No Ordinary Violence

56

A young man enters a public place—a school, a shopping mall, an airport—carrying a small arsenal. He begins killing people at random. He has no demands, and no one is spared. Eventually, the police arrive, and after an excruciating delay as they marshal their forces, the young man is brought down.

This has happened many times, and it will happen again. After each of these crimes, we lose our innocence—but then innocence magically returns. In the aftermath of horror, grief, and disbelief, we seem to learn nothing of value. Indeed, many of us remain committed to denying the one thing of value that is there to be learned.

After the Boston Marathon bombing, a journalist asked me, “Why is it always angry young men who do these terrible things?” She then sought to connect the behavior of the Tsarnaev brothers with that of Jared Loughner, James Holmes, and Adam Lanza. Like many people, she believed that similar actions must have similar causes.

But there are many sources of human evil. And if we want to protect ourselves and our societies, we must understand this. To that end we should differentiate at least four types of violent actor.

Written By: Sam Harris
continue to source article at samharris.org

56 COMMENTS

  1. I hope Sam isn’t just preaching to the choir.

    The men he names at the end of his piece seem to be unable to read and understand the concepts that Sam has so eloquently laid out.

    Very well written piece. I hope it gets through to more people.

    • In reply to #3 by MAJORPAIN:

      I hope Sam isn’t just preaching to the choir.The men he names at the end of his piece seem to be unable to read and understand the concepts that Sam has so eloquently laid out.Very well written piece. I hope it gets through to more people.

      Oh, I’ll be forwarding it alright.

      S G

  2. I ran across this yesterday:

    An analysis done by CNN’s International desk confirms that the dialect spoken by the executioners in the videotape is Lebanese Arabic and they can be heard shouting “Fi Sabil Allah,” an Arabic phrase that means “in God’s cause,” an expression commonly used by Hezbollah fighters on the battlefield. The international desk’s analysis points out that the yellow and green ribbons tied to the fighters’ uniforms appear to mark them as Hezbollah fighters.

    I’ve been trying to understand this from the apologist’s point of view. I can fully understand their point sometimes in some instances, but there’s far too much evidence to show that religious fervor is fueling so much of this hate and violence. But I suppose it’s against their political worldview that some beliefs and cultures are worse than others or it’s convenient to believe that the U.S. is the big bad evil in the world and the poor little Muslims can’t help themselves.

  3. Malala is the best thing to come out of the Muslim world in a thousand years. She is an extraordinarily brave and eloquent girl who is doing what millions of Muslim men and women are too terrified to do—stand up to the misogyny of traditional Islam.

    This made me catch my breath. Sam is correct. This young lady (really a little girl… and I mean that in the best of ways) IS one of the only things that islam can be proud of all the way back to Mohammed. Their track record is abominable. They should hold her up and celebrate her. Instead they shoot her on a school bus. A fucking schoolbus. How can you think that what you do is “right” when your agenda includes shooting a child on a schoolbus?
    I am often right and often wrong, the day I board a school bus with a weapon is, without a doubt, one of those times when I am wrong.

    As for the OP, Sam is a clear thinking, clear writing, brilliant man. I coud not agree more with his thesis and rationale and his conclusions. He is dead right.

  4. Dear RDFR’s. What Dr.Harris says about our ‘politically correct’ social commentators and truly, naive intellectuals in ‘accommodating’ a multi-cultural defense of the cult of Islam is exactly right. Please take special note of what the UK’s Head of MI5, Andy Parker, said a few days ago. . . . . . .
    “Thousands of Islamist extremists in the UK see the British public as a legitimate target for attacks, the director general of MI5 has warned”.

    Andrew Parker was making his first public speech since taking over as head of the UK Security Service in April.

    Al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Pakistan and Yemen present “the most direct and immediate threats to the UK,” he said.

    He also warned of the damage done to British security by the leaking of classified documents from GCHQ.
    (BBC News website)

  5. I received this direct by email and wanted to post it here but couldn’t find the correct portal.

    At last someone has delved down into the morass which is Islam and spoken out clearly and concisely about the turmoul of hatred and fear it brings about.

    Ms Yousafzai has said words to the effect that murdering someone must be very difficult, because the gunman’s hand was shaking from fear; he was probably full of hatred as well. And what brought about all this bile?

    She’s a courageous young woman because she must know that a Taliban leader has already said that if they get another chance to kill her they will.

    Incidentally, it’s not just talies they ban, they ban just about everything.

    Happy daze.

  6. This is exactly right. Writing like this is exactly what is needed in order to bring about change.

    Or at least it ought to be. There is still so much avoidance and obfuscation of this issue that I fear our political leaders are still asleep at the wheel.

    Obama supports the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda-linked jihadis in Syria. Cameron goes out of his way to tell us that whatever happens, however many koranic verses are recited while hacking off infidel heads, or ‘allah’U-Akbars’ are hollered while murdering innocents with bombs and bullets, the true cause can never be anything to do with Islam.

