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Bin Laden, the Royal Family and Chinese walls

You know when someone is running low on ideas when they decide to write about the hits to their blog. A bit like when TV shows decide to do a ‘clips’ episode, where the storyline is basically about the cast remembering what they did in earlier episodes.

I have been ‘seriously’ blogging since November. In that time, there have been 919 views of the home page. Obviously, the Royal Family and Bin Laden scored quite highly, taking first and third place respectively. But what I find really strange is that the second most popular post was on the issue of NHS reforms and conflicts of interest. ll my other posts received less than 100 views.

In terms of what people were actually looking for when they came across this blog, by far the most popular keywords were “duchy of cambridge” and “does bin laden exist”.

Most of the visits to this site came from tini.cc, which appears to a URL shortener site. I assume therefore that people are using it to send links to my site to others. After that, people are coming from the WordPress tags and Twitter. Obviously, blogs that I have commented on and whose posts I have reblogged are another key source too.

 

Are we fighting ourselves?

So it turns out that Osama Bin Laden’s final video was to the people of the Middle East, encouraging them to rise up against their corrupt leaders and take control. It is not clear when this video was shot but he is reported to have said:

I think that the winds of change will blow over the entire Muslim world, with permission from Allah…So, what are you waiting for? Save yourselves and your children, because the opportunity is here.”

There is of course the important question as to whether Bin Laden went, was killed, at the right time, having served his purpose in God’s grand design. But, as most people will no doubt recognise, it seems that both Al quaeda and the West that they are fighting have a similar value – that of the self-determination of the Muslim people. The conflict would appear to  be over how that value is best implemented.

It just so happens that I am reading Kwame Anthony Appiah’s “Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers”. By a complete coincidence – or is it – I have got to the bit where Appiah argues that this precise point:

The fact that both Palestians and Israelis – in particular, that both observant Muslims and observant Jews – have a special relation of Jerusalem, to the Temple Mount, has been a reliable source of trouble. The problem isn’t that they disagree about the importance of Jerusalem: the problem is exactly that they both care for it deeply and, in part, for the same reason. Mohammed, in the first years of Islam, urged his followers to turn toward Jerusalem in prayer because he had learned the story of Jerusalem from the Jews among whom he lived in Mecca. Nor…it is an accident that the West’s fiercest adversaries amoung other societies tend to come from among the most Westernised of the group…We all know now the foot soldiers of Al Quaeda who committed  the mass murders of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were not bedouins from the desert; nor unlettered fellahin.”

Appiah goes to describe the wider pattern of independence movements – how it was the Western-educated bourgeoise who built the independence movement in his own Ghana, how India’s independence was led by an Indian-born South African, British trained lawyer (Ghandi), an Indian who wore Savile Row suits and sent his daughter to an English boarding school (Nehru) and another ‘Indian’ who joined Lincoln’s Inn and became a barrister at the age of 19 (Jinna). Even Colonol Gaddafi’s own sons and President Al-Assad of Syria are Western-educated.

Appiah cites Caliban, the original inhabitant of the island commandeered by Prospero in Shakespeare’s Tempest:

You taught me language and my profit on’t

Is, I know how to curse.

Osama Bin Laden, therefore, is arguably in the mould of every other ‘freedom fighter’ in that he shares some common values (not all of them) with his enemy. Though he was raised a devout Wahhabi Muslim, he attended a top secular school, he studied economics and business administration and he possible gained a degree in civil engineering or public administration. He also had an interest in reading, in particular Field Marshal Montgomery and Charles De Gaulle, and football, in which his favourite position was centre forward and he supported Arsenal FC.

The irony is that the more we in the West is interested in spreading our values, whether it be democracy, freedom or McDonalds, the more likely that they will sow the seeds for more conflict against us. So perhaps we should see Al Quaeda has a compliment, rather than a threat, to our own way of life.

References

Appiah, Kwame Anthony (2006). Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers. Penguin Books, London. pp78-80

War on Terror or War on Porn?

Shock horror! Osama Bin Laden is just like the rest of us. Clearly the Americans want to denigrate him as much as possible, with the latest revelation that he  had a secret porn stash. But, according to statistics on internet porn, 40 million Americans visit internet porn sites. That’s about 14% of the US population.

In fact, I have seen statistics on the internet that value the global internet porn industry at over $90 billion. That’s not a niche product as far as the market is concerned.

Now of course, no one knows whether the ‘porn stash’ actually belonged to Bin Laden or one of his sons or bodyguards. Indeed, it could just be propaganda. But, assuming it is true, I certainly do not think that it is something with which to beat anyone down with, given the dominance of the industry. And let’s be honest, men are men, wherever we are in the world.

