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July 13, 2005

Comments

What good does mutilating a corpse do?

This was a mostly reasonable post which rarely wandered into "what bad men the terrorists are," although I am disappointed that neither you nor the guy in the Times gave any heed to the economic factors involved in terrorism and its proliferation, nor the need for free-trade reform to bring countries out of poverty, both of which are vital in this war but which are rarely mentioned even by conservatives who should, in theory, be banging the free trade drum all the time.

So why put that bit of spite at the end? It won't bring anyone back from the grave to mutilate the dead flesh left over from a suicide bomber. Why bother expressing such useless spite?

Mutilating? What mutilation? This is a deterrent. If a terrorist knows his body will forever lie with pigs, he'll think twice about carrying out these acts. Ask yourself why the Israelis are contemplating the placement of bags of lard on their buses.

If terrorism were primarily a function of economics, we'd see Africans and Mississippians massacring scores around the world. But no.

As for free trade, it's all well and good -- and hey, we've an FTA with Jordan! -- but apparently not quite the social-ills panacea one might think. Checked out law enforcement in Nuevo Laredo lately?

Oh yes: shame, Charles, for your harsh language!

...although I am disappointed that neither you nor the guy in the Times gave any heed to the economic factors involved in terrorism and its proliferation, nor the need for free-trade reform to bring countries out of poverty...

Because poverty doesn't breed terrorism, otherwise places like Zimbabwe or Haiti or Mongolia would be rife with terrorist attacks. Most al Qaeda terrorists come from middle class backgrounds and are reasonably well educated. What allows terrorism to fester is that it's ideology is allowed to grow, and it grows most virulently in countries that are unfree.

Yes, Al Qaeda is unlike any other terrorist group in their methods and planning. However, history has shown that success in war will spawn countless imitators until we can come up with an EFFECTIVE method of dealing with them.

Your call to eliminate them is great from a rah rah perspective, but what we're trying obviously hasn't worked. Seconding what McDuff just said, I think the only way to mitigate the threat they pose is to try and bring their host countries out of the stone age in terms of economic and social reform in the future. That, plus using a strong, dispassionate and just police effort (yes, that limp-wristed liberal plan again!) to contain them in the present.

The hatred/fear/loathing spewed in your 2nd to last sentence leads me to wonder if we'll ever be able to achieve this (since I considered you, more or less, a moderate conservative). Waging war is, IMO, a matter best done with rational precision rather than lashing out in anger and fear. That is, if you actually want to avoid becoming like your enemy (are you really calling for the desecration of corpses).

Also, you apparently haven't seen some of the recent reports coming out of Afghanistan if you think they're on the run in that country. I won't deny they're depleted though. There's been bigger fish for them to fry elsewhere.

Gawd. Having found out that you were wrong in assessing Iraq as a threat, rather than questioning your decision-making process, you now counsel extra fear, theatrical victory, and a soupcon of barbarity.

We're screwed. And not by anyone outside our citizenship.

Tacitus:

You don't consider lynchings and cross-burnings terrorist acts?

And yes, the African continent has been a bit too busy with genocide to bother with attacking us, but I wouldn't exactly be counting them out yet.

That kind of thing didn't work for the Brits in Afghanistan, and I doubt very much it will work here. More likely it will be viewed as a purposeful defilement of Islam, as opposed to some sort of tribute to it. After all, God determines who goes to hell, not whether or not you get buried in a pig coffin.

Propaganda won't work without substantive policy changes.

You don't consider lynchings and cross-burnings terrorist acts?

Even if you do, are you prepared to argue that they were primarily functions of economics? I wouldn't.

And yes, the African continent has been a bit too busy with genocide....

How tediously ignorant.

We need to do a better job on the propaganda front of this war ...

No argument there. I'd suggest, though, that your pig lard idea isn't going to be helpful. Let Muslims declare these folks an affront to Islam -- just a we of the paler complexion cannot use a certain word beginning with N, blasphemy is better handled by co-religionists.

More to the point, i do not believe that the Admin is capable of conducting the 'propaganda' side of the war. It would have to care more about what people in Karachi think than people in Kansas, and stop trying to use wording designed for Oklahoma when speaking to potential followers of Osama.

The Admin can't/won't talk to domestic "opponents" in any terms other than 'We will bury you.' The message to foreigners -- potential opponents -- has to be better than that, better than 'everything you hear about US misconduct is a lie,' and better than 'we're fighting them in London so we don't have to fight them in Leeds' (or whatever the operative flypaper message is now).

"Even if you do, are you prepared to argue that they were primarily functions of economics? I wouldn't."

I'd be willing to argue that those with nothing to lose in the first place find it easier to sacrifice all.

I'm prepared to argue that the Klan was as much a product of economics as Al Quaeda, and there are certainly massive similarities between the rhetoric of the Klan and Al Quaeda.

I'm not arguing that "poor people kill things," although I imagine that you'd far rather I were and will try and argue that point anyway, but that unemployment and social dislocation (particularly amongst young men) are among the many factors that provide the bedrock of terrorism and the fertile ground in which those with dangerous ideologies can look for people to convert. Those without a stake in society look for something to have a stake in.

You can buy a roadside bomber for $200 in Iraq. If we are to have a "multi-pronged" strategy, the trick would be to engage on all fronts, not just the ones that satiated your blood lust.

What allows terrorism to fester is that it's ideology is allowed to grow, and it grows most virulently in countries that are unfree.
And you don't think that economic and trade-based solutions to this problem are just as useful as military action? We can't bomb every country.

If terrorism were primarily a function of economics, we'd see Africans and Mississippians massacring scores around the world. But no.

Who (other than you) said "primarily"?

Charles--Most al Qaeda terrorists come from middle class backgrounds and are reasonably well educated.

Just curious if anyone knows that this is currently true. It is certainly true of the 9/11 hijackers, of pre-9/11 AQ, and of the suspects in the London bombings. But I'm not sure what the current demographics for insurgents in Iraq look like.

For that matter, I'm not sure if (and if so, how) the Iraqi insurgents are linked directly to the AQ structure.

I also see that Clark has an Op Ed in USA Today talking about how AQ is becoming less centralized and how we need to adjust strategy to match. Any thoughts on this versus the official 'stay the course' argument put forth by the WH?

I've come to believe terrorism of this sort is here for the forseeable future. AQ has succeeded in infecting communities around the world (all long before 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, it seems), and education would certainly seem the only viable cleanser that's both sure to be effective and not likely to cause the virus to simply mutate. So I applaud Charles' focus on it here.

Infiltration is the key to existing cells though, I believe, but that's going to be increasingly difficult if the conflict is marketd as a global "us vs. them," as some seem to want to frame it (that's so short-sighted, it gives me a migraine).

I'd be willing to argue that those with nothing to lose in the first place find it easier to sacrifice all.

Which explains the middle-class backgrounds of so many terrorists, yes? Including the ones on 9/11; including the UK bombers, one of whom apparently had a child. Please, try looking at facts instead of assumptions. It is not, broadly speaking, the impoverished of the earth that engage in jihad.

I'm prepared to argue that the Klan was as much a product of economics as Al Quaeda....

Which is to say, almost not at all. Quick hint: Nathan Bedford Forrest and Osama bin Laden were neither starving men.

Nathan Bedford Forrest and Osama bin Laden were neither starving men

They aren't the ones blowing up bombs or lighting crosses, either.

I would once again like to point out the study, The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, which builds a significant argument as to the real motivation behind the attraction of AQ.

2shoes,

can you summarize that study's findings?

some of us can't read 19 pages right now.

thanks
e

Sure....(via NYT via Drezner)

Over the past two years, I have compiled a database of every suicide bombing and attack around the globe from 1980 through 2003 - 315 in all. This includes every episode in which at least one terrorist killed himself or herself while trying to kill others, but excludes attacks authorized by a national government (like those by North Korean agents against South Korea). The data show that there is far less of a connection between suicide terrorism and religious fundamentalism than most people think.

The leading instigator of suicide attacks is the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, a Marxist-Leninist group whose members are from Hindu families but who are adamantly opposed to religion. This group committed 76 of the 315 incidents, more than Hamas (54) or Islamic Jihad (27). Even among Muslims, secular groups like the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Al Aksa Martyr Brigades account for more than a third of suicide attacks.