    This cannot be endured much longer. It’s past time for these leaders to get acquainted with truth and reality. And how about opening this up to a national debate about what really needs to be done?

    To the list of atrocities, Sam could have added a lot more. For example, in Nigeria, Sept. 29th, Boko Haram gunmen broke into a dormitory at an agricultural college and massacred 50 students. The day before that 15 Christians were killed, and the day before that 30 Christians were killed and their church in Dorawa was burned down. And so bloody on.

    We are facing a hideous enemy in the form of this ideology which has the power to turn people into lobotomised killing machines.

  7. Sing it again,Sam.Play it again and again and again,until people see the deadly nature of the religious mindset.And realize what a great evil it is.
    Say it again Sam,in your inimitable way,and with the “Charge of the light brigade”,(albeit a totally different kind of brigade, shining the light of reason and tolerance),the brave new atheists, eventually the future Malalas of the world will be able to ride on buses without fear.

  8. I’m a big fan of Sam and no fan of accomodationists but Mr. Harris remains untenably persistent in trivializing the role of geopolitics in the equation.

    Wonder why he chose not to include Scott Atran amongst the apologists for Islam and secular liberals whom he lists as to “be counted upon to obfuscate” the threat of Islam. Surely he recognizes Atran (on record to have stated: “I think religion is basically a neutral vessel… and there is nothing intrinsic about religion for the good or for the bad”) amongst the most insidious of obfuscators?

    Perhaps it’s because Atran has presented Harris with the most substantial challenge (which Harris has failed to convincingly refute) to his simplistic and naive, indeed, jingoistic conception of geopolitics in general and the US role in it in particular as illustrated here:

    “Yes, our drone strikes in Pakistan kill innocent people—and this undoubtedly creates new enemies for the West. But we wouldn’t need to drop a single bomb on Pakistan, or anywhere else, if a death cult of devout Muslims weren’t making life miserable for millions of innocent people and posing an unacceptable threat of violence to open societies.”

    As if the history of US projection of power by the threat of force and the use of force in the pursuit of its interests solely revolves around the activities of a death cult of devout Muslims.

    Also to be noted is Harris’ elogium of Malala turning a completely deaf ear to her inconvenient repeated proclamations of loyalty to Islam.

    • In reply to #15 by godsbuster:

      Surely he recognizes Atran (on record to have stated: “I think religion is basically a neutral vessel… and there is nothing intrinsic about religion for the good or for the bad”) amongst the most insidious of obfuscators?

      Of course he has refuted it by trusting the voices of the perpetrators themselves. When they claim to have performed their acts by the will of Allah there’s little more proof one needs. It may be true much of the violence has its roots somewhere else, but to claim religion has nothing to do with it is ridiculous and Harris has refuted it well.

      • In reply to #21 by Skeptic:

        In reply to #15 by godsbuster:
        Of course he has refuted it by trusting the voices of the perpetrators themselves. When they claim to have performed their acts by the will of Allah there’s little more proof one needs. It may be true much of the violence has its roots somewhere else, but to claim religion has nothing to do with it is ridiculous and Harris has refuted it well.

        You obviously have never read Atran because in fact Atran is the one who talks to the terrorists and the communities that support them not Harris. If you really believe in critical thinking I recommend reading Atran’s excellent book Talking to the Enemy Because before I read that book I agreed with Harris and your point of view. But the data that Atran puts forward clearly refutes what Harris is saying. Atran talks to potential terrorists and the communities that support them and they are all quite clear about why they do what they do.

        The book has many interviews conducted with terrorists and while they do mention religion it’s not the main thing that motivates them, it’s that they are outraged over perceived and actual crimes committed against their communities. Also, if you actually look at the published manifestos of groups like Al Queda again the evidence is clear, what they talk about are things like US troops in Saudi Arabia, support for dictators, etc.

        • In reply to #24 by Red Dog:

          The book has many interviews conducted with terrorists and while they do mention religion it’s not the main thing that motivates them, it’s that they are outraged over perceived and actual crimes committed against their communities. Also, if you actually look at the published manifestos of groups like Al Queda again the evidence is clear, what they talk about are things like US troops in Saudi Arabia, support for dictators, etc.

          Yes we all have grievances, that’s not the point. If you or Atran want to believe that them being upset enough about troops in their HOLY place to commit such atrocities has nothing to do with religion then I’m not sure what to say. It’s not that they don’t have reason to be upset, it’s how they choose to deal with it. Not every religion or culture behaves so abysmally. Perhaps when I get time I’ll pick up Atran’s book, but no quote of his or any of your attempts to explain his position comes close to convincing me that religion doesn’t play a significant role in their actions. I don’t know what Atran’s motivations are nor will one data point likely change my opinion in the face of the obvious.

