You, who frighten people with Hell, have brought them a hell on earth.

Buthayna Nasser
Watch this courageous woman do a take down on an insufferable fundamentalist Muslim cleric. It’s enjoyable to watch him do a slow burn while trying hard to portray the face of total equanimity. One can only imagine what he is thinking as this woman shreds him. I’m sure he is fantasizing about what he would do to her – and I don’t mean sexually – were he to have her in his control.
(Our assistant Kristi’s husband was a Marine and was in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War. He told me of an instance where his platoon was walking across a street in front of a large Mercedes with a Saudi male at the wheel and, presumably, his wife in the passenger seat. The woman was veiled and was simply watching as the troops passed in front of the car. The male looked over, noticed the woman simply watching the soldiers pass by, and smashed her in the face with his fist. The blow knocked her against the side window of the car. She immediately dropped her head and looked at the floor so that she couldn’t possibly be seen to be looking at a male. Wonderful people, at least the males. When Kristi’s husband told me about this years after it had happened, he became agitated and began clenching his fists. He said it was all the Marines who witnessed this behavior could do to keep from dragging this jerk out of his car and giving him a little of his own medicine.)
I can’t imagine the gumption it takes for a woman to step up to the plate like this on live Saudi TV, knowing that Saudi Arabia is a place under Islamic rule (aside from the Royal family who don’t particularly hew to Islamic law and have their own huge security force to protect them from their own subjects) where people have their hands cut off for stealing, are beheaded for adultery, and are publicly whipped for the most minor infractions.
Ms. Nasser’s courage is one of the few signs I’ve seen that give me hope that the most militant fundamentalist branch of Islam may be showing some cracks in the armor.
God bless her!


  1. Speaking of women’s places, we’ve always found it curious that Mary Dan appears as an appendage or as if she walks a half step behind you on book covers and webpages:
    What’s up with that?
    Boy, is MD ever going to make hay with this one.
    In all the photo shoots we’ve done, there have been countless pictures taken: some with me in front, some with her sitting and my standing behind her, others with us side by side, and even some with her on my lap (none with me on her lap, however).  For whatever reason the folks who pick the pictures to be used on the books and publicity info always pick the ones with me in front and her behind.  Who knows?  Maybe the people who labor away in the bowels of the book publicity department are Islamic.

  2. Note that you’re not talking about Iraq under Hussein, but one of our supposedly best “allies”, here. In fact, our allies are routinely more evil than our “enemies”.
    The evil Saudi government, in fact, was propped up by our troops from 1991 through 2002 NOT to protect them from Hussein, but to protect them from their own people, who would have been completely within their rights to overthrow the (originally British-imposed) Saudi monarchy.
    And note that while the Saudi monarchy doesn’t actually go around hitting women in the face, they are the ones who impose and maintain the laws encouraging such behavior.
    But I see a bit of irrational bigotry in the posting; The guy hitting the woman in the face is ASSumed to be representative of “Saudi males”. Surely you have objected, in the past, to rednecks beating homosexuals, or dragging a black man behind their truck, as NOT being proof that “whites” or “American males” are generically so evil.
    I have too much disdain for illegitimate authority to be in the military; I would have beaten the guy up without regard to whatever orders, I assume, prevented that marine from doing so. As with laws, orders are only as good/valid as they are right.
    And it’s also worth note that, while cutting off people’s hands for stealing, beating women for violating sexual taboos, and beheading adulterers are all worse than what we do in America, it’s just a matter of proportion, and for that reason (and others, like local sovereignty) none of our damned business to intercede and “fix” those things.
    We still allow our government to kill people for many illegitimate reasons, including execution of murderers. We still imprison people for consensual activities. We still have nudity taboos which are no better than those against women showing their faces in public, looking at men, et cetera. And we do have rednecks beating homosexuals, murdering blacks, et cetera, ourselves, even if we don’t officially have a government that condones it.
    While, in reality, I don’t respect most of the rest of the industrialized world, if we follow the premise of righteous indignation as an excuse for violating local sovereignty, then the fact that most of the industrialized world objects to everything I listed in the above paragraph means they’d be within their rights, entirely, to intercede and “fix” our problems in EXACTLY the same ways we habitually go around doing to other countries.
    Yes, of course, the very same people who advocate invading here, supporting a government or opposition party there, assisting a coup in the other place, or simply killing people through economic embargoes, would be in hysterics if someone did that to us, essentially saying “how dare they!” about the very stuff we do all the time.
    Imagine if UN troops had decided to intercede and put their preferred socialist, Gore, in power the way they’ve convinced themselves he should have been, in 2001. Or remember how outraged EVERYONE was to find out that the Communist Chinese gave philosophically similar Bill Clinton millions of dollars to get elected. Or just think about the outrage against the Taliban supporting Al Qaeda, when the latter committed a terrorist attack against the US…when WE trained Al Qaeda (the Mujahadeen of Afghanistan) to commit terrorist attacks against the Soviets, and we supported Pakistan in putting the Taliban in power in Afghanistan, because we preferred it over the Russian-backed Northern Alliance.
    I agree that the things the damned foreigners do are often evil, including the Saudi fundamentalists, the socialist Europeans, the Egyptian and Pakistani tyrannies, et cetera. But our objections should be via words or privately organized deeds, not Big Brotherment meddling in foreign affairs.
    Hi Kaz–
    Great comment.
    I can’t disagree with anything you’ve written, including my “bit of irrational bigotry” in extrapolating the behavior of one Saudi male to all Saudi males, although I’ve had my own experiences with them (there were many in my engineering school) to suspect that I’m not far off the mark.
    It’s a common response of people everywhere to understand their own culture while misunderstanding the cultures of others. And, I suppose, it’s human nature to see your own culture as the norm and to be outraged at behavior of others who are operating under their own cultural norms. A recent example would be our total lack of understanding of the Muslim outrage over what to them was a horrendously offensive cartoon showing their prophet as a bomber. They look upon our firing Don Imus from his show over comments they would consider totally benign as much ado over nothing.
    And, BTW, women had much more freedom under Sadam in Iraq than under the current Saudi regime.
    Addendum: In thinking about your comment after having posted my response, it dawned on me that you made an iogical blunder similar to mine about extrapolating violence to all Saudi males.  Your ideology – as is mine – is that other countries have other customs, and that we shouldn’t intervene by assuming our customs are superior to theirs.  Your comment that you would have defied orders and beaten the Saudi who hit his wife is doing that very thing, intervening in the Saudi custom with the idea that by God we’ll teach him an American lesson he won’t forget.

