A MESSAGE FROM PARIS by Ian McEwan

Nov 16, 2015

IAN MCEWAN, the award-winning British novelist, is the author of The Child in Time (winner of the Whitbread Novel of the Year Award, 1987), Amsterdam (winner of the Booker Prize, 1998), Atonement, Sweet Tooth, and The Children Act. He lives in London.

ED. NOTE: Ian McEwan, who is living in France this month, sent the following email this afternoon from Paris which he asked us to share with the EDGE community.

The death cult chose its city well—Paris, secular capital of the world, as hospitable, diverse and charming a metropolis as was ever devised. And the death cult chose its targets in the city with ghoulish, self-damning accuracy—everything they loathed stood plainly before them on a happy Friday evening: men and women in easy association, wine, free-thinking, laughter, tolerance, music—wild and satirical rock and blues. The cultists came armed with savage nihilism and a hatred that lies beyond our understanding. Their protective armour was the suicide belt, their idea of the ultimate hiding place was the virtuous after-life, where the police cannot go. (The jihadist paradise is turning out to be one of humanity’s worst ever ideas; slash and burn in this life, eternal rest among kitsch in the next).

Paris, dazed and subdued, woke this morning to reflect on its new circumstances. Those of us who were out on the town last night can only wonder at the vagaries of chance that lets us live and others die. As the slaughter began, my wife and I were in a venerable Paris institution, a cliché of the modest good life since 1845. In this charming restaurant in the sixieme, one shares crowded tables with good-willed strangers, visitors and locals in a friendly crush. With our Pouilly Fume and filets d’hareng, we were as good a target as any. The cult chose the onzieme, the dixieme, barely a mile away and we didn’t know a thing.

Now we do. What are those changed circumstances? Security will tighten and Paris must become a little less charming. The necessary tension between security and freedom will remain a challenge. The death-cult’s bullets and bombs will come again, here or somewhere else, we can be sure. The citizens of London, New York, Berlin are paying close and nervous attention. In January we were all CharlieHebdo. Now, we are all Parisians and that at least, in a dark time, is a matter of pride.


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104 comments on “A MESSAGE FROM PARIS by Ian McEwan

  • As has been pointed out by Dawkins, Harris and many others, tribalism, radical Islam, fundamentalism are obscenities whether in Moslem countries or the Southern United States. You can only image what American reactionary, fearful, living in the past, Southern Protestant Fundamentalists would do if they had the power. In this country there is still hatred of Jews, Gays, Hispanics, and Blacks, anyone who is “different”. make no mistake about this. We are a bi-lingual country, non-white births now make up more than half the population. Separation of Church and State is vital.



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  • The death-cult’s bullets and bombs will come again, here or somewhere
    else, we can be sure.

    This is for certain and this is known as “blowback”, an internal CIA term for unintended, fatal consequences of Western (and Western valued) invasion and intervention in the Third World. I will paraphrase here, but it is naïve to believe that the nihilistic and oppressive soldiers of ISIS, Al Qaeda, or any other terrorist organization would instantly transform into Quakers if the West extracted itself from Muslim countries, but without Western targets, they would eventually turn on each other to fight their sectarian conflicts over faith-based visions of the apocalypse…



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  • southern U.S.

    Walmart, after church let out yesterday – grandmother, in rather loud voice, talking to her lined up granddaughters about Jesus! Jesus! A customer looked upon me bemusedly, curious about my ‘wtf’ look. Dollars to doughnuts sermons were about the attack(s). But to what intensity, considering there are 47K different kinds of churches in the area.

    By the by – a few commenters displeased about apparent lack of concern (not here) for mid-east innocent victims. I draw your attention to the u.s. version of [ google ]. A corporation “taking sides”, in addition to other reasons (acceptable collateral damage? guilty by association?).



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  • I would agree, at the very basis of the problem is fundamental religion itself, belief, tribalism, ignorance and values themselves, and also fear of a world that is drastically changing and leaving them behind. Note the thousands of Mormons who have recently left the church because of the new ignorant, bigoted policy toward kids of gay parents. It is always only when it is up front and personal when things and people begin to change. the same will be true of Global Climate Change when it too is up front and personal.



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  • It is not Muslims that is the problem, it is fundamentalist Islam, many people do not make the distinction, Islam is not a race per-se (nor are Jews), as Dawkins has pointed out repeatedly. Being against fundamentalist Islam is not or should not be Muslim bashing…



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  • The problem with is Islam is that it has not evolved and is still stuck in the medieval world. Note it’s treatment of women, sexuality (female mutilation), children, sexuality (male psychosexual pathology, fear, ignorance and envy), which some other religions have evolved to a certain extent and science. Those of a Jewish ethnic origin have received 1/4 of the Nobel Prizes (their world population is low in the millions), which those of the Moslem world, a population of about 1.2 Billion, have received one.



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  • the targets were “precisely chosen”, the group described the sold-out Eagles of Death Metal gig where the majority of victims were shot dead as the “hundreds of pagans gathered for a concert of prostitution and vice”.

    It is a mistake to paint these atrocities as purely driven by the ugly errors of one time western foreign policy. Would we be here without those errors? Unlikely, but does this mean we should not fight to save decent Muslimhood that outnumber but are horribly threatened by these wretches in places like Syria? No. Ordinary Muslims want to get on with their lives. ISIS parasitised by fundamentalist Islam and a callous exploiting upper echelon of Iraqi Baathists bitter at the West’s self-serving war in Iraq are still to be opposed.

    I will never albatross my enemies with their ugly past if they will talk to me, because a people are made new by their latest choices. I don’t believe we should do that to ourselves either. Ireland, South Africa found a peace to build on by laying past folly aside.

    A marvelous BBC R4 program series on the development of the French concluded with what the French identify as their defining attributes. Came the answer Liberte Egalite Fraternite Laicite, albeit late and with a struggle.

    The French for all there errors in getting to it, want more of what I want than any other country on the planet. But not only are the streets of Paris far too free as far as ISIS are concerned they are “rotten” too.



