Tag Archives: terrorism

Why Berlin Christmas market attack puts new pressure on Angela Merkel

The Conversation

Patricia Hogwood, University of Westminster

A juggernaut ploughed into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin city centre on the evening of December 19, killing at least 12 people and injuring at least 48. Minister of the interior Thomas de Maizière said that it was a deliberate attack.

The Berlin police have urged caution until more about the incident is known, but this has done little to dampen speculation about the perpetrator, nor to prevent an unseemly scramble in some quarters to gain political capital from this tragedy.

This high-profile attack in the festive period looks certain to polarise an already strained political debate between German liberals of the left and centre, and populists on the right, piling pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s leadership at a sensitive time in the electoral calendar. On the other hand, it may help to strengthen bonds between governments and nations at the European level as they work together to enhance security co-operation.

Chancellor holds her line

At home, internal security looks set to be a campaign issue in federal elections in September 2017. At the same time, 58% of Germans currently believe refugee policy is the biggest challenge the country faces. In light of this, Merkel is well aware that she needs to challenge an association, promoted by the populist right, between internal security and refugees: an association that insidiously asserts the inherent criminality of foreigners.

Policemen guard the truck which crashed into a Christmas market in Berlin. Britta Pederson/EPA

This narrative shows signs of taking root in public debate. The recent murder of a young student in Freiburg, apparently by an Afghan asylum-seeker, prompted such widespread outrage that the authorities had to speak out against the scapegoating of migrants.

In the last year, Merkel has proved adept at acknowledging the fears of the public over security while at the same time underlining her humanitarian approach to refugee policy. In her first response to the Berlin attack, the chancellor stated that if the perpetrator turned out to be a refugee, it would be dreadful for the many Germans who are involved in helping refugees on a daily basis “and for the many people who really need our protection and are making an effort to integrate into our country”.

Her traditional New Year’s Eve address to the country will give her another opportunity to drive this message home. But will it be enough?

‘Germany is no longer safe’

Whoever turns out to be responsible for the Berlin attack, the political damage is done. Frauke Petry, the outspoken leader of the right-wing populist Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany) has already pointed to the government’s refugee policy as being partly responsible for the atrocity. She claimed it has negligently and systematically imported a milieu in which such acts can thrive and that “Germany is no longer safe”.

Provocative as these claims are, they have been matched by voices from within Merkel’s own party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU/CSU). The Berlin attack has already shattered recent attempts to heal the intra-party rift over immigration that could threaten to derail party unity in next year’s election campaign.

Klaus Bouillon, CDU chair of the standing committee of interior ministers from the federal Länder (regions), was quick to claim that Germany found itself in a “state of war” – even though “some people, who only ever see the good, won’t like to admit this”. Noting that copycat attacks would be likely, Bouillon called for upgraded security measures and for the police to be heavily armed.

Problems at home – but promise for Europe?

Before the Berlin attack, Merkel might have been able to prevent the refugee issue from dominating the election agenda by making a feature of other public concerns (albeit less pressing), such as pensions and care for the elderly. Now, the field is open for the right to make capital from criticisms that Merkel is too involved in her role as international statesman. They are likely to step up critiques that she is losing touch with domestic problems, that her policies are tired and that she is running out of ideas.

Perversely, at the European level, the Berlin attack might offer an incentive to heal fractious relations between member states and to consolidate the co-operation that already exists on internal security and counter-terror operations. Following the UK’s June referendum result and Theresa May’s rhetoric of a “hard Brexit”, the UK’s standing within the EU is at an all-time low.

However, it is widely recognised that no other European member state has as much experience and expertise in counter-terrorism. Constructive co-operation with Germany in a concerted effort to keep Europeans safe may help a little to stabilise relations between EU partners in the testing times to come.

The ConversationPatricia Hogwood, Reader in European Politics, University of Westminster

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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Maajid Nawaz and the New York Times weigh in on the Nice attacks

Why Evolution Is True

Yes, I’ve had to add a new category of post: “terrorism.” It’s sad. When I wrote about the Nice attack yesterday, I suspected that the perpetrator, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, might have religious motivations, or at least be working for an organization like ISIS, but there was little information. This morning I learned from CNN that ISIS has now claimed credit for the murders:

In an online statement by the terror group’s media agency Amaq and circulated by its supporters, it said the person behind the attack is an ISIS “soldier.”

