while this is true, that something is not desperation. I am aware some like Minnesota based psychoanalyst and Arabist, Dr. Nancy Kobrin advances the idea that the proclivity of Muslims to embrace suicide attacks and mass murder is the result of "a culture in which shame and honor play decisive roles and in which the debasement of women is paramount", I am not willing to go so far. I am of the opinion that what attracts people to a terrorist group, in fact any group, is different for each member.

Some will be driven by a desire for power. Some will be driven because they will gain status they could not get anywhere else. Others because they gain comradeship afforded to them by no one else. Still others for revenge.

The reasons for any individual joining any group are too diverse to distill in such a way as to say "if we could just fix this social problem, or economic problem, or psychological condition, we could eliminate terrorists."

The psychological workings of group cohesion based upon theories of "in-groups" and "out-groups", as addressed by the Iron Blogger, while true, are relevant to this discussion only to the extent that it informs us about group behavior. I agree that such analysis does in many ways accurately model group dynamics, group boundary formations as well as group identity and cohesion issues, but there is nothing here which will help us answer the question as to why one group resorts to terrorist tactics while another doesn't.

The Iron Blogger also correctly notes

My point here is that we've all bought into a world-view--the Challenger, the Chairman, John Kerry, George W. Bush, you, me--that includes a sense of our place in both the modern world and an historical context, and probably even a cosmological or spiritual sense; but for most of us that world-view does not require us to fly airplanes into buildings.


But all this tells us is that we all belong to some group, likely many groups, and again fails to inform us of anything significant to this discussion.

We all have bought in to some world view it is quite true. And for most of us, the dominant group world view informs and colors our individual world view. Included in this are the rules we use to determine when killing is OK and when it is not. Your individual mileage may vary (I will kill any man who rapes my grand daughter) but generally we integrate these values and know when we have crossed the line. For many, if not most groups, the bar justifying killing is set pretty high. For groups employing terrorist tactics that bar is set much, much lower.

This is what makes the ideology of the terrorist group significant.

The Iron Blogger seems to come to a different conclusion:

Usually, even by the Challenger's own admission, that's an utter sense of confusion, hopelessness, oppression--in short, desperation.... these are people who are stuck asking the most fundamental of existential questions: "Who the hell am I?"


First, I don't remember admitting any such thing and second we seem to be back to the desperation motive which I had thought the Iron Blogger had abandoned when he said

The Challenger's First Rebuttal, however, is much more to the point, and immediately takes me to task. "[W]hile desperation may be a motivator for a particular individual to join a terrorist group," he writes, "it can not be the complete answer." The Challenger rightly points out that not everyone who feels desperate chooses the path that lands them in a terrorist cell. He also notes, using Hamas as his example, that terrorist organizations do not rely exclusively on the dregs of society for recruits. Most importantly, he notes that "you cannot have an effective terrorist organization without a confluence of ideology. Desperation is simply not enough."

With all of this, I have little disagreement


Thirdly I would point out that everyone at one time or another confronts the existential question "Who the hell am I" to some degree, and it is not a crisis that is unique to members of terrorist organizations. And any group a person joins could be said to be answering that question for the individual to one degree or another.

I am afraid that the only way we can accurately discuss this is by talking about the group, and it's ideology because the ideology of the group feeds back to the individual in such way as to mold his or her definitions of right and wrong, friend or foe, and most especially, when it is permissible to kill.

The group ideology has included within it a social order and rules of conduct, if not a secret handshake.

And this is true of any group.

To ask why it is that an individual joins a terrorist group that is willing to fly planes into buildings is, in my opinion, the wrong question. To my mind the correct question is, why does a group resort to terrorist tactics.

It seems to me that the reasons for this are:

1) the political aspects of the ideology is so far removed from the mainstream of thought there is no hope for enough support to gain political power in any other way than through violent revolution.
2) they do not have the conventional resources to mount a military challenge in any other way.
3) they feel very strongly that their ideology needs to become the dominant ideology one way or another
4) the group collectively has decided to resort to violence to advance their goals


The ideology itself will suggest how far-reaching their militant activities will take them. For FARC, they are primarily concerned with Colombia only. With Hamas, Palestine. The RIRA is concerned with Catholic equality in Ireland. Al Qaeda on the other hand is global.

The Iron Blogger concludes with the observation:

Osama bin Laden is also a special case because of how he got to be where he is; bin Laden's Mujahadeen was our ally against the godless communists, the Soviets, in Afghanistan. If the cards had been dealt slightly differently, bin Laden may have even ended up king or mullah or grand potentate of Afghanistan himself, in which case we wouldn't be calling him a terrorist, according to the Challenger... In fact, bin Laden may well have ended up like Saddam Hussein, Manuel Noriega, andAugusto Pinochet, once he stopped being useful and started being a bother.


With regards to this statement I would first point out that the US never directly supported bin Laden or any group in Afghanistan. We, in most cases, never knew the players in the resistance. It was all done through Pakistan. But I do not intend to argue this point and would instead refer you to George Crile's excellent book on the subject "Charlie Wilson's War".

I would next note that for all intents and purposes, Osama bin Laden did become a big wheel in Afghanistan when the Taliban won the civil war that broke out after the Soviets withdrew.

This is not to dispute the premise, however. Had Afghanistan had the natural wealth that Saudi Arabia, or Iraq, or Iran has, we would not be relating terrorism and al Qaeda. Bin Laden would have been another Saddam Hussein.

And since this history is not yet written, it may yet occur that al Qaeda takes the reigns of a nation-state with the resouces that allow for them to build an army and weild global political and economic pressure.

Finally, I will take a moment here at the end to defend the narrow scope of my opening statement since the issue was raised in this way:

I'm not saying the Challenger is completely wrong on everything; except for his insistence on keeping the narrow scope of Jihadists...


To my mind, the terrorism of the sort propagated by al Qaeda is the reason we are even having this discussion. The very real fact that al Qaeda is such a threat to the US and the world has brought the issue of terrorism to the front. Even during the days when the SDS Weathermen were bombing buildings and blowing up police cars, terrorism didn't become a water-cooler discussion topic in anything but a law-enforcement context. I was living in San Francisco during the time of the food give-away mandated by the Symbionese Liberation Army in exchange for the life of Patty Hearst and people just went about their business, confident the cops and the FBI would deal.

