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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Where does it stop?

In the United States, sometimes Republicans seem to imply Democrats not only don't want to fight terrorism but also have no idea how to do it; on the other hand, Republicans know exactly how. They claim George Bush kept this country safe for the last 8 years by torturing people and attacking Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 but was ruled by a brutal although secular dictator.

The argument goes that because there have been no further attacks here, Bush succeeded even though he did not get the mastermind behind 9/11. In fact for a long time, he said it didn't matter. Was that because he didn't want him except as an excuse? Over and over we would be told some 9/11 mastermind had been killed or captured but usually with a name we never heard before he was taken out. The two names we have heard the most still are either free or died of natural causes in Pakistan.

The fact that Barack Obama said we should have finished the job in Afghanistan is argued that means he's a pacifist. When he said we were distracted by Iraq and it was a sinkhole that would swallow us, he was being weak. When he said we should go into Pakistan to get bin Laden, to break up these networks hiding there, it was said that's too tough. Pakistan is our friend (never mind that we have now been making discrete, targeted attacks across the border or that we are much hated in Pakistan). If you are looking for logic, don't even start looking into any of this. Logic plays no role in it.

Anyone, be they Islamic or of no religion, should see the problem with the Islamic extremists who are still active around the world, and in some cases still control countries. It would be nice to make the argument that all religions are equal for the good and damage they can do, but it doesn't actually hold water.

Most religions, if you go back in their beginning sacred texts, might begin in a bloodthirsty way, but many have come to see the beginning wasn't right and have moved onto other ways of seeing their responsibility to creating a civilized world.

I hear the argument that there are two parts of Islam. One is more peaceful such as we saw with Anwar Sadat, and the other more brutal as we have seen with the Taliban. The latter part is what is funding and providing the human fodder to attempt to take over the Arab world for starters. Could we believe that those extreme elements would stop at the borders of current Arab nations if they consolidate their power?

In some Islamic controlled regions, people can be stoned to death for adultery (including those considered more moderate like Saudi Arabia). In Somalia, there was a 13 year old girl who had been raped, reported it and that led to her being stoned to death for adultery. CNN story. Somalia, of course, is a nation with no formal government and is being ruled by the worst Muslim elements, but it's not the only place such things have happened or would happen if the extreme elements of Islam gain power.

Out of these extreme elements have come the kind of men who attacked Mumbai. At the time I am writing this, they have not yet proven from where they came; but whether it was internal to India, from Pakistan, al Qaeda connected, or someone else, they would have one thing in common with all other such attacks-- Muslim extremists seeking revenge for past wrongs. Sound familiar? Religion and ethnicity seem to be at the heart of their crusade. Terrorism is their vehicle to right past wrongs and one more thing-- gain power.

What I didn't know until this happened was that India is 13.4% Muslim and at one time was ruled by a Muslim king: A bit of history of Deccan India. The group, who claimed credit, feel they have been repressed and persecuted (statistics would tend to back up their claims). They may well have gotten weapons and training in Pakistan or at a Madrasah (spelled different ways) school but they wouldn't have had to go outside India to do this.

In Islam today there is a segment that wants to find intellectual solutions to problems. They, like the King of Saudi Arabia, are trying to fund and grow schools that will make Arabs equal to anyone in the world for success, something that had been true in the past before the negative arm of Islam appeared to gain an upper hand. There is another segment who murders teachers, considers secular education to be a threat, and believes only their religion offers what anyone needs to know.

When someone says we have to kill the ones who carry out terrorist acts, I say great. Let's do it. The problem is how do you find them? Sometimes they die themselves in their attacks. Who trained and funded them? It didn't take much money in either the case of the attacks of 9/11 or the recent one in Mumbai. All you need are people willing to die for their cause. They can be living next door to those who would find such an act to be an abomination to god.

Has the United States with its brutalizing of suspected enemies increased or stopped the likelihood of there being more young men and women rising up willing to die for their cause? Have George Bush and his cohorts encouraged the Arab world to see there are better options for a good life than religious extremism or has he empowered that segment? Without the kind of education that the King of Saudi Arabia is promoting, there is no hope, but most of the hijackers on 9/11 were educated and Saudis. So it's not that simple either.

