“When my children ask me why their dad is over in Iraq and he can’t be here with us. I want to give them an educated honest answer. I have found that history is the most logical answer and the only truth I can find on this subject. Then I ran out of answers and all I could say was ‘I don’t know anymore.’ I believed all the propaganda. But I figured that I would set forth the effort to get to know the Jihad and the Koran to have some logic as to where these radical people where coming from. To tell you the truth I was hoping to find that I was wrong and being some what of a bigot.” — a query by an army wife, at Jihad Watch
The reason their father, and all the other officers and men, are still in Iraq long after they should have come home, is that Bush had an idea, and now the idea has him. Neither he, nor Rice, nor Rumsfeld, nor — when they were still there — Wolfowitz and Feith (both long out of it) could properly identify the menace as Islam, because none of them properly understood the belief-system of Islam. They could not permit themselves to understand it. They had to believe, rather, that it was a “perversion” of the faith, that the real Muslims were such people as Allawi and Ambassadar Rend al-Rahim Francke and Ahmad Chalabi. No one understood that those Muslims-in-name-only had spent decades in the West, were thoroughly secularized as well as westernized, and while they did not dare to become apostates, they had as little to do with the Islam of the masses in Iraq and elsewhere, as does, for example Fouad Ajami or Kanan Makiya. But, as unrepresentative Muslims taken hopefully to be representatives, and with the inability to figure out how to talk about Islam without giving offense to all those considered to be, quite optimistically, “moderate Muslims,” these Muslims too managed to prolong Western confusion.
The so-called tough-minded were not tough-minded at all. They were sentimentalists who could not comprehend that Rodney King was wrong, and that there are reasons why we can’t all “get along.” The main reason is the belief-system of Islam, that contains as a central doctrine the religiously-sanctioned duty of Jihad to spread Islam until it everywhere dominates, and Islam rules. That this doctrine had fallen into desuetude was owed not to a change in the doctrine itself: it does not change, it cannot change, it is based on immutable and canonical texts, and all the efforts to change or reform those texts have met with total failure. Rather, its temporary disuse was based on the appearance of the wherewithal, chiefly ten trillion dollars received by Arab and Muslim states from oil revenues, and what those revenues could buy.
In addition, the analysts of the day were deeply immersed in the Cold War, a period when Islam was seen only as a “bulwark against Communism.” During that time, Saudi Arabia, for example, was presumably as our “staunch ally.” Its alliance with us, however, was really for quite different reasons from the ones we assumed were its foundation. For reasons having nothing to do with ours, the Saudis helped to fund and supply the Afghani muhajedin in their fight against the Soviet Army. Decades of thinking that “Turkey” was represented adequately by its Kemalist generals, and Pakistan represented by ramrod-straight Sandhurst-educated moustachioed generals also held (quite wrongly) to be “pro-Western” when what they really were was “pro-Western-military-aid,” had its effect on Western analysts. And those analysts lacked both the leisure and the mental flexibility to begin to study Islam aright, as they should have, on the morning of September 12, 2001. Instead, it was bombs away in Afghanistan, and “Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance” that had been “hijacked” by “extremists” at home. Something of that sort continues to be said even today. What is even worse, policy continues to be made on the assumption that if only something could change in Muslim societies — an end to “poverty” and “injustice” (quite a program) and of course, the introduction of “democracy,” midwifed by the American government — what ailed Muslim peoples and polities would be cured. Because whatever was wrong with those peoples and polities couldn’t be Islam. That would not be possible. Islam is a “religion” and all things called “religions” have to be Forces For Good. That is what Bush appears still to believe, and what so many others, including some in the army and in Homeland Security and in the police, still believe, or are forced to pretend to believe. It is a prescription for failure and for fiasco after fiasco.
