Do not comment on this post unless you are prepared to stay to engage with possible alternative views and defend your own ideas in civil discourse. Angry and fly-by-nighter comments may be deleted.
Attacks like what occurred in Nice are almost always perceived by those who carry them out and who admire them as acts of personal redemption and collective salvation in the service of a world revolution. Again and again, we heard, among those who have been susceptible to ISIS’s message, that realizing something close to true justice on Earth, and a right to enter Paradise in the effort to achieve that, can only come “by the sword” and “under the sword.”
ISIS’s longtime aim of creating chaos among the civilian populations of its enemies, as outlined in the 2004 jihadi tract “The Management of Savagery/Chaos,” Idarat at-Tawahoush, a crucial source of ISIS ideology. According to this manual, acts of daring sacrificial violence—whether by individuals or small groups—can be used to undermine faith in the ability of governments in the West and the Middle East to provide security for their peoples, and to polarize Muslim and non-Muslims, or what ISIS regards as true believers and infidels. Amplified through the media, these attacks become an effective way to publicize, and possibly propagate, revolutionary change of the political, social, and moral order.
Rather than reflecting a movement in decline, then, the Nice attack might be better understood as a recalibration of long-endorsed tactics in the service of a constant, overriding strategy of world revolution. Even if ISIS loses all of its territory in Syria and Iraq, the global jihadi archipelago could continue to expand if the social and political conditions that have led to its emergence continue to persist.
That quotation is taken from Scott Atran’s article, ISIS: The Durability of Chaos, following the Nice attack. Why the petty criminal elements? Why the loners and youth of immigrants who feel isolated and unwelcome in their new homes? Do the Scott Atrans exculpate religion as a factor? Or do they in fact understand and explain its role all too well?
Answers to these questions are broached in the article and in past posts here.
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60 thoughts on “Why Petty Criminals Can Radicalize within Weeks and Kill Dozens of Innocents”
In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas, or values, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.
(wikipedia quoting Leon Festinger).
Immigrants to West Europe, coming from Syria, Pakistan, or Afghanistan, will find a very hard contrast between their own rigorist or integrist society and the occidental permissive society. A small minority will consider that they are worth less than nothing in this society, and they will build an attack against these permissive situations. In France, Charlie Hebdo mocked Muhammad, (10 dead and 2 policemen), the Bataclan was a place where people could drink, dance, sing, (130 dead), Bruxelles Airport (32 dead and 300 injuried) and the Promenade des Anglais in Nice (84 dead ad 300 injuried) was another place for sinners.
The authors of those attacks are dead, but their names are now well known. They are heroes for their partisans.
Or perhaps the attacks on us will stop when we stop our attacks on them and pull out military out of Muslimcountries?
New Atheists like Jerry Coyne, who attribute almost all social ills to religion, and single out Islam as the most destructive religion, refuse to believe that Islamic terrorist attacks on the west have anything to do with the west’s ongoing wars in the middle east. Of the recent murder of a French priest, Coyne asks: ” I wonder how those who blame it all on the West’s colonialism will manage to fit this into their narrative. When did Father Hamel ever colonize the Middle East? What influence did he have on French foreign policy, and did he even approve of the Iraq invasion?”
Does Coyne ask the same questions regarding every person, soldier or civilian, killed in US and allied bombing and drone strikes of the Iraq invasion? Did the 150,000 conservatively estimated to have been killed in the US/UK Iraq invasion all participate in terrorist attacks against the west? Did they have any influence on Saddam Hussein’s foreign policy? Did the 2000 killed by the Israelis in Gaza, over half civilians, all fire rockets into Israel or support Hamas policies?
We invaded Iraq for no good reason and the war with Isis is a continuation of that war. Why would we expect them not to respond in kind? We have F-16s, and cruise missiles, and drones and they have small arms and aggrieved people. Yet we expect them to fight on our terms. It’s like the British redcoats marching through the wilderness in formation with their guns, and those savage Amerindians refuse to fight fairly, but hide behind trees and rocks and pick off the advancing army one by one with their primitive bows and arrows. The west has justified every step in its world-wide imperialism by deriding the morality of the enemy. Islamophobes like Coyne and Sam Harris continue in the same tradition, exaggerating the Islamic threat to western societies and applying a double standard to the motives and tactics of the two sides. For all their hatred of religion, when did Coyne or Harris question the religious motivations of fervent Christians Bush and Blair and their supporters in pushing the Iraq invasion? When have they questioned the religious motivations of the Jewish settlers carving up the designated Palestinian homeland for their own use. To them, Palestinian acts of outrage and despair have nothing to do with fifty years of captivity and everything to do with the intrinsic evil of Islam.
Atran’s analysis is far more nuanced than that of Coyne, Harris et al, and probably provides good insight into the intentions and capabilities of ISIS. But it still fails to address western responsibility for creating the situation that we, and ISIS, find ourselves in now. The first step to getting them to stop killing us is for us to stop killing them.
Everybody should understand that it is for religious reasons that Allah gave a great number of oilfields to Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Lybia. Everybody should understand also that God the father of JC gave a number of oilfields to Texas for religious reasons.
But many people, and especially anticapitalist atheists cannot understand these religious reasons.
The intelligent Isis leaders have understood Allah. Bush and Blair (and later Sarkozy and Hollande) have understood God, because all of them have religious reasons for that.
Thought this article might be appreciated by some:
Following ISIS Attacks, Arab Journalists Call To Acknowledge Existence Of Muslim Extremism; Reexamine Religious Texts
By: D. Hazan*
DoublePlus, have you wondered why the article you link to makes streams of assertions without supplying supporting evidence for them, and why its claims are so completely opposite those of serious peer-reviewed researchers and specialists who have actually worked in the field with terrorists and would-be terrorists?
Do you think it a good idea to always check ones sources? (You will notice that I post here from a wide range of sources and attempt always to supply authenticated evidence for claims.)
What do you know of MEMRI? I have read some of the writings MEMRI accuses of some pretty horrible things but what MEMRI says about them is not what I have read in them. MEMRI really is known for presenting a single ideological viewpoint and even lying about — or at the very least dishonestly distorting — what others have written or said or done, especially in the Arab and Muslim world.
I encourage you to read other perspectives beside your MEMRI articles and always, always, demand authenticated evidence for serious assertions.
How about you take it direct from the horse’s mouth then Vridar?
