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May 18, 2005

Rumor, Consequence, and Responsibility

Topics: Middle East News and Perspectives

Although we've never met, John Burgess at Crossroads Arabia and the Hyscience crew have been blogging and commenting back and forth for so long that I think of him as a friend, a friend I often disagree with, but one that I enjoy exchanging ideas with and one whose knowledge and ideas I value. However, in his "Rumor & Consequence" as has been the case before, I find much to agree with and a little to disagree with. I believe that John's commentary attributes too much blame on gross intolerance and xenophobia while avoiding what I believe is the real issue which I come back to below - the 800 pound gorilla in the living room , not Newsweek's stupid mistake and escape from journalistic standards and reason(and being all too quick and content to discredit our military and the administration) or gross intolerance and xenophobia, but the reaction of the Muslim world to the Newsweek article. The Islamists need to be held accountable for their violence, murder, mindless tantrums, and childish mindset. Like dogs on a leash, they dance to the tune of hate and cleric-instigated violence

John writes in his piece:

"The atrocities of Abu Ghraib--and those alleged to have taken place at Guantanamo--are just that: atrocities. They are horrors both because of what they were in themselves as well as what they said about our self-image as a country."

I, on the other hand, on the matter of abuse, ask what acts are more barbaric, horrifying, appalling, brutal, wicked, abominable, and cruel(all refer to the quality or state of being atrocious), the kind of acts attributed to Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, or raping women, sawing off heads, and shooting people in the back of the head with their hands tied behind them(all acts committed by Islamic terrorists and insurgents)? Which set of mindless acts indeed rise to the zenith of abuse? Given the choice of having my head sawed off or stripped naked by women, blood smeared on me, pictures taken of me naked and on a leash held by a sick guard(worse things happen in college and even high school hazing rituals every year) I think that I would choose any of the these except having my head sawed off. Which would you choose? And which is more atrocious? But where is the media outcry over the truly attrocious acts conducted by the terrorists and the insurgents? Answer - it's directed at America.

So let's keep things in perspective. Yes, we should set the standards for "right behavior," but in a time of war with terrorists that offer no hint of compassion, moral behavior, respect for life or property, how in the hell should we "force hostile lying killers" to spill their guts in order to prevent more senseless infliction of pain, suffering, and death upon innocents. Let's put responsibility for the committing of atrocities squarely on the shoulders of the terrorists where it belongs - they are in fact the ones that actually committ atrocities, real atrocities, not silly, stupid, childish, and thoughtless acts of intimidation as was the case at Abu-Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. As to what constitutes real "abuse," you simply cannot compare one with the other, sawing off your prisoner's head doesn't compare with stripping him and taking a picture of him on a leash.

Have we become so blinded by political correctness and become so dhimmi-prone that we can't tell the difference between intimidation and cold blooded, painful, and brutal murder and mindless violence?

John also writes:

(...) "The tragic fiasco that resulted from the Newsweek story has many fathers. There was less-than-sterling professionalism from the magazine. There was a partially credible history of abuse, by at least some American soldiers working in prisons with Muslim prisoners. There was gross intolerance and xenophobia put into action by those who immediately jumped to the wrong conclusion.  

(...) The restraint needed these days came from a surprising quarter. It was groups like the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Muslim World League that called for investigation, not lynching. This was certainly not because either of those groups takes the Quran lightly, or only as a symbol. I'd like to think it was because they saw the point in waiting for truth to be discovered, as best it could be discovered, before calling for punitive action. But I'm disappointed in the calls by the Saudi government, including the Shoura Council, for that punitive action. 

(...) I'm equally disappointed by American groups whose default assumption was that this couldn't be true. Abu Ghraib showed that, yes, it could be true. Those who immediately assumed a plot by the media to discredit the military weren't much closer to the truth. 

(...) The search for truth and the search for a way for vastly different cultures to co-exist are too important to leave to those who know better than the facts available to us, no matter which side they're on."

Like I said in the introductory paragraph, I usually find much to agree with and a little to disagree with in John's posts, emails, and comments. The above excerpts are no exception. As to the matter of finding restraint needed these days from a surprising quarter - groups like the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Muslim World League that called for investigation, not lynching, I would hope that they would spend at the very least as much time calling for an investigation into the plethora of acts of terror and violence committed worldwide by Islamists. As to the matter of disappointed by American groups whose default assumption was that this couldn't be true. Abu Ghraib showed that, yes, it could be true - that really isn't the issue here, instead, the real issue, as I said in my introduction, is the 800 pound gorilla in the living room, it's not Newsweek's stupid mistake and their all too quick willingness to discredit our military and the administration), but the reaction of the Muslim world to the Newsweek article. The Islamists need to be held accountable for their violence, murder, mindless tantrums, and childish mindset.

Now you might ask if there's anything about John's post that I agree with. The answer is I think that his commentary is thought provoking, that it offers an important perspective, that it contains truths that need to be taken into account when attempting to understand the NewsWeek fiasco and the fallout thereof, but I find it somewhat biased in favor of political correctness and that for the most part it excludes placing appropriate responsibilty for the violent reactions and deaths on the shoulders of those that committed it - the Muslims.  However, on this issue of responsibility, John later comes back to address his own piece and comments that he believes that he may have failed to make it clear(in his piece) that the Muslim reactions he was refering to were those of the thinking majority, not the mindless mass. He adds that it was that mindless mass that rioted and killed-as they often do with little or no real cause, and the fact that they know that they will be supported-at least in part-helps encourage their acts. I love it! An element of responsibility has raised it's head, and even if it's only a peek, it's a start!

Do I recommend that you read it? Absolutely! It's a very good piece and a very important perspective with important information.

Hat tip - John Burgess at Crossroads Arabia.

Other coverage - Dean's World, Armies of Liberation,

Cross posted at Jawa Report

Posted by Hyscience at May 18, 2005 12:20 PM

I do take your point on responsibility. It was not Newsweek that physically killed those people. It was not Newseek who went into a rampage of destruction.

I do question, though, your thoughts about "relativity" in responses. Sure, brutality and death are far worse than symbolic affronts. No question about it. (Although there's a debate about the Quran being "symbolic".) But it's sort of beside the point.

One of the earliest moral lessons I ever learned was, "Two wrongs don't make a right." I later learned that Et Tu Quoque ("And so do you!") was not the strongest logical argument.

My post was not to place one set of atrocities next to another for comparison purposes. There is no comparison.

Instead, it was intended to point out that misteps, accidents, and stupid acts by stupid people all have consequence. Those consequences may very well be unintended--I suspect most are--but that does not make them any the less real.

I don't think there's much that any of us in the West can do to change the minds of rabid mobs whose only identity is tied to their inerpretation of religion. We do, though, need to recognize the limits of their identification processes and act accordingly.

We do need to acknowledge that we need to take care to not exacerbate existing suspicions, not because we're "morally right," but because doing so makes the job needlessly harder. It's a matter of tactics, not "weltanschuung".

Posted by: John Burgess at May 18, 2005 1:12 PM

I my self, along with myriad other persons have wondered just why (an how) the Media in the West could give continuous, negative coverage to the jail incident, and all but ignore the atrocity of killing people by cutting their heads off on TV for ransom. How can it be justified by the media that sawing heads off and raping women, and beating people into obedience to a religious view is anywhere comparable to humiliation; dark, religiously explicit, deragatory humor, but humor nonetheless.

Unfortunately in our day we will notice that evil comes to be called good, and good evil. Just take a look around folks!

THanks for the post

-- MegLogan

Posted by: MegLogan at May 18, 2005 2:56 PM

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