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  • The Rabbit People and their Eternal War

    Posted on December 31st, 2009 Helian No comments

    White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer chimes in on the latest Cheney-Obama dustup:

    Second, the former Vice President makes the clearly untrue claim that the President — who is this nation’s commander in chief — needs to realize we are at War. I don’t think anyone realizes this very hard reality more than President Obama. In his inaugural, the President said “our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.”

    Charming! The rabbit people on the left now agree with the rabbit people on the right that “we’re at war.” The only problem is that we’re not. We are being attacked by an international terrorist organization. They carried out one successful attack on our homeland nearly a decade ago that cost the lives of 3,000 people give or take. In the intervening years we have lost more than 100 times that many in traffic accidents, not to mention a far greater number of serious injuries. Nearly a hundred times that number have been killed by handguns. Shouldn’t we declare war on automobiles and handguns as long as we’re at it? From the time of the Decembrists until the October Revolution, Russia was constantly under attack by a host of anarchists, social revolutionaries, Bolsheviks and other assorted radical terrorists. They succeeded in assassinating Czar Alexander II and many other important government officials. Dynamite gained the nickname “Russian candy,” yet it never occurred to the Russians or the rest of the world, for that matter, that Russia was “at war” with these people. Anarchist terrorism was pervasive in Europe and the United States in the last decades of the 19th and the first decades of the 20th century. The terrorists succeeded in murdering French President Carnot in 1894, bombing the Greenwich Observatory in London in the same year, and assassinating President McKinley in 1901. They carried out lesser known indiscriminate bombings in theatres, marketplaces and a host of other venues, killing thousands in the process. It never occurred to any of the countries involved that they were “at war.”

    Now we face a similar threat, and the rabbit people insist we are, in fact, “at war.” Indeed, they get red in the face and begin frothing at the mouth if anyone begs to differ with them. I, for one, beg to differ with them. One always finds these same zealots howling about “Liberty” and “Freedom.” They have no clue what those words really mean. War, in the United States and elsewhere, has always implied the suppression of Liberty and freedom. Our wars have commonly been accompanied by the suspension of habeus corpus, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press.  In real wars those steps may become necessary because our survival is at stake.  The battle against Al-Qaeda is not a war.  These enemies do not threaten our survival except in the dreams of the most timorous of the rabbit people, and the surrender of our liberties that their phoney “war” implies really represents an abject surrender to our enemies in the name of perserving our security at all costs.  The proper slogan for the rabbit people is not “Liberty or Death!”  It is “Security for Me, and Damn the Rest!” 

    Cowards that they are at heart, they are quite willing to surrender every freedom our forefathers fought for if only the government will keep them safe.  By destroying our Liberties, they concede victory to our enemies, lowering us to their level, all in the name of a false security.  When a couple of former Gitmo prisoners turn up in the Al-Qaeda organization in Yemen, all we hear from them is loud shouts of “We told you so!”  Forgotten are the words of William Blackstone, “Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”  One commonly finds these heroes thumping their Bibles, but forgotten, too, is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, in which God tells Abraham that He would have spared these entire cities for the sake of ten righteous men.  Forgotten are the very reasons it even occurred to our Founding Fathers to object to arrest without due process of law.

    It never occurs to the rabbit people as they chant their “war” mantra that any of the prisoners held for years now at Gitmo could actually be innocent.  For them, they are all so many convicted terrorists.  Tell me, what justifies them in coming to this conclusion?  Have the prisoners at Gitmo ever been given the right to a fair and speedy trial?  Have they even been allowed to stand before military tribunals?  How is it that we have arrived at this absolute certainty that they are all terrorists?  The process was certainly unheard of at the founding of our Republic.  By what new miracle of jurisprudence have the rabbit people concluded that we “know” all the prisoners at Gitmo are guilty, and fuzzy-headed thinking about fair trials be damned?

    The rabbit people always assume that they will be the ones sitting in the seat of judgment.  It never occurs to them that the precedents they are setting now may well come back to haunt them, and the rest of us as well.  Let the rabbit people recall some familiar but wise words:  “What goes around comes around.”