I am not one who believes we can talk reasonably to people who are have gone to the level of considering terrorism to be a reasonable approach to getting their way. I don't believe we should ignore the extremist groups who train such people to carry out attacks. There should be a penalty. How do you find them before they commit an atrocity? It's not like we can kill everybody who is a Muslim. They represent one-fifth of the world's population and are in almost every country. What kind of monsters would the rest of the world have to be to kill innocent people to get at a few bad ones? If we did that, wouldn't we be like the terrorists? Does evil beget good?

Good Islamic people are obviously in the majority, or this situation would be worse than it is. Of the good people though, are there some who secretly applaud what the terrorists have done? Are there those, who while they would never do a violent act, are supportive of the Islamic extremist desire to take over much of the Arab world and maybe beyond forcing it to abide by their interpretation of their religious precepts.

To the Western mind, Islamic religious control, even in moderate nations, is bad, most especially for women who must hide their bodies, cover their hair, not drive a car, can't meet with a man alone without being threatened with punishment, and on it goes. Government retribution is often very violent.

Not all Muslims desire world conquest. Most are content to live peaceful lives and follow their own beliefs but not force them onto others. How do we, and they, weed out the ones who think otherwise? That's why this is not that simple. Terrorists and their supporters often live among ordinary people who are peaceful. Often their own neighbors don't know who they are. How do we find them first before the violence?

The problem with terrorist attacks like what happened in Mumbai is the murderers have used as an excuse things in the past that were done to their people. Resentment about these wrongs, as they see it, are what is used to make people willing to die themselves for revenge. Muslims are massacred. Muslims massacre. Do a search on any of that and you will find endless links to stories. Where does it stop?

I think:

it has to stop with moderate Islamic peoples turning against those who do these things, not letting religious loyalty protect those who are hurting all Muslims.

it has to stop by people seeing that they make their own lives good, help others to make theirs work, and it's what leads to future generations finding joy.

it has to be stopped by government retaliation that is appropriate, devastatingly effective, focused, with no safe borders to hide behind, but not just killing anybody from an opposing religion.

it has to stop when people teach their children revenge doesn't work. Let go of those past wrongs because if we don't, they will destroy us.

it has to stop now, not after revenge that just starts the cycle again.

There is a difference between revenge and justice, and it's something a good educational system can help people to understand. A better world is one that is better for all. It is very sad when religion and ethnicity are excuses for killing as clearly they were this week in Mumbai.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Ah, Rain, such a thoughtful posting you wrote. I have worked with and supervised Muslims who were wonderful, delightful people - dedicated to the American way of life. When I read a piece such as yours, however, I always hear Allison Janney's protestation, as CJ Craig, on The West Wing, concerning a fictional country: "They beat their women!" It makes me shudder and cringe.
Cop Car

Ugich Konitari said...

".....India is 13.4% Muslim and at one time was ruled by a Muslim king: A bit of history of Deccan...."

Before the British colonized India, we had a series of Muslim kings who were the Moghul dynasty. Though some of them , like Akbar were enlightened and tended to have a secular outlook, most were not, and Hindu temples , artists, learned people, etc have been destroyed by these types.

Investigations here , post the current carnage, and catching alive of one of the terrorists have shown, that the entire operation is Pakistan based and financed, with specific names, etc. Sending fictious emails in the name of Deccan Mujahideen is just a convenient trick , which has now been exposed.

Our last President was an eminent Moslem scientist, the third Moslem to hold the post since independence. The Governer of my state is Moslem. We have several Moslems in the arts and sciences, and India, with its constitution guaranteeing secular standards, even has reserved positions in various fields for minorities, of which Moslems are one.

Its really a question of education . Most countries that call themselves Islamic, and resort to barbaric laws, have a vested personal power interest in keeping their people that way.

Moslems in India were never a persecuted lot. In fact, throughout the past, Moslem kings from across the Hindi Kush mountains to the west of what is now Pakistan, have invaded, plundered and destroyed what was once a very rich nation.

