Wednesday, September 12, 2012

In Light of the Attacks in Libya

The right wing is giddy to be able to talk about the attacks in Libya. It's a great opportunity for them. The last thing they want is for people to discuss what OUR government is doing. They want to distract us from that question and have us instead focus on the atrocities of others that we can't control.

A young conservative questioner tried the same tactic with Noam Chomsky. Listen to see how it went for him.


Examinator said...

One would have thought that "Had my intellectual adequacies publicly confirmed by Noam Chomsky" on one's resume would have little value. But freedom of speech include making one's self look like a poster example of
'tis better to be silent and thought PERHAPS a fool than to speak and remove all doubt'.
I may not agree with all of Noam's conclusions but I'm not that anxious to replace the individual ignoble claim to fame by challenging Chomsky on one of his many strengths.

As I've said before, I agree with Chomsky about our personal responsibility and not hiding behind an abstraction of nationality. I have said many times I pay little regard for my nationality my passport is a matter of convenience not conviction.

Examinator said...

To the issue specifically 90 years of arrogance/interference/colonialism/ intolerance and prejudice will do it every time.
Like the song said "the yanks are coming ...and they never really left. First the armies, then the exploitive corporations and backed by the almost laughable rationale that might is right.
What I find most surprising at the human level is that the average US citizen assumes they have a monopoly on patriotism and extremist religions and that it's some amorphous abstraction (the USA ) that might do the unspeakable and that it's not them. And the rest of the world should tremble in fear and admiration of that one true god... USA ! who is totally responsible/ justifies atrocities committed in its name or interests, be it violences or amoral exploitation/ subjugation of any one who isn't.

Jonathan said...


Do you think there could reach a point when the protests across the middle east against the recent video can cross from an existential abstraction to something we should pay attention to? As someone who hopes to be travelling to predominately Muslim countries in the next few years for business and pleasure with my family, I personally am starting to feel I would be less safe in general as an American. Do you think this is unfounded?

I'll be the first to admit that the vast majority of the time the news reports on an attack, or crash, riots, etc in a given country, the chance of this impacting a foreigner on the ground are just about nil. I’ve even passed through crowds of angry protesters myself in India, and still felt relatively safe (although I wouldn’t advise making a habit of it). That being said, the last few weeks have started to give me pause.

Here's a few recent quotes from Hezbollah:

"The world should know our anger will not be a passing outburst but the start of a serious movement that will continue on the level of the Muslim nation to defend the Prophet of God," Nasrallah told tens of thousands of marchers in Beirut's southern suburbs....

"America, which uses the pretext of freedom of expression ... needs to understand that putting out the whole film will have very grave consequences around the world," he added.

Jon said...

Very exciting for you to be able to travel throughout those regions. I would love to do that as well.

Of course I claim no expertise on safety related matters. Really I can only guess on these issues, but I'll do that just for fun, but feel free to tell me you think I'm crazy.

During the Arab Spring people like Anderson Cooper went to Egypt and huddled in a hotel and hid under his covers. So he feared for his safety. On the other hand Democracy Now went right into Tarhir Square and filmed it all first hand. Apparently they didn't feel like it was too dangerous. My concern in a place like Libya is this. Who the heck did we bring to power now? Is it another case like Afghanistan where we arm the most fundamentalist and militant of Islamists? If it is extremists now in power thanks to us, who knows what might happen to Americans in Libya. On the other hand I'm not sure who these people are that are now in power.

I guess I wouldn't be too concerned in other places, like Lebanon. Your main fear there would be getting bombed by Israel. Yeah, Muslims are ticked about this film, but I wouldn't expect retaliation against random Americans. There are plenty of Christians in Lebanon. They have a huge synagogue in Beirut. They understand that Israeli violence is violence by the Israeli government. In fact there's a huge movement of Jews that fight for justice for Palestinians and people of other countries routinely attacked by Israel, and I think in Lebanon they understand that. They don't paint with so broad a brush and just blame everyone for what an individual may have done.

