Archive for War on Terrorism

New and Improved Rules for Drone Warfare

Posted in Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , on April 27, 2012 by loonwatch

Drone in Iran

This photo released, Dec. 8, 2011, by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, claims to show US RQ-170 Sentinel drone which Tehran says its forces downed. (AP Photo)

Drone warfare has made killing people from afar easy and virtually risk free.

Now the Iranians claim that they’ve reverse engineered a captured US drone and cracked its secrets. This claim was met with skepticism, but even if it’s true and the technology proves useful, can anyone imagine Iranian drones in the skies over Western countries? Of course not!

In the real world, we kill and they die, not the other way around. If that sacred rule is broken, they are clearly engaging in “terrorism,” which merely gives us an excuse to unleash even more death and destruction. If the Iranians don’t grasp the rules, they can expect to be obliterated.

US drones prowl the skies of a growing list of countries, killing suspected terrorists and innocent civilians with mindless efficiency. Heavy with sarcasm, Hamilton Nolan describes new, relaxed (and frightening) rules that will allow the US to expand drone warfare, in Yemen and beyond.

New and Improved Rules for Drone Warfare

by Hamilton NolanThe Gawker

Good news for people who love freedom, hate terrorism, and people who do not live in Yemen and will never visit Yemen and do not appear to be from Yemen or its surrounding areas: the U.S. government is relaxing its rules for drone strikes in Yemen. When it comes to incinerating more or less inscrutable targets with unseen missile attacks like Zeus himself, why be encumbered by a bunch of bureaucratic rules?

The new policy reportedly ”includes targeting fighters whose names aren’t known but who are deemed to be high-value terrorism targets or threats to the U.S.” No more pesky hours of intelligence-gathering before you can vaporize that jeep from above. But do these rules go far enough in eliminating those who Hate Our Freedoms and Familes and Children, and Our Children and Families’ Freedoms™? We think not. A few common sense edits for the future of warfare:

  • If someone is carrying a machine gun, RPG, or shoulder-fired missile that looks like an imminent threat to any Coalition soldiers, whether from the Western world or from the Muslim world, they may be killed.
  • If someone in an area known for militant activity appears to be transporting cargo with brown and grey markings consistent with databases of the graphic skin that covers the outside of missiles or rockets and moves with an intent to set up and fire those armaments at Coalition forces, they may be blown up.
  • If someone is determined through confirmed intelligence of a reliable nature to be forming a terrorist group with the intent and capability of causing mass casualties in America or in any territory of an American ally in the Middle East, and they cannot be apprehended without significant risk of loss of civilian life, they may be kabazongaed to bababooey with a f***ing Hellfire, bro.

A little common sense goes a long way.

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The Islamophobia Excuse

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2012 by loonwatch
Sharia HysteriaPhoto by Ann Hermes / The Christian Science Monitor

Why would politicians and pundits want Americans to hate Islam and Muslims?

Many reasons, argues Philip Giraldi, including promoting Israel’s interests and justifying an endless series of wars in far away lands. (H/T: MasterQ)

The Islamophobia Excuse

by , Antiwar.com

It seems that the Republican presidential aspirants’ fervor to confront Islam has receded a bit with the decline and fall of Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich, but one can likely still count on Rick Santorum to come up with some bon mots on the threat posed by Shariah law. Those who fear that hands will soon be lopped off shoplifters caught in Cleveland appear to be making much ado about nothing, but there is a much broader and more insidious agenda that is really playing out behind the scenes. Perry, Gingrich, and Santorum are all smart enough to know that Islamic law is hardly poised to dominate the U.S. legal system, but they are using it as the wedge issue to deny the patriotism of Muslims in general and fuel the demands to exercise a military option against Iran.

