Archive for Informed Comment

Reply to Prof. Juan Cole

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2011 by loonwatch

Prof. Juan Cole was kind enough to link to my article Eye-Opening Graphic: Map of Muslim Countries that the U.S. and Israel Have Bombed.

He reproduced this image I created:

(Note: Image quality has improved, thanks to a reader named Mohamed S.)

However, he wrote:

(I generally agree, but there are a couple of problems here, see below)

Prof. Cole’s first problem with my article was with regard to shading Iran red (red = countries the U.S. or Israel have bombed):

I may be having a senior moment, but I actually don’t think the US has bombed Iran. It shot down an Iranian civilian air liner in 1988 and has backed the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) or People’s Jihadis to blow things up in Iran. It also gave tactical support to Saddam Hussein’s military in the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988, and so bombed Iran by proxy. But I can’t remember any direct US military strike on the country.

In my article, I explained why I shaded Iran red.  I wrote:

Under Barack Obama, the U.S. is currently bombing AfghanistanIraqPakistanYemenSomalia, and Libya.  According to some reports (see here and here), we can add Iran to this ever-expanding list.

There have been a series of explosions in Iran which many believe to be linked to America and/or Israel.  For example:

Iranian nuclear scientist killed in bomb attack

Bomb attacks have killed a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist and wounded another in Tehran, state TV reported today.

To me, a bomb is a bomb is a bomb–no matter how it is delivered.

Just today Haaretz is reporting:

Seven killed in explosion at Iranian steel mill linked with nuclear program

Explosion follows two blasts that occurred in Iran in recent weeks at sites linked to Tehran’s nuclear program.

At least seven people were killed Sunday night in an explosion at a steel mill in the Iranian city of Yazd. Foreign nationals, possibly North Korean nuclear arms experts, are believed to be among the dead.

The explosion follows two blasts that occurred in Iran in recent weeks at sites linked to Tehran’s nuclear program…

The explosions in the past few months join a series of assassination attempts on Iranian nuclear scientists over the past two years…

The Los Angeles Times writes:

Mysterious blasts, slayings suggest covert efforts in Iran

Attacks targeting nuclear scientists and sites lead some observers to believe that the U.S. and Israel are trying to derail Iran’s programs…

However, many former U.S. intelligence officials and Iran experts believe that the explosion — the most destructive of at least two dozen unexplained blasts in the last two years — was part of a covert effort by the U.S., Israel and others to disable Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. The goal, the experts say, is to derail what those nations fear is Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons capability and to stave off an Israeli or U.S. airstrike to eliminate or lessen the threat.

Therefore, I did not feel it unreasonable to include Iran in countries that America/Israel have bombed, although I did preface it with “[a]ccording to some experts…”

Then, Prof. Cole wrote:

Also, the US has had no base in Uzbekistan since 2005.

In my article, I hyperlinked to this BBC News article:

US troops returning to Uzbek base

Uzbekistan is once again allowing the US to use a base in the south of the country for operations in Afghanistan…

US troops were evicted from Uzbekistan in 2005 after the US condemned it for shooting protesters in Andijan city.

However, Prof. Cole is correct: these U.S. troops are using an Uzbek, not American, base.  This is something I should have pointed out and is an error on my part for which I thank Prof. Cole for pointing out.

Nonetheless, this error makes little substantive difference: there is still a U.S. military presence in that country, regardless of if they are stationed on a U.S. base, an Uzbek one, a farm house, or a dog house.

In retrospect, perhaps I should have entitled the image “Countries the U.S. and Israel Have Bombed and Have Troops Stationed in,” (which doesn’t flow from the tongue as easily).

Then, Prof. Cole wrote:

I also questioned Turkmenistan but found this.

In my article, I linked to this.

Lastly, Prof. Cole said:

Finally, there is a logical fallacy because having a US base in a country is the result of a bilateral agreement and it isn’t always unpopular, even at the level of the person on the street. In the Cold War, Turks were very happy to have the US presence to deter the Soviets.

I humbly disagree that this was “a logical fallacy” on my part.  I never denied that there was a substantial difference between a military base resulting from “a bilateral agreement” and one resulting from a military occupation.

However, there is also a difference between (say) “a bilateral agreement” with the U.K. on the one hand and Pakistan on the other.  The former is treated as an ally, whereas the latter is treated as a vassal state.  The U.S. strong-armed the Pakistani leadership into acquiescing to American demands (do what we want or else “we will bomb you back to the Stone Age”) even though it was clearly not in their national interest to do so (well, not being bombed back to the Stone Age made it their national interest).