  • An Execution in China

    Posted on December 30th, 2009 Helian No comments

    The international uproar over China’s execution of Akmal Shaikh demonstrates once again the truth of Stalin’s dictum, “One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.” It is unlikely that Mr. Shaikh was the victim of a high-handed act by local officials. It is more probable that his killing was deliberate, approved at the highest levels, and intended to send a message. Mr Shaikh was caught smuggling narcotics. I’m sure China’s rulers have not forgotten the Opium Wars. Perhaps they wanted to send the British a message that those days are over once and for all, and that, eventually, what goes around comes around, even if it takes a long time. As they demonstrated when they turned the guns of their tanks on their own people in Tienanmen Square, they don’t lack the level of cynicism required for such an act.

  • “The New Republic” and the Pitfalls of Historical Prophecy

    Posted on December 30th, 2009 Helian No comments

    “The New Republic” has had its ups and downs. Not too long ago its editors were almost unique in their willingness to honestly and thoroughly set forth the arguments for opposing points of view, and in their ability to address them convincingly, although lately they’ve shown a lamentable tendency to sink to the level of the rest of the pack. In common with many American journals of opinion that have survived for any length of time, its content has run from the ridiculous to the sublime, from essays by some of the most brilliant pundits this country has produced to the excrescences of Communist ideologues during the “red period” it passed through in common with many other journals in the aftermath of the Great Depression. It was launched in the opening months of that great watershed event in modern history, the first World War, and lately I’ve been looking through some of those inaugural issues.

    It’s very useful to occasionally read through a few articles in the journals and magazines of days gone by. It puts things that are happening today in perspective. Back in 1914, for example, The New Republic devoted a great deal of ink to discussion of the ramifications of the U.S. military intervention in Mexico. The first page of the third issue was entirely taken up with ruminations concerning what should be done about the U.S. troops in Vera Cruz. Today the number of us who are even aware that U.S. troops were in Vera Cruz in 1914 is vanishingly small. Will the matters that raise such passions and seem of such overwhelming importance to us today assume a similar insignificance for later generations?

    Perhaps the most important thing one gains from reading old journals is a sense of humility. One finds many predictions about the future, but few of them that were accurate. The problem isn’t that the authors making those predictions were fools. The problem is that we lack the intellectual capacity to assimilate all the facts that will have a bearing on the outcome of history, and correctly connect the dots between them. We must learn to appreciate our limitations. It’s unwise to overestimate our ability to predict future events that have no historical precedent. For example, how many of us back in 1988 predicted the manner in which Communism and the Soviet Union would collapse, or when the momentous events culminating in those results would occur?

    There is much to be gained from the reading of history. One learns how human beings are likely to react in given situations. Occasionally, history really does repeat itself, and, to the extent that future events fit the familiar patterns of the past, they are predictable. However, once in a while she jumps her tracks completely. World War I was such an event. Reflecting on the possible outcomes of that conflict in the second issue of The New Republic, one Simon N. Patten wrote:

    Progress has ever been a ruthless crushing, whether we regard it as indistrial or view it in its political aspects. Growth has meant a centralization which eliminates the weak to the advantage of the strong. Belgium and Servia are today where hundreds of small nations have found themselves in the past. Belgium is racially and socially a part of France. Economically she is a part of Germany. One or the other fate she must in the end meet. Servia must also be either Russian or Austrian.

    In fact, in the aftermath of the war, the historical context on which Mr. Patten based his assumptions ceased to exist. Serbia did not become a part of Austria because the great empire that went by that name disintegrated. She did not become a part of Russia because she, too, ceased to exist in any form recognizable from the past. Belgium is still with us, and belongs to a European Union that would have been incomprehensible to the combatants of 1914. The lesson here isn’t that Mr. Patten was a fool. I’m sure he was a very intelligent man. Nor is it that we should cease speculating about the future. However, in doing so we should recall that we are not omniscient, and that the truth isn’t always obvious.