What you see today is the difference between two nations ; one, that lives democracy, however tattered the people may be, where the armed forces have always played a supportive but respectful role, and done what they were meant to do; And another nation, which has careened from government to government after violent coups, killings, overthrows, and the politics ofmoney, vioelnce, and dictatorship.

(Rain, I realize this may sound a bit strong and angry, but I have just emerged from a traumatic viewing (50 hours) of a war, where , at a huge cost to us, things have headed to a conclusion, thanks to an outstanding effort from our armed forces, which also has a lot of Moslems in it...)

P. S. I am a Hindu

Rain Trueax said...

[Sometimes I hate blogger. I just wrote a lengthy response here and it swallowed it without leaving it for me to go back to. grrrrrrr]

The gist was that I appreciate your comment Ugich. I had read quite a bit about the history of India and the region in trying to understand this but it's not like living there. Your perspective is far different than from books

The United States has responsibility in the region and Pakistan is a huge problem to the region and the world. It is harboring terrorists and it is out of control with various elements. The $10 billion that the US has thrown there in the years since 9/11 cannot have helped as like with that which went to Iraq or earlier that funded the growth of the Taliban and al Qaeda or Saddam Hussein, the outside world has often thrown money with no clue what it's doing.

I think we are all angry and feeling like there has to be a strong response. One thing that I wrote there which I believe in borders cannot protect people who do these things. Sorry if the government of Pakistan doesn't like it (especially since they have the bomb) but if they become a haven, this will get worse and they have been a haven for too long.

It's going to take strong, focused and powerful responses to get people to see it does not benefit them to harbor terrorists. That might mean a lot more innocent people die but I do not see an alternative to it.

I am hopeful we have a leader in Obama that will see where the US has gone wrong and do what needs doing even if the cost is high to do it. It is higher to not do it.

I hope many people will write here with realistic ideas on how we can go after the ones who do these atrocities. It's not enough to say kill them. That's what has been tried. The question is how and then how to make the situation more stable.

Incidentally on the Muslim population as a whole in India, I was going by an article i read that their health is worse, more poverty etc. I recognize that might be their own doing by following a religion that is destructive to quality of life. Some may do that out of fear of the alternative given how the religious leaders often attack anybody who goes against them.

To me, whether there have been massacres in the past or wrong in the past, it's about getting current perpetrators and those who sent them out and not seeking revenge but justice.

Rain Trueax said...

From a New York Times Editorial: Mumbai vs Terror by Suketu Mehta and how we stop the terrorists from winning.

Kay Dennison said...

This post is excellent, Rain! And I really think you've nailed it here! Like Cop Car, I have met and known Muslims here in my city from all parts of the Arab world and they are fine people and fine Americans who hate what is being done in their homeland.

I took a course in Eastern religions many years ago and, of course, we studied Islam. What we are seeing is not what was intended by Mohammed. Until men (and women) of good faith rise up and take over the Arab world, this is not going to go away.

I think Ugich's comment really clarifies and defines what needs to be done.

The Bush administration has really mishandled this whole thing from the beginning.

Diane Widler Wenzel said...

In order to lessen terrorism we must have a leader like Obama who as a leader should follow good leaership principles. First he or she must define the problem and educate us in a clear way so the everyday Joe can understand the problem. There are so many myths about terrorism that it is hard to talk about it rationally as we are coming close to here ( thank you Ugich Konitari for your valuable perspective) but need even more clarity to begin the next step. For one thing I believe we can never end terrorism totally. Because terrorism is a diseased social process and not a freak evil. Second there is a connection between gangs and international terrorism. Today here in Palm Desert, California there were two dead after shots were fired in a Toys 'R" Us Store. We see gangs declaring themselves on every freight car train. A level of terorism is here on going in the United States.
There has to be two avenues to lessen terorism. One the swift answer to threats and the second the treatment of the causes of the disease. In the second we need dreams, patience and reason to hope.

Ingineer66 said...

Very thought provoking post. I do not know anybody on the right that thinks that going after terrorists in Pakistan is wrong. We should have been doing it all along. That is why we tied in Korea and lost in Vietnam. We would not let our military cross imaginary lines to chase our enemies that would attack us and then run away to safety. Pakistan was about 15 minutes away from becoming Afghanistan before 9/11. Bush gave Musharraf a choice to be with us or against us and he chose with us, but did not seem to really mean it other than taking a bunch of money from us.