This leads to the second issue: these “bilateral agreements” are often highly unpopular among the people of such countries.  As a democratic country, shouldn’t we care about the will of the people?  Or do we follow a long tradition of colonialism and make deals with the elite crony leadership that has ingratiated itself to us at the expense of their people?

Prof. Cole goes on to argue that U.S. military bases arranged through bilateral agreements aren’t “always unpopular, even at the level of the person on the street.”  He gives the example of Turkey in the Cold War.  However, there is a greater issue at stake here: even if a U.S. military base is popular in one particular country, we must consider its popularity in neighboring countries and the region overall.  If the Soviet Union had created a military base in Cuba (which the Cubans may have very much liked), would we have liked it?  Or would we have (rightfully) considered it threatening?

So, even if a U.S. base in (say) Saudi Arabia was arranged through “bilateral agreement” and was (let’s pretend) popular with the Saudi people, this would still be problematic since its presence is threatening to other countries in the region, whose people view the United States and Israel as the two greatest threats to their safety.

The bottom line is that the overwhelming military presence of the United States in the Greater Middle East is responsible for creating resentment in those people who are either living in lands we occupy, station our troops in, or whom we surround.

*  *  *  *  *

I should mention that I hold Prof. Juan Cole in very high regard.  He is a respected expert in the field, and I issue my response only very timidly.  Furthermore, I welcome the very real possibility that I am mistaken.

Update I:

Prof. Cole just added:

Still, that there are a lot of resentments because of knee-jerk US backing (since the late 1960s) for Israeli hawks and because of the way the US and its ally have sought hegemony in the region, so the mapmaker has a point.

I agree, but would just add that it adds resentment not just in people who live in Turkey but those who live in the region in general.

Lastly, I should point out that I doubt Turks still view the U.S. bases in their country positively, based on the fact that a plurality of Turks view America as the greatest threat to their national security (not surprisingly, Israel comes in at number 2).

Update II:

An Informed Comment reader named Shannon pointed out that in fact the United States bombed Iran in 1988 during Operating Praying Mantis, an act that “cannot be justified” according to the International Court of Justice.

White Terrorism: Jared Lee Loughner Shoots Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2011 by loonwatch

Another case of, “All Muslims are Terrorist…no, wait.”

White Terrorism

by Juan Cole

Jared Lee Loughner,the assassin of Federal judge John M. Roll and five others and attempted assassin of Rep. Gabrielle Gifford (D-AZ), was clearly mentally unstable. But the political themes of his instability were those of the American far Right. Loughner was acting politically even if he is not all there. He is said to have called out the names of his victims, such as Roll and Gifford, as he fired. As usual, when white people do these things, the mass media doesn’t call it terrorism.

It is irrelevant that Loughner may (at this point we can only say “may”) have been a liberal years earlier in high school. If so, he changed. And among the concerns that came to dominate him as he moved to the Right was the illegitimacy of the “Second Constitution” (the 14th Amendment, which bestows citizenship on all those born in the US, a provision right-wingers in Arizona are trying to overturn at the state level). Loughner also thought that Federal funding for his own community college was unconstitutional, and he was thrown out for becoming violent over the issue. He obviously shared with the Arizona Right a fascination with firearms, and it is telling that a disturbed young man who had had brushes with the law was able to come by an automatic pistol. He is said to have used marijuana, which would be consistent with a form of anti-government, right-wing Libertarianism. I don’t think we can take too seriously the list of books he said he liked, as a guide to his political thinking. They could just have been randomly pulled off some list of great books on the Web, since there is no coherence to the choices.

The man who had most to do with Loughner after his arrest, Pima County Sherriff Clarence W. Dupnik, was clearly angered by what he heard from the assassin: “When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry … it is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become sort of the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

When Gifford helped pass the Health Care bill, according to Suzy Khimm, “extremists subsequently encouraged the public to throw bricks through the windows of lawmakers.” Gifford had to call the police once before when an attendee at one of her events dropped a gun. Gifford had complained ‘ in an MSNBC interview that a Sarah Palin graphic had depicted her district in the crosshair of a gun sight. “They’ve got to realize there are consequences to that,” she said. “The rhetoric is incredibly heated.” ‘

The subtext of the angst over the shooting of Gifford is that in recent months Loughner was saying Tea-Party-like things about the Federal government. The violent language of “elimination,” “putting in the cross-hairs,” (as with Palin’s poster, above) “taking back,” “taking out,” to which members of that movement so often resort, has created a heated atmosphere that easily seeps into the unconscious of the mentally disturbed. That is Dupnik’s point.

There apparently is some indication that Loughner had an accomplice, and his arrest and identification will shed a great deal more light on the motivations behind this political massacre. Did Loughner have a Rasputin?

