Thursday, May 31, 2012

International Relations discussion forum... wants YOU!

Back in 2005 I became involved in an International Relations discussion forum on Orkut, Google's social networking site. Almost unknown in Ireland, Orkut had spread by word of mouth and developed big followings in Brazil, India and Pakistan and, partly because of this demographic distribution, the International Relations forum back then was very, very wild. 

On Orkut it was very easy to quickly build a new profile, so along with thousands of members listed by their real names we had hundreds more under fake names. There was a member called Roko who claimed to be a dog and complained that the moderators of the forum were discriminating against him for anti-dog prejudice. Another member created a 'Mrs Roko' profile with a little poodle display photo, and chided Roko for not coming home to spend time with his wife!

More seriously, the ease of creating fake profiles meant that moderating the forums was very difficult as banned, abusive members would sneak back onto forums under aliases. Tensions were often high as nationalists from Pakistan and India quarreled over Kashmir in debates that collapsed into bouts of enraged name-calling. Western conservatives, freshly shocked by the apparent Muslim intolerance to the Danish cartoons controversy, gloated about Europe's cultural superiority, deriding Islam and calling for war on Iran and Pakistan. We had communists fighting anarchists, Islamists fighting hypernationalist Hindus, Brazilians and Turks fighting everyone else! We had periodic visits from a Raelian pacifist, who explained to us that gods are aliens who want us to disarm our nuclear weapons and live in peace. We had a Polish monarchist who wanted to replace democracy with feudal kingdoms. We had anti-Muslim radicals who remind me now of the Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik.

Yet struggling in this chaos were some really great people. There were moderates of various shades whose views I tended to agree with, but also more radical members who were fun and friendly and intelligent. I was dropped into a world of ripe debate and the energetic exchange of ideas. For the first time I chatted first-hand with libertarians and anarchists, had the chance to consider their views and question them on the details. It was an incredible experience to sit at a computer in Ireland and calmly question a Pakistani Islamist in real time about his belief that Hitler was right to exterminate the Jews, or to talk pros and cons of government to an Estonian anarchist.

And it was fun! We shifted from tense debates about the Iraq War to friendly discussions about cultural differences between our different countries, sharing music videos and recommending films and books. I was invited to help moderate the community for a while and felt quite invested in it, trying hard to establish a stable middle ground where we could calm some of the tensions and keep the avenues of debate open. Orkut called its forums 'communities' and I feel we did develop into a kind of community that, like its real-world equivalent, had its little alliances and politics and tensions, along with several highly unpredictable town drunks.

This experience changed me. Exposed to new views, I felt my own assumptions sometimes give way, slowly, over years. My fellow members were impatient with arguments that lacked evidence so members would start backing up posts with links and references that they knew other members would find credible. This caused a general shift from loud-mouth claims to a more rigorous reliance on evidence, which in turn affected our own attitudes towards knowledge as we were confronted with data that challenged our opinions. The presence of political radicals with views that sometimes seemed repugnant and shocking made me more open, more tolerant, more sceptical of the norms taken for granted by me and my Irish peers.

I am not alone. Chatting about this with other members recently, several of them made similar points. Here are a few quotes:
I think all the fighting over here has made me a little less sensitive to emotional issues (or it may just be age), on the other hand, I try to do a little research to answer people here. That has taught me quite a few interesting things. IR has also allowed me to talk to people from across the world. So that is cool.
I think the few good debates we have had on IR (in between all the lazy name-calling), has been the best use of the internet so far.... having a serious discussion with people from across the globe is impossible without the internet and Orkut. 

1) The discussions here - good or bad - broadened my point of view. I can see perspectives I wasn't able to see before.
2) My English improved. Made lots of friends from around the world all communicating in English.
3) The necessity to back up my arguments developed my curiosity and research abilities.
4) My understanding of debate concepts improved A LOT!
5) I learned how to spot bullshit better.