  3. Maybe it’s an effort to make MD look as thin as possible? Not that she in any way needs that kind of “help,” but heaven forbid that any woman look bigger than a size zero on a book or magazine cover these days.
    Ms. Nasser has just become my new hero. That is one brave woman. She, and others like her, are the suffragettes of the Muslim world.

  4. I have seen this woman before and she is courageous, sharp, wonderful.
    I would like to see like people on our side for our fundamentalists. In my book, fundamentalists of all stripes are alike.
    Hi Gary–
    All fundamentalists may be the same in doctrinaire adherence to their own brand of religion, but they’re way different in their actions.  Over here about the worst fundamentalists do is handle a few snakes (and sometimes get bitten much to the delight of almost everyone not in their branch of whatever church it is that handles snakes).  Over there fundamentalists do some pretty bad things.  All in all I’ll take ours over theirs.

  5. God bless her??
    Oh please. I guess that would be the Christian version which encourages equally irrational behaviour?

    “All fundamentalists may be the same in doctrinaire adherence to their own brand of religion, but they’re way different in their actions. Over here about the worst fundamentalists do is handle a few snakes (and sometimes get bitten much to the delight of almost everyone not in their branch of whatever church it is that handles snakes).”

    If only that was the trivial extent of Christian fundamentalist influence and behavior I happily send them a care package (we have some very ‘nice’ snakes here!) – but it is deluded Christians that come up with such concepts “shock and awe”, that find raining cluster bombs on civilians is a delightful and righteous part of what (to them) is religious war, one that brings us ever closer to “The Rapture”.
    Sure she is brave. She should be admired for standing up against one form of religious zealatory (even if she apparently embraces the rest). But don’t ‘bless’ her – rather think of ways to echo her courage and make a stand against the madness ‘our’ religion delivers.
    C’mon Malcolm–
    Give me a break.  It’s a figure of speech.  There is no great hidden fundamentalist meaning in it.  I could as easily have said: You go girl!  But that just isn’t my style.

  6. The reason my disobeying orders and hitting the Saudi guy would not be inconsistent with my principles is that I said I do abhor such things (as I do the parallel things that happen here), and that our objections should be words and private actions.
    If I were a marine in Saudi Arabia, and saw some guy punch a chick for looking at me, I’d kick his ass as a private action. I might even make some gesture, like an officer taking off his rank insignia to fight a recruit, do signify that I was doing it as a private individual.
    Technically, what I’d be doing to him would be just like what he did to the chick, so perhaps I wouldn’t be entirely righteous, but I wouldn’t be any more wrong than he.
    And I would argue that one can arrive at the initiation of coercion as an naturally identifiable principle, more basic than any other insofar as it allows all other personal principles to be individually available to those who would adopt them.
    Therefore the idea of defending individuals from the initiation of coercion would be more fundamental…not as a society-specific moral idea, but as a root necessity of human social interaction. Enlightenment era philosophers saw this as the conflict between the State of Nature and the impingement of society.
    Thus, to cite an obvious example most sane people can agree upon, no matter what other social rules one has, one tends to feel that it’s OK to intervene to prevent murder. It’s clearly an initiation of the ultimate in coercion, against the victim. I simply extend that to the protection of ALL human choices from violation by coercion.
    I agree, but would you punch him out for spanking his kid?  That’s a perfectly acceptable form of discipline in many societies including our own.  Violence is violence whether spanking a kid or spanking a wife.  Here most of us wouldn’t dream of spanking our wives to ‘discipline’ them, but it may be as acceptable as spanking an unruly kid is here.
    You’ve put yourself in the position of deciding universal moral values based on your own moral values.  Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree with you–I think what the guy did should get him flattened.  But, I’m coming to it from an educated Western perspective, and if I try to force my values on him that’s no different than the idiot state congresswoman in California trying to get a law passed making it illegal to swat your toddler for misbehaving.

  7. Sir we know who wears the troosers in yr ouse, nuff said Guvnor.
    below off topic but maybe worth reading for @hits and giggles

