On Fox News, Leon Panetta, the present Director of the C.I.A., spoke about Anwar Al-Awlaki, the Muslim with American citizenship who, though born and raised in the United States, now from his perch in Yemen inspires other Muslims to commit acts of terrorism against Americans.
Panetta noted that Al-Awlaki “had declared war on the United States.” This statement, and Panetta’s general tone, drew criticism from Robert Spencer here.
I am not convinced that Panetta is akin to one more Brennan or Benjamin, someone who deliberately is avoiding the issue of Islam. He is forced to work within a system that does not, as Obama claims, allow for all sorts of views, but rather, one in which handed down from on high is a view that requires our high officials to misrepresent the nature and scope of the Islamic threat. For Panetta’s statement about Al-Awlaki, while true, is also misleading, for it implies that this is surprising, that Al-Awlaki is, if not unique, at least a very unusual case. One would not have understood, that is, that Islam itself has “declared war” on the United States. For Muslims are inculcated with the idea that only one division of humanity matters – that between Believers and Unbelievers, Muslims and Infidels, and that between the two a state of permanent war (though not always open warfare) exists. In other words, it is possible by emphasis on one thing, and omission of a larger understanding, to mislead – and Panetta, who is one of the better members of the Administration, may have unwittingly misled.
But Leon Panetta is not, like John Brennan, a calculatedly appeasing fool (shallow Machiavellianism run amok). Nor does he strike an observer as being akin to others among the “terrorism” experts at the top of the Obama Administration, and Obama himself. That is, Leon Panetta does not strike me as someone who thinks it a brilliant stroke to avoid the subject of the ideology of Islam altogether, keeping Americans in the dark, so that we can, so it is claimed (falsely), not “offend” Muslims by letting them know that we know what is in Qur’an, Hadith, and Sira. Only those sources explain Muslim attitudes and Muslim behavior over the past 1350 years, with time out during those periods, or in those places, when Muslims were so obviously weak that Jihad, through violent means, could not be pursued. Or in the last half-century, it was not pursued by many Muslims because OPEC trillions and Muslim immigrant millions allowed to settle deep within Dar al-Harb, and the exploitation by Muslims of Western technology to more effectively disseminate the full message of Islam, allowed for means of jihad other than qitaal (combat) or terrorism (seen by Muslims as merely an “equalizing” form of qitaal, one perfectly legitimate given Western superiority in conventional weaponry) to be pursued.
Instead of being critical of Panetta’s performance, I suggest that he – and others who may secretly wish to introduce several themes into public discussion, and therefore public awareness — may suffer not from want of love of the Western world, but from a defect or want of imagination, of what may be called “fantasia” (not least because, once I had chosen my title, a play on the wonderful movie “Pane Amore e Fantasia” requires the deliberate use of such a word) in order to introduce what, as a matter of state policy, is apparently not to be introduced.
There are two matters that he, Leon Panetta, might have mentioned, en passant, with studied casualness, in his appearance on Fox. And of course he hasn’t really missed his chance because his chance, and that of dozens of others, will come again, at the next interview.
What was it he might have said, of use, in talking about Al-Awlaki?
He might have said that Al-Awlaki’s method of pursuing Jihad is one among many, but from the viewpoint of Americans, at present, for Americans if not for all others, is the most dangerous instrument of Jihad.
And what would then have occurred? The interviewer, if half-awake – though some do give the impression of permanent somnolence – would be prompted by such a statement to inquire further: “Mr. Panetta, could you explain what you mean?”
And that would then give Leon Panetta the excuse for expatiating upon the adumbrated theme:
“Oh, what I mean is that terrorism is merely one of the instruments of Jihad, and it is important that we keep in mind that while the choice of instruments may vary, all those who are wedded to the concept of Jihad [at this point there is no need to explain just how many people this includes, in esse or in posse] share the same goals.”
Interviewer: “And what are those shared goals? I’m sure listeners would wish to be reminded.”
And Panetta could then be given the opportunity to further enlighten his audience of viewers:
“Well, Jihad is merely the word for ‘struggle,’ and the ‘struggle’ that some Muslims believe is incumbent upon them to participate in, directly or indirectly, is one to ensure that all obstacles to the spread, and then the dominance, of Islam are removed, everywhere in the world. Some may concentrate on the removal of such obstacles in one country or one geographic area, and others, such as the members of Al-Qaeda, may be an overarching organization that recognizes that the worldwide Jihad is merely the sum of all the local Jihads, whether directed at the United States, or France, or China, or Ethiopia, or Christians in the southern Sudan or Buddhists in southern Thailand or Hindus in Pakistan or Bangladesh, or anywhere else that Jihad is conducted against non-Muslims, in lands where Muslims do not rule, or even, in some cases, in lands where Muslims rule but some feel that the non-Muslims require constant reminding of their permanently inferior status.