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  • Here are some random thoughts on the attack:

    With the corpses and weapons of the suicide attackers, police should be able to identify them, then everyone they knew, and everyone they communicated with. This should lead to rounding up everyone involved who is still alive. This is much simpler than preventing an attack.

    What kind of monsters target young civilians? Well France, the USA and Canada who killed children, women and the elderly with their bombs, bullets, banned weapons and torture in Afghanistan and Iraq. Imagine if ISIS had mounted an aerial attack that left Paris in rubble like Fallujah. The attack seems unprecedented because we in the west are the ones attacked. We tend to forget our own similar sins or look at them through preposterously rosy glasses. Noam Chomsky on Exceptionalism click to watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvZRsdHgxgA

    ISIS made themselves look silly by claiming miracles were responsible for the co-ordinated attacks. Balderdash! All they needed to pull that off were synchronised watches. Various experts tried to make ISIS look more formidable by gushing over the synchronisation.

    We are creating a mythical, shadowy enemy with unfathomable motives. We cannot defeat them if we refuse to look at them honestly. We are scaring ourselves silly with our lies. To understand their motives and recruiting techniques, we also have to consider what we have done to them in past. We have to understand their case against us, just as a lawyer would.

    The last thing people think of doing to find out what motivates terrorists is to ask them. But you can read their explanation. http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2015/11/14/ISIS-releases-undated-video-threatening-France.html

    There were about 150 killed in the attack. To put this is perspective, in the USA there are 11,200 gun-homicides per year. 27,000 were killed in the Battle of France when France fell to the Nazis. In the USA, 32,719 people die each year in car accidents. The American bombing attacks on Fallujah killed 70% of the people. Though the Paris attack is a crippling emotional blow, is not a blow that cripples France.

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper was a egotistical twit who fancied himself as a WWII (World War II) general. He insisted on Canada taking a bombing role on ISIS even though his force was microscopic and just got in the way. Training and humanitarian work were beneath his dignity, even though that was what was mostly needed. The new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is more practical, and is willing to take on the less glamourous work. Rona Ambrose, the interim PC leader, is trying to make political points by insisting Canada bomb somebody, anybody to satisfy the gut reactions of hawkish Canadians.

    France wants to triple its bombing on Syria. The problem with that is Syria contains a mix of pro-Assad forces, rebels, ISIS and civilians. There is so way they can avoid killing everyone, including those who just want to get out of the country to avoid the fighting who we are trying to help.



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  • Hypocritical religion dispise science but they couldn’t blow anything up without it, thanks to Obama both sides have plenty of science to play with.



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  • Thank you, Roedy, for the words of wisdom amid what increasingly looks as a kind of anti-fanatic fanaticism.

    What did we, “the West”, do to really moderate and secular Muslisms? Toppled them, when they were in government, as Mossadegh? Waged war against then, via a proxy army of medieval fanatics, like in our own jihad against the soviets in Afghanistan? When do we stop lying to ourselves that Saudi Arabia is a “moderate” government? Whe do we stop supporting ISIS under the obviously false pretense that we are supporting “moderate” rebels in Syria? When do we stop supporting Syrian jihaddists against Assad and Putin?



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  • Funny how the French airforce suddenly knows where the cult is hiding in Syria or are they just bombing indiscriminately like the yanks do?



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  • ((Well France, the USA and Canada who killed children, women and the elderly with their bombs, bullets, banned weapons and torture in Afghanistan and Iraq))

    I think your comments misfire badly when you try to make moral equivalence between military action, brought about by geopolitical events, which caused UNINTENDED but inevitable civilian casualties ( a factor in all warfare since the invention of artillery), and the systematic deliberate and planned murder of innocent defenseless civilians in a non-combat environment.

    I suggest you get your moral compass recalibrated……… urgently.



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  • I think you’ll find that the targets had already been selected, probably by the US, and French forces were given the targets after the Paris attacks so that the French government could show that they were retaliating.



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  • I think this cleaned up account of the ISIS statement you link to, Roedy, misses the important undertow in the original of why ISIS have found themselves at odds not only with the West but also with a substantial fraction of Muslims as well. This is the Westboro Baptist Church of Islam only mean and armed to the teeth and with ony four more Caliphs to go before end days.

    >

    ‘In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Beneficent.

    Allah said: They thought that their fortresses would protect them from Allah, but Allah came upon them from where they had no expected, and He cast terror into their hearts so they destroyed their houses by their own hands and the hands of the believers. So take warning, O people of vision.

    In a blessed battle whose causes of success were enabled by Allah, a group of believers from the soldiers of the Caliphate (may Allah strengthen and support it) set out targeting the capital of prostitution and vice, the lead carrier of the cross in Europe – Paris.

    This group of believers were youth who divorced the worldly life and advanced towards their enemy hoping to be killed for Allah’s sake, doing so in support of His religion, His Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) and His allies. They did so in spite of His enemies.

    Thus, they were truthful with Allah – we consider them so – and Allah granted victory upon their hands and cast terror into the hearts of the crusaders in their very own homeland.

    And so eight brothers equipped with explosive belts and assault rifles attacked precisely chosen targets in the centre of the capital of France. These targets included the Stade de France stadium during a soccer match – between the teams of Germany and France, both of which are crusader nations – attended by the imbecile of France (Francois Hollande).

    The targets included the Bataclan theatre for exhibitions, where hundreds of idolaters gathered for a concert of prostitution and vice. There were also simultaneous attacks in the tenth, eleventh and eighteenth districts, and elsewhere.

    Paris was thereby shaken beneath the crusaders’ feet, who were constricted by its streets. The result of the attacks was the deaths of no less than two hundred crusaders and the wounding of even more. All praise, grace and favour belong to Allah.

    Allah blessed our brothers and granted them what they desired. They detonated their explosive belts in the masses of the disbelievers after finishing all their ammunition. We ask Allah to accept them amongst the martyrs and to allow us to follow them.

