The following article demonstrates typical terrorist state behavior: those who carry out terrorist acts in support of state-led wars or policies usually suffer few consequences. I suppose we should be grateful he served 6 years. My question is whether he went through any kind of rehabilitation process: did anyone attempt to educate him that torture was wrong? Lt. Calley of My Lai massacre fame recently (2009) apologized for his actions. The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commissions are a useful attempt at dealing with the aftermath of war crimes.
The convicted ringleader of abuses committed at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad was released Aug. 6 after serving more than six-and-a-half years of his 10-year sentence. Army Spc. Charles Graner, who was being held at the US Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, was released early as a result of earning days off for good behavior. Graner was convicted in 2005 of conspiracy, assault, maltreating prisoners, dereliction of duty, and committing indecent acts and received the longest sentence of the six others involved in the abuses. In May 2010, the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces heard arguments in the appeal of his 10-year sentence and affirmed his conviction the following month. Graner will remain under military supervision until 2014.
On July 22, 2011 a bombing and shooting massacre was carried out in Norway by an individual motived by fanatic anti-immigrant and Islamophobic beliefs; an atrocity which shocked the world and which could only honestly be described as terrorism. The perpetrator, himself an ethnic Norwegian, hoped to bring about political change through acts of wanton violence against civilians, many of them children and young adults. That this was indeed terrorism is important to note, given that at present Western civilization is purportedly at war with terrorism itself, as well as, crucially, those who provide inspiration and support to terrorists. In this battle those who are even tangentially related to acts of terrorism or purveyors of terror are liable to be incarcerated without due process, tortured, and even killed without public outcry. From the perspective of the state, such is the seriousness of terrorism and such are the extraordinary measures which must be taken to prevent terror from being carried out.
In his manifesto, Anders Breivik the perpetrator of the Oslo attacks cited among his inspirations many prominent intellectuals and media figures whose ideas he admired and whose views on topics such as Islam and immigration he strongly identified with. Although many of these individuals have strongly insinuated that perpetrating mass violence in the service of their anti-Muslim agenda is laudable and desirable, it can be reasonably argued that it is unfair to condemn them for actions which, though perpetrated in the name of their ideas, were carried out without their specific consent. Regardless of whether one puts forth odious and potentially dangerous ideologies it can be justifiably said that holding individuals accountable for how others may interpret and act upon their opinions goes against freedom of expression and is potentially deleterious to the marketplace of ideas which should exist in all free societies.
However, what is notable then about the case of Breivik is not so much whom he cited as potentially unwitting inspirations to his act of terrorism, but those who actually leapt to support and justify his actions after it had become undeniably clear that he was in fact a terrorist. While they may distance themselves from the individual, they go out of their way in the wake of his murderous terrorist attack to justify and validate the ideals he killed for.
Here are a few choice quotes regarding the Oslo attack:
- “I shed no tears for these HAMASnik campers with a Scandinavian dialect. Perpetrators are not victims. Sorry. HAMAS collaborators don’t get my pity. They never will.”
- “Karma is a bitch . . . especially for Jew-haters who were Fatah’s bitch. You hang out with snakes, you get bitten.”
- “Victims” or Perpetrators?” — Debbie Schlussel, 7/28/11
- “There was a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like the Hitler youth..” — Glenn Beck, 7/25/11
- “The more that is revealed about that youth indoctrination center, the more grotesque the whole story becomes”
- “The jihad-loving media never told us what antisemitic war games they were playing on that island. Utoya Island is a Communist/Socialist campground, and they clearly had a pro-Islamic agenda.” — Pamela Geller, 7/31/11
- “The youth camp he attacked was engaged in what was essentially a pro-terrorist program.” — Barry Rubin, 7/31/2011
Try to imagine what the reaction to comments such as these would be in the wake of an attack by Islamic extremists. Aside from the vile slander against the victims of a horrifying crime, these words are a clear attempt to justify and legitimize the actions of Breivik. Claiming to oppose violence while simultaneously characterizing the victims of said violence as Nazis and terrorists sends the implicit message that such violence is in fact understandable and laudable. After all, who wouldn’t be inclined to view as permissible violence committed against Nazis and terrorists, and how could one who does commit violence against those parties be said to be unequivocally condemnable? The supreme twisted irony is that those who claim to be appalled by his act of violence while steadfastly defending his motivations very closely mimic the position of Breivik himself who described his actions as being “atrocious but necessary.” Violence against “Nazis and terrorists” may not be “nice,” but hey, they are “Nazis and terrorists.”
In the context of fighting a war against terrorism, and with all the dot-connecting, guilt by-association tactics which that entails, the individuals who inspired and then defended the bigoted motivations of the Oslo terrorist have largely escaped recrimination. Those so open about their sympathies with an ideology which had just given rise to such an atrocity would normally come under harsh, justified scrutiny, not just from the public but perhaps also from law enforcement agencies tasked with preventing the fomentation of further terrorism. By sole virtue of the race and religion of the terrorist in this case those who motivated him have been left unchecked and continue to openly expound the nihilistic ideals which may well inspire the next Anders Breivik.
On her website, Pamela Geller in 2007 shared approvingly an email she received from a source in Norway whom she has kept anonymous. The email reads as follows:
From Israel the hordes clawing at the walls of Jerusalem proclaim cheerfully that next year there will be no more Israel, and I know Israel shrugs this off as do I, and will mount a strike during the summer against all of its enemies in the middle east. This will make the muslims worldwide go into a frenzy, attacking everyone around them.
