Tag Archives: terrorism


Nicholas Kristof attempts an undisguised defense of Islam-

The New York Times reported recently on a Pew Research Center poll in which religious people turned out to be remarkably uninformed about religion…. And atheists were among the best informed about religion.

So let me give everybody another chance. And given the uproar about Islam, I’ll focus on extremism and fundamentalism….

3. The terrorists who pioneered the suicide vest in modern times, and the use of women in terror attacks, were affiliated with which major religion?
a. Islam
b. Christianity
c. Hinduism


[T]he point of this little quiz is that religion is more complicated than it sometimes seems, and that we should be wary of rushing to inflammatory conclusions about any faith, especially based on cherry-picking texts.

The answer to the question: “3. c. Most early suicide bombings were by Tamil Hindus (some secular) in Sri Lanka and India.”

Which proves what, exactly? I wrote a post against such facile arguments, which conflate the incidental with the significant, in late ’08-

About not referring to terrorists by their religion – ideology, what the ‘liberal’ media and other ‘liberals’ do is indulge in semantic warfare. The statement “All Muslims are not terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims” is blatantly false. But that does not mean that we don’t label outfits according to their ideology – the Naxalites are called Maoists because their ideology derives from Mao; the ULFA are called separatists because their terror is based on nationhood for Assam; Sikh terrorism – the one related to Khalistan – is called that because their ideology revolved around a separate homeland for Sikhs. So, if a terror group fights under the banner of Islam, regardless of how many Muslims actually support them, not calling them Islamic or at least Islamist is dishonest and an act of deluding oneself. And if someone calls the ULFA or Maoists “Hindu terrorists” – to make a point – they basically have their head up their arse, or as the BJP would say, they are being pseudo secular, or as Benkin says, they are creating a moral equivalence that is non-existent. Before labeling someone – look at the ideology, then look at the scale.

The Hindu-ness of the LTTE or the religious affiliations of the various sides to the Irish conflict are of secondary importance; these conflicts were about ethnicity and nationalism, not religion. Which cannot be said about Islam, barring minor exceptions such as Kashmiri separatism.

Christianity and Islam are religions that were born in conflict. The former has grudgingly accepted the idea of separation of church and state; the latter hasn’t. It was, is, and will always be political unless it is seriously reformed. When Saudi Arabia becomes a secular state, one will know that the movement was a success. Till that happens, pretending that it’s only the odd Bin Laden who is perverting an innocent religion is like adopting the mentality of an ostrich. This is the mentality that results in Orwellian newspeak like “‘man-caused’ disasters.” On 9/11/01, some man-caused-disaster-causing-men caused a man-caused disaster…

PS: While tagging this post, I very nearly used “Nicholas Ostrich” before correcting it. The subconscious at work.

God, terror etc

A couple of headlines from the BBC site. The head of UK’s MI5 saying what desperately needs to be said, and understood-

Mr Evans also warned against a “zero tolerance” attitude to the terrorist risk, which he said was spreading.

“In recent years we appear increasingly to have imported from the American media the assumption that terrorism is 100% preventable and any incident that is not prevented is seen as a culpable government failure.

“This is a nonsensical way to consider terrorist risk and only plays into the hands of the terrorists themselves. Risk can be managed and reduced but it cannot realistically be abolished and if we delude ourselves that it can we are setting ourselves up for a nasty disappointment.”

And the pontiff caught making a very weird comparison

He said: “Even in our own lifetimes we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live.

“As we reflect on the sobering lessons of atheist extremism of the 20th century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus a reductive vision of a person and his destiny.”


A statement from the British Humanist Association said the Pope’s remarks were “surreal”.

It said: “The notion that it was the atheism of Nazis that led to their extremist and hateful views or that it somehow fuels intolerance in Britain today is a terrible libel against those who do not believe in God.

“The notion that it is non-religious people in the UK today who want to force their views on others, coming from a man whose organisation exerts itself internationally to impose its narrow and exclusive form of morality and undermine the human rights of women, children, gay people and many others, is surreal.”

If he knew “rather well what the Nazi ideology is about,” then this was a very cheap shot.

Mad debate, part 2

[The “part 1” is this post.]

In his HT article from the second week of September, Vir Sanghvi continues to be confused*-

First of all, the encounter reminds us of what we already know. When Indian police forces believe that they are dealing with a terrorist, they simply kill him or her without bothering with due process…

Second, let’s not pretend that what happened in Gujarat occurred because Narendra Modi is Chief minister. Policemen routinely kill terror suspects in all Indian states…

Third, the policy of encounters has broad public support. Conduct a poll and ask people whether policemen should try and build cases against terrorists, should persuade witnesses to testify and then wait six years for the judgement or whether they should just bump them off and a majority of Indians will prefer execution to prosecution.

