The Dangerous Ineptitude Of Armchair General Sam Harris

 “In its mode of communication and its use of half-truths and over-simplification the propaganda of Daesh uses similar tactics uses to those of the populous and both sides of equation benefit from each other and would not expand in influence without each other’s actions.”

– UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s statement addressed to “populists, demagogues and political fantasists.

Entirely oblivious to these same half-truths and over-simplifications is the new atheist demagogue (or demigod) and political fantasist Sam Harris who uses a single issue of ISIS (Daesh) propaganda as the sole basis to justify another catastrophic war. Harris doesn’t tell us what victory looks like, doesn’t tell us how many innocent lives lost are too many or how many Americans dead is acceptable to realise his political fantasies. Harris proceeds to impart his “wisdom” in his two minutes of hate (stretched out to fifty) podcast.

Like any good cult leader he sets the terms for his attentive flock from the outset. “Here is what any honest reader (of Dabiq) will get” — So if you disagree with me then you are dishonest — He continues: “It confirms everything I’ve been saying for the last fifteen years!”. This is all about Sam and the vindication of his narcissistic and Manichean worldviews.

To read this magazine is to discover that the oft-mocked line deliverd by George Bush ”they hate us for our freedom” is actually true.

And those among you who think they must hate us for our foreign policy, well you’re simply wrong and dangerously so.

It stretches the limits of all credibility that any self-proclaimed philosopher and supposed intellectual could draw such asinine conclusions from a single source of war propaganda and all the while  ignoring the vast weight of counter-evidence, from multiple sources, that contradicts it.  Harris isn’t even judging the wartime propaganda from Dabiq holistically; and if he is, he is dishonestly cherry-picking.  From Issue 9 of Dabiq on “Eliminating the Grayzone”:

” Muslims in the crusader countries will find themselves driven to abandon their homes for a place to live in the Khilāfah, as the crusaders increase persecution against Muslims living in Western lands”

ISIS  leadership desire anti-Muslim sentiment in the West. They crave Western invasion; yet another Vietnam. Sam Harris offers them both – As Zeid said “both sides of the equation benefit from each other”. Is it even possible that Harris and his Islam-hating acolytes haven’t considered that they are the targets of this publication? Or worse, have they seen an opportunity to expand their (and ISIS’s)  “Clash of Civilizations” and are content with being al-Baghdadi’s useful idiots?

You might want to say ”it’s just propaganda” – and it is propaganda – but it only works as propaganda because MANY (how many?) Muslims share these aspirations and believe the same doctrines.

Harris is being disingenuous here. I’m not aware of a single Muslim having being recruited by the English Language Dabiq publication.. Furthermore, Harris’ smoking-gun proof is not addressed to Muslims at all, it is titled “Why We Hate You And Want To Fight YOU“. Rather Ironically “Why We Hate You And Want To Fight You” would’ve been an equally fitting title for Harris’ podcast; or his career in general.

Neither is this the only occasion of sophistry and decption in Harris’ oratorical diatribe. Following his self-indulgent opening-gambit he spends a full ten minutes dishonestly conflating a non-violent Finnish female emigre to the “Islamic” State with its violent jihadist footsoliders. It’s akin to conflating a Presbyterian Republican grandmother with Lynddie England. He describes her in bigoted terms, mocks her “decision to wear a cloth bag” and he tells us in no uncertain terms that this non-violent and deeply religious woman is “the enemy”. Not explained however is why this Muslim woman making hijrah to the Islamic State is my “enemy” while an Orthodox Jewish woman making aliyah to the Jewish State isn’t.

This sleight of hand to pad his dangerously inept proclamations of being vindicated speaks to Harris’ actual insecurities in his own warmongering worldviews. Multiple times Harris exhorts us to just listen to “what the jihadists have to say”:

  • “Simply accept what jihadis believe what they say they believe. ..Simply listen to what these people have to say for themselves.”
  • “If you don’t understand the power of that you have no idea what we are dealing with. You lack empathy. They have made it so easy for you to get into their heads. In fact, you have to imagine that they are lying, endlessly lying for some inexplicable reason when taking their claim at face value makes perfect sense of their behaviour and impuning other motives makes them highly mysterious.”
  • “So everything that has been said by Chomsky, Pape and Greenwald and dozens of Muslim apoogists have been peddling for a decade about the motivations of jihadists, all of this is pure delusion”
  • “So why do jihadis do what they do? Well they are telling us ad-nauseaum.”

