It could be worse…

Musing on current events… I’m a little miffed at Tom Tancredo for his off-handed remark about bombing Mecca as retaliation should islamist terrorists detonate nuclear devices on American soil. After all, regardless of how important it is that islamofascism be excised, it does no good to the cause of freedom to be seen stooping to the levels of our enemies, even hypothetically. It discredits us all.

Then I think how much worse I could have it. I could be a moderate muslim, reading the rantings of Mohammed Atta’s father, who praises the recent attacks in London, and says that moderate muslims who condemn violence are traitors and non-muslims.

It would be nice if the worst any of us had to worry about was being made to look bad by people who claim to share our faith.

34 thoughts on “It could be worse…”

  1. Tolerance

    I watched the last half of “Brigham Young” today, and got pretty upset at the part where Joseph Smith is convicted of treason by a kangaroo court, and then is shot down by the mob.
    I’m not a Mormon, but I deeply empathize with the struggles of the Mormon people against the disapproval of the communities where they tried to settle.
    It made me wonder why people can’t just leave others the hell alone, to go to heaven or go to hell in their own ways.
    “Tolerance” does not mean conversion, or approbation. It means allowing the other guy to do what he wants, in his own way, without censure. If that other guy isn’t hurting someone, leave him be.
    Why is that so hard for people?

    1. Re: Tolerance

      I like what Jefferson had to say about it.

      “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

      I wish more people could see it that way. I’m fairly curious about other religions, but most of them just don’t *do* it for me. I feel no sparkle from them. I find tremendous comfort, however, in my faith, and I’m glad that other people can seem to find that in theirs. It’s the whole “My God can beat up your God” thing that confuses the heck out of me. Especially among the various Christian sects, but among the various Abrahamic religions it’s really puzzling to me.

      I mean, they all worship the same god. You think they’d be friendlier to each other. The only way I can even wrap my brain around it at all is to see it as a really large scale sibling rivalry.

      1. Re: Tolerance

        The only way I can even wrap my brain around it at all is to see it as a really large scale sibling rivalry.

        And admittedly, in the minds of Jews and Muslims it is quite literally just that…

    1. It would be nice if we could cordon off “evil” in such a way that affiliation with a particular group would automatically dump an individual in the quarantine.

      Unfortunately, any affiliation large enough to be readily visible has waaay too many good people in it, and any affiliation evil enough to be worth cordoning off does a good job of hiding its membership.

      For now, we’re stuck labeling the nutcases onesy-twosy. Sadly, we’ll run out of “nutcase” stickers long, long before the job is done.

  2. As a Muslim, Americans frighten me when they start talking about stuff like this.

    We don’t really need to know about how dangerous Americans are. Thank you, but we know.

    1. I hope you’re not misunderstanding me.

      I’m empathizing with you (I think) in that the mouthworks of those who claim to share your faith end up making all muslims look bad — just like Tancredo’s comments make it look as if all Americans want to nuke the Middle East to glass.

      None of us like being painted with a broad brush, especially when it’s held by one of our own.

      1. Thanks, Howard. Yeah, we know the feeling. We’ve got this crazy bastard, Osama what’s–his–name, and he’s pretty damn annoying as well. 😉

        I know that’s what you meant, it’s just that I was majorly creeped out when I found out about it. I didn’t know about it until you mentioned it, and Google-fu just added to my sense of “OMG! Americans are cra-zeee”.

        1. As a wise man once said, the two most common elements in the universe are Hydrogen and Stupid.

          The United States being part of the universe (and a particularly dense part at that) we have no shortage of the latter.

          1. self-correction

            Okay, I have found that one attributed to Brian Pickrell and Harlan Ellison, mostly to Harlan Ellison. No Carl Sagan.

  3. It would.

    What I can’t understand is why so many people assume that the awful figureheads of religion, who blame 9/11 on liberals and gays, or who say that mass murderers are martyrs, or who…fill in your favorite story here. The point is, I don’t understand why others assume everybody agrees with those people. Why can’t it be understood that the loudmouths don’t speak for the moderates?

