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Friday, August 17, 2007

Amitai Etzioni meets the moonbats at HuffPo

At lefty blog Huffington Post, sociologist Amitai Etzioni wrote an essay this week in which he argued that terrorists should not be treated as soldiers or as criminals, but as something in between. While I don't agree with everything he wrote, his views in the essay appear to be rational:
As I see it, both images -- along with the strategies, tactics and laws they invoke -- are misleading. It is best to follow political science in this matter and view terrorists as a distinct category. (Granted, calling them 'non state actors' is a particularly infelicitous term, too open-ended as well as awkward.) Unlike bona fide soldiers, terrorists do not wear uniforms indicating which government is responsible for their acts. And they frequently and easily pass themselves off as civilians, imposing unique and heavy burdens on those who must fight them. But it does not follow that terrorists are best treated as criminals.

Typically, criminals do not set out to terrorize a nation, change its policies or replace its regime. Above all, criminals do not aspire to use weapons of mass destruction and do not use suicide as a tactic in pursuit of some shared collective goal. Because the threat posed by terrorists is particularly severe, and because terrorists -- especially suicide bombers -- cannot be deterred by post hoc punishments, curbing terrorism requires a different approach than law enforcement. The first goal in dealing with terrorists must be prevention, not prosecution after the act has been committed -- which is the way society limits criminality.

Once we get away from merely trying to score debating points and begin to look for just and effective counterterrorism policies, we find that terrorists are best treated as a distinct group. They are surely entitled to basic human rights, as all human beings are. However, we cannot allow them full access to all the evidence against them, which criminals are entitled to, without creating unacceptable security risks. (I favor allowing terrorists to choose among lawyers who have security clearance, allowing these lawyers to see the government's evidence but not its sources and methods). Terrorists should not be detained endlessly without being charged in a court of law, but the government should have a right to hold them longer than regular criminals, to allow time for finding their partners before it is disclosed that they have been captured.

One may well differ about these details but agree that it makes little sense to treat terrorists as either soldiers or criminals. At issue is not a matter of neat classifications, but ways to maintain the institutions of a free society while protecting it from devastating terrorist attacks.
Etzioni's essay drew some rational but also some astounding comments from HuffPo's readers. Here are some examples in the latter category:
outnow (See profile | I'm a fan of outnow)
Prevention strategy comes a little late. Yes, let's look at how the New World Order is threatening the Muslim world and the injustices that have perpetrated against them in Iraq, Iran and Palestine by the U.S.

We must be willing to first acknowledge the root causes of terror, which are apparent in any reading of history. The second step is to reach a grad bargain rather than to divide and conquer and take the oil.

Finally, we must seek out representatives of the Muslim World, and, in the context of International Law, attempt resolution and reconciliation.

To deny the exploitation and uneven-handed treatment of Middle Eastern people in the context of imposing a new world order based on U.S. market economy, technology and military might only exacerbates the situation and recruits further converts to the only tool available to these people, as they see it.

The invasions of Iraq, the sanctions, the stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, the treatment of the Palestinians, the wars in Afghanistan are cited by bin Laden and are remembered by the Arab World.

After the US Civil War Lincoln found credible people to negotiate with on behalf of the "rebels." Many of these Southerners were slave holder and even KKK. Today they are the biggest hawks because they do not want to look at the social problems in the South - they just want to bomb Iraq and Iran.

Today's terrorist is tomorrow's patriot.
Here's another one:
timm0 (See profile | I'm a fan of timm0)
"Because the threat posed by terrorists is particularly severe, and because terrorists -- especially suicide bombers -- cannot be deterred by post hoc punishments, curbing terrorism requires a different approach than law enforcement."

This is patently foolish logic. You have bought into the neocon nonsense. The 911 attackers were known and their efforts would have been thwarted without any new categories or any "Patriot Act"-enabled deprivation of rights if the current regime had acted on their notorious August NIE which was ridiculed by bush. This is public knowledge, available to all who have cared to read credible accounts (like the Iraq Study Group). The US countered a year 2000 attack without your anti-American suggestion nor the Patriot Act.

Terrorism is a tactic. It's definition is clear. Although you quip, "At issue is not a matter of neat classifications, but ways to maintain the institutions of a free society while protecting it from devastating terrorist attacks," the fact is classifications/definitions of "terrorist" and other items are EXACTLY the issue. And you just wave it away with a lame sentence like that.

