Friday, September 22, 2006

When they assassinate the Pope...

...which I'm sure they will at least attempt during his trip to Turkey in November...

...will they show the same denial of cause and effect as they're still doing in regard to the connection between Iraq and the wave of UK home grown MIFT?

...will they show the same incomprehension I've just been watching on the part of ex CIA documentarist Robert Baer, as he tries to get his mind around the - to him - huge mystery of how a well paid young lawyer can walk into a fast food joint, buy, sit and eat a chicken burger, then stand up, walk to the most crowded part of the restaurant and blow herself to pieces, taking 21 complete strangers with her to an early death.

Do I need to tell you what country this happened in? Clue? It begins with "I". And it isn't Iraq. (I don't think they've had any female suicide bombers there yet - let me know if I'm wrong) If I mention "Jenin", does that help?

If you still have any problem understanding why Hanadi Jaradat killed herself and 21 Israelis (after reading that explanation), then I'm afraid you too are part of the problem. I'm not asking whether you could or would have done the same thing in her place. I know I couldn't have - for one main reason. I don't have that sheer physical courage. I also know I wouldn't have done it, even if I'd had the balls, for another major reason. I could never accept randomly selected apparent civilian strangers as "the enemy". I'd even be queasy about targeting the soldiers - unless they have volunteered to fight in a democratically mandated conflict (although, for the actual soldiers who executed her brother, I think I could make an exception).

But even though they (the Israeli government) obviously lied about the circumstances - as you'd expect for normal propaganda reasons - the cold hard truth is that their attack on known enemies was a straightforward standard military operation which we could not criticise on a moral basis any more than we can criticise the execution of Jean Charles De Menezes (which I discussed here) . The grounds for condemnation, if the description of events is accurate, is, as Hanadi herself said, that the men could have been arrested as easily as they were executed. But although that clearly plays into Hanadi's justifiable desire for revenge, it is a different issue.

If both men killed had been genuine enemy soldiers and had attempted to resist, I can not see how the attack could have been condemned any more or less than any other military attack. Even the fact that Fadi was (probably) not an enemy soldier isn't enough to "criminalise" the attack - provided the IDF genuinely believed that both were legitimate targets. As with the London example, the moral question hinges on what they knew - and sometimes they get it wrong. Unlike the London example, however, it does not appear that the attackers had to make any split second decisions in the fear that the targets were about to detonate themselves. The execution appears to have been premeditated and thus constitutes a potential war crime.

Even though that does not appear to be the case in the London example, how do you think the De Menezes family feel? What is the "appropriate response" when the State accidentally kills a member of your family? Aren't they entitled to some pretty serious retribution? And I mean retribution, not compensation. Shouldn't someone fall on their sword for the errors which produced this tragedy?

I'm not about to change my tune. Objectively, the answer is still "No", providing that the evidence and audit trail continue to support the conclusion that they were acting "in good faith". Any other answer leaves us defenceless. No policemen or soldier can be expected to defend us to the hilt if there is a serious probability that they will be prosecuted for an honest mistake.

But where does that leave the family? I can't argue that they have no right to retribution but realistically the best we can really do, in a civilised society is to make a formal, high level apology (I think it should come from at least Cabinet level) and pay, without quibble, VERY generous compensation. I'd personally vote for £50 million. That's a high enough figure to help the family realise that we recognise how serious our mistake has been. It is also high enough for the Treasury to want to make it very clear, if the political fallout hasn't already done so, that we REALLY can't afford too many cockups like this. On the other hand, it is not so large that it will bankrupt the nation when a few more of these inevitable tragedies take place.

None of which will make the De Menezes family any happier, but they might at least accept that we are genuinely sorry about what we did to their son and sibling. Given that we don't have a record of murdering Brazilians on the London Underground, it should be enough to calm the troubled waters.

Now compare that situation and possible outcome with the one Hanadi found herself in. Living in the midst of hundreds of such "honest mistakes" on a routine - almost daily - basis. How do think Hanadi must have felt, having had her fiancee killed some years previously (we don't know whether he was another "mistake" or a legitimate target, but it is unlikely Hanadi would have recognised the distinction) to be followed, in April 2002 by the "Jenin massacre" in which even the United Nations has admitted the Israelis deliberately "put civilians in harms way". Finally, of course, the "accidental" and clearly unwarranted cold blooded execution of her brother before her very eyes reasonably qualifies as a "final straw".


Can you put yourself in her position?


How would you feel if they did that to your lover and sibling? And dozens ofyour friends and neighbours...

Can you at least begin to feel the blind rage that is burning up the "Holy Land"?

As I've said elsewhere, I'm with Ghandi on the "eye for an eye" ethical proposition , but at least it embodies the notion of even handed, proportionate responses.

As a priveleged westernised jewish atheist - I am sufficientlly appalled and outraged by the grossly improportionate slaughter routinely committed by the Zionist State - licensed as they are by the generous precedents set by their American Christian and Neocon patrons - to be able to say, without hyperbole, that were I to hear that a Palestinian attack had killed the top echelon of Israeli political leaders, I would feel some small measure of satisfaction that a tiny proportion of the Israeli crimes had been appropriately punished.