    1. I suspect it’s because it’s lot easier on people’s minds if they think that the Other are as crazy as the Other’s loudmouths make the Other out to be.

      I mean, it’s a lot easier to think that every American is a lunatic fundamentalist Christian bombing redneck than to, say, think of them as ordinary people who are relatively sane.

      Much the same way it’s probably easier to think of Muslims as towel-headed suicide-bombing camel-herders than, say, relatively sane people who generally have more in common than you than you’d like.

      1. Sting’s hit from the 1985, “Russians,” has a lyric that I found very, very thought provoking back when I first heard the song.

        “I hope the Russians love their children too.”

        Back then we were accustomed to Ronald Reagan branding the Soviet Union as the “Evil Empire.” And for all that it probably WAS an evil empire (it was definitely imperialistic, and definitely restrictive enough of human agency to qualify), that’s not the same as it being entirely populated with Orcs, Ogres, and faceless Stormtroopers. But we tended to forget that, or (as kids) never figured it out to begin with.

        It is comforting to know that most people love their families and want to live in peace with everyone else. It is also saddening to realize that a few evil people are able to motivate large numbers of us to begin killing each other over perceived trespasses.


  4. Get well soon, Howard.

    I wish there were a way to send a message to all the rational people in the world:

    Dear everybody,

    Let’s make a pact. I promise not to associate you or your culture with statements made by lunatics like Bin Laden, Hussein, Al-Zawahiri, and Milosevic, just so long as you don’t attach my image to captions quoting lunatics like Bush, Cheney, Santorum, Tancredo, Hannity, and Toby Keith.


    PS: Morality and ethics are like feet and genitals–those who flaunt theirs most publicly have, in general, the least to be proud of.

  5. Tancredo, the guy who is trying to make illegal immigration a felony. Lord knows, what the US needs is even more felony laws. [/sarcasm]

    Gee, Felonies used to be things so heinous that you couldn’t allow the person committing them into normal society. Do we need to create a third level of illegal acts now that felonies have become so overused?

  6. I don’t know that Tancredo is the right guy to be making statements like that, and I think politicians should think rather than make off-handed remarks.

    That said, I think there’s a reasonable case to be made for making it the official policy of our government that nuking Mecca is a possible response to Islamic terrorists detonating a nuke in an American city. I discussed why on my blog a couple of years ago:

    I don’t see it as stopping to the level of our enemies — in my proposal, we’d give sufficient warning that anyone who wished to leave Mecca could do so. As far as morality goes, it seems a great deal better than the policy of Mutual Assured Destruction during the Cold War.

    But the possibility of Mecca being destroyed is about the only thing I can think of that would deter some of the extremists from using a nuke if they got their hands on one. And it would give an incentive to Muslims to do their best to ensure that never happened.

    1. Nah.

      When religious faith is involved, retaliation like that doesn’t dissuade. They just wouldn’t BELIEVE that Allah would let Mecca be destroyed. They’ll believe we’ll try, maybe, but that it would be allowed to happen? Impossible.

      At least, if *I* believed in a Holy City, and there were no prophesies saying it would be laid to waste (holy cities seem to get that a lot, don’t they?), I wouldn’t believe it would happen.

      1. A fair point. That’s why I talked about the deterrent effect extending beyond the terrorists themselves.

        If true believers are sure that Alla would spare Mecca from an American nuke, then there’s absolutely no reason for them to get upset if we threaten it, is there? The should just laught at our silly infidel ideas.

        Anyone outraged at the idea of Mecca being nuked can be deterred if they believe the U.S. will do it. I’m just saying we should make it clear that if it’s Allah’s will that Mecca not be nuked, his followers had better make sure no one nukes an American city in his name.

        1. Threats as deterrents simply won’t work in the case of extremist terrorism. The extremists will continue doing what they do, and their sponsors will continue to fund them.