What nearly all suicide terrorist attacks actually have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland. Religion is often used as a tool by terrorist organizations in recruiting and in seeking aid from abroad, but is rarely the root cause.

starving men usually spend their time trying to be not starving. as best as history teaches us, this tends to be a full-time occupation.

As an organization, AlQ appears to have multiple goals. Hmmm, now where have i read recently about a major organization having multiple, even inconsistent, goals regarding the use of explosives in a foreign country?

just because some of the goals would require a constitutional amendment, not to mention some substantial changes in the structure of our society, doesn't mean that all of the goals are equally offensive.

and you'd think that, especially in a loose, cellular organization that AlQ is alleged to be, once you address even one of their legitimate complaints that some people will drop away (ie, those for whom that complaint was the issue).

Nathan Bedford Forrest and Osama bin Laden were neither starving men.

I doubt that Forrest's personal financial situation had much to do with the Klan of the 20th century. In fact, southern racism did have economic aspects. It was certainly to the advantage of many politicians and businessmen to encourage racism as a means of diverting poor whites' attention from their own situation. Tell someone he is a member of the superior race, threatened by "mongrelization," and he will overlook a lot.

Separating the political, economic, and pure racist aspects of this is difficult, and of course the mix of motives would have varied from individual to individual. But it is wrong to claim that economics mattered "almost not at all."

How tediously ignorant.

Inform or abstain, please.

1)I agree that even among terrorists, Al Qaida is something especially vile and especially dangerous. (I thought this was supposed to be the fuzzy-headed liberal view and the real threat was state sponsorship from countries like Iraq? Ah well, several years too late for that one.) Bin Laden doesn't want to scare us so much as he wants to commit genocide against us.

2) I am not down with ritual corpse desecration. And I really don't think it would help.

3) As far as the economic aspect: there seems to be more willing recruits in countries where people have less to lose. It's not, obviously, the only factor, but it seems to be a real factor.

Now, it is true that most of the high level people are wealthy and well-educated. But aren't the highest level people in any organization more likely to be wealthy and well-educated? Are engineering graudates more likely to be terrorists than dropouts, or are the engineering graduates better at well, engineering their attacks to kill as many people as possible?

I'm not saying that class is the major factor, but "Bin Laden and Zawahiri and Atta are rich or middle class" does not disprove class as a factor.

4. It doesn't have to be the "propaganda war" and treating it as such is part of why we're not winning it (another part is that the administration is running a strategy based on U.S. public opinion and in utter disregard and even contempt for world public opinion.) If you have truth and right on our side, you don't need propaganda.

The argument from economics may help explain Osama's popularity, but I don't think it has anything to do with Osama's motives or with the motives of his core group.

Being able to pursue Islamic-triumphalist fantasies presupposes a certain comfort level.

And I too have seen where the 9/11 hijackers were generally college-educated.

Can't help but suspect that the argument from economics effectively equates "poor" with "uninformed/ignorant/unintelligent" and thus ignores that Osama and Qaeda are none of those things.

but in a way Osama's motives are uninteresting--irrelevant, or at least less relevant than the motives of potential recruits. It's not his heart or mind we need to worry about.

I am not down with ritual corpse desecration. And I really don't think it would help.

I don't think it's quite "tough" enough.

Heads on pikes, perhaps?

but in a way Osama's motives are uninteresting--irrelevant, or at least less relevant than the motives of potential recruits. It's not his heart or mind we need to worry about.

Well, that's why I mentioned his core group as well. And his motives are relevant insofar as one can see people signing on with him regardless of their economic condition. I don't see anything about Osama's worldview that requires one to assume any economic lag in his recruitment-pool countries.

I'm really glad to see people now treating Al Qaeda as worthy ofa ttention. Damn shame that it took so many deaths in Madrid, London, and elsewhere to remind people of who the actual threat here is.

Bruce,

Indeed.

Yeah, well, if Luke W. Skywalker hadn't decided to switch off the targeting computer and stretch out with his feelings for a solution, we might have at least gotten Darth Osama Bin-hiding-out-with-my-dialysis-machine Laden by now. But we had to go to Toshii Station to look for WMDs instead...

I'm at least somewhat amenable to the idea of desecrating the corpses of terrorists as a deterrent. It's certainly not the sort of thing you'd want to do indiscriminately or out of spite, but keep in mind that there's a significant amount of at least anecdotal evidence that one motivator for suicide attacks is the belief in a better afterlife. Anything that could compromise that belief is, I think, good.

Of course the most likely result (assuming it would have any appreciable effect at all) would be a move towards non-suicide bombings, but at least those are harder to pull off.

sidereal: I'm at least somewhat amenable to the idea of desecrating the corpses of terrorists as a deterrent.

Only if there's any evidence that it actually deters, as opposed to stirring up ever more bitterness. All the anecdotal evidence that I recall suggests the latter, but if you can pull out evidence that desecrating corpses "works", long term, to make the people whose religious beliefs are being deliberately outraged feel better about the people who are committing the outrages, cite it.

For example, to take a recent instance of corpse desecration: do you think that "civilian contractors" were thereby deterred from "working" in Abu Ghraib? If it had been definitely determined that the four men whose corpses were desecrated were involved in carrying out torture in Abu Ghraib, would you feel that it was appropriate for the Iraqis to desecrate their corpses in order to discourage others from following their example, since it appears that the US is unwilling or unable to do so?

From Charles' link:

The police's suggestion is based on the fact that strict Muslim tradition holds that any Muslim who comes in contact with a pig before dying will be denied access to heaven.

It's that "before dying" bit that desecration misses. Desecration would only be one more source of outrage and would have no deterrent force at all.

Maybe we should use trained pigs to check for explosives instead of dogs?

I think CB should immediately retract the closing statement. Advocating corpse desecration borders on LGF lunacy and veers dangerously towards religious/cultural intolerance. Whether it's an effective deterrant or not should be irrelevant.

I thought ObWi was above such debasement.

Advocating corpse desecration borders on LGF lunacy and veers dangerously towards religious/cultural intolerance.

Not to mention what would happen if they came back from the dead? They would have the power of regular zombies, plus zombie pigs. And that would mean the world's supply of truffles would be in mortal danger.

Mortal danger, I say.....

I like Coolsaets rules of thumb:

the Three Rules of Thumb of Terrorism:

First rule of thumb. All through history terrorist groups have always been marginal splinter groups. Today is no different.

Second rule of thumb. In the past terrorists never achieved the results they hoped for. On the contrary. History teaches us that the effect of terrorism is generally the reverse of what the terrorists aim at.

Third rule of thumb. In the event of terrorist attacks we always tend to overreact . It's only human, but we do have to be aware of this. We need to confront terror with our minds as well as with our hearts.

He has an English paper here (pdf file) where he explains how he thinks that ao:

Moreover, it is probably not far off the mark to state that another major difference between the American war on terrorism and Europe’s fight against terrorism lies in the perception of the very nature of these root causes of terrorism.
Europeans seem to widely share the assumption that the root causes of jihadi terrorism in the rest of the world are mainly local – just as is the case in Europe itself. Whereas the US Global War on Terrorism considers local terrorist groups to be part of a global Islamist insurgency, the EU’s point of departure – admittedly more implicit than explicit due to a lack of in-depth reflection – would be to consider international terrorism to have returned to what existed before the rise of al-Qaeda in the 1990s: even if they use the same salafist rhetoric and thriving on a more enabling international momentum, most terrorist groups are primarily driven by domestic grievances, that remain the main drive behind their actions.

London fits his theory, as does the Hofstad group here in the Netherlands.

I think that heaping all those groups together makes you a lot less effective. The Iraqi groups (mark the plural, that is on purpose) are not comparable with the Bin Laden attack and insisting on tying those together is hampering fighting the baddies efficiently.

Matttbastard: I agree. I think the idea of desecrating corpses based on half-baked theories is repellent, and in Charles' place I would retract it. But I'm not Charles, and it's his call.

Heads on pikes, perhaps?

I have long summed up my goal re: Osama as "nailing his head to a post," but am not sure how literally I mean it.

