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Sam Harris Responds to Chris Hedges’ ‘Fundamentalism Kills’ Column

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Posted on Jul 26, 2011
samharris.org

Sam Harris is a bestselling author who often writes on what he sees as the danger that religion poses to society.

By Sam Harris

Editor’s note: On Tuesday, in a column that can be read here, Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges criticized Sam Harris as being a fundamentalist. We offered Harris, who was once a prominent contributor to this site, a chance to respond, and he has done so.

After my first book was published, the journalist Chris Hedges seemed to make a career out of misrepresenting its contents—asserting, among other calumnies, that somewhere in its pages I call for an immediate, nuclear first strike on the entire Muslim world. Hedges spread this lie so sedulously that I could have spent years writing letters to the editor. Even if I had been willing to squander my time in this way, such letters are generally pointless, as few people read them. In the end, I decided to create a page on my website addressing such controversies, so that I can then forget all about them. The result has been less than satisfying. Several years have passed, and I still meet people at public talks and in comment threads who believe that I support the outright murder of hundreds of millions of innocent people.

In an apparent attempt to become the most tedious person on Earth, Hedges has attacked me again on this point, and the editors at Truthdig have invited me to respond. I suppose it is worth a try. To begin, I’d like to simply cite the text that has been on my website for years, so that readers can appreciate just how unscrupulous and incorrigible Hedges is:

The journalist Chris Hedges has repeatedly claimed (in print, in public lectures, on the radio, and on television) that I advocate a nuclear first-strike on the Muslim world. His remarks, which have been recycled continuously in interviews and blog-posts, generally take the following form:

“I mean, Sam Harris, at the end of his first book, asks us to consider a nuclear first strike on the Arab world.” (Q&A at Harvard Divinity School, March 20, 2008)

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“Harris, echoing the blood lust of [Christopher] Hitchens, calls, in his book ‘The End of Faith,’ for a nuclear first strike against the Islamic world.” (“The Dangerous Atheism of Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris,” AlterNet, March 22, 2008)

“And you have in Sam Harris’ book, ‘The End of Faith,’ a call for us to consider a nuclear first strike against the Arab world. This isn’t rational. This is insane.” (“The Tavis Smiley Show,” April 15, 2008)

“Sam Harris, in his book ‘The End of Faith,’ asks us to consider carrying out a nuclear first-strike on the Arab world. That’s not a rational option—that’s insanity.” (“A Conversation with Chris Hedges,” Free Inquiry, August/September 2008)

Wherever they appear, Hedges’ comments seem calculated to leave the impression that I want the U.S. government to start killing Muslims by the millions. Below I present the only passage I have ever written on the subject of preventative nuclear war and the only passage that Hedges could be referring to in my work (“The End of Faith,” pages 128-129). I have taken the liberty of emphasizing some of the words that Hedges chose to ignore:

It should be of particular concern to us that the beliefs of Muslims pose a special problem for nuclear deterrence. There is little possibility of our having a cold war with an Islamist regime armed with long-range nuclear weapons. A cold war requires that the parties be mutually deterred by the threat of death. Notions of martyrdom and jihad run roughshod over the logic that allowed the United States and the Soviet Union to pass half a century perched, more or less stably, on the brink of Armageddon. What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry? If history is any guide, we will not be sure about where the offending warheads are or what their state of readiness is, and so we will be unable to rely on targeted, conventional weapons to destroy them. In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own. Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime—as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day—but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe. How would such an unconscionable act of self-defense be perceived by the rest of the Muslim world? It would likely be seen as the first incursion of a genocidal crusade. The horrible irony here is that seeing could make it so: this very perception could plunge us into a state of hot war with any Muslim state that had the capacity to pose a nuclear threat of its own. All of this is perfectly insane, of course: I have just described a plausible scenario in which much of the world’s population could be annihilated on account of religious ideas that belong on the same shelf with Batman, the philosopher’s stone, and unicorns. That it would be a horrible absurdity for so many of us to die for the sake of myth does not mean, however, that it could not happen. Indeed, given the immunity to all reasonable intrusions that faith enjoys in our discourse, a catastrophe of this sort seems increasingly likely. We must come to terms with the possibility that men who are every bit as zealous to die as the nineteen hijackers may one day get their hands on long-range nuclear weaponry. The Muslim world in particular must anticipate this possibility and find some way to prevent it. Given the steady proliferation of technology, it is safe to say that time is not on our side.

I will let the reader judge whether this award-winning journalist has represented my views fairly.


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By Satyagraha, August 19, 2011 at 3:48 pm Link to this comment

@Shenonymous & @Leefeller

Good points.  It’s been very nice chatting with you both.  Thought I’d leave a little summary of my take for those who arrive at this comment section looking for something at the top to tempt them to peer through the hundreds of posts here.

Seems like between those leaning Hedges and those leaning Harris, the fair points are:

—Lumping Harris (an atheist and non-murderer) with Breivik (a Christian mass murderer) is the kind of unjustified juxtoposition that should have made Hedges expect a rhetorical smackdown.

—Hedges probably does need to consider writing from a more grounded place (this is putting it very politely).

—On the other hand, Harris really does say some remarkably provocative (and often empirically FALSE) things about Islam.  And though he is not a “racist” by the strict definition he uses—i.e. he does not disapprove of the higher levels of melanin that tend to be found in Muslims, on average, than in the people who run Western societies—Harris does seem to consider Islamist belief a potentially capital offense.  That is, he treats Islamism not only as something to criticize and dislike someone for endorsing, but potentially as something to KILL someone for when the stakes are high.  To the extent Harris thinks that it’s sometimes justified to kill people for their beliefs (presumably Islamsists), and to the extent he doesn’t ideologically distinguish clearly between “Islamist” and “Muslim” (a distinction he explicitly disavows in other places), Muslims have some reason to be afraid of the implications of Harris’s popularity among otherwise the otherwise liberal intellectual class.

Even when Harris defends himself (as he does here and on his own website: http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/response-to-controversy2), he doesn’t take his most provocative statements back, but just tries to finesse them to make them look more reasonable—and even liberal.  His remarks on pre-emptive nuclear strikes, after you strip away all the “I hate Hedges for talking about this all the time without complete accuracy”, still amount to asking us to treat pre-emptive nuclear strikes as “the only thing likely to ensure our survival” if an “Islamist” regime ever obtains long-range nuclear weapons.  There’s just no way to wash the irresponsible provocativeness off of that.

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By Shenonymous, August 18, 2011 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment

Satyagraha - No, that is Shenonymous recognition! Ha!  Your
writing is laced with wonderful allusions and snippets from
literature that I find most refreshing.  I agree that all hope is
that the Randian individualism does not germinate as the Arab
world reawakens.  I say reawaken because they were once the
model of extraordinary human thinking and accomplishments
and seem to have simply dozed off for a couple of centuries. 
I guess that happens when one isn’t looking.  Disparate groups
that suffer similar outsider status do have some ostensible affinity. 
But I think that judgment comes not from within each group, but
from observers of both.

I do not know enough about the Arab world to speak with any deep
perceptions.  I have and have read the Qur’an and about a dozen or so
books as I try to gain an in-the-round view.  The Muslims I knew and
know professionally really do not want to “discuss” their political
religion.  We are too busy with our jobs and lives anyway but it does not
give me much interface except for what I’ve gleaned from blogs and
what I’ve read.  For the most part participants are extremely partisan or
are critics who are either so far to the right that they see their brand of
Christianity in complete competition with a militant Islam and there is no
room for discussion, only discord; or, the left extremists are blinded by a
revulsion of their own culture so that there is never any real dialogue,
just superficialities from those who are not aware they act like
dilletantes. And my being centrist, they never fail to criticize me up the
wazoo, for to either side I am their opposite.  Sometimes I think I need to
have some nails and large pieces of wood and a hammer and maybe that
would satisfy their collective bloodthirst.  I do have one mentor, an older
and wiser Arab gent who takes the time to explain doctrine in language
easily understood.  He gave me a beautiful book on the Alhambra.  But
alas, he is limited in time and in some ailing condition.  So I do not
bother him so much.  I never trust the news for any truth as they only
barely touch the surface of immediate stories anyway. PBS or Discovery
and History Channels offer a program now and then but it is hard to
know exactly when and I usually miss them. I am left to my own devices. 
It is a shame though that our society does not bring Muslim culture
without the tapestry of religion into public presentation so that other
aspects of beauty about the culture are seen and appreciated, learn
about its illustrious history, without the religious conflict we are so aware
of today, so that reactive judgments are tempered by concerns for the
aesthetic as well as the ethic.  We are missing those elements, the
aesthetic and the ethic.  I think one is no more important than the other.

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By Shenonymous, August 18, 2011 at 3:28 pm Link to this comment

2.
I think the “new” atheists focus on Islam because it is la religion
de la journée.  I have read their separate dim evaluations of
Christianity and they do not hold back any of the sharpest
critical rationale seeing it as a danger to the mind to give way
to such codification, which they see as utterly stifling. Harris
unremittingly devotes his book Letter to a Christian Nation to
what he has concluded is a higher proportion of intolerance that
seems vividly antithetical to the original creeds of that religion. 
Militant Christians have been stealthily quiet over the not-so-
distant past so have lingered in the shadows of attention, until.
that is, the newest spate of Republican politicians mouthing
dogmatic invocations.  God warned not to take his name in vain. 
If that is a genuine edict then God ought to be kept out of politics. 
But of late that sophistry has caused a lot of the public to ask
incredulously what the F, when the neo-Christian politicians start
with their religious associations and incantations to the basking of
their supplicants.

The attention of the new atheists, then, because after all they are
atheists, turned to Islam, the next big thing on the religion clipboard. 
The Jews have violence in their past though it is hazy, and comparatively
have been imperial only with respect to the Palestinians.  At least in my
lifetime I’ve never seen them try to conquer anyone else.  It has been just
the opposite throughout history, parts of the world have tried to
subjugate or exterminate them!  Yet, their religion spawned the other
two big ones, hence it is the wellspring of the originating ideas.  How
three differently oriented religions could develop from one shows
conspicuously how ethnic values evolve.  Why there are more than 700
established religions in the world splintered into 3200 different sects? 
Well in some of its actions religion has been a nasty business, not
brought about by any god, but by the hubris of men.  Whatever form the
new atheists criticisms have taken I would guess it is as temporary as
anything else that can be commodified.  My measure, even to myself, is
what is it going to be like in a hundred years?  None of this today will
really matter since new generations will see the world differently as
technology helps them to see the world in a different light.  What is
going on now will be weathered and those who can effect peaceful
solutions will be hailed as mankind’s best.

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By Leefeller, August 18, 2011 at 3:06 pm Link to this comment

Satyagraha, A qucik comment, my respect for other peoples beliefs seems much easier to digest if the believer is reciprocal towards my unbelief. Though others here in TD land would tout otherwise.

I really appreciate your synopsis on Harris, and do not feel any need or desire to jump in for his defense. On the other hand the Hedges introduction connecting Harris and Htichins by name to the Norway murderer by name was, in my view this was vile and disgusting. 

One thing which is most important to me is the separation of church and state. Looking at current events here in the USA Christians seem to be dragging their religion around on their sleeves waving them around and now even running for president.  This is very discomfiting to me.  I happen to feel, religion should be a personal thing and like personal proclivities should be, ... not seen and not heard. Otherwise, I wish they would keep their proclivities to themselves. Keeping it to themselves may never be in the cards, one only need look at the history of religion why.

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By Satyagraha, August 18, 2011 at 2:55 pm Link to this comment

@truedigger3

You’ve got a point that calling for killing people of one religion is morally similar to calling for killing people of another—and this is an equivalency that people tend to forget when they read or hear violence-glorifying Islamophobic rants from respected public intellectuals, academics, politicians, media dons, etc.  Rarely does anyone respond by asking, “would it be okay to say that about [insert minority-religious-group-that-everyone-knows-you’re-not-supposed-to-persecute here]?”

If you insert “Judaism” for “Islam” in Harris’s work, as well as “Judaist” for “Islamist”, “Jew” for “Muslim”, “Tanak and Talmud” for “Koran and Hadith”, etc, Harris does indeed come off sounding like a Nazi.  I also made a similar point in my gratuitous 25-page screed on the Harris-Hedges conflict: http://invitationhedgesharris.blogspot.com/

However, technically speaking, my critique (and yours) is a bit redundant.  Harris, as a general opponent of religion, devotes some time to exposing the violence in the Tanak / Old Testament in a way that religious Jews would likely find offensive.  Atheist Bill Maher (raised more or less Jewish) had a go at religious Jews as well, in his film Religulous.  Actually, come to think of it, Richard Dawkins said a few borderline anti-Semitic things as well, including this:

“When you think about how fantastically successful the Jewish lobby has been, though, in fact, they are less numerous I am told—religious Jews anyway—than atheists and [yet they] more or less monopolize American foreign policy as far as many people can see. So if atheists could achieve a small fraction of that influence, the world would be a better place.”

Dawkins says something similar in his book the God Delusion—minus the dumb “foreign policy” remark (Right wing Zionists of both apocalyptic Christian and Likudnik Jewish varieties have a strong influence on American foreign policy, not Jews per se or even Zionist Jews in all their ideological diversity—J-Street, for instance, is still swimming against the tide).  And of course Dawkins (and Hitchens) make their own no-holds-barred attacks on the Jewish Tanak.  And Hitchens has taken a pretty strong stand against Israel on a number of occasions, and even got called out as a David-Irving-defending-Holocaust-denier by Henry Kissinger once.

Ambivalence about Israel, in fact, is another dimension on which the “New Atheists” (“New Neocons”?) differ from old school neocons.  Note that Harris, in the character assassination piece we’re all responding to, never goes after Hedges for being an “anti-Semite”, though Hedges is one of the most vociferous public critics of Israeli policy, and has said a few things on this subject that have made even my teeth grind.

That said, though, Harris is probably the most Israel-hawkish of the Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens crew.  And when he attacks the Tanak, it reads more like an attack against Christianity or religion in general, rather than against Judaism specifically.  And he does not infer from the fact that religious Jews worship the God of the Tanak that religious Jews are a grave danger to the world and that thus “our survival” would call for launching a pre-emptive nuclear strike against them if a religious Jewish country ever obtained long range nuclear weaponry.

Side note: you say the Koran is more humane than the Tanak.  This is probably true, but then so is the Jewish Talmud.  The subsequent canonized religious works that spun off from the Tanak to create the Judaisms, Christianities and Islams that we know today have all done a relatively good job of capturing the humanist potential that can be found in the Tanak and sloughing off much of the rougher stuff.  Perhaps this is a sign of some moral progress in the religious domain?  And yet somehow we still got Ayman Zawahiri, Meir Kahane, and John Hagee.

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By Satyagraha, August 18, 2011 at 12:41 pm Link to this comment

@Leefeller (more directly)

I think you make a decent point (in your longer most recent post).  Religious Christians and Jews tend to feel like it’s myopic when people read the Bible non-devotionally and pick out all the racist, misogynist, genocidal and sometimes just insane stuff that’s there, failing to appreciate the timeless and sometimes incredibly forward-thinking wisdom that’s oddly packed in together with these celebrations of atrocity.  If we’re supposed to do charitable readings of the Bible, bleeping over the “leave nothing alives” and the “shall be put to deaths”, should we not extend the same courtesy to Sam Harris?

You, like many people I have met (and one of the New York Times reviewers who gave Harris’s book a good write up) admire Harris and Hitchens for their ability to let atheists (and closet atheists) know that other people like them really exist, that their views are legitimate, and that they should have rights and recognition and a place in society.  If Harris and Hitchens go off the rails now and again, that might just be a function of having to be atheists in a society that regards atheists pretty unfavorably (even religious “nones” will often take great strides to correct if you call them “atheists”).

Even Harris and Hitchens cozying up to Islamophobes might best be understood as a way to achieve normalcy for their discriminated-against atheist ingroup (assuming that atheism is what primarily motivates H & H, and not neoconservatism).  What was one of the first steps forward in the progress towards black civil rights?  Allowing blacks in the military.  What was one of the significant steps forward towards achieving LBGT civil rights?  Don’t ask don’t tell (and its subsequent repeal in favor of non-discrimination).  Is it somewhat sick that one of the easiest ways to become “normal” in a culture is to provide valuable support to your culture’s ultraviolent adventures?  Yes, but perhaps it’s not particularly sicker for Harris to do it than for the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.  What the slaveholding states did to blacks-who-refused-to-be-slaves is exactly the same (murder) as what many Muslim countries do to former-Muslims-who-declare-themselves-atheists.

Still, though, torture and pre-emptive nuclear strikes?  Declarations that we’re at war with the entire vision of life presented in the Koran and Hadith?  Saying that sometimes we’re justified to kill people for their beliefs? There are mellower ways to cozy up to the military-industrial complex and prove your Americanness. 

And even the Civil War analogy I’m using here is worth squeezing some more implications from, as any gains Black Americans got out of the Civil War lasted only a few years, and then got shut down by Jim Crow and the hijacking of the 14th Amendment by corporations.  The gains of the Civil War weren’t really felt until the Civil Rights movement brought them home—nonviolently.  You look at fundamentalist right wing Christians cheerfully quoting Harris and Hitchens now, but they’ll be ready to burn them at the stake if their death-worshipping dominionist vision ever takes root in the grave of Muslim (and thus everyone’s) civil and human rights.

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By Satyagraha, August 18, 2011 at 11:56 am Link to this comment

@Rusty57 (and to some extent @Leefeller)

I want to go back to a good point you made:

“The reason why Harris, Hitchens and Dawkins are the celebrity atheists, is not just because of their loud anti-theist statements against organized religion and religious believers. That could make a few headlines, but their staying power is drawn from the fact that they always say Islam is the number one worst religion in the world, and the one we must all rally against, and because of how they fit into the broader strategies of Neoconservative foreign policy and Neoliberal economic policies.”

I am inclined to agree, though I’d have to caution that this is a hypothesis about history (the history of the “New Atheist” phenomenon) that could use some testing before it’s accepted as likely fact or dismissed as conspiratorial fantasy.

Dawkins protested against the Iraq War, referred to George W. as a bully, and (at first) opted out of the Clash of Civilizations because he said he didn’t have a dog in the fight between the Christian West and the Muslims world.  His book did very well anyway.  He’s since been a little more vociferous about Islam, probably in unconscious deferment to the gestalt of the New Atheist collective he’s been lumped in with by both fans and foes.  Dawkins’ recent shift in the crazy Islamophobic direction is something that should give the angriest critics of the New Athiests pause, however, rather than make them feel vindicated.

Even calling this group the “New Atheists”, and attacking them as bad and dangerous, makes other atheists (even the majority sensible tolerant left wing kind) unconsciously inclined to get on board with this well-marketed minority also.

I think it would actually be better to follow your lead and refer to Hitchens and Harris as the “New Neocons.”  Dawkins, I think, doesn’t really belong in this category. Absent his crew, his natural inclination is to be a very sardonically funny standard old 19th Century type Oxford don scientist atheist.  If you haven’t read the God Delusion yet, I highly recommend it.  Dawkins was good friends with Douglas Adams (of Hithhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame) and I laughed out loud and harder much more often when reading Dawkins than I did reading the original Hithhiker series (and I laughed a lot in that series).  I wish he’d try his hand at writing fiction.