Note: I haven’t linked to Dabiq magazine itself cause I won’t drive traffic to their BS propaganda directly rather than relying on your so-called expert researchers’ purported reasons for what they do. Feel free to read the rag yourself to see what the ACTUAL terrorists think – the 3 points in the article I linked are a direct quotation from the magazine, the mag has 3 other points the article doesn’t quote, 2 of which are politcal numbers 5&6, while point 4 is again religious.
Would you care to explain how your article stands at odds with anything addressed in the research I have been discussing? What you have quoted is exactly the sort of thinking that I have attempted to explain through the research I have read. Have you read my posts or, more to the point, any of the research into the people who produce the articles you link to here? (That research, you do know I presume, involves interviews with “actual terrorists” and their supporters.)
I was responding to your criticism of the MEMRI article. Many of the points made in that article mirror the statements made in Dabiq. The fact that Dabiq is their recruitment magazine must include the fact that when a potential recruit reads the article on ‘why we hate the west’ they will identify with the points stated therein, the leading four of which are exclusively religious. How does MEMRI have it wrong when it points out the exact reasons listed as problems with Islam?
What I actually have a problem with is in making sense of what your point is with the terror/Islam posts that you make. I don’t see how any of the things you’re pointing out are going to help us combat the current state of Islam.
The west isn’t forcing them to live under Sharia and follow Islamic law in western countries, they are doing that to themselves – Being anti western laws is one of the most prevalent problems (as I see it, and as is shown in surveys as correlating with support for ISIS/radical elements) for producing the criminal/terrorist element in Muslim culture, perhaps you can provide an answer to how we can divorce the regular Muslim from what he sees as the God-given law of Islam.
The west isn’t stigmatizing Muslims they are stigmatizing themselves with the growing prevalence of Hijabs, Islamic beard styles and thobes/disdasha – perhaps you could explain why this outward indicator of Muslim-ness is becoming more prevalent alongside the terror? I know if I was part of a faith that was known for terror attacks (justified or not) I would eschew outward signs associating myself with that faith, instead of the opposite.
The west isn’t radicalizing Muslims, they are radicalizing themselves – no politician or regular citizen is leading Muslims to radicalization, directly or indirectly. The governments and media are doing absolutely all they can to avoid it IMO. Witness the extremes they go to to avoid putting any blame on Islam or individual Muslims when a terror attack takes place. (Mental Illness is the new go-to explanation, apparently) Do you disagree?
PS. Sorry if my post seems disjointed I cut large swathes out, as it was rather long. (and still is)
Why are we obsessed with the reasons for Islamic terrorism against the west, and ignore the vastly greater terrorism the west has inflicted on Muslims? The Iraq invasion, justified by falsified evidence, claimed the lives of at least 150,000 people. The Gaza invasion killed over 2000, more than half of whom were civilian women and children. Just in the past two weeks US air strikes have killed dozens if not hundreds of civilians in Syria. It was barely mentioned in the US media. We should account for our own crimes before condemning the much smaller crimes of others.
Does the west set out to harm civilians? No. Your comparison is specious.
What’s specious is to bomb the hell out of people and then claim innocence because you killed people you didn’t target. What did they think the result would be when they launched “shock and awe”? What the Israelis think the result would be when they bombed their prison inmates. To make a distinction is pure hypocrisy.
I was against the invasions of Iraq & Afghanistan. I think we should stay out of all Muslim conflicts and leave them to destroy themselves (with the new exception of a situation like ISIS). But the fact remains that terrorists target innocents while western governments do not. There is a large distinction.
My question to you is, why are you bringing the west into the problem at all? We know that, entirely absent Western intervention, Muslim terror attacks still occur in pretty much every country that has a Muslim population. Why? What is it that makes Islam breed terror?
No, the western governments just kill indiscriminately. Not to mention torture. Let the Muslim countries deal with their own internal problems. We have enough of our own. Compare the murders in the US with those in any Muslim countries. What business is it of yours to meddle in the internal problems of other countries? Clear the log out if your own eye before trying to remove the mite from the eye of your neighbor. Put a check in your arrogance.
You ignored my question. And apart from that you basically agreed with me. (except Western governments do not kill indiscriminately…and I’m sure you know that this statement is rubbish).
What is indiscriminate? Western governments bomb Muslim countries knowing many people will be killed. Why? If we’d mind our own business, do you think they’d be attacking us? Name one Muslim terrorist attack before the first Bush attack on Iraq. And what does your personal opinion on western terroristic attacks have to do with anything? They occurred. Why? If you are a westerner, why don’t you explore the causes of western terrorism and imperialism? ISIS is a creation of western terrorism. There was no iSIS before we invaded Iraq. Why are you even looking for reasons why they strike us back? The west (and you) are in a state of denial about who is a threat to whom. They are a minor irritant to us. Over the past century we have repeatedly overthrown their governments, subjected them to dictators, and slaughtered a hundred of them for every westerner they have killed. Cast off your biases for a moment and try to look at the situation objectively.
I’m not biased. I don’t think western governments should be interfering. I will answer your “name a terrorist attack before 1990” below, but I ask you again, what about all of the terrorist attacks in Muslim countries that have absolutely nothing to do with the west? What causes them? Cast off your biases and answer that question honestly. It’s Islam isn’t it, no you can’t admit it can you.
24 May 1982. Car bomb attack on French Embassy in Beirut killing 12 and wounding 27.
18 April 1983. Bombing of U.S. Embassy in Beirut. The bomb killed 63 people, 17 of them Americans, including 9 CIA agents in Beirut for a meeting.
23 October 1983. MNF barracks bombing in Beirut, killing 241 American servicemen and 58 French paratroopers.
12 December 1983. Kuwait bombings.
20 September 1984. 1984 U.S. embassy annex bombing. 14 were killed, including two Americans, and dozens were injured.
12 April 1985. 1985 El Descanso bombing. The IJO claims a bombing of a Spanish restaurant aimed at American military personnel. The bomb killed 18 Spaniards and injured 82 others, including 11 American servicemen.
With the exception of the Spanish one, these were all attacks on Western interlopers in Muslim lands. If Trumo gets in and invites in Russian troops to protect him, would you not feel that attacks in them was justified?
As for Muslim on muslim violence, they are having a Sunni-Shia civil war triggered by Bush’s replacement of a Sunni government in Iraq with a Shia government. We are active participants in that war, probably killing as many Muslims as they are killing each other. We’ve had our civil wars too and we should butt out and let them work things out.