          Do you agree with Atran that religion is just an empty vessel? And that it has no bearing on their actions? I don’t and neither does Harris and in my mind their utterances speak for themselves. Back to the OP, what does any of this have to do with Islamists boarding a school bus and shooting a child for wanting to be educated? Are they trying to get back at the West from some perceived grievance? Was this in no way related to the tenents of Islam? How is this different from them attacking Western interests? Can we separate these actions? Are we Islamophobes for pointing this out?

          • In reply to #26 by Skeptic:

            Yes we all have grievances, that’s not the point. If you or Atran want to believe that them being upset enough about troops in their HOLY place to commit such atrocities has nothing to do with religion then I’m not sure what to say. It’s not that they don’t have reason to be upset, it’s how they choose to deal with it.

            That statement implies that I somehow excuse their violence. I don’t know what I said that would lead you to that conclusion but I don’t mind being unambiguous about this, I absolutely do not condone violence as a political solution and neither does Atran. The thing is we are consistent about it. We criticize violence when done by either side. To claim that it’s only Islam that has a monopoly on using violence to achieve political ends is clearly contradicted by the evidence. The Iraq war for example.

            And neither I nor Atran claim that religion has nothing to do with the issue. In all these things the issues are complex and there are multiple factors. Of course religion plays a role. What Atran and others have found is that a religious difference between two peoples makes them more likely to resort to violence. Also, religious myths can help motivate people to do extreme acts like suicide.

            What Atran is doing though is looking at it as a scientist. Does the data support the hypothesis that Islamic extremists are motivated primarily by religion? For example, if that was the case you would expect their manifestos to be about getting into heaven. When you talked to potential terrorists they should tell you all about how great it will be to be schtupping virgins in paradise. But that isn’t what they talk about when he interviews them. They tell him stories about friends and loved ones who were killed, tortured, and raped and they talk about how they want to get revenge for those acts.

            And that is one of the things that bothers me the most about this is how hypocritical Harris, Dawkins, and many of their followers are on this. Because there is a side in the argument that is scientific. A side that actually interviews people and collects data and does statistical analysis and tests hypotheses. And that side is Scott Atran and others like him such as Robert Pape from the University of Chicago.

          • In reply to #28 by Red Dog:

            In reply to #26 by Skeptic:
            That statement implies that I somehow excuse their violence. I don’t know what I said that would lead you to that conclusion but I don’t mind being unambiguous about this, I absolutely do not condone violence as a political solution and neither does Atran.

            No that wasn’t my point. I was implying their grievance was religious because U.S. troops were on their holy ground. BTW, can you point to a quote by Harris or Dawkins that claim religion is their primary motivation? I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, only I don’t remember reading it. It’s a very nuanced position and I think there’s a lot of caricatures on both sides. BTW, you didn’t address my last paragraph.

          • In reply to #28 by Red Dog:

            Given the accounts, I think it’s not so much religion as what religion provides: a moralistic but flawed narrative which encourages violence against others as part of a grand-scale struggle. More specifically, it provides a framework for a moral narrative in which an “us” and a “them” are defined, the innocence of “us” and the depravity of “them” are exaggerated, and carte blanche is given as far as how the “them” is punished or otherwise treated. It doesn’t particularly matter if the grievance is political, religious, or economical, so long as it fuels a moralistic drive to commit violence on both a local scale and a huge scale. It gets all the worse because the ideology is also based on some combination of myth, lies, logical fallacies, and ignorance.

            For instance, a victim can’t easily track down and kill the specific soldiers who inflicted the grief upon them, and it’s not easy to establish culpability on an international scale because it’s hard to weed out the guilty from the reluctant from the ignorant from the innocent, and so forth. However, when the perpetrators are lumped in with the soulless and demonic “infidels” in a narrative about a war between the divinely dignified believers and the heathen, (to reinforce the righteousness of “us” and conveniently remove barriers towards being cruel to “them”), then there’s a justification for killing “their” civilians en masse, regardless of their actual role in the crimes or even to whether it’s a justified response to the crimes in reality. This is especially reinforced when “we” are effectively a band of brothers: I don’t recall exactly, but didn’t Atran touch upon such feelings of brotherhood and group loyalty among his interviewees?

            So if I were to get closer to the “root” of the problem, I’d pick the pseudo-ethics of the ideology behind the violence, which allows for both the political issues and the religious ideas to contribute.

          • In reply to #53 by Zeuglodon:

            So if I were to get closer to the “root” of the problem, I’d pick the pseudo-ethics of the ideology behind the violence, which allows for both the political issues and the religious ideas to contribute.

