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Post Quran-Burning in Afghanistan
Created by Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich on 02/23/12 1:11 PM -

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Quran-Burning in Afghanistan (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA, 02/23/12 1:11 pm)

In response to Joe Listo (23 February), it is easier for some to believe that the charred Korans were planted "to incite anti-American sentiment." This assessment is flawed for many reasons.

1. There is ample anti-US sentiment in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the
world.  American actions are incitement enough; there is no need to use the
American-Israeli tactic of "false flag" operations.

2. This is not the first time (and I doubt if it will be the last) that the
Americans have abused the Koran. It has happened before in Afghanistan as
well as Abu-Gharib.

3. A Muslim would never burn or abuse the Koran. I was born into a Muslim
family, raised a Catholic, and pretty much a non-believer (any religion)
now, but I always handle the Koran with respect and care. This is not
because of any religious belief, but a cultural one with which I have been
indoctrinated since childhood. I was born into a very secular family who
did not have faith, and I left Iran at 10. I cannot imagine a single
Afghani doing what Mr. Listo suggests.

4. American soldiers have also abused not only the Koran, but the people of
Afghanistan. Let us not forget the anal vodka shots presented to this Forum

Finally, it is time to wake up to the reality that America has zero moral
standing. If people find this reality troublesome, or they are offended
that I should voice it, then it is up to those individuals to raise
awareness and help change the society we have become. Judging from the
peoples' reactions to the GOP presidential debates, it seems these actions
reflect the American mindset--at least, the Republicans and the media.

The people/media are outraged about a crude joke about contraception, but
they cheer and applaud war, assassination, and terrorism. The only sane
candidate, Ron Paul, is marginalized.

JE comments:  We still don't know for certain if the charred Qurans were planted or not.  Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich's point 3 above is reminiscent of the "no true Scotsman" argument we recently discussed on WAIS.  Nor (points 2 and 4) do precedents determine present guilt.  (What is the legal term for the "s/he did this before, so s/he must be guilty now" fallacy?) 

It is entirely possible that the Qurans were burnt by US personnel.  But I'll have to remain agnostic on this until we know more.

What we do know is that Afghans are enraged, and that people are dying.

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  • Quran-Burning in Afghanistan (Joe Listo, Brazil 02/24/12 10:20 AM)

    In response to Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich (23 February), I mentioned the planting of the Korans merely as a possibility because no
    one in his/her right mind would burn a holy book while stationed in a
    foreign land and throw it away in an easy-to-spot place such a dumpster, if not for serving the purpose of a hidden
    agenda. Whoever did this could just as well have burned the books in broad daylight. This incident just doesn't add up. Too bad Mr. Obama hastily
    apologized for an incident that clearly needed further investigation.
    Another slap in the face of the US military.

    I will refrain from commenting on Soraya's contention that
    the world hates America, because this has become a mantra for her. I am
    constantly polling to find America-haters and my success rate is low. I
    talk to people in Europe, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and all over Latin
    America, and all I can find are one or two stray cats which end up telling
    me they hate the US because they were denied visas. I guess all the hate
    against the US she refers to is restricted to the Middle East.

    How can Soraya state that America has zero moral standing when people in
    Iran are sentenced to death for adopting a religion other than Islam?
    Where women are stoned to death even on the suspicion of adultery? Does a country have
    moral standing if it harbors and helps terrorist cells that later
    will blow planes and buildings filled with innocent civilians?

    I wish I could understand Soraya's objective when she states that Ron Paul is
    the only sane presidential candidate. I don't even know what that means!
    Does it mean that Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich or Santorum are not "sane"?
    Should they be committed? Removed from the GOP race? 

    I'd like to invite Soraya to offer an alternative to improve the situation.

    JE comments:  Like the polemic between Alain de Benoist and Vincent Littrell, I doubt this disagreement between Joe Listo and Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich will lead to resolution.  I would like to analyze further, however, "America-hating."  Where it exists, it may be a direct by-product of the notion of American "exceptionalism."  Our colleague John Torok has forwarded an interesting essay on the end of the "American Century."  I'll share it with WAISers later this afternoon--it's a busy day at WAIS HQ.

