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Unreasonable Expectations

As I read my colleague Rick's piece from Saturday about the ongoing attacks on Christians by Muslims in Iraq, and discusses whether or not it was fair to blame the US for the violence. The theory behind that thought is that when Saddam Hussein ran Iraq, it didn't happen. He maintained his monopoly of violence with an iron fist; the only massacres that went on were at his command. Since the US led the coalition that overthrew him, we ought to be responsible for the consequences of that -- including removing the threats against those who would commit unauthorized mayhem.

It's a plausible theory. After all, it does tie in to Colin Powell's appropriation of the "Pottery Barn" principle -- "you break it, you bought it." But it has an underlying implication that I don't think that many people who buy into it have considered.

But there's an underlying assumption in that argument that I think needs to be examined carefully. It's the idea that the massacres and other atrocities going on are our responsibility for not preventing them.

Which means that the people actually doing the killing are not really to blame.

Why is that? The only plausible explanation for why we should not hold them responsible is because we cannot reasonably expect them to act like civilized human beings. That we should think of them simply as dumb animals, acting purely on instinct and incapable of anything more.

This phenomenon is not simply limited to Iraqi Muslims. It seems to be common among Muslims around the world -- in the Philippines, in Malaysia, in Indonesia, in Pakistan, in India, across Africa. The saying that "Islam has bloody borders" is, if anything, an understatement. The bloodiness is not just on the surface, but runs deep into places that are pretty much purely Muslim.

This is the crux of the "it's our fault that Muslims are killing Christians and each other in Iraq" argument: that the Muslims doing the killing are not and can not be held responsible for their actions. That the rage and urge for violence is so great within them, so overwhelming, that it's not fair to hold them responsible for it. That they simply can't handle freedom and the responsibilities that go with it, and need to be oppressed and repressed -- by force -- for their own good.

It's like the laws on dogs in the United States. Dogs simply can't be allowed to run free, they need to be leashed or fenced in. And if the dog misbehaves, the dog isn't punished -- the owner is, for not controlling the dog.

And if a dog goes too far, then it is killed -- and the owner is even more liable. The dog isn't blamed, per se; it's simply exercising its nature. But it's considered beyond redemption, beyond saving, beyond re-educating, once it attacks (or even kills) a human: then it has to go.

That's how Saddam Hussein treated his subjects: he kept them penned up or on leashes. And when they got too rambunctious or got loose, he put them down.

So they behaved themselves, by and large. But now, without their master, they're running wild. And the blame is being places on those who took away their master.

So, are these Iraqi Muslims simple animals? Are they dogs who have slipped the leash and gone feral? Have they forfeited their humanity, and not only deserve to be treated like animals, but need to be? Have they no responsibility to act like civilized human beings, and as such no right to be treated as such?

I'm not saying that. But that is what those who are insisting on blaming the US for the atrocities going on in Iraq and Afghanistan are saying.

Just not in so many words. They won't come out and say it. But that's what their message says.


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Comments (15)

Nicely done JayTea... as us... (Below threshold)
Rick:

Nicely done JayTea... as usual...

Common Islamic fundamentali... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

Common Islamic fundamentalist reasoning always seems to be "They hit me back first!"

Any way you slice them, Ira... (Below threshold)
Matt:

Any way you slice them, Iraqi Muslims killed the Iraqi Christians, because they wanted to. If they had hit and run and not waited with hostages they would of likely gotten away with it.

Christians are targeted because of their belifs, and becuase the attackers won't face any significant retribution. If the Christians form militias and defend themselves, the govenment will come down on them as enemies of the state.

"The only plausible explana... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

"The only plausible explanation for why we should not hold them responsible is because we cannot reasonably expect them to act like civilized human beings. That we should think of them simply as dumb animals, acting purely on instinct and incapable of anything more.

This phenomenon is not simply limited to Iraqi Muslims."

You got that right.
We have the same phenomenon right here in the U.S., where 'certain' groups are treated differently because 'those people' can't do it for themselves.
Same exact mindset.

It's racism. The real thing... (Below threshold)
Roy:

It's racism. The real thing, not the boy-crying-wolf one. The same mentality we collectively hold likewise for urban blacks, and illegal immigrants. But this goes even beyond the "soft bigotry of low expectations". It's blatant stereotypic bigotry.

The problem with Saddam is ... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

The problem with Saddam is that, by and large, he wasn't "putting down" the "animals". He was putting down anyone who was a threat to his power, didn't agree with him or just for the sheer pleasure of killing. All that was left behind was the animals. He even went so far as to co-opt them and nurture them.

Even so, they are still responsible for their own actions, because they aren't animals. They're human beings; warped, but still humans with free will.

But, but, but,......it's th... (Below threshold)
ODA315:

But, but, but,......it's the religion of peace!!

This is not so much a "reli... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

This is not so much a "religion" in the way we understand the term as a barbarian death cult which uses violence as a tool of conquest and oppression.

But the point is certainly true that crime is not the policeman's fault for not being there to prevent it. The fact the criminal may behave as a animal does not relieve him of his human responsibilities.

