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September 24, 2013

Putting Those al-Shabab Terrorists to Shame

Screen Shot 2013 09 25 at 1 44 02 AM via

Screen Shot 2013 09 25 at 1 47 15 AMvia NY Daily News

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Screen Shot 2013 09 25 at 1 20 23 AM

via the Mirror

Now that the shooting phase is over, we enter the spin room.

As vociferously as both sides were in trash talking and breast beating over Twitter while the siege was actually going on, we can watch now as the Kenyans, al-Shabab and their Western media proxies join the fray to establish winners and losers in the battle for hearts and minds. The best example of the perceptual jockeying involves the case of Elliott and Amelie Prior who were photographed during the attack outside the mall looking thoroughly traumatized in the foreground of a corpse.

Not forty-eight hours later, however, the picture has been completely reframed with the news of Elliot’s encounter with one of the militants. (Yes, Gawker’s got a good summary, as sordid and incestual as the relationship between war and PR has become.) With the news, The Week goes so far as to completely refashion the caption, now fashioned this way:

British children Elliott, four, and Amelie, six, stand outside the shopping centre holding Mars bars, given to them by one of the terrorists. In one of the most extraordinary stories to come out of the siege, Elliott saved his family by telling one of the militants: “You’re a bad man, let us leave.” The gunman let them go, reportedly saying: “Please forgive me, we are not monsters.”

If nothing else, it’s a reflection of how much Western ego there is to protect (or narcissistic injury to avoid) to claim that a tiny boy stood up to the bloodthirsty al-Shabab in their death mission to undermine the Kenyans, the  sanctity of these commercial temples and, as widely characterized in Western media, move up the world terrorism scoreboard..  There in the symbolic mix as well, it seems, is little Elliot proving that hitting us in NOT just like stealing candy from a baby but that the evil doers have, in fact, recognized their hypocrisy and moral weakness by actually giving us our candy back.

And then, the I HEART NY t-shirt wouldn’t have any symbolic resonance here in helping to de-legitimizing those Islamic terrorists, would it?

(Ending slightly edited.)

(photo: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)

  • jonst

    why is a process of “de-legitimizing” necessary in the first place Michael? What was ‘legitimate’ about anything that happened at the Mall? I’m curious how you are attempting to employ those terms.

    • Michael Shaw

      To a large extent, “the battle” between Western democracy and Islamic fundamentalism is a perceptual one based on shows of strength and pride, and the moral and physical undermining of the other. If Wall Street and the World Trade Center represented, to al-Qaeda, the core symbol of American godlessness and hedonism, its destruction was the emasculating act of the century — or maybe, in their minds at least, of all time. And then, wasn’t the response by the neocon administration in punishing Hussein an equally hubristic response. Beyond that, the intense impetus to rebuilt the WTC and rally around the flag (which was plastered everywhere) were driven by the same instinct — restoring American pride and showing “the evil doers” that they can’t “bring us low.” I guess I’m not seeing how the answer to your question isn’t pretty straightforward.

      If this group in Nairobi can strike this kind of blow in a city with so many Westerners present, in as I phrased it yesterday, a temple of consumerism, it seems an evident knee jerk response to tout an infant as standing up to them. ….And that hitting us in NOT just like stealing candy from a baby but the evil doers have, in fact, recognized their hypocrisy and moral weakness by giving us our candy back.

  • Susan Donovan

    Is the dead man in that photo even a terrorist?

  • LanceThruster

    I’ve seen horrors… horrors that you’ve seen. But you have no right to
    call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do
    that… but you have no right to judge me. It’s impossible for words to
    describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means.
    Horror… Horror has a face… and you must make a friend of horror.
    Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are
    enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies! I remember when I was
    with Special Forces… seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a
    camp to inoculate some children. We left the camp after we had
    inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after
    us and he was crying. He couldn’t see. We went back there, and they had
    come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A
    pile of little arms. And I remember… I… I… I cried, I wept like
    some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out; I didn’t know what I
    wanted to do! And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it… I
    never want to forget. And then I realized… like I was shot… like I
    was shot with a diamond… a diamond bullet right through my forehead.
    And I thought, my God… the genius of that! The genius! The will to do
    that! Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized
    they were stronger than we, because they could stand that these were
    not monsters, these were men… trained cadres. These men who fought
    with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled
    with love… but they had the strength… the strength… to do that. If
    I had ten divisions of those men, our troubles here would be over very
    quickly. You have to have men who are moral… and at the same time who
    are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without
    feeling… without passion… without judgment… without judgment!
    Because it’s judgment that defeats us.

    • jonst

      And so speaks the classic Russian intellectual….who has never been in combat, never killed, and never murdered. IOW….”everything is allowed” in the quest for ‘victory’.

