Archive for Islamic violence

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.

Eye-Opening Graphic: Map of Muslim Countries that the U.S. and Israel Have Bombed

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2011 by loonwatch

(updated – see below)

Pro-Israel propagandist Jeffrey Goldberg made an inadvertent but profound admission the other day when he said: “[T]he U.S. have been waging a three-decade war for domination of the Middle East.”

This “three-decade war for domination of the Middle East” becomes apparent when we consider how many Muslim countries the peace-loving United States and her “stalwart ally” Israel have bombed:

During Bill Clinton’s presidency, the U.S. bombed Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sudan.

In the time of George Bush, the U.S. bombed Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, and Somalia.

Under Barack Obama, the U.S. is currently bombing Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya.  According to some reports (see here and here), we can add Iran to this ever-expanding list. [Update: 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.]

Thanks to American arms and funding, our “stalwart ally” Israel has bombed every single one of its neighbors, including Palestine, LebanonSyria, Jordan, and Egypt.  Israel has also bombed Tunisia and Iraq (how many times can Americans and Israelis bomb this country?).

The total number of Muslim countries that America and Israel have bombed comes to fourteen: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Iran, Sudan, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Tunisia.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has military bases in several countries in the Greater Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Turkey, Pakistan, UAE, Yemen, Iraq,  AfghanistanDjiboutiKyrgyzstan, SomaliaEthiopiaTurkmenistanUzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Chad. The U.S. also used to have a base in Eritrea and demanded another one in 2010. [Update: There is a minor error here pointed out to me by Prof. Juan Cole: the U.S. troops stationed in Uzbekistan are using an Uzbek, not American, base.  However, this makes little substantive difference: there is still a U.S. military presence in that country, which was my point.]

Here’s what that looks like on a map of the Greater Middle East:

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

I wonder where those silly Muslims come up with the conspiratorial, absolutely irrational idea that the U.S. is waging war against the Muslim world?

If you haven’t already seen this video, I strongly suggest you watch it:

With seven active wars in seven different Muslim countries, it is quite an amazing thing that Americans can have the audacity to ask: “why are Muslims so violent and warlike?”

But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  The New York Times reports that President Barack Obama “widened” the war, which is now being waged across “two continents” in “roughly a dozen countries — from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics,” using “robotic drones and commando teams” as well as “contractors” and “local operatives.”

Even more worrisome, the Washington Post reports that America’s “secret wars” are waged by “Special Operations forces” in “75 countries” (and “that number will likely reach 120″); in other words, the United States will have engaged in military acts in over 60% of the world’s nation-states.  After all of this, Americans will turn around and ask: “why are Muslims so violent and warlike?”

Could it possibly be more obvious that the War on Terror is just a pretext for global domination?

*  *  *  *  *

Every four years, Americans get the illusion of choice: the choice between Democrat and Republican.  In terms of foreign policy, the difference is like the difference between Coke and Pepsi.  In the last election, John McCain sang a variation of the famous Beach Boys song “Barbara Ann,” changing the lyrics to “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran!”; meanwhile, Barack Obama hinted at expanding the war to Pakistan.  The American voter was given the choice not between war and peace, but between war against Iran or war against Pakistan.

In the national discourse, there exists a bipartisan consensus on the need for perpetual war: both candidates agreed on the need to expand the War on of Terror and attack more Muslim countries.  There was no confusion about whether or not to bomb, invade, and occupy–the question was only where to do this.  If the Muslim world were imagined to be a turkey, the question was then only whether to begin munching on the leg first or to start with the breast.

President Barack Obama may have disagreed with his predecessor’s tactics, but he agreed with the Bush/Cheney world view.  Obama may have thought we could move around troops here and there–let’s move some of these troops from Iraq to Afghanistan–but he did not disagree with the basic premise, overall methods, and goals of the Bush/Cheney War on of Terror.

Interestingly, Obama was considered to be “the peace candidate”; even more absurd of course was that he ended up winning the Noble Peace Prize.  While it is true that the Democratic Obama has tended to use less hawkish language, in terms of actions Obama has a worse record than Bush: Obama has expanded the War on of Terror, both in terms of covert and overt wars.

Why did a “liberal” Democrat (Barack Obama) end up being more warlike than a “hawkish” Republican (George Bush)?  There is of course the obvious explanation of war inertia.  But aside from this, there must be something deeper, which is apparent if we look at the situation between what were historically the two large parties in Israel.

Western media (see Time Magazine, for example), portrays the Labor Party as “dovish” and Likud as “hawkish”.  Certainly, in terms of rhetoric this is true.  But, is it really true?  According to experts in the field–such as Prof. Noam Chomsky and Dr. Norman Finkelstein–Labor has had a far worse track record toward Palestinians than the Likud.  Labor and Likud play good cop, bad cop toward Palestinians–or rather bad cop, badder cop.  But while the two parties disagree on rhetoric and tactics, they share similar overall goals.

The same is the case with Democrats and Republicans.  The Democrats use softer rhetoric, whereas the Republicans continually push the national discourse (the “center”) rightward.  But, because a Democratic president must counter the accusation that he is “weak” on matters of “defense” (Orwell: offense is defense), he must be Strong and Tough against Terrorism.  Effectively this means that his war policy becomes virtually indistinguishable from that of the political right.