            I agree, it’s both political and religious issues. I think Robert Pape makes a good case that the political causes are the most significant (see his book Dying to Win, it’s a fascinating book, really puts emotional issues into an objective analytic context) but even he says that religion is a close second. And Atran says more or less the same thing. But when Harris writes these things he always downplays the political issues. I think that is irresponsible, especially as Americans we have the responsibility to be more critical of our own government.

          • In reply to #26 by Skeptic:

            Do you agree with Atran that religion is just an empty vessel? And that it has no bearing on their actions? I don’t and neither does Harris and in my mind their utterances speak for themselves. Back to the OP, what does any of this have to do with Islamists boarding a school bus and shooting a child for wanting to be educated? Are they trying to get back at the West from some perceived grievance? Was this in no way related to the tenents of Islam? How is this different from them attacking Western interests? Can we separate these actions? Are we Islamophobes for pointing this out?

            Touché

            I read /heard Atran also asserted that these young males murdering in the so-called name of Islam were just driven by peer pressure. Gadzooks! No shit Sherlock….but what drives such fucked-up-in-the-head peer pressure to commit this sort of suicide if it exists?

            Altran, interviewed by Chris Mooney, Point of Inquiry….

            “When you look at young people like the ones who grew up to blow up trains in Madrid in 2004, carried out the slaughter on the London underground in 2005, hoped to blast airliners out of the sky en route to the United States in 2006 and 2009, and journeyed far to die killing infidels in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia; when you look at whom they idolize, how they organize, what bonds them and what drives them; then you see that what inspires the most lethal terrorists in the world today is not so much the Koran or religious teachings as a thrilling cause and call to action that promises glory and esteem in the eyes of friends, and through friends, eternal respect and remembrance in the wider world that they will never live to enjoy…. Jihad is an egalitarian, equal-opportunity employer: …fraternal, fast-breaking, thrilling, glorious, and cool.”

            What a lot of bollocks.

            Beyond Belief: The Debate Continues

  9. While I agree with just about everything Sam wrote, I cannot help feel Malala is but a pawn- albeit a brave one in an ideologic clash of values.

    Moderate Muslims support her and see her as shining example of all that is good about islam, and commentators such as Sam see her as (paraphrasing) the best thing since sliced bread in the the Muslim world. There are many other (ex) muslims that have put their lives and reputation on the line, so in that sense Malala is not unique. Is is because of her age and the fact she was lucky enough to survive an attempted murder that she currently gets the exposure and limelight? There were other female victims in the same attack who haven’t been given the same exposure that were just as brave.

    Also we conveniently forget it was the press (BBC) who significantly contributed to Malala being exposed to the attempt on her life in the first place. It seems sad the same press is now further exposing Malala to harm by using her as a symbol and torch carrier for their particular causes, be they women’s rights access to education or appeasement of “the religion of peace”. That’s a very heavy burden to place on such young shoulders, especially when the fanatical and crazy bad guys are still gunning for you. jcw

  10. In this case the truth is in-between the two opposing sides, Harris’ and his opponents’. Yes, there are religious motivations behind the violence from both sides the Islamic world and let’s not forget also the US/Israel’s share. And again there are major economic and political motivations at play from the both sides. Sam must vocally acknowledge the parts his opponents do get right or his view will be simplistic and very inaccurate!

    One simply cannot ignore the oil industry and the military industrial complex which has seen an exponential growth since the 9/11 (for example illustrated by the Blackwater scandal) and drugs (probably the biggest tax-free industry or a close competitor for the title after religion), Afghanistan being the biggest producer of opiates and hashish now (its growth trend has coincided with the invasion…)! What should be known for everybody the western powers, if they see more instant profit, have been more than willing to cooperate and support the dictators and religious powers than the alternatives be they more enlightened or whatever. The 1953 Iranian coup was orchestrated by the US and the UK which they even admit it themselves now. And the cordial relationship with Saudi Arabia, well it speaks volumes for itself, I think.

    • In reply to #18 by mira:

      In this case the truth is in-between the two opposing sides, Harris’ and his opponents’. Yes, there are religious motivations behind the violence from both sides the Islamic world and let’s not forget also the US/Israel’s share. And again there are major economic and political motivations at play fr…

      Exactly. No person who cares about human rights would ever side with people like Al Queda. But at the same time to pretend that all of the violence in the middle east is due to Islam is just ridiculous. It so obviously flies in the face of the evidence. Also, one thing that is ignored in these discussions is that the US and UK played a major role in promoting Islamic fundamentalism in the first place. Al Queda, The Muslim Brotherhood, Pakistan’s ISI, all got significant money from the US to support them as a defense against “godless communism” during the cold war.

  11. good to see all the islamaphobes out in force. Just yanking your chain.
    Crookedshoes , a bit harsh some aspects of islam have been good since the lying bastard mohammed first arrived on the scene, there was a time when they were made to look like a beacon of shining light compared to the west european barbarians.