I think the people that were oppressed by Sadam feel like they have a better shot at life now. I am sure the national soccer team members appreciate not being tortured by Odai Hussein if they lose.

And I think most all Americans Dem and Republican would like Muslims to rise up against the radical members and police their own. That is why people have been calling for their leadership to denounce suicide bombings and such, but such denunciations are far and few between.

The logic of killing people for distant past wrongs has no place in today's world. If that was the case I should be killing British people for what they did to my Irish ancestors or my American ancestors for that matter.

Rain Trueax said...

Good thoughts from everyone. What I was saying, ingineer, was that Republicans made the point this election and many voted on it that they knew better how to fight terrorists than democrats. If you look at what bush did with Iraq, he basically helped bin Laden finish the financial destruction in the United States. If we go into a full blown depression, which many think could happen in 2011, our ability to do anything about it will be lessened by what has gone into Iraq and you say to protect a few soccer players which may or may not have happened anyway. What you have to remember about Iraq is that is not yet a done deal despite Bush's rhetoric or the sign mission accomplished. It is quite possible to see Iraq turn to a theocracy under Muslim leaders very similar to the Taliban in the future. If so, then any supposed lessening of brutality will be undone. It could be they will not and will become a successful country but none of it is decided now.

Pakistan should go after those terrorist training places themselves. They have one man alive from whom they are getting information. The problem Pakistan has is it is torn apart inside by the same elements that murdered Bhutto. It's a no-man's land for being safe for anybody and their leaders are probably scared to do anything to further incite that element. If they won't do it, the outside world has to do it.

Ten men, some training, a lot of weapons, and this can be repeated a lot of places if it works. It can't be allowed to work. We let bin Laden get away and to a lot that meant he won with 9/11. When they hear about our mess, our financial crash, the whole thing sounds like what happened with the Soviet Union after their years in Afghanistan. Who do you think is taking credit in the Islamic world for our downfall right now. Parapluie said it earlier in a comment on another blog that they did what they set out to do with 9/11 and had more success than they probably dreamed. That was because of our unwise response to what happened. We can't economically or militarily afford that again as we are stretched to the limits. We also cannot ignore terrible attacks like Mumbai. That will make the economic devastation even greater around the world and that is their goal to make it be around the world. We have to be focused and effective, not do things for grandstanding but because they work. I hope today we have the people in place in this country to make that happen. We did not after 9/11 and we will pay the price for that for years to come.

Rain Trueax said...

and i know your soccer team comment was just an example but what happened with Saddam might have been accomplished other ways with less loss of Iraqi and American lives as well as less cost. Someone in our government or country wanted to take over Iraq. I don't believe it worked out as they had thought but there was something more about it than protecting some people who were being brutalized. Some of those might've been killed in the many bombings since.

Focused. That's what has to be the world's goal in the future with these attacks. Not go off on some ramble that leads us into sinkholes but go after the ones who are training and doing it. That's what Bush claimed he was doing but he didn't. I remember when we were bombing Afghanistan and would brag about destroying some training base-- where nobody still was and it was just a collection of shacks. Easy to set up again anywhere. Their training bases aren't like ours. Without the mindset behind these attacks being destroyed or changed, the problem isn't ended. There simply cannot be a country that harbors that-- most especially not one with nuclear bombs. That was the goal with Afghanistan and it made sense to attack them but we didn't finish it.

Ingineer66 said...

Rain I was mostly stirring the pot. You and I agree more about Iraq than we disagree. I would have preferred and offer to Sadam and his sons that he leave the country and take a billion dollars with him or we kill him and everyone he knows and let the kurds and shiites run the country. That is basically what we did with Marcos in the Philipines and Niega in Panama. Marcos took the money and moved to Hawaii. Noriega said no and we arrested him instead of killing him. I think if we would have been more patient we could have got him out, with less expense and less loss of life. But that is all hindsight now. And maybe it would have turned out worse somehow if that is what we would have done.