You know you’ve hit rock bottom when you’re forced to defend the terrorist attacks of a religion by saying that the religion was involved in a “civil war” (surely you mean religious war) with itself. Sunni/Shia attacks happen in all countries where they overlap so I’d say it has nothing to do with your purported western interference justification.
I notice you left out one of the worst terror groups, in size and number of attacks, Boko Haram.
So, I’ll give you a chance to pierce through the bedrock and reach a new low. Justify the Boko Haram terror attacks. Please don’t use western military interference, as their very name means “non-Islamic education is a sin”, so we know why they’re committing these acts. Can you justify terrorist attacks for teaching people science…I await with bated breath.
Let’s avoid the “you’ve hit rock bottom” type of language.
The fact is that Sunnis and Shias often lived in the same neighborhoods and Sunni-Shia marriages were unremarkably frequent in Sadam Hussain’s Iraq.
Journalists, commentators, even Iraqis themselves, were on record at the time as saying they could not imagine a civil war between Sunnis and Shias because despite Saddam discriminating against Shia in the government on a personal and social level they got along so easily.
The civil war arose as a direct consequence of the Jordanian terrorist Zarqawi defying the clear instructions and policies of Al Qaeda’s leaders and determining to start a war between the two sides:
He did this by targeting Shia mosques and many Shia civilians with suicide bombers and ambushes, one after the other, to provoke fear and suspicion and hatred between the two religions;
And he succeeded because he was able to exploit the disaster that resulted from Bremer simply disbanding the Iraqi army and banning the Baathists from all posts — thus throwing Sunnis out of work, out of any future, yet still in possession of their guns;
And by then offering work/wages to the Sunni’s Bremer left rootless.
These are all facts on record. The origins of the Sunni-Shia conflict in Iraq is well known. It was the direct result of Zarqawi applying the tactics set out in manuals for polarizing societies and exploiting the conflict that result from that polarization.
How that could be called “defending” terrorist attacks is — well, obviously that’s not “defending” terrorism. There is no “hitting rock bottom” to simply take a look at all the facts on record.
Yes, yes, yes, but it wasn’t just what Bremer did, it was a result of the invasion itself and our replacement of a Sunni government with a Shia government.
What do you think the English civil war was, but a religious war. Some pretty nasty stuff. Religion was invoked by both sides of the American civil war also. I don’t know so much about Boko Haram though it seems particularly nasty. But I think all these civil wars are more about power and wealth than about religion. Religion is mostly a rallying cry or a banner to distinguish us versus them. I recommend Karen Armstrongs book, the killing fields, for a good historical overview
My apologies, I meant hitting rock bottom in the argument. I didn’t mean it in a personally disparaging way, sorry if it came off like that.
So, you’re saying that the actions of an Islamic terrorist precipitated the “civil [religious] war” that led to 100s more terrorist attacks between two sides of the same religion…and this is somehow supposed to convince me that Islam isn’t responsible for these terrorist acts? This is what I mean by hitting rock bottom in an argument. You are both arguing against yourselves at this point. You’ve also succeeded in proving my point that it has nothing to do with western interference.
How about Boko Haram, got an explanation for that?
I get the impression you are not very familiar with history and human conflicts except at a quite superficial level. I really don’t understand your objection to the points I set out, and less do I understand the way you frame my points. Nor do I understand your point about hundreds of terrorist attacks between two sides. You seem to be under the impression that any and every Shia and Sunni was somehow all gung ho about killing the other side. I can understand how such an impression might be gained from a half listening to a few dramatic headlines, but not from anyone who is actually looking at what is happening on the ground. Again I find a kind of dehumanization in the way you talk about the rise of Islamic State in Iraq — as if it is all about “Shias” and “Sunnis” killing each other because they hate each others religion. That’s very very far from the reality. It is very specific groups who are responsible for the suicide bombing. It is people, and certain people, who are responsible, and it is people, certain people, who are suffering. It is not abstract religious groups just bluntly and in some big blur hacking each other to death.
Boko Haram is very well understood and “explained” — but you seem to think that that’s a negative thing. Your tone of question smacks to me of a dismissive attitude to any attempt to offer an explanation that does not feed an anti-religious or anti-Muslim agenda. I prefer to discuss the actual events, the actual history, the who’s who. You seem impatient and dismissive of such efforts, yes?
Do you know who the responsible parties are? Who their targets are? What they claim? Who responds and how? Or do you just rely on a shadowy “It’s all about Muslims killing Muslims” level of “understanding”. Imagine WW2 was dismissed as “it’s all about Christians or white races fighting each other”.
On a closer reading of the MEMRI article I can see that I was overly influenced by its title (especially the title’s tone) in my interpretation of the article itself.
After reading the extracts that the author quotes and returning to read the article from their perspective, ignoring the title, I actually find little to fault in what is said.
There is no question in anyone’s mind (I’m talking about those who do the serious research in terrorism) that Islam is “related to” terrorism.
I don’t know anyone who disputes the view that Muslims themselves have a key role to play in addressing Islamist ideology and radicalization of their youth.
But it makes little sense to say that Islam itself is a cause of terrorism. No-one heard of Islamic terrorists in the 50s, 60s, 70s but everyone knew there were millions of Muslims in the world. Something has happened since then that calls for explanation. To say Islam itself is to blame makes little sense given that Islam did not “cause” terrorism before the 1980s. It is just as logical to say Islam causes Muslims to be opposed to terrorism. And that last statement would be truer than the first given that more Muslims do in fact oppose terrorism than who support it.
What we need to do is find out the factors that cause someone who has no religious interest to turn to a terrorist ideology within a matter of weeks.
We need to isolate the factors that make some people terrorists and not others. Just blaming Islam is not helpful because Islam applies to both the terrorists and those who are opposed to terrorism.
I could write much more in response and link to some earlier posts but, like you, I am trying to keep the comment from becoming too unwieldy.
We know what it was that began the rise of Islamic terror after 1979. Put simply it was the rise of the Ayatollah, and his ideology, designed to put Islam back in control of their own destiny which, according to his thought, was their Allah-given right.
”He wanted to rebuild the third Islamic state after those of the Prophet Mohammed 1,400 years ago and Imam Ali shortly afterward…We are talking about reconstructing something that existed 14 centuries ago in the world of the 1980’s,” – http://www.nytimes.com/1988/07/31/weekinreview/the-world-khomeini-vs-hussein-mideast-s-contenders-for-nasser-s-mantle.html
Political Islam (and all Islam is political, whether you care to admit it or not) is the problem and its proponents will use any method (and any influence on an individual, including but not limited to being poor or disenfranchised) to bring fighters to their cause.