  12. How often can one ignore the fact that the suicide bomber is more often than not engaged in a class war between the developed world and the rest. It would seem that it is not just the religous who, as Steve Zara would say, press the reset button after a discussion.
    Malala, remember her, is a muslim but not a part of that class war.

    • In reply to #22 by jjbircham:

      How often can one ignore the fact that the suicide bomber is more often than not engaged in a class war between the developed world and the rest. It would seem that it is not just the religous who, as Steve Zara would say, press the reset button after a discussion.
      Malala, remember her, is a muslim…

      Where is Steve Zara? Haven’t seen a post from him in a long while.

      • In reply to #39 by aquilacane:

        In reply to #22 by jjbircham:

        Where is Steve Zara? Haven’t seen a post from him in a long while.

        He quit the site in disgust when somebody made a comment about how she thought all Muslims would turn on her given the opportunity and were innately evil or something. I don’t remember who it was, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Steve.

        • In reply to #40 by Katy Cordeth:

          He quit the site in disgust when somebody made a comment about how she thought all Muslims would turn on her given the opportunity and were innately evil or something. I don’t remember who it was, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Steve.

          Is that right Katy? When did he tell you this? I was under the impression that he was away focusing on other interests, such as a book he was writing. I find it hard to believe Steve would leave the site in disgust over such a reason…certainly not the Steve I knew on this site.

          BTW, when did this incident occur?…Steve Zara has posted here as recently as 4 weeks ago.

  13. Another excellent article by Sam Harris. I wish I had one tenth of his intellect. The willingness of people in the west, particularly on the left (note, my side of politics), to give religion a free pass when it inspires the most barbaric behaviour must stop.

  14. A particularly foolish article. Among the forms of violence, it leaves out the immense harm caused by national armies, acting as instruments of political and ideological aims. The inability to remember two world wars in a discussion of violence is remarkable.

  15. Great work as usual Sam, but I am concerned with Malala’s own Islamic obfuscation. As awesome and necessary as her work is, I can’t help but feel that she’s giving the liberals and Islamic apologists ammunition…

    Although I’ve heard Malala say stuff like this elsewhere, here’s an example from – http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2013/10/09/in-her-words-6-quotes-from-the-malala-yousafzai-interview/

    M.Y:
    “What the terrorists are doing is against Islam because Islam is a religion of peace. It tells us about equality, it tells us about brotherhood, it tells us about love and friendship and peace, that we should – we should be nice and kind to each other.”

  16. The problem of determining the motives of terrorists associated with the Middle East is that religion is not separated from the other domains of life in that region as it is in the West. When Middle Easterners react to the impositions and intrusions of the United Kingdom and the United States in their region for various political and economic reasons, the character of their reaction will inevitably be determined in large part by their religion, for are not these British and American intruders infidels? This is all very confusing to educated Westerners, who are accustomed to thinking of politics and religion as separate domains. If they take themselves back to thirteenth-century Europe, they may be able better to understand the mentality of these terrorists.

    Although I agree with Sam Harris’s article overall, I am aware that his view is not the whole truth of the matter. The whole truth is much messier and more confusing; the United Kingdom and the United States have not been very honorable in their dealings in that part of the world, so they should not be surprised to find that they have made enemies of people associated with that region. When Muslims have learnt to separate religion from politics, perhaps much more successful dialogue between them and the West will occur. Many Muslims are already doing this, both in the Middle East and North Africa and in Western countries; but there seems to be a struggle for control going on in Muslim societies between the traditional theocratic and the modern secularist versions of politics. We can only hope that the secularists will win this struggle; otherwise the confusion about Islam as a motive for terrorists will never be cleared up.

    Malala Yousafzai speaks as a Muslim standing firm against certain injustices in her society. She does not speak as a politician (though she has mentioned her ambition to become one). It will be interesting to see whether she will favor the separation of mosque and state. It would very much surprise me, indeed it would greatly disappoint me, if she did not accord to people of other religions and of no religion the same legal freedom and protection that she accords to Islam.

  17. To the commenters about Atran and religion not being the reason these terrorists do what they do:

    It may not be their given reason BUT it allows them to know that their sacrifice will be rewarded. If they weren’t going to heaven or some reward in an afterlife, their life would be perceived as more precious in the here and now and it would be much more difficult for them to contemplate killing for and dying for a cause. Take religion and its promises out of the equation and really ask yourself, would these people be doing this?

    • In reply to #32 by MAJORPAIN:

      Take religion and its promises out of the equation and really ask yourself, would these people be doing this?

      This is less of a puzzle for those whose knowledge of history goes back further than 2001. Considering the death rate for British bomber crews in WW2, what persuaded them to fly over Germany to carry out atrocities?

      • In reply to #33 by aldous:

        This is less of a puzzle for those whose knowledge of history goes back further than 2001. Considering the death rate for British bomber crews in WW2, what persuaded them to fly over Germany to carry out atrocities?