    Let France and all nations following its path know that they will continue to be at the top of the target list for the Islamic State and that the scent of death will not leave their nostrils as long as they partake in the crusader campaign, as long as they dare to insult our Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), and as long as they boast about their war against Islam in France and their strikes against Muslims in the lands of the Caliphate with their jets, which were of no avail to them in the filthy streets and alleys of Paris.

    Indeed, this is just the beginning. It is also a warning for any who wish to take heed.

    Allah is the greatest.’

    Of particular note is the sequence of reasons given.

    The link you provided provided a reduced and much more sober and defensible account. This is not all that we have to deal with.



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  • That’s very patriotic, but here’s another way to look at it:

    While the attacks in Paris provided further revelation of the sickly embrace of the death instinct from ISIS, the mass media reaction to the coordinated killing exposes how the American mainstream operates according to a hierarchy of victims. The hierarchy functions as an appraisal process; assigning some lives high value, some lives low value, and summarily dismissing others with hideous euphemisms like “collateral damage.”



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  • Americans need to step up their immoral equivalence a little. At least claim they intended to kill innocent bystanders and grind in the misery with their grieving loved ones by describing them afterwards as prostitutes in filthy streets.

    That would score you a cleaner point.



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  • THEM and US

    The west needs to define who is US and who is THEM. If the west decides that all Islam is THEM, then the West will loose. 1.6 billion Muslims. Most of whom are no more threat than a village Anglican. If the West wants to define THEM as extremists ISIS who in no way represent Islam, and embrace the village Muslim, to claim them as US, then the West will win.

    But the west will drive the village Muslim towards ISIS and away from US, every time some intellectually challenge fool declares Islam as the problem, and vilifies all Islamic culture and peoples. One label does not define Islam. Can you tell the difference between and Episcopalian and the KKK. If you can, you can tell the difference between Islam and ISIS.

    I get very angry when I receive emails and Facebook posts from people frothing at the mouth and condemning ALL ISLAM. They are the ones who are assisting ISIS to become a greater THEM. They are doing ISIS’ work driving the village Muslim away from US.

    This video is from a brilliant Australian journalist, Walid ALY, who has the ability to distill an issue into it’s constituent parts. I found wisdom in it. I commend to the readers.

    https://www.facebook.com/theprojecttv/videos/10153243154568441/?fref=nf



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  • ISIS is a monster, and like many monsters, it deserves slaying. History teaches, however, that meddling in the medieval furor of religious wars by invading countries and bombing cities will only create more monsters, and write more headlines like those out of Lebanon, Kunduz, Kenya and Paris.

    As even CIA testimony proves, anti-war and anti-interventionist advocacy is not the property of hippie fantasy. It is a rare intersection of morality and practicality. People in the Third World hate watching their family and friends die just as much as Westerners do.

    The heartbreaking and horrific sights out of France, Lebanon and Kenya remind everyone of the nobility and necessity in working to reduce the amount of violence in the world. The work begins with the dismantlement of the hierarchy of victims, and the inculcation of the conviction that all innocent life has the same value.



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  • I entirely agree wih the view that ISIS are a terrorist organisation wanting to polarise the world drawing as many towards them as possible. I entirely agree the utter folly of suggesting that all Muslims must by reason of their faith be potential ISIS members thereby driving them into those extremist arms.

    I don’t agree ISIS are weak and I don’t interpret the high levels of local terrorist autonomy mean they have no ownership or deep causal root of most of these terrorist actions. This, I think, is wish thinking from all that I have been reading of the group over the last several days. They appear to create very functional and effective social groups. They control 40% of Iraqi wheat, have assetts of $2bn and earn $2.5m/day from the sale of oil from 300 wells. They publish financial reports!

    However, we must, indeed, cultivate our mutual distaste with the great majority of Muslims and support them when they are oppressed.

    In late August 2014, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul-Aziz ibn Abdullah Al ash-Sheikh, condemned the Islamic State and al-Qaeda saying, “Extremist and militant ideas and terrorism which spread decay on Earth, destroying human civilization, are not in any way part of Islam, but are enemy number one of Islam, and Muslims are their first victims”



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  • all innocent life has the same value.

    Entirely so.

    But for all the mangled fuck-ups in our disgraceful colonial, Haliburton, manipulative, exploitative past that doesn’t mean we are let of the hook of doing something when hopefully newly humbled we are faced with millions of Muslims terrorised and subjugated.



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  • Don’t forget the words of Voltaire:

    “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit
    atrocities.”

    There is no such thing as a “moderate” religion, and that goes for ALL Muslims as well as Christians.



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  • UK Quakers and many Sufi-style Muslims are notably less scary and substantialy more moral than most ordinary Republicans in my opinion.

    Broaden your view to include all ideologies and you may gain a convert(!).



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  • phil rimmer
    Nov 16, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    They appear to create very functional and effective social groups. They control 40% of Iraqi wheat, have assetts of $2bn and earn $2.5m/day from the sale of oil from 300 wells. They publish financial reports!

    Which raises the question, “Who is and has been, doing business as usual” with them, funding them, and providing the weapons.



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  • Their protective armour was the suicide belt, their idea of the
    ultimate hiding place was the virtuous after-life, where the police
    cannot go. (The jihadist paradise is turning out to be one of
    humanity’s worst ever ideas; slash and burn in this life, eternal rest
    among kitsch in the next).

    Ian is dazzled by his own rhetoric. The Jihadists are having a whale of a time (while it lasts) as cocks of the walk in their very own Utopia. All the women they want, the spoils of war, the thrills of beheadings and the immense self-importance of total authority.



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  • I don’t think the arms trade has ever shown many scruples. The legitimate arms dealers have the moral qualms of pond life for the most part. The black market arms dealers probably don’t care any more.

    Much of ISIS income is the result of crime. They’ll have all sorts of connections.