This is no longer true.

Al Qaeda and the threat they pose is palpable everywhere, everyday to varying degrees.

So to my mind, it is this threat that precipitated the very subject as a topic of discussion.

And since I believe, as I have argued, that it is the ideology that is the threat, I used it as a focus knowing the discussion would expand and contract around this, my central theme. The ideology of al Qaeda allows for the killing of large masses of people in it's name. It gives permission for suicide attacks. And even though they are not unique in these Al Qaeda is both illustrative and exceptional in that not since the fall of the Soviet Union have we faced a military enemy that has global ambitions with a network every bit as sophisticated as that of the KGB.

And I believe it is important that we not lose sight of this fact.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Battle Causes of Terrorism - Iron Blogger Democrat - First Rebuttal

After my first two Battles, I'm known for having heavy, powerful First Rebuttals. This one may be an exception, though, not because I'm going to pull my punches, but because on balance I think the Challenger and I are really working on the same jigsaw puzzle, just from different sides. Which makes this an interesting case for the judges, I grant you, but it's also a perfect example of what makes Iron Blog great.

The Challenger's Opening Statement is a powerful tour de force that, sadly, doesn't actually answer the Chairman's questions. While expansive in its elaboration of the ideology endemic to Islamic Jihad, fundamentalistic Islamic terror is just a small--if prominent and recent--part of the puzzle. In fact, he says that
A discussion such as this necessarily requires us to delve into the realm of motivation and psychology. But can we really know another's motivation behind their action without the benefit of asking and after being answered assess the truth of what we were told? And even after we have done all of this, can we really be sure we understand? The answer of course is no, we cannot. [. . .]

Humans are a complex of motivations and passions; reason and logic. But regardless, there are larger streams, and rivers, and oceans of history of which we are all apart one way or another, and ultimately the complexity of our actions dissolve and become a part of the current in which we ourselves are caught.
It's a nice metaphor (and I'm an English major, so I know from metaphors), but he seems in that post to actually try to avoid the question of cause entirely by saying we can never know it.

The Challenger's First Rebuttal, however, is much more to the point, and immediately takes me to task. "[W]hile desperation may be a motivator for a particular individual to join a terrorist group," he writes, "it can not be the complete answer." The Challenger rightly points out that not everyone who feels desperate chooses the path that lands them in a terrorist cell. He also notes, using Hamas as his example, that terrorist organizations do not rely exclusively on the dregs of society for recruits. Most importantly, he notes that "you cannot have an effective terrorist organization without a confluence of ideology. Desperation is simply not enough."

With all of this, I have little disagreement. In fact, as I tried to explain in my Opening Statement, the appeal of terrorist organizations to those with nothing left to lose is the world-view that they offer; I was pretty clear that desperate men or women without terror networks--that is, those who share their world-view--behind them are not very effective at inspiring terror. In fact, if the Challenger had quoted just a few words more from my opening, he would have gotten to my statement that "religion, like racial identity, merely provides a convenient metaphor for expressing desperation." It's classic in-group/ out-group conditioning:
The sense of group identity is felt more keenly for those who belong to small groups such as racial or cultural minorities. In addition, the stronger our group-based social identity, the more likely we are to conform to group norms, and the more prejudicially we react to outgroup members whom we perceive to threaten us. In addition, outgroup stereotypes are stronger in those who have stronger ingroup identities.
The cohesive ideologies that the Challenger cites from the Rand study (for Hamas, FARC, and al Qaeda) are ways of building in-groups, as are, for example, pep-rallies, boot camp, and even the infernal party conventions dirtying up my C-SPAN. The ideology we buy into, whether we're desperate or not, is that of the in-group we select, or that selects us.

Supremacist groups offer white kids an answer to their uncomfortable questions; gangs offer urban youth a family and, perhaps, prosperity they wouldn't find anywhere else. Fundamentalist Islam (for al Qaeda), communism (for the FARC), a determination for self rule (for Hamas, the IRA, ETA, Tamil Tigers, and more) have the same effect. The actions these hate groups, gangs, or terrorists engage in are illegal and immoral, even perhaps by their own standards on occasion. Anyone who commits illicit or immoral acts, terrorist or no, has to have some kind of ideological bent that overrides our natural cognitive dissonance.

The Challenger talks up this same point; he notes that terrorists must hold "some overriding ideology which not only attracts recruits, but gives them the commitment to carry out acts of terror, sacrifice themselves, and be indifferent to the lives they take in the process. This, in my view, can only be done by having bought into a world view that is larger than themselves and has a grand cosmic or historical struggle as a component."

My point here is that we've all bought into a world-view--the Challenger, the Chairman, John Kerry, George W. Bush, you, me--that includes a sense of our place in both the modern world and an historical context, and probably even a cosmological or spiritual sense; but for most of us that world-view does not require us to fly airplanes into buildings. Colin Powell who, as the Challenger notes, escaped a pretty desperate situation to become Secretary of State, bought into an in-group ideology which put him on a very different path than that of, say, Jose Padilla. But to say Colin Powell doesn't have an ideology, or an in-group, would be untrue--it's just that Powell's in-group, at least in this sense, is also our in-group. Padilla's is not. There must be something else about those, like Padialla, who do take up the terrorist world-view, something about them that makes them particularly vulnerable to the in-group/ out-group pitch that these organizations make.

Usually, even by the Challenger's own admission, that's an utter sense of confusion, hopelessness, oppression--in short, desperation. As Moses Galeb described them in the Lackawanna Six article I cited in my Opening Statement, these are people who are stuck asking the most fundamental of existential questions: "Who the hell am I?" Sometimes the desperate find the in-group, sometimes the in-group finds them, and sometimes, as the Challenger says about Hamas, the desperate are in the in-group without even knowing it, through Hamas-funded K-12 schools and universities. This is why I cited the madrassas in my Opening Statement; if the recruits come to a terrorist group already believing the ideology, there's just not much work the group needs to do to bring the recruits on board.

In my Opening Statement, I linked to, but didn't quote from, this FlashPoint article, but I think I should now, as the author says this clearer than I can:
In-groups always make the same observations and criticisms of out-groups. These prejudices lay the foundation for deeper future problems. [. . .] The underlying causes of political violence and terrorism begin long ago and faraway. [. . .]

