Friday, July 08, 2005

London Reactions

I held off posting on this because there's not much reason for me to give my thoughts about a bunch of bombs in London. I'm against bombs, most people are. I have been reading reactions, though. Atrios catalogues various odd and gleeful conservative reactions, mostly from Fox News. The gist is that some folks over there either believe this will push the British, and maybe other Europeans, towards their more hawkish positions about the Middle East and security. I'm not surprised by this. The key to being a talking head about terrorism is to say up and down that we shouldn't "politicize" issues like this and then, of course, to politicize them. Honestly, most things get politicized. I'm not even sure that's an awful thing. Politics is our mechanism for dealing with such events, after all.

Michelle Malkin spends a lot of her time criticizing protestors at the G8 meeting. I think she'd use whatever news hook she could find to do this. Her argument, which is all over her site at the moment, is especially weak, though. First, she criticizes them for including sympathy with the world's poor or with Iraqis, in their good thoughts for Londoners. It's hard to tell why she's so riled up about that. Not wanting innocents killed around the world seems like a decent position for the protesters to take.

She, of course, just wants the protesters to go away. And, heck, liberal as I am, I often find a lot of the anti-globalization protest crowd to be rather flaky and embarassing. But, since the 1990s, these activists have actually made some real "War on Terror" progress by bringing more attention to African pverty and helping to bring notions like debt forgiveness from the fringes into the mainstream. Republicans don't like to admit it, but colonial legacies and poverty, along with the desperation those things bring, do actually fuel terrorism. Dealing with those issues can only help.

For those of us who consider ourselves "Anti-War Left," these are difficult times. Republicans love to call us out during moments like this, to accuse us, as Rove did, of wanting to coddle terrorists and give them therapy. What they're doing is blurring a distinction that smart people can make but that doesn't play well on TV, it's the distincting between an explanation and a justification. It's not even that subtle a distinction. Blowing up a buch of commuters in London or Madrid isn't justified by any political or economic situation. These acts can't be justified.

But, to pretend that they can't be explained is just silly. And, further, explaining them in terms of Western policies towards the developing world doesn't even mean that we have to change those policies in order to appease bombers. But it'd be a good idea to try to understand what's happening.

And, yes, this does invalidate some of our current policies. Bush says we're in Iraq so that we can fight the terrorists there and not here. Put aside how the Iraqi people must feel about that ("Don't mind us, we're just going to have our war in your back yard") and the notion has still been disproven. Terrorists don't have to go there. They just hit a city with more security and more surveillance, than you'll find in any U.S. city. I'm pretty sure not even Bush believes his "fighting them over there" line, but, if he does, I sure hope he learns from this.

It's not weak and it's not caving in to examine the tactics and motivations of those who perform acts like this. It's necessary. There are a lot of Republicans and conservatives out there who want to act with nothing more than stiff-jawed resolve. That won't help us. It's time to put some thought into this.


At 7:40 PM , Anonymous Jon said...

You know, at the risk of sounding like a jackass leftie, I'm going to go ahead and say that I'm not so sure that therapy for terrorists is a bad idea. Inpatient therapy, of course--don't let 'em wander around free. Lock 'em up in a padded room, don't let them talk to anybody suspicious, and make them, every day, try to rationally justify the violence they did or would like to do. A few of them might even admit they were being assholes, although most committed terrorists are so psychopathic as to be beyond therapy.

But, still, I bet locking them in, say, a high-security mental hospital in Tennessee wouldn't be any worse a plan than locking them in Guantanamo Bay. Probably better.

I say that because, unless Rumsfeld is just planning to whack all the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, what we've got now is a bunch of people who--if they weren't murderous and crazy before they started spending indefinite years in solitary confinement or kennels or both--are pretty damn likely to be murderous and crazy if they ever do get out. And they'll have an alumni support network when they do.

I'm not saying we give political killers Jennifer Malfi and a big hankie to cry into. Absolutely the intelligence services should always be looking to find (real) terrorists and be working to get them out of circulation and to find out what they know. Or killing them if they've actually got their fingers on triggers and innocents in their sights.

But if we don't kill suspected terrorists, then we have to do something with them afterward. And if they're unshakably determined to kill us, being nice isn't, pragmatically, any worse than being vicious--and it's ethically way better.

Besides, giving terrorists therapy would really totally screw with terrorist recruitment. If I were some Saudi kid who might go terrorist and I heard about US soldiers putting some Iraqi in a hood and having a German Shepherd nuzzle at his balls so he couldn't ever sleep, well. that definitely could push me over the jihadi edge. But I don't think I could get too excited about hearing about the same guy having to interpret Rorschach blots and bubble in a scantron form for the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory.


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