Cause and Effect in the Wingnut Mind


Joel Richardson has a column at the Worldnutdaily attacking Ron Paul’s foreign policy arguments and claiming that a man named Robert Pape is the equivalent of Jeremiah Wright for President Obama. And all this because Paul dares to suggest that perhaps American policy has something to do with provoking violence in the Arab and Islamic world.

Paul’s emphatic trademark claim that the present rise of Islamic terrorism globally is the result of “blowback” from American actions abroad is nothing less than ridiculous and an absolute insult to my intelligence.

According to Paul, radical Muslims are not radical because they have drunk deeply from the trough of an expansionist, racist and murderous ideology, but rather because American actions abroad have brought about the natural response of resistance.

I get so tired of such simpleminded nonsense. Those two things are not mutually exclusive. Yes, reactionary Islam (I try to avoid calling them radical because radical is often a positive word to me, while reactionary is not) is an expansionist, racist and murderous ideology. And yes, decades of colonialism have provided fertile ground for that ideology to take hold and made the United States its most obvious target. This is not an either/or, it’s a yes/and.

How is Paul’s position any different from Jeremiah Wright’s claim that 9/11 was simply a case of “America’s chickens … coming home to roost”? Paul may say it in a far less shrill manner than Wright, but his position is virtually identical.

And how is that any different from Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and dozens of other wingnut preachers claiming that they hate us because we don’t persecute gays, or we allow abortion, or because of the ACLU? There’s one obvious difference: Our foreign policy actually affects them, while our domestic policies on gay rights and abortion do not. Is there any doubt that the seeds of the 1978 Iranian revolution that overthrew the Shah were sewn by the U.S. and Britain overthrowing Mossadegh and installing the brutal Shah in power? They didn’t just take over our embassy and hold American hostages out of some fit of religious madness, it was a response to 25 years of American-backed oppression. And as I have said time and time again, if there is one iron law in politics it is that oppressing a people radicalizes them.

Evil exists, and there are times when it must be resisted. Freedom requires both responsibility and sacrifice. To cast the radical Islamic terrorists as the victims and the American people as those who deserve blame, which Paul has done, is simply asinine and downright disgusting. Ron Paul’s soothing grandfather-like persona may be far more palatable to most than Jeremiah Wright’s obnoxious rage-filled rants, but his habit of victim-blaming is no less repulsive and should be rejected by all genuine American patriots.

Far more repulsive is this simpleminded “evil exists and we must fight it” position. In the real world, actions have consequences. Ideologies do not just appear out of thin air, they develop in a context. And to dismiss all discussion of that context on the grounds that it is blaming the victim is absurd. The answers aren’t simple ones. It isn’t as easy as “well this would never have happened if we hadn’t invaded Iraq.” But in the wingnut mind, where America is always the good guy and Muslims are always the bad guy, cause and effect are forever disassociated. And we need to have a serious discussion about the inevitable effects of American foreign policy.

Comments

  1. matty1 says

    Nitpick, while radical Islam is very bigoted against non Muslims racist is not the right word. There are growing numbers of white European converts to all types of Islam including the most extreme and they tend to be welcomed. Conversely Muslim extremists in Africa or Indonesia have no trouble attacking their Christian neighbours of the same ‘race’* while welcoming Saudi Muslims of a different ‘race’ as brothers.

    *I put the term ‘race’ in scare quotes because I don’t believe usual racial classifications are useful or reflect anything beyond the most superficial patterns in human appearance.

  2. Aquaria says

    What do you expect from people who still think lowering taxes raises revenue? Or that gays getting married will be the end of civilisation? Or that a genocidal scumbag in the sky actually exists?

    Cause and effect and a grasp of reality aren’t their strong suits, after all.

  3. Michael Heath says

    I am most impressed with parts of Ron Paul’s Middle East arguments in the 2008 (not ’12) presidential primary debates. In those debates Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani beat the drums for more war in the Middle East with a delusional demagogic, “because they hate us for our freedoms” assertion. Ron Paul’s response was premised equivalent to the premises the State Dept. and CIA had long-made, which was that we were partly culpable precisely because of our policy exercises in that region, coupled to other factors, e.g., clans like the House of Saud basically effectively stealing much of the wealth of the region they controlled (which we also enable).