Five others, including  Bouhel’s wife, have been arrested: the CNN piece gives more detail. It’s not clear whether Bouhel was actually sent by ISIS to do the deed, or was a sympathizer working under their direction. Or, I suppose, ISIS could be lying, but I’m not aware that they’ve falsely taken credit for an attack.

Yesterday Maajid Nawaz weighted in…

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Islamic State exploiting Europe’s porous borders and intelligence failures: Turnbull

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Violent Islamist extremism appears to have reached a crisis point in Europe with a “perfect storm” of circumstances, Malcolm Turnbull has said.

These were failed or neglected integration, foreign fighters returning from Iraq and Syria, porous borders, and intelligence and security bodies struggling to keep pace with the scope and breadth of the threat.

This combination had been described as creating a favourable ecosystem for an Islamist milieu, he said.

“For all intents and purposes there are no internal borders in Europe … and their external borders are difficult to manage,” Turnbull told the Lowy Institute on Wednesday night. Recent intelligence indicated that Islamic State “is using the refugee crisis to send its operatives into Europe”.

Turnbull contrasted Australia, which was “better placed” than many European countries to deal with the threat “because of the strength of our intelligence and security agencies, our secure borders and our successful multicultural society, one that manages to be both secure and free”.

Australia’s national security laws were regarded by its allies as among the world’s best, he said.

“The advantage of our island geography, our effective border protection systems and counter-terrorism agencies mean we have confidence that we know who is arriving.

“Strong borders, vigilant security agencies governed by the rule of law, and a steadfast commitment to the shared values of freedom and mutual respect – these are the ingredients of multicultural success, which is what we have achieved in Australia.”

Earlier, Turnbull said that while it was impossible to guarantee absolutely against a terrorist incident here, “I can assure Australians that our security system, our border protection, our domestic security arrangements, are much stronger than they are in Europe where regrettably they allowed security to slip”.

He told the Lowy Institute Australia was united with Belgium in the battle against terror. “Just as our forebears were 100 years ago on the fields of Flanders in the first world war, we are in the same struggle and we stand with you shoulder to shoulder.”

The scourge of terrorism was a global one, he said. In this fight, Australia was fully committed to playing a leading role in finding political and military solutions in the Middle East, working with our regional counterparts, particularly Indonesia and other ASEAN partners, and continuing to remain vigilant at home.

The terrorist attacks in Europe underscored “the importance of our military contribution against ISIL in Syria and Iraq, in which we have been the second largest contributor to the coalition effort.

“ISIL’s ability to inspire let alone direct terrorism around the world will be largely eliminated if its so-called caliphate is decisively defeated in the field. Its defeat requires military force and a political settlement. We are working with our allies to deliver both.”

Turnbull said that we must “take care not to view our strategic circumstances solely through the prism of counter terrorism.

“Terrorism is an example of the propaganda of the deed – it is designed to frighten and intimidate. It is designed to deter us from our normal way of life.

“That is why [Indonesian] President Joko Widodo was determined to ensure that Jakarta was back to normal within four hours of the terrorist bombing in that city in February, and why Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel is determined to return Brussels back to business as soon as possible.”

The ConversationMichelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

 

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The Truth About the Regressive Left


 

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Frydenberg accuses grand mufti of an attempted ‘cover up’ and failure of leadership

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Cabinet minister Josh Frydenberg has accused Australia’s Grand Mufti, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, of seeking to “cover up” his failure of leadership in the wake of the Paris attacks, and said Australians have to understand the “sheer nature” of the Islamic State (IS) threat.

Frydenberg said it was necessary to acknowledge that religion was part of the problem.

Those who preached hate in the mosques had to be disrupted, and “we have to focus on integration as opposed to segregation in the schools,” he said.

The Grand Mufti said the incidents highlighted that current strategies to deal with the threat of terrorism were not working and therefore “all causative factors” must be comprehensively addressed. These included “racism, Islamophobia, curtailing freedoms through securitisation, duplicitous foreign policies and military intervention”.