  • Iranian Protests and “Western Instigation”

    Posted on December 30th, 2009 Helian No comments

    According to a German proverb, “lies have short legs.” That’s not always true. Sometimes lies become enduring myths. A remarkable instance thereof is the yarn about how the CIA single-handedly toppled the “legitimate” government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in their famous “electric Kool-aid acid coup” back in ’53. Earlier posts on the subject may be found here, here and here. This particular thigh slapper became “historical truth” by virtue of what John Stuart Mill would have called its “utility.” It was useful to the CIA dilettantes in Tehran at the time because it allowed them to take credit for something that happened more in spite of than because of their botched efforts, even as they were justifiably commiserating with each other on their abject failure. It was useful to their bosses back in Washington to go along with the charade, so that some of the “glory” would reflect on them as well, although it beggars the imagination to believe that any of them were really bone stupid enough to take the transparently bogus after action report of their operatives in Tehran at face value. It was useful to the editors of the New York Times because it enabled them to strike their usual pious pose as noble vindicators of the “truth,” and fit their chosen narrative, according to which the CIA consists entirely of evildoers whose goal in life, for reasons incomprehensible to the rest of us, is to go about commiting bad deeds. It has been abundantly useful to generations of Iranian intellectuals, because it gave them a plausible pretext for experiencing the virtuous indignation and sense of victimization that have been the twin delights of intellectuals in all ages, assuming, of course, that they weren’t too finicky about the facts.

    Small wonder, then, that the pathetic theocrats who now call the tune in Iran are, once again, playing the “Western instigation” card. There was a time when her people could bid defiance to the power of Rome in her heyday. How sad, that her rulers must now base their claims to legitimacy on such abject lies. Well, be that as it may, her people have lost none of their courage in the intervening years.

  • The Iranian Bomb: Guessing the Date

    Posted on December 29th, 2009 Helian No comments

    According to the latest estimate by Israeli intelligence, Iran is capable of building a bomb by 2011. These estimates always beg the question of what kind of bomb one is talking about. In fact, Iran will have a perfectly adequate bomb or, more accurately, nuclear device, the moment it has enough bomb grade plutonium or uranium to assemble a critical mass. In the first place, it does not take a great deal of technical finesse to build a gun assembled atomic bomb. In the second, Iran needn’t bother, because, if she were really determined to carry out a nuclear attack, something much more crude would be more attractive from her point of view. By “crude” I mean, for example, a suicide bomber equipped with two subcritical masses that, when combined, would form a critical mass. This could be done by dropping one subcritical mass on top of another, or simply slapping them together. Unlike something as sophisticated as the device dropped on Hiroshima, such a “bomb” would preserve plausible denial for Iran. Even if the material could be traced to one of her reactors, she could claim that it had been stolen or diverted by terrorists. If assembled in the middle of a large city, it may not produce the familiar mushroom cloud, but it would certainly produce a radioactive mess that would inspire terror, likely cost billions to clean up, be much less likely to provoke nuclear retaliation than a high yield bomb, and spare Iran immediate relegation to the status of an international pariah for having once again unleashed the nuclear genie, committing mass murder in the process.

    In a word, once Iran has sufficient special nuclear material to make a bomb, it will no longer be necessary to speculate about how long it will take her to build one. She will have the “bomb” the moment she has enough material to assemble a critical mass.

  • The Copenhagen Climate Summit: Narratives to Suit Any Taste

    Posted on December 19th, 2009 Helian 1 comment

    Look! It’s a rainbow of spin! Today’s Copenhagen headlines are a snapshot of political narratives worldwide. Want to find out who’s still carrying water for Barack Obama and who’s not? Let’s have a look.

    First the bad news: Germany’s honeymoon with the President is kaputt. The Teutonic brethren at Spiegel magazine discovered long ago that there’s big dough in Amerika bashing. Sure, the US President is ein netter Kerl, but these are hard times for journalists, and one can’t afford to be too finicky. You only need to learn three German words to get the gist of their coverage of all things American: Fiasko, Debakel, and Desaster. Need I translate? Here’s Spiegel’s take on the latest out of Copenhagen:

    Full Speed Ahead into the Greenhouse

    Failed Summit

    What a fiasco: The Copenhagen climate summit has failed thanks to the politics of unyielding self interest of the USA, China, and many other states. We are likely to soon find out just how catastrophic climate change will really be – in a global greenhouse experiment.