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    • on Hate (Robert Whealey, USA 02/26/12 4:50 AM)

      The word "hate" should never be used in public discussion by any politician or journalist. It is a word used emotionally by 18 year-olds who do not know how the world works. Orwell's "hate week" in 1984 was a satire on Hitler, Franco, Mussolini and Stalin. Orwell had little use for the British and American press, which every week told the world how much they all hated "communism," or "fascism," even though few American politicians ever read 20 pages of Karl Marx.

      My few students who denounced "fascism" knew much more about Hitler. I had perhaps 10% of the students who could attempt to explain some of Hitler's deeds, but none ever voiced a kind word for Stalin. In a 300-level class, it was difficult for even History majors to read an essay written by Lenin and understand what he was trying to write in 1917.

      Hitler arrested millions of nameless Jewish people later killed by the SS machine, but apparently Hitler did not hate the Jewish doctor who treated his mother in Austria. The art Hitler produced in Vienna was sold to a Jewish art dealer. Adolf Eichmann did not hate the nameless Jews he arrested. They were merely numbers on a passport. Hence the Banality of Evil. Eichmann was evil because of his war crimes which had to be proven in a public trial, but his motivations in 1938-1941 were banal.

      The American pilots who bombed Hanoi 1965-1973 did not hate Ho Chi Minh.  They were just carrying out orders.

      In 1983, I attended a history seminar in West Berlin. The representative of the Federal Republic of Germany gave a talk in which he said, no West German "hates Americans." A minority of West Germans hate what the US government sometimes did in Vietnam or in the State of Alabama. I make no comments about Iran or Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich. I do not speak Farsi and I have never met either Soraya or Joe Listo. I agree with JE, "hate" should be dropped from the conversation. I shall add as an afterthought.  If President Obama bombs Iran before the US election will probably lose.

      JE comments:  I don't recall saying that "hate" should be dropped from our conversations, merely that we shouldn't practice it.

      Shall we further discuss Robert Whealey's last point?  News reports this AM inform us that Israel has reserved the right to attack Iran's nuclear facilities with no prior notice to the US.  Putting aside humanitarian, economic and strategic issues for the time being (though we should return to them), isn't this an overt Israeli nose-thumbing of Pres. Obama?

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      • on Hate; Israeli Attitudes towards US (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA 02/28/12 2:23 PM)

        JE commented on Robert Whealey's post of February 28:  "News reports this

        AM inform us that Israel has reserved the right to attack Iran's nuclear

        facilities with no prior notice to the US. Putting aside humanitarian,

        economic and strategic issues for the time being (though we should return to

        them), isn't this an overt Israeli nose-thumbing of Pres. Obama?"

        This has been the Israeli attitude towards every US president since 1947.

        Nothing makes this more clear than a book entitled The Passionate

        Attachment: America's Involvement with Israel, 1947 to the Present

        by George W. Ball and Douglas B. Ball. They claim that three presidents at

        least attempted to resist (Eisenhower, Carter, Bush Senior), but they

        ultimately caved in. Incidentally, as some may know, the senior author of

        the book, George W. Ball, a former diplomat, was Undersecretary of State

        (Economic and Agricultural Affairs) in two US administrations, as well as US

        Ambassador to the United Nations in '68. Hardly someone whose words can be

        dismissed or be called anti-American. They are not the only American

        statesmen who speak of this relationship in those terms.

        Things are worse today than they were in 1992.

        At the risk of sounding "anti-American" and raising the ire of some in the

        Forum, it is up to any individual who claims to love America to 1) become

        informed, 2) make sure they inform others.

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      • on Hate in War Propaganda (Mike Bonnie, USA 03/05/12 1:30 AM)
        Robert Whealey wrote on 28 February: "The word 'hate' should never be used in public discussion by any politician or journalist. It is a word used emotionally by 18 year-olds who do not know how the world works. Orwell's 'hate week' in 1984 was a satire on Hitler, Franco, Mussolini and Stalin. Orwell had little use for the British and American press, which every week told the world how much they all hated 'communism,' or 'fascism,' even though few American politicians ever read 20 pages of Karl Marx."

        I agree with Robert's perspective on the word hate in civil discourse. Hate was/is also a pernicious product created in people's minds through a social aspect of war. Indifference (lack of emotion) and a deep abiding sense of nationalism produce toxic hatred and war.