    They also undoubtedly have covert support all over the Arabian peninsula and for all sorts of reasons. I was also amazed by the baathist/military organisation connection.



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  • That doesn’t match any definition I’m familiar with.

    Such as: “The rejection of all religious and moral principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless.”

    Do their “end of days beliefs” include any hint of rejection of moral or religious principles and meaninglessness? (Not from what I’ve seen and read, and those are crucial elements of nihilism.) Don’t they believe in an eternal afterlife? (They say they do.)

    My criticism stands. Poor choice of word.



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  • Steven007 Nov 16, 2015 at 10:41 am

    …consequences of Western (and Western valued) invasion and
    intervention…

    Yes, Steve. (It’s the same Dan.) This is certainly a monstrous development but we have to look at our role in all this. Oh wait; I just remembered; we don’t do that.
    And as you know our foreign adventures and interventions and policies, and our imperialism and our support of dictators and of Israel is not motivated by religion. Never has been. It’s about power, profit, and diversion.
    Ian seems a bit smug if you ask me. I am sure he’s a nice guy, but we exceptional Americans (with Britain’s support in many cases) have committed acts of atrocity time and again – here and abroad. The second war with Iraq was the worst war in our history, the most immoral, and the most disastrous in terms of its consequences. The list goes on. Noam Chomsky’s an expert on this, but they don’t let him on TV ( out and out censorship; he’s too “outspoken”) and he isn’t getting any press except for the internet (which is a lot).
    Here. Read this. (What causes bloating, Steve?)
    http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/07/18/planned-chaos-in-the-middle-east-and-beyond/



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  • No, actually the basis is not religion. That’s naive. With all due respect, it is far, far more complex (although I certainly agree that religion is a great scourge and does play a role).

    “They’re not coming out of nowhere. I mean, they are—one of the effects, the main effects, of the U.S. invasion of Iraq—there are many horrible effects, but one of them was to incite sectarian conflicts, that had not been there before. If you take a look at Baghdad before the invasion, Sunni and Shia lived intermingled—same neighborhoods, they intermarried. Sometimes they say that they didn’t even know if their neighbor was a Sunni or a Shia. It was like knowing what Protestant sect your neighbor belongs to. There was pretty close—it wasn’t—I’m not claiming it was—it wasn’t utopia. There were conflicts. But there was no serious conflict, so much so that Iraqis at the time predicted there would never be a conflict. Well, within a couple of years, it had turned into a violent, brutal conflict. You look at Baghdad today, it’s segregated. What’s left of the Sunni communities are isolated. The people can’t talk to their neighbors. There’s war going on all over. The ISIS is murderous and brutal. The same is true of the Shia militias which confront it. And this is now spread all over the region. There’s now a major Sunni-Shia conflict rending the region apart, tearing it to shreds. […]

    “[…] If you—the same if you take a look at those who perpetrated the crimes on Charlie Hebdo. They also have a history of oppression, violence. They come from Algerian background. The horrible French participation in the murderous war in the ’90s in Algeria is their immediate background.”
    – Noam Chomsky (Interview w/ Amy Goodman)



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  • Hi, Roedy, I also have suggested (on this site and out in the world, as it were) that people pay close attention to Chomsky. Unfortunately, most people don’t like to hear the the truth, and what makes it worse is that someone like him will never be invited on MSNBC or CNN (or even PBS). Not sure where you live, but in the US those are popular 24 hour news channels on cable TV.
    Even on this site, it’s all about religion and how we need to get rid of religion. And don’t get me wrong: I am no fan of religion, and I want what Dawkins wants and what everyone else here wants; I know how destructive religion is. But It can be annoying. Religion, religion, religion! So damned simplistic. Funny, Chomsky doesn’t get into that too much, and he is one of the world’s leading public intellectuals and an expert on the history of American foreign policy (as well as the father of American linguistics).



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  • No you miss his perspective. He knows they are deluded. They count life in the here and now as valueless and will throw it away for a delusion. He would love them to wake up and see themselves for what they effectively are. It is a rhetorical gambit.



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  • They are motivated largely by hate, madness, and religion. Religion, yes. But what are the historical facts and antecedents that have helped to create the conditions that make them more susceptible to whatever it is that motivates these monsters?

    They are responsible and need to be stopped, but we (I mean we Americans) have a role to play.

    We can’t do whatever we want without ramifications and with impunity, period. Check out the link that Roedy provided and other talks, lectures, and interviews featuring the world’s foremost expert on the evils of American foreign interventions and the lies associated with them: Chomsky. He can do a far better job than I fleshing that out for you.

    Now I would blame Nazism on Nazism, but I wouldn’t blame even that absolutely entirely on Nazism. Even in that case, there are factors that have to be looked at. What motivated them? Bigotry? That was a large component, but only one. There is never one motivation. (And I do blame ISIS on ISIS but not absolutely entirely.) In order to understand Nazism and in order to prevent a regime like that from forming again, we do need to look at the historical antecedents and the social, economic, and psychological factors that gave rise to it. Same with ISIS. Same with the khmer rouge. We bombed the shit out of Cambodia and created a vacuum there. They are still responsible and yes, we created the conditions. Both are true. Both are true.

    If someone kills someone for religious reasons my assumption would most likely be that that that person is not motivated by religion alone, and if he is, then one must ask oneself how he became so susceptible to that motivation.



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  • So good, we can carry on having a nuanced discussion. Despite your complaints very few here would disagree that many factors play into this. The significance of factors may be in some dispute but McEwan himself talked only of ISIL’s outward manifestation and its abhorent death cult attribute. The R-word was entirely absent. He would agree entirely, I suspect with-

    They are motivated largely by hate, madness, and religion.



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  • Yes, I agree it is very complex, and in a sense, it has become payback time for much of the western world in retaliation of what we have done in Iraq and other places. It is also a problem of education, or the lack thereof (the Catholic Church can recruit in much of Africa because it is backward, uneducated, ignorant, disease ridden and corrupt all breeding grounds for all kinds of violent, reactionary, terrorist groups). Yes, it is more than just religion but religion and belief is a large part of the problem, in addition to problems with the human mind (brain) itself, as Pinker said in his book The Blank Slate that humans are very susceptible to denial and self-delusion.



