On an Irradiation of Mecca

A stopped clock is right twice a day, and Tom Tancredo is one such nonfunctioning timepiece. Wrong on nearly everything that matters, he is nonetheless right that a nuclear strike by Muslim terrorists on the United States should be responded to with a nuclear strike on Mecca. If I may extend Tancredo’s logic beyond what he himself may be capable of, the Plain of Arafat, the Plain of Mina, and the Masjid al-haram should be irradiated such that human visitation becomes impossible for thousands of years.

New Yorker in DC, responding to my defense of such retaliation against Shlock’s assault, writes:

I believe that the main premise of [Tancredo’s and tdaxp’s] argument, that terrorists can be deterred if we make it clear that we will attack that which is of most value to them (i.e. the Kaaba and other religious sites such as Mecca, Medina, etc.), is wrong.

I ask Nykrindc this: Was the invasion of Afghanistan likewise wrong, as it destroyed something operationally most valuable to our opponents (a state-supported base)?

The answer is no: besides being a clear case of proportional response, the Afghan invasion also made the conditions of 9/11 much harder to replicate. The Roman response to the Jewish War — the destruction of the Temple — did the same. Rome destroyed the conditions that allowed a faith based on priestly worship to exist. “Jews” as a community continued, of course, but the religion of the Levites was gone forever.

In the same way, an obliteration of Mecca that leaves the city radioactive topples one of the five pillars of Islam.

People say that Islam needs a reformation. Reformed variants of Judaism thrived twice, both in response to a grand shock (the Destruction of the Temple, leading to Christianity, and the abolition of the European ghettos, leading to Reform/conservative Judaism).

On the other hand, if you are happy with the Islamic status quo — and remain so after a nuclear attack on the homeland — there is nothing to change! No such outrage is necessary.

14 thoughts on “On an Irradiation of Mecca”

  1. I think the style of MAD you propose has some merit. The best course would be to announce to the world, in no uncertain terms, that if the U.S. is attacked with nuclear weapons by radical Muslims, Mecca goes down forever (or at least a few thousand years!)

    It would need to be announced clearly, officially, and put into the public debate worldwide, to have a deterrent effect. This in fact could serve a deeper purpose, since it strips those terrorists of some justification for any attacks on the U.S. with WMD. There can be no doubt that the U.S. would be capable of such a response; so, any radical Muslim who would use nukes on the U.S. would automatically be a target for reprisals within Islam and would know it.

    However, such a policy could well make the U.S. open to 5GW maneuvers, in which some nation that isn't primarily Muslim plants a nuke on U.S. soil in order to instigate the destruction of Mecca AND the obvious blowback in the form of bad PR for the U.S. (Say, like, China…)

  2. +++Was the invasion of Afghanistan likewise wrong, as it destroyed something operationally most valuable to our opponents (a state-supported base)?

    The answer is no:+++

    Of course Afghanistan was not wrong, I never implied that it was. The reason, we went after a country hosting the enemy who attacked us on 9/11.

    The reason that I think Tancredo and you are wrong, is this: For Jihadists, the world is not only in a state of fitna, but along with its holiest sites it is under Western occupation. In addition, one of bin Laden's most important functions in fighting the US, is to incite Muslims to jihad. This means that threatening to bomb Mecca (in Tancredo's case) and nuking it (in your case) is that this is exactly what Jihadists want. We threaten to destroy Mecca, and they are more likely to attack us, because our response would be more likely to incite the millions of Muslims who have up until now refused to heed Osama's call to jihad.

    In my post, I also cited your post on how the wahhabis are destroying Mecca themselves due to their austere religious interpretation of Islam. Since Wahhabism is an influential component of Jihadism, the deterrent value of threatening to destroy Mecca is reduced as far as jihadists are concerned. The effect on moderate Muslims, however, will be detrimental to our interests in the short term, and the long run.

    Now that said, when I wrote my post I didn't realize that unlike Tancredo, you were calling for the US to use nuclear weapons on Mecca if the US was attacked using WMD. That's a whole different ball game. However, it would raise similar pitfalls.

    You state: +++an obliteration of Mecca that leaves the city radioactive topples one of the five pillars of Islam. +++

    Would it really? I don't think it would. If anything, it would give martyrdom a more profound religious meaning. That is, one of the pillars of Islam is to make the Hajj at least once in a Muslims life. Once. That means that Muslims, particularly as they get older will still be able to make the Hajj (or part of it) and these would willingly walk into the irradiated section of land, giving their life to fulfill a pillar of Islam. For most Muslims, not only Jihadists, this would be seen as the ultimate proof of religious devotion, a very powerful symbol.

