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Thursday, December 30, 2004 - 2:24pmSanction this postReply
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I'm afraid this libertarian can find little to disagree with in the Sontag excerpt that you site. It's clear that Sontag is responding to the charges of cowardice and to the bizarre motivations (they hate our freedom!) being attributed to the attackers in the media at the time.

I remember thinking: why stop with "coward?" Why not call them fat as well? Or stupid? Or buck-toothed? Why not? Because it's not true, that's why not! Not if words have specific meanings. If words have meaning then not every insulting term is interchangeable every other one. The term "coward" is applicable to people who display an aversion to danger. For instance, someone who signs up for sky diving lessons with a group of friends, and then refuses to exit the plane, might be termed a coward. It's not a very nice thing to say, and certainly his "friends" would be less than considerate in saying it--but at least it is a term applicable to the circumstances. Moreover, it's insulting precisely because it is applicable. Kudos to Sontage for refusing to abide the languicide.

Sontage doesn't attempt to justify the attack, she merely attributes a motivation to it. If you have a million dollar life insurance policy out on your wife, that doesn't mean you're justified in killing her; it simply means you may be motivated to kill her. And it doesn't help to have the cops standing around opining that, "boy, someone must really hate freedom!" Of course, the hatred-of-freedom anti-concept is offered to prevent inquiry not to answer it. If the motive given were revenge, then the question that naturally follows is: revenge for what?




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Thursday, December 30, 2004 - 3:48pmSanction this postReply
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Since there are no anti-checkmarks at SOLO, let me say that I second Sontag’s coward comment. I was highly annoyed in the weeks after 9/11 by the repetition of the “cowardly” statements. First, “coward” carries no direct moral weight; a Nazi can be a coward as readily as a good guy. Second, “coward” is too soft—they are MONSTERS. Third, they were most clearly NOT cowards.

Jon




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Thursday, December 30, 2004 - 3:58pmSanction this postReply
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Fourth, we should all understand that those monsters want you and I dead, and they are decisive and determined in their viciousness. Assuring the public that these enemies of ours are cowards is counterproductive as it makes us relax.

Jon



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Thursday, December 30, 2004 - 3:49pmSanction this postReply
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I'm not sure why I like to spell Sontag with an e. You'd need a pretty good spell-checker to catch that kind of thing.



Post 4

Thursday, December 30, 2004 - 4:23pmSanction this postReply
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I also second what I think she meant when she said, “How many citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq?”

Throughout the nineties it was my opinion that the sanctions were doing nothing to Saddam and were greatly harming innocent Iraqis. Regardless, I never doubted the morality of sanctions. I did believe it would have been better to take him out. That’s one reason I was shocked at some people’s surprise at Bush’s plans for Iraq—it seemed obvious to me for years. I’m not saying that what we did to innocents with sanctions justified 9/11, just that invading ten years earlier would have been much more humane.

Jon




Post 5

Friday, December 31, 2004 - 2:38amSanction this postReply
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It is puzzling to me that several people did not grasp my point. It had to do with the implicit claim that it's OK to kill people who had nothing at all to do with any of the foreign policy measures to which Sontag and many others objected. Such wild lashing out is barbaric, period.



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Friday, December 31, 2004 - 5:03amSanction this postReply
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Of course the 9/11 killers are cowards. First and foremost they are cowards because they can’t face life without pre-packaged dogma. They are too cowardly to use their own minds even after coming to this country and observing the greatness of our society. It is cowards like these that blindly supported the atrocities of the 20th century. The Islamic terrorists are hate-infested cowards whose only goal is destruction and infliction of humiliation as an end in itself as I’ve argued before.

 

What was noteworthy about Sontag was her instinctual “understanding” of the enemy, her knee-jerk anti-Americanism, and her gleeful “we brought it on ourselves” attitude. She has stated before that she thought Western Civilization was a cancer on this earth (anyone have the reference?).




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Friday, December 31, 2004 - 10:01amSanction this postReply
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Dr. Machan,

I grasp your point: it's not OK to kill people who had nothing at all to do with any of the foreign policy measures.

I grasp that, and I apply it to our practice of sanctions throughout the nineties. Sanctions were not harming the party guilty of evil policy; they were hurting people who had nothing at all to do with Saddam’s evil. That’s why Clinton should have taken Saddam out and why Bush was right to.