The truth is that porn addiction – online or offline – is a serious problem. According to the US Society for the Treatment of Sexual Health, 3-5% of the US population suffer from compulsive sexual disorders, but this is just those who realise they have a problem and seek treatment. According to Nielsen Online, 25% of people with internet access at work looks at internet porn at work.

In an article for Hitched on Online Porn Addiction, psychologist Dr James Dobson said that pornography addiction causes a person to “become desensitised to the material, no longer getting a thrill from what was once exciting”. They fantasise about acting out pornographic scenarios, demonstrate callousness towards those with whom they have a sexual relationship, become reclusive and secretive, objectify the opposite sex and see sex solely as a source of self-pleasure or self-love. As I write this post, I am listening to the news about the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn for violent sexual assault. And this is subject close to my heart, so to speak, as I am a recovering porn addict.

But here’s the thing. One doesn’t need to go online to find pornography. Our whole society is pornographic. Magazine covers, women’s fashion, even advertising for the most unsexy products, seems to have the sole purpose of arousing men’s erotic desires. As we approach the summer, I often wonder, what’s the point of looking at porn – I can see more flesh on offer for free in any London high street on park.

One of the arguments against the extremist Islam that drives Al Quaeda’s terrorism is the way it denies women’s rights. And one of the perpetrators’ arguments for it is the hope of dying as a martyr and being blessed with virgins in paradise. What’s the difference between that and Virgin Teen Movies?

On Bin Laden: I agree with Ken (kind of)

Just when I thought I couldn’t feel any dirtier, by agreeing with David Cameron, I find that I couldn’t have been more wrong. As much as I find Ken Livingstone really annoying, particularly when he likens an American president to a mobster, I am glad that someone has questioned the ethics of assassination over prosecution in relation to the death of Bin Laden.

What I am finding particularly disturbing is the news reports today that Bin Laden wasn’t just killed unarmed. According to his 12 year old daughter, US special forces has actually captured him alive and he was subsequently killed in cold blood with a bullet to the back of the head. On the other hand, the head of the CIA says that he wasn’t even given the chance to surrender before he was killed. Whoever is telling the truth, it doesn’t exactly paint the US in a good light.

Furthermore, if US special forces did kill Bin Laden this May Day weekend, were reports of his death in 2001/2002 by a wide range of media outlets greatly exaggerated?

You mean Bin Laden really does exist?

All this time I thought he was a make-believe character that parents told their children about to get them to behave and whom Coca Cola turned into a marketing gimmick. Oh wait, wrong make-believe character. I thought he was an American creation to justify an imperialistic grab for oil. Now it turns out that there really was a Bin Laden. (All we need now is someone to wage war on Finland to find out the truth of Father Christmas.)

But I wonder why they didn’t just capture him so that he could be put on trial, like Saddam Hussein? Surely there was plenty of evidence of his connections to 9/11 and the attack on the USS Cole, not to mention the 7/7 bombings in London and the metro bombings in Madrid and, God knows, how many other terrorist attacks. I mean, that is why we invaded two sovereign countries after all, isn’t it?

If the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were just wars, then surely Bin Laden should have been subjected to the criminal justice system (American, Pakistani, Afghan, even International) and been convicted and sentenced. His death won’t, I don’t think, put an end to the conspiracy theories.

It’s interesting that, in his speech, Barack Obama said that the families who lost loved ones to Al Quaeda could be sure that “justice had been done”. But, in western liberal democracies, the administrator of justice is the judge, not the executive or the military. The big fear now is that Bin Laden has been turned into a martyr. Surely it would made have been more just – not too mention pragmatic – to treat him as someone who had committed crimes (terrorism), put him on trial and, if found guilty, sentence him to multiple life sentences. He wanted to die. Why not humiliate him by having him languish in prison for the rest of his life?

The White House spokesperson also claimed that Bin Laden was unarmed when he was killed, although one of his wives did try to rush the special forces team. Why would you admit to killing and unarmed, old man (even one who is the inspiration for a global terror network)?

And, of course, that is even if he is dead. According to Obama’s speech, the dead body of Bin Laden was “taken into custody”, given the Islamic funeral rites and then dumped in the sea to avoid his tomb become a shrine. But of course this means that they can’t really prove that he is dead. As a Christian country like America ought to know, the authorities tried to question Jesus’ resurrection by paying people to say he was dead, but they could never actually produce the body.

Despite Obama’s talk of the “pursuit of justice”, it seems that all the Americans wanted was revenge. And, as a result, they may well have made the world an even more dangerous place.

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