But, the fact remains that the common denominator and precipitating factor is always Islam. It cannot fail to be, because the whole movement is founded on the belief that Islam is the true faith and the destined dominant religion of the world.
As a final note I have to point out your (from my view) faulty reasoning in two of your statements:
1. “factors that cause someone who has no religious interest to turn to a terrorist ideology within a matter of weeks” – this doesn’t happen, many terrorists who are purported to be “bad Muslims” before their terror attacks are steeped in the culture/religion from birth and feel they have been exactly that, “bad Muslims” and must do something big to atone. The being a Muslim part always comes *before* the being a terrorist part. After all, have you ever seen a non-muslim terrorist group/individual commit acts of terror and then convert to Islam after noticing that their goals align? Have you ever seen a westerner first commit some terrorist act and then run away to join Islam?
2. “just as logical to say Islam causes Muslims to be opposed to terrorism” – you’re jumping the gun with this inference. It could very easily be shown that the natural tendency of *humans* is to be opposed to terrorism (because of the evolutionary tendencies of the communal species that we are, and the valuing of the safety of those communities – or do you think that “You must not kill” was a God-given command without which we’d all be rampaging killers?), the credit cannot be given to Islam on this score, as every other religion would claim that their followers too are opposed to terrorism. Show me the other religions that support terror in any large numbers, and I will concede your point that it is not limited to Islam.
And what gave rise to the 1979 revolution of the ayatollahs? The 1953 US/Brit ouster of the democratically elected PM Mossedegh, subjecting Iran to 25 years under the brutal tyrant, the Shah.
I invite you to read two posts of mine that I believe provide a more complete understanding of what happened in 1979: http://vridar.org/category/book-reviews-notes/burke-the-new-threat/ Saudi Arabia has been the prime force behind what is more rightly called “Islamism”, an internationally focused political ideology, than Iran.
You speak of abstract Islam where I think it would be more appropriate for us to be discussing Muslims themselves. I certainly do disagree that “all Muslims” are political or are keen to have a state ruled by Islamic laws. Despite certain failings in Maajid Nawaz’s biography (http://vridar.org/category/book-reviews-notes/burke-the-new-threat/) his account of his boyhood experiences in the UK is very instructive: the political Islamist influences that were coming out of India and Egypt back then were despised as “mad, bad and dangerous” by “everyday Muslims” in the UK.
Islamism is the political ideology. It is a relatively new phenomenon — see the posts on Saudi Arabia’s influence in this regard via the above link.
Your denial that people with no religious interest turn to terrorist ideology is simply disputed by many, many interviews and studies of terrorists and radicalized people who support terrorist actions. The published evidence for this is legion. What is your source/s for the denial of this?
As for your point 2, yes, I agree with your view that it is “human nature” to oppose the killing of innocents. What your argument appears to be suggesting is that this abstract idea of Islam has the power to over-ride and deny or change human nature. Is that really likely?
I disagree. Islam itself is the political ideology. You only have to read Islamic scriptures to see this. (It’s basically the exact opposite of Christian scriptures in this regard, “no part of the world” vs “We have made you a just nation, so that you may testify against mankind”)
I agree that people with no religious interest can turn to terrorist ideology. What I question is how quickly you said this happens (weeks), and that it is *before* they turn to Islam.
It’s nigh impossible for me to prove a negative in this case, so I ask you to show me 1 or 2 examples of someone committing or planning a terror attack (aimed at enemies of Islam) *before* they become a Muslim.
There are many cases of suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks that have been committed by non Muslims. I am sure that needs no demonstration.
Once again, I find you are discussing an abstract idea and not the Muslims themselves. If I want to understand what people believe I look at what they say and do. I don’t take it upon myself to decide for them and impose my own views from my own reading of extracts from one of their holy books. Imagine someone with no Western or Christian background trying to decide what Christianity or Judaism is from reading extracts from the Bible. The approach you describe seems to me to be a way of imputing into people a set of beliefs and motives that we have imagined from our own reading of a book. That strikes me a problematic.
When I read about Islam and the wide variety of beliefs and practices, and the history of the rise of Islamism, then I simply cannot say “Islam” is a “political ideology”. There is no such thing as “Islam” as a single entity or idea any more than there is a single thing called “Christianity”. You said you have not found my posts on this topic convincing but I have been discussing the evidence for this understanding. Are you aware of Sufism? Are you aware of the democratic and secular interests of many Muslims that I have posted about on the basis of the evidence for all to see?
I have also been discussing the relationship between Muslim faith and terrorism. We know that those selected for suicide missions are known to be given their most intensive religious training in the weeks prior to their assignment.
Many people convert to Islam. Are you suggesting that there is a direct link between their conversion or belief in Islam and their moving on to become terrorists? If so, why do so few who convert to Islam radicalize while most oppose radicalisation?
I agree with this except I would say that if you want to understand what people believe, look at what they do. What they say may be a totally different thing.
Depends what you understand by “belief”. In one sense it is very common for people to act contrary to what they believe is the right thing to do.
You may say that Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, though they called themselves atheist, were following their own religions, and I wouldn’t disagree. But that just demonstrates that religion, like other ideologies, is a way of identifying us versus them.
Christian ideology says that if you don’t believe in Christ the savior you’ll suffer an eternity of torments in hell. Not really the opposite of Muslim ideology.
You say: “this abstract idea of Islam has the power to over-ride and deny or change human nature. Is that really likely?”
Yes, yes, yes. This happens ALL the time with ALL religions. Just look at the Jehovah’s Witnesses. We have a drive to survive as humans, yet they will give up their lives for a (not-even-Biblical) idea that blood transfusions are a sin. We have a drive to protect and keep family close to us, yet a JW will NEVER even SPEAK again to a family member who is “disfellowshipped” (excommunicated from JW’s) for even the smallest of infractions against JW law.
Are you telling me Islam is magically the only religion that can’t produce believers who go against human nature to obey religious edicts?
I don’t believe anyone acts contrary to human nature, or they would not be human. To say people act contrary to human nature sounds like a form of dehumanization.
It is human nature for people to object to the killing of innocents. But it is also human nature to be conditioned to act against what we normally accept as right as a result of a raft of well-understood influences: social, political, . . . . Human nature is complex. Recall the Lucifer Effect, how normal civil persons can become cruel monsters.