If Bush, Cheney and Rumsfel... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

If Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld had listened to the Christian community actually living in Iraq, instead of the Christian right in America and the neo-cons they would have been warned about unleashing a preemptive Christian holy war on Iraq, that would inevitably result with the more fundamentalist Iranian leaning Shiite majority winning.

In editor Tom Fleming's Chronicles, just days before President Bush ordered the invasion, columnist Wayne Allensworth warned pointedly: "Iraqi Christians fear they will be the first victims of a war that might dismember their country, unleashing ethnic and religious conflicts that Baghdad had previously suppressed. Tariq, a Christian merchant in Baghdad, told the French weekly Marianne that 'If the United States goes to war against our country ... (t)he Wahhabis and other fundamentalists will take advantage of the confusion to throw us out of our homes, destroy us as a community and declare Iraq an Islamic nation.' "If recent history is any indication, Tariq has cause for concern," wrote Allensworth. "The Shiite uprising in southern Iraq during the first Gulf War -- encouraged and then abandoned by Washington -- targeted Christians. Many Christians had supported Saddam's regime, in spite of creeping Islamicization, as their best hope of survival in the Islamic Middle East." "We let the Shia genie out of the bottle," said a rueful Yitzhak Rabin after Israel's invasion of Lebanon gave birth to Hezbollah.


Of course, becasue Jay insists leaders like Cheney and Bush are so prima facie civilized (and godly) with the plausible denialibilty of Bush knowing or caring much about the real world outside of the US borders unless it impinges on US national interests,-Palin might be next- the Bush administration, are not bound by the law of unintended consequences of their actions, and just as in extraordinary rendition, they are not responsible for what lesser 'civilized' parties do.

On the other hand, every near-miss terrorist attack is blamed on Obama etc.

There used to be a joke: "T... (Below threshold)

There used to be a joke: "Taxation with representation ain't so hot, either."

I'm not sure how unauthorized mayhem is all that much worse than the authorized kind.

lesser 'civiliz... (Below threshold)
lesser 'civilized' parties
Why do you hate teh brown peoples, Steve?
#9"On the other ha... (Below threshold)
914:

#9

"On the other hand, every near-miss terrorist attack is blamed on Obama etc."


Thats ok. Everything from tsnamis to hurricanes to earthquakes to barrys helplessness are blamed on Booooshh! Its ok if Barry mans up to some blame.

McGhee, Iike your quote on... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

McGhee, Iike your quote on taxation, and on your other comment, on being civilized,-I wouldn't toss it around so much but being civilized, surely means we have a responsibilty for all the consequences of our actions or non-actions.. as they fall on others, civilized or not civilized. Full stop. That is all we can do if we are truly civilized..be civil, within reason, and if we are governing, not carpet bomb a country or lay it with cluster bombs and use it as excuse to excuse us.

[tag McGehee]Steve:<... (Below threshold)
epador:

[tag McGehee]
Steve:

WOW, my head sure would be spinning if it weren't screwed on tight.

So Steve, do I hear you saying if you walk down certain streets in Toronto in the wee hours and are assailed physically for not fitting into the local racial mix, its ALL your fault, and your assailants, those less civilized ones, carry no responsibility?

Epador, whether the Bush ad... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Epador, whether the Bush administration negligble, post war planning was culpable or not that is the question. My opinion is that their thinking was so shallow, wrong headed- and superficial that their attendant lack of postwar planning was foolhardy, reckless, and therefore culpable.
Here are some scary examples from 'Blind into Baghdad' by James Fallows:

The military-civilian difference finally turned on the question of which would be harder: winning the war or maintaining the peace. According to Thomas White and several others, OSD acted as if the war itself would pose the real challenge. As White put it, "The planning assumptions were that the people would realize they were liberated, they would be happy that we were there, so it would take a much smaller force to secure the peace than it did to win the war. The resistance would principally be the remnants of the Baath Party, but they would go away fairly rapidly. And, critically, if we didn't damage the infrastructure in our military operation, as we didn't, the restart of the country could be done fairly rapidly." The first assumption was clearly expressed by Cheney three days before the war began, in an exchange with Tim Russert on Meet the Press: RUSSERT: If your analysis is not correct, and we're not treated as liberators but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?

CHENEY: Well, I don't think it's likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators ... The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that...

When Administration officials stopped being vague, they started being unrealistic. On March 27, eight days into combat, members of the House Appropriations Committee asked Paul Wolfowitz for a figure. He told them that whatever it was, Iraq's oil supplies would keep it low. "There's a lot of money to pay for this," he said. "It doesn't have to be U.S. taxpayer money. We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon." On April 23 Andrew Natsios, of USAID, told an incredulous Ted Koppel, on Nightline, that the total cost to America of reconstructing Iraq would be $1.7 billion. Koppel shot back, "I mean, when you talk about one-point-seven, you're not suggesting that the rebuilding of Iraq is gonna be done for one-point-seven billion dollars?" Natsios was clear: "Well, in terms of the American taxpayers' contribution, I do; this is it for the U.S




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