Saturday, 18 December 2010

Politics's loss is the military's gain

I've just had my attention drawn to this (1):

The gentleman talking is one Colonel Alan West, who has just been elected to congress, who appears to have retired after some 'controversy' surrounding his treatment of an Iraqi prisoner (2).

Sorry, what's the point here? He seems to be claiming Muslims are somehow displaying a unique impulse towards conquest, warfare and a religiously motivated desire to slay infidels even though they are acting pretty much like everyone else has acted throughout history?

Seems a bit of a silly argument to me, as non-Muslims and non-Islamic states have been indulging their penchant for violence and expansion for millenia. Verily, since before there were even Muslims! The Romans, afer all, were not followers of Mohammed.

So, according to Col. West, if Muslims invade another country or indulge in a bit of naval warfare, its because it is a requirement of their faith. Even though, in doing it, they're just behaving like everyone else. Because his argument is that - while Muslim states have historically acted in a way very similar to everyone else, invading, conquering, salting cattle and raping fields and so on, this is somehow different from the same behaviours exhibited by other cultures and countries. We invaded, we conquered, we salted cattle and raped fields on a far grander scale than the Muslims. Which would suggest, that there's nothing particularly different about them doing it.

Consider the empire building antics of the Romans, the British, the French, the Germans, the Austro-Hungarians, the Spanish, the Dutch, even the friggin' Portuguese had one. And that's ignoring for now the Vikings, the Saxons, the Angles, the Jutes, the Normans (though they were Vikings) and all the other various national and tribal factions that have been happily creating mayhem over the years. European history is a continual process of warring, invasion, conquest and colonisation. West is arguing that Muslim states and empires are somehow different because they behave in exactly the same way as Europeans! Sorry, but that makes no sense.

Nations have always sought more power and wealth, to maintain their status and to keep their standing armies busy. Armies were piling into Europe from that part of the world from almost before history - Darius I could hardly have been a Muslim, as he preceded Mohammed by about a thousand years.

The Muslim holy book says DON'T EAT PIGS, PRAY TO MECCA LOTS and SMITE INFIDELS It doesn't really say that, but lets pretend for now it does). So Muslims don't eat pigs, pray to Mecca lots and smite infidels. Fair enough. But then we compare their behaviour to ours. Our holy book (which informs our culture even if we don't officially believe in it any more) says YOU CAN EAT AS MANY PIGS AS YOU WANT, DON'T WORRY ABOUT MECCA and DON'T GO ABOUT SMITING ANYONE (I don't think the pigs thing was ever properly cleared up, but we kinda decided to assume pigs were okay). So we blithely eat pigs, don't care a damn about Mecca ... and smite just about anyone we feel like.

The obvious lesson from this is that the urge to smite stems from somewhere other than what is said in holy books. You can attribute it to some basic human instinct to smite, or some basic economic factor that forces empires to continually expand, but the holy books don't seem to have much to do with it. They might be useful in deciding who gets smote, but when that doesn't avail, anything will do.

As for the title of this post? Think about it like an accountant would.
1 - "Sura 9:5 says, 'Slay the idolaters wherever you find them'," posted on You Tube by AmericanFamilyAssoc1, 9th of December, 2010. (
2 - "The Struggle For Iraq: Interrogations; How Colonel Risked His Career By Menacing Detainee and Lost," by Deborah Sontag and Ian Fisher. Published in the New York Times, 27th of May, 2004. (

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