Monday message board

It’s time, once again for the Monday Message Board. This is an opportunity for people to state their views on the best way to respond to terrorism, but I’m going to delete any comment I regard as abusive. More generally, civilised discussion and no coarse language, please.

Update There’s been an upsurge in hostile comments, flaming and so on lately, and I’m responding by being more active in deleting comments, some of which I would have let slide in the past. Please stick to civilised discussion of the issues: there are plenty of blogs that welcome flamewars, but this isn’t one.

Further update It seems that some readers can view comments that are “awaiting moderation” (maybe just their own, I’m not sure about this). I’ve now deleted everything in the moderation queue. I’m sorry if people think I’m being overaggressive, but I’m going to run things the way I think best. Anyone with different ideas on how to run a blog is free to implement them.

41 thoughts on “Monday message board

  1. Terrorism is a crime, and hence best dealt with by professional and well-resourced police forces, with appropriate powers. I do not believe that the recent expansion in police powers has anything much to do with operational necessities and lots to do with being seen to do something, combined with a power grab by senior police who do not consider their role to have anything to do with free speech.

    Other things that the western world (rather, the US and its clients) can do to reduce terrorism is to not engage in speculative wars with little justification, to remove troops from Saudi Arabia and to ask Israel to respect a variety of UN resolutions asking for a return to the 1967 border. And to support democracy abroad.

  2. Terrorism is a use of violence design to make people feel scared in the hope that they will over-react.

    Terrorism seeks to make people scared and thus more conservative. Politicians can gain power by pandering to people’s fears. Thus terrorists control bad political leadership.

    The recent laws show we have no good leaders in Australia.

    Terrorists and bad leadership are co-evolving.

    People get the leaders they deserve.

    People are scared because their leaders want them to be.

    We are all stuffed.

    And now I am scared.

    There is nothing to fear but fear itself. And politicians willing to use it for their own gain.

    Children Overboard anyone?

    We are all stuffed.

  3. The issue of “free speech” is an important one in connection with new powers of the government to ban certain groups. One can foresee a never-ending campaign of proscribing some Islamic youth group or other only to see it spring into life under another name. It is a very ticklish task for the Attorney General to appear to be vigilant without looking stupid. The alternative is to ban individuals from joining any group at all. Might that not mean that those individuals could be prohibited from worshipping in certain mosques?

    Of more concern is the police power to “disappear” individuals for prescribed and possibly consecutive periods of time, without access to the right of habeus corpus and without access to judicial determination. There is a remote chance that a respectable, law-abiding citizen such a myself might find himself entrapped in the kafkaesque world created by these new powers. I’m not losing sleep over the possibility. Of more realistic concern is the provocative effects of such detention on friends, associates and loved-ones of the persons detained. Again, the balance between deterrence and provocation is a ticklish one.

    Habeus corpus exists partially to prevent the executive arm of government from making an idiot of itself. Seems that our Cwth and State Executives are prepared to ignore the many glum lessons of history and expose themselves to the augmented risk of making idiots of themselves.

  4. The purpose of terrorism is to terrorise, & usually it is quite effective. Very sinister & chilling images, balaclava clad kidnappers/hijackers/killers.

    There have been left wing terrorists aplenty, right wing terrorists, nationalist/separatist terrorists, all of which have been somewhat self-contained in their choice of targets & scale of threat.

    Now there is islamic terrorism, a threat of an entirely different spectre. No holds barred in choice of targets, their own seem to be on the recieving end more than anybody else. There are few specific demands, which in return for these demands being met the threat will be withdrawn. There is a stated goal, which when simplified, is to blast the world back to the 1400’s & we all live like taliban serfs.

    This new terrorist threat on the surface seems as indestructible as a hydra & impossible to placate. It will settle for only one thing: the complete achievement of its stated goal. There seems to be no single leadership, & little cohesion amongst the practitioners of islamo-terrorism.

