Friday, July 25, 2008

Being a Terrorist Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry

By Barry Rubin

The number-one mistake people make trying to understand the Middle East is refusing to believe folks here think differently from themselves. Virtually every development in the Middle East should remind us of this reality. Yet as Captain Ahab hunted the white whale, as prospectors hunt for gold, as...well, you get the idea, so is the hunt for the great Arab moderate. There are Arab moderates, some very smart and brave people. The problem is none are in positions of power and all must shut up or face repression and being defined by fellows as enemies of the people.

The view of the Middle East held in much or most of the Western media, academia, intellectual circles, and large sections of governments is a fantasy having nothing to do with the region. One should work against dangerous extremists with the Saudi, Egyptian, Jordanian, Moroccan, Kuwaiti, UAE, and Iraqi governments as well as the Lebanese pro-independence forces, though these all have multiple faults. But you must know the limits. And you can't work with the Iranian, Syrian governments, Hamas and Hizballah or Muslim Brotherhood, even against al-Qaida which is ultimately--despite September 11--a far smaller threat.

Still, one must face the fact that the last half-century's most basic lessons have evaporated, partly due to Western policy mistakes--of excessive softness, not toughness--but mostly to the incredible power of the region's political and intellectual system.

What keeps the region crisis-ridden, extremist, undemocratic, and unstable is not merely a system imposed by evil regimes on an innocent public. Yes, regimes continue their self-serving Arab nationalist, semi-Islamist, anti-Western, anti-Israel, demagogic messages urging the masses to support their local dictator. But this is what the public wants to hear. Rulers would be in far more trouble if they told the truth.

The glorification of the terrorist Sami Qantar is widely seen in the West as showing something is deeply wrong in the Arabic-speaking world. Yet there's also much denial. The New York Times explained Qantar's attack had gone terribly wrong when he murdered Israeli civilians. In fact, this was the raid's purpose.

In another article, the Times intoned: "The United States, Israel and some of their European allies have begun to recognize that their policy of trying to defeat their enemies by isolating and vilifying them has failed." Yet it was Iran, Syria, Hizballah, and Hamas that dispatches the Qantars on missions against not only Israeli but also Iraqi and Lebanese civilians.

If the extremists should not be vilified should they be praised? If they should not be isolated should they be embraced? Is the correct policy the feting of murderous Syrian dictator Bashar al-Asad in Paris or parleying with the genocidal-oriented Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran? Why did the U.S. government welcome the Syria-Iran-Hizballah victory in knocking down Lebanon's moderate government? Who's the villain in Iraq, the United States or the terrorists?

Well, for the Arabic-speaking world, the true heroes are still the terrorists. What horrified me most is not radicals cheering Qantar but that most relative moderates feeling compelled to do so. At the airport to greet him were leaders of Lebanon's anti-Syrian, anti-Iranian Druze and Christian groups as well as the ambassadors from Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, and Morocco.

To avoid being discredited, relative moderates must affirm that anyone who murders Israeli children is a hero. That's the measure of how far--despite daily headlines to the contrary--the region is from Arab-Israeli peace.

Yet it's untrue the prisoner exchange has strengthened or encouraged the radicals. The truth is even worse: No matter what happens they'll do exactly the same things. If every operation and casualty is a victory, a profit-loss calculus doesn't apply. They'll kidnap if there's a prisoner exchange; they'll kidnap if there's no exchange. Triumph is continuing the struggle. Violence, death, and instability is cause for celebration.

Charles Harb, a Lebanese professor, claimed in the Guardian, "The Secret of Hizballah's Success" is that its ability to get back some prisoners and bodies or force Israel out of south Lebanon "is in stark contrast to what `Arab moderates' could show for in the same decade they spent negotiating with the Israeli state."

The Saudi-backed, London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat, however, reminded readers that Hizballah's success cost "$5.2 billion in losses and 1,200 dead" in the 2006 war. In addition, the south Lebanon war took almost 20 years, and Israel would have withdrawn far sooner if it had not been trying to block attacks against its territory.

The claim that Arab moderates have gained little through negotiation is also quite wrong. By negotiating with Israel, Egypt got back the Sinai, reopened the Suez Canal and western Sinai oilfields, and received about $60 billion to date in U.S. aid. The PLO got the Gaza Strip and much of the West Bank, putting more than two million Palestinians under its rule. Thousands of its prisoners were freed (more, of course, were taken because of its continuing violence), many billions of dollars in aid were obtained, and it could have had a Palestinian state if it so desired.