Nothing beats sharing ideas with people around the world. Has changed my view on a lot of things, and as many have already stated, I have become less sensitive and more tolerant, and the fact seeking in real life has pissed quite some people off. :D

I have experienced a lot of the same stuff that you guys express. Grown more tolerant and open to new ideas, increased my patience and thickened my skin. It has challenged me to question my assumptions, seek credible evidence and be sceptical of various sources.

I learned that I am not the only one who is interested in IR :)

I did not have many friends who were interested in it.........and always wondered if there are really people out there who love to talk and discuss politics, current affairs of IR etc.....
And now I want to invite you to join us! Orkut in 2005 was the Wild West, but the drift of members towards Facebook has slowed the pace a lot. Individuals have dropped out without being refreshed by newcomers. The International Relations community has survived, so far, but so many other forums have stagnated that we worry a little about its future. We need new members and new ideas to keep this place we have built together alive.

It should be easy to log in to Orkut and create a simple profile, real or fake, and come find us! The International Relations community is available on this link; one of the moderators will quickly accept you. So, come join us. It's not as aggressive as it used to be, in fact most of us are quite nice! So come along and have a read, engage and debate if you feel like it. We want West and East, left and right, any sex, faith, nationality and political perspective. Keep us on our toes, we will keep you on yours :)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Young, male, and not very dangerous

As a child I wandered across my neighbours' farms, exploring the fields and streams near my home, but when I grew older I began to realise that the significance of my presence on other people's land was changing. If a farmer saw me at nine, plodding across their meadows, they might have remarked: 'Aw, look at him, off exploring' or at worst: 'That little bastard, trampling my meadow again!' As an adult I felt self-conscious because I knew the farmers spotting me trespassing on their land were probably now saying: 'Mary, fetch the gun'.

That is because a great deal of crime is committed by young men. Land owners spotting a solitary young man striding across their land may suspect nefarious intentions.

Yesterday it was beautifully hot and sunny here so I drove off into the countryside, took a quiet side road at random, found a grassy verge to pull over, and went for a walk. Soon I found a rather grand entrance to some property, with massive, ornate old iron gates blocking a path that wound off behind the trees. It looked pretty impressive and I had my camera but hesitated to go clicking photos because it was possible that the person living down that road might pass on the road and react unfavourably to seeing a strange man photographing his or her land.

Thinking about this, I wondered under what circumstances the presence of a strange man might seem less threatening. If I was accompanied by a young woman, I thought, we would probably appear like a harmless couple going for a stroll. If one or two little kids were with us too we'd probably seem like a perfectly unthreatening family enjoying the sun. The presence of another one or two young men with me would probably make us look more suspicious.

I'm so used to the potential unease I may cause strangers just because I am a young male, and share that demographic trait with most criminals, that I often take measures to avoid alarming people. Walking at night and overtaking another solitary walker, I shuffle my feet as I approach, kick pebbles to give a warning so that the other person is not alarmed when I suddenly pass. If I want to ask someone directions but the only choice is a solitary old woman, especially at dusk, I might pass by to avoid giving her a scare by my approach.

Lest this seem excessive, it was inspired by a few real experiences. I remember once as a teenager I wanted to ask directions from a middle aged woman sitting in her car. I opened the passenger door to poke my head in and the woman flinched, immediately alarmed. I realised straight away that she thought this teenage boy was going to rob or attack her. On another occasion an elderly woman gasped in terror as I quietly passed her by on the street; I just kept walking, frowning to myself in surprise!

From my perspective these events were slightly irritating. I know that I'm no threat, so it is annoying that people assume the worst because of my appearance. Generally I just accept it as a consequence of being this sex and this age, and try to avoid freaking people out unnecessarily with behaviour they might misinterpret.

So, day-dreaming a bit about this, I went for my walk and then returned towards my car. As I approached  I saw a few people near the car, one of them gesticulating with his arms in a way that made me a little wary: this looked like strong emotion on his part. I came close and the person, an elderly man, called to me:

'Is this your car?'

'Yes,' I said.

'Did you have trouble?' he said, meaning did my car break down.

'Oh no, I just pulled over to go for a walk,' I said. 'Such a lovely day.' At this the young family the elderly man had been speaking with laughed slightly, as if to say: all this fuss and he's just going for a walk!

It turned out that the man had called the police when he saw the car abandoned on the grass! He was pretty pissed off about the whole thing, complaining that it's 'not exactly meant for parking', and that he has to mow that grass 'every day'. I apologised but he turned his back, clearly a bit mad with me. Still, he and the neighbours seemed to think that the mystery was solved and that I was no threat; the fact that I was in a summery t-shirt and shorts apparently meant that even being a young man I didn't look like a criminal!

The more serious thought to all of this is that I sometimes see feminists complaining that men judge women by their appearance. I would counter that many people, perhaps all people, judge others by their appearances and behave differently towards them based on these judgements. Passing down the street I am forever reading the age and sex of strangers approaching in the opposite direction, trying to guess how dangerous they are likely to be by those characteristics along with others: dress, body language, hair style, apparent social class, etc. Other people do it to me and I can't blame them. Taken to extremes it is ridiculous, but some sexist discrimination is probably always going to be inevitable. I'll have to wait for old age before strangers stop thinking I'm a thug.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Why do women end up in cities?

The Central Statistics Office have released the latest section of results for the 2011 Census, exploring the age and sex demographics of Ireland.

One strange fact is that in rural areas men are a pretty big majority, while in urban areas women are the majority. Here is a graph showing the age distribution of men and women in rural (green) and urban (red) areas:

The really interesting age group is the 20-30 year old group, where we see a strong city-country divide between the sexes. 

The Census document breaks this down further. For every 1,000 women aged 20 living in a rural area, there are 1,127 men. To simplify a bit, for every ten 20-year-old women in rural areas, expect eleven men. Of course we see the reverse situation in the cities, where for every 1,000 women aged 25, there are only 891 men: where ten 25-year-old women gather in the city, expect only nine men.

What causes this? I can imagine that young men might find more job opportunities in agriculture or construction in rural areas that are less accessible or attractive to young women. I also know that young women are more likely to get third level education than men, so perhaps this sucks some of the rural women into cities for university.

But I wonder if there might be other effects beyond simple demand for labour or education. 

I absolutely love the countryside, and I feel that its peace and quiet greatly outweighs any of the urban attractions I lose out on. The only reason I live in the city is because work opportunities are greater, and the university where I am presently doing my MSc is in the heart of Dublin. I would be out of here in a shot if the opportunity arose. 

Just minutes ago I was chatting with a female friend who said she would die of boredom in the country. I have friends of either sex who prefer either city or country life, but I think - I think - that I have more female friends who prefer the cities relative to the males. Could the rural areas be more sexist and conservative, driving young women to liberal cities? 

I wonder, though, if it is a little more subtle. For me, wandering around in the countyside with swallows swooping around me, trees sighing with the breeze, the hedgerows busy with bees and butterflies, well that sounds like a very good time. For other people, getting drunk in a jam-packed nightclub is a good time, and I've expressed my feelings about that horrible experience here before!

Could it be that a greater proportion of women enjoy the amenities of cities - clubs, shops, galleries, museums, theatres, etc. - than men? It need not be a particularly big proportion, just enough to explain the sex demographic difference. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why does nobody invade Greece?

During World War I a small band of Irish nationalists launched a rebellion against British rule, announcing that 'England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity' - that the calamity of British losses against Germany should be seen as a chance for Ireland to seize independence here. 

I'm not a historian so readers can correct me if I'm wrong, but that seems to be a pretty common trend throughout history: as one country experiences disaster, another takes advantage to grab power. Mike Duncan's The History of Rome podcast repeatedly refers to Romans taking advantage of Persian civil wars to invade, or Goths, Persians and Saxons leaping at Roman unrest to loot a few cities.

