Friday, July 22, 2005

Uncomforatable Profiling

Yesterday Arabian Dissent had an interesting post on racial profiling. When I read things from a Muslim perspective, like this post or a Salim Mansur column, I'm never surprised by the rational approach taken by the writer.

I think many of us who aren't members of minority groups pause over the keyboard, lest we write something that might be offensive to others. I know I do. When I've written on same-sex marriage, I've been careful not to use inflamatory language, and I try to make my arguments specific to the issue.

The above editorial cartoon from today's National Post is a perfect example of political correctness. I like Gary Clement and I think his approach to the issue of terrorism has always been matter-of-fact. This particular cartoon was a disappointment.

I tried to look for irony -- thinking perhaps Clement was trying to show how terrorism can have the affect of causing irrational fear of all things, but given the general malaise amongst Canadians about security issues, it just doesn't read that way.

The cartoon is dishonest. Pretending that race or religion is not an issue in terrorism or in the fear it creates, is disingenuous.

cross-posted to civitatensis

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Journalistic truth --and-- how do you spot a terrorist?

Calgary filmmaker Garth Pritchard, writes in the Toronto Sun today about the lack of insight and understanding we in Canada have about 'human bullets' as he calls them. He talks about the radical madrassas, where young boys are indoctrinated into the culture of hate, and notes that interpretation depends on the cleric, not the geographical location.

He talks about the myopia of North American news outlets, and slams the CBC for failing to present the realities of the war in Afghanistan. He takes them to task for airing the likes of Gwyn Dyer, one of the pontificating "'experts' who have never been there." (Dyer is the fellow who noted that 400 people die of natural causes in London every day -- and that on 7/7 that number was 450 -- implying the extra fifty-odd deaths were negligable.)

Pritchard notes that the "CBC coined the term 'docudrama' to explain away questions about truth and accuracy, or lack thereof" . . . "CBC will not take real journalism from areas of conflict, on grounds that it is propaganda (. . .) Recently, the $270-million slush fund known as Telefilm (the money behind documentaries, movies, children's programming and drama) made it very clear: Footage shot in real-time, in particular, the scratchy old grainy stuff -- will no longer be on your screens. The reason? "We can write it and reproduce it better in studios and on computers.""

Is it any wonder the CBC can't bring themselves to say 'terrorist' -- they have an aversion to reality.

and . . . Yesterday I wrote that I didn't believe suicide bombing would catch on in the West because most people could scarcely find something to live for, let alone something to die for. Today, in the National Post, Richard Cohen warns against projecting our own value system onto other cultures. (Update: link to the same article in the Washington Post)

Cohen noted the Western habit of assuming everyone wants what we want . . . peace on earth, health and security for our families, the material trappings of the consumer culture . . .

He went on to illustrate how these misconceptions allow us to project our own feelings on people who have been raised with very different ideas and ideals, and he used the attitudes of the Japanese during WWII as an example of this sort of mindset. Like militant Islam, the Japanese culture glorified suicide and honoured those who would fight to the death -- but unlike the newest brand of militant Islam, those who died by kamikaze, hit military targets, and did not live and die amongst the general population of the enemy. This twist on 'honourable death' makes our situation particularly unsettling.

It's too hard. How do you look into the eyes of a person who lives in your city, who has a family, ties to the community, a job working with children -- someone who has visited your home -- how do you look at that person and see that he is capable, willing even, to murder people like you in the name of some religious/political agenda?

We judge people we know by their own merits. We see ourselves in other people --- we see people who came to this country for a better life, whose kids go to the same school as our own, who work beside us. No matter how vigilant they tell us to be, how do we start looking for hatred in the eyes of our neighbours, and how do we know when we see it?

The Scotsman today talks of a Labour MP taking one of the London terrorist on a tour of the House of Commons after he'd they'd determined not to put him on a terrorist watch list. I might not be able to tell a terrorist when I see one, but I don't have access to their travel history, or lists of their associates. How did they miss this one? Could it be they projected their own values onto him? If our governments can't spot a impending threat in their midst -- how will we?


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

'Dupes' 'Terrorists' --- what's the difference?

There is conjecture that the London terrorists might have been 'unwitting' suicide bombers.

The evidence (this is John O'Sullivan from the Chicago Sun-times)

They bought return railway tickets. Their bombs were not strapped to their bodies but carried in knapsacks as if to be left behind on the trains. None of them was heard to shout the customary ''Allah Akhbar'' before the bombs exploded. Unusually for suicide bombers, they left identification on their bodies. And surveillance videotapes show them laughing and joking casually -- rather than grimly determined or prayerful -- as they caught the Underground train.

The suggestion by some, almost sounds sympathetic:

"The bombers' masters might have thought that they couldn't risk the four men being caught and spilling everything to British interrogators," an official said. "The stakes were too high, so they could have lied to them and deliberately sent them to their deaths."

But the most dizzying suggestion comes from the family of one of the terrorists. From the National Post (subscribers only):

The wife of Germaine Jamal Lindsay, 19, the Jamaican-born Muslim convert who killed 26 people on the Piccadilly Line near Russell Square, insisted he was not a suicide bomber.

"Lindsay would never have killed himself and left me alone to bring up our children," said Samantha Lewthwaite, 22, who has a 15-month-old son and is eight months pregnant with the couple's second child.

So, Lindsay would have boarded a crowded train, dropped off a knapsack filled with explosives and blown up as many innocent strangers as he could -- but he was too decent a fellow to leave his wife and children widowed and orphaned.
Forgive me for being insensitive, but exactly how would not wanting to kill himself make him any less vile, any less guilty, any less of a terrorist?

Apparently the British and American governments worry more about suicide bombers than the run- of-the-mill terrorist. They are more determined, more radical, less easily deterred etc.

I don't see it. Even within radical Islam, I suspect that fewer people are willing to blow themselves up, than to dump a bomb somewhere and make haste. Neither takes any great amount of courage -- one is a coward who murders innocent people, the other is a coward who murders innocent people and believes he will be rewarded -- doesn't take a lot of guts to do something when you figure your god is going to see you as a hero. Either way, their victims are maimed and dead -- so who cares?

Anyone who plans to murder other people -- whether they are IRA or
al-Qaida is a shell without a soul. If they happen to decide to eliminate themselves in the process, I don't see how that can be a bad thing.