    A bowl a day keeps the undertaker away
    Last Updated: 12:01am BST 25/04/2007
    Secrets of a longer life
    Perfect porridge
    Daily porridge for breakfast has kept Alec Holden going for a century, but he’s not the first Briton to discover the benefits of an oh-so-oaty diet. Kate Colquhoun reveals all
    Porridge: love it or hate it, is it really an essential ingredient in the quest for a long life? Alec Holden believes so.
    An advert for Scott’s porridge oats
    Porridge power: it’s taken time, but porridge has finally emerged as a true ‘superfood’
    Ten years ago, he bet £100 that he’d make his 100th birthday. Yesterday, before he went off to pick up his £25,000 winnings, he shared his secret for a long and healthy life with Radio 4’s Today programme: keep worry and work to a minimum, he said, enjoy a daily bowl of porridge for breakfast, and keep breathing.
    If breathing is a given, and work and worry are largely beyond our control, should we all be adopting Mr Holden’s regimen and starting the day with a bowl of oats?
    Certainly, porridge is packed with minerals, vitamins, an astonishing amount of protein and dietary fibre, and there are plenty of advocates for the claim that it lowers cholesterol, aids weight-loss and even improves your sex life.
    It is no surprise, then, to learn that the virtues of this pulpy, glutinous mix have been appreciated for millennia – nor that it could take the crown as our most ancient of superfoods.
    Early cereals had so little gluten that they made pretty dreary bread, but could be very effectively cooked by our prehistoric ancestors into soupy stews or “pottages”. They did this by boiling bruised wheat or barley in water or milk until it swelled.
    Flavoured with wild foods such as mushrooms and herbs, this was the forerunner of porridge as we know it, comforting empty stomachs while releasing glucose slowly into the bloodstream.
    As a staple subsistence food, pottage clung on for centuries. In the 14th century, the French chronicler Jean Froissart attributed the strength and endurance of Scottish soldiers to their diet of underdone meat and small, flat cakes made from a paste of oats and water cooked rapidly on a hot stone.
    Further south, starchy wheat porridges, known as “furmenty”, traditionally accompanied roast mutton, venison or porpoise at medieval feasts, its blandness relieved by egg yolks and saffron.
    Another grainy soup, made seductive with spices, wine and dried plums – plum porridge – would evolve over centuries into our very own Christmas pudding.
    As a breakfast dish, however, porridge took time to catch on. In the late 17th century, Pepys still preferred to tuck into a substantial array of broth, mutton, cold pie or goose for breakfast.
    But his contemporary Kenelme Digbie, an oddball, charming, mountebank collector of aristocratic recipes, was among the first to laud the benefits of oatmeal porridge at the first meal of the day.
    Coincidentally, he was also the first to suggest in print that the far less healthy “two poached eggs with a few fine dry fried collops of pure bacon” for breakfast was likely to make a man very happy indeed.
    By Digbie’s day, oats had become Scotland’s most important cereal and porridge was already firmly established as a national dish. Some cooks even poured it into a mould (or dresser drawer), allowed it to set and sliced it into a portable food not entirely unlike polenta.
    Throughout the north of England recipes emerged for regional variants that included hasty pudding, crowdie, girdbrew and poddish.
    In Walter Scott’s novel Waverley, the Baron’s table shudders under its load of warm breads, cakes, eggs, reindeer ham, smoked salmon and, among the delicacies, “a mess of oatmeal porridge, flanked by a silver jug which held an equal mixture of cream and buttermilk”.
    He was describing just the kind of hearty fare that Victorian breakfasters most esteemed as the day’s first meal rose to its greatest glory, brim full with potted meats, mutton cutlets, hams, toasts and marmalades but with the creamy mass of a slow-cooked porridge at its centre.
    In the post-war, servant-less gloom of the 1920s, housewives found themselves having to do for themselves, and to prepare as much as they could in advance to save time. Miners were striking and coal was scarce so the porridge, once brought to the boil, was poured into a wooden box stuffed with hay, newspaper or blankets to insulate it, and left to “cook” economically overnight,
    By my Sixties childhood, boxes of Kellogg’s crowded the table, while mothers who would not dream of sending their children to school without a full, warm stomach relied on almost-instant Quaker oats.
    Recently, though, porridge has been enjoying a renaissance, reincarnated as one of the healthiest of health foods, beloved of GI dieters, with beady-eyed manufacturers following the trend and offering ready-made porridge in cartons and even porridge-in-a-sachet (it’s Oatso simple).
    Porridge isn’t for everyone, though. There are plenty who still sympathise with E M Forster, returning to England on the boat train in 1944.
    Hearing the stewards’ breakfast cry of “porridge or prunes”, his heart sank: “an epitome not indeed of English food but of the forces which drag it into the dirt… the spirit of gastronomic joylessness. Porridge fills an Englishman up, prunes clear him out… they eschew pleasure.”
    Perhaps that lingering doubt about tepid lumps accounts for the rarity of a printed recipe in modern cookbooks.
    Even the Domestic Goddess overlooks it in her bestselling collection, although, at the other end of the culinary scale, Heston Blumenthal offers diners at his restaurant in Bray an unlikely-sounding snail porridge.
    Secrets of a longer life
    • Jeanne Calment, the longest-lived person in recorded history, died at the age of 122. She said: “I have an enormous will to live and a good appetite, especially for sweets.” She had a glass of port before lunch and another before dinner every day.
    • Judy Ingamells from north London, who died aged 112, believed the secret to her longevity was to “have a good sense of humour and always eat well”. Until a few years ago, she breakfasted on bacon and mushrooms fried in butter and took a daily glass of sherry.
    • Lucy D’Abreu, of Stirling in Scotland, died in 2005 at 113. “God alone knows why I have been given such a long life. I have done nothing useful,” she said. Friends say she “enjoyed a nap in the afternoon and a gin in the evening”.
    • Emmeline Brice from London died aged 111. Her secret was to drink a tot of whisky each night.
    • Japanese farmer Shigechiuyo Izumi died in 1986 at the age of 120 years and 237 days. He once said: “I would rather die than give up drinking shochu [a powerful white rum].”
    • The Gers region in south-west France has double the national average of men aged 90 or more. Professor Roger Corder, author of The Wine Diet, believes the local Madiran wines, which have high levels of antioxidant tannins, are responsible.
    • Christian Mortensen, who was born in Denmark but later emigrated to the US, died in 1998 at the age of 115. A committed cigar-smoker, he attributed his old age to “life’s pleasures”.
    Perfect porridge
    Serves two
    2/3 pint of water
    2oz medium oatmeal
    1 level teaspoon of salt
    Sprinkle the oats over the simmering water and whisk vigorously, add the salt and then stir occasionally for 15-20 minutes, adding a little more water if the porridge thickens too much. To serve, add cream or milk
    By all accounts, it is a lot more delicious than it sounds – though I am unsure about the health value of the snail.

    Well, porridge may be tasty to some, but as for me, I’m with Kenelme Digbie, the

    oddball, charming, mountebank collector of aristocratic recipes, [who] was among the first to laud the benefits of oatmeal porridge at the first meal of the day.
    Coincidentally, he was also the first to suggest in print that the far less healthy “two poached eggs with a few fine dry fried collops of pure bacon” for breakfast was likely to make a man very happy indeed.

    In fact, that’s what I have almost every morning for breakfast: three eggs over easy, three patties of sausage, and a handful of blackberries (or strawberries or whatever berry we can get in season).  It fills me up and keeps me very happy indeed. 