Same story if you go into the occupied territories. You might get shot by IDF or settlers, but you'd be safe from the locals. They understand that a white face brings protection, so they appreciate it when they get visitors.

Jonathan said...


Nothing set in stone for those trips yet, I'm just hoping if I keep busting my butt at night working on my VA business that I’ll be in a position to work for myself, and allow our family to travel more 1-2 years from now. Anyway, I think you and I have somewhat different views regarding the protests popping up and level of safety. I agree that in Egypt during the Arab Spring it as more a matter of keeping away from general lawlessness than hostility towards Americans or Christians.

However, when it comes to inflamed and angry religious mobs, I do think that things can get out of control very quickly and your life can be in serious danger. For example, we decided against working with a group in NW India back in 2006 because an angry Hindu mob had recently surrounded the home of the leader of a Christian organization that had been there for decades, savings orphans from the streets. They were mad because some literature (that this organization had nothing to do) put Hinduism in a bad light.

They literally would have beheaded the leader’s head, but he not escaped into police custody. I would not have been safe in this situation.

From my view, the more inflamed say Muslims or Hindus are, the more this can impede in the work humanitarian groups that are American/Western or even Indigenous Christian. And to that end, I do think the anger is not an abstraction to distract from more domestic problems. You might be surprised at the areas where Westerns/Christians are threatened throughout the world at any given time. I don’t usually get the impression that the anger is directed towards our government or our policies (in these cases) but really does seem to be ideologically or religiously driven. I’m not saying this makes the US, our government, nor my religion blameless, but I am saying when it comes to being threatened and persecuted, the root cause often is not a desire to correct an injustice by a powerful external force.

Jon said...

I'm not sure we are disagreeing. When we installed the Norther Alliance in Afghanistan, some of the most crazed religious extremists you could ever find, it was a completely unpredictable situation. And extremely dangerous. These people were so bad that when the Taliban came to power they were welcomed by the population as the less extreme alternative. Oh yeah, it was still bad, but nothing like what we had installed. So definitely you can get yourself into a bad situation very quickly. I'm not here to claim that everyone is acting rational and purely out of reaction to US imperialism, but on the other hand I do like to consider the causes even of the religious extremism. I like to consider how we may be contributing to it. The whole beam in your own eye thing again. That Jesus guy was pretty smart.

Examinator said...
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Examinator said...

there are tourists and then there are clueless tourists.

My advice from having travelled it "hot spots" is, BEFORE you go, Study and study some more on the social sensitivities in those countries. Don't be solicitous but respectful of what you don't understand and of THEIR views. Remember also, like Christians et al not all Muslims are the same and nutters/extremists exist every where. Take care of WHERE YOU GO (areas neighborhoods) . Particularly in some parts of Israeli cities Jerusalem is one such city there the biggest issue when out and about (fundie Jews).
e.g. I've wandered in Sth LA and parts of Miami with the potential more harm than in much of the middle east.
DON'T make the mistake of confusing Arabs with Persians (Iranians) etc.

DON'T go their as Americans,Aussies, Brits but as people... (don't indulge in talking loudly, be sensitive about clothing and NO FLAGS or such patches or t shirts with writing/logos, ostentatious jewellery or religious symbols ) Females should always carry a tasteful scarf.
Don't demand ...learn how to haggle and most of all you are in poorer countries and any or all of the above may make you a target.

The middle eastern PEOPLE GENERALLY are friendly and hospitable.

Of course read MULTIPLE the national (English speaking) embassy travel warnings and always know the local embassy number and address, have your passport/credit cards numbers somewhere else, have travel insurance and overseas travel medical insurance.
If you go to Israel ask them NOT to stamp your passport as it will create issues in some other countries and going into Palestine,Lebanon.

I'd point to the Aussie Artist who has lived in Afghanistan for years and runs a gallery and arts workshop ' The Yellow House' although he's in a no go area he and the 'Yellow house, has NEVER robbed, attacked threatened or harmed. As he says he respects their cultures and it aware of their sensitivities.