Promoting fear of Shariah law is essentially a red herring. There are more than 50 predominantly Muslim countries in the world, and, while most have elements of Shariah in their civil and family law, only two have it as their criminal codes. They are Saudi Arabia and Iran, one a close ally of the United States and the West and the other currently playing the cameo role of a threat to the entire world, to borrow a phrase from the eminent Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel. The countries that do not have Shariah as their criminal codes have modeled their laws on European and American models, some borrowing from Roman law and others from British common law.

Depicting Islam as manifestly medieval, backward, and cruel is not new, as it has been going on in one form or another since the Israelis and Palestinians first locked horns. Recognizing that the propaganda that is being ground out in the mainstream media derives from that conflict, it is easy to understand why Muslims are persistently portrayed in negative terms. And it should be equally unsurprising to learn that those who are denigrating Muslims and Islam are almost invariably among the most uncritical supporters of Likudist Israel and all its works.

The list of those who are passionate about how bad Islam is has a familiar ring to it. It is led by the truly vicious and fanatical like Pamela Geller and includes John Bolton, David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes, and Charles Krauthammer. Geller has written that there is “a systematic campaign to impose Shariah on the secular marketplace” and to pervert the justice system in favor of Islamic exemptions, a theme that has been picked up by Gingrich and Santorum, both of whom favor pointless laws banning Shariah in any form. In a milder form, the same viewpoint is reflected in both the news coverage and the editorial pages of newspapers like The New York PostThe Washington Post, and even The New York Times. The arguments being made are not necessarily intended to convince anyone other than those who are already more than half onboard, but they are designed to keep the issue of how Muslims are not quite like the rest of us on the back burner to so that the legitimate aspirations of Palestinians and other Arabs will somehow always seem suspect. It also fuels other narratives that the neoconservatives and their friends support, like perpetual warfare against Islamic countries to bring about regime changes, suggesting that there is something that is not quite right in the way that Muslim countries govern themselves. The real objective is, however, spelled out in the paper that the neocons presented to Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996, “A Clean Break,” advocating the breakup of Arab countries into smaller components that would be perpetually at war with themselves, thereby assuring Israeli predominance in the region. As is so often the case, the conversation in the United States is really all about Israel.

The broader agenda of Islamophobia also fuels arguments to continue to stay the course in places like Afghanistan. Urinating on corpses, hunting and killing local farmers for sport, shooting women and children in the middle of the night, and burning Qurans are all justified because American soldiers find themselves in a difficult and stress-filled environment where the enemies are everywhere and are manifestly not quite real people in the same sense that boys from Kansas are. Muslims become abstractions, and there is the undercurrent of “Don’t they know we are there to help them?” The rarely spelled-out subtext in all the narratives that seek to explain or mitigate the barbaric behavior on the part of America’s finest is that the Afghans are not quite like us and they are not being grateful enough. Their otherness comes partly from the perception that they are primitive but even more from the fact that they are Muslims.

Moving beyond Shariah, those who wish to marginalize Muslims in American life point to the terrorism arrests of Muslims who are American citizens or legal residents of this country. There have indeed been such cases, but a careful reading of the court records suggests that the arrests are mostly what once would have been considered entrapment. A disgruntled young man toys with jihadist websites, is identified, and suddenly finds himself with a new friend who presents him with an unusable bomb to blow himself up in Times Square. He is then arrested and finds himself facing 20 years in prison. The reality, however,  is that of 14,000 murders in the United States in 2010, not a single one was attributed to a Muslim terrorist.

So why should Americans hate or fear Muslims? If it were only the idiosyncrasies of their culture that were an irritant, one would reasonably observe that the United States has absorbed plenty of cultures and lifestyles equally outside of the Western European mainstream. The fact is that the Islamophobia we are currently seeing really has two objectives. First and foremost it is to protect Israeli interests, making Muslims appear to be a threat and a group that is irredeemably un-American, while Israelis are presented as people who are more or less just like us. That means that only one voice will be heard on the Middle East, which is precisely what has taken place. The second objective is to justify the seemingly unending series of wars in Asia, presenting the local people as lacking in the civilized moral and political values that we all hold dear. Ironically, this latter argument is self-defeating, as it is the foreign wars of the past 11 years that have stripped Americans of many of their liberties and constitutional rights. What we choose to fear in Islam and deplore in Muslim regimes — the lack of individual rights — has come home to us.

