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Joe Lieberman and Islamic Extremism
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Senator Joe Lieberman, head of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, is calling for hearings on whether the army should have picked up on signs that Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Hasan had become dangerously unhinged before he went on his rampage. For once I agree with Lieberman, but the good senator goes on to describe the incident as terrorism because Hasan had become an “Islamist extremist.” The Lieberman attempt to slap a political label on what was clearly an irrational act carried out by a man who undoubtedly had serious mental problems will be popular in certain circles, but it will make many Muslims, including 6 million American citizens and the 10,000 or so who serve with US forces, uneasy.

As near as I can tell from the press coverage, Hasan believed that the “global war on terror” was little more than a war against Muslims and he was opposed to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He also said that he was a Muslim first and an American second. Many contributors to this site, including myself, would agree to all of the above if you were to replaced Muslim with Christian and limit that final qualification to moral issues. I personally know a number of serving army officers who would also agree.

That said, Hasan’s open hostility to the military culture, his expressed views on suicide bombers, and his contributions to jihadi websites, if true, should have sent up red flags. Hasan should have been seriously investigated and considered for a general discharge to get him out of the service. Against that, the army had invested a large amount of money in Hasan’s education and would have been disinclined to let him go. His superiors might also have reasoned that Hasan’s unwillingness to deploy to a combat zone was just tough luck for him. No active duty officer can refuse to be assigned anywhere at any time.

So where does that leave us? As somewhat of a historian I am more than a little familiar with Islam’s bloody borders and the intolerance that is all too common in how the religion is practiced. But I have also lived in Islamic countries and know that the overwhelming majority of Muslims is extremely kind, hospitable, and charitable to a fault. I also know many Muslims personally and find it hard to see anything of Hasan in them, so to me a Lieberman type campaign to categorize an Islamic threat is both wrong headed and only bound to make everything worse because it will create a category of Americans “who are not to be trusted.”

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Joe Lieberman, Terrorism 
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  1. Why do I think AIPAC just pdf’d a statement for Lieberman to quote verbatim? He’s a tool. And this whole Crazy Muslim = Crazy Religion and Purge Them From the Armed Forces thing really just sickens me. I can think of so many instances of apologist attitudes by the media and politicians alike when Christian zealots violate American laws. Or if they aren’t Muslim, it’s not even an issue. Let’s try to address the serious lack of mental health suppport in the military instead. That’s a start.

  2. What is the evidence that the Fort Hood shooter had “serious mental problems”? As a psychiatrist, wouldn’t his colleagues have spotted some problems?

    The “warning signs” now reported indicate it was in fact Islamic extremism, not mental problems, that drove Hasan.

  3. “As near as I can tell from the press coverage, Hasan believed that the “global war on terror” was little more than a war against Muslims and he was opposed to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He also said that he was a Muslim first and an American second. Many contributors to this site, including myself, would agree to all of the above if you were to replaced Muslim with Christian and limit that final qualification to moral issues. I personally know a number of serving army officers who would also agree.”

    Mr. Giraldi,
    But the fact remains that Hasan–and disaffected Muslims who think likewise–who rail against Western intervention show no desire to scrutinize the role that Muslims themselves had taken in bringing the West down upon them. They are far from victims, and “as somewhat of a historian”, you ought to be familiar with how Muslims invariably initiated conflict with the West. To be sure, the West does not need to be so entwined with the Middle East and nation building therein, but do you think that if America vacated from the region that jihad would cease since when Dar el Islam is committed to belligerence against Dar el Harb?

  4. Lieberman has a valid point. No one with a religious attachment to the middle east is trustworthy. How brave of him to make this rather confessional analysis of our security situation.

  5. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I had heard that during WW2 Italian-descent Americans, as an example, were not sent to fight in Italy.
    Why would a Muslim be in any way involved in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

  6. For once I agree with Lieberman, but the good senator goes on to describe the incident as terrorism because Hasan had become an “Islamist extremist.” The Lieberman attempt to slap a political label on what was clearly an irrational act carried out by a man who undoubtedly had serious mental problems will be popular in certain circles, but it will make many Muslims, including 6 million American citizens and the 10,000 or so who serve with US forces, uneasy.

    I think that the dichotomy between “suicidal Jihadist” and “insane person” is a false one. Then again, I feel that many people whose actions are excused on account of insanity really do remain culpable, so maybe I’m the wrong guy to ask.

    I don’t know what the solution to the larger question of how to deal with Islam in the military is, but I can’t help thinking that a smaller, more Constitutional military that was tasked with defense in the strictest sense of the word wouldn’t need psychologists or have to deal with the after-effects of foreign occupation, period.

