[Note: This contrasts with the events discussed in this post]
This is the dog that did not bark.
Apparently an American soldier went on a rampage in Afghanistan the night of 11/12 March, killing 16 Afghanis, 11 of whom were from the same family. Staff Sergeant Robert Bales has been charged with this offense and is currently cooling his heels in a cell in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
This is one of the more objectively egregious incidents in the ten year history of the post 9/11 US involvement in Afghanistan. I know that many Americans, especially including those actually in Afghanistan right now, are upset over this, and they should be. Of course, you’d expect the Afghanis themselves to be upset over it. Really, really upset. Possibly even riotously upset.
Nope. Not riotously so at any rate.
Where are the riots protesting our presence in Afghanistan and the utterly senseless killings of sixteen people? So far, I’ve heard of nothing happening.
But if some Korans get burnt by mistake, 29 people die in the ensuing riots.
I don’t think rioting would truly be justified in either case, but surely if you can sympathize with the rioting in either case, it would be over the mass murder, right? But that’s not what actually triggered rioting! Someone’s priorities are seriously messed up here, at least by our standards.
Now I stated in my post on the Koran riots, the following:
I’ve heard claims that this rioting is really an expression of displeasure at the American presence in Afghanistan. Well that may or may not be true. If it is, I might be sympathetic. But they aren’t saying that’s what it is, and I prefer to take them at their word. Why? Let’s assume for the sake of argument that they aren’t really this unhappy about the Korans, they are just using it as an excuse to demonstrate against the occupation. They get less sympathy from westerners–including Americans–who might actually influence things, by using this excuse than they would if they were up-front about their real complaint. Surely they realize this, and would not make this mistake. Ergo, their real complaint is about the Korans being desecrated by Americans.
And this recent non-riot just adds evidence to my contention. Devout Afghan Muslims are mad at us, first and foremost, for not respecting Islam, not for occupying their country and killing their countrymen. Otherwise, when they had a chance to protest and riot over something that is purely an occupation issue, they would do so. Yet they don’t.
This is evidence that the standard line taken by some liberals–that the reason “they hate us” is our involvement in the Middle East, or poverty, or lack of education education–is wrong. This is to them a religious war, a jihad. We are hated primarily for having the gall to not be Muslim.
Sam Harris (author of End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation as well as other works) has written many times on this issue, and is trying to counter the contentions by Robert A. Pape, of whom Harris states, “No one has done more to convince my fellow liberals that if we just behaved ourselves on the world stage, our problems with Islam would go away.” Harris has announced at the end of this blog post of his that he will be holding an online dialog with Robert Pape in the near future. (The whole post is worth reading, as he expresses his dismay at many liberals’ refusal to see what is going on here.)
In “Letter to a Christian Nation” Harris points to the 9/11 hijackers as also not motivated by political grievances, or poverty, or lack of education:
And yet, while the religious divisions in our world are self-evident, many people still imagine that religious conflict is always cause by a lack of education, by poverty, or by politics. Most nonbelievers, liberals, and moderates apparently think that no one ever really sacrifices his life, or the lives of others, on account of his religious beliefs. Such people simply do not know what it is like to be certain of Paradise. Consequently, they cannot believe that anyone is certain of Paradise. It is worth remembering that the September 11 hijackers were college-educated, middle-class people who had no discernable experience of political oppression. They did, however, spend a remarkable amount of time at their local mosque talking about the depravity of infidels and about the pleasures that await martyrs in Paradise. How many more architects and engineers must hit the wall at four hundred miles an hour before we admit to ourselves that jihadist violence is not merely a matter of education, poverty, or politics?
[All emphasis in the last sentence is mine.]
I think a lot of liberals need to check their premises, and break out of their standard analysis of violence as caused by poverty, et. al. They fundamentally misunderstand the cause of this current conflict. And if they don’t understand the real cause of the problem, they can’t come up with a solution that will solve it.
PS Meanwhile on our end of things, we need to make sure that we here in the United States do not allow the “religious right” to cast this as a crusade of Christians against Muslims, when instead it is properly cast as a defense of modernized countries (yes even the US with its resurgence of fundamentalism still qualifies–for the nonce) against those with a seventh-century culture, totally ruled over by a seventh-century version of their religion (there are sects of Islam that would fit in tolerably well in the modern world). This will not be easy, since so many in the US do think of it as a Christian/Muslim conflict. But doing so plays into the hands of the Muslims–for if it is one religion against another, there’s no way to show which one is right. And I personally have no interest in fighting for “Christianity”for this reason. It would not hold the moral high ground–it’s at root just another dogmatic, intolerant religion even if today it has mellowed to some degree. I am interested in fighting for the modern, life sustaining values enshrined in our mostly secular Declaration of Independence and entirely secular Constitution.