    There seems to be no easy solution to this threat, which is aimed squarely at all societies, & the way everybody lives. (except those who a hardline islamo-taliban life, & even then I wouldn’t be too sure)

  5. So steve at the pub,
    What’s the solution? More repression at home and more military adventures abroad? I am not sure we are facing something entirely new, although it is just as disgusting as a form of political activity. However I am sure that eventually, once the returns on the political ‘capital’ currently invested in the war on the abstract noun start to diminish, we will once again have to face finding rational and sustainable solutions. These might include better intelligence, better police actions against actual terrorists, (as opposed to anyone who is swarthy, male and runs to catch a train), a more rational approach to dealing with energy needs than propping up dysfunctional dictatorships like the Sauds, an insistence that Israel observe international norms and ceases to use the historical legacy of European barbarism as an excuse for barbaric behavoiur of its own, and above all, an attempt for once, just once, to stop trying to find new ‘cold war’ options as a way of putting off the real questions facing humanity. The key question here, is when is enough military keynsianism enough, and when can people have a bit more butter and a fewer guns as a reward for their increasingly long hours and stagnant (in the US) pay and remuneration?

  6. stoptherubbish Says: October 3rd, 2005 at 3:23 pm “…when can people have a bit more butter”

    Sounds a lot like “…let them eat cake” to me!

  7. Not at all. Though you should alway make cake or pastry with butter not margarine. However, is there a difference between pay and remuneration?

    You should see the guns Australia has on its shopping list at the moment. Helo carriers ($2 – 3 bn), destroyers ($6bn ++), heavy tanks ($1 bn +), untested fighter planes ($500m ++). That’s a helluva lot of butter!

  8. stoptherubbish, you are sounding like a tired & worn out political bleat. Not quite sure which failed ideology you are trying to push.

    I am not suggesting any solutions, there is no immediately apparent simple one. The enemy is a spectre, rather than a clearly defined force.

    Islamo-fascism is the enemy, at the moment it seems impossible to suppress with 100% success. It seems to be attacking everybody & anybody. Appeasment seems to be an unlikely answer, as even the governments & peoples of rather hard line islamist countries are targets. Attack is difficult, as the enemy is the ultimate guerrilla, blending into society except when actually detonating a suicide bomb. Eliminating all muslims will eliminate all muslim terrorists. However the logistics of this undertaking would be mind boggling, & our humanity would never allow us to massacre hundreds of millions just to wipe out a few thousand terrorists.

  9. i just adore the way terrorism is being dealt with at the moment. the terrorists are supposedly out to destroy our way of life, so the government removes our personal privacy and liberties, destroying our way of life in the process.. the terrorists are out to kill innocent civilians who have little or nothing to do with the government bodies they disagree with, so our countries bomb the living daylights out of innocent civilians in THEIR countries.
    it’s so mature!

  10. Reading a recent article in The Economist i was surprised to find that while the French top marginal tax rate is 48%, 20% of each individual’s income is actually exempted from tax.

    So, the maximum effective rate of income tax a Frenchman can be assessed would actually appear to be only 38% – well below the Australian top rate and
    even below that of Great Britain.

    That’s a surprisingly low figure – especially considering that the French state collects somewhere over 40% of GDP in taxes compared with under 30% in both Asutralia and the UK.

    The answer apparently lies in the plethora of additional taxes and charges for such items as health care and retirement.

    Considering this, two things occurred to me:

    1. Nominal top rates of tax may be a handy way of comparing different countries propensity to tax but they can be deeply misleading.

    2. Comparisons of the tax take depend very heavily on what’s classified as a tax and who its levied against.

    In the US Social Security is funded in large part through payroll taxes paid by employers – if those taxes were shifted to employees and their wages topped up to offset this the cost of retirement and the amount collected by the US government to fund retirement incomes wouldn;t change but the top marginal tax rate in the US would increase significantly.

    Similarly, France could, on paper, drastically reduce its tax take by converting its social security system into a private monopoly with no changes to either contributions or benefits.

    I guess what I’m trying to say here is that nominal top tax rates and even tax as a percentage of GDP are fairly blunt tools for measuring the size of government and its impact on the economy.

    If anything, the French example seems to suggest that inefficiency and bureaucracy in the design of government taxes are an even bigger impediment ot employment and growth than the total level of tax.