My point is that we need to understand why people do what they do, and not fall back on an unhelpful dehumanization of their behaviour.
Human nature is a complex thing. Yes, we are social animals who have achieved dominance by our superior powers of cooperation. But we retain our selfish individuality that derives from kill or be killed. And superimposing our cooperative nature on top of that leads us to kill for our group. It’s too simplistic to say we have evolved not to kill innocents. We will kill innocents if we think it serves a “higher” cause.
@Neil, you said:
“Many people convert to Islam. Are you suggesting that there is a direct link between their conversion or belief in Islam and their moving on to become terrorists? If so, why do so few who convert to Islam radicalize while most oppose radicalisation?”
Yes, there is a direct link, the teachings of Islam – their scriptures explicitly state that they should terrorize the unbelievers. And the reason there is only a percentage of converts that radicalize is the same reason that only a percentage of born-in Muslims radicalize, and the same reason that some JWs do accept blood transfusions and continue to talk to their families after they are disfellowshipped. Some people do not allow their religion to override their innate humanity. It is a testament to the humanity of individual Muslims that so many of them don’t radicalize.
Anyway, I’ll make this my last comment as I think we’ve got to the point where we’ll have to agree to disagree.
If you want to talk about scriptures, the Torah justifies just about any vile thing you can imagine. This doesn’t mean that Jews who revere the Torah would stone adulterers or disobedient children. Similarly, most Muslims who revere the Quran as the word of God, don’t feel justified in killing infidels.
“I don’t believe anyone acts contrary to human nature, or they would not be human. To say people act contrary to human nature sounds like a form of dehumanization.”
I meant that religion is an external construct that can convince us to go against our own better judgment (or instinct, if you like) in some circumstances. I do agree with Weinberg’s well-known quote: “for good people to do evil things, that takes religion”.
For example, the instant born-in JWs leave the religion they all without exception (in my very extensive experience) begin speaking to DF’ed family members, start to vote in elections (another thing prohibited by JWs), and express the view that they would now accept blood transfusions when necessary. This is an instant reversion to “human nature” (for want of a better term), after leaving a religion that has taught them this way for their entire lives. I see no other explanation for this remarkable reversal except that their innate instincts were being overridden by religious laws.
Finally, I will ask that you show me even ONE example of a Muslim who has deconverted, that then goes on to plan or commit a terrorist act because they are poor, disenfranchised, hate foreign intervention or for any other reason.
Religion is a cultural tool. Yes, much of culture is an attempt to restrain human nature. It is human nature for males to want to f**k every female who comes along. Culture, sometimes but not always acting through religion, tries to restrain that instinct. It is a mistake to assume that human nature is benign and is distorted by culture or religion. Human nature can also be vicious and religion or culture are often restraining forces on our most destructive instincts.
And for evil people to do good things, that takes religion. Religious propagandists can cite countless examples. I am not interesting in arguing by means of throw-away lines but by digging in to the history and research to understand what is actually happening behind the news bytes.
You see no other explanation for change of behaviour, you say. Well, I myself have been a member for quite some years of a cult similar in some ways to the JWs, and have made remarkable changes in my life, too. But I have enough understanding to know that I have always acted according to what is “natural” and well understood by psychology. I don’t think humans have “instincts”, by the way. I invite you to read past and future posts I have written/will write about cult experiences and radicalization, religious conversions, and human nature.
Do you think it’s possible that you have something to learn about “human nature” and “religion” or do you know all you need to know when it comes to explaining Islamic terrorism?
Your final question is misguided. One example will prove little. That’s not how research is done. Are you denying that people have committed terrorist acts for anything other than religious reasons, specifically Islamic motivations?
I have plenty to learn about all kinds of things. I am certainly willing to learn more about this particular matter too, it’s just nothing you’ve written has convinced me that what I’ve learned so far is wrong. Anyway, time will tell which of us is less wrong about Islam and its relation to terror.
I have read many of your posts about your cult experience, so I thought you’d agree that people generally revert to more “normal” behavior after leaving a restrictive set of beliefs, though certainly not without a bundle of ill-effects. (I believe Islam is a cult too, along with all other religions actually, when you define cult as: “1 – a system of religious veneration and devotion directed towards a particular figure or object 1a – a [the dictionary says small here, but the definition makes just as much, if not more, sense leaving it out altogether] group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or as imposing excessive control over members. [and even the secondary definition] 2. a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular thing”. Though, of course, I will qualify that the less restrictive the religion the less culty it is).
Humans certainly have instincts (unlearned behaviors), nowhere near what animals have (I think this is because we have evolved to have very long childhoods) but we do have them. A short list would be: survival/kin survival, group seeking/cooperation, sexual behavior/drive, child rearing, aesthetics/beauty-ideals and language acquisition. (two of which I was referring to in my previous post).
My final question only seems misguided to you, because the fact that you can’t answer it with even one example is devastating to your case. And finally, in answer to your question, of course people have committed terrorism for reasons other than religion, that’s not my point. My point is that belief in Islam is the precipitating factor in Islamic terror attacks, because of the direct & clear teachings of Islam itself.
I’ll give you the last word (unless you ask me more questions…haha) if you want it.
pastasauce, you seem to subscribe to the romantic notion that human nature is benign and that evil acts must be attributed to cultural inventions, primarily religion. There is abundant evidence from anthropology, archaeology, and animal studies that this view is incorrect. For at least the last several million years humans have survived as killers, primarily of other animals for food, but of other humans also. Yes, some of these killings may have been for protection of self, kin, and clan, but humans kill each other driven by a variety of biologically evolved instincts as well: fear, lust, covetousness, anger, pride, revenge, greed, being a few. It is highly likely that some of these factors enter into every example of terrorism.
In particular, it is almost certainly not true that it takes religion for good people to do bad things. Was it religion that motivated the fire-bombing of Dresden, or the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Or was it revenge? As Steven Pinker has pointed out, human violence against one another has almost certainly declined as cultural institutions have gained greater control over society. Karen Armstrong has examined major wars in history, and found that although many were fought in the name of religion, the underlying motivation for most was the quest for power and wealth.
You have not engaged with my points. Simply disagreeing and stating another view is not engagement.
There is a difference between the technical meaning of cult and the way it is used to refer to groups like the JWs. These meanings should not be confused.