Ron Paul’s Unforgivable Sin of Opposing America’s Sacred Wars, And Why Are Muslims So Warlike?

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 17, 2011 by loonwatch
Image taken from kickapathy.com

As the GOP debates and subsequent presidential campaigns unfold, one very popular Republican candidate will get the cold shoulder from the mainstream media machine: the esteemable Congressman and good doctor Ron Paul. No matter how many straw polls the man wins, no matter how much money he raises from enthusiastic supporters, and no matter how many soldiers enlist in the Ron Paul Army, nothing will make him a Serious Candidate in the eyes of the mainstream media. He is Unserious–a Fringe Candidate who stands no chance of winning an election.

A self-fulfilling prophecy is put into effect: the MSM refuses to cover him “because he can never win an election;” because he receives no MSM coverage, he can never win an election.

As Glenn Greenwald puts it:

They are also vital in bolstering orthodoxies and narrowing the range of permitted views.  Few episodes demonstrate how that works better than the current disappearing of Ron Paul, all but an “unperson” in Orwellian terms.  He just finished a very close second to Michele Bachmann in the Ames poll, yet while she went on all five Sunday TV shows and dominated headlines, he was barely mentioned.  He has raised more money than any GOP candidate other than Romney, and routinely polls in the top 3 or 4 of GOP candidates in national polls, yet — as Jon Stewart and Politico‘s Roger Simon have both pointed out — the media have decided to steadfastly pretend he does not exist, leading to absurdities like this:

And this:

.

What has Ron Paul done to earn the wrath of the mainstream media and the Very Serious Establishment? Paul certainly has some strange views when it comes to the budget: strangulating medicare, medicaid, and welfare, as well as cutting funding for education and other vital public programs. Yet, it is unlikely that any of these political stances could ostracize him or make him Unserious, since some Very, Very Serious Republican candidates hold similar views on such issues.

What makes Dr. Paul stand out from the rest of the pack are his views with regard to the war and civil liberties–his complete rejection of the so-called War on Terror. He rejects the conventional wisdom that necessitates endless wars to Keep Us Safe against Terrorism. Paul refuses to cheerlead America’s Endless Wars, and is brave enough to point out the injustices in our foreign policy. Paul points out that if we point one finger at the Evil Muslim Enemy, four fingers point back at us.

For pointing out that the emperor wears no clothes, Ron Paul earns the contempt of Serious Journalists, who ensure that Paul is marginalized. He must be silenced and made irrelevant.  When he speaks about such topics in the press, people get antsy.  So the establishment desperately attempts to shut him up.

Greenwald says (emphasis added):

There are many reasons why the media is eager to disappear Ron Paul despite his being a viable candidate by every objective metric…

But what makes the media most eager to disappear Paul is that he destroys the easy, conventional narrative — for slothful media figures and for Democratic loyalists alike. Aside from the truly disappeared former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson (more on him in a moment), Ron Paul is far and away the most anti-war, anti-Surveillance-State, anti-crony-capitalism, and anti-drug-war presidential candidate in either party…That the similarly anti-war, pro-civil-liberties, anti-drug-war Gary Johnson not even allowed in media debates — despite being a twice-elected popular governor — highlights the same dynamic…

The steadfast ignoring of Ron Paul — and the truly bizarre un-personhood of Gary Johnson — has ensured that, yet again, those views will be excluded…

Paul and Johnson committed the unforgivable crime of opposing war (not just one war, but all of America’s wars), and for this they will be punished. For this, they will never be able to even dream of being considered a Serious presidential nominee, let alone President of the United States.  The media’s selection of who is Serious and who is Unserious is all a part of the manufactured consent that Noam Chomksy so eloquently wrote about many years ago.

