06 March 2008

My Lecture on Stupidity

Police officers, one of them in a hazardous-materials suit, examined
the military recruiting station in Times Square after an explosion
damaged the front of the building early Thursday morning.
Photograph © Chip East/Reuters.

At about 3:45 this morning someone planted a bomb - our very own "IED" - outside this military recruiting station at Times Square in Manhattan. Who knows who is responsible? At this juncture the police seem not to know. You can read the initial report in The New York Times here. This is an occasion, though, where it is important for people to speak up.

I oppose the current war in Iraq. I oppose many of the practices the military and other government agencies have adopted in Afghanistan. I have said those things here many times before and will do so again. The war in Iraq is surely immoral and it is almost as surely criminal, although a definitive judgement on that will have to wait. I oppose any incipient plans to wage war with Iran. I also am opposed to the way military recruiters operate to solicit "volunteers" for the various branches of the service. However, I am no a pacifist - there are some things worth fighting for. It is simply that vague, opportunistically defined campaigns against "evil" or "terror" are not among them.

I could go on, but want to get to the point. One plausible scenario in the current episode is that the IED was planted by someone or some group that is anti-war or anti-military or anti-state some variation on that theme. If so, we should be very, very clear that this sort of action is stupid. It is counterproductive. It is dangerous. Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps this is not an "anti-war" action. However, if those responsible for the bombing consider themselves anti-war activists they need to reconsider. They need to think.

A good place to start would be to read some history. Among the clear lessons of the Viet Nam era is that critics of the war and of the various inanities of Johnson and Nixon administrations lost the cause when they started to bomb things. They killed people and caused damage to property and, in the process, simply produced more reasons for those who might themselves have questioned the war, challenged other forms of social and political injustice, or who might've come to do so, to embrace reactionary politics or to simply remain silent and distant. The bombers too offered officials at various levels a pretext to further assault civil liberties and to adopt increasingly aggressive and dangerous police practices.

The bombing in Manhattan this morning is a terrorist act. Do you think the Mayor, the Police Department, various State and Federal governments won't use it as an excuse to implement further draconian policies? Do you think a populace already assaulted by fear-mongering from multiple sources starting with the President won't see those policies as a proper response?Do you think that populace won't find the rationalizations the government offers for them persuasive? What are you thinking? Are you thinking?



Anonymous Dawei from Beijing said...

So we are now committing terror and vandalism in the name of non-violence? Give me a break! I bet it's some idiot Weatherman wannabe from a privilged background.

06 March, 2008 13:18  
Blogger Colin said...

I couldn't agree more with the stupidity of this act. It leaves me scratching my head in wonder, trying to figure out what this accomplished. This regressive mentality extends to many types of anti's (assuming this was one) - including the recent "ecoterrorism" in Washington. As concerned as I am about the dominant anthropocentric view most have toward the planet, I don't understand how this (and the action in NYC) solves anything other than letting the populace know "someone" is angry while both denouncing their own viewpoint through irrational behavior and supplying stronger resilience to their opposition.

06 March, 2008 14:54  
Anonymous Scott Hughes said...

Was anybody hurt in the bombing? If the bomber bombed civilians, then I bet all of us here will adamantly oppose that. But if he just blew up a building, then let's not compare him to those governments which attack and hurt people. Vandalizing property can be helpful--even if it wasn't in this case--as a form of protest. For example, consider the Boston Tea Party.

06 March, 2008 15:25  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Call this analysis?

07 March, 2008 10:06  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the price of liberty is being a good little boy, it's forfeit already.

07 March, 2008 10:09  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Anon #1 - Yup. Call this a comment? The action is stupid and counterproductive for the reasons I offer. Got any counter-arguments?

Scott - Did the bomber know that there was no one inside? that no pedestrian would happen by and stop to examine his little toy? that none of the vendors in the area would be 'collateral damage'? that the police wouldn't shoot someone else as a suspect? NO times four ...

The problem with the Viet Nam era bombers is that typically innocent people nearby were killed/injured.
And dumping tea into the harbor did not involve explosives - poor analogy. Bombs are indisciminate.

Even if no one is directly hurt/killed the authorities will use this as an excuse for being more repressive than they already are.

The gain from the stupid act - zero, even in expectation; the easaily anticipated costs - very high.

Anon #2 - No one (but you) said anything about compliance or being 'a good little boy'; all I said is that thought is useful and seems to have been lacking in this instance. There are smart ways of resisting and dissenting and there are stupid ways. Bombing things falls into the latter category.

07 March, 2008 15:09  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The war in Iraq is surely immoral and it is almost as surely criminal, although a definitive judgement on that that will have to wait. I oppose any incipient plans to wage war with Iran."

So was Saddam Hussein - who you constantly forget to mention, the very raison d'etre for the war rather than what you probably think which is some kind of unfounded, emotive, unsubstantiated notion of economic gain.

And we are not planning war against Iran - they are doing that against Israel and the non Muslim world, and we are responding to those vile people. Who are, incidentally, similar to Hussein in one respect: full of aggressive Arab bluster, but devoid of real power. Israel, contrary to the threats of Iran, could if they wanted "wipe them off the face of the earth" in a matter of hours. Their army is huge with real WMD, not the fictitious ones Hussein said he had (this report appeared a few months ago: Hussein himself SAID he had WMD), and US capability is of course a hundred times more powerful than Israel.

These people have to learn, they cannot swagger around with their hostile Muslim supremacism. Mohammed did it, but that was a long time and for hundreds of years now Islam has been a failed project.

08 March, 2008 06:25  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...


I have NO IDEA what BushCo were up to in invading Iraq. I nowhere claimed that it was some "unfounded, emotive, unsubstantiated notion of economic gain." But since you raised tha possibility, perhaps it is correct! Actually it was likely just plain old ideological delusion.

Yes, Hussein was a dispicable man. I have in fact said so ,ore than oncec here before. (You must've missed it in your blind bigotry.) But there are lots of such leaders in the world and we did not trump up a series of lies in order to invade their countries. Mugabe? Kim il Sung? the Burmese junta? Indeed, in lots of countries we support outright dictatorships too - e.g., Saudi Arabia, Pakistan. So where are you on all those idiotic American foreign policy positions? How do these nice regimes differ from Hussein? And, of course, how do you deal with the fact that like many of the world's dictators, old Saddam was a product of US foreign policy? You NEVER want to deal with things like that because it might mean admitting that your racist views are crap.

And, you must've forgotten, according to the US Intelligence reports Iran has no nukes and is not engaged in creating them. Sorry, but you ideology is burring your vision.

Finally, if you think Islam is a failed project you must be blind. It is a successful world religion with millions of believers. It has been for millenia. You may not like it, but to that I would say too fucking bad. Your good wishes are hardly required by poeple to exercise their religion. (Nor are mine, by the way.)

So, some things never chcange ... once more, you come around spewing bullshit and bigotry, ranting inconsistently, and basically acting like a moron. Bye!

09 March, 2008 17:11  

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