Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Meaning of Flight 93

Flight 93On Monday night I watched the made-for-TV movie Flight 93 on A&E. For those of you who missed it, I recommend picking up the DVD when it comes out. It was very well-done, a low-key treatment based as far as possible on available documents and testimony. Avoiding the two extremes of Hollywood flash and jerky-frame TV “re-enactment”, it portrayed the heroic response of ordinary people suddenly confronted with unimaginable evil.

We watched the passengers gradually come to the realization that they were going to die, and that their only choice was to stop the thugs in the cockpit from attaining their goal. We saw the hijackers arguing with each other in Arabic, with the subtitles informing us that they believed they were carrying out Allah’s will. We saw Todd Beamer say the Lord’s Prayer (the Lord’s Prayer! Right there on TV!) with the operator over the phone, and then we heard, “Let’s roll!”

What was all that religious stuff doing in there? This is the 21st century, and religion is something that intelligent and well-informed people have left behind, along with other forms of superstition and irrationality.

But with Flight 93 we were confronted by twin irrefutable facts: the men of Al Qaeda believed that Allah called them to do what they did, and the passengers who fought back believed that their response was right in the eyes of God.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Yesterday I read an essay in the Jerusalem Post by rabbi Berel Wein (hat tip: reader OS). Rabbi Wein contends that the pious secularism of the Zionists has made coping with the likes of Hamas that much more difficult:

We are accustomed to think of the secular-religious divide that exists in Israel today as relating to denominational pluralism, conversions, civil marriage, Sabbath observance and other matters of ritual and budget allocations. All of this may be true, but it ignores the basic divide, which is one of values, world view and perception of ourselves and others.

The recent success of Hamas in the elections for the Palestinian parliament should serve to focus the attention of our leaders and public on a hard fact that Israel has always chosen to ignore until now: that the Arab-Israeli struggle is at its core a religious dispute. Only by appreciating and understanding this unpleasant but very real truth does the struggle take on a somewhat rational and understandable, and perhaps even predictable, pattern.

What is true in Gaza and the West Bank is true wherever Islam confronts the infidel along its bloody borders. Our enemies are fighting a religious war, and arguing with them that we do not believe in our religions any more is not going to help. Our renunciation of our own beliefs is simply more evidence of our corruption and inferiority.

The Arabs view us as the latter-day reincarnation of the Crusaders of the Middle Ages. The struggle and triumph over the Crusaders was a victory of Islam over Christianity, pure and simple. It reinforced in the Muslim mind the exclusivity and superiority of Islam over all other faiths. It strengthened the concept of dhimmi in the Muslim world, whereby non-Muslims could exist in their society solely in a subservient, second-class state of being, and even then only at the sufferance of the Muslim rulers themselves.

Religion was the motivating force in that struggle. It remains so in our current struggle.

This is an inconvenient fact that our leaders and our media are reluctant to confront. In fact, there is a virtual taboo against mentioning it in public; the word “Islamofascist” passed George W. Bush’s lips only with great reluctance and after the passage of four years. The elites must maintain the fiction that Islam was “hijacked” by evil opportunists who do not represent it.

But that’s not the way many Muslims view the situation.

America can label Osama bin Laden an arch-terrorist, which again he certainly is; but in the Muslim world he is viewed as a religious leader, an accepted interpreter of the Koran and of Islamic principles. The Muslim world does not speak out strongly against him — not so much out of fear as out of Islamic faith.

And this is why victory for the secular West — even born-again Christian George W. Bush is pretty much secularized and, in any event, certainly an “infidel” — in Iraq or anywhere else in the Arab world is so difficult and problematic.

The Cold War was fought on a secular basis. The current terrorist war is a religious struggle between the true believers and the secular “infidels,” who do not seem to understand their enemy and its true motivation.

So we infidels, bound together in uneasy alliance by the enmity of our common foe, are required to defend ourselves against a religious enemy. Our enemy believes what he believes with a righteous zeal that is almost impossible to comprehend. He commits unspeakable evil in the name of his religion. His belief is strong and pure and sends him willingly to his death.

But what do we believe?

Christians believe in Jesus, Jews believe in Yahweh, and Hindus believe in Krishna. Even the atheists and secularists among us believe in… well, they must believe in something, otherwise they wouldn’t be here with “us”, they’d be over there with “them”, with Cindy Sheehan and George Galloway and the Unabomber, chanting “No blood for oil!” and visualizing industrial collapse.

