It’s the only adequate word for people who murder civilians to make political points.


Posted by: Russ Abbott on June 22, 2004 01:22 PM

Without arguing that this or the other beheadings are in any way excusable or justified, I don’t think that name-calling is useful. See my comments on Bush’s reaction to the Johnson beheading and

Posted by: on June 22, 2004 01:27 PM

More like they have nothing else to lose….

We point our guns in too many places around the world. We’ve made way too many enemies for silly reasons…..

Posted by: on June 22, 2004 01:54 PM

But at the same time most Iraqi’s want to do business with the US, Asia, and Europe. A US business associate of mine and his French partners just came back from Baghdad and have local Iraqi businessmen begging him to invest. In fact in a golf course on the Tigris River of all things. Some sort of resort targeted to rich Europeans and Arabs. Like everything in life there are opportunities to build bridges and make a lot of money for both the US, Iraq and others.

Posted by: Wayne Hastings on June 22, 2004 02:21 PM

OK, so who’s going to complain that these Iraqis aren’t abiding by the Geneva Convention? The coin has two sides in that regard. These radicals are a small, vocal, brutal minority. They may be trying to hold onto Friedman’s proverbial Olive Tree, but their ends do not justify their means. It’s time for the UN to roll out the big guns.

Posted by: Cog on June 22, 2004 02:26 PM

Actually, I think it was a religous point they were trying to make.

Posted by: on June 22, 2004 04:49 PM

The article says: “He was an Arabic speaker and evangelical Christian who had worked in Iraq for a year as a translator for a South Korean firm supplying goods to the U.S. military.” I think that’s the clue: he was murdered for being a non-Muslim in an Arab country.

Posted by: on June 22, 2004 07:04 PM

Dan, your concise, accurate statement speaks volumes. Not one extra or missing word. The poor Russ Abbotts of the world still don’t get it. There do exist bad people on this earth; sorry about the “demonization”. Of course they’re still human, but evil they are. They would gladly annihilate Russ and all us other infidels in a heartbeat. To sit back and ponder their justfications or rage misses the point. Terror means the intentional attack on civilian targets for political effect. My only suggestion to Russ is that when (evil) people threaten your life or those of your loved ones, please take them seriously.

Posted by: on June 22, 2004 08:06 PM

The thing that terrorists have in common is anger and a willingness to commit acts forbidden by every modern religion and every civilized government. The evil committed by the Moslem terrorists of Al Queda is anathema to their religion, just as Catholic and Protestant killings in Northern Ireland and Jewish crimes in the Near East.

Thus, the abominable beheadings can’t be associated with the religion of the perpetrators any more than German Lutheranism or Catholicism was responsible as a religion for the Holocaust.

Unfortunately, the knee-jerk reaction to what Dan aptly termed barbarism is to associate it with the extremes of Moslem belief, not the mainstream. “Moslem”, like “Arab” is far too broad a concept to be hung with responsibility for the terrorism.

Posted by: Jacky on June 22, 2004 09:16 PM

Yes, dan, I totally agree with you.

Iraq militants behead S. Korean hostage

Posted by: John on June 23, 2004 04:54 AM

Sure thing

Posted by: on June 23, 2004 11:10 AM

So, not to belabor the Chomsky view of things. But, say a trader on Wall Street calls in a debt on a developing nation’s government, or maybe forgives a portion but increases the interest rate by .25%

The government of this country wants to meet its international obligations, and so pays back its loan. It obtains the extra .25% on the interest rate by not subsidizing the purchase of seeds for the next year’s crops, which will feed its population.

The next year, a bit of starvation occurs in the population. Iterate this over 5 years, as hungry people are not as productive, and can’t produce as much output to pay back the government’s obligation.

Eventually, the people at the bottom with the least amount of support die. Say 50,000 children who did not get adequate nutrition in their first years of life. These were civilians, as they had no say in what their government did in the international arena, but must live with the consequences of these agreements.

Is it any less barbaric to kill these children through economics at a far distant remove than to kill a few people operating in a war zone directly with a sword?

Posted by: on June 23, 2004 03:38 PM

“Is it any less barbaric to kill these children through economics at a far distant remove than to kill a few people operating in a war zone directly with a sword?”

I’ll never understand this flavor of moral equivocation. Do you really see yourself as enlightened with this viewpoint? How many Wall St. traders blow up busloads of children, detonate roadside bombs without caring who the victims are, and murder people because of their nationality?

Sorry, you are not enlightened and you don’t get something that the rest of us are missing. The thing that you are missing is that these thugs, crimminals, and terrorists will murder you because you are not subscribing to their brand of Islam, not because you didn’t help feed their children. The value of human life in the middle east is appallingly low, only when people get a chance to exercise freedom will their outlook change. Unfortunately, there is an ent
ire spectrum of groups and people who don’t want anything resembling freedom in these countries, which is why they have embarked on this campaign of terror to drive out anyone who attempts to instill freedom.

Yes, it’s barbaric and savage. Not only should people not attempt to justify their actions, collectively we should recommit to hunting down and killing these terrorists one by one if that’s what it takes.

Posted by: on June 23, 2004 04:07 PM

I don’t think I was justifying their actions, nor was I saying that killing innocents is not barbaric.

You ask, “How many Wall St. traders blow up busloads of children, detonate roadside bombs without caring who the victims are, and murder people because of their nationality?”

I am suggesting, that while they do not use dynamite or swords, they do kill without caring about the victims, and they murder people because of their nationality, being citizens of indebted nations. And they can’t see that it’s murder, because all they think they’re doing is adjusting numbers in a spreadsheet, because they want another Lexus, or the guy in the next office made better numbers and you have to show him up.

