Thursday, January 31, 2002

Morten Strand in Dagbladet lives in an alternate universe where, despite certain similarities to our own, the laws of global politics are turned on the head. His universe too had some kind of war in Afghanistan, and Earth is populated by humanoids with two feet, two hands and one head, but here all likeness ends. In his world Norway, a Scandinavian super power soon to take over the prestigious UN Security Council, continues to ignite the flame of democracy all over the world, through the steady hand of its skilled diplomatic corps. But a rogue nation in Northern America threatens our peaceful reign. Apparently some foreigners destroyed some building they liked, and now they're lashing out in all directions:

Fierce Bush Puts Norway in a Jam (link in Norwegian, translated for your convenience, lack of focus preserved from the original).

In March, Norway takes over as head of the UN Security Council. If Bush bombs Iraq, it will be Norway's job to administrate what will be a global chaos of diplomacy. In his State of the Union address last night, President Bush made it clear that his entire political prestige rests on winning the war on terrorism.

The American president plays the worlds policeman when he says that terrorist evil will be rooted out, promising American military action wherever potential terrorists may try to hide. The problem is that American attacks outside Afghanistan will threaten the fragile anti-terror alliance US Foreign Minister Colin Powell built up before the war, which includes important Arab nations like Saudi-Arabia and Egypt. In it too is the home of Taliban, Pakistan. So is Russia. With an American attack on Iraq or Sudan or Somalia, this coalition will likely crack.

Oh my God! That sounds dreadful. But wait, there's worse. An extended war on terrorism will not only affect millions of people all over the world, placing important coalitions and unstable governments at risk, it will also make things really, really difficult for Norway. I haven't quite figured out our part in this yet, so I'll let Strand explain:

In Arab-Muslim countries, such an attack will meet strong opposition. Russia too will have problems swallowing an attack, and in for instance NATO, France will have big objections, says former chief of defense Fredrik Bull-Hansen to Dagbladet. If this should happen while Norway heads the UN Security Council, as we do from March, Bull-Hansen says: It will be very difficult, even though the position is primarily administrative.

That sounds difficult indeed. Good thing all that great responsibility is placed our hands, though, and not in those of some minor European social democracy with illusions of importance. We'll find a straight path out of the - dare I say it - quagmire, like we did in the Middle East.

In the Department of Foreign Affairs in Oslo, the Atlantic spinal reflex is strong, and Foreign Minister Jan Petersen has done nothing to soften it. This is hardly the best starting point for collecting the threads after the gunsmoke of American bombs has cleared. According to diplomatic sources, it will obviously be a very unpleasant task for Norway to head the Security Council if the war on terrorism is expanded.

Good point! With world attention focused on soldiers and civilians dying in strange countries we haven't even heard of, it's good to know that same haven't forgotten who makes the real sacrifices here: Norwegian diplomats. "Why, can you imagine the nasty stares I receive at UN coctail parties? The Saudi ambassador wouldn't even pretend to laugh at my jokes, and when I brought up the subject of human rights to the under assistant secretary from the Chinese delegation, he passed out on the floor and gurgled vomit!" Some serious sucking up to medieval Arab regimes is clearly needed.

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Norwegian academic Thomas Hylland Eriksen is not an idiot, or I wouldn't spend a post this long refuting him, but as September 11th keeps exposing unexpected depth and shallowness in people we thought we knew, it has now come for Hylland Eriksen, and weighed him light as a feather. This article in Aftenposten lists 7 arguments against the war in Afghanistan. (It's in Norwegian, but you'll find similar thoughts on his website, where he presents a new book, Behind the Enemy Image - Islam and the World after 11 September.) If Hylland Eriksen had been reading war blogs, he would have found most of these arguments torn to shreds months ago, (when they still mattered), and he would have been spared the disgrace of signing the reassembled pieces of some Octoberish Guardian column.

1. The guilty haven't been punished. Some of them have or will be, and the rest have been chased from their training camps. Once they planned ingenius ways to tear apart human flesh, now they must worry about keeping their kidneys working, and finding another place to hide, in the tent of some brave fool who hasn't been scared witless by the American willingness and ability to blow up people who hide terrorists.

2. All the Taliban ever did was oppress their own population. To punish them for the crimes of al-Qaeda isn't fair. First, the only road to al-Qaeda lay through fighting the Taliban. Second, if all this war had succeeded in were to oust a brutal tyranny, at the cost of an unknown number of civilians and a few American soldiers, it would still be just. We should not too freely sacrifice the lives of others for their own good, but is it better to sacrifice their freedom? I know which matters most to me. If it had been my country, I would have thanked the rescuers afterwards. Come to think of it, it was my country, some half a century ago. Life under Quisling and Terboven was a lot better than life under the Taliban, from what I hear, but freedom was worth dying for then, and will be worth it again, again, and again.

3. The Northern Alliance aren't boy scouts. Noone said they were, but anarchy is better than tyranny, and Afghans have the same ability to learn from their past as the rest of us. Now, at least, there is hope. Perhaps Eriksen really believes that life and safety is more important than hope and freedom, but this is not self-evident, and he shouldn't pretend that it is.

4. The American bombing of Afghanistan has, by many people, been considered terrorism. It has, when you look at it, most of the ingredients of terrorism: Frustration (over not hitting the target), sudden and murderous violence against innocent civilians, and justification with clear Orwellian features: War is Peace (1984), and All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

I noticed something odd when I begun this weblog: There are two kinds of Orwell-quoters, those who quote his fiction, and those who quote his non-fiction. When fiction-quoters find themselves in a debate way over their heads, they drag out their handy little Orwell toolbox, and throw out some ominous buzzword (Orwellian! Big Brother! Doublethink!), and then leave, considering the debate won. To them, Orwell is an excuse not to think, because any complex issue can be reduced to some 1984 or Animal Farm analogy. To non-fiction quoters, Orwell is a painful reminder never to stop thinking. You can read 1984 and emerge as much a blathering fool as you ever were, but read his essay on language, and it'll haunt you, forever poking at your self-importance and lazyness, as it has mine.

1984 is a brilliant book, and I'm sad to find yet another example that confirms my theory: It is always quoted foolishly.

5. Tribunals are undemocratic and bad news for everyone who isn't American. Perhaps. I have no strong opinions about how terrorists should be tried, as long as the guilty go punished, and the innocent free. The various new anti-terrorism laws will perhaps not be abused today, with the whole world keeping track of every 21st century convenience not found in Guantanamo, but they may be abused tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, and we should all keep our eyes open.

6. Terrorism may have the support of states, (such as Taliban Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and others), but is itself not national, but network-based and transnational. There is no finite number of terrorists in the world, in which case one could simply get rid of them. Put differently: In the Lord of the Rings, it is said that the evil Sauron can not be defeated, even by an enormous army - so how would a small hobbit manage to do it? The answer is that it is precisely a small hobbit that gets the task. Here lies the trump card of terrorism, and we can therefore not fight it with conventional military means.

Hate to go deep into fanboy territory here, [*] but the analogy does not say what Hylland Eriksen thinks it says. Frodo could enter Mordor because Sauron was careless. If the Dark Lord had paid more attention to homeland defense, so to speak, of Mount Doom in particular, the quest would have failed. Besides, the One Ring is such a ridiculous plot device, if Tolkien hadn't told us all about it from the start, it would have been worthy of a really bad Star Trek episode. ("Captain, we're surrounded by a gigantic cube of Borgs, but if I adjust the transporter to account for subspace fluctuations I think we can beam this magical ring I found into the reactor core of the mothership. It's a long shot, but it may just work.")

The West does not have a single breaking point, a magical ring that holds all our power. Bin Laden thinks we do, that's why he destroyed something that looked a bit like it, but he was wrong. Might as well try to blow up or censor the internet. He found a weakness once, but a couple of ordinary people with cell phones quickly made it irrelevant. Now that's network effect for you, Eriksen.

([*] That's a lie. I love going deep into fanboy territory, I just feel obligated to pretend I don't. And while I'm in this handy parenthesis, let me use it to highly recommend this unabridged 60 hour or so audio book version of the Lord of the Rings. Now that I hear him, I really do pity Gollum.)

7. The number of potential terrorists is proportional to the anger and frustration felt by young men (and women), rightly or not. It has not diminished, now that the US once again confirms a view common in large parts of the world, that it has a tendency to behave as if it owns the world, and like an elephant in a porcelain shop. The list could well be supplemented with views of US oil policy, regional stability in Central and South America, immigration and discrimination, privacy and surveillance in the West.

This ties into what appears to be a theme in his new book, that terrorism springs from lack of respect. If so, it is the lack of respect felt by any culture overrun by another, and has less to do with the moral fibre of the imperialist than with the inferiority/superiority complex of the victim. "We are the proud bearers of the flame of Civilization, who the hell do these foreigners think they are, feeding us this, mm, delicious crap?!" It is old news.

No matter how hard it may be to see your children abandon ancient wisdom for the cheap toys of foreign infidels, it does not justify retribution. Hylland Eriksen doesn't attempt to, but seems to believe that because retribution is inevitable, it is unstoppable, and it's a waste of time to even try. Cultural imperialists are not always hated because of their evil, and it would be a shame to give tyrants and madmen the right to veto American culture and politics, most of which I'm sure Hylland Eriksen and most Europeans find agreable.

In a final gem that proves Hylland Eriksen must have been exposed to an extremely narrow selection of media for the last four months, he asks: Let me turn the burden of evidence on its head: When did we last see a good line of argument in support of the bombing of Afghanistan?