Even if you’re an atheist, or someone who is uncomfortable with bringing God into the conversation, or don’t think religion has much point in the modern world, you must believe the West has something worth defending, otherwise you wouldn’t be defending it. There must be some core, some value of humane and civilized tolerance, that makes it worth it. Despite the tawdry fleshpot and narcissistic sump that modern culture has become, you believe something important is there.

So Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Mormons, Jains, Shintoists, Sikhs, Baha’is, Unitarians, atheists, and mushy-minded secularists all believe something.

And the Islamists certainly believe something.

But is our belief stronger than theirs?

Their belief straps on a bomb belt to destroy the believer and everyone around him. Their belief climbed into the cockpit of four passenger jets to carry the believers and thousands of others to a fiery death.

So I repeat my question: Is our belief stronger than theirs?

Well, is it?


Charles Martel said...

I watched Flight 93 last night on TIVO. A very moving and intense reenactment from available information of the doomed flight's last 30 minutes. I would strongly recommend this movie to everyone who gets an opportunity to watch.

We cannot be reminded enough of the true nature of our advesary.

El Jefe Maximo said...

Flight 93 is definitely worth watching.

As for your meta-question, about our belief versus theirs: clearly, the answer has yet to be determined. But I wonder if the answer will be what any of us want/expect ?

I suspect our True Believing Enemies, all on fire to sacrifice themselves and everyone around them will end in producing a quite unexpected reaction: sowing a whirlwind that at this point in time we can't even imagine, and might not want to. Whatever the problems with the West, there are enough of us who want to survive, and who want our children to survive, to do what we have to do.

In wars, the deep pocket is the way to bet. Unless China signs on with Osama, the infidel West still seems like the best bet. If the Islamicist movements persists with terrorism against the west, than over time it's going to get terrorism right back, wtih interest.

We have lots more WMD's than they do and as time goes on, probably less inhibition about using them freely. Never forget that we replied to Rotterdam, London, and Nanking, not to mention Auschwitz, with Berlin, Hamburg, Dresden, Hiroshima and Tokyo when we had to.

The liberalism we see around us; that of persons making excuses for our enemies; who are determined to worry about pollution hurting the snail darters, or the civil liberties of the Lesbian Commie Dominatrix Islamic Anarco-Sympathy Front -- is the liberalism of the rich, and the comfortable, of people who have no concept that they could ever be hunted; not the baddest, biggest animal in the jungle. When our sense of safety goes, these liberals will too.

I agree with the commenter who said we cannot be reminded enough of the true nature of our adversary. Our adversaries have a death-wish. We are going, eventually, to see that they get their wish.

Jude the Obscure said...

I watched Flight 93 in 2004 (on Australian television) and wept.
Yes, 'mushy-minded secularists' do believe in something and that something is freedom. Without freedom of thought and speech we are no more than robots under the control of power-mongering, sanctimonious, religious or ideological zealots who think nothing of the murder of innocent citizens. Perhaps 'liberty' is a better word to describe what only Europeans seemed to be able to write into the Rule of Law and live with. Liberty describes the absence of a particular obstacle - coercion by other people. Whatever god you worship, or sexual identity you profess, or demographic course you prefer to follow, what you eat and how you eat it, where you live and what employment you choose to engage in, etc. are guaranteed under a Constitution which values liberty. Worth fighting for.

Baron Bodissey said...

Jefe --

I'd really like to see some video of the Lesbian Commie Dominatrix Islamic Anarhco-Sympathy Front's events. I bet it would be entertaining to watch.

A. Eteraz said...

"So Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Mormons, Jains, Shintoists, Sikhs, Baha’is, Unitarians, atheists, and mushy-minded secularists all believe something.

And the Islamists certainly believe something."

Um, why did you leave out "Muslims" from that first list. I guess it was because you want to contrast Muslims against everyone else in the world. To exclude them. Fair enough. But you have to realize that only some Muslims are Islamists. Many happen to be Western, even in the East.

MikeZ said...

"Is our belief stronger than theirs?"

That's an open-ended question, and if by "ours", atheist's, a complicated question involving something like apples and oranges.

There's a good essay in "the Weekly Standard":

The Counterrevolution

There are a number of threads going through it, but these are germane to your post:

"To the Muslim world, the suicide bomber's act is a proof of faith that ensnares the mind with a suspicion of his righteousness."

Their faith is a lot stronger than any of ours; they gladly die for it - providing they can disintegrate as many infidels (that's us) as they can in the process.

"Give me a warrior drunk with faith, and I will show you a weapon beyond the dreams of any laboratory."

