The future as we used to know it has ceased to exist. And other happy thoughts.

Reading the accounts of the terrorist horror in Mumbai has left me as pessimistic as a dinosaur contemplating the future of his grandchildren. How could they do that? … destroying all those lives, people they didn’t even know, people enjoying themselves on vacation … whatever could be their motivation? Well, they did sort of know some of their victims; they knew they were Indians, or Americans, or British, or Zionists, or some other kind of infidel; so it wasn’t completely mindless, not totally random. Does that help to understand? Can it ease the weltschmerz? You can even make use of it. The next time you encounter a defender of American foreign policy, someone insisting that something like Mumbai justifies Washington’s rhetorical and military attacks against Islam, you might want to point out that the United States does the same on a regular basis. For seven years in Afghanistan, almost six in Iraq, to give only the two most obvious examples … breaking down doors and machine-gunning strangers, infidels, traumatizing children for life, firing missiles into occupied houses, exploding bombs all over the place, pausing to torture … every few days dropping bombs on Pakistan or Afghanistan, and still Iraq, claiming they’ve killed members of al-Qaeda, just as bad as Zionists, bombing wedding parties, one after another, 20 or 30 or 70 killed, all terrorists of course, often including top al-Qaeda leaders, the number one or number two man, so we’re told; so not completely mindless, not totally random; the survivors say it was a wedding party, their brother or their nephew or their friend, mostly women and children dead; the US military pays people to tell them where so-and-so number-one bad guy is going to be; and the US military believes what they’re told, so Bombs Away! … Does any of that depress you like Mumbai? Sometimes they bomb Syria instead, or kill people in Iran or Somalia, all bad guys … “US helicopter-borne troops have carried out a raid inside Syria along the Iraqi border, killing eight people including a woman, Syrian authorities say” reports the BBC.[6] … “The United States military since 2004 has used broad, secret authority to carry out nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks against Al Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere, according to senior American officials. … The secret order gave the military new authority to attack the Qaeda terrorist network anywhere in the world, and a more sweeping mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the United States,” the New York Times informs us.[7] So it’s all nice and legal, not an attack upon civilization by a bunch of escaped mental patients. Maybe the Mumbai terrorists also have a piece of paper, from some authority, saying that it’s okay what they did. … I’m feeling better already.

The mythology of the War on Terrorism

On November 8, three men were executed by the government of Indonesia for terrorist attacks on two night clubs in Bali in 2002 that took the lives of 202 people, more than half of whom were Australians, Britons and Americans. The Associated Press[8] reported that “the three men never expressed remorse, saying the suicide bombings were meant to punish the United States and its Western allies for alleged atrocities in Afghanistan and elsewhere.”

During the recent US election campaign, John McCain and his followers repeated a sentiment that has become a commonplace – that the War on Terrorism has been a success because there hasn’t been a terrorist attack against the United States since September 11, 2001; as if terrorists killing Americans is acceptable if it’s done abroad. Since the first American strike on Afghanistan in October 2001 there have been literally scores of terrorist attacks against American institutions in the Middle East, South Asia and the Pacific, more than a dozen in Pakistan alone: military, civilian, Christian, and other targets associated with the United States. The year following the Bali bombings saw the heavy bombing of the US-managed Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, the site of diplomatic receptions and 4th of July celebrations held by the American Embassy. The Marriott Hotel in Pakistan was the scene of a major terrorist bombing just two months ago. All of these attacks have been in addition to the thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan against US occupation, which Washington officially labels an integral part of the War on Terrorism. Yet American lovers of military force insist that the War on Terrorism has kept the United States safe.

Even the claim that the War on Terrorism has kept Americans safe at home is questionable. There was no terrorist attack in the United States during the 6 1/2 years prior to the one in September 2001; not since the April 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. It would thus appear that the absence of terrorist attacks in the United States is the norm.

An even more insidious myth of the War on Terrorism has been the notion that terrorist acts against the United States can be explained, largely, if not entirely, by irrational hatred or envy of American social, economic, or religious values, and not by what the United States does to the world; i.e., US foreign policy. Many Americans are mightily reluctant to abandon this idea. Without it the whole paradigm – that we are the innocent good guys and they are the crazy, fanatic, bloodthirsty bastards who cannot be talked to but only bombed, tortured and killed – falls apart. Statements like the one above from the Bali bombers blaming American policies for their actions are numerous, coming routinely from Osama bin Laden and those under him.[9]

Terrorism is an act of political propaganda, a bloody form of making the world hear one’s outrage against a perceived oppressor, graffiti written on the wall in some grim, desolate alley. It follows that if the perpetrators of a terrorist act declare what their motivation was, their statement should carry credibility, no matter what one thinks of their cause or the method used to achieve it.

Just put down that stereotype and no one gets hurt.

Sarah Palin and her American supporters resent what they see as the East Coast elite, the intellectuals, the cultural snobs, the politically correct, the pacifists and peaceniks, the agnostics and atheists, the environmentalists, the fanatic animal protectors, the food police, the health gestapo, the socialists, and other such leftist and liberal types who think of themselves as morally superior to Joe Sixpack, Joe the Plumber, National Rifle Association devotées, rednecks, and all the Bush supporters who have relished the idea of having a president no smarter than themselves. It’s stereotyping gone wild. So in the interest of bringing some balance and historical perspective to the issue, allow me to remind you of some forgotten, or never known, factoids which confound the stereotypes.

  • Josef Stalin studied for the priesthood.
  • Adolf Hitler once hoped to become a Catholic priest or monk; he was a vegetarian and was anti-smoking.
  • Hermann Goering, while his Luftwaffe rained death upon Europe, kept a sign in his office that read: “He who tortures animals wounds the feelings of the German people.”
  • Adolf Eichmann was cultured, read deeply, played the violin.
  • Benito Mussolini also played the violin.
  • Some Nazi concentration camp commanders listened to Mozart to drown out the cries of the inmates.
  • Charles Manson was a staunch anti-vivisectionist.
  • Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader, charged with war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, had been a psychiatrist specializing in depression; the author of a published book of poetry as well as children’s books, often with themes of nature; and a practitioner of alternative medicine.

I’m not really certain to what use you might put this information to advance toward our cherished national goal of becoming a civilized society, but I feel a need to disseminate it. If you know of any other examples of the same type, I’d appreciate your sending them to me.

The examples above are all of “bad guys” doing “good” things. There are of course many more instances of “good guys” doing “bad” things.


  1. Washington Post, August 17, 2008
  2. Chicago Tribune, September 25, 2004
  3. Associated Press, November 17, 2008
  4. New York Times, October 3, 2008
  5. Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom (1994) p.278; William Blum, Rogue State, chapter 23, “How the CIA sent Nelson Mandela to prison for 28 years”
  6. BBC, October 26, 2008
  7. New York Times, November 9, 2008
  8. Associated Press, November 9, 2008
  9. See my article at: