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July 23, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

BIN LADEN'S SOFT SUPPORT....After the imam leaves and the conversation lingers into the small hours of the morning, what do young Islamic radicals talk about? In "Bin Laden's Soft Support," in the current issue of the Monthly, Kenneth Ballen writes that when he started taking part in the all-night conversations that Indonesians call jagongan, he was startled to learn that, often, the answer was.....exit visas:

After that, whenever we had the chance to speak with young radicals in Indonesia, out of the hearing of their leaders and late at night, we'd always ask: How many of you want to study in America? Invariably, almost everyone said yes, and those who still disdained the Great Satan were eager to study in Canada, Australia, or France instead.

We were intrigued. What if supporters of al-Qaeda in countries like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia felt the same way as young Indonesians? Was their support for al-Qaeda — and their hatred of America — really as intense as it had first appeared?

Terror Free Tomorrow, our nonprofit polling organization, decided to pursue this question further....Our polls show that the anger Muslims around the world feel towards the United States is not primarily directed at our people or values — even those who say they support bin Laden don't, for the most part, "hate us for our freedoms," as President Bush has claimed. Rather, what drives Islamic public opinion is a pervasive perception that the United States and the West are hostile towards Islam. This perception, right or wrong, is fed by a variety of American actions, from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the overarching global war on terror. These actions are seen as profoundly disrespectful and humiliating because they amount to America forcing its will on the Muslim world.

This isn't the whole story, of course, not by many miles. But it's a part of the story, and TFT's polling has produced more than a few intriguing results. Read the rest for more.

Kevin Drum 1:03 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (50)

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Our polls show that the anger Muslims around the world feel towards the United States is not primarily directed at our people or values — even those who say they support bin Laden don't, for the most part, "hate us for our freedoms"

Uh-huh... And you had to travel to Indonesia to find out this startling pearl of knowledge, did you?

Sometimes I don't even know where to start...
I'm not even sure if we're on the same planet as you guys.

Posted by: snicker-snack on July 23, 2008 at 1:26 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks for sorting out who is to blame, Kevin.

Have you ever even begun to wonder why young Muslims hold false beliefs? Are you wholly unconcerned about your affirmation of their false beliefs? Do you feel no responsibility to help to counteract their false beliefs?

Posted by: a on July 23, 2008 at 1:32 AM | PERMALINK

I read the same article and came away wondering if they wanted visas to study in the US or if they wanted student visas so they could more easily blow something up in the US?

Posted by: yep on July 23, 2008 at 1:53 AM | PERMALINK

And what makes you so certain, a, that your own noggin is not home to a whole slew of false beliefs? That the people around you think the same way as you do? Perhaps you focus some of your concern on your own affirmations.

(My own bias is that most of the young Muslims I meet from Indonesia, Turkey, Malaysia, Iran are a heck of a lot better informed than most young Americans; I'd give you a big edge on the Saudis, however).

Posted by: snicker-snack on July 23, 2008 at 1:57 AM | PERMALINK

Respect is the currency of peace.

Posted by: Jimm on July 23, 2008 at 2:07 AM | PERMALINK

what drives Islamic public opinion is a pervasive perception that the United States and the West are hostile towards Islam. This perception, right or wrong,

It's right. We're for Israel.

The motive for coming here is money, not love. Many of the chamberpot immigrants of today soundly dislike this country, but if you're from some poverty stricken shithole, bucks are number one in the Mazlov's hierarchy.

Posted by: Luther on July 23, 2008 at 2:35 AM | PERMALINK

If they "hated us for our freedoms", as our mental midget of a president has formulated, why didn't Islamic extremists attack our country in 1801 or 1901 - why did they wait until 2001? Wahhabism has existed since the 1700s.

Although the Monthly article is good and makes some good points, Ballen needs to be more to the point - namely, that America's unwavering support for Israel, regardless of the atrocities they commit, is the prime reason the Wahhabists hate us!

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on July 23, 2008 at 6:39 AM | PERMALINK

The suggestion that they "hate us for our freedoms" is for children. It is a story you tell people who do not want to understand the cynical nature of imperial invasion and occupation for resources and markets. The liberal patina on this is that the occupying forces are there to bring liberation, justice, good dealing, fair business, education and all the other blessings of civilization which the person sitting in darkness must buy with their blood and their land.

