Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Why are conservatives so desperate to pin soldier-shootings on "anti-war left?"

What do we know about Abulhakim Muhammad? Muhammad is accused of killing Army Pvt. William Andrew Long and wounding Pvt. Quinton I. Ezeagwula in a shooting two weeks ago at a Little Rock recruiting center. He was targeting military sites as well as Jewish sites. He attended the Omar Ibn el-Khattab mosque in Columbus, Ohio, an apparent breeder of extremism, whence emerged
Nuradin Abdi, convicted in 2007 of planning to blow up an Ohio shopping mall; Iyman Faris, convicted in 2008 of planning to blow up New York's Brooklyn Bridge, and Christopher Paul, convicted in 2008 of conspiring to use explosives against targets in the United States and Europe.

We know that he used to be named Carlos Leon Bledsoe, changing his name to Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad after converting to Islam in 2004. Subsequently, he traveled to Somalia and Yemen, looking to study with a militant imam.

Sounds like your average alienated person. So why, apart from opportunism, does Michelle Malkin link the Muhammad's alleged killings to "leftist anti-recruiting militancy?" For the same reason professional extremist Debbie Schlussel is quick to blame the Holocaust Museum shooting on "Muslims and their many defenders on the left."

Of course, defending the civil liberties of Muslims and others is not an endorsement of Islamic theology, or Islamic fundamentalist ideology. I dare Debbie Schlussel or Michelle Malkin to find any truly "left" or "progressive" documents doing so. You're far more likely to find the work of pioneering Persian or Arabic socialists and progressives, people like Mansoor Hekmat, who opposed "political Islam" as much as he opposed Western imperialism. Tough spot to be in, but that's also the spot in which American progressives often find themselves.

The key is to articulate our orientation. We oppose imperialism, but we also oppose the unsophisticated, violent drivel that rises up as a response to imperialism in the absence of some better alternative. Don't forget that the U.S. created the space for this deadly and hateful ideology--as did the Soviet Union, a nation that spent the better part of a century convincing people that Stalinist totalitarianism was "progressive." In order to fight the Stalinists, the U.S. propped up Islamic fanatics, including in their battles with Islamic moderates.
It is only due to the criminal role of the Stalinist two-stage theory that these movements of national liberation could not culminate in social revolutions. It was entirely possible that had the Stalinist leaders of these parties not relied on the so-called "national bourgeoisie" the whole outcome would have been different. If the Communist Parties had kept an independent class stance and adopted the policy of the united front within the national liberation struggle, this could have grown into the social revolution.
The examples of India, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Algeria, Indonesia and several other countries are too glaring to ignore. It was due to the class collaborationist policies of the Communist Party leaders, and their lack of trust in the virgin and vibrant proletariat, that these revolutions were aborted and in some cases, like Iran, these policies actually led to the imposition of Islamic fundamentalism.

From a world of strong Islamic left wing currents uncommitted to Stalinism in the 1950s and 1960s...
One of the cornerstones of US foreign policy was to sponsor, organise, arm and foment modern Islamic fundamentalism as a reactionary weapon against the rising tide of mass upsurge and social revolutions. The Jamaat-e-Islami and Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen were singled out for the job mainly due to their viciousness and fanatical neo-fascist character. After the Suez defeat the imperialists gave top priority to this policy. Large sums of money were dished out by the special operations department of the CIA and the Pentagon. They provided assistance in devising the strategy and training of these religious zealots .
However, in these societies the fundamentalists were finding it difficult to get a base of support, as wave after wave of left wing currents swept across these countries. They had no alternative but to fall into the lap of imperialism for their survival and existence.

Utilizing a more reasonable logical schematic than Malkin or Schlussel, I conclude that, if ideological causation is so important to their case, it is American imperialism which is ultimately responsible for crazy people doing violent things in the name of Allah.

Other righties are eager to do their part. analyst and radio host Jim Lacamp said on Fox News that "we have an administration that's really done a lot of class warfare, a lot of class-baiting. And so, it sets the stage for social unrest"; syndicated radio host Tammy Bruce repeatedly claimed that the Obama administration's "increasing anti-Israel rhetoric and the pandering to the Jew-hating world Arab world ... encourages all the beasts among us"; and posted a column claiming that "[i]t is no coincidence that we are witnessing this level of hatred toward Jews as President Barack Obama positions America against the Jewish state."

