How not to cheapen the impact of the calamities by adding words? A horrible day in which a mortar attack on a religious procession led to hundreds of deaths, days in which hurricanes and floods led to hundreds of deaths.
So I finished Robert Pape’s book, ‘Dying to Win’. Remember how I said the implications of his argument were decent and humane? I fear I may have been a bit off. It might still be true on a relative scale. But anyone who offers Israel as a model doesn’t deserve the moniker decent or humane. On pg. 240:
For those who haven’t already heard, Pat Robertson, televangelist, 700 Club host, and sophisticated political analyst/geopolitical consultant, advocated on American TV the assassination of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez:
“You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it,” Robertson said. “It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war … and I don’t think any oil shipments will stop.”
A few years ago I wrote a piece called ‘yes, americans can understand suicide bombers‘. I knew it would be inflammatory but it didn’t actually get around as much as some other pieces I’ve written. All I did in the article was pick out some choice quotes and sentiments by ‘Westerners’ (‘us’, in other words, not ‘them’) about how seeing one’s loved ones murdered leads to an overwhelming desire for revenge. I guess it was just a drop in the bucket of hundreds of thousands of words spilled on the topic by all kinds of informed and uniformed people. Still, even if the piece had little impact, the topic has remained of interest to me as I await more horrors in different parts of the world.
More recently Naomi Klein wrote a very nice piece on the topic (I’ve had a lot of respect for her for a lot of years, but I have to say I feel she’s just been getting better and better). Naomi was looking at how ‘our’ racism – the simple idea broadcast daily and loudly enough for those who care to see it that some lives are worth more than others – was very helpful to those who would recruit suicide terrorists. I think both of us focused on the anger of the bomber and the sources of that anger, in revenge and in racism.
Robert Pape’s recent book, ‘Dying to Win’ goes further. In it, he discusses the logic of suicide terrorism, not merely the emotions that might motivate it. None of the arguments in Pape’s book will be unfamiliar to antiwar radicals. Pape is a liberal, but if more liberals thought and wrote as clearly as Pape does in this book, things would be better in North America.
Pape compiled a database of all known suicide terrorist attacks (there were 315 of them) between 1980-2003. These were not isolated incidents, he shows, but part of military campaigns with very specific objectives. The campaigns all had a number of things in common. First, they were waged by non-state actors, with significant popular support, targeting stronger opponents. Their targets were ‘democratic’ states (Pape defines the term and uses it consistently, whatever one may think of his definition of ‘democracy’) and their objective was to coerce a stronger state to withdraw occupying troops from the homeland of the attackers. Pape explains the strategic, social, and individual logic of suicide terrorism and uses the data to demonstrate this logic. He disputes the idea that suicide terrorism arises from ‘irrationality’ or springs whole from some religious text.
While Pape frames his entire argument in terms of the US national interest and how to ‘win’ the war on terror, the implications of his argument and his prescriptions are decent and humane. He argues that if America wants to ‘win’, it should remove its troops from West Asia. If it must secure access to energy, it should do so by making friends in the region or, better, developing energy independence. But the strength of the book is not in these prescriptions, but in the data he assembles and the simple and clear way that he summarizes it.
Each new terror attack brings the stupidest and most racist voices to the forefront, calling for measures that will create another turn of a downward spiral. Pape is a real voice of reason. In laying out the strategic logic of suicide terrorism, he shows a way out.
Other good reading: Tanya Reinhart’s latest, on ‘How we left Gaza’. As she always seems to do for me, Tanya clears up something that didn’t make any sense to me. When Sharon announced the ‘withdrawal’ from Gaza, he had no intention of actually withdrawing. So what happened? According to this article, the Americans decided they didn’t want the headache of Palestine while in the midst of an unpopular massacre in Iraq. It’s something a Palestinian friend of mine suggested to me months ago, but I didn’t believe it until I read Tanya’s data.
A nice project from Cauca to New York City, in which community radio stations pair up… If you’re in either place and can tune in, do so!
I realize there’s been a pretty heavy Canada emphasis in the past few blogs. But it seems to me to be an important time to situate Canada in the world, with the Haiti and Afghanistan occupations, increased support for Israel, thuggish comments by Canadian generals, and so on.
You can say this about our media operators: they are scientific.
Between Hillier’s recent spate of commentary and Major-General Andrew Leslie’s recent poison on Candian airwaves, it is clear that there is some kind of media operation underway. The target is the Canadian population. The objective is to try to develop a level of racist bloodlust. The means is pretty basic American propaganda.
The head of Canada’s armed forces is trying to start a race war. This general Hillier, who weeks ago explained the intensification of Canada’s military campaigns in Afghanistan with comments like: “These are detestable murderers and scumbags, I’ll tell you that right up front. They detest our freedoms, they detest our society, they detest our liberties… We are the Canadian Forces, and our job is to be able to kill people.”
That was Hillier’s contribution to poisoning the airwaves with hate.