So who came out better, Egypt and the PLO (especially if it had really stuck to negotiating) or Hizballah? Psychologically, the Arabic-speaking world says Hizballah because the "honor" gained through fighting and not yielding the dream of total victory trumps material benefits. Better martyrdom than compromise, better resistance than prosperity.

As long as this is true, there's no hope for peace; even those who know better are dragged into shouting militant slogans. This doesn't fit Western concepts of pragmatism, expectations that militants are just aching to be transformed into moderates, or that settling grievances through concessions defuses hatred.

That's why policy prescriptions based on those premises are disastrous. While the West concludes that trying to defeat enemies by isolating and vilifying them has failed, the other side concludes its policy of trying to defeat its enemies by violence, vilification, and intransigence is working. That means more of the same: many decades more of the same.


Anti-Israel bias at the BBC again

Initial BBC and AFP headlines ignore the victims in second bulldozer attack

Less than three weeks after a Palestinian from east Jerusalem used a bulldozer to kill three people on a busy street in Israel's capital, another east Jerusalem resident attempted to replicate the attack. The second attacker rammed his bulldozer into a bus, then began flipping cars on the street, wounding at least 16 people.

When the first bulldozer rampage took place, we were stunned to see the BBC's initial headline focusing on the fate of the driver - who was shot by Israeli security - rather than the victims of his attack. The BBC subsequently changed its headline to make it more neutral, reflecting what appeared to be a better understanding of the incident and its significance.

Or so we thought. Despite a virtual repetition of the first incident, the BBC's initial response the second time was a headline questioning whether an attack had taken place at all. The headlines on the BBC's web page went from "New Vehicle `Attack' in Jerusalem" to "New Digger `Attack' in Jerusalem," then finally settled on "Israel Hit By New Digger Attack."












It is difficult to understand how the BBC ever saw the incident as anything other than an attack. The bulldozer driver rammed into a bus, then pushed into it several more times, shattering glass and throwing the passengers into a panic. He then zigzagged through the road to harm as many motorists as possible before he was stopped. This is how the bus driver described the incident to the Jerusalem Post.

"I was driving on the main road when suddenly the tractor hit me in the rear on the right hand side," said bus driver Avi Levy.

At first Levy thought it was a traffic accident, but then the attacker struck the bus over and over, causing pandemonium as passengers shouted: "God save us" and "escape, escape."

"He made a U-turn and rammed the windows twice with the shovel. The third time he aimed for my head - he came up to my window and death was staring me in the eyes," Levy said.

"Fortunately I was able to swerve to the right [onto a small side street], otherwise I would have gone to meet my maker," he said as he stood next to the badly damaged bus, whose left-side windows were completely blown out.

In the news story beneath the headline, the BBC does not put quotes around the word "attack." However, the headline writers make the first impression with readers and undermine what otherwise could be fair coverage of the incident. But the BBC was not the only media outlet that skewed the story with its initial headline. Agence France-Presse (AFP), the third largest wire service after the AP and Reuters, repeated the BBC's shocking error from the first attack, placing all of the emphasis on the driver instead of his victims.

Although the AFP changed its headline to "Palestinian Shot Dead After New Bulldozer Rampage," its first story on the incident was headlined, "Jerusalem Bulldozer Driver Shot Dead: Police." The headline leaves out any information about victims or a rampage, leaving the casual reader scanning headlines to believe that a construction worker had been killed without cause.

There is no excuse for such a misleading headline, even as an initial report. The first paragraph of that first story already acknowledges police sources saying that the driver was killed after injuring several people, so it is impossible to argue that the headline writers didn't have the facts available. 


The Fully Informed Jury Strategy

The "fully informed jury" strategy attempts to wedge the jury process as an obstacle between oppressive law and individual freedom. The strategy is based on the doctrine of jury nullification by which a juror can reject the law. That is, a juror can refuse to convict a defendant despite instructions from a judge if he believes either that the law is unjust or that its application is unjust. In essence, the jury renders a verdict on the law itself and not merely on the facts of a case.

Jury nullification has been established in common law since 1670 when an English jury refused to convict William Penn for the crime of preaching Quakerism. They were imprisoned for doing so. In a legal precedent, the English high court ruled that juries must be free to reach their own decisions without fear of punishment by the court. In 1735, jury nullification was affirmed in America when publisher John Peter Zenger was tried for printing "seditious libel" without first receiving the government's approval. The judge instructed the jury that no facts were in question since Zenger admitted the sedition. All that remained was the legality of his act and such "issues of law" were matters for the court to determine. The jurors were instructed to find Zenger guilty. Within ten minutes, they declared him not guilty.