Hitchens and Harris, on the other hand, are neocons who have, through their embrace of war and torture (respectively) both made their ideological peace with Henry Kissinger (a neocon bugaboo back when neocons were more idealistic and didn’t approve of massacring and torturing people, or working with and installing dictatorships).  The New Neocons have also modified Leo Strauss’s idea that religion provides a noble myth to advance muscular Manicheanism as an antidote to liberal relativism.  In the New Necon vision, religion is no longer a noble myth, but a dangerous source of instability, a potentially rebellious force that must be crushed.  Even “liberal religion” is dangerous because it is relativism par excellence, the kind of relativism that allows the other, more apocalyptic forms of religion to survive and thrive (this point is one Harris regularly hammers home).

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By Satyagraha, August 18, 2011 at 11:50 am Link to this comment

@Shenonymous

Your compliments on my writing really put me in a good mood this morning.  So odd what even anonymous recognition can do.

I agree that the Arab Spring suggests the beginnings of a kind of organic inwardly-driven liberal pluralism, but one rooted, I think in a pluralistic understanding of Islam and Christianity that can be found in the Koran and the Bible without Montesquieu’s assistance.  I’m not so sure individualism will come with this liberal pluralism.  If it does, hopefully it will be the 12 Angry Men-style conscientious-conscience-against-prejudiced-indifference individualism, the individualism that is compatible with a strong civil society.  This kind of noble individualism is most compatible with the best features of “tribal” solidarity and collectivism, which Arab societies already has some experience with, and do not need to dispense with.  Hopefully Ayn Rand individualism does not take root.

Yes, the poll about whether violence that kills civilians is ever justified is a really interesting one.  I imagine that atheists and Muslims come together on this question because of the marginal discriminated-against status that both of them suffer.  They can sympathize with collateral damage.

On a related issue, I was also fascinated to read recently that Palestinians expressed ambivalence about the treatment of Mubarak as he awaits trial in Egypt.  They are impressed to see the once powerful made accountable to the system on the one hand, but—and this is the morally impressive part—they are bothered by the humiliation he has undergone in prison, as his treatment technically borders on inhumane (though this inhumanity is the norm in Egyptian prisons, as in American ones).  This is remarkable empathy on the part of the Palestinians.  Of course Palestinians have enough experience with humiliation that this empathy would be expected for an unrelated group or individual suffering it, but for such empathy to be expressed for an ENEMY is remarkable.

I saw the movie Budrus not too long ago, about a successful nonviolent uprising against a particularly intrusive section of the Israeli “security fence”.  This uprising brought progressive Israelis, Fatah members and Hamas members together, and I am expecting great things from Palestine in the coming years, and from the Arab and Muslim world more generally.  I am not so optimistic about the West, unfortunately—unless it can relearn the best lessons of its own cultural heritage.

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By Shenonymous, August 17, 2011 at 7:36 pm Link to this comment

Satyagraha, August 17 at 3:33 pm – You have a skill of writing
over and above most of those who post on these forums and I
found your posts and treatise on Hedges and Harris fine pieces
of writing, logically, linguistically, and in the content of your text. 
Twenty-five pages was stunning to say the least,  to devote to two
minor characters in a Truthdig theater piece.  But I read it all indeed
and felt I was reading literature.

I wonder if the community solidarity you speak of as characteristic
of Islamic Civilization doesn’t come from a continuation of ancient
tribal configuration?  That is not said to mean a negative, I am saying
that the common population for a large part have not yet caught up
to modernity, but I suspect it is inexorable and that they will.  As you
have described, I too think, if the west indeed is the proper yardstick
or if it isn’t just a natural progression?  Muslim collectivized culture is potentially morally equivalent to western dispersed culture, but it not
yet encompasses full respect for individual liberty.  By the looks of it,
there is promise in the near future at least that is predictable from what
is at present the reality.  The signs are just entering those societies and
astoundingly can be seen in the Arab uprisings.  Even so, it is likely it
will be decades before individualist egalitarianism prevails.

Not well-versed enough I cannot comment on the rejection of strategic
killing of civilians as descriptive of both Muslims and atheists.  Since
atheism is completely antithetical to the religion, I think Muslims would
be horrified if they thought that were the case.  I am atheist and against
all killing.  Yet I would defend my family, or loved ones, and myself even
if that meant killing someone who was attacking me or mine and know I
would feel justified.  Justification, however, is not the measure.  The
necessity for preservation is.  But that is usually a special case.

I found The Raw Story poll at the link you provided very interesting:
“Through interviews with 2,482 Americans, Gallup found that 78
percent of Muslims believe violence which kills civilians is never
justified, whereas just 38 percent of Protestant Christians and 39
percent of Catholics agreed with that sentiment. Fifty-six percent
of atheists answered similarly.“  This has to be given more quality
thought.  Also the next paragraph, “When Gallup put the question a bit
more pointedly, asking if it would be justified for “an individual person
or a small group of persons to target and kill civilians,” the responses
were a bit more uniform. Respondents from nearly all groups were
widely opposed to such tactics, with Protestants and Catholics at 71
percent against. Muslims still had the highest number opposed, at 89
percent. Seventy-six percent of atheists were also opposed.”  I think
these numbers are indicative of an ability to mesh reality with
indoctrination.  I think even atheism is a kind of indoctrination where
one comes to have a belief about the lack of justification for belief.

Rereading what I wrote, I do not see where I suggested you insulted
Muslim civilization or gave Muslim civilization too much credit. I think
I said more attention needed to be paid to giving it the credit it rarely
does get these days, not meaning you, but by most of the world and
especially here in America.  I make it a point to mention something of
it in every class I teach.  There was a time hundreds of years ago when
Arab culture was a paragon, the model for excellence.

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By Leefeller, August 17, 2011 at 3:37 pm Link to this comment

Well then maybe Muslims shouldn’t fly airplanes into buildings and fundamental Christians should n kill people or they all could all become Atheists?

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By Satyagraha, August 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm Link to this comment

@Rusty 57: Right with ya.

@Shenonymous:

I wrote a 25 page thing in a kind of flowery 19th Century style, so I shouldn’t expect to be understood, but I think you did misunderstand what I said.

You wrote:
———-
[quoting my hasty one-off blog] ”Thus there is no reason to expect that the favorable qualities
that can still be identified and self-congratulated in Western
Civilization are incapable of taking root (or finding a moral
equivalent) in Islamic Civilization.”

The parenthetical in that sentence belies a judgment that the Islamic
civilization is lacking in morals.
——

I don’t mean to belie that or imply that.  I was referring to the fact that Western Civilization can congratulate itself for the enshrinement of certain individual liberties (though it’s gotten worse lately), and these are not so apparent in modern Islamic Civilization, but that does not mean that there is nothing to work with there to bring this respect for individual liberty about.  Also there are other good things (potentially morally equivalent) about Islamic Civilization that are kind of lacking in Western culture—particularly as regards community solidarity, and grass-roots-based and family-based support systems.  There’s also a greater popular inclination among Muslims to reject the strategic killing of civilians (a distinction that Mulsims share with atheists, in fact: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/08/03/poll-muslims-atheists-most-likely-to-reject-violence/).

Then you suggest that in addition to insulting Muslim civilization, I give it too much credit.  You mention Harris’ illumination of the terrible treatment of women in Muslim countries (and I agree, it is terrible).  I address this in my long screed as a reasonable point that Harris makes, even if he makes it hypocritically.  Communists, in spite of their own human rights atrocities when given absolute power in their own countries, helped to advance human rights in the United States and other capitalist countries as gadflies and activists.  Harris might (accidentally) make a similar contribution to women’s rights in the Muslim world.

As for moral progress, I take a nuanced stance on that as well, and don’t simply agree with Hedges.  I can’t in good conscience ask you to read what I read again, but that might clear up misunderstandings.

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By truedigger3, August 17, 2011 at 3:16 pm Link to this comment

ALL religions are elastic and full of contradictions.
ALL religions could be interpreted differently by different people according to the prevailing culture and the contemporary circumstances.
If a person wanst to malign a religion, he can easily always sherry picks to his delight.
It is ironic and almost funny that there is a VERY VERY STRONG similarity between the Koran and the Old Testament. Both of them came from the same region and from VERY similar cutures and way of thinking and looking at life and people.
But I dare say that the Koran is more humanistic, compapassionate and universal than the Old Testament which is tribal and cruel.
Did Harris read the Old Teatament, for example the booK of Leviticus which urgred killing disobediant children!.
Did Harris read of what Joshua did after the fall Jericho where he killed everybody including women and old people and suckling children even sheep and cattle by urging and blessing from “GOD”.
What about Israel and its crimes against the helpless Palestinian people. What about the blockade of Gaze which is very similiar to what the Nazis did to the Warsaw Ghetto??!!
What about the nasty hateful spuff spewed by some of the Rabbis in Israel and Brooklyn?

It is ironic and funny that many of the vile stuff and hatred that Harris and his ilk are spewing against Muslims is almost identical to what the Nazis were spewing agains the Jews.
Human beings, sometimes, are very funny!!. 
I have been an atheist even before Harris was born.

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By Leefeller, August 17, 2011 at 2:31 pm Link to this comment

I have not read Dawkins book, I have read Hitchens and only read Harris’s Atheist Manifesto and have herd him speak a few times. I find their writings and comments on atheism especially reassuring and refreshing in the fact knowing I am not alone.

What really bothers me, is the myopic Simple Simon premise telling me if someone reads something and it includes many different opinions on different things, topics or subjects, they have to accept all that is written.

This seems so like reading the bible?

I do not know about other people, but for me, I have never found people with whom I happen to agree on one subject to mean I am required with some fixed desire to agree with them on everything?

Fundamentalist Christians may glean from Harris’s book, but I thought they had their own 3000 year old sheep headers manual to take from?

As example,... I find Hedges annoyingly wrong most of the time,... I happen to understand this to be in my own opinion,... but once in a great while I agree with Hedges, so then all of a sudden everything he spouts, sponsors and blathers, must be accepted for action by me?

I guess I must allude to Hitchens since I have read his book,...  Hitchens comments on Islam read by me and anyone else who happens to have read his book must find his opinions and knowledge on Islam as the one and only facts there are to choose from,  for the argument here is, it has been foretold this is how it works.

You know, what I see here is nothing more then another weak argument for the limiting of the freedom of speech or maybe the faith biased concept of burning some books!

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By rusty57, August 17, 2011 at 12:46 pm Link to this comment

Yes, I was starting to regret clicking the tab for email notifications for this post, because a lot of the comments had drifted too far away on other issues entirely.

But, I don’t think we can fully examine what Harris says without questioning his compartmentalization of religion, politics, and economic colonization, as if they have nothing to do with each other.

I think this hierarchy of bad religions that Sam Harris started with the End of Faith - which was followed up by Dawkins and Hitchens, is why they are the celebrity atheists who are all over the infotainment media. I noticed this a few years ago, when I considered myself a libertarian and was a member of a mostly conservative discussion forum. Even the craziest Christian fundies would quote from and link to the crap that Harris and Hitchens said when the topic was Islam, or the wisdom of invading Iraq, or Harris’s notion that we should hold the nuclear threat over the Muslim World, which isn’t even denied in his own rebuttal, re-posted here from his website.

Unless someone else can clarify this for me, what I read from his position is ‘if our Muslim enemies (think Iran here) get long range nuclear warheads and we can’t destroy them by conventional means, we are justified in launching a nuclear first strike against them….ain’t I merciful.’  Did I miss anything?

The reason why Harris, Hitchens and Dawkins are the celebrity atheists, is not just because of their loud anti-theist statements against organized religion and religious believers. That could make a few headlines, but their staying power is drawn from the fact that they always say Islam is the number one worst religion in the world, and the one we must all rally against, and because of how they fit into the broader strategies of Neoconservative foreign policy and Neoliberal economic policies.

There are lots of atheists who are socialists, and who can accommodate religion that does not try to take over education and government, but the atheists who are going to presented as our leaders are the right wing new atheists.

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By Shenonymous, August 17, 2011 at 12:34 pm Link to this comment

”Thus there is no reason to expect that the favorable qualities
that can still be identified and self-congratulated in Western
Civilization are incapable of taking root (or finding a moral
equivalent) in Islamic Civilization.

The parenthetical in that sentence belies a judgment that the Islamic
civilization is lacking in morals. Attention should be directed to Arabic
adab, Arab literature.  The humanist, Acivenna, who founded an ethics
in living as well as in science,  and the dervish poet, Rumi are only two
of those who are paradigm carriers of Muslim moral codes.  The Qur’an
is the best source, however.  Moreover, there is a long history to be
found in Islam of great thinkers whose legacy has allowed the western
world to progress as it has in the sciences, mathematics, astronomy, and
philosophy.  There is no organized western plan to exterminate any part
of the Islamic Civilization.  If you think there is please provide some
“reliable” evidence.

...the contention that Islamic civilization is less capable of rights-
respecting compassionate humanity than the West.”

Not less ‘capable’ but not exercising it is more the critique. While the
fact of human rights abuses in the West does not excuse the West,
neither does it absolve those abuses in the Middle East. These abuses
ought to be able to be talked about. It is not as if there is a taboo on
them, at least in the West. Nothing Sam Harris wrote showed he was
attempting to be remembered for his advocacy of human rights. You
wrote 25 pages about Harris and Hedges surely you can show evidence
for your claim. I don’t see why he would make a distinction between
Muslims and Islamist since they don’t make that distinction themselves.
Nevertheless, he has pointed out the horrible gender oppression that
continues not only in Middle Eastern society but societies everywhere.

As an aside, the comparison with communists is window dressing and
does not provide legitimization for what is the reality today.

It is your right of course to champion Hedges, who has a penchant for
exaggeration. One such is his thesis that there is no linear movement in
history depends in this case on what he is considering history to be. It
depends on what kind of odd lens he is looking through.  History is a
record of past events, it is continuous, and is a systematic narrative of
those past events.  If he is talking about the perception of time, that is a
different matter, and that sense of sequential relationships of events to
other events in either past, present, or future can be imagined to be in
various configurations.  That too is dependent on what you want to use
that system for.

Another exaggeration, then, is his saying there has been no kind of
general moral advancement is an overflowing bowlful of rhetorical
hyperbole. And while you argued on his behalf, many examples can
be given anyway that particular acts are no longer committed that
degenerated the value of human beings. Such as slavery as a social
institution is no longer tolerated. As part of the western civilization,
America does not have established inquisitions and justified murder due
to the non-acceptance of belief systems, apostasy is tolerated by most
western societies if not all. The immorality is for those societies that do.
In 17th c. America, men and women convicted of witchcraft were
hanged, but in a few exceptional cases, such as that of Giles Corey at
Salem, alleged witches who refused to plead were pressed to death
without trial. Modern scholarship estimates of the number of people
executed for witchcraft vary between about 40,000 and 100,000 in
Europe, and America. Even if the conservative estimate is taken, 40,000
is a lot of people to execute for witchcraft!  Men and women have not
been identified as witches and drowned or burned at a stake since the
17th c. This can be seen as progress in morality.

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By Satyagraha, August 17, 2011 at 11:26 am Link to this comment

Um, why are people talking about things not related to Sam Harris’s or Chris Hedges’ arguments on this thread?

If that topic has grown stale, why not take arguments about the riots, etc. to a truthdig article on, say, the riots?

I don’t mean to be a testy comment policeman, but I’ve seen Harris’s response to Chris Hedges all over the internet—enthusiastically reblogged and tweeted like it’s the latest word from a prophet, and yet most of it is completely specious character assassination wrapped around an even more specious self-defense.

Not that Hedges didn’t bring it on by lumping Harris (an Islamophobe-posing-as-an-atheist who’s ambivalent rather than 100% enthusiastic about mass-murderous pre-emptive nuclear strikes against ISLAMIST regimes with LONG RANGE NUCLEAR WEAPONS) with an actual mass murderer.

It would be nice if Truthdig readers didn’t have to dig through the comments section to find the back and forth on this question.  I’d like to see questions raised like “how does Sam Harris distinguish morally between Muslims and Islamists?” and “Isn’t it somewhat newsworthy that a so-called atheist, supposedly following in the humanist tradition of Einstein, Kurt Vonnegut, Albert Camus, etc, would countenance pre-emptive nuclear strikes under ANY circumstances?”

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By Shenonymous, August 17, 2011 at 11:22 am Link to this comment

Masturbation is a completely solitary activity and one that puts
the pleasure principle first.  To say that we masturbate when
trying to understand the sociopathic behavior of disaffected
human beings, is to say that self-gratification is the interest. 
That is a provincial view and while the word masturbate is
inherently and semantically titillating, to speak in public as
descriptive of engaging in mental investigation is rather vulgar
and shows the lack of skills to discuss intellectually without
engaging in mental masturbation.  It is claimed by psychologists
that masturbation is a healthy behavior, but the way it has been
put here on this forum suggests it is first of all an improper
activity that is like the overly eager erotic stimulation of one’s
own genital organs to the point of orgasm, which is the point of
masturbation of any kind, and second of all, that it is, when applied
to mental intellectualism, unhealthy, and self-contradicts the
conceptual the use of the word.  It is well known, by the way, that infants
and adolescents indulge in masturbation regularly as they are entranced
by the physical feeling it gives, but are not mature enough to engage in
sexual intercourse.  Autoeroticism of the mind, however, would hardly be
intellectualizingly satisfactory unless it led to some ultimately enjoyable
climactic conclusion.  It would be stroking one’s thoughts to a mental
orgasm. If mental orgasm happens, then a completion of the act of
mental masturbation has taken place and all is well in the psyche,
satisfaction will have been achieved. 

You might want to revise your thesis, those of you who have
excitingly enjoyed the masturbation metaphor, to one saying that
the kind of intellectualism you’ve criticized under the activity of mental
masturbation, you would only want to see happen when it does not get
fulfilled and only when it results in a mental abortion.

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By curmudgeon99, August 17, 2011 at 10:37 am Link to this comment

Katie,

How eloquent your thoughts are.

When I read
“While we masturbate to and with ourselves on our intellectual prowess in thinking that we have decoded them, our masters have won once again succeeded in having us debate in a distraction.”

I was reminded of a term my friends and I used when positing deep thoughts about the ‘state of the world’ and the lies of the oligarchy on all matters - and our lack of physical action in opposition.  You have really nailed a very concise but inclusive definition of that term we used - “Mental Masturbation”.

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By truedigger3, August 17, 2011 at 10:11 am Link to this comment

Re: By Katie Corbet, August 17 at 5:17 am


Katie,

This is a good post that contains many thinking nuggets for those people who are willing and ready to introspect and reflet.
However I disagree with you when you write:

“they have always had a healthy dose of cynicism about the true state of affairs in the US-much more so than the thinking intellectuals and pundits of mainstream media.”

Could it be that what you call “healthy dose of cynicism” is in reality a mixture of apathy, despair and lack of knowledge.
Most of what you call “thinking intellectuals and pundits of mainstream media” are nothing but mouth-pieces for the super-rich ruling class, whose main task is to misinform, disinform, mislead and bullshit the public and NOT to explain and analyze issues and events.

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By Shenonymous, August 17, 2011 at 9:06 am Link to this comment

For some reason the first part of my reply to stan van houcke
will not happen.  I keep getting Page not found.  There is
nothing in the post that violates comment policies.  I’ve contacted
the WebMaster.  We will see.  I’m sorry but the second part does
not make as much sense unless the prefacing remarks are read.