    Our British friends, whom Spiegel was fond of referring to as “vassals” and “poodles” of the US back in the days of Tony Blair, are taking a rather more charitable view of the affair. Apparently they’re still not quite ready to throw the President under the bus. According to the BBC,

    The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed a US-backed climate deal in Copenhagen as an “essential beginning”.

    He was speaking after delegates passed a motion recognizing the agreement, which the US reached with key nations including China.

    The more erudite among the BBC’s readers who get past the headlines will find some less than rosy details mentioned in passing in the body of the article, such as,

    However, a number of developing nations were angered by the draft proposals.
    BBC environment correspondent Richard Black said the language in this text showed 2C was not a formal target, just that the group “recognises the scientific view that” the temperature increase should be held below this figure.

    but such minutiae don’t spoil the overall positive effect.

    Here in the US one can also find a version of reality to suit any taste. Of course, they’re pulling no punches at Foxnews:

    Has Copenhagen collapsed?

    That seems to be the growing sentiment inside the city’s Bella Conference Center, where officials, environmentalists and even delegates to the international climate conference began streaming out Friday evening. What began with excitement and anticipation two weeks ago ended Friday night with disappointment and anger for thousands.

    Collapse? What collapse! As I write this, it appears they haven’t noticed a thing at CNN. Their world headlines link has no mention of Copenhagen at all. However, more persistent readers who trouble themselves to click down a page or two will find reassuring “news:”

    Obama announces climate change deal with China, other nations

    President Obama announced what he called a “meaningful and unprecedented” climate change deal with China and other key nations that was expected to be sealed before the president headed home from the Copenhagen summit late Friday.

    There, that’s all you need to know, now just move on. Well, all right, if you have a suspicious nature and don’t believe CNN, just check the rest of the mainstream media. True, the guys at MSNBC are a shade less sanguine, but, after all, the Pres did what he could:

    U.S., others broker modest climate deal

    Plan includes way to verify reduction in global warming emissions

    That last blurb is a bit rich, even for MSNBC, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed and hope the editors of Spiegel don’t see it. For that matter, it’s downright sober compared to the take at ABC:

    Obama Hails ‘Significant Breakthrough’ at Climate Talks

    Obama and Three World Leaders Have Agreed to a Political “Accord,” Official Says

    President unites China, India and Brazil on climate agreement in Copenhagen.

    There! See? Whatever were those silly fellows at Spiegel thinking with their hand wringing about a “fiasco?” Still don’t believe me? Apparently you’ll need an even stronger dose. Let’s move on to NPR’s website, where the President, arrayed in shining armor, still rides through cyberspace on his snow white charger:

    The president tells the U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen that America is setting an example of bold action and other nations must follow or see the world suffer catastrophic effects.

    Good old NPR, fighting a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, German nitpickers.

  • Climategate and Scientific Credibility

    Posted on December 15th, 2009 Helian No comments

    I think this article at by Cathy Young about the global warming debate is spot on (hattip Instapundit). Her conclusions:

    There is no doubt that refusal to accept human-made climate change is often self-serving. But the other side has blinders and selfish motives of its own. “Going green” has turned into a vast industry in its own right—as well as a religion with its own brand of zealotry. For many, global warming is the secular equivalent of a biblical disaster sent by God to punish humankind for its errant (capitalist) ways. Those who embrace environmentalism as a faith have no interest in scientific and technological solutions to climate change—such as nuclear power—that do not include imposing drastic regulations on markets and curbs on consumption.

    In theory, science should be above such motives. Yet, at the very least, the scientists who back strong measures against global warming have not objected to the alarmism, the political fanaticism, or the pseudo-spiritual drivel promoted by many of the crusaders in this cause.

    Public trust is something scientists must work hard to maintain. When it comes to science and public policy, the average citizen usually has to trust scientists—whose word he or she has to take on faith almost as much as a religious believer takes the word of a priest. Once that trust is undermined, as it has been in recent years, science becomes a casualty of politics.

