Diss Rants

This is the news/ranting forum for Diss (a.k.a. Tom Kercheval), an independent musician. Check here for new music, updates on new music and just random rantings on a variety of subjects. Feel free to leave a comment or four. For Diss' main web site, go to www.dissmusic.com.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London Calling...

What a sad morning. My wife is out of town at the moment, so I woke up, headed to my computer as I always do, and then see the news that there's been a terrorist bombing in London.

Immediately I was taken back to how I felt on 9-11. Every American has their own "where were you" story of that day. I was actually on my honeymoon, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My wife and I were just getting up, planning a day on the beach, eating, lounging about, the usual stuff...We were staying at a Bed and Breakfast, and there was one TV in a common area of the building.

My wife was out there watching the morning news and I was getting ready. I remember her coming in to tell me that there'd been some sort of plane crash in New York. That was the first plane. We both went out to the TV and, along with the other guests there, watched in stunned horror as the second plane hit the WTC, and our worlds were changed forever.

It was a very odd honeymoon, as you might imagine. On one hand, we were both selfishly sad that our time had now been forever tainted, and yet, on the other hand, we realized how lucky we were to have each other and how thankful we were to be alive and how insignificant a honeymoon was in comparison to the horrible, horrible loss that so many had just experienced. We were so lucky to have each other. We did spend a lot of time on the beach, which was pretty much empty, just lying there, listening to radio coverage, hearing how the nation was reacting, trying to come to grips with what had just happened. It was a terrible time, and yet, strangely, there was some sort of odd calm that eventually took over, and then all the usual suspects in the cycle of grief - denial, anger, sadness, acceptance...

And now, today, I'm taken back to that time with the news of what's happened in London. Granted, it's on a much, much smaller scale, but only if you look at such things in the cold light of statistics. How can you really measure the grief that so many people are no doubt feeling today there?

One thing this event really caused in me was just a desperate hope that someday soon the world at large will realize that the WRONG way to take on these people, these terrorists, is to engage in a "you kill us, we'll kill you" type of mentality. Has this EVER worked in the long run? Look at the situation between Israel and the Palestinians. Nothing's changed over there, really, for as long as I've been living. Always death, always retaliatory strikes, tit-for-tat with guided missiles and suicide bombers. Is that the solution?

It seems like the major western powers, especially the U.S., seem to have adopted the same policy in the way we deal with terrorism. But it won't work in the long run. It CAN'T work in the long run.

Let's look at the problem of terrorism. Where does it come from? It comes from poverty, it comes from hatred of the west as being the scapegoat (sometimes) for a dilapidated country's problems, it comes from religious extremism (which is itself often a product of hopelessness and ignorance and poverty), it comes from problems that are so deeply-rooted in things that, despite the difference in cultures, are common to the human condition worldwide. There but for the "grace of God" go us, in other words.

When Bush or Blair get up on podiums after these events and say, "You will not win, we will defeat you, you (the terrorists) are cowardly and do not value human life," etc., etc....do you think for one second that a terrorist out there watching that is going to be somehow moved to throw down his or her arms...many of these people are willing to BLOW THEMSELVES UP for their cause!

It's sort of like the abortion debate. Pro-abortionists say, "You must let us choose what to do with our own bodies, you fascists" and anti-abortionists say, "this isn't about YOUR body, you are a murderer." There's no common ground in that debate, so there just ends up being blank rounds meaninglessly fired off, with no effect on the opponent's viewpoint whatsoever. It's more like yelling at the opponent while at the same time preaching to the choir.

You don't fight a mentality like that (terrorism) with bullets, not on a broad scale, or with "tough words," you fight it on a different front. Sure, we need to do all we can to defend ourselves from these attacks and find the people who are planning them, but that seems to be the ENTIRE focus of the so-called war against terrorism. If it's ever going to end, there needs to be more, and there needs to be someone smart enough and committed enough to figure out what that is. And I don't see that leader out there right now. Damn sure not in OUR White House. (Sorry, Bush-lovers).