Think about that for a minute: our country is so absolutely and steadfastly pro-war that there is no room for peaceniks. The Just War theory forbids war except in self-defense. None of America’s many wars fits this description: that’s quite easy to see when we note that our troops are deployed in far away, foreign lands. We’re not defending ourselves from an invader who occupies Southern California or who is stationed in Maine. Even the thought of another nation’s army marching into any U.S. state is completely unthinkable, almost as unrealistic as Martians landing on earth.  We have no need to engage in Just War since we are actually very, very safe and secure–our defense is virtually impregnable, such that there is no plausible scenario where our territory could be occupied or our capital advanced upon.

My point is: if a person believed in the Just War theory and rejected war except when it fulfilled those very narrow conditions, it would then be necessary to reject each of America’s wars. But doing so would mean departing from the acceptable parameters of national debate; it would mean becoming part of the Fringe and Unserious.

One simply simply cannot be taken Seriously unless one is a war-monger. Is it not strange that such a nation as this would somehow be absolutely mystified that another peoples, those living under the boots of their American or Israeli occupiers, would glorify jihad?

One simply must be a warmonger in America to be taken Seriously–as the current president himself is and all of the Serious presidential candidates are–yet somehow Those Warlike Moozlums Over There are so violent for glorifying jihad against the occupier.

Truly opposing the concept of wars of aggression (the supreme international crime)–to have a minimum commitment to peace by at least adhering to the Just War doctrine–does not mean simply opposing one of America’s wars and accepting another. Many of those on the Left somehow think they aren’t war-mongers even while they strongly supported (and some continue to support) the Afghanistan war.  After all, what can we think about a people who respond in such a brutal manner–devastating an entire country (and then another after that)–in retaliation for one terrorist attack (committed by a non-state actor no less) except that they are warlike? Even Ron Paul himself initially voted to invade Afghanistan, although he redeemed himself by becoming an outspoken critic of the war. Yet there continue to exist liberals who support the Afghanistan war, even while they think of themselves as “peaceful.”

War is so sacred in America that truly opposing war makes a presidential candidate Unserious and un-electable.  How truly grave a political sin this is can be gauged by the fact that Ron Paul is now Unserious, even while Michelle Bachman is slowly being considered a Serious candidate. Newt Gingrich is a Very Serious candidate, even though he has supported virulently anti-Muslim propaganda and the absolutely loony, fear-mongering idea of “stealth jihad” and “creeping sharia.” Those ideas aren’t Unserious enough to warrant exclusion from the mainstream media’s blessing, but opposing war is an automatic trip to the Unserious waste bin. Unabashed bigotry is acceptable whereas peacemaking is Unserious, Fringe, and unacceptable.

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Would you consider voting for Ron Paul?  Why or why not? Let us know in the comments’ section below.

Greenwald: FBI Thwarts its Own Terrorist Plot

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2010 by loonwatch

Recently a case regarding a 19 year old Somali-American accused of attempting to blow up a Christmas event in Oregon has garnered national attention. The arrest fits a familiar pattern in which individuals are encouraged, supported and financed by the FBI to detonate bombs. Did the FBI stay within their limits when pursuing the Somali-American, or did they cross over the boundary into entrapment?

Glenn Greenwald has an excellent piece that questions this arrest and highlights for the umpteenth time the motive behind these “attacks,” a motive that is obfuscated quite often by politicians, the media and anti-Muslim activists.

These individuals aren’t, (as the Robert Spencer’s of the world proclaim) randomly convinced to blow up things because of some religious prescription/motivation, they are motivated by “occupations” and aggression against Muslims and Muslim countries! (Note to the FBI: Spencer is not going to tell you that when he is training your gumshoe detectives)

Time and time again the statements of these misguided individuals speak towards the reality that“It’s the occupation stupid!” but the Cassandra cries of Glenn Greenwald and those like him are willfully ignored and marginalized and so the fear-mongering, exploitation and violence against innocents continues unabated.