In some ways, the turn of Loughner to the themes of the American far right parallels what happened to Michael Enright, who slashed the throat of a Bangladeshi cab driver at the height of the campaign promoting hatred of Muslims launched last summer-fall by Rick Lazio and Rupert Murdoch. Everyone should have learned from that tragedy that heated rhetoric has consequences.

Those right-wing bloggers who want to dismiss Loughner as merely disturbed are being hypocritical, since they won’t similarly dismiss obviously unstable Muslims who, like the so-called “Patriots” of the McVeigh stripe, sometimes turn violent. (Zacharias Moussawi, for instance, isn’t playing with a full set of backgammon dominoes, and blaming Islam for him is bizarre). In fact, the right-wing Muslim crackpots and the right-wing American crackpots are haunted by similar anxieties, about a powerful government in Washington undermining their localistic ideas of the good life.

AP has video on the shootings, h/t LAT.

Among the last things Gifford did before she was shot was to reply to the Tea Party-inspired congressional reading of the Constitution by reading out the Bill of Rights. She obviously enjoyed pronouncing the words, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” But where members of Congress encourage extreme rhetoric, and where Rupert Murdoch’s stable of demagogues use code to whip up racial hatred and violence, those rights can be withdrawn by vigilante and mob violence. Not the letter of the Constitution can protect us, but only its spirit, and then only when implemented in our daily lives.

 

Loonwatch in the Media: NPR and Juan Cole’s Informed Comment

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 21, 2010 by loonwatch

Loonwatch has been in the media quite a bit, The New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, etc. and now NPR and Professor Juan Cole at his Informed Comment.

Muslims Try to Get Media-Savvy (go to 3:15)
http://www.wnyc.org/media/audioplayer/red_progress_player_no_pop.swf

by Arun Venugopal

Muslim intellectuals and activists appear to have a favorite source of TV news: “The Daily Show,” which reliably skewers critics of Islam and Islam-based hysteria, and is in all likelihood the only program with a Senior Islamic Correspondent, in Aasif Mandvi.

More serious, but equally edgy is LoonWatch, a relatively new Web site whose editors want to remain anonymous. The people behind LoonWatch (which bears the faux-alarmist tagline, “The Mooslims! They’re Heeere!”) said their mission is to expose “anti-Muslim loons, wackos, and conspiracy theorists” on the Internet.  One of their most widely-circulated articles was “All Terrorists are Muslims… except the 94% who Aren’t,” and was based on FBI statistics showing that only 6 percent of terrorists since 1980 have been Muslim.

DePaul University professor Laith Saud said LoonWatch is not only funny and incisive, but much better at addressing Islam and critics of Islam than the mainstream media.

“In terms of the intellectual claims being made by Islamophobes, those really go unchallenged,” he said. “What the mainstream media is really concerned with is how Islamophobia is playing out politically in this country, in terms of Republicans and Democrats, in terms of voter registration and voter drives.

Loonwatch’s beef it should be reiterated is not with mere critics of Islam but those who traffic in irrational fear of Islam and are pushing an anti-Muslim agenda. The reason we get it more than the mainstream media is because we are ahead of the game. We have been talking about Spencer, Geller and the anti-Muslim movement and its potential to create Islamophobiapalooza for a year and a half now, long before the mainstream media. We have knowledgeable people from all backgrounds, because in the end the fight against bigotry and hate is a universal fight.

Professor Juan Cole used the analysis we first published on the Europol report on terrorist attacks in Europe and also linked to us in a great blog piece on Informed Comment.

On Juan Williams’ Firing for Islamophobia and how Most European Terrorism is by European Separatists

A Europol report on terrorist attacks in Europe in 2009 [pdf] says that out of hundreds of terrorist attacks iin Europe in 2009, most were the work of ethnic separatists. About 40 were carried out by members of the extreme left. A handful by the European far right. See also this analysis.

One terrorist attack was carried out in 2009 in all Europe by persons of Muslim heritage (I do not say ‘by a Muslim’ because terrorism is forbidden in Islamic law).

That is right. Out of hundreds. Exactly one.

After all that nonsense spewed on the internet and Fox Cable News about the danger of Muslims to Europe, and all the ethnic profiling and other discrimination against Muslims, it turns out that not only is their religion not dangerous, even the persons who depart from it into extremism and terrorism are tiny in number. Now it would not be right to profile or generalize about Basques, the Real IRA, etc., either. But even by the lights of the bigoted, it would be a waste of time to obsess about Muslims on this evidence.

As for the European far left and far right, those it is all right to generalize about and to conclude that they are, like, very dangerous. Two words: Stalin and Hitler. Extremists of Muslim heritage have killed a few thousands of people over the past century. European political extremists have killed tens of millions.