Pharyngula

My sympathies to the people of Moscow

The Moscow subways have been hit by two terrorist suicide bombers — at least 38 people are dead.

At least American terrorists have the useful property of being generally incompetent.

Comments

  1. #1 Zeno
    March 29, 2010

    At least American terrorists have the useful property of being generally incompetent.

    And ignorant, too. Don’t forget ignorant.

  2. #2 Ray Moscow
    March 29, 2010

    Yeah, this is terrible.

    When I lived there, this kind of thing seemed to happen every month or two (though not always with this much loss of life). I always had to check with all our people to make sure none of our employees had been hit.

    What a mess.

  3. #3 Gyeong Hwa Pak, Scholar of Shen Zhou
    March 29, 2010

    My heart goes out to the family of the victims. Sad news for this early in the morning.

  4. #4 Colin
    March 29, 2010

    Well, let’s not forget McVeigh, who killed 168 people, and was at the very least a fellow traveler of those mentioned in the linked post.

  5. #5 MosesZD
    March 29, 2010

    At least American terrorists have the useful property of being generally incompetent.

    McVeigh? Adkisson? von Brunn? Randolph? Quite a few of the KKK? That asshole that flew his plane into the IRS building?

    We’ve had plenty of “successful” terrorists… We just tend to not think about them… To pretend they don’t exist or act like they’re just “lone wolf” criminals.

    Anyway, the militia’s aren’t terrorists, though they share a lot of disturbing fantasies with terrorists…. In reality, they’re mostly just a bunch of hateful, racist blowhards (like Hannity, Beck, O’Rielly), that, with their hate-steeped rhetoric, eventually stimulate losers (like those above) to do bad things…

    Then, once bad things happen, fail to accept responsibility for fanning the flames of hate that gave those losers a focus…

  6. #6 duras
    March 29, 2010

    As always, the terrorists were motivated by religion. At least partially, in this case they were Sunni Muslims fighting against the damn evil secular government. Although I’ll admit the situation is more complex than that.

  7. #7 Colin
    March 29, 2010

    MosesZD, you say

    We’ve had plenty of “successful” terrorists… We just tend to not think about them… To pretend they don’t exist or act like they’re just “lone wolf” criminals.

    and then go right on to do just that:

    Anyway, the militia’s aren’t terrorists, though they share a lot of disturbing fantasies with terrorists….

    What’s the difference between a militia group targeting law enforcement officers and their families (according to the indictment IIRC), and an actual terrorist?

    I’m not saying I disagree with your analysis of rhetoric-driven losers, I’m just wondering what your definition of “terrorist” is…

  8. #8 hje
    March 29, 2010

    Losers yes, but not sure about the incompetence designation … early reports suggest they were fashioning road side bombs based on info they found on the web, had found someone to make them, had ordered materials, and we’re about to scout out opportunities for killing law enforcement.

    To have American militias adopt one of the most successful tactics of the jihadists is a scary prospect.

    So how long do we have wait until the right wing extremists lionize these guys?

  9. #9 startlingmoniker
    March 29, 2010

    Countdown to “but real Islam (or whatever nutbaggery) is a religion of peace…” in 3, 2, 1…

  10. #10 Ray Moscow
    March 29, 2010

    duras @6:

    As always, the terrorists were motivated by religion. At least partially, in this case they were Sunni Muslims fighting against the damn evil secular government. Although I’ll admit the situation is more complex than that.

    Yes, it is. I assume the perps were Chechen “Black Widows”, who lost their husbands in the ongoing Chechnya conflict/war.

    Religion of course does play a big role in this, with both the supposed “reward” — as well as defining the whole Chechnya “cause” — but there’s also despair, poverty, a desire for revenge, etc.

    Most Muscovites I knew were very much in favour of a harsh hand against the Chechen “rebels”, and attacks like this only make them want harsher measures. It’s not likely to end anytime soon.

  11. #11 Paul 815
    March 29, 2010

    This is really awful. I just hope that, whoever was responsible, they can be handled by the law as opposed to military intervention. Russia does not need another Chechnya right now.