Regular readers will apologize that I reply with utter and complete seriousness. How about this: A madman killed 3000 humans for some (to everyone else) unimportant reason, and was clearly able and willing to do it again. He was protected by a government that for years had tyrannised their own people, and banned everything that makes life worth living. The war ended the tyranny, may have killed the madman, and certainly made his strange little war quite a lot more difficult. Therefore, the first phase of the war on terrorism was good. Hylland Eriksen will kindly explain to me which part of this argument he finds illogical.

Sunday, January 27, 2002

Gotta love this: Guantanamo prisoners guarded by women, (via Rantburg.)

"In their culture they get to tell their females what to do," said Pfc. Courtney Sletter, 21, from Waconia, Minn. "Well, they are now in a new culture, and I get to tell them what to do."

60 Minutes: Hamas are building six-mile range missiles, says Moussa Abu Marzook, who also claims to have a majority of the Palestinian people behind him. That's what he'd like everyone to think, of course, but as long as the majority isn't against Hamas it doesn't matter if it's true. The fanatics write the agenda, and are destroying the hope of independence one bomb at a time.

(Now they're sending women too. Islamic terrorism - an equal opportunity suicide machine.)

Saturday, January 26, 2002

A Kurdish immigrant in Sweden killed his 26 year old daughter Fadime earlier this week, for the crime of having had a Swedish boyfriend. She had lived in fear of her life for years, and on a visit to her sister her father showed up with a gun and shot her in the head.

The case has filled Scandinavian media all week. It is not common for immigrant girls to be executed by their family - the man was clearly deluded - but for every Fadime who die there's many who live in fear, and for every girl who stands up to her family there's many more who don't, and are sent back to the fatherland for marriage, by threat, force - or of free will. The murder has alerted Scandinavians to the unpleasant fact that racism and oppression of women, uncommon elsewhere, is still a large problem in certain immigrant communities.

Paradoxically, it is fear of racism that has prevented our media from examining this problem thoroughly. Anti-racist organizations who think Norwegians are incapable of holding two thoughts in the head at the same time, are guilty of equating criticims of immigrants with racism. Not directly, but through a slippery slope argument: "Of course forced marriages are evil, but there's an inner racist in all of you just waiting to be fed, so be careful." On the contrary, hushing the various cultural conflicts caused by immigration only helps the real racists, who are left the only seemingly sane voices pointing out what everyone can see with their own eyes, adding their own paranoia and ideals of purity.

There have been notable exceptions. When TV2's Rikets Tilstand (State of the Nation) asked several African Imams of their view on female circumcision, they all claimed to oppose it. But when a 20 year old Somalian girl went to the same leaders for councel on whether to let her parents have her circumcised, they all urged her to comply, not aware of a secret camera exposing them on national television. The following scandal was important, not because blacks and Muslims are evil or dangerous, as racists believe, but because female circumcision is, and must be exposed and stopped. Similarly, the current scandal in Sweden is important because oppression of women is evil, and must be exposed and stopped, wherever it may be found.

The larger issue of immigration is not completely separate from the darker side of immigrant culture, but criticism of immigrants does not equal support of strict immigrant laws, (and support of strict immigrant laws does not equal racism.) My view is that when you bring two different cultures together, there will be conflict. Many immigrants have views and traditions that are incompatible with tolerant secularism, and, at least for a while, many Norwegians were ignorantly prejudiced against anyone with darker skin. Most of us have learned better, and after a generation or two so does most immigrants. There's conflict, but as long as it's temporary I think both parties benefit.

I support lenient immigrant laws, under two conditions: That the economy is able to absorb it, and that education in language, law and local culture is mandatory. Right now only refugees are allowed in, while companies are prevented from importing desperately needed labor. That doesn't make sense - we see immigration as a burden, only acceptable when our conscience commands it, and not a source of economic growth. In a sense immigrants are a burden, unemployment is very high in some communities, but that is a failure of our socialism, which discourages business, but encourages unemployment. If it were the other way around, I would welcome anyone who wants to live and work here - there's plenty of room.

But for that to work, for immigration on any scale to work, we must be honest and expose their criminals and cultural flaws, as eagerly as we expose our own. If polite multiculturalism encourages immigrants to see women as second-class citizens, what does that say about our own devotion to equal rights? Our culture is not superior in every way, but in this area it is, and we shouldn't hesitate to point it out. The racists and anti-racists can keep their dirty game to themselves.

Hold on to your funny hat, Matt: Woe! Censorship! Dissent squashed!

Friday, January 25, 2002

Moira Breen examines Bucailleism, the Islamic equivalent to Creationism.

What struck me in the returned articles I perused was the similarity of style between these and "creation-science" writing - the same selective quotations, the same scientific misunderstanding, the same torturing of innocent facts into unnatural relationships with one another, to force them to fit pre-existng categories, the same fondness for straw-men, the same fulsome praise for the highly distinguished scientific credentials of the esteemed author.

(Update: That reminds me, I wrote a defense of Creationism a few years ago. Unlike my defense of pacifism this was a parody, but rather than funny, it came out creepily persuasive.)

Neill Lochery, National Post: Hamas can't govern, and need Arafat as much as he needs them.

Once again, the West has got it wrong. The apparent arrest last week of the leader of the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmed Saadat, by Yasser Arafat does not increase the threat of a Palestinian civil war involving the radical Palestinian groups and the Palestinian Authority. On the contrary, there are clear signs the leaderships of Hamas, and other radical Palestinian groups, are shifting toward making a deal with Mr. Arafat to form an embryonic united Palestinian Defence Force.

Thursday, January 24, 2002

More evil tribunals: The Iranian Parliament, no doubt preparing its own war on terrorism, has approved, unanimously, a bill creating a special tribunal for Israeli war criminals, Ariel Sharon at top of the list. "If a tribunal is set up in Teheran", says Ali Akbar Mohtashami-Pur, "hundreds of people will come from around the world to file complaints against the Zionist regime". Now all they have to do is fight their way through the most powerful army in the Middle East and arrest the evil-doers.

Meanwhile, the US accuses Iran of sabotaging the new Afghan government, out of fear of a pro-Western democracy in their own backyard.

Hold on to your funny hats: Norman Solomon channels the ghost of Mark Twain, who has come all the way from beyond to lament the lack of predictable leftist academics on television.

Natalie Solent worries about those strange Norwegian characters in my name, so in the spirit of multiculturalism, and because after four months there's still just a handful of bloggers who have gotten it right, I'll unveil the HTML mystery. Here's how: æ => æ, ø => ø, and å => å. Now go and do unto others as I have done unto you. You won't need the last one for my name, but you never know when the need arises to link to some Håkon or Bård or Harald Hardråde. If you ever come here as a tourist, it's even more important to get those cultural details right. Most of our cities are safe for foreigners, but in the lesser developed areas of Norway the wrong words from the mouth of an unwitting tourist may result in a hand-made knife between the ribs! Why, only last summer, a busfull of -- but wait, I'm not supposed to talk about that, it's bad for tourism. Just remember: Lutefisk is good. Do not refuse lutefisk.

Challenging mine and Fredrik's libertarian-hawkish stranglehold on the Norwegian political blog scene, enter from the far left Magnus Bernhardsen - incidentally one of the counter-protesters at Walk For Capitalism 2001.

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Syria has valuable expertise to offer in the war on terrorism, having fought the same war for decades, says President Bashar Al-Assad to the US. That's right, fire those Pentagon doves and leave the whole campaign to our friends the Syrians. Instead of at least trying to spare civilian lives in Kabul, they would have just levelled the whole place to the ground, and been done with it, like they did to Hamat. (Thanks to Geoffrey Meltzner - no, not the massacre, the link.)

February 2nd will mark the 20th anniversary of the massacre that victimized the city of Hamat. Select Syrian Army units... under the command of General 'Ali Haydar, besieged the city for 27 days, bombarding it with heavy artillery and tank fire, before invading it and killing 30,000 or 40,000 of the city's citizens... in addition to the 15,000 missing who have not been found to this day, and the 100,000 expelled.

Suman Palit of the Kolkata Libertarian heralds comics as the new subversive weapon against Islamofascists.

In all fairness, I have to attribute a large part of my fascination with America as a boy growing up in Calcutta, to my frequent, uncensored, underground exposure to comics. We would bring comics to school under the constant threat of confistication. Packs of boys huddled over one dog-eared comic outside school grounds was a common sight. There was Superman, the Justice League, and of course, the sappy soap opera of Archie and the Gang. I learnt from the Riverdale punks it was ok for girls to go around in tight T-shirts and kiss boys on park benches. Batgirl and Wonderwoman convinced my 10-year old mind that large-breasted, muscular women in tights fighting shoulder to shoulder with men was a perfectly natural phenomenon..

The Robert's Kaplan and Wright have an ongoing e-mail debate at Slate on the prescience of Bush, and future aspects of the War on Terrorism, (via Lake Effect.)

"The post-Arafat era could usher in "Rajoubistan" and "Dahlanistan:" warlordships in the West Bank and Gaza respectively, controlled by Jibril Rajoub and Mohammed Dahlan. Notables such as Hannan Ashrawi have no power bases of their own, and their job will be, as before, merely to perform for CNN. Rajoubistan will rely on King Abdullah of Jordan, and Dahlanistan on Mubarak's Egypt. Thus, a variation of the pre-1967 reality might take hold. That would be the optimistic scenario: Hobbesian warlordships with which the Israeli security services can make deals and thus manage a cessation of hostilities."

