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The Drums of War Sound a Seductive Rhythm [Feb. 18th, 2006|11:06 pm]
Young Geoffrey
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Over the past couple of weeks, the sight of thousands of (mostly bearded, mostly male) Muslims brandishing signs saying, "To hell with your democracy!" and "Death to those who insult Islam!" has been doing its job - not only to goad Muslims into a war fever, but to goad us, liberal-minded, cosmopolitan Westerners, into it as well.

While the Pentagon's war-drums throb in the background, propagandists like Ann Coulter are seizing the opportunity with both hands. Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush must be shaking their heads at their luck - Muslim fundamentalists leading their followers into the streets are just the ticket to get wavering Americans (and other Westerners) back on side.

Don't get me wrong. I too felt the visceral terror at the sight of those thousands of people, marching, throwing stones and fire-bombs, all because of the publication of a mere dozen cartoons in one magazine in one small, European country.

What's wrong with these people? I wondered, This is nuts!

  


Dark-skinned, hirsute, wearing strange clothes, and in deadly earnest, these demonstrators are scary because, to most of us in the West, they seem so silly. To those of us born to privilege, cartoons are only cartoons - "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me!" seems reasonable to those who have everything; for those who have nothing at all except pride, words (or, in this case, pictures) are powerful indeed.

Clearly, the demonstrators don't think the cartoons are "just" cartoons. They are symbols - of Western imperialism and contempt, of a cultural divide, of a growing Muslim feeling that, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more!"

While Islamo-fascist clerics are using these inane (or so I presume; I have not been able to find any of them) images to rally their troops, so are the war-mongers in the West. Where the clerics found in a dozen cartoons a symbol of all that is rotten in Western societies, so too have our fundamentalists found in the demonstrations a means to demonize more than 1 billion people.

The riots - the deaths, the arson, the fanaticism in the eyes of the demonstrators themselves - have all served to sorely test the liberal-minded among us, leaving many of us stripped intellectually naked, our values of tolerance melting away like hoar-frost on a sunny morning.


  


Leading the charge on "our" side, is the prominent "philosopher" of the American right, Anne Coulter, perhaps for the first time finding an attentive audience among those who are not fellow-travellers of The Project for a New American Century. Frightened and disgusted by the ludicrous inanity of the scruffy, violent, dark-skinned protesters, Coulter revels in naked, raving bigotry, to the applause of many who would never in their wildest, most perverse fantasies have voted for George W. Bush.

Let us review - let us analyze - Coulter's words.

  • "... Muslims' predilection for violence..." [that exact phrase is repeated three times in one paragraph];

  • "...thousands of Muslims around the world engaged in rioting, arson, mob savagery, flag-burning, murder and mayhem, among other peaceful acts of nonviolence...";

  • "Muslims are the only people who make feminists seem laid-back";

  • "... back when Muslims created things, rather than blowing them up...";

  • "Muslims ought to start claiming the Quran also prohibits indoor plumbing, to explain their lack of it...";

  • But Muslims think they can issue decrees about what images can appear in newspaper cartoons.


People I respect have emailed this garbage to me, pointed it out in discussion forums (often with the apology, "I know it's Anne Coulter, but, well, this time she has a point,") and brought it up in conversation.

But Coulter doesn't have a point. What she has is an excuse to lump together a group of co-religionists and call them names.

Throughout her article, "Muslims" - all one billion of them - are slandered as a unitary, almost sub-human group, in a classic example of the demonization, of the de-humanization, of the "enemy".

  


That she doesn't have a point, and that so many otherwise sensible people are nevertheless reading her words as if she does is proof that many of us are reacting, not thinking, in response to images that are - yes - both ugly and frightening. The irony is, in permitting our feeling to overrule our thinking, we are, ourselves, behaving in precisely the same tribal manner as "those Muslims".




If we are not careful, not only will those of us who failed to stop the last war fail to stop the next one, we will find ourselves leading the vanguard supporting it, linking like mideval Crusaders behind George W. Bush's feudal knights.

Having examined Coulter, let us examine her masters, as well as her victims.