    It was obvious to me that environmental scientists had a major credibility problem when I read Byorn Lomborg’s “Skeptical Environmentalist.” This impression was greatly stengthened when a gang of scientific hacks set up a kangaroo court known as the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty, and “convicted” Lomborg of “scientific dishonesty,” noting, however, with supreme condescension that Lomborg was “not guilty” because of his “lack of expertise” in the fields in question. How this arrogant, scientific pond scum could have come to such a conclusion when they were unable to cite a single substantial example of factual error in Lomborg’s book is beyond me. Their abject betrayal of science spoke for itself. Needless to say, the credibility of environmental scientists has not improved in the interim, as Young notes in her article.

    This is unfortunate, as it seems to me that the evidence is strong that we may be facing a serious problem with artificially induced global warming. However, because, as Young points out, “…the scientists who back strong measures against global warming have not objected to the alarmism, the political fanaticism, or the pseudo-spiritual drivel promoted by many of the crusaders in this cause,” the issue has become politicized to such an extent that the chances that we will be able to do anything more effective than ideological grandstanding to address the problem are almost nil. As usual, the politicians, who rejoice whenever a crisis comes along for them to “save” us from, will promote any number of very expensive but useless nostrums that present us with the pleasant illusion that we are doing something about the problem, perhaps reducing greenhouse emissions by some insignificant fraction in the process, but accomplishing nothing in the way of really solving the problem. In the meantime, the rest of us must keep our fingers crossed that some fortuitous technological advance will allow us to dodge the bullet, perhaps in the form of the discovery of a way to tame fusion or a transformational improvement in the efficiency of solar collectors. For those of us who possess the means, it is, perhaps, not too soon to begin looking for attractive tracts of land in Alaska, preferably on high ground.

  • Selective Mass Murder and Historical Lacunae

    Posted on December 15th, 2009 Helian No comments

    If you check the websites of any one of the major booksellers, you can get an idea of the kind of books people are reading these days by checking their offerings. Click on the “history” link, for example, and you’ll quickly find quite a few offerings on U.S. history, with emphasis on the Civil War, the Revolution, and the Founding Fathers. There are lots of books about war, an occasional revelation of how this or that class of victims was victimized, or this or that historical villain perpetrated his evil deeds, and a sprinkling of sports histories, but there are gaping lacunae when it comes to coverage of events that really shaped the times we live in, and the ideological and political developments of yesterday that are portents of what we can expect tomorrow.

    Perhaps the Internet, wonderful as it is, is part of the problem. The wealth of information it provides tends to be sharply focused on the here and now. We have all the minutiae of the health care debate, troop levels in Afghanistan, and the narratives affirming and rejecting global warming at our fingertips, but little to encourage us to take an occasional step back to see things in their historical perspective. As a result, one finds much ranting about Marxism, socialism, fascism, Communism, and related ideological phenomena, but little understanding of how they arose in the first place, how it is they became so prominent, or why they are still relevant.

    Such ideologies appealed to aspects of human nature that haven’t gone anywhere in the meantime. The specific doctrines of Marx, Bakunin, and Hitler are discredited because they didn’t work in practice. That doesn’t mean that new variants with promises of alternate Brave New Worlds won’t arise to take their place. For the time being, Islamism has rushed in to fill the vacuum left by their demise, but I doubt it will satisfy the more secular minded of the chronic zealots among us for very long. The Islamists may have appropriated the political jargon of the “progressive” left, but it’s a stretch to suggest that western leftists are about to become pious Muslims any time soon. Should the economies of the developed nations turn south for an extended period of time, or some other profound social dislocation take place, some new secular faith is likely to arise, promising a way out to the desperate, a new faith for the congenitally fanatical, and a path to power for future would-be Stalins.

    To understand the fanaticisms of bygone days, and perhaps foresee the emergence of those of the future, it would be well if we occasionally stepped back from our obsession with the ideological disputes of the present and pondered the nature and outcome of those of the past. One such outcome was the birth of the United States, and the subsequent replacement of monarchical systems by secular democracies in many countries, accompanied by the movement away from societies highly stratified by class to more egalitarian systems. Personally, I am inclined to welcome that development, but it remains to be seen whether the resultant social and political systems are capable of maintaining their integrity and the cultural identity of the people they represent against the onslaught of alien cultures and religions.

