Jihad Watch advisory board Veep Hugh Fitzgerald on the situation in Iraq. If you read no other article today, or even this week or this month, read this one:
From Anthony Shadid’s story in the Washington Post about the demonstration:
“The cheers yesterday were for Sadr, interspersed with denunciations of the United States, Isarel and Hussein.
“No, no to the Americans,” the crowd shouted. “Yes yes to Islam.”
“We’re defending our country, our people, our sacred places and our beliefs,” said Ali Abboud, 21, standing atop a fence and waving an Iraqi flag. “We have one set of beliefs and the Americans have another. We won’t let them stay.”
The Administration, and some (but not all) of the enthusiasts about the current policy in Iraq (which now include those who were critical of the first stage of the Iraq war — the sensible part) apparently cannot bring themselves to distinguish between disarming Iraq (legitimate and necessary) and the subsequent “Light-Unto-the-Muslim-Nations Project” that some in the Administration have convinced themselves will work — without much discussion or analysis of what Islam teaches or even of what Iraq itself is like. What studies convinced them that Iraq was just the place to build a nation-state? This reveals the refusal, or perhaps inability, to take an ideology seriously (unless it is called “Communism” or “Nazism”), as if the invocation of the magic word “religion” is a kind of apotropaic talisman, used to ward off the “evil” of critical scrutiny by Infidels.
Or what is worse, there is occasional reliance on learning just a bit about Islam from those who are apologists for Islam. A taxonomy of the four main groups of apologists is useful.
The first group consists of those born into Islam, but are unstated dissidents. Although they recognize the source of the problems, they continue, out of filial piety, or embarrassment, to refuse to state publicly what it is about Islam that causes Muslims to behave as they do, to perceive the world as they do, and to conceive of non-Muslims as they do.
The second group, the smallest, consists of Muslim “converts.” They are, in the main, bizarre specimens whose own knowledge of Islam is imperfect, and who, if they came to Islam as the Last Stop on their Spiritual Search, are ill-inclined to get back on the bus: they will remain, from here on out, with Islam — even if it is not the real Islam, not mainstream Islam, but an imaginary, willed construct, possibly what they encountered at a particular moment, in a particular place, where all the stars were in propitious alignment (say, in Bosnia in 1990, with local Muslims, already modified in outlook by decades of living in and around powerful non-Muslims, favorably inclined toward their recent American saviors). These carriers of My Own Private Islam, while comical, if they are able to persuade others that they (new to it, but sudden experts) “know all about Islam,” can be a menace. And of course if the convert in question is given to portentousness, being a “Muslim convert” at this point may make one somehow more interesting, to oneself and to others. Or at least that is the expectancy and hope. Sometimes it works.
A third group consists of non-Muslim students of the Middle East who, through financial dependence and hope of future gain, have been bought, directly or indirectly, by Arab and therefore Muslim interests. If someone is paying for your well-endowed bottom to sit on a well-endowed chair, or has supplied the wherewithal for your Center for Muslim-Christian thisandthat, how likely is it that you will produce books that do not pooh-pooh the Jihad, but instead provide a coffee-table guide to Islam, heavy on the illustrations of ravishing mosques, tulip tiles, and turbaned Turks or gurgling fountains of Guadalquivir water in CÃ³rdoba?
A fourth group consists of those who know better, but have decided that they cannot tell the full truth about Islam because it “just won’t work,” so we have to pretend that it is otherwise. They shun Ibn Warraq and Ali Sina and plump up those whom, we allow ourselves to believe, at least are “moderates” who can be enrolled in the fight against the worst — i.e., Wahhabi — Muslims. But of course this does nothing to prevent the kind of folly we now see in Iraq, which is based entirely on the premise that the problem is not Islam, but only “Wahhabi” Islam, and that “democracy” is the cure for what ails Islam, and, and….”
