Monday, May 27, 2013

Glenn Greenwald, terrorism, and the art of distortion

For the extremist denial is the last step in his journey. After justifying the cold blooded butchery of an unarmed man Greenwald took that last step. Partly because he was the subject of an avalanche of criticism, his faction does not handle criticism well they will usually complain about 'smears' without addressing the actual arguments. Also its bizarre that Greenwald's article on the beheading attracted so much negative attention unlike his more horrific justification for the Boston bombings.

The article opens with an image of "the bodies of 10 children killed in a Nato airstrike in Afghanistan." Such shock tactics reveal desperation on his part and perhaps an attempt to prettify the beheader's motives: slaughtering a fellow citizen out of sympathy for the taliban. The Afghan war is unique for how few civilians were killed by NATO, the war stands out as one of the most just ever fought. If Greenwald had any real objection to deaths of Afghan children he wouldn't have written material dripping with sympathy for the taliban.

He repeats his argument that it wasn't terrorism because of US legal concepts. For all his talk about 'American imperialism' he seems to think that US law holds sway over the UK, not unlike Michael Savage ranting about the constitution after being banned from the UK. He defended his argument by stating that its valid because the UK is allied with the US, which completely fails. The US is a French ally and no one would claim that French law holds sway over the USA.

Greenwald writes that the answer to Islamist terrorist tactics has been "explained" by " the CIA ("blowback")" Greenwald condemned zero dark thirty because it promoted the "CIA's worldview" which the blowback argument is a product of by his own reasoning he should condemn the blowback concept. The b-word is twisted around so much to the point where its an incoherent cliche, the CIA defines it as a covert operation going wrong and impacting citizens. That scenario doesn't describe the beheading or most acts of Islamist terrorism which have no connection to some Jerry Cornelius operation going - in the words of Odenkirk - run awry, afoul, askew or all three. In fact most Islamist attacks have not had any link to covert ops.

He continues " the Pentagon (they "do not 'hate our freedom,' but rather, they hate our policies")," the words "hate us for our freedom" have been mangled by Glenn's ideological ilk who present it as a lie about what really motivates all anti-westerners. Bush actually used it only to describe the motives of the 911 hijackers, which is not inaccurate as Bin Laden argued that the US brought 911 upon itself by tolerating homosexuality, alcohol consumption and for having secular laws. No one ever claimed that all anti-Americanists or jihadis hate us for our freedoms, though in general that would not be inaccurate since jhadis are motivated in rage against modern liberalism as evidence by their persistent attacks on harmless targets (girl schools, voters, red cross stations etc.).

Glenn writes: " British combat veterans" and "former CIA agents ("we could try invading, occupying and droning Muslim countries a little less, and see if that helps. Maybe prop up fewer corrupt and tyrannical Muslim regimes")." Both in other advocate submission and surrender by advocating that foreign policy should be crafted in deference to theocrats. Eisler is a hack writer who spent a few years training with the CIA and left without actually entering the field. Former CIA agents are a dime a dozen these days and most support US foreign policy, Greenwald recently debated one. Charles McCarry for example who actually has ten years of field experience wrote this. I've just taken a part a lengthy example of the argument by authority fallacy.

Both Eisler and Glenton make the same arguments. The idea that jihadis are made about "imposed tyranny" or "Muslim regimes" is absurd as societies created by Islamists stand out as some of the worst in human history. There was greater freedom under Mussolini and Stalin than Mullah Omar or Khomeini. The most notorious jihadis came from countries that did not experience western interventions, Al-Qaeda was originally made up of Saudis and Egyptians. They have a habit of attacking countries that were never involved in interventions and have no military significance at all. Jihadis have attacked the Philippines, Indonesia, Turkey, Algeria and Mali to name just a few. Glenn should be familiar with that last one since he wrote an article dismissing Malian suffering. On twitter argued that Malian opinions were irrelevant "local concerns." Thus proving that he is only outraged about dead children who have political economy to his causes.

Greenwald bemoans how "people reflexively try to radically distort the argument beyond recognition in order to smear you as a Terror apologist, a Terrorist-lover or worse, all for the thought crime of raising these issues." Here I was thinking that Lee Rigby the real victim was I'm so glad Glenn has come along to explain that he is the genuine victim because he was criticized. Seriously though, 'thought crime?'

He complains that these people "conflate claims of causation (A is one of the causes of B) with justification (B is justified). Anyone operating with the most basic levels of rationality understands that these concepts are distinct." Justification isn't simply saying that someone deserved it, the purpose of justification is to absolve someone of ethical responsibility. One definition for the j-word is "to declare free of blame; absolve." The word has religious origins referring to freeing someone of a grievous sin. If you were not the 'causation' of an atrocity you aren't responsible and you aren't to blame, so yes he justifies terrorism.

Glenn buries himself by citing Eisler: "to use the example recently provided by former CIA agent Barry Eisler in his brilliant explanation of "blowback", if Person X walks up to Person Y on the street and spits in his face, and Person Y then pulls out a gun and shoots Person X in the head and kills him in retaliation, one can observe that Person X's spitting was a causal factor in Person Y's behavior without remotely justifying Person Y's lethal violence. One can point out that a potential cost of walking up to people on the street and spitting in their face is that they are likely to respond with similar or worse aggression - and that this is one reason not to engage in such behavior - without justifying or legitimizing the response that is provoked and without denying (or even minimizing) the agency or blame of the person who responds."

