No Messiahs

To judge by the narratives of our culture, an observer might well come to the conclusion that Homo sapiens was a race of fearless, free-spirited revolutionaries. History and mythology both religious and secular is filled with stories of the mavericks, the dissenters, the nonconformists who rebelled against an unjust and senseless system and “did it their way”.

However, this seeming admiration for dissent conceals the unsettling truth: Humanity is, and has always been, a race of followers. Ever since we were hunter-gatherer hominids living in dominance hierarchies, we have been vulnerable to the ancient tug of the alpha male, and we still are today. Though there are some independent thinkers, more commonly people are not just willing but eager to abdicate the burdensome responsibility of independent thought. We pine to obey; we long for mighty and charismatic leaders to come and rule us and save us from ourselves.

This dismal picture is confirmed by the long lists of phony gurus and false messiahs to which people have fallen victim throughout history, often with truly horrific results. From Jim Jones to Joseph Smith, from L. Ron Hubbard to Sun Myung Moon, from Adolf Hitler to Heaven’s Gate, not to mention the countless other religious and political sects, cults and factions that have ever been, it seems that no self-proclaimed messiah has ever been able to come up with a doctrine so ridiculous that people would not flock to his banner.

Cults of all types usually start with noble-sounding aspirations – to bring peace and establish justice, to create a community of true equals united in purpose, to lead the pure body of the faithful out of the roiling cauldron of sin and unbelief that is the world. But unity never lasts long. Every person has a different view of God which they seek to promote, and the initial dreams of purity almost inevitably splinter into competing sects that bitterly revile each other. In the last resort, when there are conflicting claims of revelation, there is no way to decide between them and no way to settle the conflict except schism and the sword. Such tragedies have played out many times in human history and are ongoing today; one example is the way the country of Iraq, destabilized by American invasion, is now sliding into a bloody civil war pitting Sunni against Shiite, bringing centuries-old, never-resolved religious rivalries to the fore in an already volatile political brew.

The most tragic aspect of this phenomenon is the pitifully misplaced loyalty followers often show in their leaders, even as the cult is collapsing around them. Even when a charlatan is obviously defrauding his followers, making disastrous decisions, or using his perceived privileged status with God for his own personal enrichment, still he can often command the obedience of great numbers of loyal followers who have invested too much of their identity in the group and the leader to walk away. And such things happen often: when one charismatic leader has absolute control, disastrous decisions tend to be far more frequent, especially when the cult’s doctrines encourage their followers to withdraw from the world and break all connections with everyone outside the group. Although spreading fear and hate of outsiders is a useful tactic for cult leaders to consolidate their own power, it cuts them off from objective advice that could have served as a vital corrective to ill-conceived policies. Soon, as the cult begins to collapse like a house of cards, apologists for the group blame the continued existence of outside critics for the failure of the leader’s policies. This leads inevitably to a suicidal spiral of claiming that the way to ensure success is for the group’s members to be even more loyal, until all dissent is suppressed – at which point failures can be easily covered up, at least until the whole enterprise dissolves into chaos.

I should note that this basic pattern is not limited to religious cults. It can occur in political and nationalistic settings as well, when partisan apologists work to stifle dissent, promote fanatic loyalty to a single leader or belief, and demonize all opposition as not just misguided but evil enemies of the state. The Nazis were already mentioned in this context; two other modern-day examples would be the communist state of North Korea, where all citizens are required to hang portraits of the dictator Kim Jong-il in their homes and state-owned media constantly extol his greatness, and the nation of Turkmenistan, currently ruled by an authoritarian government that has built up a bizarre pseudo-religious cult of personality around its president-for-life, Saparmurat Niyazov.

Another glaring example of the dangers posed by trusting in false messiahs, one that hits closer to home, is provided by the administration of George W. Bush. Although the cultic comparison may seem far-fetched at first, all the crucial elements are there: the continual demonization of opponents as intrinsically evil (by depicting them as unpatriotic or “soft on terror”); the belief that the leader is guided by God and therefore cannot err; the leader’s proclamations of absolute power (exemplified in the claims of Bush and his spokesmen that he has the limitless power to break any law he sees fit when, in his sole judgment, “national security” requires it); the steadily progressing isolation of the cult’s inner circle from all criticism and the expulsion of dissenters; and, of course, the disastrous blunders loudly praised by legions of blind followers, whose unabashedly religious faith in their leader’s infallibility has aided and abetted some of the most catastrophic political blunders in American history. The Bush administration failed to prevent the worst terrorist attack on American soil in history, and then allowed its architects to escape; stood by incompetently as a major American city was ravaged by a natural disaster; and bogged the United States down in a war of choice whose only results have been to turn public opinion against us worldwide and create a chaotic failed state that serves as a breeding ground for terrorism and Islamic radicalism – and these are just the more conspicuous of its blunders.

All these episodes and more show the danger of relying on messiahs to save us. Although there are great human leaders, none are divine or infallible, and expecting that good results can be obtained by throwing away doubt and trusting in them blindly is a fool’s errand. Human beings are far too corruptible when praised by others as God’s representative on Earth. Worse, many of those who seek absolute power in the first place do so because of evil intent; any sociopath knows that it is far easier to deceive people when they believe that the deceiver is “one of us”. Religious and cultic political faith can be used too easily as an access route to bypass the normal avenues of skepticism that most people employ when dealing with strangers.

This is why nonbelievers generally advocate the system that maximizes individual liberty and minimizes the risk of societies falling victim to charismatic messiah claimants: a democratic republic with separation of powers, where each branch of government can balance the actions of the others. Since no one can know or see everything, a consensus of educated people will almost always understand more and make better decisions than a lone, unaccountable ruler. With heads full of foolish visions of glorious unanimity, messiah believers tend to scorn compromise and think of questioning and debate as roadblocks to a strong, healthy society, but the truth is that questioning and debate and compromise are what create healthy, thriving societies. There is no shortcut around the democratic process, and no substitute for people working together to make wise and rational decisions for the benefit of all.

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    As you point out, the point of a messiah is to save us from something. Would you agree that very often our messiahs aren’t people, but things? For example, you seem to be saying that our messiah should be democracy, combined with rational, skeptical citizens. Heaven, in this case, being “a strong, healthy society.” I’m not arguing with this, I’m just pointing out that you seem to be arguing that people find a “true messiah” rather than “no messiah.”

  • http://worthlesswell.blogspot.com/ Unbeliever

    While I agree whole-heartedly with the fundamental focus of this post, the misguided belief in messiahs, I could have done without the liberal screed against the President. I mean, is there anything that isn’t his fault? He was only seventeen at the time, but maybe he was the other gunman on the grassy knoll. Surely, at least 25% of all new cancer cases in the last 5 1/2 years can be directly attributed to George Bush.

    911 occured 8 months into Bush’s administration. Yet you completely ignore the 8 years that Clinton was at the helm. Are you seriously suggesting that Clinton is not in any way culpable?

    Do me a favor. Go get a copy of the US Constitution and show me where it says that the federal government is responsible for saving people too stupid to get out of a city below sea-level with a category 5 hurricane on the way.

    And while I recognize that mistakes have been made in Iraq, I still firmly believe that almost anything is better than Saddam. With him there was no hope. At least now there is a chance for something better. And why do we care what the world thinks of us? Should I really give a damn if the French like us or not? We must do what we think is right, even in the face of world opinion. This is a war against Islamic terrorists bent on killing all of us. It is not a popularity contest.

    I hate Bush’s religious fundamentalism as much as any athiest. But I have a family to look after. There are people out there that wouldn’t hesitate to killl them if given half a chance. I want someone who will fight them. I want someone who will take steps, even against public opinion, to destroy those you would destroy us. The only liberal who seems to get this is Joe Lieberman, and look what the Democrats did to him.

  • Philip Thomas

    Ignoring the messianic issue for the moment. Unbeleiver, 9/11 was in part a product of decades of US policy in the Middle East, policy which was the responsibility of both parties (and in which the Bush family certainly played a role). Clinton, for all his faults at least tried to get engaged with the peace process in Palestine, someting Bush junior abandoned on taking office.

    Of cours 9/11 was also the product of a horrific distortion of Islam by evil men who should be brought to justice. That is one reason why the invasion of Iraq was such a terrible strategic blunder: it took resources away from the war on terror. Saddam Hussein’s regime was vile, but there are other such regimes around the world, and the USA cannot police them all.

    Which is one reason why you should care about world opinion: if you want to make lasting change you need allies. Of course you should do what you think is right, but the decision process should include data from outside, like world opinion.

    This is both a war against Islamic terrorists bent on killing us and a popularity contest. The more popular the terrorists are, the more young men will join them. The less popular the US government is, the more difficult it will find it prosecution of the war.

    “Destroying terrorists” and “supporting the war on Iraq” are not the same, and they may even by contradictory. Certainly the Iraq war has bred more terrorists than it has destroyed.

  • Archi Medez

    Folks, regarding “messiahs,” I thought I’d add some quotes about Mohammad.

    Basically, everything in Islam rests on Mohammad (if he existed). He is believed to have ‘revealed’ the Koran, and is quoted in thousands of hadiths (detailed reports or traditions on how Muslims should conduct their lives). These sources, all based on Mohammad’s assertions, form the basis of Islamic law and governance. Everything from the Islamic policies of jihad to the handling of fingernail clippings is carefully regulated according to Mohammad’s revelations, sayings, and pattern of conduct. Below are some quotes from the Koran and Hadith. These certainly show the Messianic, personality-cult aspects of mainstream Islam.

    4:80. “He who obeys the Messenger (Muhammad SAW), has indeed obeyed Allah, but he who turns away, then we have not sent you (O Muhammad SAW) as a watcher over them.”

    Sahih Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 89, Number 251.
    Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “Whoever obeys me, obeys Allah, and whoever disobeys me, disobeys Allah, and whoever obeys the ruler I appoint, obeys me, and whoever disobeys him, disobeys me.”

    33:21. “Ye have indeed in the Apostle of God a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in God and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of God.”

    68:4. “And verily, you (O Muhammad SAW) are on an exalted standard of character.”

    33:56. “Lo! Allah and His angels shower blessings on the Prophet. O ye who believe! Ask blessings on him and salute him with a worthy salutation.”

    59:6. “And what Allah gave as booty (Fai’) to His Messenger (Muhammad SAW) from them, for which you made no expedition with either cavalry or camelry. But Allah gives power to His Messengers over whomsoever He wills. And Allah is Able to do all things. 59:7. And whatsoever the messenger giveth you, take it. And whatsoever he forbiddeth, abstain (from it).”

    Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 7, Number 331 (also Volume 1, Book 8, Number 429):
    Narrated Jabir bin ‘Abdullah: The Prophet said, “I have been given five things which were not given to any one else before me.
    1. Allah made me victorious by awe, (by His frightening my enemies) for a distance of one month’s journey.
    2. The earth has been made for me (and for my followers) a place for praying and a thing to perform Tayammum, therefore anyone of my followers can pray wherever the time of a prayer is due.
    3. The booty has been made Halal (lawful) for me yet it was not lawful for anyone else before me.
    4. I have been given the right of intercession (on the Day of Resurrection).
    5. Every Prophet used to be sent to his nation only but I have been sent to all mankind.”

    Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 2, Number 13:
    Narrated Abu Huraira: “Allah’s Apostle said, “By Him in Whose Hands my life is, none of you will have faith till he loves me more than his father and his children.

    Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 2, Number 20:
    Narrated Anas: The Prophet said, “Whoever possesses the following three qualities will taste the sweetness of faith:
    1. The one to whom Allah and His Apostle become dearer than anything else.
    2. Who loves a person and he loves him only for Allah’s sake.
    3. Who hates to revert to disbelief (Atheism) after Allah has brought (saved) him out from it, as he hates to be thrown in fire.”

    33:50-52. [Allah says Mohammad can have practically any woman he wants].

    48:1-3. [Allah forgives Mohammad’s past and future sins]

  • http://mcv.planc.ee mcv

    My point of view has allways been then no human is capable to handle that much power. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. No matter how pure and just his/her goals were in the beginning, but when there are hundreds of people ready to die for that person and for what that person stands for. (S)He will start to lose controll over him/herself and power given to him/her.

  • Philip Thomas

    “Mohammed (if he existed)”

    Surely taking historical sceptism a leap too far? What evidence have you that Mohammed didn’t exist? I understand saying that he wasn’t exactly the character he was subsequently made out to be. But his actual existence seems pretty certain…

  • Archi Medez

    1. Let’s not forget those other (non-religious) personality cults, Stalinism and Maoism.

    2. Re Bush and Iraq. I agree with Unbeliever at least in his overall point (more on that below). I think that, as much as can be said about the problems of Bush–and they are many–the tendency for critics to go overboard in demonizing him itself is the expression of a kind of quasi-superstitious phenomenon. I am often amazed at how far critics will go. Let’s recall that the majority of the American public, media, and politicians in 2003 were in favour of invading Iraq. Even in Canada, at least English Canada, about 60% were in favour of invading Iraq. (For the record, I did not support it because it was obvious, sIt was only when things went sour that most Americans began to heap blame upon the Bush administration.

    Had it not been for the numerous Islamist groups operating in Iraq (including Sunni Saddam loyalists, not just insurgents), whose immediate goal is to cause as much death, terror, and destruction as possible, and to thwart all attempts as rebuilding, and to force the Americans and coalition to have to remain there as long as possible,* at least the infrastructure of Iraq and the security situation would now be pretty good. *Of course, as bin Laden and others stated long before 2003, one of their goals in attacking the U.S. was to provoke the U.S. into invading Iraq. They had already stated that their goal was to draw the U.S. into such a battle, to bleed the U.S. economically and in lives lost, knowing that the U.S. citizens, like most western citizens today, cannot tolerate wars that extend more than a couple of years, and that those western citizens would eventually turn against their own governments. Moreover, they had already understood that the international community would be divided on the issue (from the extensive experience of the Islamist groups vs. Israel), and so they sought to open up those fault lines even further (and now look at the divisions between continental Europe and the U.S.). Now the Islamists have succeeded in turning most of the world against the U.S., to an extent not seen before.

    The chief problem with both Bush and the American public, and indeed most of the western world at this time, regardless of the person’s political profile, is that they lack knowledge about the ideology that we are up against. They also do not seem to take seriously much of what the jihadists actually say about their own goals and intentions. Moreover, the jihadists enjoy significant social and financial support. Had our leaders known anything about Islam and the Muslim world, they would have realized that attempting to introduce “democracy” would probably result in only one outcome: The majority of Muslims in those regions would vote in favour of sharia law and elect hard-line Islamic regimes at the first opportunity. That is basically what we now have in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Also see Iran, Palestinian Authority, and, perhaps soon, Lebanon). We are now literally paying huge amounts of money, and spending the lives of our young men and women, to prop up Islamic regimes that have overriding “sharia” clauses in their constitutions. We are propping up regimes–indeed, societies–in Iraq and Afghanistan that execute apostates, blasphemers, homosexuals; and which persecute religious minorities. We should not risk over-investing in a society that is so thoroughly committed to hard-line Islam and over which we have little control, and which, ultimately, is dedicated to our destruction as long as islam remains the dominant ideology there. Nevertheless, I think we can achieve some limited success in Afghanistan, both on the rebuilding side and on the military side. It would be a mistake to leave Afghanistan at this point.

    Nearly fourteen centuries ago, the founder of this ideology and his followers vowed as a religious duty to wage “war against all mankind” (literally) non-stop until Judgement Day, and declared that the world belongs to Islam. It was an ideology that divided humanity into Muslim and non-Muslim, and that instilled a deep-seated enmity in the former against the latter. The members of this ideology waged aggressive imperialistic wars against Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Animists, Hindus, and Buddhists, long before any of those groups ever waged a counter-attack against it. This jihad policy to spread the rule of Islam has been carried out, to varying extents in various places, using various methods, for nearly 14 centuries. The jihad policy, in a nutshell, is this: Fight them until all religion is for Allah (8:39). The jihad policy offers non-Muslims a “choice”: (1) Embrace Islam, or else (2)* accept humiliating subjugation (dhimmitude) under Islamic rule (or else slavery), or else (3) be killed. *Note: Those regarded as “idolators” often were not given the “comfort” of option (2). This policy is still accepted today by all major schools of Islamic jurisprudence. The various Islamic terrorist groups are not “twisting” Islam much at all, except in regards to the fact that there are some differences among Muslim scholars on the conditions under which Muslim civilians may be killed/sacrificed in jihad. They are all in agreement that non-Muslim civilians can be killed with impunity in jihad. Progressive reformist Muslims have had, as yet, no impact on changing those traditional policies.

    In mainstream Islam, non-Muslim systems such as those involving “freedom of expression” and “freedom of conscience” and “democracy” are considered to be mischief/corruption on earth, and therefore must be fought or otherwise opposed by Muslims through whatever means they can. Not all Muslims accept this, but those who do are generally the ones in power. They are the leaders, the clerics, the teachers.

    One of keys to solving the current problems in Iraq and elsewhere is education. First, we need a clear and sober critical scrutiny of Islam. Put aside all those slick smooth-talking apologists and have our think-tanks assessing the Islam problem directly. Islam must be put under the microscope and dissected. Then Islam must be dismantled in the schools, and the hard-line clerics and leaders must be removed and replaced by moderates. We have a choice: We either dismantle and defang Islam, and force a separation of mosque and state in those countries, or, if the western public does not have the stomach for that (and I don’t think they do), we should pack up and get out of there, and make sure we have dealt with the hard-line and political Islamists within our own societies. We can then deal with those Islamic countries the way we dealt with South Africa: Trade embargo. This will hit the U.S. hard because they depend on the Middle Eastern oil (of course, I think even for the U.S., it is under 20% dependence on ME sources, so it is a manageable problem). But this is a war–whether that fact has dawned on us or not–and we need to make sacrifices. We should use this opportunity to do what we should have done in the 1970s, which is to make a big investment in alternative energy.

    You know, when Bush and Blair and the other leaders addressed the world shortly after 9/11, they were telling us how this was a multifaceted problem that had to be tackled in many different ways on many different fronts. But the education, economic, political, social, and ideological approaches have not been pursued. Five years later, Saudi* schools are still teaching from the Koran, i.e., teaching children to hate non-Muslims and wage jihad against them. *(The same is true in most Islamic countries). Our mainstream media has been a major failure and, at times, seemingly complicit with the Islamists. Some success: Our police and intelligence agencies have learned from bitter experience and have now been able to foil several major terrorist plots (in Canada, Britain, Germany) recently, and there has been good cooperation internationally in busting those plots. But we need to stop those terrorist plots from being conceived by tackling the hate and opposition which is promoted by the teaching of Islam and in the anti-western messages that are being pumped into our societies by al-Jazeera and other pro-Islamist organizations. We also have to realize that terrorism is merely one tactic that is being used for political purposes (the goal is simply to set up Islamic government and sharia law). Muslim organizations, over the last decade or so, have tried to introduce sharia law, step-by-step, into western societies. We must also continue to strongly oppose these totalitarian theocratic schemes, which discriminate harshly against non-Muslims and women. We must pressure our governments not to allow Islamic schools. We must pressure our mainstream media not to treat Islam with kid gloves but rather to treat it the same way any other religion or political ideology is treated.

  • Archi Medez

    Philip,

    Re Mohammad’s existence. LOL! Yes, perhaps I should have worded that differently. It is, indeed, probable that there was a Mohammad.

  • andrea

    Just some thoughts…..

    The quotes about Mohammed are indistinguishable from the quotes about Jesus. Islam is no worse and no better than Christianity. They *may* use more violence but Christians use violence (see Indonesia), convert on the end of an economic sword and by terrorism of a promise of an eternity of pain and hellfire if people don’t convert and all of this on the government’s okay since by not taking taxes from the churches, they can spend that money on whatever they want. We have Christian schools in this country that teach that everyone else is “evil”. We already have Christians saying that other people can’t live their lives as they want and use bombs and threats and legislation to stop them. The US might be a bit more “civilized”, and I use that term loosely, but we have religious extremists right here. It’s a problem endemic to all religions. What if we did have a non-religious president and gov’t, would the religious extremists, not getting their way and oh-so sure that they are *right* really not use violence, just like their Islamist brethern?

    I think religions hate each other the most because each must be absolutely “right” to have any validity. If it weren’t for agnostics and atheists, they’d always be at each other’s throats.

    Bush has been in office for what 6-7 years now? When does he actually take responsibility and you cease blaming Clinton? And the only reason that the public was for invading Iraq etc, was because of the outright lies the Bush administration told. It wasn’t because of the innate “nobility” of the mission. The Iraqis weren’t making WMDs (the only WMD technology they had was 10+ years old *and* given to them by Reagan and co, to win the Iran/Iraq war), they weren’t supporting Osama(who is *still* out there, and the administration is trying desperately to downplay) and it wasn’t because of how “awful bad” Saddam was treating his people, because if that were the case, we should be in a dozen more countries “saving the children”. The war in Iraq has made *no one* safer. The war on the terrorists would have been farther along if we hadn’t decided to take a $307 billion dollar detour. The Bush administration hasn’t destroyed anything except the US’s moral superiority and has strengthened the terrorists. The stupidity after the hurricanes are indeed the gov’t fault because they said the place was safe, encouraged people to live there, and had no plans for the aftermath (unsurprisingly enough, just like the Iraq war). Yes, it’s purely idiotic to let people live below sea-level, and worse to let them return when we know sea levels are rising. But no one in the administration is saying “no”. We’ll never get the people out of there because of the GOP commitment to “property rights” and no eminent domain. Your home is your castle, well, until the gov’t wants to search it secretly.

