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Good Stuff During the Rat Era: So, we sealed the borders, attempted to drain the swamp in which the vermin lives (it’s a single beast, turns out), we cut off his supply chain; we assembled a coalition of neighbors, landlords and a small professional army (well, one guy named Watson) … and still no Rat. It’s been days since we’ve seen any evidence of his nocturnal raids, in fact. Watson advocated the sticky-traps first, on “humanitarian” grounds, but after my first-night failure of resolve when seeing Mr. Rat skating on a sticky-trap (I retreated to the bedroom, turned up the TV and whimpered, instead of calmly trapping him), apparently the little demoralizer learned how to spot the weaponry and steer clear. Two nights ago Watson reluctantly escalated the hardware to include three metal spring-traps, designed to crush rodent-bones. Despite some fine Gouda bait, there have been no nibbles. Meanwhile we clean like that Andie MacDowell character in sex, lies and videotape, throw out bags and bags of possessions, and wait for Monday, when Watson will bring out the chemical warfare. In the meantime, several generous friends have lent night-time shelter, and I will thank them all in a forthcoming rat round-up. First, I wanted to throw out a few links of interest I haven’t had time to blog.

Here’s a not-too-good Guardian column (surprise!) about the epithet “anti-American,” which quotes one of the Pacifist Left’s favorite Orwell alternatives, Henry David Thoreau. It reminded me of my first taste of politically motivated editing – in 1984, as a high school junior, I was assigned to write an open letter to Henry David Thoreau. I don’t have it around here, but it was clearly the best thing I wrote all year, and it basically argued that Thoreau was wrong and irresponsible for 1) withholding all his taxes to protest how some of them were being spent, and 2) retreating into the woods instead of going out and trying to whip up support for his cause. (I did give him credit, obviously, for writing well, and for having influence on future heroes like King and Gandhi.) Well, it was the only “B” I got on a writing assignment all year, just because my Pacifist teacher didn’t agree with my politics. I have been reminded of this episode a few times already since Sept. 11.

Much more news along the Christopher Hitchens vs. the Pacifists front. Hitch apparently threw a few misplaced bombs at Harold Pinter and John Pilger, leading to a correction and some letters-page action … and then wrote a calm little trifle of a column about the significance of the date Sept. 11. But the real action was over at The Nation’s website, where Hitchens and Noam Chomsky are battling over the Soul of the Left. Well, Hitchens is – Chomsky is basically acting like a pompous and irritated schoolmarm, his favorite rebuttal being “Of course, he does not mean what he is saying.” There are some bits in Hitchens’ rejoinder to Chomsky’s reply worth chewing on, especially the tidbit that our favorite linguist had the appalling gall to try and convince Hitchens that “Vaclav Havel, by addressing a joint session of Congress in the fall of 1989, was complicit in the murder of the Jesuits in El Salvador that had occurred not very long before he landed in Washington.” Hitchens also comes up, in one sentence, with what I spent three hours yesterday trying to formulate for one of my editors: “To be against rationalization is not the same as to be opposed to reasoning.” Here’s a fuller excerpt:

In Chomsky's reading, one must learn to sift through the inevitable propaganda and emotion resulting from the September 11 attacks, and lend an ear to the suppressed and distorted cry for help that comes, not from the victims, but from the perpetrators. I have already said how distasteful I find this attitude. I wonder if even Chomsky would now like to have some of his own words back? Why else should he take such care to quote himself deploring the atrocity? Nobody accused him of not doing so. It's often a bad sign when people defend themselves against charges which haven't been made. […]

I don't believe that any of those who have so anxiously sought his opinions in the past three weeks have felt either inspired or educated by them, because these opinions are a recipe for nothingness.

Other items of interest: the LA Weekly’s Ella Taylor, a leftist with an Israeli passport, whacked her fellow travelers around Thursday. Some Ayn Rand dude goes off on “America-haters” in U.S. academia (thanks, Greg!). … Ooh, here’s something stupid in my in-box. It’s an unsolicited e-mail from someone named Robin Morgan. It talks emotionally about Sept. 11, warns against flag-waving, criticizes Jerry Falwell, winces at the memory of “the world averting its attention from Rwanda’s screams,” and preaches nonviolence (though how we could have prevented Rwanda’s screams nonviolently is still a puzzle). Here’s an excerpt from today’s Straw Man:
The world's sympathy moves me deeply. Yet I hear echoes dying into silence: the world averting its attention from Rwanda's screams . . .