I sure wouldn't cry about it, however.

AQ is successful becauase they keep expanding the range of the conflict and thereby are able to recruit people who might not be strict adherents, but find common cause. The London bombers evidently were t shirts and jeans wearing and there doesn't seem to be a history of them demanding that Muslim women wear a hijab etc (or I'm sure it would have emerged in the news reports) Advocating steps that say you are willing to use the Muslim faith to inflict punishment but are not willing to respect the faith sends precisely the wrong message. (A similar point was made for the Beslan bombers who were buried wrapped in pigskin) While this might stop the devout believer (or encourage him to make sure that his body is blown to bits when the attack is carried out, thus keeping it beyond the reach of infidels), it would encourage a whole range of people who might say 'well, that pig contact stuff is just a myth, what bother me is the way these infidels disrespect our religion'. I think the same dynamic can be seen when Adler interviewed conservative pundits on their beliefs on evolution. While others have suggested that it is a sign of their thralldom to folks like Dobson, I think it is more symbolic of the ability of people to be able to set aside logical problems and hold on to a sense of persecution that validates their being.

nous- the Madrid bombers don't seem to fit the middle-class theory.

AQ could be morphing though, which is the point of this research. ( I have some pdf's if interested)

One successful strategy I know of in fighting terrorism is the French Connection. (pdf)

But the French aren't too worried about civil liberties, or political oversight, or meshing the justice and intel agencies, etc. Not sure how it would go over in the U.S.

Oops, that should be French Connection

For example, to take a recent instance of corpse desecration: do you think that "civilian contractors" were thereby deterred from "working" in Abu Ghraib?

Not that I support the whole ridiculous pig blood thing, but unless the supply of contractors working in Iraq is disproportionately composed of Jehovah's Witnesses, your analogy is rather pointless. Charles is specifically talking about capitalizing on the religious fears of Muslims, not corpse desecration as a general proposition.

McDuff,

I'm prepared to argue that the Klan was as much a product of economics as Al Quaeda, and there are certainly massive similarities between the rhetoric of the Klan and Al Quaeda.

So that would be almost none then?

In a similar vein, Katherine:

As far as the economic aspect: there seems to be more willing recruits in countries where people have less to lose. It's not, obviously, the only factor, but it seems to be a real factor.

What countries do you have in mind? Compare Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. Far more come from Saudi Arabia even though it is much richer than Afghanistan (even if you for some reason restrict yourself to the median income). Almost all of the Saudis in question come from the middle class or higher. I'm not convinced that economic despair has very much to do with it at all--except perhaps in the "even the richest of us can never hope to catch up to the West" kind of idea. Something which is true only so long as they stick to a backward interpretation of their religion which doesn't let women work and makes investment very difficult because it doesn't allow for interest.

In fact, I wonder if there isn't a much more interesting economic link. Saudi Arabia has lots of oil wealth. Instead of investing that to make an even better economy, the Kingdom employs tens of thousands for ridiculous wages at what is essentially 'make-work'. These jobs are economically useless and lots of people are well aware of that. Unlike the US middle class (please note the middle class part) you can't just change jobs to try to find something that makes you feel like you are doing something important. So Al Qaeda provides a sense of purpose which can be deeply missing in an even larger segment of the population than would normally be found. (There may also be a sexual frustration component caused by the lack of eligible brides problem, but I'm not going there today). A sense of purpose is a powerful thing.

The occupied territories and Iraq versus the west, were the countries I had in mind.

"Class" is the wrong word, I should have said "economics." Unemployment, the oil stuff. I don't think it's the primary factor; I think politics and religion have much more to do with than economics. However, proving that some of the leaders are rich does not prove it has nothing to do with economics. Plenty of socialists were rich, for goodness sake.

Phil: Charles is specifically talking about capitalizing on the religious fears of Muslims, not corpse desecration as a general proposition.

Yes, I realise that Charles is only proposing that Muslim corpses should be desecrated. My point was that if the argument is made that in principle it's okay to desecrate corpses as a form of attempted deterrence, there can be no objection when American corpses are desecrated (which has, in fact, happened, as I pointed out in the links I provided).

And I presumed that Charles was arguing from general principles, rather than arguing that it's okay to desecrate Muslim corpses, because, as others have already pointed out, the latter would come close to LGF lunacy.

Preamble: I'm continuing my part of the pig blood discussion because I find it perversely interesting and because I think the fierce opposition to it is misguided, not because I'm particularly enthusiastic about it. That said,

matt,

"Advocating corpse desecration borders on LGF lunacy and veers dangerously towards religious/cultural intolerance. Whether it's an effective deterrant or not should be irrelevant."

Keep in mind that we're talking about desecrating the corpses of successful terrorists, not Muslims in general. I have to admit my cultural tolerance for that set is profoundly low.

Jes,
Phil covered the quality of the analogy and the specific point of corpse desecration in this context, so I'll skip that, but:

"Only if there's any evidence that it actually deters, as opposed to stirring up ever more bitterness."

Remember that the people we're considering deterring here are people who are committed or nearly committed to engaging in terrorist murders. So I'd say their level of bitterness is maximal, or near enough to maximal that it doesn't make a difference.

Keep in mind, I'm devoutly opposed to any plan to collectively punish Muslims for what terrorists do, because I believe, like you do, that the increasing resentment is profoundly more dangerous than any deterring effect. But in this specific case you're not punishing Muslims, you're punish terrorists. If they'd lived, we would probably execute them. Is desecrating their corpse worse than that? Only if you believe it prevents paradise in the afterlife, and that's the entire point.

"if you can pull out evidence that desecrating corpses "works", long term, to make the people whose religious beliefs are being deliberately outraged feel better"

The question here is whether preventing one Muslim from entering paradise represents an insult to the religious beliefs of other Muslims. Certainly we're not talking about desecrating the Q'uran here, which is a whole nother ball of wax. My understanding of Islam is admittedly sparse, but I doubt that desecrating terrorist corpses is specifically insulting to Allah or Islam in general.

sidereal: Remember that the people we're considering deterring here are people who are committed or nearly committed to engaging in terrorist murders. So I'd say their level of bitterness is maximal, or near enough to maximal that it doesn't make a difference.

No. The people you should be considering deterring are the people who are not yet committed to carrying out terrorist murders, but who might be persuaded to become committed. That's because (a) there are a lot more of them and (b) you stand a hell of a better chance of persuading them never to become terrorists than you do of persuading someone who's already committed to stop.

And if you think that burying Muslim corpses in pig's blood will only affect terrorists... well, you need to think again.

And I'd quite like you to answer the question I originally posed - which no one yet has:

For example, to take a recent instance of corpse desecration: do you think that "civilian contractors" were thereby deterred from "working" in Abu Ghraib? If it had been definitely determined that the four men whose corpses were desecrated were involved in carrying out torture in Abu Ghraib, would you feel that it was appropriate for the Iraqis to desecrate their corpses in order to discourage others from following their example, since it appears that the US is unwilling or unable to do so?

Trying to focus the issue on whether it's appropriate to desecrate Muslim corpses smacks of exceptionalism. Granted the principle that it's okay to desecrate corpses, what was your feeling when you read/saw American corpses being desecrated, and how do you feel about it now?

sidereal: first, we need to figure out whether it's true that contact with pigs only prevents you from going to heaven if it occurs before death. If so, then this whole idea makes no sense.

Second, while the people we want to deter are already maximally bitter, we need to consider whether this would infuriate Muslims who are not already terrorists. I thought that was one of Jes' points.

And we also need to consider which things we're prepared to do if they're effective, and which constitute giving up on the values that no terrorist can take away from us; that only we, through our choices, can abandon.

Somebody please google "Sepoy Mutiny."

Corpse desecration would, I'm sure, remain precisely as bounded and controlled and targeted as the treatment of prisoners not given the protection of the Geneva Conventions. We can have great confidence in the people who'd be overseeing such a policy to maintain the standard of careful focus for which they are justly famous.

