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May 17, 2006

How To Not Get It, And Not Get It Hard

It's incredibly dispiriting to me how I'm right about terrorism and everyone else is wrong. Here's something ultra-wrong by Georgia10 at Daily Kos:

I've had my share of heated debates with conservatives who claim we are winning the war on terror because we haven't been attacked since 9/11. But only those with a myopic view of the conflict can make such a claim. Limiting the definition of success solely to the physical safety of Americans fails to take into account that the goal of al Qaeda is not merely to cause death, but to cause a destruction of the very thing that defines us as Americans: our freedom.

Whenever I read something like this, I wonder what thought process got the thinker there. Specifically, has the thinker ever met a human being in their entire lives who would die in order to deprive others halfway around the world of freedom? Obviously not, because out of the 10 billion humans who've lived on this planet, the number of people like that is zero. Therefore, the thinker believes al Qaeda and their cohorts are essentially some other species.

Yet they're not. They're just as boring as me and you and everyone we know. All that was missing in the videotape of Osama and friends discussing their excellent 9/11 adventure was them passing around a bong.

They don't care about destroying our freedom. In fact, they give no thought whatsoever to us. Their goal is the same as the goal of political bozos the world over: they want to have more power than their "domestic" rivals.

Think of Bush. If you could listen in on every White House conversation, you'd find his central, overriding goal is not to reorder the Middle East or seize the world's oil. It's to have more power than Democrats. They invaded Iraq because they thought it would help.

Likewise with al Qaeda. If you read the 9/11 report, you'll find the central, overriding concern for al Qaeda had nothing to do with us. Their goal was to triumph "in their struggle for preeminence among other Islamist and jihadist movements," and splashy suicide attacks seemed like the way to make that happen (p. 191).

Meanwhile, the Taliban's goal was also to have more power than their domestic rivals. Thus, they opposed the 9/11 attacks: "The Taliban leaders put their main emphasis on the year's military offensive against the Northern Alliance...They certainly hoped that this year's offensive would finally finish off their old attack against the United States might be counterproductive. It might draw the Americans into the war against them."

But bin Laden's domestic rivals were different. He pressed to go forward because he "thought an attack against the United States would benefit al Qaeda by attracting more suicide operatives, eliciting greatest donations, and increasing the number of sympathizers willing to provide logistical assistance" (p. 251).

Note the lack of desire to destroy our freedom. Nor was there gloating over all the Americans they were going to kill, just complete indifference. Instead, they were focused on the same crap the political bozo genus is always obsessed with: money and footsoldiers, so they could stay in power within their own societies for a few more luscious minutes.

They're not supervillains. They're just standard-issue dipshits.

That doesn't mean they're not pure evil. It's just that evil is really, really boring.

P.S. There are no serial killers who are charming and erudite and quippy like Hannibal Lecter.

Posted at May 17, 2006 03:07 PM | TrackBack

The first thing you *really* need to understand Jon, is that what 'terrorists' (or *anybody* else for that matter) REALLY 'want' OR 'believe' is (ultimately) unknowable AND beside the damned point.

The only thing that REALLY matters to anybody (other than God) is what they DO.

Which brings me to the SECOND thing you *really* need to understand: ACTS of 'terror' which are NOT sponsored (or sanctioned) by STATES are simply CRIMES. And the people who commit those crimes, whatever their motives might (or might not) be, are simply criminals.

Bottom line? The "war" on terror is a(nother) POLITICAL gimmick.

Posted by: Mike at May 17, 2006 05:47 PM

Bottom line? The "war" on terror is a(nother) POLITICAL gimmick.

but then anyone who has some perspective already knows that. what's depressing is that so many people believe that you can wage war on a concept while UTILIZING THE SAME DAMN CONCEPT ON YOUR VICTIMS!

Posted by: almostinfamous at May 17, 2006 07:59 PM

Again, I agree and am not being contradictory, but I have a somewhat parallel point. They're not remotely out to destroy *our* freedom. Like you said, we are a world away and they don't actually care what *our* lives, here in America, are like. However, I do think they are out to destroy what we would think of as the freedom--the little freedom, but freedom still--of their surrounding people. This is a simple extension of their main desire: tangible power. The power to make us change our lifestyles and reorder our society at their whim is not really tangible to them, just like our power to do that to other societies is not actually tangible to--nor even desired by--most of us. On the other hand, just as some right-wingers in America get a kick out of making women scramble to get a plan B prescription, I do think a lot of the AQ types really, really want to say, bring down Sharia law on the obnoxiously modern neighbors next door. And in some sense that is very worrisome to me, on multiple levels--the more nationalistic American in me wonders what the ripple effects of that will be, the more idealistic American/internationalist in me thinks that is shame, and the Indian and Bengali in me worried about just how "neighbors" are being defined.

Note, however, that this line of thinking still makes George10 seem pretty ridiculous, b/c the logical conclusion of my thinking implies at most an American interest in a worldwide *campaign* promoting secularism and democracy, rather than a war on terror, b/c the problem I'm worrying about is the motive, not the method.

This, btw, is what I hated about the last Batman movie--which had such promise despite using Katie Holmes.

Posted by: Saheli at May 17, 2006 08:06 PM

P.S. Ted Bundy, for just one (ethnically 'neutral', irreligious, apolitical, noncommercial) example.