And, y'know what, I feel the same way about Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney. Wolfovitz and Rove might make the shortlist too. And in case you believe I'm unusual in holding such "extreme" views, let me assure you that I'm not even unusual in admitting it. There are people positively fantasizing about it out there. AMERICAN people! Not to mention the forthcoming More4 documentary they're all talking about.

And, no I don't feel the same way about Blair. He started out with sound motives, believing he could steer the tiger by the tail. He has failed. He can atone quite simply, eventually, by admitting that failure. The Bush administration has moved way way beyond that level of guilt. Perhaps they're not yet quite on a par with the Nuremberg defendants, but they're catching up fast and one day we will need another Nuremberg just for them.

In case you're wondering; I don't even hate those "folks". I wouldn't kill them even if I had the chance and thought I could get away with it. I don't even particularly want them dead, although I can't pretend I'd shed a tear should they happen to fall victim to something or other. I just think they've got it coming to them.

The only thing I still don't understand is why people like Baer are either still having, or pretending to have, such a problem in understanding their enemy.

What part of "If our nation cannot realize its dream and the goals of the victims, and live in freedom and dignity, then let the whole world be erased." do they have any difficulty with?

Baer's entire approach was oddly blinkered. I say this because I know he is not an apologist for the Bush regime and holds a clear vision of the scale of the problem and, like me, he believes things are going to get a lot worse before there is any chance of improvement.

I found it strange, therefore, that despite his apparent professional investigative thoroughness (he spent 18 months on the ground in Palestine researching the issues) and despite the fact that the whole program centred on the question of why Hanadi killed herself, he failed to find (or at least failed to mention) that answer. In contrast, I had never even heard her name before and I only vaguely remembered hearing about the attack (October 4 2003). Yet it only took me 5 minutes, in the comfort of my own home, to find out why she committed murder against her Israeli neighbours.

He illustrates the state of denial which even honest commentators seem to be stuck in. He clearly came to the issue with some kind of prejudice that women couldn't possibly have been exercising their free and informed consent when participating in such attacks. It was inconceivable to him that they might possibly have been just as motivated, just as brave as their male compatriots. They must have been "manipulated" in some way to make them behave like that.

In each of the cases he examines, he tries to belittle their reasons. His starting point seems to be the received wisdom that suicide bombers are all religious fanatics and then he tries to persuade us that this does not provide the motivation in at least some of the cases he's managed to examine. This should not have come as a revelation.

Blowing yourself to pieces, either with a suicide belt or by flying a fuel and passenger laden plane into a tall building are not religious acts, they are political acts. We do not expect, if we've got our eyes and minds firmly open, to find religious motivation, only, occasionally, religious endorsement - exactly as we see on the other side of the battle lines (both in Israel and America).

Embarrassingly, he tries to persuade us that the motivation of one of the (failed) women bombers was a simple desire for her share of the "martyrdom" limelight while one of the others was simply doing what she could to assuage the shame and dishonour of having been a prostitute. Talk about missing the 'king point!

Yes, many teenagers have fantasies about dying as heroes, or victims. Many prostitutes are shamed into suicide, or beaten to death, by their fundamentalist families. But how many of those teenagers fantasize about killing a couple of dozen complete strangers during their own suicide? And how many of them actually try to do it? And how many of those are from Palestine?

And how many share their fantasy with their father?

Haradat's father, Taisir, who is said to have had a special emotional bond with his eldest daughter, told Al-Jazeera television: "My daughter's action reflected the anger that every Palestinian feels at the occupation. The occupation did not have mercy on my son Fadi, her brother. They killed him even though he was not a wanted person, they murdered him in cold blood before Hanadi's eyes."

Taisir Jaradat said he was proud of what his daughter had done, and he asked those who wanted to pay condolence calls not to bother: "I will accept only congratulations for what she did," he told his interviewers. "This was a gift she gave me, the homeland and the Palestinian people. Therefore, I am not crying for her. Even though the most precious thing has been taken
from me."

For someone who claims he's been trying to understand the psychology of suicide bombers for 20 years, you would have thought that a skilled professional ex spook investigator might have spotted one or two of the clues in this story. Disappointing.

Anyway, back to my initial point. When the Pope is assassinated in November (or some other time in the not too distant future), it will be because he made a trivial academic speech in a German university on Sept 12. Specifically it will be because he carelessly (or as Tariq Ali implies, deliberately) failed to balance his comments.

He was trying to argue that there was still a place for Theology to be taught in University because Religion sits alongside "positivist" science as another legitimate source of Reason. Or at least, he argues, it should do. He acknowledges that some branches of religion have been fighting back against the "Age of Reason" almost since it began in the late middle ages (a reactionary movement which - as he pointedly doesn't choose to remind us - produced the Puritan and fundamentalist mindset which underpins the Christian Right in America) and that the most serious consequence of that backlash results in Violence being pursued in the name of Religion.

The ONLY example of which (that he offers in his speech) being the Prophet's support for spreading Islam through the sword.