As far as the economic aspect: there seems to be more willing recruits in countries where people have less to lose

It seems to me that the primary danger comes from disaffected 2/3gen children in Western countries, or those who have been sent abroad to study (like the majority of the 9/11 group) and, disoriented (the word takes on an interesting resonance here), turn to Islam. Some seek to argue that Islam contains the same/a> content as modern day science.

As a freshman, I remember one book talking about how peasants were generally living at or below the subsistance. The below the subsistance level is striking, until one realizes that a population concerned with solely subsisting is not going to be much of a threat to the government (think North Korea).

The question of Saudi Arabia is interesting. While I do subscribe to the notion that the structure of Saudi society and the economically useless aspect feeds the pool of potential terrorists, it is important to realize that SA is able to immunize itself by its role as guardian of Mecca. A friend of mine went on the most recent haj, and was describing it to me the other day. The nature of the haj and logistics explain (to me at least) why AQ was never able to get traction as an attempt to purify SA.

I realize that this is a bit short, but am happy to amplify this pm.

(It was either write it that way or resort to extreme vulgarity and profanity.)

Somebody please google "Sepoy Mutiny."

Didn't have to google it. It's in my blood. Like tea. ;-)

My point was that if the argument is made that in principle it's okay to desecrate corpses as a form of attempted deterrence, there can be no objection when American corpses are desecrated (which has, in fact, happened, as I pointed out in the links I provided).

And I presumed that Charles was arguing from general principles, rather than arguing that it's okay to desecrate Muslim corpses, because, as others have already pointed out, the latter would come close to LGF lunacy.

Your problem is that you're looking at the proposition backwards: Charles is not arguing for violating Muslim religious tenets as a subset of corpse desecration; he's suggesting (to whatever extent burying people with pig's blood qualifies for this descriptor, which I don't think it does) corpse desecration as a subset of violating Muslim religious tenets.

Why don't you see if you can apply yourself to coming up with an analogy that's actually, you know, analogous? A case in which we're asked to defend Iraqis, or Afghans, or Muslims, or what have you, violating the religious strictures of Westerners, or Christians?

Try to not focus on the corpse desecration speficially. (I know, I can't believe I said that sentence either.) Charles is suggesting using Muslims' own religion as a tool against them. He could have suggested . . . I don't know, attacking insurgent camps with pork grenades, or something. That's what he's getting at.

For the record, I find it a stupid idea, but then again I find religion to be a stupid idea, so there's that.

"The people you should be considering deterring are the people who are not yet committed to carrying out terrorist murders"

Sure, but deterring the two sets of people aren't mutually exclusive exercises. If you can give pause to terrorists who were basing at list part of their commitment on the prediction that they would enter paradise (which seems often to be the case. I don't have a cite, but am specifically recalling the Palestinian boy who was stopped before he could detonate and who described afterwards that he was picked on in school and had a miserable life and was looking forward to paradise) , assuming for the sake of argument per hilzoy that it would actually compromise paradise, then I think that's worthwhile. Of course if you end up creating more terrorists via resentment then it's obviously not worthwhile, but I don't think that it's simply self-evident that it would as long as it's well understood that you're punishing terrorists and murderers, not punishing Islam or Muslims.

"Trying to focus the issue on whether it's appropriate to desecrate Muslim corpses smacks of exceptionalism."

It's even more narrow. It's desecrating terrorist corpses, and not because corpse desecration is fun or makes you look tough or satisfies your bloodlust, but specifically because it's intended to negate a major motivation for self-sacrifice. To that extent, your comments on other unrelated acts of corpse desecration are totally immaterial, unless you have reason to believe that the civilian contractors commited some terrible crime because in large part they believed in a pleasant afterlife, which they could be denied.

Maybe economics really isn't the key to understanding modern terrorism. Certainly it has been displayed the composition of terror organizations, from top to bottom, come from a variety of demographic groups. Maybe, as Papes suggests, the primary motivating factor is a variant of patriotism. The Homeland, or the Homeland of your heart, is under "occupation". This phenomena in the Middle East is then exploited and given a religious tilt by the likes of AQ and it's imitators. In Sri Lanka, it's given a Marxist tilt, and so on.

I'm quite sure it will be revealed in the weeks ahead the primary, secondary, and tertiary motives for the London bombers was British participation in the occupation of Iraq.

Sure, but deterring the two sets of people aren't mutually exclusive exercises.

Actually, they are, certainly by the means proposed.

It's an attitude of mind that says "terrorists" are a defined set, so that if you kill or deter terrorists, you thereby diminish the set.

But if, while killing or deterring terrorists, you commit actions which increase the aggravation and bitterness felt by a much larger set of people, you in fact increase the number of terrorists - because by ratchetting up the bitterness and disgust felt by a large group of people, you ensure that a larger number of people tip over into feeling that the only way out of their situation is terrorism.

but I don't think that it's simply self-evident that it would as long as it's well understood that you're punishing terrorists and murderers, not punishing Islam or Muslims.

I would repeat Bruce Baugh's and SomeCallMeTim's comments here, but it doesn't seem worthwhile.

unless you have reason to believe that the civilian contractors commited some terrible crime because in large part they believed in a pleasant afterlife, which they could be denied

Well, in a sense. I believe that it's likely civilian contractors in Iraq committed some terrible crimes because, in large part, they believed that they would be rewarded with a pleasant life after their crimes in the US, completely immune from prosecution. And they seem to have been right.

Your arguments about corpse desecration being effective are all based on your imagining how a Muslim might feel. My reason for bringing up an actual instance of corpse desecration involving American corpses is to try and get you to think about how you have reacted in the past to corpse desecration. And then to try and get you to perform an imaginative leap: that how you feel about it is probably not too different to how these people whom you imagine won't object, or will be deterred, will feel about it. Whether you simply don't want to perform that imaginative leap, or if you really did feel properly respectful and not at all hostile with regard to those people who desecrated those corpses in Fallujah, I don't know.

Phil: Charles is suggesting using Muslims' own religion as a tool against them. He could have suggested . . . I don't know, attacking insurgent camps with pork grenades, or something. That's what he's getting at.

Ah. I see. Given that Charles's reaction to the news that US soldiers were desecrating the Koran was explosive denial, I have to admit it hadn't occurred to me that he would start advocating the same thing he'd explosively denied was ever happening.

Charles is suggesting using Muslims' own religion as a tool against them.

It worked so very very well during the Crusades, so why not.

We should probably paint crosses on our soldiers helmets too, so as to let them know just how powerful our God is while we kill them.

If you have truth and right on our side, you don't need propaganda.

When did propaganda and "truth and right" become mutually exclusive? The point is that the info battle is another vital front whether you call it a PR campaign, educational initiative or propaganda task force.

I think I'll further address the pig lard issue in an update.

But if, while killing or deterring terrorists, you commit actions which increase the aggravation and bitterness felt by a much larger set of people, you in fact increase the number of terrorists

Of course, and I've argued as much on the ridiculous flypaper threads and so on. Let's take it for granted that we agree on this. So the question is whether this would, in fact, be the case.

Projecting my feelings about the contractors having their bodies dragged around isn't really a relevant exercise because there are significant differences in the details. Without being too tedious:

a) The contractors were murdered and then their corpses desecrated. The outrage at the crime is in the face of the totality of that. If they'd dug up the bodies of contractors who were previously dead, that would be pretty disturbing, but not in the same league. The theoretical terrorists, on the other hand, killed themselves.

b) The contractors were not proven guilty of anything other than being western contractors in Iraq. Terrorists are ipso facto guilty of mass murder.

c) The bodies of the contractors were desecrated presumably out of outrage, anger, and contempt. Honestly, I have no idea why, but this is the best guess I have. On the other hand, the terrorists' bodies would be desecrated purely for the specific reason that it would prevent them from entering paradise. (Assuming, purely for the sake of this argument, that that is true.)

In fact, I consider the idea that desecrating the bodies of terrorists would necessarily inflame Muslims to be the opposite side of the same coin that drives others to call for collective punishment. It's the belief that there must be some natural sympathy for terrorists among Muslims. I think that's a horrible idea.

I think our ultimate objective must be to decisively obliterate al Qaeda.

We need to do a better job on the propaganda front of this war

Good comments. Its seems like you are on track. Particularly in recognizing who the true enemy is and that at its core, this is a war about the jihadist ideology (which you indelicately refer to as a propoganda war, but so what).