There is something we can call human nature and behaviours that are common to all humans. To suggest that human nature can be suppressed or denied simply defies the definition of being human. Is a murderer or rapist not acting according to human nature as much as those who condemn that person’s behaviour? Recall the “Lucifer Effect”. There is nothing that humans do that is not human. Our task is to understand what being human means, different behaviours etc. To argue otherwise is to dehumanize. That’s how racists and other ignorant folk argue.
You fail to see the logical fallacy in your question. I have found it quite depressing to see that explanations that are comparable to any other human situations and histories are swept aside for no reason other than the actors are Muslim. I have attempted to point to the persons involved, as perpetetrators and victims, but it seems you can only see Muslims. They’re all Muslims so that explains everything, seems to be the argument. And this point is supported by the appeal to the Quran itself. They’re Muslims, they have a Muslim book that we can read as hostile to us, so we are naturally predisposed to explain everything involving Muslims as a Muslim problem, as a black mark against Islam.
We would not argue in relation to events effecting Jews that way, nor blacks — although some probably still do.
I would like to see you actually engage with my arguments without simply sweeping them aside by declaring that the people are involved are all Muslims and therefore more prone to unnatural violence than anyone else. You are persuading me that Islamophobia really is as real as antisemitism or other forms of stereotyping bigotry.
So, you’ve basically called me racist, Islamophobic and bigoted in this post, with absolutely no evidence at all**, and yet I’m not allowed to say something as benign as hit “rock bottom” in an argument. Well, it’s your blog, your rules, even if you don’t have to abide by them yourself.
I think it has been obvious throughout that I have nothing against individual Muslims, nor do I discriminate based on whether someone is a Muslim in my everyday life. To be cowardly insinuated as racist and bigoted is an indictment on you not me, and is an indicator that you feel you’ve lost the argument.
One last thing, state explicitly the logical fallacy in my question. I believe that my question is extremely important in settling our disagreement, for if you could show me just ONE example, my entire case would fall.
** Not just no evidence, you’ve actually put words in my mouth in that last paragraph that I never even came close to saying, nor was the idea in my mind – if it didn’t come from me then it must be somewhere deep in your mind for you to think that. I am not afraid that individual Muslims are prone to unnatural violence, that has come from you. I am the one saying that they are being influenced by an external force (a barbaric dark age religion) to perform these acts, you on the other hand think they are acting according to their own human nature. Which one of us has a problem with Muslims in that case?
Let’s calm down and just engage with the arguments. Religion is not a “force”. There is no such force that causes people to act contrary to human nature. Try substituting Jewish or black or communist for Muslim in your statements. No matter what I say, or what any argument is, you seem to me to be saying that it is irrelevant if it does not blame Islam if people who are Muslims are involved. Am I correct or not?
I am totally calm. Are you going to retract your implicit labeling of me as a racist bigot Islamophobe, or if not perhaps provide one piece of evidence for it?
Is peer pressure a force? Religion is a force, in at least the same way if not more so, because not only do you have pressure from your peers in the same religion, you also have pressure from a supposedly omniscient God looking on and expecting you to act in a certain way according to the supposedly God-breathed holy books. (Please don’t imply that by force I mean the people are being forced into any particular action, surely you can see this is not how I’m using the term)
Substitute Jewish, black or communist for Muslim in which statements?
No, you are incorrect. Are you intentionally misinterpreting my position? I have already stated (more clearly in other comments sections of your blog than this one, but this is still my view) that there are many factors that lead to terrorist acts and contribute to the motivation for someone to perform them. My point is that Islam has terror written into its holy books and doctrine and that this is what precipitates the committing of terrorist acts in such large numbers by those who follow Islam. If you have one religion that has a doctrine stating terrorize the unbeliever and one religion that has a doctrine that says love your enemy, would you be surprised if the former had more followers who committed acts of terror than the later? Please answer this one.
And that reminds me, I notice you dropped the subject entirely on my previous question (still waiting for you to show me how it’s fallacious). Like I said, just ONE example would finish our argument immediately with my retraction and apology.
The research does not support this conclusion. There is abundant contrary evidence to it, too. Am I correct in understanding that you simply dismiss that research as inadequate and failing to face up to the real problem?
If so, then I suggest for you the problem really is Islam, and that Islam itself is therefore what needs to be feared. That is your point, yes?
The fallacy is that syllogistic one — All cows have four legs; this horse has four legs, therefore…. A common element is proof of nothing. It’s called the correlation-causation fallacy.
Am I also correct in understanding that you argue that Islam causes people to act contrary to human nature?
pastasauce wrote: ” My point is that Islam has terror written into its holy books and doctrine and that this is what precipitates the committing of terrorist acts in such large numbers by those who follow Islam. If you have one religion that has a doctrine stating terrorize the unbeliever and one religion that has a doctrine that says love your enemy, would you be surprised if the former had more followers who committed acts of terror than the later? ”
As I pointed out earlier, the Tanakh (Old Testament), which as you know is holy scripture for Christians and Muslims as well as Jews, is full of commands to kill, terrorize, rape, enslave, and abuse unbelievers (non-Jews). The New Testament is not as explicit, but it still has its share of threats to non-believers, e.g. Mark 16:16 “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Many Christians have taken that as reason enough to persecute nonChristians. And it is beyond simplistic to take the last 40 years as an adequate measure of the tendencies of a religion. Throughout history Christians have killed tortured and burned not only non-believers, but other Christians whose beliefs did not conform to those of the people in power.
I think the research you are using is flawed; interviews are a flawed method for judging motivation, as the way the questions are asked cannot help but effect the answers provided. Have you read any research that shows that Islam might be the cause? (it’s not like there isn’t any, as you seem to be suggesting) Or have you written it all off as being from racist bigot Islamophobes?
I do not think anything needs to be feared in the current situation. I am certainly not afraid of Islam or Muslims. I only have an interest in identifying the actual problems that cause terror so that an appropriate response can be made in order to effect a reduction in the scale and number of attacks (even if that response is to actively do nothing, including reducing our current responses, as your research would suggest for a solution). After all, if the majority of people living in the west feel fear or threat then it doesn’t matter whether there is an actual threat, things will start to happen that I’m sure both of us don’t want (reprisals, ultra-right wing governments gaining power, etc.). Who knows, maybe the best solution to this problem is to stop the media from reporting on terrorist attacks. But then, that will cause other problems and go against core western values. Oh well, I never claimed there’d be an easy solution.