A fifth group consists of those who (the very nice James Woolsey, for example) who have learned all about Islam from one man — Bernard Lewis, who is Never Wrong (except on the Oslo Accords, except on his proposal for his friend Prince Hassan to become the new king of Iraq, except for his denial of the Armenian genocide, and except for his belief in the entire Iraq Light-Unto-the-Muslim-Nations venture, which J. B. Kelly tried to explain would not and could not work). They ought to be aware that Lewis has never made dhimmitude the object of study. His analysis of anti-Jewish activity in the Muslim world treats it almost exclusively as an import from the West, as if without European antisemitism the 1350-year treatment of Jews, as of other non-Muslims, as dhimmis was irrelevant. He has not helped Bat Ye’or, and finds her too “polemical” — whatever that means. He is internally self-contradictory, and constantly. How can one who claims that there is really nothing wrong with Islam then worry aloud about the “islamization of Europe” which will be “inevitable” well “before the end of the century”? If Islam does not imply all sorts of grim things, then what’s the worry?
But Lewis is, compared to those who have attacked him — Said, Esposito, half of MESA Nostra — so impressive that many tend to overlook those personal and professional ties (being lionized in Istanbul can go to anyone’s head) that have caused him to mischaracterize Turkish treatment of non-Muslims, not least the Armenians, but also, for example, Jews in the Ottoman Empire (see, e.g., Joseph Hacker). In his mass-market survey “The Middle East,” exactly 3 small paragraphs out of 400 pages are devoted to the treatment of non-Muslims under Islam. Two of the paragraphs are exculpatory.
Those are the main groups of apologists, or semidemihemi-apologists, or apologists who do not even know they are part-apologists but who refuse to see or delineate the full truth, or to put proper emphasis on certain aspects of Islam.
So here is what we now have:
Under Saddam the demonstrations organized by the government were called to denounce the demonized “United States, Israel, and Iran.” The United States and Israel then represented the Infidel enemy — that is, the most powerful or immediate parts of that world. Iran represented Shi’a Islam, enemy not only to Ba’athist Arabs but, underneath the Ba’athist veil, to the Sunni Arabs who used Ba’athism as the ideology to protect their continued position of dominance in Iraq (as the semi-syncretistic, and islamically suspect minority of Alawites in Syria have used Ba’athism to maintain their control).
And the word “Iran” stood not just for the external enemy, but for the Shi’a who opposed Saddam Hussein within Iraq, and who were crushed in the 1991 uprising — that is to say, almost all the Shi’a of Iraq.
After more than two years of warfare, with 1600 dead and more than 10,000 seriously wounded, with great damage to American weaponry from desert wear and tear, or in some cases to supplies that seem to suffer a good deal of tare and tret, with other damage done to the citizen-army of Reserves and National Guard (my, silly of those Reservists to think that they were just that — “Reserves” to be used in case of absolute National Emergency; how ridiculous of those National Guardmen to think they were to be on call to defend the home front, or to help out in times of disasters at home — hurricanes, fires, terrorist attacks, civil unrest. Neither Reservists nor National Guardsmen realized that we were, apparently, in a World-War-like situation, and there was no way to “win the war on terror” (which has no end, and can’t be “won” and is not on “terror” in any case) except through the prodigal use of the most expensive military operations.
And the $300 billion that is now being spent is being done so without many, or possibly any, at the top even trying to understanding, even thinking it might be worthwhile to understand or to create a cadre of aides able to understand Islam. And the only dissident voices are so silly and shrill, against the entire war, and against the very idea that there is any problem with the Muslim world or with the nice Muslims all over the world, that the opposition to the current campaign is led by those whom one finds even less informed than those who seem to think that a New Day is Dawning in the Middle East (it isn’t and it won’t) and that the Vast Majority of Peaceful Muslims will Win the Day (they aren’t, they won’t, not as long as the Infidel world does not embarrass them into doing something).
And that will happen only when a sufficient number of Infidels show that they have studied the theory and practice of Islam. That means, in turn, that those Muslim “moderates” who, objectively, further the jihad at present by continuing to mislead about Islam will and should be treated as part of the problem, and not the solution.
More people in the government need to be less prodigal in attempting to bribe Muslims into what can only be very temporary good behavior. The Jihadist impulse, and the hostility inculcated against Infidels, does not go away, and does not depend on the wealth or poverty of the Believers. It depends only on the strength and power with which the texts of Islam are received, distributed, believed. That’s it.
If the hundreds of billions now being spent on foreign aid, direct or indirect, to Muslim countries, was instead spent on nuclear and solar and wind energy, on conservation measures, on figuring out how to appeal to and enlarge the fissures and resentments within Islam — of non-Arab Muslims for Arab supremacist ideology within Islam, of Shi’a for Sunni oppressors in Pakistan and Iraq and Bahrain and Kuwait — it would save — oh, save enough to save Social Security, and give everyone in the United States a full scholarship to college, and a few other things like that.