Iraq is now the main front in this terrorist war... With terrorist forces in Afghanistan depleted and on the run, Iraq is presently the number one destination where terrorists go to die.

But this is self-delusional crap, and apparently asserted only for the purpose of providing patisan cover for the screw-up effort by the Bush administration in the effort to destroy Al Queda and win the terror war, including the "propoganda" war.

The war is Iraq is a disaster in the propoganda war, and a great victory for Al Queda. If you don't see that, you are hopeless.

As for being the front line in the war on terror, 90+% of the Iraq war has nothing to do with the war on terror. There is terrorism there in the sense that the insurgency is using terror against the Iraqi government as part of its guerilla war. So have the Tamil Tigers, ETA, and countless other insurgencies around the world. That feature does not make them part of the struggle against Al Queda.

Outside jihadis are going to Iraq precisely because it presents a huge propoganda opportunity for them. The wisest strategy for defusing that is to get out as soon as possible so that the Iraqis can fight their own civil war. Maintaining a massive presence insures that the conflict gets recast in a manner very harmful to our political war against Al Queda.

As for winning Afghanistan, the facts are that even as of 2001, we were dropping the ball on that conflict, and the current level of Taliban/Al Queda violence there is higher now than at any time since 2001. "On the run?" -- get a clue.

There is an aspect of the Iraq conflict that merits being re-examined. It is common to say that we have to stay there until the Iraqis can get on their feet to fight the insurgency.

This appers to be a fallacy. The Shia already are more than capable of dealing with the Sunni insurgency with their own militias, but the policy has been to avoid further enflaming the civil war by turning over security to the partisan Shia militia. Is there any chance that the insurgents could retake power from the armed and highly motivated Shia and Kurds?

I think we are past the point of avoiding the civil war problem, and we are fanning terrorism rather than quelling it with our presence.

The false line that we have to stay in Iraq to fight terrorism is completely misguided, and guaranteed to harm our effort to win that fight.

Maintaining a massive presence insures that the conflict gets recast in a manner very harmful to our political war against Al Queda.

But couldn't our leaving be spun into anti-American propaganda as well? For one thing, it would look like a victory for the terrorists; for another, if the country really descends into chaos, the new storyline might be that America abandoned the Iraqis instead of staying long enough to make sure they were on the road to stability.

Sidereal: "I consider the idea that desecrating the bodies of terrorists would necessarily inflame Muslims to be the opposite side of the same coin that drives others to call for collective punishment. It's the belief that there must be some natural sympathy for terrorists among Muslims."

I don't know about anyone else, but that wasn't my assumption. Specifically, I wasn't assuming that all Muslims would be outraged by this, or that nay who were would be outraged because of sympathy for the terrorists.

I was thinking more that when you deliberately desecrate someone in a way abhorrent to their religion, some of your co-religionists might be inclined to think that you are opposed to people who share their religion, not to terrorists per se. They might also come to think of you as the sort of appalling person who goes around doing things that are clearly profane. In either case, they would be more likely to oppose you than they would have been otherwise, but not because of any antecedent sympathy for terrorists.

Your arguments about corpse desecration being effective are all based on your imagining how a Muslim might feel. My reason for bringing up an actual instance of corpse desecration involving American corpses is to try and get you to think about how you have reacted in the past to corpse desecration. And then to try and get you to perform an imaginative leap: that how you feel about it is probably not too different to how these people whom you imagine won't object, or will be deterred, will feel about it.

Apples and oranges. Contractors were killed and their corpses were desecrated by the killers. As for the pig lard thing. The suicide bombers will desecrating themselves (knowingly!) should they choose to blow themselves up on a bus.

... might be inclined to think that you are opposed to people who share their religion, not to terrorists per se.

I know that people's reactions to this sort of thing are not necessarily going to be reasonable, but given that Muslims are among the victims in these attacks (especially in Iraq, of course), one would hope that people would be able to see the difference between the treatment of the bodies of the Muslim victims and that of the terrorists'.

But anyway, it seems that nous_athanatos's 05:13 PM comment pretty much mooted this discussion, unless there's another animal product whose paradise-forbidding properties will be effective even after death.

One would hope murder is a paradise-forbidding act, but that sadly seems to be a matter of debate. Anyway, I think the 'would it anger other Muslims' debate has refined itself to the completely unknowable (and probably immaterial) at this point, but I wanted to respond to one of hilzoy's assumptions, touched on here

we also need to consider which things we're prepared to do if they're effective, and which constitute giving up on the values that no terrorist can take away from us

and here

They might also come to think of you as the sort of appalling person who goes around doing things that are clearly profane

Now, I consider myself a moral person, and in fact spend a maddening amount of time contemplating moral questions, and yet I don't approach the idea of desecrating the corpses of those who indiscriminately kill innocent people as either unethical or immoral and certainly don't believe it compromises my values. Do you think that's a whole in my ethics or do you think, as I do, that the ambit of your empathy has been overstretched?

Whoops. 'whole' = 'hole', of course. Doesn't make a dent in my rich history of typos, but that was a more irritating one.

"Do you think that's a whole in my ethics or do you think, as I do, that the ambit of your empathy has been overstretched?"

I'd tend towards hole in your ethics.

Since we're now discussing acceptable and unacceptable reasons for desecrating corpses, I'll put in my two cents...

Suppose it wasn't pig's lard (or blood or whatever), but cannibalism that was needed to repel (intimidate/scare) the terrorists. Would you eat their corpses? If not, you may want to reconsider this whole grand scheme.

Sorry for the extra heavy dose of snark there, but I can't actually believe civilized human beings are debating that this is a reasonable idea.

Would you eat their corpses?

Not raw, not raw... they'd be delicious with a few french fries, a bit of broccoli and stuffing.

Anyway, if it would potentially save hundreds of lives? That might be worth suspending my vegetarianism temporarily.

If it could demonstrably reduce the incidence of terrorist killing and had no other discernable harm, pass the fava beans and a nice chianti. It really is a silly idea, though. The point isn't to scare the terrorists with barbarity. The point is to prevent them from achieving the goal of their terrorism.

Only if you simplify "economics" down to "poor people bomb stuff" -- a position which I stated clearly that I was not taking -- can you exclude economics from the factors involved in terrorism.

One does not have to be "poor" in the same was as a sudanese villager to be resentful of others' wealth -- in fact, as many people have noticed it's only in areas where law and order has completely broken down that the very poor take up arms (Baghdad, Sierra Leone etc) -- one only has to be *relatively* poor and concurrently unable to do anything about it. If you can blame and scapegoat another group for the collective wrong done to your group, you have justification for violence. Black People, Jews, Americans, who cares.

The other thing is, of course, social dislocation. Sebastian already mentioned this in his musings on Saudi society, but this is another inherently economic point. Saudi Arabia is a peculiar mix of very, very free market and top-down command economy. It's horrendously nepotistic and the disparity between the very rich and the very poor is massive. It's hard to go off "median incomes" when income distribution is so cock-eyed, and I can't find a distribution graph because it appears that information on those at the very bottom simply doesn't exist -- the House of Saud apparently don't care enough to do a proper census, possibly because the tax would be irrelevant. To argue that this issue is not related to economics is to redefine economics.

All this can be by the by, though, because even if terrorists do not join cells for any reason directly related to economics, if we hold that the best way to rid ourselves of terrorism is by "spreading freedom and democracy" then trade-based solutions are an integral part of that. We cannot bomb everyone, and even if we use military might in some cases, Iraq's example shows that even deposing dictators is no use unless we have solid plans to put a functioning economy in the country afterwards. Further, economic reforms can be done in multiple countries at a time at far less cost than military invasions, and although the results are less dramatic and can take more time, they build a solid political base of coca-cola drinking capitalists.

Sen observed that, even aside from its potential social benefits, freedom to trade is an important freedom in and of itself, like the freedom to vote and choose one's religion. Providing opportunities to expand these freedoms will give the voiceless the capacity to generate their own voices internal to their own nations. Democracy does not naturally emerge like a mushroom from trade freedom, but it helps lay the groundwork for interior democratic reform.