  12. #12 Free Lunch
    March 29, 2010

    Anyway, the militia’s aren’t terrorists, though they share a lot of disturbing fantasies with terrorists.

    They intended to be. Terrorism is a method. If you use the method or plan to use it, you are a terrorist. The killers in Moscow and the wannabes in Michigan are terrorists. They also might consider themselves to be freedom fighters or religious defenders or other such nonsense, but attacking civilians for the intent of spreading fear is terrorism.

    My condolences to the victims in Moscow, whether or not the Russians respond in a way that keeps this getting worse.

  13. #13 MosesZD
    March 29, 2010

    What’s the difference between a militia group targeting law enforcement officers and their families (according to the indictment IIRC), and an actual terrorist?

    What’s the difference? What’s the difference between me doinking my wife dressed up like a cheerleader and me doinking a 16-year-old cheerleader…? One is healthy sexual-fantasy role-play, the other (in my state seeing that I’m 49) is a CRIME.

    As for the rest of the point of this, it’s included post this comment.

    I’m not saying I disagree with your analysis of rhetoric-driven losers, I’m just wondering what your definition of “terrorist” is…

    As for terrorism, it is generally defined as political violence in an asymmetrical conflict that is designed to induce terror and psychic fear (sometimes indiscriminate) through the violent victimization and destruction of noncombatant targets (sometimes iconic symbols). This can include bonafide, credible threats to those targets.

    The purpose of terrorism is to exploit society, through the media, in order to achieve maximum attainable publicity to amplify the force expended in an attempt to influence (or control) the targeted audience(s) in order to reach short- and midterm political goals and/or desired long-term end states.

    And that, by-and-large, doesn’t include pseudonymous Internet cranks talking shit. Or, as Justice Potter Stewart tried to explain “hard-core” pornography, or what is obscene, by saying, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced …[b]ut I know it when I see it…”

    In short, it’s a facts and circumstances issue requiring case-by-case judgement and cannot, like “obscenity,” be neatly categorized for rules-lawyers…

    That these individuals have been charged only proves that someone has made a decision that those people are “terrorists” and, therefore, have charged them with such. It does not actually mean they ARE terrorists.

  14. #14 jafafahots
    March 29, 2010

    Ask a few attendees of wedding parties in Iraq just how inept we are at terrorism.

    We can terrorize better than just about anybody – we just do it by proxy, with expensive equipment, all nice and quasi-legal like (since we write or at least interpret the laws)

    I’m sorry… I’m forgetting. These actions weren’t terrorism. Our military actions are merely defensive… not designed to terrorize, but instead just what we need to do to protect our little, helpless world’s largest nuclear arsenal and strongest military force.

  15. #15 See Nick Overlook
    March 29, 2010

    William Blum defined a terrorist as “someone who has a bomb but doesn’t have an air force.”

  16. #16 Anti_Theist-317
    March 29, 2010

    I am so tired of whiney bitches like this. Directly from the self proclaimed passive atheist:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/03/my_feelings_are_crushed.php#comments

    “Posted by: Thorsonofodin | March 27, 2010 4:41 PM
    “I’m not religious at all. Many of you seem to think I’m promoting religion by what I’ve said. I am not. I am promoting tolerance. Tolerance to ignorance even – as long as no one is in immediate harm.”
    ————————————-

    The threat of harm is immediate and most likely in your city.

    Christian militias are nothing new.
    http://christianmilitia.net/
    The fact that few have heard of them until now is not my problem.

    There are hundreds of other groups of this nature, if not thousands. However, their actions typically do not generate media attention(which I find odd).

    Google.com:

    Results 1 – 10 of about 253,000 for “religious violence”. (0.27 seconds)

    Use your favorite keywords: Christian Violence, Murder, Torture, Aryan Nations, Christian Identity, Jihad, Holy War, Just War, Middle East, 9/11. There are tens if not hundreds of thousands of keyword examples.

    Belief motivates action. Irrational, delusional and just plain fucking stupid beliefs justify such actions. If the irrational belief is one which an all powerful god finds favor in, commands one to do or otherwise necessary this makes the situation more dangerous.

