Glenn Greenwald, Meet Robert Pape

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I promise I'm not starting a series ... but this from Glenn Greenwald caught my eye:

Here’s a summary of the Western media discussion of what motivated U.S. Staff Sgt. Robert Bales to allegedly kill 16 Afghans, including 9 children: he was drunk, he was experiencing financial stress, he was passed over for a promotion, he had a traumatic brain injury, he had marital problems, he suffered from the stresses of four tours of duty, he “saw his buddy’s leg blown off the day before the massacre,” etc.

Here’s a summary of the Western media discussion of what motivates Muslims to kill Americans: they are primitive, fanatically religious, hateful Terrorists.

Even when Muslims who engage in such acts toward Americans clearly and repeatedly explain that they did it in response to American acts of domination, aggression, violence and civilian-killing in their countries, and even when the violence is confined to soldiers who are part of a foreign army that has invaded and occupied their country, the only cognizable motive is one of primitive, hateful evil. It is an act of Evil Terrorism, and that is all there is to say about it.

I'm not sure which Western media outlets Greenwald reads, but I think this is just a wee bit overstated. First, there's Greenwald's own prodigious output, which routinely contextualizes most acts of violence directed against the United States as being something other than evil. Second, there is the aforementioned Robert Pape, whose work rather directly refutes Greenwald's premise that we never read about other motives for terrorism besides irrational, hateful evil (he's even got a book - and a database!).

But wait, there's more.

There is a Republican presidential nominee who has staked a large portion of his foreign policy platform on the notion that U.S. military action in the Muslim world is inciting terrorism. There's former head of the bin Laden unit, Michael Scheuer, writing in the obscure journal the Washington Post, on how the true motivations for al-Qaeda include U.S. support for Arab dictatorships. A few weeks after 9/11, Fareed Zakaria had a cover story in Newsweek offering a very nuanced take on the root causes of Islamic terrorism.

At this point, I'd say any casual reader with an interest in foreign or defense policy, or any viewer who tuned into one of the GOP debates on foreign policy, has at least been exposed to the notion that "primitive, hateful evil" is not the sole, or even decisive, motivation behind acts of terrorism.

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