Again one keeps coming back to what should be obvious: the ideology of Islam, not poverty or wealth, not democracy or despotism or variants on either, is for Infidels and Believers alike. It is the source of the Great, if sometimes seemingly intermittent (in those periods of quiescence when Muslims lack the wherewithal to act on their beliefs) and Permanent Divide. That Divide comes from immutable, canonical texts.
Those texts — Qu’ran, Hadith, and Sira — are now spread far more efficiently, in capillary fashion, even unto the farthest village, through the technology available for the Western world through a system of distribution — audiocassettes, videocassettes, satellite television — far more potent and therefore far more dangerous, than what has ever existed before. And out of ignorance and criminal negligence, Western governments allowed large numbers of Muslims into their own countries, to the now-obvious great distress of the indigenous Infidels, and damage to the civil institutions and way of life, of those Infidel lands. Among some Infidel populations, the dawning of comprehension, still imperfect, has come with some spectacular event (the killing of Theo van Gogh and attitudes revealed after it). In many countries, governments are working furiously to shield their Infidel populations from learning about, or discussing openly, the problems that need to be discussed. Self-censorship, so as not to offend the supposedly delicate sensibilities of Muslims, who play constantly upon this with a blend of smiling Muslim discussion of “peace,” “tolerance,” the “example of Andalucia,” and “Dialogue” — and with, at other times, threats that range from litigation to physical harassment to violent demonstrations in the heart of cities (“Death to France,” Muslim rioters chanted in the middle of Paris last year), to threats of murder, to murder.
It appears to be difficult, or even impossible, for Western leaders, Western chanceries, and even those who for some reason present themselves as stout defenders of the West but too often are simply young and not-so-young men on the make in so-called “conservative” magazines and newspapers, to begin to comprehend the simplest matter: what people are taught to believe matters. And the more complete that system of belief, the more it attains to the condition of a Total Explanation of the Universe, with a division of that universe between Believer and Infidel, the more dangerous to the outsider, the enemy, the Infidel, that belief-system is and always will be — whatever the nice visiting Americans do to improve the schools, the hospitals, the power grids, the bridges, the roads, the oilfields, and no matter how many toys, how many soccer balls, and how much candy they give away to the children, or how many contracts to clamoring locals. Gratitude, even if occasionally unfeigned (those children, still too young to have been completely brainwashed to hate the Infidels, probably are grateful for that candy and those soccer balls), is transient. Islam is, for these people who have little or nothing else in what thin spiritual or intellectual life they may be said to possess, the only thing going — and it is permanent.
It is now mid-April 2005. About $10 billion a month is being spent on the military campaign of this “war on terror.” Many other billions are being spent on security within the United States. Hundreds of billions more have been spent all over Europe on similar security.
Whatever it cost to destroy Saddam’s weaponry was well worth it. But now? Why, especially when the price of oil has doubled, should American soldiers be risking their lives to keep the Iraqis from being at each others’ throats (for when the Americans leave, at each others’ throats they will be, sooner or later) when having them at each others’ throats is not only to be expected in a country which was originally composed of three distinct Ottoman vilayets (Mosul, Baghdad, Basra), but in which, during more than half of its brief history, the regime has engaged in the persecution or even mass-murder, of Kurds by Arabs, of Shi’a by Sunni? The 10-year regency (with the British as the Regents) ended in 1932. The Hashemite monarchy lasted for 26 years, during which non-Muslims (the Christian Assyrians in 1933, the Jews in 1941 and again in 1948, with continued persecution and murder of the Jews who remained from 1948 on) were murdered. The country exhibits not one but both kinds of fissures within Islam that it is very much in the interests of the Western, Infidel world to do nothing to discourage, and certainly nothing to attempt to lessen: the clash of Arab and non-Arab (Kurdish) Muslims; the clash of Sunni and Shi’a. Yet the Americans continue to damage their citizen-army, to use up weapons, and to show continued inability within the army to tell the truth about Islam. What does it mean when one colonel has to take aside a few officers and discuss with them “privately” the nature of Islam — and even to worry about news of this conversation getting out, when the nature of Islam, and the history of Jihad-conquest and dhimmitude, ought to be the subject of courses at West Point and the Army War College?
