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Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 7:37amSanction this postReply
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Was the motivation for the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center basing American troops in Saudi Arabia following the First Gulf War?

If that were true, I can see the 2001 attack as a second try for the same reason. Most of the hijackers were Saudi in origen.

(Edited by Robert K Stock on 11/21, 7:39am)

(Edited by Robert K Stock on 11/21, 7:42am)




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Post 1

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 9:08amSanction this postReply
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Tibor:

9/11 was undoubtedly aggression—certainly the attacks on the World Trade Center cannot be dismissed as anything else. (One might have a case arguing that attacking the Pentagon qualifies as a military action within the framework of the military confrontation between America and various Middle Eastern countries.)


But later on in the essay you write:

The United States military has no business in Iraq. Even the low level suspicion, encouraged by Saddam Hussein himself, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction does not justify going over there to put American lives at risk.


I can understand this response if one is ignorant of Saddam's past actions. Which include explicit financial support of terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah, whom have killed American citizens in the past. Tibor why pick and choose which terrorist attacks on United States citizens are worthy of a response? If we are to be objective about this, all countries that harbor and support Islamo-fascism should be toppled should they not?

And the fact that Saddam had a propensity to seek WMD, in addition it was widely suspected by the United Nations and the European Union that he had them cannot possibly be construed as some "low level suspicion". He had them in the past, that was a proven fact because past UN weapons inspections revealed this. Why should have Saddam been given the benefit of the doubt he didn't have them anymore or at the very least had no desire to re-constitute WMD programs? In 1998 President Clinton pulled out the weapons inspectors and ordered a bombing campaign of Iraq because Saddam Hussein was preventing the inspectors access to some suspected WMD sites. Again, what kind of "low level suspicion" is that?



Post 2

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 10:05amSanction this postReply
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Tibor,

Thank you for a clear and thoughtful article in which you bring up many pros and cons worth considering.  However, I think you misinterpret Ron Paul’s position when you write:
“…thinking that killing 3000 people is ok—because Americans went to Saudi Arabia and other places "there"—is quite disturbing.”

Has Ron Paul ever said that the terrorist attacks of 911 were “okay” because they were a reasonable and justified response to our military presence in the middle east? If he has ever said or written such a thing, I would like to know of it, as I would immediately withdraw my support for him.

My understanding of his position is that our meddling in the region was a causal factor of 911. That, to me, doesn’t sanction the attack; it is rather an analysis of what provoked an unjustified and horrific act of terrorism.




Post 3

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 11:02amSanction this postReply
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Robert : Bin Laden's stated primary reason for 9/11 was the presence of American troops on the Arabian peninsula (there is an Islamic tradition that the Prophet said something which can be interpreted as meaning that only Muslims are allowed in Arabia.)

However just because he said that, doesn't mean it's true. I mean, who still believes we invaded Iraq for the stated reasons?



Post 4

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 11:59amSanction this postReply
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"because they were a reasonable and justified response to our military presence in the middle east"

Anyone who believes that the jihadist attack on the WTC was "reasonable and justfied" needs to seriously reconsider their position. Even in the most extreme libertarian interpretation, if it is at all based on the standard of individual freedom and human well being, it would not be appropriate for an unofficial band of loosely connected Islamists to respond to any American military presence in the Middle East.





Post 5

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 3:08pmSanction this postReply
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Eric -

My understanding of his position is that our meddling in the region was a causal factor of 911. That, to me, doesn’t sanction the attack; it is rather an analysis of what provoked an unjustified and horrific act of terrorism.

I can't be that generous toward Paul's position, which is clear excuse making for terror to me. Unforgivable.    




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Post 6

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 3:54pmSanction this postReply
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Jeff, I agree with you: The notion that 911 was a reasonable or justified response to American military presence in the middle east is an absurd and wholly offensive position.  I doubt that any objectivist or libertarian could come to such a conclusion. I doubt that Ron Paul believes that.  I suspect that the only Americans who would hold such a belief would be some very crazy types on the far left.

Theresa,  I understand your response.  It brought an analogy to mind, which is an event from my own life:

It was the fall of 1977, and I was my high school drum major, which meant I wore a ridiculous uniform while leading the school band at football games. I’ll never forget having the band ready and in formation behind me as we were about to march on at the start of the varsity game. The junior varsity game had just finished and as the team made its way to the showers, they were childishly cussing and moaning because they had lost the game. As they passed me, I remember saying (under my breath but loud enough for them to hear) “What babies! It’s only a game. Grow up.”