  • Philip Thomas

    Archi Medez, an embargo would just throw the Middle East into the arms of China and Russia (who would certainly not observe it). It would lead to the overthrow of our allies within the Middle East, and then there would be an all out war to eradicate Israel in which both sides would have nuclear weapons. Nor is it acceptable to invade another country and force our culture upon them, despite all the times it has been done in the past.

    In time, the Middle East will become a more secular society. But armed intervention is just going to delay that process.

    Of course, there are other intelligent measures we could take. For example, if we bought the Afghan poppy crop, we could bring the poppy farmers into legal society and solve the morphine shortage…

  • Archi Medez

    Andrea,

    The Mohammad/Koran quotes illustrate the messiah concept; I wasn’t trying to a do a Mohammad vs Jesus contrast.

    Re Bush. I suspect that Bush’s Christianity is not relevant to the Iraq issue. Invading Iraq was a mistake, but cannot be linked to his religious beliefs like, for example, his views on stem-cell research can be linked to his religious beliefs (or at least, his attempt to appeal to that part of the population). On the other hand, the religious beliefs of the American admistration (and Blair) may have affected their approach to Islam as a “noble faith,” “religion of peace,” etc., (i.e., it is a religion, it claims to be an “Abrahamic religion”, etc., and is therefore “good”) and so they did not object when the sharia clauses were included in the constitutions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Extremism is a problem endemic to many religions, and it is also a problem in non-religious ideologies. The issue is not simply whether the problem is present or absent. Rather, the issue, in comparing, concerns how much and what kind. Islam is by far the worst, of any ideology, at this time. The situation in Indonesia is yet another case of what happens to religious minorities under a Muslim majority: Some Muslims in these situations take it upon themselves to engage in ethnic cleansing, and that’s what we’re seeing there in their clashes with religious minorities (e.g., Muslims chopping the heads off of Christian school-girls). Islamic teachings contain instructions that, when followed, take a non-violent set of conditions and turn them into violent conditions. Once the violence starts, a cycle of retaliation ensues. It does matter who initiates these conflicts and for what reasons.

    “convert on the end of an economic sword”

    Islam also uses this technique, only it is more coercive. For example, if you don’t pay them the jizya, they kill you. Also, Christians can leave the religion freely; Muslims cannot (they risk being executed by their fellow Muslims).

  • http://worthlesswell.blogspot.com/ Unbeliever

    andrea,

    Yes, Bush has been in office for 5 1/2 years. And there has not been a single attack on American soil since 911. Where is your praise for this accomplishment? You are quick to dismiss Clinton’s inaction that lead to 911, but you then can’t wait to lay every problem at George Bush’s feet. At least attempt to appear consistent.

    Name one lie that Bush told about the reasons for invading Iraq. Just one. If I think that my wife’s keys are on the table and tell her so, but they turn out ot be on the dresser, was that a lie? Mistakes will always be made. And this mistake was made by virtually everyone in the world. The UN was searching Iraq for WMDs. Why would they do that if they didn’t think that there may be some there? All the leaders of the Democratic party believed that Saddam was a threat (even if they’ve conveniently denied it since then). The Iraq policy under the Clinton administration was regime change. Did you object to that policy?

    As for Iraq’s WMD tech being only 10+ years old, the technology that allowed for the developement of the atomic bomb is 60 years old. Does that mean that it can no longer kill people? And there is been substantial evidence that there were ties between Saddam and al Queda, but appearently you will only believe that if we can produce a love letter from bin Laden to Saddam written in Osama’s blood.

    We invaded Iraq because we could do so legally. Iraq was very clearly in violation of the cease-fire that ended the first Gulf War. As a party to that aggreement, we had the right to remove Saddam from power. If you are a police officer and there are three killers that you want to go after but you only have an arrest warrant for one of them, who are you going to go after first?

    Has the invasion of Iraq created more terrorists? Very lilkely. But anything that we do in the war on terror is going to piss off terrosists and make them try and increase their numbers. What else would you expect?

    The invasion of Iraq was an insurance policy. We had every reason to believe that Saddam wanted WMDs and would stop at nothing to acquire them. He had contacts with known terrorists and there is no reason to believe that he wouldn’t provide such a weapon for an attack on the US, which he hates. It’s easy to say after the fact that you didn’t need insurance, but consider the alternative. If the worst case scenario is a mushroom cloud over New York, then shouldn’t we take steps to keep that from happening?

    The US never said that New Orleans was safe. The Army Corps of Engineers rated the levees to withstand certain levels of wind and water. Those levels were exceeded. Several government studies had shown that a sufficiently large hurricane would swamp the city. It was a disaster waiting to happen. Everyone knew this. But thanks to liberals, the victims of Katrina were taught to rely on government and not themselves. That was the real tragedy. We literaly watched the death of personal responsibility as it happened at the Superdome and Convention Center.

    As for the government having “no plans for the aftermath,” please show me in the Constitution where the federal government has the authority to clean up after a natural disaster. That’s right, it ain’t there. If you have no intention of holding the government to the powers granted to it by the Constitution, just say so.

    “Let people live below sea-level?” Where did you or anyone else get the right to tell people where they can and cannot live. This is a perfect example of the liberal philosophy: “We know what’s best for everyone and if you would all just deign to our superiority, everything would be peachy.” And your quotation marks around Property Rights lead me to believe that you don’t think that these rights really exist. Again, liberalism at work. No one should actually own anything or have control over it. If you are truly a socialist, please just come out and say so. That way we can know that you are the enemy of every hard working person in the this country.

    As for your little jab at secret searches, bear in mind that these must still be approved by a judge, just like any other search warrant. The only difference is that the person who’s property is being searched doesn’t have to be notified of the search. Do you not see the necessity of this? Do you want to tell a terrorist that we know about him and drive him underground by informing him of the search? If you have a problem with secret searches, where is your issue with standard searches?

  • Archi Medez

    Philip,

    “Archi Medez, an embargo would just throw the Middle East into the arms of China and Russia (who would certainly not observe it). It would lead to the overthrow of our allies within the Middle East, and then there would be an all out war to eradicate Israel in which both sides would have nuclear weapons. Nor is it acceptable to invade another country and force our culture upon them, despite all the times it has been done in the past.”

    1. They already are in the arms of Russia and China and, haven’t you noticed, they hate us with a fury anyway (they hated us and were calling us the great Satan long before we had any military involvement with them. They still think we are the Crusaders, Romans, etc.

    2. What allies in the Middle East? Israel is the only U.S. ally in the ME. The majority of people in the Muslim countries want to see us annihilated so they can throw a huge party.

    3. There already is the will to carry out an all-out war to eradicate Israel. The only thing they lack is the technology to carry it out. (And Pakistan’s leadership situation is not stable in the long-term). Israel can defend herself; there is actually little we can do about it on the diplomacy side. Muslim leaders view diplomacy with the west as a farce. Have you been watching how Iran has behaved for the past few years? If Iran has the capability to destroy Israel, it just might try it, but our diplomacy will have no effect on that (except, perhaps, to allow Iran more time to build more bunkers and complete their nuclear program). For now, Iran is stalling.

    4. I don’t think there should be a military invasion of any country unless it is absolutely necessary and other options are out. But as far as making a peaceful invasion and introducing them to our ideas, yes, I think we need to do that. Ideological freedom is a basic human right, and we should not allow other people to be oppressed due to archaic tyrannies. Either we have confidence in our ideas or we don’t. Just as I don’t think we should let people starve to death while we have abundance, I don’t think we should allow people to be killed or coerced due to their religious beliefs. Sometimes its necessary to impose our beliefs on others (what is our system of laws and enforcement, if not the imposition of a set of ideas? Do you reject the principle of international law?). Human rights should not be sacrificed on the altar of cultural relativism.

    “In time, the Middle East will become a more secular society. But armed intervention is just going to delay that process.”

    I don’t agree that the Middle East is becoming more secular. It is now more Islamist-theocratic than it has been in the past 50 years. I don’t think we can count on the Middle east becoming more secular over the next few decades without some kind of intervention. It need not be armed intervention, though armed intervention was necessary in Afghanistan.

    “Of course, there are other intelligent measures we could take. For example, if we bought the Afghan poppy crop, we could bring the poppy farmers into legal society and solve the morphine shortage…”

    If there is a medical demand for it, maybe, but how would it be controlled? The Taliban actually used opium exports strategically and explicitly for the purpose of destroying the lives of westerners who were drug-addicts. They saw this as yet another way to wage jihad against the west.

  • Archi Medez

    …and I should add that, although Israel can defend herself, we should also step in to help if it comes to that. For example, some kind of strikes upon Iran’s nuclear facilities at some point may be necessary, and we can help with that.

  • Philip Thomas

    There is a genuine shortage of morphine, particularly in third world countries.
    2. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan.
    4. I do not reject the principles of International law. It is those same principles that tell me it is wrong to invade other countries, except in certain clearly defined circumstances. Quite apart from the moral issue, it would be strategically insane to invade all Muslim countries, let alone all countries which breach human rights

    The increase in relgious zeal is a phase of the modernisation process. It will be followed by a decrease.

  • lpetrich

    In response to Unbeliever,

    While I agree whole-heartedly with the fundamental focus of this post, the misguided belief in messiahs, I could have done without the liberal screed against the President. I mean, is there anything that isn’t his fault?

    There are lots of bad things that aren’t his fault. But that does not mean that he is as saintly as many right-wingers seem to think that he is.

    911 occured 8 months into Bush’s administration. Yet you completely ignore the 8 years that Clinton was at the helm. Are you seriously suggesting that Clinton is not in any way culpable?

    Then-President Clinton did try to fight Al Qaeda, including trying to assassinate Osama bin Laden with some cruise missiles. But his military adventures were scorned by right-wingers as “wag the dog” distractions, a dramatic departure from their usual position that it is treason to criticize US military adventures.

    Do me a favor. Go get a copy of the US Constitution and show me where it says that the federal government is responsible for saving people too stupid to get out of a city below sea-level with a category 5 hurricane on the way.

    After you tell us what right anyone has to whine about taxes when they can always move to some tax-free capitalist utopia like Kuwait or the United Arab Emirates.

    The fact is, President Bush acted in thoroughly Neronian fashion, complete with strumming a stringed instrument as the calamity was in progress, rather than act like the heroic and forceful leader he presents himself as being.

    And while I recognize that mistakes have been made in Iraq, I still firmly believe that almost anything is better than Saddam.

    Saddam was certainly an awful thug, but would pro-Iranian Muslim fundamentalists be much of an improvement?

    Should I really give a damn if the French like us or not?