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  • Yeah, what I am saying is really pretty basic. I am not saying anything profound. And you’re right about McEwan.
    If you want profundity then you’ll have to wait until we resume our discussion about epistemology. Ha.



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  • I think it important to note the difference between say Al Quaeda and ISIS. The former were essentially political and against something (The US and Western cultural, political and military “intrusion”.) The latter are very much FOR something. This is their motivating power, their ability to recruit, their ability to exercise great societal rigour and effectiveness…the unifying power of clear ideologies to think other peoples’ thoughts for them.



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  • All of what has been said on this thread is interesting, and I’ve twice tried to post something myself, but I don’t quite know how or where to start.

    So I’ll just endorse the author’s observation that both victims and perpetrators were the young; the former doing what the young do naturally, enjoying life; being witness to which, so enraged the latter, that it acted as a trigger for their final atrocious crimes.

    But it had been a long process which led them to it, and the responsibility for it lies entirely with Islam; it, must follow the example of the other two monotheistic religions, and put its house in order!

    I would like to go to our Muslim neighbours and express my sympathy with them, but I’m not sure they would take it in the way intended; they might find it patronizing.

    Yesterday, our twenty four year old daughter said that we humans are always creating problems for ourselves; I argue with her about almost everything, but I can’t argue with her about that.



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  • The U.S. has, over the past couple of centuries, attacked, bombed and invaded more countries than you could throw a stick at, no doubt about that. But the overwhelming majority of inhabitants of those countries seem to be able to pick up the pieces and get on with their lives. There are today no Nicaraguan death cults or Panamanian suicide squads trying to kill as many Americans as they can. Something with the IS crowd is different. I leave you to figure out what the missing ingredient is.

    I’m suspicious when ‘intellectuals’ like Chomsky ascribe motives to these individuals. To say Chomsky ‘has an agenda’ is something of an understatement – you may consider it to be a worthwhile agenda but it is an agenda nevertheless. Chomsky’s ‘this is all our fault’ is the left-wing equivalent of George Bush’s ‘they hate our freedom’.

    In fact, if you’re looking for motivation you would do well to read (and re-read) the diatribe they themselves wrote, kindly posted by Phil. IS have given plenty of reasons for their actions. Why not just take them at their word?



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  • all innocent life has the same value.

    All human life, regardless of innocence or guilt, deserves the same protections.

    Otherwise only non-human life would have value, for all animals (and plants, and etc.) are innocent, and we humans are usually guilty of something.



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  • yes, because the Nazis slaughtered the Jews believing they were inferior, non-human, and this kind of thinking and belief can happen again, and in fact is happening



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  • Dan

    From 12:43

    No, actually the basis is not religion. That’s naive. With all due respect, it is far, far more complex (although I certainly agree that religion is a great scourge and does play a role).

    Yes, it’s a big problem that our fellow Americans are so naive. I think that’s too diplomatic at this point. They are mostly ignorant. They think that a bunch of camel jockeys read the Koran and went berserk. The Islamist strategy is very wide reaching, was decades in the implementation and based on horrific historical events that are still vividly alive in the memories of Arabs/Muslims everywhere. Islam is a very convenient rallying point in a huge complicated strategy. Just personally, I don’t think any Muslim, fundamentalist or moderate predicted the devastating sunni/shia division that we see currently. Chomsky is correct that this division was irrelevant in decades past. In fact, there used to be a large Jewish community in North Africa that was socially integrated there. I lived in Algeria for part of the 80’s and it was absolutely secular and very casual.

    Two points that Americans are unaware of are, first, the role of the Israeli apartheid as the number one most devastating recruitment tool of Islamists. Chomsky describes Israel as an offshore American state and he’s right about that. The bombs and military hardware that make life a living hell for the Palestinians has USA written all over it and these ignoramuses ask, “Why do they hate us so much?” Duh! No matter what stripe of Islam these people are part of, there isn’t one of them who doesn’t hold the Palestinians in awe as absolute victims of the predatory West.

    Secondly, the entire Arab/Muslim community, no matter which stripe of Islam they follow, view the Algerians as the revered heroes of their revolution to evict the French from their land. That they have followed the imperialists home and are now commencing with an ass kick retribution is consistent with the old “eye for an eye” Abrahamic idea. Religionists have no ethical problem with that one, right? When I hear that it’s Algerians involved in a terrorist incident I know what the Arab/Muslim community is thinking – No one sticks up for us when in our pathetic situation, but look what the Algerians did for themselves and now they are going to fight for us too! The Palestinians have a supreme respect for the Algerians in general because of this.

    I’ll tell you an anecdotal story that happened a few months ago. I was sitting in a doctors office waiting room with my son and a few other people were waiting there as well. The doctor called my son’s name for him to go in and he did so. I noticed that a 20-something woman was making steady eye contact with me and in two seconds she was standing in front of me. She said, “I heard your son has an Arabic name. Where are you from?” (I’m a Boston WASP but she knew there was a connection to Arabic culture somewhere.) I said that his father is Algerian, where are you from? She said she was Palestinian. At this point she grabbed my hand with both of hers and was struggling not to cry. I think she did cry a little and of course I was substantially upset over the intensity of her reaction for the rest of the day. Poor Layla. That really killed me.

    I know this is, as I said, anecdotal but it is also a perfect illustration, a microcosm of the deep, dark historical foundation of our current situation that I described above. I hate religion and wish it would fade into the dust of time, but even I can’t accept that this is all about religion.



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  • The devil has no sympathy for Pastor Petulance, but will accept him nonetheless.

    EoDM, just checked out some of their music – yes, it is not heavy metal. [ Rock on ]!!



