Monday, November 16, 2009

Complicity and Sympathy

Several readers wrote to remind us that most Muslims only want peace and that we should be careful not to implicate the majority in the crimes of the minority, even if it's quite a large minority. This is true, of course, although it could've been said about Germans under the Nazis that most of them only wanted peace even as they worked to impose the will of the power-mad minority on the rest of the world.

In any event, the problem isn't just with the violent minority, it's also with a majority that doesn't raise a loud voice against the minority, but rather seeks to excuse or ignore the actions of the extremists. I'm reminded of a quote I came across recently:

"We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people."

The words are those of Martin Luther King and came from his Letter From a Birmingham Jail. King was lamenting the failure of churches, particularly white churches, to speak out against the injustice of racial segregation. Substitute "Muslims" for "people" and I think his words perfectly fit the present situation. If Muslims are not going to demand that their co-religionists stop the madness, then it'll be difficult for them to avoid the charge of complicity and sympathy with acts of Islamic terrorism just as the white church could not escape similar charges of complicity and sympathy with the injustice of forced segregation in the 1960s.


Is This Really the Reason?

Andy McCarthy was the prosecutor who got Sheik Abdul Rahman convicted in the first World Trade Tower bombing. He also is of the opinion that the decision to bring the 9/11 terrorists to New York is really a ploy to embarrass Bush and both destroy his legacy and the CIA. He writes:

This summer, I theorized that Attorney General Eric Holder - and his boss - had a hidden agenda in ordering a re-investigation of the CIA for six-year-old alleged interrogation excesses that had already been scrutinized by non-partisan DOJ prosecutors who had found no basis for prosecution. The continuing investigations of Bush-era counterterrorism policies (i.e., the policies that kept us safe from more domestic terror attacks), coupled with the Holder Justice Department's obsession to disclose classified national-defense information from that period, enable Holder to give the hard Left the "reckoning" that he and Obama promised during the 2008 campaign.

It would be too politically explosive for Obama/Holder to do the dirty work of charging Bush administration officials; but as new revelations from investigations and declassifications are churned out, Leftist lawyers use them to urge European and international tribunals to bring "torture" and "war crimes" indictments. Thus, administration cooperation gives Obama's base the reckoning it demands but Obama gets to deny responsibility for any actual prosecutions.

Today's announcement that KSM and other top al-Qaeda terrorists will be transferred to Manhattan federal court for civilian trials neatly fits this hidden agenda. Nothing results in more disclosures of government intelligence than civilian trials. They are a banquet of information, not just at the discovery stage but in the trial process itself, where witnesses - intelligence sources - must expose themselves and their secrets.

There's more at the link where McCarthy explains that the terrorists have already confessed, they have no defense, and that the only purpose of going through a highly public trial is to produce an ideological coup against the hated Bushies and the CIA. It's pretty depressing to reflect on the possibility that a man with such antipathies occupies the highest office in the land.


Debating Aid

Although the media hasn't done much to bring it to our attention there's a very interesting debate going on in think tanks, churches, and government agencies today over the extent and nature of the aid we send to alleviate the suffering of the poor in third-world countries. That we should in some way be helping these people few would deny. Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision, has a fine book out on the moral imperative to exercise compassion toward the world's suffering poor (The book is titled The Hole in Our Gospel).

At the same time, most people agree that just sending money, goods, and food to dysfunctional states is wasteful and unproductive (It's interesting, parenthetically, that almost everyone recognizes that throwing money at third-world poverty does nothing to mitigate the misery of the poor, but some think that the answer to poverty in this country is to do exactly what we realize is futile when done for the poor in other countries). So the debate focuses on what form our aid should take, and if it would actually be more helpful to stop giving aid altogether.

Two fascinating books have been published recently on this topic. One is by Paul Collier whose book The Bottom Billion (see our discussion of it here) is an excellent analysis of why third world poverty persists despite our best efforts to eradicate it, and what has to be done to alleviate it. Another is titled Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo who argues that aid, no matter how well-intentioned, is counterproductive and should be ended.

I recommend all three books to anyone interested in how we should approach the question of what the wisest, most effective way to really do something to help people is, but if you don't have time to read you may want to catch Collier and Moyo (along with two associates) debate these issues as part of the Munk debate series. You can either watch the debate or read the transcript, but in either case I think it's interesting that Collier and Moyo seem to agree more than they disagree that, as Moyo says, "Evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that aid to Africa has made the poor poorer, and the growth slower."

Thanks to Byron for the link to the debate.