        Anthony V. Navarro presents a comprehensive view of propaganda preceding and throughout the WWII in the Pacific. See "A Critical Comparison Between Japanese and American Propaganda during World War II":  "How well did each country play the race card? Japan took no exception to whom they directed their racial slurs, but they painted a demonic image of the Allies much more than they did their Asian opposition. They could not insult their own 'brethren,' as they would put it, if they were to be won over to the Japanese side. The United States, on the other hand, fixated on the dehumanized depiction of the Japanese, presenting them as monkeys and gorillas. They tended to shy away from any animal or demonic portrayal of their European foes partly because the majority of Americans were of European decent. To dehumanize the Europeans would be to dehumanize themselves. They felt no ethnic ties to the Japanese whatsoever. Both countries realized the importance of eliciting an ethnic hatred for the enemy as well as creating a subhuman image of them. It is much easier to kill a big hairy white mongrel or vine-swinging, gun-wielding monkey than it is to kill another human being. The enemy was not human."


        No holds were bared throughout history. In China the figure Hua Mulan has been used to motive men to wars. The Disney cartoon version of Mulan is filled with historical inaccuracies and diminishes the role of women in war to that of a male proxy. Joan of Arc is seen in French and American poster art leading the way to war. Rosie the Riveter (WWII) is seen in several contexts as the epitome of feminine strength and endurance to defend nations and social causes. A classic WWI propaganda film to watch is Sergeant York, based on a true story.

        World War I posters: http://www.firstworldwar.com/posters/usa2.htm

        University of Washington war poster collection: http://content.lib.washington.edu/postersweb/index.html

        Not at all to be appeasing of Nazism in any way, a unifying voice during WWII was that of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who also evoked deep emotions of animosity toward dark forces (hordes). "For we are fighting on the same side with the British people, who fought alone for long, terrible months, and withstood the enemy with fortitude and tenacity and skill. We are fighting on the same side with the Russian people who have seen the Nazi hordes swarm up to the very gates of Moscow, and who with almost superhuman will and courage have forced the invaders back into retreat. We are fighting on the same side as the brave people of China--those millions who for four and a half long years have withstood bombs and starvation and have whipped the invaders time and again in spite of the superior Japanese equipment and arms. Yes, we are fighting on the same side as the indomitable Dutch. We are fighting on the same side as all the other Governments in exile, whom Hitler and all his armies and all his Gestapo have not been able to conquer."

        Address on the 1942 State of the Union (p. 41)


        JE comments:  Legend has it that Rosie the Riveter was based on Rose Will Monroe, a Kentucky-born woman who worked at the Willow Run Aircraft Factory in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
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    • Quran-Burning in Afghanistan (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA 02/25/12 12:59 PM)

      Although I am not in the habit of responding to individuals who use ad

      attacks instead of presenting logical arguments, I will make an exception.

      I suggest Joe Listo (25 February) read posts with an open mind and refrain from

      interpreting everything according to his ideology--or what he thinks is

      being said. He would not need to have a response from me if that were the

      case. In my post of February 23, I wrote:  "There is ample anti-US

      sentiment in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world."

      Mr. Listo may wish to conduct his own personal polls and satisfy himself

      with the results, but I look for accuracy and therefore prefer to rely on

      reputable sources (such as WPO)--and of course, reaction to Americans

      around the world. I also speak to people around the world, but find it

      terribly narrow-minded to think a few people I may talk to reflect "world


      As for America's moral standing (which Mr. Listo likes to compare to Iran

      which does not claim to be a house on a hill with the moral authority to

      change the world), I suggest he read a bit of history, past and current,

      including the genocide of the natives, slavery, experiments on Blacks, the

      coups, the wars, the support of terrorists, the double-standards, etc.

      As for the three GOP candidates with the exception of Ron Paul, I am not

      in the habit of deciding what should be done with individuals I believe to

      be a danger to society, as the three candidates are (they incite violence,

      encourage terrorism, speak of starting wars and killing more people, and of

      violating international laws).  However, I strongly believe that they do not

      qualify to run for President. Any individual that makes it his/her platform

      to serve another nation above the US in order to become a White House

      occupant, is guilty of treason in my opinion.

      I contribute to this society and have no ambitions to run it--but since Mr.

      Listo asks what alternative to improve the situation, I am confident that

      someone of Mr. Paul's character and conviction helps America's perception

      around the world.