    And what the State Dept. and the CIA warned us about regarding al Qaeda and deposing Saddam Hussein in Iraq came true, empirically validating Paul’s point prior to his making it in 2008. Rep. Paul wasn’t making predictions but instead reporting well-known facts that had already occurred. And while the WND is the home of wingnuts who can’t discern reality, this Joel Richardson’s divorced-from-reality perception is regrettably the position of 2012 candidates like Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum. It’s really no different than denial of climate change.

    In addition it should be noted that Ron Paul’s position does not rest solely on the behavior of the U.S. as Richardson falsely asserts, the arguments I heard him make included al Qaeda’s ambitions to create a regional caliphate. It’s just that Rep. Paul had to pragmatically spend more time rebutting the falsehoods in debates thrown out by the other GOP candidates, which is true in both ’08 and 2012.

    I am not an isolationist and think Ron Paul’s policy prescriptions are naive to a fault regarding how the world works and the net value of the U.S. projecting power in that region – especially in defending assurances of supply of oil. However the premises he uses to make his argument regarding our policy in that region on some issues is not only correct, but what the experts have long understood. This is probably the one factor that makes me not claim he’s merely the metaphorical analog clock whose right twice a day; that’s because his premises aren’t from luck but from actual legitimate research stripped of partisan bias (though perhaps not ideological bias since it arguably favors an isolationist argument). His talking points were obviously not handed to him as a convenient position for him to take as the de facto small-l libertarian, he’s obviously done some work himself.

    And since Paul’s the only ’12 GOP presidential candidate using honest premises to argue his conclusions, I think he’s earned our respect on this issue, even if like me you disagree with his policy prescriptions and are abhorred by his arguments on domestic policy.

  4. slc1 says

    Our foreign policy actually affects them, while our domestic policies on gay rights and abortion do not. Is there any doubt that the seeds of the 1978 Iranian revolution that overthrew the Shah were sewn by the U.S. and Britain overthrowing Mossadegh and installing the brutal Shah in power?

    1. Compared to other bad actors in the Middle East, the Shah was an angel. One need only point to Saddam Hussein and the Assads, pere and fils.

    2. One need also point to the fact of the deterioration in the status of women in Iran since the Shah was overthrown, indicating that his replacements are far worse.

    What Mr. Brayton and others on this blog fail to realize is that tyrannical rulers are the rule in the Middle East and North Africa. During the Cold War, the only difference between the various tyrannical dictatorships in that part of the world was whether they were our SOBs or the Soviet Union’s SOBs.

  5. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    Is there any doubt that the seeds of the 1978 Iranian revolution that overthrew the Shah were sewn by the U.S. and Britain overthrowing Mossadegh and installing the brutal Shah in power?

    Nitpick: Seeds don’t get generally get “sewn” (unless perhaps you’re using them to adorn a garment). They get sown.

  6. matty1 says

    slc1,

    You are making Ed’s point for him, the fact that US support for the Shah led to his being replaced by people who are worse and are hostile to the US supports the claim that the current regime in Iran is the result of blowback.

    Don’t confuse the blowback hypothesis “we made them more extremist by our actions” with claims that extremists are somehow good guys.

  7. Michael Heath says

    slc1:

    What Mr. Brayton and others on this blog fail to realize is that tyrannical rulers are the rule in the Middle East and North Africa.

    First your bulleted points don’t even directly address Ed’s points unless you create a false alternative of options, which what I quote here depends on for this to resonate. So the only one making a defective argument here is you.

  8. dingojack says

    “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable”. – John F. Kennedy

    Dingo

  9. slc1 says

    Re matty1 @ #6

    Mr. matty1 is making the unwarranted assumption that leaving Mossadegh in power would have turned out better from the US point of view then removing him and replacing him with the Shah. If, in fact, he was a stooge for the former Soviet Union, as charged, I would strongly question that assumption.