All religions pressure individuals into changing the way that same individual would act without the religious force. If they didn’t, then religion itself would be moot. Of course, some people are far less likely to be influenced and that is why we have degrees of believer in every religion, and why not all Muslims become terrorists. To clarify and hopefully answer your question, I think that religion is the triumph of one part of human nature/instinct (group seeking/cooperation) over other parts of human nature/instinct. I’m not saying this is always a bad thing, but if you could replace every religion with humanism you would negate the negative effects of religion without losing any of the positives.
My question does not purport that “all terrorist acts are committed by Muslims” nor does it say that “all Muslims commit terrorist acts”. You can replace the all with most and I’m not even claiming that. So I’m not entirely sure on your “all cows have four legs” example.
It is you who are committing a fallacy because you are claiming my argument is based on mere correlation and not causation, when that is exactly the argument that we are having; whether Islam causes/precipitates terrorist acts (it doesn’t have to be all terror attacks, nor do all terror attacks have to be Islamic for my question to hold). In this case you are actually assuming the conclusion in your argument (against my question being valid), the informal fallacy. I set up the question purposefully in order to give you an easy way to falsify my entire argument, it is certainly not based on a fallacy. If Islam has no causal relationship with terror, then you should have many examples to answer my question with, just by weight of numbers.
Whose research, or what research, do you believe is flawed? What works are you thinking of exactly?
What research are you referring to that identifies Islam as “the cause” of terrorist acts? And what research undercuts or belies the research you say I have been using? I really don’t know what research you are thinking of. (The researchers I use are in good standing with the United Nations, and US and European government agencies that are set up to fight terrorism, and of course it is all peer-reviewed. Do they all have it wrong?)
All research I have read regarding Islamist terrorism is clear about the role of Islamist beliefs. Very often they play a critical role but the research explores why people embrace those beliefs and how radicalization happens. Not dissimilar, in fact, to the way a person comes to embrace a religious cult. And often the very heavy indoctrination in the most extreme religious beliefs comes after a person has made the decision of no return.
Weekend is here and I have a little more time to respond.
I don’t understand your remark because the research that I am referring to (and that I have addressed or linked to here) certainly does not recommend doing nothing. My recollection of some of it is that current responses should be maintained but other things need to be done in addition to those. I don’t know of any research that says there should be no military action against ISIS.
What concerns me is the way critics like Harris and Coyne mock and dismiss the research because they have some vague idea of some aspects of its findings yet they clearly have not read it and their characterizations of it denying any role of religious beliefs are simply flat wrong. I don’t believe they have read what they are mocking.
If you don’t fear Islam then I don’t understand the problem. Terrorism is feared by its very definition. I fear terrorism. I fear Islamism (the belief that Islamic laws should rule society). I have argued against Islamist comments on this site and eventually asked those responsible to stop spreading their arguments here. I fear what might very well happen to the second generation of Muslim immigrant families in Australia who are alienated largely as a consequence of hostile expressions of racism here. I fear the inability of older Muslims to relate to that second generation and help them. I fear what one convicted terrorist sympathizer who was not jailed here might do and am very glad that he is being closely monitored daily by police. (He was not jailed because it was argued that jail would most likely harden his terrorist sympathies — as it is known so often to do.)
I fear the situations and groups who make terrorism more likely than not. If you speak out against what you believe is a cause of terrorism and many believe you then surely you are encouraging a fear, whether a healthy or unhealthy fear, of that cause.
No, all religions don’t. Religions don’t do anything. People do things. There is no such thing as a religious force. There are psychological pressures and human needs and physical force. Abstractions are abstractions. That doesn’t make religion moot. It makes religion a label we give to certain cultural practices. We don’t know what the consequences would be if religion was somehow magically removed from the planet. Surely the psychological factors that give rise to religion would express themselves in some other way that would seem just as bizarre or unscientific to our Spockian minds. I have wanted to post more on this topic, and am still slowly trying to inform myself more fully, but religion is not an irrational or alien type of stupidity that somehow gets misplaced in human minds. People who embrace religion are not stupid or irrational. Religion is not like a virus or force that possesses others. It is the other way around — people’s drives can find expression in religious symbols.
I know you are not saying all Muslims commit terrorist acts etc, but I understood you to be saying that all Muslims are either potential terrorists or potential terrorist sympathizers because, by definition as Muslims, they all have believe in the Muslim religion and its sacred writings. Am I correct?
I don’t know of any research that has demonstrated Islam causes terrorism, or that Islamic beliefs or belief in the Koran has caused a person to commit a terrorist act. All the research of which I am aware does attempt to explain why some Muslims (or others) are attracted to extremist beliefs, why and how people (especially Muslims) are radicalized. It is patently obvious from both the current Muslim population today and historically that Islam itself is not a cause of terrorism. It is instructive, however, that research into Islamist terrorism has identified the same sorts of contributory causes as are associated historically with other (non-Islamist) terrorism.
I’m aware you do a lot of vetting on your sources, that’s one of the reasons me and lots of other people enjoy the articles i would presume.
My intention was to provide context from people in the arab speaking world, i didn’t indicate they were professionals or specialists. I counted them as writers/columnists and didn’t think more of it.
On Memri, yea, i’m sure they have biases. But I don’t see how they are wholly unreliable, i’ve had people lie to my face trying to discredit their translations before as well. So what i see is that their work is contentious at times, but no reason to discount everything they write.
I read quite diverse publications already and have done so my whole life, that’s not the reason why we have different point of views on matters. Your thorough understanding of the scientific literature is more likely to be one of the reasons for that.
One reads many claims, from MEMRI, from politicians, from advocacy spokespersons, in the media. My antennae are set to detect when they do and do not cite evidence, and if and how that evidence can be verified. It is all too easy to read “xyz happened today” and think, “ah, so xyz is what happened”. Rather, what we are reading is that so and so said xyz happened. Big difference.
An interesting exchange, which I’m not going to get into. (I’ve learned my lesson.) But oh my…this by Paxton Marshall simply cannot be allowed to stand uncommented on:
“In particular, it is almost certainly not true that it takes religion for good people to do bad things. Was it religion that motivated the fire-bombing of Dresden, or the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Or was it revenge?”
With one fell swoop, Paxton has reduced the tone of his contribution here to the naive demonization of the “good” side in WW2. Unfortunately, this is reminiscent of the worst of the anti-Americanism characteristic of my youth in the 60s and 70s, where the world was black and white with America firmly entrenched in the darkest of evil (perhaps a little like the black and white attitude toward Israel vs. the Palestinians of our own day).