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By Shenonymous, August 17, 2011 at 8:45 am Link to this comment

2.
The cultural deprivation of which you speak that is claimed
wholesale dispossesses is rhetoric unless specifics are given,
deprivation of what, and who exactly is doing this dispossession. 
What are the real antidotes?  Not just rhetorical ones.  To simply
point out an expropriation touches only the surface.  Identification
of a problem is the first step to solving the problem.  It is not
enough. It is a common fallacy to just point to problems of which
most people are already aware. You truthfully say, “a substantial
number of ?people in capitalist society don’t know what to do except riot,
they ?destroy their own environment.”  It speaks to an ignorance not of
their own choosing but you do not say why they are so ignorant. Rioting
is their understanding of an only recourse, but I would say it is a
manifested alternative to their frustration.

I’m sorry I was not clear enough in my Aug. 11 at 11:42am post and
you seem to have missed that I did note anger and resentment turns
the protesters into violent rioters, that turns on themselves and defeats
their original purpose to change the dreadful circumstances in which
they find themselves. I maintain it is because an alternate reality of how
to protest rationally and nonviolently does not occur to them, the
collective consciousness of the “them” is stunted. Is it because of
advertised propaganda? I think it is much more than that, that
propaganda only works when an untrained mind does not evaluate
alternatives that are always there. Choice can be invented if it is not
immediately perceived.  Otherwise they are like children who turn to
tantrum when their will is not satisfied. Children do not know the art of
negotiation as they are not yet rational.

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By Katie Corbet, August 17, 2011 at 5:17 am Link to this comment

People like “us” like to intellectualize and rationalize the rioter’s intentions and motivations because we kind of have a perverse desire to decode them. For us, it is an intellectual game and challenge to understand them, what “makes them tick” and come up with elaborate mind theories to explain their actions while at the same time highlighting their personal flaws (a subtle form of class racism!). While we masturbate to and with ourselves on our intellectual prowess in thinking that we have decoded them, our masters have won once again succeeded in having us debate in a distraction. This is often done by opening up a discussion with a talking point of their choosing such as why are “these people” so violent rather than discussing the reality of poverty which never seems to go away.

In a sense, these rioters see all too well the game that those in the ivory towers play despite their lack of “sophistication.” As with many poor blacks in the US, despite their lack of access to power, knowledge and resources, they have always had a healthy dose of cynicism about the true state of affairs in the US-much more so than the thinking intellectuals and pundits of mainstream media. Even when confronted by intellectuals that claim that they know why they are failing and that these intellectuals are truly trying to help them understand “THEM,” they know all too well that it’s all bullshit! And the poor class’ non-acceptance of our attempt to glorify ourselves with our masturbatory “look at me in how I have decoded you and your problems” give us sophisticates a reason to marginalize them for they are “not there yet"in understanding their problems because they are not in the “thinking” look at me how smart I am club.

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By stan van houcke, August 17, 2011 at 5:00 am Link to this comment

quote:

‘The rioters who began the revolt become infiltrated with criminal
elements and thus you have the rebellion turning on itself and defeating
their purpose.’

shenonymous,

i am afraid that this is a misjudgment. the rioters in england lack a vision
to be dangerous for the establishment. in this they differ 180 percent
from revolutionaries. my son who studies in london, sent me a revealing
scene in which one can see a wounded boy being robbed by the so called
‘rioters.’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=327J3ISiVOU

the problem here is, as in america during the rodney king riots in 1992,
that although the violence comes out of an understandable anger and
resentment it does not get a political translation. a substantial number of
people in capitalist society doesn’t know what to do except riot, they
destroy their own environment, not the milieu of the rich and powerful. it
is like committing suicide. because of wholesale cultural deprivation the
working and even the middle class in the so called free west cannot
formulate an alternative, as the british author john berger has pointed
out convincingly. not ‘the criminal elements’ create the problem, the real
problem is much more fundamental, it forms the core of our system, and
makes it a subject for people who really choose for change.

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By Satyagraha, August 16, 2011 at 4:13 pm Link to this comment

Part 1 of 2

Hedges’ mistaken substitution of “Arab world” for “Islamist regime” is not entirely without logic.  Harris’ extreme views on Islam imply that for Harris the boundaries between “Islamist” and “Muslim” are less than clear.  He emphasizes that we (presumably Americans or “the West”) are not at war with an Islamic subgroup “that has been ‘hijacked’ by extremists. We are at war with precisely the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran, and further elaborated in the literature of the Hadith, which recounts the sayings and teachings of the Prophet”.  Most countries in the Arab world could be accurately described as having populations that embrace this Koran-based vision of life, making their belief systems casus belli from Harris’ perspective.  Of course Arab countries do not yet have access to nuclear weapons, and so references to “the Arab world” remain inaccurate when describing Harris’ nuclear first strike considerations.

However, there is a Muslim country that does have nuclear weapons, and its name is Pakistan.  Indeed, nuclear strike-ready Pakistan is not only warm to the general teachings of the Koran and the Hadith, but there are strong Islamist influences in its military and intelligence services, even from the perspective of those who are ideologically capable of drawing a clear distinction between Islam and Islamism.  These strains of Islamism within Pakistan’s military and security forces have been kind of an issue lately in fact.  Thus Harris’ invitation to consider a nuclear first strike against and Islamist regime with long-range nuclear weaponry is not as abstract and hypothetical as Harris (or even Hedges) makes it out to be.  At this very moment, Pakistan may be preparing to launch a nuclear first strike against sensible rational atheist Americans, and surely its Al Qaeda-loving leadership is growing dewey-eyed at the thought of provoking the nuclear martyrdom of their entire country, ensuring a collective paradise full of rapable virgins for all.  Given how utterly incapable of rational utilitarian calculation Pakistan’s Islamist leadership is, all sensible rational atheists must gird themselves in terror and urgently ask themselves the question, who’s it going to be, them or us?  We’re starving in the desert and it’s every man for himself, and it’s time to start sharpening our incisors to do what’s necessary to rationally ensure our survival.  Atheist Albert Einstein is dead, and atheist Sam Harris rises as a blood red Phoenix from Einstein’s naively pacifist ashes.  Hear his terrible piercing cry.

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By Satyagraha, August 16, 2011 at 4:12 pm Link to this comment

Part 2 of 2

But to speak this way is perhaps to ignore Harris’ quote in its full extended context.  In the longer section of the quote that Harris includes in his response to Hedges, he uses the provocative language of existential threat at first, saying that pre-emptive nuclear strikes “would be the only thing likely to ensure our survival.”  Immediately after unleashing this amygdala-jangling statement, however, he calls such a hypothetical attack an “unspeakable crime” that would kill “tens of millions of innocent civilians.”  Of course, identifying a nuclear first strike in these terms must mean that he opposes it.  But then Harris jangles the amygdala again by saying, “but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe.”  His use of “may be the only course of action available to us” is, however, more tentative than “would be the only thing likely to ensure our survival.”  And then Harris goes on to describe how “insane” and “absurd” this whole scenario would be, as it would lead to a state of “hot war” and perceptions of “genocide.”  Again, this might mean that Harris is retracting his invitation to consider nuclear first strikes—who wants hot war and genocide for any reason?  We surely would be stupid and evil to do such a thing.  But then Harris absolves potential military decision makers again of any moral responsibility for such a potential act of genocidal mass murder—as the whole catastrophic orgy of death would be an outgrowth not of fascistic interpretations of “rationality”, but rather of the “immunity to all reasonable intrusions that faith enjoys in our discourse.”  Remember that, all you faith-abettors: when our sensible rational utilitarian military leaders drop a pre-emptive nuclear payload on Pakistan (or Iran?), turning all its men women and children into smoking ink spots, it will be your fault.

———

This argument was excerpted from a long cathartic rant on Chris Hedges and Sam Harris disguised as an invitation to both of them.  For a disturbing window into a mildly obsessed mind, click this link:

http://invitationhedgesharris.blogspot.com/

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By Shenonymous, August 11, 2011 at 11:42 am Link to this comment

stanvanhoucke, August 10 at 11:14 pm – It is often true that rebellion
turns into rioting, at least this is what we see these days, in the Middle
East, London, Greece, Spain, Portugal, the Philippines, China. And rioters
become a mindless beast like a hydra with 10,000 angry heads. The rioters
who began the revolt become infiltrated with criminal elements and thus
you have the rebellion turning on itself and defeating their purpose.
Rebellion, as I noted, does not have to be physical. When a rebellion of
attitudes occurs it is much slower to take effect as it has to permeate all
the minds involved, but it is much more sure and lasting. It can last forever,
actually, as the entire culture changes. 

So the question remains for how a society is to prevent such impoverishment
of its people that anger and resentment turns into violence, but not resort to
and actually prevent some tyrannical form of government.  What forms of
government, or non-government as the anarchists and libertarians promote,
can advocate the general welfare of the whole society, yet maintain the value
of the individual?  Once we have a form, then how to implement it so that the
government or whatever structure is formed does in fact yield what would work
permanently with safeguards that because of human nature, whether it comes by
naturally or from nurture, inexorably would be needed.  We would also need to
see if there has ever been such a social construction and what was its success.

If the disconnection between the American government and the majority of
the American people is widening to the absolute point, then there has to be
some sign of what that point is.  Otherwise it remains hypothesis.  Unemploy-
ment and the corpus of poor fluctuates.  And the same people do not compose
these groups permanently, so it is hard to coalesce them into a disaffected
whole.  Yes, I do believe corporations are the main power of authority.  The
American military is hardly seen in public, but are the machines of the wars. 
In that domain they reign even over corporations, i.e., the weapons industrial
complex.  But it more than handshakes with the political principles.  I believe
Americans do have interest in the wars both Iraq and Afghanistan.  Too many
of our sons and daughters are there fighting and getting killed.  And we feel
the economic bottomless pit these wars are costing, but even more, Americans
are beginning to see the Middle Easterners as real people not some artificial
compositions made up by the news media, who are controlled by their producers,
the al corporationales.

It is a tall order to foment national disgust intense enough to start an armed
rebellion.  But through slow but sure, the society can be turned, can through
unconventional media, be made to see and understand their position in their
country and to learn not only their value but their real voice.

There is propaganda and then there is persuasion and these two means of
communication are different.  Propaganda has the element of deceit, whereas
persuasion has reasonable argument that can be illustrated as wholesome and
achievable.

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By stanvanhoucke, August 10, 2011 at 11:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

shenonymous,

thank you for the answer. the problem is that when there is a social
conflict it can end in a rebellion/rioting which does not lead to any
change, as we see now in england. the rebellion destroys its own
environment, not that of the opponents. social tension is not focused on
something productive, it is not a revolution. so, when people are
culturally deprivated the anger turns most of the time inwards not
outwards, it does not change anything, except that the repression will
become stronger, as we see now again in england.

david hume, thanks for your answer. travelling through europe right
now, I will react later.

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By curmudgeon99, August 10, 2011 at 4:10 pm Link to this comment

I am humbled and amazed at the thoughtful, non-confrontational dialog being presented by the likes of ‘Shenonymous’ and ‘David Hume’ amongst some others.

I am going to add a link to an article that covers a group which bears careful scrutiny, the American Dream Movement, for two reasons. First and foremost, the most apologist Move-On folks are involved (I am in accord 100% with David Humes’s notions about this group), and secondly, it invokes using the strategy of the Tea Party while claiming to be its opposite.

It claims to be the ‘Answer’ (yes, with a capital A) which immediately makes it suspect.  By setting itself as an opposite, it breeds conflict with those nasty ‘others’.

As it posits itself as an ‘Answer’ to the issues so well articulated here, I thought it may be useful to interject into the mix…but I could be wrong.

http://www.truth-out.org/progressives-say-american-dream-movement-rivals-tea-party/1312923325

“Progressives Say American Dream Movement Rivals Tea Party
Wednesday 10 August 2011
by: Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report

As Americans face the economic fallout of the recent debt deal in Washington, members of the burgeoning American Dream Movement on Tuesday announced the Contract for the American Dream, a new agenda for economic recovery supported by a grassroots movement that progressive leaders say will rival the Tea Party in size and impact.

The contract is a list of ten sweeping policy proposals drawn from suggestions made by 131,203 Americans who gathered online and in neighborhood meetings to discuss solutions to the nation’s economic woes. The contract demands what Democrats conceded in the recent debt deal: investment in jobs, education and infrastructure and higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

MoveOn.org Director Justin Ruben told reporters that most Americans want jobs instead of spending cuts, and the people who contributed to the American dream contract are frustrated with both parties. He said the American Dream Movement has spread from the demonstrations in Wisconsin to a dozen other states where “people are fighting against Republican attacks on the middle class.”

“We’ve been critical of both parties, including the president,” Ruben said. “There is a an enormous opportunity for politicians to step up ... because people are desperate.”

The American Dreamers are already being compared to the divisive Tea Party that made countless headlines and shook up the GOP in recent years. Like the Tea Partiers on the right, promoters of the American Dream contract said Washington is out of touch with the views and needs of the rest of America.

“Too many people in Washington are giving up on the American dream, but the American people are not,” Ruben said.

Rebuild the Dream President Van Jones said the American Dream Movement is “real,” unlike the Tea Party, which was created with the help from “Fox News and Koch Brothers.” Jones said the American Dreamers are starting out with twice as many numbers as the Tea Party had in its early days, and the broad grassroots movement could “help DC as a whole do a major reset.”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) said that she is working with members of the House progressive caucus to advance the contract’s agenda. Schakowsky recently introduced legislation that would increase spending on new jobs and raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, but the bills are expected to face strong opposition in a divided Congress.

Schakowsky said the Obama administration has not indicated if it will support the legislation during the next Congressional session.”

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By Shenonymous, August 10, 2011 at 10:44 am Link to this comment

It is a silent revolution, but like a glacier, very slow moving.  Sort
of like Darwin’s evolution.

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By Shenonymous, August 10, 2011 at 6:55 am Link to this comment

It is one thing to be pessimistic and cynical, and another to be
utterly pessimistic and utterly cynical.  The latter way of being
is completely paralyzing, everything stops and not even creeping
movement towards a solution of any breath taking problem is
possible. Might as well just declare the human race dead on arrival. 
I don’t think that view is realistic.

All organisms, including the human one, will struggle to survive
regardless of the conditions.  To be pessimistic and cynical is
healthful to the degree it causes curiosity and makes one open
their eyes wider to look deeper.  And to the extent it challenges
perceptions, for it is distorted perceptions that prevent seeing the
right course of action.

Unlike Rome, to where all roads lead to, and also leads out of by the way,
our reality is like a labyrinth where there are several fake corridors, and
only a few right ways through.  It is a matter of correcting our vision to
have 20/20 vision and learning how not to fall into quicksand traps.  We
are not omnipotent beings, we are human so liable to failure.  We often
die trying.

You ask a fair question, stan van houcke: how can we pull
ourselves up by our ?bootstraps when we are stuck in the muck of life? 
Are we really exhausted people controlled by propaganda, who cannot
dig through their real history, who are only granted the “official” version,
hence massive cultural deprivation?  I don’t think so.  Not exhausted,
but stymied.  There are no succinct answers, for solutions to complex
questions are not always on the surface.  And it is unreasonable to
expect facile answers.  But silver bullets are to be sought anyway.  The
quickest resolution that saves time and energy is the best.  It is Occam’s
Razor, and therefore, according to physics principles, the most efficient. 
Cutting through the crap, right?  How to do that?  It is the old
Shakespearean question.

We are looking for social change.  This means we want a correction to
our life conditions.  We want to put right what has been made to be
wrong in the social structure of our society. 

For that to happen, we have to look in two directions:  internally and
externally.  Internally, sociologists who study all social activities, say that
social change commences when a conflict is caused by opposing values. 
This can most easily be seen between the younger and the older
generation, the city people vs the rural folks, those who are literate and
those who are not.  These have to be resolved.

When forces get beyond human control, these are the external factors,
such as natural disasters, unexpected major changes in technology, etc.,
and a society’s economy would have a great impact.  Changes in
population also affect the ability for a society to change. Changes in birth
and death rate due to increased longevity would affect social changes. 
Better medical care has caused a huge change in social attitudes and
beliefs primarily because people can live active lives much longer. 
Problems here need attention.

When a standard of living is endangered, attitudes can change radically.
So if lethargy defines a society, the lack of vigor, a nationwide
examination has to be undertaken.  So where to start?  Can you say,
because change begins with a first step? 

If it is propaganda that causes the superficial fatique, for I maintain that
it is not exhaustion but more hindrance and the inability to overcome
obstacles that are too intricate and complicated to negotiate, then it is
the propaganda that needs attacked first, and not who is generating the
propaganda, for they will be destroyed if the propaganda is, or if not
completely destroyed, they will be at least for that bit of propaganda. 
Then it is our herculean and gruelling job to see into the dynamics of the
propaganda and destroy it!

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By Katie Corbet, August 10, 2011 at 4:40 am Link to this comment

To all those that are under the illusion that people in the US will eventually revolt and it’s just a mater of time before they awaken and start revolting, I have one comment for you: YOU ARE ALL DREAMING!! People in the US don’t do revolts. We leave that up to all those other strange peoples like the Europeans. Maybe we’ll start revolting some day but for now let us concentrate on voting…no, not for radical changes to our political system but for our favorite “dancers” and “idols.” The masters are very well aware of these childlike distraction tendencies of ours and this is why they don’t partake on any special measures to silence dissenters (even though they do keep a close eye on us “whiners”). Believe me if we veer too far they will ratchet up the pressure with more, less subtle forms of coercion.

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By stan van houcke, August 9, 2011 at 12:33 pm Link to this comment

although a substantial number of americans feel that the official version of
reality, given by the punditti and the establishment, is not true they still lack
facts. This is all due to perception management.

‘In George Orwell’s novel 1984 Winston Smith workes at the ministry of Truth,
but his job is not to insure the truth is preserved, quite the contrary. His job is
to alter passed newsstories so that the version of the truth given by the ruling
elite, the party, is never contradicted. If the party, which Orwell called Big
Brother, lies to the people a quick check of Winston’s records, the only
remaining records, would prove that the lie was true,’

http://freedocumentaries.org/int.php?filmID=87

david hume and shenonymous, the question is:

how can an exhausted people controlled by propaganda ever discover the truth?
they don’t know their history, they know only the official version about the
present and because of a massive cultural deprivation they are not able to
formulate an alternative for the future. how can they pull themselves up by their
bootstraps?

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By Shenonymous, August 9, 2011 at 9:54 am Link to this comment

David Hume, August 9 at 9:12 am – Maybe you are right, but I don’t
think so.  1999 was 12 years ago, a generation.  Also while I actively
support Bernie Sanders. an outspoken socialist,  Green Mountain really
is a local seditionist movement.
http://www.angelfire.com/nv/micronations/usa.html 
There are about 30 or more seditionist and sovereignty movements
in the USA.  Take your pick.  Still as a collective group they are still
fragmented disaffecteds with their own anti-state gripes not likely to
form a unified anarchistic rebellion.  Are you suggesting an armed
rebellion?

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By stan van houcke, August 9, 2011 at 5:40 am Link to this comment

david hume,

the problem the plutocracy, which runs the united states, faces is the fact that
the logic of empire dictates that no growth implies death. so it has to expand or
die. that was the ultimate reason for the american civil war, in which more
americans died than it all its foreign wars together. there is no way back for
your money-elite. as long as the middle class could be bought off with all kinds
of trinkets there was no considerable opposition to empire, and now it is to late
for being a real counterforce. in the sixties jim morrison could still sing

‘they’ve got the guns, but we’ve got the numbers.’

nowadays, they have got the guns and the numbers, and the opposition does
not have any viable alternative. besides as edward gibbon wrote in ‘The Decline
and Fall of the Roman Empire’:

‘Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he
deceived in his expectation, that the Senate and people would submit to
slavery, provided they were respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their
ancient freedom.’