Through association and education we learn and adopt the values and behaviors typical of our group--our in-group. Over time, people realize that there are other groups to which they do belong and with which they don't identify--out-groups. Invariably people recognize that there is an "us and a "them," that there are noticeable differences between groups, and develop loyalty to their in-group. People naturally take pride in their in-group and usually view their own group as superior. These basic group differences set the stage for competition and conflict.
The ideology, as the Challenger's Rand study says in a footnote, is just "an instrument"--it's a tool. If you (or your ideology) offer someone who has never been in-group the chance to be, whether it's through in a gang, as part of a Jihad, or through the wealth re-distribution that comes with communism, you can end up with a very loyal and deadly following.

Speaking of followings, I think it's important to note one important piece of the puzzle that the Challenger misses. An ideology is worthless, at least in the terrorist sense, without a charismatic leader to hold the group together--to give the orders and provide a figurehead. Osama bin Laden is the one who immediately comes to mind, but Manual "Sureshot" Marulanda (from FARC) and those freaky twins also fit the bill.

The Rand study notes on page 32 "that terrorist groups tend to coalesce around charismatic individuals who attract and inspire supporters." This is what makes it such a shame the we were never able to get bin Laden after 9/11, as he remains both a danger to us and an inspiration to (if not much in control of) al Qaeda anymore. The Challenger even turns over much of his Opening Statement to the man, quoting bin Laden's Letter to America while only adding " 'nuff said."

But bin Laden in his letter is not just leading (and making plain his ideological foundation), he's also exhibiting more classic in-group/ out-group behavior:
The rise of a reform movement inevitably raises expectations of the out-group. [. . .] Even if a state recognizes a demand as legitimate, specific interest groups that will oppose reform from fear that it will dilute their position of power and advantage. It's often said that no one has ever given up power or wealth voluntarily. Such interest groups are easily provoked into a strong reactionary response targeting either, or both, the reformers group, or the government. The emergence of these fear-driven reactionary forces is perhaps the most potent factor is a cascading plunge into violent political conflict. The state is placed in the position of choosing the lesser of two evils, confronting the weaker of two adversaries, and pursuing a course that ensures its own interests and immediate survival.

Not surprisingly, reform movements often meet with limited, if any, success. The greater the institutionalized discrimination, inequality and injustice, the lower the prospects for reform and the greater the chances for eventual violence. Rejection of reform demands heightens out-group frustration and strengthens the arguments of militants and their call for decisive action.
It should be obvious how that applies to, say the IRA or ETA (the Basque separatists), even the Kashmiri freedom fighters the Chairman asked about in declaring this Battle open. But it also applies to the Jihad that the Challenger is so focused on. See, bin Laden certainly wants to "reform" the U.S., even if that's quite the euphemism. That "Letter to America" is a clear list of demands, some of which--like U.S. withdrawal from Saudi Arabia--we have even acquiesced to.

Osama bin Laden is also a special case because of how he got to be where he is; bin Laden's Mujahadeen was our ally against the godless communists, the Soviets, in Afghanistan. If the cards had been dealt slightly differently, bin Laden may have even ended up king or mullah or grand potentate of Afghanistan himself, in which case we wouldn't be calling him a terrorist, according to the Challenger. Tossed off at the bottom of his First Rebuttal is this juicy nugget:
Terrorism is a tactic employed by people who do not have the resources to employ an army. This is the real cause of terrorism; lack of a military force. I guarantee you, If Osama and the boys had political and economic control of North Africa and the Persian Gulf, they would be raising an army and we would not be discussing "terrorism." But the ideology driving these folks would be the same. Only much more dangerous.
In fact, bin Laden may well have ended up like Saddam Hussein, Manuel Noriega, andAugusto Pinochet, once he stopped being useful and started being a bother. That's the key, I think: Of course "the Jihadists have broken down all barriers with regards to the rules of war," as the Challenger says--they are not really fighting a war. And there are ways to deal with States that do the sorts of things that terrorists do (or, for that matter, start a war); we've got millennia of precedent to follow.

Because State-on-State action is the sort of thing that we already have mechanisms in place to deal with, we should not fear Islamic states. The Challenger includes a vaguely panicky paragraph in his Rebuttal:
To that last bit I would add that in Islam, most especially as espoused by Wahabism, there is no difference between religious and political life ; they a part of a continuum that includes (but is not limited to) ones personal and business relationships as well.
There are, of course, plenty of secular Islamic states: Turkey, Syria, Indonesia, among others. And, no, those states are not necessarily models of stability, but they certainly pose no threat to us. Turkey is even a NATO ally.

In the end, I'm not saying the Challenger is completely wrong on everything; except for his insistence on keeping the narrow scope of Jihadists (in his Rebuttal, his "I have focused" paragraph ignores even the other terror organizations he seemed willing to bring in earlier), his words on ideology have been right on the mark. But you can't discount what I am saying, that before the ideology, there has to be something about terrorists that makes them receptive to that ideology.

Respectfully submitted,
Jay Bullock, Iron Blogger Democrat
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Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Battle Causes of Terrorism - Challenger - First Rebuttal

The thoughtful Iron Blogger Democrat, has advanced the theory that the causes of terrorism has it's roots in desperation.

I am not willing to discount this theory outright because there is no doubt that desperation is a motivation for someone to join a terrorist group. Indeed, a Rand report written recently entitled The Dynamic Terrorist Threat: An Assessment of Group Motivations and Capabilities in a Changing World finds that Hamas recruited members from refugee camps and prisons (pp 35) and one could infer that many of these people were desperate. It also found that the Colombian terrorist group FARC drew members from peasant villages where one could imagine that poverty breeds desperation (pp 36).

But while desperation may be a motivator for a particular individual to join a terrorist group it can not be the complete answer.

One reason is that people act on their feelings of desperation in a variety of ways. Some will take their desperate situation and become bank robbers, while another will become Secretary of State. Some will become terrorists I am sure.

However, not all people who become terrorists were desperate people.