We are stockpiling and caching weapons, ammunition and equipment. This is going to happen fast.
Before, I thought about emigrating to Britain, Israel, USA, South Africa, etc. for taxes and politics, but instead (although I believe we are the very last generation on earth before the return of God) I will stay and fight for the right to this country and indeed the entire peninsula, for the God-fearing people, just in case this isn’t the end of the world after all. Doesn’t hurt to have a backup plan.
Individuals engaged in racial and religious demagoguery have succeeded in giving rise to terrorism in the name of their ideals, and in the wake of what their actions have produced they’ve shown no remorse or reticence about continuing to fan the flames of hatred and violence. If those who enthusiastically promote ideologies which inspire terrorism are unwilling to even report or disclose details of planned violence by their followers, the question must be asked as to what level of darkness we must descend before their destructive actions are taken seriously.
This article was originally published at Alternet:
Few political terrorists in recent history took as much care to articulate their ideological influences and political views as Anders Behring Breivik did. The right-wing Norwegian Islamophobe who murdered 76 children and adults in Oslo and at a government-run youth camp spent months, if not years, preparing his 1,500 page manifesto.
Besides its length, one of the most remarkable aspects of the manifesto is the extent to which its European author quoted from the writings of figures from the American conservative movement. Though he referred heavily to his fellow Norwegian, the blogger Fjordman, it was Robert Spencer, the American Islamophobic pseudo-academic, who received the most references from Breivik — 55 in all. Then there was Daniel Pipes, the Muslim-bashing American neoconservative who earned 18 citations from the terrorist. Other American anti-Muslim characters appear prominently in the manifesto, including the extremist blogger Pam Geller, who operates an Islamophobic organization in partnership with Spencer.
Breivik may have developed his destructive sensibility in the stark political environment of a European continent riveted by mass immigration from the Muslim world, but his conceptualization of the changes he was witnessing reflect the influence of a cadre of far-right bloggers and activists from across the Atlantic Ocean. He not only mimicked their terminology and emulated their language, he substantially adopted their political worldview. The profound impact of the American right’s Islamophobic subculture on Breivik’s thinking raises a question that has not been adequately explored: Where is the American version of Breivik and why has he not struck yet? Or has he?
Many of the American writers who influenced Breivik spent years churning out calls for the mass murder of Muslims, Palestinians and their left-wing Western supporters. But the sort of terrorism these US-based rightists incited for was not the style the Norwegian killer would eventually adopt. Instead of Breivik’s renegade free-booting, they preferred the “shock and awe” brand of state terror perfected by Western armies against the brown hordes threatening to impose Sharia law on the people in Peoria. This kind of violence provides a righteous satisfaction so powerful it can be experienced from thousands of miles away.
And so most American Islamophobes simply sit back from the comfort of their homes and cheer as American and Israeli troops — and their remote-controlled aerial drones — leave a trail of charred bodies from Waziristan to Gaza City. Only a select group of able-bodied Islamophobes are willing to suit up in a uniform and rush to the front lines of the clash of civilizations. There, they have discovered that they can mow down Muslim non-combatants without much fear of legal consequences, and that when they return, they will be celebrated as the elite Crusader-warriors of the new Islamophobic right — a few particularly violent figures have been rewarded with seats in Congress. Given the variety of culturally acceptable, officially approved outlets for venting violent anti-Muslim resentment, there is little reason for any American to follow in Breivik’s path of infamy.
Before exploring the online subculture that both shaped and mirrored Breivik’s depravity, it is necessary to define state terror, especially the kind refined by its most prolific practitioners. At the dawn of the “war on terror,” the United States and Israel began cultivating a military doctrine called “asymmetrical warfare.” Pioneered by an Israeli philosophy and “practical ethics” professor named Asa Kasher and the former head of Israeli military intelligence, Lt. Gen. Amos Yadlin, and successfully marketed to the Pentagon, the asymmetrical warfare doctrine did away with traditional counterinsurgency tactics which depended on winning the “hearts and minds” of indigenous populations. Under the new rules, the application of disproportionate force against non-combatants who were supposedly intermingled with the “terrorists” was not only justified but considered necessary. According to Kasher and Yadlin, eliminating the principle of distinction between enemy combatants and civilians was the most efficient means of deterring attacks from non-state actors like Hamas and Hezbollah while guarding the lives of Israeli soldiers.
Asymmetrical warfare has been witnessed in theaters of war across the Muslim world, leaving tens of thousands of civilians dead in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gaza Strip. The strategy was formalized in the Dahiya district of southern Beirut in 2006, when the Israeli military flattened hundreds of civilian structures and homes to supposedly punish Hezbollah for its capturing of two Israeli soldiers.
From the ashes of the Israeli carpet bombing campaign emerged the “Dahiya Doctrine,” a term coined by an Israeli general responsible for directing the war on Lebanon in 2006. “IDF Northern Command Chief Gadi Eisenkot uttered clear words that essentially mean the following,” wrote Israeli journalist Yaron London, who had just interviewed the general. “In the next clash with Hezbollah we won’t bother to hunt for tens of thousands of rocket launchers and we won’t spill our soldiers’ blood in attempts to overtake fortified Hizbullah positions. Rather, we shall destroy Lebanon and won’t be deterred by the protests of the ‘world.’” In a single paragraph, London neatly encapsulated the logic of state terror.