After much criticism, a follow-up statement said: “It is incorrect to imply that the reference to causative factors provides justification for these acts of terrorism. There is no justification for the taking of innocent lives.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was careful in his comments and welcomed the clarification.

But Frydenberg, in tough comments on Sky, said: “The Grand Mufti failed in his leadership with his statement. He sought to cover that up subsequently, but it was a graphic failure.

“And he has more of a responsibility, not only to the Muslim community, but to the community at large, because all our security is at risk,” he said.

“We need to acknowledge the significance of this threat, to acknowledge that religion is part of this problem and thirdly – because this is the key point – we need to deal with it at a hard edge with the military response but also we need to deal with a counter narrative.”

Frydenberg justified his allegation that the grand mufti was guilty of an attempted “cover up” by saying his first reaction “was his instinctive reaction”.

He would not be drawn on whether the grand mufti should resign. “That’s a question for the Mufti and for the Islamic community”.

The vast majority of the Islamic community appreciated the significance of this extremist threat and wanted to see the end of it, Frydenberg said.

There were wonderful members of the Islamic community in Australia “and I want to hear those moderate voices,” he said. “We need to hear more of those voices, because clearly we’re not winning the battle of hearts and minds, and we do need to win it.”

He said he would not accept that terrorism in our cities was the new norm. “Daniel Andrews, the premier of Victoria, said we have to accept that violent extremism is part of contemporary Australia. Well, I say no. That’s rubbish. I will not accept that.”

Saying this was a problem within Islam, Frydenberg said extremists were a minority – “but it’s a significant minority … and it does pose a challenge to our way of life in Australia”.

“As the Australian community, we have to acknowledge the seriousness of this threat, the reasons for it, and try to deal with it in a very considered and, as the prime minister said, calm and strategic way,” he said.

Frydenberg was in Paris after the attacks, and spoke emotionally about the experience.

Deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek, asked about Frydenberg’s comments said it was “important for all members of parliament to be leaders that bring our community together”.

“The most important partners we have in the fight against violent extremism is the Muslim community.”

The ConversationMichelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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Andrew Neil’s message to Paris attackers

Andrew Ferguson Neil (born 21 May 1949) is a Scottish journalist and broadcaster, who was editor of The Sunday Times for 11 years, and currently presents live political programmes, Sunday Politics and This Week on BBC One and Daily Politics on BBC Two.

 

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Anonymous takes on Islamic State and that’s not a good thing

The Conversation

Levi J. West

It’s been a week since the terrorist attacks in Paris and the hacktivist group Anonymous has further expanded its online confrontation with the Islamic State (IS). Its campaign was originally captured under the #OpISIS banner, but is now titled #OpParis.

The initial operation was launched in response to the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, and since then, Anonymous claims to have taken down some 149 IS related websites and 5,900 IS videos.

While on the surface this seems like an overall positive outcome against IS, given its highly regarded and consequential online presence, the reality is much more complex and nuanced. It demonstrates the risks of vigilante style action being undertaken in areas of sensitive national security matters.

When not to take down IS content

Action in this domain, regardless of its quality and the implications, can be seen as inherently beneficial. But an absence of context, proper understanding and incongruent purposes can make the counter efforts of the state more difficult.

When a government is looking at IS content online, the context varies depending on the outcome it seeks to achieve and for the department or agency involved. In a law enforcement context, IS content can be used to form the basis of a search warrant or a control order, or as evidence in a prosecution.

For an intelligence agency, an IS website may prove to be a vital element in ongoing surveillance, or form part of a broader assessment of an individual or a cell’s behaviour.

Beyond this, even the military may make use of IS online content as part of offensive information warfare targeting.

The distinction here is that the mere presence of IS content, while negative in the discreet sense, is part of the broader apparatus that is IS. It is multifaceted and complex, as is the response to it by the agencies of national security.

It is simplistic to think that merely removing IS content from cyberspace is sufficient, or even necessarily positive in the overall sense. There can often be a greater good achieved by leaving certain pieces of content in play.