    Another, less positive, outcome has been the emergence of secular dogmas such as those mentioned above, promising rewards in the here and now instead of the hereafter. These have generated levels of fanaticism akin to those generated by religious faith in the past. In fact, as belief systems, they are entirely akin to religion, as various thinkers have repeatedly pointed out over the past two centuries. They are substantially different from religions only in the absence of belief in supernatural beings. These belief systems have spawned all the mayhem that their religious cousins spawned in the past, but with a substantial difference. I suspect that difference is more a function of general advances in literacy, technology, and social awareness than any distinctions of dogma.

    Specifically, for the first time on such a massive scale, the mayhem and slaughter occasioned by fanatical belief in these new secular dogmas has not fallen with more or less equal weight on all the strata of society. Rather, its tendency has been to eliminate the most intelligent, the most productive, and the most creative. Lenin and Stalin were not indiscriminate in their mass murder. They singled out scientists, academics, the most intelligent and productive farmers, the most economically productive, the most politically aware, and the most creative thinkers. Their goal was to eliminate anyone who was likely to oppose them effectively. In general, these were the most intelligent members of society. Similarly, the horrific Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia systematically eliminated anyone with a hint of education or appearance of intellectual superiority. In another example, of which most of us are only dimly aware, although it happened in living memory, the right in the Spanish Civil War ruthlessly sought out and shot anyone on the left prominent for political thought or leadership capacity, and the left, in turn, sought out and shot anyone who had managed to rise above the bare level of subsistence of the proletariat. The Nazis virtually eliminated a minority famous for its creativity, intelligence, and productivity.

    Mass murder is hardly a novelty among human beings. It has been one of our enduring characteristics since the dawn of recorded time. However, this new variant, in which the best and brightest are selectively eliminated, really only emerged in all its fury in the 20th century. The French Reign of Terror, similarly selective as it was, was child’s play by comparison, with its mere 20,000 victims. The victims of Communism alone approach 100 million. In two countries, at least, it is difficult to see how this will not have profound effects on the ability of the remaining population to solve the many problems facing modern societies. In effect, those two countries, the former Soviet Union and Cambodia, beheaded themselves. The wanton elimination of so much intellectual potential by their former masters is bound to have a significant effect on the quality of the human capabilities available to rebuild society now that the Communist nightmare is over, at least for them. Perhaps, at some future time when we regain the liberty to speculate about such matters without being shouted down as evildoers by the pathologically politically correct, some nascent Ph.D. in psychology will undertake to measure the actual drop in collective intelligence in those countries resulting from the Communist mass murder.

    It behooves us, then, to remember what happened in the 20th century. It is hardly out of the question that new fanatical faiths will emerge, both secular and religious, and that they we be capable of all the social devastation of the Communists and Nazis and then some. Here in America, an earlier generation, even in the darkest days of the Great Depression, rejected the siren song of the fanatics. For that, we owe them much. Let us try to emulate them in the future.

  • On Religion; The Consequences of Believing in Things that are not True

    Posted on December 13th, 2009 Helian No comments

    H. L. Mencken once said, “We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.” In general, I suspect he was right. In an ideal world, one could simply point out that belief in a God or gods is irrational, as Richard Dawkins, Chris Hitchens, and Sam Harris have lately so eloquently tried to do. The rest of mankind would then recognize that their beliefs in supernatural beings were untrue, and drop them, sparing the rest of us a great deal of grief. Alas, the species being what it is, that isn’t about to happen. Quoting the Sage of Baltimore once again, “The most costly of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.” At best, we can point out what those costs actually are, in the hope that a happy few will come to their senses. In the case of religion, the costs of believing in something that is untrue are abundantly obvious in our day. One need only recall the fate of the twin towers, and the almost daily images we see of the mayhem caused by suicide bombers. We can follow Mencken’s advice about the other fellow’s religion when, as in the case of Christianity today, its adherents are rather less fanatical than they were at, say, the time of the Hussite Wars, or the crusade against the Albigensians, or the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, or in the many centuries during which tens of thousands of innocent women were burned and hung as witches. However, when, as is the case with Islam today, the fever breaks out anew, and the other fellow concludes that his God wishes him to commence killing the rest of us and to stuff his religion down our throats by seizing control of state power, we can hardly afford to look the other way.