Ground Zero is a huge mass grave. And I think: Bosnia. Uganda.

More than 6300 people are missing and presumed dead (not even counting the Washington and Pennsylvania deaths). The TV anchors choke up: civilians, they say, my god, civilians. And I see ghosts. Hiroshima. Nagasaki. Dresden. Vietnam.

I wonder how many more mass graves we would have had in Bosnia, had we continued the tragic nonviolence policies of the early 1990s? Or if, confronted with the slaughter of Sarajevo babickas lining up for bread, we would have thought “Waco, Kent State, the Silver Dollar Café.” This is what we talk about by “moral equivalence” – it is taking a unique monstrous act, and immediately comparing it, after the “moves me deeply” preamble, to the worst U.S.-sponsored violence you can think of. No, this does not make Robin Morgan a pro-terrorist Taliban groupie, but it does contribute to a diminishing of the impact, the slow erosion of the awful singular truth of Sept. 11. Hence, it is wrong, and it is immoral, and it is in the newspapers every fucking day, and I’m sorry if I’m more upset by this line of thought than I am by whatever stupid garbage Ann Coulter says. Let’s quote more from today’s Straw Man:
Those of us who have access to the media have been trying to get a different voice out. But ours are complex messages with long-term solutions -- and this is a moment when people yearn for simplicity and short-term, facile answers.
Who, exactly, is looking for “short-term, facile answers”? Who -- besides the Pacifists, that is – can reduce this hellishly complicated campaign into a singular binary problem? Now, let’s hear more about these “complex messages with long-term solutions.” Since I’m already tired in advance, I have italicized the bits that are particularly galling nonsense:
I urge all of you to write letters to the editors of newspapers, call in to talk radio shows, and, for those of you who have media access -- as activists, community leaders, elected or appointed officials, academic experts, whatever -- to do as many interviews and TV programs as you can. Use the tool of the Internet. Talk about the root causes of terrorism, about the need to diminish this daily climate of patriarchal violence surrounding us in its state-sanctioned normalcy; the need to recognize people's despair over ever being heard short of committing such dramatic, murderous acts; the need to address a desperation that becomes chronic after generations of suffering; the need to arouse that most subversive of emotions-empathy-for "the other"; the need to eliminate hideous economic and political injustices, to reject all tribal/ethnic hatreds and fears, to repudiate religious fundamentalisms of every kind. Especially talk about the need to understand that we must expose the mystique of violence, separate it from how we conceive of excitement, eroticism, and "manhood"; the need to comprehend that violence differs in degree but is related in kind, that it thrives along a spectrum, as do its effects -- from the battered child and raped woman who live in fear to an entire populace living in fear.
OK, back to the rat.

10/6/2001 02:59:45 PM

Generalities Breed Heartlessness: The Spectator’s Mark Steyn, who my comrade Tim Blair always points me toward, writes a funny and perceptive Pacifist-bashing column, which brings up a very good point about the anti-war Left’s frequent use of vague and imprecise language to “explain” the Sept. 11 slaughter (and in the process, dehumanize the victims):
A large swath of the Left has settled into an endless dopey roundelay, a vast Schnitzlerian carousel where every abstract noun is carrying on like Anthony Quinn on Viagra. Instability breeds resentment, resentment breeds inertia, inertia breeds generalities, generalities breed clichés, clichés breed lame metaphors, until we reach the pitiful state of the peacenik opinion columns where, to modify the old evening news motto, if it breeds it leads. If I were to say ‘Mr Scroggins breeds racing pigeons’, it would be reasonable to assume that I’d been round to the Scroggins house or at least made a phone call. But the ‘injustice breeds anger’ routine requires no such mooring to humdrum reality, though it’s generally offered as a uniquely shrewd insight, reflecting a vastly superior understanding of the complexities of the situation than we nuke-crazy warmongers have. ‘What you have to look at is the underlying reasons,’ a Dartmouth College student said to me the other day. ‘Poverty breeds resentment and resentment breeds anger.’