    Re Michael Heath @ #7

    My contention is that the only choices available in the Middle East and North Africa during the cold war were pro-American tyrants and pro-Soviet tyrants. Heath and Mr. Brayton are living in a dream world if they believe otherwise.

    Heath is too young to remember the folks in the State Department during the 1940s who were critical of Chiang Kai Shek and told the world that Mao Tse Tung was really just an agrarian reformer. Based on this advice, Chiang was thrown under the bus. Given that Chairman Mao turned out to be the greatest mass murderer in history, surpassing Frankenberger and Stalin, how did that work out?

  10. eric says

    Our foreign policy actually affects them, while our domestic policies on gay rights and abortion do not.

    I generally agree with your whole post, however I think in terms of domestic policies its a bit more complicated than that.

    The fact that the US is a prosperous world power with these domestic policies makes it impossible for any would-be theocrat or autocrat to claim that his more resstrictive policies are necessary to save his people from anarchy and destruction. Our very existence is a thorn in the side to people who would claim their country can’t allow free speech (or anarchy will occur), can’t allow immoral activity (or civilization will die), that the government must control all aspects of the economy (else people will starve and die.)

    Our success ‘despite’ our domestic policies is the reason the leaders of China, NK, Iran, etc. need to censor outside information. Because we are a walking, talking, counter-example of any claims they might make that their way is the only way (or even the best way) to be successful. As long as we exist, political agitators within their countries will throw the US in their faces – no, Mr. Leader, we do not need the vice and morality police you claim we need, because the western countries do just fine without them.

    Many of our own conservatives, of course, have the same existential problem…with Europe. It is difficult to argue that the country will collapse if [gays are allowed to serve/gays are allowed to marry/pot becomes legal/pick your issue] when there are European countries who already do just fine with these freedoms. Thus, we can generally expect such conservatives to oppose those domestic polices in other countries, get upset about them, and seek to control/limit information about them. Because they can’t mount the strong “if you do this, our country will collapse” argument as long as there’s a living breathing counterexample of it sitting across the pond.

  11. matty1 says

    SLC1,
    I’m trying not to make assumptions about what would have happened. Maybe Mossadegh would have turned into another Mao, maybe the current situation is the least worst we could have got given past circumstances.

    I think the problem is that you are seeing this in terms of who are the good guys where as I’m looking at questions of causality.
    “Did US support for the Shah encourage the Islamic revolution?” is a different question to “Which Iranian government of the past Century was best?”

  12. Aquaria says

    1. Compared to other bad actors in the Middle East, the Shah was an angel. One need only point to Saddam Hussein and the Assads, pere and fils.

    No matter how many times you say this, it doesn’t become true.

    The Shah was not a nice person. He had SAVAK, a secret police that censored the media, and tortured and executed people the Pahlavi regime didn’t like. Writers, artists and musicians were regularly detained (at a minimum) if they questioned the regime or criticized it. The CIA found SAVAK useful for removing “communists” and other leftists; we know that they provided lists of people for the secret police to “take care of”. When the first director of SAVAK was fired and became a political dissident, he was executed.

    I mean, we only know that SAVAK used cattle prods, burned people with cigarettes, extracted toenails and fingernails, acid-burning of their noses, near drownings and so on for suspects, detainees and prisoners. Ever hear about their use of something called Apollo? This charming device was sort of an electric chair that used electric shocks to extract confessions from people.

    What makes Iran under the Shah particularly vile is that the US was behind a lot of the violence going on in that regime. But you’re probably one of those dumbasses who thinks that the Iranian hostage event happened in a vacuum. It did not. There was a reason for it, and there was a reason that they targeted Americans in particular.

    And I don’t care if Iraq was worse, or Saudi Arabia.

    There is no excuse for how the Shah behaved, and for our complicity in things that went on there.

    I don’t care if he killed “less” than Iraq. Or tortured “fewer” than Saudi Arabia. I don’t care if Khomeini or his successors have been worse.

    He allowed his own citizens to be tortured and executed on his watch, asshole, and there is no fucking excuse for that.

    Period.

  13. slc1 says

    Re matty1 @ #11

    This rivalry continues to this day. Note who is supporting Bashar Assad in Syria and the mad Mullahs in Iran, Russia and
    China.