  8. As an American living here in Saudi, I can only attest to the fact that – on a daily basis – I am subject to that “normative blindless” that tells me what I am familiar with is right, and everything else is, if not actually wrong, then darn close! Saudi is somewhat unique in that the rules and regulations have been established to look like they follow religious teachings, when in fact they are little more than tribal customs and institutionalized mysogyny. I wasn’t at all surprised by the Marine’s experience – I see it all the time here. The difference, I think, is that outside this place, people are outraged by similar behavior, here they are not. To them it is “normal”.
    Hi Lori–
    Thanks for the report from the field. I suspected that it is the way you describe it. Be careful.
    And thanks for posting the great YouTube of Buthayna Nasser; I found it on your blog.

  9. “C’mon Malcolm–
    Give me a break. It’s a figure of speech. There is no great hidden fundamentalist meaning in it. I could as easily have said: You go girl! But that just isn’t my style.”

    Sorry Mike,
    I must admit I did consider it might be tongue in cheek, and I apologize for the momentary lapse in humour, but today is not a good day to joke about these things.
    Of course you weren’t to know, but today is ANZAC day – a day of remembrance here to consider the sacrifice of those that have fallen in armed combat. It actually ‘celebrates’ the day in 1915 when troops from Australia and New Zealand were sent to the wrong beach by their British ‘superiors’, there to be senselessly and pointlessly slaughtered by the Turks (who suffered horrific casualties as well). We supposedly came of age as a nation as a result. The day is full of what you would call “chicken hawks” kneeling in prayer for these ‘defenders of the faith’ whilst no doubt planned the next righteous atrocity at the behest of another incompetent foreign power.
    I seem to spend the day thinking of all those who died in wars to end all wars spinning in their graves.
    But hell, if John McCain thinks I should ‘lighten up’ and see the funny side of starting yet another war while on the way to church for absolution or more likely direct support, then who am I to disagree?
    Hi Malcolm–
    I’m glad to see you’ve got your sense of humor back.
    And you’re right, I had no idea what ANZAC day is or when it was occurring.  And I’m sure you’re also right about the countless soldiers who died in all the wars to end all wars spinning in their graves.
    I confess, though, that I don’t know the right course of action when a belligerent country with a chip on its shoulder is working feverishly to develop a nuclear arsenal.  It’s not the same as training up an elite corps of troops as the much-vaunted Republican Guard of Iraq was.  Those kinds of efforts don’t really worry me.  But when a nation has in hand The Bomb, that nation – if it acts irresponsibly – can cause the deaths of millions in a nanosecond.  And since I’m in the group most likely to be annihilated should the wrong nation get The Bomb, I worry.
    I don’t know the correct course of action.  One option is the McCain-joke option to destroy their ability to make The Bomb, or at least set it back for several years, if not decades.  Another is to negotiate, but during negotiations, bomb making is progressing apace, and once The Bomb is in their hands, the negotiating scene changes considerably.  I suppose another option is that we could give everyone The Bomb, then we would be back in the  days of MAD.  Difference is, many of the people out there today (verses the Soviets) might gladly sign up for their own immolation for the greater glory of The Prophet and their own romping with the 70 virgins if it resulted in wholesale slaughter of The Great Satan. (Witness the people giving their lives to fly the airliners into the Twin Towers.)  So, I don’t think the MAD philosophy will work.  We’ve had The Bomb for the last 60+ years since WW II and haven’t used it once, so I think we’ve proven that we (and by we I mean the Western world and even the USSR and China) can use it responsibly, i.e. never.  I don’t know if the same can be said of other, more hot-tempered, fundamentalist countries.
    I guess what I’m saying is that the situation scares me silly.  And, at this point, I haven’t seen a solution that I can buy into whole heartedly.

  10. deirdra wrote:

    “Speaking of women’s places, we’ve always found it curious that Mary Dan appears as an appendage or as if she walks a half step behind you on book covers and webpages”

    Actually, I just received my copy of The Low-Carb Comfort Food cookbook, and there’s MDE brazenly standing in front of her man (and looking nicely svelte, too).
    I don’t have much to add to the discussion at hand, other than to echo your admiration of Ms Nasser. Love your books and your blog, too; thanks to you and your wife for all your good work.
    Hi Rose–
    I hate to see that picture because it was taken at our house in Santa Fe that we sold a couple of years ago and that we both now miss desperately. If you look out the door you can see the branches of an apricot tree that is about a zillion years old that bloomed magnificently about this time of year, flooding the entire courtyard with color. The picture was taken in the summer when the weather in Santa Fe is spectacular, with warm days (80s) and cool nights. We lived with all the windows and doors open most of the time, so that it was an indoor/outdoor house. Santa Fe is at about 7800 feet, and is cool, dry and mosquito and other noxious bug free, thus the doors and windows open always. At least the table upon which sits all the food (a 17th century French farm table made of pear wood; MD’s favorite piece of furniture we own) we still have. In fact, I’m sitting at it right now typing these words on a laptop.
    The photo was taken by an excellent professional photographer who happens to be the wife of my favorite golfing buddy, who comments on these pages occasionally.  He and I jacked around all day, talking golfing and having a big time while MD cooked all the food and his wife styled it.  Occasionally we were pressed into service to do something useful, but most of the time we were in the court yard right outside the door critiquing one another’s golf swings.
    All in all it was a great day (for me, at least), brought back to me in all its bittersweetness by looking at the picture thanks to your comment. 

  11. Sir i canny tell you why but when you describe a breccy, almost similar to what i eat and have eaten for 10 years still makes me almost salivate.
    Talk about bees please and their plight..which is more our plight than most seem to even consider.
    Hi Simon–
    You must be clairvoyant.  I’m working on a post on bees for today…if I can get these pesky comments dealt with.