This greater good is not supported by the interdiction of people unaware of the broader operations of government agencies, flawed and less than perfect as they may be.

For the public’s safety

The purpose for which Anonymous removes IS content is relatively narrow when contrasted with the public protection purposes of the state.

When a government, in collaboration with those companies responsible, removes online content, it is because it has been deemed both detrimental to public safety and security. It’s also because it’s considered that the content does not serve any other additional purposes, such as those mentioned above.

But Anonymous removes IS videos because IS disagrees with, and acts against, free speech. This presents both an ironic contradiction and also a much more self-interested motivation for Anonymous’ actions.

Tolerating vigilante style action by people affiliated with Anonymous would be an easier exercise if they were in some way representative, rather than a self-appointed vanguard, acting in the name of a public good they have determined to be overwhelmingly important.

When things goes wrong

The actions of Anonymous are also undertaken in a publicity-seeking manner. As further details are revealed in relation to #OpParis, it has been demonstrated that some of the personal details hacked and publicised by Anonymous were inaccurate.

While the state is not free of these types of errors, democratic states are at least accountable to some form of electoral and rule-of-law consequences.

In this heightened political and societal environment in the aftermath of a terrorist attacks, when a group such as Anonymous errs in identifying an individual as an IS recruiter or financier, it places those individuals in substantial danger while remaining largely free of consequences.

This is separate from the fact that much of the process of obtaining the data in the first instance is likely criminal.

While the actions of Anonymous in a range of domains, and in relation to many issues, can be seen as an overall positive, there are some very sensible reasons as to why its followers perhaps ought not to play in the national security space.

The takedown of IS content is generally viewed as being of fairly low impact when governments are involved, let alone when a vigilante style organisation adds additional risks of exposing innocent people, and undermining broader efforts to counter IS.

Perhaps most importantly, it does nothing for the people of Syria or Iraq, or those suffering within the controlled territory of IS.

The ConversationLevi J. West, Lecturer, Terrorism and Security Studies; Program Manager, Masters of Terrorism and Security Studies

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.
 

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Boris Johnson on the Paris terror attacks

Some people have told me in the last couple of days that they couldn’t sleep after the first images started to come in from Paris on Friday night. Others have said that they had unexpected crying fits, or the shakes.

Of all the horrors that have taken place recently in the world, these massacres seem so immediate – because they are immediate: geographically, culturally, politically, spiritually. Paris is our sister city, just a couple of hours away on the train – a place you can go to for lunch, a city that in the last few years has despatched so many talented workers to London that I am the proud mayor of one of the biggest French towns in the world.

And so there is always one question that people want to ask me, even if – for fear of seeming selfish – they leave it unspoken. That question is: Could it happen here? Is London going to be hit by shootings on that scale?

The answer is that even though I think an attack of that particular type is unlikely, and even though we are doing everything in our power to prevent it, I am afraid that it would be impossible – and irresponsible – to rule it out completely.

How could we rule it out? Yes, of course the police and the security services are doing an amazing job – with the resources they have – in monitoring the thousands of potential suspects (perhaps 3,000-4,000), some of them clearly more dangerous than others. They foil all sorts of plots, half-baked or otherwise. They make arrests with great frequency. But it is plainly no use hoping that the problem of Daesh-inspired terrorism is going away.

Just in the last few months we have seen appalling loss of British life on the beach in Tunisia; we have seen a Russian passenger jet blown out of the sky; and now 129 people killed in Paris, in the most vicious and shocking fashion, and many others seriously wounded.

Several people over the weekend have echoed the sentiments of the excellent French ambassador to London, Sylvie-Agnes Bermann, who said that this massacre was qualitatively different from the Charlie Hebdo shootings in January. This, she said, was a 9/11 moment. This was an act of war. I agree. And as we deliberate on how to respond, it is essential to be cautious, and to be pragmatic – and yet to use every weapon at our disposal.

First of all we need to catch the bastards before they strike; and I am afraid that I have less and less sympathy with those who oppose the new surveillance powers that the government would like to give the security services.