Since then, the right and power of a jury to de facto overturn a law has been the subject of debate and inconsistent application. Advocates of individual rights tend to embrace jury nullification as a key aspect of trial by jury. 19th century individualists shared this tendency, with Lysander Spooner's treatise Trial by Jury often considered to be the definitive word. The first chapter of this work is entitled "The Right of Juries to Judge the Justice of Laws."

Nevertheless... interesting debate on trial by jury erupted in the pages of a key 19th century individualist periodical, Liberty (1881-1908). The debate did not revolve around the usual controversies, such as the propriety of subpoena -- the so-called "right" of the state to coerce testimony. Instead, it addressed the propriety of trial by jury itself and, thus, by necessary implication, of jury nullification. The debate raised important questions that should be considered before accepting the strategy of fully informed juries.

Perhaps the first question is how a group of twelve people can claim any right unless an individual has assigned it to them. Can a "collective" right supercede individual ones? After all, it cannot be said that the defendant has relinquished his rights due to committing an aggressive act as this is the very finding that the jury has been convened to determine.

The 16th century classical liberal John Locke believed that the need to protect "life, liberty, and estate" in society led men to form government. In exchange for protection, men willingly relinquished the right to adjudicate their own disputes -- that is, the right to try their own cases in court. Locke also posited a form of tacit consent by which those who had not explicitly agreed were still bound to trial by jury. As long as a man remained in society, he consented to its jurisdiction, including its right to adjudicate disputes. Radical individualists in 19th century America generally demanded a more explicit transfer of authority from the individual to any collective entity. For them, how a jury had the right to sit in judgment on someone who objected to the process was a quandary.

In 1889, Liberty ran a series of articles by Victor Yarros collectively entitled "Free Political Institutions: Their Nature, Essence, and Maintenance." The series was advertised as "an abridgement and rearrangement" of Trial by Jury. Spooner's work had not addressed how juries acquired the right to try a case in any detail. But Yarros considered this issue to be so important that he repositioned text from Spooner's concluding chapter. Yarros' version began with a statement of what Spooner called "free government":

"The theory of government is that it is formed by the voluntary contract of the people individually with each other." From here, Spooner had contended that certain laws or conditions were so obviously beneficial that all members of society would explicitly agree to them. Spooner considered trial by jury to be one of these overwhelmingly beneficial conditions.

The debate in Liberty refuted Spooner's {2019} assumption. At least some people would not consent to trial by jury. Adolph Herben declared that he preferred trial by experts rather than by laymen who would be ignorant of technical matters that might be crucial to his case. He deemed it absurd to hang a person on the "mere opinion of twelve ordinary men." Spooner had anticipated the objection from "ignorance." He argued that juries should not be granted power on the basis of their wisdom, but because they were not as vulnerable to corruption as judge and other officials.

In another Liberty article, however, Steven T. Byington argued that juries would be corrupt, at least, in the form of being biased. He quoted from an editorial run by the Times of Natal -- a newspaper from an English speaking country in which racism made "trial by jury" for black defendants a mockery. Judgments simply could not be obtained against whites who committed crimes against blacks. Byington claimed that in the presence of such prejudices, "trial by jury" became an instrument of injustice. The prejudice did not even need to be widespread to have a disastrous impact on the integrity of the jury system. "If only ten per cent of the people were of this sort, more than sixty-four per cent of the juries would include one or more of these men to prevent a conviction. In order that there should be an even chance of twelve men taken at random being unanimously willing to judge according to certain principles, it is necessary that there be not so many as six per cent of the population who reject those principles."

Byington further objected to jury nullification due to "the need for certainty." He referred to laws "where it has been reasonably said that certainty is sometimes more important than justice." For example, publishers might well prefer a clear and consistently enforced standard of obscenity by which they could predict the legality of an article rather than rely upon the unpredictable decision of twelve men.

Perhaps the most interesting of Byington's objections was a practical one. He maintained that courts in a free society would arise in a free society would be unlikely to adopt the jury system because it was clumsy and expensive. Any free market court system that used juries might well operate at a distinct disadvantage by having to charge considerably more than its competitors. Thus, the modern form of a voluntary court -- arbitration -- does not include a jury. Byington speculated on how justice would be provided in a "society where things are done on a business basis." He wrote, "[D]efensive associations will have their judges, and their treaties as to the method of arbitration when two associations are on opposite sides of a case, and these tribunals of one or three professional judges will settle all cases where some one does not distinctly demand a jury. I suppose a case will almost never come before a jury except on appeal..."