Fourth, if we give our policemen the power to kill anybody they regard as a terrorist, then are we not compromising the basis of our society? We know now that encounter cops run berserk in India, killing innocent people at will and building up huge fortunes for themselves…

Fifth, even if we give our policemen a licence to kill …

Sixth: …I accept that many officers tell lies to win medals for themselves. But there are also honest policemen who genuinely believe that a) the best way to fight terrorism is to kill the terrorists and b) that they have society’s sanction to do so.

He’s right about society’s hypocrisy. In that case society should decide where the “rule of law” ends and war begins. From my previous post-

Yes, the rules of war are not the same as those applicable in normal times. But if one declares a war, everyone on the battlefield is fair game. If a country wants to wage a war against terror, or insurgency, or whatever, it should declare the relevant territory to be a battle field where normal rules of conduct don’t apply. Then people in such a “war zone” are no longer limited by the “rule of law,” just like the military isn’t. One can’t have one’s cake and eat it too, disarm civilians, subject them to the rule of law, and fight a war against them at the same time.

I slept on Sanghvi’s article for some weeks, but Don Boudreaux’s concise but powerful argument made me link to it-

Mr. Peters assumes that procedural protections for persons accused of wrongdoing exist primarily to make life easier for the accused. Not so. The chief functions of these protections are two. One is to shield innocent persons from being wrongly convicted and punished. The other is to keep the state’s powers in check.

A state that can summarily execute anyone whom it assures its citizens is a dangerous terrorist will itself, in time, become the most dangerous terrorist of all.

*I tried this with two different browsers-HT’s website seems to have an intermittent problem. Visiting an article directly (with a cleared cache) gave me a 500 error. Refreshing the page fixed it.

The lost war, and a mad debate

The Americans are unwilling to believe that Afghanistan is a lost cause, and only God can throw light on their infatuation with setting up “democratic” regimes in countries that don’t believe in the idea. One suspects though that it has more to do with venal politics than anything else. For that reason alone, they won’t agree with this article

If the goal is to establish a stable government to fill the vacuum created by our ousting of the Taliban and al-Qaida, we’ve done quite a job. Most Americans can accept a Marine’s risking life and limb to safeguard our freedoms. But when that Marine is protector of a corrupt and depraved foreign parliament—one that recently legalized marital rape and demands women ask permission from male relatives to leave their homes—it is not a victory worth celebrating.

You know, idealism regarding Afghanistan’s future begins to dissipate the first time we read the words “why don’t we negotiate with the moderate Taliban?”

But while strict Shariah law is acceptable, illicit drugs are not. If most of us agree that America has no business foisting its notions of wrong and right on other cultures, why, then, did we spend hundreds of millions of dollars eradicating poppy crops (one of the only productive crops of the Afghan farmers)? Was it because our own war on drugs has gone so splendidly?

Well, as they say, its their funeral. If only that were true, though.

Vir Sanghvi is confused about rights and rules of civilized conduct. He apparently believes in the dictum “wherever you are, do as the Americans do”-

Here is a hypothetical question. You are the head of a counter-terrorist force in Bombay. It is 26/11. Terrorists are spreading havoc in the city. You don’t know how many of them there are or what they are planning. But thanks to the sacrifices of a few brave policemen, Ajmal Kasab arrives in your custody.

You ask him where his fellow terrorists are and what they have planned. He laughs in your face.

What do you now do? These are your options:

a) You advise him of his rights and let him phone his lawyer.

b) You settle down for a sustained interrogation knowing that eventually he will slip up and reveal something.

c) You pull out his fingernails till he tells you exactly how many terrorists there are, what locations have been targeted and where their orders are coming from.

How many times does one have to repeat it? “Due process” is not meant to protect convicted criminals, it is meant to protect ordinary people, or mere accused, from arbitrary action. So, no. You are not allowed to pull out fingernails of people unless they are convicted, and only if pulling out fingernails is a legitimate form of punishment. A “ticking time bomb” scenario is not an argument against civilized behavior. If one is unwilling to live with this, why not simply stone to death anyone accused of anything at all instead of pretending to be a civilized people who believe in the rule of law?

He writes further-

And how do you balance the possibility of saving hundreds of lives (our 26/11 example) with the human rights of a single terrorist?

