Monthly Archive: March 2006

Mar 17 2006

Iraq and Afghanistan: The Reckoning

As the third anniversary of the beginning of the military invasion of Iraq approaches on March 19, it is time to take stock of the consequences of that tragic and cruel war. Below are three items. Before we get to that, it is sobering to recall the almost Pollyannaish hubris of the media in the …

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Mar 16 2006

Opium of the people

Most people, when they think of the Karl Marx’s attitudes towards religion, remember the quote where he refers to it as “the opium of the people.” This sounds quite dismissive. When I first heard it, I thought he meant that religion was a hallucination, similar to that caused by drugs. But when you read the …

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Mar 15 2006

The politics of terrorism-3: A more complex picture

We have seen that in the BBC documentary The rise of the politics of fear, the main narrative is the parallel rise of two movements: one Islamic militant fundamentalism, the other neoconservative. On the Islamic side, the movement now known as al Qaida is traced to the vision of one scholar, Syed Qutb, whose followers …

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Mar 14 2006

The politics of terrorism-2: The origins of the neoconservatives

Yesterday, I discussed how the BBC documentary The rise of the politics of fear traced the origins of al Qaida to the influence of an Islamic scholar Syed Qutb. Meanwhile, in the US, there was a cult brewing around a University of Chicago professor of political philosophy by the name of Leo Strauss (1899-1973). That …

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Mar 13 2006

The politics of terrorism-1: The origins of al Qaida

Documentaries, as a rule, do not have actors and fictionalized events. But they are never just a collection of facts. Like feature films, they have a narrative structure imposed on them that tries to select and order the facts into a compelling story. This always opens them to a charge of bias. But good documentaries …

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Mar 10 2006

The case against torture-3

One practical problem with using torture to extract information is that the people who ardently advocate it, including “the vice-president for torture” don’t seem to realize that the kinds of scenarios they propose work only in fiction. It seems like they use TV programs like 24 hours as the basis for their claims for the …

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Mar 09 2006

The case against torture-2

Part of the reason that torture and other brutalities have not been greeted with the outrage that they deserve has been the response of some intellectuals who have helped make the case that torture is not so bad. In fact, they argue that it might even be a good thing in selected cases. Take Charles …

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Mar 08 2006

The case against torture

It seems bizarre that we have reached a stage where we actually have to make a case against the use of torture. One would have thought that it would be self-evident that torturing people is wrong and should not be condoned. But sadly, that is not the situation anymore. We are now in a place …

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Mar 07 2006

Grace in sports

Although I did not watch any of the 2006 winter Olympics events on TV, I casually followed them in the press, and the front page headline in the Sunday Plain Dealer caught my attention. It said Grace eludes U.S. Olympians: Too many athletes at Torino Games live up to ‘ugly American’ image and listed the …

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Mar 06 2006

Opinion polls and statistics

In the previous post and in many aspects of life these days, we get quoted the results of opinion polls. Many of our public policies are strongly influenced by these polls, with politicians paying close attention to them before speaking out. But while people are inundated with opinion polls, there is still considerable misunderstanding about …

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