Byington contended that trial by jury was a response to government and not a free market phenomenon. A court system that evolved within a "society where things are done on a business basis" would be arranged differently. In a free market evolution, the disadvantages of trial by jury would loom large: its expense, the unpredictability of its verdicts, the problem of dissenting defendants, the widespread tendency toward prejudice... For Byington, trial jury was not a "right" but a "wrong."

Conclusion: Trial by jury presents interesting problems for those who champion individual rights. In one particular instance, a jury may be an effective weapon against oppressive government. In another, it may be a vehicle for unjust prejudices. In both cases, it is necessary to explain how juries derive the right to judge those who object to the process. How does a collective entity rightfully acquire such power over a dissenting individual?


Given my druthers, I'd take Walmart

I went by the Great Satan the other day. Yes, I visited our local Walmart, the icon of hate from the Left. Let me tell you a bit about it. This Walmart was built in an area that was pretty much undeveloped. They used to be in the nearby city but the organized forces of resentment did their level best to drive them out. You heard all the nonsense about how Walmart was driving other business into bankruptcy. So Walmart found a new location, built a larger store and moved. And the area they went to didn't really have any businesses to drive under.

As I drove past the location I noticed lot of new shops being built in that stretch of road. This was in addition to the many new businesses which opened nearby already. The presence of Walmart attracted thousands of customers, per day, to a location that had previously been pretty dead. The net result was that dozens of new shops and businesses are thriving there.

As for the town that didn't want Walmart --- not particularly attractive. I had some tire work one there and had an hour to spare and wandered around. Sure I spent some money there. I had a very mediocre lunch and bought some videos at 50 cents each at a thrift shop. There were lots o thrift shops but I've notice they tend to crop up in areas where business is dying. And the town itself is in very deep financial trouble.

No doubt Walmart will be blamed for the problems of the town. where they were not welcomed, and get no credit for the dozens of businesses created in their shadow. This doesn't mean I like everything Walmart does. I don't. Nor does it mean I like everything they sell. But compare Walmart to government.

Walmart has never been able to sell me a product that I didn't want. Government constantly forces me to pay for goods and services that I don't want. When Walmart gets my money it does so because I voluntarily pay them for something I value more than the cost. Government, on the other hand, has entire agencies of armed goons whose job is to make sure you pay over the money they demand. If I don't give Walmart my business they can't do anything about it. If I refuse to give government my money they send me threatening letters followed up by use of force. If I still resist they take my property, kidnap me, and hold me in shackles as an example to everyone else.

Even when government provides services that I might want, such as education, garbage collection, policing, they tend to do so at vastly inflated prices. Sure they sometimes hide the true cost by charging me less than the actual cost but they get the rest, and then some, via coercive taxation.

When I go to Walmart it is to buy things that I want or need. I'm happy when I can get a pair of jeans for $12. When I leave Walmart I have more money in my pocket than I would have, had I shopped someplace else. Walmart tends to put money in my pocket while government pretty much just takes it out. If Walmart has products I don't want, and they do, then I don't buy them. If government has services I don't want they make me pay for them anyway.

If I get really irrate with Walmart I can shop elsewhere. If I don't like their prices on clothes I can go to Target, or Macy's or Sears, etc. If I don't like the Department of Motor Vehicles, tough luck for me. I don't have a choice. If I don't like the way first class mail is delivered it is illegal for me to send a letter any other way.

Walmart expands my choices. Government restricts them. Walmart helps me save money. Government takes my money. Walmart can only sell me what I want. Government makes me buy what I don't want. Walmart has to offer me good prices, government pretty much charges anything they want.

I have freedom to maximize my well-being when it comes to Walmart. I have no such freedom when it comes to government. Even if I were to vote in every election my vote wouldn't change a damn thing. Every election would turn out just the same way. But I don't have to persuade the majority of Walmart shoppers in order to get the goods or services I want. I do have to persuade the majority of voters to give me the kind of government I want.

Every time I've been to Walmart the baskets of goods that I left with was different from the basket of goods that other shoppers left with. When I leave the voting booth I get the same government that everyone else gets.

And finally, whatever bad things you think Walmart has done they have never bombed anyone, never tortured anyone, and never executed anyone. The might use advertising but they don't use waterboarding. When I walk into their premises they greet me and welcome me. When I visit government premises I'm searched, identified and generally treated like a criminal. All in all I prefer Walmart.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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