The FBI successfully thwarts its own Terrorist plot

(Salon.com)

by Glenn Greenwald

The FBI is obviously quite pleased with itself over its arrest of a 19-year-old Somali-American, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who — with months of encouragement, support and money from the FBI’s own undercover agents — allegedly attempted to detonate a bomb at a crowded Christmas event in Portland, Oregon.  Media accounts are almost uniformly trumpeting this event exactly as the FBI describes it.  Loyalists of both parties are doing the same, with Democratic Party commentators proclaiming that this proves how great and effective Democrats are at stopping The Evil Terrorists, while right-wing polemicists point to this arrest as yet more proof that those menacing Muslims sure are violent and dangerous.

What’s missing from all of these celebrations is an iota of questioning or skepticism.  All of the information about this episode — all of it — comes exclusively from an FBI affidavit filed in connection with a Criminal Complaint against Mohamud.  As shocking and upsetting as this may be to some, FBI claims are sometimes one-sided, unreliable and even untrue, especially when such claims — as here — are uncorroborated and unexamined.  That’s why we have what we call “trials” before assuming guilt or even before believing that we know what happened:  because the government doesn’t always tell the complete truth, because they often skew reality, because things often look much different once the accused is permitted to present his own facts and subject the government’s claims to scrutiny.  The FBI affidavit — as well as whatever its agents are whispering into the ears of reporters — contains only those facts the FBI chose to include, but omits the ones it chose to exclude.  And even the “facts” that are included are merely assertions at this point and thus may not be facts at all.

It may very well be that the FBI successfully and within legal limits arrested a dangerous criminal intent on carrying out a serious Terrorist plot that would have killed many innocent people, in which case they deserve praise.  Court-approved surveillance and use of undercover agents to infiltrate terrorist plots are legitimate tactics when used in accordance with the law.

But it may also just as easily be the case that the FBI – as they’ve done many times in the past — found some very young, impressionable, disaffected, hapless, aimless, inept loner; created a plot it then persuaded/manipulated/entrapped him to join, essentially turning him into a Terrorist; and then patted itself on the back once it arrested him for having thwarted a “Terrorist plot” which, from start to finish, was entirely the FBI’s own concoction.  Having stopped a plot which it itself manufactured, the FBI then publicly touts — and an uncritical media amplifies — its “success” to the world, thus proving both that domestic Terrorism from Muslims is a serious threat and the Government’s vast surveillance powers — current and future new ones — are necessary.

There are numerous claims here that merit further scrutiny and questioning. First, the FBI was monitoring the email communications of this American citizen on U.S. soil for months (at least) with what appears to be the flimsiest basis: namely, that he was in email communication with someone in Northwest Pakistan, “an area known to harbor terrorists” (para. 5 of the FBI Affidavit).  Is that enough to obtain court approval to eavesdrop on someone’s calls and emails?  I’m glad the FBI is only eavesdropping with court approval, if that’s true, but certainly more should be required for judicial authorization than that.  Communicating with someone in Northwest Pakistan is hardly reasonable grounds for suspicion.

Second, in order not to be found to have entrapped someone into committing a crime, law enforcement agents want to be able to prove that, in the 1992 words of the Supreme Court, the accused was “was independently predisposed to commit the crime for which he was arrested.”  To prove that, undercover agents are often careful to stress that the accused has multiple choices, and they then induce him into choosing with his own volition to commit the crime.  In this case, that was achieved by the undercover FBI agent’s allegedly advising Mohamud that there were at least five ways he could serve the cause of Islam (including by praying, studying engineering, raising funds to send overseas, or becoming “operational”), and Mohamud replied he wanted to “be operational” by using exploding a bomb (para. 35-37).

But strangely, while all other conversations with Mohamud which the FBI summarizes were (according to the affidavit) recorded by numerous recording devices, this conversation — the crucial one for negating Mohamud’s entrapment defense — was not.  That’s because, according to the FBI, the undercover agent ”was equipped with audio equipment to record the meeting.  However, due to technical problems, the meeting was not recorded“ (para. 37).