While Israel has sought to insulate itself from the legal ramifications of its attacks on civilian life by deploying elaborate propaganda and intellectual sophistry (witness the country’s frantic campaign to discredit the Goldstone Report), and the United States has casually dismissed allegations of war crimes as any swaggering superpower would (after a US airstrike killed scores of Afghan civilians, former US CENTCOM chief David Petraeus baselessly claimed that Afghan parents had deliberately burned their children alive to increase the death toll), the online Islamophobes who inspired Breivik tacitly accept the reality of Israeli and American state terror. And they like it. Indeed, American Islamophobes derive frightening levels of ecstasy from the violence inflicted by the armed forces against Muslim civilians. The Facebook page of Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer’s hate group, Stop the Islamicization of America (SOIA), is Exhibit A of the phenomenon.
During a visit to SOIA’s Facebook page, which is personally administered by Geller and Spencer, it is possible to read rambling calls for killing “the diaper heads” and for Israel to “rule the whole Middle East.” A cursory glance at the website will also reveal visual propaganda reveling in the prospect of a genocide against Muslims. One image posted on the site depicts American and British troops dropping a nuclear bomb in the midst of thousands of Muslim pilgrims in Mecca. “Who ya gonna call? Shitbusters,” it reads.
A second image portraying a nuclear mushroom cloud declares: “DEALING WITH MUSLIMS — RULES OF ENGAGEMENT; Rule #1: Kill the Enemy. Rule #2: There is no rule #2.” Another posted on SOIA’s Facebook page shows the bullet-riddled, bloodsoaked bodies of Muslim civilians splayed out by a roadside. “ARMY MATH,” the caption reads. “4 Tangos + (3 round burst x 4 M 4’s) = 288 virgins.” However pathological these images might seem to outsiders, in the subculture of Geller and Spencer’s online fascisphere, they are understood as legitimate expressions of nationalistic, “pro-Western” pride. Indeed, none seem to celebrate violence against Muslims by anyone except uniformed representatives of Western armies.
The anti-Muslim fervor of Geller, Spencer and their allies reached a fever pitch during the controversy they manufactured in 2010 over the construction of the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” in downtown New York City. Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, in North Carolina, a right-wing Republican ex-Marine named Ilario Pantano made opposing the mosque the centerpiece of his campaign for Congress, proclaiming that New York was “forsaking Israel” by allowing the mosque’s construction. During the height of the his campaign, a report relying on documented evidence and confirmed testimonies revealed that while serving in Iraq in 2004, Pantano had executed two unarmed civilians near Fallujah, firing 60 bullets into their bodies with his M16A4 automatic rifle — he even stopped to reload — then decorated their corpses a placard inscribed with the Marine motto: “No better friend, No worse enemy.” The incident did not hinder Pantano’s campaign, however. His Democratic opponent never mentioned it, Pam Geller hailed Pantano as “a war hero,” and he swiftly became a cult hero of the Tea Party.
Pantano lost his bid for Congress, however, another US military veteran closely allied with the Islamophobic right won a surprise victory in Florida: Republican Representative Allen West. While serving in Iraq, West was discharged from the military and fined $5000 after he brutally beat an Iraqi policeman, then fired his pistol behind the immobilized man’s head. As in Pantano’s case, reports of the disturbing incident only helped propel West to victory. In fact, West boasted about the beating in his campaign speeches, citing it as evidence of how hard he would fight for his constituents if elected.
Though Breivik’s hatred for Muslims clearly spurred him to violence, he wound up murdering scores of the non-Muslims. He believed they were enabling an Islamic takeover of Europe, or what he called the creation of “Eurabia,” and that the “traitors” deserved the ultimate punishment. In homing in on liberal elements in Norway, Breivik borrowed from the language of right-wing figures from the United States, labeling his targets as “Cultural Marxists.” Initially introduced by the anti-Semitic right-wing organizer William Lind of the Washington-based Free Congress Foundation, the term “Cultural Marxism” was a catch-all that defined a broad array of leftist types, but especially those who preached “political correctness” towards immigrants, homosexuals, and other oppressed groups including the Palestinians. “Let us fight together with Israel, with our Zionist brothers against all anti-Zionists, against all cultural Marxists/multiculturalists,” Breivik wrote in his manifesto. The killer also sought to differentiate between good Jews (supporters of Israel) and bad Jews (advocates for Palestinian rights), claiming that “Jews that support multi-culturalism today are as much of a threat to Israel and Zionism as they are to us.”
Breivik’s characterizations of the left (and of left-wing Jews) echoed those familiar to right-wing bloggers and conservative activists in the US, particularly on the issue of Israel-Palestine. The only difference seems to have been that Breivik was willing to personally kill sympathizers with Palestinian rights, while American Islamophobes have prefered to sit back and cheer for the Israeli military to do the job instead. The tendency of the American right was on shocking display this June when the Free Gaza Flotilla attempted to break the Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip (during the previous flotilla in 2010, nine activists were killed by what a United Nations report described as execution style shootings by Israeli commandoes). As the debate about the flotilla escalated on Twitter, Joshua Trevino, a US army veteran and who worked as a speechwriter in the administration of George W. Bush, chimed in. “Dear IDF,” Trevino tweeted. “If you end up shooting any Americans on the new Gaza flotilla — well, most Americans are cool with that. Including me.” While Trevino hectored flotilla participants, Kurt Schlicter, a former American army officer and right-wing blogger for Andrew Breitbart’s Big Peace site, joined the calls for bloodshed. ”Sink the flotilla,” Schlicter wrote on Twitter. “Enough screwing around with these psychos.”