Now Greece is facing some serious economic problems, compounded by occasional bouts of unrest and deep political divides. 

Ripe for invasion! Yet of course nobody invades. Greece has had pretty poor relations with Turkey for a long time, and Macedonia, but in all the alarmed articles I've seen about Greece's predicament, none have predicted war. 

Why not? Well Greece and Turkey are NATO members and Greece is an EU member. Picking a fight with Greece would probably stir up the wrath of NATO. Apart from that, though, it surely shows how far most countries have come from war that this hasn't even seemed a possibility. Greece may be less stable than some other European countries but there isn't - that I know of - a whisper of suggestion that anyone take advantage of their troubles with invasion. The idea of just raiding another country to grab loot is today considered unthinkable for most people.

It wasn't always so. A few days ago I prompted incredulity on a friend's Facebook comments when I repeated Steven Pinker's claim that now is the most peaceful time in human history. One person demanded to know why military expenditure was rising if today is peaceful. I'm not sure how expenditure levels really are, but if they are rising there are a bunch of ways to interpret it that hardly challenge Pinker's claim. (For example, maybe modern life is more peaceful because countries spend more on defence, disincentivising invasion? Or perhaps rising military expenditure is just an indicator of rising wealth generally.) I have little doubt that I in Ireland live in an era in which war is greatly delegitimised as a political tool, and that this is true to some extent even in much less stable regions, like the Middle Eastern countries that don't invade troubled Greece. Iceland, Ireland, Greece, Portugal - all have faced traumatic economic challenges, none have faced the slightest threat of conquest.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

When the Ku Klux Klan and Suffragettes joined forces

Russ Roberts talks here to Daniel Okent, author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, on the American prohibition of alcohol in the early 20th century.

What is intriguing is Okent's explanation of the motivations of the various actors for and against prohibition. Lining up in favour of prohibition included:

The Ku Klux Klan
The Klan are best known today for persecuting black people, but they were also bitterly anti-Catholic, and by the late 19th century worried by the huge wave of Catholic migration from Europe to the US. I wrote before about the fears that the 1840s Protestant Known Nothing movement had of the massive inward migration of Catholics, deemed to be superstitious and traitorous, allied to an Italian Pope instead of the American state. Okrent explained that Catholic politicians often rallied support among the Catholics in saloons:
The saloon was the perfect place to organize politics around--the Democratic machines that grew up in the late 19th century came out of the saloons. They were electing people to Congress who didn't look like or sound like the typical native-born American from southern Ohio. They saw that they were losing their country, and they blamed liquor. Also saw that beverages were a very large part of the immigrant groups. The Irish and Italians, part of daily life to have beer, wine, or whisky, even if in moderation.
Denying the Catholics alcohol might deny them political power, and anti-Catholic Protestants were more than happy to see that.

Around the turn of the century some Americans were calling for enlightened government to pass intelligent laws that would reshape society. Social activists saw the very real destructive nature of alcohol use in the US, where clean water was rare and the poor relied on distilled booze for their hydration, and genuinely believed that stamping out alcohol use would benefit the poor and repair the social fabric. For some there was an element of paternalism: wealthy progressives deciding that poor people could not be trusted to decide for themselves so that prohibition was for their own good.

Soft drinks companies were eager to wipe out their alcoholic rivals.

The Industrial Workers of the World 'believed that liquor was a tool used by capitalists to keep the working man down', and supported Prohibition. 
Okrent does not go into details here, but he remarks that men did most of the drinking, that the prohibition movement and women's rights movement went hand in hand since around 1850 and that they 'entered the Constitution virtually together'.

In opposition to these groups were those who opposed Prohibition:

Wealthy conservative Republicans
These men had rejected all of the socially progressive policies coming to popularity in this period: 'women's suffrage, income tax amendment, child labor laws, Prohibition.'