In that same report, the Rand corporation noted that in addition to recruiting people from refugee camps, Hamas also recruited people from Universities (pp 35). And since Hamas ran the schools and other social organizations, they are able to recruit young people and use these institutions to indoctrinate them over long periods of time, all the while observing them for doctrinal purity.

Which brings me to point out that which causes people to "crash an airplane into a building", as the Chairman put it, has to have some overriding ideology which not only attracts recruits, but gives them the commitment to carry out acts of terror, sacrifice themselves, and be indifferent to the lives they take in the process. This, in my view, can only be done by having bought into a world view that is larger than themselves and has a grand cosmic or historical struggle as a component.

For FARC, it is communism. They do not convert their recruits on the money to be made by selling cocaine; the great class struggle is what motivates the rank and file.

For al Qaeda, it is a struggle between the righteous and the infidel that gives meaning to their sacrifice while inoculating members to the carnage left in the wake of an operation.

Mr. Bullock notes, correctly in my opinion, "Religion by itself does not cause terror, even fundamentalism". And while that is true, there still needs to be an schema which gives the struggle context; which gives meaning to the loss and pain, the successes and defeats. In the case of al Qaida, that schema is the Wahabist interpretation of Islam and the struggle between Allah and Shaitan for supremecy in the world. It is not the only framework available but it is the one being used in this case.

Drawing again from the Rand report, we read:

With regards to terrorism, the term ideology means the consensus of grievances and objectives that a terrorist group is trying to address through violence.13 In this context, terrorists' ideologies may take on many forms-e.g., religious or political-but still serve the same purpose-motivating actions, unifying members, and linking the organization to communities for which it purports to fight. (pp 30)

Hamas sees its terrorist campaign against Israel as part of the fight for Palestinian independence. ((pg 30)

FARC engages in guerrilla warfare and its ideology is neither nationalist nor religious; instead, it claims to fight for control of Colombia to take power and institute socialist reforms. (pp 31)

al Qaeda's leaders have commingled religious and political strains within its ideology. Al Qaeda does this because it pulls its leaders and operatives from multiple terrorist groups, each with its own particular set of local objectives. Al Qaeda then unites these multiple objectives under a pan-Islamic ideology, presenting the different groups with a common enemy: the United States. (pp 31-32)


(To that last bit I would add that in Islam, most especially as espoused by Wahabism, there is no difference between religious and political life; they a part of a continuum that includes (but is not limited to) ones personal and business relationships as well.)

Because of the ideological framework in which the organizations operate, many terrorist organizations recruit very carefully among other groups who are like minded or seek out individuals who are attracted to the ideological framework.

RIRA originally drew most of its recruits from the ranks of former PIRA fighters. This recruitment allowed the RIRA to begin its activities with an immediate pool of hardened operators, already skilled at building bombs and avoiding British authorities. In addition, other reports suggest that the RIRA attempts to recruit young persons without a past record of violent activities, in such areas as south Armagh, Derry, and Dublin.37 Furthermore, it appears that these new recruits support the breakaway faction.38 If such reports are true, the case of the RIRA illustrates not only the importance that terrorist groups place on new recruits to sustain their existence but also the dangers involved in not integrating recruits in such a way that they bolster group cohesion. (ibid. pp 36)


An important point here is group cohesion. You can not have an effective terrorist organization without a confluence of ideology. Desperation is simply not enough.

al Qaeda appears to recruit its members on multiple levels.For example, the organization recruits and trains operatives for specific attacks, as in the case of the "Hamburg cell" and its role in the September 11 attacks. In this instance, potential recruits were identified and observed over a period of one to two years and then brought to Afghanistan for further observation and training. In other circumstances, al Qaeda relies on the members of local groups with similar ideologies and goals to act as its "recruits," as in the case of the October 2002 bombing in Bali. Therefore, al Qaeda appears to recruit local foot soldiers as well as individuals with specific skills and characteristics (e.g., having passports from Western countries), depending on its planned attacks. This pattern and degree of sophistication is, at this point, isolated to al Qaeda. (ibid pp 36-37)


I have focused on how these groups recruit because I think that it is essential to the argument that Jihadists have an overriding framework that is based on an extreme interpretation of Islam. That it is the framework that attracts the individuals to the group and it is that framework which keeps the group cohesive and functioning. The historical context that I described in my opening statement feeds into the this framework and functions on many levels which I will not go into at the moment and may not in this discussion.

Having said all of this, I would be remiss in addressing a point that needs to be made:

We are not really discussing the causes of terrorism.

Terrorism is a tactic employed by people who do not have the resources to employ an army. This is the real cause of terrorism; lack of a military force. I guarantee you, If Osama and the boys had political and economic control of North Africa and the Persian Gulf, they would be raising an army and we would not be discussing "terrorism". But the ideology driving these folks would be the same.

Only much more dangerous.

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Monday, July 26, 2004

Battle Causes of Terrorism - Iron Blogger Democrat - Opening Statement

In my previous Battle, Battle: School Vouchers, I had the unenviable task of battling right after the first-ever loss by a fellow Iron Blogger. Today, I begin another unenviable task, that of Battling after the, er, unpleasantness of last week.

I suppose that means I have to use the silencer on the can of whoopass I'm about to open.

--

If you type "causes of terrorism" into Google, you get nearly 26,000 hits (when Google isn't being waylaid by a virus, that is), each with its own answer to the kinds of questions broadly posed by the Chairman. But I can sum it up for you in one word: desperation.

Of course, what makes you desperate is probably very different from what makes me desperate. And while I could get very desperate and never strap myself to explosives and take a bus, you maybe could. What provides that crucial last step, that causes people to cross over from hanging on in quiet desperation to full-blown terrorism?

Whether the terror is foreign or domestic, religious or political, small-scale or large-scale, the reasons behind it are remarkably similar. And it begins with, as I said, desperation.

Study after study after study has been done about domestic terror--the hate groups that seem never to go away in this country, the militias, the Timothy McVeigh types. And it's clear that these groups all capitalize on the festering desperation of those who join. As the Southern Poverty Law Center notes about children falling in with racist groups, everything from violence in video games to "zero-tolerance" policies to the death of the "American Dream" may be contributing to children's sense of unease,
[b]ut the upsurge in one of its main manifestations--white supremacy--has inspired a theory developed by sociologists like Pamela Perry and Randy Blazak.