"I covered the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and will never forget the bloodless bodies, the victims of Iraqi poison gas, in the Howeizah marshes. Repression in Iraq has no comparison elsewhere in the Middle East. Removing Saddam will provide more strategic benefits than removing Milosevic (whose removal was, of course, in our self interest)."

Sunday, January 20, 2002

This is what I'm talking about below: Professor of Islamic history at Harvard University, Roy P. Mottahedeh, plans to draft an Islamic indictment, showing that the actions of Osama bin Laden are in violation of Sharia. This will, says fellow professor Anne-Marie Slaughter, help demonstrate to non-Muslims that Islam has nothing to do with terrorism.

The first charge in the indictment, he said, would be that bin Laden and his associates violated a prohibition against deliberately harming innocent civilians. This is based on Verse 190 of the second chapter of the Koran � "Fight in the path of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits" � and on various sayings of the prophet Muhammad, including: "Whenever the Apostle of God sent forth a detachment, he said to it: 'Do not cheat or commit treachery, nor should you mutilate or kill children, women or old men.'�"

I have no doubt many Islamic scholars will agree. The only catch: Mottaheded himself is not a Muslim.

Asma Barlas of Ithaca College warns against selectively quoting the Koran to make it sound like it condones terrorism.

As Robin Wright says, "mining the Quran for incendiary quotes is essentially pointless. Religions evolve, and there is usually enough ambiguity in their founding scriptures to let them evolve in any direction. If Osama Bin Laden were a Christian, and he still wanted to destroy the World Trade Center, he would cite Jesus' rampage against the money - changers. If he didn't want to destroy the World Trade Center, he could stress the Sermon on the Mount." Even if one doesn't agree with this view, the point is that every religion - or secular ideology, for that matter - offers the possibility of violence and peace, oppression and liberation, depending on who is interpreting it, how, and in what particular contexts.

One should be wary of outsiders selectively quoting to make a point about the true nature of a religion (or ideology). I haven't read the Koran, but I have read most of the Bible, (though it's been a few years), and I recognize this being done by non-Christians all the time. Whether it's anti-Christians digging up obscure passages to prove that Christianity is evil, or tolerant progressives who would very much like to believe that a God they don't believe in is as tolerant and progressive as themselves, what passages actual Christians use to guide their lives with is ignored. To understand a religion, it is important to know what its holy book says, but more important to know how believers interpret it. Only on that basis should outsiders judge. I might think a particular Christian tradition is better than another, but unless I start believing in it myself, I am not qualified to call it Real Christianity.

In a way, that's the point Barlas tries to make, but she mistakes the nature of the ray of curiosity aimed at Islam after September 11th. Not many, I think, criticize the Koran for endorcing terrorism - that would require extensive knowledge few non-Muslims have. Instead, I for one criticize Muslim terrorists for committing evil, Muslim extremists for encouraging it, and Muslim moderates for unwillingness to confront it. That is a crucial difference, and while the actual text of the Koran is important, it is not all-important. If the holy book of Islam was the Bible, and the situation otherwise the same, it would not change a thing. Evil is evil, ignorance is ignorance, no matter how you justify it.

And that brings me to my second point: The holy books could be exchanged, and the situation would be the same, Barlas claims (or at least does not outright disagree with): If bin Laden was a Christian, he would find it equally easy to justify his terrorism in the Bible, and would be equally willing to. I find that an odd theory. Non-believers should not go about claiming one religious interpretation as Truer than others, but it is possible, based on reading holy books and history, to claim that for a particular holy book, under particular circumstances, such-and-such interpretation is more likely to occur than others. Words have meaning, and if the followers of the Koran were traditionally prone to violence, and the followers of the Bible not, it might well be words that caused the difference. It is not true, of course, that Muslims are violent and Christians peaceful, but it is certainly not true that their holy books say the same thing, or make no difference at all.

What difference they do make, I don't know. I've only just begun looking at it, and I won't accept the easy conclusion that the Koran is to blame for all that has gone wrong with the Muslim world, (ie. terrorism, economic and technological backwardness, tyranny.) One observation, though, or perhaps more a question: Does the Koran and the Sunna lend themselves more easily to those who will mix religion and politics than the New Testament, the Old Testament, the Talmud? And why is the Pope no longer a political leader?

I've tried to dig up some details, but three sentences at Jerusalem Post are all I've found on this potentially interesting development, which means it's either unreliable, overlooked, or no surprise to anyone but me:

There is no escaping the fact that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat must be expelled from the country, Finance Minister Silvan Shalom said today. He said the government will decide to do just that within a few months. Shalom said after that happens, Israel will need to find Palestinian representatives with whom it will be possible to negotiate, Israel Radio reported.

Cold fact dept.: A 1994 article on Qatars dual legal system, with Sharia and secular-based courts working side by side.

Stephan Richter of The Globalist takes a look at repressive and liberal Muslim countries, and concludes that it's hard to make economic progress when you've got half your population locked up at home. A rather obvious point, but often forgotten, it seems, by those who either oppose womens liberation or think capitalism is incompatible with it.

In the Middle East and North Africa, the female portion of the labor force is just 27.3%. Among Islamic countries, the variation is a surprisingly close indicator of the engagement of individual countries with the non- Islamic world. For example, Egypt (with 30.1% of its labor force female), Tunisia (31.4%) and Morocco (34.7%) are known as the most worldly and westernized countries in the region. Meanwhile, the Persian Gulf countries have the lowest female labor force shares in the world. The United Arab Emirates (14.5%), Saudi Arabia (15.5%) and Oman (16.1%) effectively have just one woman working for every six or seven men.

Middle East Insight interviews the $10 million check man, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin AbdulAziz Alsaud of Saudi Arabia, who warns that American media are not to be trusted.

Saudi Arabia has gone through this with America and the U.S. media before. First, they call us too conservative. Next, they jump on our educational system. Then, we are called extremists. And so forth. The American-Saudi relationship has withstood many challenges in the past. What President Bush is saying, what he has expressed in his telephone calls with Prince Abdullah, and what Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said when he visited here, is completely contrary to what some in the U.S. media are saying. I am not worried about this at all. I hope that the media becomes more reasonable again soon, and uses more responsible language, rather than just hurling sticks and stones at us and trying to provoke a rift.

Alwaleed is the sixth richest man in the world, and among other internet and media investments has $2 billion at stake in AOL Time Warner. I'm not quite sure where to place him. The claim that Wahhabism has no problem with modernity is a lie, and I don't give much for his so-called status as outspoken, but neither does he seem the type to throw his money away on religious extremists. More likely he is a very intelligent investor who has as little interest in religious idealism as in secular, and will never do anything serious that could threaten his social status, or his source of income. Mixing the WTC Fund check with the Palestinian conflict would then be a failed attempt to please opinion both at home and abroad.

Moderate Arabs are disappointed in George W. Bush, citing his ignorance and obedience to the Jewish lobby, reports Lachlan Carmichael of Agence France-Presse. Moderates quoted include Mohamed Sid Ahmed of Al-Ahram, Hosni Mobarak, and Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. (Moderate religious scholar Mullah Mohammed Omar could not be reached for comment.)

Friday, January 18, 2002

There are many witty anti-idiotarians, but only Will Warren can do it on rhyme. Sing along now:

Heather Mallick, Heather Mallick,
Do you have a hole cephalic?
Is your cranium still clicking?
Have your brain cells ceased their ticking?
Are your neurons all a-twisty?
Is your vision foggy, misty?
Is your mind becoming cloudy
From your efforts to be Dowd-y?

Mohammad Wakil's fourth article at Tehelka on the Beast Within. As long as Muslims like Wakil have a voice, there is hope for Pakistan. Not only because he looks to the Western secular state as an ideal, but because he acknowledges that the key to improvement is to confront your weaknesses, not blame them on others. Comparing how Muslims and Christians deal with their own extremists, he writes:

We do not call American anti-abortionists who bomb doctors' clinics "Christian terrorists", because churches of all denominations, regardless of their sectarian leanings, categorically denounce such acts as un-Christian "terrorist" acts. Their leaders passionately declare from pulpits that there is no place for condoning such acts in their religious temples, in their religious law, or in their religious texts. All this, even if they agree that abortion is wrong or downright sinful. Moreover, Western law agencies spare no effort in bringing anti-abortionists out of the shadows, to face justice, like any common criminal.


The world is relieved to know that 99.9 per cent of our billion plus Muslims are not terrorists. However, this relief is swiftly displaced by the fact that today, over 90 per cent of the world's terrorists are Muslims. These ignorant, misguided Muslims justify their terrorism as "jehad". And we, the moderate, secular and educated Muslim elite have, for decades, bought into their argument to pacify their wrath against us. We have been anxious to divert their wrath elsewhere, into neighbouring countries, away from our self-comforting selves. In doing that, we patronised their terrorism.

I sleep at ease knowing that Syria is now a member of the UN Security Council. Its first of many valuable contributions to come, is the observation that the "scene of tens of Palestinian houses which were demolished by Israeli tanks in the Rafah camps a few days ago is not much different from the scene of the World Trade Center which was destroyed by the terrorists." That shows some real perspective and respect for human lives.

I won't defend destruction of civilian buildings as revenge for terrorism, though. Official buildings of the state that backs it is one thing, homes another. In the case of Rafah, the IDF says the houses were deserted, and anonymous officers disagree.

