Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Our Saudi Allies

Patrick Notestine in "Paramedic to the Prince" on Saudi support for terrorism, pp 294-295:

A metaweh wrote on a popular Islamic web-site, "I'd like to say that the overwhelming majority of my fellow Saudis totally condemn terrorism. Sadly that is just not true. The majority applaud any action that discomforts the royal family whom we perceive to be unreliable in religious terms, and to be too friendly with the US. So we support any action against them, regardless of who dies. And I see this support for terrorists all around me, in overt celebrations, the smiling jokes among friends and the victory fist punched in the air."

Notestine describes his introduction to the true nature of Islam, pp 1-3:

I was working in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, in my office at the King Faisal Hospital, where I managed the ambulance service. It was late afternoon, on a Tuesday, in September 2001. I got a call from a South African guy who works in the military
hospital there. He told me one of the World Trade Center towers caved in, and they blew up the Pentagon.
"Huh, ri-ight."
"No," he said, "I swear to God."

I put down the phone, and ran into the office of the Assistant Director of the hospital, right across the corridor.
"What's going on?
What's the matter?" Short fellow, dyed black hair, a real slimeball. I correctly
suspect that his job is way beyond him.
I told him, "Something bad's happenning."
I ran to his TV.
"You got CNN. Turn on CNN."
We sit close and watch it. I'm from California and he's from Little Rock, Arkansas.
Guys start filtering in behind us through the open door. All the Saudi management, a few in western suits, but mostly in the long white thobe and red checkered ghutra. On the screen there's the New York skyline, sparkling white and blue and sunny, with a vast dark cloud rising from Lower Manhattan. They're leaning against the filing cabinets, and hunched over the backs of chairs, riveted, silent.

I look up at them, the Head of Personnel, several men from the finance department, and the rest of them, and the second plane is coming in. Live. You have never seen such broad smiles. They were joyous. It was wow, man, HIT IT. Nobody said anything.

Well, the aftershock lasted a couple hours, with everyone shaking their heads and bemoaning the carnage, and then nearly all of them left. I have a habit of saying what's on my mind.

"Salman," I said to my friend, his name's Salman Al Dubair, "do you realize, when that second plane hit the tower, how you and Ali Bougesh were standing there grinning? It means you're happy."

"Oh no," he said.
"We're always smiling. It's a terrible thing."

Not long afterwards Prince Naif, the Minister of the Interior and Information, explained publicly that this dreadful event had been a Jewish-American conspiracy. To single out the Saudi passengers on those planes at such short notice, as the FBI had done, was ludicrous; every one of them had been a harmless student or tourist. In the Jewish section of New York on that day, on the other hand, the Jewish community had been dancing in the streets. Not a single Jew had been killed in the World Trade Center, because they all had been warned to stay away. Four hundred Muslims had died in this conspiracy to incite hatred of Islam.

George Bush talking about a crusade really pissed them off. After that most Saudis believed that the CIA, or the FBI, or George Bush personally in collusion with Israel, was responsble for 9/11. It is the conventional wisdom among Saudis to this day, even highly educated ones.

I was talking to a smart, rich Saudi I know, who was complaining that religious education in Saudi Arabia puts a brake on scientific development. You couldn't get the students to think, he said, because they'd been taught to view the world from a religious perspective and never to ask awkward questions. The people in charge didn't want people to think they wanted a continuance of the status quo. Then 9/11 came up, as it always did for a few weeks afterwards, and he went on to tell me how exultant he'd felt. He and his friends had watched the whole thing and cheered.

"Because we hate Americans," he said complacently.
"But not the people, of course," I said. "It's like us in the Gulf, we were against the
regime, we didn't hate the people."
"No, the people, too," he said. "We hate all Americans."
He looked right into my wide blue eyes as he said it.

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The Oil Shortage

George Will on the history of predictions of oil shortages:

"In 1914, the Bureau of Mines said U.S. oil reserves would be exhausted by 1924. In 1939, the Interior Department said the world’s petroleum reserves would last 13 years. Oil fueled a global war and the postwar boom, and in 1951 Interior said the world had … 13 years of proven reserves. In 1970, proven reserves were estimated at 612 billion barrels. By 2006, more than 767 billion barrels had been pumped and proven reserves were 1.2 trillion. In 1977, Jimmy Carter said mankind could “use up” all the world’s proven reserves “by the end of the next decade.” Since then, the world has consumed three times more oil than was in the proven reserves."