The attack on Prof. Robert Pape, the founder of The Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism (CPOST) is an act of brazen hubris. Pape and his colleagues have researched the motives of virtually every suicide attack since 1982 while Sam Harris has never conducted any field research and instead converses with “Muslim Reformers” and “ex Muslims” whom he funds. Oh! and he read Dabiq once!


However, let us take Harris’ advice. Let us “simply accept jihadis believe what they say they believe”. Afterall, if we don’t, we “lack empathy”.  While ISIS have splintered from Zawahiri’s Al Qaeda they are dedicated Binladenites. So let us take Al Qaeda’s first attackers, the 93′ WTC bombers, at “face value”:

We declare our responsibility for the explosion on the mentioned building. This action was done in response for the American political, economical, and military support to Israel the state of terrorism and to the rest of the dictator countries in the region.

Moving on to 1996, Bin Laden declared war on the US primarily for the military occupation of his (holy) homeland in Saudi Arabia. Remember: “Simply accept jihadis believe what they say they believe”.

It should not be hidden from you that the people of Islam had suffered from aggression, iniquity and injustice imposed on them by the Zionist Crusaders alliance and their collaborators to the extent that the Muslims blood became the cheapest and their wealth as loot in the hands of the enemies. Their blood was spilled in Palestine and Iraq. The horrifying pictures of the massacre of Qana, in Lebanon are still fresh in our memory. Massacres in Tajakestan, Burma, Cashmere, Assam, Philippine, Fatani, Ogadin, Somalia, Erithria, Chechnia and in BosniaHerzegovina took place, massacres that send shivers in the body and shake the conscience. All of this and the world watch and hear, and not only didn”t respond to these atrocities, but also with a clear conspiracy between the USA and its” allies and under the cover of the iniquitous United Nations, the dispossessed people were even prevented from obtaining arms to defend themselves.

1998 was to see the twin Embassy bombings following Bin Laden’s second fatwa. Once again Harris is correct, the jihadists are “telling us ad-nauseaum”.  Bin Laden justifies terrorism “on the basis” of these three grievances:

First, for over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples. If some people have in the past argued about the fact of the occupation, all the people of the Peninsula have now acknowledged it. The best proof of this is the Americans’ continuing aggression against the Iraqi people using the Peninsula as a staging post, even though all its rulers are against their territories being used to that end, but they are helpless.

Second, despite the great devastation inflicted on the Iraqi people by the crusader-Zionist alliance, and despite the huge number of those killed, which has exceeded 1 million… despite all this, the Americans are once against trying to repeat the horrific massacres, as though they are not content with the protracted blockade imposed after the ferocious war or the fragmentation and devastation. So here they come to annihilate what is left of this people and to humiliate their Muslim neighbors.

Third, if the Americans’ aims behind these wars are religious and economic, the aim is also to serve the Jews’ petty state and divert attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there. The best proof of this is their eagerness to destroy Iraq, the strongest neighboring Arab state, and their endeavor to fragment all the states of the region such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sudan into paper statelets and through their disunion and weakness to guarantee Israel’s survival and the continuation of the brutal crusade occupation of the Peninsula.

Then came the 9-11 attacks of 2001. Let us not “imagine that the jihadists are lying”.  Bin Laden spelled out his inspiration for the attacks: Israel.

And as I looked at those demolished towers in Lebanon, it entered my mind that we should punish the oppressor in kind and that we should destroy towers in America in order that they taste some of what we tasted and so that they be deterred from killing our women and children.And that day, it was confirmed to me that oppression and the intentional killing of innocent women and children is a deliberate American policy.

Destruction is freedom and democracy, while resistance is terrorism and intolerance. This means the oppressing and embargoing to death of millions as Bush Sr did in Iraq in the greatest mass slaughter of children mankind has ever known, and it means the throwing of millions of pounds of bombs and explosives at millions of children – also in Iraq – as Bush Jr did, in order to remove an old agent and replace him with a new puppet to assist in the pilfering of Iraq’s oil and other outrages.

So with these images and their like as their background, the events of September 11th came as a reply to those great wrongs, should a man be blamed for defending his sanctuary?