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By stan van houcke, August 9, 2011 at 12:31 am Link to this comment

david hume, your illustrious namesake the philosopher david hume remarkes in
‘of the first principles of government’:

‘NOTHING appears more surprizing to those, who consider human affairs with a
philosophical eye, than the easiness with which the many are governed by the
few; and the implicit submission, with which men resign their own sentiments
and passions to those of their rulers. When we enquire by what means this
wonder is effected, we shall find, that, as FORCE is always on the side of the
governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. It is
therefore, on opinion only that government is founded; and this maxim extends
to the most despotic and most military governments, as well as to the most free
and most popular. The soldan of EGYPT, or the emperor of ROME, might drive
his harmless subjects, like brute beasts, against their sentiments and
inclination: But he must, at least, have led his mamalukes, or prætorian bands,
like men, by their opinion.’

http://www.constitution.org/dh/pringovt.htm

and indeed, that is the reason why pundits are so important for the power, they
tell the people how to think and how to experience ‘reality’. opinion is also the
reason why the oligarchy all the time scares the hell out of the american
population. keep them fearful and thereby mobilized, so they can’t think for
themselves. another thing which strikes me and my wife when we travel
through the united states is that so many people are totally exhausted,
physically as well as mentally. they don’t seem to have any energy left to
change anything, they have just enough energy to cope with the daily noise,
propaganda, pressure, terror. the interesting thing is that,  as in europe,
because of cultural deprivation many people of the lower and middle class lack
the words to put their thoughts into, as the british author john berger once
pointed out. so they are not able to formulate a viable alternative. in the
meantime the elite in the usa still believes in the dogma of expansionism which
thomas jefferson formulated with these words:

‘our succes furnishes a new proof of the falsehood of montesquieu’s doctrine,
that a republicv can be preserved only in a small territory. the reverse is the
truth.’

exactly a century later markt twain underlined the thoughts of montesquieu
when he said that one can not have an empire abroad and remain a democracy
at home.

because of wholesale cultural depriovation I fear the united states is in for many
violent rebellions but not for a revolution. and still, the united states needs a
revolution to be able to survive as a democratic country.

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By Shenonymous, August 8, 2011 at 4:14 pm Link to this comment

It would seem that the 235 years the United States has been a
country is one of the reasons people here do not take to the
streets.  Much of what you said likely does contribute to the
psychology of the lethargy.  Rebellion was tried in the 60s
and 70s to some success but then these youngsters with the
energy to protest, Vietnam ended, and they got older and most
absorbed into the corporatocracy. 

Now we are innundated with the droning cloning news media
printed and electronic that we are numbed to doing anything
except be afraid our 401Ks or stocks will tank.  I don’t have
either but a lot of people do, a lot. The ones who have the money
control the world here in America and abroad.  Do not forget there
are money moguls in other countries too.  They also need to be dealt
with by the people of those countries.  Who is informing them?

”Those in power who try to shape how history is taught in the schools
seem ?determined to keep the majority of Americans from acquiring
elementary ?reading and analytical skills.”
  As an educator I am intently
interested in what is going on and I do my best given my circumstances
to inculcate a sense of questioning authorities in my students.  Even me! 
I see a sea of disinterest in the faces of students in the halls of academia. 
There are reasons for it.  They are dogmatized.  It is very difficult to get
any of them in significant numbers to be motivated to do anything but
get out of school as fast as possible.  Revolution is the farthest thing
from their minds. 

Indeed, there are a number of excellent books just on this subject,
Richard Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, Susan
Jocoby’s The Age of American Unreason, Monkey Girl by Edward
Humes, Hector Hawton’s Feast of Unreason, and Gouldner’s The Future
of Intellectuals and the Rise of the New Class just to name a few.  It
seems imperative that those conscious of this attempt to wrestle the
world away from the people of the world must be stopped and just
blogging about it is not going to do it.

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By David, August 8, 2011 at 3:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

MUST READ!! (Too lengthy for one posting).

http://www.tothepointanalyses.com/

EXCERPT:

“Cultivating Violence – An Analysis’ - 8 August 2011

By Professor Lawrence Davidson,
Department of History
West Chester University
West Chester, Pa 19383
USA

Part I – Israel and its “right-wing Zionists”

By now the world is aware that, despite the ardent wishful thinking of the Western media, the terrorism that struck Oslo on 22 July 2011 was not perpetrated by a Muslim individual or organization. It was done by a local Norwegian named Anders Behring Breivik. The object of his terror was the Norwegian government and its cultural and foreign policies. The government’s sins seem to have been being too much in favor of multiculturalism, too little opposed to Muslims and, not being an ally of Israel.

Breivik is at the violent end of a continuum of fear and loathing of those who are culturally and/or religiously different. In this case, Muslim immigrants in Europe. Like millions of others along this anti-Other continuum, he is angry that people different from himself are showing up in his neighborhood. It probably never occurred to him that given one or two generations most of these outsiders would be brought to share the culture and outlook of their adopted lands. Breivik did not have the patience for such a process of assimilation. What he did have was a) the will carry out violence against innocent people, b) the belief that such violence would spark an anti-Muslim turn in Norwegian politics, and c) a sense that he had allies around the world who would applaud his action. Only number b was fantasy.

Anders Behring Breivik had written down a manifesto which runs to some 1500 pages. In this message he identified those who he saw as his allies. He had not, of course, consulted them on this status but he really did not have to. They had been fighting in his chosen cause for a long time and he admired them for their effort. He strongly identified with their worldview and he took encouragement from the general atmosphere of a “clash of civilizations” that they had created. Some had fought for the cause with violence some had not. But he knew that they were all on the same side.

Israel’s Jerusalem Post has looked into this side of Breivik’s manifesto. The paper notes that it “mentions Israel 359 times and Jews 324 times.” Not all of these are positive. Breivik does not like Jews of left wing, multiculturist leanings. Overall the Jerusalem Post describes the manifesto as “an extreme, bizarre and rambling screed of Islamophobia, far-right Zionism and venomous attacks on Marxism and multiculturalism.” Considering the fact that “far-right Zionism” has governed Israel for decades and also characterizes the behavior of most American Zionist organizations, Breivik identification with them is, as we will see, more logical than bizarre. Breivik the terrorist concludes, “let us fight together with Israel, with our Zionist brothers against anti-Zionists , against all cultural Marixts/multiculturists.” The man had found an ideological home.

Many of Israel’s “far-right Zionists” quickly recognized their alliance with Anders Behring Breivik in exact proportion to their feeling that Norway was an ally of the Palestinians. Most in the U.S. will be unaware of this fact because these expressions of approval appear almost exclusively in Israel’s Hebrew press and internet. I do not think that what one finds there is, as Ziv Lenchner, a Y-Net (Hebrew) columnist claims, a window onto general Israeli public opinion, but I do think we can be pretty sure it represents the outlook of Israel ruling rightists. Here are some of these positions as translated by JJ Goldberg:
__________________________________________________

Please visit Professor Davidson’s website for the rest of the article: http://www.tothepointanalyses.com/

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By stan van houcke, August 8, 2011 at 7:11 am Link to this comment

I quote:

‘Please do not get lawyery with me and revert to legal technicalities. When you
wrote: “right at the moment when our neighbours, the 300 million arabs of
whom half is under 20 years old, start mobilizing, the oil prices are high”
what anyone reading that statement will think of. It is obvious that he will think
that these 300 millions arabs “mobilizing” are threat to Europe.
Whether you wrote the arabs will invade Europe or not in is not important. What
you wrote invite and incite fear, hostility and hatred against the arabs and that
is why I went into great length to explain to you why these 300 millions Arabs
will not “mobolize” in the foreseeble future and why!!!!’

this is the problem with a ‘mobilized mind,’ which can only thinks in terms of
war, in terms of external or internal enemies on the brink of destroying our
culture. language in that case becomes a ‘technicality,’ and words get a
different meaning, a highly emotional connotation.

I, on the other hand, use the term ‘mobilizing’ in a neutral way. in my opinion
the americans for instance, are always mobilized, physically as well as mentally.
mentally by the omnipresent advertising and propaganda and physically by
always moving from one place to another and never finding any definite roots.
but I understand that ‘mobilizing’ can only mean physically ‘invading’ in the
mind of someone who feels obviously threatened, because he cannot find
another meaning. I therefore withdraw the word. the arab world is on the brink
of a social explosion which will effect the whole world. that is what I meant.

now to get back to the subject, being the end of the american century. the
american system which the whole world was/is supposed to adopt and which
certainly the europeans imitate is based on one fundamental premisse, on
empire. in 1850 herman melville formulated it with these words:

‘we americans are the peculiar, chosen people—the israel of our time,’

while walt whitman let it be known to the world that he as a kind of poet
laureate of the usa:

‘chant the new empire.’

frederick jackson turner summarized it thus in 1920:

‘not the constitution, but free land and an abundance of natural resources open
to a fit people, made the democratic type of society in america for three
centuries.’

in other words, only expansionism, empire, makes the american system
possible. and now that the borders of the empire’s frontier are in sight, the
united states finally is confronted with itself, for as the historian william
appleman williams made so clear in his academic work:

‘empire remained the american way of life.’

empire made the american dream possible. without empire the americans have
to live without a dream. they have to sober up and realize they need another
myth now.

so, without empire the united states will not be the united states anymore. it
has to expand or die…

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By truedigger3, August 8, 2011 at 5:41 am Link to this comment

Re: By stan van houcke, August 8 at 12:39 am,



stan van houcke wrote:
“now this I hate, people who put words in my mouth. nowhere did I state that ‘arabs… will invade europe.’ I even didnot suggest or imply this”
————————————————————————-

stan van houcke,
Please do not get lawyery with me and revert to legal technicalities.
When you wrote:

“right at the moment when our neighbours, the 300 million arabs of whom half is under 20 years old, start mobilizing, the oil prices are high”
what anyone reading that statement will think of. It is obvious that he will think that these 300 millions arabs “mobiizing” are threat to Europe.
Whether you wrote the arabs will invade Europe or not in is not important. What you wrote invite and incite fear, hostility and hatred against the arabs and that is why I went into great length to explain to you why these 300 millions Arabs will not “mobolize” in the foreseeble future and why!!!!

The spoken dialects in the Arab world is real barrier.
Of course Syrians, Lebanese , Palestinians and may be Iraquis can understand each other well, but an Egyptian will find difficulty understanding them and they will find difficulties understanding people from Saudi Arabia, Arab Emirates or Yemen and so on etc etc.
You forgot or “ignored” the presence of Israel in the heart of the Arab world????!!!!!

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By stan van houcke, August 8, 2011 at 3:24 am Link to this comment

this statement of truedigger3:

‘Another thing that exists in your imagination is the thinking that the USA is
“falling”. The USA is getting stronger and more influential with its military,
science, technology, factories,  cities and agriculture etc etc.’

shows that even some liberal, progressive, left leaning americans don’t
understand that america’s so called ‘influential’ power is in actual fact its
biggest weakness. Let’s not forget John Quincy Adams’ warning:


‘America… goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.

She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.

She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the
general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of
her example.

She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were
they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself
beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of
individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the
standard of freedom.

The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to
force….

She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler
of her own spirit….

[America’s] glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the
mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom,
Independence, Peace. This has been her Declaration: this has been, as far as her
necessary intercourse with the rest of mankind would permit, her practice.

When John Quincy Adams served as U. S. Secretary of State, he delivered this
speech to the U.S. House of Representatives on July 4, 1821, in celebration of
American Independence Day.’

http://www.fff.org/comment/AdamsPolicy.asp

the ability to create a big bang for its bucks does not mean the united states is
influential. a bully who terrorizes the neighbourhood is nor ‘influential’, it is at
the most feared. but also fear disappears if it lasts too long. the usa should
have learned after vietnam, but it did not, and the middle class went along with
this, as long as it was bought of. and now it finds itself to its great surprise
being threatened by its own chosen bullies. the interesting thing is that the
american foreign politics has always been dictated by internal factors, now let’s
see what happens. they should have listened to the minority voice of adams.

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By stan van houcke, August 8, 2011 at 12:39 am Link to this comment

I quote:

‘All in all the near future looks bleak for the Arabs and the idea that 300
millions Arabs are “mobilizing” and will invade Europe.’

now this I hate, people who put words in my mouth. nowhere did I state that
‘arabs… will invade europe.’ I even didnot suggest or imply this. what I am,
trying to convey is that one cannot keep ignoring 300 milljion people who live
in a region from which the world’s most important raw material comes from,
and think we can get away with this.

now, lets look again at this statement:

’ The USA is getting stronger and more ifluential with its military, science,
technology, factories,  cities and agriculture etc etc.’

I already have tried to show to the usa is militarily weak as soon as it gets
involved in wars. how about the economic power of the usa. lets start with
these words of george kennan, who stated in 1948:


“We have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population. ... In
this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real
task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will
permit us to maintain this position of disparity. ... To do so, we will have to
dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have
to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. ... We
should cease to talk about vague and ... unreal objectives such as human
rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not
far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less
we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.”
—George F. Kennan, Policy Planning Study 23 (PPS23), Foreign Relations of the
United States (FRUS), 1948

Does the usa still possess ‘about 50 percent of the world’s wealth’? no,
economically speaking the influence of the united states is declining all the
time. to be precise: except for weapons, the usa does not produce that much,
everything else is better and more efficiently produced outside of the united
states. the shareholders of the banks and the big corperations are indeed filthy
rich, but the state and the population are not, on the contrary, they are up to
their neck in debt. fact is that people who don’t have money are not influential
at all. the chinese become more influential every day, they keep the usa
floating, till the usa can’t pay back anymore, and than they will pull the plug. so
the statement of truedigger3 concerning economics is wrong.

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By stan van houcke, August 8, 2011 at 12:07 am Link to this comment

I quote:

‘Arabs from different regions do not understand each other spoken dialect.’

having travelled extensively and many times through the arab world I know that
this statement is wrong because it is too absolute. these are the facts:

‘Middle Easterners can generally understand one another, they often have
trouble understanding North Africans (although the converse is not true, in part
due to the popularity of Middle Eastern—especially Egyptian—films and other
media)... Egyptian Arabic, spoken by around 80 million in Egypt. It is one of the
most understood varieties of Arabic, due in large part to the widespread
distribution of Egyptian films and television shows throughout the Arabic
speaking world. Closely related varieties are also spoken in Sudan.’
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_language

besides, the arab countries, even oil-rich saudi arabia have one major problem
in common: mass unemployment. read this:

‘The Arab world is experiencing the first tremors of a youthquake
Author:
Isobel Coleman, Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy; Director of the Civil
Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative; and Director of the Women and
Foreign Policy Program

February 5, 2006
Dallas Morning News

While the Middle East lurches from crisis to crisis, its greatest challenge today is
probably not what most people think. It’s jobs.
With 65 percent of the region’s population under the age of 25, the Middle East
has the fastest-growing labor force of any part of the world. This youth bulge is
surging onto the labor market like a massive demographic tsunami. Just to
keep pace with population growth, the Middle East must create 80 million new
jobs over the next 15 years. And if it hopes to put a dent in its already high
unemployment rate of 15 percent, it must create 100 million new jobs by 2020
—a near doubling of today’s total employment.
To put this into perspective, the Middle East must create jobs at twice the pace
of the United States in the go-go Clinton years, in an increasingly competitive
international environment that is already accommodating the rise of India and
China. Without making deep structural reforms, Middle East governments will
never be able to meet the employment needs of its increasingly disaffected
youth—a stark fact that, left unaddressed, leaves an entire generation ripe for
radicalization.
Unemployment is a problem throughout Arab society, but it is most acutely a
youth issue. Fifty percent of those unemployed are between the ages of 15 and
24. Unemployment is also highest among those with some formal education. In
the past, these young graduates could expect employment in the public sector,
but as formal education has significantly expanded over the past generation
and government coffers have come under increasing pressure, the public sector
can no longer absorb what public school systems produce.’

http://www.cfr.org/economic-development/arab-world-experiencing-first-
tremors-youthquake/p9809

by experience I know that these jobs are not created, on the contrary, the
unemployment is getting higher by the day. and that makes the situation
volatile. for instance, egypt sees its population grow with one million people
every 8 months. it is absurd that europe tries to ignore these facts, and does
not integrate the arab world into its economic system, while at the same time
keeps supporting the israeli terror.

now, lets look at this quote:

‘The USA is getting stronger and more ifluential with its military, science,
technology, factories,  cities and agriculture etc etc.’

after world war II the united states did not win any war, except against grenada, 
in korea it did not defeat the communists, vietnam it lost against a peasant
army, iraq is a disaster, in afghanistan it cannot win. so the statement that the
usa is getting militarily ‘more influential’ is absurd.

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By truedigger3, August 7, 2011 at 8:36 pm Link to this comment

Re: By stan van houcke, August 7 at 12:19 pm

stan van houcke wrote:
“and when the usa falls it will have serious consequences for at least europe, right at the
moment when our neighbours, the 300 million arabs of whom half is under 20 years old, start mobilizing, the oil prices are high,”
————————————————————————-
stan van houcke,
You talk about the Arabs as if they are one monolithic homogeneous entity composed of identical units. Nothing could be further from reality. The Arabs are divided into more than fifteen states each with different ruler and different customs, religions, religious sects traditions, level of modernity, enlightment and living standards for its people.
Yes, all Arabs read and write the same language but they speak it completely differently in each region. Arabs from different regions do not understand each other spoken dialect.
Many of the Arab rulers are apprehensive and wary of the rest of the Arab rulers which make of very weak Arabs.
Arabs have different ethnic and racial streaks. You find Arabs who are black and you find Arabs who are blonde and blue eyes and then you find Arabs with all the shades and colours in between.
Add to that the existence of Israel in their midst which seperates the Arabs of West Asia from the Arabs of North Africa.
Add to that the turmoil and upheavals of the so called “Arab spring” which is in reality is nothing but a long deadly freezing gloomy winter.
All in all the near future looks bleak for the Arabs and the idea that 300 millions Arabs are “mobolizing” and will invade Europe when the USA “falls”, tha idea only exists in your imagination and you are spreading unnecessary hysteria, fear and hostility toward the Arabs compounding their miserable present.

Another thing that exists in your imagination is the thinking that the USA is “falling”. The USA is getting stronger and more ifluential with its military, science, technology, factories,  cities and agriculture etc etc..
All that mumbo jumbo fiasco about the “debt ceiling” is nothing but a trick from the ruling class to cut social programs and safety net for the poor and middle class and transform the savings into tax cuts for the super-rich!!!
The USA is not falling but its middle class and poor are falling and are being decimated.

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By David, August 7, 2011 at 1:42 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A related matter:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/07/israeli-school-racism-claim

Academic claims Israeli school textbooks contain bias

“Nurit Peled-Elhanan of Hebrew University says textbooks depict Palestinians as ‘terrorists,...”
By Harriet Sherwood August 7/11

EXCERPT:

“Nurit Peled-Elhanan, an Israeli academic, mother and political radical, summons up an image of rows of Jewish schoolchildren, bent over their books, learning about their neighbours, the Palestinians. But, she says, they are never referred to as Palestinians unless the context is terrorism.