Jon




Post 8

Friday, December 31, 2004 - 10:16amSanction this postReply
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Jason,

I agree completely with all of your points about our enemy. I still say that you have shown them to be BAD, but not cowards. I said they are monsters. That doesn’t mean that every negative assessment must apply to them. They don’t have to be physically ugly, have bad personal hygiene, poor choice in movies, etc. (I am guilty of this fallacy sometimes, too. After I have determined something to be evil, I can’t swallow anyone’s denial that some or another negative assessment applies to that evil.) Coward has a specific meaning that simply does not apply to those perpetrators.

Jon




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Post 9

Friday, December 31, 2004 - 8:40amSanction this postReply
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 From a book review at  http://www.brothersjudd.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/reviews.detail/book_id/25/Where%20the%20St.htm
And lest you think her self-loathing ends with her own gender and religion, try this quote, from her days supporting North Vietnam (Partisan Review, Winter 1967) :
    The truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government,
    baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx, Balanchine ballet et al.,
    don't redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the
    cancer of human history. It is the white race and it alone--its ideologies and inventions--- which
    eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of
    the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself.




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Post 10

Friday, December 31, 2004 - 12:51pmSanction this postReply
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I'm quite willing to stipulate that both Susan Sontag and the 911 attackers were stark raving collectivists. You'd have to be a collectivist to take revenge on world trade center occupants for the belligerence of US foreign policy.

But Tibor and I part company on our reading of Sontag's statement. I don't believe you'd need to be a collectivist to write what Sontag wrote. Tibor reads a subtext of, "Well, America finally got what it deserved." And I don't think Sontag meant to say that, even if she did believe it.

BTW, I don't think the danger to liberty comes primarily from the collectivist left these days. See Lew Rockwell's The Reality of Red-State Fascism.

The Reality of Red-State Fascism









Post 11

Friday, December 31, 2004 - 2:07pmSanction this postReply
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Thanks, Mike, that's the quote I remember. Actually, it's worse than I remembered!



Post 12

Friday, December 31, 2004 - 3:33pmSanction this postReply
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Semantic games, again, but let me chime in.
It is NOT an act of cowardice to get in a plane and embark on a mission that you know will end in your death. It is an act of savagery -- bravado compounded by the lunacy of otherwordly thought and self-sacrifice. And yes, it is brave, if Webster's is correct.
What is cowardly is stuffing yourself in a cave and watching the horrific results of your diabolism unfold. What is cowardly is recruiting others to do your murdering. Bin Laden's willing killers were brave; the man himself is a cowardly monster.



Post 13

Friday, December 31, 2004 - 7:03pmSanction this postReply
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Semantic games, maybe. But both Orwell and Rand believed that the corruption of language (e.g., the obliteration of distinctions) served the interests of power.

Osama: a coward? Well, there was one way to find out. Instead of invading Afghanistan, the USG might have publicly requested a petition of grievances from Mr. Bin Laden. The USG might have agreed to one or more of his terms (say, by removing troops from Saudi Arabia, or by lifting the sanctions from Iraq) in exchange for Bin Laden remanding himself into custody--perhaps by way of a neutral third party pending the USG's satisfactory performance.

That's checkmate for Bin Laden. How much allegiance will he command once he's refused such an offer? Instead of calling Bin Laden a coward, the USG might have offered him an opportunity to prove he's not. Needless to say, a civilized response to 911 likely never even occurred to "our leaders" much less was seriously considered.



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Post 14

Saturday, January 1, 2005 - 3:11amSanction this postReply
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Needless to say, a civilized response to 911 likely never even occurred to "our leaders" much less was seriously considered.
Maybe it's just semantics again, but I don't see anything civilized about negotiating with a mass murderer and terrorist.  There is a reason why people don't negotiate with terrorists...it's not just a catchy phrase.

Practically speaking, there would be another consequence.  All Osama would have to do is say he's willing to negotiate, and any future attempts to take him out would be seen as "American Agression/Imperialism".  Just as Hussein only had to say that he was willing to discuss letting the inspectors back into Iraq, the effect would be that everyone would say that the US wasn't willing to pursue a peaceful solution to the problem.  It's an old trick, and some saps fall for it every time.  A thug just has to say he wants a peaceful solution as he continues his reign of terror, and you get the appeasers shouting to give him a chance.

"Civilized" does not mean pacifist.  It does not mean surrendering to or compromising with evil.  It doesn't mean giving a mass murderer the benefit of the doubt.