Still in 2001, Richard “The Shoe Bomber” Reid attempted to blow up a jetliner in mid-air with customised explosives in his shoes. Let us “listen” to what he says:

Your government has sponsored the rape and torture of Muslims in the prisons of Egypt and Turkey and Syria and Jordan with their money and with their weapons. I don’t know, see what I done as being equal to rape and to torture, or to the deaths of the two million children in Iraq.

The next major Al Qaeda terrorist attack was 2002, in Bali. So what theological justification did they proffer I wonder? Israel

The reason was to retaliate the killing of Muslims in Palestine

In 2004 Bin Laden even offered Europe a truce “if it stopped attacking Muslims”. Meanwhile the “Islamic” attacks continued and the attackers continued to tell us why “They Hate Us And Why They Attack Us”:


This is a response to the crimes that you have caused in the world, and specifically in Iraq and Afghanistan, and there will be more, if God wills it.


Until we feel security, you will be our target. Until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people, we will not stop this fight.


I carried the device to avenge the killing of my Muslim brothers and sisters

Times Square

They don’t see children, they don’t see anybody. They kill women, children, they kill everybody. It’s a war, and in war, they kill people. They’re killing all Muslims


The only reason we have killed this man today is because Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers

Charlie Hebdo (Cherif Kouachi)

We can kill. But we don’t kill women. It is you that kill the children of Muslims in Iraq, in Afganistan, in Syria.

Charlie Hebdo (Amedy Coulibaly)

They have to stop attacking Islamic State and stop forcing us to unveil women and stop putting my brothers in prison for nothing.


The U.S. Government is killing our innocent civilians…I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished

And it’s not just the official statements of jihadists alone. The rank-and-file aren’t anymore devout. Leaked ISIS documents show that as many as 70% of ISIS recruits self-describe as having only a “basic” understanding of Islam. So basic in fact that our would be “holy warriors” are buying Islam for Dummies and The Quran For Dummies pre-Jihad.

We see similar in the accounts of researchers and journalists who have come into contact with ISIS soliders.

Didier Francois was a prisoner of ISIS for ten months.

“There was never really discussion about texts or — it was not a religious discussion. It was a political discussion.
It was more hammering what they were believing than teaching us about the Quran. Because it has nothing to do with the Quran . We didn’t even have the Quran; they didn’t want even to give us a Quran.”

Lydia Wilson, a researcher who interviewed ISIS detainees tells us

They’re drawn to the movement for reasons that have little to do with extemist Islam

The head of the US interrogation team that tracked down al-Zarqawi tells Democracy Now.

They came from all over the area. They came from Yemen. They came from northern Africa. They came from Saudi. All over the place. And the No. 1 reason these foreign fighters gave for coming to Iraq was routinely because of Abu Ghraib, because of Guantanamo Bay, because of torture practices.

In their eyes, they see us as not living up to the ideals that we have prescribed to. You know, we say that we represent freedom, liberty and justice. But when we torture people, we’re not living up to those ideals. And it’s a huge incentive for them to join al-Qaida.

If Sam Harris is truly so utterly ignorant of this covergence of evidence – and this is only the tip of the iceberg – then he should not be recklessly issuing calls-to-war; especially since wars and occuptions in the Islamic world are what lights the fuse in the first place. His ignorance here is inexcusable. Multiple “Muslim armies” are engaged in war with ISIS.

There really are some circumstances where war is the answer. …It would be much, much better if Muslim armies were turning their guns on this death cult. In the absence of that effort non-Muslim armies are clearly going to have to do this, until that’s done, until the jihadists have suffered a defeat so resounding that noone can even pretend their cause is still viable we are going to continue to see the violent machinations of religious lunatics against us.

What Harris advocates is a counter-productive humanitarian disaster and what  Juergen Todenhoefer, the first Western journalist given access to the inner-workings of The Islamic State describes as a “terror breeding programme”. Having visited Daesh controlled Mosul he explains:

6.) ISIS CANNOT BE DEFEATED WITH BOMBS OR MISSILES. The three-million-city Mosul, for instance, is being controlled by 5,000 ISIS fighters. Whoever wants to eliminate them with bombs would have to first turn all of Mosul into rubble and kill thousands of civilians. Bombarding the Middle East has always been and still is a way to breed terrorism. Take ISIS as an example! This organization is a direct result of George W. Bush’s illegal Iraq War.