“They are called Arabs. ‘The Arab with a camel, in an Ali Baba dress. They describe them as vile and deviant and criminal, people who don’t pay taxes, people who live off the state, people who don’t want to develop,’ she says. ‘The only representation is as refugees, primitive farmers and terrorists. You never see a Palestinian child or doctor or teacher or engineer or modern farmer.’

“Peled-Elhanan, a professor of language and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has studied the content of Israeli school books for the past five years, and her account, Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education, is to be published in the UK this month. She describes what she found as racism – but, more than that, a racism that prepares young Israelis for their compulsory military service.”

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By stan van houcke, August 7, 2011 at 12:19 pm Link to this comment

another universal problem, shenonymous, is that because of the globalization,
there are no borders which can stop the usa. and now the empire is financially
bankrupt everything starts sliding:

‘the world’s leading economies on sunday urgently discussed the stability of
financial markets after a historic U.S. credit downgrade rattled investors already
worried about European debt crises.’

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/07/g7-debt-crisis_n_920393.html

while the american state keeps borrowing from china, saudi arabia, and europe
washington is spending this money not on improving the economy but on the
military-industrial complex which is supposed to save the empire from
collapsing. but an empire which has to borrow is a giant on clay feet. and when
the usa falls it will have serious consequences for at least europe, right at the
moment when our neighbours, the 300 million arabs of whom half is under 20
years old, start mobilizing, the oil prices are high, and according to the united
nations many raw materials are worldwide increasingly plundered. the fact that
the overwelming majority of the american population does not realize in which
dire straits we all are in, makes the situation even worse. the american century
did not create an adult democracy but a docile citizenry who seems to be only
interested in consuming as much as they can. and when you write:

‘But next November will show just how the people can whip up their own power
without such wealth’

than one has to wonder which people you mean, and what power they have and
did not use uptil now? I am afraid you don’t realize how bad the situation is. the
american dream is finished, the system is broke, the state is bankrupt, the rich
get richter and the poor poorer. in europe this ended in fascism. where will it
end in the usa? nobody can say.

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By stan van houcke, August 7, 2011 at 8:06 am Link to this comment

after studying the usa for a long time, having travelled extensively through your
country, and interviewed quite a lot of american intellectuals, I can tell you I
have an opinion which is mostly based on facts. indeed, a fact is that nobody
can speak for the americans because they, the americans like the dutch, don’t
exist as a homogeneous group. already for half a century at least 40 percent of
the americans who are entitled to vote don’t vote, because they consider it not
important enough. the reason is understandable, the usa is not a democracy,
has never been one, and will never be one, it is a plutocracy, a republic in which
1 percent of the population succeeded in possessing now more than 40 percent
of its wealth and 23 percent of its yearly income. the problem with the usa is
that it alway needs to expand, otherwise it will implode or explode. this is what
the american historian william appleman williams had to say about it:

‘even by the axioms of laissez faire, economic actions were held to produce the
general – including the political – welfare. Given conditions of representative
government, the political leaders who won office would be those who acted on
an internalized understanding of that fundamental truth… good economics was
good policy. Even during the heyday of laissez faire, in the nineteenth century,
American politicans and entrepeneurs took for granted the interrelation
between, and the interpenetration of, business and politics. The most
perceptive among them realized at the turn of the twentieth century, moreover,
that the marketplace of laissez faire had to be managed in foreign affairs just
as in domestic affairs if the free enterprise or capitalistic system was to
survive… Beginning with the Wilson Administration, and continuing to a steadily
increasing extent, the Government of the United States proceeded to provide
what… the bankers asked – and considerable more. Tax monies collected from
individual citizens came to be used to provide private corporations with loans
and other subsidies for overseas expansion, to create the power to protect
those activities, and even to create reserve funds with which to make cash
guarantees against losses.’

the fact is that the american expansionism was and is needed to keep the social
peace in the usa, to buy off the masses. the result was the repression of
innumarable other peoples, starting from the indians to the philippinos, to the
vietnamese and iraqi’s. now the usa is approaching the borders of its frontier,
the american empire becomes a colossal danger for the world. to survive it
needs constant wars in which not only the other peoples are sacrificed but now
also the american white middle class.

the question for us on the outside is: how can we defend ourrselves against this
tendency? the united states is in the first place not a problem for americans, it
is and has been a problem for the world. so you can understand that your
remark that I ‘cannot speak for the American people’ is totally beside the point.
because of the cultural deprivation of the american people, which leaves them
speechless and lethargic, the world is confronted with a huge and highly
dangerous problem.

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By Shenonymous, August 7, 2011 at 7:25 am Link to this comment

As a Dutchman, stan van houcke, I can see why you use the word
we to refer to the West., but you cannot speak for the American
people.  The Netherlands would fit into the land mass of New Jersey
and the US and about 159 million population compared to the US’s
310 million.  Europe is not as unified as the world might think. 
Americans are a very mixed bag.  And the Latino and African
American population will exceed that of the Caucasians by 2030. 
I cannot argue against your conclusions given at 7:06 am.  I have
already admitted to the unspeakable foreign policy and war strategies
of the US.  And I can assure you there are those of us who are working
on changing both of those.  It is tough against the money and power of
the Republican corporate world.  Very tough.  But next November will
show just how the people can whip up their own power without such
wealth.

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By stan van houcke, August 7, 2011 at 7:06 am Link to this comment

I quote shenonymous:

‘Only if the shoe fits.  Are you American or Middle Eastern, my dear stan van
houcke?  You have not seen terror any more than a host of others.’

good, i am white, european, my father was a white dutchman who fought
during the war on a submarine against the nazi’s. in scotland he met my
mother, who als fought as a marva against the nazi’s. i was brought up in a
liberal milieu, and as a journalist I have seen and experienced the western
terror or western endorsed terror in the occupied palestinian territories, in iraq,
in lebanon. so, indeed, I have seen terror on a large scale. that is why I criticize
it. I know what I am talking about. in the biggest children’s hospital in baghdad
I saw in 1995 iraqi children perish of the effects of depleted uranium weapons
which the americans and brittish had used on a massive scale. and the terror
did not stop there, because of the sanctions the Iraqi children had to die in
horrendous pain because the west had forbidden the import of medicines. read
this:


In December 1999 John Pilger asked Peter van Walsum, Chairman of the UN
Sanctions Committee to explain why Iraq is still being subjected to economic
sanctions. The transcript of the interview appears below.

John Pilger: Why should the civilian population, innocent people, be punished
for Saddam’s crimes?

Peter van Walsum: It’s a difficult problem. You should realise that sanctions are
one of the curative measures that the Security Council has at its disposal? And
obviously they hurt. They are like a military measure.

JP: But who do they hurt?

PW: Well, this, of course is the problem, but with military action, too, you have
the eternal problem of collateral damage.

JP: So an entire nation is collateral damage? Is that correct?

PW: No, I am saying that sanctions have (similar) effects. You understand we
have to study this further.

JP: Do you believe that people have human rights no matter where they live or
under what system?

PW: Yes.

JP: Doesn’t that mean that the sanctions you are imposing are violating the
human rights of millions of people?

PW: It’s also documented that the Iraqi regime has committed very serious
human rights breaches.

JP: There is no doubt about that. But what is the difference in principle between
human rights violations committed by the regime and those caused by your
committee?

PW: It’s a very complex issue Mr Pilger.

JP: What do you say to those who describe sanctions that have caused so many
deaths as ‘weapons of mass destruction’ as lethal as chemical weapons?

PW: I don’t think that’s a fair comparison.

JP: Aren’t the deaths of half a million children mass destruction?

PW: I don’t think you can use that argument to convince me. It is about the
invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

JP: Let’s say the Netherlands was taken over by a Dutch Saddam Hussein, and
sanctions were imposed, and the children of Holland started to die like flies.
How would you feel about that?

PW: I don’t think that’s a very fair question. We are talking about a situation
which was caused by a government that overran its neighbour, and has
weapons of mass destruction.

JP: Then why aren’t there sanctions on Israel which occupies much of Palestine
and attacks Lebanon almost every day of the week. Why aren’t there sanctions
on Turkey which has displaced 3 million Kurds and caused the deaths of 30,000
Kurds?

PW: Well, there are many countries that do things that we are not happy with.
We can’t be everywhere. I repeat it’s complex.

JP: How much power does the United States exercise over your committee?

PW: We operate by consensus.

JP: And what if the Americans object?

PW: We don’t operate.

http://www.johnpilger.com/archive-december/pagede85.html?partid=118

as this dutch schreibtischmorder said about our own terrorism:

‘I don’t think you can use that argument to convince me.’

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By Shenonymous, August 7, 2011 at 6:43 am Link to this comment

so please stop suggesting I did otherwise. to be more exact: I
criticized the ?west, including europe under the command of the
usa, I was not referring to ?individual americans like you.
  Come
on stan van houcke, my dissociating myself from the decisions of
the government was not as dramatic as you imply.  You need to pay
attention to the embedded meaning it was said in context.  Surely a
journalist who is not a hack knows that?  Again, it is a picayune self-
defense you give.  A bad habit, you might give a few moments to
reflect on.  I never accused you nor implied your personal view. 
But I did say if the shoe fits.  Your cream soup approach is as I said
intentionally misleading. Yes there is racism in the US and Europe and
there is racism in the Middle East, in China, Japan and North Korea and
many unnamed nationalistic sovereign state.  Racism has been
with mankind since the cave. since the annihilation of the Neaderthals. 
On that you will get aggreement from uncountable others. To criticize
the West as The West is rhetorical criticism and is inanimate, passive. 
America is composed of individuals…like me, and you, I presume, as you
keep referring to we and our. And like the Middle Eastern countries. You
implore that the West not forget that.  It goes two ways. 

Martin Green, and Michael Boylan, Ahmed Rashid, Walter Parker, Abu-
Ubayd al-Qurashi, and Howard Zinn,... I could give you almost a hundred
names of those who are criticizing the West, but also they do not forget
the co-guilt of the Middle East.  There is enough iniquity to go around
the world twice.

Of course the West suffers deep anxieties about the precariousness of
ts civilization but also the civilization of the entire globe.  There is a
multitude who see the destitution of human evil, who work as rational
human beings to extinguish it, you named Howard Zinn as one such
human.  Open your eyes there are more than you can count.  Man’s heart
of darkness will plague humankind as long as there is the sense of greed
and a need for power, those siamese twins are the problem in a nutshell,
wanting more than is reasonable.  But what is reasonable?  Is it a relative
question?  An age old question.  You ought to name Conrad’s book, the
one that has given you insight to make the condemnations you do!  It
has done you a favor!  However, it was not the only one nor only of the
plight of Africans, try Cambodia.  But maybe it was for you.  The very
non-humanity of black people is no longer a catechism.  Except for the
racist few who like rotten apples are used to condemn the entire
population, yielding the same prejudices that the condemnation suffers! 
You seem to forget that Islam is an Abrahamic religion!  Three peas in an
originating pod. 

‘What is palpably silent is condemnation in the Middle East of the
heinous ?behavior of the terrorists.’

“what are you suggesting? that I endorse terrorism.”  Only if the shoe
fits.  Are you American or Middle Eastern, my dear stan van houcke?  You
have not seen terror any more than a host of others. It is egocentric to
think you have.  And I already said, in very clear terms, “We agree that
any form of human destruction is unacceptable.”  Do you think singling
yourself out makes you more moral?

Do, let’s get back to our own terrorism.  American terrorism.  Do write
about it, verifiably and factually as a journalist, that is your job, isn’t it? 
Dig out the facts, write about them with reliable references.  One of the
things about America that is virtuous is the right to speak against the
government, to criticize it, and to work to change it.

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By stan van houcke, August 7, 2011 at 4:58 am Link to this comment

i quote:

‘I do not excuse the atrocities committed by my country,’

i did not even suggested this. i wrote this:

‘let’s focus on the simple fact that there did not follow a massive roar of disgust
among the good folks in the usa after madam allbright’s remark.’

so please stop suggesting I did otherwise. to be more exact: I criticized the
west, including europe under the command of the usa, I was not referring to
individual americans like you.

martin green was right wehen he wrote in ‘dreams of adventure. deeds of
empire’:

‘imperialism has penetrated the fabric of our culture, and infected our
imagination, more deeply than we usually think.’

it is the same with our western racism. it is hidden so deep we don’t see it
anymore. but the others do. concerning the question of hatred among the white
people the nigerian author chinua achebe wrote in an essay about the racism in
conrad’s ‘heart of darkness’:

‘For reasons which can certainly use close psychological inquiry the West seems
to suffer deep anxieties about the precariousness of its civilization and to have
a need for constant reassurance by comparison with Africa. If Europe,
advancing in civilization, could cast a backward glance periodically at Africa
trapped in primordial barbarity it could say with faith and feeling: There go I
but for the grace of God. Africa is to Europe as the picture is to Dorian Gray—
a carrier onto whom the master unloads his physical and moral deformities so
that he may go forward, erect and immaculate. Consequently Africa is
something to be avoided just as the picture has to be hidden away to safeguard
the man’s jeopardous integrity…  … his heart of darkness plaques us still.
Which is why an offensive and deplorable book can be described by a serious
scholar as “among the half dozen greatest short novels in the English
language.” And why it is today the most commonly prescribed novel in
twentieth-century literature courses in English Departments of American
universities… I am talking about a book which parades in the most vulgar
fashion prejudices and insults from which a section of mankind has suffered
untold agonies and atrocities in the past and continues to do so in many ways
and many places today. I am talking about a story in which the very humanity of
black people is called in question…’

this all came out of the so called ‘judea-christian culture,’ which for five
centuries now has spread its terror around the world, and which we have to
address and cannot ignore anymore.

I qote you again:

‘What is palpably silent is condemnation in the Middle East of the heinous
behavior of the terrorists.’

my dear shenonymous: what are you suggesting? that I endorse terrorism. well,
to make you feel happy: I don’t support in any way any terrorism, including our
own massive western terrorism. I have seen too much of christian, jewish and
muslim terror to feel and think otherwise. moreover, i am a grandfather who
knows that there is no argument at all to kill the innocent. now, let’s get back
to our own terrorism, without dealing with it ourselves we cannot expect the
others to stop committing terror.

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By Shenonymous, August 7, 2011 at 4:35 am Link to this comment

so start learning about our own mistakes.”  We are.  You are
learning aren’t you?

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By stan van houcke, August 7, 2011 at 4:30 am Link to this comment

I quote:

’ It takes two to tango.’

so start learning about our own mistakes.

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By stan van houcke, August 7, 2011 at 4:28 am Link to this comment

i quote:

‘The growing gap between the
American rich and poor is not only noticed by you, stan van houcke,’

i was not referring to the usa, but to the situation worldwide and to the causes of
this growing gap.

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By Shenonymous, August 7, 2011 at 4:25 am Link to this comment

Nothing is ever simple.  “ i would like to state this: it is not
religious discrimination that leads to terror.
”  Right.  It is too
often the use of religious persecution in the name of a deity when
it is really men’s avaricious psyche.  The growing gap between the
American rich and poor is not only noticed by you, stan van houcke,
August 7 at 1:28 am, it is noticed by 99% of Americans and there are
those who are sweat working to change that.  It is not like a cream
soup where everything is homogenized.  Not all the people in America
are alike but doesn’t it do your disaffection and axe-grinding aim a
bigger target to insinuate that it is?  It is fallacious thinking.  I certainly
do not see all Arabs alike!  And there are millions of Westerners who also
do not. Else you would not get anyone to listen to your denunciations. 
Our focus must be on many intense fronts at the same time, but we
denounce it too.

It would appear from your reproachments that you do not recognize that
the unconscionable and grotesque insensitive mentality is distributed as
much in the Middle East as it is everywhere in the West.  It takes two to
tango.  We need only look at the rebellions in the Arab world to clearly
understand that.  You cannot ignore there is outrageousness on all
sides
.  The killing of the rebels in Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, for
instance, when the people want only a democratic voice in their own
government. 

I do not excuse the atrocities committed by my country, I did not give it
permission to do that, nor did millions others.  Simply by being a citizen
and by not going with sword in hand to the government, does not mean I
implicitly do!  My way is to do it through non-savage means, through
working to change government in non-brutal ways, just as Howard Zinn
did.  I do protest, I do demonstrate, and with the millions of others who
also do.  We are not silent.  Like a glacier, things change.  The rich and
powerful do have wealth and power. It is so vast that even Americans
who are in the millions cannot break the crust that funded politics forces
them to live subdecent lives.  How many of us Americans do you think
heard the Albright remark about sacrificing a half million Arab children is
worth American objectives?  We shall be radical and say that the sacrifice
of one child is not worth it!  The Albright remark has escaped millions
upon millions of Americans.  You condemn with out discrimination.  You
are just as bad as these numbed politicians.

Your point that it is five centuries, that the “core” of western culture is
unconscionable and grotesquely insensitive is rhetorical.  If you call it
“our” own state terrorism, what do you do or have you done to change it? 
Ranting on inert blogsites does nothing except allow you to alleviate
your acute anxiety.  What newspaper do your write for?  I’ve never seen
your work. 

It has already been stipulated that it is impossible to be unbiased. 
Do you conveniently forget that to make your point?  Recognition of
being biased is the first sign of civility and the fist step to allowing the
rationale of others to be absorbed for objective evaluation.  I listen to
and read Howard Zinn as you do.  Why assume parochially you are the
only one who does? 

What is palpably silent is condemnation in the Middle East of the heinous
behavior of the terrorists.  I have sought out and have read some
articulate and convincingly compassionate Muslims who do, and they are
courageous and their courage tells me there might be some hope that
humankind does have a path, however obscure it is right now, to live
peacefully. I do not believe that is a utopian dream.

We agree that any form of human destruction is unacceptable, whether it
is bloodless suicide bombers or computer directed mechanical drones. 
Benumbed humans program computers.

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By stan van houcke, August 7, 2011 at 3:23 am Link to this comment

shenonymous, recently new york times-columnist roger cohen wrote:

‘things are tense because seismic shifts are underway. some of them are clear:
the american century is ending.’

now that the american empire is morally and financially bankrupt it is irrational
to be obsessed by islam terrorism. the west needs to focus on it own role in
this phenomenon and has to realize that there is no such thing as a manifest
destiny whereby the americans have the right to dictate to the rest of the world
how to live. this manifest destiny-doctrine has destroyed not only the indians
but everyone else standing in the way of the american empire. the end of this is
now in sight, and the real question is:

will the neoliberal system in the united states become fascist or will the
population be able to find a new myth to live by?

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By stan van houcke, August 7, 2011 at 2:54 am Link to this comment

I quote:

‘we know for a fact that suicide bombers do not give a head’s up of an
impending bomb detonation.’

you are absolutely right,  shenonymous, but not only suicide bombers are
insensitive to their vitims, also western bombers in planes, safe high up in the sky,
who destroy populated area’s don’t care about their victims. this is all well known.
i think you don’t have to convince the readers of truthout that muslim terrorism
exists. so does christian and jewish terrorism. the point is that it is more
productive and rational to focus on our own terrorism than on the terrorism of
others, because we cannot change the others if we don’t stop our own terrorism.
our criticism should start with our own terrorism.