  14. slc1 says

    Re Aquaria @ #12

    I have never said that the Shah was a nice guy; quite the contrary. He was an SOB but he was our SOB.

    Ms. Aquaria doesn’t care whether there were worse tyrants in the area then the Shah. Well, here we will have to agree to disagree, hopefully not disagreeably, although Ms. Aquaria delights in disagreeing disagreeably. There is no comparison between the actions of the Shah and the actions of, say, Hafaz Assad. Given as how I have brought the subject up several times, has Ms. Aquaria never heard of Hama Rules? In case she is unfamiliar with the origin of this sobriquet, bestowed by New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, it is based on the episode that occurred in Syria in 1982 where the aforementioned Assad had the City of Hama surrounded with several hundred artillery pieces and commenced a bombardment that lasted several days in which upwards of 20,000 people were murdered. Frankenberger, Stalin, and Mao would have applauded his iron fist. And Assad fils continues to behave in this vein, albeit on the installment plan.

  15. dingojack says

    SLC – so you would happy to move yourself and your family to Iran under the Shah, then?
    Didn’t think so.
    Dingo

  16. matty1 says

    This rivalry continues to this day. Note who is supporting Bashar Assad in Syria and the mad Mullahs in Iran, Russia and China.

    And therefore what?

    Seriously I’m no longer sure what you are arguing.

    -That US actions were not a contributing factor to Islamic radicaliation
    -That the US had no choice given the circumstances of the Cold War
    -That US actions were morally justified because others acted worse

    Which is it?

  17. slc1 says

    Re Dingojack @ #15

    That the fuck does this comment have to do with anything? Must be something in the water down there in Oz.

  18. dingojack says

    SLC – So you would be perfectly happy to see your autistic son burned to the bone from white phosphorus, that would completely moral to you, right?
    No, I didn’t think so.
    Dingo

  19. matty1 says

    OK that makes more sense, though I’d say your posts so far have only address the second and third of my options. You haven’t offered any argument that (morally justified) US actions (which they were forced to take to oppose Soviet machinations)did not have the unintended effect of inspiring radicalism among some Muslim populations.

  20. slc1 says

    Re dingojack @ #19

    Gee, the Shah did that? I would query Mr. dingojack as to whether the Shah ever had a town in Iran surrounded by several hundred artillery pieces and subjected it to a bombardment lasting several days that killed upwards of 20,000 people? No, I didn’t think so.

  21. says

    Now look, people, SLC is right. We have to replace the less bad with the worse (especially when the less bad isn’t completely under our thumb, and stable for ever and ever until he leaves the country for a bit), because we all know that, as in the case of Iran, a weak democracy is just begging to be replaced with a tyranny. And we couldn’t let the Ruskies beat us to it like they did to space! And don’t you think for a second that they weren’t itching to put some monster in charge, with secret police, torture, oppression and the like. We got there first! Woo! U S A! U S A!

  22. slc1 says

    Re matty1

    I must say that I am disappointed in Mr. matty1 and some of the other commentors here. How come they’re not blaming the anti-US attitude in the Middle East on our support of the State of Israel? Come on now, here’s the opportunity for some real two fisted Israel bashing.

  23. eric says

    2. One need also point to the fact of the deterioration in the status of women in Iran since the Shah was overthrown, indicating that his replacements are far worse.

    Did the 1970s Iranians have a time travel machine, that they could see how the revolution would turn out? You can’t possibly be arguing that the Shah’s policies had nothing to do with people’s support of the revolution because the replacements turned out to be worse! That would be stupid.

  24. says

    Others have already pointed out the fact that slc1’s original argument actually supported my position. But let me deal with this:

    If, in fact, he was a stooge for the former Soviet Union, as charged, I would strongly question that assumption.

    But he wasn’t. That was a lie concocted by British and American intelligence. In fact, it was Mossadegh who stood up to the Soviets to remove their troops from northern Iran after WW2. Mossadegh was the first democratically elected leader Iran had ever had and he was pro-western. He was overthrown because he nationalized the oil companies, which upped the price Standard Oil had to pay. This is not something I’m just spitballing about, this is something I wrote a mini-thesis on in college and did a great deal of research on.