Thus, we have only the FBI’s word, and only its version, for what was said during this crucial — potentially dispositive — conversation.  Also strangely: the original New York Times article on this story described this conversation at some length and reported the fact that “that meeting was not recorded due to a technical difficulty,” but the final version omitted that, instead simply repeating the FBI’s story as though it were fact:  ”undercover agents in Mr. Mohamud’s case offered him several nonfatal ways to serve his cause, including mere prayer. But he told the agents he wanted to be ‘operational,’ and perhaps execute a car bombing.”

Third, there are ample facts that call into question whether Mohamud’s actions were driven by the FBI’s manipulation and pressure rather than his own predisposition to commit a crime.  In June, he attempted to fly to Alaska in order to work on a fishing job he obtained through a friend, but he was on the Government’s no-fly list.  That caused the FBI to question him at the airport and then bar him from flying to Alaska, and thus prevented him from earning income with this job (para. 25).  Having prevented him from working, the money the FBI then pumped him with — including almost $3,000 in cash for him to rent his own apartment (para. 61) — surely helped make him receptive to their suggestions and influence.  And every other step taken to perpetrate this plot — from planning its placement to assembling the materials to constructing the bomb — was all done at the FBI’s behest and with its indispensable support and direction.

It’s impossible to conceive of Mohamud having achieved anything on his own.  Before being ensnared by the FBI, the only tangible action he had taken was to write three articles on “fitness and jihad” for the online magazine Jihad Recollections.  At least based on what is known, he had no history of violence, no apparent criminal record, had never been to a training camp in Afghanistan, Pakistan or anywhere else, and — before meeting the FBI — had never taken a single step toward harming anyone.  Does that sound like some menacing sleeper Terrorist to you?

Finally, there is, as usual, no discussion whatsoever in media accounts of motive.  There are several statements attributed to Mohamud by the Affidavit that should be repellent to any decent person, including complete apathy — even delight — at the prospect that this bomb would kill innocent people, including children.  What would drive a 19-year-old American citizen — living in the U.S. since the age of 3 — to that level of sociopathic indifference?   He explained it himself in several passages quoted by the FBI, and — if it weren’t for the virtual media blackout of this issue — this line of reasoning would be extremely familiar to Americans by now (para. 45):

Undercover FBI Agent:  You know there’s gonna be a lot of children there?

Mohamud:  Yeah, I know, that’s what I’m looking for.

Undercover FBI Agent:  For kids?

Mohamud:  No, just for, in general a huge mass that will, like for them you know to be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays.  And then for later to be saying, this was them for you to refrain from killing our children, women . . . . so when they hear all these families were killed in such a city, they’ll say you know what your actions, you know they will stop, you know.  And it’s not fair that they should do that to people and not feeling it.

And here’s what he allegedly said in a video he made shortly before he thought he would be detonating the bomb (para. 80):

We hear the same exact thing over and over and over from accused Terrorists — that they are attempting to carry out plots in retaliation for past and ongoing American violence against Muslim civilians and to deter such future acts.  Here we find one of the great mysteries in American political culture:  that the U.S. Government dispatches its military all over the world — invading, occupying, and bombing multiple Muslim countries — torturing them, imprisoning them without charges, shooting them up at checkpoints, sending remote-controlled drones to explode their homes, imposing sanctions that starve hundreds of thousands of children to death  — and Americans are then baffled when some Muslims — an amazingly small percentage — harbor anger and vengeance toward them and want to return the violence.   And here we also find the greatest myth in American political discourse:  that engaging in all of that military aggression somehow constitutes Staying Safe and combating Terrorism — rather than doing more than any single other cause to provoke, sustain and fuel Terrorism.