  11. File this one under “why do they hate us when we’re fighting for their freedom?”

    U.S. soldiers get off easy for crimes against Iraqis, review finds

    By Russell Carollo, Larry Kaplow

    Palm Beach Post-Cox News Service

    Sunday, October 02, 2005

    BAGHDAD — Eight-year-old Rudenah al-Hillali cried as the two American soldiers led her father into their apartment with a rifle barrel at his back and forced the family to stand in a corner at gunpoint.

    “She was scared,” said her father, Issam Abdul Jabbar al-Hillali, adding that the soldiers refused to let him give Rudenah water.

    Al-Hillali said Army Pfc. John N. Lee and Spec. Timothy I. Barron claimed to be Marines searching for weapons. But once inside his house, he said, they used a knife to pry open a briefcase filled with money and eventually stole $2,000 in cash, silver and other valuables.

    Although Army officials found some of the missing items in the soldiers’ possession and they admitted to robbing houses under the guise of looking for illegal weapons, the Army dismissed the charges. In exchange, Barron said, both soldiers agreed to leave the military.

    Using previously undisclosed Army records, the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News found that dozens of soldiers have been accused of crimes against Iraqis since the first troops deployed for Iraq. But despite strong evidence and convictions in some cases, only a small percentage resulted in punishments nearing those that civilian justice systems routinely impose for such crimes.

    In a number of other cases, there was no evidence that thorough or timely criminal investigations were conducted. Other cases weren’t prosecuted, and still others resulted in dismissals, light jail sentences or no jail sentence at all.

    “I’ve been surprised at some of the lenient sentences,” said Gary Solis, a former military judge and prosecutor who teaches military law at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. “I have an uneasy suspicion that it relates to the nationality of the victim.”

  12. File this one under, why do americans have to join the armed forces? Black or poor. All accepted.

    Do we have a job for you. If you get caught for nasty stuff, though , you will be on your own.

    The small buck is left with you.

  13. You can delete comments until the cows come home, but that doesn’t change the fact that you have progressed from “deleting abusive comments” to “deleting comments that don’t agree with you”.

    You’re starting to descend into Andrea Harris territory. No useful debate goes on there, either.

    Edited to remove abuse

  14. John, if you’re going to delete sarcasm, where the point is the antithesis of the uncivilised opinion you think you are censoring, then you aren’t paying close attention.

  15. Steve, I agree there are no easy simple answers to Islamic terrorism.

    I do have a few thoughts though:

    1. Seek to separate the terrorists from the larger muslim community and deny them the sympathy and support of that community.

    – domestically, avoid security measures that target all muslims as a group unless there’s a very clear and compelling rationale. what’s the point of killing one terrorist if, in the process, you create two more?

    – press for reform of corrupt and oppressive islamic governments. The West is currently seen as the supporter and protector of repressive dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia.

    – encourage moderate and modernising elements within islamic societies (e.g. fund more arabic language broadcasting by organisations such as Voice of America; make foreign aid funding dependant on democratic and social reform. An example of this is a type of program where the very poorest families are paid in food and cash for sending their children to school and where parents actually receive more for sending their daughters and there are cash bonuses for completing primary and secondary school)

    2. Find and kill the terrorists

    kinda obvious isn’t it?

    But I’m not talking here primarily about full-scale military invasions and occupations ala Iraq, I’m talking about the sort of covert operations which the Israelis have successfully conducted against the Palestinian terrorist grousp for decades – infiltrate small teams of people able to blend in with the locals into areas like Waziristan and kill the bastards.

    Israel had a major advantage here – around 1.5 million Israelis are Sephardic Jews whose families migrated to Israel from North Africa and the Middle East. They (or the older generation anyway) speak fluent, local dialects of arabic, look arabic and are very familiar with local customs.

    Of course, recruiting such people for the west brings us back to my first point. If we alienate our own muslim citizens we risk robbing ourselves of one of the most valuable potential weaposn in the war.

    3. Choose our battles.

    It may shock you, but I supported the war in Afghanistan – as I also supported the Kosovo War and the Gulf War.

    My objection ot the Iraq war, fundamentally, was that it was tactically ill-conceived and seemed almost designed to increase hostility to the west in the arab world.