    What do the French have anything to do with anything? This seems like some right-wing demagoguery more than anything else. Which makes me wonder why they consider France such a big villain. I suppose they need some big villain, but why that one?

    We must do what we think is right, even in the face of world opinion. This is a war against Islamic terrorists bent on killing all of us. It is not a popularity contest.

    I hate Bush’s religious fundamentalism as much as any athiest. But I have a family to look after. There are people out there that wouldn’t hesitate to killl them if given half a chance. I want someone who will fight them. I want someone who will take steps, even against public opinion, to destroy those you would destroy us.
    Unbeliever, please calm down. Screaming “They’re going to kill us! They’re going to kill us!” is not exactly rational thought. And it’s NO excuse for military adventures that are dubious at best.

    Unbeliever, if you had lived in Nazi-era Germany, would you have uncritically supported the Nazi regime on the ground that the evil Communist terrorists who set the Reichstag on fire in 1933 wanted to kill us all? Or supported the Axis war effort because Poland had allegedly attacked Germany in 1939?

    And if you had lived in the Soviet Union in the mid to late 1930′s, would you have uncritically supported Stalin and his purges on the ground that the evil counterrevolutionary terrorists who murdered Party official Sergei Kirov in 1930 wanted to kill us all?

    The only liberal who seems to get this is Joe Lieberman, and look what the Democrats did to him.

    Joe Lieberman a “liberal”? Don’t make me laugh.

  • Philip Thomas

    “although…if it comes to that”

    Of course, if Israel is attacked we should defend her. She is our ally, and anyway we have a duty to defend countries which are the victim of agression. By the same token, we should defend countries which are attacked by Israel.

    “For example…help with that”

    No doubt you can. Can you really be suprised if this triggers retaliation in kind? Who was it who said “If one side has the bomb, the other side must have it too”?

  • Archi Medez

    Re morphine. Right, but in this situation how do we control it so it doesn’t end up in veins of drug addicts?

    Actually, any country which violates human rights is subject to international law, and these laws have to be enforced. As a practical matter, we have to prioritize, yes–I wasn’t proposing invading every country all at once. In the general sense, though, that’s what international law is; it is an intrusion into a culture. As far as making non-violent interventions, particularly to spread certain valuable ideas like freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, and so on, I think we need to keep working on that in as many countries as we can. Certainly, Islamists spare no effort and no expense in propagating their ideas in western society, while enforcing them within their own. If we don’t compete, we’ll lose by default.

  • Archi Medez

    “we should defend countries which are attacked by Israel.”

    Philip, we are dealing, in the case of Hizballah, with a terrorist organization (1) that, with the help of Iran and Syria, is using Lebanon as a vantage point from which to attack Israeli civilians. Hizballah and other groups such as HAMAS are in the business of manufacturing crises and conflicts in order to manipulate public opinion in their own countries as well as internationally, at the same time doing everything they can to chip away at Israel and make Israel look bad to the naive “world opinion”. Hizballah initiated the recent conflict (the G-8 countries were at least in agreement on that) and, moreover, positions its rocket launchers in people’s homes so that Israel is faced with a dilemma: Either allow Hizballah to slaughter Israeli citizens at random, or else make targetted strikes to try and destroy the rocket launchers, thereby killing some of the civilians.(2) This strategy of using human shields is win-win for Hizballah, and lose-lose for Israel. But Israel has no choice, insofar as no one should be expected to commit suicide. Israel has a duty and responsibility to defend its citizens. This doesn’t mean that I uncritically accept everything Israel does. I should add, though, that Israel is self-critical and goes to great lengths, even costing the lives of its own soldiers, to reduce the casualties on the Lebanese side. Israel also warns civilians in advance to evacuate any area that they intend to bomb. In addition, when Israel does unintentionally kill civilians, this is strongly regretted. When Hizballah deliberately kills Jewish civilians, they celebrate, boast, and threaten even more deaths.

    If you want to defend the Lebanese, then advocate for the dismantling and disarmarment of Hizballah. Lebanon and the U.N. were supposed to do that, and they failed to do it. This left Israel the task of having to do it–the hard way. Hizballah, backed by its supporters, has an agenda which is to establish itself further in Lebanon and eventually take power there. This is of course consistent with the usual Islamist goals.

    (1) …which happens to be explicitly dedicated to not only the destruction of Israel, but also of the complete annihilation of the Jews from anywhere on the planet.
    (2)Incidentally, Hizballah also fires upon Lebanese civilians who try to escape the regions from which Hizballah is firing. They also intimidate the Lebanese so that they do not speak unfavourably about Hizballah to the media. Hizballah has considerable support among Shia in the south

  • Philip Thomas

    By supplying the morphine only to responsible health charities (in Africa, in the West we can probably give it to Health professionals more widely). And frankly, even if we do use it to help drug addicts recover from addiction, thats better than the use it will be put to if we don’t buy it.

    I’m glad you are not proposing to invade everyone. I’ll just check you’re not planning to invade the Muslim countries one by one either…

    I didn’t mean to refer to the recent defensive action by Israel. But if Israel were in the future to attack another country without good reason, we should resist that, I hope you agree.

  • http://worthlesswell.blogspot.com/ Unbeliever

    lpetrich,

    [Bush] is as saintly as many right-wingers seem to think that he is.

    Granted. But he also not nearly as demonic as the left has made him out to be either.

    Then-President Clinton did try to fight Al Qaeda, including trying to assassinate Osama bin Laden with some cruise missiles. But his military adventures were scorned by right-wingers as “wag the dog” distractions, a dramatic departure from their usual position that it is treason to criticize US military adventures.

    Lobbing a few cruise missiles isn’t going to get the job done. And the timing (Lewinski anyone?) made any actions by Clinton suspect. Critism isn’t treason, but taking actions that help our enemies is.

    After you tell us what right anyone has to whine about taxes when they can always move to some tax-free capitalist utopia like Kuwait or the United Arab Emirates.

    I never mentioned taxes. Where did you get this from? As an American citizen is it my right to advocate what I believe to be the best course of action. Your “love or leave it” rhetoric is childish. Do you agree with everything that the government does? If not, then either keep your mouth shut or move to a different country. See how immature that sounds.

    BTW, nice dodge on the Constitution question. Found that clause yet or are you still looking?

    The fact is, President Bush acted in thoroughly Neronian fashion, complete with strumming a stringed instrument as the calamity was in progress, rather than act like the heroic and forceful leader he presents himself as being.

    Bush was elected President, not “daddy” for every idiot in this country. Is there any point at which we can expect people to take care of themselves? The government only has the authority to do what is enumerated in the Constitution. Saving people from their own stupidity and short-sightedness isn’t listed.

    Saddam was certainly an awful thug, but would pro-Iranian Muslim fundamentalists be much of an improvement?

    If we only did things that had a guaranteed better outcome, we would never do anything. Change is risky. But it also necessary when the present situation is intolerable.

    What do the French have anything to do with anything? This seems like some right-wing demagoguery more than anything else. Which makes me wonder why they consider France such a big villain. I suppose they need some big villain, but why that one?

    I picked the French only because they seem to be representative of the negative opinion that the world now has of us. I don’t care about the French. It is the liberals who seem to need their approval so much.

    Unbeliever, please calm down. Screaming “They’re going to kill us! They’re going to kill us!” is not exactly rational thought. And it’s NO excuse for military adventures that are dubious at best.

    Well, the welfare of my family gets me a little excited. They are kinda important to me. And my fears are not only rational, they’ve been proven. Your quote is probably exactly what was spoken by people in the WTC as the planes were headed for them. My, how soon people forget.

    Unbeliever, if you had lived in Nazi-era Germany, would you have uncritically supported the Nazi regime on the ground that the evil Communist terrorists who set the Reichstag on fire in 1933 wanted to kill us all?

    If you have evidence that the Bush administration intentionally deceived the public to start a war in Iraq, I’m sure we would all love to see it. If you had lived in 1941 America, would you have believed that Japan had attacked our naval base in Hawaii and was striving for world domination? Of course not. You refuse to act unless someone has a gun to head. Little known fact: by then, it’s too late.

    Joe Lieberman a “liberal”? Don’t make me laugh.

    Oh, that’s right, he’s a conservative. What was I thinking?

  • http://worthlesswell.blogspot.com/ Unbeliever

    andrea,

    So do you give Bush credit for having no terror attacks on American soil since 911? Oh, I see. He only gets the blame for things. Clinton had far more of an opportunity to curb terrorism in his 8 years in office than Bush had in his 8 months. Bush didn’t create this problem, he inherited it.

    Give me one lie that Bush told to get us into Iraq. Bush, all the members of Congress, the British government among others all saw the same intelligence and felt that we had no choice but to overthrow Saddam. Have you ever said something that later turned out to be wrong? Were you lying or were you mistaken?

    I hate to tell you this, but 10+ year old nerve gas can kill pretty well, too. We all know that Saddam was a megalomaniac that was hell bent on developing WMDs. We also know that he hated the US. We now have confirmnation that there were links between Saddam and known terrorist organizations, including al Queda. Why is it that when I add 2 + 2 + 2 I get six, but you only get zero and go back to sleep?

    The invasion of Iraq was insurance. It is easy to say in hindsight that we never needed the insurance. But when massive death and destruction are the possible outcomes, timidity is the road to disaster. I’d rather see us invade Iraq and fail, then see us do nothing and someday face WMDs on American soil. You’d have us sit back and hope for the best. Sorry, but the world rarely rewards people who do that.

    We invaded Iraq because we had the legal recourse to do so. Iraq was in violation of the cease-fire that ended the first Gulf War. As a party to that agreement, the US had the right to overthrow Saddam.

    As for Katrina, the government (specifically the Army Corps of Engineers) stated that the levees could withstand certain levels of wind and water. Those levels were exceeded. Several studies had already stated that New Orleans would be swamped by a hurricane of sufficient size. Everyone knew that this was a disaster waiting to happen. Also, I checked my copy of the Constitution, and I can’t find the clause where the federal government is given the authority or power to clean-up after natural disasters. Are we going to follow this “supreme law of the land” or aren’t we?

    And what is this “it’s purely idiotic to let people live below sea-level” stuff about? Who gave any of us the power to tell people where they can and can’t live? This is what I dislike so much about liberals: the arrogant, sanctimonious attitude that if everyone would just deign to the liberals superior understanding, we would all be in a better world. How about we let people decide for themselves and accept the consequences. You know, treat people like adults. And your quotation marks around Property Rights leads me to think that you don’t believe that any such rights really exist. If you are truly a socialist, just come out and say so. That way every hard working person in this country will know that you are their enemy. That you want to take (i.e. steal) from those that have earned it to give to the leeches of society.

  • http://worthlesswell.blogspot.com/ Unbeliever

    Adam,

    I’ve had two comments that I submitted just never show up. I prayed for them to appear, but oddly enough, they still aren’t there.