    You cite the destruction of the temple of Israel, with regard to Rome and the Jewish insurrection. However, you fail to note two things. One, along with the destruction of the temple, Jews were forcibly removed from Palestine and spread throughout the empire. Additionally, the destruction of the temple, did not stamp out Judaism, instead it gave Jews a powerful memory and symbol of the plight of their people. If Jews had been left in Palestine, the destruction of the temple would not have had the same effect it did, once they were forcibly removed from the promised land. We can't know with certainty, but I suspect that not only would they have rebuilt the temple, but they would also have tried to rise up against the Roman empire once again. In short, it was the forced removable of the Jewish people from Palestine that was responsible for pushing Judaism to a reformation, not the destruction of the temple.

    Irradiating Mecca, would be similar to the destruction of the temple, but only by providing a symbol around which all Muslims could rally around; Osama's dream come true.

  3. +++One brief note: Peters has some odd problem with Catholocism that I don't understand. He 'description' of Vatican City, if his analogy is meant to be taken seriously, is ludicrous. At least in the Christian, “all sects” do not have an equal role in running it: the Vatican is managed as a Stalinist dictatorship by the Catholic Church.+++

    Sorry I forgot to address the comment you left on my blog. With regard to Peters' argument for an Islamic Vatican City, I think he picked that name, not because he wanted Mecca and Medina to be run in the manner in which Vatican City is run, but rather to bring to peoples minds the notion of the semi-independent religious state that Vatican City is, independent of the Italian government. His point was, in alluding to Vatican City, that an Islamic religious city encompassing Mecca and Medina, would be independent of the House of Saud. Additionally, he called for making it a place for the different sects of Islam to come together and discuss the future of the faith by once again employing the practice of Ijtihad.

    I don't think that Peters meant that in Vatican City all Christian sects have an equal say in running it, he just meant that like it, an Islamic Super-Vatican would be independent from the House of Saud or any other Muslim government.

  4. Curtis,

    We agree.

    Your point on the danger of a false-flag operation is absolutely right. Indeed, it's the greatest complication of an explicit deterrence policy.


    The Wahabis are destroying the city of Mecca in that they are dehumanizing and deterritorializing it: they are destroying Mecca in the same way that the Anglican Church destroyed the Catholic Westminster Abbey.

    This is a completely different sense from the sort of destruction that would come from a nuclear blast.

    I agree with your point that a minimal irradiation of Mecca would be suboptimal in any case.

    At the time of the Jewish War, most Jews lived outside of Palestine and were the “moderates” in which the see of extremist swam. Like contemporary Islam, Roman Judaism had its center of gravity in a remote but accessible backwater controlled by a fundamentalist but corrupt hierarchy. The combined symbolic and practical importance of the destruction of the Temple (a demonstration of the community's utterly wrong track plus the impossibility of religiously valid sacrifices) liberated the Jewish community from the Temple's orbit.

    You mention the expulsion of those Jews who were in Palestine from their homes, but recall that the expulsino was not permanent. Further, it served primarily as a forced exposure to western ideals and moers to a backwards Jewish population: satellite television and the internet serve the same purposes in our world.

    The destruction of the Temple was not a dream come true for the Zealots: the establishment of a Godly state encompassing all believers free from Western control was.

    The destruction of Mecca would not be a dream come true for the Qaedists: the establishment of a Godly state encompassing all believers free from Western control would be.

    Weakness in the face of attack is the ultimate provocation.

    The destruction of the conditions which enabled the attack is the ultimate defense.

  5. +++Weakness in the face of attack is the ultimate provocation.

    The destruction of the conditions which enabled the attack is the ultimate defense.+++

    I'm not arguing that we should not retaliate, of course we should and hard. But we know where al Qaeda is planning and organizing its attacks now, the NWFP/FATA in Pakistan. If we want to detroy “the conditions which enabled the attack” then we need to go after NWFP/FATA, but not after we are attacked, rather we should do it soon. We can push the Pakistanis to do it, but if they don't then we should find other means, including an American assault.

    Finally, it isn't the Kaaba, Mecca and Medina that have enabled al Qaeda, to a large extent it has been the House of Saud. If anything, we should avoid targeting Mecca and Medina and target the House of Saud and their Wahabbi allies. That would go a long way to freeing Mecca from extremist influence.

  6. Also, while striking at the House of Saud would give OBL one of the things he wants, it would also provide us with an opportunity to change the dynamic in the region, and the stranglehold that the Wahhabis have on Mecca and Medina, and the various madrassas financed by the House of Saud throughout the world.

    What I meant by saying that striking Mecca, Medina would give OBL what he wanted, meant that it would give him a rallying cry unlike any other…his “Remember the Alamo.” This would make it easier for al Qaeda to incite the majority of Muslims to jihad.