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By stan van houcke, August 7, 2011 at 1:28 am Link to this comment

first this quote:

‘It is obviously a partisan position to argue who is
persecuted more in the world…’

i would like to state this: it is not religious discrimination that leads to terror. it is the growing gap between rich and poor, the fact that according
to the united nations more than a billion people suffer now from hunger.
this is not the result of some natural law, but man made, first of all as a result
of the neoliberal model the west has imposed on the world.

I quote:

‘Let it be perfectly understood that my personal opinion is that the
Albright reply is unconscionable and grotesquely insensitive…’

true, but that is not so much the point I tried to make. the fact is that
western foreign politics is based on this ‘unconsionable and grotesquely
insensitive’ mentality. it is not an aberration, it is already for five centuries the
core of our western culture. madame albright did not say something absurd,
she was only caught off guard, and was therefore honest.

when you mention:

‘the militant suicide bomber Islamists’

do I understand you correctly than that you mean to say that madame allbright and
osama bin laden are essentially the same? both being terrorists?

in that case i agree
completely with you, but i would like to emphasize that the
terrorism of certain muslim cells is still in seize incomparable to the massive long
lasting terrorism of the west, nowadays under the command of the united
states. the muslim terrorists are small fry compared to for instance albright and
bush, or to the american politicians responsible for the death of at least 3 million vietnamese and more than 1 million iraqai’s.

so, let us focus on our own state terrorism instead of the terrorism of muslim groups, let’s focus on
the simple fact that there did not follow a massive roar of disgust among the
good folks in the usa after madam allbright’s remark.

I quote again:

‘I don’t know how to find unprejudiced objective observers of Middle East
and West action.’

let me clear on this: I don’t pretend to be an ‘unprejudiced objective observer.’
nobody is. it is absolutely impossible and even absurd to try to be one. let me
quote howard zinn on this:

‘From the start of my teaching and writing, I had no illusions about “objectivity,”
if that meant avoiding a point of view. I knew that a historian (or a journalist, or
any one telling a story) was forced to choose, from an infinite number of facts,
what to present, what to omit. And that decision inevitably would reflect,
whether consciously or not, the interests of the historian.’

my point of view starts here:

‘injustice needs no education. you feel it. even the
cat who is cornered will jump.’

it is a saying by an old bedouin women.

as a journalist I saw more than once israeli snipers target palestinian
children, and saw them dying in the biggest palestinian hospital in east
jerusalem. except for some honest journalists most western mainstream colleagues of
mine conceal these facts, because again, the victims are not jewish, or christian,
but muslim.

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By Shenonymous, August 6, 2011 at 10:37 pm Link to this comment

I think you are right, Night-Gaunt.  People do naturally develop a
bias and no doubt because we are emotional beings, but often as
well because of some dogma that has been taught.  It is called
indoctrination.  Some people have an ability to rise above it, I guess
Freud rose above his culture. Regardless of whether he is appreciated
or not, he had extraordinary insight into the psychology of the human
mind.  But he is not offered to get into any discussion of Sigmund
Freud.  And neither is the next one, Albert Einstein, especially when he
writes in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists March 1979 vol. 35, No. 3,
Page 1, on the moral obligation of the scientist.  Both Jews, both bridged
the 19th and 20th centuries. 

It is a good suggestion to get the “spins” on all the news.  But probably
more than just news.  Reading all kinds literature of views on and in what
one is interested builds a broad outlook.  Doing that, though, I think is
likely to locate one in a centrist position, unless all one is looking for in
the opposite view given in the news is to be able to criticize your
opponents better.  Then you do not rise above your biases, do you? 
Being located in a centrist position can be dangerous in the midst of
extremists. 

From the Muslim world, Sameera Moussa, also 20th century, from Egypt
was an outstanding Egyptian scientist in radiology and was first woman
to hold a university post in those days.  Her mysterious death is believed
by the Muslim world to have been an assassination by the Israeli
Mosssad.  It was really a sad death as she had such altruism and a huge
desire to share her knowledge of radiation in the cure for cancer and
sponsoring an international conference, Atoms for Peace, at which was
discussed protection against nuclear bomb hazards.  15 other great
Muslim scientists of the 20th century can be named.  But a brief history
and historical list is offered at Wikipedia.  It would be good if their names
were mentioned in the news from time to time.  That would raise the
media above their Western bias.

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By Night-Gaunt, August 6, 2011 at 7:00 pm Link to this comment

Bias is part of who we are. Objectivity is very hard since we are emotional beings. The only way to have a “no spin zone” is to have all spins on the news. It is very hard to read so much on just a few subjects. But it’s a good idea to read from as many different biased sources as possible. I try but then I don’t have a personal life so it is easier for me. No wife or girl friend to take up that time. I find it a better use of my time than being in a drug induced haze. Happy reading!

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By Shenonymous, August 6, 2011 at 5:24 pm Link to this comment

You are probably right, stan van houcke, August 6 at 9:16 am.

My experience has been there are some who want Muslims to be
identified with Islam (their religion) and others who rant that
Muslims ought not to be recognized as motivated by their religion. 
So it is very difficult for outsiders, non-Muslims to know just how
to properly perceive the Muslim population.  We are damned if we
do and damned if we don’t.  It is a good strategy though. Your
criticism ought to be directed to the Catholics in Rome.  I have just
offered what was in the public domain as of early this year so the data is
recent.  As a journalist, you have the perfect opportunity to make that a
public criticism but it ought to deserve an answer and the only way you
can do that is to take it to Geneva and The Human Rights Council ?On
Religious Freedom.  It is obviously a partisan position to argue who is
persecuted more in the world.  If you read the Thomasi Statement, you
would have much to argue with since religious hatred is discussed and
religious discrimination.

Let it be perfectly understood that my personal opinion is that the
Albright reply is unconscionable and grotesquely insensitive, the killing
of children is heinous and horrible is not strong enough an adjective. 
However, your counterfactual question can be turned around, you know. 
You asked “would [Albright] have given this answer if the victims were
Christian or Jewish? While Muslim law does not approve of terrorism,
Muslims also are commanded not to kill women, children, or the aged,
not to torture or otherwise ill-treat prisoners, to give fair warning of the
opening of hostilities, and to honor agreements.  However, the militant
suicide bomber Islamists have been responsible for numerous child,
women and aged people’s deaths.  Don’t you think they think it is worth
the attacks whether or not children were in the targeted zone?  I realize it
is hearsay with no absolute proof that the Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi
Mesbah, considered one of the Iranian Spiritual Leaders is reported May
31, 2011 on a site that was pulled from the browser site, to have said
that “It’s OK to Kill Jewish Children.”  But this was most of the site
address sheikyermami.com/2011/05/31/...kill-children…/comment-
page-1/  Yup, I’m afraid censorship does exist on the ‘Net. But funny,
though, it is still listed in a google search page!  Go figure.  Nevertheless,
we know for a fact that suicide bombers do not give a head’s up of an
impending bomb detonation. 

I don’t know how to find unprejudiced objective observers of Middle East
and West action.  If you could provide some verifiable refuation of the
following website http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/  it would be
appreciated.

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By stan van houcke, August 6, 2011 at 9:16 am Link to this comment

i quote:

‘If you don’t want to believe the report or think it a lie, that is entirely up
to you but you would need to provide some tangible proof as well,
otherwise there is no reason to believe you.’

what i tried to show is that muslims who are murdered by christian regimes are
not seen as victims of another religion. to underline this I gave the reaction of
albright. so, if you neglect half a million iraqi children under five years of age,
than the numbers the vatican uses are not right. true or not? this is just one
example, the drones the americans use in afghanistan and pakistan which kill
so many citizens is another example that is discounted by the vatican. on the
other hand, if the americans would kill that many christians with their drones
than it would be counted by the holy chair.

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By Shenonymous, August 6, 2011 at 8:28 am Link to this comment

In response to stan van houcke, August 6 5:34 am

Frankly, as atheist, having no god or religion, I have no emotional
attachment to the report, but the report came out of Aid to the
Church in Need, Religious Freedom in the World – Report 2010;
Conference Persecution of Christians organized by the Commission
of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, the European
Parliamentary Groups of the European People’s Party and the European
Conservatives and Reformist’s Group on October 10, 2011.

If you don’t want to believe the report or think it a lie, that is entirely up
to you but you would need to provide some tangible proof as well,
otherwise there is no reason to believe you. http://tinyurl.com/3te9nng
You have only cited other reports but not shown the Catholic one is
false.

I have no idea why Albright would have said what is reported.  For my
part, being atheist does not mean I have no altruistic feelings or
concerns.  I do indeed, so if the comment was said by Albright that it was
worth the price to have killed 500,000 Iraqi children, then that is about
as crass a remark as could be said and I lose any respect I have had for
her.  Yes, war is ugly, and it is hardest on the children, not only the ones
killed but the ones left alive who grow up to never forget the travesties
and grotesqueness of people killing and maiming each other.  They grow
up with many erroneous beliefs that guide their actions.  Those
warmongers with religion are the ones in reality who seem not to care,
not listening to their holy books, and go marching into war and murder
with false sacred impunity.  Of course the initial aggressors are most
culpable but mankind is not yet evolved from their innate savagery
enough to have figured out ways to allieviate their greed and avarice and
religiopolitical hardened and jaded perspectives, and how to negotiate
aggressors without brutal wars.  Saying that only describes a condition, it
does not do anything to change any minds and I do not have the charged
words to do that being a single voice and body unable to affect anyone
to any significant degree.  How about you?  Can you do anything?

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By stan van houcke, August 6, 2011 at 5:34 am Link to this comment

i quote Shenonymous:

‘A recent study, cited by the Vatican, reported that 75 out of every 100
people killed for religious hatred are Christian. Report 2010; Conference
Persecution of Christians.’

i doubt this. it all depends on the definition of ‘religious hatred.’ the
horrendous way the western christian world operates in the third world and in
the muslim world is an illustration of christian terror.

let me give an example:


‘Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million
children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And,
you know, is the price worth it?

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the
price—we think the price is worth it.

—60 Minutes (5/12/96)


Then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s quote, calmly asserting that U.S.
policy objectives were worth the sacrifice of half a million Arab children, has
been much quoted in the Arabic press. It’s also been cited in the United States
in alternative commentary on the September 11 attacks (e.g., Alexander
Cockburn, New York Press, 9/26/01).’

http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1084

now, do you think albright would have given this answer if the vicitms were
christian or jewish? of course not. the fact that the answer of albright did not,...
did not create a massive protest in the west is telling enough. because they
were muslims, arabs the majority felt it to be perhaps a bit rough, but still oke.

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By Shenonymous, August 5, 2011 at 2:01 pm Link to this comment

I have no inside information about Israel or the Arab world.  What
I have doesn’t amount to much and the kind of knowledge I have
is only what is reported in the news or on television and from the
few books I’ve bought on the subjects.  That is likely the way it is
with most of the population.  I doubt anyone on this forum has
definitive inside information of both sides either. 

I try not to read partisan articles by either Israeli or Jewish journalists
or other writers, such as Daniel Pipes or Robert Spencer, nor Islamist
or Muslim journalists, i.e., Al-Rahma , etc., or i.e., a website “Muslim
Journalists” at http://muslimjournalist.wordpress.com/perihal/ 
I have no idea if that is an objective Islamist electronic journal. There
is not enough information to be able to tell.  I don’t go to these sites
simply because neither can be objective in their reporting.  Al Jazeera
seems to be balanced and I do read Al jazeera, but I do not know how
close to the truth they report or critique.  I listen to Fareed Zakaria.  He
seems to give an even treatment of the news and political actions.  But
I know next to nothing about Middle East politics? So where is the truth,
or as much of The Truth that can be accessed by human minds?

The article that said Israel’s courts banned torture as a state institution
was provided by the New York Times.  Reading the article it can be seen
there was an element of skepticism as well but no other state has even
gotten close to banning the practice of torture as a state institution. 
The court did leave the door open to the “exception.”  The exception
can covers lot of sins.  So it is with deserved skepticism to think that the
Israelis would comply, it is just that the state can now be absolved of the
crime if individuals acting on their own would have to prove it was an
emergency or face criminal charges.  We have read how meager are the
claims of emergency in the political philosophy arguments.  So to say
that Israel is a model country on that score is most likely more than
hyperbole. 

Other situations of torture.  Israeli Gilad Shalit is still being held after 5
years by Hamas. Assyrian Christian in Iraq: Sunni Islamists gouge his
eyes out and torture him to death Lee Jay Walker Modern Tokyo Times,
May 17, 2011. 

Torture happens on all sides who are in conflicts to the death.  Talk
about torture and North Korea needs to be included.

Early Christians were persecuted for their faith, by both Jews and the
Roman Empire, which controlled much of the land early Christianity
inhabited. This continued from the 1st century until the early 4th, 300
years when the religion was legalized by Constantine I.

In the 20th century, Christians have been persecuted by Muslim and
Hindu groups inter alia, and by atheistic states such as the USSR and
North Korea.  As of 2010, the Christian missionary organization Open
Doors UK, estimated 100 million Christians face persecution,
particularly in North Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia. ‘Open Doors’ World
Watch List, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 23 January 2010. Jonathan
Fox and Shmuel Sandler, Separation of Religion and State in the Twenty-
First Century: Comparing the Middle East and Western Democracies,
2005, The City University of New York.

A recent study, cited by the Vatican, reported that 75 out of every 100
people killed for religious hatred are Christian. Report 2010; Conference
Persecution of Christians http://tinyurl.com/3te9nng

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By David, August 5, 2011 at 12:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

http://maxblumenthal.com/2011/07/anders-behring-breivik-a-perfect-product-of-the-axis-of-islamophobia/

EXCERPTS:

“Breivik and other members of Europe’s extreme right are fixated on the fear of the ‘demographic Jihad,’ or being out-populated by…Muslim immigrants. They see themselves…fighting a…holy war to preserve Western Civilization. Thus, they turn for inspiration to Israel, the only ethnocracy in the world, a country that substantially bases its policies towards Palestinians on what its leaders call ‘demographic considerations.’ This is why Israeli flags…fly above…English Defense League mobs, and why Geert Wilders, the most prominent Islamophobic politician in the world, travels to Israel to demand the forced transfer of Palestinians.”

“There is no clear evidence that Breivik’s support for the Israeli right played any part in his killing spree. Nor does he appear to have any connection with the Israeli government. However,...in November 2010,... [Israel accused]...the Norwegian government of ‘anti-Israel incitement’ for funding a trip for students to New York to see the ‘Gaza Monologues’ play. Then, the day before Breivik’s terror attack,...Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stor visited the Labor Youth camp at Utoya. There, he was met with demands to support the global BDS movement and…the Palestinian Authority’s statehood bid. ‘Palestinians must have their own state, the occupation must end, the wall…demolished and it must happen now,’ the foreign minister declared, earning cheers from the audience.”

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By stan van houcke, August 5, 2011 at 11:30 am Link to this comment

one can make torture a subject for academic discussion. as a journalist I have
seen more than once israeli soldiers and police—what i would say—torturing
palestinians who were in custody. now, there are people who state that beating
up someone who is handcuffed and blindfolded is not torturing. but is shooting
a prisoner in the foot not torture? look at these images: http://wn.com/Israeli_soldier_shoots_arrested_blindfolded_Palestinian

has any israeli soldier been put in prison for his crime?

‘Convicted in Shooting of Bound Palestinian, Israeli Soldier Temporarily
Ineligible for Promotion

January 27, 2011 by occupiedpalestine 0 Comments

PNN – Palestine News Network – 27.01.11 – 13:00

Tel Aviv – PNN – Lieutenant Colonel Omri Burberg, the Israeli soldier convicted
of shooting Ashraf Abu Rahma at close range while he was bound and
blindfolded in the village of Ni’lin, avoided a prison term but was made
temporarily ineligible for promotion by an Israeli military court on Thursday.

Israeli online newspaper Ha’aretz reported that Burberg, who ordered a
subordinate named Leonardo Korea to shoot Rahma in the foot from a distance
of one meter, will be ineligible for a “rank upgrade” for two years and cannot
serve as a commander for one. The prosecutor, Avichai Mandelbilt, saw his case
for a prison sentence and demotion denied.’

http://occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/convicted-in-shooting-
of-bound-palestinian-israeli-soldier-temporarily-ineligible-for-promotion/

so, here we are, giving the order to shoot a helpless blindfolded and
handcuffed young man and still no prison sentence. one can give dozens of
examples of zionist terror without punishment.

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By stan van houcke, August 5, 2011 at 11:13 am Link to this comment

i quote:

‘Still it is amazing since Israel is always under threat and yet it is the only
country that has as a state banned it.’

this information is not based on facts. first of all: israel is not threatened but
threatens itself, threatens the palestinian population by going on with stealing
their land, and murdering the ones who oppose this. the stealing of palestinian
land is forbidden by international law and by the the united nations. and now
israel also threatens to bomb iran, which is again a violation of international
law. 

second: israel does torture, even children as one can read in the information of
‘defence for children international.’

http://www.dci-palestine.org/


more information:

‘The Holocaust Is Over; We Must Rise From its Ashes, written by avraham burg,
former speaker of the knesset.

“This is an important book by a very courageous man. The shadow of the Shoah
and its abusive application to the contemporary Middle East have been a
catastrophe for Jews, Israelis and Arabs alike. In Burg’s view Israel must move
beyond Hitler’s poisoned legacy. If they cannot or will not do this, the Middle
East will never see peace and Israel has no future.”—Tony Judt, bestselling
author of Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 and Professor at New York
University

“Burg takes a blunt, loving, painful and desperately important look at the state
of the Jewish soul today. Anyone who cares about the future of the Middle East
and the fate of victimized peoples needs to read this book and think hard.”—
J.J. Goldberg, author of Jewish Power: Inside the American Jewish Establishment
and Editorial Director of The Forward

“This fascinating and thought-provoking book should be read by every person
who cares about Israel. Burg’s central theme is that Israeli leaders use the
memory of the Holocaust in ways that are warping the country’s soul, creating
unnecessary fear, and making it impossible to achieve peace with the
Palestinians.”—John J. Mearsheimer, bestselling author of The Israel Lobby
and US Foreign Policy and Professor of Political Science at the University of
Chicago

“In this book of memories and reflections, the former Knesset Speaker delivers
his disquieting findings about Israel that ‘became a Kingdom without a
prophesy.’... Foremost a book of hope from a man who wants to find ways to
return Judaism to its universal calling.”—Le Monde

“Mr. Burg…wrote a powerful book, an indictment of how Zionism and the
Holocaust have been used.”—Globe and Mail


“Avraham Burg has great faith in the creative power of argument. His book has
already provoked much controversy and now that it has been translated is
certain to provoke more. At a time when crass, catchpenny titles pour from the
presses, it is that unusual thing: A new book that matters.”—Arab News
Product Description

Modern-day Israel, and the Jewish community, are strongly influenced by the
memory and horrors of Hitler and the Holocaust. Burg argues that the Jewish
nation has been traumatized and has lost the ability to trust itself, its neighbors
or the world around it. He shows that this is one of the causes for the growing
nationalism and violence that are plaguing Israeli society and reverberating
through Jewish communities worldwide. Burg uses his own family history—his
parents were Holocaust survivors—to inform his innovative views on what the
Jewish people need to do to move on and eventually live in peace with their
Arab neighbors and feel comfortable in the world at large. Thought-provoking,
compelling, and original, this book is bound to spark a heated debate around
the world.’

if israel really would be threatened the question is why the zionist regime goes
on terrorizing the palestinian people and threatening its neighbours.