The best place to stop terrorism is at its roots, at the place where people are so filled with anger, hopelessness and hate that they are willing to join with these horrible excuses for humanity like Bin Laden and others who exploit their "minions" while they themselves hide in caves. We have to find a way to stop people from being so mired in ignorance and hopelessness that they're willing to join a despicable regime like the Taliban or some other insane relgious extremist group. How do we do that? I have no idea. But once, JUST ONCE, I'd like to see a world leader approach the issue from that standpoint, because that's the only way it's going to ever be solved.

These terrorists know what they're doing, at least the masterminds who sit safely in caves while others blow themselves up do. We in the west are insanely prosperous as a whole. Yeah, I know, a lot of us feel like we live paycheck to paycheck and that we are scraping to get by...but in comparison to the world as a WHOLE, even lower middle class Americans live like kings. And in many instances we've become, in my opinion, mentally lazy (and physically lazy when you look at how many Americans are obese). So many live for entertainment 24/7. And hey, I fall into that trap a lot, too. What movie will we see, where will we eat out tonight, how much is that new plasma tv, etc., etc. We have no clue what it's like in so many other parts of the world, where a good day is a day with food or a day without a bomb going off in your neighborhood. And I'm not saying that makes us inherently bad people, either. Again, it's just human nature, no matter what race you're a part of, no matter what religion, etc. Throughout history, intense wealth in a society often leads to laziness and other problematic issues.

I mean, hey, just look at Rocky III. Rocky was on top of the world. The champ. Rich, everyone loved him, everything at his disposal...and he lost that "eye of the tiger." He alienated a lot of people who loved him as the brave underdog who struck a blow against an elitist past champ. All the while, Clubber Lang, the poor kid, despised by most everyone, full of hate for rightly- or wrongly-perceived abuses, full of anger at his situation, was training his ass off to take Rocky down. He was more focused, because that was all he had. And when the title changed hands, the same thing that happened to Rocky happened to Clubber. Rocky had to go back and rediscover his roots - not go back and be exactly who he was before he was the champion - but learn how to reconcile the two things so that the excesses didn't overshadow the important things that made him so great. And he won the title back.

I think the terrorist masterminds know how attached so many of us westerners are to our "safe" lives, our entertainment-filled lives, our "so many possibilities" lives. They know we've become soft. They know that the best way to shake up our existence is to hit us where we live and breathe, hit us at the heart of these "things" that we are so attached to.

But they underestimate human nature, too. One thing that truly did amaze me about 9-11 was how the nation seemed to come together, at least for a time. Count me as one of those who thinks the current administration squandered a great opportunity to endear America to the world, but that's for another rant.

Anyway, what I'm saying here is that the terrorist's aims are totally fruitless as well. Is there one time in all of recorded history when terrorist acts have yielded anything positive, or when terrorists have gotten what they were after? Maybe in this case, though, all they're after is to destroy western society, to cause fear and chaos in a system they despise. In that case, terrorism is the perfect example of hopelessness, anger, shame, etc. taken to the ultimate, most unwarranted end imaginable - hating so much, being so blinded by such negative emotions that one is willing to kill oneself AND other innocents for a cause that will inevitably amount to nothing but more and more suffering.

My faith in humanity seems to lessen with each passing year, so I don't know if we'll ever evolve enough to overcome such things. But one thing I do know, and that's that somehow, some way, a new front in this war has to be established by someone, and it has to be waged in the invisible realm of the human spirit. Otherwise, it's just going to get worse, and the "every man for himself" mentality will end up being all that's left.

Sorry for the rambling nature of this...hope it made some semblance of sense...my thoughts are with all of you Londoners today...


Anonymous Rob said...

"But once, JUST ONCE, I'd like to see a world leader approach the issue from that standpoint, because that's the only way it's going to ever be solved."

That is the long-term idea behind Operation Iraqi Freedom--start the process of spreading democracy, and thus economic improvement, throughout the Mideast. Saddam was in the way.

The problem here is that such a plan will not take days, weeks, months, or even years. It will probably take decades, and it has to start somewhere. It will not be easy, it will not be simple, and it will not be blood free. Look at the blood spilt to free our own country.