Sunday, October 03, 2010

Sep 11 Eyewitness at Ground Zero Mosque Site

Marine veteran Peter Parente, above, was part of the crew that recovered what looks like one of the main landing gear from United Airlines Flight 175 from the then Burlington Coat Factory, now the proposed Ground Zero Mosque. The gear crashed through the roof down through a couple floors to be caught halfway through the third floor. Parente said it was "bone-chilling" to see that gear hanging there. The building had just been renovated and was full of inventory, which was substantially destroyed. The photo above shows him with the strut in a van carting it away to the FBI. You can listen to him describe that day in a radio interview here, (13:16).

The liberals claim that the location for the mosque is not ground zero. The mosque developer, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf claims it is not hallowed ground because its neighborhood includes strip clubs and betting parlors.

Parente says, “That is 100% Ground Zero. It was Ground Zero that day and its still Ground Zero today. There was death in the air; I could smell it, I could taste it inside that building.”

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Saturday, October 02, 2010

No Country For Old Men

I've been fascinated by the Coen brothers movie, "No Country For Old Men," watching it over and over, five times now. Then I got the book by Cormac McCarthy, which was even better and filled in more details. I've been trying to figure out what it means with partial success. The themes I see are free will versus fatalism, which leads to the larger clash of civilization versus barbarism.

The fatalism is illustrated by the antagonist, Anton Chigurh, in his use of a coin toss to determine whether or not to kill his victims. He has no passion invested in killing them but believes it is a matter of chance whether they live or die, just as it was chance that brought him to them. Nor does Chigurh have any moral qualms about killing. It's just part of his job, neither good nor evil, just something to be done. Carson Wells and Carla Jean Moss both tell Chigurh that he doesn't need to do this, to kill them. Chigurh rejects the idea that he has any say in the matter.

Chigurh first tosses the coin when he encounters the gas station proprietor who notices the Dallas plates on his car. He leaves it to the coin toss to decide whether he should eliminate this witness. When the toss lets the man live, he walks away unperturbed. It was the man's fate to live, not Chigurh's decision, as Chigurh sees it.

Carla Jean Moss refuses to play Chigurh's game, calling the toss, by saying that "the coin ain't got no say." In other words, the coin has no moral agency. It is Chirgurh's decision to kill her or spare her, not the coin's. Carla Jean represents free will. Chigurh, fatalism.

Carson Wells and Carla Jean Moss both tell Chigurh that he doesn't need to do this, to kill them. Chigurh rejects the idea that he has any choice in the matter, that he has any moral agency. Anton Chigurh is the coin.

Barbarism is the absence of moral agency, the Hobbesian state of nature, which is "the state of men without civil society (which state may be called the state of nature) is nothing but a war of all against all; and that in that war, all have a right to all things." In this amoral war, men pursue their aims without limit, recognizing no moral boundaries. Chigurh is an emissary of that Hobbesian state of men, of barbarism. That barbarism was the natural state of humans for a million years until they organized themselves into civilizations in the last few millennia, a barbarism that naturally re-emerges when civilization relents or retreats.

That retreat of civilization is what Sheriff Ed Tom Bell talks about with the El Paso Sheriff, that it all begins to fall apart when kids lose their manners. Sheriff Bell is a tragic figure in this story because ultimately he joins that retreat by quitting law enforcement in the face of rampant barbarism represented by the insanely violent drug trade.

Tom Bell feels like a fraud. He was a soldier, a hero of WWII, where he fought off an attack of Germans single-handedly, winning a Bronze Star. His guilty secret is that when night fell, he abandoned his position and slunk back to his own lines, leaving his dead friends behind. He was sure that, in the same situation, his father, a veteran of WWI, would have stayed and fought to the death.

His family had a tradition of standing up to barbarism. His Uncle Max was gunned down on his own porch, shot in his doorway by a pack of Indians in 1909, as he was going for his shotgun. His Uncle Ellis was shot by a criminal and confined to a wheelchair. They all faced down the barbarians without relent nor retreat. Tom Bell did not live up to their standard and feels himself a lesser man for it. Hence his dreams.

In the first dream Tom Bell says he and his father were in town, his father gave him some money, and he lost it. The town represents the civilization his forefathers built. The money represents his cultural inheritance. He lost it by surrendering to the barbarians.

The second dream is set outside the city in the wilderness. His father passes him in the dark on horseback, carrying fire to make the next campsite out ahead. The camp he will make in the dark wilderness is civilization. The fire he carries is his code of morality, without which there is no civilization. That campsite, that civilization, that moral code is a benchmark Ed Tom never reaches. He wakes from that dream short of that ideal set by his father. He's haunted by his shortcomings, by not measuring up to his father.

When Ed Tom confronts the unrestrained intelligent evil of Anton Chigurh and the chorus of mindlessly violent Mexican drug dealers, he feels overmatched. To defeat them, he feels that he would have to abandon his morality, to become evil to conquer evil, to "put your soul at hazard," something he's unwilling to do, a moral boundary he will not cross.