‘Really?’ I said. ‘And what’s the capital of Saudi Arabia?’

It’s certainly possible to mount a trenchant demolition of US policy toward Israel, Palestine, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but that would require specifics, facts, a curiosity about the subject, and this breed of rhetoric is designed to save you the trouble.

10/5/2001 11:44:23 AM

Some Warblogs to Chew on During the Rat Fatwah: I will be back, better than ever, very soon. In the meantime, I’d like to direct you to a few valuable Weblogs that are trying valiantly to make sense out of our post-Sept. 11 world. There are the ones I’ve previously mentioned – Jeff Jarvis’ WarLog, Nick Denton’s Blogorama, Fred Lapides’ Bushwacker, Kenlayne.com (which has slowed down as he finishes his Sequel), and even (gasp) Andrewsullivan.com. Here are some new ones: My dear friend Amy “Collins” Langfield, a terrific reporter who lives in NYC, just got her a brand new blog. Charles Johnson runs a good one called, uh, Little Green Footballs (that’s the name of his Web design firm … I am continually impressed by the reasoning/writing skills of many tech-heads, as opposed to, say, op-ed columnists). Thomas Nephew runs a good one called Newsrack, and the kind Ms. Gabrielle Taylor has warblog on her Moonfarmer. Andy Conroy, who works for Wisden Online, has one that looks just like Jeff Jarvis’. Cursor.org runs a fairly promiscuous blog & links show, with a good round-up of the Left. These are mostly cribbed from my referral logs; I’ll make a better roundup of other useful sites later. For now, check out this fabulous site (read it from top to bottom), and reflect that it is written by a 22-year-old software programmer from Norway. Here’s how Bjørn Stærk launched his Warblog, on Sept. 22. Read it, and repeat that magical phrase – “being irrelevant is no longer a morally acceptable option”:
I quit writing on the web when I realized I am irrelevant. Not in the sense that I am worthless, (or wrong), but that whatever merit I have beyond that of any other human being I have because of what I do, socially and professionally, and not because of what I say in bold letters on a website. One friendly word or a job well done is much more important than a hundred accurate political observations.

I still believe that.

I was just about to sign a treaty of non-aggression with reality, ("you stay out of my business, and I'll stay out of yours"), when the rules changed, and being irrelevant was no longer a morally acceptable option. If I stay silent now, at the dawn of a strange, unpredictable future, then my beliefs are hollow, and all those years I spent figuring it all out were wasted.

Something changed on September 11th, 2001. At first I thought it was the world. Now I realize that the world is what it has always been, with a few brief exceptions, chaotic and bloody. Neither has my political philosophy seen any reason to update its principles. A few more buckets in an ocean of blood won't sink the product of 10 000 years of human history.

It is, mostly, I who have changed, and the way I apply my beliefs to the world. How much, I don't know, but I am curious to find out.

This new blog is dedicated to the new world. At a time of war, even one my country is not directly involved in, voices of intellectual honesty and clarity are needed more than ever, and it is my goal to find those voices on the web, and perhaps be one of them.

10/4/2001 12:35:29 PM

On Temporary Leave: This warblog will be halted -- very temporarily, I hope -- until I am able to remove the rat from my apartment. Judging by last night's action (I heard an atrocious thrashing around, then overcame my terror to walk into the dark kitchen, to find Mr. Rat struggling on top of one of the sticky-traps, after which I figured the best thing to do was to close the bedroom door tight and pump out some jazz music through the door-crack Noriega-style ... only to discover in the morning that the rat-bastard had wiggled free), we should see some kind of tentative closure as early as this evening. Hopefully, too, we will also find some tentative shelter, since lying frigidly awake in bed, straining to block out any suspicious noise, is not a good way to get your beauty sleep. I apologize for the pettiness of my phobias, and hopefully will get back to work tomorrow.