There are no easy answers. As a liberal, I am opposed to encounters and horrified by the cavalier attitude displayed by our security services towards torture. But equally, I realise that the battle against terrorism often leaves policemen and soldiers with no choice but to sacrifice the human rights of terrorists.

Define a terrorist. A journalist writing a column in a newspaper? Or anyone who the US president “thinks” is one. How about someone who doesn’t agree with you? Since Sanghvi criticizes western double standards on human rights issues, and at the same time doesn’t want to take an absolute stand either, why not simply adopt the Yoo doctrine?

In an October 2001 memo, Yoo and OLC lawyer Robert Delahunty suggested that if the military does something, even something that looks like police work, it is ipso facto a military operation, not a criminal investigation. “Our forces,” they said, “must be free to ‘seize’ enemy personnel or ‘search’ enemy quarters, papers and messages without having to show ‘probable cause’ to a neutral magistrate, and even without having to demonstrate that their actions were constitutionally ‘reasonable.'”

As Yoo sees it, if the Defense Department searches Americans’ homes, reads their mail, or listens to their phone calls, it is not carrying out an investigation; it is waging the War on Terror. “If the government’s heightened interest in self-defense justifies the use of deadly force,” Yoo wrote in a September 2001 memo, “then it certainly would also justify warrantless searches.”

Likewise, according to Yoo, the military must be free to indefinitely detain anyone suspected of involvement with terrorism, including U.S. citizens arrested on U.S. soil, and neither Congress nor the courts have any business imposing limits on such detentions or dictating how the prisoners should be treated. In a gratuitous and therefore revealing aside, Yoo and Delahunty suggested that censorship aimed at defeating terrorism would be legal too, since “First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully.”

Yes, the rules of war are not the same as those applicable in normal times. But if one declares a war, everyone on the battlefield is fair game. If a country wants to wage a war against terror, or insurgency, or whatever, it should declare the relevant territory to be a battle field where normal rules of conduct don’t apply. Then people in such a “war zone” are no longer limited by the “rule of law,” just like the military isn’t. One can’t have one’s cake and eat it too, disarm civilians, subject them to the rule of law, and fight a war against them at the same time.

Jeff Tucker at the Mises blog had a post which quoted the late American conservative thinker William Buckley. The piece is strangely applicable here. Buckley’s words-

As to the effect that a program of militant action, aimed at the destruction of the Soviets, would have on freedom in this country, the liberation conservative has no smooth words to disguise the fact that only the State can direct a war, or execute a foreign policy. To some extent, then, any totalitarian and imperialistic power which grows to the point where it must be reckoned with by free countries, wins at least a partial victory. For to beat the Soviet Union we must, to an extent, imitate the Soviet Union. We must, for example, conscript an army of sorts, and conscription entails the supreme denial of individual freedom. We must tax the people to support that army, and to support the bureaucracy without which, alas, a nation cannot mobilize….

Two generations of conscription would almost surely lead to universal and perpetual military training. And two generations of steeply progressive and exhaustive taxation, and of a mammoth bureaucracy, would mean that readjustment to private property and limited government would be nothing short of revolutionary.

It is a pity that yet one more difference will divide the waning conservative movement in the United States. But the issue is there, and ultimately it will separate us.

The title of the post? “To Fight the Total State, We Must Become a Total State.”

Describing his government?

An interview given by Chidambaram to TOI-

Q. It marks a departure from what is considered the `root cause’ approach?
Well I don’t think naxalites are motivated by any ideology. Maybe one or two of them are ideologically motivated but most of them are simply bandits.

“Bandit” would be an apt description for any government functionary or politician. The ridiculous thing here, however – if I am not reading too much into it – is that it seems Chidambaram would probably take a lenient view of naxalism if they “were” motivated by an ideology. But they are – they don’t believe in rights of any kind – life, property, speech. At least most democratic governments pretend like they do. The naxalites don’t even do that.

First the State interfered in the lives of tribals and villagers – it laid down thousands of rules and said that forests are public property. And while it grabbed trillions of dollars from tax payers for “development,” all the money was swallowed by middlemen. With no livelihood and no property, and having to face harassment from crooked government employees, they naturally turned towards the naxalites who “promised” to help them. But they hardly knew that that naxals were bigger thieves and murderers than the government. And now its nothing but a gang war – an official gang vs. an unofficial gang. On the principle of “the lesser evil”, we support the State.

Chidambaram keeps giving interviews. His predecessor kept changing his clothes. People keep dying. India.