UPDATE:  A very similar thing happened last month when the FBI announced that it had arrested someone who was planning to bomb the DC Metro system when, in reality, “the only plotting he did was in response to instructions from federal agents he thought were accomplices.”  That concocted FBI plot then led to the Metro Police announcing a new policy of random searches of passengers’ bags.

Meanwhile, in Oregon, the mosque sometimes attended by Mohamud wasvictimized today by arson.  So the FBI did not stop any actual Terrorist plots, but they may have helped inspire one.

 

Robert Wright: The Myth of Modern Jihad

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2010 by loonwatch

An excellent article, and a must read. (hat tip: Justin)

The Myth of Modern Jihad

by Robert Wright

It would be an understatement to say that Faisal Shahzad, the would-be Times Square bomber, pleaded guilty last week. “I’m going to plead guilty a hundred times over,” Shahzad told the judge. Why so emphatic? Because Shahzad is proud of himself. “I consider myself a Mujahid, a Muslim soldier,” he said.

This got some fist pumps in right-wing circles, because it seemed to confirm that America faces all-out jihad, and must marshal an accordingly fierce response. On National Review Online, Daniel Pipes wrote that Shahzad’s “bald declaration” should make Americans “accept the painful fact that Islamist anger and aspirations” are the problem; we must name “Islamism as the enemy.” And, as Pipes has explained in the past, once you realize that your enemy is a bunch of Muslim holy warriors, the path forward is clear: “Violent jihad will probably continue until it is crushed by a superior military force.”

At the risk of raining on Pipes’s parade: If you look at what Shahzad actually said, the upshot is way less grim. In fact, at a time when just about everyone admits that our strategy in Afghanistan isn’t working, Shahzad brings refreshing news: maybe America can win the war on terrorism without winning the war in Afghanistan.

As a bonus, it turns out there’s a hopeful message not just in Shahzad’s testimony, but in Pipes’s incomprehension of it. Pipes exhibits a cognitive distortion that may be afflicting Americans broadly — not just on the right, but on the center and left as well. And seeing the distortion is the first step toward escaping it.

Once you decide that some group is your implacable enemy, your mind gets a little warped.

Here is how Shahzad explained his role in the holy war: “It’s a war,” he said. “I am part of that. I am part of the answer of the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people, and on behalf of that, I’m revenging the attacks.”

Now, for a Muslim holy warrior to see his attacks as revenge runs counter to Pipes’s longstanding claim that Islamic holy war is about attack, not counterattack. Roughly since 9/11, Pipes has been telling us that jihad is “unabashedly offensive in nature, with the eventual goal of achieving Muslim dominion over the entire globe.” This notion of “jihad in the sense of territorial expansion has always been a central aspect of Muslim life” and is now “the world’s foremost source of terrorism.” That’s why you have to respond with “superior military force.”

Now we have Shahzad suggesting roughly the opposite — that the holy war could end if America would stop using military force. He said in court, “Until the hour the U.S. pulls its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and stops the drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan and stops the occupation of Muslim lands and stops killing the Muslims and stops reporting the Muslims to its government, we will be attacking U.S., and I plead guilty to that.”

Should we really take this testimony seriously? It does, after all, have an air of self-dramatizing grandstanding. Then again, terrorism is a self-dramatizing, grandstanding business, and there’s no reason to think this particular piece of theater isn’t true to Shahzad’s interior monologue.

Indeed, it tracks the pitch of jihadist recruiters, notably Anwar Awlaki, the American sheik in Yemen who inspired not just Shahzad but the Fort Hood shooter and the thwarted underwear bomber. The core of the pitch is that America is at war with Islam, and the evidence cited includes Shahzad’s litany: Iraq, Afghanistan, drone strikes, etc.

Of course, this litany amounts to pretty severe terms for peace. Shahzad says terrorism will continue until we end two wars and all drone strikes? And quit “reporting” suspicious Muslims to our government? Anything else we can do for him?