To some people the whistleblower Edward Snowden is a hero; not to me. It is pretty clear that his bean-spilling has taught some of the nastiest people on the planet how to avoid being caught; and when the story of the Paris massacre is explained, I would like a better understanding of how so many operatives were able to conspire, and attack multiple locations, without some of their electronic chatter reaching the ears of the police. I want these people properly spied on, properly watched – and I bet you do, too.

Second, we need to be able to intercept them at frontiers. I know Molenbeek, the melancholy Brussels suburb that is said to have produced some of the Paris killers. I remember happy hours walking its bemerded and frituur-smelling streets, and alas I am not surprised to find – a generation later – that some of those scampering North African children have grown up to become jihadis.

What are the implications for the security of Europe, if you can load your car with Kalashnikovs in Molenbeek, and drive unimpeded not just to Paris but to any EU capital you please?

The Paris massacres – as the French have implicitly confirmed, by trying to control their own frontiers – have greatly strengthened the hand of David Cameron as he argues for better control at the borders. And yet it is not enough just to spy on them.

It is too late to try to catch them, once they have pupated into proto-terrorists. We must intercept them before the metamorphosis begins. We need to get the antidote down their throats before the poisonous death-cult takes over their minds. That means working ever harder to enlist the vast majority of Muslims who despise Daesh (so I propose to call them, since it is a shame to play their game and use the word Islamic in their title), and who can help most powerfully in differentiating their abominable doctrines from the teachings of the Koran.

It means working with the families, and coming down hard on parents who – all too often, alas – are allowing their kids, of both sexes, to go online and imbibe the jihadi madness: the ranting sermons, the home-made hydrogen peroxide suicide belts, and all the rest of the claptrap.

We need to be much faster and much cleverer in beating the absurd propaganda from Raqqa. How hard can that be? Their “caliphate” is savage, dysfunctional, and so scary that many British would-be jihadis end up pleading to come home. But there it is – a breeding-ground of terror; and it looks very much as if at least one of the Paris killers actually came from Syria, via Leros. And so we come to the last of our possible responses – the military one. All the generals I have talked to are leery.

They want to understand the mission, and how we propose to achieve it. Would we go in with Putin? Would we effectively be backing Assad? No choice looks attractive; no plan is perfect. But is doing nothing any better? It is more than two years since the government was defeated in its plan to intervene in Syria, and the rhythm of terror would appear to be increasing.

These people avowedly want to destroy us, and in those circumstances no military option can be off the table. This is a fight we will one day inevitably win – because in the end our view of the human spirit is vastly more attractive and realistic than theirs. But we won’t win if we don’t fight back.
 

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Paris: the war with ISIS enters a new stage

The Conversation

Simon Reich, Rutgers University Newark

When in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo attacks last January, I wrote a column suggesting that we all had to demonstrate a new toughness.

At that time, I thought the scale of ISIS’ attacks on Western targets was contained by its avowed doctrine of territorial legitimacy. I assumed any attacks in the West would be carried out by lone wolves or with one or two partners. I was wrong.

Ever since it first declared a caliphate, ISIS’ leadership consistently expressed the intent of fighting a more or less conventional war in a well-defined piece of territory spreading across Iraq and Syria.

Their surprising initial victories reinforced that strategy. And it allowed them to pursue a war against the Yazidis, which the American Holocaust Museum has declared a genocide.

But then the Americans arrived, eager to engage a Jihadist army in direct combat.

And the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters began to make inroads.

So ISIS responded, by shifting its strategy towards new tactics: fighting a more common, irregular, guerrilla war, as the Taliban had often done successfully in Afghanistan and militants had done in Iraq before them.

New tactics

Then the Russians arrived to support Syrian President Al Assad.

Although their initial targets have not been ISIS strongholds, it has changed the dynamic once again.

ISIS leaders understand that with the US on one side and the characteristically merciless Russians on the other, time is running out.

It is one thing to take on one of them. It is quite another to take on both.

They can replenish their forces with raw new recruits. But they probably can’t do it fast enough to hold off all sides. And the apparent execution by drone of Jihadi John, their poster child, threatens a further dent in their recruitment campaign.

So, the ever flexible ISIS leadership has moved to a new stage in their tactics – war by terror.