  7. When I am feeling pessimistic, I think nukes will be used.

    While the US can destroy mecca/medina and cause a big System Perturbation on the islamic world, I think it would cause just as significant disruption for American. The much of the world would be outraged/disgusted by the US action. I would guess that 20%-40% of the US public would turn against the US. Globalization would be altered or end for awhile. The US would never have moral leadership again. Europe/Japan would not trust us.

    It would be pretty much the same if we nuke mecca/medina or all of the major Islamic population centers. Islam would perhaps change and no longer be islam…but the world would change for ever for the US.

    As a last resort with the West falling around us, and Isalm rising everywhere and the islamic world launching WMD attacks against the US it would be okay…because then the price would be in-line with our survival.

    I am a democracy guy. I think we should be promoting. That is where I differ with the PNM folks who are all about capitalism.

    Maybe they are right. An America that gets off the democracy promotion high horse would have more freedom to act – we would appear to be less hypocritical if we have to do things like nuke mecca/medina. We would be less likely to have major blowback in the moral theate of war.

  8. nykrindc,

    Viewing the solution to Qaedism as securing NWFP/FATA in Pakistan is like viewing the a finger transplant as a solution to gangrene in the left arm. The mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan are a location of convenience for al Qaeda, but al Qaeda has no special territorial ties to the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan. (It could just as easily operate out of Afghanistan, or Sudan, or …)

    The conditions that make al Qaeda possible are the backward nature of Sunni Arab civilization specifically [1] and Islam as a legalist religion generally. In the same way, the conditions that made the Jewish War possible was the backward nature of semetic civilization specifically and Judaism as a priestly religion generally.

    Obviously, a simple “fix” would be to humiliate [2] and destroy [3] Sunni Arab culture as it now stands. However, I think it's granted that a nuclear strike actually does require retaliation as such.


    When did the US have “moral leadershp” (and how would this be measured?), except in a minority-faction sense?

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2007/08/07/let-them-lose.html
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2007/03/22/the-iraq-war-is-about-feedback-more-than-revenge-or-justice.html
    [3] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2006/08/20/a-new-middle-east-part-i-our-vanquished-enemies.html

  9. Do you people even realize that what you advocate is murder? Do you simply not care? I don't read a whole lot of you tdaxp, mostly just second-hand stuff from other writings on 4-5GW. I am sorry to say that your reputation in my eyes has sunk very low with this immoral stain you have sullied yourself with.

  10. Jonathan,

    Thank you for your comment. It injects some seriousness into the debate.

    If we wish to enjoy peace, we should prepare for war.

    That said, there's a larger goal to: the end of wars as we have known them. We, the two-thirds of humanity in the Core of the developed world, enjoy more peace than our ancestors ever did. But one-third of man, those stuck in the Gap (mostly Africa and the Islamic world) live in the same anarchy are species is too familiar with.

    Whether or not you call it murder, the war is on now, and the death-toll is beyond nightmares. Ending that war must be our priority.

    As you might say, this war is an immoral stain our souls are sullied with. Let's end it.

    Let's shrink the Gap.

  11. Violence will not bring about peace.
    Peace will bring about peace.
    These enemies do not just from no where. They are born from wrongs and evils done by others. If you wish to eliminate enemies, the expansion of wrongs and evil will do just the opposite. Instantly murdering millions on the west coast of Arabia is an enormous expansion of wrong and evil and will coincide with a proportionate increase in enemies. Even if simple property destruction wasn't also evil, there is no chance you're going to evacuate so many people from so large a region with a nuclear threat. You would most likely bring in people to non-violently defend holy sites.

    If you wish to end war, just for starters, dismantle the U.S. Empire, withdraw forces from all over the world to home. Be forthwright and honest about the wrongs and evils committed by the U.S., apologize for them, pay reparations where possible and most prudent. Unilaterally break down barriers to trade and peaceful relations between peoples of the world, encourage others to do the same. Seek a softer cooperation with others around the world in bringing criminals to justice.

    To “shrink the gap”, foment commerce and prosperity by decreasing violence and threats of violence, most of which comes from the State. Encourage others to do the same. Realize that they're not living in anarchy, they're living in chaos under some of the harshest tyrannies in the world.

    Murder is the killing of an innocent, which is what you are advocating, which is what you will create more of on all sides of this conflict. Your priority of ending the war is not going to come from continuing and escalating it. These stains can be minimized and our correlating ability to live in peace maximized by ending war through peace, not war.

  12. Jonathan,

    Your comment makes several questionable claims, but for now I'll focus on two:

    “Murder is the killing of an innocent”

    No, murder is premeditated illegal killing.

    When innocents are killed unintentionally, they are not murder. Otherwise every fatal car crash is a murder!

    When the guilty are killed unlawfully, they are the victims of murder. Otherwise vigilante justice is not murder!

    “These stains can be minimized and our correlating ability to live in peace maximized by ending war through peace, not war.”

    What evidence do you have that supports your view?
    How can you be proven wrong?

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