Southern racists
These men opposed Prohibition because of the risk it posed as a top-down federal law imposed on the states. They wanted to preserve state rights (to protect Southern racist policies): 
...because to acknowledge that the government had the power to do this was to acknowledge that the 15th Amendment had validity. They wanted to continue to hold onto the argument of states' rights; can't hold on to that if you are going to have a federal proscription on liquor.
Catholics and Jews
Catholics liked to drink! They also rallied around saloons. Jews also opposed Prohibition, although Okrent does not go into great detail. In the end the Prohibition created exemptions for Catholic clergy and Jewish rabbis to use wine in their religious ceremonies - which quickly attracted corruption:
Any Rabbi could welcome as many people to his congregation as he wished; Talmed Torah in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles had 80 families in 1920, and a year later had 1000 families.
 It's a fascinating interview on the diverse motivations for an illiberal law, eventually passed against the wills of the majority of Americans, and widely flouted. A nice reminder that those calling for changes in law on noble grounds may be driven by ignoble incentives.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Children: Play With Fire

From the ages of 4 to 12 I attended a very small and very rural primary school, perched on the top of a hill from which we could see hills and stony valleys of farmland in all directions. My childhood vista was of damp green fields crossed with stone walls and lines of fat gold-blooming whim. I had a pretty good time in that safe little school, and I remember my years there with fondness.

For the first two years in school I was in the 'infants' classes, and we used to finish our lessons at 2pm while the older children pushed on to 3pm. Most of the infants were collected by their parents and brought home at 2, but for those of us whose parents could only come at 3 - especially those of us with older siblings who also needed collecting - we had one hour to wait. Most days we spent this hour, totally unsupervised, racing around the schoolyard, playing games, laughing ourselves silly. I'm 29 now and I clearly remember that a quarter of a century ago my favourite time of day was that hour of unequivocal liberty and fun I spent with my classmates - our teacher working on lessons or sipping tea inside.

Recently I increasingly hear that letting children run about without supervision has become far less common. Schools, terrified that a child might be injured and bitter parents drag them to court, feel pressurised to lock up children when they can't absolutely vouch for their safety.

I'm not sure how widespread the withdrawal of freedom for children in Ireland has been - the local kids in the suburban estate where I live now are constantly wandering around on their own business with no parents in sight - but I have come across a few disappointing or puzzling anecdotes of over-protective behaviour by adults lately.

The FreeRangeKids blog is run by American journalist Lenore Skenazy, who was denounced in American media for writing about how she let her 9-year-old son take the New York subway alone. They called her 'America's Worst Mom', but Skenazy seems to just take a pretty straight forward and obvious stance on child-rearing. She points out that most of us adults were given a certain amount of liberty as children, and asks why so many modern parents are convinced that the threat to their own children is somehow dramatically greater than it had been in the 1960s or 70s or 80s

Skenazy's stories of overprotective parenting are pretty hilarious and ridiculous: adults denouncing their neighbours for allowing their children to play, in their own fenced yards, without supervision! She describes parents who are positively convinced that any adult who talks to their child wants to rape them - in one story a man managed to rescue a drowning child, only to be screamed at by the child's mother who presumed he was a paedophile! Here she describes a strange case where two girls were playing tennis and one of them was hit with a tennis ball in the eye; her parents promptly sued the other girl and the school.

I don't have the foggiest idea if unsupervised play by children is really good for them in terms of reducing risk and giving them long-term benefits, but it was definitely a whole lot of fun. Back in my tiny school we used to play football in a rough field surrounded by chain link fence, and whenever someone kicked the ball over this fence they would rush to wriggle under the fence and race after the ball. Because the school was at the top of a long slope, if we didn't get the ball quickly it was going to accelerate for a few hundred metres. I don't remember if we were allowed to sneak under the fence and chase the ball down the road or not, but if this was forbidden it was flouted practically every day!