Under that scenario a murder victim who in life spat in his murderer's face was the 'causation' of his own murder! I've been spat at many times and I never once shot the saliva sharer square in the face, that proves that moral agency exists and that murderers are the only causation of murder. If a rape victim has similarly insulted a man who later raped her according to Greenwald and Eisler she was the 'causation' of her rape. That confirms the amorality of Greenwald who is indeed offering justifications.

He throws an after pity party for himself by writing that because of "prior experience in having my arguments on this issue wildly distorted and smeared that it's quite necessary" to make it "clear exactly what I was - and was not - arguing, and did so as explicitly as the English language permits: As I've endlessly pointed out, highlighting this causation doesn't remotely justify the acts."" Its the very definition of English words that confirm that he justified terrorism. The quoted words are a denial, not an argument, it proves nothing. Just as someone arguing that a rape victim was the 'causation' of her own rape would not be less of a misogynist because he wrote "highlighting this causation doesn't make me a misogynist."

Next he addresses Andrew Sullivan's arguments, the man who recently defended al-jazeera anti-Semitism amusingly complained that Andrew accused him of "spreading "Islamist propaganda." Apparently Sullivan argued "that US intervention in the Muslim world both before and after the 9/11 attack was noble and often beneficent." That is irrelevant and also naive since Sullivan gave Greenwald a chance to throw the topic off course. Though Andrew does have a point: in Afghanistan life expectancy, education, health care and quality of life have increased so much that even supporters of the war have been shocked. In Libya there are so many US flags that it looks like the set of a country rock opera.

He spends the next paragraph repeating his non-arguments and denials. The next paragraph focuses on criticism of Sullivan which does not absolve Greenwald of the charge of justification. One could accept his argument that the beheading wasn't terrorism but he condemned the killings of Iranian nuclear scientists as terrorism. According to the 'Ethics of Spying' a "scientist who works in a weapons lab..." the IRI scientists' occupation "are legitimate targets." The double standard confirms his apologist bias towards Lee Rigby.

Greenwald whines that "Jeffrey Goldberg and other various neocon smear artists who spent the last couple of days endlessly and loudly accusing me of being a pro-Terror, US-blaming Terrorist-lover, Jew-hating Terror-apologist and all the other tired neocon clich├ęs that have been hurled at anyone and everyone over the last decade who questions the Mandated Narratives about "Islamic Terror", the US and Israel. Willfully smearing people as pro-Terrorists in order to deter free and rational discussions of US and Israeli aggression is what they do. It's their function, their chosen tactic." The quoted words completely lack arguments, anyone who fails to address critiques instead of bemoaning 'smears' (this from a man who called another a person an "effete sociopath") affirms criticism. Besides many of his critics are not neo-conservatives, John Pagano tweeted "it's going to be rich when Glenn Greenwald ululates about neocon persecution by Norman Geras, the Marxist scholar of Marxism."

He addresses Sullivan again which is irrelevant. Glenn argues that "labeling the violent acts of those Muslim Others as "terrorism" - but never our own - is a key weapon used to propagate this worldview. The same is true of the tactic that depicts their violence against us as senseless, primitive, savage and without rational cause, while glorifying our own violence against them as noble, high-minded, benevolent and civilized (we slaughter them with shiny, high-tech drones, cluster bombs, jet fighters and cruise missiles, while they use meat cleavers and razor blades)."

There's no other way to read the article without concluding that he thinks that 'Muslim' violence which ranges from massacring schoolchildren, turning Mali into a slaughterhouse, attempts at genocide, slavery and so on are not "senseless, primitive, savage and without rational cause." 'Our violence' is fully legal within international law which only mandates that efforts to prevent civilian death must be taken.

The use of drones and other methods he mentions have claimed the lowest civilian casualties in the history of war in 2012 2% of drone deaths were civilians. Whereas the entire point of 'their violence' is to inflict as many civilian deaths as possible to further goals of creating slave sultanates, that destroys Greenwald's false equivalence between the West and Islamists. He creates a dichotomy of Islamist plucky underdogs armed with primitive versus western technocrats with the best weapons which is false as jihadists have use sophisticated weapons in attacks.

He complains about the "the belief that Islam is a uniquely grave danger in the world" he again conflates Islam and Islamism which no different from what Islamophobes do only he does out of sympathy and contempt. It gets even more sinister when he claims that "western violence against them is superior to their violence against the west" meaning he shares the al-qaeda view that war against jihadis is war against Islam, remember Glenn argued that the Mali intervention was a war against Islam.  It also doesn't help his goal of opposing anti-Muslim prejudice after all if AQ is synonymous with Muslims and if they will automatically kill without agency in response to western foreign policy then it would be quite right to hate and fear Muslims - if he was right and he's incorrect.