Neither Schlicter or Trevino saw any reason to apologize for inciting the murder of fellow Americans, nor did Trevino appear to face any consequences at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, where he serves as Vice President. Instead, Trevino earned a rousing defense from prominent conservative personalities like Erick Erickson, a paid CNN contributor who lauded “the correctness of Josh’s opinion” that Israel should kill American leftists. Indeed, no one from inside the American right’s online media hothouse condemned Trevino, Schlicter or Erickson, or even brooked a slight disagreement. Meanwhile, the incitement against Palestine solidarity activists has continued, with pro-Israel operatives Roz Rothstein and Roberta Seid writing this July in the Jerusalem Post that “Flotilla Folk are not like other people.”
When the smoke cleared from Breivik’s terrorist rampage across Norway, American Islamophobes went into intellectual contortions, condemning his acts while carefully avoiding any criticism of his views. While making sure to call Breivik “evil,” the ultra-nationalist commentator and former Republican presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan insisted that “Breivik may be right” about the supposed clash of civilizations between the Muslim East and the Christian West. Pipes, for his part, accused Breivik of a “purposeful” campaign to discredit him by citing him so frequently in his manifesto, while a panicked Geller claimed that Breivik “is a murderer, a mass murderer. Period. He’s not anything else.”
The comically revealing reactions by American Islamophobes to Brevik’s killing spree demonstrate the politically catastrophic situation they have gotten themselves into. All of a sudden, their movement was under intense scrutiny from a previously derelict mainstream media. And they were likely to be monitored to an unprecedented degree by federal law enforcement. These same figures who influenced Breivik had been printing open calls for terrorist violence against Muslims and leftists for years — while a few went a step further on the battlefield. Before Breivik killed 76 innocent people, they had generally gotten away with it.
Why were America’s Islamophobes able to avoid accountability for so long? The answer is not that their yearnings for righteous political violence had not been fulfilled until Breivik emerged. The truth is far more uncomfortable than that. America’s Islamophobic right was only able to make so much political headway because a broad sector of the American public had tolerated and even supported the kind of terror that they openly celebrated.
By Mark Adomanis
London has been ablaze for the past three nights and has experienced what is clearly its worst civil unrest in decades. The rioting has now spread to other cities in England and no one really knows how much longer it will last. I spoke to some friends in London and they described an otherworldly atmosphere of panic and disorder: rumors are now swirling that the Police have been instructed to use rubber bullets to disperse the crowds, and riot control units from the length and breadth of the entire country are converging on London to bring the situation back into some sort of control.
Using a phenomenon as complex, unwieldy, and unpredictable as a riot to score political points is dangerous. As Paul Campos of the blog Lawyers Guns & Money said, “Urban riots are usually complex events, in which people participate for many reasons, ranging from simple boredom and criminal opportunism on one end, to conscious political protest on the other.”
Judging from all available press reports, it seems that the rioters have no clear political grievances whatsoever besides, perhaps, a generalized hatred of the better off and “the system.” Most of the violence, theft, and property destruction have been committed by people that seem to be taking advantage of the atmosphere of chaos to pocket clothing, electronics, and food that they might otherwise be unaffordable. In other words, while there are undoubtedly some “root causes” the violence in London, which has occurred overwhelmingly within immigrant communities themselves, seems to be almost entirely about opportunistic criminality and inchoate rage.
Notably absent from the London riots, and from any press reporting about them, is a religious angle. Almost all accounts, from left-wing and right-wing press outlets alike, agree that the disturbances are overwhelmingly about class tensions, and are not about race or religion — one can peruse images of the rioters and quite easily see that the youth are a mixed collection of (to use British parlance) Asians, Afro-Caribbeans, and whites.
To say that the conservative press has been reticent to comment about the London rioting would be a pretty serious understatement. Ground zero for movement conservatives, National Review Online’s The Corner didn’t have its first post up about the London riots until almost 8 PM on August 8th, and that was a simple cut-and-paste from the Daily Telegraph. As of the writing of this article, roughly 9am on Tuesday August 9th, The Corner had one additional post by the same author that was also largely a cutting-and-pasting of another article from the Daily Telegraph. Noted civilization warriors such as Victor Davis Hanson, Mark Steyn, Theodore Dalrymple, and Daniel Pipes, who have in the past shouted themselves horse about the lethal danger that multiculturalism poses to “The West,” haven’t said anything at all.
National Review writers, however, did manage to find the time to write posts about: the debt ceiling crisis, the administration’s treatment of S&P, the Iowa primary, Rick Perry, Margaret Thatcher, union busting in Wisconsin, the Tea Party (or to be more particular, the media’s horribly unfair treatment of it), the Eurozone, and the issue of “liberal media bias.”
The Weekly Standard’s blog was little different — the first post mentioning the London riots appeared at 7PM on August 8th and was simply the pasting of a link to an article in the Murdoch-owned tabloid The Sun. Weekly Standard writers did have enough time to cover Tibet’s new leader, union busting in Wisconsin, several aspects of Barack Obama’s wretchedness, Afghanistan, and the “national popular vote” effort to reform the electoral college.
Over at Commentary, meanwhile, there hasn’t been anything about the riots in London but, over the past three days, there have been articles about Mitt Romney, the US-Israel alliance, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, allegations of Newsweek’s sexism, and several articles on the comprehensive wretchedness of Barack Obama.
Now it is always difficult, of course, to complain about something that hasn’t actually been written — if you made a point of criticizing someone only for things that they hadn’t done, you would (justifiably) be considered crazy.