This is not an ideological conflict between Islamic piety and a form of glorious democracy and liberty represented by the United States (in fact the United States has the least democratic institutions of any of the old democracies). It is the same old game of imperial occupation of Middle Eastern countries that has been going on for more than a century now. People just dislike the brutality and occupation of the foreign forces no matter what the stated benevolent intentions of the occupier. It does not matter if one's nation is occupied by Tsarist Russians or Soviets, autocratic British Victorians or gentle British liberals, or Frenchmen who want to fold some foreign nation into greater France.

It is not difficult to fathom that in any country the forces that resist invasion and occupation, and things foreign, are the most nationalistic and the most likely to take on "conservative" nationalistic themes. Islam has this function in the Middle East for many who would resist the foreigner. The best thing for Americans to do is pretend they are not interested in the economic policies of Iraq and Afghanistan and vanish into their castle-bases.

Only the naive believe the "War on Terror" is a clash of ideologies. Reeducation to understand the goodness of the occupier will not make foreign people embrace them because the problem is not one of perception. Please refer to India 1947.

Posted by: bellumregio on July 23, 2008 at 7:57 AM | PERMALINK

The comment made by Barack about "bitter" is true here. These guys feel helpless and desperate. You get to be 22 in Egypt. You have a college degree. There are NO JOBS. NONE. Of the college educated, there is 30 % unemployment. So, what do you do? You join the Islamic Brotherhood, because they pay money.

Posted by: POed Lib on July 23, 2008 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

Muslims likely don't hate us for our freedoms. What do they think of the wall between religion and government? They express a desire to come here and study. They certainly know that entails interacting with our society in non-scholastic ways. What do they think of the general opinion (often backed by law) that you don't openly pray in certain settings, you don't get out your holy book and proselytize? What of laws being passed not because God demands it but because a secular path of consideration led to their enactment? These young Muslims wanting to come to the U.S. or Canada, is it purely and only to get a degree and then leave? If they're fascinated with our society what of our apparent approach to religion and the stark disparity with theirs?

Posted by: steve duncan on July 23, 2008 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

This article is broadly consistent with a lot of other reporting and polling, and it doesn't offer much grounds for optimism. The plain fact is, no matter who is president, the United States will be rich while most of the Islamic world is poor, the United States will pursue its own global interests, and American culture will remain profoundly inimical to Islamic values. So it's unlikely that the reflexive hostility of many Muslims will disappear.

Furthermore, there are many, like the imam in the story, whose life's work depends on hostility between Muslims and the United States. At any time when tensions dissipate, they will be highly motivated to "intensify the contradictions." Look for the members of this vanguard to test President Obama (if he becomes president) early and often.

Posted by: y81 on July 23, 2008 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

y81: there are many, like the imam in the story, whose life's work depends on hostility between Muslims and the United States

Yep. And some of them are American pundits and politicians. A few of them are even in the executive branch.

snicker-snack: you had to travel to Indonesia to find out this startling pearl of knowledge, did you?
I agree it's easy to mock what might seem to be an exercise in belaboring the obvious, but putting out solid evidence to support what we already think we know is never a bad thing, is it?

Posted by: thersites on July 23, 2008 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

"The plain fact is, no matter who is president, the United States will be rich while most of the Islamic world is poor." y81

I get it. The Republicans are working on reducing the disparity between the United States and the Islamic world by stripping our middle class of its wealth, sending it instead to the middle east. In a few years we will all be as poor as the Iraqi selling rugs in a Baghdad market. We will then have a common perspective and peace will break out all over. Damn insightful of the Rethugs.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 23, 2008 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, and people who have to work at Walmart also feel that way. The global reach of mass market capitalism is "hostile" to traditional values and traditional ways of living everywhere in the world -- and, of course, to traditional power structures.

Let's not overly romanticize reactionary impulses in other cultures.

Posted by: larry birnbaum on July 23, 2008 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

Our visa policy is one of the great unused levers of our foreign policy "soft power outreach" programs. Nothing improves the view of America of a would-be radical as much as actually coming and spending time here.