  • Archi Medez

    Philip,

    -I have no intentions to (militarily) invade Muslim or other countries which violate the freedoms (except in extreme and high-priority circumstances), but think that the U.N. and other international organizations need to be used more effectively (in non-military interventions) for that purpose. I also think we should introduce propaganda that is critical of Islam, or whatever other ideology is being implemented to infringe on peoples’ rights and freedoms (e.g, see North Korea).

    -like I suggested, I would not refrain from criticizing Israel, if it had acted inappropriately.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Unbeliever,

    My spam filter inexplicably decided to snag your comments – sorry about that. They should appear now.

    Thoughts on the comments so far to follow soon…

  • http://worthlesswell.blogspot.com/ Unbeliever

    Adam,

    No problem. I can just see your spam filter now.

    Reject: viagra, mortgage, libertarians.

    ;-)

  • Philip Thomas

    Unbeleiver. Ok, So President Bush and his advisers were mistaken. It would be nice if they admitted that. Anyway, there were aspects of their mistake that were utterly incompetent. They completely failed to plan for the aftermath of the war, both on the level of reconstructing Iraq and on the likely effect of the war on Middle Eastern politics.

    “How about we just let people decide for themselves and accept the consequences”. Sounds like a solid liberal policy to me…

  • Archi Medez

    Unbeliever,

    “All the leaders of the Democratic party believed that Saddam was a threat (even if they’ve conveniently denied it since then).”

    True, but I think their position as the opposition party was that Saddam was not an immanent threat to the U.S., such that toppling him at that time was not absolutely necessary. That belief may or may not have been correct. Certainly, Saddam was an immanent threat to Israel, as well as to the Kurds and Shia within Iraq.

    “And there is been substantial evidence that there were ties between Saddam and al Queda,”

    “He had contacts with known terrorists”

    Contacts with terrorist yes, but to my knowledge, there has not been publicized* any clear operative connection between Saddam and al Qaeda, though I believe there had been some communications. *Cheney claims to have access to other information that has not yet been made public.

    “We invaded Iraq because we could do so legally. Iraq was very clearly in violation of the cease-fire that ended the first Gulf War.”

    They were in violation of the ceasefire, but the legality of the invasion is not clear.

  • Archi Medez

    From Adam’s article:

    “The Bush administration failed to prevent the worst terrorist attack on American soil in history,”

    The claim is over-specific. Many other people in positions of more direct responsibility than Bush also contributed to the failure. There is also international responsibility.

    The claim also seems like it is overly dependent on consequences. It is conceivable that the Oklahoma bombing and the first bombing of the WTC could have resulted in as many deaths as 9/11. Let’s also not forget the attacks on Americans by terrorists during the Clinton, Bush Sr., Reagan, and Carter eras.

    “…and then allowed its architects to escape;”

    Not quite. Some of the architects are still on the loose, but some have been captured. The chief architect, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, has been captured

    For geographical and political reasons it is difficult to get control over people’s passage between Afghanistan and neighboring countries (esp. Pakistan). I would partly blame military strategists for the order of events (the passages should have been sealed off much more thoroughly before any direct attack on Taliban and Al-Qaeda took place.

    “…stood by incompetently as a major American city was ravaged by a natural disaster;”

    Again, the claim is over-specific. Could we have expected a different outcome had there been someone other than Bush, or a party other than the Republicans, in power? I have read that, for those levees to have been rebuilt to withstand a Category 5 hurricane would have taken several years, such that, even if Bush had initiated such a project when he first came into office in 2001, it would not be complete by the time Katrina hit.

    Next, what about the city and the state? For example, I recall seeing a huge parking lot full of school buses that could have been used to evacuate thousands of people, but the buses were just sitting there. Is this, too, Bush’s fault?

    “…and bogged the United States down in a war of choice whose only results have been to turn public opinion against us worldwide and create a chaotic failed state…”

    The U.S./coalition didn’t create the chaos and the failure. They are working against it. It is the Islamists who are directly responsible for deliberately causing death, destruction, and chaos.

    “…that serves as a breeding ground for terrorism and Islamic radicalism”

    The military intervention by the west does not necessarily breed terrorists who are opposed to the west. (If this were true, we should see, for example, terrorism against U.S. citizens carried out by Japanese, German, Yugoslavian, Vietnamese, and other terrorists. We don’t see that happening). The Islamists are using Iraq for a breeding ground and training ground for Islamic terrorism and urban warfare, while each group is vying for political power. This is strategic and political, and it is based on a pre-existing hostility toward the west and the U.S.

    Our major failure in Iraq is a lack of knowledge of Islam, and underestimating the majority of Iraqi Muslims’ deep commitments to Islam, and deep hostility toward the west. It is unlikely that any administration would have knowingly approved, at the outset, spending billions and billions of dollars, and putting lives at risk, for setting up what is effectively, and increasingly, a Shia theocracy. Yet this is what has happened. It would not have happened had our leadership researched these issues thoroughly after the 9/11 attacks. I find that the actions of all governments in the west, thus far, have been inadequate in dealing with the threat of terrorism (which is merely a tactic) and political Islam more generally. This requires identifying and confronting the ideology head-on, and that is such an unpleasant, dangerous, complex, and time-consuming task that most politicians do not want to do it.

  • Philip Thomas

    “The Bush adminstration…many other people in positions of more direct responsibility than Bush”. Is it possible there is some overlap between these 2 groups?

    Politics is about consequences. It was conceivable that Munich could have created a lasting “peace for our time”. It didn’t and Chamberlain lost his job (eventually). It was conceivable that intervening in Suez could have forced Nasser to back down. It didn’t and Eden lost his job.

    As for the military strategists, I beleive the phrase “the buck stops here” was invented by a US President?

    “The US coalition didn’t create the chaos and the failure”. Not deliberately, but they were entirely predictable consequences of its actions.

    Germany and Japan were defeated and occupied after long wars of agression which their leadership had started. The military occupation was combined with respect from their cultural values (e.g, the Emperor) and substantial financial aid to rebuild the country. Vietnam did breed opposition to American occupation, but this stopped when the Americans went home. But more importantly, there was a circumstance about the Iraq war that was absent from those earlier conflicts: there was already in being a terrorist organisation that was bent on America’s destructon. Given that, it was predictable that they would use a failed Iraq as a recuiting ground. It is in part this very “pre-existing hostility” that meant the Iraq war was such a stupid mistake. Not that this solves the problem of what to do now…

    As for your last pargraph, I wholeheartedly agree.

  • andrea

    On the risk of taking this discussion even more off topic…. There might not have been an attack in 5 ½ years but that’s not to say that any have been planned. Strange how any “threats” are always trotted out when there’s something that the administration has to hide. And if Clinton wasn’t responsible for no attacks before 9/11 I don’t see how Bush can be responsible for safety after. We didn’t need an attack on our soil anyway, we’ve put plenty of people in harms way intentionally by “taking it over there”. How many people have died now for a war started because of the lies? Interesting that you said that we invaded Iraq because we could do so legally. No, we couldn’t. We decided we could, against darn near everyone else’s legal opinion. But we went anyway

    Lies? Oh, let’s see. There are WMD’s ready to be launched in minutes and we knew *exactly* where they are(their words not mine). Anthrax is being produced. Or Saddam was close buddies with Osama and was responsible for 9/11(Cheney has said that numerous times). There were terror camps that Saddam allowed (nope that was an old camp and under the Kurdish controlled areas). Or the Iraqis were bound and determined to get yellowcake(why, when they have their own uranium ore?). The aluminum tubes were for making nuclear weapons(wrong again). And on and on, and on. BTW, Saddam didn’t hate the US. Why would he when Rummy gave him those gold spurs?

    As for laws in the Constitution that make it so that the Feds have to clean up, why no it’s not there and the Constitution isn’t the end of our laws and statutes. Strangely enough there is a governemtn agency called FEMA that is supposed to have plans. However, do you really think that each state is responsible? Gee, should we make it so each state has its own laws and has its own infrastructure too? Get real. And you want to allow people to live anywhere they want with no fault of anyone else. It simply doesn’t work that way. Should people be allowed to move into national parks? How about military reservations? What if I have some extra land that someone wants? They want to live there, why should I tell them no? What if I want to build a rendering plant in a residential area? How dare anyone tell me I can’t! Property rights are everyone’s rights to enjoy their land and their privacy. However, common sense dictates that sometimes you can’t have what you want because the common good overrides the selfish desires of the individual. And the gov’t evidentely did think that New Orleans was safe because our fearless leader said that “I don’t think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees”.

    Funny how you accuse me of being a socialist. Such assumptions. Care to call me a “commie pinko” too? Not sure if you accusing me of being a socialist or bringing up the French again is funnier.

    Searches have to be approved by a judge? Nonsense, the current administration doesn’t think so. That’s why we’re having all the trouble now since they were caught. I have no problem with a search, if it does go through a judge. However, random searches with *no* reason aren’t acceptable because they can be abused. That Constitution that you trot out when convenient does say that the gov’t can’t just go poking around where it wants.

  • Alex Weaver

    To add to what andrea said, I’ve been staying out of this because I don’t have as many references as I’d like and am worried about getting facts confused, but didn’t Bush tell FEMA they had TWO DAYS to respond to Katrina? And I seem to recall that at least a large part of the funding for the repair and upkeep of the levees was diverted to Iraq.

    Anyway, Unbeliever, I have a question for you: what WOULD you accept as proof that Bush is a scoundrel? Specifics, please. I can certainly list a large number of things he could have done that would have made him, in my estimation, one of the best presidents in history; instead, he is a serious candidate for the worst.

  • Infophile

    Okay, you demanded one lie to lead us into the war in Iraq. Here it is:

    On February 5, 2003, Colin Powell, on behalf of the Bush administration, testified in the United Nations in order to convince them to support the war. To back up this claim, Powell presented the aluminum tubes that Iraq admitted to be importing. Iraq claimed they were to make rockets (no, not missiles, rockets). The Bush administration claimed, however, that they were using it to centrifuge uranium in order to turn it into weapons-grade uranium. Powell went on and on about the increasing specification, including mentioning an anodized coating in the most recent batch, and then asked why they would go to all that trouble since, if it was for a rocket, it would be blown to shrapnel after it went off. Therefore, their story was bogus, and the tubes must be for centrifuging uranium.

    The truth of the tubes was revealed in an article in the Washington Post on August 10, 2003. The journalists had interviewed the government’s own centrifuge scientists, who said the following things:

    -It would be ridiculously difficult to make those tubes into centrifuges. They were quite simply the wrong size (though the right size for rockets).

    -The anodized coating Powell went on and on about was exactly what Iraq needed to prevent corrosion of their rockets. It was this very corrosion that ruined their previous supply. So there actually was a reason.