        This is off topic but military history is something I find interesting so I couldn’t let that pass without comment. While I agree completely with the comment about people’s sense of history, it’s actually kind of amazing how selective some people can be and how a suicide bomb is somehow terrorism while a cruise missile is collateral damage but I want to defend those bomber crews.

        The reason they did what they did was because they were told by their leaders, people who advocated strategic bombing for the US and UK, that what they were doing was going to end the war quickly by removing Germany’s ability to make new weapons. It was a reasonable hypothesis but I agree it was all wrong and in general strategic bombing has never really worked. But I think it’s unfair to call what those bomber crews did atrocities. The Axis powers were the first ones to use strategic bombing against civilians. You can’t really blame the allies just because they did it much better than the axis and once the Axis removed what had been the unwritten law that you don’t directly attack civilians it’s not rational to expect their enemies to hold back from doing it to them.

        • In reply to #38 by Red Dog:

          But I think it’s unfair to call what those bomber crews did atrocities. The Axis powers were the first ones to use strategic bombing against civilians.

          It’s what Sam Harris, presumably, is calling ‘ordinary violence’. The bombing of Dresden was an atrocity. You may argue that it was necessary or, at least excusable. It fulfils the first criterion for excuse or justification. ‘We’ did it; Not like these really atrocious atrocities committed by ‘them’.

          • In reply to #42 by aldous:

            In reply to #38 by Red Dog:

            It’s what Sam Harris, presumably, is calling ‘ordinary violence’. The bombing of Dresden was an atrocity. You may argue that it was >necessary or, at least excusable. It fulfils the first criterion for excuse or justification. ‘We’ did it; Not like these really atrocious atrocities >committed by ‘them’.

            It’s not a matter of ‘us and them’

            It’s a human reaction to unprovoked massacre of civilian populations. ie:- the retributive response by the victims to make the enemy suffer in the same way.

            Whether fully justified is doubtful because of the much larger scale of slaughter in Dresden than occurred in the UK. However it was surely far more justified than were the original bombing raids.

          • In reply to #46 by inquisador:

            It’s a human reaction to unprovoked massacre of civilian populations. ie:- the retributive response by the victims to make the enemy suffer in the same way.

            I see. ‘We’ are the victims and ‘they’ are the enemy and our desire for revenge is natural. Are you explaining why jihadists seek revenge on the West? Perhaps you think that civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan deserve to be massacred by the Americans and allies.

          • In reply to #48 by aldous:

            In reply to #46 by inquisador:

            I see. ‘We’ are the victims and ‘they’ are the enemy and our desire for revenge is natural. Are you explaining why jihadists seek revenge on the West? Perhaps you think that civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan deserve to be massacred by the Americans and allies.

            I see. ‘We’ are the victims and ‘they’ are the enemy and our desire for revenge is natural. Are you explaining…

            I see. So pronouns are uncool?

            Jihadists seek destruction of non-islamic societies in order to replace them with islamic societies in which they (sorry) are to dominate.

            It matters not whether those non-muslims are in the west or in Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, Egypt, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India…….

            What matters is that we (oops) must give way to the utopian perfection of sharia-guided islamic harmony.

            Then when all others (damn) are vanquished or subjugated, islam will truly be a religion of peace. At least until the sectarian splits spoil it all, as in Iraq at present.

            Civilians in Iraq and Afghan are murdering one another as usual. No change there. Are you saying NATO forces are just as bad?
            Your attempts to damn the forces attempting to stabilise the region as if as bad as the forces of religious oppression and supremacism are absurd.

          • In reply to #50 by inquisador:

            Your attempts to damn the forces attempting to stabilise the region as if as bad as the forces of religious oppression and supremacism are absurd.

            I wonder why you are so sure that our good-hearted lads are doing the right thing in fighting the Pashtun nationalist forces in order to support the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Perhaps you make a distinction between the good Muslims, or not completely bad ones, who are on our side and the bad ones who, obviously, are ‘the enemy’. There seems to be a fundamental incoherence in your position when you, quite rightly, condemn Sharia law while condoning it and even applauding the expenditure of billions of dollars and many lives in supporting it in Afghanistan.

          • In reply to #52 by aldous:

            In reply to #50 by inquisador:

            Your attempts to damn the forces attempting to stabilise the region as if as bad as the forces of religious oppression and supremacism are absurd.

            I wonder why you are so sure that our good-hearted lads are doing the right thing in fighting the Pashtun nationalist fo…

            I don’t say they are doing the right thing. My point was that their ethics are better, not necessarily their strategy. I hate the jihadists for their aims in trying to impose a false and cruel ideology over humanity. I hate them for their evil tactics in targeting, torturing and murdering innocent civilians in order to terrorize people into accepting their hateful ideology. The errors of the coalition forces are hardly great enough to bear comparison with the evil and deliberate crimes of the jihadists, as you seemed to suggest.

