Sunday, July 10, 2005

Terror & Liberalism
Sometimes, I wonder at the sheer lunacy of it all--in the aftermath of the London bombings, in the wake of every suicide attack in Iraq or Israel, after the shock of the September 11 attacks had worn off, far too many liberal bloggers, editorialists and other commentators on the political scene reacted not with morally justified anger towards the extremists who perpetrated the acts, but instead by blaming their opposition at home. (This happened with conservative commentators as well, but that I'll get to later.)

This is really quite insane. I find it difficult to see how liberals can find themselves in this position--even as I too feel the emotional pull to side with them and feel more justified in an all-consuming anger against the Bush administration. I, too, believe that the Iraq war was a war of choice--a reckless gamble on the part of those in power to change the nature of the Middle East. In the short term, there is almost no grounds to deny that the invasion of Iraq has inspired more terrorism than it has prevented. The so-called "flypaper" theory--that American forces in Iraq would attract the terrorists there so that we would not have to deal with them here--seems rather ill-conceived on so many levels. Terrorists in Iraq are being trained how to conduct urban warfare, how to get around American checkpoints, and how to exploit American weaknesses, while they are able to inflict a heavy loss of life on our troops and drain money from our economy. The Iraqi conflict has proved to be the best recruiting material for Islamic extremism next to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But even as I bemoan our current situation in Iraq, and correctly see how it has aided the cause of Islamic extremists, I cannot understand how anyone--whether they be Noam Chomsky or George Galloway--can blame any of these acts of nihilistic terror on anyone but Islamic fanatics...

Galloway
Galloway, speaking on July 7, explained:
No one can condone acts of violence aimed at working people going about their daily lives. They have not been a party to, nor are they responsible for, the decisions of their government. They are entirely innocent and we condemn those who have killed or injured them. The loss of innocent lives, whether in this country or Iraq, is precisely the result of a world that has become a less safe and peaceful place in recent years...Tragically Londoners have now paid the price of the government ignoring such warnings. We urge the government to remove people in this country from harms way, as the Spanish government acted to remove its people from harm, by ending the occupation of Iraq and by turning its full attention to the development of a real solution to the wider conflicts in the Middle East.
Is this a liberal statement? How can people who call themselves liberal on sites like the Daily Kos for example, accept this rhetoric? "By George, I think he's got it," one member responded.

But read the statement again, and you begin to fully see the lunacy of the position many on the left have taken: obviously some people can condone, indeed they can carry out, "acts of violence aimed at working people going about their daily lives." These people are the terrorists who Galloway should be focusing on. Galloway then states that these members of a democratic society are in no way responsible for the decisions of the government they elected--again, Osama Bin Laden has explicitly disagreed with this in this pre-presidential election statement to America. And I hate to say it, but Bin Laden has a point--members of a society are responsible for the actions of their government, the content of their culture, and the structure of its society--that is precisely the argument that liberalism is built on. We all have a responsibility to the least among us. We have a responsibility to make sure our justice system is fair and treats all individuals as equals. We have a responsibility to make sure our foreign policy is just. Those are the responsibilities of each citizen living in a democracy.

Following from this, it seems that Galloway believes that his own government is a legitimate target of terrorism--but that instead ordinary Londoners have "paid the price of the government." This is a position that is not entirely indefensible, but is shocking nevertheless--and I am sure it is a position Galloway would deny he has ever embraced. But that is precisely the implicit message of his speech--that the problem with these terrorist attacks is that they were directed at innocents rather than Blair and company.

Moral Acrobatics

What kind of moral acrobatics are needed to justify equating acts of terrorism with a profoundly flawed but necessary temporary occupation of Iraq? There is a world of difference between searching for the roots of Islamic hatred and fanaticism and giving in to the demands of the extremists. While it is important that we deplore the violence in Iraq perpetrated by our own troops--especially when it results in the deaths or injuries of innocents--and that we hold ourselves to a higher standard, we must not lose sight of the depravities of the method of terrorism itself. Have American and British troops killed innocent people--accidentally or recklessly, even in some cases maliciously? Probably. That is the evil of any way. Have American and British troops performed or tried to perform difficult and even impossible tasks with honor and distinction? From almost all reports, it seems so. The situation in Iraq is awful and morally ambiguous for our soldiers: how to tell a friend from a foe; how to balance protecting one's own life with the need to trust people in order to build up a society; how to maintain a sense of professionalism and morality when the enemy is entirely depraved...

But how, in God's name, can any individual confuse this supremely flawed occupation in which innocent people accidentally die with a campaign of terror in which killing innocent people is the sole target? How can some liberals say that because Bush and Blair acted in such a way as to anger the terrorists, the attacks are somehow their responsibility? It's like blaming people who support abortion for the bombing of a clinic. Or more precisely, blaming Gandhi for the violence the British inflicted on his followers. Bush and Blair did not inspire Islamic terrorism; terrorist attacks are not properly understood as a justified or even a direct result of particular actions. Their intent is to be disproportionate; they are acts of nihilistic destruction rooted, in this case, in a perverted vision of Islam.

At worst, the war against Iraq can be seen as a strategic bid by the United States to find a platform to project power from in the Middle East in which too many innocent Iraqis have died. But even in the worst scenario, we have removed a malevolent dictator who oppressed and murdered his own people and are trying to replace him with a representative liberal government. What, on the other hand, was the purpose of the 9/11 attacks? Or the 7/7 attacks? What is the good that these terrorists are trying to accomplish with their power? What is their justification?

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