As inanely ugly as the Islamist protesters are, how much more ugly is the invasion and occupation of a country that has never threatened in any way</i> its invader? The protests against the cartoons have resulted in the deaths of no more than a couple of dozen people; the invasion of Iraq, of possibly well-over 100,000 men, women and children.

As of 2004, 100,000 people killed, on the basis of nothing but lies.

Even the "progressives" among us too easily make the mistake of believing the propaganda of our "leaders", even when we, consciously, believe we do not support those leaders.

We - the tolerant, cosmopolitan citizens of the world - are no more represented by the Pentagon's lap-dogs like Ann Coulter than are the Muslim citizens of the world represented either by fundamentalist mullahs in the streets or by such "enlightened", Western-supported Arab governments like those of Saudi Arabia or Egypt.

On the one hand, clad in the disengenuous mantle of "democracy", "freedom" and "self-defence", Western nations have in the past five years invaded (if not entirely conquered) two Muslim nations and are making loud noises about doing the same to a third.

On the other hand, you have a large population of Muslims, mostly ill-educated and living under dictatorships propped-up by governments that - as often as not - were installed by Western powers.</p>



Who is really a threat to our Western values? Rag-tag mobs of ignorant fundamentalists, or our so-called leaders, men who lie - over and over and over again - to their own people; whose troops are stationed in 170 countries around the globe; and who show no sign of having the slightest concern for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children?

Who threatens our Western values? Mobs armed with bricks and a few hundred suicide bombers, or governments aremed with 20,000 nuclear warheads, who have learned to love torture, who spy on their own citizens and who have decided the Geneva Convention no longer matters?

It is not only our moral duty, it is also our pragmatic duty, to ourselves, to make sure we are not hypnotized by our so-called leaders. We in the West are not in serious danger from the Islamic lunatics who are only strengthened by our actions; we are in serious danger because we believe and act on the lies of our own leaders.
linkReply

Comments:
From: (Anonymous)
2006-02-19 11:22 am (UTC)

Cartoons

"To those of us born to privilege, cartoons are only cartoons - "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me!" seems reasonable to those who have everything; for those who have nothing at all except pride, words (or, in this case, pictures) are powerful indeed."

You have a point, but don't forget "Piss Christ" and the uproar it caused.

Also, the Koran apparently, forbids pictorial depictions of gods or prophets, which is why you see calligraphic and pattern based art in Islamic religious decoration. Pictorial depictions are considered idol worship. The cartoons went beyond being offensive in their subject matter. They actively desecrated the Islamic religion, which, as you noted, is all many of the protesters have.

Having been raised Catholic, I can sympathize with the Islamic point of view on idolatry. The gilded Vatican is pretty disgusting - speaking of which, check out the Bride of Satan getup Laura Bush wore to visit the Pope recently: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060209/ap_on_re_eu/vatican_laura_bush)!

: ) - Malcolm
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-02-19 12:15 pm (UTC)

Re: Cartoons

You have a point, but don't forget "Piss Christ" and the uproar it caused.

Fair enough, there are religious lunatics enough in all the major religions.

Also, the Koran apparently, forbids pictorial depictions of gods or prophets...

I recently read that that isn't in the Koran, but was a later interpretation. But I can't cite the source and so won't argue the point; regardless, enough Muslims believe the Koran forbids depections of the Prophet to make the question moot.

They actively desecrated the Islamic religion...

Did they? Forgive my jerking Western knee, but so what? You have to be pretty messed up to think killing is the right response to an insult - which attitude of mine is, of course, a great example of just how viscerally distracting this issue is.

Having been raised an atheist, I have to admit I need to strain my imagination a little in order to empathize - let alone sympathize - with "the" Islamic point of view. But then, true believers of any kind give me the shivers.

(And that really is a bizarre outfit!)
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From: (Anonymous)
2006-02-19 08:08 pm (UTC)

Re: Cartoons

"You have a point, but don't forget "Piss Christ" and the uproar it caused.

Fair enough, there are religious lunatics enough in all the major religions."
- Mike wrote about Piss Christ, and various horrors committed by the Christians in defense of their religion at frogstylebiscuit.com.