Our side, on the other hand, is becoming increasingly secular. As the writer puts it:

"Europeans, for example, have discarded a belief in God as beneath their sophistication ..."

Baron Bodissey said...

eteraz -- I was thinking of you when I wrote that list. I wanted to add "moderate Muslim" to it, but I was not sure you would like the terminology.

Give me a short term that means "Muslims who don't believe in propagating and protecting their religion by terror and violence", and I will add it to the list, post an update, and credit you.

If you read this blog often, you'll see that some of us hold on to at least a slim hope that "moderate Islam" may still show itself; others don't believe it. Dymphna and I count ourselves among the former, but not everyone agrees with us.

I'm glad you're making your voice heard here.

tyreea said...

"What is true in Gaza and the West Bank is true wherever Islam confronts the infidel along its bloody borders."

My father once said, "The borders of Islam are drawn in blood". He said it was a very old quote, but he could not remember the source. Does anyone know where it came from

Pastorius said...

I have one question about Flight 93, and I ask this with confidence that you, of all people, would know that I am not a moonbat:

How is it that the people on Flight 93 were able to use their cell phones?

Whenever I am up at 35,000 feet, and I turn on my cell phone, I am unable to get a signal.

Have you ever heard that explained?

Jeff B said...

Well done, Sir. Well done indeed.

Baron Bodissey said...

Pastorius --

The movie showed some of them using the built-in phones on the plane.

But a source with contacts in military intelligence told me that the authorities tracked the 9-11 planes in part by triangulating the hijackers' cell phone calls to each other through the Cingular (or whatever) towers. That is, the terrorists were using the commercial cell phone system to communicate amongst themselves.

Maybe the phones worked after the terrorists turned off a lot of the cockpit electronics to kill their tracking signals...?

I'm not technically savvy enough to know. I hope some of our experts will weigh in.

Baron Bodissey said...

tyreea --

The quote I know is credited to Samuel Huntington, from "The Clash of Civilizations." I don't know if he was the first to use it.


"The interactions between civilizations vary greatly in the extent to which they are likely to be characterized by violence. Economic competition clearly predominates between the American and European subcivilizations of the West and between both of them and Japan. On the Eurasian continent, however, the proliferation of ethnic conflict, epitomized at the extreme in 'ethnic cleansing,' has not been totally random. It has been most frequent and most violent between groups belonging to different civilizations. In Eurasia the great historic fault lines between civilizations are once more aflame. This is particularly true along the boundaries of the crescent-shaped Islamic bloc of nations from the bulge of Africa to central Asia. Violence also occurs between Muslims, on the one hand, and Orthodox Serbs in the Balkans, Jews in Israel, Hindus in India, Buddhists in Burma and Catholics in the Philippines. Islam has bloody borders."

Baron Bodissey said...


I can't prove you're wrong, but your theory doesn't accord with Occam's razor. That is, an awful lot of the victims' families would have to be in on the conspiracy.

But I'll buy the idea that the passengers tried to attack the cockpit even as the plane was being shot down. I've heard that theory before, and it's not unreasonable.

A. Eteraz said...

hi baron,

thanks for the acknowledgment. as far as classifications go, you should call all 'moderates' simply "Muslim" and when you come across the violent/nut-job Muslims, call them Islamists or or Wahhabi. But if you do this, this way of speaking would have to spread to everyone who wants to see changes in Islam and holds out hope for the 'moderate' element winning.

Here's why. Right now 'moderates' like me have to spend *way* too much time defending Islam from those people who want to put all Muslims in one box. As a consequence of this, we have very little time left to actually go and confront the Islamists and Wahhabis. I engage in a lot of debunking of Wahhabis and Islamists, mostly because I have consciously chosen to forego making non-Muslims aware of all these distinctions. Most moderates, though, are not that brave (or thick-skinned). Yeah you can say they are a little timid. In other words, they are like those insecure girls you had in high school who would only do something unless you were totally on their side.

Also, the BIGGEST reason that Wahhabis and Islamists get so much clout is because non-Muslims don't distinguish Wahhabis and Islamists from "normal" Islam. In other words, critics of violent Muslims simply call the perpeptrator "Muslim" while reserving the more specific "moderate Muslim" for the peaceful Muslims. It needs to be the other way around. It is the Wahhabis who need to be called "extremist Muslims" or "violent Muslims" and the moderate Muslims who need to be called "Muslim." Language is powerful and it is not on the side of the 'moderates.'