However, I very clearly remember the far more energetic, effusive, and borderline hysterical manner in which the conservative press reacted to a series of riots in Paris back in the fall of 2005. I remember because, back then, I myself was something of a lunatic neoconservative and even joined in with a thoroughly wretched contribution to the “Muslims are scary and evil!” chorus.
Rather than shout myself hoarse describing the hypocrisy and double standards of people who bravely label themselves defenders or moral absolutism, and who never tire of accusing liberals of “relativism,” I’m simply going to paste some choice quotes that conservatives used to describe the Paris riots which were, in scale and intensity, broadly similar to those which are now taking place in London. You can decide for yourselves whether their rhetoric and outrage about rioting Muslim youth in Paris matches their near-total silence about rioting multi-ethnic and multi-religious youth in London:
- The Eurabian civil war appears to have started some years ahead of my optimistic schedule…the rioters aren’t doing a bad impression of the Muslim armies of 13 centuries ago: They’re seizing their opportunities, testing their foe, probing his weak spots. – Mark Steyn
- That French officials show no sign, on the eighth day of the Paris riots, of recognizing that this clash of values is the heart of the problem only guarantees that before they will be able to say that their difficulties with their Muslim population are behind them, many more cars will be torched, many more buildings burned, and many more lives destroyed. – Robert Spencer
- Geography, size, and number of Muslims all make France a pivotal element in what amounts to a cultural conflict of continental dimensions. Added to the Madrid bombings of 3/11/04 and the London bombings of 7/11/05, the riots in France force the old continent to realize that there is a “Muslim problem” related to, but not just to, the Islamist terrorist problem – Michael Radu
- The rioting by Muslim youth that began October 27 in France to calls of “Allahu Akbar” may be a turning point in European history…The French can respond in three ways. They can feel guilty and appease the rioters with prerogatives and the “massive investment plan” some are demanding. Or they can heave a sigh of relief when it ends and, as they did after earlier crises, return to business as usual. Or they can understand this as the opening salvo in a would-be revolution and take the difficult steps to undo the negligence and indulgence of past decades. – Daniel Pipes
- These scenes are not from the West Bank but from 20 French cities, mostly close to Paris, that have been plunged into a European version of the intifada… It is now clear that a good portion of France’s Muslims not only refuse to assimilate into “the superior French culture,” but firmly believe that Islam offers the highest forms of life to which all mankind should aspire. – Amir Taheri
How can rioting by disaffected youth in one Western European capital city be evidence of a titanic civilizational struggle and of a all-out “civil war” while rioting by disaffected youth in another Western European capital city is evidence of nothing in particular? Surely it doesn’t reflect an undue focus on Islam as a religion, right?
I’ll let you decide whether these rather tepid efforts, which seem to reflect a generalized dislike of the underclass as opposed to fear that “THE MUSLIMS ARE TAKING OVER THE WORLD,” are in keeping with previous conservative hysteria on the topic of youth rioters.
While Glenn Greenwald is away this week, Mark Adomanis, who maintains The Russia Hand at Forbes, is filing periodic pieces
By Murtaza Hussain
Mass shootings such as the one this week in Copley, Ohio have become such a normal part of the American news cycle that they barely even register in the minds of most citizens. When a member of society goes on a violent rampage at a school or workplace there are perhaps a few days of news coverage and lamentations over the loss of life but there is generally little societal reflection upon the root causes of these acts or indeed why these types of incidents are so exceedingly common. Furthermore, despite the regularity of these shootings they do nothing to impede the self-perception of Americans as somehow being immune and apart from the nihilistic violence which they perceive as being the sole domain of others.
When violence happens somewhere else, it is because the people of that place are inherently violent and barbaric and it is viewed as a reflection upon their society in general. Individuals believed to be representative of that society are demanded to reflect upon their societal failings and to offer penance for “their” actions. On the other hand when violence happens at home it is not reflective upon the broader society at all and it is always an aberration needing no further explanation, regardless of the shocking regularity with which it occurs. To say that the substantive difference stems from the fact that violence is somehow rare in America, a country which is undoubtedly one of the most stable and prosperous in the world, is to ignore the reality of what goes on in the U.S. on a regular basis. Since 9/11 there have been approximately 150,000 violent deaths in the United States, a figure which is all the more shocking for the fact that it is somehow considered normal in an ostensibly peaceful society.
Of course, the average American has almost no control over preventing atrocities such as the Copley shooting and they rightly feel no compulsion to individually denounce it or to make clear that these types of events are not a reflection of their culture. To say that Americans are somehow inherently violent, or to view Americans in general with suspicion because of an act committed by some American somewhere would be absurd, yet this is exactly the logic which is applied to others around the world. In the wake of an even more grotesque massacre such as the one which occurred at Virginia Tech, there was no questioning as to whether Americans were somehow collectively to blame for one of their citizens perpetrating such an act; the responsibility for the act was ascribed to the perpetrator alone and rightly so. However, when violent crimes are committed by members of other societies it is somehow extrapolated to be an indictment of that society as a whole, regardless of how deeply unpopular the act itself may be within that society.
Here is an example from esteemed former U.S. Institute of Peace board member Daniel Pipes, in the wake of the murder of two popular pro-Palestinian activists this past year:
“These murders neatly sum up the frenzy and depravity within Palestinian society, surely the sickest on earth.”
This type of broad demonization of entire countries and ethnicities based upon the actions of individuals is patently ridiculous and yet is the bread and butter of propagandists and bigots. If one chose, the same logic could be held against the United States as well and could be used to maliciously impugn the character of ordinary Americans based on the fact that a significant number of killings also occur on a regular basis within American society.