  17. #17 FrankT
    March 29, 2010

    If there was a god, we would know that it hates the province of Ingushetia. Nestled between Chechnya, Ossetia, and Georgia, it has been torn by civil war and imported terrorism virtually since the fall of the Soviet Union.

    It’s not a nice place to be, and is probably on the top five list of places most likely to be a flashpoint for a war in Europe. I understand how people there can be angry and hopeless. But blowing up people in Moscow is not going to buy a better life for Ingush people. Not in Ingushetia, not anywhere.

    Bloodthirsty imams keep telling Ingush, Chechen, and Dargin people that if they murder Russians that they will have a better life. Nothing could be further from the truth. As ties with Moscow have dwindled, so too has the quality of life in the Caucasian provinces. The solution to their problems is better integration with the rest of the secular nation and the world. Not murdering random Slavs who could barely find the place on a map.

  18. #18 Perplexed
    March 29, 2010

    This was indeed a terrible indecent and should be condemned as the awful act it was. This has however reminded me of the fact I often here Americans (mostly far right crazies) saying they have suffered from terrorist attacks because Americans love freedom amongst other things, but I will often here the very same people deride Russia for lacking these qualities.

    Perhaps these people need to understand that terrorists are not all linked by common beliefs and that they are often people who feel they have no other choice but to commit these hideous acts in order to be heard. I am in no way defending these actions but I do at least understand that the war on terror is as pointless, and is proving itself as inept as the war on drugs.

    For every person killed due to them potentially being involved in terrorism more potential terrorists are created. Not to mention the freedoms that people are losing under the guise of fighting terrorism is this not actually proving terrorism works; they are successfully changing how we live our lives through the threats and actions of violence.

    The current approach to this global problem is clearly not working, and in my opinion can never work. Terrorism is a method of forcing change used by desperate people and as such can not be attacked, what needs to be attacked are the circumstances that lead to people turning to terrorism.

  19. #19 Caine, Fleur du mal
    March 29, 2010

    Terrible news. My heart goes out to all the victims and their loved ones.

  20. #20 ckitching
    March 29, 2010

    We can terrorize better than just about anybody – we just do it by proxy, with expensive equipment, all nice and quasi-legal like (since we write or at least interpret the laws)

    Sorry, but no. There are plenty of things to complain about the way the modern US military does things, but they’re not attempting to terrorize anyone. They’re not intentionally trying to target civilians, and any that do are to be treated as criminals.

    You can argue that they don’t do enough to avoid harming civilian populations. You can argue (and I certainly would) that they trust in technology and intelligence too much. You can even argue that they shouldn’t be in there in the first place. There are dozens of other criticisms you can argue. Just don’t draw moral equivalences where there aren’t any.

  21. #21 jafafahots
    March 29, 2010

    Sorry, but no. There are plenty of things to complain about the way the modern US military does things, but they’re not attempting to terrorize anyone. They’re not intentionally trying to target civilians, and any that do are to be treated as criminals.

    You can argue that they don’t do enough to avoid harming civilian populations. You can argue (and I certainly would) that they trust in technology and intelligence too much. You can even argue that they shouldn’t be in there in the first place. There are dozens of other criticisms you can argue. Just don’t draw moral equivalences where there aren’t any.

    Oh goodness gracious, I’m so, so sorry. You’re right, we don’t try to terrorize anyone. No! What we do is try to “shock and awe” them. Totally different!

    Forget the torture at abu gahraib… That wasn’t a policy sent down from the highest officials, despite what the documents say. Lies, all lies.
    What it really was was that terrible, terrible Lynddie England… the higher ups were powerless to stop her… but fortunately that private and her boyfriend, responsible for all of the terror perpetrated there, were held responsible. Their guiltless superiors, relieved that that the horror was ended, made sure such things never happened again.

    And those videos youve seen of American troops riding through the streets of Iraq randomly shooting at civilians and laughing about it? That was all CGI done by James Cameron.

    And Blackwater and the other mercenaries independent contractors? They don’t terrorize. No, those are nasty rumors, despite whatever lies are in the classified cover-up documents due to be released in day on Wikileaks say.

