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Saturday, May 1st, 2010 (Civility, Terrorism, and Drone Jokes)

All of this happened on Saturday, May 1st. May Day. Or perhaps: Mayday, Mayday, Mayday…

President Obama gives the commencement address at the University of Michigan. A large chunk of his speech focuses on the need for civility in our public discourse.

The second way to keep our democracy healthy is to maintain a basic level of civility in our public debate.

Later, that evening, someone terrorized Times Square in New York.

The Times Square bomb threat shook New York city to its core on Saturday May 1st. The aim of the bomber was clearly to kill as many people as possible because the grey Nissan Pathfinder was parked in the middle of the busiest part of New York city on Saturday at around 6:30pm, a time when the square teems with life.

Still later, that night, President Obama performed stand up for White House reporters and said:

Jonas Brothers are here, they’re out there somewhere. Sasha and Malia are huge fans, but boys, don’t get any ideas. Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming. You think I’m joking?

The next day, May 2nd, in response, Jonathan Schwarz said:

You know what would have made a great punch line for Barack Obama’s joke about predator drones last night at the White House correspondents’ dinner? If the car bomb in Times Square had gone off at exactly that moment, and it turned out it in fact was in retaliation for strikes by predator drones.

Then the next night, when they were still washing blood and viscera off the streets of New York, the head of the Pakistani Taliban could have made a quip about killing people with car bombs at a fancy black tie dinner in Peshawar. And then the U.S. could have blown up more Pakistani civilians with drones. And the cycle of funniness would begin anew!

On May 5th., we learned this:

The Pakistani-American man suspected in Saturday’s attempted car bombing in New York’s Times Square has told authorities he was upset over U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan, especially a drone attack while he was in the country, a U.S. official told Fox News.

If I had more time, I would provide some analysis of what this all means. Or perhaps not, because it’s so obvious. A ten-year old could connect the dots — but not with the eloquence of
Glenn Greenwald:

Preliminary, anonymous indications are that Faisal Shahzad, the American citizen accused of planting the failed car bomb in Times Square, was motivated (at least in part) by a desire for retaliation against America’s lethal and possibly criminal Predator drone attacks in Pakistan, including at least one such attack which occurred when Shahzad was in Pakistan. Not that any more should be needed, but if that’s true, it’d be merely the latest evidence proving that when we slaughter civilians in other parts of the world (and those drone attacks have killed hundreds of innocent people, at least), it causes others to want to do the same to us. That’s called "human nature." I’m sure President Obama’s giddy, sociopathic joke-telling about Predator drones at glitzy Beltway media events is extremely helpful in that regard.

Meanwhile "progressives" go on pretending there’s no link between American violence and anti-American violence.

Mayday, Mayday, Mayday…

It’s too early to know what motivated the Times Square terrorist, and we’ll never entirely know. That is, we don’t know for sure that Obama was joking about drones at the same time that drone-inspired terrorism was, well, terrorizing New York. (Presumably Obama’s joke would’ve been considered uncivil if the victims of drone attack were Republicans or White House reporters, not faceless nameless brown people). But in any case, both social science and common sense tell us that occupations and other forms of violence spark terrorism. To deny this is akin to denying that a punched person in a bar fight retaliated because he was punched. This fact, that violence begets violence, speaks not at all to the morality of the aggressor or retaliator; indeed, it’s sometimes hard to know who is who.

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