"I recently read that that isn't in the Koran, but was a later interpretation. "
- yah. I was kinda writing in shorthand. What I should have said is that their religion forbids pictorial depictions of Mohammad, etc. I believe that creating those cartoons could be considered equivalent to... wiping your ass with the American flag and publishing the photos of a celebration around said act?? And yes, maybe the U.S. populate wouldn't be rioting and killing people over it, but as you pointed out, they've got a lot more guns, material possessions, education and standing in the world than Muslims in Pakistan.

I wasn't saying that I sympathize with the rioting and killing, but that I sympathize - and I mean that intellectually - like I understand the point of view, of considering pictorial depictions of gods idolatry. Coming from a religion that seems more about pomp and pageantry than enlightenment and teaching. But I do sympathize with the rioting and killing in that, as you pointed out, if you have nothing but religion (belief), you are going to be fanatical. The Danes were ignorant not to realize this.

The story arc of the suicide bomber in "Syriana" is a good depiction of the harsh conditions that lead men to willingly die for their religion: displaced (Pakistanis in, I believe, Saudi Arabia) men living in shacks, slaves essentially. Islam offers them a purpose, and the promise of some money sent home to their families after the deed is done.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-02-22 02:04 am (UTC)

Re: Cartoons

I wasn't saying that I sympathize with the rioting and killing, but that I sympathize - and I mean that intellectually - like I understand the point of view, of considering pictorial depictions of gods idolatry. Coming from a religion that seems more about pomp and pageantry than enlightenment and teaching. But I do sympathize with the rioting and killing in that, as you pointed out, if you have nothing but religion (belief), you are going to be fanatical. The Danes were ignorant not to realize this.

I wonder if they were ignorant, or if they just got scared when they realized how big a hornets' nest they had prodded. I've read a number of things that suggests the magazines that "started" all this are backtracking like mad.
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From: cool_hand89
2006-02-22 01:41 am (UTC)

Re: Cartoons

> But then, true believers of any kind give me the shivers.

Oh, and fuck you, asshole.
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From: purfektlyflawd
2006-02-19 01:01 pm (UTC)
I don't know. I can't justify it at all. Mind you, I'm not American, so I don't think about comparing America to this, because America has nothing to do with it.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-02-22 02:05 am (UTC)

Justify What?

What is it that you can't justify? The riots? The idiot Coulter? Me?
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[User Picture]From: beable
2006-02-19 05:04 pm (UTC)

Re: Cartoons

One of the things worth mentioning is that by many accounts the relatively harmless Danish cartoons are not what really caused the riots.

I can't find the link at the moment, but apparently the reason for the long gap between the reaction and the original publication (which was in September) had more to do with a small group of fanatics who tried to fan the flames by taking "the cartoons" abroad along with extra, blatantly more offensive cartoons, as well as made up quotes about how all the Danes thought Muslims were pigs, and the like.

That the original Danish cartoons were reprinted all over the place just fans the propoganda-inspired flames. For the mostly poverty-stricken and probably largely NOT literate in European languages crowd, this is just "the offensive cartoons" being reprinted everywhere, yet more proof that the what the instigators said is right, the West hates them, the West is to blame for their lot in life.

Which allows our propoganda folk to point fingers the other way, "Islam is dangerous, Islam is evil, Islam is to blame for your fear and uncertainty".

Gotta love the blame-mongers.

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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-02-22 02:07 am (UTC)

Re: Cartoons

One of the things worth mentioning is that by many accounts the relatively harmless Danish cartoons are not what really caused the riots.One of the things worth mentioning is that by many accounts the relatively harmless Danish cartoons are not what really caused the riots...the reaction ... had more to do with a small group of fanatics who tried to fan the flames by taking "the cartoons" abroad along with extra, blatantly more offensive cartoons, as well as made up quotes about how all the Danes thought Muslims were pigs, and the like.

Oh yes, absolutely. I've got no time for the Islamic fundamentalists. My point is that they are an easy target - they aren't "us", they are far away, and they are weak. And meanwhile, we don't spend much time at all talking about what we might to do stop "our" side from committing mass murder.
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(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-02-22 02:11 am (UTC)

Sympathy?

You're missing my point.

