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|Reflections on the First Anniversary of 9-11
by Richard F. Doyle
16 October 2002
Islam and East-West Relations: A Westerner's Puzzlement, and Reaction
I have been searching in vain for any rational motivations behind the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. Obviously there are much broader considerations. What follows is an attempt to understand and address the relevant issues.
The suicide bombings in Israel and the reactions thereto, the never-ending series of tit for tat killings are but a microcosm of East-West relations. There is a religious dimension, but any rational interpretation of the three major religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism -all Abrahamic faiths, evinces no justification for murder. Ironically, jingoistic distinctions between and within them, is the cause of much bloodshed - worldwide. However, modern terrorism transcends religious animosity.
The evident hatred of America among some Muslims and Arabs, exemplified by the Ayatollah Khomeini’s “Death to America” slogan, is enigmatic to many Westerners. According to National Review, the three distinct ideologies at odds with the U.S. (and Israel) are Baathist Fascism in Iraq (and to some extent Syria), Shiite radicalism in Iran, and Sunni radicalism in Saudi Arabia. The many allegiances in Mid-Eastern politics are confusing. Historian Bernard Lewis divided them into three categories: 1) pro-American regimes and anti-American populations - Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan; 2) anti-American regimes and pro-American populations - Iran, Iraq; 3) pro-American governments and pro-American populations - Turkey, Israel.
In the words of Washington Times editor, Wesley Pruden: “This war began long before Sept. 11. Islamist militants, if not necessarily Islamic militants, murdered Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics nearly 30 years ago, and since then we've seen the attempted murder of the Pope by a Turkish militant, the Libyan plot that brought down Pan Am 103 over Scotland, the massacre of U.S. Marines in Lebanon, the bombing of a nightclub in Germany and a U.S. military barracks in Saudi Arabia, a deadly ambush in Somalia, the attack on the USS Cole, and finally the unspeakable horrors of Sept. 11, all done in the name of Islam. These atrocities were counterpoints to Islamic wars against Christians in half a dozen African countries.” As British historian Niall Fergusson observes, “Since 1968, there have been 500 hijackings around the world and more than 4,000 recorded terrorist bombings,” (one recently in Bali, Indonesia). Then there is the massacre of Jewish athletes at the ’72 Munich Olympics, the assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II and the butchery of 64 tourists in Luxor, Egypt in 1997. Lately are the suicide bombings, the brutal, grisly decapitation of the Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl and probably the D.C. area sniper killings. Is this the thanks we get for sending men to die protecting Muslims in Somalia and preventing their slaughter in Bosnia?
At least 10 “terrorist” groups are responsible for these atrocities: Palestine Liberation Front, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Palestine Islamic Jihad, Hamas (Islamic resistance Movement), Hezbollah (Party of God), Al-Jihad, Al-Qaida, New People’s Army, AUM Supreme Truth, Alex Boncayao Brigade. Their tentacles reach into the U.S. Their operatives sneak around, scurrying from cave to hideout, pursued even by rational Arab governments, in pursuit of their psychotic fantasies. There really is, as President Bush says, an “Axis of Evil.” We live our daily lives protected from acts of terror only by the vigilance of our security people. Further attacks with more terrible weapons are certain unless this element is eradicated.
Neither West nor East can claim their/our cultures are perfect. Both have unleashed the dogs of war largely based on imagined hurts. Christian countries went through hate-filled phases, but mostly long ago. Witness: the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery, the Ku Klux Klan. It is inexplicable, but sadly true, that adherents to one religion are prepared to kill adherents to another – often even proclaiming it to be the will of God. If the Christian Crusades were immoral in ancient times, the “counter-Crusades” are equally immoral in modern times.
Some criticisms against Western culture, its hegemonic arrogance and moral laxity, are legitimate. A minority of Westerners are decadent even by non-prudish standards. Our disgraced last president was an example. The slime and drivel emanating from Hollywood is pervasive. Like the Augean Stables, our ‘entertainment’ and advertisements do need to be cleaned up, but bin Laden is neither Hercules nor Saladin – more of a deluded Rasputin. Some Westerners consider homosexuality to be merely an “alternate lifestyle,” but we aren’t barbaric enough to stone or behead perverts and religious defectors as some Islamic countries do. Then there’s our general acceptance of abortion. So, in one sense, we ARE responsible for anti-U.S. feelings. Nevertheless, freedom is a necessary component of a civilized society, even if that entails tolerating some distasteful people and expressions. Our faults don’t justify attacks on our citizenry, and our good aspects tend to be overlooked. The U.S. is also hated because of our (oil-motivated) support of entrenched Arab rulers - who incidentally maintain stability, however oppressive.