Greenwald argues that the strawman he constructed is "a by-product of base tribalism" which is rich; he has refused to condemn atrocities against Syrians but rushed to defend people who shares his views, that is ideological tribalism of the worst type. Apparently "Americans and westerners have been relentlessly bombarded with the message that We are the Noble and Innocent Victims and those Muslims are the Evil, Primitive, Savage Aggressors, so that's what many people are trained to believe, and view any challenge to that as an assault on their core tribalistic convictions." Americans and Westerners are multi-racial and muli-cultural which disproves any talk of tribalism. It would be wonderful if the democratic world was united like a tribe, if only that was true.

Glenn has made it clear what sort of people he means by 'Muslims.' To paraphrase Gladstone Glenn is not referring to "the mild Mohammedans of India, nor the chivalrous Saladins of Syria, nor the cultured Moors of Spain" he is referring to jihadis. He is arguing that the west and jihadis tyrants are morally equivalent. If Greenwald wasn't promoting "Islamist propaganda" as Sullivan claimed Glenn would never have written such a vile argument that discredits him and confirms sympathy for jihadis. We can also disprove it by pointing to his example if the west and Islamists are equivalent why did he move to Brazil instead of the Maldives or Aceh?

The next paragraph argues that the word 'terrorism' is subject to "highly manipulative exploitation" that is "vital to several political agendas." The same can be said of any word with political relevance including terms favored by Glenn. He uses the word 'Islamophobia' constantly while it describes a real and vile prejudice the term is abused constantly. The east London mosque which was founded by genocidists use it to libel critics.

The next several paragraphs are irrelevant criticisms of Sullivan. In the paragraph he raves that "no matter how many evil things your government does, no matter how many innocent people are killed by the political leader you deliriously adore, no matter how much blood you have on your own hands for exploiting your media platform to publicly cheer for mass violence and slaughter." Lets accept that at face value ignoring that its borderline libel and written to appeal to those who want to believe in a morality tale of western depravity and Islamist innocence. Even if he was entirely right (a hypothetical scenario requiring more imagination than Bill Watterson) thats not any westerner's fault. If we apply arguments he only selectively applies to 'Muslims' then they were in fact the causation of it all, they brought 'blowback' upon themselves. If Greenwald's arguments were released back at him it would absolve Obama and Bush for any real or imagined (the category for which Greenwald's grievances against the west fall into) wrongdoing. Hell it would absolve anyone of moral responsibility, a fact that further confirms that he justifies terrorism.

Greenwald continues: "all of that can be redeemed, or at least mitigated, only if there is Someone Else Over There who you can point to as The Supreme and Unique Evil. Sure, we make mistakes and do some bad things. But we're not like them: the Ultimate Savages. The Primitive Islamic Hordes. The Terrorists. That's why it's urgent that these designations of special evil (Terrorist) be reserved exclusively for Them: only then can we elevate ourselves."

Its clear he's emotionally invested in his pro-Islamist writings, which reveals much about his character. There's nothing self glorifying about being better than Islamist regimes, its pretty much the lowest standard any society can meet. Heck it was a standard met by many of history's most evil dictatorships; no one was ever forced to cannibalize women in Pinochet's Chile. I'm far from a Sullivan fan but Glenn devises opinions that Andrew does not hold, the man has never argued that they are "The Supreme and Unique Evil" or "the Ultimate Savage of the Primitive Islamic Hordes."

Its not so much an argument as a manic repetition of his disgraceful and previously disproven formula of western and Islamist equivalence. Its only worth bringing up as a chilling insight into the extremist mind. Note how he mocked Sullivan's support for Obama to him healthy patriotism is cultish and vile while justifying the actions of theocrats is noble dissent that makes Greenwald a heroic truth teller attacked by the real evildoers: middle aged columnists.

Glenn argues that once "that framework is implanted, then our violence is understandable, noble, well-intentioned, necessitated by their pure evil." Some might hold that view if so its tame compared to Greenwald's idea that there is no moral difference between Hollande and Omar al-Bashir. Besides one look at the media disproves it, when scandals about US misconduct came to light no one argued that the atrocities of the Mahdi army (which received little coverage) absolved soldiers in question.

The article is nearly over but there's still more amoral garbage like how he argues that Sullivan is motivated by the "very personal need that bolsters this worldview and prompts such rage when it is challenged: the need to view oneself in a better light, to avoid the reality of what one supports and enables." The quoted words are rendered hilariously hypocritical by repeating how Greenwald refused to condemn violence committed by Iran but furiously treated the removal of a Massad racist rant as censorship on par with the GDR, talk about rage in response to your world view being challenged.

Greenwald concludes by repeating his dichotomy of false equivalence between the west and Islamists there's no reason to go over the whole thing as it reuses non-arguments that were already addressed in this article. I will add that he gives the reader the impression that the western states have the most blood on their hands. When in reality the reverse is true, jihadis have killed the most people in post-911 conflicts. Just this week when he was busy writing about how they hate us for such sympathetic reasons the taliban bombed a Kabul mosque killing innocents on a mass scale. Glenn's refusal to condemn violence committed by the very type of 'Muslims' he spent the article defending gives in sight into how he avoids he reality of what he supports and enables.

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