I lied. My navel's good for at least four more sentences, and I've already used up two so I'd better get to the point: Tim Cavanaugh seems to think I should be writing about Norwegian politicians who happen to be gay, and when he explains to me what this has to do with the war on terrorism, I'll do it. Less of a surprise, the OJR-derogatory part of my quote on how I got started was left out, and with that I leave the arena to Ken Layne.

Another terrorist stopped by civilians - but not before he could kill 6 and wound 30 guests at a bat mitzva:

Hasson said he hit the attacker in the face with the chair while other people threw bottles at him. Others dove under tables. Some people shouted in fright. After Hasson hit the attacker, the man's gun jammed. "His gun just stopped shooting," said Hasson, who was standing outside the banquet hall wearing a sweat shirt and carrying a bag of the clothes he wore during the attack, which were soaked with the gunman's blood. Eliahu Iskov said he saw the attacker on the floor, apparently unconscious from the beating, and grabbed him by the foot to drag his body outside of the banquet hall. "I thought that he had explosives strapped to his body and would explode," Iskov said. "I thought if he exploded it would be best if he exploded outside."

"I thought if he exploded it would be best if he exploded outside." Is that courage or what?

Thursday, January 17, 2002

Saudi-bashing of the day: The inmates are in charge of the asylum! The headline is only one of many misapplied metaphors in this article. What the writer for Arab News means is that Saudi culture is misunderstood, and those who criticize it are the proverbial "inmates" of some proverbial asylum. See, it's all about showing respect for the medieval customs of other cultures:

Colbert King, a usually sympathetic columnist who writes for the Washington Post, wrote one of those I-am-hot-under-the-collar pieces recently about how women, and American women in particular, are discriminated against in Saudi Arabia when they � hold on to your funny hats � patronize establishments such as Pizza Hut, Starbucks and McDonald�s by being �relegated� to sections in these establishments �reserved only for women.� He called it, a la South Africa of the old days, �gender apartheid.� Oh, puleeez, Colbert, you can find better things to get hot under the collar about, can�t you? How about, for example, the increasingly humiliating practice of racial profiling inflicted on minorities, including the one that you belong to?

Ha ha, that is so funny, I'm losing my funny hat! Here's from the not-so-funny-at-all Colbert King column he refers to:

One of the (still) untold stories, however, is the cooperation of U.S. and other Western companies in enforcing sexual apartheid in Saudi Arabia. McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, and other U.S. firms, for instance, maintain strictly segregated eating zones in their restaurants. The men's sections are typically lavish, comfortable and up to Western standards, whereas the women's or families' sections are often run-down, neglected and, in the case of Starbucks, have no seats. Worse, these firms will bar entrance to Western women who show up without their husbands.

Oh, btw, I checked: "Hold on to your funny hats" is not an expression, (and if it is it shouldn't be.) It has previously been used only once on the entire world wide web.

The end is near. The United States is sliding toward the abyss, because of their excessive use of violence, says renown Middle East expert and anti-globalist Saddam Hussein. Well, somebody's sliding somewhere. I won't speculate on whether Iraq is next, but while we're waiting, here's the American case against him.

Enough with the navel-gazing. (I've got a pretty navel, but I try not to overdo the staring in public.) Back to Palestine, where every martyr has a brigade of his own. The Martyr Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades are pretty angry with the PA after the arrest of their leader, Ahmad Saadat, accused of ordering the assasination of Rehavam Zeevi. The Israelis aren't too pleased either, calling it a fake arrest, intended to impress visiting US congress men. Seems pretty real to his followers, but there's only one way to gurantee that he remains arrested, and that is to turn him over. There's nothing Arafat can do to convince me he's got his heart in it, though.

Historical note: Abu Ali Mustafa is a recent martyr, leader of the Popular Front [insert joke] for the Liberation of Palestine, assasinated in August 2001. Zeevi was killed as revenge.

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

As I said, trolling is universal, and this is the web variant, known as trolling for hits. (I even got e-mail notification.) Justin Raimondo's collection of evil warblog quotes mixed with personal attacks is a poor parody of our own refined Saudi&Fisk-bashing techniques, but he has the honor of being the first fellow web writer to criticize, (or flame, to be specific), anything I've written here, so I'll bite. It's about time too. When nobody bothers to point out my errors and bias, (or, say, label me a militant Arab-hating punk), that means that either nobody reads me, which is bad, or they all agree with me, which is worse!

To represent me in his long tirade against warblogs, Raimondo quotes a part of my flaming of Naomi Klein a few weeks ago. To be honest, I wasn't completely happy with that paragraph. It uses some words that are too big, and gives the impression that nerd culture is an antidote for lunacy leftism, and that is absolutely not true. I know several chomskyite nerds, (or geeks, to use the awful Katz-word). What you will find in nerd culture, though, is rationalism and a belief in Good and Evil. And I'll bet you can find more and better discussions of philosophy, psychology, sociology and history in science fiction, fantasy and horror than in anything they call serious literature these days. In mathematics, impossible concepts like complex numbers and eternity can be used to prove statements that are true, and so it is with fantastic literature.

The best way to examine a subject is often to isolate and move it to a different environment, change the premises, turn up the heat, shake and stir until it reveals its true nature. Science fiction does this through the big What If-question. Tolkien and his followers give us a frame of reference for evil and courage. Horror explores our own evil, made manifest in zombies, vampires, ghosts, demons and killer clowns. All of this is unrealistic, and has even been accused of being entertaining, but it's not escapism. It tells us, or forces us to ask ourselves, who we are, and where we can go. In my case, it also tells me to support war against mad islamo-fascists, but maybe that's just me.

Peace is boring, I apparently believe. No, but sometimes it's another word for surrender, to quote some scifi. Peace, liberty, knowledge, all this is worth fighting and dying for, and they're certainly worth promoting on the web. My own part is small, and I'm sure to make a lot of mistakes by placing myself on a soapbox like this, but I hope Mr. Raimondo dedicates his next column (and the ensuing e-mail notification) to pointing out these mistakes, not making a fool of himself in front of his readers. My next link to him won't come this easily.

(Btw, I'm not a Randian. I may not be a very good libertarian either, and certainly not conservative. I don't hate muslims, only fascists, Wahhabism really is evil, and, oh, thanks for noticing the flag, Justin. That about covers it.)

Sunday, January 13, 2002

The Taliban were down-to-earth honest peasants until those bloody foreigners corrupted them, says the Arab News.

Bin Laden was quick to discover the naivet� of the Taleban leaders and their capacity for self-deception. It was under his influence that Mulla Omar decided to take the title of "Amir Al-Momeneen" (Commander of the Faithful). Bin Laden went even further and referred to the mulla as the Third Omar, thus comparing him to the Caliphs Omar Ibn Khattab and Omar Ibn Abdel Aziz. A clear pattern could be established as to how Bin Laden�s evil influence helped transform Mulla Omar from a semiliterate but essentially modest peasant leader into a megalomaniac with messianic illusions.

The lesson? Better not repeat the mistakes of the past by having even more foreigners, (such as, for instance, Americans), meddling with Afghan affairs by introducing new and alien customs, (such as, for instance, democracy). It might give the Saudi servant class some ideas.

Reactions from readers of Hindustan Times:

Uptil now, Musharraf has met all the deadlines he set in Paksitan on his reform agenda. Crackdown against fanatic Muslims started long before September 11 (Actually August 14, 2001). ... So now with world pressure, he has speeded up his reform agenda. So, there is no reason why one should not trust him. Now there is no need and justification to keep our forces on the borders.


On January 12, it was Musharraf the actor speaking. When he said Kashmir runs in Pakistanis' blood, he was dead right. Pakistan exists because of Kashmir like we need blood for existence. But what he said about extremism was perhaps new. The international pressure was obvious in his speech. He is trying to make the most of the situation. Hats off to him since he really succeeds in stealing the limelight. Be it at Agra or Kathmandu, he comes out with flying colours. And, that's just about it. It's empty words and showmanship all along the way. Musharraf should realise that if he is serious about solving the Kashmir tangle, for his own good, he should stop talking and start [acting]. Doesn't matter even if it is through a war. India can show him a thing or two.


Brave words. ... And difficult to deliver. If any leader can deliver what the President of Pakistan has promised, more than half the worlds' ills will disappear. Any nation that focusses on education, freedom of expression and growing the wealth of the nation gets rid of mindless fundamentalism.


He is a perfect liar. He just wanted to avert the situation for now. He is a coward and uselesss person. A person who couldn't remain loyal to Taliban, how can he assure he will ever be to India?


We have to give Musharraf a chance. We don't want war and if we don't take advantage of this guy, we may never have such a golden chance. Domestic politics aside, Vajpayee must talk peace.

Mostly positive reactions to Musharraf from TOPP Gupshup, a Pakistani webboard, (before it descends into a Pak-Indian flamewar - the concept of trolling is, apparently, universal.)

Most of Pakistani people like him. I think Mushy is our first President who has the ability to be diplomatic at this level. I totally agree what he said regarding Mosques and Madrasas. I live in England and someone gave me a cassette of one MOLVI to listen and he said "you will listen to this and you will remember, it is so good" I said ok, so I heard that cassette three times, all that was educating me was cursing against Shia's, Baralwee. Nothing else to learn, these type of Molvees should be stopped.


The rug has well and truly been pulled from underneath the Indian's with this truly magnificent speech by the President. If the Indian's fly off to DC now to continue whining they may not find much of a receptive audience. US Secretary of State Colin Powell , hailed President Musharraf's as ``bold and principled stand'' and said he believed the basis now exists ``for the resolution of tensions between India and Pakistan through diplomatic and peaceful means.''