And it was not only the Cold War view of Islam as an ally and not an enemy, a view hard to shake, that played a role and plays a role still (just look at the vaporings of Brzezinski, whose animus toward Israel cannot entirely explain his vacuity on the subject of Islam — or rather, his complete ignorance on the subject of Islam). Nor does the fault lie only with the laziness of officials, though anyone who sees how official Washington works, with those hard-working staff members preparing those little 2-3 page executive summaries, will understand that that simply will not do when something as involved as the contents of Islam, and the history of Islam, must be assimilated. It is impossible to imagine Bush, or Rice, or for that matter Rumsfeld or Wolfowitz, having ever read a single book all the way through on the subject of Islamic tenets, much less five or six. They don’t do it; clearly, they haven’t done it. Yet it is that book-reading that will help them to begin to make sense of everything that happens — in the Arab war on Israel, in Kashmir, in black Africa (especially in Sudan, Mali, Nigeria, Niger), in the alarmed and unsettled-by-Islam countries of Western Europe, and of course in Iraq.
Despite the dark mutterings of David Duke, of Pat Buchanan, of Walt and Mearsheimer, it is hardly a “Jewish lobby” that has been directing American policy. Carter and Brzezinski browbeat Israel into accepting the diktat of Saint Sadat, and the American government has spent the last three decades trying to push the Israelis into one agreement after another, always based on surrender of land or other rights. The Americans under Carter never tried to keep the Shah upon his throne. American policymakers never understood the supreme relevance of Islam, and of course never did a thing about energy policy other than put its trust in what the well-financed Saudi lobby insisted was our “staunch ally” Saudi Arabia. That the Saudis teach hatred of non-Muslims in their school texts, and that their brand of Islam is even worse, even more malevolent, in its hatred of Infidels, than the non-Wahhabi brands (which are vicious enough), was overlooked. After all, those Al-Saud princes and princelings and princelettes were so presentable, and their receptions and little gifts and promises of more gifts were so very well known, and the port-and-cigars shtick of tennis-playing Prince Bandar was so well-practiced, that it would have been churlish to see Saudi Arabia as it was, as it is, as it always will be. It is the Saudi lobby that has throttled, ever since 1973, attempts to realize that without some kind of national energy policy OPEC will continue to receive those trillions, significant parts of which go into funding not only arms purchases, but also campaigns of Da”wa and mosques, madrasas, and propaganda all over the West, which helps weaken the immune system of Infidels to the Muslim invasion they seem helpless to stop or control or reverse.
You ask what you should tell your children as to why their father is in Iraq. Here’s why: Iraq War #1, which was rational and justified, ended in early 2004. That war, to destroy the regime, and to search for and destroy all major weaponry, made sense. It also made sense, though no one has argued anywhere, but as has been argued here several hundred times since early 2004, that the removal of Saddam Hussein made a Sunni-Shi”a clash inevitable, and that there was nothing to be done to keep it from happening though it might be delayed or temporarily suppressed by American forces, and that it was to be welcomed as one of the best ways to divide and demoralize and therefore weaken, the camp of Islamic jihad — a camp to which Iraq will always belong, with or without this “Iraq the Light-Unto-the-Muslim-Nations” Project that the Bush administration so obstinately clings to despite all the evidence that shows how impossible, and how undesirable from our point of view, are these attempts to make Iraq into something it cannot be are.
The reason their father is in Iraq now is because, since the beginning of April 2004, the American government, not comprehending what it set in motion by removing Saddam Hussein, has insisted on remaining for what might be called Iraq War #2. Because the enemy was never properly recognized, Iraq was not seen as the ideal place to exploit sectarian and ethnic divisions. The American government was bent not on a war of self-defense against the Jihad, but rather, a messianic campaign to transplant the Liberty Tree of democracy in the sandy or rocky soil of Iraq and of Afghanistan. For all the talk about a “tough” reaction, there was nothing “tough” about it. It was sentimentality, Rodney-King sentimentality, all the way — and on top of it, a shallow understanding both of Western democracy and of the Framers, as Bush and Rice ever more crazily made analogies between the crude Iraqis and the highly intelligent products of Western civilization who gathered in Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention.
The inability to identify the enemy, and to substitute instead this ridiculous and dangerous phrase “war on terror,” has had consequences both for perception, and for policy. Even now it is unclear if Bush, or for that matter such Congressional loyalists as Lieberman and McCain, have at long last begun to see how wrongheaded, what a squandering of resources, the continued American presence in Iraq is. They do not even now seem to realize how messianic are the goals of America in Iraq, or how those goals are merely one more evasion, one more way to avoid seeing Islam plain and taking the kind of measures, and employing the various instruments, that were used aside from combat during World War II and the Cold War, including economic warfare, and of course propaganda to demoralize the enemy.