“You see, I think we make a mistake in linking ‘Jihad’ too closely with its more sensational aspects–that is, terrorism. There are many instruments of Jihad, including the deployment of what some call the Money Weapon, and campaigns of Da’wa that are carefully-targeted and well-financed in the West, and also other instruments. In fact, some – such as Colonel Khaddafy of Libya and the late Houari Boumedienne of Algeria, have spoken openly of ‘demographic conquest.’ And that, of course, is a matter that we cannot, in defending ourselves, ignore, especially as it may apply to the historic heart of the West, that is, Western Europe.”
And thus can Leon Panetta, doing his duty con amore, will have introduced a good working definition of “Jihad” that, once it has been offered, will be remembered, and cannot easily be unremembered.
And there is one other thing that Leon Panetta – whom I think is one of the more admirable people in the Obama Administration’s national security apparatus – could have done and still can do, the next time he is called upon to discuss Al-Awlaki or any other Muslim terrorist. He can quote – yes, he should dare to quote – from the canonical texts of Islam. He should quote from the Qur’an, 9.29 and 9.5, at least those lines commanding Believers to “strike terror in the hearts of the Unbelievers.” He should quote Muhammad, too, on the subject of terror – even if he does so only by prefacing it thus:
“Although it says in the Qur’an ‘to strike terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers,’ we are fortunate that even among those Muslims who do believe in the goals of Jihad that few, at the moment, seem to think terrorism is the right way to pursue those goals. And that is particularly fortunate because, as you know, the Qur’an is taught as the uncreated and immutable Word of God, so that if many Muslims were to believe that, and to take such passages as those in Sura 9 seriously, we would have a much bigger problem.”
Yes, that would be the boilerplate phrasing that would allow Panetta to both introduce the theme, and seem to be exculpating “most Muslims.” And what would CAIR and other Muslim groups do? How could they object to Panetta’s quoting from the Qur’an directly? On what theory? And since he had gone out of his way to suggest that “most Muslims” cannot possibly take such passages seriously and to heart (of course he knows better, and so will more and more of those who take the trouble to study Islam), CAIR and other Muslim groups will be in a quandary. Do they draw attention to such passages? Do they publicly agree that such passages exist but that “most Muslims” do not take them as part of the literal word of God? Do they stick with the old “taken out of context” nonsense of which we are all getting weary, and which more and more non-Muslims are ready to dismiss as the transparent and desperate ploy, easily rebutted, that it is? And he would have his “deniability” in the accompanying boilerplate which suggests that the numbers of Muslims who actually believe the Qur’an to be the literal word of God to be quite small, when we all know that all Muslims are required to think of the Qur’an as exactly that, and those who do not cannot be considered to be real Muslims. For even those “Bright Young Reformers” who sense what is so dangerous about the Hadith and Sira, and want to jettison them, cannot do away with the Qur’an, or with the Qur’an accepted as the literal word of God, without removing themselves from the Community of Believers.
That is what Panetta, con amore, that is, his love of country that would supersede any careerist sense that he must play ball with those higher-up even if that means colluding in a policy of deliberately keeping Americans in the dark about the ideology of Islam, could do. He could keep the phrases that appear to suggest that he doesn’t believe that most, or even many, Muslims, take the Qur’an as the literal word of God. That is quite different from using such phrases as “violent extremists” or “a handful of extremists” or “those who have hijacked a great religion.”
And what, really, could Obama or Brennan or the others do? Could they start a fight with Panetta? Because if they do, they will lose that fight, and he will triumph. And he might even, if pushed, resign from the C.I.A., or threaten to, and the whole idiotic policy of refusing to educate those whom our leaders presume to instruct and protect would be exposed to public discussion and ridicule.
It’s a fantasy, of course, my little attempt at putting words into the mouth of Leon Panetta. Or rather, it’s an attempt to exercise the muscles of my – and your – imagination. The Italian word “fantasia” can mean both “imagination” and “fantasy.”
And that’s why, when I had to think of a title for this piece, prompted by the C.I.A. director’s name, came up with “Panetta, Amore, e Fantasia.” I’m sure the ghost of Vittorio De Sica will forgive me. It’s in a good cause.