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A Very Thin Moral Line

Many of the most venerable intellectuals and commentators of the left are unwittingly these days committing a grave error by falling into the elusive trap of implying some sort of an understandable causal linkage between what they rightly

perceive as America’s arrogant foreign policies and the recent attacks that ravaged it.

Even though very careful never to condone what took place, nevertheless, these otherwise uncompromising humanitarian icons are inadvertently coming too close to crossing the apologist line by attempting to explain and place in a political context what can only be described as the most incomprehensible and futile acts of homicidal/suicidal insanity.

The opponents of the American amoral and biased international policies have always easily won the moral argument, but they are about to lose it here – unless they categorically refuse to go along with the logic that seeks to find a rational explanation for plain acts of mass murder of American civilians. This logic must be totally rejected, even if the rationalization is always preceded by the standard preambles of rhetorical condemnation.

Although such arguments of causation between the latest attacks and America’s destructive interventionist stances around the globe are extremely tempting to make – due to the real anger and frustration felt by the millions of victims of this repugnant face of American imperialism – one must resist this seemingly attractive, yet deceptive, line of reasoning in these particular circumstances. In view of the magnitude of the carnage at hand and the indiscriminate and cold-blooded evil of its implementation, there are a number of reasons why we must refrain from drawing any such parallels.

For example, in response to the ridiculous White House claim that “the real targets were the values of democracy and freedom”, many in the left responded by asking why, if that was truly the case, was America targeted and not Switzerland or Sweden. This argument might seem convincing at first due to the feebleness of the statement it tackles, but it offers little in terms of answering why the attacks actually took place, except in concluding that America was an understandable target. It is this “understandable” part that I must quarrel with.

If we stretch our comprehension abilities and start endorsing these indirectly apologist attitudes, we would ultimately diminish the moral strength of our own grievances against the unjust American policies we are opposing. For there is indeed a very thin line between understanding what happened in America and between suggesting that Americans, in some way, deserved what happened. Likewise, there is a fine difference between remembering who funded and supported these groups to fight communism during the 1980s and between gloating that, because of this fact, America reaped what it had sown. If we do not tread very carefully in these areas – where an unflinching moral stand needs to be taken against murder – we very much risk condoning the evil that we abhor.

Of course, no reasonable person would subscribe to the childish White House explanation that the hijackers were intimidated by America’s freedom and prosperity and therefore decided to kill as many Americans as possible. But in responding to such nonsense, we must also not forget that these hijackers weren’t exactly victims of American excesses either, and wouldn’t have objected in the slightest if the whole of Switzerland or Sweden – and the rest of Western Christianity – could have been obliterated in the same ghastly attacks. America was simply a greater prize for them.

What we must also understand is that these attackers would have still committed the same murders against Americans regardless of the current political inclination of the US administration. They would have done the same even if the entire American people miraculously converted in one leap and turned to Mecca five times a day – if such conversion was not to the liking of these fanatics’ own perverted version of Islam. This is what everyone should keep in mind when pondering the motives for the recent attacks.

Indeed, no one heard similar explanations when, on a much smaller scale in numbers, an equally indiscriminate act of butchery took place in Luxor, Egypt in 1997. Then, no one directly or indirectly blamed European civilization when more than 60 tourists, mainly Swiss nationals, were gunned down (or knifed to death while being made to beg on their knees) by the same brand of crazed fundamentalists who also believed that they were effecting the will of God by annihilating the infidels.

The same propagators of the “wake up call for America” and the “what goes around comes around” arguments did not draw similar conclusions in the aftermath of the Luxor massacre. Why not? Let us assume that the murdered tourists had been American and not Swiss tourists, would we not have heard the same attribution of guilt to American policies? Yes we would have, because as I mentioned, it is very easy and tempting to think in this mode. But as in Luxor, such arguments will invariably result in misguided and totally erroneous judgments that inevitably lend a hint of justification, although unintended, to the killers’ actions.

The indisputable fact remains that, apart from the greater scale and sophistication of the latest massacres, there is absolutely no difference between the indiscriminate nature of both acts of mass murder of innocent people. There is also no difference between the deranged motives and mindset of both groups of assailants.
Furthermore, it is because the killers themselves hardly make a distinction between their victims that we should not make this distinction on their behalf; the diversity of the nationalities of the recent victims tells it all. Even back in 1998, out of the 211 people killed and more than four thousand maimed in the American embassies bombings in Africa, only 12 Americans were killed and an equal number injured, while the rest were ‘Third World’ Africans, many of whom were Muslim Tanzanians. These facts don’t even remotely factor in the minds of these self-appointed mass executioners.

So why did these hijackers target America? Is it really because, in a way or another, these flying grim reapers are representative of the many millions in the world who are victims of the unrestrained tyranny of America’s foreign policies, as we are being told? This is completely misleading and should never be implied in this situation, for if anything, it only scorns such victims and nullifies their otherwise legitimate complaints. The oppressed people of the world have absolutely no bones to pick with the tax-paying American people who include, for that matter, millions of Arab Americans, also tax-paying citizens like the rest of the vast ethnic mosaic that is America.

One must also add that, in the final analysis, these hijackers had no true cause to fight for. This is evident from the fact that their murderous actions were not designed or intended to achieve anything in terms of lifting any injustice or helping a single victim of any oppression in the world, let alone victims of US policies. On the contrary, what they did is only going to cause even more human catastrophes, as the coming days and months will prove.

Even the mild suggestion that the US ought to review its foreign policies in the aftermath of the attacks is unrealistic to make at this particular juncture. America should have indeed reviewed its foreign policies during every day of the last fifty years, but definitely not in the aftermath of these attacks. Out of all times, America is unlikely going to have a sudden change of heart now – and frankly speaking, it is politically na├»ve to expect a militaristic superpower like the US to do so after more than 7,000 of its unsuspecting population were wiped out for no fault of their own.

To better understand the current situation, picture America, if you will, as a ferocious and muscular lion in a lawless jungle, doing what lions always did, callously refusing to be compassionate to the other weaker animals. One day, in order to cow this lion, a group of animals kidnap the lion’s innocent cubs, disembowel them, and then turn to the lion and ask it to reconsider its position and abdicate its throne. No hostages, no bargaining. Just murder.

In doing so, the perpetrators have committed a useless and moronic act of self-destruction, for two main reasons. First, by deliberately killing innocent victims, they have immediately lost any righteous moral grievance they may have had before they themselves turned into worse murderers. But second and most ironic, they have achieved absolutely nothing and were simply too presumptuous to expect that the lion would turn into a dove after witnessing the slaughter of its cubs – and not be driven into the most explosive fit of rage yet to overtake this jungle.

The difference in this case is that, unlike previous unprovoked outbursts, the fuming beast has now been provided with an ostensibly justifiable cause to unleash its vengeful might. God help us all.

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Zaid Nabulsi

Zaid Nabulsi is a lawyer. He spent many years working for the United Nations in Geneva. He has a passion for (glorious) Harley Davidson bikes.