I'm not condoning the demonstrations, the violence, or even the ridiculous position that your God and/or Prophet is so touchy that some cartoonists in Denmark will offend Him/them.

What you're doing is allowing a few thousand fanatics (out of more than a billion Muslims!) to make you write off all of those people as "still living in the Dark Ages". You're doing just what Bin Laden and similar thugs want you to do, which is, implicitly, to support a holy war.
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(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-02-25 10:31 pm (UTC)

Re: Sympathy?

Yes, it's creepy and yes there is a good chunk of Islam that is stuck in the Dark Ages - but it's *not* every Muslim or, arguably, most Muslims, who think that way. But so long as we in the West continue propping up Islamofascist regimes like the House of Saud, we're only making the situation worse.
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From: cool_hand89
2006-02-22 01:35 am (UTC)

Ho hum

You are as bad as Maureen Dowd: you're a one-note instrument.

What will Geoff say about the Muslim cartoon fiasco? Will he comment on its signifcance for free speech in the West? Will he discuss how it will affect our relationships with our Muslim brothers and sisters here and abroad? Will he denounce the hypocrisy and (understandable but still regrettable) cowardice of the North American media? Will he try to distinguish necessary from gratuitous offence in public discourse? No! He'll use the whole incident as yet another opportunity to bash Bush!!

Ho hum.

Speaking of bashing, I have been following your rather disturbing tale via the blog. More anon by private post.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-02-22 02:01 am (UTC)

Re: Ho hum

Well, thank you for addressing the issues I raised; your inciteful (ahem) rebuttal does Trinity College - not to mention Aristotle's Academy - proud, as does your later post-script, in the "Cartoons" thread.

But then, true believers of any kind give me the shivers.

Oh, and fuck you, asshole.


Until now - and despite our many differences, of opinion and philosophy - I hadn't considered you one of those"true believers".

I guess I was wrong.
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From: cool_hand89
2006-02-22 03:35 am (UTC)

Re: Ho hum

Is Bush an idiot? Is his war in Iraq wrong and extremely harmful on many different levels? Is his war on terror a danger to democracy and, so far, a failure as far as we can tell? YES! Now stop repeating yourself and, moreover, stop doing it when addressing issues that are only vaguely related. It was a Danish paper that started the furor, not an American diplomat.

As for the "fuck you" comment, don't make this into something personal. Whether I'm a "true believer" is beside the point. You spouted anti-religious bigotry, that's all. Now, either make excuses for yourself or apologize.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-02-22 04:54 am (UTC)

Re: Ho hum

And another thing: You might argue that the shivers created in me by true believers are bigoted, but they aren't restricted to religious true believers. Anyone who thinks he or she has all the answers is a menace to the eternal quest for truth, not to mention good government or civil discourse.
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From: vernski
2006-03-01 01:55 am (UTC)

Re: Ho hum

> You are as bad as Maureen Dowd: you're a one-note instrument.

Frighteningly, it's getting difficult to not be a one-note instrument. I can't even read Lewis Lapham anymore. He's so astonished by the state of the union that he's been reduced to an imbecile: babbling the same heartbreaking mantra over and over again.

And I certainly can't listen to the fascists that he's heartbroken over.

They are both one-note wonders.

Somebody out there's got to learn turn their amplifier up to 29.





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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-03-01 02:25 am (UTC)

Re: Ho hum

Frighteningly, it's getting difficult to not be a one-note instrument.

I was thinking something along the same lines earlier today, as I wondered how it can be so difficult to get people to actually see what is right in front of them. Almost nothing that is going on - the creeping, fascist-light "anti-terror" legislation, the illegal wars, the torture, the grand larceny ... none of this is secret, the information is (almost) all out in the open, on the public record ...

But I'm starting to sound my note again, when I meant to offer up a theory as to why people like coolhand89 are, in fact, in denial of the elephant crowding up the entire first floor.

My theory is that people like the aforementioned, who grew up more or less believing that our system is, while flawed, essentially good, would not be able to carry on with their lives as they live them now, if they faced up to the truth of our situation, if they honestly allowed themselves to admit just what monstrous inhumanity it is we in the West benefit from.

