Terrorists should think, not vent just vent

By Tibot Machan: Syndicated Columnist

The Jan. 30 edition of the New Republic contains a fascinating and alarming piece — maybe it’s a parody, but it sounds mighty authentic to my ears — by Ali Salem, “The War of the Hotels,” which appeared in the London-based Al Hayat, a pan-Arab daily.

The piece relates — or imagines — what one battlefield commander, Abu Fulan, supposedly narrated to some people about why it is so important to attack and kill all those from the West or anywhere else who are enjoying themselves, especially in hotels.

The bottom line of the entire pseudo-intellectual but very credible tirade — reminiscent of much of contemporary Western moral philosophy — is that “If we ain’t happy, no one has the right and is going to be happy.” Yes, the ethics of the piece is no different from what we get from the most prominent professors of moral philosophy in our time, such as Peter Unger and Peter Singer. No wonder the Left and these maniacs are in cahoots.

As the text states, “We cannot permit ourselves to tire or to give up before this nation recognizes that joy is our enemy, that explosives are our constitution, that Zarqawi is our leader, that grief is our goal, and that destroying all manifestations of pleasure is our mission.”

This is supposed to justify blowing up hotels where people are no longer simply taking lodgings while traveling for work but having weddings and other joyful celebrations.

“Tell me, in the name of God, how else can we remind them of the suffering of our people if we do not strike them with explosives and turn them into corpses, into an example for those who should need examples?”

And it goes on and on like this, as if the lives of other people were for them to use as resources for “instruction,” for “persuasion,” as if no one had a right to enjoy himself if some others are suffering.

By this outlook, of course, everyone in the world should be as badly off as those who are the worst off. Not only that, but it is the duty of everyone to bring this about by means of terror. Moreover, we are set at ease about another matter:

“Yes, I know that among the fatalities are innocent workers and waiters obliged by the nature of their work to be there. But we should not grieve for these innocents, or fear what will happen to them, for on Judgment Day everyone will be treated according to their deeds and their intentions.”

If there is any clearer illustration of the tribal mentality than this line of well imagined thought — well, is it thought, really, or the outpouring of venom? If we aren’t doing well, then they won’t either. The stench of envy is so powerful here that it cannot be missed.

Alas, most of our prominent moral thinkers at the prestigious universities share this viewpoint. The only difference is that they demand not that we all be made an example by being incinerated but by taking all our resources and sending it abroad. As Unger says, “On pain of living a life that’s seriously immoral, a typical well-off person, like you and me, must give away most of her financially valuable assets, and much of her income, directing the funds to lessen efficiently the serious suffering of others.”
Singer advocates no less in his own applied ethics book, “Practical Ethics” (1979). And they are but the tip of the iceberg — virtually all moral philosophers advocate some version of altruism and self-sacrifice.

So, one may wonder, why do terrorists believe they need to do all this teaching by fatal example? Perhaps they ought to think a bit instead of merely venting their anger. Perhaps they ought to acknowledge that the philosophy they want to teach — the very same philosophy that others in the West and elsewhere (e.g., Auguste Comte, Karl Marx) have been trying so hard to teach humanity over the centuries — just doesn’t work and is unconvincing to most ordinary human beings.

The idea that our lives may not be enjoyed unless and until everyone’s life is perfect simply leads to murderous feelings among people, not to better lives.


Tibor Machan advises Freedom Communications, parent company of this newspaper. E-mail him at
Machan@chapman.edu