    And when they DO step out of line by, say hypothetically beating and gangraping, imprisoning and threatening with death a fellow american, they are TOTALLY held responsible, because the victim has recourse. Not by criminal charges, or lawsuits… but by the more severe consequence of having her be able to take her complaint to a private arbitator of Blackwater’s choosing. With such a powerful recourse at her disposal, there’s no way she feels terrorized.

    And there’s NO WAY you can draw a parallel between someone taking a small bomb and targeting a few hundred innocent people and what we do.

    We just target one or two really bad guys. With BIG bombs. We have to use big bombs to be sure, and so they take out entire apartment blocks and neighborhoods. But the innocent people there (the ones that survive anyway) are not terrorized. As they take their now-limbless children to the hospital, as they scrub their mothers’ and father’s and sons’ and babies brains off their walls and floors, they are not terrorized, because they know that the red hot piece of shrapnel that took their lovers’ head off wasn’t MEANT for them specifically, wasn’t meant to make them feel terror.

    There’s no way you can draw a moral equivalence between the few hundred innocents killed by terrorists and the few hundred thousand innocents killed by US military.

    The few hundred were intentional victims whereas the hundreds of thousands were just accidents. The hundreds of friends and relatives of the terrorists’ victims are feeling terrorized, whereas the MILLIONS of friends and relatives of those we’ve killed understand that hey – accidents happen.

    They know we didn’t mean it because they know that every night we watch our news in horror at our media’s dutiful reports of these tragic accidents, that we see constant tallies of the innocents killed, and that through our nightly candlelight vigils we’ve raised American consciousness and done our utmost to minimize these horrific mishaps.

    They understand that “shock and awe” was only meant for Saddam and his cronies… that in no way was it our intent to shock and awe, to terrorize the whole populace, to demolish their entire country, their entire civilization, to beat them down into total submission so that we could roll in, occupy the palaces, build THE LARGEST EMBASSY IN HUMAN HISTORY, and establish a permanent occupation to secure our oil that they had so thoughtlessly build their country on top of.

    How callous of me, how thoughtless to suggest that the father of an Iraqi child whose brains have been blown out feels anywhere near the terror that a Russian father whose child’s brains have been blown out feels.

    How disgusting of me to attempt to draw a moral equivalency between the Chechen who blew up that Russian baby and the American who blew up that Iraqi baby. Between the hundreds of innocent deaths they’re responsible for and the hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths WE’RE responsible for.

    I am ashamed. I am chastened, and I beg your forgiveness.

  22. #22 John Morales
    March 29, 2010
  23. #23 ckitching
    March 30, 2010

    You seem to be under the misapprehension that I endorse any of that. I do not. I think those who endorsed torture, shot at civilians for fun, authorized the bombing densely populated areas based on sketchy intelligence, and those who fabricated intelligence in order to support the war should’ve been sent to rot in Guantanamo Bay detention camp (and not just their convenient scapegoats). There are enough crimes that need to be answered for without inventing new ones (and few, if any, of them are to be solely individual soldier’s faults).

    There is plenty to be pissed off about without turning the word ‘terrorism’ into something it’s not. Terrorism requires more than just the loss of civilian life. At its very core, terrorism is a means of coercion. The US military isn’t killing civilians because it’s trying to coerce the population or government into doing something. No, perhaps the majority of the deaths can be attributed to worse reasons — a combination of incompetence (let’s invade a country without bothering to plan anything) and callous disregard for the people living there (“Mission Accomplished”). Even if both of those were no longer true, the damage is done.

    “You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity” – Robert A. Heinlein, Logic of Empire (1941)

  24. #24 jafafahots
    March 30, 2010

    No, no, I’m sorry… truly. I never meant to imply that you endorse any of those things. I was just admitting that you’d taught me that we can’t, as you said previously, draw a moral equivalency between them.

    You’re right. You just can’t draw a moral equivalency between 100 children killed in front of their parents out of direct malice and 10,000 children killed in front of their parents due to callous disregard, because they merely got in the way of a larger, different immoral goal we were clumsily trying to achieve.

    Can’t draw a moral equivalency between 400 innocents killed with malice and 400,000 innocents killed with “whoopsiedaisy.” Much better, more moral, re: Heinlein, to kill 1000 with stupidity than 10 with malice.