See, when you call us "progressives" or "reformists" you undermine our authority against the Wahhabis who consider themselves "traditionalists." At this point in time, the fight within Islam isn't about who is the most forward looking. It is about who best reflects Muhammad's name. In other words, its a fight about who controls history. For 'moderates' to win, we need to be able to demonstrate that we are the better and correct representatives of the era of Muhammad's life.

A. Eteraz said...

i don't think that your point about the winners of the war being the ones with the deepest pocket is correct.

the ottomans were far richer than europe in 1603, and that's just one example. spain was richer than england but english piracy beat them. mongols were villagers who overran the islamic empire. the barbarians were poor and dirty and they overran Rome, for god's sake. when the ottomans were poor, in the early 13th century, they overran a very rich byzantine empire. the examples are endless.

money needs to be creatively used. when you are poor, creativity is all you have. we need creative leaders and creative spending, not just brute force. this is a war of ideas. that is not about SAT scores. it is about creativity.

unaha-closp said...

Eteraz has some good points. Including Islam is too big and has too many nice people in it to label as evil.

The enemy needs to split from the herd.

A. Eteraz said...

is it possible for you to change your commenting requirements so that non-blogger people can comment as well? i'd much prefer being able to log in under the 'other' category.

Baron Bodissey said...

eteraz --

I will post later to answer your thoughtful comment above.

As for the blogger ID requirement for commenting: we find that it cuts down on the trolls a bit if they have to register and get an ID. They can't just be "anonymous"; they have to get a nic, and unless they get a new one every time, we can identify them and see them coming!

But you only have to register once. My advice is to get a short userID & passwond so it's simple to log in.

A. Eteraz said...

mussolini: you have some serious issues. (though i wouldn't have ever guessed it from that name!). check this out: fascism lost. get over it. it's real funny: a guy with a fascist name trying to take on islamo-fascists. that's like a dude who's got a rash on his ass trying to stop his neighbor's ass-rash.

this line really pissed me off: "I'll applaud eteraz if he deplores murder of all kinds - including the killing of Jews. But then he isn't really muslim."

i happen to be a muslim. i happen to be a pretty chill guy. if you go on the court to play some ball i'd whoop your ass. i'd even 'murder' you. that's about the only kind of murder i'm into. i happen to be a muslim. no muslim has ever tried to throw me out of islam.

your applause? son, i applause myself. besides, your hands are busy itching your ass.

baron: i am sorry to have deviated from my standard sense of decorum, but you will appreciate that i have no time to get on blogs and deal with guys like this on a day by day basis, and as such, they should know that if they come at me with idiocy, rather than my thought, my idiocy they'll get in return. you see, i learned long ago, that certain people don't want to communicate. they want to throw landmines for no other reason than that they are intellectual anarchists (or in this case, fascist). people like that, whether muslim or monkey (as is mussolini), i don't deal with.

Baron Bodissey said...


You haven't passed my limits yet for "temperate" discussion, though both you and Il Duce skate a little close to the edge ;).

And Mussi and everyone else should remember this about eteraz: he risks more than insults and being flamed. There are some Muslims who would consider him a traitor to his faith, an apostate. And we all know what that leads to...

Papa Ray said...

I believe dark times are coming because Muslims as a whole (billions of them) are bound, deaf, dumb and blind.

Foremost, they are bound by the cult of Islam, told what to do, what not to do, what to believe, how to treat others and how to live for the remainder of their lives.

They are deaf, they hear only what they want to hear, all is filtered, changed by their belief in Islam, which explains all unbelievers are to be against them and that they must be against all unbelievers.

They are dumb, maybe not uneducated, but dumb to the world outside of what they have, they envy what unbelievers have. They are dumb to the fact that Islam is their own worse enemy and is what is holding them back.

They are blind to anything not covered by the Qur'an or its tortured Islamic laws, blind to anything that says they are the ones to blame for their poverty, their dispair and their hate.

So they have only two things that hold them to their reality, their shrill voices and their sharp teeth. So all they have left is to scream and slash and wonder why they and the cult of Islam are so dispised and feared.

Papa Ray
West Texas

A. Eteraz said...

Muss: you implied that I did not value the lives of jews. I don't stand for that kind of accusation. Not even if my own father were to level it at me. You think I'm going to sit here and take it from you?

Have you ever hung out with a Muslim? Face to face? For no other reason than to chill? what if you were to enjoy it? maybe i'll schedule a meetup one day and take everyone out for steak.

A. Eteraz said...

well, miscommunication clarified, muss. because i was under the impression you were singling me out with that comment. glad to hear that wasn't the case.