During that time I certainly hope that western powers will use a certain amount of armed force in order to do whatever is possible to slowdown terrorist operations. You can't kill their movement, but you can make it difficult for them to operate.

Showing weakness towards them is a way of encouraging them. The Battle of Mogadishu in 1993 was a key event where they learned that when you kill a few Americans you can drive them away. Clinton's decision to withdraw in the face of U.S. casualties was a mistake, and we've been paying for it ever since. They lost "respect" for us since we tucked tail and ran.

We can't let them goad us into mindless attacks, but we can't ignore them either.

July 07, 2005  
Blogger Diss said...

Well, my feelings on the whole Iraq thing have run the gamut. Originally, I was reluctantly for going in there, only because I believed the "evidence" that there were biological weapons stockpiles there.

And that was the way the whole war was sold to us initially - not as a way of freeing Iraqi society but as a preemptive strike to protect Americans. Now that it's plain that there are no weapons and that Hussein had little if any ties with the people responsible for 9-11, it's evolved into a plan to create a democracy there.

Well, I can't argue with the fact that Hussein was a horrible/brutal dictator who needed to be deposed, or that democracy in Iraq would be a good thing. Obviously innocent lives were saved as a result of deposing Hussein. But innocent lives were also lost as a result of our invasion of Iraq, an invasion that turned out to be based on false evidence.

Knowing what I know now, I tend to think it would have been better to focus our entire effort on destroying Al Qaeda, finding Bin Laden, etc. We've spread ourselves too thin at this point, especially considering that Iran is now becoming a serious threat, and may have been the greater threat all along.

As for today's current crop of terrorists, yes, the only way to approach them at this point is to protect ourselves from them as best as we can and to find and destroy their cells wherever we can. There's nothing that can be done to "change their minds" at this point as to the "glory" of their cause.

But I heard something on the news this morning that reinforced my own opinion about how to stop this thing in the larger sense. They were interviewing people in Baghdad about what happened in London. Most of the people expressed sympathy, yet it was mixed with resentment. One guy said, "This happens to us here every day. Every day there are bombs that go off in our streets and people are killed, but no one cares. It happens once in London and the whole world is up in arms." I'm paraphrasing, but that's generally what was said. Another said, "This gives the people in the west a small taste of what our lives are like every day."

There has to be some way to give these people the hope that they matter in the grand scheme of world society, too, that their lives are just as valuable. That made it all the more obvious to me how resentful many are of the west because they feel that they don't count, whereas westerners are somehow more important, more worthy of grief if one dies, etc. And this again just boils down to human nature - you see it on smaller scales every day. When someone feels undervalued, they often become bitter and lash out at those who they think are OVERvalued.

So, while I agree that we can't show weakness to the current crop of terrorists that are willing to kill everyone we know and love, there's a lot more to the problem as a whole than just standing up to them militarily. Otherwise, they'll just keep coming, wave after wave, year after year, generation after generation if that's our only tactic.

The most dangerous thing is the intensity with which these people believe in what they're doing, and that's the main thing that should be "attacked." It's not like a war where you're fighting soldiers of some leader who may or may not be committed to the cause (sort of like Saddam's army). When you have people willing to die themselves to take out as many of your people as they can, that's the most dangerous and hard to stop enemy around, and somehow, over time, THAT has to be what we figure out how to fight effectively.

July 08, 2005  
Anonymous Jim S. said...


Thanks for posting and good luck on your new album. I eagerly await the opportunity to listen to it.

On this post....

I think you are just plain wrong. Trying to understand root causes will get you to one place. Hatred. Hatred caused by envy and a twisted sense of righteousness.

The 9/11 bombers were not poor. They were well-educated middle-easterners consumed with a hatred of the infidels. See today's Wall Street Journal for an editorial that better describes the situation than I ever could.

The Educated Terrorist
July 12, 2005; Page A16
Mohammed Atta was the son of middle-class Cairenes and obtained an advanced degree in urban planning at the Technical University of Hamburg. Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the mastermind behind the killing of our colleague Daniel Pearl, attended a tony British public school before doing undergraduate work at the London School of Economics.