10/1/2001 02:59:47 PM

Did the Taliban Put Rats in My Apartment? I must rank as one of the luckiest people in the world, especially in the wake of the Sept. 11 reality check. Still, just tonight, I would like to complain about my fortunate existence. See, we came back from the movies two hours ago, and found a rat in our cupboard. Thought we had him trapped, and duct-taped the door shut until the 24-hour Rat Guy showed up, but he discovered a secret hole that ratty must have gone down. Guy took a look around, found some likely entry points, and brand new rat-turds that we’d never seen before. Said there are probably a few of the beasts creeping around in our not-so-big apartment, hopping in the sink for a sip of water when we’re sleeping, etc. And, the only way to eradicate them is to seal off all their exit routes, set traps every night and watch them die, one by one. For two weeks.

I grew up with rats – enormous, possum-sized buggers called Roof Rats that immigrate to the Port of Long Beach, breed with the local coyotes, and make their way north. Most people have aspects of their childhood they don’t need to ever revisit; mine is rats. Seeing that awful pink tail tonight just sunk my weakened heart. It was my “tipping point,” my Last Drop. The last thing I need right now is a two-week jihad with a pack of vermin, while trying to flail around with a suddenly dislocated workload and career.

But then, Emmanuelle sought out neighbor pals for advice, and encountered our wonderful Lebanese friend (and father of four lovely little girls), who was just coming back from a funeral of a friend killed in the World Trade Center. In fact href="http://mattwelch.com/old/2001_09_30_archive.html#6027815">10/1/2001 12:17:41 AM

Happy Anniversary, Pacifists! Courtesy of the wicked Mr. Layne….

9/30/2001 06:30:26 PM

New York Aid Worker Returns From Year in Afghanistan to Find Destruction at Home: This is a very nice descriptive essay in the New York Times by a guy named John Sifton (pointed out to me by the hunkered-down Ken Layne):
Like many countries suffering from political instability, Afghanistan is a complicated and weird place. In some areas, there are few traces of modern life. Goods are carried by donkey or camel, and oxen plow the ground. Old men with long beards sit beneath trees, fingering prayer beads, their skin brown and wrinkled. Many rural people live as their ancestors probably did 400 years ago: iron pots over the fire, clothes they made themselves and babies delivered by candlelight.

In other parts of the country, life is more complicated. Taliban troops speed around Kabul in their clean new Toyota pickup trucks, tricked-out, hip-hop ghetto rigs. On the sides they have painted pseudo-American phrases: “City Boy,” “Fast Crew,” “King of Road.” Inside, young solemn-looking Taliban men sit in their black holy dress, sporting Ray-Bans. […]

Taliban troops and police are always easy to spot. They have black flowing robelike clothes, long hair and big silky black turbans with long tails running almost to the ankles. (These accouterments are meant to identify them as direct descendants of Muhammad.) They are often tall and imposing, even impressive. ''The Taliban troops are like gangsters,'' a colleague told me when I first arrived. ''Tough guys.'' But there is often a particular dandyism in them; many wear black eyeliner (part of the descendant-of-Muhammad costume), and their hair is long and curly. I once saw one buying Prell shampoo at the bazaar. They carry themselves like supermodels.

9/30/2001 06:29:09 PM

On Second Thought, I Will Keep Reacting to Bullshit Reactions: My wife, who’s French, just got yet another e-mail from la patrie suggesting that the United States really better learn its lesson from Sept. 11, or else it will keep getting more of what it may well deserve. And you know, they’re right. And why stop there? I mean, the Jews really were getting uppity in the 1930s, all educated and well-connected and without national allegiance. Maybe they should have looked in the mirror, before always blaming the Germans (and the Greeks, and the French, and the Slovaks, and the Croats, and the Italians, and the Hungarians, and the Swiss, and just about every European country that got the chance) for that Holocaust thingie.

