Is Hornberger missing the point on the Ground Zero mosque?

Statists who oppose the building of that mosque near the World Trade Center site are missing the point, and the reason they’re missing the point is that they simply cannot bring themselves to recognize that the problem is not with Islam or Muslims. The problem is with the U.S. government and specifically, its imperial, interventionist foreign policy that waged war against people in the Middle East for years prior to the 9/11 attacks. — Jacob Hornberger, from his recent Campaign for Liberty article to which this is linked.

So yeah, I’m sharing some internet arguing I’ve been up to of late.  That ^ was my original post.  Below, in quote paragraphs, is the full response I received and my answers to each segment.  What are your thoughts?  Are there better answers to give?



(via hipsterlibertarian)

In regards to this quotation and the article it links to, I must respectfully disagree with you and Mr. Hornberger, and I hope he doesn’t think he’s being serious when he says things like this. Two objections:

I’m fairly sure he’s serious.  Why would a well-known man in think tank circles put his name on a public article with which he did not agree?

1. I’d contend that, when it comes to the outrage over the “Ground Zero Mosque,” it is Mr. Hornberger who is woefully missing the point. American foreign policy and the War on Terror is a tangent to the controversy, only because it is centered around a hole in the ground that was perpetrated, according to Mr. Hornberger, in retaliation to our foreign policy. The central points of the Cordoba House Affair are: tolerance versus intolerance in a pluralistic society; the question of whether or not the charge “offensive” has any currency in discourse; the religious freedoms that spring from the First Amendment. Theseare the main points that Mr. Hornberger misses. People like Gingrich and Palin are on the wrong side of the argument, I think, but at least they’re on-point. All Mr. Hornberger is doing is saying, “Well, yes, but were you aware that 9/11 happened as a result of U.S. foreign policy?” He might have a point (a wrong one, but that’s for the second objection) but it’s a point for a different debate to have.

Personally, I would argue that the biggest point of all is that of private property — if the owners of this property wish to build a mosque, that’s their business, not mine or anyone else’s.  However, I’d agree with Hornberger that much of the hysteria over this proposed use of private property is due to a crucial misunderstanding of the causes of 9/11 and the nature of our foreign policy.  I also agree with you that this is concerned with tolerance, though I’d note that it has absolutely nothing to do with the First Amendment, since that’s a limit on government, not other citizens, and as far as I know (correct me if I’m wrong here) the government has not made any official moves to stop construction.  On the contrary, it’s all private citizens objecting…which brings me back to Hornberger’s point, which is to address the misunderstanding that fuels their objections.

2. In my first objection, I criticized Mr. Hornberger for misidentifying key points; here, I’m saying he’s flat-out wrong. American foreign policy is not the engine of the Islamic terrorists. It was not the primary causation of the 9/11 attacks.  The men who impaled two buildings with commercial airliners were propelled by a wave of militant, totalitarian, imperialistic Islam, a wave that’s been swamping the Middle East since the 1950s. This toxic ideology has oppressed and slaughtered more Arabs and Muslims than any U.S. policy in the region. Does Mr. Hornberger honestly think that if the United States had removed its bases from Saudi Arabia and withdrawn its support for Israel, 9/11 wouldn’t have happened? Preposterous. Osama bin Laden and his pals are fighting a religious crusade, not a territorial dispute. They are waging a war of conquest to bring into existence a worldwide Caliphate; they are driven by Islam, or at least some form of it. No American policy of “imperialism” flew those planes that Tuesday. Jihadists did.

Actually, Osama bin Laden has been pretty clear about his demands.  Is he religiously motivated?  Yes.  But he’s also very clear that he wants us out of Saudi Arabia, among other things.  Any religion can be used as a vehicle of hate and destruction given ample cause, and our interventionist foreign policy in the Middle East has more than provided it.  That’s not to say that terrorists are in any sense excused for their deplorable actions.  It’s simply to say that Islam is not their only motivation (if it were, then logically we’d have far more terrorist attacks — there are a lot of Muslims out there), and if we wish to deal with the situation in an actually effective manner, we should look at the other causes of their actions.  Have you read Blowback, by Chalmers Johnson?  That would be the place to start for a thorough explanation of the idea I’m only barely summarizing here.

A Note: Mr. Hornberger cites the Iraq sanctions and the barbarism they inflicted on the Iraqi people as a low point in America’s interaction with the region. On this score, I agree. The sanctions were awful, and could have been bypassed had we pushed to Baghdad in 1991 while we had the chance. Also, by bringing this up, Mr. Hornberger seems to suggest that Iraq had something to do with 9/11. About time someone admitted this.

I think his implication is more that our foreign policy has perpetrated extensive violence on Muslims, including many innocents, and Muslims are angry about it.  What I can guarantee he is not suggesting is that the 9/11 attacks justified the invasion of Iraq.

A Further Note: To find a real example of American imperialism and interventionism, look no further than the continent below ours. What we did to the South American peoples was horrifying. Because of us, they endured militaristic, theocratic, sadistic, thuggish, vile, raping dictatorships for years, all in the name of anti-Communism. Thousands were raped, tortured, murdered, and “disappeared” by megalomaniacal ogres we propped up, right in Monroe’s backyard. The peoples of South America deserve an apology, and it wouldn’t be a shock if they didn’t accept one. Yet, yet, we don’t have Chilean suicide bombers blowing up public squares. There aren’t terrorists from Argentina flying jets into skyscrapers even though, according to Mr. Hornberger, by all accounts there should be. We did awful things in South America; we did pretty bad things in the Middle East. One region is progressing, another is slipping into a cruel, expansionist mindset. There is one reason for this, and I’ll give a hint: it’s not American foreign policy.

American exceptionalism has taught us, however subtly, to think that we can do as we please and it will all turn out for the best because we’re the guys with the white hats.  But in reality, we don’t operate in a vacuum.  The two areas you mention are culturally and economically quite different.  What produces a violent reaction in one culture might not have that same effect in another.  Regardless of the result, that doesn’t mean the policy was right in either case.  Even if murder, rape, and theft turn out pretty well for you, you should still stop murdering, raping, and stealing.  And if you know a region is full of people whose religion can more easily be used than most in vengeful and violent manners, potential blowback should be considered even more carefully (again, see the book I mentioned).

Nonetheless, I’d have to disagree with you that South and Central America are “progressing” so nicely as you imply.  Have you noticed the drug conflicts?  Have you noticed the poverty?  Have you noticed the left (Chavez) and right (Pinochet) wing dictators?  Just like the Middle East, it’s a mixed bag.  Some countries are doing better than others.  There are different oppressions and different tragedies there because it’s a different place with different forces and players involved.

Feel free to reblog this reblog with a response. In fact, I would be delighted if you did. Thank you.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to respond again if you answer; it’s a super busy week for me.  But thanks for the debate!

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