Extremists of all religions bury their heads in the holy sand, but some Muslim heads seem buried the deepest - xenophobic and intolerant of all other religions. Islamic schools mandate religion, while ours ban it. I don’t know which is worse. In the U.S. even faintly religious symbols may be banned because someone somewhere grasping for a moment of fame might object. Muslims consider women to be inferior to men. That’s almost an affront to God. Mullahs have enormous influence in the Islamic world; some are demagogues who boldly presume to speak for God. Those claiming that Jews perpetrated the heinous Trade Center attacks are beyond incredible. Their premise has shifted from salvation to aggressively political propagation and indiscriminate murder. If what the fanatics are doing is “religious,” then their religion seems fundamentally flawed. Though the Qur’an seems to contain both the sacred and the profane, it’s inconceivable that a decent Allah would condone mass murder. Indeed I believe He would severely punish its perpetrators. How anyone could be so stupid as to believe he will go to Heaven for committing murder and suicide is beyond me. The expectation of 72 dark-eyed virgins awaiting suicide bombers in the next life is just the pornographic fantasy of some sick old mind. The pretense that Osama bin Laden and his ilk, when properly punished, will be “martyrs” confuses sainthood with insanity. They created over 3,000 martyrs here just in one day – innocent ones.
Our conflict with Islamists would appear to be less between opposing perspectives of good than it is between good and evil disguised as good. To a Westerner, Allah seems to be anything radical “followers” declare him to be: bloodthirsty and hate-driven, or otherwise. The radical delusion seems to be that they are assisting Allah by punishing the West for its sins. Ominously, the Qur’an teaches war, death and destruction against “unbelievers,” (i.e. the rest of us), containing a convoluted logic that rationalizes evil as good. Nevertheless Islam is not a monolithic culture; it speaks in many voices, some rational by Western standards , some not, it encompasses a spectrum from pacifist (at least ostensibly) to rabid. The latter type prevalent in Indonesia, North Africa and the Mid-East. The peaceful Muslim majority is caught “between a rock and a hard place,” between their conscience and revolutionary radicals. Still, the line between moderate and militant Islam is scarcely visible to a Westerner.
Most Westerners respect the essence of Islam, but reject the notion that it is superior to our religions. Rather than competing with other religions, Muslims would be well advised to cooperate with them – to their mutual end: saving souls. Righteous Muslims should be strong enough to ignore our failings, not be influenced by them. They must be ashamed and embarrassed by the atrocities committed purportedly with the blessing of their religion. They should be in the forefront of cleaning up the “terrorist” cesspool and rooting out the crazies, or be considered guilty by association. They failed to do so; now we must undertake this task in order to preserve civilization itself. It seems Chairman Arafat hasn’t learned anything from the ‘spankings’ dealt by General Sharon’s troops and tanks.
Mid-eastern zealots with a paranoid view of the non-Islamic world damn us if we show interest in their part of the world, and damn us if we don’t. Evidently they can’t be pleased. One rationalization for jihad is the presence of Westerners on Arab soil. With few exceptions, we haven’t objected to the large Arab/Muslim presence on ours – not yet, and seldom violently. Is Arab soil more sacred than ours? What arrogance! There would be no need for U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia if Iraq and other rogue states behaved in a civilized manner.
The real motivations of Islamic extremists are evidently fear, irrational hatred – especially of Jews, ironically their fellow Semites – and sheer envy of the fruits of Western civilization, all masquerading as religion. The Western world hasn’t had such violent class envy since the French Revolution. Some African-Americans are of the same mindsets.
Many Mid-Easterners also object to our interest in profits. Money is not evil; dishonesty in its accumulation is. Some Westerners are dishonest, but probably no more of us than of our critics, perhaps fewer. Any who object to the U.S. dollar as an international monetary standard would be well-advised to seek another standard – lawfully.
Granted, some militantly rebellious forces around the world do have legitimate claims against occupying armies, however desperate their means: the Tibetans and Uighurs in and West of China and the IRA in Ireland come to mind. Likewise, the Jews have a legitimate, historic claim to Israel. The difference is Jews largely realized their claim.