In Perry's 2002 book, Shades of White, she chronicled the racial attitudes of white kids at two contemporary California high schools--one predominantly white, one minority white. She found what Blazak calls "anomie"--French sociologist Emile Durkheim's term for the sense of confusion brought on by rapid social change. [. . .] Hate groups have tailored their recruitment pitches to these frustrated white kids. [. . .]

"Most parents, most teachers don't pretend to have easy answers," notes Ward. "Hate groups do. Hate music does. Hate sites do. The racist Skinhead down the street does, too."
"Whoa, Jay, hang on," you might be thinking. "We're not talking about white kids wearing Confederate flag t-shirts." But aren't we? When hate group kids--or, as they age, hate group adults--attack people or property, their goal is terror. They may not plan destruction on the scale of 9/11 (which actually even exceeded al Qaeda's expectations), but they are still in the terror business. When Timothy McVeigh parked the rental truck under the windows of the Murrah building's daycare center, he was also planning terror. So isn't the pitch the Aryan Nations made to McVeigh relevant here--and, perhaps more importantly, the desperation McVeigh felt that left him susceptible to their brainwashing?

Again, further afield, but related, is something that I get drilled into me pretty often as a high school teacher in an urban area--why children join gangs. In a city that offers nothing but despair--high poverty, homelessness, drug abuse, crime, unemployment--a gang offers kids who feel abandoned a sense of hope. Like the hate groups' appeal to white teenagers facing rapid social change, the leaders of a gang offer their recruits a way to make sense of their world. "I know what you're going through," the implicit message goes, "and I've found my way out through this gang. You, too, can be a part of our in-group." Add to it the promises of wealth and fame--and the fact that it seems a stepping stone on the path to success as a rap artist--and you've got a powerful fantasy to escape into from desperate straits. And while most gang members don't go roving in packs at night looking for innocents (in fact, victims of gang violence are often gang members themselves), you can't deny that gangs spread terror in much the same way that hate groups do.

"But Jay," you're still thinking, "how does that get Mohammed Atta into the cockpit of a plane bound for infamy?" Well, think, for example, about the Lackawanna Six. They went to Afghanistan for al Qaeda training, though they committed no terrorist acts and most even left the training early. But they were recruited with the same techniques gangs and hate groups use:
When people here try to explain the allure of Kamal Derwish, they say the young people seemed to be looking for clarity.

"Everybody of ethnic background wants to know, 'Who the hell am I?' " said Moses Galab, the brother of one of the men who went to Afghanistan.

But if some young people felt that the answer lay in a return to Islam, they found the Islam practiced by the older generation at the white, single-story mosque on Wilkesbarre Avenue to be wanting.

The elders "pretty much are uneducated," Mr. Galab said. "They came here, got into their work. They had no time to learn or to teach us. If you asked any of them if they knew 20 prophets, they wouldn't know."

Kamal Derwish [the al Qaeda recruiter] seemed to offer something more.
In fact, Derwish himself fits the pattern of desperation I talked about earlier: His father lost his job in a mill, they were forced to move back to the Middle East to live in poverty, where Derwish fell in with fundamentalist extremists. He returned to Buffalo to find his old neighborhood ripe for the picking--poor, confused, and young. In the end, of course, the Lackawana Six never went through with anything; they lacked the hopelessness that would lead them--even the most pious and fundamentalist of them--to throw everything away, including their lives. Dervish, on the other hand (there's a joke in here about being the son of a mill worker, but I'm short on space as it is), had nothing to give up to join the al Qaeda cause.

Imagine how much easier it must be to recruit from the madrassas which take the most destitute, oppressed, and downtrodden and fill them with hate for the West than it is to recruit in even the poorest areas of Buffalo, NY.

I would also point you to this FlashPoint commentary that reads, in fact, like a study of hate group or gang recruitment.

Finally, I should say that desperation without the terror networks desperate people join just doesn't lead to much terror. Timothy McVeigh, though convicted for doing the deed basically by himself, probably had accomplices far and wide who helped him. Indeed, a desperate man acting alone often only hurts himself--remember Daniel V. Jones alone on the 105 in L.A.?

Before I go, I will say that it's also important to note what does not cause terrorism. Religion by itself does not cause terror, even fundamentalism. Religion, like racial identity, merely provides a convenient metaphor for expressing desperation. Poverty in and of itself also does not cause terrorism; nor does the oppression of a people necessarily lead to terrorism, though the oppressed (the IRA, for example) often engage in terror.

What I have said to this point, I think, is surely uncontroversial. In fact, I have this nagging fear that I will post this and then read an almost identical Opening Statement from the Challenger in this Battle. Where we differ, I'm sure, is in how to deal with and prevent terrorism; but, as that was not specifically within the scope of the Chairman's questions, and this is the longest Opening Statement I've ever written already, I will leave that for later, if we get to it at all.

Respectfully submitted,
Jay Bullock, Iron Blogger Democrat
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Battle Causes of Terrorism - Challenger - Opening Arguments



The roots of Islamic fascism, who I will refer to as Jihadists, are religious first and foremost but historic as well. The primary points of my argument can be enumerated:

1) The Jihadists believe that the once great Islamic nations have been corrupted by the secularism of their former colonial masters.

2) The West is powerful in comparison to Islam only by means of Shaitan (Satan)

3) Allah is more powerful than Satan and it is Allah's intent for Islam (specifically the Wahabbist version of Islam) to be the dominant religion on Earth

As a result of the above, the strategic plan recognizes that the West is powered by the US economy and culture. The US is the flagship of Western powers which stands in the way of the rising again of Islamic dominance. Therefore, the sinking of the flagship that is the US or at least forcing them to disengage from the Middle East and North Africa, is the key to overthrowing the governments there, gaining control of the oil, and ultimately dominating the planet.

How, um, Austin Powers. Yet I think I can make a plausible case that all of this is the most likely explanation.

Argument the First Part

"After the fall of our orthodox caliphates on March 3, 1924 and after expelling the colonialists, our Islamic nation was afflicted with apostate rulers who took over in the Moslem nation. Moslems have endured all kinds of harm, oppression, and torture at their hands..."