    In Bosnia and Kosovo (and in the Australian deployments in East Timor and The Solomons) the west deployed sufficient numbers of troops to suppress any resistance almost immediately. The result in each case was to largely pacify the country and allow reconstruction.

    In Afghanistan, the US had sufficient forces to win the initial campaign against the Taliban but has been unable to establish law and order. The consequence of this has been that the local warlords (many of them former Taliban) have been left in place and allowed to trade in opium and build up their private armies.

    I’m not a military expert but I think that if a significant number of the 150,000 or so American troops currently in Iraq had been sent to Afghansitan instead we could probably have gotten rid of the warlords by now – and we might even have caught Bin Laden.

    Once Afghanistan was actually secured would have been the appropriate time to consider military action elsewhere – although I’d argue that if you were going to invade somwhere there was a much stronger case for Sudan than for Iraq.

    Of course, Bush et al had an election to fight in 2004 so waiting and planning wasn’t a very high priority – and neither was telling voters they might have to pay higher taxes and accept conscription.

  16. I object to your method of censorship, John. We are adults, and entitled to discourse in the manner we see fit. I think it’s fair to delete an ongoing thread of abuse if you really must, but surely we are not so threatened by a little name-calling as to refrain from discourse altogether.

    Perhaps you could simply remove the swear words, or the offending passage so that we might get the gist of the position.


    ps why hasn’t someone yet invented a means for designating a passage as sarcasm?

  17. hey guys – remember its JQ’s blog, and he is entitled to censor, or not censor as the case may be whatever he pleases. There are plenty of other blogs out there.

  18. Dave, I can recognise sarcasm, and I judged that yours was likely to be the start of a downward spiral. I’ve already deleted a reply.

    Yobbo, I deleted comments from both sides of the debate that engaged in what I regarded as inappropriate partisan pointscoring and personal abuse. If you can’t disagree without abusing other participants in the discussion, please disagree somewhere else.

  19. A this point, I would just like to put in a little plug for Terry Lanes’ last show ,Sunday 2nd. Hear an interview on “Radio National”, downloaded, for “The National Interest”.

    For those interested in alternative views to ‘economic rationalism’ , Hugh Stretton , economist and historian proved stimulating and wise.

    Worth a listen , promise.

  20. John, your entire blog is about “partisan point scoring”. That’s just another term for debating your position.

    Ian Gould made a horrendously foolish post in the Bali bombing thread and was rightly eviscerated by several commentators. Your response was to delete the comments replying to him and leave the original comment where it is.

    As I said before, it’s a disgraceful action on your part. Delete this comment again if need be?

  21. Well, here’s one for you Ian that isn’t a non-abusive post. I think your figures for France and Australia are wrong. I believe the take in Australia is around 32% and France is 43%. However, some of the difference (around 6% if I remember correctly) can be attributed to the much greater healthcare costs the French goverment has, since the public health system is far better (and hence costs far more). If you take this into account (since you are going to have to pay it privately anyway in Australia — it just isn’t a goverment expense), then the difference is much smaller (although the governement runs a 3% deficit), even though welfare benefits are comparitively huge in France; there are huge breeding benefits (which is probably why they have the highest birth rates in rich-Europe); and the goverment invests in decent industries (like Airbus) and infrastructure such as trains (via SNCF). A better question then is why Australian taxes are not so much lower than France, given the discrepancies in public expenditure.

  22. Yobbo,
    Be fair. I have argued what I believe to be a reasonably consistent and hopefully cogent liberal / libertarian line here. I believe my arguments to be, at times, strongly against our host’s positions on several matters. Not once has he seen fit to do anything other that argue against me, or, occasionally, agree. The only time I got moderated was when I typed in my own email address incorrectly.
    Sure, some of the comments from the more socialist end of the spectrum get a bit much and I believe that he should be a bit more aggressive in culling them, but it is his blog and we are, to use an analogy, his guests here.
    At least PrQ is not like flute, where my comments regularly get deleted because I point out where I believe he is wrong or his arguments are inconsistent. The ones I see that have later been deleted I can see why he did it.

  23. Meika,

    Are you still deliberately sponging of the taxpayers in your distorted attempt to bring down capitalism?

    Have you sold any sticks lately?