This sentiment seems to have legs. So let me lay it out for you, in simple language: 1. No one deserves to be incinerated by suicide bombers or crushed underneath 100 tons of steel and concrete, OK? 2. Stating flatly, or even suggesting, that American citizens (plus, you know, those people from 80 other countries) perhaps deserve such a fate because of U.S. foreign policy, is fucking monstrous. It is much worse than suggesting, for example, that a French guy sitting right now in a Paris café deserves to have his balls stomped into pancakes by an elephant, because of all that colonialism stuff. 3. Despite what you hear in “progressive” publications like the Guardian, the United States, on the whole, is a positive force in the world. This is a relevant if banal thing to say, because if you believe, like so many in America and Western Europe apparently do, that, in the despicable words of the Guardian’s Arundhati Roy, “what goes around eventually comes around,” you are basing this disgusting opinion on an equally banal conclusion that American policy is on balance malevolent. Incidentally, you have also arrived at many of the same conclusions as the murderous Islamo-fascists. 4. Saying bits one through three does not absolve any U.S. citizen from the moral duty of criticizing his or her own government, or indicate that I or any other person who is scandalized by such callous statements is advocating some kind of “intellectual Totalitarianism.”

Yesterday, I felt very Christian toward my debate partners, and felt like I should focus my free time elsewhere. Today, I have run out of patience for people who spread the disease of hate through the virus of lies. They need to be slapped down at once. Let’s roll tape on the aforementioned Roy:

In America there has been rough talk of "bombing Afghanistan back to the stone age". Someone please break the news that Afghanistan is already there.
Really? Which government official, informed pundit, or respected editorial voice has suggested such a bombing campaign. Oh yeah – none. Someone please break the news to Roy that Americans aren’t as fucking dumb as all that, and that in fact one of the most forwarded e-mails here since Sept. 11 has been an elegant little essay by an Afghan-born writer making precisely Roy’s point.
Operation Enduring Freedom is ostensibly being fought to uphold the American Way of Life. It'll probably end up undermining it completely. It will spawn more anger and more terror across the world.
If you’re this omniscient, what the hell are you doing in London? Vegas, baby, Vegas. Also, what threshold will we need to have crossed to reach that inglorious day of “undermining” the American Way of Life “completely”? Civil war? Anarchy? No more Bruce Willis movies?
The US government, and no doubt governments all over the world, will use the climate of war as an excuse to curtail civil liberties, deny free speech, lay off workers, harass ethnic and religious minorities, cut back on public spending and divert huge amounts of money to the defence industry.
1. If George Bush was looking for an “excuse” to “harass ethnic and religious minorities,” what in Allah’s name is he doing at mosques, inviting Muslim leaders to the national cathedral and the White House, condemning anti-Arab/Muslim violence nearly every day, or instructing his attorney general to prosecute hate crimes? 2. The U.S. government will likely increase public spending in response to this crisis. You might recall the recent emergency $40 billion spending bill, the airline bailout, and the discussion of a “stimulus package.” 3. Can you really imagine government officials around the world, rubbing their hands together and saying “Great! Now we’ll lay off a bunch of workers!”?
Terrorism has no country. It's transnational, as global an enterprise as Coke or Pepsi or Nike. At the first sign of trouble, terrorists can pull up stakes and move their "factories" from country to country in search of a better deal. Just like the multi-nationals.
This is a textbook example of Moral Equivalency, which is the first step toward Justification, which breeds Appeasement. See how it works? Multinationals = Terrorism, so maybe the terrorists were right, and we should do what they say. Incidentally, Coke and Pepsi typically build factories in countries where they sell their products, and prefer countries that enjoy the rule of law. Also, they hire people, instead of slaughtering them.
Someone recently said that if Osama bin Laden didn't exist, America would have had to invent him.
Who said that? One of your jackass Guardian colleagues? Now that you mention it, I’ve just remembered that “someone recently said” Arundhati Roy sucks eggs in the night. Oh yeah, that was me.
From all accounts, it will be impossible to produce evidence (of the sort that would stand scrutiny in a court of law) to link Bin Laden to the September 11 attacks. So far, it appears that the most incriminating piece of evidence against him is the fact that he has not condemned them.
All accounts? How about the account this weekend, from British Prime Minister Tony Blair, saying that, well, there is probably enough evidence to convict Bin Laden in a “court of law”?

I would go on (it actually gets worse), but I have suddenly lost enthusiasm for the project. History does not much concern itself with peace-time flatulence, but the Great Scorer takes a keen interest during crunch time. It’s amazing to watch so many people respond to Evil by fitting themselves for a Black Shirt.