The top US Commander in Afghanistan, General McChrystal coined the term “insurgent math” to describe the “terror breeding programme” where for every one innocent you kill you create another ten insurgents”. The Nobel Prize winning teenager and Islamic terrorism victim Malala Yousafzai also understood this dynamic; although to Harris she’d be just another “deluded Muslim apologist”. Speaking to Obama:

I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people.

A former Commander of Camp Bucca believes it is probable our arch nemesis al-Baghdadi was radicalised by the illegal Iraq War and his resultant torture/captivity in Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca. Prior to the 2003 invasion he was described as  “a quiet, studious fellow and a talented soccer player”. He didn’t become “more Muslim” after the invasion.  It’s admitted by the US Military that 90% of the Sunni Iraqis it swept-up and imprisoned/interrogated were innocent and that these US run prisons became breeding grounds for extremism.
And what is counter-productive to the West is productive to it’s enemies in Al Qaeda and ISIS. Bin Laden’s strategy was provoking the US into over-reactions which painted the US as the villain and resulted in unwinnable insurgency wars to “bleed America dry”.

All that we have mentioned has made it easy for us to provoke and bait this administration. All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qaida, in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies.

This is in addition to our having experience in using guerrilla warfare and the war of attrition to fight tyrannical superpowers, as we, alongside the mujahidin, bled Russia for 10 years, until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat.

This is why Islamophobic useful idiots like Harris are a boon to ISIS propagandists. Their reductionist worldviews leave them vulnerable to provocation. Experienced journalists like Todenhoefer understand what blowhards like Harris never will.

Extremist movements like Germany’s PEGIDA are misrepresenting the facts. And in doing so, they are unwittingly playing into the hands of the ISIS. The Islamic movement has stated numerous times that escalations between Muslims and Non-Muslims in Germany and other countries of the West are in its interest.

Jihadist strategists understand this too. This is from “The Management of Savagery“, not Dabiq’s message to the infidels – Harris’ smoking-gun. Harris is literally “the inflamed opposition drawn into battle” and he’ll draw in dead American soliders with him.

Dragging the masses into the battle requires more actions which will inflame opposition and which will make the people enter into the battle, willing or unwilling, such that each individual will go to the side which he supports. We must make this battle very violent, such that death is a heartbeat away

All of this is assuming Harris is extremely ignorant and reactionary but what if he is intentionally deceptive? Is he intentionally diverting away from the primary cause of radicalisation? After all, he does consider the Neocon war propagandist Hitchens a hero. He does help fund the Israel-Intelligence linked and anti-Islam and anti-Palestinian propaganda outlet MEMRI.

The true cover-up of 9-11 was the concealment of how US support for Israel endangers American lives.

Bin Laden openly declared his inspiration for the Twin Towers attacks was Israel bombardment of Lebanon.  The 9-11 Commission Report states of 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammed ”

KSM’s animus towards the U.S. stemmed not from his experiences
there as a student, but rather from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign
policy favoring Israel
9-11 “ringleader” Muhammad Atta signed his last will and testament the very same day Israel launced Operation Grapes of Wrath.  His colleague Ralph Bodenstein believes Atta, from what he knew, could only have been driven by political concerns. Atta was outraged over the treatment of the Palestinian people.
he was very very angry about the fact that the international community would gather in order to attack Saddam Hussein but they would not gather in order to prevent the Israelis attacking Palestinians.
Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA’s Bin Laden Unit placed Israel at number three on primary motivator for Islamic terrorists.
Sam Harris clearly has no interest in “listening to what the jihadists have to say”.  He’s made a career out of not listening.

2 thoughts on “The Dangerous Ineptitude Of Armchair General Sam Harris

  1. I boil down SH’s motivation to pure ambition.
    Now that he has an echo chamber of paying followers there’s no going back for him.
    However, I am hopeful that through your work (and the Chomsky ‘discourse’) some of his followers may come to their senses. SH is like debating a creationist at this point- you don’t do it for him, you do it for the wider audience.

    Thanks very much for taking the time, I think it’s important.


  2. Wow the blindness to the quotes you are sharing and the careful exclusion of other relevant ones leads to an incredibly cherry picked viewpoint, which is especially ironic since that’s what you’re accusing Harris of. Do yourself a favor and get over your confirmation biases, it might help you to a more fact based worldview.


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