  12. While I consider spanking to be a sign of failure on the part of the parent (even though I’ve done it), I have to say that at least it’s a token behavior, compared to punching in the face. I’d probably assault any adult /here/ who I saw punch a kid in the face.
    Of course one aggrevating aspect of the face-punching incident was the implication that it was just some random guy. While the “domestic violence” thing is such an emotional trigger here, I think most people still think, inside, it’s even worse to just hit some random stranger because one has decided they aren’t acting right, than to hit one’s mate.
    You are understating the harm caused by American extreme fundamentalists, though. Without their backing on grounds of religious bigotry, the neocons would not have garnered sufficient support to accomplish our aggression against Muslims.
    Likewise a lot of aggression against “cults” in the US has been accomplished because of fundamentalist religious bigots in groups like the Cult Awareness Network, which somehow wormed its way into advising Federal agencies of which religious groups to harass. Without them, the Waco massacre would not have occurred, for example. Their definition of “cult” pretty much allows them to paint any new or unpowerful religion as one, if they really feel like it.
    Bush squandered all of his political credibility, and his party’s own control of Congress, in other words, because the neocons were able to get the Fundamentalist Christians (and not just the extreme ones) to back his insane, inexcusable attack of a country whose ruler was a mortal /enemy/ of Al Qaeda…just because the guy was Muslim. Actually, Hussein was considered an extreme secularist by most devout Muslims, but many of our fundies are so ignorant of the world — including much of the core tenets and history of their OWN religion — that there was no way they’d depart from hating Muslims long enough to learn such things.
    Bush could have actually accomplished GOOD Republican/Conservative things he promised to do, like school choice, privatizing and/or making voluntary social security, et cetera, but he was too busy attacking other countries with Fundamentalist backing. And now he’s got nothing.
    What fundies do in /this/ country, to other people in this country, is certainly less extreme than the hand-chopping, woman punching Saudis…but by doing things like backing the Iraq war, they’ve caused more death and suffering than most Islamic fundamentalists, combined. As you know, people in Iraq are /worse/ off now than under Hussein…which is saying a lot, since under Hussein the people of Iraq died in droves because of OUR economic warfare against that country, which had actually been prosperous before we waged it.
    And don’t forget that we actually backed Sadam Hussein not too many years ago when he was seen as a major bulwark against Iran.  Before that we helped overthrow the government in Iran and installed the Shah, whom we supported.  When the Iranians got fed up with the Shah and ran him off (in step ahead of the hangman) we allowed him (sick and dying) to come to the US for medical treatment, then sent him on his way and wouldn’t even allow him to stay here and die.  And then the Iranians were actually helping us in our fight with the Taliban (the Iranians hate the Taliban) and out of nowhere they are denounced as part of the axis of evil by Bush.  There should be a lesson in all this for middle eastern leaders who think the US is their long-term ally.

  13. Sorry, Mike, I disagree. We have fundamentalists in this country who have been, in my opinion, wreaking havoc with our culture and politics. I find them absolutely contemptible, hypocritical beyond belief, and very damaging to our social fabric. I have no problem with people who are sincerely and deeply pious, aim to live a moral life, and work for justice. The others I consider Pharisees and I would be happy to see them strongly rebutted.
    Hi Gary–
    I would be happy to see them strongly rebutted as well.  But, as much havoc as they wreak, they don’t go around cutting hands off for stealing, caning their wives publicly and with church approval for misbehaving,  and they don’t lop off heads for adultery and other offenses we don’t much bat an eye at.  Islamic fundamentalists do all this and worse.  That’s what I meant when I said ours were better than theirs.
    Where ours are a danger – in my opinion – is that they and their views often guide our ship of state, which can (and has) caused mayhem and deaths in the tens of thousands in other countries (not to mention our own troops).  But I still think ours would cause fewer deaths than theirs given the size and strength of our military.  If a military with the power of ours had been in the hands of the Islamic fundamentalists it is unimaginable how many people would have been killed by now.  Millions and millions, I would imagine.

  14. Some thoughts:
    If the majority of outside opinion should be the standard as Lori suggests, then we should immediately end the death penalty, particularly for juveniles tried as adults. The entire rest of the OECD countries view it as barbaric in general, and simply depraved that we would execute mentally challenged minors. Yep. It’s true.
    However, most Americans (blood thirsty lot we are) are in favor of the death penalty, even citing old testament (when there’s new testament to the contrary and we are supposedly a New Testament country). Will we allow a set of morals that proclaim our practice to be morally untenable to dictate our policy? And when your readers say no, think really hard about this as if you were a Saudi and had the entire OECD chiming at you about punching women in the face, beheading adulterers, and cutting hands of thieves.
    I’m not suggesting that we should say it’s okay to punch a woman in the face from a cultural perspective (frankly, I’d rather end the death penalty which I unlike all 9 members of the Supreme Court, am pretty European about). But I would suggest that we be VERY careful before saying “Well most of the world thinks X, so X must be right.”
    Another thing that most of the civilized world does from a cultural value system that we don’t:
    Universal health care (in fact, we’re the only OECD country not to have a universal health care).
    Now, before folks poop on that idea as being somehow weak, european, softheaded, etc, think back with your Saudi Male mind to how a bunch of Americans saying “Stop hitting your women in the face” sounds. Weak, western, softheaded, etc.
    Last, because I’m solutions oriented: Saudi Royal family has done a poor job in raising all the camels (the ships of desert) of Arabian society. Maybe a change, say the installation of a government that can handle a single export commodity economy in the interest of all Arabians (sorry this sounds like socialism) might promote a middle class and that’s usually the most important piece in the developing of liberal values (like the non-ownership-of-other-people and the not-punching-women-in-the-face-or-anywhere-else-anymore types of things).
    Sigh. I didn’t even talk about how late the US dumped the ownership of other people relative to all other “civilized” countries. Yeah, that was wrong too. But, in 1850, it was prime right and F Europe for thinking any differently.
    Hi Max–
    I’m only going to take issue with one thing you wrote.  I think the idea of universal health care sucks.  Compare the number of people flying out of the United States to get their health care to the number of people flying in to get their health care.  And most of those flying in are from countries that do have universal health care.
    What ends up happening is that a two tiered health care system evolves.  One for those who are willing to pay; one for those who aren’t.  That system pretty much exists here already right now.  I’ve spent enough hours working in emergency rooms to know that ERs (despite what you see on TV shows) are pretty much free care centers for a whole lot of people.  If you have something wrong with you, and you can’t afford a trip to the doctor, go to an ER.  You can’t be refused treatment.  TV would have us all believe that ERs are places where life and death emergencies are happening all the time.  I’ve worked in them way too long to know that.  Most of the stuff is colds, women with urinary tract infections, sore throats, the occasional strain or sprain, minor cuts, with the occasional big deal that hits the door.  People come to the ER with all these petty complaints because they don’t want to have to pay to go to the doctor, and don’t have to if they go to an ER.
    Spend some time talking to some people who live in countries that have universal health care before you buy into it totally.