9/30/2001 06:05:36 PM

Civil Rights Maybe Not So Bad Off, After All: Sam Tanenhaus of the warmongering New Republic surveys the actual post-Sept. 11 policy changes and proclamations regarding civil liberties and the treatment of Arabs and Muslims in America … and finds that “The ‘systematic breakdown of respect for personal liberties’ appears to be well disguised as responsible, cautious debate.” He makes an interesting case that all previous war-time crackdowns on targeted groups were “top-down” – i.e., directed by the government. As opposed to, say, Dubya praying in mosques and Ashcroft prosecuting hate crimes. Tanenhaus’ conclusion:
American democracy may well face trials in the days ahead. But the contest won't be between security and civil liberties, a delicate balancing act even in the best of times and never reducible to a simple either/or. The meaningful conflict today is between reason and hysteria. Our government seems to understand this. The same can't be said for those who, in the guise of vigilance, appear hungry for evidence that America is becoming the police state of their dreams.

9/30/2001 05:13:53 PM

Havel on Ideology and ‘Timeless Sorrow’: Twice this past year, in the midst of discussing U.S. foreign policy with friends and readers, I have heard interesting sentiments about post-Sept. 11 whipping boy Noam Chomsky. The first guy, while (if memory serves) discussing America’s allegedly perfidious military action in Kosovo, countered my defense of it with a “well, I’ll defer to Noam.” The second guy, a friend to whom I owe an e-mail, made some comment about how Chomsky has argued in the past that the world is a much more simple place to understand than most commentators admit. It is with those two comments in mind, that I type in this latest bit from Vaclav Havel’s 1985 essay “An Anatomy of Reticence.” For more excerpts of this marvelous piece of writing, scroll down a week or so.
It is the tragic story of a ‘mental short circuit’: Why bother with never ending, genuinely hopeless search for truth when a truth can be had so readily, all at once, in the form of an ideology or doctrine? Suddenly it is all so simple. Think of all the difficult questions which are answered in advance! Think of all the laborious existential tasks from which our minds are freed once and for all! The essence of this short-circuit is a fatal mistake: the tacit assumption that some ingenious, universally applicable artefact – and is a doctrine or an ideology every anything more than a human artefact? – can lift from our shoulders the burden of the incessant, always unique, and essentially inalienable question and utterly transform man from a questioning being into an existing answer. This is the illusion that the demanding, unending, and unpredictable dialogue with conscience or with God can be replaced by the clarity of a pamphlet, that some artefact, like a set of pulleys freeing us from physical effort, can liberate us from the weight of personal responsibility and timeless sorrow.

9/30/2001 05:13:07 PM

Globalization’s Culpability: In the spirit of such intellectually adventurous suggested responses to the Sept. 11 massacre as “bomb them with butter,” I’ve got a neat little idea to aid our beleaguered little anti-globalization-turned-anti-war kids – give them all subscriptions to The Economist. After all, the venerable British weekly stands shoulder to shoulder with the indymedia cuties on legalizing marijuana, closing the gaps between rich and poor, eradicating world poverty, and “seeking justice.” The difference is, The Economist has correspondents all around the globe, a two-century commitment to capital-R Reason, a sense of humor … and it has come to the conclusion that globalization is the best way to advance those goals, not the worst. Here’s a delicious sample from one of this week’s leaders:
Is there no limit to the crimes for which globalisation must be held to account? Not only does it oppress the consumers of the rich West, undermine the welfare state, emasculate democracy, despoil the environment, and entrench poverty in the third world; we knew all that already. In addition, we now find, it is a utopian scheme for global ideological conquest — like Stalinism, minus the compassion. Truly, the idea that people should be left free to trade with each other in peace must be the most wicked and dangerous doctrine ever devised.

Either that, or a lot of people are talking nonsense. In fact, this is a distinct possibility.

Of course, the paper isn’t satisfied with a fun cheap-shot – it publishes an entire 30-page survey on the subject. Required reading for those who actually want to learn about the subject. As for the protest kids, I found that act pretty funny two years ago, when people weren’t using their same slogans (“no justice, no peace!”) and bad ideas (America = Evil Empire!) to justify and “contextualize” the slaughter of 6,500 innocent people.