"These young men realized that an Islamic government would never be established except by the bomb and rifle. Islam does not coincide or make truce with unbelief, but rather confronts it. The confrontation that Islam calls for with these godless and apostate regimes, does not know Socratic debates, Platonic ideals, or Aristotelian diplomacy. But it knows the dialogue of bullets, the ideals of assassination, bombing, and destruction, and the diplomacy of the cannon and machine gun.

"The young came to prepare themselves for jihad, commanded by the Majestic Allah's order in the holy Koran: 'Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies of Allah and your enemies, and others besides whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know.'


The Declaration of Jihad Against the Country's Tyrants
'Al Queda Training Manual'

To the Jihadists, the Ottoman Empire was the pinnacle of Muslim achievement.

The First Caliph acquired the station after Muhammad's death. The Abbasid Dynasty which followed sometime later had number of Caliphs between approximately 750 to 1250. Baghdad became the center of Islam and probably Islam's greatest achievements occurred during this period. But it went into decline and was decimated by Genghis Khan and the Boys from Mongolia. The rebuilding of the Caliphate came about by means of the Ottoman Empire which at it's height controlled almost the whole of North Africa, the Near East and the Balkans. India was overrun and a peaceful penetration of the East Indies and the Philippines took place. In the 1400s Istanbul (then called Byzantium) fell and Muslim besieged and took Vienna. Their expansion stopped at the gates of Central Europe.

The expansionism came at a price: autocratic regimes and injustice based on religion and extremely high taxes. And then the fatal mistake: the Ottoman Empire took the side of Germany in WWI....and lost.
The Ottoman Empire was destroyed, European colonization began, and the Caliphs were gone. To many the Golden Age of Islam's supremacy was gone, destroyed by the West. In truth, the Ottoman Empire destroyed itself; overindulging in lustful hegemony.

But today's Jihadists look back at this time as the Golden Age of Islam which was sacked by the Infidel West and left in ruin.

From what I can tell, the Jihadists conveniently forget that their spiritual ancestors, the Wahabists, were hunted down and killed by the armies of the Ottoman Empire, a story I will briefly tell since it is germane.

Sometime around 1700 Ibn Abdul Wahab was born and he took the central precept of Islam "there is no God but God" to extremes. As far as he was concerned, if you venerated anything but Allah, you were committing shirk; sin. He set about destroying holy shrines that stemmed from the days of Muhammad because to his way of thinking, these had become idols. He was also responsible for the deciding that the Shiites were evil because they venerated men they considered to be very holy. He also didn't like Sufis much. His greatest legacy, though, was that for the first time "jihad" against Muslims was legitimatized. His justification was that you were an Infidel if you did not adhere to the Wahabist Code of Religious Conduct. His greatest (actually, only) supporters were the tribal House of Saud who some say had their own political reasons for supporting him. Generally that reason was through Wahabism, they were free to go raiding other Islamic Arabic and Persian tribes and collect booty. They were very successful, insh'Allah. Wherever the Saudi's went, they took land, slaughtered people and brought Wahabism to justify further raids and land grabs. The blood lust and religious fervor of the Saudis spread Wahabism to the Persian Gulf, Oman and Bahrain, Mecca itself and parts of what is today Iraq.

These guys wound up being a bit too cocky, not to mention ambitious, and after a terrible massacre was effected by the Saudis in Karbala, The Ottomans took action and in the early 1800s the house of Saud was crushed by the Ottoman armies and their leader taken captive.

Since Islam means submission to Allah, anyone considered a scholar of the Quran, and a holy guy, can not be discredited. All he needs is a "constituency"; generally people who believe he is "channeling" Allah. Well Ibn Abdul Wahab, whose constituency was the Saudis and everyone they conquered, took his place among the "authorities" of Islam. As a result, while the Ottomans were able to crush the Saudi threat, they never were able to discredit Wahabism doctrinally.

And one of the reasons for this was that by now, the Ottoman leadership was thoroughly corrupt and did not live their religion as it had been lived in the early days of glory. There was no longer any authorized example for what a good Muslim should be besides the Wahabis. As a result, even after the Saudi's defeat at the hands of the Ottoman Army, they went underground and continued their inquisition, terrorizing the Indian sub-continent and setting up centers in Central Asia in addition to places they had already infected.

It wasn't long after this that the Ottomans were defeated in War by the West. The influx of Westerners to the area brought, necessarily Western ideas. The Wahabists saw this as corrupting influences and still do to this day. Ever since then, Jihadists have been awaiting the return of the Caliph who will unite the Islamic world and put the boot to everyone else.

Argument the Second Part

"This statement marks the beginning of worldwide Islamic jihad. To make so serious a call upon the Muslim ummah there must indeed be dire circumstances. It is only right that the basis for this call to jihad be clearly explained. Right now the battle with shaitan is being lost. In modern terms this is the battle against western secular materialism.

"You must know deeply in your heart that the influence of western secular materialism is the influence of shaitan. Western secular materialism takes us from our prayers, takes us from our Islamic culture, takes us from our Islamic economic system, takes us from our Islamic educational system, takes us from our Islamic values, turns our minds from Allah, and robs our children of an Islamic future. Western secular materialism gives us a society of crime, violence, drug abuse, alcoholism, prostitution, pornography, homosexuality, exploitation of people and resources, and reduces life to a meaningless exercise in futility. Western secular materialism creates in the minds of our children atheistic thought, disrespect for parents and elders, hopelessness, disregard for knowledge, and love of a debased animalistic lifestyle focused on only the crudest pleasures of the flesh. Do you not know this is exactly what shaitan most desires?

"Right now the Western nations are actively pushing their shaitanic culture upon the rest of the world. They are the most powerful nations militarily and economically that have ever existed in the history of the world. They use that military and economic power to remake the world in their image. They also have the most effective tools of propaganda and influence the world has ever seen. This form of brainwashing is carried out through their news media, television, movies, popular music, and fashion. They have been very successful in the developing countries and the Muslim nations in using these powerful tools of influence to mold and twist the minds of the young so that they crave, praise and participate in that depraved Western culture."


The Final Jihad
found at http://islamic-world.net/

To the Wahabist, the Saudi legal system and culture is not Islamic enough. In his Declaration of War on the US, Osama wrote:

"Ignoring the divine Shari'ah law; depriving people of their legitimate rights; allowing the American to occupy the land of the two Holy Places; imprisonment, unjustly, of the sincere scholars."