  15. I enjoyed watching that courageous and eloquent woman. Somehow it reminded me of our own little dogma war going on here. She was so eloquent and passionate, speaking from the heart but also from her scriptures. Her arguments seemed (to me anyway) indisputable because she drew them from the same sources as her opposition. Then you saw the spiel from the mulish (mullah, mulish get it?) and obstinate mullah. He just sounded like a robot parroting the party line. People like that have no capacity for critical thinking. They are talking heads. Press this button and you get this quote. Press that button and you get that quote.
    Doesn’t that remind you of other kinds of debates here where logical thinking is countered with dogma?
    Indeed it does.

  16. Before you dismiss Iran and its neighbours as “hot tempered fundamentalist” countries, spare a thought that they undoubtedly think the same of us – and with good reason considering what has been done to Iran in the past, and what has been and continues to be done in Iraq on a what I think we can now accept was a dishonest pretext. This belief certainly fuels at least part of the desire to obtain weapons to ward off the attack they see coming (and not just in their minds – the Iran (and Syrian) option has been on the neo-con agenda for some years now.
    This article published yesterday suggests that examining carefully the motivation of your ‘enemy’ would be more productive than any pre-emptive attack – which for whatever the perceived short term gain would (like the Iraqi ‘solution’) make us all much less safe for decades.
    Don’t forget also that if you are scared now, so are ‘they'(for good reason), and part of that fear in both countries is being fueled by those who benefit from directing attention away from more pressing deficiencies at home (we call them politicians). Remember we were told last time about WMD – no doubt the same people are our source of ‘information’ now.
    McCain said today as he launched his presidential bid (how that is still a possibility after his karaoke act defies belief);
    “…the country should never undertake a war without a comprehensive plan for success”
    Let’s hope he really means that, and that someone … anyone … explains how bombing Iran could conceivably be part of such a plan.
    Hi Malcolm–
    Interesting article–thanks for the link.
    We helped a secular faction in Iran overthrow the government in 1953 (I think) and installed the Shah.  We supported the Shah (sort of) until he was run out of town in 1979.  Our embassy employees were taken hostage i 1979 and released in 1980 the day before Reagan took office.  (I think it was the day before, I can’t remember exactly, but it was close.)  We wouldn’t even allow the Shah to come back here to the US to die–we allowed him to come into the country for treatment, then we sent him on his way to die elsewhere.
    Other than a little sabre rattling here and there, what have we done to Iran since 1953?  Even in 1953 it was with the help of the secular Iranians, so it wasn’t like we invaded.  We’ve had The Bomb for 60+ years and haven’t used it since the waning days of WW II, so I think we have a history of using nuclear weapons responsibly.  The Iranians, on the other hand, have taken over our embassy,abused the staff, kept them imprisoned, and, in general, acted irresponsibly.  I, for one, would not like to see nuclear weapons in their hands.  Problem is, even if I did have the power to make the call as to what to do, I don’t know what, if anything, I would do.
    It’s a tough situation. 

  17. Mike, I’m relieved to find that you seem to have a more balanced view than your original comments led me to believe. You are right that “our” fundamentalists don’t go around dismembering people for punishment (although that indeed is what some of the offenses in Leviticus prescribe).
    But please consider the following from an officer in the U.S. Army. I consider it emblematic of the Christian fundamentals among us, and I find it disgraceful and un-American. There is no excuse for this, and furthermore I find it un-Christian! (Source: )

    “Kauzlarich, now a battalion commanding officer at Fort Riley in Kansas, further suggested the Tillman family’s unhappiness with the findings of past investigations might be because of the absence of a Christian faith in their lives.
    “In an interview with, Kauzlarich said: “When you die, I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don’t believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing, and now he is no more — that is pretty hard to get your head around that. So I don’t know how an atheist thinks. I can only imagine that that would be pretty tough.”
    “Asked by whether the Tillmans’ religious beliefs are a factor in the ongoing investigation, Kauzlarich said, “I think so. There is not a whole lot of trust in the system or faith in the system [by the Tillmans]. So that is my personal opinion, knowing what I know.”
    “Asked what might finally placate the family, Kauzlarich said, “You know what? I don’t think anything will make them happy, quite honestly. I don’t know. Maybe they want to see somebody’s head on a platter. But will that really make them happy? No, because they can’t bring their son back.”
    “Kauzlarich, now 40, was the Ranger regiment executive officer in Afghanistan, who played a role in writing the recommendation for Tillman’s posthumous Silver Star. And finally, with his fingerprints already all over many of the hot-button issues, including the question of who ordered the platoon to be split as it dragged a disabled Humvee through the mountains, Kauzlarich conducted the first official Army investigation into Tillman’s death.
    “That investigation is among the inquiries that didn’t satisfy the Tillman family.
    “”Well, this guy makes disparaging remarks about the fact that we’re not Christians, and the reason that we can’t put Pat to rest is because we’re not Christians,” Mary Tillman, Pat’s mother, said in an interview with Mary Tillman casts the family as spiritual, though she said it does not believe in many of the fundamental aspects of organized religion.
    “”Oh, it has nothing to do with the fact that this whole thing is shady,” she said sarcastically, “But it is because we are not Christians.”
    “After a pause, her voice full with emotion, she added, “Pat may not have been what you call a Christian. He was about the best person I ever knew. I mean, he was just a good guy. He didn’t lie. He was very honest. He was very generous. He was very humble. I mean, he had an ego, but it was a healthy ego. It is like, everything those [people] are, he wasn’t.””