Evil acts motivated by revenge? That’s his sophisticated analysis of the reasons and the question of legitimacy for the bombing of Dresden and the use of the atomic bomb? He really put a lot of thought into that one. I would certainly agree that religion played no part in the motivation, but to offer such a simplistic and essentially demonizing judgment on such events within the total war scenario created by both the Nazis and the Japanese, simply placing horns on Churchill and Truman, is unbelievable, but all too characteristic of those who seem to be unable to see the world in anything other than black and white, with the black often allotted to the side closer to home.
In the long Pacific road to the Japanese homeland, American soldiers were dying in their tens of thousands, with millions more (American and Japanese) slated to die in any standard invasion of Japan itself. Nor were there any “innocents” in Japan, as the entire population was mobilized against such an invasion and was fully behind their own country’s war effort. The atomic bombs forced surrender and saved countless lives. Besides, one has to put oneself in Harry Truman’s chair in 1945 instead of one’s own comfortable LazyBoy decades removed from the time and events they were living through. I would have made the same strategic decision myself.
And I know it’s fashionable these days for some to sneer at plain and traditional analyses like the above, but what is substituted in their place is more often than not highly questionable or even laughable, reflecting some kind of twisted and faddish political correctness. Does anyone think that genuine historians writing about the Second World War today express views like Paxton’s? It may be quite legitimate to subject events like these to searching analysis. But “evil acts” out of “revenge”?
I’m curious. What lesson is that? What happened?
(By the way, I do agree our friend Paxton makes many sweeping and emotive statements that I find problematic as they stand, but don’t we all from time to time. Hopefully discussions can lead to an exchange of supportive evidence for the respective claims.)
Hi Earl, whether you intended to or not, you’ve jumped in with both feet. If you’ve followed the thread or even read my whole comment, you will know that my point was that violent acts, or indeed any behavior, can almost never be attributed simply to the dictates of a cultural institution such as religion. More primitive instincts such as those I mentioned are almost always involved. And the more extreme the measure, the more likely that these instincts have overwhelmed reason and cultural restraints, or in Freudian terms, the id has overcome the ego and superego. I was looking for an example contrary to that of Islamic terrorism, where we are attributing motivations to a culture not our own, to show the general principle at work in our own culture. Perhaps the bombings were not the best example, but I’ll stick with it to address the objections you have raised.
First, what I actually said, or rather asked: ” Was it religion that motivated the fire-bombing of Dresden, or the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Or was it revenge? ” No demonization, I called no acts evil, no anti-Americanism (I am an American). Perhaps I should have added other possible motives besides revenge as an alternative to religion as the motivation. But my main point was to counter pastasauce’s claim that it is the religion of Islam that motivates Islamic terrorism. You acknowledged that religion was not the motivation for the bombings, although I expect that both Churchill and Truman prayed about their decisions and satisfied themselves in their own minds that their God was OK with them. There is seldom a simple explanation for a decision such as this. Yes, they assuredly weighed the advice of their military commanders regarding the alternative costs of a land invasion of Japan, and other alternatives. But can we blame them, after presiding over a struggle that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of their countrymen, if a desire for revenge intruded into their thinking? Your own rather black and white conclusion that we were the good side, implying that the other side was the bad side, and that their were no innocent Japanese, or presumably, Germans, suggests that you see a justification for revenge yourself.
I’m sure I’m not adequately qualified to judge the rightness or wrongness of the bombings in the context of the war. But when the bombing of Dresden occurred the Germans were falling back on all fronts, and the Soviet army was within 70 km of Berlin. Similarly, when the atomic bombs were dropped, the Soviets had committed their forces to the eastern front, and I have read that it was the prospect of a Soviet invasion of Hokkaido more than the massive loss of civilian lives from the bombings that led to the Japanese surrender. I highly recommend that you read “Slaughterhouse 5” by Kurt Vonnegut (who was there) to get a feel for the horrors of the Dresden bombing, and the price of war paid by participants on both sides, who, whether soldiers or civilians were swept along by forces not of their making.
I too was a young man in the 60s and 70s and I remember well the lies (Gulf of Tonkin) and fearmongering (domino theory) that was used to drag us into the morass of Vietnam. I remember well the villification heaped on those of us who resisted the war, which was unnecessary, achieved no good, and took the lives of 58,000 young Americans, many of whom were coerced into fighting, and over 2 million southeast asians. Was it evil? I’ll just say it was a horrible mistake. Was it motivated by religion? I’ll just say that we heard a lot about the need to combat the evil of “Godless communism” ( as we hear a lot today about the need to combat the evils of Islam). No doubt there were a mixture of motives that led to our entering the war. As in every war, for some in the war industries it was greed (Ike had only recently warned of the warmongering tendencies of the military-industrial complex). For many it was fear of communism. For some, maybe including LBJ, it was vanity and pride. The motivations were no doubt as complex as they are for ISIS fighters today.
Neil, please call me out when I make “sweeping and emotive statements” that you find problematic. I appreciate your careful, evidence based analysis, and it is my goal to contribute in kind.
Thanks for your expanded reply (Marshall?) Unfortunately I don’t know if Earl returns to check if anyone responds to his comments on these sorts of topics. I hope he does.
I had thought you were originally thinking of the various records that do indeed testify to the revenge component behind the fire-bombing over Germany and Japan. I don’t always have time to make time to respond to all comments, however.
On the documents that give historians the rationales for the atomic bombing of Japan, …..
I was shocked when I read them as an undergraduate in the 60s, not in an anti-American radical flyer, but in a serious history book in the main library. At the time I was struck by the disconnect between what “everybody knew” to be the reasons and what the clear diplomatic and other government documents indicated. I certainly never raised what I read with my parents. They would have been outraged at what I was saying and very distressed that I was saying it. For years I concluded that the evidence was only known to a relative few and kept out of the public discussion. Today, I think it is not uncommon to find it in more relevant history books. It is even mentioned openly more than it was back then.
It’s a challenge to try to put myself back in my childhood years and try to understand what my parents had been through and what world had shaped their own beliefs and values. My grandfather warned me about those devious communists and not to let them brainwash me when I was about to enter university.
As for the Dresden bombing, I happened to work for some months with someone who had been a bomber pilot involved in those raids. He did not paint a very moral picture of what he was involved in doing. And then there’s the more secure evidence in the documents…..
History can rarely be reduced to a romantic struggle between good and evil without leaving lots of messy bits out of the picture.