Greatly limiting the student visa program is a case-and-point example of how the anti-terror policies of the Bush regime have been not just ineffective, but actively counter-productive.

Posted by: Nils on July 23, 2008 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

"These actions are seen as profoundly disrespectful and humiliating because they amount to America forcing its will on the Muslim world."

I notice that no commenter has yet responded to this statement. Of course this is true.

Quiz: name the country that - unprovoked - in the last five years invaded another country, settled in for an extended occupation and still doesn't understand why the inhabitants might object and, in fact, complains that the inhabitants are insufficiently grateful.

The fact that this even has to be said speaks huge volumes about the U.S. world view.

Of course it was never about "our freedoms". It is about what the U.S. is seen to do.

Posted by: PowerOfX on July 23, 2008 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

@ Steve Duncan:

Do you really think that we have that much more of a separation of church and state than, say, Iraq did, or Turkey, or Jordan, or Lebanon? I'd be curious to hear why you think that. The notion of an Islamic state was invented in the 1970s by the Ayatollah Khomenei. It's not an historic part of Islam. Traditionally, and by doctrine, Islam is more tolerant of other religions (at least Judaism and Christianity) than Christianity is. Islam also historically has been less prone to proselytizing than Christianity. For example, we launched crusades against them, not vice versa.

Posted by: The Fabulous Mr. Toad on July 23, 2008 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

why did they wait until 2001? Wahhabism has existed since the 1700s.

They didn't have the money to resume jihad until oil prices began their rise the past 20 years.

Sayyed Quttb taught high school in Colorado before he returned to Egypt to restructure the Muslim Brotherhood. Khaled Sheik Mohammed was educated at a Baptist college here before returning to Pakistan and planning 9/11. The lead terrorists are all well educated men who hate us because we reflect the failures of Islam. The Quran teaches them that the Islamic world will rule the earth and the infidels will have to accept second class status or die.

They see how miserable the world of Islam is and are enraged. If Bush wants to express that as "our freedoms" it is not inaccurate. The problems lie within Islam. It is not our fault, no matter how much you would like to think so.

Posted by: Mike K on July 23, 2008 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

The simple fact is that the agenda of America's Ultra-Rich Ruling Class, Inc. and the brutal, rapacious military-corporate imperialism it seeks to extend across the planet in the furtherance of that agenda, is not only inimical to Muslims all over the world, it is inimical to all human beings everywhere and indeed to the Earth's biosphere itself.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 23, 2008 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

I spent many nights squatting on the curb in Radio Dalam, Jakarta with the local youths who lived in the compound and they never once even hinted at a desire to "fight America" or any such bull.. The hardest questions I faced were quiet, polite but desperate queries of any way I could help them up out of their positions of under-fulfillment and out to the chances of the West. All of them prayed 5 times a day, etc. and were (rather over-stoically) proud of Islam but they drew the border at religion as a method of personal values. Never once was the virtues preached used as a pulpit to judge other countries or me (atheist). They were unqualifiedly racist towards blacks though, which I put down to the fact there was a local gang of Nigerians selling drugs a few klicks towards the Monash monument in the heart of the capital. Ostensibly, they'd come to Indonesia as muslim students... But mostly kids from 16-25 were concerned about escaping the cloying socialism of Muslim community that had them in a kleptocratic, corrupt bog going nowhere. They admitted as much as the downside of their life. No-one starved, but no-one prospered.

Posted by: Darryl on July 23, 2008 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Watch out for what you ask for...

Yesterday, McCain complained that the press was ignoring him.

This morning, McCain misstates the timing of the Surge.

This afternoon, McCain cancels his press availability.

Posted by: Cornfields on July 23, 2008 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

"All of them prayed 5 times a day, etc. and were (rather over-stoically) proud of Islam but they drew the border at religion as a method of personal values."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Define "personal values". Did they think women should be allowed to drive? To openly date more than one man, or to date at all? Could their women friends defy the edicts of their fathers or husbands? Work at any job they pleased? Engage in non-marital sex without punishment? Do they think women should be able to initiate the end of a marriage and exit the relationship of their own volition? Could a women choose to educate her children in a secular, overtly non-religious elementary school? Or take it a step further, could she announce she was indoctrinating her children in Christianity and abandoning the teachings of Mohammed? If the answer to most or all of these questions is "no" than your statement rings hallow.