We know that Osama was much more comfortable with the cultural milieu enforced by the Taliban. By looking at the social strictures imposed in Afghanistan during their reign, it is possible to glean what is considered lawful by the Jihadists.

Men were required to wear beards.

Women were required to be covered from head to toe, were not allowed to attend school after the age of 8, and must always be accompanied by a male relative when outside their home.

No religion other than Islam could be discussed and no one could be a member of any other religion.

People were ruled by the Mullahs interpretation of Shar'ia; elections were not allowed

Music was not allowed

To the Jihadists, this is what Allah requires.

To the Jihadists, Western liberal Democracy is completely anathema to Islam.

But Osama was very specific and we need not infer. In his Letter to America in November 2002, he enumerates the evils of American culture:


Our constitution is evil because it is an invented system of laws; i.e. it is not Shar'ia.

Interest rates are considered Usury

We permit the making and drinking of alcohol

We permit immorality through personal freedom

We exploit women

We permit gambling


The evidence of a culture devoted to Shaitan is everywhere.

Therefore all good Muslims must oppose the US, the Great Satan

Argument the Third Part

"Praise be to Allah, who revealed the Book, controls the clouds, defeats factionalism, and says in His Book: "But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war)"; and peace be upon our Prophet, Muhammad Bin-'Abdallah, who said: I have been sent with the sword between my hands to ensure that no one but Allah is worshipped, Allah who put my livelihood under the shadow of my spear and who inflicts humiliation and scorn on those who disobey my orders."

Fatwah allowing the killing of Americans and their allies, 23 February 1998
-Osama bin Laden, et. al

(Q2) As for the second question that we want to answer: What are we calling you to, and what do we want from you?

(1) The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam.

(a) The religion of the Unification of God; of freedom from associating partners with Him, and rejection of this; of complete love of Him, the Exalted; of complete submission to His Laws; and of the discarding of all the opinions, orders, theories and religions which contradict with the religion He sent down to His Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Islam is the religion of all the prophets, and makes no distinction between them - peace be upon them all.

It is to this religion that we call you; the seal of all the previous religions. It is the religion of Unification of God, sincerity, the best of manners, righteousness, mercy, honour, purity, and piety. It is the religion of showing kindness to others, establishing justice between them, granting them their rights, and defending the oppressed and the persecuted. It is the religion of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil with the hand, tongue and heart. It is the religion of Jihad in the way of Allah so that Allah's Word and religion reign Supreme. And it is the religion of unity and agreement on the obedience to Allah, and total equality between all people, without regarding their colour, sex, or language....

The Islamic Nation that was able to dismiss and destroy the previous evil Empires like yourself; the Nation that rejects your attacks, wishes to remove your evils, and is prepared to fight you. You are well aware that the Islamic Nation, from the very core of its soul, despises your haughtiness and arrogance.

If the Americans refuse to listen to our advice and the goodness, guidance and righteousness that we call them to, then be aware that you will lose this Crusade Bush began, just like the other previous Crusades in which you were humiliated by the hands of the Mujahideen, fleeing to your home in great silence and disgrace. If the Americans do not respond, then their fate will be that of the Soviets who fled from Afghanistan to deal with their military defeat, political breakup, ideological downfall, and economic bankruptcy.

This is our message to the Americans, as an answer to theirs. Do they now know why we fight them and over which form of ignorance, by the permission of Allah, we shall be victorious?


Osama bin Laden's Letter to America, November 2002

'nuff said?

Conclusion

A discussion such as this necessarily requires us to delve into the realm of motivation and psychology. But can we really know another's motivation behind their action without the benefit of asking and after being answered assess the truth of what we were told? And even after we have done all of this, can we really be sure we understand? The answer of course is no, we can not.

What we can do is convince ourselves of a motivation based on careful analysis and then present our arguments and our conviction. Others will then judge for themselves.

The Chairman has asked for understanding. I have presented my understanding and will defend it. My opponent will present his understanding and defend it. Perhaps my arguments will prevail, perhaps his will prevail. Perhaps each of us hold separate pieces of the same puzzle that when put together, we will all understand more. Or not.

Humans are a complex of motivations and passions; reason and logic. But regardless, there are larger streams, and rivers, and oceans of history of which we are all apart one way or another, and ultimately the complexity of our actions dissolve and become a part of the current in which we ourselves are caught. So what I present is the current I see driving the individuals involved: the Jihadists. It will affect the motivations of each individual to a greater or lesser extent, but it will be the background upon which the battles will be fought. Is Osama using religion as a cover for material power? I don't know. But what I think is that regardless of his personal motivations, it is the religious meme that is driving the Jihadists.

It's clear that Allah and Shaitan are like oil and water and they don't like each other much (to put a dualist spin on things).

It's clear the Jihadists believe that they represent the true word of Allah. It's also clear they believe the US is on the side of Shaitan.

The Jihadists have broken down all barriers with regards to the rules of war: they intend to win by any means possible. Nothing will restrain them because to kill a non-Muslim is not a sin and Muslim is defined very narrowly allowing them to kill those whom they have decided are not true Muslims in addition to those who espouse other religions or no religion at all.

And if you ain't with 'em, you're against 'em.


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Official Iron Blog Topic List (Final Version)

All Combatants - Iron Bloggers and Challengers alike - should know that the Topic for any given Battle may be one of the Topics on this list. Timely Topics will be given priority as current events shape national dialogue, and new Topics may arise that are important for the time they are used, such as Battle Rumsfeld, but may not necessarily have a long shelf life, so to speak. The Topics on this list, however, are to be considered long-term Topics and hold up well over time.

A Challenger, when submitting a Challenge, must choose no less than 15 Topics from the list (there are 150 in all) and give their positions on each for The Chairman's consideration. In most cases, one of these 15(+) will end up being the Topic for that Challenger's Battle, but The Chairman may decide that a new Topic from current events is more timely, or that something else from the list is more interesting.

