Monday, January 11, 2010

Helen Thomas and "Why?"

A few days ago I saw a clip from a White House press conference where long time White House press core member Helen Thomas pressed the Obama White House on the question of 'why' Al Qaeda wants to do harm to the United States. Suggesting that the issue of 'why' was what was 'always missing' from this administration's briefings on the issue. I normally have no problem with someone giving Obama and co. a hard time, and in fact almost always encourage it. But in this instance, Helen Thomas is just gone off the deep end.

The reason the issue of 'why' is not commonly addressed is because the 'why' is self-evident at this point. Al Qaeda is not shy about sharing it's goals. They articulate them regularly. Everyone knows why Al Qaeda does what it does, because Al Qaeda tells us exactly why they do what they do. It isn't a mystery. Google is your friend, Helen Thomas.

If the White House were to concentrate on articulating the 'why' on a regular basis they would rightly be accused of redundancy and banality.

In response to Thomas' question the Obama White house (not Robert Gibbs, but the DoD guy), gave a true, but incomplete answer. Basically saying the reason why is because of the terrorist's perverted view and use of Islam. Which is an exceedingly politically correct, and incomplete, way of putting it, though still essentially true. He could have gone further and said that the explicit stated goals of Al Qaeda are a global Islamic caliphate, under sharia law, and the destruction of the West. That is 'why', Helen. Everyone knows why. Why are you asking why? Ah, now that's the real question.

Helen Thomas doesn't really want to know why, and she doesn't want to hear answers. Her question isn't really a question, but an accusation. Her question was intended to elicit admissions of guilt on behalf of United States foreign policy in creating the problem of Al Qaeda and terrorism. The problem here is that, when you do answer the question that she's asking, the answer shows clearly that the goals of Al Qaeda exist wholly independent from United States' foreign policy. If we were isolationists Al Qaeda would want us dead. If we were imperialists Al Qaeda would wants us dead. The goals and aspirations of Al Qaeda exist as they are without regard to US foreign policy, or any 'aggressive' actions of the US on foreign soil. Sorry, Helen, we just are not complicit in this. I know it's a crushing blow to your worldview to find out that there just REALLY are bad guys in the world that we weren't in someway responsible for creating.

So many of the terrorist sympathizers want to believe that our main, or only, issue with the terrorists is with their chosen political tactic of terrorism. In the case of Al Qaeda or other Islamic fundamentalist groups, this is not the case. It isn't only that Al Qaeda wants to use death and destruction as a political tool; it's that their political goals themselves are unacceptable and incompatible with everything that the United States and the West stands for. Even if they were seeking power through democratic and peaceful means it would still be imperative for us to fight and defeat them.

The answer to 'why' may be slightly more nuanced than 'they hate our freedoms', but it isn't much more complex than that. Cliche's become cliche' because of the truth associated with them. The 'why' is basically an exhaustive list of 'they hate A, B, C' and 'they want X, Y, Z' (X, Y and Z all being antithetical to freedom, democracy, progress, and civilization).

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