  7. TomB says:

    Pons Seclorum wrote:

    “But the fact remains that Hasan–and disaffected Muslims who think likewise–who rail against Western intervention show no desire to scrutinize the role that Muslims themselves had taken in bringing the West down upon them. They are far from victims, and “as somewhat of a historian”, you ought to be familiar with how Muslims invariably initiated conflict with the West.”

    Pons:

    Wondering what exactly was “the role that Muslims themselves had taken in bringing the West down upon them,” and how they allegedly have “invariably initiated conflict with the West” I went to your website and read your “Fort Hood Massacre” comment. And I must say that what you wrote there did surprise me, but not in the way I think you intended.

    That is, so far as I can see about the sum total of the support you muster for these rather sweeping negative judgments about the Muslim world is that … the Ottoman Empire was once pushing up against the Balkans and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

    YeGods the sin!

    In the first place while I appreciate from your comment here as well as those on your website that you have a strong historical bent, there is such a thing as so airily insisting on always taking such a long view that one trips over what is at one’s feet. After all if, appropos the present conflict, one is going to try to accuse the Moslems of today of being the aggressors essentially (or even partially so for that matter) based on what the Ottomans did, well why isn’t it a trump on that to go back even further and say “aha, no, it was the *Christian* West that started it with the Crusades”?

    And in the second place it simply seems to me to be a wildly blind thing to ascribe the sins of the Ottomans to all Moslems and indeed to all arabs. Indeed, that part of the Middle East we are in conflict with right now is not Turkey—which of course is part of NATO and is very possibly going to be in the EU soon. No, it’s the *precise* former part of the Ottoman Empire which fought like hell to shake loose of Istanbul’s shackles. See, e.g., Lawrence of Arabia of course. And see the story of the Sykes-Picot agreement whereby in exchange for the arabs fighting like hell against the Empire the Brits and France promised them independence and then behind their backs, secretly, knowing full well they were lying with that promise, betrayed that committment in that agreement.

    The question then in my mind, stepping back from putting one’s face too closely to any one event and thus loosing sight of the big picture, is just simply who, on the whole in this present-day conflict, has really been the aggressor. Or, to account for the fact that “aggressive” intentions may have been entirely lacking but causative actions still taken, who has been the real initiator of the things that have caused this conflict? The “actuator” for want of a better word?

    It hasn’t been the moslem/arab countries so far as I can see. Indeed as you somewhat aver to, that world in modern times is a somewhat insular one, given far more to simply preserving its place rather than trying to spread itself out into the larger world. Of course in at least one way this can be seen as negative, as you do, in that to truly be fully welcomed into their society and countries one would have to become a muslim. But that’s a totally different issue, and indeed one that simply strengthens the larger point that this is a society and culture that believes its situation is such that it must preserve itself far more than it believes it is in any position to go conquering about. Defensive rather than offensive, at least in modern times.

    And of course modern history shows that they have good reason to be so defensive such as the attempted colonization of the ME which continued of course long after Sykes-Picot. And then you have the West’s pursuit of their oil, and, finally, what can be seen as the supreme act of disrespect via the West trying to atone for its own sins by plunking the jews down en masse not on some of its own lands but instead right in the middle of Palestine. And then of course one must account for all of what followed from or after that too, such as the two unprovoked wars against Iraq, the Israeli’s attack of ’67, and so forth and so on.

    So, given all this, I’d put that larger question to you that I noted before: In the main and on the whole—the way most people think, including arabs and moslems—who really do you think has been the principle “actuator” of the present conflict the West finds itself in with the arab and moslem world? Us, or them?

  8. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    If Hasan really were a terrorist, he would have patiently waited as a sleeper for his one perfect chance to do much greater harm, like to kill a high-ranking officer or politician or maybe a whole US brigade, and being deployed to Afghanistan would have appeared to him as the ideal way to find just that.

  9. “That is, so far as I can see about the sum total of the support you muster for these rather sweeping negative judgments about the Muslim world is that … the Ottoman Empire was once pushing up against the Balkans and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.YeGods the sin!”

    TomB, thanks for the detailed response. My thesis is not so much a sweeping condemnation of the Muslim world as it is an illustration of jihadist thinking. As you point out, there is absurdity in blaming the whole of the Muslim world for actions carried out by the Ottoman Empire; the Persian Safavids, on the contrary, never assailed the West. Making these kinds of distinctions is what I meant by calling for Muslims and Westerners to engage in the introspection of Islamic history, for it would reveal that Dar el Islam rarely ever acted in a concerted, cohesive unity.

    Jihadists, however, view the Muslim world en bloc and so, to them, the Ottoman takeover of the Balkans aggrandizes not the Ottoman Empire but all of Islam. Well, if one were to apply their logic to 20th century Western intervention in the Middle East, then the blame for these occupations should be lain at the feet of the Ottoman Empire. Sure, the Arabs, Iranians, Pashtuns, et al. were not responsible for the Ottoman Turks attacking the West in the past or entering into WWI, but, if each component of the Islamic world is responsible for what other components do, then the ire of the jihadists ought to be directed at the Turks rather than reflexively raging at the West.