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  • The mad axeman bearing down on my wife and kids is slightly less deserving of protection in my view. Mostly only hell-scared Catholics will commit harms by inaction lest they damage their chances at heaven. The rest of us have no exoneration from choosing the path of lesser evil. Tough, hateful and costly to us, as it always will be, secular saints (I’m sorry for the image) to be and act their virtuous best may sometimes have to do things that give them trouble sleeping at night.

    (Most Catholics will always do the right thing, IMO.)



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  • phil rimmer
    Nov 16, 2015 at 11:45 am

    It is a mistake to paint these atrocities as purely driven by the ugly errors of one time western foreign policy. Would we be here without those errors? Unlikely, but does this mean we should not fight to save decent Muslimhood that outnumber but are horribly threatened by these wretches in places like Syria?

    The problem is that foreign governments not only stood by, but actively undermined moderate and secular Muslim states and groups by supporting their enemies.

    https://www.quora.com/Why-is-Ahmadiya-sect-of-Islam-persecuted-in-Pakistan-and-Arab-Peninsula

    Why is Ahmadiya sect of Islam persecuted in Pakistan and Arab Peninsula?
    Ahamadiya is the only islamic sect that supports separation of religion and state:



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  • @john.wb

    Something with the IS crowd is different

    Climate change is the difference
    in the very broadest sense of that word ‘climate’.

    Climate blowback takes many forms from rising sea levels to desertification. Failing environments lead to failed states, rampant urbanization, smog, traffic deaths, police killings, jihadist massacres … all driven by mindless, irreverent, human violence towards the natural world that gives us life.

    We have to go beyond Bernie Sanders on this.
    The Paris slaughter is just one (small, despite hysteria) symptom of climate change.
    The Pinker “better angels of our nature” may be in evidence as far as war on each other is concerned but not in the war on our living systems which is gathering momentum by the day. We in our affluent, jet-setting Pouilly-Fumé bubble have brought this on ourselves.

    Let’s hope the next big news from Paris (next month) makes this abundantly clear.



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  • Yes, Global Climate Change will change everything, wherein the human species will be staring extinction in the face, religion is worthless, no religion or gods will save us. The news on GCC is getting worse all the time, and the time frame keeps moving up. The human species as a general statement, with some exceptions, is pathetically ignorant about everything. The species either grows up, or millions are going to die. And, forget going to Mars which is literally “pie in the sky”. It is no solution, the only solution is what we do here in earth.



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  • Oh, I disagree aldous; you see, I’ve known them for twenty two years, and their knowing that their neighbours understand the difficult position they’re in might help them to speak out against what’s being done in their name.

    My only problem is deciding how to couch what I say.



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  • Sorry Phil but America are the people that can locate a man in a house in a foreign country. They found a man hiding in a pit underground. They can send missiles through a window and they can’t stop gun runners? If it were just guns that is. Great big missiles and launchers and vehicles. Of course the same goes for Russia. It’s amazing how they can know so much one moment and so little the next, unless………they are hiding something!!



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  • Reformation, stabilisation, growth, technology, unity? Whatever next? Maybe setting their own oil prices and decide who they sell it to? Can’t have that 😉



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  • The West’s crimes and stupidities are manifold. But I suggest it is actually in no one’s favour not to learn prodigiously from this and not albatross ourselves with the guilt. Acknowledge it everday and act more wisely.

    I would suggest the Sunni Muslims in the guise of the Kurds are prodigiously secular, pro-democratic and anti-sexist. I suggest many of the educated Iranian middle classes live entirely within the 21st century and Tunisia’s new constitution is pretty darn good.



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  • Think I have said before about the Kurds Phil. A tale of two stories. Mountain ‘Turks’, as they are know in Turkey have the full sliding scale that anyone else has. Stoning women while cosmopolitan Istanbul gets on with the 21st century.



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  • Whistle blowers in America? Ex soldiers? People who see it with their own eyes? To think that ISIS are running on just religion is a nonsense I am afraid. Why are America supporting SA? The movies don’t even come near to reality. Learned that long ago. Learned even more within the Cyprob. Sorry Phil, can’t help but think gun running can be stopped in the blink of an eye if wanted.



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  • BTW Stafford. I can’t seem to post it here but go to google images and look up “French beheading Muslims”. You’ll find some colourful postcards from 1922.



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  • the difficult position they’re in

    I don’t know about your specific situation, obviously. However, I can’t imagine why you think Muslims are in a ‘difficult position’. If that’s your view, I think you’re mistaken.



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  • Between 1963 and 1967, the Canadian soldiers from the UN saw that the Greeks were slaughtering the Turkish Cypriots and would ask the TCs to look after their guns whilst they played football. The guns would obviously go missing. The Hummers and armoured vehicles ISIS are using are American.



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  • Olgun
    Nov 17, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Sorry Phil, can’t help but think gun running can be stopped in the blink of an eye if wanted.

    Ah! But American citizens and their aspiring colonists, have a “citizens right” to bear arms and carry guns! (Can’t have the US government depriving people of their “rights”!) We hear this all the time – along with assertions of its “benefits”!



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  • Since the 60’s Alan, Turkish Cypriots can’t even get a small van full of hellim or olives out of the country because of embargoes never mind arms.



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  • Shame. Mountain Turks is not my expression BTW. As I said, when it suits. You once posted a partisan statement that actually meant nothing in the grand scheme of things. There are decent people in all warps of life but you cannot no more taint all good or all bad.



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  • ISIS is an expression of Salafist jihadism, with the roots of Salafism going back to the early days of Islam. Salafism takes its name from the Arabic term “salaf” (meaning predecessors or ancestors) referring to the earliest Muslims, who its adherents believe provide the epitome of Islamic practice. Jihadism merely represents the most overtly aggressive manifestation of this ultra-conservative ideology. Salafis are a minority of the muslim population, less than 10%, but disproportionately empowered by the enormous influence and financial clout of Saudi Arabia, a very real case of the tail wagging the dog.