          The solution is to cut off the money, then isolate, exterminate, or incarcerate the extremists. This will likely require enlisting the support of those who share elements of the extremists’ ideology, (read that “we need more Muslim allies”) and that just won’t happen if you’re brandishing “we’ll nuke Mecca” as a threat.


          1. Something like that. I’d probably add some degree of alienating extremist Muslim ideas from mainstream discourse, but after reading stuff about the aftermath of the Scopes trial I don’t think that’d work.

            Just because something isn’t considered “mainstream” or “acceptable” doesn’t make it any less popular.

        2. No.

          Mecca would simply become the next Holy Temple of Jerusalem, and become so idealized that more Muslims would flock under an extremist banner after its destruction.

          Some things are too big to nuke.

  7. One thing I couldn’t help noting: You didn’t mention the relative harm of bombing Mecca to humanity. Not the body counts, but the damage to historically important structures.

    I couldn’t possibly care less about religion (I’m an atheist), but that alone strikes me as an excellent reason not to bomb Mecca in retaliation.

    1. Let me make it clear that I don’t want to nuke Mecca. I would be perfectly happy for Mecca to remain a radiation-free zone in perpetuity. During the Cold War, I had no desire to see Moscow nuked, or Leningrad, or any other Soviet city. But I still supported targeting those cities with nukes despite their historically important structures — because a credible deterrent seemed the best way to keep the historically important structures (and even the historically unimportant people) of New York, Los Angeles and other U.S. cities from being nuked.

      Mutual Assured Destruction is, from a purely moral standpoint, an indefensible policy. If the Soviets had launched a first strike, wiping out all major U.S. cities and killing 100 million innocent people, that would not justify our deliberately targeting 100 million of their innocent people and killing them. But from a practical moral standpoint, since MAD prevented the Cold War from becoming thermonuclearly hot, it was defensible.

      So I’m trying to think about what we could do to make a terrorist nuke less likely. Maybe it’s true that there is nothing that will deter Islamist terrorists — and if the threat of nuking Mecca won’t, nothing will.

      On the other hand, maybe some lesser threat would be sufficient: If a nuke goes off in our territory, we infidels will occupy Mecca, evict all Muslims from it, paint its streets with pig’s blood, and not allow any pilgrimages for twenty-five years, and even after that no Muslim born before the terrorist nuke will ever be allowed to enter.

      My point is, we should be thinking seriously about what might deter Islamist extremists and encourage non-extremists to do their best to make sure the terrorists never use a nuke.

      1. Expecting rational behaviour from irrational people doesn’t make sense.

        There’s only two possibilities:

        1. The terrorists are insane and just want to blow stuff up and kill people, they wrap that in religion since it makes it easier. In which case they won’t actually care if Mecca gets nuked – in fact it’ll be useful to them.

        2. The terrorists believe they are doing God’s work and that God really does want then to kill as many people as they can and blow as much stuff up as possible. In which case I’d guess they also believe God will protect Mecca from such destruction anyway.

        Either way, it’s not a deterrent.

  8. It’s no better anywhere else

    I’m an American living in New Zealand. Yesterday third item on the evening new is that New Zealand Muslims called an emergency meeting with the government because of serious threats and harassment. And this is one of the most non religious, liberal countries I’ve even encountered. Lets just realize that the entire planet has gone nuts and work out a plan from there. Maybe something involving planet wide groups therapy sessions. Let all the extremists on every side get together and bond in being the un loved middle child whose father missed their fourth grade piano recital. Everyone can have a good cry and go home with a nice ‘I’m ok/you’re ok feeling’

  9. Heh, to bomb Mecca would be suicide. America would have nearly everyone (all Muslims, plus anyone with a sense of decency) hating them. So I agree that that’s no way to fight “terrorism”.

    I’ll just sit here in my majority-Muslim country where we generally just joke about terrorism in a “i’ll bomb you” “not if i bomb you first” “gosh fighting is silly” kind of way.

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