Paul J. Balles views some of the strange utterings of politicians and other public figures that seem to go unchallenged, from President Obama's statements about Afghanistan to American Jewish leaders' bigoted desire to aggravate the Muslim community and arouse hostility.
Some people say the strangest things. At a town hall meeting in Arizona, President Obama said, about the war in Afghanistan: "We must never forget this is not a war of choice, this is a war of necessity."
Aren't all wars those of necessity? What's the necessity? Obama says: "If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al-Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans."
Of course, if Americans remain in Afghanistan, the Taliban insurgency can be counted on to plot to kill Americans there just as they once plotted, with American help, to kill Russians when they were there.
Doesn't anyone in the administration ever ask why al-Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans? Why would anybody?
Howard Zinn wrote: "I was a bombardier in WW 2. When you are up 30,000 feet, you do not hear the screams or smell the blood or see those without limbs or eyes. It was not till I read Hersey's Hiroshima that I realized what bomber pilots do."
People keep telling me they don't like reading about such things. Of course they don't. How could anyone enjoy reading about the horrors of war? I'll stop writing these things and reporting on what others say when people start acting to end the atrocities.
Doesn't anyone ever ask why we keep indulging those with a perverse hunger to destroy? Albert Einstein gave us more than a mathematical theory when he said, "The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing."
That only seems strange to the do-nothing world. Serious thinkers who read know that Montesquieu made a similar observation 260 years ago: "The tyranny of a principal in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy."
Returning to American involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the recent threats to Pakistan and Iran, Holly Near asked: "Why do we kill people who are killing people to show that killing people is wrong?"
To that, we can add James Carroll's statement of the obvious that we often fail to see: "We cloak ourselves in cold indifference to the unnecessary suffering of others – even when we cause it."
In a letter to the director of the Yale University Press, Richard Sideman and David Harris of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), complained about Yale's "decision to censor illustrations of the Prophet Muhammad from a new book on influential cartoons".
Specifically, they said: "We write to express our dismay at Yale University Press's decision ... to retreat from long-established principles of academic freedom by censoring illustrations of the Prophet Muhammad from Jytte Klausen's new book, The Cartoons That Shook the World."
Whose freedom was infringed? When a publisher decides to leave something out of one of their publications, he is simply exercising his right as publisher. It's not academic freedom that Sideman and Harris are unhappy about, but their unsatisfied, bigoted wish to aggravate the Muslim community.
Walter Lippmann knew that "A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." When is the American public going to see through these nasty Islamophobic attempts to arouse hostility?
Was Frank Scott right when he said "Our society is programmed to treat delusions as real, lies as the truth, and psychotic behaviour as evidence of mental health?"
Of course it's quite possible that people are simply following Elbert Hubbard's advice: "To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing."
People do say the strangest things.Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years. For more information, see http://www.pballes.com.