At the end of the varsity game, on my way back to the band room, one of the junior varsity football players, reacting irrationally to what I had said,  assaulted me. I had never been in a fight before, and I didn’t have the time or the wherewithal to defend myself. I just felt a continual series of blasts to my face as his fist kept crashing into my jaw, my cheeks, my eyes. He ran off, and some cheerleaders came to help me up, bleeding, black-eyed, and sore.  That young junior varsity football player had no moral or legal right to beat me. He was a mindless brute who should have been kicked off the team, or even out of school, for his behavior. The act of beating me to a pulp was morally reprehensible.

Now, I had every right to use my freedom of speech as I saw fit. And yet, I can also acknowledge that if I had not made those remarks, the beating would not have occurred. This acknowledgement of fact does not forgive the attack. It does not justify the attack. It does not “blame the victim” which in this case was me. It’s simply understanding, as clearly as possible, the chain of cause and effect.

As I understand it, Ron Paul has expressed the opinion that American military presence in the middle east was one of the factors that motivated the terrorists on 911.  He uses this to support his policy of non-intervention.  I know there are strong arguments against his position, which warrant consideration.  But it isn't fair to equate this with forgiving, condoning, or sanctioning those attacks.  As I said before, if Ron Paul believes these attacks were "okay" I want to know that information, because it would change my opinion from one of admiration to one of disgust.      

(Edited by Eric Rockwell on 11/21, 4:35pm)




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Post 7

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 4:05pmSanction this postReply
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Explaing why something happened is not the same as condoning what happened.

For example, Timothy McVeigh blew up the Federal building in Oklahoma City because of the US government's handling of the Branch Davidian stand off in Waco. The US government should never handle a similar situation in the same manner.

I am not saying McVeigh or Al-Qaeda were justified in their actions, I am saying if the US government had a different foreign and domestic policy neither would have happened.




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Post 8

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 4:48pmSanction this postReply
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I was thinking a hypothetical example or two might shine some interesting light on this.

Imagine instead of blaming Sept 11 on US presence in the Middle East, bin Laden had said that the motivation was the fact that the US allowed same-sex marriage. Now envision some Republican politician stepping up to the podium saying that Sept 11 was a "blowback" from our decadent, pro-homosexuality practices. He'd say "They attack us because we allow same-sex marriage! This clearly explains the terrorist act! It's a simple case of blowback! If we hadn't allowed it, they wouldn't have attacked us."

Or what if bin Laden had said the motivation was because Americans allow women to learn to read. Now what if some politician said "The root cause of this terrorist attack is our willingness to allow women to read. I'm not saying that this justifies it, but we have to recognize that this explains their actions. It's a case of blowback from our own policies. They wouldn't be here if we put a stop to that!"

Or try any number of other reasons. We don't kill people who stop being Muslims. We allow atheists to live. We export movies (and culture) filled with sex and violence.

Reading these examples, it sure sounds like the fictional politician is blaming our own policies for the terrorist act. Sure, he may claim that he isn't saying that these polices justify the murder. But they explain them. And by focusing on these "causal factors" instead of on the irrational premises of bin Laden, the message is clearly that we should attempt to solve the problem by addressing those "root causes". "We have to treat their irrationality as a given, and stop needlessly offending them!"

If such an act of violence was perpetrated for such irrational reasons, would anyone still talk about "explaining" it by reference to our female literacy? Would they still support a politician who said it was a simple case of blowback caused by our polices? Would anyone think it was rational to put the focus on our education policies in the context of discussing terrorism?

Of course, one argument is that our "meddling" in the Middle East is a legitimate grievance. We shouldn't be there! So Ron Paul's response isn't the same as these hypothetical examples. But the degree to which that argument works is the degree to which you accept that Sept 11 actually was justified. If it isn't justified, it doesn't matter if our foreign policies are screwed up or if it is our support for teaching girls to read. It's not justified, and there's no point in focusing on our actions when it's their choices/beliefs that are the problem.

What happens when the politician uses this "blowback" theory to support a policy of not letting women have an education, or not allowing same-sex marriage? It's tantamount to saying that these are the problem, and these are what need to be addressed.




Post 9

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 5:16pmSanction this postReply
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In moral contrast, I had every right to use my freedom of speech as I saw fit. And yet, I can also acknowledge that if I had not made those remarks, the beating would not have occurred.
 
Ouch!
 
I wish I could see the parallel, but, alas, I fail.  What is the purpose of making the acknowledgment? Other than "so what?" how am I supposed to take the acknowledgment? What should I glean from it?
 
Paul makes a similar acknowledgment (claim, really) because he's an isolationist, but you, Eric?? Naaaah...  I won't think it till you say so.
 
(crossed posted with Joe, which I haven't read yet!) 
 