    There are adherents of every religion whose tastes do not happen to run to slaughtering their fellow beings. Such is the case with Islam today, and, in accord with a long established historical pattern, they assure us that those who are actively trying to kill us are not “real Moslems.” That is little comfort to the rest of us, as those same murderers assure us that they are the only true Moslems, and are not behind hand at quoting line and verse of their scriptures to justify their mayhem. In the end, they attack the rest of us because of their religious beliefs, whether others happen to interpret those beliefs differently or not. It seems to me that it would be safer for all concerned if, rather than arguing over the details of beliefs that are fundamentally untrue, one jettisoned them root and branch in favor of a more probable point of view.

    One can find a typical example of the religious outlook of one of the “pacific” believers in Islam at Harry’s Place. The article is thoughtful and well worth reading. It contains most of the usual rationalizations. For example, as already noted above, it seeks to “excommunicate” the adherents of violence, referring to them as “Islamists,” rather than followers of the true Islam. The author informs us that, “… there is no mention of statehood in the Quran, nor are there pre‐ordained political principles prescribed in any of the Islamic holy texts that Muslims are required to follow. Islamists, however, will argue that Muslims are only allowed to follow and participate in one type of political system, and that all other political systems and ideologies are ‘un‐Islamic’. This is quite unprecedented and lacks historical or scriptural justification.” This is a dubious assertion, and becomes less credible the more one reads the Moslem scriptures. Do they not call for different rates of taxation for Moslems and non-Moslems? Do they not call for specific forms of punishment for given crimes when the specification of such punishments is a function of the state and the political system it is based on? Were not early Moslem visitors to England mystified by the British parliament, noting that all had been set down once and for all in the Moslem holy books, making such functions unnecessary? In a word, the worthy author may assure us that his view of Islamic principle is different, but Islamic practice since the time of the prophet has been something entirely different from the benign picture he seeks to paint for us.

    In his closing lines the author assures us, “Despite the fact that since 9/11, 7/7 and the Madrid bombings Islamism has come to dominate the world’s headlines in the West, the vast majority of the world’s Muslims continue to believe Islam is not a political ideology and do not pursue the revolutionary goals that Islamists have projected onto it. In the Quran Islam is described as ‘Deen‐al‐Islam’ which translates as ‘religion of peace’.” Be that as it may, wherever Islam has gained the upper hand, it has served as the incubator from which the terrorist brood has hatched. For that matter, it is absurd to refer to it as a “religion of peace.” In what manner, after all, did it become the dominant religion in so many countries? Did it overcome its rivals in Arabia peacefully? Did it gain control of Egypt peacefully? Did it gain control of Syria peacefully? Did it gain control of Iran peacefully? Did it gain control of what is now Turkey peacefully? Did it gain control of North Africa peacefully? Did it gain the upper hand in Spain and Sicily and then lose it again by peaceful means? What about Palestine? Are its current claims to control that territory based on an original, peaceful occupation of the land, or a seizure from the previous owners by force?

    One might prefer Christianity to Islam because its scriptures seem to be more genuinely amenable to the separation of church and state that our author assures us characterizes the “real Islam” as well. Unlike Islam, it has produced some very substantial thinkers to vindicate that point of view, such as Roger Williams and Marsilius of Padua. It is for that reason that I consider attempts to limit Muslim encroachment, such as we saw manifested in a recent Swiss election, in a rather more positive light than those who seek to simplistically portray it as an attack on “freedom of religion.” When we see vicious acts of terrorism worldwide justified in the name of Islam, it takes willful self-deception to conclude that all this has nothing to do with the “real” Islam, and that there will be no social or political consequences of treating it as “just another religion.”

    In the end, it seems to me that life would be a great deal more pleasant for all of us if we stopped basing our actions on erroneous beliefs in supernatural beings in general, and started basing them on an interpretation of reality that, if not certain, is at least not palpably false.