Western Jihadists: Let Them Go

We’ve all seen or heard stories about the thousands of ISIS sympathizers who are leaving their home countries and sneaking into ISIS-controlled territory to join up with the fundamentalist-Islamist killers and psychopaths on the battlefield.

This morning I saw Mary Anne Weaver on MSNBC discussing her latest article for The New York Times Magazine, provocatively titled “Her Majesty’s Jihadists” and subtitled:

More British Muslims have joined Islamist militant groups than serve in the country’s armed forces. How to understand the pull of jihad.

Ms. Weaver had bewildered the panelists on MSNBC’s Morning Joe by writing this:

Many of the fighters from Britain — as well as those from Finland, Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands — came from comfortable middle-class homes. Many were university students or graduates; a surprising number were women, too.

In her article, Weaver also cited Shiraz Maher, a former Islamic militant and now a senior research fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College London:

I asked Maher if, based on the center’s research, he could draw a typical jihadist profile. “The average British fighter is male, in his early 20s and of South Asian ethnic origin,” he began. “He usually has some university education and some association with activist groups. Over and over again, we have seen that radicalization is not necessarily driven by social deprivation or poverty.” He paused for a moment, and then went on. “Other than those who go for humanitarian reasons, some of the foreign fighters are students of martyrdom; they want to die as soon as possible and go directly to paradise. We’ve seen four British suicide bombers thus far among the 38 Britons who have been killed. Then there are the adventure seekers — those who think this will enhance their masculinity, the gang members and the petty criminals too; and then, of course, the die-hard radicals, who began by burning the American flag and who then advanced to wanting to kill Americans — or their partners — under any circumstance.”

That sobering reality being understood, the discussion this morning on MSNBC seemed to focus on just what could be done in countries like the United Kingdom to help assimilate Muslims and keep them from wanting to british jihadistswage militant jihad against Westerners, including Americans. And, after giving the problem a lot of thought, I think that is the wrong question.

I have come to the conclusion that rather than try to bend over frontwards and backwards, or rather than try to lean sideways in order to make militant-minded religious radicals of all stripes comfortable in our liberal, secular societies, we should instead make it easier, not harder, for them to join ISIS on the battlefield. If there are those among us who would rather link up with murderous, Allah-praising jihadists—those who behead and slaughter innocents and throw homosexuals off buildings and stone women to death and not only execute Christians and other non-Muslims but kill fellow Muslims—if there are a few among us who want to live that way, then we should not only allow them to do so, but we should make it easier for them. No barriers. Just let them go.

That is an easy way to rid ourselves of people who have no intention of peacefully living in a secular, freedom-loving society. In that weird sense, ISIS is doing all Western societies a favor. Their creepy jihadist magnetism, their strange and strangely appealing dreams of establishing a Caliphate, are actually performing a social good for us.

And if those ISIS-loving, Western-hating Westerners so choose, they can die for Allah—or for their own pathetic adventurism or misplaced radicalism—on the battlefield, as we pursue their psychopathically fundamentalist mentors.

A Disturbing Conclusion

Walter Scott had been a member of the U.S. Coast Guard.Last Saturday morning, Walter Scott, an African-American who was fifty years old and a father of four, was driving his Mercedes-Benz in North Charleston, South Carolina. The car had a busted taillight. He got pulled over by a white cop. Now he’s dead.

News outlets have jumped all over the story of the officially alleged murder and supplied us with plenty of details, the most salient of which is that a fleeing Scott was shot in the back several times by Patrolman 1st Class Michael Slager, who had initially claimed, as The New York Times phrased it, that “he had feared for his life because the man had taken his stun gun in a scuffle.”

Yeah, well. If it had not been for a fortuitous video of the event, which apparently Officer Slager didn’t know existed, news outlets would have reported a much different story, one that would have focused on the “official” version of events and that, as usual, would have given the police a generous benefit of the doubt. And Ryan Grim and Nick Wing, of HuffPo, wrote the story we would most likely have read, absent the video evidence. Given what we now know, it is a fascinating read and absolutely plausible. Here is its lede:

A North Charleston police officer was forced to use his service weapon Saturday during a scuffle with a suspect who tried to overpower him and seize the officer’s Taser, authorities said.