(Edited by Teresa Summerlee Isanhart on 11/21, 5:18pm)




Post 10

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 6:37pmSanction this postReply
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Eric,

   I agree with your viewpoint and thought your analogy was a good one.  I wish more people saw it as clearly.  -Steve  




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Post 11

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 6:47pmSanction this postReply
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Eric,

After reading your high school analogy, I'm playing it out in my mind. You're a little beat up and bloody. Maybe the principal of the school comes by and sees you, and asks you what happened. You calmly explain the situation.

Now, imagine that he responds with, "Well, next time you should keep your mouth shut!"

He may just be pointing to the fact that your use of words was a causal factor in the beating. He may simply be recognizing, as you did, that if you hadn't said anything it might not have happened. He may not think that the attack was justified. Maybe he just recognizes that the other guy is irrational and if you act that way, you can expect that result. And every other excuse people find for Ron Paul could be used in the principal's defense.

Or he might just be blaming you.





Post 12

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 7:41pmSanction this postReply
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Interesting discussion, posts 6-11. The bottom line is that its not "so" important what Ron Paul was saying about 9-11, just as its not "so" important what the principle was saying in his short comment. What really matters is what action the principal next takes and what Ron Paul's actual foreign policy proposal is. If Paul can still demonstrate that he has a rational plan that will defend all American citizens, now and in the future, from violence and other acts that might erode their freedoms, then great. If he cannot demonstrate this, then there is a serious problem. So far, other than proposing an isolationist stance, I'm not sure what Paul's foreign policy actually is and how it would manifest itself. That's a serious problem with his candidacy.

Regards,
--
Jeff



Post 13

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 7:48pmSanction this postReply
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Wow, some really great points to consider here.

Theresa, you asked what purpose there was in acknowledging what motivated that jock to beat me up. Even though I am not to blame for his brutality, I learned something: When confronted with irrational bullies, it is not in my self-interest to provoke them.

Joe, you make an excellent argument here which I’ll do my best to counter. First of all, let me agree with you that it wouldn’t have been appropriate for the principal to have said, “Next time, keep your mouth shut.” Especially if he was refusing to punish the perpetrator. That would indeed be blaming the victim. However, if he punished the bully by removing him from the team or expelling him from school, then it would be very kind of him to say, “Eric, next time you might think twice before you mock someone.” I think it would be good, sound, practical advice.

You make a very strong case by switching the issue to same-sex marriage, or female literacy. It’s the best argument I’ve heard on the subject, and is actually getting me to rethink things. The difference seems to be, as you said, that meddling in the Middle East is a legitimate grievance, whereas those other examples are not.

Imagine that 911 never happened. Now, would it be appropriate for Ron Paul, running for president, to say something like, “We shouldn’t be meddling and intervening in the affairs of other countries. Though we've never experienced any major blowback from our involvement, these are dangerous hornet’s nests of warfare between barbaric tribes. If we stay involved and entangled there, it could motivate them to come over on our soil and….who knows?…fly airplanes into buildings!”

It’s unfortunately hard to imagine a world without 911, but if that’s where we were, it would be a good thing that Ron Paul was saying that, wouldn’t it? So if he could use that as one argument to support a policy of non-intervention before the attack, why not after?

Another point I’d like to make regards causality. Suppose a historian or politician or even a guy like me asserts that the rise of the Third Reich was caused, at least in part, by the Treaty of Versailles. Does anyone making that assertion immediately become a Nazi sympathizer? Isn’t it possible that by making the causal connection between the Treaty of Versailles and the Third Reich, we can actually learn from history?  








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Post 14

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 8:08pmSanction this postReply
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I'd like to point out an interesting parallel between common libertarian views of America's foreign enemies, and liberal views of America's domestic criminals.

The same sort of arguments advanced by libertarians like Ron Paul to "explain" the actions of terrorists like al Qaeda have been offered for decades by liberals to "explain" the heinous acts of common criminals. Read any sociology or criminology text, and you'll find endless laundry lists of "causal explanations" for crime: poverty, neglect, poor parenting, lousy schools, poor "socialization," inadequate pre-natal care, hunger, disease, bullying, racism, police brutality, social stigmatizing, untreated psychological disorders, victimless-crime laws...you name it.

And in both cases -- foreign and domestic -- it's always American culture, society, and policies that are the toxic "root causes" underlying the actions of those who attack us.

Just as libertarians treat the actions of al Qaeda and other terrorists as "blowback" for the sins of American society against them, liberal social-science professionals treat the actions of our home-grown criminal thugs as "blowback" for the alleged sins of American society against them. These bloody acts are not the terrorist's or the criminal's "fault" (responsibility), you see; rather, it is all OUR fault, for "driving him" to do his dastardly deeds.