And there are plenty more examples of sick brutality than just the soccer team. There was still blood on the human sized meat grinder in one of his prisons that we took over. If you told him what he wanted to know, you went in head first. If you didn't, you went in feet first.

Rain Trueax said...

Yes, I know you were and on the meat grinder, that was a story at his trial of a witness who saw what he had done many many years earlier. He was a brutal man as are many other leaders today and you were right about how we could have taken him out. Bush has now admitted in his last interview he was ill-prepared for war. He might still believe he did right but he likely listened to people with no real clue what war was like or what we would accomplish which is not yet for sure.

What upset me today is I read William Kristol's op-ed in NYT and more or less he and I had said the same thing about what needed to be done after the most recent terrorist attack. Now that's not a good start to my morning! But he was right, what the terrorists did in Mumbai was barbaric but they were not barbarians. They have a reason in what they do as do those who support them.

We have barbarians in this country who literally have no goal beyond inflicting pain and death but that is not the case with these Islamic terrorists. Their goal is what should worry the world.

So in this case, if India attacks Pakistan, which is not decided but you could see how they might want to do that where there is a clear terrorist training ground there, it benefits the Taliban who are growing stronger every day in Afghanistan as it will pull troops from Pakistan's western border to deal with India.

Just as bin Laden got what he wanted by us draining ourselves financially to attack Iraq, probably more success than he dreamed, if India does go to war with Pakistan, that suits the Islamic extremists, and may be what they hoped would happen among the damage to India financially.

Hopefully what Pakistan will do is go after the terrorist havens themselves and that the world will give them time to do that, but if they don't, we can't let those places exist and someone will have to deal with it-- the best choice would be the UN but I don't know that they will act on anything fast enough; so next choice would be the western alliances-- because if it has to be India, then we may have Pakistan and India back to war. What these terrorists do is never without a purpose and we have to stay ahead of that if we want to get this stopped. Every time they succeed by our overreaction or no action, they feel they win.

I like the security team that Obama has assembled. It looks strong enough to deal with this kind of thing a lot better than we have been. But time will tell

Ingineer66 said...

I am cautiously optimistic about Obama's security team. I
I guess I am agreeing with you too. If India attacked Pakistan outright because of this it would be a huge mistake. As difficult as it is they should be patient a while longer and work with intelligence to route out the terrorists. Because of the longtime animosity between those two nations, I believe almost any military incursion into Pakistan by India would result in a large war right now.

But I do not agree that the UN has any ability to do much of anything in this situation.

I think the current special forces / clandestine work to capture and kill Taliban and Al Qaeda forces in Pakistan is the best plan for now. Patience is required.

It reminds me of the old story about the old bull and his son standing on top of the hill. The son says "Hey dad look at all those cows down there, let's run down there and get some of them." And the dad says "No son, let's walk down there and get them all."

TorAa said...

I say one word:
Mutual respect

Hasan said...

Great Post and even greater comments... by those who do not live in PAKISTAN... who are not MUSLIMS... who do not have a clue about the other side of the story. It is heartening to see how people can talk about issues-on-the-field while they are sitting snug in their living rooms.

I live in Pakistan. The population is about half that of USA, but we have a democratically elected government which in reality is a 'sham democracy'. Last month the whole country was appalled when we found out that our last elections were held based on a voters list which had 40% bogus (counterfeit) votes. The president of the country is a man internationally known for his corruption, having pending court cases against him in the tune of millions of dollars. One of the sitting ministers, who is also the main representative of the ruling political party in the National Assembly, returned 400 million to a company, after court intervention, taking a plea that he did not know where the money came from. The son of the prime minister bought a bullet proof Mercedes worth Rs. 30 million, and when confronted in the court, he stated he can buy 4 more, without giving a trail of where the money came from. Our ex-president, a retired army general, who was successful in overthrowing a democratic government 15 years ago, and successfully ruled Pakistan for 11 years, have bought an apartment in London where he lives. Of course one cannot make this feat on one’s measly salary so somebody made him a gift of a 1.5 million pound apartment in London. This is Pakistan, a living miracle that is surviving somehow.