    -Last but certainly not least, if they were going to use the tubes for centrifuges, they’d have to go and mill off this anodized coating, which would have ruined the centrifuging efforts.

    So, what does this all mean? The Bush administration either never asked their own scientists what the tubes meant (they don’t care about the truth) or they ignored it (they lied).

    (I could go on with lies, like how Rumsfeld said he knew precisely where the WMDs were, but you just asked for one example.)

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Hello all,

    Now that I’ve had some time to catch up, I’m pleased to see a lively discussion started here. I’m afraid I don’t have the time to address all comments individually, but I’ll offer some general thoughts. (Warning: long comment ensues…)

    For Macht:

    As you point out, the point of a messiah is to save us from something. Would you agree that very often our messiahs aren’t people, but things?

    Oh, very much so. In fact, the idea of the messiah as an individual is often intimately connected with the idea of the messiah as an ideology: “If only everyone followed fundamentalist Christianity (or Islam, or communism, or whatever else) then the world would be a perfect place.” This does not work any more than trusting unquestioningly in individuals does, especially because it often has the terrible side effect of persuading people to try to force others to follow that set of beliefs.

    Before I’m accused of inconsistency, let me make it clear that I do not similarly believe that all the world’s problems would end overnight if everyone became an atheist (although quite a few of them certainly would). As I have said before, atheists are just as logically capable of committing crimes and misdeeds as anyone else. What we need, more than everyone to become an atheist, is for everyone to exercise more critical thought and act in a more moral and compassionate fashion, regardless of what their beliefs are.

    For Unbeliever:

    911 occured 8 months into Bush’s administration. Yet you completely ignore the 8 years that Clinton was at the helm. Are you seriously suggesting that Clinton is not in any way culpable?

    No doubt, 9/11 could have been prevented if President Clinton had, for example, captured or killed Osama bin Laden. I’m sure he missed a few opportunities to thwart it as well. However, there are two very important differences: first, 9/11 occurred while Bush was president, it did not occur while Clinton was president; and second, Clinton showed far more interest in hunting down terrorists than Bush’s ever did before it was politically advantageous to them to do so. For example, the Clinton administration successfully captured, prosecuted, and imprisoned for life the architects of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Bush, on the other hand, seemed to have literally no interest in fighting terrorism upon taking office, and we can see for ourselves what the result of that neglect was.

    Go get a copy of the US Constitution and show me where it says that the federal government is responsible for saving people too stupid to get out of a city below sea-level with a category 5 hurricane on the way.

    I find your implication that the residents of New Orleans did not fully evacuate in time because they were “too stupid” to do so to be extraordinarily offensive (and your later suggestion that they failed to evacuate because “big government” prejudiced them against self-reliance – well, I’m going to assume you meant that rhetorically because I can’t imagine that anyone would seriously believe it). The truth is that tens of thousands of poor people in the city were unable to evacuate because they did not own cars (public transportation services were shut down days before the hurricane). Many thousands of others were ill, elderly or infirm and unable to evacuate under their own power. We can debate until we’re blue in the face over whether FEMA is permissible under the Constitution, but the fact is that it does exist now, it did exist during Katrina, and the idea that the Bush administration deliberately chose not to mobilize it because of some abstract constitutional consideration is just ludicrous. They failed to mobilize it because of ignorance and incompetence, plain and simple.

    And while I recognize that mistakes have been made in Iraq, I still firmly believe that almost anything is better than Saddam. With him there was no hope. At least now there is a chance for something better.

    “Mistakes have been made” is a rather weak description of the state of affairs in a country that is rapidly sliding into open civil war (if civil war has not begun already). Do you realize that literally thousands of Iraqis are now dying each and every month in sectarian violence? Do you realize that the frequency of bombings, shootings and other acts of violence has been rising steadily every month for many months now? Just as I said in my post, Iraq as it now exists has become a violent anarchy, a worldwide rallying symbol for jihadists, and a breeding ground for a whole new generation of Islamic terrorism. In addition, the vast costs of the war – both in dollars and in our soldiers’ blood – is forcing us to waste resources that could otherwise have been used to actually make our nation safer from terrorist attacks. Instead, as a result of the war, we are less safe.

    And why do we care what the world thinks of us? Should I really give a damn if the French like us or not?

    Yes, you should, for the simple reason that terrorism is an international problem not confined to one state or region and we’re going to need the law-enforcement help of a great many nations if we’re ever to have any serious hope of effectively combating it. The Bush administration, on the other hand, seems hellbent on turning the United States into an international pariah.

    I want someone who will take steps, even against public opinion, to destroy those you would destroy us. The only liberal who seems to get this is Joe Lieberman, and look what the Democrats did to him.

    Joe Lieberman was ousted not because he courageously supported an unpopular position, but because he took the line that any criticism of the president during wartime is off-limits. That is an anti-democratic and anti-American view and he got what he deserved.

    Yes, Bush has been in office for 5 1/2 years. And there has not been a single attack on American soil since 911. Where is your praise for this accomplishment?

    I will praise Bush for that accomplishment when someone explains to me exactly what he has done to make America safer. I don’t see much evidence that he’s done anything at all: most of our cargo remains uninspected, his bloody Iraq bungle has tied down most of the National Guard and hollowed out the military when they could have been protecting us at home, and the bipartisan 9/11 commission gave his administration a failing grade at protecting our borders as recently as this summer.

    If you are truly a socialist, please just come out and say so. That way we can know that you are the enemy of every hard working person in the this country.

    I happen to be a hard-working person, thanks very much, and I do not consider Andrea or other liberals my enemies. I am grateful to them for their concern for the least among us, and I do not begrudge paying taxes on the money I work to earn as long as I know that that money is going to good causes.

    For Archi Medez:

    Had it not been for the numerous Islamist groups operating in Iraq (including Sunni Saddam loyalists, not just insurgents), whose immediate goal is to cause as much death, terror, and destruction as possible, and to thwart all attempts as rebuilding, and to force the Americans and coalition to have to remain there as long as possible,* at least the infrastructure of Iraq and the security situation would now be pretty good.

    Well, that’s something of a tautology, don’t you think? Iraq would be just fine if it weren’t for the people who were bent on making things bad. But the fact is that these people do exist, that this result was widely predicted before the war, and that the Bush administration actively shut out or ignored everyone who was saying so. Gen. Eric Shinseki, for example, was publicly humiliated for questioning Donald Rumsfeld’s assertions that only a small force would be sufficient to pacify and control Iraq.

    I suspect that Bush’s Christianity is not relevant to the Iraq issue. Invading Iraq was a mistake, but cannot be linked to his religious beliefs like, for example, his views on stem-cell research…

    I’m not entirely sure I agree with that. Witness the legions of loyal Christian Bush supporters who are loudly cheering the violence in Iraq, and in the Middle East more generally, as a welcome prelude to Armageddon. I don’t know if Bush himself holds such views, but it’s notable that he has conspicuously dodged several opportunities to deny that he holds them.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    I would like to point out, in postscript, that no one who has defended George W. Bush in this thread has disputed my basic points about his following showing many of the classic signs of a cult. I’ll reiterate them:

    • The stereotyping of the world as black-and-white and the continual demonization of outsiders as not just misguided or wrong but intrinsically evil.
    • The belief that the leader is personally guided by God.
    • The belief that the leader must possess absolute and limitless power that cannot be restrained by any outside force.
    • The steadily progressing isolation from outside criticism and differing views.

    Leaving aside for the moment the question of competence, is there anyone who doubts that these traits form an accurate description of this administration?

  • Archi Medez

    Philip,

    Re Bush’s responsibility regarding stopping the 9/11 plot. Of course, Bush bears some responsibility, but my point was that lots of other people were also responsible. The “buck stops here” is a superficial sound-bite that does not reflect the reality of the situation. In addition, all of the presidents since and including Carter have failed to stop terrorist attacks. Why is Bush Jr. being singled out in this respect (re 9/11)?

    “Germany and Japan were defeated and occupied after long wars of agression which their leadership had started. The military occupation was combined with respect from their cultural values (e.g, the Emperor) and substantial financial aid to rebuild the country.”

    1. No, the appropriate analogy (to the current conflict with Islamic extremists) is the ideology whose adherents were fighting us. We respected neither of those cultural systems (Nazism and the cult of the Emperor). We dismantled those ideologies and changed them.

    2. You still haven’t addressed the issue of why German, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Yugoslavian terrorists have not, and are not now, attacking us. (Invasions “create” terrorists?). Heck, the list of grievances listed by the jihadists against “us” go back over 1000 years. Some of these jihadists will engage in mass-slaughter of civilians using cartoons as pretexts. My point is that those other cultures do not have an ideology that actually legislates, into perpetuity, jihad warfare against the non-believers.

    “”The US coalition didn’t create the chaos and the failure”. Not deliberately, but they were entirely predictable consequences of its actions.”

    I didn’t say otherwise. The claim by Ebonmuse was that they created it; and the claim was incorrect or at the very least exaggerated.

    Andrea,

    I was doing fine with your previous post until I ran into this:

    “BTW, Saddam didn’t hate the US.”

    You’ve got to be kidding?!

    Ebonmuse,

    I’ll reiterate what I said earlier about the demonization of Bush. This has gone way too far. The American public is as much to blame as the man they elected (twice).

    “Well, that’s something of a tautology, don’t you think? Iraq would be just fine if it weren’t for the people who were bent on making things bad.”

    No tautology at all. Your initial claim was that the Bush administration had created the problems. My point was that we should rest the bulk of the blame squarely where it belongs: On the people who are deliberately causing the problems. There is a big difference, from a moral standpoint, between negligence/error (of which Bush, his administration, the American media [circa 2003] and the majority of American public are certainly guilty) and the carefully calculated, intentional production of slaughter, terror, and all-out mayhem targeting civilians. This is organized, as part of a long-term strategy, by the various Islamist groups.

    “But the fact is that these people do exist, that this result was widely predicted before the war,”

    Predicted, but not widely predicted, and certainly not the prevailing view. Yes, the advice was sound and should have been listened to, but the majority of the media, and the majority of the American public, weren’t taking that as a serious consideration. It is not only Bush that is to blame for this negligence. Even the great scholar of Islam, Bernard Lewis, who supported this whole ‘build-a-modern-democracy-in-Iraq’ scheme, failed to predict the Islamist terrorism and the Iraqi people’s choice, in majority, to return to hard-line Islamic rule.

    “…and that the Bush administration actively shut out or ignored everyone who was saying so. Gen. Eric Shinseki, for example, was publicly humiliated for questioning Donald Rumsfeld’s assertions that only a small force would be sufficient to pacify and control Iraq.”

