The Aftershock of Bali
seems that there is no tragedy, however horrific, that isn't quickly
exploited in the service of some political agenda. As if to add
insult to injury, after nearly two hundred people were killed in
a horrible bombing in Bali, we are now being assaulted with a blast
of stupid commentary, a kind of ideological aftershock.
listened to CBS News Radio on the way to work this morning. Colin
Powell was saying that the US warned Indonesia that it had credible
and specific information about upcoming terrorist attacks in the
country. In fact, the US took its information so seriously that
it closed its embassy in Jakarta on the anniversary of the September
see. The information was so specific that the US thought that an
attack that actually took place October 12 at a nightclub in Bali
would instead take place September 11 at an embassy in Jakarta.
Could we have been any more accurate than that?
McCain opined, "Maybe now Indonesia will cooperate in the war on
terror." (I quote from memory.)
before the September 11th attacks, the US had apparently received
warnings from Britain, Russia, and Israel. What would McCain's reaction
be to hearing Putin tell us, "Maybe now, the US will cooperate in
the war on terror"? Especially if that meant whatever Putin decided
it meant, such as nuking Chechnya if necessary?
citizens have now been told to avoid Indonesia. But given that 180
people were killed in Indonesia in the attack, while 3000 died in
the US, wouldn't it be better to avoid America? If al Qaeda really
has the global reach that is claimed for it (and perhaps it does
I certainly don't pretend to know), then it would seem Mars
or Venus are the only safe places to go. Or perhaps Antartica, as
I haven't heard of al Qaeda operating there.
War Party was good for several mindless commentaries. Take, for
instance, Deroy Murdock writing in NRO:
deadly blasts in Bali should quash any ambivalence about the enemy
the civilized world faces in the war on terror."
there many people who were ambivalent about al-Qaeda before the
Bali attack? (And no, I don't mean in Saudi Arabia or Tunisia
that's not the audience Murdock is addressing.) Were there people
who were saying "They're just a bunch of misunderstood fellows?"
Maybe somebody somewhere, but no serious commentators I've seen
in any Western outlet have been "ambivalent" about al-Qaeda. They
are murderous terrorists. Even Noam Chomsky agrees with that point.
was not a sad but understandable reaction to America's military
strength and willingness to wield it. While another, non-fatal
bomb simultaneously rocked the U.S. consulate in Denpasar, Bali's
biggest city, the lethal Kuta explosions demolished the Sari Club
and adjacent Paddy´s Club. Neither nightspot was affiliated with
American firepower or diplomatic finesse."
it's clear that terrorists attack civilians. That is, after all,
what makes them terrorists, isn't it? But that says nothing at all
about their motivation in attacking those civilians at that
place. To go on to conclude, as Murdock does, that the attack occurred
because tourists "dancing away [to] some cheesy pop song," was "[too]
much levity" for the terrorists is to be willfully ignorant. The
terrorists did not attack just any people having fun anywhere. They
attacked a place they knew was frequented by many Australian tourists.
If, indeed, it was al-Qaeda that staged the attack, then surely
Australians were targeted because of their aid to the US in attacking
Afghanistan. To say what should not need repeating, but apparently
does, the deliberate killing of non-combatants in war is despicable
and evil. But recognizing it as such needn't prevent us from trying
to understand why those non-combatants in that place
were targeted, nor need it force us to such a stupid conclusion
as "because they were having too much fun."
bad as Murdock's piece was, Chris Weinkopf at FrontPage
proves that Murdock could have gone further. You see, Weinkopf says,
"[w]hether it's al Qaeda or some other branch of the Islamofascist
enterprise that bears direct responsibility for this particular
attack is largely of academic interest." That's because "The war
will not be over it should not be over until every
terrorist-sponsoring state is toppled or reformed, and the terrorist
operations that feed off them are left without shelter or sustenance."
As it turns out, we aren't actually after particular individuals
who have committed particular crimes at all: we are at war with
an ideology, "Islamofascism."
when a murder is committed, I suppose we could say that it's of
academic interest exactly who committed the murder, and whether
he is a known murderer or one we haven't seen before. After all,
we can't end the war on crime until every murderer is left without
"shelter or sustenance," can we? Just get them all, and let's not
worry about who killed whom.
given a world in which we have finite resources to pursue murderers,
and in which we would like to avoid arresting everyone just to make
sure we have gotten all the killers, doesn't Weinkopf think it might
be a wee bit helpful to try to get a grasp on who committed
the latest murder, who the worst murderers are, and so on?
continues, "[The failure to grasp that we are at war with an ideology]
repeats itself every time a self-styled 'peace activist' or spokesman
for the 'international community' demands 'proof' of an Iraqi connection
to al Qaeda to justify the overthrow of Saddam Hussein."
I thought it was only post-modernist English professors who put
"proof" in scare quotes. In any case, the above makes clear the
real point of Weinkopf's column: You see, if you're against attacking
Iraq, well, then, you're in favor of disco dancers being blown up
in Bali. And that's because, even if Iraq has no ties with al-Qaeda,
and even if we can't connect it to any other acts of terrorism in
the last decade or more, and even if the Baathist ideology of Saddam
Hussein is diametrically opposed to the radical Islamic ideology
that Weinkopf contends is the true enemy, well... well...
look, I've gone and gotten myself all knotted up with just the sort
of academic concerns like "proof" and "guilt" that limp-wristed
"peace activists" and wussies from the "international community"
waste their time on. We've got to attack Iraq because we're against
nightclub patrons being blown up, OK? So, are you with us or against
2002 Gene Callahan
Callahan/Stu Morgenstern Archives