Tribalism, Revenge and the Modern Imperialist State

September 18th, 2001

By Micah Posner

As a reformed tribe member (Reformed Jew in particular) and someone who lived in the Middle East for a year (in Egypt and Israel), this latest act of terrorism is particularly complex and, of course, painful.

To me it seems obvious that the attack on the United States was motivated by revenge, both because tribesmen (male pronoun is appropriate in this case) in the Middle East have been, in general, badly treated by the Global Military Industrial Complex well represented by the Pentagon and the World Trade Center and because vengeance is still an integral part of their culture.

This is not to say that the thousands of Americans deserved to die due to the systemic neo colonialist racism exhibited by our nation. To the contrary, vengeance has never been a valuable political tool. It is, as much as the word means anything “evil”, and certainly useless. There is a passage in the Bible where the Egyptians, who are pursuing the escaped Jewish slaves in heavy chariots, are stuck in the mud of the Red (Reed?) Sea and killed (presumably by the Jews throwing rocks). The Jews dance and sing upon the death of their enemies and God asks them to stop, saying, “though they are enemies they are nonetheless human beings. Do not rejoice at their death.” The fact that the Jews still sing this song (the Mecha Mocha) is a sad indication of how hard it is to put the concept of vengeance to rest.

Of course the question comes up, as we face the specter of the USA going to war against another ex CIA employee, does the USA really have a more advanced morality than the tribesmen that perpetually eschew revenge? I think we should challenge Americans on the basis of their claims to moral high ground rather than condemning our country on the basis of our past human rights violations (many of which, I trust, are eloquently laid out in this paper.) If you want a person, or perhaps a society, to change, it is best to put high expectations on them, even if they have a negative history.

So, how about calling President Bush on any and all of his claims. For example, if you want to stop “unsavory characters” from acts of terror, don’t allow the CIA to hire more “unsavory characters.” If you want to protect innocent people, don’t bomb innocent people in Kabul. If you want to insure the safety of families around the world, don’t threaten the families of Afghanistan who are even now fleeing their homes in anticipation of violence brought on them from the USA. If you want a world without vengeance, refrain from vengeance. As the bible says, “vengeance is mine, and only mine, sayeth the Lord”

Who knows? Maybe America really is morally superior to the Taliban. It would only be a pleasant suprise.

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