Whether controlled by the “bourgeoisie” or the “proletariat,” most Arab countries seem to be police states, lacking a climate of opportunity (through no fault of ours). These despotic “cultures” couldn’t flourish without the oil beneath their feet.
Arab states remain poor despite the fact that they have the world’s richest oil reserves. As historian Victor Davis Hanson noted, “It is not an accident that “the un-free Islamic world imports jets, tanks, and artillery from a democratic West.” Italy’s prime minister, Silvo Berlusconi, unfavorably but accurately contrasted the Mid-Eastern world’s psychology with the Western world’s. Yet, the former could be as well off as the latter, with fundamental changes in attitude, education, a stronger work ethic, and ability to face reality. The Jews and Qataris have many of these qualities; why haven’t the majority of Mid-Easterners developed them? In this formerly advanced civilization why are there no Afghani Tolstoys or Iraqi Einsteins? Why do they seem capable only of destruction, not construction? Self-improvement is preferable to trying to drag Western civilization down to primitive levels, and is much more honorable than envy.
Arabs/Muslims have suffered great humiliation, not from the Jews, as they suppose, but from themselves. Stereotype though it may be, Arabs have largely proven themselves untrustworthy. It appears that madness lies deep within their culture. According to Salman Rushdie, an Iraqi satirist penned the following: “The disease that is in us, is from us.”
Sadly, an anti-Semitic mentality pervades even much of Europe. Hitler’s malignant legacy perhaps? Next to the Qur’an, a favorite Arab philosophic screed is Hitler’s Mein Kampf. No kidding! Ironically, Hitler cared little more for Muslims than for Jews.
Before September 11th America had fallen victim to a mod/lib mishmash of political correctness, multiculturalism and peacenik caterwauling from the left’s useful idiots. Noam Chomsky, Ramsey Clark, Louis Farrakhan, the National Education Association and their masochistic fellow travelers do not seem to comprehend the depths of the danger facing us. Pacifists denounce war, blithely ignorant of the fact that war has already been declared - against us. Even after the events of September 11th, they are ever eager to exaggerate our accidental killing of several Afghan civilians. Today’s liberals (neo-liberals, actually) must confront reality, as difficult as that may be for them. We tolerate anti-Americanism at our peril. Wishful thinking will not deter Saddam or save our country from further attack.
Pious denunciations of “revenge” are no longer fashionable. Revenge is precisely what is needed, provided its aim is accurate. Like naughty children, some rogue countries need to be spanked. If our enemies want war, war they will get - and loose. They have “filled us with a terrible resolve.” A new era is dawning in this country. The so-called terrorists have inadvertently done us a favor. We will never be the same again. Knee-jerk anti-Americanism and militant feminists are out . We have drawn closer together, and reject the Blame-America-Firsters, external and internal. Former mayor Giuliani said, “There is no room for neutrality.”
This sleeping giant has awakened, to the great consternation of neo-liberals. We’re taking this personally, as well we should. These people would happily kill any of us. Foreign and domestic threats must be neutralized. Our military is rebuilding after years of neglect. Need for a missile defense shield has become evident. Intelligence will be handled better than in the previous administration – hopefully without the presidential-ankle-biting currently in vogue. Oil is vitally important to advanced civilizations; therefore, if our politicians have any sense, we will deprive our Eastern enemies of much of their revenue by tapping more of our own oil in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico and by developing energy alternatives. It makes no sense to continue risking miners’ lives by digging for coal. Substantial oil is also available from Russia and Africa. New extraction technologies promise supplies long into the future. When (not if) the next attack occurs, we must have trauma centers available to handle casualties; therefore the exorbitant medical malpractice awards encouraged by tort lawyers must be curtailed.
It appears airline pilots will be armed – at least with stun devices. The necessity for “profiling” is self-evident and only common sense. . As Justice Robert Jackson said in 1949, “The Constitution is not a suicide pact,” (anyway it shouldn’t be). We will be more careful about who we let into this country – and who gets to stay. Deportations can and should be expected (Pat Buchanan call your office ). Although the INS is a disaster, we may even track illegal aliens as vigorously as we do alimony/support debtors. No longer will we bring chaos upon ourselves by extending tolerance to the intolerant. Less attention will be paid to the “see no evil” visionaries among us. As Schopenauer said, “To forgive and forget is to surrender dearly bought experience.” We must and will regain our old sense of purpose, unity, and – yes – patriotism. Immigrants (and their descendants) not content with our country or language ought to consider returning to their country of origin. As a young man, I questioned the saying: “America, love it or leave it.” Now, at age 71, it makes a lot of sense.