      JE comments:  A contentious day is shaping up in WAISworld, but I'll be leaving in one hour for the East Coast (Delaware), and won't have much time to edit the Forum.  (It's an eleven-hour drive to Mom's.)  For now, I'd like to pose this very Hiltonian question:  what are they saying about Ron Paul in the nations of the eurozone, the Middle East, Asia?  Have his policy views been discussed seriously, or is he treated as a GOP sideshow?  Are countries like Pakistan and Israel, the biggest recipients of US largesse, concerned that Pres. Paul might cut them off, or do they not even consider the possibility?

      I'd wager that a corner of Hamid Karzai's mind is a bit nervous.

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      • Quran-Burning in Afghanistan (Joe Listo, Brazil 02/26/12 5:00 PM)

        I am surprised Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich (26 February) stated she is not in the habit of responding to
        individual attacks. She always responds to attacks, ad hominem or not, as
        long as she can make a point in the direction that the US is responsible
        for all the sins of the world. I am not digressing here. This is a fact, and
        all WAISers have to do is read her posts.

        I thank Soraya for her advice for me to read her posts with an open mind. Her
        posts are crystal clear to me. However, I cannot refrain from thinking in
        accordance with my ideology because in doing so I would be betraying the
        very foundations I believe in. In that sense, Soraya and I are not too far
        apart. She always states her feelings towards the US, the difference being
        what she feels and what I feel.

        Do we have to be mathematically accurate in a free Forum such as WAIS? I
        believe we do not and most of the time we can not, because WAISers express
        their opinions based on a number of different sources and these
        sources frequently produce different results on the same subject. I did
        not mention that my personal poll on attitudes towards the US was accurate, but sampling opinions of
        people around the world can reflect an overall and true feeling in relation
        to the researched subject. In the small universe of my polling, I was not
        able to detect the intense anti-American sentiment Soraya continually alludes
        to, except in the Middle East.

        Again, when the GOP candidates state an opinion different from what Soraya
        would like to hear, she contends they are not "sane." In her view, except
        for Ron Paul, the other candidates want to take office to incite violence,
        encourage terrorism, start wars and kill more people, and violate
        international laws. No less. I follow the presidential candidates as close
        as distance permits, and yet I do not read them in the light Soraya does. I
        wonder how those sadistic candidates stand a chance against Ron Paul.

        Although I have done extensive reading throughout my life, Soraya believes
        that if I read more about all the "bad things" the US did to the world
        perhaps I could see the US in a different, more negative light. On the
        contrary, I can guarantee her that nothing on the face of the Earth
        will change my opinion and allegiance to the US.

        JE comments:  Greetings to all from Delaware--Small Wonder, America's corporate HQ, land of tax-free shopping.  During my long drive eastward a lot of posts have joined the queue.  I'll do what I can to catch up with them tomorrow.

        For now, I think Joe Listo and Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich have stated their cases.  I've greatly enjoyed the time I've spent with Soraya and Joe, and I can assure them that if and when they could actually meet, they would like each other.  Really.  WAISers are like that--at times antagonistic on the Forum, but in person we're all one happy family...really.

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    • Quran-Burning in Afghanistan (Muqtedar Khan, USA 02/25/12 12:59 PM)

      Regarding the recent WAIS discussion of the Quran-burning incident in Afghanistan, I'd like to share an essay I recently published on the Washington Post website:


      JE comments:  Always great to hear from my old friend and colleague Muqtedar Khan.  And my congratulations to him for the WP op-ed.

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  • Quran-Burning in Afghanistan (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 02/26/12 4:53 PM)
    I am agnostic about who is responsible for the Koran-burning incident in Afghanistan, which is much to be regretted, of course.

    I agree with Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich (23 February) that there is obviously much anti-American feeling in Afghanistan, and that US moral standing is pretty low after these awful wars and, especially, after the outrages of Abu Gharib. However, I don't think any of these things tells us anything about who burned those Korans.

    I agree with Soraya that we can well imagine that some US soldiers might have been capable of doing it--we have Abu Gharib as evidence.

    I disagree with Soraya that no Muslim could ever have done it. Such "no true Scotsman" statements are generally fallacious--and we know from experience that Muslims and non-Muslims alike are capable of almost anything, for what seems to the perpetrator like a good cause. I can very well imagine an Afghani doing such a thing, to stir up feelings against the "Crusaders," although I must note that neither my imagination, nor anyone else's, proves anything at all.

    In short, I think we have too little information for these speculations to be worth much.

    JE comments: US officials have apologized, but we know nothing more than that.

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