    I certainly agree that the adminstration made errors, and that, following Bush’s lead, they were pursuing a pipe dream with the Iraq project (shining city on the hill, etc.) and had tunnel vision, ignoring disconfirming evidence. My point is chiefly that the majority of the American public, and the media in the spring of 2003, had exactly the same approach. Had Americans and their media not approved of the invasion prior to it happening, it probably would not have happened; or at least it would not have happened so soon, so recklessly, and with so much division in the international community over the issue.

    Archi: “I suspect that Bush’s Christianity is not relevant to the Iraq issue. Invading Iraq was a mistake, but cannot be linked to his religious beliefs like, for example, his views on stem-cell research…” Ebonmuse: I’m not entirely sure I agree with that. Witness the legions of loyal Christian Bush supporters who are loudly cheering the violence in Iraq, and in the Middle East more generally, as a welcome prelude to Armageddon. I don’t know if Bush himself holds such views, but it’s notable that he has conspicuously dodged several opportunities to deny that he holds them.

    “Loudly cheering the violence”? Really, Ebonmuse, these claims strike me as pretty excessive. You are saying that some significant block of Christian Bush supporters is actually celebrating the violence (which involves intentional jihadist suicide attacks, daily, against Iraqi civilians)?
    In any case, the issue that I raised, quoted, was whether Bush’s Christianity had anything to do with the Iraq invasion. You’ve not presented evidence on Bush’s views (i.e., showing that the decision to invade militarily is a distinctively Christian motivation as distinguished from other beliefs and traditions), and there is no direct support for this claim.
    As for the supporters, it is not necessarily relevant whether or not they are Christians; the issue here is correlation vs causation. The issue you’ve raised is whether their Christian beliefs can be linked causally to the invasion of Iraq. To begin to make that argument, you would have to present evidence of (a) Christian beliefs supportive of, or consistent with, and justifying the violent invasion, (b) that the Bush supporters in question held such beliefs and were motivated by them, (c) that the Bush supporters acted on those beliefs in their public expressions, (d) these specifically “Christian” public expressions significantly influenced the Bush administration’s decision to invade.
    I should add that, this argument, even if reasonably clear evidence for (a)-(d) was provided (and I think that is quite difficult to obtain), and shown correct, loses much of its force when we realize, again, that the majority of Americans in spring 2003 supported the invasion. This suggests that there was a significant percentage of people who are not accurately classified as “Christian Bush supporters” who nevertheless supported the invasion on evidence that was known (to any reasonably well-informed observer) to be flimsy and trumped up. Let’s also keep in mind that, in the 2000 election, Bush was elected on a platform which did not emphasize any such invasions, and in fact was criticized his opposition as too isolationist; i.e., not being sufficiently concerned with foreign relations and foreign policy issues. (These criticisms may be valid, but in any case it cannot be said that Bush, prior to 9/11, had any intention to invade Iraq in the first mandate. Perhaps in a second (i.e., 2004-2008) mandate—there have long been plans on the shelf to invade Iraq and many other countries, and sooner or later the U.N. would have been obligated to use force against Saddam—but not in the original 2000 mandate given to him by his supporters).

    I also want to be clear that I am not defending Bush. I did not agree with the invasion of Iraq when it was a popular decision in the U.S.. My point is that the claims and emotions regarding Bush are exaggerated, and he is being demonized. This demonization is the flip-side of the messiah phenomenon and illustrates many of the same fallacies.

    “The stereotyping of the world as black-and-white and the continual demonization of outsiders as not just misguided or wrong but intrinsically evil. The belief that the leader is personally guided by God. The belief that the leader must possess absolute and limitless power that cannot be restrained by any outside force. The steadily progressing isolation from outside criticism and differing views. Leaving aside for the moment the question of competence, is there anyone who doubts that these traits form an accurate description of this administration?”


    Well, I would say there is some approximation, but not quite accurate. The statements in your article (i.e., the original post) contain some elements of truth, but it is overstated, and it is too personalized toward Bush. As I think you recognize, lots of these problems are in significant part a product of the society—the overly-partisan politics, the ignorance of foreign affairs, the highly militarized foreign policy, the autocratic tendencies, etc., are also characteristics of the opposing parties. As for Bush’s rather loose statements about being guided by God, any American presidential candidate who did not say something along the same lines would probably not get elected for that office and, once in office, would lose popularity. It’s basically the same thing with the Democrats. They all play up this God business in the U.S. because it prevents them from losing popularity, and it helps the public forgive them more easily when they screw up (e.g., see Clinton’s nationally-televised “repentance” over adultery).

  • Philip Thomas

    Archi Medez, it seems we basically agree, though we are doing a fair job of hiding that…The problem is a combination of Islamic extremism (based on the root principles of Islam) and Amerrican strategic incompetence.

    The invasion of Iraq could be compared to an invasion of the USSR in 1940. No-one would deny that the Soviet regime was monstrous, dictatorial and could collaborate with our other enemies. But such an attack would have played into Hitler’s hands (of course, there is a significant difference between Iraq and the USSR, in that Iraq could be conquered rapidly, but this doesn’t affect the basic point).

  • lpetrich

    In response to Unbeliever:

    Lobbing a few cruise missiles isn’t going to get the job done. And the timing (Lewinski anyone?) made any actions by Clinton suspect. Critism isn’t treason, but taking actions that help our enemies is.

    Pure excuse-making. Why were you right-wingers so obsessed with the Lewinsky affair? And obsessed enough to turn you guys into pacifists and Chomskyites?

    BTW, nice dodge on the Constitution question. Found that clause yet or are you still looking?

    Why does there have to be such a clause? It seems to me that you are projecting your own presumptions more than anything else.

    (President G.W.B. Nero…)

    Bush was elected President, not “daddy” for every idiot in this country.

    That’s your presumption, mister.

    Is there any point at which we can expect people to take care of themselves?

    Like protecting themselves? One could argue that the government should not be in the military and police business, because it ought not to protect those who are too lazy to protect themselves.

    The government only has the authority to do what is enumerated in the Constitution.

    However, the Constitution is not as precise as one might want it to be in some places.

    Does “provide for the common defense” include defense against large natural disasters like hurricanes?

    Saving people from their own stupidity and short-sightedness isn’t listed.

    Again projecting your own presumptions onto the Constitution — presumptions about many New Orleans citizens.

    If we only did things that had a guaranteed better outcome, we would never do anything. Change is risky.

    Is that any excuse for recklessness?

    I picked the French only because they seem to be representative of the negative opinion that the world now has of us. I don’t care about the French. It is the liberals who seem to need their approval so much.

    Pure right-wing projection. Right-wingers seem to have an especially big grudge against France for some reason, and you seem to share that grudge.

    And judging from historical trends, US military campaigns have tended to be more successful when they have had the support of other nations.

    World War I — the US was actually a latecomer, but US involvement brought victory to the British and French in that war.

    World War II — the US entered it only reluctantly, but US fighting and military assistance helped the US’s side win the war.

    The Korean War — the US had the United Nations on its side, though it got stalemated after China sent its huge army into the war.

    The Vietnam War — the US had little international support, if any, and got bogged down, winning most of the battles, though making little overall progress.

    The Gulf War — the US had the UN and many nations on its side, and succeeded in driving Saddam’s forces out of Kuwait.

    THe Iraq War — the US had difficulty in getting much support for that war, and despite a quick conquest of that country, occupying it has been a lot of trouble.

    (“They’re going to kill us! They’re going to kill us!”)

    Well, the welfare of my family gets me a little excited. They are kinda important to me. And my fears are not only rational, they’ve been proven. Your quote is probably exactly what was spoken by people in the WTC as the planes were headed for them. My, how soon people forget.

    Calm down. What works against terrorism is police work, not wars of conquest. Furthermore, if you live in a small town in a red state, you will NOT be at risk from such terrorism.

    (on supporting Nazism because of the Reichstag Fire and supporting Stalinism because of the murder of Comrade Kirov…)

    If you have evidence that the Bush administration intentionally deceived the public to start a war in Iraq, I’m sure we would all love to see it.

    (the attack on Pearl Harbor…)

    (Joe Lieberman a “liberal”? Don’t make me laugh.)

    Oh, that’s right, he’s a conservative. What was I thinking?

    You seemed VERY quick to call him a “liberal”, for whatever reason.

  • Terry

    When I read the original post, I was prompted once again to wonder at why the atheist/freethought community almost unanimously reflects the same type of blind faith they justly criticize fundamenalists for — in this case, blind faith in liberal/leftist “thinking.” But I didn’t write for fear of taking the discussion off-track, so it’s funny to see it’s gone TOTALLY so! So here’s my two cents:

    1) Ebon, I hope your third bulletpoint above regarding “absolute and limitless power” does not refer to the hideously misrepresented “domestic surveillance” program, but I suspect it does. Can anyone PUH-LEEZE explain to me exactly which of our “rights” are violated by the government’s ability to instantly eavesdrop on a call between a suspected terrorist here and another overseas? Oh wait, maybe I do get it. Could it be the fear of losing the “right” to blast the government for “not connecting the dots” after the next 9/11?

    2) That being said, I was recently standing in an airport security line between two full burkha-clad women and their young 5-day beard growth male companion. Betweenn them, and me, a middle-aged blonde-haired blue-eyed guy in jeans and oxford shirt — GUESS who was pulled out for a random pat-down? Three cheers for TSA, anyone?

  • Infophile

    That would be our right against warrantless search and seizure (one of the amendments in the Bill of Rights, forget which one). A wiretap constitutes a search, and thus without a warrant it’s unconstitutional.

    Now, if we trusted the government to only use it against terrorists, it might be fine. But we don’t; they haven’t earned our trust. We don’t know that they aren’t using this wiretapping to spy on Halliburton’s rivals and steal business secrets, for instance.

  • lpetrich

    Over the last century, several leaders have posed as secular messiahs with their personality cults.

    Communists have had very big personality cults of their more favored leaders. The trend started after Lenin’s death, when Stalin disregarded the wish of his widow for a plain and simple burial of him and started a personality cult of him. Stalin eventually extended that personality cult to himself, and he got praised in almost absurd terms as people’s guide and inspiration and someone who makes people’s lives worth living. Some of it is in this link (can’t get it at the moment, but it’s still in Google’s cache) Praise like

    O great Stalin, O leader of the peoples,
    Thou who broughtest man to birth.
    Thou who fructifies the earth,
    Thou who restorest to centuries,
    Thou who makest bloom the spring,
    Thou who makest vibrate the musical chords…
    Thou, splendour of my spring, O thou,
    Sun reflected by millions of hearts.

    And I thought Communism is godless. :p

    After Stalin died and went out of favor, his successors returned to a safer personality cult, that of Lenin. Little children would often be told about “Uncle Lenin”, and I have a little book with places where Lenin had worked for Communists to make pilgrimages to.

    Now that’s gone, though I do wonder if Vladimir Putin is starting a personality cult of himself.