Posted by: steve duncan on July 23, 2008 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Mike K wrote: They didn't have the money to resume jihad until oil prices began their rise the past 20 years.

Yeah, because the Gulf oil sheiks were dirt poor prior to 1988.

Idiot.

Note also how our dishonest conservative -- but I repeat myself -- commentors either ignore (y81) or actively deny (Mike K) the role of reflexive United States support for Israel.

Posted by: Gregory on July 23, 2008 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

I read the article, and this stood out for me:

"six out of every ten Pakistanis who have a favorable view toward bin Laden and al-Qaeda said their opinion of America would significantly improve if the United States increased educational, medical and humanitarian aid to Pakistan, as well as the number of visas available to Pakistanis to work or study in the United States. In fact, more bin Laden and al-Qaeda supporters said their opinion of the United States would improve with such American policies than did non-bin Laden supporters."

"Educational, medical and humanitarian aid" is exactly what we stopped sending to Pakistan after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Senate Republicans (probably led by Jesse Helms) thought that our humanitarian approach to the hearts and minds of the Third World was no longer needed.

I read an article back then that warned of the possible consequences -- that our "aid vacuum" could be filled by groups who were anti-American. If only I had remembered the author's name, his analysis was one of the most prescient I've ever read.

Posted by: karl on July 23, 2008 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Is it just me, or does it seem that, in the comments on this thread, we are seeing a “surge” of comments from right wingers?

The lead terrorists are all well educated men who hate us because we reflect the failures of Islam.
The “lead terrorists” hate us for various reasons. Qutb, for example, was traumatized by our relatively open sexual mores, which deeply shocked his sensibilities. As for what you portray as “the failures of Islam,” I think those are mostly in your head. I doubt that most Muslims have any sense that Islam has failed them.

Beyond that, the whole point of the article is that we should not focus upon the attitudes of the “lead terrorists” in the setting of our foreign policies, but upon the Muslim mainstream. The “lead terrorists” are a security problem, to be dealt with by intelligence and law enforcement agencies, assisted by the military. Fostering better foreign relations with the huge majority of non-terrorist Muslims should drive our foreign policy.

The Quran teaches them that the Islamic world will rule the earth and the infidels will have to accept second class status or die.
The Quran, like the Bible, is interpreted in a number of different ways, some of them extremely radical. The huge majority of Muslims are not interested in world conquest.

They see how miserable the world of Islam is
Sorry, but I think you have such a skewed view of the world that it robs your argument of credibility or persuasiveness. Your worldview is not shared by most Muslims in the world. If we are ever to live in peace with the more than one billion Muslims throughout the world, we need to try to gain a better understanding for and appreciation of their worldview.

It is not our fault, no matter how much you would like to think so.
Isn’t it nice to think so? On the other hand, perhaps it might be useful in the formulation of foreign policy to consider at least the possibility that we have contributed to the hostility towards us that many Muslims feel?

Posted by: chasmrich on July 23, 2008 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

...pervasive perception that the United States and the West are hostile towards Islam

Maybe they should check out "Islam" to see why.

Posted by: Bob M on July 23, 2008 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

This comments section is such an echo chamber that it is probably a waste of time to try to bring a touch of reality here.

As for what you portray as “the failures of Islam,” I think those are mostly in your head. I doubt that most Muslims have any sense that Islam has failed them.

How many Islamic countries have you visited ? Idiot (to use your term for someone who disagrees with you).

If we "contributed" to the hostility they have, why do so many want to come here ? Idiot.

Posted by: Mike K on July 23, 2008 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

re: chasmrich

The completely ahistoric view of people like y81 and Mike K is breathtaking. The US has a long history of trying to undermine popular movements in the Middle East, propping up dictators (including Saddam Hussein till he got out of line), etc.

But they "hate us for our freedoms". Not even the SLIGHTEST consideration that some of them might hate "us" (or at least our government) for our actual policies and actions inimical to the interests of actual Muslims and inhabitants of the Middle East in particular - Muslim, Christion, Jewish, (insert other religions here) or secular.

Amazing...