Given that Lieberman is in so much trouble, wouldn’t you think he would at least begin to consider the war in Iraq not from the viewpoint of those viciously opposed to him, but from the viewpoint of, say, this website, where the war is opposed, but opposed because it is ineffective, it squanders resources, it prevents the exploitation of the divisions in Islam just waiting to be exploited? He still has time, he and McCain, to figure out that they do not have to go down with the obstinate Bush policy in Iraq, do not have to sacrifice themselves. But will he?
The policy today, the policy of supporting local leaders because, while Muslim, they are not as fanatical as others, and for the moment need our aid, and of trying to “get rid of terrorists” in Iraq and Afghanistan, is futile. The policy includes:
1) killing what are assumed to be a finite number of terrorists, identified almost exclusively with the single terrorist group Al Qaeda, when in fact the number of such groups is very large, and the membership in those constantly name-shifting groups is endlessly replenishable;
2) curing the conditions that supposedly cause Muslim unhappiness, since these, it was assumed, must explain “terrorism” and the hostility toward Infidels that that “terrorism” embodies. The first condition that needed to be cured was said to be “poverty.” It was pointed out to no avail that terrorists tend to be better educated and better off economically than most Muslims, and that illiterate villagers untouched by modern ways were least likely to participate in the worldwide Jihad, or to be a threat beyond their own villages. It was likewise ignored that the threat of Jihad comes most from those states — Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia — that have benefited the most from oil money. That money is used to fund both the qital (combat) instrument of Jihad, but also all those other instruments of Jihad: the funding of mosques and madrasas, and of an army of Western hirelings prepared to mislead Infidels about Islam, and of campaigns of Da”wa that identify and target the most vulnerable members of Infidel societies, the psychically and socially and economically marginal.
Those who make policy for the American government should not have been surprised that “democracy” in anything other than the most vulgar sense of head-counting, would not and could not take root in the sandy soil of Iraq. How could it? Of course, the Shi”a, who make up 60-65% of the Iraqi population, were happy to pretend to be believers in democracy, for it gave them an easy and in the eyes of the powerful, and still present, Americans, a way to take that power in a fashion that seemed, to those Americans, to be the right way to do it. What was lacking were all the other things — the enshrined rights of individuals, the location of a government’s legitimacy (as a matter of principle and not of mere expediency) in the will of the people, and the protection of minority rights based on a rule of man-made law. All of these are lacking in Iraq, and are lacking precisely because of Islam.
The failure to identify Islam, or the duty of Jihad, as the threat, the menace, the enemy, and to examine honestly the immutable texts from which it is derived, rather than calling what is going on merely a “war on terror” (as if the war against the Nazis had been merely a “war on the blitzkrieg”), has helped cause the fiasco in Iraq. That fiasco increases the longer American forces remain, and the longer men’s lives, war materiel, and money is squandered on a false vision, a false hope, and false messianism.
And what makes it particularly maddening is that Bush and all his advisors begin from the unsupported and unsupportable premise that Islam is not, and cannot be, the enemy (it can be, and it is, but one can do it cleverly, through the synecdoche of calling for a “war of self-defense against those who promote Jihad” which is a mouthful, but much better than “war on terror”). They have not been able, starting from this false premise, to understand the nature of Iraq, or the appearance and growth of sectarian and ethnic divisions over economic and political power, which were inevitable once the iron regime of Saddam’s Sunni-run despotism was undone. Instead of recognizing or even deliberately welcoming such divisions, the Administration has for nearly three years been doing whatever it can to prate about “the Iraqi people” (no such thing) and the “model of Iraq.” What model? Of what? And why would anyone in his right mind think that Sunni Arab states would delightedly take as their model of anything the land of Iraq, in which power had just been transferred from the Sunnis to the despised Shi”a? Who could possibly have thought that? The Administration has opposed the breakup of this fictional nation, and has done all it could to prevent those very divisions within Iraq that nevertheless cannot be healed — for there is no way to give the Sunnis what they demand, there is no way to give the Kurds what they require, short of full independence. And that independent Kurdistan could be of great benefit to American policy, rightly conceived, as an example to other non-Arab Muslims, such as the Berbers of Algeria, of what they too might achieve — not to mention its electrifying effect on Kurds in Iran, and therefore on Baluchis, Arabs, and even Azeris in Iran, who together make up nearly 50% of the population of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Anyone now in Iraq who is still is working manfully to create an “Iraqi” police force or an “Iraqi” army must, at some point, have had his doubts. And he is right to have his doubts. The policy is wrong. The “Iraqis” do not exist. A few brave Arabs working or fighting beside the Americans, and who perhaps have earned their trust or even admiration, should not be mistaken for such statements as “these guys are great” or “this is going to work out” and other naÃ¯ve conclusions based on the slimmest of anecdotal evidence. The real, non-anecdotal evidence suggests that aside from the Kurds and Christians who have furnished so many of the drivers, cooks, other staff (and not only in the Green Zone) as well as interpreters, there are very few among either the Shi”a or the Sunni Arabs who view the Americans with any real, and permanent, gratitude and friendship. Their interest is in using those Americans either to protect them or to fight for them, in what is clearly inter-communal strife of no business or interest of ours — except insofar as such strife, should it attract outside volunteers, money, and materiel, might usefully help to divide and demoralize and weaken the general camp of Jihad and, what’s more, might spread Sunni-Shi”a hostilities to other places. And that would be a result to be welcomed, not deplored.
