Ockham’s Razor – Since October 2001 – by Scott Kirwin
Archive for November 2006
On Monday October 2, 2006 in pastoral Lancaster County Pennsylvania, a local milk truck driver entered a one room school house and within minutes turned it into a slaughterhouse. Explanations for that horrific event are beginning to appear in the media as people ask the simple question, ‘Why?’ While we yearn for the answer, it is important to recall what we learned from a tragedy of much greater scale that happened five years ago.
In the first days after September 11, 2001 the mass media withheld blame as Americans absorbed the worst attack in the continental United States since the Civil War. The hijackers of the planes had made no demands nor had al-Qaeda’s leadership immediately accepted responsibility for the attack. As late as January 2, 2002 no less an authority as South African President Nelson Mandela questioned whether al-Qaeda was to blame.
As the aftershocks of the event rippled through the national landscape, explanations for the attack that killed thousands of men, women and children slowly blossomed. Some blamed the attack on America’s ‘aggression against Islam,’ forgetting that America had backed the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, and entered the Balkan War on the side of the Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Others blamed ‘American Imperialism’, ignoring the fact that imperialism requires an empire which, Japan, South Korea and Western Europe would bristle at being considered part of. One commentator even blamed the attack on America’s refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, an odd statement considering the amount of pollution released into the atmosphere by the destruction of four fuel-laden jets, two skyscrapers, and three thousand human beings.
There are two common threads to these explanations. The first is that they reflect the commentator’s bias or select viewpoint. For example, the global warming explanation for 9-11 was proposed by an environmental activist supporting action against climate change. The attacks became a kind of Rorschach Test in which one saw the motive she or he wanted to see. Such attempts have everything to do with the mindset of the commentator and nothing whatsoever to do with the true motives of the attackers.
The second is that each explanation dehumanizes the perpetrators by turning them into animals, acting only in reaction to an outside stimulus and completely denying them the human quality of ‘free-will’. However, we know that the terrorists had the free-will to call off their mission by walking away, or by contacting authorities. Instead they exercised their free-will by choosing to kill as many people as they possibly could.
We see a similar process at work with the Amish school massacre. In nearby Philadelphia, a city in the midst of a wave of murders, gun control advocates have seized upon the shootings to support their agenda. A recent editorial cartoon showed members of the National Rifle Association (NRA) carrying Amish children on a platter to a sacrificial altar. Another non-Amish Lancaster resident blamed the crime in part on ‘the absurdly easy availability of guns,’ ignoring the fact that guns were part of Lancaster County’s culture for centuries, long before the truck driver set foot into the schoolhouse.
Even the killers themselves provide little insight into their motives. Charles Carl Roberts IV claimed in a suicide note to have been tormented by memories of molesting two of his relatives twenty years ago, events that both deny. He also blamed God for the death of his newborn daughter.
Nothing explains how Roberts connected these incidents with his actions. According to his suicide note and his relatives, he had nothing against the Amish and appears to have selected the venue for his outburst at random – or more likely because he knew he would be more successful in an unsecured Amish schoolhouse than at a well-patrolled inner city school. Still, we are left without answers. How many survivors of abuse do what he has done? How many parents have seen their own children buried before them yet not systematically executed children as revenge against God?
Members of a radical Baptist church see God’s hand in the slaughter, saying that the girls were killed ‘in punishment for Gov. Ed Rendell’s blasphemous sins.’ The governor’s crime? Backing a law that would ban protests at funerals for gays and fallen soldiers which the group views as God’s retribution for American laws protecting homosexuals. The radical group has made a name for itself by protesting at funerals carrying signs that say ‘God Bless IED’s’ and ‘Thank God for Dead Soldiers.’
In a sense these are all attempts by minds to make sense of the nonsensical. By providing motive to an attack, we feel better. We can take comfort in people having been killed for a reason, that the attack was some kind of message which we now must heed.
This reasoning can be extended to any event: a car accident (the teens were driving too fast) a homicide (the victim should never have dated her killer) or tragedy (the astronauts on the shuttle Columbia knew the risks).
This rationalizing is our attempt at gaining control of the situation. However it is a false sense of control. We can put locks on school doors and increase airport security, but we cannot stop all acts of evil intent.
We also must learn that for some acts there simply cannot be any explanations or excuses. There can be no justification for gunning down children just as there is none that can justify slamming airliners into buildings. Excuses should never exempt acts, nor should they ever do so simply to allow us to feel pain. The children of Lancaster County and the 3000 who died on September 11, 2001 deserve more from us than a quick end to our grief.