The man, who has a history of violence and a long arrest record, died on the scene as a result of the encounter, despite officers performing CPR and delivering first aid, according to police reports.

Two years ago, Slager had been exonerated by his bosses for an incident in which excessive force was involved. You can read about that disturbing incident via the Associated Press. But the thing to focus on in this case, other than the sad and unnecessary killing by police of yet another unarmed African-American citizen, is that nearly everything of importance that Officer Slager, and another officer who arrived first on the shooting scene, said happened that morning has been discredited. And the thing that discredited their official version, a cell phone video, hasn’t been around that long. So, we are left to wonder—no, we are left to conclude—that there are any number of past incidents, involving the questionable killing of citizens by the police, in which the officers involved literally got away with some form of murder.

If that conclusion doesn’t bother you, if it doesn’t scare you, then you’re not black.

President Obama Understands Morally Justifiable Power

I’ve said it a number of times: We are lucky to have President Obama in the White’s House.

Especially during these times, when part of the world is on fire, it is important that someone is in charge who doesn’t want to bring a large can of U.S.A gasoline to put out the flames.

obama and new york times iran interviewI can do no better than point you to Thomas Friedman’s column in The New York Times to understand why it is that we are so lucky. I suggest, strongly, that you read the entire piece or listen to the interview on which the column is based, most of it having to do with the recent framework agreement with Iran and the rather hostile reaction to it by right-wingers here, there, and everywhere.

I will only quote for now one stunningly important line from the beginning of the interview—that defines the real point of having morally justifiable power—and then the last paragraph:

“We are powerful enough to be able to test these propositions without putting ourselves at risk…at this point, the U.S.’s core interests in the region are not oil, are not territorial. … Our core interests are that everybody is living in peace, that it is orderly, that our allies are not being attacked, that children are not having barrel bombs dropped on them, that massive displacements aren’t taking place. Our interests in this sense are really just making sure that the region is working. And if it’s working well, then we’ll do fine. And that’s going to be a big project, given what’s taken place, but I think this [Iran framework deal] is at least one place to start.”

Amen. And thank God, Allah, and/or the American people for Barack Obama.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback: The Wizard Of Ahs

Playing off its role in The Wizard of Oz and pretending that there is much to see and do there, Kansas bills itself as “the land of ahs.” But take it from someone who was born and raised in southeast Kansas: besides the University of Kansas Jayhawks basketball program, there aren’t many things in the state that make you go ah.

Except when it comes to following its race-to-the-bottom politics, where you can experience a lot of take-your-breath-away moments.

I’ve written a lot about what Governor Sam Brownback and a hellish host of reactionary legislators have done to Kansas, so I won’t go over all that again. I just want to catch you up on the latest.

Beginning on July 1 of this year, if you live in Kansas and want to carry a concealed weapon, you don’t need a permit. Heck, you don’t even need any training. Just pass a background check and you are good to go. Surrounded by NRA hacks, Brownback signed the bill into law on Thursday. It allows those 21 and older to pack hidden heat all over the state. And one genius, who happens to be president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, can’t wait until she can get the law changed again:

“I believe we can lower the age to 18 at some point in the future. I think after everybody sees that there are not going to be any of the dire predictions coming true, and they relax a little bit, then we can talk about that.”

Yes. And when we all relax over allowing 18-year-olds to carry guns in their jeans in high school, then we can move on to middle school kids. Then grade school. Little Tommy can pack his little pistol in his little lunch box and have a little Second Amendment fun at recess. The land of ahs, indeed.

On the budget deficit problems in Kansas, which Brownback and the extremists in his party created by passing drastic cuts in income taxes that went mostly to wealthy people, the governor has decided how he is going to fund government:

Brownback advocates consumption tax as income tax alternative in Kansas

In case you don’t know what that means, it means that the burden of funding Kansas government will fall on the working poor and middle class, who have to spend all or most of their income on goods and services. What Republicans have done and are doing in Kansas regarding taxes should be a national scandal. It should be as controversial as anything Republicans did in Indiana or Arkansas regarding their attempt to take away civil rights from non-heterosexuals. But it isn’t. I guess people are used to it by now. The rich control the Republican Party. The Republican Party controls the Kansas legislature and the governor’s mansion. And, of course, it is those without money who suffer. No big deal.