  25. captainahags says

    “Re dingojack @ #19

    Gee, the Shah did that? I would query Mr. dingojack as to whether the Shah ever had a town in Iran surrounded by several hundred artillery pieces and subjected it to a bombardment lasting several days that killed upwards of 20,000 people? No, I didn’t think so.”

    And I would query as to why you think your response is at all relevant. It seems that your argument is that anything that we do can be morally justified because there are worse alternatives. So, because Assad killed 20,000 people, it’s okay to support a dictator who only killed 10,000? Does this mean I should praise Aileen Wuornos, because she didn’t kill as many people as Jeffrey Dahmer? Or that our killing of over a hundred thousand Iraqi citizens is okay, because the Holocaust was much worse? It’s pretty easy to objectively see that the Shah was pretty terrible, whether or not other leaders were worse, and that our orchestration of Mossadegh’s overthrow directly led to the Shah’s brutal rule, and that we had a hand in his worst actions. To say that it was justified because maybe the Russians might have done worse things, is skating on thin ice, to put it mildly.

  26. matty1 says

    Come on now, here’s the opportunity for some real two fisted Israel bashing.

    1. This is the internet I long ago learnt to use it one handed, though usually for other websites than this

    2. It’s your hobby horse, why should I have to take it for a ride?

  27. slc1 says

    Re captainahags @ #26

    Ms. captainahags entirely misses the point I made that all the alternatives in the Middle East and Northern Africa were bad actors during ht cold war. The only difference between them was whether they were pro-US bad actors or pro-Soviet bad actors. There weren’t any good actors to support.

  28. slc1 says

    Re eric @ #24

    As a matter of fact, during the 1970s I interacted with a number of anti-Shah Iranian students here. I was quite consistent in warning them that, before ousting the Shah, they should make sure that his replacement was an improvement. As events turned out, my advice, such as it was, was not followed.

  29. says

    Re slc1 @ #29

    As a matter of fact, during the 1950s I interacted with a number of anti-Mossadegh CIA operatives here. I was quite consistent in warning them that, before ousting the president, they should make sure that his replacement was an improvement. As events turned out, my advice, such as it was, was not followed.

  30. slc1 says

    Re Modusoperandi @ #30

    Somehow, I don’t think that Mr. Modus was old enough during the 1950s to interact with anybody.

  31. eric says

    I am sorry SLC, but I don’t find “I told them it was going to turn out bad” to be a very strong counter-argument to the claim that the revolution occured at least in part due to the repressive policies of the Shah.

    Do you have a stronger counter-argument? Or is this it?

  32. Azkyroth says

    I think you need to realize that SLC is not arguing in support of specific claims here, he’s arguing in support of his general attitude. And thus any arguments that are consistent with his general attitude seem topical, whether they have anything to do with the actual topic or not.

  33. slc1 says

    Re Eric @ #33

    Excuse me, I never said that the potential ouster of the Shah would turn out bad. I said that before ousting him, his opponents should take care to make sure that his replacement would not be worse. That’s what they failed to do, instead falling for the Islamic fascist goat fucker, the Ayatollah Khomeini.

  34. captainahags says

    For one, it’s Mr. Captainahags. And for another, I completely understand your point- but it’s a stupid point. Mossadegh was surely a heck of a lot better than his successor, and to act as though we had some sort of duty to either support or oppose every single regime, or any regime, during the cold war, is to commit the black and white fallacy. A lesson I learned from my dad while learning to drive: He asked me how many different things my feet could be doing (in an automatic), and I said 2- gas or brake. Which is wrong, because there are 3. Gas, brake, or neither. Not doing anything is generally an option. Also, you directly contradict yourself in #35, whe you say

    I said that before ousting him, his opponents should take care to make sure that his replacement would not be worse.

    which is what we’ve been saying about the revolt prior to the shah the whole time. It’s weird how you think we should be able to overthrow someone and install a worse person, but if the people of a country want to do it, they have to consider whether or not the successor will be worse before they act. Why do the people have that responsibility, but we don’t?

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