So why on earth we cannot remove this corrupt government and take a sigh of relief? Or why on earth an army general was able to usurp power and no one from our democracy-loving god-fearing friends tolerated it. The only reason is our friend America… whose army uses the supply routes traversing all of our country to get provisions in Afghanistan. Of course Americans are our best buddies, so we should not charge them anything for this invaluable service. The much touted 10 billion dollars given as aid is giving peanuts for this service. One fine morning, two USA helicopters came 15 kms inside Pakistan, and killed 22 Pakistani soldiers. As a protest Pakistan stopped all supplies going through our borders. An independent USA based think tank states that an additional $10,000 is spent on sending a 20-foot container to ship via the NDN as opposed to sending it through Pakistan. Airlifting supplies into Afghanistan is the costliest – with an additional $40,000 per 20-foot container spent on sending it by air. By the way, Pakistan has given 3 Air-force bases to USA, of course without any cost.

What have America given in return to people of Pakistan? Nothing… zilch… naught. Americans have given million or even billions straight into the pockets of the corrupt rulers. And it is an open secret. The ‘giver’ knows, as well as the whole country. Our children need schools; how many have you built? Our patients need hospitals; how many have you built? We need roads to travel; how many have you built? We only know that 600 million dollars were found in our President’s Swiss account, managed by a USA citizen, but the trial has somehow lost steam.

Hasan said...

So why does our dear friend America not want to change the corrupt regime. America is afraid about the extreme financial risk which is posed by a change in Government of Pakistan. The man-on-the street loathes the goons that are in power, and similarly loathe America which makes sure that these goons stay in power. It is not a religious dichotomy. Everything is to be measured in financial terms. It is a vicious cycle. Today, we firmly believe that it is America’s doing that an extremely corrupt Government is installed in our country, and nobody can take any action against them. Not even the courts. The common man is crying; they have no jobs, and prices are spiraling out of control. They see that their rulers are minting money, and whenever a skeleton pops out of the closet, these minions run to America, who gives them support by giving a public statement in their favor. People are sick and tired of these puppets, and sick and tired of the masters too.

It is a 10 year old debate that none of the people responsible for 9 -11 originated from Pakistan. They even did not study and got education here (despite the general misconception). In response, USA attacked Afghanistan, our next door neighbor, and demanded from us that they be given safe passage. After 10 years of faithful co-operation, we are being told that the terrorists actually are hiding in Pakistan. The people of Pakistan, like any sane person, innocently ask that how is it possible that 140,000 soldiers, hundreds of aircrafts could not cordon off the area in the first place – before starting the attack. So what if these people managed to squeeze past the intense security. Why don’t you picket the borders and don’t let them back in Afghanistan again. That will slowly kill them out. Asking us not to harbor terrorists is not a solution. There were 50,000 plus reported crimes in Brooklyn last year. Why do people living there harbor criminals? The same reason as we have. Those people have family, friends who give them shelter. No amount of policing, or equipment can sort it out. If it could be sorted, the mayor of NY would have done it decades ago. The similar analogy applies to Pakistan. The thing to note is that this issue has no relationship with religion.

It’s high time that everyone starts analyzing the issue from scratch. You should include assessment that USA government may have erred, they may be giving you false information, and you should try to dig out the other side of the story too.

Rain Trueax said...

History tells us that we know only what we are told and can observe wherever we live. Americans care about these things because they also impact us; but every time any outside nation tries to take over another country, the results usually end up ugly. The best show outsiders have is sponsoring by arms and other help one side that we see as being better than the other-- except that can be wrong and often has been. Our country tends to think it has to intervene because we have the capability to do it but often we do not know the right thing to do. One side from a nation would say one thing. Another something very different. How do you sort through it even if you are the president? It can't be easy. It would be nice if the world was made up of people who want the best for everybody. Too bad that's more a pipe-dream than reality of people anywhere. Always there are those who do want the best but equally those who do not and hope to profit. It's how it's been from the beginning of human development so far as I can tell based on history.

If Americans pull out, they see massacres. If they involve themselves, they make mistakes. And mistakes, or even the right choices, tend to have repercussions beyond that one country's borders. On it goes.