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  • I would also note the total absence of irony. These pure “soldiers” of Allah were drawn from petty criminal low-life (as were many recruits to Hitler’s SS) and fuelled their false courage with the drugs they traded.



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  • When the IRA were letting off bombs in London and other places, they at least had the decency to bugger off first and then maybe phone in a warning, “There’s a bomb at King’s Cross” or whatever. Whether the members of the IRA were Catholics or not, I have no idea, but certainly the IRA, the RCC and Irish nationalism were involved in the thinking. Of course it was a political struggle, disguised with religious clothes. At least the cynical bastards who set off bombs in pubs and stations and other places in the name of Irish nationalism had the good sense to realise there was no effing afterlife, so better get the hell out and then make the warning phone call. These Islamic nutters seem to be in love with their own death as much as the killing of others. However if the fantastic power of the media can convey the scientific view that there is no evidence of an effing afterlife, then perhaps these murderous bastards might think twice before being willing to die so easily whilst massacring others ?

    Of course there might be a few protests from the Christians !



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  • Sorry, Olgun, just a long conversation with my son about his university work. Had to stop.

    No I’m not interested in discussing the bottom end of any society and judging them on it, particularly not an oppressed one. I wasn’t interested before and I’m still not.



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  • Phil

    Patience vibes sent to you Phil. The offspring, the feminists, the mountain Turks…if you could only see the color of the sunset here in Boston right now. Sublime beauty in the middle of complete and utter chaos. Breath…



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  • Thank you, Laurie. That was indeed calming. I think Olgun could probably use a calming vibe or two too.

    I wanted to say quite a lot but realised the conversation would be awkward if I screwed it up which by neglect I cryptically did. I had my regular hour long call with my son this time about the sense of home in Edwardian England, Alan Bennett’s delightful The Lady in the Van, and Thelonius Monk. My Daughter, online, needed me to order her 9 books and I couldn’t get the one on Feminism and Marxism anywhere and she needed me to read her piece on the art market. I have a presentation to give tomorrow at a funding gate review and a bedtime in prospect pushing out beyond 2am. Its pitch black and howling, so the shiraz will have to be my warming red sunset.

    Which now empty glass reminds me I must get to buy Olgun a pint sometime soon….

    Thanks again Laurie…



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  • I agree with you about Israel. In fact I made several comments about that on the new Jacklyn Glenn thread.

    I have a brave and wise mother. she’s a German-Jewish refugee and was on the Jewish boat to Gaza. She just published a book about Israel and its brutal occupation. Read this article:

    The Jerusalem Post leads a campaign against Lillian_____, who is on a lecture tour in Germany.

    According to the Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post, there is a Jewish mortal enemy of Israel currently on a lecture tour in Germany. Lillian _____ is accused of being an “opponent of Israel’s existence” and also accuses her of speaking of Israel’s “ethnic cleansing” against the Palestinians, and that Israel is a “racist” and “apartheid state”. They accuse her also of denying the Holocaust: to the last point she says: “If my father had not recognized the dangers at the beginning of the Nazi era and we had not left Germany for the United States, my family and I would have ended up in an extermination camp.”

    Holocaust denial? The charges against her are inflammatory insinuations. But that Israel “ethnically cleanses,”and is “racist” and apartheid state is, an irrefutable fact. And with such statements, she is not alone. Dozens of Israeli scientists and writers say and write the same things. Articles and books by these authors are found in and outside of Israel. So what’s so special about the statements by Lillian _____ that were picked up by the Jerusalem Post to demonize her? It started at the Israeli embassy in Berlin and spread to the The German Jewish Community living in Germany who are strongly Zionist and defenders of a Jewish only state of Israel. The answer is always the same: In Israel and in Germany one can only speak in positive terms about Israel – only give information and opinions – that is the official doctrine of Israel. One mentions of the rights of Palestinians and one is accused of being an enemy of Jews and of Israel. This is reinforced by the Israel lobby. Those who do not adhere must reckon with merciless punishment. Lillian _____, a Jew, is defamed as “anti-Semite”. The campaign of the Jerusalem Post in Israel sparked a storm of negative comments on the Internet including death threats.

    And of course, the accusation of anti-Semitism is also true for all Arab-Israeli groups and organizations that have invited Lillian to lecture, even the Human Rights Catholic organization Pax Christi is condemned. That campaign leaked after an announcement that Ms. ______would speak in a room of the Municipal Museum in Düren, which is one of the local savings bank converted to a museum. A Jewish Physician reported this in order to exert pressure and cancel the talk. it was said the bank once did business with the “Third Reich.” But spokespeople for the museum and the bank responded cautiously and showed courage to say the event would occur.

    On Sunday evening Ms _____held her talk in Bremen. There was no dispute in the room. Many people arrived to listen with interest and to be awakened to new ideas. And there came a wonderful, very open-minded and warm-hearted lady who did not speak as an anti-Zionist agitator. Her words, “My own personal goal is to stand up for human rights and peace.” In her lecture, she preached no hatred of Israel nor did she call for the destruction of Israel. Her topic was the long and difficult road as a refugee from Nazi Germany to become an activist as a Jew for the end of the occupation and war.

    A secular Jew, she was born in 1935 in Frankfurt and fled with her parents from the Nazis to the USA. She took part in the American civil rights movement in the sixties and in the demonstrations against the Vietnam War. She was active in the women’s movement that followed. Through many visits to Israel and especially through her association with Hans Leberecht, a cousin of her father in Ulm who fled to Palestine, she first learned of the terrible fate and suffering of Palestinians who are not wanted and seen as sub human, in what is to become a Jewish state only. At the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, she heard the names of the 1,600,000 murdered children by the Nazis and wondered for what reason she survived. “Never Again” for Lillian ______ meant no more genocide, universally for all people and an end to man’s inhumanity to man. (In the last Gaza war in 2014 400 children were killed by the Israeli army, hundreds injured and probably traumatized thousands.) Today she says, “The Palestinians are the last victims of the Holocaust.” Alfred Grosser goes further and says: “Those who today wants to overcome Hitler, must support the Palestinians!” Lillian _____ does this by herself.