    That’s for starters, Mike. Because I don’t consider your blog the appropriate venue for a full-blown exposé about “our” fundamentalists, I won’t mention any names of the stateside leaders and the great injustices they perpetrate in the name of God. But let it be said here that “our” fundamentalists are not our friends either. They may not go around cutting off hands, but they are very much involved in matters of life and death.
    Hi Gary–
    I had read the piece about Tillman somewhere else and was disgusted. Plus I had two different friends who were as disgusted call me to tell me about it.  That commanding officer should be disciplined for those totally inappropriate remarks.  The part of this whole scenario that troubles me the most–not this particular interview, but the Tillman situation–is the amount of publicity it has garnered because Tillman was an NFL football player.  Are any of the other lives lost in the same questionable circumstances in Afghanistan (or Iraq or anywhere, for that matter) less valuable because they happened to not be professional athletes.  What Tillman did in giving up a multi million dollar career to fight for something he believed in was more than commendable, but is his life more valuable than someone else who signed up for all the same reasons?
    Another thing that annoys me to no end is all these athletes who, when interviewed after they win some kind of competition, make these remarks about giving all the credit to God or Jesus.  First, if there is a God and/or if Jesus really is who they believe he is, do they really think He gives a rat’s ass about who wins a football game?  What I’m waiting to see is the player who after a defeat says something along the lines of: ‘ Well, God’s responsible for this one.  God must have favored the other team today.  We put all our faith in Him and He flat out let us down.’  It’s only right; if God’s going to get all the glory for a victory, He should get the blame for defeat.

  18. Hmmm..I’m inclined to believe ‘our’ fundies are not ‘that bad’ because they are prevented by secular law. If some of them had the opportunity, I believe they would quickly implement oppressive laws. Some pay lip service to the progressive ideas our society has had since the enlightenment, but most believe they have been given a divine right to impose their beliefs, because it is for everyone’s ‘good’ – that is, their soul.
    Everyone has the capacity to become a tyrant if placed in a position of great power, with no checks or balances.
    A small note on the story of the Saudi man striking his wife – whilst I can totally sympathise with wanting to give him a taste of his own medicine, such action could be disastrous for the woman involved. He may well blame her for causing him to be struck (as abusers often do) and take it out on her in private. She may well believe she deserved to be struck (she will have been indoctrinated as well) and feel anger towards her would be ‘rescuer’. Bottom line, the society he lives in permits this behaviour and nothing short of an overhaul of those laws will stop it occurring.

  19. “Other than a little sabre rattling here and there, what have we done to Iran since 1953?”
    This picture noting the warm political (and probable arms) support of the Saddam regime during the Iraq – Iran war might still be a bone of contention with some Iranians don’t you think?
    I have no doubt that it is a bone of contention with many Iranians.  But the Iraq-Iran war wasn’t our doing; we simply sided with the side that hadn’t recently attacked our embassy and held our citizens hostage.
    I’m not saying that the Iranians don’t have some legitimate beefs with the U.S., just as we do with them.  Problem is, I’m not so sure that they would be as responsible with The Bomb as we have proven to be for the last 60+ years.  Our citizens have bought into the ‘pursuit of happiness’ lifestyle of a mostly secular nation; theirs have bought into a fundamentalist, cleric-run government that believes in doing whatever is necessary to rid the world of the Great Satan, even if it means that the majority of the citizens would be immolated in the process.  It’s a different set of core beliefs, and I, for one, would rather see The Bomb in the hands of those with our core beliefs than theirs.
    You can tell me all you want about all the people in Iran who are really secular and who don’t believe in all the cleric-run fundamentalist Islamic BS, and those people may exist, but at this point they aren’t in charge.  And remember, it was the students – which are typically the MOST liberal faction of society, the group most wanting an expansion of freedoms – who took over the embassy and were a primary force in the establishment of the fundamentalist, cleric-based government.  If you can’t count on your students to see through all this nonsense, then I don’t think you can count on the rank and file citizens.

  20. Many apologies for not getting back to this sooner – I am in the middle of moving … twice … and I’m currently living in cheap rental accommodation while I build the new house – and so have no net at home right now (quite a culture shock I can tell you!)
    Anyway getting back to the discussion – again, trying to see this from the Iranian perspective, I think saying “what have we done to Iran since 1953?” and then remembering but rather dismissing the role your country (and the West generally) had in supporting and/or ignoring the diabolical nature of the Iraqi war against Iran (and the Kurds) rather illuminates my point that the situation whilst undoubtedly hard will only get worse if ‘we’ don’t even try to see how ‘our’ actions are perceived.
    You say your country has a great record with nuclear weapons – well (a) from what I understand from the participants on both sides of the Cold War – there was great deal of luck involved (I think it was McNamara who recently addressed how often and how close things came during the Cuban crisis) (b) during all that time the US has not been attacked on its home soil (as many other countries have been – including Iran) – do you really think such supposedly admirable restraint would have been exercised if your homeland had been attacked? – and (c) again from just about anyone else’s perspective, if we extend the timeline just a little more they/we could say that you are the only country to actually use nuclear weapons at all – and again in circumstances where had history been different (and the Allies had lost) – those responsible would (again I think in McNamara’s words) been open to war crimes charges.
    Don’t get me wrong – I’d rather no countries had nuclear weapons – we certainly don’t need more, but bombing Iran might slow their short term goal of acquiring this capability (if they really are serious in this goal … remember who is telling us that they are , right?) but it will undoubtedly only steel their resolve (if it exists) to do so later, make terrorist attacks certain, and the deranged McCain ‘joke’ on top of the ‘success’ of the Cold War MAD deterrent theory will no be used as a further excuse for them to proceed down this path.
    Sitting down to talk and walk more than a few miles in ‘their’ shoes sounds like a much more productive way to proceed in my view – and shouldn’t be dismissed (again) quite so soon after the folly of doing so in Iran has been graphically demonstrated.
    Hi Malcolm–
    Since the Iranians had taken over our embassy and held the staff hostage for months and lined up and executed thousands of their own pro-American citizens, it seems unlikely that we (the US) would have taken Iran’s side in the Iran/Iraq war.
    I don’t think our restraint in using The Bomb was a matter of luck irrespective of McNamara’s commentary.  And, in case you’ve forgotten, we were attacked on our homeland on 9/11/2001.  We knew where the perpetrators came from, yet we didn’t immediately (nor have we yet) dropped a nuclear bomb on the area.  So I disagree that it’s just been sheer luck and not restraint and judgment on our side in not using nuclear weapons.
    I read an interesting piece a few days ago that has maybe changed my thinking about the entire Middle East.  Maybe what they need is a good, solid ignoring.  But it’s hard to do when I read of crackdowns and brutal physical attacks (by the police, no less) on women who have the audacity to go around unveiled.   Call me uncaring and unenlightened if you want, but I don’t really want to walk a mile in their miserable, stupid, fundamentalist, misogynist, sadistic shoes.

