Gun-totin', Chronic-smokin' Hearse Initiator (ludickid) wrote,
Gun-totin', Chronic-smokin' Hearse Initiator

Dennis Prager: a dimwit and a scholar

Today at Town Hall, Dennis asks: who do we have to thank for the phenomenon of suicide bombing? The answer, unsurprisingly, is (a) Palestinians and (b) liberals, the former because their "major contribution to humanity" is suicide bombing and the latter because they provided a "secular and universal justification" for suicide bombings and thus unleased the genie from the bottle. (Because, you know, the terrorists would never have continued with their evil deeds if prominent Western liberals hadn't condoned their actions.)

Naturally, Dennis, who is not in the least historically ignorant but tends to lie a lot, provides himself with plenty of weasel-words to prevent people from calling bullshit on him too easily: he claims that the evil genius of Palestinians (never does he use a qualifier like "some Palestinians" or "Palestinian terrorists", but simply condemns the whole) is that they brought into the world "religiously sanctioned mass murder of innocents through suicide. Prior to the Palestinians, this did not exist."

The "religiously sanctioned" is a bit tricky, allowing him to ignore manifestations of suicide bombings that occurred before the intifadah, but a clever person might point out that Japanese pilots would still win the day -- the 'kami' in 'kamikaze' stands for 'divine' or 'of God', after all. So he adds the further "of innocents" qualifier to edge them out (military targets, don't you know) and the "through suicide" just as a capper, as if there's something inherently worse about the killer dying alongside his victims.

Unfortunately, he's still wrong. In fact, he's wrong in almost every important respect. What most experts believe was the first middle eastern suicide bombing designed to inflict harm on non-military targets was carried out by Lebanese attackers, not by Palestinians. The first suicide bombing carried out in the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis was carried out by a Japanese communist. The most suicide bombings and the highest bodycounts belong not to Palestinians but to the Tamil Tigers (who he sniffily dismisses as "confined to a secular nationalist movement", which for some reason isn't as bad as when people do it for religious reasons -- though one assumes it doesn't make a lot of difference to the victims). And the current wave of suicide terror bombings in Israel started with the intifada in 1993, at which point in modern history suicide bombing was already a long-practiced and well-established tactic all over the world.

He's wrong about other things too, like when he says "no Palestinian Christians have committed a suicide bombing". Well, okay, technically he's right, but Lebanese Christians have committed suicide bombings, and under virtually identical circumstances. Also, Druze Muslims have committed suicide bombings against other Muslims in the name of preserving Israel.

He's wrong when he says Islam "created a religious and moral basis for mass murder" by justifying suicide bombings; naturally, the Q'uran says nothing about this, and whether or not suicide bombings are justifiable in the name of Islam is a lively debate amongst Muslim religious leaders. If it is true to say that Islam provides a basis for terrorism because some Islamic leaders defend the practice, then it is true to say that Christianity provides a basis for terrorism because some Christian leaders defend the practice.

He's wrong -- or, more likely, deliberately ignorant -- when he says "I do not know of any Muslim religious organization or leader who condemned this Palestinian Muslim terror-theology as anti-Islamic." A simple Google search will reveal hundreds and hundreds of articles about Muslims and Islamic religious leaders who condem terrorism.

He's wrong when he claims that suicide bombing is a manifestation of Islamic religious thought in no way connected to the Israeli occupation of Palestine; if that were the case, why wasn't it taking place all throughout the 1920s and 1930s? Why isn't there a plague of terror bombing throughout the entire Islamic world? Why didn't the Taliban use it against its own citizens, Iraqis against Saddam Hussein, Saudis against their royal family? He's wrong when he says that these tactics awoke in Palestine; as early as the Crusades, Knights Templar burned one of their own ships, with hundreds of their men aboard, in order to kill over a thousand Muslims. He's wrong when he identifies it as a purely religious operation; Syrian, Iraqi, Lebanese and even Palestinian suicide bombers have been motivated by political causes (the first female suicide bomber in the middle east was a Syrian socialist who did what she did out of purely political motivation). He's even wrong about its origins in the modern middle east: the very first suicide bombing against civilians of the modern era took place not in the middle east, but in North Africa, by Algerian freedom fighters attempting to destabilize the French occupation. In short, he starts out wrong and gets wronger.

I don't mean to defend Islam here; I'm not a Muslim, and I find the religion as distasteful and harmful to human progress as I do every other faith. Nor do I mean to stand up for suicide bombing, a terror tactic I find destabilizing at best and harmful at worst (in a political sense, that is -- obviously it's harmful to the bomber and the victims, but it's also of questionable effectiveness in a guerrilla war). It's just that...well, not only is this article an explosion of historical ignorance (or outright deception), but I'm not even sure what it's supposed to accomplish. What's with the gratuitious liberal-bashing? Suicide bombing existed before there was a New Left, and it will continue long after. Terrorists, despite the constant complaints to the contrary by conservatives, don't give a shit what American liberals think of them, and don't exist due to the good graces of European socialists. Suicide bombing is here to stay and is likely to exist as long as there are military occupations and people without a lot of firepower determined to resist them. What's the point of all this qualification ('Palestinians invented religiously-based mass murder suicide attacks against civilian targets')? Even if it were true, which it isn't, what's the point of having written it other than to score cheap points against Palestine? Is the tactic that much worse than using the atomic bomb? Should I write a screed in which I say "you can thank Jews like Oppenheimer and Einstein for the horrors of nuclear war"? Should I complain about the evils of Lockheed and Boeing for having invented bomber aircraft, which have brought a lot more misery to innocent civilians than every suicide bomber in history combined? It's a completely meaningless path to go down.

Robert Pape's Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism is perhaps the most instructive book I've seen on this topic, and makes much more explicit the fact that the link between occupation and suicide terror is far stronger than the link between Islam and suicide terror. I don't know if Dennis Prager has read it, but I'm sure if he did he would dismiss it outright as mere propaganda from the left. Pape, after all, teaches at that notorious hotbed of liberalism, the University of Chicago.
Tags: politics, town hall roundup

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