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By Night-Gaunt, August 5, 2011 at 10:45 am Link to this comment

When did Israel ban torture. Their police is notorious for it. In many places ours still use it too. Only it may be just being kept awake for long periods or loud music or nudity in very cold rooms etc.

As for the fantasy series “24” its entire premise was the ticking clock and every episode ended in a cliff hanger till the end. Oh and the torture always worked. As it usually does in fiction. Not in reality where it fails more than succeeds.

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By Shenonymous, August 4, 2011 at 11:49 pm Link to this comment

Night-Gaunt - I do not see nor advocate TTB as an excuse to justify
torture. I am reporting what has been argued for and against. For
me, the arguments against it are the moral ones.  I don’t know what
I would do if I faced a real situation, it is too horrible to imagine.
I don’t think torture is either ever justifiable or moral.  But if my
family were in danger, I cannot say I would not resort to what is
neither unjustified nor immoral.  Have you given it any thought as
to what you would do? Besides, for me the actuality is so remote that
any hypothetical is sheer invention.  I didn’t watch the last season
of 24. There was a ticking-time bomb plot in a set of episodes.  I
don’t know what was the final outcome. There are quite a number
of variations on this theme that have their origin in Jean Lartéguy’s
1960 novel “Les Centurions,” set during the Algerian civil war.

What is a reality, though, is that a government has actually taken the
idea seriously.      http://tinyurl.com/3t6ynnw 
New York Times, September 7, 1999 news report
Israel Court Bans Most Use of Force In Interrogations
Amnesty International called it a milestone, but the Israeli court did
leave open the possibility of torture in an emergency.  Still it is
amazing since Israel is always under threat and yet it is the only
country that has as a state banned it.

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By Night-Gaunt, August 4, 2011 at 7:55 pm Link to this comment

Shenonymous I have heard many times the Ticking Time bomb scenario given by you and others as the reason for torture to save people. In every case the person detained is completely correctly identified not only as a terrorist but has the information they need. (They give no margin for error.) So what you say and those researches use as reasoning fits exactly with the Reich wing scenario for torture. (See the TV series “24” for their examples.) That was all I meant by it.

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By Leefeller, August 4, 2011 at 2:32 pm Link to this comment

Rich Sanderson, very appreciated to find I am not alone in my capability to see a world beyond Hedges divisive and myopic view and especially find your following comment spot on!

“To think you have the cheek to use Bertrand Russell’s image. He’d give you a clip ‘round the earhole if he was alive.”

Scummy followers!  Never thought of them in that light,... seems a bit extreme, after all for them Hedges is like the Pope for Catholics!

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By Rich Sanderson, August 4, 2011 at 2:07 pm Link to this comment

Bob Glob

Harris and Bill Maher also both exhibit the same inability to EVER acknowledge that there are valid reasons for people in the Muslim world to have resentment towards Israel and the West.

A Strawman! But would you also agree that there are valid reasons for people in the civilised world to have resentment towards Islamists and their fascist followers?

How do you explain East Timor and other places that have nothing to with Israel, “The West” or any other bogeyman you want to throw out, where Islamist violence has spread terror, murder and oppression?

Just asking…

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By Rich Sanderson, August 4, 2011 at 1:55 pm Link to this comment

Faysal Durant

I agree that Harris is a genocidal Muslim-hater,

Haven’t you already humiliated yourself and jumped the shark.

Stop infesting this thread with silly hyperbole. To think you have the cheek to use Bertrand Russell’s image. He’d give you a clip ‘round the earhole if he was alive.

Admit it, you are a faith head in disguise.

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By Rich Sanderson, August 4, 2011 at 1:50 pm Link to this comment

LocalHero

Well, Sam, I’ve read both of your and Hedges’ posts and I have some good news and some bad news.

The bad news is, I think you made the right decision to flee Hedges and leave Truthdig.

I’d advise Mr. Harris to wash his hands after contact with Hedges’ articles on TruthDig, and some of Hedges’ scummy followers.

Now, after thinking of Hedges, how am I going to cleanse myself? I’ll settle for watching Hitchens humiliate him in 2007.

I reckon that is the source for Hedges’s hatred of the “new atheists.”

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By michael3ov, August 4, 2011 at 4:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

@LocalHero Do you have any reason or idea what you are talking about? Have you seriously believed the garbage and misrepresentations that Hedges makes about Harris and other atheists? Please don’t tell me you are a religious apologists. If so you do not belong on any site with the title truthdig. Religion and the way people tiptoe around it like it is some sacred cow is one of the biggest lies in human history. Your pic shows what an unoriginal ignorant fool you are. Guy Fawkes, really? You long to be part of some group, namely anonymous, or you long to be some kind of hero, like V, yet you probably have no clue who Guy Fawkes is. Your pitiful unoriginality and conformity is laughable. Embrace rationality and make an attempt to think for yourself.

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By David, August 3, 2011 at 5:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Max Blumenthal: “Meet the Right-Wing Hatemongers Who Inspired the Norway Killer. Why were America’s Islamophobes able to avoid accountability for so long?”

http://www.alternet.org/teaparty/151881/meet_the_right-wing_hatemongers_who_inspired_the_norway_killer/

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By David, August 3, 2011 at 5:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bicycledealer writes:

“And what a sad, surreal, and desperately tragic end to global civilization, if the flint that lit the match that sparked our self-immolation was a 1400 year old book of Arabian desert myths written by people who didn’t know enough about the world to keep their own shit out of their food.”

Such appalling ignorance of history, such sickening racism.  Crawl back under your rock!!

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By bicycledealer, August 3, 2011 at 3:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ignorance abounds.  It seems those so eager for a clear shot at Harris have neglected to line their sights by referring, even tangentially, to anything the man has written. 

The Islamist equation, at least pertaining to nuclear weapons, is gallingly simple.  Are you ready?  Here it is:

If Osama Bin Laden (circa April 2011 of course) acquired both a long range nuclear weapon and the capability to launch it from an undisclosed location, what do you think he would do with it?

If your answer was “Launch it, you fool.  Whaddahell you think?!?” please proceed to the next question.  If, however, you think he’d instead hang on to it, perhaps hoping it would appreciate in value like an English china antique, you face an obligation to justify your position.  I look forward to hearing such justifications should they ever see the light of day.

The follow-up question for those sufficiently clear-headed to suppose that Bin Laden would choose to launch the device, is this:

What should we do if a man EXACTLY LIKE OSAMA BIN LADEN were ever to gain ascendency in a country with nuclear capabilities?  For it is only in response to a situation precisely like this that Harris calls for us to consider, if only for a moment, the terifying prospect of our launching a nuclear first strike.

Harris’ point is simply this:  Despite our knowledge of his intention to attack, and despite our inability to locate his weapons cache, a nuclear first strike is merely one option among several which we could theoretically exercise.  However, given the severity of the situation we couldn’t take it off the table. 

And what a sad, surreal, and desperately tragic end to global civilization, if the flint that lit the match that sparked our self-immolation was a 1400 year old book of Arabian desert myths written by people who didn’t know enough about the world to keep their own shit out of their food.

That’s Harris’ point.  A simple one, if you’d bothered to read his book, which, of course, none of you ever did.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, Harris never argued in unbridled support of torture.  He flat out didn’t do it.  What he did instead was argue that tortue MAY be justified, as a last resort, in instances when we are already in a state of “hot” war.  When, in other words, our foreign policy objectives are considered so urgent that we are prepared to inflict massive collateral damage on innocents in order to see them achieved. 

It makes sense, really.  After all, say what you like about torture, but we don’t torture little babies.  We do, however, kill babies by the score every time we launch a bombing campaign, regardless of how “smart” our bombs are.  So why do we make so much noise about one and not the other?  I’ve yet to hear a decent response to this argument.  I certainly don’t hold out any hopes of hearing one on Truthdig.

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By LocalHero, August 3, 2011 at 1:02 pm Link to this comment

Well, Sam, I’ve read both of your and Hedges’ posts and I have some good news and some bad news.

The bad news is, I think you made the right decision to flee Hedges and leave Truthdig. I have no interest in reading anything you write again.

The good news is, even though it’s on my reading list, I never wasted my money on your book.

Good riddance.

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By Katie Corbet, August 3, 2011 at 11:52 am Link to this comment

Poll: Muslims, atheists most likely to reject violence

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/08/03/poll-muslims-atheists-most-likely-to-reject-violence

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By Shenonymous, August 2, 2011 at 10:47 pm Link to this comment

1.
Night-Gaunt, August 2 at 7:19 pm - It is probably a virtue that you
don’t agree with anyone 100% but what is the force of admitting
that?  100% agreement was not requested in the least.  The question
of torture is bifurcated.  There is torture that would be permitted as
an institutional practice, such as was practiced at Guantanamo and
Abu Grabe, which we hold is completely immoral and never justified,
yet we know it was sanctioned by the state (or particular U.S. powerful
agents of the state if not the entire state), then there are those
irritating one-off times when a state permission is not involved as an
option, because it is unlawful, and torture therefore is an illegal act, but
a necessary act of torture is deemed necessary to save the lives of many
people. It is irrelevant to consider how many other people.  A distinction: 
While it is true that the imposition of morality as a theory (to ask the
question of whether torture is ever justified) might inform moral practice
(when an actual event that would call for a decision to perform torture), it
has to be kept in mind that the two, theory and practice, are logically
separate.  Where one is kept in the realm of propositionally abstraction,
and the other applies to actuality, a real life situation consisting of action
or inaction.

To address your criticism, there are several moral theories that can be
use to develop a view of torture ethically permitted (but distinctly not
state sanctioned).  Utilitarianism, non-Kantian deontologiy, virtue theory,
social contract theory, ethical pluralism, and ethical particularism. 

You can view these theories in an essay by Fritz Allhoff, “A Defense of
Torture:  Separation of Cases, Ticking Time-bombs (there are variations
on this theme) and Moral Justification, as a free googled pdf file where
Allhoff argues “for the permissibility of torture in idealized cases by
application of separation of cases: if torture is permissible given any of
the dominant moral theories (and if one of those is correct), then torture
is permissible simpliciter and I can discharge the tricky business of
trying to adjudicate among conflicting moral views. To be sure, torture is
not permissible on all the dominant moral theories as at least Kantianism
will prove especially recalcitrant to granting moral license of torture,
even in idealized cases. Rather than let the Kantian derail my central
argument, I directly argue against Kantianism (and other views with
similar commitments) on the grounds that, if they cannot accommodate
the intuitions in ticking time-bomb cases, they simply cannot be
plausible moral views—these arguments come in both foundationalist
and coherentist strains. Finally, I postulate that, even if this paper has
dealt with idealized cases, it paves the way for the justification of torture
in the real world by removing some candidate theories (e.g., Kantianism)
and allowing others that both could and are likely to justify real-world
torture.”
  It can be shown though that no moral theory can justify
torture.

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By Shenonymous, August 2, 2011 at 10:46 pm Link to this comment

2.
I think we all know why torture is morally wrong.  As human beings
we believe that cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of others is
wrong, mainly because psychologically we do not want to be
intensely shocked or disgusted, perhaps even identifying with the
pain felt by the tortured victim. 

The ticking-bomb case that is attributed to Dershowitz is actually
one that he appropriated from Henry Shue, a mid-70s moral
philosopher.  It can be called (as philosopher Robert Nozick did) a
catastrophic moral horror case.  Since there are some who would
object that “good consequences” (saving lives) cannot justify human
conduct that is otherwise wrong, then it is not permissible.  Whereas
moral philosopher, Michael Davis,* concludes a long argument that
“(A)bsent some unlikely experience, torture can in practice never be
morally justified. The only thing that provides an exception though, is
the phrase “absent some unlikely experience,” for what could that
possibly mean?  He does not address this issue.  Allhoff finds that if
there is sufficient reason, actuality being one of those reasons, and the
consideration of rights not only of the terrorist torture victim but the
rights of the victims to be bombed is another, in this case right to life,
the terrorist is not an innocent third party where the victims are. Allhoff
shows using a deontologist (one concerned with rights and duties) that
taking a view of all the principles involved, the torturer, the terrorists,
and the victims, that is, an aggregative approach, then torture in the case
of a catastrophic moral horror, torture can be required and morally
justified since the rights of the victims take precedence. Virtue theorists
would wind up coming to the conclusion after weighing the parameters
of what would a virtuous person do, that it would be less vicious to
perform a single act of torture than to allow many to die horrible deaths.

I think you get the picture Night-Gaunt and if you are interested check
out Allhoff and Michael Davis* (The Moral Justifiability of Torture and
other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment, International Journal of
Applied Philosophy 19:2., 2005, also available as a free pdf on a google
search). 

I am not sure what you mean by “what the Reich wingers use all the time
as justification.”  Effectiveness of torture is discussed in the various
essays but it is embedded in other sections.  Generally torture is found
to be ineffective.  But torture can be broken down into three categories:
physical, psychological, and other-directed. As to the success of torture,
it is true, according to Allhoff, “that some people, particularly terrorist
operatives, are trained to withstand torture, particularly as it pertains to
information extraction. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that anyone
can resist torture-laden interrogations indefinitely; the psychological
trauma and the degree of confusion are simply too severe.”  The reality is
that “(E)veryone has a limit and, given time, any information can be
extracted. Experience seems to show that not even that much time is
required—many prisoners disclose quickly.”  Of course, misinformation
could be a big problem and can complicate a situation.”

Other resources:
Shue, Henry, 1978, “Torture,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, 7: 124–43
Allhoff, Fritz, Terrorism and Torture, International Journal of Applied
Philosophy 17:1.. 2003 – this pdf available essay includes a section on
what forms of torture are permissible.

This is the reality, not what either you or I would want.  The morality is
debatable depending on which theory you accept as best.  It is not a
black and white reality.  The entire idea is repugnant to me, but so is the
idea that people get blown apart.

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By Night-Gaunt, August 2, 2011 at 7:19 pm Link to this comment

As we saw above, torture is a terrorist tactic. Indeed, arguably it is the terrorist tactic par excellence. Detonating bombs that kill the innocent has come to be regarded as the quintessential terrorist tactic. But this is presumably because terrorism has implausibly come to be identified only with non-state terrorism. At any rate, the point to be made here is that torture is a terrorist tactic, and for a liberal democracy to legalise and institutionalise it, i.e. weave the practice of torture into the very fabric of liberal democratic institutions, would be both an inherent contradiction—torture being an extreme assault on individual autonomy—and, given what we know about the practice of torture in military, police, and correctional institutions, highly damaging to those liberal democratic institutions. It would be equivalent to a liberal democracy legalising and institutionalising slavery on the grounds, say, of economic necessity. Legalised and institutionalised slavery is inconsistent with liberal democracy, as is legalised and institutionalised torture. So if legalised and institutionalised slavery and/or legalised and institutionalised torture are necessary because morally required, then liberal democracy is not possible in anything other than an attenuated form. But of course neither legalised/institutionalised slavery nor legalised/institutionalised torture is morally required, quite the contrary. At best, torture is morally justified in some one-off emergencies—just as murder and cannibalism might be morally excusable in a one-off emergency on the high seas, or desertion from the field of battle might be morally justifiable given a one-off emergency back home—but absolutely nothing follows as far as the legalisation/institutionalisation of torture is concerned.

So torture warrants are highly undesirable, indeed a threat to liberal democratic institutions. Moreover, torture warrants are unnecessary. As has been argued above, there may well be one-off emergencies in which the use of torture is morally justifiable. In those cases, the relevant public officials must bite the bullet and do what is morally required, e.g. torture the terrorist to save thousands of innocent people. In such an emergency, the military or police officers involved will need to break the law on this one occasion. But in itself this is a small price to pay; and a price the police, the military and the politicians have shown themselves only too willing to pay in situations that are far from emergencies.

One final matter. What should be done to the military officer, police officer, or other public official who tortures the terrorist if—after saving the city—their crime is discovered? Quite clearly he (or she) should resign or be dismissed from their position; public institutions cannot suffer among their ranks those who commit serious crimes. Further, the public official in question must be tried, convicted, and sentenced for committing the crime of torture.[21] Obviously, there are (to say the least) mitigating circumstances, and the sentence should be commuted to, say, one day in prison. Would public officials be prepared to act to save thousands of innocent lives, if they knew they might lose their job and/or suffer some minor punishment? Presumably many would. But if not, is it desirable to set up a legalised torture chamber and put these people in charge of it?

I still see inherent problems in this one time emergency use of an illegal and immoral act in a supposed bid to save others. A more careful analysis of what the Reich wingers use all the time as justification. Also I was struck that efficacy was not addressed in this nor a comparison to other methods that gain more information and don’t violate our Constitution either. However thank you for your help Shenonymous.

Like everyone else, I rarely agree 100% with anyone.

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By Leefeller, August 2, 2011 at 3:16 pm Link to this comment

Night Guant,... Do you disagree with Harris’s Atheist Manifesto? (which now that I think of it, I need to reread), I find no reason or need to agree on everything from any one person, I would find this a bit uncomfortable and a tad short sighted,  especially if I found it necessary to disallow a person for what I agreed on in favor of what I disagreed on, there may be a tipping point?

On the other hand, I may be in the same boat you are with Harris as I with Hedges?

Occasionally, I find some agreement with Hedges usually on some of his humanity issues, but he really annoys me with his preachy self righteousness and what I perceive as a whiny sermoney attitude. 

I know a lot of folks here like him and it seems for them the sun hangs on his every word, I just do not see it.  As for Harris, I found the Manifesto enlightening, but I do not feel any obligation to accept everything he states as food for consumption or thought, plus I do not hang on his or anyone else s every word nor does the sun hang on Harris’s every word for me either, so what does this mean?

Guess we disagree and look at things differently?

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By Shenonymous, August 2, 2011 at 2:41 pm Link to this comment

Night-Gaunt, August 2 at 11:50 am – What is it that you don’t
understand about one-off occasion for torture?  I suggest you
read section 3 of Moral Justification for One-off Acts of Torture in
Emergencies http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/torture/  I disagree
with Dershowitz, as his argument clearly is for institutionalized
torture, sanctioned by the state and that clearly is morally wrong in
all cases.  This distinction is not made by anyone on this forum or
the Hedges forum.  Why morally wrong, because generally we human
beings think, and have conventionally agreed to, that it is wrong to harm
others as a rule and especially as the rule of a state!  However, there are
isolated incidents when it would be morally right to sacrifice the one for
the many.  Unless you don’t have a family or loved ones, or compassion
for the many innocents who would be torn apart by a terrorist’s bomb,
then you are not able to come to that conclusion.  The bulk of your
argument is correct and I agree with it.  I can provide more web
citations but only if you are interested.

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By Faysal Durant, August 2, 2011 at 1:18 pm Link to this comment

@ stan van houcke

I agree that Harris is a genocidal Muslim-hater, but don’t lump all atheists like me in with him. Even Hedges notes himself that most atheists down the ages have been antiwar including the fellow in my avatar. Harris is just a nationalist who on his way to a neocon gathering accidentally stumbled into the nearest atheist society.

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By stan van houcke, August 2, 2011 at 12:26 pm Link to this comment

‘He is an atheist.’

an atheist who claims that genocide ‘may be our only option’  is just as crazy as a
religious person who is willing to use weapons of mass destruction. they don’t
differ, both are fundamentalists. it is revealing that self acclaimed atheists don’t
realize this.