If we're all about spreading democracy, and if we want to defeat terrorism then we must be, trade reform and economic strategising is key.

And of course we can be entirely sure that no Muslim authority would declare anything like "Allah, the Merciful, the All-Knowing, knows that your will to serve Him is greater than any infidel's concern with your flesh, and the gates of paradise will not be barred to those who die in His service, no matter how wickedly the infidels use your flesh. For the heart is holy, and the body perishes." Or anything at all along those lines. They'd be completely helpless in the face of this idea. And all the bystanders would think "Gosh, the people who thought up that idea are the ones I want to trust for justice and peace, because we see how smart they are in the crisis."

Speaking of things that would be funny if they weren't so tragic... Funny because of all the effort Charles, Tac, and various fellow-travelers put into huffing and puffing and stomping around agonizing about what a unique threat Al Qaeda is.

Tragic because they don't seem to realize how terribly weak and frightened this appears to any but the friendliest observer. Imagine some Pakistani teenager reading this. What would he think? That Charles and Tac are a genuine danger to his way of life? That he should resolve to pursue what small chance he has at a peaceful, comfortable life for fear that some bozo might smear lard on him?

Or would he think "Aha! That OBL fella has surely put the fear of God into that Bird Dog fella! The great satan is reeling. Better yet, I can be part of this, simply by doing some dumbass thing and calling myself part of Al Qaeda. No franchise fees, no pesky forms to fill out, no stop-loss, and I too can be part of this thing that scares the bejesus out of the Americans."

There's more to knowing your enemy than merely knowing who your enemy is. Some folks round here don't even seem to know that much.

Goodness. It's one thing to take issue with their arguments, another to accuse them of something like "giving aid and comfort to the enemy" for doing nothing except voicing genuine concerns.

What kind of cad would do a thing like that? For shame, sir!

What kind of cad would do a thing like that? For shame, sir!

They do...

I believe that most people, even in the ME, want the same sort of life that I take for granted. It seems to me that, for instance, by omitting Iraq The Model from the blogroll, there is a resistance from the left to thinking that Muslims and Arabs would like to have what I would call a normal life.

I am totally for women having the right to vote in Kuwait. I am totally for Lebanon shaking off the shackles of Syria. I want Iraq to be a real civil society, including Kurds, Assyrians, Shiites, and Sunni.

Opposing the Wahhabs or Salafists, or Jemaah Islamayyam, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, Hamas, etc. is consistent with being for freedom, for real liberal values, not for gaining political points. Who are you for? the terrorists who blow up children in Iraq or bomb politicians in Lebanon? Or would you feel better if the judgement and action taken was left to the UN and the ICC which have done such stellar jobs dealing with problems in Sudan and Zimbabwe?

*blink blink*

Well spotted. You deserve some kind of cookie.

That latter comment directed at 2shoes, not DaveC. DaveC does not deserve cookies.

Charles: a couple of points about your update.

First, as your own cite says, and others have pointed out, touching pork after death does not prevent a Muslim from entering heaven. If this is right, then this would have no deterrent effect at all.

Well, is it right? I thought I'd check. There is no mention of its being wrong to touch pigs in the Qur'an, or at least none that I was able to find using search engines. This is so whether before or after death. Most of the references I found to Muslims believing that touching pigs before death (let alone after) bars one from entering heaven were on right-wing blogs, where all sorts of versions of this seem to have cropped up: dip our soldiers' bullets in pigs' blood, feed Muslims who have been sentenced to death to pigs every time a terrorist does something to us, etc. (I am not making that last one up.)

However, the Muslim sites I found by googling things like "Islam + 'contact with pigs' " took a different view. For instance, here is an article called 'How to cleanse oneself of pig-related impurity'; it says:

"With regard to how to cleanse oneself of pig-related impurity, some scholars are of the view that it should be washed seven times, one of which should be with earth, by analogy with dogs.

But the correct view is that pig-related impurity should be washed only once. Al-Nawawi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in his commentary on Muslim (Sharh Muslim): “Most of the scholars were of the view that pig-related impurity does not have to be washed seven times. This is the view of al-Shaafa’i, and it has the strongest evidence.” "

Also, about eating pigs by mistake:

"There is no sin on you for eating pig meat without intending to, because Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“And there is no sin on you concerning that in which you made a mistake, except in regard to what your hearts deliberately intend. And Allaah is Ever Oft‑Forgiving, Most Merciful”

[al-Ahzaab 33:5]

And the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Allaah has forgiven my ummah for mistakes, forgetfulness and that which they are forced to do.” Narrated by Ibn Maajah, 2043; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani. "

See also, for example, here and here.

I do not know anything like enough to say with confidence whether there is some variant of Islam that does think that coming into contact with lard after death prevents you from going to heaven. But I do feel pretty confident, now, saying: I have real doubts about whether coming into contact with pork prevents you from going to heaven even if it's before death, let alone afterwards.

Why does this matter? Because I think there are some things that we should do, if we do them at all, only when we are driven to it. -- One of the things that always bothered me about the discussion of torture on some right-wing boards was the number of people who didn't bother to ask whether torture was necessary or effective; who didn't seem to see it as something one should think very long and very hard before engaging in, or think that if it ever had to be used, it should be used only, only, only as a last resort, when all other options had been considered and rejected. The attitude often seemed more like, 'torture: f*ck yeah!'

The reason I checked out the question, do Muslims actually think what you say they do?, is because I did not want to reach the conclusion that you were suggesting the desecration of corpses thoughtlessly: without doing the basic research you would need to do to answer the obvious question: will this even work? Let alone the next questions: will it create more problems than it solves? and: is it something our values allow us to do in any case? It's possible that you did check these questions out, and that my googling and yours just hit very different sites. But what I found makes the conclusion I did not want to draw seem a lot more likely.

Winning the war on terror is not just a matter of deciding to fight terrorists, nor is it a matter of seeing who opposes them the loudest, or is willing to do the most extreme things in the service of this fight. It's a matter of figuring out how to do it in the way that's most likely to actually work. And to me, this absolutely requires putting aside one's first reactions -- whether they are excessively angry or excessively non-angry -- and thinking about the problem at hand. To recommend something like this without, apparently, answering the most basic questions about whether it would work is (I think) absolutely the wrong way to go about it. It's counterproductive; and moreover, it's morally wrong.

As to the rest of your update, I'll just say: the question, to me, is not what terrorists deserve, it's what our principles require. And if we want to fight terrorism intelligently, we need to consider the consequences of our actions; and if one of those consequences is enraging Muslims, then it doesn't really matter whether their rage is misplaced or not. (Similarly: if you see a car running a red light and heading right towards you, it's kind of pointless to refuse to change course on the grounds that the other driver is in the wrong.)

This is priceless, CB: but I suggest that their anger is misplaced. Their ire should be placed on the radical extremists who are enmeshed in their own community

Maybe they should, but I doubt they will. Saying it isn't going to magically make them think that way. So you arguing about what they should think doesn't seem to have any place at all in any matter under discussion.

Why does this remind me so much of, "Of course they'll throw flowers"?

DaveC does not deserve cookies.

I'll take it that you are against everything that I am for, and for everything that I am against. Most commenters here have such a narrow point of view that they have a knee jerk reaction against what ordinary folks think. Too dumb, too religious, not enough of an activist, doesn't believe in some perfect international political system, thinks America is a better country than most any other in the world, cares more about the results of suicide bombers rather than their motivations. Guilty as charged. Well, OK then, I think Richard Clarke is well meaning but mistaken, and that Ramsey Clark is especially evil, even for a laywer ;^)

And I will daresay that most people think the way I do. I don't expect to change anybody's mind, but the reality-based community might be well served by being exposed to other points of view.

And yes, I am asserting that the American way of life is a better way than that of the Baathists or the Taliban or whatever the terrorist groups have in mind. I don't necessarily think that is jingoistic or racist, I just think that is a fact. I don't know of a problem with illegal immigrants trying to get into Iran or North Korea, for instance.

DaveC: there is a resistance from the left to thinking that Muslims and Arabs would like to have what I would call a normal life.

Well, I would share cookies with you if I were distributing them generally, which I'm not right now. (I'm planning to make singing hinnies this weekend, though. You can have a singing hinnie.)