But as a practical matter, taking any of these issues off the table weakens the jihadist recruiting pitch. (Different potential recruits, after all, are sensitive to different issues.) And if we could take the Afghanistan war off the table, that would be a big one.

At least, that’s my view. This isn’t the place to fully defend it (e.g., address the question of whether I’m “blaming” America for terrorism or whether ending the war would amount to dangerous “appeasement”). My point is just that, if you take Shahzad at his word, there’s more cause for hope than if Pipes were right, and Shahzad’s testimony were evidence that jihadists are bent on world conquest.

Now on to the second cause for hope: Pipes’s confusion itself. For these purposes, it doesn’t matter whether Shahzad was telling the truth, because Pipes certainly thinks he was. Pipes applauds Shahzad’s “forthright statement of purpose,” adding, “However abhorrent, this tirade does have the virtue of truthfulness.”

So then why doesn’t it bother Pipes that Shahzad’s depiction of Islamic holy war as defensive counter-attack is the opposite of the depiction Pipes has peddled for years? How can he possibly hail Shahzad’s comments as confirming his world view?

It’s only human nature. Once you decide that some group is your implacable enemy, your mind gets a little warped. Virtually all incoming evidence is thereafter seen as consistent with that model. (In fact, there’s a more specific finding from social psychology that also helps explain Pipes’s world view, as laid out by blogger Dan Drezner in this little video clip.)

This cognitive distortion reared its head in America’s previous cosmic struggle. Just about all cold war historians agree that Americans bought into the “myth of monolithic communism.” Once we decided that the communist menace was a single, vast, implacable force, we failed to appreciate, for example, tensions between Russia and China that in retrospect seem obviously important. We had our model, and we were sticking to it. Pipes has his model, and he’s sticking to it. He needn’tdismiss evidence inconsistent with it, because he can’t really see the evidence to begin with.

This same tendency may now be impeding America’s ability to conduct the war on terrorism wisely.

If you ask people — right, left or center — why we can’t withdraw from Afghanistan, they start talking about the catastrophe that would ensue: The Taliban would take over, provide bases for al Qaeda, and suddenly it’s 9/11 again. Now, the consequences of withdrawal would certainly be messy and in some ways bad — and this subject is way too complicated to deal with in my remaining few paragraphs. But enough holes have been poked in standard catastrophe scenarios (by, for example, Paul Pillar, former deputy chief of the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center) without much reducing the grip these scenarios have on people’s minds that you have to wonder whether our fears are grounded in something other than pure reason. You have to wonder whether we’re doing what Pipes is doing: taking a genuinely pretty scary bunch of enemies and making them much scarier — attributing so much unity and relentlessness and cunning to them that it’s hard to imagine beating them without military victory.

To be sure, there is always an ostensibly logical argument that catastrophists summon. (Pipes isn’t wrong to say that there is a doctrine of offensive jihad — he’s just wrong about how it has played out historically and how it plays it out today.) But the reason people accept these arguments so uncritically is that they have a fear of Islamic radicalism that dwarfs the actual threat.

The analogy with communism is worth dwelling on. People warned that if Vietnam fell, the dominoes would keep falling until America itself was under communist control. After all, Russia and China — the sponsors of our Vietnamese enemy — would join with the Vietnamese government to use Vietnam as a forward base if we were chased out. You know — kind of the way al Qaeda would join with a Taliban that controlled any chunk of Afghanistan to torment America.

Well, four years after Saigon fell, Communist Vietnam and Communist China were at war — not with us, but with each other. And a decade after that we had won the cold war.

I’ve been kind of hard on Pipes — in parts of this column and in an earlier column. So I’m glad to have the opportunity to emphasize that he’s just an example of the human mind at work, albeit a particularly revved up example. It’s only natural to attribute to your enemy more cohesion and menace than is in order. We used to do this with communism, and now we do it with radical Islam — and radical Muslims, for their part, do it with us. It’s a temptation we all have to fight. Maybe if we fought it as hard as we fight other enemies, we’d have fewer of them.