    And what have you done with the gold that was once mine?


  24. Yobbo, I honestly can’t tell whether you’re being deliberately obtuse or just plain obtuse here, but I’ll leave your comment up so that others can judge for themselves.

    I posted on the Bali attacks, deliberately avoiding any discussion of the debates about whether the Iraq war helped or hindered our attempts to stop terrorism. Ian Gould followed up with a request that others should do the same, which I will quote in full:

    “I would really, really appreciate it if both sides of the debate over the war on terror could refrain from partisan point-scoring over this tragedy for a decent interval.

    Let’s join together with John in expressing our sympathy for the death.”

    You and Steve took this (absurdly) as an expression of neutrality as between the terrorists and their victims, and responded in an offensive fashion, which has continued in all your subsequent comments. Judging by his more measured subsequent comments, Steve may have recognised his error, but you seem determined to continue digging.

  25. kez said “…why hasn’t someone yet invented a means for designating a passage as sarcasm?”

    i have seen sarcastic phrases followed by /sarc which can help the reader a bit because tone and emphasis are mostly absent from an author’s voice in text.

  26. Joe2

    I wish the ABC would change TNI downloads from Real Audio into plain old mp3 so I could listen to it.

    Thanks anyway, maybe I’ll have a brief read of the transcript.

  27. “Terrorism is a use of violence design to make people feel scared in the hope that they will over-react.

    Terrorism seeks to make people scared and thus more conservative. Politicians can gain power by pandering to people’s fears. Thus terrorists control bad political leadership.

    The recent laws show we have no good leaders in Australia.

    Terrorists and bad leadership are co-evolving.

    People get the leaders they deserve.”

    Ipso facto folks, you can see how we are all deserving of a good dose of Islamofascist terrorism. Like some local Gareth Evans, Meika can rise above it all in Tassie, while the deserving freaks in the mainland cities like Sydney and Melbourne, man the front line in the WOT in order to produce enough surplus to keep her relaxed and comfortable. What’s their problem, because it’s making Meika very scared?

    Don’t be deliberately naive here Terje. You know perfectly well green leftists, on higher planes than we freaked out freaks, don’t sell their sticks. They’re required items for self-flagellation, although heavy, dried roots are better for the task. Allows for a finer examination of root causes and all that kinda deep thinking stuff.

    Ian Gould jumps on board with military Beacons of Light, although he has some problems with where to get the most incandescence for his US troop deployments. Tell me Ian, do you think we should deploy more troops from Old Europe in Afghanistan, for a bit more light?

  28. Car Terrorism.

    It’s national ride to work day today (5th). Notwithstanding the distance to work and the long hill sections and the fact that I’ve never ridden to work before, I was keen. I even rode most of the way a couple of weekends back. I feared for my life! I was nearly hit twice by cars on suburban streets. One cut me off and the other forced me into the gutter. I never even went on a main road.

    Let’s stand back and look at the greater chance of danger: imagined foreign jihadis bent on destruction OR Mr & Mrs Moron in an SUV or Volvo.

    And there’s the irony. The Mr & Mrs Morons of the world live an selfish energy rich lifestyle and this lifestyle is fed by extractively exploiting foreign lands (backed by military force) which then creates the very dissaffected groups that are portrayed as a great danger. Which of these two groups is more likely to kill you?

  29. David, you’re not seriously suggesting we sacrifice these sacred cows? Like anyone will vote for that!

    I ride to work daily, and yes, it’s a terror on the roads. My wife suffered a broken jaw and serious dental issues last year while riding home (because of a moron in a car), and naturally she wasn’t covered by the TAC or any decent insurance (full dental being essentially unaffordable).

  30. David – the difference between the threat posed by terrorism and the threat posed by cars is that we, as society, accept that the risk from vehicle accidents is acceptable. We choose to carry the risk because of the benefits that come with cars and roads etc. The same with the risks taken on whenever we undergo surgery – the risk of an adverse outcome including death is ever present but acceptable.

    We do not choose terrorism and see that the risks are unacceptable and strong action must be taken to eliminate it.