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By Night-Gaunt, August 2, 2011 at 11:50 am Link to this comment

However I must say Shenonymous that under torture you or I or anyone could be made to say anything to make it stop. The Inquisition found it effect in that way. So they were never wrong in their accusations.


But if one had no scruples one can engage in it with all the dispassion, or passion, one would choose to give it. If morality was some quantity one could forget, it would be easy to use it. But I see nothing good coming from using evil for any reason. Nothing. Sam Harris like Alan Derschowitz say otherwise that only under “extreme conditions” where “they know the person they have in custody has the correct information” should it be used. Very iffy on both counts and prone to problematical guessing passing as proof. Considering there are better means of getting correct information than that. Ones that remain humane, civil and legal.

For me Harris‘s Atheism isn’t of import here rather his belligerent military stand in geo-politics that are in line with the militant Christians in our gov’t and power structure. Especially preemptive nuclear war. Certainly goes against the Geneva Conventions and Nuremberg laws. Not that it matters to an empire like ours that ignores such things as bothersome gnats. Who would dare try to bring our leaders up on charges of War Crimes? I don’t see anyone lining up yet.

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By Gus, August 2, 2011 at 11:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank you Sam. You once again, with concision and clarity, resoundly put Chris Hedges into his place. Truthdig, in the future aim higher. Much higher.

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By Shenonymous, August 2, 2011 at 11:17 am Link to this comment

J.Harlan, July 28 at 8:22 am–“Harris does appear to be preoccupied
with Islam as an easy target, and for many, ?he has not adequately
responded to this perception. But his argument that ?science can
explain morality needs to be understood in the context of Christian ?
claims of God as the source of morality, and not as the rebirth of
Social ?Darwinism (leading to Nazi-style atrocities, naturally) as this
author not so subtly ?suggests.

Harris took issue with Islam in The End of Faith, and with Christianity in
Letter to a Christian Nation.  He doesn’t play favorites.  He is an atheist. 
In support of science his book The Moral Landscape he speaks of all
three Abrahamic religions. 

JM, July 28 at 10:05 am “Sam Harris is getting what he wants: a ride on
the coattails of Chris Hedges (way ?beyond Harris in every positive way) 
to further promote his fundamentalist cause. ?Harris does’t care that he is
exposed for what he is.
”  Actually it is the other way around. It was
Hedges article printed first who took aim at Harris.  I see that you don’t
believe in self-defense.

Katie Corbet, July 28 at 12:17 pm – one woman’s opinion is not
another’s.

Night-Gaunt, July 28 at 1:44 pm – in reading much literature in the field
on torture, it is true that for the most part, torture does not yield any
benefits to either save the victim nor the torturer nor the torturers state. 
Therefore, no state would be benefitted by an institutional practice of
torture.  However all of them have said there are one-off times when
torture can be effective.  I suggest that a review of the literature on
torture with an objective eye be undertaken

Spooky-43, July 29 at 4:30 am – Don’t know if you care if anyone says it,
but your comment is terrific.

Agreeing with you Leefeller, Leefeller, July 29 at 8:02 am – I would
change on word - I no longer feel alone in my unbelief, nor do I feel a
need to swear it on my sleeve!

constructivedialog, August 1 at 8:46 am – not quite true – Just to make
the record more correct:
http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/index.html#Attacks 
Please discredit with evidence any of the information provided at this
website.  It would be appreciated.  A daily record from 9/11 to August
2, 2011, of deadly terrorist attacks carried out by militant Muslims since
9/11. The total as of at 17379.

Katie Corbet, August 1 at 2:00 pm – “ The point is that most “believers”
do not eat, drink and sh*t their faith 24 hours a day.
  Maybe not most
but it is the few who do that the world needs to be afraid of.

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By Shenonymous, August 2, 2011 at 11:12 am Link to this comment

It is difficult if not impossible for non-atheists to understand
the nuance of atheism.  There is only one nuance:  there is no
justification given by any religionist for belief in a supernatural
being, either good or evil that is responsible for the universe and
especially the physicality of human beings and the guidance of their
behaviors (since they are the only ones discovered so far that have
expressible consciousness or a conscience about what is good and/or
evil).  That is the only essential feature of atheism and that is what
guides all responses to religionists and their apologetics.  All such
responses have only turned out to be blusterings and nothing more. 

Sam Harris elicits such vehement disdain because of this lack of
understanding.  He has been directly confronted on this forum, but
interestingly enough not his own blogsite (where are the critics there?),
for both his non-religious beliefs and religiopolitical perspectives by
those who wage defensive reactive vicious criticism for any arguments
put forth against terrorist Islamism.  What I want to know is, forgetting
Harris, if there is any forum where such discussion is possible wihout
being denigrated a racist or anti-Muslim?  If there can be any honest
discussion with Muslims, I should like to have that web address.

Richard Brunelle, July 26 at 11:26 pm – you forget Syria.  While not a
Middle Eastern power, India also has nuclear weapons that could be used
against or in retaliation to an aggressive Pakistan.  Given their hostilities
towards one another, it is not out of the realm of possibilities.

Without any dispute I cannot condone imperialism regardless of where it
comes from, including my own country! And it is accused of it plenty. 
When was the last time Israel actively entered a sovereign country to take
it over?  I simply want to know and would accept all verifiable
information.  We Americans ought to be apprised of this.  This is not to
say Israel does not deserve blame in the suffering of the Palestinian
people, but they are not solely to blame.  Taking the view of a non-
religionist reality, meaning political only, the Arab world must share
some of the blame of the Palestinians misery for the more than 60 years
of this mess.  It has been only violent bickering that has kept the
Palestinians from developing a nation of their own.  That is the travesty. 
But then this is besides the point of this article isn’t it?

Interesting observations from ITW, July 28, 7:14a.m.

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By stan van houcke, August 2, 2011 at 10:36 am Link to this comment

inherit the wind, true, so true,

and in the meantime the power of the usa diminishes every day. a tiny nation as
israel has shown the rest of the world you can ignore the american president and
still get a huge applaus in congress, so mankind begins to see the empire as a
lame duck. go surfing, surfing usa.

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By Inherit The Wind, August 2, 2011 at 9:58 am Link to this comment

Nearly 800 posts in these two threads about whether Hedges’ rants and raves are really gems, or whether Harris’ cuts and knocks actually are valid objections.

As a fundamentally iconoclastic personality, I’ve gone from “amused” to “bored”.

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By atmop, August 2, 2011 at 9:42 am Link to this comment

A Critique of Chris Hedges’ attack on Sam Harris - Part 3.

Since you abjure both religious fundamentalism and
secularist fundamentalism I must conclude that you
support non-fundamentalist religion.
 
Secularism can only be fundamentalist.  There is only
one definition of secularism:  To seek a society
where religion does not wield legislative, judicial
or executive power. There is no half-way house, or no
‘secularism-light’. It is, I am afraid, an all-or-
none situation.  Thus, all who seek a secular society
are fundamentalists by definition.

However, religion is a multi-faceted coat of many
colours and many shades from the literalist
interpretation of the various ancient Scriptures (the
fundamentalist position which you abjure) to
countless variations of nuanced, metaphoric, less
literalist interpretations.

So, either you believe in these modern
interpretations of the various Scriptures,

or

you accept the secularists’ viewpoint that they are
all mythological and, since they are universally
judgemental and mostly quite immoral
- (from our modern ethical standpoint [“slavery is
wrong, children have rights, women are of equal value
to men . . etc. {further explanation available if you
need it}]) -
and thus they cannot form any basis for governing our
societies.

So, Chris, do you believe in a supernatural deity who
intervenes or are you in fact one of us evil
fundamentalist secularists?

Of course there is one (and only one) other possible
option open to you: that you are an atheist but would
allow politicians to make laws, and judges to make
judgments, on the basis of their beliefs in the
ancient scriptures (which were written by men who
thought some sort of god was speaking to, or through,
them).

The latter could possibly lead (in some more
religious, less secular future?) to the apocalypse
which you presage in your concluding paragraph.
Of course there are other causi belli (possible reasons for war) but why not eliminate this useless, abusive and immoral business (religion) which is based on totally unbelievable myths.

So, Chris when do you come out? That old fence must be paining your nether regions, so why not get a bit of courage, and jump down on one side or the other (and yes, there are two sides, it is black and white:

a)  Belief in a listening, intervening
supernatural being,

      or

b)    Zero belief (nada, nothing, zip, zilch . .)
in any such being until some rational, believable
evidence turns up.
ps. any teenager with a good high school science
education can explain that one if needed.

However, in conclusion (promise), I must nail my
colours to the mast and say that, in my opinion, you are not fit to tie the moral shoelaces of Sam Harris.
I have read a lot of his writings and have heard a
lot of his discourses and debates and I cannot find a racist bone in his body but hear him strive to find a better way of living for every human being on this planet whether Western, African, Asian, Persian, Arabic speaking or otherwise.

I send human love to you, Chris, my brother human.

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By atmop, August 2, 2011 at 9:28 am Link to this comment

Critique of Chris Hedges’ attack on Sam Harris - Part
2.
You say: “A culture that exalts its own moral
certitude and engages in uncritical self-worship at
the expense of conscience commits moral and finally
physical suicide.” Yes, I would agree that many
religious people could be held to be guilty of this,
but not the secular fundamentalists. 
We might rephrase your prose as follows: “A culture
which is so confused that it holds any and all forms
of moral expression to be of equal value no matter
how degrading, painful and oppressive they may be for
the weaker members of their societies, is one which
is morally bankrupt, cowardly, corrupt and is well on
the way to committing moral and physical suicide”

You say: “Our fundamentalists busy themselves with
their pathetic little monuments to Jesus, to reason,
to science, to Western civilization and to new
imperial glory”.

Ok, Chris, we’ll plead guilty to “reason, to science
and to Western civilization” but you can keep the
Jesus myth, and I don’t hear, see or read any lust
for a new imperial glory among atheists or
secularists – the vast majority propound values of
justice, equality, freedom and peace for all
humankind. I’m afraid any delusions of imperial
grandeur would run aground on such values.

You’re getting lots of this stuff from the American
Christian Right and shoveling it over on us.

I’ll make it easy for you Chris:  The following is a
list of the most secular countries on Earth
(presumably brimming over with secular
fundamentalists):

Canada, New Zealand, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden,
Norway, Finland, Switzerland.

Please indicate in what way these countries “. . busy
themselves with their pathetic little monuments . . .
to new imperial glory”
Personally, I cannot see what you are talking about. 
Can anyone help Chris here?

While you are on the subject of “narrow bourgeoisie
life” and “provincials” (wow, some upper-class streak
of snobbishness coming out here Chris! Privileged
upbringing possibly?) – your continual references to
“America” does show your provincialism/parochialism.

There is a big bad world of evil secular
fundamentalists out there in Europe (and further
afield) too, and I, as an Irish person, plead guilty
to that too.

The ghosts and spirits of one hundred and twenty
thousand tortured Irish children of the last seventy
years cry out to cheer on our new generation of
secular fundamentalists, who, whether you like it or
not, are overturning (without any violence) the cruel
and judgemental world of the religious
fundamentalists with whom you equate us.

We abjure your moral relativism.

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By atmop, August 2, 2011 at 9:18 am Link to this comment

A Critique of Chris Hedges’ attack on Sam Harris -
Part 2.

You say: “A culture that exalts its own moral
certitude and engages in uncritical self-worship at the expense of conscience commits moral and finally physical suicide.”

Yes, I would agree that many religious people could be held to be guilty of this, but not the secular fundamentalists.

We might rephrase your prose as follows: “A culture which is so confused that it holds any and all forms of moral expression to be of equal value no matter how degrading, painful and oppressive they may be for the weaker members of their societies, is one which is morally bankrupt, cowardly, corrupt and is well on the way to committing moral and physical suicide”

You say: “Our fundamentalists busy themselves with
their pathetic little monuments to Jesus, to reason, to science, to Western civilization and to new imperial glory”.

Ok, Chris, we’ll plead guilty to “reason, to science and to Western civilization” but you can keep the Jesus myth, and I don’t hear, see or read any lust for a new imperial glory among atheists or secularists – the vast majority propound values of justice, equality, freedom and peace for all
humankind. I’m afraid any delusions of imperial
grandeur would run aground on such values.

You’re getting lots of this stuff from the American Christian Right and shoveling it over on us.

I’ll make it easy for you Chris:  The following is a list of the most secular countries on Earth (presumably brimming over with secular fundamentalists):

Canada, New Zealand, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden,
Norway, Finland, Switzerland.

Please indicate in what way these countries “. . busy themselves with their pathetic little monuments . . . to new imperial glory”

While you are on the subject of “narrow bourgeoisie life” and “provincials” (wow, some upper-class streak of snobbishness coming out here Chris! Privileged upbringing possibly?), your continual references to “America” does show your provincialism/parochialism.

There is a big bad world of evil secular
fundamentalists out there in Europe (and further
afield) too, and I, as an Irish person, plead guilty to that too.

The ghosts and spirits of one hundred and twenty
thousand tortured Irish children of the last seventy years cry out to cheer on our new generation of secular fundamentalists, who, whether you like it or not, are overturning (without any violence) the cruel
and judgemental world of the religious
fundamentalists with whom you equate us.

We abjure your moral relativism.

I send human love to you, Chris, my brother human.

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By atmop, August 2, 2011 at 9:02 am Link to this comment

A Critique of Chris Hedges’ attack on Sam Harris - Part 1

Hi Chris, you are in a miniscule minority if you believe that many (any?) secularists have a “twisted yearning for the apocalypse”.

No, that’s the other guys you are lumping us (secular fundamentalists) in with – the religious ones.

You say: “They (the secular and religious fundamentalists) assure us that we are headed into the broad, uplifting world of universal democracy and a global free market once we sign on for the subjugation and extermination of those who oppose us. They insist—as the fascists and the communists did—that this call for a new world is based on reason, factual evidence and science or divine will..”

In fairness to the religious teachers and leaders, I don’t hear them yearn for the “uplifting world of universal democracy and a global free market”
  MANY of them struggle against human rights as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the UN in 1948 (the rights of every individual child and woman? Surely you jest, sir?), some abjure democracy and most don’t yearn for a global free market.

Also, I would never accuse the religious people of advocating “schemes for universal human advancement”.

No, that’s us – the secular fundamentalists. I’ll willingly plead guilty to advocating such schemes.

I’ll bet you could dream up a few good (ethically and morally justified) ones of your own.

How about: More economic equality in those places where it is very low. (hey, lets go for everywhere).

Universal access to education for all children.

The right to opt out of any religion, or to practice any religion in every corner of the globe.

The right to a fair trial (and all that that entails . . . )

The right to openly express your sexuality no matter what your preference or sexual orientation.

Trying to advance the uptake of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, until it becomes a reality for all my fellow citizens of the Earth, is good enough for me as a starting point.

What’s wrong with a scheme like that, Chris?

And no, I don’t advocate ‘subjugation’ or war as a method for such advancement, and neither do the vast majority of secularists and human rights advocates worldwide. On the websites of all the major secularist and atheist organisations worldwide you will almost always find charters which include such principles as:  equal treatment for all irrespective of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, ability etc;  totally abjuring violence in pursuit of their aims; freedom to worship any god or none; democratic decision making and attempting to reach decisions by consensus. 

So, if all these organisations represent a broad cross-section of us secular and atheist fundamentalists, they are starting out badly if they wish to: “sign on for the subjugation and extermination of those who oppose us”

You say: “They insist—as the fascists and the communists did—that this call for a new world is based on reason, factual evidence and science or divine will.”

The Fascists didn’t base their view of a new world on reason, factual evidence and science – they subscribed to a belief system based on Roman and/or Nordic mythology and racial purity/superiority hocus-pocus (sorry - no facts there!).

The Communists advocated, and strove towards, scientific and rationalist solutions to creating a better society but it was almost always miserably bad ‘science’ entirely corrupted by political interference, dishonesty and cheating.  All this resulted in horrendous famines in the USSR and in China where possibly 30 million died in each state.  Furthermore, the mad Leader-Worship cults of Stalin and Mao had far more to do with quasi-religious mythology than any adherence to reason, factual evidence or science.

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By Leefeller, August 2, 2011 at 4:34 am Link to this comment

Katie Corbet, I appreciate your comments. I do not single out Islam from any other religions when it comes to their dogmas, I do focus on the conservative right Christs though, for they will more likely place Atheists back into the closet, if they have their way, and clearly do not support separation of Church and State.

One only need look at the Republican Platform and their blatant fear mongering as example.

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By stan van houcke, August 1, 2011 at 11:47 pm Link to this comment

david,

the following information shows how right you are::

‘The Arab world is experiencing the first tremors of a youthquake
Author:
Isobel Coleman, Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy; Director of the Civil
Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative; and Director of the Women
and Foreign Policy Program

February 5, 2006
Dallas Morning News

While the Middle East lurches from crisis to crisis, its greatest challenge
today is probably not what most people think. It’s jobs.
With 65 percent of the region’s population under the age of 25, the
Middle East has the fastest-growing labor force of any part of the world.
This youth bulge is surging onto the labor market like a massive
demographic tsunami. Just to keep pace with population growth, the
Middle East must create 80 million new jobs over the next 15 years. And
if it hopes to put a dent in its already high unemployment rate of 15
percent, it must create 100 million new jobs by 2020—a near doubling of
today’s total employment.
To put this into perspective, the Middle East must create jobs at twice
the pace of the United States in the go-go Clinton years, in an
increasingly competitive international environment that is already
accommodating the rise of India and China. Without making deep
structural reforms, Middle East governments will never be able to meet
the employment needs of its increasingly disaffected youth—a stark fact
that, left unaddressed, leaves an entire generation ripe for radicalization.
Unemployment is a problem throughout Arab society, but it is most
acutely a youth issue. Fifty percent of those unemployed are between the
ages of 15 and 24. Unemployment is also highest among those with
some formal education. In the past, these young graduates could expect
employment in the public sector, but as formal education has
significantly expanded over the past generation and government coffers
have come under increasing pressure, the public sector can no longer
absorb what public school systems produce.’

http://www.cfr.org/economic-development/arab-world-experiencing-
first-tremors-youthquake/p9809

ignoring these facts is political suicide.

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By David, August 1, 2011 at 6:06 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Rich Sanderson

I wrote in my last post: “There are currently 1.75 billion Muslims worldwide.  In 20-25 years they will total 3 billion, including about 650-700 million Arabs and 10-12 million Palestinians between the Jordan River and the Med. Sea.”

In response you state: “This implies that the growing population of Muslims is a threat to the free world. I’m sure you didn’t mean to imply this, but why the stats?”

Firstly, only an Islamophobe would conclude that I am in any way implying that “the growing population of Muslims is a threat to the free world.”  Although I saw no need to state it, what I am implying is the vast natural resources and huge markets (with a low average age) and just simple “people power” that three billion people will constitute.  The effect on 21st century geopolitics and economics should be obvious to any thinking person. It is becoming increasingly so to our competitors around the world and more so to American business.  (The effect that 10-12 million Palestinians will have on the demographics between the River Jordan and the Med. Sea should also be readily apparent).

As to legitimate grievances the Muslim/Arab world has against us, I think they are also obvious.  For instance: The historic and ongoing dispossession and expulsion of Palestine’s native people to make way for an exclusionary/expansionist/occupier/oppressor state; the illegal, immoral and barbaric invasion/occupation of Iraq and our support of “pro-western” brutal and corrupt dictatorships, e.g., Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, Yemen, Tunisia, etc.

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