The underlying point to what I'm saying is In short like anywhere you are VISITORS in their country and if you behave like a respectful one you'll have a good and interesting time.

Examinator said...

Guys incl Chad
I'd suggest that the 'bad movie' that has set off violence world wide is just the trigger not the cause.
Here in Aus there was a protest that turned into a mini riot.. however, it now turns out that it was instigated by a 'telephone box minority'. Even the mainstream Muslim organizations and newspapers/ media notified the police of tweets for it in advance and condemned the actions.
Many were outed by these organizations and the round up is proceeding.
It has been widely noted that most of those who were involved in the 'riot' were those who are lacking in skills,education and mostly unemployed poor from a suburb of Sydney called Lakemba. BTW that area is generally a low income/unemployed area.

What is not generally discussed is the inherent ghettoing prejudice that employers and others have that create and entrench these sort of problems. There has been many experiments/research run across the world that confirm this.
Opportunities are rarely where the poor can AFFORD to live. In the above 'riot' circumstance it is a low rent low house price 'dormitory' (poverty trap) area on the outskirts of a metropolis.

That means that anyone wanting a job needs to travel large distances to work. In that case fares/transport tends to take a disproportionate amount of their take home $. As a result they are financially better off being unemployed. Because the area is low rent etc it only attracts the bottom (read poorest = those with the least AVAILABLE futures.).

The schools tend to be full of multi lingual and poor people's children and as such extra fund raising is nigh on impossible.(parents and citizen group are poorly attended.) The teachers are usually the bottom of the list, near retirees, disillusioned, disinterested, clock watchers and the inexperienced. The net outcome is nearer a Bronx ghetto gang training ground that school.

Even Ben Franklin and several Behaviourist psychological researchers have pointed out and proven that you tend to be a product of your environment. Yes Chad there are exceptions (they're usually by genetic happenstance). In short it becomes a positive feedback system in that it keeps growing in intensity.
Interesting note, in Aust the the state public housing departments started buying houses spread out in normal 'middle class' areas and renting them at subsidised rates to low income families. They discovered that the off sprung of those families tended to be on average, significantly higher achieving than those in the corresponding 'ghetto' ones.
So I ask you is this lefty rationale or simply good community self interest policy.
However the greatest resistance comes from the...” I worked for my home” set. What they miss is that they have tenure/ ownership (asset) but public housing recipients don't in fact they are subject to all sorts of restrictions and invasion of 'privacy' ...that the land owners would see as (libertarian) obscenities.

Now if we go one step further and consider and consider whole countries who are being overlorded by a powerful country and it's interests leaving that country in one big low rent poor Ghetto what would you expect as the out come...
The 'riot' was a microcosm of what happened in Libya....pent up resentment.

Keep in mind Gadaffi was being supported by foreign interests.... the NATO (USA) forces were seen by pro Gadaffi supporters (a very large ethnic group) as interfering. The rush by big western Oil companies to control their oil would not have gone down well with the poor/ignorant after years of deprivation.(They would have seen it as rightfully theirs).

Add to that the natural tribalism of the people whose last resort was unity (strength of identity) in religion suddenly suppressed by Christians....they were looking for someone to vent on (blame).
Let's be real, the US is far from subtle in the fact that their embassies are more than diplomatic outposts... One shouldn't be surprised.

Examinator said...

I forgot to mention that the artist form the 'yellow House' (soon to be a doco movie)
Also mentioned a very interesting point.
That the Taliban is backed by the Waharbis, the religious and cultural controllers of Saudi Arabia...a USA supported, horrific theocratically dominated dictatorship.
In fact before the Taliban the women wore mini skirts etc.

He made the point that the nthn Alliance were largely Pashtoons and were different from most Afghanis who are 21st century armed medieval ethnic Warlords(not unlike the Vandals). He also said after 10 years there he still didn't understand the and it's brittleness/warrior/ honor cultures of the Pashtoons. The ethnic diversity is very pronounced in the northern tribal areas.
The general public "accepted(?)" the Taliban because they instituted order after the Russians left as opposed to warlordism.