    I do more kilometers per week on my bike than in my car, so I empathise with your experience having been knocked off twice in “me v car” accidents and have had a collarbone rebuilt from 7 pieces.

    At the same time I’m ex-military, drive a V8, have a huge mortgage, twice the number of people in my house in TVs, and I am a white male, happily married with a kid and a dog, self-employed business owner, 7th generation Australian (when does my family get land rights?) – so you probably think my opinion isn’t worth the ether it is typed into.

  31. Car Terrorism 2

    I guess my point is: why is being killed on the roads different from a bomb. When you’re dead you’re beyond caring about the cause. The fact that you’ve both suffered injuries in your family illustrates my point. Regardless of the motivations of bombers or car drivers you and I have a much higher chance of death on the roads than drinking in a bar in Bali or travelling by train in London. I understand that society accepts the risk of death on the roads. Why does society not accept the risk of terrorism we help create.

    If Al Qaida ran their victims down in a car would society “accept” that?

  32. What is it to be killed on the road rather than by a bomb.

    I offer the words of J Glen Gray “The Warriors” as he says it much better than I could.

    “death in war…not different in principle from death in time of peace. But this would be a superficial view, for not the frequency of death but the manner of dying makes a qualitative difference. Death in war is commonly caused by members of my own species actively seeking my end, despite the fact that they may never have seen me and have no personal reason for mortal enmity. It is death brought by hostile intent rather than by accident or natural causes that separates war from peace so completely…..The difference is not only between dying and getting killed. It is much more the difference between dying by disease or accident among people who know and cherish you and having your life cut off without preparation by someone who cares not at all for the anguish he causes.â€?

    Its as if you ask of us, Mr and Mrs Moron, to empathise with those who do or would kill us, to accept that while we may be of the view that they have no personal reason to feel for us mortal enmity, by the way we live we have in fact made it personal. At the same time we must be strong enough to not ever think of them in the following way (Gray) even though we must allow them the right to think of us in this way.

    “The hatred that arises for the enemy in wartime…is peculiarly one-sided, for it is a fear filled image. The enemy is not an individual man or woman, but a hostile power intent upon destroying our people and our lives. Our unreflective response is normally total enmity for the image of evil that possesses our imagination.�

    You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din

  33. The vast majority of deaths on the road are due to reckless incompetence on the part of at least one of the drivers involved. Speaking for myself, I can’t see much difference in being killed because someone regarded my life as being of less value than the fact that they were in a hurry/wanted one last drink/couldn’t be bothered paying attention than being killed because I was in the way of some political objective or other.

  34. ” ‘I can’t see much difference’ in being killed because someone regarded my life as being of less value than…”

    Well, that sentiment just about sums up, for example, any future activities to combat longterm organised crap against women in the world – there is no point, no use, its all the same, forget about it and just drive, he said.

    Nothing whatsoever makes any difference. Everything is the same. All arguments are valid. No proposition is invalid, merely misunderstood! Even a specious comparison of car drivers with murderers.

    Do we have SUVs here? What’s wrong with being rude about a perfectly good brock commodore? Are we now against Volvo? What about Sweden’s oft-described economic superiority not unassisted by building popular, safe cars? Surely you must be referring to Mr and Mrs Moronsson?? What is murder without mens rea?

    What should we do about malaysia, japan or korea, exporters of these murder machines par excellence? Or is car export good, import bad? What about teaching drivers to drive safely and locking up any terrorists you might find inside? No they’re the same, let them both go, lock them both up – oh the pain of decisions, just forget it.

    Phew and for a minute i thought our intellectuals were on the wane.

  35. Speaking for myself, I can’t see much difference in being killed because someone regarded my life as being of less value than the fact that they were in a hurry/wanted one last drink/couldn’t be bothered paying attention than being killed because I was in the way of some political objective or other.

    Speaking for myself, not all deaths on the road are equal. Death by drunk driving attracts similar moral outrage from the community and the families of victims as does death by terrorist attack. Death by inattention on the part of a driver is no less tragic for the families of those involved, but it generally attracts far less outrage, unless the inattention is somehow known to be wilfully negilgent.