Iron Bloggers have the unenviable task of being required to send The Chairman their positions on every one of these Topics so that he may have the best chance of picking a Topic that will involve an honest, actual disagreement between Combatants. This will help to insure that each Battle is as comfortable and intellectually honest as possible before it begins and thereby minimize recent issues of Combatant agreement. Please note that Topics may be used more than once, allowing different Iron Bloggers to Battle the same issues with different Challengers. Use of a Topic does not make it 'used up'.

The 150 Iron Blog Topics are:

Abortion
Abstinence-Only Sex Ed
Affirmative Action
AIDS Funding
Alternative Energy
Animal Research
Animal Rights
Arab-Israeli Conflict
Assault Rifle Ban
Balanced Budget
Brady Bill
Bush Tax Cuts
Business Taxes
Campaign Finance Reform
Capitalism
Censorship
Childcare (State)
China-Taiwan Conflict
Christian Nation
Church and State
Class Warfare
Cloning (Animals)
Cloning (Human Body Parts)
Cloning (Humans)
Compulsory Organ Donation
Compulsory Vaccinations (Children)
Compulsory Vaccinations (Military)
Compulsory Voting
Condoms In Highschools
Copyright
Corporal Punishment (In Schools)
Creationism As Science
Cuba (Policy)
Death Penalty
Defense Spending
Deficit Spending
Disability Rights (Accessibility)
Disability Rights (Employment)
Don't Ask/Don't Tell
Draft
Drugs
Education (Homeschooling)
Education (Public)
Education (Private)
Electoral College
Environmental Protection
Euthanasia
Evolution As Science
E-Voting
File Sharing
Flag Burning
Flat Tax
Foreign Policy (Multi-lateral)
Foreign Policy (Uni-lateral)
Fossil Fuel
Fox News
Free Trade
Gambling (General)
Gambling (Indian)
Gay Adoption
Gay Marriage
Geneva Conventions (General)
Geneva Conventions (War on Terror)
Global Warming
Gun Control
Hate Crimes
Hate Speech (Should It Be Protected)
Healthcare (Private)
Healthcare (Universal, Multi-Payer)
Healthcare (Universal, Single-Payer)
Homeland Security (Policy)
Homeland Security Department (Should It Exist)
Immigration
Income Taxes
Instant Runoff Voting
Intelligence (Iraq War)
Intelligence (Terrorism)
International Court
Iraq Handover
Iraq Occupation
Iraq War
Judicial Activism
Judicial Nominees (Bush)
Kyoto Protocols
Legacy Admissions
Liberal Media
Line Item Veto
Living Wage
Manditory Sentencing
Medicare (General)
Medicare (Prescription Drug Bill)
Medicinal Marijuana
Military Intervention
Minimum Wage
Minority Voters
NAFTA
National Sales Tax
National Service (Compulsory)
North Korea (Policy)
No Smoking Bans
Nuclear Energy
Nuclear Weapons (Retain or Reduce)
Oil Exploration (Alaska)
Oil Exploration (Offshore)
Outsourcing (Cause)
Outsourcing (Merits)
Overpopulation
Pakistan-India Conflict
Patients' Bill Of Rights
Patriot Act
Piracy
Pledge Of Allegiance
Political Correctness
Pornography
Prayer In School
Prison System
Prostitution
Race Relations
Racial Profiling
Reasonable Search and Seizure
Reparations
Right To Privacy (Boundaries)
Scarcity
School Violence (Causes)
School Vouchers
Social Security (Privitization)
Social Security (Solvency)
Spanking
Special Education (Integration v. Isolation)
Stem Cell Research
Sudan Conflict
Term Limits
Terrorism (Cause)
Terrorism (Islam)
Terrorism (Prevention)
Third Parties
Tort Reform
Unions
United Nations (Membership)
United Nations (Reforms)
Utility Deregulation
Veganism
Violence In Media
War On Terror (Policy)
War On Terror (Success)
WTO



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Sunday, July 25, 2004

A Quick Note From The Chairman

Big changes are coming in the near future, as Iron Blog grows and evolves into what I really want it to be. In order for this to happen, however, I need a specific bit of help.

I need a volunteer (as in, you won't be paid but you will be credited and thanked profusely) with a good grasp of Movable Type style-design to help with the project as we move forward. Send email to the email link at the top of the page if interested.

Gracias.

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Ninth Battle

Our Challenger this week comes to us from Cool Blue Blog. When asked to describe himself, Frank LaPinto offered the following:
"I'm am for "right" stuff like cutting taxes, reducing the size of government and for the war on Islamo-fascists (including the war in Iraq), I could care less if gays are allowed to marry (though this should be a political decision not a judicial decision). I think the whole abortion debate should be outside of the political domain altogether (which, of course means that it should be legal). I'm pro gun rights (though I personally don't own any) and though I'm not religious, I do not think that draconian separation of church and state is either necessary or desirable. Oh, and creationism should be treated as junk science, not another "theory"."
Originally, Iron Blogger Green was scheduled to debut this week, but due to real-life circumstances she had to decline the Battle.

Iron Blogger Democrat, Jay Bullock, I summon you to the field of Battle to defend your perfect record. May you once more bring honor and glory to the Iron Bloggers with a victory.

If memory serves me right, our Battles have covered various facets of the War on Terror, from the performance of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to the use of torture to gather information from terrorist prisoners. But I am still left wondering, beneath it all, why are we at war? We were attacked, obviously, but that is not what I mean. It is a source of much personal conflict as I try wrap my mind around it all. Perhaps my Combatants can enlighten me. The Topic for the Battle is this:

Causes of Terrorism

What leads a group of people to crash an airplane into a building? What makes neighbors in Kashmir kill each other in their sleep? What makes the homeland of the world's largest religions a battlefield? Is it religious? Is it socio-economic? Is it cultural? Let us see what the Combatants have to say.

Allez debate!


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Blitz Battle Winners
Chris in NH (BB #2)
Big Dan (BB #6)
Former Challengers
Jimmie Bisse Jr. of The Sundries Shack
Chris of World Inquiry
Dean Esmay of Dean's World
Big Dan of God In The Machine
Owen of Boots and Sabers
Frank LoPinto of Cool Blue Blog
Bryan S of Arguing With Signposts
Ralph Stefan of Ralph's Garage
Former Iron Bloggers
Rosemary Esmay (2-1)


Blogroll
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