  10. Thomas says:

    Thomas O. Meehan has no point. Lieberman is the one who FIRST AND FOREMOST has a religious attachment to the Middle East.

    Therefore, he is untrustworthy, according to your own principle.

  11. Chris Moore says: • Website

    What were the motives of those who lied us into the Iraq war, thus terrorizing millions and killing tens of thousands? Mental illness? Christian Zionism? Jewish Zionism? War profiteering? Oil imperialism?

    Can we extrapolate generalizations about their ideologies (neoconservatism/neoliberalism) religions and races based on their behavior?

    I think we can look for patterns, but with the qualifier that their behavior is not the definitive last word on, for example, Judaism. But rather an indicator to take into consideration.

    Was Hasan an “Islamist extremist,” or was he an unassimilated tribalist demonstrating a violent loyalty to his Islamic tribe?

    And since we’re at it, what, exactly, is Joe Lieberman’s status?

  12. If you’re simply asking about Lieberman’s religious status, he is the only Orthodox Jew in Congress.

  13. Thomas, as they say in the Guiness commercials…..BRILLIANT! That was my point.

  14. TomB says:

    Hello again Pons. I guess I just took your first post as trying to say that it was indeed the arab/moslem world that was what I called the “actuator” of our present conflict with it, while I see with your second that this isn’t what you meant.

    I do also see you bring a refreshing reminder to the West that it’s a big mistake to see the arab/moslem world as some sort of unified bloc who have just chosen to name the areas they live in with different names. You’d think the differences between the Persians and the arabs would be well known, but then again the state of our educational system can hardly instruct our youngsters on the difference between Washington State and Washington D.C.

    In any event tough to have anything but a hostile relationship with anyone when you have absolutely no understanding of them.

    I would also like to say, reading over what I wrote before, is that I don’t mean to be like some typical Lefty, of course blaming the West/the U.S. for every evil and/or dispute in the world. While I think the West/the U.S. has indeed been the “actuator” of our present dispute, I don’t think we went looking for it. Lots seems to me to just be the inevitable clash of cultures that don’t understand each other, and indeed in a way live in different centuries if not worlds.

    Cheers,

  15. “I do also see you bring a refreshing reminder to the West that it’s a big mistake to see the arab/moslem world as some sort of unified bloc who have just chosen to name the areas they live in with different names. You’d think the differences between the Persians and the arabs would be well known, but then again the state of our educational system can hardly instruct our youngsters on the difference between Washington State and Washington D.C.”

    Precisely, TomB–especially considering how Persians, Arabs, and the Turks have all fought each other in spite of them being co-religionists. Not quite a united front. .

    “I would also like to say, reading over what I wrote before, is that I don’t mean to be like some typical Lefty, of course blaming the West/the U.S. for every evil and/or dispute in the world. While I think the West/the U.S. has indeed been the “actuator” of our present dispute, I don’t think we went looking for it. Lots seems to me to just be the inevitable clash of cultures that don’t understand each other, and indeed in a way live in different centuries if not worlds.”

    I did not take you for a Lefty since our Middle Eastern foreign policy has indeed created more problems than it has solved, if any. Like you, I do not think America actively sought out this present conflict thought it inadvertently actuated it. What I take issue with is the proposition that, per jihadists (and Leftists), Muslims have been inveterate victims of the West for 14 centuries when it was in actuality them who were waging jihad and creating empires of their own. Paleocons ought to take that into account lest they risk sounding Lefty; foreign policy is relevant but there were Islamic-Western relations long before 1914.

  16. “Thomas O. Meehan has no point. Lieberman is the one who FIRST AND FOREMOST has a religious attachment to the Middle East.

    Therefore, he is untrustworthy, according to your own principle.”

    Bingo. Lieberman evidently has a passionate attachment to Israel. And it’s that very thing that has brought US over there. Israel’s supporters here in the States have made sure we have a heavy hand in that mess, garnering us enemies in that region (and beyond).

    Our support of Israel was the key motive behind 9/11.
    http://web.archive.org/web/20040725012414/http://www.kentucky.com/mld/heraldleader/news/nation/9222612.htm

  17. DirtyHarriet, I thought I made it clear in my response to Thomas but for the record, I find Lieberman’s language about dual allegiance a hilarious bit of psychological projection. Lieberman’s loyalty to Israel should be a matter of concern to all of us.

  18. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Well, obviously if someone’s extreme religious convictions constitute a mental health disorder, as they do in many fundamentalists, then yes, you should consider dishonorably discharging them. But that applies to Christian extremists as well; they are no more trustworthy and no less crazy.

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