Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Killing Westerners in Mosques

The NYT has an item with a vaguely misleading title - or is it? Drones Kill Westerners in Pakistan.The Westerners being Germans, who are of course Westerners, but they're also Muslims training in Pakistan to kill civilians when they get back "home" to Germany: so are they? Was Mohammed Atta a Westerner? And if he had stayed around long enough to acquire a German passport when he lived in Hamburg, would he have qualified for the sobriquet? And if so, does the sobriquet mean what's it's supposed to mean, in this context or any other?

I'm not posing these questions in a frivolous manner. They're real questions, it seems to me, and if they're not at the heart of the present war, they're certainly not that far from it.

Prof. Robert Chesney, of the University of Texas (Austin) is troubled by a different part of the story. Did the American drone attack which killed these guys get to them when them while they were in a mosque? On the one hand, he's not convinced it happened that way and he's perturbed by the ease with which slanderous stories can take wing. On the other hand, he's not certain it didn't, and that would be worse:
The mosque claim may be significant from an IHL [International Humanitarian Law] perspective, of course, and it certainly is significant in terms of hearts-and-minds.  I have no idea whether the claim is accurate, though I suspect it is not (or at least that the building was not known to be a mosque by decisionmakers at the time).  If it is not accurate, then the episode is an illustration of the ease with which media accounts can be seeded with damaging characterizations of this kind.  If it is accurate, on the other hand, it certainly raises some difficult legal and strategic questions–ones that will be hard if not impossible to evaluate from an outside perspective.  At any rate, we’re not likely to get a clearer picture going forward.
IHL stems from Just War Theory, which is not a new branch of thought. Its central concept is that wagers of war must make plausible efforts not to harm non-combatants. I'm not sure how mosques (or for that matter, churches, synagogues or any other houses of worship) came to acquire the status of non-combatants. It's certainly not obviously so, especially when the men in the houses of worship are plotters of mayhem and murder, perhaps even plotters purposefully placing themselves in the houses of worship.

Nor do I know how prof. Chesney knows that killing potential murderers in mosques is necessarily more objectionable to other Pakistanis than killing them in a home, a home which has been converted to a plotter's den, or an open field. The matter of hearts and minds is fiendishly complex, and includes topics such as which hearts and minds, why they are where they are and can they be swayed to move elsewhere, what means of persuasion might be effective and which not, what the locals think about Westerners coming to their mosques so as to plot murder of other Westerners, thereby attracting American drones.... In other words, it seems to me the professor is talking about his own opinions, with no direct relation to the real facts of the matter.

The reason I mention it is that this seems to me one small, rather banal example of the serious disconnect between the prophets of International Humanitarian Law in their comfortable and mostly unthreatened ivory towers, and the real world.

Not to mention that for all we know at the moment, killing German Pakistanis in mosques, if done right, may save the lives of Korean tourists passing through Frankfurt International Airport on their way to a vacation in Montreal. Or something of the sort.


Anonymous said...

Those former Westeners, those German Islamists were fighting against everything the Free World stands for.

They got, what they were looking for.


mensajes claro said...

What andre said is think is right , Does anybody else say it too ?

Anonymous said...

OT but fitting in the context
this is quite often a very interesting program - Daniel Pipes is one of the participants.

In this programme Ernie Rea and his guests explore the history and place of Islam in America

Anonymous said...

from my battle of Falluja book I learned that they avoided or rather had orders to avoid, often at great cost to themselves, any damage to mosques. I think the rationale was that damage to a mosque might lead to uncontrollable eruptions.

I read the story this morning at the BBC and noticed
the "balanced" wording More than 150 people have died in drone strikes this year, including both militants and civilians.

We recently had a much discussed bestseller with some IMHO very unsavoury parts which led to lots of discussions with Muslims on radio. All of them are undoubtedly well behaved decent muslim Germans and all go on and on and on about "our" fear and inability to accept the foreign. Surely so many pundits can't err? ;-(


Anonymous said...

I just remembered that there is a discussion about the order to kill Anwar al-Awlaki the Yemeni who is said to have "inspired" the undie-bomber and others.

He happens to have an American citizenship and apparently no American may be killed without due process - that's at least how I understand what I read about it - and thus when Westerners are killed the tricky problem of whether it is permissible to do it to Americans also looms closer and maybe the NYT wanted to prick that nerve with its headline


AKUS said...

The mosque thing is ridiculous.

Killing each other in mosques on Friday is clearly one of the preferred methods of Muslim on Muslim suicide bombers. The West - the real West, not Muslims who have taken on Western naturalization in order to better infiltrate Europe and the USA - has no reason to be holier than them.

4infidels said...

The issue of how people are identified in news stories is interesting and a window into the bias of the editors.

You would think whatever term is used would be the one most likely to differentiate the person or put their identity in context as it relates to the story.

For example: when a former President of the United States dies..you wouldn't headline the story "California man dies at 89" or "Husband and Father remembered." You would include the name and focus on the fact that he was President.

So when a Muslim Pakistani-born, naturalized American citizen, who was trained in Taliban camps in Pakistan, attempts to set off a bomb in New York City, you don't lead with, "A Connecticut man was arrested." That doesn't clarify anything for the reader; it's aim is to avoid or minimize the most pertinent facts about the man: Muslim, jihadist, trained by the Taliban, terrorism.

So, yes perhaps they were German citizens. They were also sons, perhaps college graduates, students, husbands, "A Hamburg man," engineers, whatever. None of those identities is helpful in understanding why attacking them wasn't an act of war by the CIA against Germany, but the targeting of anti-Western jihadists who intended to kill Germans and other Europeans.

4infidels said...

However, the news media in the U.S. did lead with "A Connecticut man" in the example above, so as not to bring anything related to his Muslim identity into a story about the man's terrorist (oops...militant) activities.

However, terms like "Jewish settler" or "Christian fundamentalist" are thrown around like epithets, even when the "Jewish settler" is a child murdered by Palestinian "militants" or "gunmen."

Anonymous said...

for once I agree with you a 100 %

as to the use of "Jewish settlers", aren't at least some of them Israelis? Labelling them Jewish settlers and nothing else when they are murdered associates them with all the derision normally written about settlers and thus IMHO creates the impression that they somehow brought it on themselves (the same was said/implied when I was young about women who got raped)

The "settler" whose stories I am reading on this blog http://ruth33.wordpress.com/
somewhere told that he served in the IDF. I take that as an indicationg that he holds Israelis citizenship.