But this is the kind of asinine comment about "the Left" that you really shouldn't be surprised if people take offense at it.

It would make equal sense to argue, looking at the state of things in Iraq, that there is a resistance from the right to thinking that Muslims and Arabs would like to have what I would call a normal life. Go read Baghdad Burning.

Re: corpse desecration--when even the Israelis think your solution is batshit crazy and likely to be counterproductive, you might want to re-examine the company in which you stand, Charles.

Sidereal, Hilzoy has established, I think satisfactorily, that Muslims do not believe that a corpse buried in pig blood or pork lard will never reach Paradise, so that takes care of all the arguments about whether or not it would be practical: it wouldn't.

Given that, however impractical torture has proved to be as a means of extracting information, there are still to be found people who support torture so long as they believe the people being tortured deserve it, I think it likely that there will always be people who would support desecrating a Muslim corpse if they think the person deserved it when they were alive. (It's worth noting, however, that what you are effectively doing in this case is very specifically punishing the family of the dead - whether or not they supported this person.)

Projecting my feelings about the contractors having their bodies dragged around isn't really a relevant exercise because there are significant differences in the details.

True, but I was asking you how you felt about corpse desecration.

a) The contractors were murdered and then their corpses desecrated. The outrage at the crime is in the face of the totality of that. If they'd dug up the bodies of contractors who were previously dead, that would be pretty disturbing, but not in the same league.

"Disturbing"? So you didn't feel that the corpse desecration was in itself an appropriate response? Because you're arguing that Muslims will not feel disturbed by seeing corpses desecrated. Why is that? Do you feel they are so different from you that they won't have the same reaction you did?

b) The contractors were not proven guilty of anything other than being western contractors in Iraq.

True. But as no civilian contractor has been proven guilty of anything - even though we know that senior officers evaded direct responsibility for torture in Abu Ghraib by letting civilian contractors give orders to grunts - this is not exactly a resounding defense. We don't know that those four civilian contractors were among those guilty of torture, including rape, and murder: all we know is, that some Iraqis hated those four enough to single them out of a convoy, kill them, and mutilate their corpses after death. We also know that US DoJ has shown no interest in prosecuting civilian contractors who may be guilty of torture and murder in Iraq, and that the Bush administration refused to have the US sign up to the ICC, which can act when crimes have been committed that a country's justice system is unable or unwilling to prosecute.

c) The bodies of the contractors were desecrated presumably out of outrage, anger, and contempt. Honestly, I have no idea why, but this is the best guess I have. On the other hand, the terrorists' bodies would be desecrated purely for the specific reason that it would prevent them from entering paradise. (which Hilzoy has established isn't a Muslim belief)

I think that you're being disingenuous if you are trying to argue that people feel no hatred, anger, or contempt for suicide bombers: and still more if you are trying to argue that Muslims would perceive no hatred, anger, or contempt on seeing a Muslim's body deliberately desecrated in a way intentionally outrageous to Islam.

In fact, I consider the idea that desecrating the bodies of terrorists would necessarily inflame Muslims to be the opposite side of the same coin that drives others to call for collective punishment.

No, it's on the same side of the coin. It is collective punishment.

It's the belief that there must be some natural sympathy for terrorists among Muslims. I think that's a horrible idea.

I think that you are again being disingenuous if you are trying to argue that Muslims would not be offended at seeing the body of a fellow-Muslim (no matter what horrible crimes he had committed) deliberately desecrated in a manner calculated to cause further pain and outrage to his family, and offense to other Muslims - especially when based on a superstitious invention of non-Muslims about Islamic belief.

Who are you for? the terrorists who blow up children in Iraq or bomb politicians in Lebanon? Or would you feel better if the judgement and action taken was left to the UN and the ICC which have done such stellar jobs dealing with problems in Sudan and Zimbabwe?

Are those my only two choices?

We don't know that those four civilian contractors were among those guilty of torture, including rape, and murder:

Nice to see you resorting to the Dennis Hastert school of "We just don't know . . . " speculation, Jes.

all we know is, that some Iraqis hated those four enough to single them out of a convoy, kill them, and mutilate their corpses after death.

Can you please provide links to your undoubtedly ample set of evidence that these particular four men were know to these Iraqis in advance, either by name or reputation, and were thus singled out for this attack and treatment? Rather than, you know, just happening to be the unlucky ones who were in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Well, Phil, we do know that civilian contractors supervised "interrogations" in Abu Ghraib - and that at least one civilian contractor was accused of raping a prisoner but was not charged "because military law has no jurisdiction over him". cite

Some accounts I read of the attack on the convoy at the time suggested strongly to me that it was a specific attack on certain vehicles, which may have meant that specific contractors were being targetted.

Set against that, as far as I know Blackwater Security Consulting has not provided any interrogators: they just supply illegal combatants to the conflict in Iraq.

Nice to see you resorting to the Dennis Hastert school of "We just don't know . . . " speculation, Jes.

Alas, given the extreme reluctance of the Pentagon to prosecute the American mercenaries who are guilty of committing crimes while working for the US military - or to provide evidence so that civilian courts in the US may decide whether to bring charges - we are all left wondering which of the US-employed mercenaries in Iraq, whether illegal combatants or interrogators, have actually committed crimes, and which are innocent. All we know is that some of them did and the crimes have been reported: we can guess that some crimes have never been reported: and we know that a mercenary, employed by a civilian company, working in Iraq, is exempt from being prosecuted by military courts or Iraqi civilian courts for any crime committed in Iraq.

Although hilzoy makes good points, I think that there is in fact a difference between scholarly Islamic doctrine and what radical Islam believes. I hate to even mention that, because it's so glaringly obvious.

In other news, Catholics believe in this place called "Purgatory", and in the unquestionable authority of this guy known as "Pope", despite the complete lack of biblical basis for either.*

*NOT comparing Catholics with Islamic radicals. Just noting that religious sects can and do profess belief systems that aren't well-connected to source documents.

Geez, leave here for a bit and it turns into a George Romero flick. Hilzoy has already done an admirable job popping the bubble that some pig fat and coffins are the answer to all our problems. I would also point out that the people who desecrated the bodies of the contractors were probably not the ones who killed them. I think it was Juan Cole who pointed out that it is difficult to imagine what kind of rage those in the populace felt to do what they did.

What would drive the crowd to this barbaric behavior? It is not that they are pro-Saddam any more, or that they hate "freedom." They are using a theater of the macabre to protest their occupation and humiliation by foreign armies. They were engaging in a role reversal, with the American cadavers in the position of the "helpless" and the "humiliated," and with themselves playing the role of the powerful monster that inscribes its will on these bodies.

This degree of hatred for the new order among ordinary people is very bad news. It helps explain why so few of the Sunni Arab guerrillas have been caught, since the locals hide and help them. It also seems a little unlikely that further US military action can do anything practical to put down this insurgency; most actions it could take would simply inflame the public against them all the more.

It seems likely to me that the guerrilla violence will continue for years, since it has a firm class base in the Sunni Arab rentiers who had benefitted from Sunni dominance in the Baath, and to whom the best jobs, infrastructure and most power had been thrown. They are not going to be quietly reduced to a small powerless and much less wealthy minority.

I'd also point out that this incident occurred before the revelations of Abu Grahib IIRC. It was my contention that knowledge of the treatment of prisoners was probably common knowledge, amplified by being transmitted through gossip and a brother of a friend sort of stories, which accounted for much of this behavior.

Unfortunately, the willingness to entertain solutions like the aforementioned pig lard hinge on the idea that somehow, those who are opposed to us are going to suddenly quail and throw down their weapons when confronted with some logical paradox. While this might work for Spock and killer computers, I don't really think it is the answer here. I mean, the 9/11 hijackers were able to pilot jumbo jets. Certainly those who are now considering being suicide bombers can hold two contrary thoughts in their heads at the same time.

Reading Slarti on preview, he argues that there is a distinction between scholarly Islamic doctrine and radical Islamic ideas. But when you have people suggest that all Muslim immigration should be halted, it's easy to understand that the urge to lump all Muslims in the same group is overwhelming, and the inability of the US to make it clear that they understand there is a distinction, you have a bit of a problem.