Now comes the news that "extremist recruiters" are at work on British university campuses looking for converts. The report, in the Times of London, is based on a government policy dossier that notes that the link "between social deprivation ... and extremism is not simple cause and effect." Terrorists can sometimes be simple criminals drawn to fanatical circles -- people like "shoe bomber" Richard Reid. As often, however, they are "well educated, with degrees or technical/professional qualifications."

As the résumés of Atta and Sheikh suggest, this is not surprising. What is surprising is how often the realities of the terrorist enterprise are forgotten in the rush to offer convenient explanations regarding its causes. United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has listed "conflict, ignorance, poverty and disease" among the root causes of terror. By these measures, the appropriate response to terrorism would be a campaign to eradicate world poverty: exactly what Tony Blair, President Bush and the other world leaders were doing when London bombers struck last week.

In fact, neither poverty nor ignorance nor disease drove Mohammed Atta into the North Tower of the World Trade Center; hatred did, as did belief. Those who are serious about fighting terrorism at "the source" should ask themselves where those beliefs come from. As the British government is finding out, the problem isn't about economics but about ideology. And the answer lies in fighting evil ideas, such as jihad, with good ones, such as democracy."

Or Christopher Hitchens....
writing in the Daily Mirror:"

"We know very well what the "grievances" of the jihadists are. The grievance of seeing unveiled women. The grievance of the existence, not of the State of Israel, but of the Jewish people. The grievance of the heresy of democracy, which impedes the imposition of sharia law. The grievance of a work of fiction written by an Indian living in London. The grievance of the existence of black African Muslim farmers, who won't abandon lands in Darfur. The grievance of the existence of homosexuals. The grievance of music, and of most representational art. The grievance of the existence of Hinduism. The grievance of East Timor's liberation from Indonesian rule. All of these have been proclaimed as a licence to kill infidels or apostates, or anyone who just gets in the way."

As far as news from mainstream sources the BBC and Reuters have trouble with even calling the London bombings as terrorism.

Here is some news that you don't often read about but is everywhere if you know where to find it on the web.

From Monday's Opinionjournal.com (Best of the web):

Harvard Magazine has a first-person account (second item) by Graham Hoffman, a psychiatrist and member of Harvard's class of 1978, an Army Reservist who has done two tours of duty in Iraq, where he was "treating mostly 20-something First Infantry Division soldiers (and some Iraqis, too) for post traumatic stress disorder." He continues:

The Iraqi civilians were very nice to us again, even though Samarra had a lot of insurgents for much of my time there. And the kids love us, especially the little girls, who seem to feel all this democratic change will be good for them in particular. The whole "mission" is starting to feel like Peace Corps work, albeit you still have to be well armed. I am a political left-winger on most things, but on the Middle East business I think we are doing the right thing, mainly because that's what all these Iraqi civilians kept telling me. Not sure why you don't hear that kind of stuff on the media, except that most civilians there would consider it suicide to say good things about Americans on-camera.

(Go to the web site to see a great picture of Hoffman with Iraqi children.)

and this on "understanding"

Red Ken Makes a Good Point
Ken Livingstone, the far-left mayor of London, has been widely quoted since Thursday's bombings, and deservedly so, since he's taken a hard line against terrorism that's often sadly lacking on the left. But one quote, which we've seen only on Fox News Channel's "Special Report With Brit Hume," especially caught our attention:

A fair world in which the individual makes their own life choices and their own moral value judgments, that's what they seek to snuff out. But they will fail.

The thing that allows this gestation of hatred are closed societies that don't allow freedom. And it is the moral superiorty complex of those in the West who believe that these countries trapped in the 18th and 19th centuries can't handle freedom or democracy that ultimately appease the terrorism whether they intend to or not. Of course this is simply a version of the moral relativism which threatens the freedoms and civilization in our country as well. Showing them that their lives are just as valuable is exactly what are troops are doing in Iraq -- sacrificing (some with their lives) so that Iraqis as the same opportunities as we do -- Freedom!