His argument is intellectually flawed (he demonstrates a naive understanding of the philosophy of science) but academically uncontroversial. It was also politically incompetent and diplomatically disastrous. His Church has been furiously backpedalling ever since.

To mention Islam's inherent support for religious violence, without even a passing glance at the millions of deaths caused or condoned by his own church was truly unforgiveable. Truly stupid. Truly a wasted opportunity.

He draws attention to Qu'ranic support for the warlike tendencies of a minority within Islam, the results of which are painfully self-evident. However, in addition to the examples offered in that last link, he could usefully have mentioned that Christianity has been touched by the same evil, beginning with the Crusades, moving forward through the Inquisition, on to the genocide of Latin America and, more latterly, active assistance to the fascists in the second world war. He could also legitimately have mentioned today's Christian fundamentalist support for the illegal war in Iraq, even though they're not part of his flock. He could then have pointed out that his Church has apologised for many of those crimes and perhaps taken the opportunity to repeat or expand those apologies here and now.

That might have won him some respect from Muslims and allowed them to view his comments as balanced criticism from a fellow sinner. All bar the certifiable might have "turned the other cheek" and he might have initiated an interfaith dialogue with some reasonable prospect of addressing the poisonous issue of the long term religious pursuit of and support for violence.

Instead, he'll be very lucky if he doesn't become one of its victims.

Meanwhile MIFT can hardly believe their luck. If you want to stir up Armageddon, the Pope's almost as good a place to start as the American Precedent.


mscmike said...


Blowing yourself to pieces, either with a suicide belt or by flying a fuel and passenger laden plane into a tall building are not religious acts, they are political acts. We do not expect, if we've got our eyes and minds firmly open, to find religious motivation, only, occasionally, religious endorsement - exactly as we see on the other side of the battle lines (both in Israel and America).

Hmmmm... I'd say that depends on the religion, and more importantly, the interpretation of the religion. Were the Crusades political acts? In the big picture, from the kings in Europe, yes. But from the knights and peasants fighting in the trenches - No.

What bugs me most about these situations is that they're flushing the whole world down the toilet in a depressing spiral out of control. The extremes are pissed at each other, and they're taking the rest of the world with them. Two easy examples -

Israel and Lebanon - Hezbollah and the Israeli government were pissed at each other. But because Israel couldn't find Hezbollah, and Hezbollah just didn't care, they start randomly throwing bombs over each other's borders. Next thing you know, you've got innocent bystander Lebanese and Israelis killed because the extremes are pissed at each other.

Republicans and Democrats - Those guys know how to sling mud. But when they do so, they sling mud at the entire party, which is mostly made up of moderates. So the left-most 10% insults the right 50% while aiming at the right-most 10%, and vice versa.

This apparently isn't the case with your Jaradat example, but imagine this - If an extremist from faction A attacks faction B, and kills 3 members of faction B, and 18 general bystanders, faction A just earned 30 or so new enemies (the families of the general bystanders), some of which didn't really care about the conflict before that day.

Eventually, it doesn't matter "who started it", or who you're really mad at, somebody from the other side has wronged you, so you're gonna retaliate. And as the stakes escalate, people become more desperate, and it all flushes down the toilet...

What a wonderful world we live in...

Harry Stottle said...

Let me begin this response with a comment that has nothing to do with your comment but comes after I've just finished watching tonight's Panorama entitled "Sex Crimes and the Vatican". I'm not going to go into detail - that'll wait for another time. In any case you can watch it yourselves for at least the next 7 days if you follow that link. I've also recorded it and, if the BBC remove it, I shall post a copy somewhere like Youtube.

One of the things it confirms is that the senior Catholic in charge of the Vatican's "Priest Protection Policy" designed to suppress all public awareness of the extent of child abuse by Catholic Priests around the globe over the past few decades has been none other than Cardinal Ratzinger - the present Pope Benedict.

I can now say, with some feeling, that should MIFT succeed in eliminating this man from the face of the planet, I for one will feel much the same satisfaction I've already mentioned in this blog in regard to the potential deaths of the top echelon of Israeli decision makers. He too has it coming to him.

Sorry 'bout that. Just had to get it off my chest. Now, where were we?

Ah yes, I think you were attempting to defend religion to some extent weren't you? I'm afraid you may have caught me at a bad time!

Actually, apart from your paragraph "Hmmmm... I'd say that depends on the religion" we seem to agree.

If I understand your implied objection correctly I think it is based on a confusion between religious wars and religious acts. I have spent a good deal of time in Chapter 10 part 2 describing how what we are engaged in does indeed qualify as the "Holy War" both sets of fundamentalists occasionally call it. So I have no problem agreeing that this is a religious war. But that clearly doesn't preclude it from being political as well. The Christian Right is overtly political as I've described in some detail here

And the principal aim of MIFT is the re-establishment of the Caliphate to sweep away and replace all other political systems throughout at least the Islamic World and, amongst a minority, throughout the whole World.

Their aims are the aims of deeply corrupted and perverse religions. Their acts are entirely political.