"The Stranger Beside Me"

Ann Rule

Posted by: Mike at May 17, 2006 08:36 PM

I do think they are out to destroy what we would think of as the freedom--the little freedom, but freedom still--of their surrounding people. This is a simple extension of their main desire: tangible power.

Definitely. But for people who actually do care about freedom in other places, the best thing to do is make your own country as free as possible. Certainly the good parts of America (e.g., the initial revolution, the civil rights movement) have been big inspirations and created big ripple effects around the world. I don't think it even requires a campaign—or at least not one led by politicians, who never have a genuine interest in anyone's freedom anywhere. Just the force of example is enough.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at May 17, 2006 08:55 PM

It would also help Jon, if 'decent' people here in the West would acknowledge (and accept) the FACT that the 'architects' of 'our war on terror' REALLY ARE, as you pointed out, out to (use fear) to dominate domestic US politics AS WELL AS to perpetuate has been called 'the National Security State' (what Eisenhower called the Military Industrial Complex), to prop up the 'petro-dollar', to "seize the world's oil" AND to 'crush' ('Greater') Israel's 'foes' in the Middle East...

Posted by: Mike at May 17, 2006 09:21 PM

If we eliminated OSAMA (as with a bullet or a rope) there would absolutely no need to pychoanalize his motives or comprehend his future plans.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at May 17, 2006 11:14 PM

georgia10, not george10

Posted by: at May 17, 2006 11:28 PM

Thanks, Mike Meyer, you have finally answered something I've wondered for years: why no one has written any psychoanalyses or descriptions of the motives of Hitler, Mussolini or for that matter John Brown. It's all because we eliminated them with a bullet or a rope.

Posted by: hedgehog at May 18, 2006 03:01 AM

I disagree. They do indeed want to destroy one of our freedoms, 'our' freedom to meddle in their affairs, that is. Or, at least, 'our' freedom to meddle in their affairs in behalf of their domestic enemies.

This freedom may be important to Georgia10 at Daily Kos for some reason, maybe she would even be willing to die for it, who knows.

Posted by: abb1 at May 18, 2006 03:19 AM

Jon -

Just because I don't invite you to my parties doesn't mean you should be so snide.

Posted by: Evil at May 18, 2006 08:05 AM

If "evil is really, really boring," why the endless fascination with Hitler and the Nazis? It can't be just the Leni Riefenstahl-depicted aesthetics (parades, torchlights, great music, swell uniforms...). Evil fascinates, in part, because many want to touch it, get involved, taste it, break out of the cubicle life--but are afraid of the consequences.

Posted by: donescobar at May 18, 2006 08:21 AM

I'd wondered why Daily Kos isn't on your blawgroll. Is it because Georgia10 and kos are short-sighted, centrist fools?

Or is it the simple bitterness that people like you and me have toward the fact that short-sighted, centrist fools tend to have a greater impact than we do? That's MY problem with 'em, and I've often wondered if the Left Bank of the blahgosphere shares that with me.

Posted by: Sully at May 18, 2006 09:59 AM

I'd wondered why Daily Kos isn't on your blawgroll. Is it because Georgia10 and kos are short-sighted, centrist fools?

Actually, I don't know enough about them to think they're short-sighted, centrist fools. But the reason I don't know much about the site as a whole is because it seems so tied to Democratic party politics, and the lack of critical distance depresses me and makes me not want to pay attention. That said, I think anything that politicizes anyone in a country as depoliticized as ours is good (as long as it's not politicizing them into out-and-out fascism). And I certainly respect them for doing a good job with that.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at May 18, 2006 10:09 AM

I have a question: what proportion of USians do you think believe the "leaders of the free world" propaganda? Or, as "Georgia10" put it, "the very thing that defines us as Americans: our freedom". From outside the U.S. (I'm in Canada) it seems the average American actually believes the United States is unique in the world; they enjoy freedoms *no one else* has. The French, for example, would never understand a concept like "liberty" and would never build a monument to it such as New York's Statue of Liberty. (Extreme irony intended). Freedom Fries Forever.

It seems to me most USians live in this bubble, which makes it quite easy for "standard-issue dipshits", as you put it, to pursue their standard-issue dipshittedness by putting the blame on The Evil Other Who Wants To Destroy Our Freedoms, be they Communist (old excuse) or Islamic Terrorist (new excuse). Unfortunately their standard-issue dipshittedness IS terrorism ("the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims" - look it up in the dictionary!).

Posted by: JustZisGuy at May 18, 2006 11:25 AM

Sure books are written about Hitler and Stalin that analize them. It's just entertainment now and not necessary. It just seems to me if I'm spyed on by sattelites, 7 flavors of spy agencies, and can't even write this comment with out NSA scrutney, then I must ask why OSAMA can't be found? 5 years now. He sends loveletters to the President regularly.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at May 18, 2006 02:17 PM

"but to cause a destruction of the very thing that defines us as Americans: our freedom."

Unfortunately, this country is full of people who make this kind of stupid comment. A little more concern for the rest of the World and a little less Nationalism is necessary.

Posted by: Pepito at May 19, 2006 06:44 AM


As one serial committer of errors to another, how many serial killers do you know? It's like my good friends at the church I used to attend who think homosexual people are evil. They don't realize that some of their friends are smarter and gayer than they are!

I'm not suggesting you or I know any serial killers, but we might. In fact, one of Ann Rule's books is about a serial killer who went to my high school.

Posted by: Mark Demory at May 20, 2006 03:45 PM