Yes, this is fantastic. Sucking up to the west and seeking their praise and approval is something we should all aspire to.


Musharaf is cool. I just hope that his decisions can be implemented as he declares. There is nothing wrong with the strategy, but there are so many hurdles in his way that a proper implementation wil be difficult due to people ignorance towards Islam, that gives Imams a high rank in society even thouh they dont have the basic knowledge of Islam as a peaceful religion.

Nominee for Wishful Thinking Award of 2002: Lashkar-e-Taiba's website, which promises a Taliban attack on Kabul real soon now.

The toppled Taliban movement of Afghanistan has started re-organising their organisational structure to launch uprising against interim administration. A close aide of Taliban top leadership on his return after attending several Shoora meetings in Paktika province told that Shooras in South-Eastern Afghanistan-Pashtoon dominated parts-are still under Taliban control. "The Shooras in South Eastern provinces Paktika, Paktia and Helmand are still running by the Taliban and they have only changed their names and their heads," Dr. Shafiq maintained. "Taliban are not finished. They are mostly Pashtoons. Due to intense US bombardment they have changed their organisational names and structure," he said and added "they are planning to attack Kabul". Pashtoon who are more than 60% of Afghanistan still have their compassion with the Taliban and they have assured their full support in case of revolt against the interim government of Afghanistan

Yes, the devious brilliance of Taliban is becoming more and more obvious. They've lulled us into a false sense of security by having their entire army massacred, and now the remaining two are going to sneak up on some American soldier in the dark and kick him real hard in the groin. *cough*quagmire*cough*

Saturday, January 12, 2002

Full text of President Musharraf's speech today, (via Little Green Footballs.)

Do we want Pakistan to become a theocratic state? Do we believe that religious education alone is enough for governance or do we want Pakistan to emerge as a progressive and dynamic Islamic welfare state? The verdict of the masses is in favour of a progressive Islamic state. This decision, based on the teaching of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) and in line with the teachings of Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal will put Pakistan on the path of progress and prosperity.


If we study history, we see that from the 7th to 15th century AD, transfer of technology took place from the Muslims to the rest of the world. Look at Muslims' condition today. Islam teaches us to seek knowledge, even if it involved travel to China. I am sure you are aware that the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) had told prisoners of war in the Battle of Badar that they would be set free if each of them imparted education to ten Muslims. Quite obviously, this education could not have been religious education as the prisoners were non- Muslims. So the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) was actually referring to worldly education. If we do not believe in education, are we following the teachings of Islam or violating them? We must ask what direction are we being led into by these extremists?


The second thing I want to talk about is the concept of Jehad in its totality. I want to dilate upon it because it is a contentious issue, requiring complete comprehension and understanding. In Islam, Jehad is not confined to armed struggles only. Have we ever thought of waging Jehad against illiteracy, poverty, backwardness and hunger? This is the larger Jehad. Pakistan, in my opinion, needs to wage Jehad against these evils. After the battle of Khyber, the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) stated that Jehad-e-Asghar (Smaller Jehad) is over but Jehad-e-Akbar (Greater Jehad) has begun. This meant that armed Jehad i.e. the smaller Jehad was now over and the greater Jehad against backwardness and illiteracy had started.

He also describes new measures against extremism, including more bans on militant organizations, and new syllabi for madrassas, with apparently mandatory courses in mathematics, science and english. This won't have any effect on the current crisis with India, but instead deals with the problem at the source. Now, if Musharraf manages to take care of the fanatics in the madrassas, and the US starts dealing with all that Saudi money, two major root causes behind the current mess won't be rooting for terrorist causes much longer.

Jeff Jarvis has recorded his account of surviving the World Trade Center, and done a great job at it too.

Thursday, January 10, 2002

The only part of Al-Ahram Weekly worth reading unless you're looking for warblog cannon fodder, (or just want to test your sanity against an onslaught of half-truths, insinuations and general ignorance), is the letters page. Most letters are from Western countries, giving a interesting look at the various kinds of people who read Egyptian political commentary on the web. Some of the readers I would be proud to call my own, skillfully dissecting this nonsense week after week. Hopefully some of this gets through to Al-Ahram's local readers, (if not its editors.) Others are confused chomskyites, trying sincerely to apologize for their fellow brainwashed Westerners and the evil ways of their governments. "That is so true! My parents have been fooled by the jewish-controlled media which tries to conceal that every single one of your problems were created by our government, in a desperate attempt to preserve its global economical hegemony!"

But none of that today. I've picked this letter because it represents one of my favourite mental illnesses. Here's Otto Rosenbaum from Germany:

Sir- Let's all remember that Hitler and Nazi Germany were not Muslims but came from a Christian background. Let's also remember that Joseph Stalin and his army in the former USSR also came from a Christian background. Let's not forget the long and bloody history of Christianity in the Middle Ages. When the Crusaders captured Jerusalem they first killed all the Christians who lived there. When the new immigrants came to America they used smallpox to wipe out all the Native Americans. These are historical facts. I failed to find such incidents in the 1,400 years of Islamic history, even during the height of Islamic power from Spain to China. The only large-scale violent actions of Islamic groups started in the '70s due to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, defined as illegal by the UN yet backed by the American government and media, which since the '60s has been almost totally controlled by the Jewish lobby. Those incidents, furthermore, were backed by groups, not organised states like in World War II.

When I was a recently converted atheist on 90's BBS's, I met a lot of people like this. They were usually ex-Christians like me, but instead of becoming atheists, they sort of just jumped into the mirror and became anti-Christians. It's not the same thing. An atheist believes there are no gods, and religion may or may not be harmful. An anti-Christian doesn't believe much in gods either, but he specifically unbelieves in Jehovah, and holds Christianity to blame for every wrong ever committed by a Christian. An atheist might have some theories on the comparative benefits of various religions, but an anti-Christian will gladly commit to memory 79 historical half-facts reflecting bad on Christians, while being able to list 43 reasons why whatever religion he thinks bugs Christians the most, (usually Islam, or something New Age), is a source of peace, tolerance, wisdom and civilized behavior.

This is a good example of that mindset. The idea that the totalitarian atheism of Stalin can be blamed on Christianity is ridiculous. The claim that the numerous expansionist campaigns of Islam were more civilized than the Christian counterparts, is a lie. Both religions were propagated with the book in one hand, and the sword in the other. Religions are not equal. Could Islam produce Hitler? (Bin Laden and Wahhabism is evil, but a different kind.) Could it produce Hollywood? Bach? How, why, why not, when? I don't know, but I'm extremely curious to find out. Otto Rosenbaum isn't, his mind is already made up, switched onto auto-pilot so to speak, spreading his poison to the already confused Arab press in the process.

Washington Post says that terrorists are abandoning Somalia, a former country. This makes sense, as Somalia is high on the American list of potential targets. It also says they're moving to Yemen - which I don't understand, because Yemen is high on the same list. Why do they believe Yemen is safer than Somalia? Are they merely concentrating their forces?

But let's not be overly pessimistic, there are more signs of independent and rational thinking in Pakistan than most other Arab and Muslim countries. Aisha Sarwari wants Pakistanis to follow the progressive footsteps of the country's founder, Muhammed Ali Jinnah (Quaid-e-Azam). Speculating where things went wrong, she writes:

It is sad but true that Islam halted the day we adopted the hudood ordinance and the blasphemy law. The day clerics took the role of fatwa-dispensers and ignored community work, when the educated women of Pakistan became submissive and abandoned their rights to work and earn to be independent. We can no longer nurture the illusion of a community to be a group of narrow-minded people reinforcing their own beliefs. We need to accept that Pakistan is our community, and our Nation. And having the prefix �Islamic� does not protect us from the evils of a sick society. Egalitarianism, pluralism and tolerance for all faiths are elements we could have easily adopted form our heritage. But we didn�t. Now catching up will be an uphill run but it is a decision we will have to make for those coming generations.

Muhammed Ali Jinnah was a lawyer who spent many years in Britain, and was certainly not an Islamic puritan, although I don't know enough to confirm that he represented a secular and democratic ideal. He was one of the major forces behind the creation of Pakistan in 1947, became it's first leader, but died the next year. According to Time, his last words were that Pakistan was "the biggest blunder of my life".

Ken wants us to expose more Saudi bigotry, and I am not one to refuse. (I wouldn't even be blogging if not for an article of his, back when OJR was worth reading.) But let's aim even higher than that, and MEMRI helps raise the bar, with this extensive report on the countless conspiracy myths floating around the Arab press about the perpetrators of September 11. Unsurprisingly, most of them involve Jews, but anyone is of course allowed to be a suspect, unless they're Arabs.

It is obvious that Israel is the one to gain greatly from this bloody, loathsome, and terrible terror operation, and it seeks to gain further by accusing the Arabs and Muslims of carrying it out� Only Israel does not fear that the Jews will be discovered to be behind this operation � who inside or outside the U.S. would dare to accuse them, as any harm to them means talk of a new Holocaust? They, more than anyone, are capable of hiding a crime they carry out, and they can be certain that no one will ask them what they have done.