We are not “terrorized;” we are angry – justifiably so. Angry enough to mount a modern “crusade” against this evil. The Marines at Tripoli knew how to deal with Barbary Coast pirates – and still do. During the Spanish-American War in the Philippines, General Pershing devised an effective deterrent to Islamic terrorists: his forces executed them with bullets dipped in pig fat, and sewed their corpses into pig skins before burial, thus denying their entry into Heaven according to superstition. Reportedly, the Russian army employed the same tactic in the Mid-East with equally successful results.
The only thing a bully understands is a punch in the nose. After a nightclub bombing, U.S. air strikes went right to the bedroom of Kaddafi. He's been quiet ever since. Everyone knows we have the capability of blowing enemy countries off the face of the earth, and some here are beginning to like the idea. It would not be prudent for America’s enemies to push us much further.
When you strike a hornet's nest you destroy it; not swipe at it with a broom. It’s fortunate that George W. Bush is at the helm. He realizes that one cannot go half way in a war, and won’t make the mistake - however well-intentioned - his father made with Iraq of “pulling the punch.”
This fight against evil is long term if not endless. It will be a global war, fought on many fronts. As Senator Byrd said, “If we expect to kill every terrorist in the world, that will keep us at it beyond doomsday.” We face the same dilemma and dangers in the Mid-East, especially Saudi Arabia, as we did decades ago in Cuba, South America and the Philippines: whether to befriend dictatorial rulers, the middle class or the proletariat. “Those who forget history are condemned etc.” There are severe dangers in any choice. Whichever choices we make, we must preempt the capability of irresponsible nations to develop weapons capable of immense destruction. Support for Israel during its present struggle is imperative. If Israelis can’t root out the fanatics there, soon we will have to do so here. Given the capacity of some rogue countries for evil, we are gazing into a nuclear night. Grave decisions have to be taken. Preemptive strikes will be needed.
Cleansing of Iraq by our military will probably be necessary soon, with or without lukewarm European compulsive “againers.” Some critical Europeans, thanklessly benefiting from our protection and with a tendency to go “wobbly,” have journalistically and politically “bit the hand…” France comes to mind. Many Europeans tend to be in denial of the threat, perhaps out of their own weakness. Old friend Britain is an exception, now partially repaying its debt to us for saving it in the World Wars, with a modicum of support. We must stop the hemorrhage of foreign aid to countries that do not support us in the U.N. Our peacekeeping troops in Europe, the Balkans, Japan and possibly Korea may have to be re-directed. It’s high time those countries policed their own. Those allies reluctant to participate in military cleansing of rouge countries could at least agree to peacekeeping duties therein when the fighting is over. Perhaps a temporary Western occupation of Iraq would assist the entire region to civilize.
Of course a more desirable strategy would be to educate all persuasions to abide each other peacefully. Imagine a top level conference of Christian, Jewish and Islamic leaders sitting down to settle religious differences. If they were as holy and sincere as purported, this would be entirely possible. However at present these conditions don’t seem to exist. Perhaps we should think “outside the box.” In the old days, powerful men might have simply drawn lines on maps, assigned land to Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc. - and all would have been well. If not for the “sensitive” among us, and with modern methods of mass transportation, that could probably be done now (leaving the Holy Lands in U.N. hands).
The poet said, “East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” In this modern world it’s almost impossible to not be influenced or hurt by each other. If we cannot root out the evildoers, and let’s face it that is a daunting task, we might find it pragmatic to distance ourselves from the uncivilized world to the extent possible, keeping ever vigilant. “Fortress America” may become necessary, while assimilating and civilizing cultures already in residence here. In the long run, if we are to avoid a clash of civilizations, we must encourage dialogue between the major religions, and drain the swamp of injustice. It wouldn’t hurt to re-assess the validity of Muslim objections to our more hedonistic ways. Western aid to poor countries, including lowering trade barriers, is advisable, in return for good behavior. In time, the old school Islamists may be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century by younger, better educated citizens.
We should thank God for those brave men in Afghanistan and elsewhere
protecting us from those who would do us grievous harm. Christians and
Jews pray to the same God Muslims do, the Rev. Franklin Graham to the
contrary notwithstanding. If those prayers are righteous, sincere, and
answered, East and West can abide peacefully as neighbors, learn to distinguish
good from evil, and pursue the former. The alternative is Armageddon!