Not arguing counter to any of that, LJ. Keeping radical Islam out of one's country is problematic, there's no denying that, and keeping all of Islam out is probably never going to work. You can, however, deny entry to people coming from specific countries of origin and/or birthplace. I don't think that's going to work, either, but I think it's much more viable than screening based on religion.

Pig Lard! Perhaps the dumbest idea ever posted here. Three years of fighting badly has plainly increased the threat. We need to fight an intelligent intelligence-led campaign with realistic objectives and stop stumbling arround like a bunch of drunken red necks on duck hunt.

Y'know what, I was going to argue with DaveC, but it seems that my throwaway line has given him all the rope he needs to hang himself. Indeed, if my saying that he doesn't deserve a cookie for his post means that I am against everything he is for and for everything he is against (I wonder which of us is pro-rape? It's certainly not me) I think it's fairly obvious that we're dealing with an unhinged and paranoid personality here.

Good to know!

Slarti, a couple of things:

Firstly, there is a difference between the beliefs of radicals and mainstream scholars, too, but the point of Hilzoy's post was not that "mainstream scholars think this" but that "it's not inconceivable that the radicals could alter their preaching insubstantially and render our pig fat tactics moot from a prevention point of view." It doesn't matter to me what we do with self-slaughtered meat (I recommend buzzards, but that's because I'm a big fan of buzzards in general. Fantastic creatures. Very useful), but if we're going to do something which could potentially inflame more passions against us, I'd like it to be one which rendered the suicide bombers impotent. If there is a good chance that the teaching can be modified only slightly to be ineffective (and as the history of religious radicals indicates that the killing is the central doctrine and everything else is gravy, this is very likely) then it's a useless tactic that costs us more than we get out of it.

If it would fully deter suicide bombers I'd support it, but I'm willing to bet cold, hard cash that it will not.


On immigration, I think I have even more problem with preventing people from coming into the country from the worst affected Islamist countries or regions, because this would necessarily impact the asylum system. Either we would turn people away in dire need of help (I'm thinking women) or, despite making asylum-seeker's lives harsh with extra screening and isolation on the way in, someone would slip through the cracks and end up turning the population against the asylum process still further.

Many of the countries where terrorists come from are those to whose citizens, in my opinion, we should automatically grant political asylum. Asylum is, or should be, an integral part of Charles' "propaganda war", because there is little to beat the power of letters home from your children.

Only if you simplify "economics" down to "poor people bomb stuff" -- a position which I stated clearly that I was not taking -- can you exclude economics from the factors involved in terrorism.

The deeper question is, McDuff, how do you improve economies in the Muslim-majority world when they lack the fundamentals for economic success? Take Saudi Arabia for example. Their per capita is pretty good, as you would expect from a major oil exporter, but they are one of the nations most responsible for Islamic terrorist attacks, for exporting terrorists and for exporting terrorist doctrine. The problem with Saudi Arabia is not economics but freedom. They're at the bottom of the barrel in terms of upholding civil liberties and political rights. Their economy is already mostly free. They're in the bottom ten in press freedom. Corruption in the Saudi government is close to rampant. Unless you're a Salafi, there is no religious freedom.

You can't have a successful economy without basic respect for human rights and property rights. You can't aid a government that is fundamentally corrupt and repressive, then expect positive results.

This is why one of my primary thrusts here is for the advance of freedom. The solution is free markets, free societies, free speech, free press, free religious expression, respect for civil liberties and political rights. The combination of virulent ideology and a lack of freedom in those countries is a root cause of terrorism, not poverty.

Keeping radical Islam out of one's country is problematic, there's no denying that, and keeping all of Islam out is probably never going to work. You can, however, deny entry to people coming from specific countries of origin and/or birthplace. I don't think that's going to work, either, but I think it's much more viable than screening based on religion.

But Slart, they were already there. Talking about stopping people from entering is simply posturing, pretending that one is doing something. And the attempts to root out people before they do something tends to create more disaffected people. Witness the FBI work here. I don't want to quote parts of the article because some might accuse me of being skewed, so please take a look.

We keep Islamic radicalism out of Western countries by encouraging those within the Islamic community to be our eyes and ears. Ali is precisely correct, that the approach exemplified by pig lard and my god is bigger than your god is that of a bunch of drunken rednecks on a duck hunt.

Charles brings up the question of SA. While I don't disagree with what he links to, in large part, it is meaningless. SA handles the Haj, which is 2 million pilgrims a year and it makes it impossible to imagine that simply getting the Saudis to be more free (and I have to note that I've never seen Chas propose a mechanism for democratization of SA, except through the democranami on the march notion) is going to solve the problems. Had we seriously attempted to create a model state in Afghanistan that would have show clearly the benefits and possibilities of an enlightened Islamic state, we might be able to talk about freedom, but now, we depend too dearly on SA and Pakistan to be our thin red line. Which, if you think about it, is one of the most damning things you can say about our policy.

The combination of virulent ideology and a lack of freedom in those countries is a root cause of terrorism, not poverty.

Since poverty is the reason that so many want to come to western countries, if you consider that in that pool of people, you only need a few disaffected people, you are really missing the boat by thinking that poverty has nothing to do with it.

Slarti: of course what radical Islamists think differs from scholarly Islam. But two points: first, I wasn't, actually, looking just for evidence about scholarly Islam. I mean I did check the Qur'an, because it seemed like a good thing to do, but I also googled around, looking at all sorts of web sites, many popular.

I make no claim at all to have established anything conclusive about "what Muslims think", generally. Obviously, if would take a lot more than half an hour's crawling around on the web to do that. However, the evidence I could find suggests that inadvertent contact with pigs is no sin; that contact with pigs is sort of dirty but can be purified relatively easily (though the sources seem divided on whether one washing or seven are appropriate), and that the idea that contact with pigs after death, or even before death, is a bar to entering heaven is widely regarded as an urban legend.

Fwiw, and making no claim to have hit representative sites or anything, the idea of burying bodies in pig lard, and similar ideas like dipping bullets in pig's blood, are also (as you might expect) taken to be signs of our barbarism and hostility to Islam. (Not because of any particular sympathy to terrorists.)

My point was rather: I see no reason to think it's true that burying bodies in pig's lard would have anything like the effect Charles mentions, because I see no evidence that muslims hold the belief he ascribes to them. Maybe he has some evidence that radical Islamists do think this, in which case, fine. But if, instead, he just didn't bother to find out, then I think that's worrying, since if we're going to go around desecrating corpses, we at least need to do so on the basis of facts, not urban legends.

We need to fight an intelligent intelligence-led campaign with realistic objectives and stop stumbling arround like a bunch of drunken red necks on duck hunt.

Nothing to add, just thought it worth repeating.

Charles, as strongly as I agree with the words you speak, do you really not see the disconnect between talking about "advancing freedom" and what the United States is doing right now, both at home and abroad?

My hypothetical Pak teenager doesn't hate freedom -- he hates the fact that he isn't free, and all the glorious rhetoric isn't going to change that. When he sees Americans talk, talk, talking about freedom while his choices steadily dwindle, what do you expect him to think? Now maybe this is hard to imagine if you personally haven't been exposed to middle eastern/Islamic culture, but there are plenty of people who have that experience, and those people have been telling you for years now that the "get tough" approach will not work. Throughout this whole period, those people have been proven correct, and you have been proven wrong.

Maybe it's time for a little humility?

And it's not just you. The reason that a serious discussion about relying on a few people's irrationality about pigs and dogs is counterproductive is that it reeks of of ignorance. This is only a little bit different than if you heard that Iraqi insurgents were going to discourage American patrols by breeding black cats to run around Baghdad. Sure that would have some effect, but wouldn't you mostly just conclude that the insurgents were boneheads? That not only were they confused about who they were dealing with but probably in a state of panic? Wouldn't that make you more likely to sign up for a tour of duty?

Charles, as strongly as I agree with the words you speak, do you really not see the disconnect between talking about "advancing freedom" and what the United States is doing right now, both at home and abroad?

Then you haven't been following events very closely, radish. Just look at what Condi has been doing.

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