And I am suggesting that this is also barbaric. And I might even suggest that we tend to our own barbarism before noting the log in someone else’s eye.

Our valuation of human life in our inner cities, amongst the working poor and permanently unemployed is appallingly low. Our exercise of freedom has only made class striations worse over the last 30 years. Unfortunately, there is a small group of of very rich men who don’t want anything resembling freedom in this country, which is why they have embarked on this campaign of terror to drive out anyone who attempts to instill freedom.

I actually have no idea what to do with barbarism overseas. Our business interests are too entagled to just go away, and we are too dependent on foreign energy to just walk away. But I do think we need to clean out our own fratboy jerks before we have the moral standing to call others barbarians.

Posted by: on June 23, 2004 07:14 PM

Today’s Juan Cole blog: has this thought on the issue:

I don’t think a lot of press attention should be given to the capture and killing of a single hostage, since the whole point of the captors is to generate such attention. I think the big stories on Tuesday were the killing of 2 more US troops near Balad and the airstrike on Fallujah. The beheading creates a lurid interest, but it doesn’t matter to a dead person how he was killed. And, no, beheading has nothing special to do with Islam, it is just grisly and a good tool for terrorists.

Posted by: on June 23, 2004 07:19 PM

Russ, I agree with you that Bush’s broad-brush characterization is “not useful”. I’d go even further, and call it “immoral”, because it’s false (we’re “up against” many “kinds of people”, ranging from “evil” to “deluded” to “corrupt” to “patriotic”), and because it encourages people on “our side” to act immorally when dealing with people on “their side” by fostering a view of all of them as “in-/sub-human”.

But I also think it’s entirely appropriate to get out the Pilot Razor Point and write “evil” (or, in some cases, “insane”) on the _individuals_ who freely chose to commit those acts.

It’s not sufficient to label the acts as “immoral”: there are many things that people do, often as a result of basic human weakness, that are “immoral”. Like, say, driving drunk. But the drunk driver who kills a pedestrian through drug-induced incompetence is very different from a sober driver who deliberately runs over a random stranger. Both acts are “immoral”, but the latter is probably also “evil”, and the distinction between the two _is_ “useful”.

Posted by: on June 23, 2004 07:21 PM

“But I do think we need to clean out our own fratboy jerks before we have the moral standing to call others barbarians.”

Your reasoning is ludicrously flawed. The moral distinction is easy to grasp — it’s not one of mechanics, as the other poster may have suggested, but rather one of intent. Wall Street traders may act with indifference, perhaps callousness, regarding the many-degrees-removed consequences of their daily business dealings, but they do not set out to intentionally maim, torture, rape or murder people each day.

You are equating negligence (at most) on the one hand with intentional and immediate brutality on the other. Any first-year student of philosophy or law could easily grasp this distinction and describe why virtually every society in existence since the dawn of civilization has chosen to punish intentional wrongdoing far more harshly than mere negligence or indifference.

Posted by: on June 23, 2004 08:41 PM

“Is it any less barbaric to kill these children through economics at a far distant remove than to kill a few people operating in a war zone directly with a sword?”

Most of the time, yes, because the bankers are not making the choices that are the proximate cause of the children dying. It’s more likely that a corrupt dictator or ruling oligarchy has chosen to line their own pockets, or buy new cattle prods and prison cells for the secret police, instead of seed corn.

Was it “immoral” for the bankers to get involved with the borrowers in the first place? Or to impose the conditions that led to the hard choices? Sometimes yes, sometimes no: each case needs to be examined on its own merits.

But “barbaric” rarely, if ever, describes the situation well.

Posted by: on June 23, 2004 11:46 PM

well, perhaps the bankers are not doing it intentionally, but it seems more civilized to me to be aware of the consequences of your actions, and first ‘do no harm,’ and to always strive to understand the consequences. And, our actions overseas, especially when in the name of business, do cause consequences, and rarely do we see the impact of our economic choices overseas. And once someone tells you that you are causing suffering, if you choose not to look at the problem, then it begins to be gross negligence and intention.

Back to the war on terrorism, if we ally ourselves with people who we know are committing war crimes, are we morally culpable? If we stand by as hundreds of people who had surrendered were packed into cargo containers without oxygen, transported many miles with few survivors, is that okay? Is that negligence or intention?

It certainly is a lot easier to just get rid of all those people than to bring them all before a court of law and determine whether they were willing illegal combatants.

If you cultivate a culture of ‘not knowing’ so you don’t know what you’re feet are doing and therefore can’t take responsibility for them, is that intentional, or is it still negligence?

I would agree though that the Queda methods are engineered to cause us the greatest distress. We see American soldier’s faces. These are shrouded, a mystery, unknowble, the unknown, Other and therefore not human. And I think that Al Jazeera is just as bad as Fox in terms of politicizing news coverage. And one person’s suffering is awfu
l. Can we imagine 3,000? When do we ever see the suffering we have caused, but for the brave soldier who leaked the prison photos?

What if, hypothetically speaking, one of the shrouded folk you see in the Queda beheading were the son of someone who we suffocated through negligence in a cargo cart? And he committed to hunting us down and killing us one by one? An eye for an eye will make us all blind.

I knew a flight attendant on one of the WTC flights. The actions taken in her name by the us government disgust me. That she was cruelly murdered disgusts me. I met her at church camp, where we were ostensibly taught to turn the other cheek.

As a superpower, our country that engenders admiration also becomes an easy target, even if we never wanted to be one. There is nobody to contain our behavior but ourselves.

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