Furthermore, President Barack Obama has done something that no Republican could do: he has brought bipartisan consensus to the state of perpetual and global war.  During the reign of George Bush, prominent liberal progressives criticized his warlike policies.  In fact, this was one of the motivating factors behind electing Obama, who would bring “Change.”  Yet, when Obama brought more of the same, most liberal progressives fell silent, a hypocrisy that did not go unnoticed by conservatives.

It took a “liberal” Democrat to expand the War on of Terror and give it bipartisan consensus, just as it took a conservative Republican (Richard Nixon) to make peace with Communist China.

Under the two-party system, it really does not matter which side wins.  A Republican candidate might sound more warlike than a Democrat, but once in office, he softens his position somewhat due to Democratic opposition (even though most of the Democrats won’t vote against war resolutions).  Meanwhile, a Democrat president must prove that he is Strong and Tough against Terrorism, so he hardens his position.  In the end, Democratic and Republican presidents are moved to the political “center” (which keeps getting pushed ever more to the right), so that the two are virtually indistinguishable from each other.  Perhaps Barack Obama was onto something when he said:

There’s not a liberal America or a conservative America; there’s the United States of America.

It is true: America’s politicians are united in their endorsement of perpetual and global war.

The United States has a long history of bipartisan consensus when it comes to waging wars of aggression.  In 1846, the country was divided between the hawkish Democratic party led by President James K. Polk and the supposedly dovish Whig party.  Polk’s administration saber-rattled against Mexico in order to justify invading and occupying their land.  Meanwhile, “[t]he Whig party was presumably against the war,” but “they were not so powerfully against the military action that they would stop it by denying men and money for the operation” (p.153 of Prof. Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States). In fact, the “Whigs joined Democrats in voting overwhelmingly for the war resolution, 174 to 14.”  They did so, because “[t]hey did not want to risk the accusation that they were putting American soldiers in peril by depriving them of the materials necessary to fight.”  The only dissenters were “a small group of antislavery Whigs, or a ‘little knot of ultraists,’ as one Massachusetts Congressman who voted for the war measure put it.”  Perhaps among them was Ron Paul’s great grandfather.

The measure passed the Congress (174 to 14) and the Senate (40 to 2), “Whigs joining Democrats.”  The Whigs “could only harry the administration with a barrage of verbiage while voting for every appropriation which the military campaigns required.”  In any case, “the United States would be giving the blessings of liberty and democracy” to the Mexicans.  Any of this sound familiar?

Flash forward to today and we see the establishment left consistently supporting America’s wars of aggression.  Even while these avowed liberals criticize right-wingers for warmongering against Iran, they themselves often saber-rattle against Pakistan and even Saudi Arabia.  The right thinks we’re doing something great in Iraq and wants to expand the war to Iran (which we may already have done).  Meanwhile, the left thinks we were right to bomb Afghanistan and that we should expand the war to Pakistan (which we’ve already done).  Neither left or right opposes foreign wars altogether.  The difference is only with regard to the names of the countries we bomb, which doesn’t really matter since the truth is that we are bombing all of them now.

This is because both left and right agree with the Supreme Islamophobic Myth: that Islam (or radical Islam) is the greatest threat to world peace.  This inevitably leads to the central tenet of Islamophobia, which is to endorse the Supreme Islamophobic Crime: bombing, invading, and occupying Muslim lands.

Peace can only be attained when one is disabused of this mother of nationalistic myths.  This can only be done by realizing that it is the United States that is the greatest threat to peace in the region (look at the map!).  Consider that the U.S. has bombed at least a dozen Muslim countries in recent history, whereas zero Muslim countries have bombed the U.S.  If “wars of aggression” constitute “the supreme international crime”–as decided during the Nuremberg Trials–then what does it say about the situation when America has initiated multiple wars of aggression against the Muslim world whereas no single Muslim country has done so against the United States?

No Muslim country has attacked us because the risks of doing so are far too great; it would mean almost certain destruction.  This is why, even though the map of the Middle East in the image above looks like it does, no Muslim country has the audacity to retaliate.  Meanwhile, the U.S.–as the world’s only superpower–can attack multiple smaller countries without fear of significant retaliation to the American heartland.  Therefore, it only makes sense for people of conscience, especially Americans, to be highly critical of U.S. foreign policy.

*  *  *  *  *

Something else troubling I’ve noticed about the national discourse is how even those opposed to war (or at least one set of wars) will frame their opposition in financial terms.  The primary argument to convince Americans against war seems not to be the fact that war is immoral, that bombing countries and killing so many countless civilians is morally repugnant, but rather that it’s just too costly to do so.  It’s our wallets, not our soul, that is at stake.

Another argument that takes precedence over the moral argument includes the idea that too many of our troops are dying (victim inversion); alternatively, it is argued (rightfully) that such wars increase the likelihood of terrorism against us (another example of victim inversion).

During the Nuremberg Trials, it was decided that initiating a war of aggression constituted “the supreme international crime”:

To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.

Of what moral character would you consider a Nazi official if he argued against Hitler’s wars on the basis of “it will cost too much German tax payer money” or “it will kill too many German soldiers” or “it may result in retaliation against Germany?” (Refer to Glenn Greenwald’s article on Godwin’s law.)

Would it not be better to use as one’s central argument against America’s wars that it is morally repugnant to bomb and kill people?

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.  

Update I:

Prof. Juan Cole was kind enough to reproduce the image and link to our article.  He had some minor issues with the map, to which I responded here.