    I mean, if we DID start to draw a moral equivalency between 100 civilians killed in a terrorist attack and 100,000 killed in badly chosen wars, or even ANY wars, then we might as well start calling war itself terrorism.

    We’d might as well just flat out go ahead and say that war itself is inherently an act of terrorism.

    We can’t do that. We can’t draw that moral equivalence, as you yourself said… for fuck’s sake, no way. If we started doing THAT, why I dunno… we might not even be able to get away with having wars AT ALL anymore.

  25. #25 mfd512
    March 30, 2010

    ckitching,

    I appreciate your POV, but I must inform you your mission is futile here. Note something: just below this thread is another dedicated to the right wing militia that didnt actually kill anyone. 190 comments, as of now, and rightfully a hot topic.

    Note further, this thread on the Moscow terrorists who actually killed 38 people, and you see 24 comments, about half of which are about Christians terrorists in America, and the terrorizing American military.

  26. #26 kilternkafuffle
    March 30, 2010

    @startlingmoniker (#9):

    Countdown to “but real Islam (or whatever nutbaggery) is a religion of peace…” in 3, 2, 1…

    The Russian Council of Muftis apparently said that “extremism and terrorism have no basis in the Holy Quran” and that “a terrorist cannot be a Muslim while a Muslim cannot be a terrorist.”

    While the Muftis are perpetrators of hateful faith, who, for example, vocally condemn basic gay rights, here they do provide a much needed voice of moderation. Potential terrorists probably listen to Wahhabi indoctrinators and clan leaders more, but it’s always nice to see peaceful memes spring up in the rhetoric of Muslim leaders. Particularly because the Muftis want to snuggle up to the authoritarian Russian regime, they will likely always need to be as civilized as the government. Today that means opposing terrorism, tomorrow (or in like 10 years) it might mean embracing gay rights.

    The reasons for this is that life is shit in the Caucasus, and they have clan leaders with absolute rule who are favored by the government because they can keep order, and who are so happy with their power that they will do nothing to promote modernization or economic growth, much less civil liberties.

    Another vital reason is xenophobia in Russian society. I was very ashamed to hear that immediately after the blasts there were assaults on Muslim and Caucasian looking people.

  27. #27 kilternkafuffle
    March 30, 2010

    @jafafahots:

    Call the American and Israeli militaries (I won’t even mention the Russian military, that very likely covertly tortures and executes terrorist suspects) callous, bombing civilian areas and justifying it as collateral damage. Call them at times dangerously incompetent, needlessly endangering civilians. Call them insufficiently trained, with individuals prone to anything from quick judgment to sadistic torture and murder. Call them criminal, with long-term policies that use white phosphorous, depleted uranium, cluster bombs, and land mines, as well as poor controls against systematic torture of prisoners. – I will applaud every statement, because my heart also flutters when I think of the millions of lives ruined in Iraq and elsewhere by soldiers that are supposed to be regarded as heroes.

    But you’ll go nowhere if you do indeed intend to establish their moral equivalence with extremist groups whose stated goals are death, destruction, and unapologetic schadenfreude – people who revel in the idea of the enemy’s child brains spilling on the street.

    Israel is routinely responsible for most of the casualties in its wars. Coalition forces in Iraq are reportedly (Wiki Casualties in Iraq) responsible for at least 1/3 of all casualties, which could be anywhere from 40 to 200 thousand. Indeed the people with the biggest guns cause unbelievable numbers of deaths. It is a horror that will be seen even more clearly in the future.

    However, imagine for a second the damage they could do instead. They could cut military and administrative costs by carpet bombing (or nuking) whole cities and shooting those daring to speak in opposition on sight. Compared to the way war was conducted in WWII or in Vietnam, today’s Western militaries do actually try to reduce casualties and treat people on the ground as human beings. With the exception of sadists and nationalists, nobody actually enjoys the idea that they killed civilians. And we’re talking about civilians who have a different language, religion, and skin color.

    I do think it is a moral failure to not realize how deadly the policies of your government actually are, but it is nowhere the same as actively wishing for far deadlier policies to be enacted against foreign infidels.

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