So why are conservatives so desperate to pin A. Muhammad on the left? Because they've been caught with their pants down twice, their hate flacidly waving in the wind. Also, because, since many on the left are willing to step up and defend the civil liberties of Muslims, conservatives surmise that this must mean radical Islam is kin to leftist politics. It is that assumption that poses the greatest threat to the political credibility of the anti-war, anti-capitalist, social justice movement.

Malkin, Schlussel, and the rest of the crowd want us to believe that white supremacists, black racists, and anti-semites are taking their marching orders from a liberal African American president. Perhaps this kind of excessive unreasonability is why Eric Boehlert writes that "the right-wing blogosphere is literally built upon fabrications. And because that's the road to stardom, everybody's eager to hatch new whodunits." (For what it's worth, most of the blogs claim the White House was silent on the Arkansas shooting after condemning the Wichita murder. Hogwash.)

We also know that the United States Federal Government, at least if you judge them by policy and enforcement logistics, is more eager and prepared to prosecute Muhammad than George Tiller. Muhammad is being charged with terrorism. He will get the death penalty. Tiller won't get the death penalty from the Kansas prosecutor who is charging him; it remains to be seen whether the federal government will step in on Tiller. I predict they won't. The FBI had been investigating Muhammad, but they'd received reports on Tiller and hadn't even bothered to follow up on those reports. The right-wing think tank Stratfor has been quoted as citing its always unnamed "inside sources," who told them that "law enforcement organizations had been ordered to 'back off' of counterterrorism investigations into the activities of Black Muslim converts." This may be the single most convenient collection of facts the far right that has ever fallen on the far right's lap. As I have commented before, having more than a passing familiarity with think tanks, I declare Stratfor to be the exaggeratin' Uncle Jimmy of think tanks, always smugly reliant on "their" exclusive, unnamed inside sources. There's simply no independent evidence for this charge, and it conveniently plays into the far right, and apparently not-so-far-right talk that Obama is a secret Muslim.

Progressives are universalists. We respect differences and the beauty of cultural diversity, we understand that different groups and families move through history differently, but we don't say "these people love freedom and these people don't." But we don't say "your anti-torture position doesn't apply to China" or "your same-sex marriage rights don't apply to Saudi Arabian gays." If someone claims they're on the left and does those things, they're not really a progressive, and you shouldn't listen to them. Cultural relativism is an anthropological tool to remain objective and scientific. It's not an ethical maxim where human rights are concerned. Progressives favor democracy over the lack of democracy, consensus over imposition, dialogue over silence, deliberation over silencing. This is why progressivism is inherently opposed to fundamentalist, literalist, undemocratic forms of religion, across the board. Criticism from the left against American excess in the war on terror is neither inappropriate in a "time of war" nor a cheer or nudge for those engaged in futile and immorally (and apolitically) indiscriminate attacks on U.S. or other targets.

Radical Islam draws its ideology from, among other things, Nazism. Despite calling it "National Socialism," it was nationalist, which means anti-internationalist, and thus not leftist. It was rooted in the notion of racial superiority, again contrary to internationalism, as well as the left's universalism (a component of the Enlightenment, early political economists (including Adam Smith), Left-Hegelianism, Marxism, the American and French revolutionaries, and so on). The biggest mistake made by virtually everyone on the right and a few on the left is to equate the battle fought by Islamic extremism with an "anti-imperialist," anti-capitalist battle.

As Sunsara Taylor wrote two years ago:
To call these fundamentalist forces "outmoded" is not some swear word, nor a reflection of some kind of "prejudice," ... "Outmoded" and reactionary speaks to the content of their own specific version of a very oppressive program for the masses of people in these countries. And on another level, "outmoded strata" expresses the class relations involved. These forces represent old ruling strata in these societies--not the interests of the masses of the people.

Progressives reject the violence committed by Abdulhakim Muhammad, but it's important to say why. In addition to the tragic death of Private Long and the wounding of Private Ezeagwula, there is the ultimate amorality of ideological extremism. There is the futility of individual acts of terrorism. There is the unfair stereotyping of Muslims that will occur as a result. There is the imitative acts that have been sparked, another sick byproduct of this. And last, and certainly merely a tactical concern, paling in comparison to the tragedy of murder, there is the risk that such actions will be exploited by war-mongers and redbaiters. I hope that in addressing that last reason, I've clarified a few things about all the others.
In the meantime, William Andrew Long, rest in peace, and peace to your family. Whatever your own beliefs, and the agenda of the elites so far removed from you, you sought to be honorable and selfless, and you did not deserve to die.

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