And I'd say that while the US' unquestioning support of Isreal is one of the POLICIES that generate ill will, it is really just an especially annoying example of a lot of US policies and actions over a long period of time that harm others for little actual gain to US interests. (As opposed to the interests of Big Oil and the military/industrial complex.)

Posted by: Butch on July 23, 2008 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Idiot (to use your term for someone who disagrees with you)
That wasn't me. Personally, I'm refraining both from calling names, and from making the sarcastic response your post invites.

Posted by: chasmrich on July 23, 2008 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Not even the SLIGHTEST consideration that some of them might hate "us" (or at least our government) for our actual policies

Of course not -- the right-wing echo chamber Mike K thinks he's bringing "reality" from (oh, the irony!) calls that "Blaming America First!"

I, for one, have no problem calling Mike K an idiot -- he proves me right on this thread and many others. Of course, his use of rhetoric like "your term for someone who disagrees with you" -- as well as his active denial that US policy (toward, say, Israel, not to mention the US intervention in Middle Eastern governments cited above) proves also that he's dishonest.

Posted by: Gregory on July 23, 2008 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Arabs share a much more homogenous culture than Indonesians, who have many different cultures and religions in their thousands of islands. Indonesians have also not suffered a thousand years of Ottoman imperialism. Although both have suffered from European colonization, Arabs have a much longer history of conflict with the West because of the Crusades, which were religious and territorial. But one thing that all peoples understand is making war is the ultimate expression of hostility, and in that regard it is the Christian West who has explicitly made war on Islam, while the Islamic Middle East has only mustered a few hundred people willing to make war against it. If the writer thinks the Christian West's war making is only a perception problem among its victims and their sympathizers, he is the one lacking the sense to realize our ability to use profound violence against them and how anyone might react to it.

Posted by: Brojo on July 23, 2008 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K wrote: "How many Islamic countries have you visited ?"

Two questions for you:

How many Islamic countries are currently, or have in the past been, ruled by corrupt, brutal dictatorships installed and/or supported by the government of the USA?

Do you think the populations of those countries are as unaware as you are of the role the government of the USA has played in subverting, overthrowing and suppressing popular, representative government and installing/supporting oppressive regimes in their countries?

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 23, 2008 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Islam has had a problem adapting to modernism. Modernism is based on the centrifugal concept of separation and specialization of tasks.

Islam, the last great movement before modernization, is based upon cohesion: it is an interlocking single system for everthing, where there is one god, one prophet, one community, one state, one religion and one thought and they are all the same - Islam.

They need to unbundle there wears a little bit. They could begin by separation of church and state where freedom of religion is guaranteed (relying on the Koran's statement that "there should be no compulsion towards religion" (from memory) and limiting Jihad to internal (great) jihad: the struggle against hate - where the manifestation of hate would be seen as capitulation to hate.

If they those two things it would go along way towards their ability to adopt modernity and catching up with the rest of the world.

Furthermore, if they did those two things, Islam would probably be surprisingly appealing to many people outside of Islam now. (there's the carrot for them).

Posted by: Bub on July 23, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Islam has had a problem adapting to modernism.

All institutionalized religions have a problem adapting to the new. In America religion has a problem adapting to new medical procedures and developments like abortion and birth control. In America religion also has a problem adapting to modern science, which can be seen with their hundred year conflict with evolution. American religion even has problems adapting to modern sociological developments, like universal mandatory education and the liberalizing of divorce. Claiming the religions of other nations have a problem adapting to 'modernism' without acknowledging our own culture's religious problems adapting to the new, is part of the perception problem.

The Islamic nation of Iraq was making a transition to becoming secular. This transition was not peaceful, as most social upheavals are not, but the US war making invasion has completely eliminated any chance of that transition continuing. Whether it was our old religion, our old greed or our profound ability to kill with impunity (or so our leaders think) that led to the war making and destruction of modernism in Iraq is open to debate.

Posted by: Brojo on July 23, 2008 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K wrote: "How many Islamic countries have you visited ?"

Two questions for you:

How many Islamic countries are currently, or have in the past been, ruled by corrupt, brutal dictatorships installed and/or supported by the government of the USA?