9/30/2001 01:18:35 PM

On Cowardice and Courage: My friend Greg Beato delivers a typically unpredictable dissection of the “cowardly” argument, as debated by Susan Sontag, Bill Maher, President Bush, and the rest of us. It’s worth watching how he gets there, even though I’m spoiling the ending here:
In the end, it's not that the terrorists are so courageous that makes them frightening. Instead, it's their silence, their refusal to claim responsibility for their deeds. Because, ultimately, the implication of that silence is obvious. The terrorists haven't told us how we might negotiate a peace, because the terrorists aren't particularly interested in peace. Violence is what drives them: it gives them not only an afterlife, but also a life. Indeed, in the culture the Taliban, Osama bin Laden, and other Islamists have fashioned for themselves, with its fatwas, military training camps, and restrictions on just about everything that doesn't involve holy terrorist action of one kind or another, it doesn't seem as if there's much room for anything except violence. And when violence becomes a culture's only means of expression, status, and accomplishment, then it doesn't really matter if that violence is most accurately described as "courageous" or "cowardly" or anything else. Instead, it just is. And if our only response to it is to give blood to the victims each time it decides to strike, then we will end up giving more blood than we can imagine.

9/30/2001 12:07:57 PM

Comments, questions, bad links? Send e-mail to Matt Welch

© 1997-2000; All rights reserved.

ability: In the spirit of such intellectually adventurous suggested responses to the Sept. 11 massacre as “bomb them with butter,” I’ve got a neat little idea to aid our beleaguered little anti-globalization-turned-anti-war kids – give them all subscriptions to The Economist. After all, the venerable British weekly stands shoulder to shoulder with the indymedia cuties on legalizing marijuana, closing the gaps between rich and poor, eradicating world poverty, and “seeking justice.” The difference is, The Economist has correspondents all around the globe, a two-century commitment to capital-R Reason, a sense of humor … and it has come to the conclusion that globalization is the best way to advance those goals, not the worst. Here’s a delicious sample from one of this week’s leaders:
Is there no limit to the crimes for which globalisation must be held to account? Not only does it oppress the consumers of the rich West, undermine the welfare state, emasculate democracy, despoil the environment, and entrench poverty in the third world; we knew all that already. In addition, we now find, it is a utopian scheme for global ideological conquest — like Stalinism, minus the compassion. Truly, the idea that people should be left free to trade with each other in peace must be the most wicked and dangerous doctrine ever devised.

Either that, or a lot of people are talking nonsense. In fact, this is a distinct possibility.

Of course, the paper isn’t satisfied with a fun cheap-shot – it publishes an entire 30-page survey on the subject. Required reading for those who actually want to learn about the subject. As for the protest kids, I found that act pretty funny two years ago, when people weren’t using their same slogans (“no justice, no peace!”) and bad ideas (America = Evil Empire!) to justify and “contextualize” the slaughter of 6,500 innocent people.

9/30/2001 01:18:35 PM

On Cowardice and Courage: My friend Greg Beato delivers a typically unpredictable dissection of the “cowardly” argument, as debated by Susan Sontag, Bill Maher, President Bush, and the rest of us. It’s worth watching how he gets there, even though I’m spoiling the ending here:
In the end, it's not that the terrorists are so courageous that makes them frightening. Instead, it's their silence, their refusal to claim responsibility for their deeds. Because, ultimately, the implication of that silence is obvious. The terrorists haven't told us how we might negotiate a peace, because the terrorists aren't particularly interested in peace. Violence is what drives them: it gives them not only an afterlife, but also a life. Indeed, in the culture the Taliban, Osama bin Laden, and other Islamists have fashioned for themselves, with its fatwas, military training camps, and restrictions on just about everything that doesn't involve holy terrorist action of one kind or another, it doesn't seem as if there's much room for anything except violence. And when violence becomes a culture's only means of expression, status, and accomplishment, then it doesn't really matter if that violence is most accurately described as "courageous" or "cowardly" or anything else. Instead, it just is. And if our only response to it is to give blood to the victims each time it decides to strike, then we will end up giving more blood than we can imagine.

9/30/2001 12:07:57 PM

Comments, questions, bad links? Send e-mail to Matt Welch

© 1997-2000; All rights reserved.

© 1997-2000; All rights reserved.

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