Post 15

Saturday, January 1, 2005 - 5:46amSanction this postReply
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"Civilized" does not mean pacifist.  It does not mean surrendering to or compromising with evil.  It doesn't mean giving a mass murderer the benefit of the doubt.

Enough said.

George




Post 16

Saturday, January 1, 2005 - 6:39amSanction this postReply
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Jason wrote:

Of course the 9/11 killers are cowards. First and foremost they are cowards because they can’t face life without pre-packaged dogma. They are too cowardly to use their own minds even after coming to this country and observing the greatness of our society. [Emphasis mine] It is cowards like these that blindly supported the atrocities of the 20th century. The Islamic terrorists are hate-infested cowards whose only goal is destruction and infliction of humiliation as an end in itself as I’ve argued before.

 

What was noteworthy about Sontag was her instinctual “understanding” of the enemy, her knee-jerk anti-Americanism, and her gleeful “we brought it on ourselves” attitude. She has stated before that she thought Western Civilization was a cancer on this earth (anyone have the reference?).

 

Jason, America is indeed great on many counts: industry, science, distribution, etc. but coming from my perspective of looking at the "best" of American culture from an artistic view it’s a hulking cancerous whale. http://www.solohq.com/Articles/Newberry/Terrorism_and_Postmodern_Art.shtml

 

Art is not negligible in looking at a whole culture and there are many other countries that have richer and far superior arts cultures than America. Perhaps a good symbol or what I am talking about is the architecture of Frank Gehry, a flamboyant superficial outer shell, which has absolutely no connection with the inner functions of the building, though technically advanced. I think it is naive to give America a blanket praise of greatness when its arts lionize either a saccharine-coated shinny gloss to everything (Princess Bride) or hollow whine of Postmodern envies (The Fountain).

 

I empathize with other cultures that do not want to import America’s cultural shit. What would change the matter significantly were America to culturally engage in more depth and an integrated view in the arts.

 

Newberry

 




Post 17

Saturday, January 1, 2005 - 8:43amSanction this postReply
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C’mon, Newberry, are you telling me you still don’t enjoy the Opera, Met Museum, Empire State Building, etc? They still exist and are frequented by many.

 

When you go to Carnegie Hall you’ll notice photos and memorabilia on the walls of past and present composers and “composers”. I particularly like the one of Milton Babbitt. He mentions how one of his concertos had its premiere at the Hall and he hopes that it will be performed there again someday. I think it’s clear who the audience is voting for as there are 100 repetitions of each Beethoven concertos for every Babbitt/Cage/TenuredProfX piece. Now, Michael, do you think Mohammad Atta saw a Merce ballet to "music" of Cage? Oh, that explains it!

 

The culture isn’t gone; it’s just not being augmented. And I share your sadness with regard to that fact.




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Post 18

Saturday, January 1, 2005 - 4:13pmSanction this postReply
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There's nothing improper about negotiating with terrorists, if the object of the negotiation is to apprehend the terrorist. A terrorist is not rewarded by receiving a jail cell. Negotiations that result in capture are not inducements to terrorism--quite the reverse.

And what of the ethics of conceding to a terrorist's demands? Well, what does the terrorist demand? Does he demand that one american die for each iraqi life lost due to sanctions? Or does he demand an end to the sanctions? It makes all the difference, as it's entirely possible for evil people to make ethical demands. Whether or not a demand is negotiable properly depends on the nature of the demand being made, and not on the nature of the demander.

I'm sorry that my use of the term "civilized" has caused a certain amount consternation amongst the contributers here. But if shelling Fallujah to rubble is the civilized response to insurgency then what would be the barbaric alternative?

Negotiating with evil? Absolutely. Why not consider it? Or are objectivists afraid to think?





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Post 19

Saturday, January 1, 2005 - 11:08pmSanction this postReply
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Loudius,

Forcing myself to think, I would say that negotiating Osama into a jail cell would be a novel idea if it came from a four year-old. Are you four, Loudius?

You say: “Whether or not a demand is negotiable properly depends on the nature of the demand being made, and not on the nature of the demander.”

Wrong. It has everything to do with the nature of the demander, who, in this case, needs to be shot, not talked to.

You ask: “if shelling Fallujah to rubble is the civilized response to insurgency then what would be the barbaric alternative?”

You know the answer. We have been civil to the point of agony. If our enemies possessed the power that we do, have you any doubt what they would do with it?

Jon




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