I’m no fan of the mainstream media. Although I grew up reading one, two, often three newspapers a day, I rarely read one today due to their reliance upon bland wire stories and biased Left-wing opinion pieces that masquerade as news. However the Philadelphia Inquirer has produced an 8 part series detailing the rise and fall of an online drug dealing empire run by an Indian MBA student at Temple University and his father, a New Delhi doctor.
It is the story of lies, deceit, and hubris – all driven by one thing: pure greed. It is as compelling as any Grisham novel and remains the best series I’ve read in any media in years. If the MSM stuck to high-quality gumshoe reporting like this, the MSM would not be so disliked and unprofitable as they are.
Read it and enjoy classic journalism the way it should be – not the way it has become.
I’ve been arguing for awhile now that the United States needs to “bring the troops home” from places like South Korea, Germany, Italy, the UK and Japan. Investor’s Daily seems to agree:
We’ve been Europe’s security blanket for six decades. We are Japan’s security blanket. We are South Korea’s. It’s been said that were it not for us, the French would be speaking German and the Germans would be speaking Russian. In 1938, the West decided it couldn’t be Czechoslovakia’s security blanket and sold out that country in Munich, Germany. The rest, as they say, is history.
Anyone who believes that our troop presence is “inflaming the situation” in Iraq must also visit Seoul, or talk to the Okinawans – places where there is a lot of friction between the locals and the US military.
So why do we stay in these places? If we must leave Iraq, shouldn’t we leave Germany – a nation that has lived “under occupation” for sixty years – first?
I have called for Syria’s destruction in the past.
However I am a realist when it comes to foreign policy. If we can’t do that, than we should neutralize their influence in the region. The best way to do this is to “bring them in from the cold” and give them what they want.
Our ear? Yes.
Respect? Perhaps – but they have to earn it first.
Their payoff? Being taken off our Axis of Evil list, trade.
Off the table: Lebanon.
From June t0 NovemberOh, Canada..
Fox News reports the following about Sen. Joe Lieberman:
Democrats will hold a 51-49 edge in the Senate, so Lieberman, the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000, could find himself courted by Republicans.
He was asked about a scenario in which he might become uncomfortable as Democrats sought to enforce party discipline and then the GOP offered to keep him as a committee chairman and respect his seniority if he switched.
“I’m not ruling it out, but I hope I don’t get to that point. And, and I must say, and with all respect to the Republicans who supported me in Connecticut, nobody ever said, `We’re doing this because we, we want you to switch over,’”he said.
I hate losing. While I consider myself a loner and tend to avoid conflict as much as possible, the truth is that when conflict is unavoidable, I get vicious. When I compete, I not only want to win – I want my opponent to lose. I want him to lose so badly that he will be spoken about with shame for generations to come within his family. It is a primal desire that has more in common with the Ancients who tore out the hearts of their foes on the battlefield and devoured them.
I want to win, and when I don’t, it takes days – weeks – sometimes months to regain my footing. I don’t like to lose – so I avoid the conflict altogether. The problem of course becomes when you avoid the opportunity to win for fear of losing. As I get older I realize that I’ve missed many opportunities because of that tendency, although I’ve become much more daring in recent years than in the distant past.
I lost in Tuesday’s election – although several of my candidates (Joe Lieberman, Jim Webb, Mike Castle) won. It’s not good enough when my opponents – Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi and the Mainstream Media – failed to lose, even though I consider Dennis Hastert and the Republican leadership soul-less weasels.
In order to enjoy the fruits of victory, one must taste the bitterness of defeat. I’m not avoiding going to avoid it. I will allow some time to revel in it, and then I will tire of it and move on.
In the meantime, I am not a pleasant person to be around.
This morning, the local drive-time Preston & Steve Show had an interview with Edward A. Turzanski, a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and a national security analyst at La Salle University. After feeling bummed about the election yesterday, this guy reminded me that the fight against Islamic Fascism is a long one, and that many of those who voted against Bush on Tuesday did so not because they were Noam Chomsky Kool-Aid drinkers, but realists who wanted to see a change in our outlook there.
He suggested that we were trying too hard to be politically correct and trying to make the parties like us – as opposed to making them respect us. This happens to be an argument I have made several times, considering that it comes straight out of Machiavelli’s The Prince.
Overall, it was an excellent interview and was a total surprise hearing it on a show more famous for its Haunted Whore Ride than foreign policy analysis.
Goes to StrategyPage:
The Palestinians believe it is their right to fire rockets into Israel, and that Israeli attempts to stop the rockets, are a war crime.
And anti-war Lincoln Chafee loses.