In major sections of the Arab press and governments, every bad thing ever done by an Arab or Muslim to outsiders is hastily associated with a convenient conspiracy, often involving the victim itself. Foreign minister under Benazir Bhutto, Sardar Aseff Ahmad Ali, insinuates that India attacked their own Parliament on December 13th, for mysterious reasons of their own:

What are the Indians up to? Are they planning a conquest of Pakistan or some strategic sector to humble Pakistan? Or is it to capture Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas to fulfil the BJP manifesto? Maybe their objectives are not maximal and they have in mind either a weak enclave in Kashmir or a hard strike against the training camps of Mujahideen on this side of the Line of Control (LOC). India would of course like to impose a solution of its liking to the Kashmir dispute. By a massive build-up on the international boundary, perhaps India feels it will tie down the bulk of Pakistan's forces, so that it can have freedom of action in the disputed Kashmir. A major skirmish in Kashmir, India could argue, would not be an act of war. Since anti-terrorism is fashionable these days the world will not condemn such an excursion and may even condone it.

A letter to takes it one step further, blaming the attack on Indian Intelligence. Well, that settles it then.

Wednesday, January 09, 2002

In a three part article, Mohammed Wakil analyses where things went wrong with Pakistan and Islam. It all started, he says, when they left ignorant, illiterate, medieval-minded village clerics in charge of educating their children.

We witnessed in tyrannised silence the clerics stirring up the deep revulsion and anger of suffering fellow Muslims. We watched it curdle into hatred for the West. The mullahs lived among those who grew up in shantytowns, in starving villages, in the homelessness of refugee camps or in depraved slums that begged water and electricity. They reached out for those who were orphaned, bullied, harassed, humiliated and trampled upon by the powerful and the rich.

We saw these clerics transform their rage into a scream, an indignant thirst for revenge. Our indifference to these processes was shameless. We went about our business as usual.

On the power of democracy versus the power of weapons:

Pakistan's Islamic-minded intellectuals once cynically disbelieved Mao's tenet: "Power flows from the barrel of a gun." But in three tempestuous decades, their healthy scepticism has curdled into an unhealthy belief. They are now mistakenly convinced that USA's power, and that of the Western world springs from their military arsenal, from their possession of military might, from their arsenal of mass destruction. They now believe that it is Western "might", and "might" alone, that confers upon them their moral "right".


The power of the west does not spring from their arsenal of destructive tools. It springs from their sciences, from their think-tanks, from their research labs, from their democratic institutions. It grows out of their arts and culture, and is shaped by their experiments with new ideas, new concepts. It is expressed in their intrinsic ability to challenge the old, and invite the new. It is visible in the boldness and courage of their social and scientific experiments, in their ability to integrate and assimilate new ideas and new beliefs into their highly flexible value systems.

Wakil's lack of total contempt for Noam Chomsky is forgiven - it clearly hasn't clouded his mind.

If by some magical means, one could peel off the Islamic veneer of these Mullahs' inner belief system, the real truth would be revealed at a glance. Tucked beneath this veneer are all those hidden beasts that cause suffering among the ignorant, illiterate masses the world over: anger and pain, jealousy, fear, hostility, insecurity, a pervasive sense of self-insufficiency and defeatism. The jihad in their soul does not declare with confidence and conviction: "We will purge ourselves of the beasts within and win"; instead, it screams in bitter rage: "We will not lose! We will release the beasts that reside within us, to attack those who hurt our interests!"

The war-hungry Indian population is a media illusion, claims the BBC. Most Indians think war is too expensive.

If you believed the media, India and Pakistan were on the brink of all-out war. Television audiences nightly waged a war of words against Pakistan, egged on by angry anchor persons. Newspaper hawks urged the Indian Government to imitate Israel and launch strikes against Pakistani targets. But arriving in Delhi just two days after the suicide attack on the Indian Parliament in December, one was struck by the lack of paranoia, disruptive security procedures and almost no panic.

On January 1st, Sharia was implemented in Aceh, Indonesia. A local Muslim preacher oddly comments that non-muslims "should not worry about Islamic law, as they would remain subject to national laws". What is the point of introducing voluntary laws?

Hindustan Times predicts that President Musharraf will announce a ban Saturday on the groups Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Tehrik-i-Fiqah Jafaria and Sipahi Sahaba.

Monday, January 07, 2002

Julia Duin at NRO asks why the Laskar Jihad's brutal conversion campaign in Indonesia doesn't receive more media coverage.

At last! Beirut authorities this week launched a devastating attack on the cancer in their midst, the evil that has corrupted Arab youth for years, that goat-legged harbinger of chaos: Eddie Murphy as the Nutty Professor.

The Malaysian Mujahedeen Group were planning to blow up the American embassy in Singapore, but local police foiled their plans.

Speaking of which: I passed the American embassy here in Oslo today. As you all know, I'm not the type to go around blaming the victim when religious fanatics blow things up, but this particular building seems designed specifically to impose fear on the native populace. It's a basically a black, triangular fortress, overlooking our cozy royal palace across the road. There are half a dozen antennas on the roof, suspiciously pointed in various directions, and guards staring down bypassers so hard even I start to doubt my own good intentions. Now, I don't mind the guards, nor the intricate roadblocks slowing down traffic, but in the name of public relations, couldn't they at least repaint it in some bright colors?

James Lileks sums up the year ahead, so I don't have to:

March: Osama bin Laden is found running a convenience store in Detroit; neighbors were suspicious when the local store changed its name from 7-11 to 9-11. There's a shootout, but bin Laden escapes.
August 15: British intelligence, learning that Iraq is not five years away from a nuclear bomb but six minutes, dispatches a tuxedo-clad agent who defuses the entire Iraqi arsenal with one second left on the timer display.
September 12: Abdul Mohammed, a Yemenite travelling under a Korean passport with the name Lee Park, attempts to blow up a plane using explosives packed in a false leg. The FAA requires all passengers to have their limbs sawed off before boarding.

Sunday, January 06, 2002

Today I want to do something new: I'm going to tear apart something stupid I wrote four years ago, when I was trying to convince the government that I was a pacifist. Norway has a mandatory military service of 6-12 months, and to avoid it you must be a conscientious objector. I didn't want to go - I was afraid. I didn't know I was afraid at the time, and built myself some impressive intellectual defense mechanisms, supporting some kind of theory of pacifism, but looking back I don't think there's any other explanation than fear. I've been afraid of lots of things over the years, and always did a good job rationalizing them. So also this time. Here's the application I sent, translated for your convenience:

As a pacifist, I believe it is morally unacceptable to take part in any kind of military action. This includes all forms of war, even those where one side may be easier to defend morally than the other. I will not take part in acts of war for or against either of them. That I myself might happen to live in one of the two countries at war, is a fact I consider completely irrelevant. Such patriotic thinking only succeeds at clouding the moral issues at stake.

Notice the phrasing, "easier to defend morally", which attempts to relativize ideology, and completely avoids referring to anything specific that may reveal how ridiculous this argument is. Vagueness and moral equivalence - early warning signs that a person neither thinks nor feels.

To find out whether an action is good or bad, it is always a good idea to start out by defining ones moral axioms. In the case of some nationalist patriots, that axiom is that the closer anyone is to me, the more interested I should be in their welfare. In the middle of the universe stands I. Around me, my family, further out my friends, then acquintances, my city, my country - and far away out there everyone else. I strongly object to this view. My axiom is so simple it sounds almost banal: I want as much happiness for as many people as possible. On this I build all my ethics, and from this I defend my pacifism.

Strawmen don't come more transparent than this, and pseudo-philosophical theorizing no more separated from reality. Patriots are not mindless drones, they are patriots because they like their country, not the other way around. They may be wrong, and often are, but in order to prove that it is wrong to be a Norwegian patriot, one would have to do an actual comparison of real life countries, which would destroy the argument. It would clearly emerge from the comparison that Norway, as it is today, belongs to the exlusive club of countries worth defending with your life no matter who the enemy is. The fact that some enemy decideds to target my country, out of imperialist aggression or religious bigotry, proves that they are worth fighting. Our Scandinavian version of liberal democracy is admittably flawed, but certainly worth dying for.

A common, poorly thought out argument against pacifism is this: "What if everyone thought like you, and somebody attacked us!!" The contradiction is obvious. If everyone were pacifists, there would be nobody left willing to attack nor defend anything. From this I conclude that, in principle, it is wrong to take part in military defense.

My dear former self, the obvious contradiction is yours, and the mincing of words disgraceful. If all Norwegians were pacifists, we could easily be enslaved by any random maniac with a gun. Of course, this is not really a problem. If that were to happen, the Americans would come and save us, which is the unspoken part of this line of thinking, - and the unspoken part of Norway's current defense policy. We used to have a rather Evil neighbour up north called the USSR, and without the threat of those American nuclear bombs we've always been so concerned about, the russkies would have been swarming down Finnmark before anyone could utter "declaration of human rights", which is what happened in Eastern Europe.

But we do, after all, live in the real world.

How gracious of me to acknowledge that!

Unfortunately, it is a human trait to build armies, with which to threaten other countries. I doubt there's anything we can do about that. Everyone does not think like us. Therefore, we must conclude that the practical consequences of pacifism are more important than the principle, since pacifism as a principle is unattainable. The practical consequences of me refusing to join military service is that humans get to live. In case of a war where Norwegian soldiers participate, fewer would die on the battlefield than if I had participated. The fact that these people may belong to the "enemy" is, from my moral point of view, irrelevant. To me it is more important that I save life.

An excellent example of how a humanitarian facade may conceal a complete disregard of actual human beings. For instance, the actual humans killed defending an open, democratic society, because I am too much of a coward to do anything about it. The fact that both alternatives, fight and kill your enemy or stay away and kill your friends, are bad, does not mean that one isn't better - much better - than the other.

Notice also the quotes around "enemy", obscuring the fact that real enemies do exist, and want to do us harm.