    In 2010, she tried in vain with other Jews, on the Jewish Boat to Gaza, to break through the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. She remembers how brutally the Israeli soldiers hijacked the small catamaran with 4 elderly Jews as passengers,- in international waters! She described her subsequent treatment in the Israeli port of Ashdod as if she were a terrorist and not a Jewish refugee. In 2012, she managed to come by land to Gaza and was shocked by what she saw and experienced there. She has described it in her book “ […]

    At the end of her talk there was not a call for Israel’s destruction, but the demand: “Israel must end the occupation, because the Palestinians must have justice and “Israel can only be free when the Palestinians are free. “There was no one in the room who did not share the same desire expressed by this wonderful woman.

    9/15 /15



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  • Patience vibes (actually there’s no such thing and we all know that.) to Olgun too! Goes without saying. 🙂 Now if only I could get an invite to that pint situation. hmmm



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  • I start these discussions with something we can all agree on – We are all suffering now all together. Let them take the lead. They will be so happy to find one among us who is willing to listen with compassion.



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  • These Islamic nutters seem to be in love with their own death as much
    as the killing of others.

    They do seem to have cornered the market in suicide warfare for the moment but, even in recent history, patriotism has been a motivation. That would be the case with the Japanese kamikaze pilots, I suppose. The Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka were culturally Hindu but they were trying to set up a Tamil homeland. For the really credulous (male) Muslim, the attraction of the 70 ever-virginal chorus girls will give a boost to the this-worldly cause he is fighting for, I’m sure.



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  • This is what needs to happen for long term world peace, if the US and allies seriously want that:

    1) pick a country that’s a basket case and in need of assistance

    2) take the place over the hard way: boots on the ground, minimal collateral damage

    3) impartially conducted war crime tribunals for the past regime and any future terrorist/insurgents

    4) massive rebuilding of the infrastructure, with particular focus on (secular) schools

    5) show, don’t tell, how we’re the goodies and the terrorists/insurgents are the baddies

    6) sensible exit plan, including a new constitution, (separation of church/state, naturally), and UN-supervised elections for a certain period (say 30 years) until democracy is well established

    7) certain conditions (including hokey elections) to automatically trigger re-intervention that all parties commit to

    8) rinse and repeat

    I know there’s a lot of political problems, mainly over agreeing which countries should be targeted, the risks of boots on the ground to domestic opinion, finding the money to rebuild another country’s infrastructure.

    Oh, and what kind of constitution/government?

    Democracy obviously, but not a capitalist/fascist/kleptocracy such as the US has usually favoured in the past.

    That’s self-defeating: inequality will rise, the democracy will become pro forma, and the seeds will be sown for a populist movement, religious or otherwise, and then we’re back to square one.

    The vast majority of the people have to be happy with the new regime or it isn’t going to last.

    Now look at the US/West’s current approach and how it differs (and why someone might have a problem with it):

    1) pick a country where we have an agenda for intervention (profit, revenge), but pretend otherwise – no one will know

    2) take the place over by razing it first: token presence on the ground, maximum collateral damage

    3) can’t do war crime tribunals, or someone might nominate one of our guys

    4) little or no rebuilding of infrastructure, not even what we blew up ourselves

    5) lot’s of telling how great and munificent we are, but actions speak louder than words

    6) exit plan? what exit plan?

    7) once out, it’s not our problem any more, even when there’s blowback such as Paris

    8) rinse and repeat



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  • We should take them at their word. Why shouldn’t we? That wasn’t a love letter that Phil posted.
    It’s easy to be suspicious of people you don’t read or listen to. That is called contempt prior to investigation. Very religious thing to do.
    And why do you put the word intellectual in quotes, suspicious man? I am a little suspicious of that.
    Chomsky knows that ISIS is evil and sick and that they need to be brought to justice; it’s a monstrous development, as he said.
    And Chomsky isn’t perfect; but he is not driven by any agenda, in my view. That is a terrible thing to say.
    As for “attributing motives”; everyone has a motive. What’s wrong with attributing people with them?
    The “left-wing equivalent”: another suspicious remark. A false parallel. False symmetry. Inaccurate. Biased, I would say.
    Just my point of view, John. Listen to Chomsky. He’s all over YouTube. He gets criticism from audience members all the time; they say what you just said, and he puts them in their place, as it were, exposes the empty, judgmental, hostile, unfounded nature of the accusations leveled against him.
    (I mean no disrespect at all. I assure you of that; I just disagree strongly. This is and should be a lively forum. Vehement disagreement is encouraged.)



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  • P.S. Corrected sentence:
    As for “attributing motives”; everyone has motives for doing things, so what’s wrong with attributing motives per se?
    Also, to say that “it’s all our fault” is absurd and creates a straw man argument. But it’s equally absurd and far more dangerous to de-contextualize.



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  • Excellent, excellent, and this is what was done at the end of World war II, in Germany and Japan and the Marshall Plan which rebuilt Europe, should be done again, Germany and Japan were “sick”, as is much of Africa and the Mid-East now, backward, ignorant, uneducated, disease ridden, corrupt, discriminatory towards women, child slavery, and “raped by religion”.



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  • 102
    wilke appeldorn says:

    Raisins it is amistake in translation the verse refers not to virgins but raisins. It is kind of funny if you know that those suicide bombers protect their genitals in order to be able to use them in paradise. If you take this a little further you must get to the conclusion that only their genitals and heads will get there intact while the rest has been blown to smithereens



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  • I might be wrong, but as far as the Kamikaze pilots were concerned, I believe they were forced into that situation by their superiors. The pressure to be a volunteer. The honour of the homeland and all that crap. If the likes of ISIS think they can take on and defeat the state powers of somewhere like France or Britain or the USA, then they are truly deluded, but yes they can cause a lot of damage and grief in the process.



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