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December 01, 2008

NPR Essayist: Mumbai Killers Might Just Be (Wait for It)... Evil

Gee, it's funny. Now that the presidency is not in enemy hands (for liberals), the enemies of the president are starting to look less misunderstood and more evil.

I get increasingly uncomfortable with the convention of journalism that requires us to say that so far, we don't know the motives of the people who carried out this week's attacks in Mumbai.

A word like "motive" seems to imply there was reason or purpose. It suggests that, however profane their actions, the terrorists had the incentive of some goal in mind.

But after covering too many killings, as a reporter or host, in Bosnia, Kosovo, Oklahoma City or Somalia, I've come to the conclusion that the perpetrators of such crimes might just be ... evil.

Evil is a word that many people of my generation shrink from using. It seems so imprecise and uneducated biblical, rather than cerebral and informed.

But there are times and crimes that remind me how often the Bible gets it right.

Curious that he failed to mention the 9/11 killers, or terrorists in Iraq.

Good Lord. This is becoming infuriating. This guy's present stance is obviously right. Fine. Why is it he just coincidentally happened to refrain from taking this position for eight years?

On the other hand, there's Deepak Chopra.

How the ebullient Dr. Chopra had come to be chosen as an authority on terror remains something of a mystery, though the answer may have something to do with his emergence in the recent presidential campaign as a thinker of advanced political views. Also commending him, perhaps, is his well known capacity to cut through all sorts of complexities to make matters simple. No one can fail to grasp the wisdom of a man who has informed us that "If you have happy thoughts, then you make happy molecules."

In his CNN interview, he was no less clear. What happened in Mumbai, he told the interviewer, was a product of the U.S. war on terrorism, that "our policies, our foreign policies" had alienated the Muslim population, that we had "gone after the wrong people" and inflamed moderates. And "that inflammation then gets organized and appears as this disaster in Bombay."

All this was a bit too much, evidently, for CNN interviewer Jonathan Mann, who interrupted to note that there were other things going on -- matters like the ongoing bitter Pakistan-India struggle over Kashmir -- which had caused so much terror and so much violence. "That's not Washington's fault," he pointed out.

Given an argument, the guest, ever a conciliator, agreed: The Mumbai catastrophe was not Washington's fault, it was everybody's fault. Which didn't prevent Dr. Chopra from returning soon to his central theme -- the grave offense posed to Muslims by the United States' war on terror, a point accompanied by consistent emphatic reminders that Muslims are the world's fastest growing population -- 25% of the globe's inhabitants -- and that the U.S. had better heed that fact. In Dr. Chopra's moral universe, numbers are apparently central. It's tempting to imagine his view of offenses against a much smaller sliver of the world's inhabitants -- not so offensive, perhaps?

Two subsequent interviews with Larry King brought much of the same -- a litany of suggestions about the role the U.S. had played in fueling assaults by Muslim terrorists, reminders of the numbers of Muslims in the world and their grievances. A faithful adherent of the root-causes theory of crime -- mass murder, in the case at hand -- Dr. Chopra pointed out, quite unnecessarily, that most of the terrorism in the world came from Muslims. It was mandatory, then, to address their grievances -- "humiliation," "poverty," "lack of education." The U.S., he recommended, should undertake a Marshall Plan for Muslims.

Nowhere in this citation of the root causes of Muslim terrorism was there any mention of Islamic fundamentalism -- the religious fanaticism that has sent fevered mobs rioting, burning and killing over alleged slights to the Quran or the prophet. Not to mention the countless others enlisted to blow themselves and others up in the name of God.

Nor did we hear, in these media meditations, any particular expression of sorrow from the New Delhi-born Dr. Chopra for the anguish of Mumbai's victims: a striking lack, no doubt unintentional, but not surprising, either. For advocates of the root-causes theory of crime, the central story is, ever, the sorrows and grievances of the perpetrators. For those prone to the belief that most eruptions of evil in the world can be traced to American influence and power there is only one subject of consequence.

Fat, ugly and stupid is no way to go through life, son.


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posted by Ace at 01:32 PM

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