Killing by the numbers

Posted by lex, on June 10th, 2007

Occasional readers will be glancingly aware of the fact that your correspondent has a certain love/hate relationship with the New York Times – an emotion to which the Gray Lady herself remains regally indifferent. But “paper of record” and deeply imprinted biases aside, the Sunday Times, especially, is a rare and – at five clams our here on the left coast, expensive – treat.

Rip out the opinion page straightaway and burn it in the fireplace. Then read the news (as much for what isn’t said) before heading to the Weekend magazine and the NYT Review of Books and you have a very pleasant, and I might even say, educational Sunday afternoon in front of you.

Like, for example, this weekend’s review of the ruleset governing jihad – when it is and isn’t permissible to slaughter non-combatants generally, and women and children specifically according to the Holy Qu’uran. (Here’s a hint for those who are in a hurry this morning: It’s pretty much always permissible.)

Since your presence here is indicative of a self-selecting degree of higher discernment, none of these rules will come as much of a surprise to you, but they may curdle the lattes of the Times more customary clientèle. In order to settle the ruffled feathers of coastal elites momentarily startled from their complacent moral equivalencies, the Times graciously provides a bit of red meat relativism in the testimony of one John O. Voll:

Islamic militants are hardly alone in seeking to rationalize innocent deaths, says John O. Voll, a professor of Islamic history at Georgetown University. “Whether you are talking about leftist radicals here in the 1960s, or the apologies for civilian collateral damage in Iraq that you get from the Pentagon, the argument is that if the action is just, the collateral damage is justifiable,” he says.

It’s a neat trick, and it almost works – or it would if the modus of Islamist terror was anything but the indiscriminate slaughter of innocents. Even if they actually did try to “apologize” for it, which would be fresh, rather than make onanistic videos with man-love music soundtracks for YouTube.

The sad truth is that innocents have always suffered in war time, the difference between our forces and those of the butcherer’s which the Times seeks to elide is the non-trivial matter of strategic intent: We’re trying to kill murderers and sometimes innocents get caught up in our effects. The indiscriminate murderers, well: They murder indiscriminately.

The thing is what it does.

So who is John Voll, and how did the Times know that he could be trusted to soothe the startled? TigerHawk has done the homework for us:

Professor Voll is more than a little notorious for his reluctance to condemn Islamic extremism. See, e.g., herehere (Voll objecting to the firing of Dr. Sami Al-Arian from the University of South Florida, shortly before Al-Arian was convicted and imprisoned of supporting Palestinian Islamic Jihad), and here (Voll writing on September 28, 2001 that we should not attack Afghanistan in response to the attacks 17 days before on the grounds that it would anger people). It should not, therefore, surprise us that when The New York Times needed somebody to compare al Qaeda to the United States military, it called up John Voll.

So, as I said: A good read, the Sunday Times. You just have to know their limitations when it comes to, you know: Choosing sides.

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Filed under Carroll "Lex" LeFon, GWOT

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