That is really two questions. ALL Arab countries are ruled by tyrants. That's why Iraq is a valuable experiment. We support Egypt because Sadat made peace with Israel and tried to open his country to the modern world but was assassinated by the Muslim Brotherhood. I don't think we get much from Mubarak and the Egyptians probably all blame us for his presence. Fair enough.

Before him, they were ruled by Nasser who we did not support. The Saudis are defended by us and that is a deal with the devil but we have had little choice since FDR made the bargain with Ibn Saud.

Iran is ruled by a tyranny that is at war with us. Syria is ruled by a tyranny allied with Iran. Lebanon is basically ruled by a tyranny allied with Iran. Outside of the middle east, Pakistan is ruled by a weak democratic government that is pulling away from us. The ISI is our enemy and allied with the radical Islamists. The Asian Islamic societies are violently attacking the free governments that rule them in the Philippines and Thailand. Neither are tyrannies but would become so if the Islamists gained power.

Indonesia is not supported by us particularly and is relatively free although the Chinese have been terrorized and many have left. Maylasia is relatively free although it is an authoritarian rule not allied with us.

What was your point ?

Do you think the populations of those countries are as unaware as you are of the role the government of the USA has played in subverting, overthrowing and suppressing popular, representative government and installing/supporting oppressive regimes in their countries?

I don't accept your premise. The best arguments you can make are Egypt and Iran under the Shah. I think the Iranians were better off under the Shah and many of them know it. Egypt is a basket case but that isn't our fault. Nasser did most of that and he was allied with the USSR. Ditto for Syria. The Palestinians have been pawns of the Arabs for 50 years. The other Arab are at fault for their troubles.

Surely, you're not going to blame us for the Ottoman Empire! I know you think the US is the devil but you must know some history.

Posted by: SecularAnimist

Posted by: Mike K on July 23, 2008 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

I should have added Libya, ruled by a crazy dictator not allied with us and Algeria, a basket case that we do not have much to do with. Morocco is fairly free although there are the usual problems with Islamic traditions and women. They are are best allies among the Arab states.

Again, your point ?

Posted by: Mike K on July 23, 2008 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

ALL Arab countries are ruled by tyrants.
I suppose that you are just trying to be intentionally provocative (almost the definition of trolling), but that's a breathtaking overstatement. No wonder you come to such shaky conclusions - your fundamental underlying assumption is so deeply flawed.

That's why Iraq is a valuable experiment
So our purpose in invading was to create an Israel-friendly western-style democracy in the midst of the oil producing . . . er, I mean Arab world? Would that the Bush administration had come right out and told the American public that before they got the green light to invade Iraq - even our spineless Congress would have voted against it. This notion may be something of a wet dream for you Neocons; but it strikes most of us as more or less insanity. The most likely outcome in Iraq: an Iran-friendly, Iran style theocracy, and a tremendous strengthening of the region's Shiites in their competition with Sunnis. The likelihood of Iraq being an Israel-friendly western-style democracy: zero.

Iran is ruled by a tyranny that is at war with us
Undemocratic, to be sure. A "tyranny"? I'll wait for the Iranians to tell us that. And you guys really need to stop abusing the term "war" so much. Iran is "hostile" to the U.S. By no rational definition is Iran "at war" with us.

Posted by: chasmrich on July 23, 2008 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Iran is not a tyranny, and is about as democratic as the US. Iran is not at war with the US, but the US has been at war with Iran since the late Fifties. Iran's antagonism towards the US has always been defensive.

How many South American countries are currently, or have in the past, been ruled by corrupt, brutal dictatorships installed and/or supported by the government of the USA?

Many of them, and they all considered themselves to be Christian, like America's slave owners did.

Posted by: Brojo on July 23, 2008 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

The original term "tyrant" was used by the Greeks in a neutral way, sort of like "dictator" by the Romans. There are a few exceptions to my generalization, like Morocco, but the rule is non-democratic rule.

If you think Iran is not a tyranny, and is about as democratic as the US. Iran is not at war with the US, but the US has been at war with Iran since the late Fifties. Iran's antagonism towards the US has always been defensive.

You should ask the students who disappeared from their dorms leaving blood splatters on the walls.

As far as "war" is concerned, seizing the embassy and holding the staff hostage for a year is an act of war. Iran is very aggressive and the fear is that the present rulers may accept a suicide of the country, which attacking Israel would be.