The Administration cannot coherently defend an incoherent policy. So it just keeps on parroting phrases about a “new Middle East,” or attacks others for not “staying the course.” They look sillier and sillier with each passing day and each passing billion that is wasted in Iraq — which if applied to alternative energy programs, might ultimately do much to deprive the worldwide Jihad of the money that has, for its existence and spread, made all the difference.
The Administration’s messianic mission has been toned down, but it still remains. It remains because to openly wish for the ethnic and sectarian divisions to widen and spread is something that the sentimentalists in the Pentagon and elsewhere apparently cannot bring themselves to do. They cannot accept these divisions as the gift that they are, a gift just waiting to be exploited.
That failure, that unwillingness to see dissension sown in the enemy camp, is partly a result of not identifying Islam as the Enemy Camp. But it is. It is because Islam itself divides the world uncompromisingly between Believers and Infidels, a fact that will not be diminished by the Administration’s determination to create Iraq the Model, Iraq the Light Unto the Muslim Nations. And whether or not Al-Maliki “thanks us” or not, whether or not he praises, or takes back his praise (under obvious prodding) of Hizballah, he remains a true Muslim. His attempt to pretend that Islam has nothing to do with “terrorism,” and his further inability — how could he, really? — to admit to the split between Believer and Infidel, and the duty of the former to end all barriers to the dominance of Islam in all the Bilad al-kufr, the Lands of the Infidels, and to make sure that ultimately, Muslims rule, does not change what is written in the immutable texts.
Time is short. NATO is not paying attention to what is happening in Europe — and the lumbering giant is stuck to tarbaby Iraq. The longer it sticks, the more it is coming to resemble a mammoth, or what remains of him, in the La Brea Tar Pits.
That is why your husband, and their father, is still in Iraq. That is why the American electorate may, in a dangerous reaction, vote in not those who want to fight the war of self-defense against the Jihad more cleverly and much more variously, but rather vote in those who see no need to fight such a war of self-defense at all.
That is perhaps the worst effect of this fiasco. Yet, every day there is a reason offered up on a platter for the Americans to announce, plausibly, the need for them to depart. It could be Al-Maliki praising Hizballah. It could be the behavior of the Mahdi Army. It could be the latest mutual atrocities of Shi”a and Sunnis in Baghdad or outside Baghdad. It could be anything at all. But the decision to get out of Iraq should be based on the recognition that we have won, we have set in motion something that cannot be easily undone, and that ensures that the Sunnis and Shi”a will be fighting over the economic and political spoils left free for the grabbing when Saddam Hussein was overthrown. It is a Metternich, a Mahan, a Mackinder in reverse who would not only not see the advantage of this course, but do everything to prevent it.
But that’s what, for the moment, we have, and not only in the Executive branch, but in Congress as well. You asked what to tell your children. I”m not sure what, of the above, you can tell them. Perhaps you should just say: mistakes are being made, and soon they will have to be corrected, and then their father will come home. Not exactly a satisfactory answer, for them, for you, for him, for any of us.