Various childhood projects included building hazel bows (with bamboo arrows - nail jammed in the top - all highly ineffective!), lighting fires with a magnifying glass on sunny days, building booby traps for anyone who dared enter our various dens, exploring the crumbling ruins of an abandoned ghost village, ransacking the woods and farms for things to burn on Bonfire Night, hacking a turnip open with a kitchen knife to make the Irish equivalent of Halloween pumpkin heads. And we had a pretty restricted childhood compared with some of my peers! I remember one proud classmate turning up to school with an arm in a cast because his brothers had thrown him down a hill for fun!

So we accumulated scratches and bruises but overwhelmingly weren't abducted and raped. It does seem oddly unhealthy to fill children with a dread for strangers. Skenazy now has a TV show in which she meets families who over-protect their children. She writes:
BUT from what I saw in filming my World’s Worst Mom (a.k.a. World’s Worst Mum, a.k.a. Bubble Wrap Kids) show, was that the thing that REALLY changed nervous parents was when I physically made them stay home while I took the kids out and let them DO something on their own. When I let them set up a lemonade stand down the street, out of sight of their worried mom. Or when I let them play in the woods, or go to the playground, or go on an overnight. I’d videotape them for a bit and then let them actually BE on their own. But in the meantime, I’d bring that video back to the parents. And when they saw with their own eyes how HAPPY their kids were and how normal and ridiculously NON-TERRIFYING the whole scene was — how it reminded them of their OWN childhoods — in 12 out of 13 episodes, the parents changed. They couldn’t help themselves. They felt the proverbial pride and joy at watching their kids live in and love the world.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Does US male unemployment exaggerate gender gap?

Today Bloomberg discusses Barack Obama's attempts to win over female voters by taking a stand for gender equality. It points out, however, that the gender pay gap in the US actually increased under Obama's rule:
Meanwhile, the pay gap in 2010 showed that women earned 77.4 percent of men’s salaries, down from 77.8 percent in 2007 before the recession hit.
Why is that? Are American employers more sexist now than in 2007? 

It occurred to me that this period was one in which the construction sector collapsed, and with its collapse went a huge number of male jobs. The rapid rise in male unemployed in the US and UK even caused some commentators to talk about a 'mancession'

My guess was that the recession destroyed low-income manual work for American men, pushing those male workers in low-income jobs into unemployment. By wiping out a huge section of low-paid male workers, the remaining male workers disproportionately represented the higher-income bracket. The average or median income for males would seem to lurch forward, just because the poor men dropped out of employment. Since gender pay gaps are usually calculated on those individuals who are in employment, by cutting the poorer men out the gap would appear to widen. 

I'm not completely sure that this is the case; I don't have the time or data to explore it any further right now. I do see, however, this study by Northeastern University, 2010, showing that American unemployment rates for low-income workers did indeed rush forward when the recession hit:
Earlier work by the authors has shown that a disproportionate share of the losses in jobs and the increases in open unemployment were borne by males, the young (under 30, especially teenagers), the less well educated, blue collar workers especially those in the construction trades, and Black men.... The incidence of underemployment problems in the fourth quarter of 2009 was 13 times higher among those workers in the bottom household income decile as opposed to those residing in the top decile of the income distribution (20.6% vs. 1.6%).

Sunday, May 13, 2012

American military officer hands Al Qaeda victory

Often on this blog I have pointed out the strange common ground of radical Islamists and anti-Muslim extremists. Both agree that there are no moderate Muslims. Both think 'true' Muslims are violent, intolerant and extremely conservative. Both argue that Islam is incompatible with modern secular society. Both insist that Islam is locked in an ancient struggle with the Christian/secular West, that compromise is impossible and that the conflict can only end with the total destruction of one party. Both say that we are already at war, the Islamists arguing that the American-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq represent a war on Islam, the anti-Muslimists arguing that terrorist attacks and European Muslim ghetto riots represent a war on the West.

I have argued that sensible people of any religion or nationality should work hard to undermine these narratives. At the moment the vast bulk of Muslims are just going about their lives, and of no threat to anyone else. This is a problem for groups like Al Qaeda, whose power relies on their ability to stir up popular support.

