MISSILE DEFENSE IS BACK
December 21, 2002
On Monday, December 16, President George W. Bush ordered the deployment of a new anti-missile system which is supposedly meant to meet the emerging threat from rogue nations armed with ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. “The United States will take every necessary measure to protect our citizens against what is perhaps the gravest danger of all: the catastrophic harm that may result from hostile states or terrorist groups armed with weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them,” the President declared.
Mr. Bush’s decision marks another important step on the road first charted by President Reagan with his vision of a space-based missile shield almost two decades ago. Almost a year ago Mr. Bush laid the legal ground for the project by withdrawing from the ABM treaty signed in 1972 with the Soviet Union that banned such systems. The “son of Star Wars” will now develop from the nucleus of ten land-based interceptors at FortGreely in Alaska and California to be operational by 2004 and a sea-based anti-missile system that will be installed on Aegis warships. The system is designed to use radar to detect missiles being fired at the US and then use its own missiles to shoot them down before they strike—like a bullet shooting a bullet.
Mr. Bush said in his announcement that the attacks on New York and Washington were proof that the US faced “unprecedented threats” and that missile defense was therefore vital. On this important point the President is wrong. Terrorist attacks indicate the limitations and ultimate uselessness of antimissile defense in the new security environment. When Reagan’s “Star Wars” was on the agenda the Soviet Union’s nuclear capabilities posed a very real threat. Fifteen months after 9-11 there is no credible scenario of a “rogue” attack on the United States. Banding terrorism and rogue states’ rockets together is undoubtedly useful from the point of view of domestic politics—the public has been sold the concept of missile defense on those very grounds—but the technique is disingenuous. Very different defenses are needed against terrorist attacks on one side and “rogue state” missile attacks on the other. The former are likely, even imminent, in the years to come; the latter are and have always been extremely unlikely.
Funding allocated to the anti-missile umbrella would be therefore better spent in the war against terrorists who may threaten us with non-conventional means. A mega-billion-dollar antimissile shield will do nothing to protect American cities from dirty bombs, anthrax, chemical or biological agents released in a subway, or hijacked planes, or “weapons of mass destruction” smuggled across a virtually uncontrollable southern border and detonated from within the country. Ironically it may render such attacks more likely, by forcing any possible aggressor to consider alternatives to the method of delivery that leaves a clear thermal “signature” that may be countered by the antimissile shield and that is certain to invite lethal retaliation.
Mr. Bush did not mention it, but many experts remain unsure of the proposed system’s technical feasibility. Its flaws were reiterated in early December when a test of the interceptor missiles to be installed at FortGreely failed. The interceptor weapon, an “exo-atmospheric kill vehicle” was supposed to destroy a Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missile but failed to separate from its booster rocket. This was only the latest in a string of failures: three out of eight similar tests since 1999 have failed. Furthermore, according to a 2000 report by an independent Pentagon panel, it is uncertain whether interceptors can distinguish between armed warheads and decoys. The panel, headed by retired Gen. Larry Welch, former Air Force chief of staff, questioned the maturity of the technology, stressing the problem of dummy decoys launched with attacking missiles. The report warned against any fast-track deployment of a yet-unproved system, saying the timetable for constructing a working system in five years was unrealistic. But the Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley said at the time, “We have confidence that we will successfully be able to integrate various technologies and come up with a system that … can discriminate against the projected threat that a rogue nation might possess in the year 2005, which is our target to deploy.” No technological breakthrough has taken place since that day, Quigkey’s claim was an assertion of faith devoid of substance then and it remains so today, but the project went ahead nevertheless.
From the outset missile defense shield was a flawed project that threatened to jeopardize America’s relations with Russia, China, and even some European allies, without enhancing the U.S. security. This burden is particularly unwelcome at a time when the common front against militant Islam is a matter of existential urgency; not acting in concert against it is the form of “mutual assured destruction” that Cold War game-players had never envisioned.
The reactions have been muted but clearly negative. Moscow expressed regret over the decision: the Russian Foreign Ministry said the project “can lead only to the weakening of strategic stability, a new senseless arms race in the world, including the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and diverting resources to counter today’s real challenges and threats, above all, international terrorism.” China expressed concern that the deployment could “undermine the security and stability of the world.” Such statements reflect the views by Presidents Jiang Zemin of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia who declared in a joint statement back in July 2000 that “the American plan is a source of enormous concern” aimed at “achieving unilateral superiority in military and security matters.”
The antimissile defense system’s assumptions are technically flawed and politically paranoid. In practical terms America’s true safety is not in anti-missile missiles, but in tightly controlled borders, deportation of illegal immigrants, immediate indefinite moratorium on all Islamic immigration, and a well-equipped military capable of defending its territory and its clearly defined national interests. In fundamental terms the missile defense philosophy as currently conceived assumes the desirability of the global hegemony as the basis of U.S. foreign policy. The 1999 Rumsfeld Report that provided the basis for the National Missile Defense project under Clinton unwittingly supported that view when it stated that the system was needed because “a number of countries with regional ambitions do not welcome the U.S. role as a stabilizing power in their regions and… they want to place restraints on the U.S. capability to project power or influence into their regions.”
The global-hegemonist demand for the physical ability to counter and defeat any regional power wishing to impose any “restraints” on American projection of power was fully developed into state policy last September, when President Bush announced the new National Security Strategy. It spells out a commitment to maintain open-ended US military superiority “beyond challenge” in nuclear and conventional capacity, across the globe and in space, and even against as yet unrecognized future threats. It defines two main categories of enemies: “rogue states” (and their terrorist clients) and “potentially hostile powers.” Both warrant pre-emptive strikes “by direct and continuous action using all the elements of national and international power.”