Keep blogging and I hope you are having a great summer.


July 12, 2005  
Blogger Diss said...

--I think you are just plain wrong. Trying to understand root causes will get you to one place. Hatred. Hatred caused by envy and a twisted sense of righteousness.--

This is undoubtedly true, but "hatred" alone is not a root cause of an act. There has to be something FURTHER that produces that hatred. Hatred is a branch, not a root. Hatred isn't something one's born with, it's developed. You can't just say, "Well, they did this because they hate us." WHY do they hate us? There are deeper roots to try to cut.

I still believe that poverty and ignorance is a large cause for many of the RECRUITS that come into these extremist groups AND for the hatred that propels them to do so. Tony Blair even recently echoed some of the points I made in my original post here, saying that we had to combat poverty in these regions and try to instill the hope of democracy to really combat terrorism in the future. I was glad to hear a world leader say such a thing, instead of the usual, "We will win, you will not defeat us" emptiness.

I saw another report yesterday on the London suicide bombers, claiming that many of England's Islamic community are disaffected with their lives in the west, have problems with unemployment, etc. and this often leads to them becoming members of these groups.

I'm not saying here that terrorists are basically street bums who are recruited into becoming suicide bombers. Many of them ARE well-educated, many of them exploit our systems to educate themselves, many DO have money and good jobs and often funnel that money to these groups. But I feel like these actions result from the residual feelings of misplaced nationalistic pride that they feel towards "their people" and the often poor states of their homeland.

Don't get me wrong here - I don't think the current crop of religiously insane terrorists can be "rehabilitated" with love and monetary donations. I'm talking about future crops of terrorists, and preventing them.

Religious extremism almost ALWAYS springs from some sort of deprivation, whether it be monetary deprivation or educational deprivation, or whether it be fear of some propagandized "enemy." Hatred springs from the same things. Hatred is not a root, it's a branch.

The whole thing is tough to wrap one's head around, and I don't for a second pretend to have the answers. I just know what I've seen over the years that HASN'T worked, so it seems to me that new tactics should be at least considered.

We'll see what happens in Iraq. I truly hope that a strong democratic society DOES rise from the ashes there. That might indeed make the sacrifices of our soldiers worth it in the end.

What tires me to no end,though, is the whole "right vs. left" approach in our own country that is a war in and of itself. I get so sick of all the absolute crap that's flung back and forth and all the propaganda on both sides (particularly on the side of the religious right, our own burdgeoning group of religious extremists who think they have the only path to God's ear). If you note the positive aspects of military action, you're a warmonger. If you talk about other, more peaceful means of approaching the problem, you're a "tree-loving commie." It's just mentally exhausting sometimes.

Anyway, thanks for the interesting reading and dialogue, but I stand by what I said.

Hatred is a driving force behind these animals (sorry, but that's how I view them, that's what they've become as a result of their hate - less than animals, in fact), but if we're going to stop the next crop, or if SOMEONE is going to stop it, they have to go deeper and find the spring of that hate and start trying to drain it. And I don't know how that's going to happen, but I know it's going to require more than military strikes.

July 14, 2005  
Anonymous Jim S. said...


Thanks for the response. I'll agree to disagree on the root cause and reiterate what I believe to be that cause and how to fight it.

"In fact, neither poverty nor ignorance nor disease drove Mohammed Atta into the North Tower of the World Trade Center; hatred did, as did belief. Those who are serious about fighting terrorism at "the source" should ask themselves where those beliefs come from. As the British government is finding out, the problem isn't about economics but about ideology. And the answer lies in fighting evil ideas, such as jihad, with good ones, such as democracy."

If you want to combat poverty -- the more free a society is economically the better the prospects of its people and the lower the incidence of poverty.

While it is not the US role to force people into democracy, if people have the natural law written on their hearts and souls (as I believe that they do); true freedom is what people want. Some form of representative government will be what people choose if they have a choice. Free societies lead to wealthier societies.

Again thanks for the discourse and take care.


July 14, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm impressed that you guys can disagree so agreeably. That give me hope for American politics.

July 17, 2005  

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