So much for the anti-war vote…
Which means to all Republicans and members of the Vast Right-wing Conspiracy…
It’s time to steal another election.
What I want to know is why we spend so much money when we just end up rigging the election. I mean, we could save a bundle by just allowing the Lefties and Dems-not-in-on-our-plot to get all excited without blowing wads of cold hard cash on an election we know we’re going to steal in the end anyway.
Maybe after Bush wins his 3rd Term in office we can finally quit the charade and save our money for important things:
Like hunting whales, drilling for oil in ANWAR and spreading AIDS in Africa.
Is Seymour Hersh confusing scenes from a movie with reality?
During his hour-and-a-half lecture – part of the launch of an interdisciplinary media and communications studies program called Media@McGill – Hersh described video footage depicting U.S. atrocities in Iraq, which he had viewed, but not yet published a story about.(Source: McGill Daily)
He described one video in which American soldiers massacre a group of people playing soccer.
“Three U.S. armed vehicles, eight soldiers in each, are driving through a village, passing candy out to kids,” he began. “Suddenly the first vehicle explodes, and there are soldiers screaming. Sixteen soldiers come out of the other vehicles, and they do what they’re told to do, which is look for running people.”
“Never mind that the bomb was detonated by remote control,” Hersh continued. “[The soldiers] open up fire; [the] cameras show it was a soccer game.”
“About ten minutes later, [the soldiers] begin dragging bodies together, and they drop weapons there. It was reported as 20 or 30 insurgents killed that day,” he said.
It is eerily similar to this scene from the anti-Semitic, anti-American Turkish movie “Valley of the Wolves”:
Marshall raids an Arab wedding on the pretext of hunting terrorists. When the usual celebratory gunfire starts, one soldier says: “Now they are shooting, now they are terrorists.” They attack a wedding party. A small child named Ali sticks a branch up the barrel of one of their guns. The soldier fires as a reflex response, shooting the child Ali dead in front of his parents. The rest of the soldiers panic and begin firing on the wedding guests, beat up the bride, shoot the the groom at head in front of the bride, shoot the guests and children. (see controversy, below) The survivors are captured and forced into a airtight container truck and sent to Abu Ghraib prison (the infamous prisoner mistreatment is then depicted later). Enroute an American soldier complains that the prisoners might be suffocating in the truck. One of Marshall’s men then fires on the truck, spraying the detainees with bullets. Claiming he is providing them fresh air. “I’m helping them breathe. They’re not going to die of suffocation anymore.” he says. When the soldier threatens to report the incident, he is promptly shot.(Wikipedia)
Given the details he cites, it would be fairly easy to find out a case where an ambush resulted in “30-40 insurgent” fatalities. So far I have not come up with any references to such a skirmish – beyond the similarities to Valley of the Wolves.
Is Hersh losing it? All that hard living in the ‘60s may have finally caught up with him.
This appears to be an urban legend that Hersh has been trying to peddle for over a year.
For example, in July 2005, the counter-misinformation team researched the allegation that U.S. soldiers in Iraq had killed innocent Iraqi boys playing football and then “planted” rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) next to them, to make it appear that they were insurgents.
Using a variety of search terms in “Google,” a researcher was able to find the article and photographs upon which the allegations were based. Because weapons did not appear in the initial photographs, but did appear in later photographs, some observers believed this was evidence that the weapons had been planted and that the boys who had been killed were not armed insurgents.
The researcher was also able to find weblog entries (numbered 100 and 333, on June 26 and July 15, 2005) from the commanding officer of the platoon that was involved in the incident and another member of his platoon. The weblog entries made it clear that:
the teenaged Iraqi boys were armed insurgents;
after the firefight between U.S. troops and the insurgents was over, the dead, wounded and captured insurgents were initially photographed separated from their weapons because the first priority was to make sure that it was impossible for any of the surviving insurgents to fire them again;
following medical treatment for the wounded insurgents, they were photographed with the captured weapons displayed, in line with Iraqi government requirements;
the insurgents were hiding in a dense palm grove, where visibility was limited to 20 meters, not a likely place for a football game, and they were seen carrying the RPGs on their shoulders.
Thus, an hour or two of research on the Internet was sufficient to establish that the suspicions of the bloggers that the weapons had been planted on innocent Iraqi boys playing football were unfounded.
Note how Hersh’s story has grown with age from “a bunch of kids” to “30-40 insurgents”. Also, the still pictures of the soccer playing insurgents become animated in the McGill University speech. However he doesn’t forget that the American troops pulled the bodies together.
Hersh is blaming the college newspaper for misquoting his speech. Hersh seems to be very good at blaming everyone but himself for spinning lies.