To give an Irish comparison, after the 1920s civil war in Ireland the losing side gradually came into the political system, eventually forming a popular political party that would dominate the rest of the century. A few of the old rebels, however, never accepted the Irish state as it was. These Irish Republican Army veterans continued attacks on the Irish and British forces over the following decades, but their importance was dwindling. Irish people were increasingly accepting the legitimacy of the new state, making the IRA less and less relevant. They needed a spark, something that would enrage the Irish, fill them with a sense of desperation and disillusionment with the political system, convince them that only violent rebellion could solve their problems.

That spark came in the 1960s. In Northern Ireland the Catholic (who mostly identified with Irish nationality) minority had been long oppressed by the Protestant (mostly identifying with British nationality) majority. In the 1960s Catholics formed protest marches based on the black civil rights marches in the US. The Protestant-dominated police cracked down on these marches and tensions began to boil over into riots and disorder. The London government sent the British Army into Northern Ireland, but Catholics soon claimed that the Army were persecuting them instead of defending peace and justice. In 1972 the Army opened fire on a protest march, killing 14 people, who were perceived by Catholics to be peaceful, unarmed protestors. Here was the IRA's spark. Bloody Sunday convinced many Catholics that only violence would succeed:
Edward Heath, prime minister at the time, acknowledged the catastrophic consequences, telling Lord Saville's inquiry: "The tragic deaths in Londonderry on 30 January 1972 outraged the Catholic community, increased support for the IRA and destroyed the prospect of a political initiative." ...John Kelly, whose brother Michael was killed by the paras, believes Bloody Sunday poisoned the ensuing years. "There were queues to join the IRA after that day," he recalled in 2005 when the Provisional IRA finally decommissioned its weapons. ...Edward Daly was the priest whose role in Bloody Sunday – waving a blood-stained handkerchief as he attempted to escort a dying victim past excited paratroopers – is commemorated to this day in Derry's murals. In his memoirs, Mister, Are You a Priest?, Daly, now a retired bishop, said what he described as the "murders" cast a lingering shadow. "Countless young people were motivated by the events of that day to become actively involved in armed struggle and, as a direct result, joined the Provisional IRA," he wrote. "Many former paramilitary members have gone on record stating that they first became actively involved in the wake of that Sunday. I am not at all sure about how I would have reacted, had I been a teenager and witnessed those same events." Those he later visited in prison often explained that their involvement in republican violence was a response to Bloody Sunday.
Al Qaeda need an equivalent, some especially awful atrocity by Western powers on Muslims to justify their claim that the West is at war with Islam, and that Muslims must rally around to defend it. ...Or they could just get an American military officer to admit to it. Enter Army Lt. Col. Matthew A. Dooley, who lectured at the Defense Department's Joint Forces Staff College, and who openly urged American military to consider a total war with Muslims. Dooley agrees with Al Qaeda that there are no moderate Muslims, that Islam has been fighting (Western) 'civilization' for 1,300 years, that Islam is so intolerant that it should no longer be tolerated. He suggests considering nuclear strikes on Mecca. He agrees with Al Qaeda that the reforming, liberal Muslims are not 'true' Muslims.
This barbaric ideology will no longer be tolerated. Islam must change or we will facilitate its self-destruction.
Here that, Muslims? Bin Laden was right all along!

This is a disastrously foolish statement, that kicks the feet from under the millions of Muslims working to build more liberal and democratic regimes in their countries, by labelling them heretics, and by confirming the radical Islamist belief that they are naive to the American threat. It empowers the extremists who will claim to have been saying this all along. Thankfully the military has condemned the course and tried to distance itself from it. With Norwegian anti-Muslim mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik in court at the moment and this foolish officer advising nuclear war against Muslims, it's time to start taking seriously the anti-Muslim movement. Breivik shows that they can be dangerous in their own right, Dooley shows the danger they pose in strengthening the hand of Islamist radicals. Let's stop proving Al Qaeda right.