Another example came in the aftermath of violent protests in Afghanistan following the Terry Jones Quran burning incident. The protests culminated in the violent deaths of staff at a UN compound in Mazar-e-Sharif, about which The New Republic contributing editor James Kirchick had this to say:
“People who riot and murder at the burning of a book do not need a pretext to act like savages. That’s exactly what they already are.”
Never mind the racial dog whistling in the language (used to great effect by many others as well) while we are looking at the case of Afghanistan how would Kirchick like to characterize the actions of the U.S. soldiers which comprised the “Kill Team,” and what implications would he like to draw from their actions about American character and civilization as a whole?
Excerpt from the Rolling Stone article “The Kill Team“:
….. the soldiers began taking photographs of themselves celebrating their kill. Holding a cigarette rakishly in one hand, Holmes posed for the camera with Mudin’s bloody and half-naked corpse, grabbing the boy’s head by the hair as if it were a trophy deer. Morlock made sure to get a similar memento.
No one seemed more pleased by the kill than Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, the platoon’s popular and hard-charging squad leader. “It was like another day at the office for him,” one soldier recalls. Gibbs started “messing around with the kid,” moving his arms and mouth and “acting like the kid was talking.” Then, using a pair of razor-sharp medic’s shears, he reportedly sliced off the dead boy’s pinky finger and gave it to Holmes, as a trophy for killing his first Afghan.
As horrific and undoubtedly “savage” any objective human being would have to admit these actions were, it would still obviously be wrong to smear Americans in general with any such pejorative, or to make sweeping, bigoted generalizations about their culture. As for collectively reflecting upon crimes, if it is too much to ask American society to feel as though they “own” the wars of the past decade and the extreme violence which they have entailed, or that they “own” the members of their society who go on mass-murdering rampages, it is certainly too much to demand any other society feel the same about the crimes of their individual members.
Murtaza Hussain blogs at Revolution by the Book and is on Twitter at @MazMHussain.
One of Pamela Geller’s cohorts, Debbie Schlussel, has explicitly stated that those killed at Utoya got what was coming to them because they were “HAMAS Youth” and (at the same time) “Fatah PLO” terrorists.
Schlussel may not be as well-known as Geller (perhaps because Schlussel has not exercised a leading role in anything as prominent as the “Ground Zero Mosque” furor), but she is a politically active Republican and more mainstream than Geller because she is also a culture writer with a strong media presence. (Not that she separates this work from her anti-Islamic campaign - she has criticized the film industry for not doing enough to portray Islam “correctly”).
Her opinion on the Norway terror attacks can be summed up with these quotes taken from her ongoing screeds against the terror victims:
“Based on these pics, seems like he’s [Glenn Beck's] spot on, though he should have added, HAMAS Youth camp, too. As we all know, Nazis boycotted Jews and were Jew-killers. And these hateful, privileged brats at the camp boycotted Jews and sided with Jew-killers.
But what goes around comes around. You support terrorists against innocent civilians in Israel, then you get attacked by terrorists who are upset with your support . . . .
Frankly, the HAMAS charter and HAMAS’ behavior, all of which these kids at the Norwegian HAMAS youth camp cheered on, is a lot more scary than the screed and deeds of Breivik . . . .
I shed no tears for these HAMASnik campers with a Scandinavian dialect. Perpetrators are not victims. Sorry. HAMAS collaborators don’t get my pity. They never will.”
Far stronger words than Geller was willing to use. But they are par for the course as far as Schlussel is concerned.
Her prominence derives from her utility to the male conservative-dominated anti-Islamic movement. The fact that she is a woman (and also the daughter of Holocaust survivors) speaking out against Islam gives greater credence to an ideological group whose most well-known speakers are white Christian males like Newt Gingrich, Geert Wilders and Pat Robertson (the movement is, as a whole, dominated by sociopolitically conservative men, although many are not Christians).
Gingrich and Robertson, for instance, denounce Islamic attitudes towards women, while still being hostile to “feminism” under the cloak of “family values.” Having women on their anti-Islamic bandwagon helps prove their “point” about Islamic backwardness and their moral righteousness, which is a combination of faux-progressivism (treating Geller and Schlussel as intellectual co-equals) and paternalism (evoking Orientalist images of rapacious Muslim brutes). A similar logic animates the GOP embrace of Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter and Michele Bachmann. Schlussel and Geller, among others, are useful for the right (while at the same time, they castigate individuals on the left for being Islam’s “useful idiots”).
But back to Schlussel’s own anti-Islamic agenda. Before this most recent denunciation of insufficiently Zionist individuals, she famously responded to Osama bin Laden’s death by quipping “1 down, 1.8 billion to go.” When a family of West Bank settlers were murdered earlier this year, she approvingly quoted PM Netanyahu’s son’sremarks that “terror has a religion and it is Islam” and “not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.”
Schlussel is an ardent Zionist – Hamas and Fatah are basically the same thing, in her analysis, and are dedicated to ending Israel forever. With this in mind, few individuals or institutions are pro-Israel enough for her: Republican Governor Chris Christie, for instance, is “Hamas GOP” because he appointed Pakistani-AmericanSohail Mohammed, a Muslim attorney who defended individuals (including Hamas supporters) that the federal government sought to extradite from the U.S. after 9/11, to the NJ State Supreme Court. Whole Foods is “anti-Israel” because it sells fair trade products from Palestinian farmers in the West Bank and has dared to wish its customers a good Ramadan (there is ill-intent behind this marketing ploy, of course). And, like Robert Spencer and Pat Robertson, she believes that mainstream media is “anti-American” (and thus, anti-Western) and panders to Islam because it is anti-Semitic, anti-Christian and anti-Western.