Therefore, pacifism is good both in principle and in real life. I don't deny there are men in the world we would do much better without, but this is a question of personal traits, not words in a passport.

And very often, the only way to actually get at evil men like Hitler and bin Laden is through the lives of the possibly innocent boys in the army that protects them. This is sad. It is also true.

At last I would like to say a few words about peacekeepers. One common argument for having an army is that Norwegian soldiers aren't being used to wage war, but to create peace! NATO-soldiers are sent to Bosnia, UN-soldiers to Lebanon. I am not principally against such a use of the army, but I am skeptical, especially to so-called peace-creating soldiers - a contradiction in terms.

For something like that to succeed, the soldiers must be idealists. If they're not, they will either abuse the power they are given, or perhaps even make the conflict worse. That the UN does not consist of idealists was proven in the Gulf War, when the economical interests of the US started a war that killed more than a houndred thousand people, or Somalia, where UN-soldiers committed terrible atrocities against civilians. [..]

I am always very skeptical when the words "peace" and "soldiers" are used in the same sentence. To me, this is a contradiction. Peace can only be created to the degree soldiers stop behaving like soldiers. I don't think use of weapons or threats can ever create a peaceful society.

.. Never mind the peaceful democracy I live in right now, preserved throughout most of that horrible century by, what else, weapons and threats. Never mind that there are real threats around us every day, from petty crime to evil masterminds, that can only be eliminated by the use or threat of force. The Chomskyite high ground I was taking back then, (I think I wrote this right after I'd downloaded his entire archive from ZMag), avoids having to make hard decisions about real life issues, avoids the terrible responsibility of making a difference.

And so we leave my former pacifist self. Luckily, I think this is the silliest thing I've ever written, and I recovered. I don't mean to say that all pacifists are cowards, or deluded. I'm saying that in 1997, there were at least one pacifist who were, and judging from the similarity between my arguments and some of the nonsense my fellow bloggers have torn apart recently, I'd say there is still some cowardice and delusion left in the anti-war movement. (The fact that certain intellectuals use the same evasive rhetorical techniques as I did is also worth pondering.)

Saturday, January 05, 2002

Head of Fatah Marwan Al-Barghuti: Cancel those orders, the intifada will not stop until we have independence and Jerusalem.

A frightening look at the myriads of small joys banned in Saudi-Arabia: The online edition of Fatwas Regarding Women, by the esteemed party-bashers Shaikh ibn Baz, Shaikh ibn Uthaimin and Shaikh ibn Jibreen.

Celebrating birthdays? Un-islamic. Pictures on the wall? Burn them! Mother's Day? Modern nonsense! Hiring a non-muslim maid? What, there are infidels in Saudi-Arabia?! Just send us their name and address, and we'll take care of it.

For the eternally curious, there's a discussion on secretion that comes from a woman's vagina, an entire section on menstruation, why you'd better make sure you don't pray with holes in your socks, and some happy news: most scholars do not think kissing without ejaculating makes you dirty. And much, much, much more.

(Update: I've read some more, and I'm beginning to feel sick, really sick. This is what Hell looks like, the one created by humans, not the cozy holiday resort they write about in those holy books.)

In a 1996 article, Ahmad Sadri examines Islam's democratic potential.

A modern democracy differs from a utopian model insofar as it distrusts and thus divides the ruling elites against themselves. A modern democracy demands a lowest common denominator of efficiency from its leaders; not trusting anyone with absolute power, it sets up a system of checks and balances to control the deviations of its elites. These modern assumptions which oppose the Platonic plans of all pre-modern "Western" philosophers (including such Islamic political thinkers as al-Farabi) resemble the descriptions of man in the Quran as a frail, impetuous, covetous, and miserly creature. This is the rule; virtue is the exception.

It has been consistently emphasized by modern Western philosophers that if man were an angel, he would need no government. On the basis of the non-angelic Quranic view of man, it is possible to envision a modern Islamic secular system of self-government based on the lowest common denominator rather than the highest expectations of human nature.

Francis Fukuyama: We're at war with Islamic fascism, (and history is still over.)

More than 10 years ago, I argued that we had reached the "end of history": not that historical events would stop, but that history, understood as the evolution of human societies through different forms of government, had culminated in modern liberal democracy and market-oriented capitalism. It is my view that this hypothesis remains correct, despite the events since September 11: modernity, as represented by the US and other developed democracies, will remain the dominant force in world politics, and the institutions embodying the West's underlying principles of freedom will continue to spread around the world.

The September 11 attacks represent a desperate backlash against the modern world, which appears to be a speeding freight train to those unwilling to get on board.


As philosophers from Alexis de Tocqueville and Georg Hegel to Friedrich Nietzsche have pointed out, modern democracy is a secularised version of the Christian doctrine of universal human equality. But Western institutions are like the scientific method, which, though discovered in the West, has universal applicability.


The opportunities for economic and political reform were always there, but few Muslim governments and, in particular, no Arab governments, have undertaken the kinds of policies followed by countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, Chile or Mexico to open up their countries to the global economy and lay the foundations for sustained development. There is not a single instance of an oil-rich state in the Persian Gulf that has used its wealth to create a self-sustaining industrial society, instead of creating a society of corrupt rentiers who over time have become more and more fanatically Islamist.

Franklin Foer examines Reza Pahlavi's campaign to reclaim his father's throne and create a secular, democratic Iran. (Via Justin Slotman.)

Editors at The Iranian doesn't want him back, though: We need a republic, not a return to monarchy.

Nostalgia for the Shah's days does not translate into a desire for the restoration of the monarchy. Iranians have moved far beyond that. Given a choice, there's absolutely no doubt that the people would choose a democratic republic rather than the restoration of the monarchy. What Mohammad Mossadegh stood for is far more appealing to the public than the monarchy.

Mossadegh was prime minister of Iran from 1951 to 1953, when his government got caught up in some Cold War mess involving oil and fear of a communist takeover, (or imperialist aggression, depending on your point of view). In this 1954 report, the CIA describes how they and British Intelligence helped Mohammed Reza Pahlavi overthrow him.

Friday, January 04, 2002

As a reward to Andrew Sullivan for designing a website that can be viewed with the best web browser in the world, (and it's Norwegian!), his link has been added to the left. It's not the only reason, but the only reason it wasn't added sooner. (Of course, another quick way to get into my link section is to use the design I gave to Blogger six months ago - at least 6 war blogs based on it so far, and still counting.)

Thursday, January 03, 2002

Signs of Life - photographs from Kabul, by Mohammad Reza Ali-Madadi.

India's Minister of External Affairs Jaswant Singh doesn't seem to agree that the ice has melted, criticizing Pakistan's new policy of moral support to locally based Kashmir groups (mentioned below):

This thesis of moral and diplomatic support to terrorism is against the UN Security Council resolutions which are explicit, direct and unamibiguous against giving active or passive support to terrorism. If giving moral and diplomatic support to terrorism does not fall under that category of passive support then what else is?

President Musharraf has ordered to shut down the part of ISI that funds military groups in Kashmir. Groups with roots in Kashmir, like Hizbul Mujahideen, will still receive moral and political support. I wonder what lies behind this. Is it a genuine challenge to ISI's power, or a symbolic gesture?

Jonah Goldberg attacks the clich� that understanding brings peace, citing as evidence against it the conflicts in Palestine and Kashmir, where both sides know the other very well, and still hate their guts. Democracy, not understanding, brings peace, he says.

I disagree. He mistakes familiarity for understanding. Palestinians see Israelis all the time, but they have some pretty far out misconceptions about their intentions, as well as the general state of the world - they do not understand their enemy. Similarly, many Pakistanis (see below) support wild conspiracy theories about their territorial dispute with India. Israel and India on the other hand, with their democratic traditions, often interpret the actions of their enemies unfairly, but at least appear to make a serious effort to understand how the other side thinks. If Palestinian and Pakistani extremists joined those traditions, there would still be a territorial dispute, but it would be easier to solve, so it is correct that democracy brings peace, but it does it through understanding, not despite it.

One can also argue that trying too hard to understand your enemy can bring peace when it shouldn't - but this then is failed understanding. I understand bin Laden better than Robert Fisk does, (and much better than bin Laden understands the West), so here too understanding is a good thing. When you understand your potential enemy, you know how to deal with him. When you don't understand, you do either too much or too little.

Muqtedar Khan, Adrian College: Muslims must develop an intolerance for intolerance.

Khan runs a website called Ijtihad, a word he translates as independent thinking. For a propably more representative view of ijtihad, see this scholarly discussion by Murtada Mutahhari, who later became an important figure in Khomeini's revolution. In Shia, ijtihad is merely the process of applying your intellect within the framework of Sharia, so it's more of a judicial process than free thinking. A more lenient variant of ijtihad is the process of deducing God's will on subjects he didn't actually speak to Muhammed about, and is illustrated by this story:

When the Prophet sent Mu`adh b. Jabal to the Yemen, he asked him how he would issue commands there. He replied: "In conformity with the Book." "And if it is not to be found in the book?" "I will make use of the Sunna of the Prophet." "And if it is not to be found in the Sunna of the Prophet?" "Ajtahidu ra' yi, " he replied, which means: I will employ my own thought, ability and tact.

Wednesday, January 02, 2002

In the warped mind of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, India and the US have joined forces in an evil plot to neuter Pakistan's nukes.

And - not that it proves anything - this online poll at at least indicates the level of delusion in some segments of the Pakistani population.