  21. Yes there are reasons for the US to hate the Iranians (and vice versa). Yes the US and many other foreign nationals were attacked but not by a foreign backed army (as in Iran), and yes it is curious why the Saudis (where most of the terrorists and their funding originated) are still regarded as an ally.
    But again you are missing the point. The article you referenced points out that we have never learnt from history – in fact the parallels to the history we are currently repeating are scary in themselves. We have not learnt those lessons because the strongest influences on US Middle Eastern policy come from the Christian religious right who see merit in inflaming the situation to pursue what to them is the glory of Armageddon. These are the same people who strenuously oppose any ‘road map’ for peace. These are the same people who whip up your citizens into righteous calls for pre-emptive strikes against (particularly) Iran – and publish best selling books (check out the number 2 on Amazon right now) calling for this course of action.
    I was watching the TV version of Richard Dawkins latest works which is belatedly being shown here as well as a locally made protrayal of the power of fundamentalists in your country. Both Islamic and Christian nutters were interviewed – both calling for the death and destruction of the others (the Americans openly canvassing the idea of a nuclear strike against Iran). It really is too hard to decide which message is more chilling … but as I say, it is (as you guys say) a “no brainer” why the Iranians are seeking greater firepower to defend themselves.
    I can’t help but repeat myself.  We’ve got nutters calling for the death and destruction of them – they’ve got nutters (probably more than we; and their nutters hold jobs as heads of state whereas ours are heads of churches–a big difference) calling for our death and destruction.  We’ve had The Bomb for over 60 years and have never used it other than in WW II.  We don’t know what they will do. But we can get a clue based on their past behavior.

    Here is another interesting article on the subject with a different viewpoint than the last one I linked to.  It contains the following quote from Bernard Lewis, a Princeton professor and probably the world’s expert on Islam:

    MAD, mutual assured destruction, [was effective] right through the cold war. Both sides had nuclear weapons. Neither side used them, because both sides knew the other would retaliate in kind. This will not work with a religious fanatic [like Ahmadinejad]. For him, mutual assured destruction is not a deterrent, it is an inducement. We know already that [Iran’s leaders] do not give a damn about killing their own people in great numbers. We have seen it again and again. In the final scenario, and this applies all the more strongly if they kill large numbers of their own people, they are doing them a favor. They are giving them a quick free pass to heaven and all its delights.

    Here is what the Ayatolla Khomeini had to say about love of country:

    We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.

    Yep, I’d much prefer our nutters to theirs.  And you should know better than to draw conclusions about a country from a television special. Especially one showing Richard Dawkin’s view of the world; it’s in his best interest to show the absolute worst in American religious behavior.  If I got all my information from TV, I would assume all Australian wrestled alligators regularly.

  22. Actually Dawkins was just about doubled up bending over backwards to be fair and present the views of both sides in their own words – he is not anti American, just anti religion (as I am). I think we need someone much more emphatic to point out the complete gibberish these people believe is leading the world on it’s most dangerous (and irrational) course yet.
    Yes your nutters are leaders of churches not heads of state – but people like McCain openly seek their endorsement as they probably correctly see their approval (and policies that lead to that approval) as vital for election – so in practical terms, their influence over foreign policy is very similar to their Islamic opposite numbers. Are your/our nutters preferable to theirs? – well maybe, but at least the influence they have on my day to day life (and yours) is considerably greater – and the indications are that this interference will only increase unless someone makes a stand for a rational society.
    We can have some say in that, while there is little we can do to influence public policy in Iran apart from denouncing calls for pre-emptive strikes (either nuclear or like in Iraq the use of cluster bombs to ‘shock and awe’ civilians into liking our way of thinking more) – if we do so, at least there is less pressure for those in control of Iran to escalate the arms race in the region. The fact remains is that while McCain thinks it is a funny idea, bombing Iran will make the situation much, much worse and you might wonder when perhaps the next President openly has breakfast meetings with nutters like John Hagee, where the idea came from in the first place.
    Don’t ever read much into what candidates say in the primary elections in the US.  If you’re a candidate for president, your first goal is to get the nomination.  Getting the nomination typically means getting in bed with powerful groups within your party.  If you’re a Democrat, this means appealing to the wacko left; if a Republican, the religious right.  Candidates typically tack to the fringes during the primaries, then rush to the center during the general election.
    And I’ll say it again.  In the US religious fundamentalists have the ear of some of the advisers to the president; the president weighs what they have to say along with what other non-religious right inclined advisers have to say, and makes a decision.  (Many people here believe Dick Cheney is really in charge, and he’s never been accused of being in bed with the religious right as has Bush.)  In Iran the fundamentalists run the government–they are the decision makers.  And no one in power in the US is going to risk killing hundreds of thousands of people in this country to attack Iran whereas I’m not so sure that the Iranian leaders wouldn’t gladly sacrifice several hundred thousand to strike a blow at the Great Satan for the greater glory of Allah.

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