What were those January elections? Did Iraqis march off to cast their ballots not as “Kurds” or “Arabs,” nor as “Shi’a” or “Sunni,” — but as “Iraqis,” the free proud yeoman who had thoroughly internalized an understanding of democracy, and of guarantees for the rights of minorities, and of limits on power, and of the centrality of the rights of the individual — all those things that make Western (i.e., “real”) democracy more than a matter of mere head-counting? Or did they go off to see justice done, to get as much power for the “Kurds” or the “Shi’a” as they could, doing the bidding of some leader, voting as told, and of course proud to think that they had done something that was “just like” the democracy they have in the outside world. But it wasn’t. It isn’t. It won’t be.
In the old days, they would denounce “America, Israel, and the Shi’a.” And now? Now they denounce “America, Israel, and Saddam.” What a difference two years makes. Shall we keep it up? Shall we stay, because the forces of Moqtada al-Sadr tell us to leave and we never ever want to do what one of our enemies tells us to do? Or shall we stay, until the Iraqi government is “good and ready” for us to leave — putting our own soldiers’ lives, our own limited wealth, our own attention, and our own policies in thrall to what Iraqis, for god’s sake, want or think they want? If they want us around as their police force, while their soldiers remain with their training-wheels, to come in and rescue them in any and every operation, and if they want us around to leave even more American money on the table, on the ground, stuck to the walls — and how they do — well, it’s understandable. In our refusal to cut aid to malevolent Egypt, in our continued bribing of Pakistan, in our belief that we should “economically develop” the unviable “state” of “Palestine” (there is no two-state “solution”; if one builds up “Palestine” one threatens Israel — it is a zero-sum outcome, despite all the insistence that “both parties can live in peace and prosperity”) we show the deleterious effects of the government-wide and society-wide refusal to look squarely at the realities of Islam.
The international jizyah — disguised even from those paying it — has got to end. And the demonstration yesterday was one more bit of evidence: “No, no to Americans. Yes, yes to Islam.”
What did you expect?
But someone asked me, “Hugh – what do you propose, in lieu of the Bush administration’s attempt to begin to defang Islam by creating a democracy in Iraq?”
The “defanging” took place when weaponry was seized and destroyed, and weapons were projects interrupted, and weapons scientists were arrested or brought to the West, along with all sorts of information about who was helping Iraq, and how and what and where. Iraq is now “defanged.” “Democracy” follows upon the development of some rudimentary civil society. It also must be demonstrated that “democracy” will constrain Islam. In Iraq the opposite seems to be the case. The primitive and temporary “democracy” that has come about in this three-vilayets-under-one-flag misconceived state will do nothing to force those in Iraq to face up to the failures, political, economic, intellectual and social, of Islam.
And why are we staying in Iraq now? To build up the Iraqi army? Why? To make it more difficult to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, by having soldiers held hostage to Iranian retaliation? In order to spend another $100 billion — with about half-a-billion earmarked for the giant American Embassy alone? Because the Administration cannot say, publicly or even privately, that it should not really care if Iraq holds together, and that a free Kurdistan, and Sunni-Shi’a fighting, are not bad things, but possibly highly desirable things? We should constantly attempt to fixate on the fissures within Islam (that exist, that were not created by Infidel outsiders, and which Infidel outsiders should no nothing to discourage).
Educate the public, or the educable public, about the doctrine of Islam. An educated public will understand why Muslim migration to the Western world is ill-advised and dangerous. Attempt to bloc all Muslim powers and peoples from acquiring major weaponry. If they are supplied with anything dangerous, make sure whatever tanks or planes they get have been specially outfitted (as the super-computers supplied to the Soviet Union ) so that they can be sabotaged, if misused, from afar. Stop foreign aid to Muslim states. Instead, recognize that every bit of aid they get makes their own lives less devoted to scrambling constantly for their existence, and that time on their hands always ends up being devoted to Islam, and more Islam. And realize that a free-market ideology would not have enabled the Manhattan Project to proceed, or many other important projects requiring the kind of investment only governments can make, and the same is now true for energy projects.
There’s more. But that’s a start.