Both Congressmen Ron Paul (who has called for a U.S. withdraw from the Middle East and an end to the US$3 billion in aid Washington sends Israel annually) and Dennis Kucinich (who condemned the Israeli assault on the first Freedom Flotilla) are “for” Hamas, according to Schlussel. That a libertarian who caucuses with the GOP and one of the most lefit-wing members of the Democratic Party are somehow colluding to advance Hamas’s agenda is well within the realm of possibility for Schlussel: either you are with Israel (and the West – which, by extension, means you’re “with” civilization), or against it. For Schlussel, no Muslim can ever be “for” those things.
As Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Watch asked in its coverage of her work, why did Schlussel even bothersaying that she doesn’t support Anders Breivik when she says that “I can’t feel sorry for those who support my would-be assassins. And I don’t get too upset when they face the karma that is their fate.”
<The author would like to thank Mondoweiss’s readers for bringing Schlussel’s response to his attention>.
Alan Dershowitz’s flippant, dismissive remarks about male genital mutilation (aka circumcision) are infuriating, but an apropos Freudian slip. From where I sit, military Zionism shares a lot in common with this barbaric practice. Both involve inflicting violence against an oppressed victim without regard to his/their wishes, rendering the oppressed a voiceless object, an ‘It’ as opposed to a ‘Thou.’
I’m 37, and have been sitting on a mountain of grief and rage for 17 years, since I discovered what was stolen from me while reading a critique of circumcision in a hip, underground, alternative Jewish newspaper I found at a campus Hillel, of all places.
Most circumcision advocates don’t know the first thing about what a foreskin is and what its purpose is in human sexuality. Did you know that a foreskin increases pleasure for both a man and his partner? Did you know that aforeskin contains tens of thousands of fine touch nerve receptors found nowhere else in the male genitalia, covers and protects the head (glans) of the penis, and creates a pleasure-inducing gliding mechanism? Did you know that circumcision removes the most sensitive and pleasurable parts of the male penis?
Most adult circumcised men I’ve spoken to are reluctant to discuss this topic and get highly defensive about it, saying, “Hey, my penis is perfectly fine. My sex life is great.” If you don’t have a foreskin, you don’t know what you’re missing, Tricking yourself into thinking your sex life is all it could be (when it’s not) is a very bad reason to continue inflicting this cruelty on future generations.
Think of it this way: if there was a ritual surgery performed at birth that removed a child’s ability to see in color, the world would still be beautiful in black-and-white. But why should your son’s ability to see in color be taken away just because yours was? Sex in black-and-white is good, but sex in color is much better.
It’s well documented that one of the primary drives for circumcision, in both Jewish and gentile communities, was to dampen sexual pleasure. Moses Maimonides, the famed medieval Jewish rabbi, physician and philosopher, wrote, “One of the reasons for circumcision is to bring about a decrease in sexual intercourse and a weakening of the organ in question.” Shouldn’t that choice be left to the man whose body it is, not inflicted upon him when he’s a defenseless baby?
Much like military Zionism, circumcision is promoted on the back of a load of bald faced lies. Consider “a land without a people for a people without a land.” Its analogs are “circumcision makes the penis cleaner,” “circumcision reduces your chance of catching an STD,” and the shopworn “God commands us to do this” (just like God allegedly promised us this land exclusively, and ordered us to ethnically cleanse it of non-Jews.) None of these statements are true, and I shudder at the necessity of debunking them, but debunk them I must, as I can only assume many readers of this blog have been brainwashed about circumcision as I was as a child, and are perhaps reading a rebuttal of the myths for the first time.
“Circumcision makes the penis cleaner” – Let’s apply some common sense here. Virtually no European men are circumcised. Is there rampant gangrene in Europe? No. Intact male genitals are as easy to clean as a female’s.
“Circumcision reduces your chance of catching an STD” – Again, Europe and common sense are our allies. Why is it that in uncut Europe, STD rates are lower than in circumcised America? Regardless, are infants at risk of catching STDs? Shouldn’t decisions about how to practice safe sex be left to grown men? Condoms and responsible sexual choices prevent STDs, not genital mutilation.
“God commands us to perform circumcision” – In the Torah, God also commands us to stone people to death, burn animal sacrifices, and take slaves from neighboring nations. Jews have given up those unholy practices, why shouldn’t we give this one up too? The majority of Swedish Jews are intact, and guess what? They’re still Jewish! Judaism, whether a cultural, ethnic, or religious identity, does not require circumcision. Jewishness is solely defined by parental lineage or conversion, not by genital cutting. Today, there are Jewish baby welcoming ceremonies for all genders free from genital cutting.
In addition to significantly reducing a grown man’s capacity for sexual pleasure, circumcision is a highly risky, unnecessary surgery that results in over 100 infant fatalities every year in the U.S., and leaves countless others with highly disfigured genitals in so-called “botched” circumcisions. In one famous case, David Reimer committed suicide because of his grief over his lack of a penis, the result of a botched circumcision.
My entire argument boils down to one thing: It should have been my choice, and it should be the choice of every man/boy whose body it is — not the parents. I have no objection to a man who’s reached the age of consent choosing circumcision or any other permanent body modification for himself. But that choice must be preserved, not stolen.