Oh, here’s another ah for you:

Kansas Bans Poor People From Spending Welfare On Cruise Ships

Yes. It is true. But there is more. In Kansas, if you get Temporary Assistance for Needy Families—and Christian Sam Brownback and his godly legislature have already made it tougher to get and keep: only 15,000 families received such benefits last year—you get your assistance via state-issued debit cards. Nothing wrong with that. A lot of states do it. But no other state does what Kansas want to do:

Kansas welfare recipients will be unable to get more than $25 per day in benefits under a new law sent this week to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s desk by the state legislature…Under the new rule, a three-person family receiving the maximum benefit would have to go to the ATM more than a dozen times to get the full benefit, which would be whittled away by an 85 cent fee for each withdrawal after the first one. And the local cruise liner ATM will no longer be an option.

Liz Schott, associated with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, emailed HuffPo and said:

“This provision makes it nearly impossible for a recipient who does not have a checking account to pay rent. Moreover, it actually takes money from the pockets of poor families since they will need to pay 85 cents for each additional withdrawal after the first one in a month, and often more with ATM transaction fees.”

So, Kansas Republicans cut taxes on the rich, are considering raising taxes on goods and services that working people spend most of their money on, and are penalizing the few poor people able to qualify for stingy government benefits by making them go to an ATM and pay a fee a dozen times a month. That is truly breathtaking stuff.

But there is one more political ah worth noting. The Associated Press reported on Thursday:

Two school districts plan to end the academic year early to save money, citing financial pressures caused by reduced state aid for this academic year.

Ah, shit.

Top Of The Ninth: Secularism 2, Religious Fanaticism 0

It’s getting late in the game. As same-sex marriage bans fall, jurisdiction by jurisdiction, the religious reactionaries are swinging for the fences and, as the governor of Indiana is now discovering, whiffing.

When it is all over, even the most zealous Religious Right Republicans will finally have to admit that this is not a Christian nation. America is becoming, day by day, ruling by ruling, boycott by boycott, a secular country, at least when it comes to our laws regarding discrimination.

Mike Pence Surrounded By Bigots When He Signed SB101 Into LawDemocratic strategist Richard Socarides said last night on MSNBC that Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s problem is that “he was lying through his teeth” when he denied that the now infamous Indiana law, disguised as an effort to protect religious liberty, was really about allowing what I call Bible-based bigotry to have its way. The law most certainly was designed to allow discrimination against gays or quasi-gays or anyone who doesn’t have sex the way, presumably, Governor Pence and his evangelical friends do.

Richard Socarides finally said out loud the truth about what the evangelical-influenced legislature and governor in Indiana were trying to pull off. That they weren’t able to pull it off, that they weren’t able to lie their way to a victory for discrimination based on an ancient set of manuscripts, is wonderful news.

Meanwhile, in Arkansas, where trees on the Ozark Mountains cover a multitude of reactionary sins, conservative lawmakers passed a similar “religious freedom” bill that even the CEO of Wal-Mart—who could only manage to express himself in a tweet—found so offensive that he urged the Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, to veto the attempt to put gays in their rightful, hell-bound, place.

No matter what one thinks of Wal-Mart, that is progress.

Last October I wrote about “The Slow Triumph Of Secularism.” That was just after the Supreme Court had then decided not to decide the issue of gay marriage and let stand a lower-court ruling that entitled gay citizens to the same matrimonial bliss, or non-bliss, as those who have sex in the Religious Right sense. Things look even better now, what with a groundswell of negative reaction to what happened in Indiana and what is happening in Arkansas.

So, the game is almost over and the forces of secularism, which demand that the rights of LGBT folks are respected as much as anyone else’s—as much as any pew-renting patron of literalistic religion—are, with success, ridiculing the forces of reactionary politics, with the help of Wal-Mart and, uh, believe it or not, NASCAR.

There may be a setback before it is over—the governor of Arkansas may ignore Wal-Mart and NASCAR and every other objector and sign the discriminatory law passed by his legislature—but I can confidently say that secularism will win this important game.

And, as I said back in October, that means the American experiment is working.


[photo credit @seamonkey237]
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