Those of you old enough to remember the Cold War may recall that precisely the same sort of "explanations" were offered by liberals and, later, by libertarians like Murray Rothbard to lay the blame for Communist aggression at the West's doorstep: It was OUR imperialist provocations around the world that were "driving" the Soviet bloc to "respond" by conquering and butchering millions, building weapons of mass destruction, etc.

I defy anyone to draw a rational, meaningful distinction between "explanations" for criminal or terrorist aggression, and "excuses" for it. After all, "causal explanations" for human actions aim at exonerating the actor for committing them, by treating those acts as if they were not under the actor's conscious, volitional control, but were instead a deterministically driven "response" to some external provocation or "cause."

Just as I reject the liberal "excuse-making industry" that denies volition and rationalizes the acts of criminals, I am totally fed up with the disgraceful foreign-policy perspectives of those libertarians who portray the United States as the causal agent of every evil on earth, thus rationalizing the acts of foreign terrorists and despots. Ron Paul has become the most visible exponent of that malignant view. In my mind, his "blowback" excuse for 9/11 -- and "excuse" is exactly what that "explanation" amounts to -- is sufficient to completely disqualify him for any American public office, let alone for the role of commander in chief of the U.S. military.

And no -- I don't intend to argue the point here. We'll have much more to say about Mr. Paul (and not only his foreign-policy nonsense) in an upcoming issue of The New Individualist.

(Edited by Robert Bidinotto on 11/21, 8:12pm)




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Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 8:13pmSanction this postReply
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Joseph, Robert, excellent comments! Thank you!



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Post 16

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 8:49pmSanction this postReply
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I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated your terrific article in The New Individualist about the "excuse-making industry."  And I think your comparison here is apt.  Many times, when I've heard someone try to make sense of Islamic terrorism, it has sounded like they were excusing it.  There are those that think revealing a motive excuses a criminal's offenses.  

But it is possible to understand the criminal's motive without excusing the act.  It is possible, as Robert pointed out, to understand Timothy McVey's motivation and yet be fully satisfied seeing him executed.  

Maybe, in a world of excuse-making, this is too fine a distinction to demand. 

I look forward to The New Individualist piece on Ron Paul. 




Post 17

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 8:59pmSanction this postReply
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When confronted with irrational bullies, it is not in my self-interest to provoke them.


Aaah.  How far does that go, though? What's considered provocation?  A reasonable comment (such as yours), being friends with someone a bully hates, being in the wrong religion, being too good at something, or a nasty stare, perhaps?

Who's to know what would be considered provocation and how would one know it?  Are you saying you could have known this other boy would assault you?  Even if you did know an assault was possible, are you saying your comment was inappropriate to the point of expecting such a response?  I personally don't think it was.  Even if you knew he was a bully and a possible threat, standing up to people like that is heroic. 

Joe is so right. It really is about misinterpreting causal factors.  Trust me, Eric. You did not cause that kid to beat you up.  It wasn't your fault in anyway. I swear it wasn't.  Only the bully could construe your comment as provocation. Don't give up your head to his.





Post 18

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 9:13pmSanction this postReply
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Theresa, excellent point. I will give it some time and consideration. Earlier you asked if I was an isolationist. The truth is, I am a very selfish person. I basically care most about my own life. I want a foreign policy that will keep me free to pursue my happiness. Living just two blocks from Times Square, I know that I live in an area that terrorists would target. I want a foreign policy that will reduce or eliminate that threat.

When encountering a rabid dog, there are just two options. If you have a gun, you shoot it. If you don’t, you stay away from it. I could support a commander-in-chief who took either one of those options against terrorists.

What’s dangerous with that rabid dog is to approach it with a bone, then run, then give it some food, then whip it, then run again, then try to pet it, then try to get it to vote. This seems to me how we are currently engaged and it makes me very nervous.
Does that make sense?




Post 19

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 10:27pmSanction this postReply
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What’s dangerous with that rabid dog is to approach it with a bone, then run, then give it some food, then whip it, then run again, then try to pet it, then try to get it to vote. This seems to me how we are currently engaged and it makes me very nervous.
Does that make sense?



Yeah, I know the rhetoric, I just don't buy it. I don't accept the notion that America is somehow teasing a dangerous animal.  Trade isn't a tease, but that's what the rhetoric suggests.

The problem with isolationist policy is that it will keep individuals from acting in their best interest, the very thing you're afraid of.

Either the world truly is my oyster, or it isn't.  Isolationists say it ain't.

I so enjoy your writing, Eric.  I look forward to any future comments from you on any subject.  

 






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