    Why the difference? Probably because no matter how carefully we drive, at one time or another we have all had a near miss because of some distraction or another: the kids were screaming in the back seat, a sneeze, a mobile phone going off, a cute blonde goes by, etc etc. Can any driver with reasonable experience honestly say they’ve never had to slam on the brakes at the last minute because they weren’t paying sufficient attention?

    None of this makes us Mr or Mrs moron. It just makes us all too faillibly human.

    But it is not “human” to commit premeditated mass murder of innocent bystanders in the name of world religious domination. That kind of act is perpertrated by the worst kind of subhuman scum, and the families of the victims have every right to be outraged.

  36. In a way there is little difference – we have accepted great intrusions into our civil liberties to try to reduce the death toll on the roads. All the government is doing is the same to try to reduce the death toll from terrorism. The only difference may be in degree – they are putting in more intrusions to reduce a lower death toll. The difference may be in the outrage created amongst the community.
    I do not think that the outrage is ‘similar’ between a drunk driver and a person flying a full 767 into a full building to make a political point. In addition, it is all too human to commit premeditated mass murder – few, but not no, non-human animals do it.
    Apart from that, I agree with you.

  37. This issue of proportionality and acceptibility of deaths by different means (car accidents vs terrorist attack) is partially resolved by consideration of the motives of the individuals involved.

    A terrorist intends to kill and maim.

    A motorist who runs down a cyclist is held either to be blameless, negligent or reckless. Otherwise it’s murder, just like the terrorist.

    However, it is well observed that the aggregate number of “blameless” “negligent” and “reckless” deaths on Australian roads is likely to be much higher than the number of deaths due to terrorism.

    As a society we are prepared to pay the price of “negligent” and “reckless” deaths. We allow private litigation or public prosecution after the event, but we allow easy access to drivers’ licences. We punish rather than prohibit.

    On the other hand, in the case of terrorism, we attempt to prohibit, even though it is much more difficult to do this than to arbitrarily set a high standard on access to drivers’ licences.

    Terrorism is seen to be a social evil. Deaths on the road are seen to be the product of regrettable but inevitable failings in individuals, for which society takes no blame and accepts no responsibility.

    An interesting example of this abstraction of responsibility involved the dropping of the A Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is often said in a form of shorthand that elides the complexity of the case that “Truman ordered the dropping of the bombs”.

    He did nothing of the sort. Rather, he gave the US Military the permission to use the bombs as they saw fit. Truman declined to prevent his military from using the A Bombs. (After the dropping of two bombs he withdrew his permission.)

    Consider the case of the use of chemical weapons or anti-personnel devices. Would the President of the United States be guilty of war crimes if he ordered their use? Is he still guilty if he simply gives his military permission to use them as they see fit? That is he fails to prevent them from using these weapons.

    Bush invaded Afghanistan because the Taliban government didn’t do enough to eradicate terrorists from their territory. Clearly Bush sought to punish the Taliban not for things they did but for things they refused to prevent.

  38. A government could more easily turn its back on road deaths than terroist deaths because ignoring the former does not make the government look weak and ferment the problem.

    Ignoring terrorists or treating them as merely one of a multitude of hazards that citizens face in life misses the political nature of the terrorist act. Terrorists threaten the monopoly that states have on violence and extorsion. Terrorists seek to place a wedge between governments and their base of popular support (or popular fear). And in so far as governments retreat from or ignore this threat they open their authority to question and attack on multipe fronts.

    It would be foolish to analyse the problem in terms of what is the best use of state resources from the perspective of the average citizen. The government (like any organism) has survival as its first instinct. The needs of citizens are merely co-opted in so far as they fascilitates the objectives of the state.

    Those that maintain authority through force are vulnerable to the smallest acts of defiance. A government that ignores violent threats to its authority is like a lion tammer that allows one of his smaller animals to become too emboldened. The threat is not from the one single protagonist so much as it is from the inspiration they may offer to others.

    This is why the Chinese government crushed students in Tiananmen Square. What is tolerated in one corner of China could easily get out of hand and bring down the state. The students understood this but unfortunately for them so did the state.

    Personally I agree with John that being hit by a reckless driver can leave you just as dead as being hugged by a suicide bomber. However the state acts first and foremost in its own interest, not mine or Johns.

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