Whereas we, who never believed in the system, are mostly content to shrug our shoulders and turn the volume up to 29 or - in my, only slightly more admirable case - post an occasional one-note rant for an audience of, maybe, a couple of hundred.

Is it our relative comfort that makes it so easy to just shrug and hope things get better? Why the hell aren't we going out there to be heroes?
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From: cool_hand89
2006-03-04 03:11 pm (UTC)

Re: Ho hum

But I'm starting to sound my note again, when I meant to offer up a theory as to why people like coolhand89 are, in fact, in denial of the elephant crowding up the entire first floor.


Who's in denial? About what? Just because I don't share the left's paranoid fantasies about Bush and his ilk doesn't mean that I have to like what they're doing in Iraq.

My theory is that people like the aforementioned, who grew up more or less believing that our system is, while flawed, essentially good, would not be able to carry on with their lives as they live them now, if they faced up to the truth of our situation, if they honestly allowed themselves to admit just what monstrous inhumanity it is we in the West benefit from.


I suppose that if I believed that "we in the West" benefited from "monstrous inhumanity", I might find it impossible to carry on with my life as I live it now. But we've been through that before, and you have not made your case. That is, you can't really accuse me of living in denial. I've been presented with the facts and evidence, and I've arrived at a reasoned conclusion on such matters. Don't pretend that disagreement with your theories entails living with blinders on.

In any case, my "one note" charge was really an objection to your use of the cartoon controversy as yet another excuse to beat the drum on Bush. For you, the controversy wasn't to be taken seriously in its own right: it could only be seen as another weapon for use in the anti-Bush war.

A friend of mine is a devout Muslim and a Canadian patriot. He was highly offended by the cartoons, and he claimed that 99.9% of the world's 1 billion plus Muslims were also offended. He was also dismayed by the reaction of the Danish government, which was, initially, quite dismissive of Muslim concerns.

There is a serious and important conversation to be had with him and other Muslims about these matters, about free speech, democracy and blasphemy, and no one in the conversation needs to mention the White House or George Bush. For you, however, it seems the conversation need never take place. Better to use the affair to beat up on George (although it was deeply embarassing for him and prejudicial to his projects).

Why is that? It's probably because you don't understand or care about matters religious, which is fair enough. But don't claim to speak to the only "real" issues in the room when you go on about Bush and friends while using a religious controversy as the pretext.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-02-22 03:49 am (UTC)

Re: Ho hum

I'll stop repeating myself when people stop believing the same lies, told by the same bunch of self-interested thugs, time and time again.

My point was - and remains - that we, that is, people I know in life or through the internet, seem to be a great deal more upset by a few thousand unwashed thugs of a different religion than most of us have, or have in our backgrounds, than we do about those evils we might actually be able to do something about. Since the US takes the lead in such matters, its government is extremely relevant, not "only vaguely related." I am well-aware it was a Danish paper that started this thing, just as I am aware it wasn't an Israeli paper - that didn't stop the thugs on the "other" side from bringing Israel into it.

All things are connected, my friend.

As for making things personal, you are the one who entered my metaphorical house and said, "Oh, and fuck you, asshole."

Frankly, you only reinforced my point. Perhaps you should organize a demonstration while you're at it, and hurl a few stones at my apartment building.
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From: cool_hand89
2006-02-22 01:52 pm (UTC)

Re: Ho hum

> And another thing: You might argue that the shivers
> created in me by true believers are bigoted,
> but they aren't restricted to religious true
> believers.

My mistake; I apologize. I plead an excuse, however: the context of your remarks certainly suggested that they were directed at religious believers. Knowing you as I do, however, I can well believe your explanation.

Btw, I might just organize a demonstration, boycott your products and burn your flag too, and you should be celebrating my right to do so provided I don't throw stones etc. Similarly, you should also be celebrating the right of Muslims to march, boycott and burn flags, provided it all stops before it gets to stone-throwing and, perhaps, censorship.

> My point was - and remains - that we, that is, people I know in life
> or through the internet, seem to be a great deal more upset by a few
> thousand unwashed thugs of a different religion than most of us
> have, or have in our backgrounds, than we do about those evils we
> might actually be able to do something about.