            Of course, the sharia constitution in Afghan. was a huge mistake. I never approved that or the huge waste of money and lives there. Better to have withdrawn asap after the operation against Al Qaeda.

          • In reply to #54 by inquisador:

            My point was that their ethics are better, not necessarily their strategy.

            I doubt if Afghans whose loved ones have been shot to death by Westerners, from the (relative) comfort and convenience of their helicopter gunship, regard the perpetrators as morally superior. ‘Cowardly scum’ is more likely to be the verdict, don’t you think? However,the troops are there to follow orders and the responsibility lies with the politicians who set the aims and strategy. The American strategy of supporting the establishment of an Islamic republic, based on Sharia law, cannot be said to be opposing that ‘hateful ideology’, as you put it.

          • In reply to #57 by aldous:

            I doubt if Afghans whose loved ones have been shot to death by Westerners, from the (relative) comfort and convenience of their helicopter gunship, regard the perpetrators as morally superior. ‘Cowardly scum’ is more likely to be the verdict, don’t you think?

            The troops in Afghanistan are working under strict rules of engagement

            The jihadis have no such restraints upon them. Contrast the main story at the above link with the one on the same page about Taliban beheading 17 civilians.

            Stories like these appear every day, from a wide range of islamic places, and getting wider all the time. The coalition forces should use all available means against Taliban and other jihadist forces. Unless we use those helicopter gunships, drones and missiles, to strike selectively; (at all cost avoiding civilian casualties), then the jihadists will continue their bloodthirsty work against civilians.

            In the Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi, remember that Jihadists sorted their captives into ‘us and them’ categories; meaning any non muslims, including women and kids, were ‘halal’, meaning they could be horrifically tortured and murdered with impunity by their captors, while the muslims were safely released. Bear these tactics in mind, and realize that they are theologically fully authorized and supported.

            The American strategy of supporting the establishment of an Islamic republic, based on Sharia law, cannot be said to be opposing that ‘hateful ideology’, as you put it.

            Second point first: – This is jihad according to islam. I call it a hateful ideology. What do you call it?

            As for the strategy, of course I would much rather see a secular democratic constitution, minus the sharia. The reality is that the country is not yet ready for that. Maybe in another 50 years. In the meantime, as I said, let’s get the hell outta there.

  18. This is both a war of ideas and a very bloody war—and we must win it.<<

    Very well. Let’s go with this: we, the civilized people of the West, are at war with Islam, both in the realms of ideas, and at actual battlefields. We must win it. How?

    Let’s start with what we can do in the realm of ideas. Ideally, it would truly be marvellous indeed if ~1 billion muslims denounced en masse their religion as a religion of hate and war, and become atheists(…or Christians?). The problem here, though, seems to be that, even in the case of Malala, “the best thing to come out of the Muslim world in a thousand years”, a freaking bullet in the head by Islam fundamentalists nutjobs wasn’t enough for her to denounce Islam. In fact, she still states that Taliban are a horrible distortion of Islam, which is, in its core, a religion of “peace”. For all her amazing courage, intellect and strength of character, she still serves as an enabler. I truly have no idea how we can make hundreds of million of muslims, most of them nowhere near as amazing as this girl, leave Islam, when she didn’t, not even now. But I’m all ears.

    Let’s move to the battlefield solutions then. Conventional warfare and lengthy miltary campaigns…we’ve had those already, haven’t we? Did they work? It is my understanding that they didn’t really do much, as for every “jihadist” you capture or kill, three more take his place(probably some of his cousins or children; and damn those muslims sure breed a lot, don’t they).

    It seems we’ve reached a dead-end…?

    I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

    • In reply to #34 by JoxerTheMighty:
      >

      And after we can deal with the overpopulation problem by eating babies. I’m sure Nigella can come up with some interesting recipes.

      (I know, Swift got there first.)

  19. In reply to #35 by Smill:

    I don’t know about Nobel, but this man should definitely be up for a Man Booker prize. Who can compete with writing like this, “A Tsunami of stupidity and violence is breaking simultaneously on a hundred shores”?

    Good point! Just substitute “stupidity” and “violence” with something like “excitement” and “ecstasy” and it would be a perfect candidate for describing a sex climax scene in “50 Shades” :P

  20. In reply to #35 by Smill:

    I don’t know about Nobel, but this man should definitely be up for a Man Booker prize.

    The Man Booker prize is for fiction. I wouldn’t put’s Sam’s article in that category. It’s simply advocacy of American foreign policy and the glitter in his prose would qualify him as a scriptwriter for a George W Bush style politician. As a political scientist he is underequipped.

  21. Malala Yousafzai targeted and criticized Islam. She was against Islam and we tried to kill her, and if we get a chance again we will definitely try to kill her, and we will feel proud killing her.

