Monday, September 15, 2008

BACKGROUNDER: academic understanding of the Holy Land Foundation prosecution (support for yesterday's posting)

Preamble: "We will oppose those who would deny us or denigrate our love for and pride in our national traditions, who bear our name but do not belong to our nation, who do not understand our customs, our morality and our faith, who try to convince us that we should not want ourselves any more. We want ourselves and our national traditions with our collective will and sacred blood. We go to battle against parasites and mongrels as to a holy war that God’s holy will demands. The objective power of race breaks through, we understand it, and we place ourselves in its light and at its service..." German Lutheran Pastor Joachim Hossenfelder, 1933, Unser Kampf (Berlin, 1933), p.8 (quoted in Gailus, 463).

Gailus, Manfred.
(Professor of History, Technische Universität Berlin)
"Overwhelmed by their own Fascination with the 'Ideas of 1933: Berlin's Protestant Social Milieu in the Third Reich." German History 20.4 (Dec2002): 462-493. Trans. Pamela Selwyn.

"One of the most important functions of the discourse of ‘Islamic terrorism’ is to construct and maintain national identity, primarily through the articulation of a contrasting, negative ‘other’ who defines the Western ‘self ’ through negation. Given the extent to which the discourse has penetrated the politics and culture of Western societies, it can hardly be doubted that ‘Islamic terrorism’ now functions as a negative ideograph. Directly related to this...the elaboration of an external threat such as that posed by ‘Islamic terrorism’ is crucial to maintaining internal/external, self/other boundaries and the ‘writing’ of national identity. In fact, some have argued that Western identity is dependent on the appropriation of a backward, illiberal, violent Islamic ‘other’ against which the West can organize a collective liberal, civilized ‘self’ and consolidate its cultural and political norms" (page 420).

"Linked to this, the analysis of public discourse by politicians clearly demonstrates that elites in the USA and Britain frequently deploy the discourse of ‘Islamic terrorism’ to legitimize or ‘sell’ a range of international and domestic political projects, including: regime change in states like Afghanistan and Iraq; the expansion of a militarypresence to new regions such as Central Asia; the control of strategic resources like oil; increased military and political support for allies in strategic regions like the Horn of Africa and Central America; increased resources and power for the military establishment; the construction of domestic and international surveillance systems; thecontrol of international institutions and processes; and more broadly, the preservation and extension of a Western-dominated liberal international order. The frequency of narratives of ‘Islamic terrorism’ in contemporary political speeches suggests that, following earlier patterns, 105 the discourse is being used in a deliberative fashion as apolitical technology" (page 422).

Jackson, Richard
(Senior Lecturer in international politics at the Centre for International Politics, the University of Manchester, where he teaches courses in critical terrorism studies, war studies, and security studies; also the convener of the British International Studies Association Working Group, ‘Critical Studies on Terrorism’)
"Constructing Enemies: ‘Islamic Terrorism’ in Political and Academic Discourse." Government and Opposition 42.3 (2007): 394–426.

"The success of these institutions [THINK TANKS] in drowning out the voices of academic Middle East studies has contributed to a culture in which serious inquiry into the real world is pushed aside in favor of fear, imagination and faith. It is a culture in which investigation into the historical background of the crimes of September 11, 2001, is systematically avoided. It is the culture in which the Iraq War was justified by a series of lies and forgeries. It is the culture in which intelligence professionals from Coleen Rowley to Valerie Plame are sidelined, in which torture is seen as a defensible and logical means of intelligence gathering. It is a culture in which academic researchers are silenced in the name of free speech. It is a culture in which the mainstream media have forsaken their constitutional role of checking government. It is a culture of looming logical inconsistencies in which the public is assured by the chattering elites that no price is too high to pay for the illusion of Iraqi freedom, while no American political freedom is too dear to be sacrificed to the illusion of homeland security.

The strategic paradigm of knowledge founded by [the Rand Corporation] has had a catastrophic success. Its offspring have multiplied, built institutions, purveyed information to the American political machine, and had little effective competition. The erstwhile members of the Project for the New American Century quietly form and implement their policies in the shadowy, oblique, informal bases of the Bush administration’s Office of the Vice President, the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans, the Defense Policy Advisory Board and the American Enterprise Institute’s Wohlstetter Conference Room. They got their improbable and shocking war in Iraq."

Hudson, Leila.
(Asst. Prof., Near Eastern Studies, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Arizona)
"The New Ivory Towers: Think Tanks, Strategic Studies and 'Counterrealism.'" Middle East Policy XII.4 (Winter2005): 118-132.

"Politicians, bureaucrats, and the media all have a vested interest in exaggerating the threat of terrorism— which is exactly what Al Qaeda wants."

"Politicians are the terrorism industry’s lead players. Unwilling to be seen as soft on terrorism, they engage in a process of outbidding, which has the effect of enhancing fears. In addition, the industry includes risk entrepreneurs, pork-barrelers, and bureaucrats, as well as most of the media. They all have an incentive to exaggerate the risk terrorism presents and to find extreme and alarmist possibilities much more appealing than discussions of broader context, much less of statistical reality.This is tidily illustrated by the FBI’s “I think, therefore they are” spookiness when the purported terrorist menace is assessed. In testimony before the Senate Committee on Intelligence in February 2003, FBI head Robert Mueller proclaimed, “The greatest threat is from Al Qaeda cells in the U.S. that we have not yet identified.” He rather mysteriously judged the threat from those unidentified entities to be “increasing in part because of the heightened publicity” surrounding such episodes as the 2002 Beltway sniper shootings and the anthrax letter attacks of 2001, and he claimed somehow to know that “Al Qaeda maintains the ability and the intent to inflict significant casualties in the U.S. with little warning.” He failed to mention a secret FBI report that in the meantime had noted that after more than three years of intense, well-funded hunting, the agency had been unable to identify a single true Al Qaeda sleeper cell anywhere in the country—rather impressive given the 2002 intelligence estimate that there were as many as 5,000 people “connected” to Al Qaeda loose in the nation. For Mueller, absence of evidence apparently is evidence of existence."

Mueller, John.
(John Mueller holds the Woody Hayes Chair of National Security Studies at Ohio State University, where he teaches courses in international relations)
"Fear Not: Notes from a Naysayer." Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 63.2 (Mar/Apr2007): 30-37