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War and Terror: Imagine|
Posted on Thursday, January 11 @ 22:12:30 UTC
Topic: War Analysis
by Stephen Gowans|
January 11, 2007
Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist who fashions himself as a champion of atheism, wrote an opinion piece in the January 4th Los Angeles Times, arguing that Saddam Hussein shouldn't have been executed. Instead, he should have been kept alive, to be studied.
"Psychologists, struggling to understand how an individual human being could be so evil and so devastatingly effective at persuading others to join him, would give their eyeteeth for such a research subject," Dawkins wrote.
To make his case, Dawkins argues we wouldn't kill Hitler were he brought back by a time machine. We'd find out what made him tick. The same reasoning should have applied to Saddam, he says.
In Dawkins' view, Saddam equals Hitler, a restatement of the crude propaganda promoted in the US to justify the domination of Iraq by force. What Dawkins adds is a third term: Saddam=Hitler=interesting research subject.
In his latest book, The God Delusion, Dawkins reasons that if it weren't for religion, the world would be a nicer place. Conflicts between Palestinians and Jews, Muslims in Pakistan and Hindus in India, Protestants and Catholics in northern Ireland, would never have arisen.
This meshes neatly with the view that hostility to Israel in the Middle East and to the US in Western Asia is attributable to religious extremism. Abolish Islam, and terrorism dries up. Abolish Hitler, and Nazism never exists.
The problem with this view is that religion is just a patina which covers the real roots of conflict between people who happen to follow different faiths. Muslims in Palestine don't hate Israeli Jews because they're Jews, but because they've stolen their land. To be sure, there may a good deal of incidental anti-Jewish sentiment that arises as a consequence of overgeneralization (as in "Israeli Jews are screwing me; therefore, all Jews are bastards.") But that is an effect, not the cause of the conflict between Jewish settlers dispossessing Arabs of their land and Arabs trying to recover it.
Jihadists don't hate the United States for its freedoms, but for backing Israel, treating the Middle East, contrary to geography and democracy, as a subordinate region in which it has interests, and attacking and occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, threatening Sudan and Iran, and now intervening militarily in Somalia. The object is to bring countries with dominant Muslim populations – but more to the point, with a lot of oil– under US control.
Dawkins' views are simply a long and tedious version of John Lennon's Imagine, with one twist. To "Imagine there's no heaven... ... and no religion too" Dawkins adds "And no Hitler, and no Saddam either"... except as interesting research subjects.
Imagine no pro-imperialist politics masquerading as a commitment to reason and science. That's refreshing.
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