    Fuck you and your evil ideology!

  22. S.Harris as always elegeantly manages to overlook his (our) own ideologies (Free-market liberalism, nationalism, militarism) which historically as well as at the present are responsible for the majority of the violence worldwide. But of course they are to be exempted from any scurtiny which is considered equivalent to blasphemy. The hypocisy becomes even more obvious when one compares the 3rd and 4th categories of Harris. The normal (the kind of guys who could be our neighbour) perpetrators always act with the best intentions: ‘while believing that they are doing the right thing—or while neglecting to notice the consequences of their actions’. He just falls short of calling them victims.

    • In reply to #49 by wegoweg:

      S.Harris as always elegeantly manages to overlook his (our) own ideologies (Free-market liberalism, nationalism, militarism) which historically as well as at the present are responsible for the majority of the violence worldwide. But of course they are to be exempted from any scurtiny which is considered equivalent to blasphemy. The hypocisy becomes even more obvious when one compares the 3rd and 4th categories of Harris. The normal (the kind of guys who could be our neighbour) perpetrators always act with the best intentions: ‘while believing that they are doing the right thing—or while neglecting to notice the consequences of their actions’. He just falls short of calling them victims.

      I liked this bit:

      3.Normal men and women who cause immense harm while believing that they are doing the right thing—or while neglecting to notice the consequences of their actions.

      …Or think of a CEO whose short-term interests motivate him to put innocent lives, the environment, or the economy itself in peril. Most of these people aren’t monsters. However, they can easily create suffering for others that only a monster would bring about by design.

      Pity the poor CEOs. Pity Dick Cheney. I’m sure if as CEO of Halliburton he had known the misery that would result were the company’s designs on Iraq’s natural resources to come to fruition, he would never have attempted to persuade America and the rest of the world that Iraq was responsible for 9/11. The $39.5 billion his company made as a result must be scant consolation for this good man who definitely, definitely, hand to God, is in no way, shape or form a monster.

      When Trafigura dumped toxic waste in Côte d’Ivoire in 2006 causing 17 deaths and injuring up to 30,000 Ivory Coast inhabitants, they too probably thought they were doing the right thing. Who among us hasn’t been responsible for this sort of thing? I for one sometimes put cardboard in the trash rather than taking it up to the recycling place, so I can empathize with Trafigura.

      And they immediately apologized for this dreadful occurrence and accepted full responsibility, and compensated the families of those killed, and made generous cash payments to those who suffered injury, and took action to repair the damage done to the local environment… er, except they did none of these things.

      If Sam Harris wants to include CEOs of big businesses in the category of ‘Normal men and women who cause immense harm while believing that they are doing the right thing—or while neglecting to notice the consequences of their actions’, that’s up to him. If he wants to make the ridiculous, clichéd assertion that ‘the system is to blame’ as he did here,

      these people are not insane, and they’re not necessarily bad; they are just part of a system in which the negative consequences of ordinary selfishness and fear can become horribly magnified,

      that’s his right too.

      The claim that design plays no role in the suffering inflicted by corporate greed and CEOs are at best misguided and at worst neglectful of the consequences of their actions becomes risible though when, as in the case of Trafigura, we see the extraordinary lengths these companies go to in order to avoid any responsibility or pay dime one to the victims of their ‘mistakes’.

      We do all make mistakes, even big business. But when you repeatedly make the same mistakes, bringing harm to people or the environment; when those mistakes become your company’s modus operandi; when you habitually fail to take responsibility for your mistakes and employ politicians and lawyers to twist the law to your own advantage; when you know from previous experience and simple honest-to-goodness common sense that your mistakes will bring about misery and suffering but do them anyway; well, you sir, have become a monster.

      I personally tend to think institutionalized corporate greed represents a greater threat to world peace than all the suicide bombers throughout history combined. Even if I didn’t think this though, I hope I wouldn’t be so intellectually lazy as to excuse big business from the massive role it plays in creating the environment in which Islamic extremism is nurtured.

      Mammon or Allah. Which god is worse, Sam?

  23. Sam Harris goes off in the wrong direction by looking for the most evil swine. The award he decides goes to those who are deluded by their religious beliefs into thinking they will receive rewards in Heaven for serving a vile, bigoted and cruel God (that oriental despot in the Old Testament). The jihadis seeking revenge against Kenya for sending troops to Somalia were, no doubt, inspired with suicidal courage and murderous cruelty by their religion. However, the cure for such delusions lies in education, social reform and economic development. It is unlikely that Pashtun tribesmen in Pakistan and Afghanistan, fighting to maintain their medieval way of life, will learn to appreciate the moral superiority of the West through displays of the killing power of our technology.

    Besides, the threat to our species comes precisely from the killing power of our technology, in the hands of calm professionals, who don’t need fanatical courage to press buttons from a safe distance .

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