(As for Lashkar threatening to blow up Taj Mahal - an e-mail threat is not reliable, and in the current climate anyone could have sent it. I don't doubt there are people crazy and evil enough to consider it, though.)

Pakistani Islamists urged thousands of their young to cross the border and fight for their brother tyrants in Afghanistan. Now they would very much like to get back the ones that survived - please? Ransoms for captured Pakistanis apparently go as high as $1600 per head.

The only good news in all of this is that at least some of the leaders responsible for this tragedy are currently rotting in jail.

Christian Science Monitor writes that Yemen and Somalia has begun arresting suspected al-Qaeda members, but that the efforts are largely symbolic.

An adviser to the US government, who requested anonymity, says the arrests are a sign that US pressure on the TNG is bearing some fruit. But the arrests were largely symbolic, he says, adding that he is skeptical that the Somali government would risk a destabilizing backlash by arresting any real extremists. "The TNG will try to show its goodwill by arresting or deporting a handful of non-Somalis and claiming they're Islamists," he says. "I doubt the TNG will nab a real Al Qaeda figure; more likely they'll arrest a few poor Iraqi migrants looking for cooking jobs in Mogadishu."

Both countries have weak central governments, unable to enforce authority in places terrorist camps are likely to be located.

Tuesday, January 01, 2002

You might think that the return of the moral compass would have something to do with thousands of civilians murdered by religious fanatics, but to Naomi Klein it's all about myths and narratives.

Bin Laden doesn�t long for some ascetic medieval lifestyle, but the idea of living in mythic times - when men were godlike, battles were epic and history was spelled with a capital H. �Screw you, Francis Fukuyama,� he seems to be saying, �History hasn�t ended yet. We are making it, right here, right now!�

We�ve heard this idea from many quarters since September 11, a return of the great narrative: chosen men, evil empires, master plans and great battles. All are ferociously back in style. The Bible, the Quran, The Clash of Civilizations, Lord of the Rings - all of them suddenly playing out �in these days, in our times.�

This grand redemption narrative is our most persistent myth, and it has a dangerous flipside. When a few men decide to live their myths, to be larger than life, it can�t help but have an impact on all the lives that unfold in regular sizes. People suddenly look insignificant by comparison, easy to sacrifice in the name of some greater purpose.

What a bore she is. She absolutely refuses to take any pleasure at all from being on the side of Good against Evil. She can't find anything good to say about religious fanatics, so she makes fighting a good cause itself a suspicious act. One of the advantages of growing up a nerd is that our subculture, with the apocalyptic battles of Fantasy and the galactic perspective of SciFi, has a moral compass branded so firmly into it the relativism of people like Klein stand out like a suit at a hacker convention. Of course it is dangerous to live your own myth, (Klein should watch the Babylon 5 episode Comes the Inquisitor for a discussion of the subject), but so is being blown up by terrorists.

When is it acceptable to defend oneself against evil, and when is a Good Cause just a distraction from your real problems? You won't learn from reading Klein, she's too busy getting on to what's really bothering her, consumerism:

But when this ideological backdrop was yanked away, the grander meaning behind the shopping evaporated. The response from the corporate world was �lifestyle branding�: an attempt to restore consumerism as a philosophical or political pursuit by selling powerful ideas instead of mere products. Ad campaigns began equating Benetton sweaters with fighting racism, Ikea furniture with democracy and computers with revolution.

Well, computers are a revolution, and the choices made by countless of individuals favouring cheap, practical Ikea furniture is a very direct form of democracy, but I still have no idea what she's talking about. The world Klein lives in, where you can find some ominous ideological message by looking at sweater ads, is no better than the consumerist hell the rest of us supposedly can't escape from.

(Btw, what is it with anti-consumerists and Ikea?)

Prime Minister of India Vajpayee's New Year's address.

Edna Yaghi of the Palestine Chronicle enlists Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden and Civil Disobedience, in the Palestinian Cause:

In 1846 Thoreau chose to go to jail rather than support the Mexican War (1846-1848) by paying his poll tax. In his essay, Thoreau discussed passive resistance. The Mexican War ended with the US taking half of Mexico. Northern Abolitionists blamed the war on the desire of the Southern planters and Northern merchants to enlarge slave territory and Thoreau refused to pay a tax for something he did not believe in and thought unjust.

Even in the middle of the 19th century, Thoreau thought that the American government was losing its integrity and that it really was not serving the interests of its citizens, but rather the interests of those with the most power. He also felt that no man should resign his conscience to the legislators and that every man should first stand up for what he believes in rather than be a subject to an authority that might be abusive and corrupt.

What she's getting at, wouldn't you know it, is that Jews Control The Media. For someone who apparently reads 19th century American philosophy, Yaghi's level of ignorance is inexcusable. (She is also a lousy poet.)

Shimon Peres wants to implement the Tenet plan. Sharon does not.

CIA director George Tenet's ceasefire and security plan consists of 6 points:

1. The GOI and the PA will immediately resume security cooperation.
2. Both sides will take immediate measures to enforce strict adherence to the declared cease-fire and to stabilize the security environment.
3. Palestinian and Israeli security officials will use the security committee to provide each other, as well as designated U.S. officials, information on terrorist threats, including information on known or suspected terrorist operation in - or moving to - areas under the other's control.
4. The PA and GOI will move aggressively to prevent individuals and groups from using areas under their respective control to carry out acts of violence. In addition, both sides will take steps to ensure that areas under their control will not be used to launch attacks against the other side nor be used as refuge after attacks are staged.
5. The GOI and the PA, through the auspices of the senior-level security committee, will forge - within one week of the commencement of security committee meetings and resumption of security cooperation - an agreed-upon schedule to implement the complete redeployment of IDF forces to positions held before September 28, 2000.
6. Within one week of the commencement of security committee meetings and resumption of security cooperation, a specific timeline will be developed for the lifting of internal closures as well as for the reopening of internal roads, the Allenby Bridge, Gaza Airport, the Port of Gaza, and border crossings. Security checkpoints will be minimized according to legitimate security requirements and following consultation between the two sides.

Vaclav Havel's New Year's address:

An American friend of mine observed that the sacrifices caused by the terrorist attacks of last year�s September 11th have not been in vain. In a certain peculiar sense, those persons died for their entire homeland, as they did for our entire contemporary civilization. Their horrific deaths and subsequently their families� sufferings, as well as the shock experienced by the entire world have alerted us, in a highly drastic way, to the evil existing in this world and to the easy access to all inventions of modern times, which in the hands of fanatics can so effortlessly become instruments of mass destruction. This has been a great portent, a great challenge for deeds, a great impulse for the strengthening of human solidarity, for the ability of self-restraint and for the willingness to struggle for fundamental human values; this has been a great impetus toward a new perception of the world we inhabit and of all the threats looming over it. It is a sad paradox that the persons who died as passengers in the hijacked planes and those killed in the attacked buildings pointed to civilization�s problems more acutely than do the hundreds of thousands, and even millions of people who are dying of starvation, diseases and senseless local wars in a host of impoverished, or semi-forgotten parts of the world. And yet, in a way, the September 11th victims drew attention to the fates of those people, as well.

Let us hope that that horrendous event helped to awaken to life all the forces of good that are slumbering within humanity.

Some make unrealistic New Year's resolutions, fail, and then compensate by repeating them even louder next year. Mr. Compulsive Chain Smoker, meet Yassir Arafat, who has declared 2002 the year of independence and liberty. Israel can give you independence, but liberty starts at home, Yassir.

(One odd thing about this: The Muslim Year 1423 doesn't begin until March 16th, 2002. Did Arafat hold a New Years address after the Gregorian calendar, or just a regular Shawwal 16th speech, associated with our New Year by AP?)

An example for Muslim countries to follow, Turkey has taken important steps to give women equal rights with men.

I buy gifts I either own already, or would like to. My father got The Muslim Discovery of Europe, by Bernard Lewis, for his birthday recently. I got a chance to read it this Christmas. It's highly recommendable, describing the emerging European civilization as seen by the Muslims.

(And while I'm recommending stuff at everyones favourite webstore, here's the perfect CD for a day like today.)

James C. Bennett takes the words out of my mouth, and explains the perceived European anti-Americanism, (in-between praising some weblogs you may have heard of):

The chattering classes have more completely captured the media and government apparatus of the non-American Anglosphere nations. Because of the weaker democratic tradition in those structures, the views of the chatteratti dominate the external presentation of those nations' values. This permits the politically correct intelligentsia of the non-American Anglosphere to indulge in a bit of pseudo-nationalism, by pretending that "American" values are not for the most part also the values of the majority of their countrymen. Anti-Americanism, the more fashionable modern analogue of anti-Semitism, is a delight readily available to them. Meanwhile, their American counterparts can mouth the same opinions, but must appear self-loathing rather than patriotic.

A realization that seems to have dawned on many Americans after September 11th, is that not only do many muslims hate them, so do we Europeans. This isn't completely false, but keep in mind that this impression is created by our political, cultural and intellectual elites, who are often less in touch with their own people than their colleagues in the US. They are also, I think, more powerful. Hell hath no fury like the combined ferocity of the European elites, (as illustrated here in Norway when polls showed a third of the population supported a "controversial" right-wing party a few years ago. Media uproar! Elect a new people!)

Most Europeans have little against the US - there's a reason our elites resort to cultural protectionism, it is the only way to counter the popular demand for American culture. All Europeans are haunted by the twin feelings of superiority and inferiority in the face of imported American culture, but it does not transform into hostility.

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