Parents who defend circumcision by saying “It’s a personal choice” – I encounter that argument all the time in my work as an intactivist – are quite delusional to think they should have the right to choose to amputate healthy tissue from a non-consenting minor. They wouldn’t do that to their daughters, why should they have the right to inflict such a human rights violation on their sons?
I stand against sexual abuse, child abuse, genital mutilation, and torture, all of which are accurate – and I meant that logically, according to the precise dictionary definitions of those terms – descriptors of the anachronistic practice euphemestically called ‘circumcision.’ The very fact that our culture is so proud of judging African tribes as barbaric for practicing ‘female genital mutilation,’ while the mainstream media never uses the term ‘male genital mutilation’ to describe what routinely happens here, says a lot. Hint: In Europe, they think we’re as twisted and barbaric as we think the tribes in Africa are. Fortunately, circumcision rates are falling in the U.S., from a peak of higher than 80% in the 1970s to around 33% today.
According to a 1996 U.S. federal law, it is illegal to perform any act of genital cutting on a non-consenting minor female, even variants of circumcision that are far less invasive and damaging than the typical male circumcision. It’s illegal in this country to even prick a clitoral hood and draw a tiny drop of blood from a baby girl for religious purposes, or for any purpsose! I want to see the same legal protections extended to baby boys. In San Francisco, efforts are underway to ban circumcision within city limits, although unfortunately a judge struck it from the ballot - I hope that an appeal will be successful. I see the anti-circumcision movement as being where the gay rights movement was 40 years ago, and I hope it doesn’t take that long to catch up. The organized Jewish community presents a significant barrier to this effort, just as they do in the quest for Palestinian rights.
Back to Mr. Dershowitz. He said:
And the first thing you have to do is have all these guys who are circumcized demand it back, go to the hospital, and have it sewn back on. That’ll make them complete pricks, instead of the pricks that they are, O.K.?
If I could sue the doctor who cut me (unfortunately I’m past the statute of limitations), or wave a magic wand and regenerate what I lost, believe me I would. But since I can’t do either of those things, I’m restoring. It doesn’t give me back everything that your allies in the penis mutilation industry stole from me, and it doesn’t provide justice for the crime, but it does make a big difference.
And I’ll tell you what Mr. Dershowitz, circumcision has something in common with military, apartheid Zionism: both belong in the dustbin of history. Someday – someday! – Palestinians and Israelis will live together as equals, and someday baby boys will enjoy the same human rights baby girls already do in this country, namely, freedom from non-consensual genital cutting. I wonder if your fear that we’ll ask for our foreskins back is an analogue to your fear of ethnically cleansed Palestinians demanding their right of return.
(An aside: The fact that circumcision is widely practiced by Muslims, American gentiles, and others doesn’t let Dershowitz and his pro-mutilation allies off the hook. Worldwide, 75% of men are intact, putting the circumcision camp in a dwindling minority.)
For more info, check out my resources page.
P.S. – Mr. Dershowitz, if you’re reading this, I challenge you to a public debate about circumcision. I’ll win. All I need is one legal, constitutional argument: it’s called Equal Protection. Thus, if this law were ever challenged at the Supreme Court level, it would have to be amended to outlaw male genital mutilation, too. Maybe you’d get used to Brit Shaloms instead, I hear they’re quite enjoyable for everyone involved – especially the baby.
In “Getting bin Laden,” Nicholas Schmidle’s New Yorker report on the assault on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, here’s the money sentence, according toNoah Shachtman of Wired Magazine’s Danger Room blog: “The Abbottabad raid was not DEVGRU’s maiden venture into Pakistan, either. The team had surreptitiously entered the country on ten to twelve previous occasions, according to a special-operations officer who is deeply familiar with the bin Laden raid.” DEVGRU is the acronym for the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, better known as SEAL Team Six (think “SEAL-mania”), the elite special operations outfit that killed bin Laden.
His assassination — and Schmidle’s piece makes clear that his capture was never an objective — brought on a blitz of media coverage. But without reading that single, half-buried sentence, who knew that the same SEAL team had been dropped into Pakistan to do who knows what 10 to 12 times before the bin Laden mission happened? Not most Pakistanis, nor 99.99% of Americans, myself included. Keep in mind that this was only a team of 23 elite troops (plus a translator and a dog). But there are now about 20,000 full-time special operations types, at least 13,000 of them deployed somewhere abroad at this moment. In other words, we simply don’t know the half of it. We probably don’t know the tenth of it — neither the breadth or number of their missions, nor the range of theirtargets. According to Schmidle again, on the day of the bin Laden raid, special operations forces in nearby Afghanistan conducted 12 other “night raids.” Almost 2,000 of them have been carried out in the last couple of years.
These are staggering figures. And since we didn’t know that U.S. special operations forces were secretly conducting Pakistan missions in such numbers, it might be worth asking what else we don’t know. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, speaking to the press in 2002 about the lack of evidence linking Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to the 9/11 attacks, made a famous (or infamous) distinction among “known knowns,” (things we know we know), “known unknowns” (things we know we don’t know), and “unknown unknowns” (things we don’t know we don’t know). How apt those “unknown unknowns” turn out to be when it comes to the ever-expanding special operations forces inside the U.S. military.
Think of them, in fact, as the unknown unknowns of twenty-first century American warfare. Fortunately, thanks to TomDispatch regular Nick Turse, we now have a far better idea of the size and scope of the global war being fought in our name by tens of thousands of secret warriors fighting “in the shadows.” Tom
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