Fact is, the less we caress Israel and the less we invade (and devastate) countries who are no threat to the US, the safer we'll be. AND we'll be able to look at ourselves in the mirror without feeling like we have lost our souls to those who stoke the fear in which you, Mr. Etzioni, are immersed and languish.
Yesterday, Etzioni responded with another essay, but it only seems to have made some of the moonbats seethe more. Here's Etzioni:
I need help in understanding several of the arguments repeatedly made by people who posted comments here in response to my essay about the nature of terrorism. Before I lay out my questions I should note that those who believe that the CIA or the Israeli Mossad were behind 9/11 need not read on. The same holds for those believe that name-calling is a form of argument. I do not believe that I can come to understand their way of thinking, although a good therapist might help them.

1. The implications of the causes of terrorism. Let's assume, as some people imply, that terrorism and other forms of violence are caused only by abuses the US inflicted on people in the Middle East and elsewhere. That the beheading of innocent civilians, the stoning of gay people, the so-called "honor killings," as well as attacks on US ships, airplanes, and embassies are all the result of US actions. WHAT FOLLOWS? Should we now sit back and remove TSA agents and security screening from airports? Stop checking the background of those who seek to travel to the US? Cease to examine the containers that arrive in US ports? In short, invite the terrorists to hit us until they are even, and then they will let us be?

2. Fear-mongering. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that the Bush Administration used the fear of terrorist attacks to try to justify its horribly wrong policies in Iraq and its violations of the US constitution. But WHAT FOLLOWS? That therefore we have nothing to fear, that all the talk about terrorists merely reflect the White House's manipulations or--that although the threats we face are exaggerated and used for ill purpose--we do face some real threats? Am I wrong in holding that just as paranoiacs can have some real enemies, those whose fears are pumped up and manipulated nevertheless face things that go bump at night and pose very real danger?

3. Weapons of Mass Destruction. If you grant that there are weapons of mass destruction out there, and many of them are not well guarded (especially in Russia), and there are at least several tens of thousands of people who hate our guts --should we undertake special efforts to try to prevent them from laying waste to our cities and cities overseas? Can this achieved by suing them--or hauling them to court-- after they commit suicide in the course of their attack? Or do we need to find some ways to stop them before we are hit?
And here is a sampling of some of the zanier responses Etzioni received:
martinchill (See profile | I'm a fan of martinchill)
well said [This was said to the previous commenter, not to Etzioni. CiJ].

this guy [Etzioni CiJ] ends up sounding like an apologist.

if we really were threatened in some way by an "enemy", then the actions of this administration would be much different. we are being played like cheap fiddles.

if there really was a threat, the borders would be closed. instead, you and i are taking off our shoes at the airport and the democratic-majority congress is authorizing domestic spying.
Closing the airports would do wonders for the American economy, wouldn't it? Here's another one:
FogBelter (See profile | I'm a fan of FogBelter)
Mr Etzioni ... I'll take a shot at your questions.

1. It is difficult to combat terrorists when your nation's policies aids and abets their creation. The Mujahadeen in Afghanistan were a tool the US used to confound the Soviets ... we trained them in terrorism ... we supplied them. Once we saw the Soviets humiliated, we cut the Mujahadeen loose to use their terrorism against the weakened nation of Afghanistan ... of course the Mujahideen ultimately morphed into the Taliban and Al Qaeda - BTW Reagan referred to the Mujahideen as "Freedom Fighters". The US inflicted terrorism on Central America in the 70's and 80's in the same way. In fact, inflicting terrorisim on people in disputed areas of the world has been the CIAs bread and butter since since the Agency was constituted.

In addition the US has been very selective in its condemnation of terrorism ... if it is against westerners (usually caucazoids) ... the World Stops Revolving ... Against Asians or Africans? Not even a yawn. So basically, if we want to avoid terrorism we should avoid instigating it.

2. "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
- Joseph Goebbels

Fear is the greatest tool of the Bush Administration and it's NeoCon allies.

3. The United States has more WMD than any other nation on Earth. The US is the only Nation to use Nuclear Weapons to destroy Cities. The WMD Saddam used against the Iranians and Kurds was provided by the US. Bottom line, we should always look for the Made in America label on the remains of any weapon that terrorists use against us.
Some of the commenters almost seemed rational. But others have the same knee-jerk reaction to blame Israel and the US for everything that is common in the Arab world. Rational discourse with them is not possible.


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