Who says we're powerless to prevent some people from censoring the
press in Canada? In fact, I have a great deal more control over that problem than I do over the U.S. government,
which I can't even elect. (My wife voted for Gore and Kerry, but not because I told her to.)

In any case, any fair reading of the matter shows that the U.S. government is _not_ using this affair to drum up support for its war. Actually, if anything, it is siding with the world's 1 billion Muslims because of the harm that the controversy does to the U.S. cause. That is why the connection you wish to draw between the two matters is so tenuous.



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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-02-25 10:42 pm (UTC)

Re: Ho hum

My mistake; I apologize. I plead an excuse, however: the context of your remarks certainly suggested that they were directed at religious believers.

Thank you. As you know, an apology on the internet is a rare and precious thing.

Granted, my remarks were specifically directed at regious true believers, but I thought it was implicit that I was referring to anyone who thinks they have all the answers.

Btw, I might just organize a demonstration, boycott your products and burn your flag too, and you should be celebrating my right to do so provided I don't throw stones etc. Similarly, you should also be celebrating the right of Muslims to march, boycott and burn flags, provided it all stops before it gets to stone-throwing and, perhaps, censorship.

I do celebrate your right to peacefully demonstrate for or against anything you like (and, has been much noted elsewhere, some Canadian Muslims have been doing just that regarding "those cartoons").

Who says we're powerless to prevent some people from censoring the press in Canada?

I didn't, but I probably should have addressed that. That none of our major papers saw fit to re-print the cartoons is disturbing me more and more, and I am considering seeking them out and putting them on my site on general principles - Christ, I hate to find myself on the same side of an argument as Ezra Levant ...

In any case, any fair reading of the matter shows that the U.S. government is _not_ using this affair to drum up support for its war. Actually, if anything, it is siding with the world's 1 billion Muslims because of the harm that the controversy does to the U.S. cause. That is why the connection you wish to draw between the two matters is so tenuous.

That hasn't been my reading of the Bush regime's response, but I can't cite anything off the top of my head. I'll take your thoughts on that under (serious) consideration.
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From: cool_hand89
2006-03-04 03:34 pm (UTC)

Re: Ho hum

How about the following, dated February 6, 2006, from the VOA website:

In Washington, White House spokesman Scott McClellan appealed for calm. "We condemn the acts of violence that have taken place. There simply is no justification to engage in violence. We call for constructive and peaceful dialogue based on respect for all religious faiths. Those who disagree with the views have the right to express their views, but they should do so in a peaceful manner," he said.

He said he understands why Muslims would find the cartoons offensive. But he urged Muslims to speak out against all hate speech, not just the things that offend Muslims. "We also urge all those who are criticizing or critical of the cartoons to forcefully speak out against all forms of hateful speech, including cartoons and articles that frequently have appeared in the Arab world espousing anti-Semitic and anti-Christian views," he said.


Or the following, which appeared in the Washington Post on February 9:

Bush and Rice, making their first public remarks on the growing worldwide controversy, highlighted a shift in White House strategy to focusing on the killings and destruction during Muslim protests in several nations -- in contrast to earlier statements that included criticism of the provocative drawings. Administration officials said Bush does not want a debate over free speech to diminish or deflect attention from the U.S. condemnation of the violence.

[...]

The Bush strategy puts him at odds with some Democrats and key U.S. allies in the Middle East, including Abdullah, who want a clear condemnation of the drawings. "With all respect to press freedoms, obviously anything that vilifies the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, or attacks Muslim sensibilities, I believe, needs to be condemned," Abdullah said.

Some Democrats said Bush is missing an opportunity to highlight U.S. respect for Muslims and Islam in not explicitly condemning the publication of the cartoons, especially one portraying Muhammad with a bomb atop his turban. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Bush has invested a lot of money and staff resources in trying to improve the U.S. image in Muslim nations.

[...]

Bush has made a calculated decision to focus on the violence in recent days, according to White House aides. The administration's initial reaction, delivered last Friday by the State Department, was to sharply criticize the drawings. "Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable," State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper said at the time. Cooper was repeating talking points provided by higher-level officials when the controversy erupted. "We hoped it would be a calming influence," a State Department official said.
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