    • quax

      I’ve you deny your humanity in war what is there worth fighting for?

  • Pingback: Wat jij (nog) niet ziet | Geschoten in de oorlog

  • jonst

    Michael, thank you for taking the time to reply in depth to my questions. Certainly, on one level your analysis makes sense. I have my doubts with regard to what the lead elements of AQ thought regards the WTC attacks. I am dubious they take their own claims at face value re “godlessness and hedonism” and such. I think they saw it as a good target. Like Louie B Mayer saw films. He did not personally believe in all the crap he was producing…but he knew the low hanging fruit would. Same with the “neocon administration’, and their many many so called liberal allies. I don’t think they believed they were sending any message..other than we want the oil and we want the increased defense budget et al. But they hoped and expect the low hanging fruit would be believe the message crap. (I am excepting our simple minded boy king from this analysis for reasons that I think speak for themselves.

    But in the end, I still get back to your questions/definitions. Nothing that happened at the Mall was “legitimate’ anything, other than “legitimate” murder of unarmed people, including many old people and children. The same thing that I believe we’re doing with our drone wars and indiscriminate bombing of civilians, and big invasions of Arab land. We should call murders murders. Barbarians, barbarians. Ours. And theirs. It is time to expect and demand more from the human race. My two cents, anyway. So in the end…if I accept your framing of the context and language of the attack…then yes, your answer IS pretty straightforward. The issue is, personally, I don’t accept that framing anymore. I mean not me personally. Or that context. I want to be part of a movement that proposes to change the dominant paradigms. Naive or ineffective–at the moment–as that might be on my part.

  • LanceThruster

    —who has never been in combat, never killed, and never murdered. —

    You say that like it’s a bad thing.

    —IOW….”everything is allowed” in the quest for ‘victory’—

    History is written by the victors. I think we need to work harder to solve our problems/differences without resorting to violence, but war *is* diplomacy carried out by other means, as they say. Low intensity conflict (terrorist and guerilla actions) applies force where that takes advantage of unequal combat strengths.

  • LanceThruster

    And for the record, I think fictional character Kurtz is mistaken that such an intensity guarantees victory. It didn’t work for the Soviets in Afghanistan who were not restrained in the same manner that US forces are thought to be…and the fact that the US did try to apply such brutal measures of their own in Vietnam (see: with no change in the ultimate results of the conflict.

  • jonst

    Lance, I’ve dealt with you before….things have to be spelled out. The “everything is allowed” is a condemnation as written by Dostoevsky. I would argue it, his writing in this case, condemns the “brutality equals victory’ simplified argument. Regarding what is a bad thing or not….was not my point….my point was, if you truly do not know the horror of war, your view on what it takes to win should be suspect. Not automatically condemned, true, but suspect. I am suspect of Conrad’s character’s idea. In other words Lance, despite my generic discomfort to be in the same state, never mind ballpark with you, I am agreeing with you.

  • LanceThruster

    OK, we’ve established that clarity is not your strong suit. Maybe Dostoevsky is more to the point, Da?

  • LanceThruster

    I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell. ~ William Tecumseh Sherman

    – AND –

    War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over. ~ William Tecumseh Sherman

  • LanceThruster

    Lance, I’ve dealt with you before….things have to be spelled out.[...] Lance, despite my generic discomfort
    to be in the same state, never mind ballpark with you, I am agreeing
    with you.

    Wow, I guess I can die happy.

    Sorry whatever your previous blather wasn’t as memorable to me.

    You say anything of merit?

  • LanceThruster

    <blockquoteThe trick of declaring war against the armed resistance and then
    attacking the resisters’ unarmed kin as well as the sur­rounding
    population with the most gruesome products of Death-Science — this trick
    is not new. American Pioneers were pioneers in this too; they made it
    standard practice to declare war on indigenous warriors and then to
    murder and burn villages with only women and children in them. This is
    already modern war, what we know as war against civilian populations; it
    has also been called, more candidly, mass murder or genocide.

    Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that the perpetrators of a Pogrom
    portray themselves as the victims, in the present case as victims of the

    Herman Melville noticed over a
    century ago, in his analysis of the metaphysics of Indian-hating, that
    those who made a full-time profession of hunting and murdering
    indigenous people of this continent always made themselves appear, even
    in their own eyes, as the victims of manhunts.

    The use the Nazis made of the International Jewish Conspiracy is better
    known: during all the years of atrocities defying belief, the Nazis
    considered themselves the victimized.

    It’s as
    if the experience of being a victim gave exemption from human
    solidarity, as if it gave special powers, as if it gave a license to

    ~ Fredy Perlman

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