Friday, January 28, 2005

Were 9/11 Victims Guilty?

No, of course not. But this post by Greg Djerejian talks about all those people who think they were. I suspect this quote from a woman in Dubai sums up a fairly mainstream Arab (though probably not European) view:
The wife of a locally prominent lawyer, of Pakistani extraction, told me that the attack on the Pentagon was legitimate. Oh, hell, I thought--let her call it legit as an attack on a military target. But, I asked, what of the massive slaughter of innocents at the World Trade Center? She paused, mulled that over a bit, and, incredibly, in near perfect English, said: "maybe they should have attacked [the Towers] on a weekend when there would have been less people there."
Then towards the end Greg says "Bush speaks of the United States' mission as ending tyranny on the planet (and he really means it!)." As a result, he implies, many people around the world think Bush and Osama are religious fanatics and moral absolutists cut from the same cloth. Greg doesn't say whether he thinks there's a grain of truth to this or not, but given his hawkish pro-war stance I think it is fair to assume he doesn't. Well, I do.

Increasingly, I think the problem with Bush is he doesn't really understand what the word "freedom" really means. He thinks it means cutting taxes and eliminating welfare. Sometimes that might be true, but there are a lot of other things that must come first -- notably all that liberalism (in the Enlightenment tradition, not the "socialist" tradition) represents.

UPDATE: The jump to that last paragraph may be a bit difficult to follow. So I'll try to summarize the logic:
  1. Osama and other terrorists are (or at least play to) religious Muslim fanatics
  2. Many foreigners think Bush is (or plays to) religious Christian fanatics
  3. Greg Djerejian disagrees with those foreigners because Bush advocates "freedom" and "democracy"
  4. I think Bush and Osama are very different in magnitude but similar in essence. To me, freedom and democracy must rest on secular liberalism. By liberalism I mean the enlightenment kind: "In contrast to systems of thought where the sacred had dominated and where questioning was discouraged, Enlightenment thinkers viewed human reason as dominant." Note I do not mean "socialist" (this piece explains the difference).
  5. I don't think Bush understands the enlightenment notion of liberalism, and in his belief system I don't think "human reason" is "dominant". His value system is based on "faith" which is essentially an indirect way of saying that it is not based on "human reason". And as such, even though Bush is no terrorist or murderer, the essence of his approach to foreign policy is irrational and thus not as dissimilar to Osama & Co.'s approach as Greg would like to believe

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