Wednesday, September 20, 2006


A conservative friend of mine emailed me a link to the Sam Harris ("End Of Faith" author) opinion piece in the LA Times. My friend didn't tell me his thoughts on the matter, but I assume
he agrees with Harris. What follows is my email reply to my friend:

I liked Harris' book right up to the part where he started talking like a neocon.

Here's where I talked about it on my blog.

I think Harris is just plain wrong. He's still spouting the same shit that I mention in the blog entry
in this op-ed piece, to wit:

"In their analyses of U.S. and Israeli foreign policy, liberals can be relied on to overlook the most basic moral distinctions. For instance, they ignore the fact that Muslims intentionally murder noncombatants, while we and the Israelis (as a rule) seek to avoid doing so. Muslims routinely use human shields, and this accounts for much of the collateral damage we and the Israelis cause; the political discourse throughout much of the Muslim world, especially with respect to Jews, is explicitly and unabashedly genocidal.

Given these distinctions, there is no question that the Israelis now hold the moral high ground in their conflict with Hamas and Hezbollah. And yet liberals in the United States and Europe often speak as though the truth were otherwise."

His "basic moral distinctions" are far from being basic or moral. He trots out Muslim "intentions" again, trying to argue that our killing of civilians is superior to their killing of civilians. My point is that dead people are dead people, no matter what were the original "intentions" of their killers, whether those killers be the U.S., Muslim extremists, Jews, or whoever.

Harris is a brave and intelligent guy, no question about it. He likes to make the argument that atheists like himself can be moral, good people without following any established religious tradition. But his confusion about what is truly moral almost makes me want to go back to church.

Another Problem

Another problem in his reasoning is when he says things like this, from his LA Times opinion piece:
"There is, therefore, no future in which aspiring martyrs will make good neighbors for us. Unless liberals realize that there are tens of millions of people in the Muslim world who are far scarier than Dick Cheney, they will be unable to protect civilization from its genuine enemies."

He spouts the neocon/warmongering agenda that there are millions of Muslims who want nothing more than to die as martyrs, simply because they are devout Muslims. He couldn't be more wrong, as demonstrated by the important work of Robert Pape, who studied terrorism and discovered that it is not motivated by religion, it is motivated by political grievances againt democratic states.

It's horrific the way that Harris is attempting to dehumanize and demonize millions of people. It sounds a little to close to something that happened in Germany around the middle of last century, if you catch my meaning. We must at all times remember that he is talking about real live human beings--who piss and shit and suck and fuck and eat and sleep and love and hate and have crazy beliefs and everything else we do--in other words, they're just like us. We cannot expect to be treated like human beings if we do not treat other people(s) as human beings.

What We Ought To Do

Given that political grievances are the cause for what we call "terrorism," it then behooves us to reconsider our foreign policies, and ask "how can we avoid causing grief to other people yet not sacrifice entirely our own self-interest?" One way is obviously to start a Manhattan Project focused on using renewable energy sources to free us from our dependence on foreign oil. Another would be to assist the economies of other countries like Mexico. Rather than taking advantage of their dilapidated economy with its low wages, its lax to nonexistent regulation, and its openness to corruption for financial gain, we should help them build something more positive and beneficial to all its people.

And so forth...

And That's The End of The Email

And that's the end of the email, but after having read Harris' piece, I find myself asking, why did that motherfucker even write this? He doesn't offer any solutions as to what to do about "head-in-the-sand liberals." Unless you count vainly trying to convince us that we should be willing to exterminate millions of people. The only point of his piece was to attack "liberals," but he didn't even attack "liberals" very well--he attacked the idea of tolerance and of peace. He attacked the idea of leaving people well enough alone.

For all his supposed "liberal bona fides," his pointless piece sure helped the neocons and the warmongers and the corporatists. Good going, Sam! For all your generic "liberal bona fides," you might as well have been a conservative plant all along--an elaborate, time-released plant, to be sure. Hmmm...

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