Monday, September 24, 2012

Criminal Act vs Motive

Analogous Story

Note:  I wrote this in January of 2010.  I updated it slightly for today's post.

Here's a hypothetical story. Disclaimer: I did not have any particular person in mind, it is completely made up. Any similarity to any living person is purely coincidental.

A man kills another man in a violent act of cold blooded murder. The murdered man had an affair with the murderers wife. The murdered man has a history of promiscuous relationships with married women. The murderer is known to be a guy with a bad temper and tendency towards violence and even being abusive to his wife.

Who is guilty of the crime here? The murderer of course. He should be convicted and tried and subject to the highest form of punishment for his act. In deed, there is not much to like about this guy and perhaps even his wife will now be better off if he is put in jail and kept away from her.

Could the murder have been avoided? Most definitely. If the murdered guy had not had an affair with this particular women, he would not have been murdered by the woman's husband. But that's not to say that he wouldn't have encountered another man who might have reacted similarly. The problem is this guy's life style. He needed to stop being promiscuous and that would give him the greatest chance to avoid harmful conflict with another angry man in the future.

By pointing out the moral flaws of the murdered man are we saying that it is his fault that he was murdered? No, not at all. And to suggests that the murderer is not to blame for such a terrible act because the murdered man was the cause would be simply outrageous and totally unacceptable as well as completely un-just.


Now let's apply this story in an analogous way to the 9/11 attacks and US foreign policy.

The terrorist acts of 9/11 were terrible and inhuman acts of violence against civilians. They were despicable deeds which should be punished. All who planned and participated in them should be found and brought to justice. But what was the motive and why did this small group of men do these terrible things?

Osama Bin Laden and the 9/11 attackers have stated the following as the primary reasons for making war on the US:
  • US Position against Muslims in Palestine (support for Israel). 
  • Occupation of the Land of the Two Holy Sanctuaries (Islamic holy land).
  • US actions in Iraq. Pre 9/11 this would have been enforcement of a blockade and no-fly zones where thousands of civilians were killed by starvation and aerial bombing. 
  • US support for tyrannical governments in: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and other middle eastern Gulf States.
By taking note of these positions, does it mean that we are saying it is our fault that the 9/11 attacks occurred? Not at all. Like the story I made up, this gives no excuse what so ever for doing such a heinous act against innocent civilians. Analysis of motive has no bearing on the guilty party in the crime. The perpetrators of the attacks and all who helped or planned the attacks should be hunted down and brought to justice.

But it is important to note that our politicians and leaders are unwilling to acknowledge these reasons as being the primary motives. In fact, they are giving misleading motives to the attackers. For example, statements are made such as, "They hate us for our freedom." Why would politicians do this? What would they gain by having these misleading motives accepted by the general public?

The founders of our country were against interventionism. They wanted free and open relations with all. They believed in a military for the purpose of defending the country. By pointing out the motives of the 9/11 attackers and other terrorists acts against this country I hope to ignite a strong reaction against our meddling in the affairs of other countries. Our results in these interventions are extremely poor. We seldom get what we are seeking by doing it. We are better off not being the policeman of the world. We are better off setting a good example for other countries to follow. While I don't excuse the 9/11 attackers for what they did, it is safe to say that if we did not have military bases in the middle east, and if we were not propping up repressive dictatorships, and if we did not give unquestioning support to Israel, we very likely could have avoided 9/11 all together. Let's get a grip on foreign policy by going back to the golden rule. How do we want other nations to treat us? Let's start treating them the same way!

Counter argument: it doesn't matter what they say or what their motive was, they are Islamic extremest. Everyone knows that Islam is all about killing infidels and eternal rewards for engaging in Jihad. We should wipe these guys off the face of the earth.

This is basically a statement of a genocidal policy. I personally am not comfortable with it. I have more faith in the Gospel message to change and transform the Islamic world. I don't see a need to be an agent of judgment and I as a Christian am not called to such a mission. I would not vote for any politician who articulated this kind of mission or thought. Would you?

Update: related content

Many conservative Christians will offer up the Quran as a fundamentally violent primary scripture of the Islamic faith. I am not an expert on the Quron but I believe it is important to listen to people who have experience with Islam and know the language. One such person is Professor Juan Cole. Here he provides counter examples of passages in the Quran for those who characterize Islam and the Quran as violent.

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