Saturday 29 March 2008 (21 Rabi` al-Awwal 1429)
Terrorism — Compare and Contrast
Last week in Arab News, columnist Fatin Bundagji wrote of a letter from an American, rather typical of the refrain we have heard for the past five years. Accusing Ms. Bundagji of “conveniently” forgetting that Arab terrorists attacked the US, the writer implied that America has every right to retaliate against anybody, an individual or nation, it considers an enemy. Thus the rightful invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, neither state having had anything to do with 9/11 whatsoever.
It is fallacious logic. One cannot compare apples to oranges.
No Arab nation has ever attacked the United States. The same cannot be said of the West, who has for the past century been invading the Middle East repeatedly in its quest for control of the region’s resources. Instead, the argument should be made with all elements being equal.
The 9/11 attacks were terrorist acts, to be certain, but not by an Arab state. One must compare a terrorist to a terrorist, and contrast the results. An example of an American terrorist who did attack Arabs on their own soil would be Baruch Goldstein.
Born and bred in Brooklyn, New York, Goldstein walked into the Cave of the Patriarchs in Jerusalem on Feb. 25, 1994, at 5.20 a.m., opening fire on 500 Palestinian Muslims at a Friday-morning prayer in Ramadan. Spraying the worshippers with his automatic rifle, he emptied 110 bullets in less than a minute and a half. Thirty Palestinians were killed immediately, and three were trampled to death in the ensuing panic. Those who fought back beat Goldstein to death. More than 20 further Palestinians were killed the same day in retaliation for Goldstein’s death, including five killed by the Israeli Defense Forces.
Deaths of Arab civilians at the hands of this American terrorist amounted to 1/500ths of a percent of the total Arab population in Israel. The 9/11 attacks resulted in the deaths of 1/1000ths of a percent of the total American population. In other words, comparing terrorist act to terrorist act, one man alone, Goldstein, massacred twice as many Arabs in a single incident as per capita deaths on 9/11. If one includes all Israelis, Muslim and Jewish citizens alike, Goldstein still murdered half as many per capita as those who were killed in the US on 9/11.
Yet not one Arab state launched a retaliatory attack on Israel. No one invaded Israel; not a single Arab nation decided that the Israeli people should pay the collective price for a massive act of civilian terrorism. In fact, Israel and America barely raised an eyebrow, and Goldstein was praised in New York by the Jewish extremist organization Kahane Kach. Instead, Baruch Goldstein was buried as a martyr and hero in Israel.
Today pilgrims visit Goldstein’s gravesite daily, his burial plaque reading: “Here lies the saint, Dr. Baruch Kappel Goldstein, blessed be the memory of the righteous and holy man, may the Lord avenge his blood, who devoted his soul to the Jews, Jewish religion and Jewish land. His hands are innocent and his heart is pure. He was killed as a martyr...”
Meanwhile, the US continues to cite 9/11 to justify a war resulting in the death of over one million Iraqis (according to the British Opinion Research Business report in 2007).
As for US troop casualties, the Pentagon releases only death reports for troops killed on the field, from bullets or bombs (4,000). They do not include deaths sustained “not in direct combat”, e.g. those who die during evacuation, Humvee accidents, hospital deaths, those killed off duty, or private contractors (as many in Iraq as US troops). Also not included are suicides: 120 traumatized veterans kill themselves per week, according to a CBS 2007 investigation.
Thousands will die of cancer or kidney toxicology from depleted uranium exposure; thousands more have been infected with “Sandfly Disease” that can be fatal. Little wonder that the Pentagon bans the publication of photos of caskets flown home under cover of darkness.
If sheer statistics account for a sound argument, more than a million have paid the price for 9/11. How many more before the US is satisfied? As Dick Cheney himself said after the 1991 Gulf War (146 US troops killed), as to why the US left Iraq: “How many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth?...not very many”. George W. Bush this week announced that it “makes no sense” for the US to retreat from Iraq, and suggestions to the contrary are unpatriotic. But his vice president said in 1991, “I do not think the United States wants to have US military forces accept casualties and accept the responsibility of trying to govern Iraq. I think it makes no sense at all.” If the US did that, Cheney prophesied in 1991, it would cause the US to be “involved in a civil war inside Iraq (that) would literally be a quagmire.”
Neither Iraq, Afghanistan, nor Saudi Arabia was responsible for 9/11, in the same way that America was not responsible for the Goldstein massacre. One must compare military state action to military state action, not terrorist to nation state.
The equation seems simple:
Arab kills Americans = mass retaliatory military force required in revenge that is morally justifiable.
American kills Arabs = hero.
— Tanya Cariina Hsu is a political analyst originally from London. She lives in Riyadh.