    Mao Zedong likewise created a personality cult, as did some other Communist leaders like Josip Broz Tito and Enver Hoxha, but two especially big ones are of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il of North Korea. They are described as having worked various miracles like turning sand into rice and causing a storm to attack Japan by spilling ink on a map. Kim Jong-Il’s birth was allegedly announced by various portents like a double rainbow.

    Various other leaders had started personality cults, like Hitler and Mussolini; Hitler portrayed himself as a great leader of Real Germans who will lead Germany into greatness, defeating its enemies and acquiring “living space” (Lebensraum) for the German people.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    A response to Terry:

    Ebon, I hope your third bulletpoint above regarding “absolute and limitless power” does not refer to the hideously misrepresented “domestic surveillance” program, but I suspect it does.

    That is one part of it, yes. Specifically, it refers to the fact that there is a federal law, called FISA, which makes it illegal to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants. It is a matter of no dispute that George W. Bush, by ordering eavesdropping on American citizens without obtaining warrants, is in open violation of this law. Rather, Bush’s supporters argue that his breaking the law does not matter, because his power is absolute and cannot be limited by Congress or by the courts. (This is known as the “Yoo Doctrine”.)

    As long as we’re at it, I’ll list two more notable examples of Bush’s claims, both implicit and explicit, to limitless power;

    —His claim that he has the right to have anyone, even an American citizen on American soil, arrested at any time and imprisoned indefinitely without a trial, without charges, and without access to a defense lawyer.

    —His claim that he can disregard legislation passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by him, so long as he adds below the signature a “signing statement” explaining that he actually reserves the right to ignore any part of it whenever he feels like doing so.

    Can anyone PUH-LEEZE explain to me exactly which of our “rights” are violated by the government’s ability to instantly eavesdrop on a call between a suspected terrorist here and another overseas?

    The rights in question can be found in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. Please note that no one is objecting to the government’s power to eavesdrop on terror suspects. We are objecting to the government’s claimed right to do so without seeking warrants.

  • lpetrich

    Ebonmuse, you are likely to get a response that the end totally justifies the means when it comes to national security, complete with hysterical wailing about how those evil terrorists want to kill us all.

    Which is like supporting Nazism because of the Reichstag fire (“The Jews and Communists want to kill us all!”) or Stalinism because of the assassination of Comrade Kirov (“The enemies of the people want to kill us all!”).

    The Nazis also had the effrontery to claim that it was Poland and not them that started World War II; they even went so far as to stage some incidents on the German-Polish border, notably in Gleiwitz.

    And now for some more Stalin personality cultism:

    Thank you, Stalin. Thank you because I am joyful. Thank you because I am well. No matter how old I become, I shall never forget how we received Stalin two days ago. Centuries will pass, and the generations still to come will regard us as the happiest of mortals, as the most fortunate of men, because we lived in the century of centuries, because we were privileged to see Stalin, our inspired leader. Yes, and we regard ourselves as the happiest of mortals because we are the contemporaries of a man who never had an equal in world history.

    The men of all ages will call on thy name, which is strong, beautiful, wise and marvelous. Thy name is engraven on every factory, every machine, every place on the earth, and in the hearts of all men.

    Every time I have found myself in his presence I have been subjugated by his strength, his charm, his grandeur. I have experienced a great desire to sing, to cry out, to shout with joy and happiness. And now see me–me!–on the same platform where the Great Stalin stood a year ago. In what country, in what part of the world could such a thing happen?

    I write books. I am an author. All thanks to thee, O great educator, Stalin. I love a young woman with a renewed love and shall perpetuate myself in my children–all thanks to thee, great educator, Stalin. I shall be eternally happy and joyous, all thanks to thee, great educator, Stalin. Everything belongs to thee, chief of our great country. And when the woman I love presents me with a child the first word it shall utter will be : Stalin.

  • Archi Medez

    Ipetrich,

    First of all, thanks for the quotes re the personality cults around Stalin, Lenin, etc.

    “Ebonmuse, you are likely to get a response that the end totally justifies the means when it comes to national security, complete with hysterical wailing about how those evil terrorists want to kill us all.”

    Well, by most people’s standards, the terrorists and their willing supporters are evil, and yes, many of them do want to kill us. Read the news lately, like, say, in the past 30 years?

    I would not be so hysterical as to say they want to kill all* of us. Rather, they want to kill a certain amount of civilians in various dramatic, attention-grabbing incidents, to help further their objectives.

    *It depends on who you mean by “us”. Many of the jihadist groups do want to exterminate the Jews (e.g., Hizballah, al-Qaeda), while others allow that, if the Jews surrender, they may be treated under Islamic rule as slaves or else as oppressed dhimmis who must be treated as humiliated second-class citizens and who must pay a head tax.

    Next, if you are referring to Americans, many of these Islamic groups do place the killing of Americans as a high priority.

    Of course, various jihadist groups are killing non-Muslims (or people who they regard as non-Muslims) in many countries around the world.

    There is also a tendency, particularly among the left, to claim all of this fear about terrorists is overblown, just cynical manipulation by Bush and co. In that case, you will have to accuse the leaders of most western nations of the same.

    “Which is like supporting Nazism because of the Reichstag fire (“The Jews and Communists want to kill us all!”) or Stalinism because of the assassination of Comrade Kirov (“The enemies of the people want to kill us all!”).”

    What were you saying about hysteria? You are comparing people who agreed with the Bush administration on this one particular issue (of its interpretation in regards to wiretapping of suspected terrorists) to Nazi and Stalin supporters. Thanks for restoring the sense of sobriety there, Ipetrich!

  • Philip Thomas

    Ipetrich, the evil terrorists do want to kill us all. They also have the means to do it. Comparing the Bush adminstration to the Nazis or Stalin is not helpful. I don’t approve of Bush’s security measures, but they are nothing like as bad as those regimes, and there is really no Bush personality cult.

    You also appear to be suggesting the Bush adminstration has been faking terrorist attacks against America. Do you have any evidence for this?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Actually, I agree with lpetrich. I don’t believe that the Bush administration is morally equivalent to Hitler or Stalin or that they are necessarily leading the country to the same end, but one of my basic points in this essay was that all three used many of the same cult-like tactics to gain and hold on to power. It’s the same idea as comparing creationists to Holocaust deniers – not to indicate a moral equivalence between the two, but to point out that both groups use many of the same tactics in their attempt to subvert a scholarly consensus, such as implying that any disagreement between mainstream scholars casts the entire field into question.

  • Philip Thomas

    Ridiculous. Bush was chosen by the Supreme Court and subsequently elected by the people. He has not used violence to gain or keep power, and he has not had his domestic enemies put to death. Comparisons to the Nazis are normally unhelpful in getting one’s point across, because of the automatic defensive reaction of your interlocutor.

  • Terry

    Ipetrich: bin Laden and many others have specifically and explicitly stated their murderous objectives, in print, on audio, and video. The majority of madrases around the world, including those infesting the USA and Europe, are preaching the same message. These words have been converted into actions like the first Trade Center bombing, the 9/11 atrocity, the USS Cole, the Khobar towers, the London bombing, the Bombay bombing, the Madrid bombing, the various embassy bombings, the beheading of journalists, and on and on….is this what you mean by “hysterical wailing?”

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    To those who are attempting to paint Bush in terms of a cult leader, Hitler, Stalin, etc – I am wondering what will be the opinion in about two years, when he voluntarily leaves office, and the next president assumes the roll. The transition will hardly be in keeping with the hyperbole, and will hopefully put things into perspective.

  • lpetrich

    Terry, that’s the sort of thing I mean — getting worked up over such calamities and insisting on a disproportionate and inappropriate response, like the Nazi takeover after the Reichstag fire, or Stalin’s purges after the Kirov assassination.

  • Terry

    Do you not see the HUGE difference between a dictator who wants to conquer Europe (“like the Nazi takeover”) and the simple desire to not be killed? Go find any veteran of Okinawa and ask him if he thinks Hiroshima was “disproportionate and inappropriate.”

  • Philip Thomas

    So we should use nuclear weapons in certain circumstances, including one in which they have not been used against us and we are in no danger of losing the war, Terry? Would you give more details on this idea?

  • lpetrich

    Terry, the Nazis offered that “they’re going to kill us all” rationale for taking over and their wars of conquest. They claimed that the Reichstag fire was proof that the Communists were on the march and that they must be stopped at whatever the cost. And they started World War II with the claim that it was Poland that attacked them. They even created some fake border incidents on the German-Polish border like at Gleiwitz, complete with fake radio broadcasts about how Poles should fight Germans.

  • Philip Thomas

    You already said that, Ipetrich…and it really has as much argumentative force as saying “The Nazis breathed, Bush breathes, therefore Bush is on the same moral level as the Nazis”.

  • Terry

    Face it Philip- Ipetrich has got you beat. After all, Bush has “claimed” that Muslim thugs in Russia shot scholchildren in the back. He has “claimed” that Muslim thugs have beheaded journalists and contractors. He has “claimed” that Al Quaeda has published manifestoes of their intent to conquer the world for Islam. He has “claimed” that the leader of a powerful Muslim state has denied the Holocaust and wants to kill all Jews and infidels. He has “claimed” that Muslim bombers have blown to bits Christians, Jews, and mostly other Muslims in Bombay, in Moscow, in Chechnya, in the Phillipines, in London, in Madrid, in Bali, in Israel. Worst of all, Bush has “claimed” that Muslim thugs crashed packed airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, incinerating thousands of innocents. Let’s all just take a deep breath, recall the lessons of 1930′s Germany and the Reichstag, and stop all this hysterical wailing.

  • lpetrich

    Tell us once again: how do the activities of militant Islamists justify a folly of a war or police-state powers or leader-worship that would make a Stalinist proud?

  • Philip Thomas

    They don’t justify the war on Iraq (which was, as I already said, a terrible strategic blunder). They don’t justify “police-state powers or leader worshhip that would make a Stalinist proud”, but as there isn’t any of that going on, its not an interesting line of argument. I am deeply opposed to President Bush and his government’s methods in the so-called War on Terror. But I see no reason to make inaccurate comparisons between Bush and the mass murdering dicators of an earlier age.

  • Andrew I

    In a way the fact that you have to convince each other and attack christians represents that you have to maintain your faith of atheism just like us christians have unbelief in our sinful hearts sometimes. You have to have FAITH that there is no God.

    I love you all and i have just prayed to the just and Holy God that you might be called by grace to the truth of Jesus……. just like I have to pray to God every day that I might be able to see that he truely has saved me.

    With much love

    Andy

  • Philip Thomas

    Andy, I happen to be a Christian. Mind you, A Roman Catholic one, so you can probably pray for my heretical soul as well.

    And, no, Atheism doesn’t require faith, any more than you have faith that there is no Flying Spagghetti Monster.

  • Andrew I

    Sorry but to suggest that Roman Ctholics are Cristians is blasphemous.

    Andy