New goals

The goals are predictable.

  • First, killing civilians at home in Europe in highly symbolic settings. Their intent here is to provoke a debate about these countries’ involvement in Syria and Iraq and thus break the political will of the western countries. There is, in other words, a cost to be paid for military intervention.
  • Second, to convince potential new recruits that with limited training they can still play a crucial role as a martyr. After all, if you are going to die as a martyr, you don’t want to do so by the side of the road in the middle of the desert. You want to do so on the streets of Paris where everyone will know who you were and what you did.
  • Third, to convince the west that you are still a formidable force – everywhere.

The new tactic involves soft civilian targets. They involve country nationals and foreign recruits. The enemy is everywhere and nowhere. It is a classic terrorist response.

First came the Russian plane crash in the Sinai – most probably caused by an ISIS bomb. Then these horrific attacks in Paris – claimed by ISIS and blamed on ISIS – in neighborhoods that I, and many American tourists, frequent when we visit.

I spent the evening of the attacks frantically trying to reach my family and friends. My sister-in-law, Lorene Aldabra, is a professional singer and musician who often visits the Bataclan concert hall, scene of so much carnage. When you have to spend time tracking down loved ones, you really understand what this new war means.

The declarations of support are encouraging and touching. President Obama was as eloquent as ever. London’s mayor Boris Johnson sounded mildly Churchillian. Benjamin Netanyahu from Israel was blunt and forthright. But we can assume these attacks won’t be the last ones.

France is in a state of emergency. The security services in Europe and North America are on a state of alert. My spouse traveled on the Washington, DC-to-New York train Friday night and it was full of sniffer dogs and police. We risk a return to the national fear that gripped us after 9/11.

Parisians got it right when they assembled in large numbers and unfurled a sign saying “not afraid” in the hours after these attacks.

On the streets of Paris
Yves Herman

But not afraid of what?

The terrorists for sure. But also let’s not be afraid to distinguish between terrorists and Syrian asylum seekers. Between those who invoke the forces of evil and those imams who decry it. Between our Muslim friends and neighbors and our fanatical enemies.

The lives of Parisians will not be the same after November 13. But, knowing the city and its inhabitants well, I believe that they will not be deprived of oxygen and disappear into the vortex of hate preached by jihadists – or Europe’s extreme nationalists. Civility, albeit wrapped in an iron fist, will be their response.

The ConversationSimon Reich, Professor in The Division of Global Affairs and The Department of Political Science, Rutgers University Newark

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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Moral equivalence

Moral equivalence is a form of equivocation often used in political debates. It seeks to draw comparisons between different, even unrelated things, to make a point that one is just as bad as the other or just as good as the other. Drawing a moral equivalence in this way is an informal fallacy, a special case of False equivalence.

A common manifestation of this fallacy is a claim, often made for ideological motives, that both sides are equally to blame for a war or other international conflict. Historical studies show that this is rarely the case. Wars are usually started by one side militarily attacking the other, or mass murdering non-combatants, with or without provocation from the other side.

Some specific examples of this fallacy are as follows:

  • Claiming neither side in World War II was morally superior because of the British firebombing of Dresden in Germany, or the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. This is despite the fact that Germany started the war in Europe and Japan started the war in the Pacific. Whilst the morality of the British fire bombing of Dresden is questionable, the aim of the US atomic bombings was to force Japan to surrender, without the necessity of a land invasion in which millions of people were expected to die on both sides. The purpose was to end World War II as opposed to starting it.
  • Drawing a moral equivalence between 9/11 and U.S. policy in the Middle East, thereby attempting to justify or excuse the 9/11 atrocities against innocent non-combatants.
  • Drawing a moral equivalence between the Holocaust and Israeli actions toward the Palestinians.
  • PETA drawing a moral equivalence between the consumption of meat and the Holocaust in an ad campaign.
  • The excuse that slavery in the southern United States wasn’t so bad because some slaves were treated better than workers in northern factories and company towns — or the counter-use of the same examples, that conditions during the early Industrial Revolution were not that bad because the people were at least free to choose their jobs, unlike under slavery.

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