If you want to be an apologist for the mullahs, it makes me wonder who you are. I do read English language Persian blogs and I have Iranian friends.

I am unaware of US sponsored South American dictatorships. There are a couple that existed in Central America. We allied with Brazil in WWII but the others were home grown or Nazi supported and encouraged, like Argentina and Paraguay.

Posted by: Mike K on July 23, 2008 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

The original term "tyrant" was used by the Greeks in a neutral way
Finally it dawns on me - a sophomore!

Posted by: on July 23, 2008 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

America has many more politcal prisoners than Iran.

The US Embassy seizure was by radical students, not the government. No one was killed and it happened a long time ago. The US Navy killed all of those people on that Iranian jetliner years later, but those deaths were not enough to satisfy American Christians' vengeance for the holding of some CIA spies for a year.

Incontinent Americans are afraid of Iran, because they are told to be afraid of Iran. Iranians in America used to work for the Shah's secret police. They are the ones who killed Khomenie's son, after the US secret police told them to.

Chile.

Posted by: Brojo on July 23, 2008 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

Iran is very aggressive

No it's not. It hasn't invaded another country since...since people wore loincloths and rode around in chariots.

As far as "war" is concerned, seizing the embassy and holding the staff hostage for a year is an act of war.

No it's not. Seizure of embassies by revolutionary groups is not an umcommon experience. Read a book.

Posted by: trex on July 23, 2008 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

"Note also how our dishonest conservative commentators either ignore (y81) or actively deny the role of reflexive United States support for Israel."

"The completely ahistoric view of people like y81 is breathtaking. The U.S. has a long history of trying to undermine popular governments in the Middle East . . ."

I agree with these comments complete (minus the personal insults). But I don't think the United States is going to stop supporting Israel, or undermining governments we perceive as hostile, or supporting governments we perceive as friendly without regard to the internal politics of the countries they rule, or trying to open markets to American businesses, or, more generally, pursuing American interests as we perceive them. To take just the first example, is there someone who believes that President Obama is going to take a hard line against Israel? And that he was just fooling AIPAC? And that his presidency will be dedicated to reversing the naqba and securing "justice" for the Palestinians? I don't believe that.

Posted by: y81 on July 23, 2008 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

I've read a few books and it is clear that the embassy hostage takers, while they began as a student group, quickly came to represent the revolutionary government of Iran. That was an act of war.

By the way, give me a list of embassy seizures by "student groups" in the past century.

I know Greek history might be unknown to most of you but I was a sophomore 50 years ago. I've been a professor longer than most of you have been alive.

Now you can go back to watching MTV

Posted by: Mike K on July 23, 2008 at 9:28 PM | PERMALINK

while they began as a student group, quickly came to represent the revolutionary government of Iran. That was an act of war.

You saying it was an act of war does not make it so. Was it followed by bullets? Bombs? Missiles?

No.

The Iranians were kicking out an autocratic monarch who had been installed by the United States who'd made participatory democracy illegal and who ruled through torture and imprisonment.

You know, just like Saddam Hussein.

According to the Bush doctrine "regime change" was in order.

know Greek history might be unknown to most of you but I was a sophomore 50 years ago. I've been a professor longer than most of you have been alive.

Is that why you are so bad at facts? Old age? And here I thought it was just ideological blindness.

By the way, give me a list of embassy seizures by "student groups" in the past century.

The assertion was "revolutionaries" not "student groups" and perhaps like McCain you're too old to know how to use Google. The Japanese embassy in Peru, the U.S. embassy in Saigon, the U.S. embassy in Serbia, the Honduran embassy in Mexico, the embassy of the Cameroons in Switzerland, the Iranian embassy in Ottawa (stormed by anti-Iranian members of MEK, no less), the Chinese embassy in Delhi, and others. And that doesn't count the dozens of times embassies have been attacked but not successfully taken over or threatened by rebel groups so that staff had to be evacuated.

Oh, and we blew up the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia. Are we at war with them too?

Posted by: trex on July 23, 2008 at 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

but I was a sophomore 50 years ago
My Bad. "Sophomoric." Better?

Posted by: chasmrich on July 24, 2008 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

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