Here we reach the core problem of the issue: the missile shield “philosophy” assumes the desirability of the limitless global hegemony (“U.S. as a stabilizing power in their regions”) as the unquestionable basis of U.S. foreign policy. An attack on the NMD and on the flawed or fraudulent arguments invoked in its support therefore has to be an attack on the grandomaniacal concept of permanent and unrestrained projection of power everywhere in the world. This concept is, and has always been, the main threat to American security: the main threat to America comes from the policy of global hegemony pursued from Washington. Designating “threats to national security” must follow the clear determination of a country’s national interests. If those interests are assumed to include the ability to project power everywhere and all the time, then indeed the threat is also unlimited and permanent. An effective missile defense system, even if it could be designed, would be desirable only if global hegemony were to be abandoned in favor of a foreign policy based on quantifiable, rationally defined national interest.
ISLAM: THE FOLLY OF APPEASEMENT
December 10, 2002
One in a series of articles adapted by Robert Locke from Dr. Serge Trifkovic’s new book The Sword of the Prophet: A Politically-Incorrect Guide to Islam.
Our political and intellectual elite is remarkably inflexible in its secular liberal ideological assumptions. Having no serious religious faith of its own, its members refuse to take seriously the faith of others. Instead of pondering the complex problem of the relationship between the world’s great religions – the West and the rest – they assure us that no religious problem exists.
The most outspoken character witnesses for the hastily nicknamed “Religion of Peace and Tolerance” were, unsurprisingly, non-Moslems, Sunday-morning popular entertainers, academicians steeped in political correctitude, and politicians. Their hasty claims about the distinction between “real” Islam and its violent aberrations were crudely ideological. They were based on their simple conviction that all faiths, having equal legal privileges, must in some sense be equally good, and “true,” and hence capable of celebrating all others in the spirit of tolerance.
Why is the liberal elite so eager to vindicate Islam? It is a sign of the infinite arrogance of this elite that it imagines even at this late date that it can use and manipulate Islam to its own purposes. The rulers of the British Empire, in the days when more Moslems lived under British rule than under any other government, were arrogant enough to think they could “manage” Islam and get it to do things like accept the establishment of Israel. But even they never had the idea of using Islam as a tool to do their bidding outside itself, and they never suffered from the delusion that Moslems were really Englishmen under the skin.
Today, having enlisted militant Islam in the destruction of the communist threat to its world-wide dominance, our ruling establishment aspires to use it to erode the reliquiae reliquiarum of the Christian culture in the Western world, which it despises and would like to replace with a multicultural globalism that trivializes all cultures and thus liquidates the possibility of any resistance to a world organized solely for its profits. The twin spearheads of this attempt to co-opt Islam as a tool are multiculturalism and mass immigration. It is the dirty little secret of our present global civilizational conflict that large sections of our own elite are ambivalent about which side they are on because Islam is an objective ally in their own struggle for globalism. (Of course, this marriage of convenience won’t work for the globalists in the long run, but as with all doomed policies, this doesn’t stop them from trying in the short run.)
Let’s take immigration first. Leeds and Leicester have acquired the sight and sounds of Peshawar and Rawalpindi, Marseilles and Toulon the suburbs of Dakkar or Algiers, Berlin and Stuttgart a growing slice of Istanbul or Adana. This social experiment – Britain’s Roy Jenkins, a liberal Home Secretary in the mid-sixties, admitted slyly that his contemporaries “might have considered matters more carefully” – antedated America’s Cold War expedients, but the consequences of the experiment and the expedient have fused. The assumption all along has been that the Islamic genie released by Carter National Security Adviser Dr. Brzezinski’s “excellent idea” — enlisting radical Islam to fight the USSR in Afghanistan — could be controlled. Supposedly, it would be reduced to yet another humanistic project in self-celebration through its adherents’ immersion in the consumerist subculture and through their children’s multicultural indoctrination by state education. We were going to use Islam to fight Marxism, then destroy it by means of McDonald’s and MTV.
Liberal Christianity, i.e. intellectually-bankrupt forms of Protestantism like the fast-declining “mainline” protestant denominations like the Episcopalians, Lutherans and Presbyterians, has collaborated in the whitewashing of Islam. They have been abetted by post-Vatican-II Catholics. The World Council of Churches shares the same worldview. It seeks “dialogue” with Islam “in order to learn from each other and to accept one another.”
How have Western attempts to co-opt and manipulate Islam fared? Decades of covert and overt support for “moderate” Islamic movements, countries, and regimes, whenever they were deemed useful to Western foreign policy objectives—and especially if they have lots of oil, or prove willing to make peace with Israel, or both—have been an unmitigated moral and political disaster.
Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, Morocco, the Gulf states, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Nigeria, Indonesia, and a few others have become the darlings of U.S. policy, valued as supposed bulwarks against “fundamentalism” of the Saudi or Iranian variety (Iran itself having formerly been a member of the favored group.) Operationally, this means not only overlooking the radical activities of the supposedly “moderate” Moslem states — for example, Saudi Arabia’s and Pakistan’s support for the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and assistance by virtually all Islamic nations to the thinly disguised radical regime in Sarajevo — but also a consistent American bias in favor of the Moslem party in virtually every conflict with a Christian nation.[i]
So we bombed Serbia, a nation that has never done anything to the US, in support of the Bosnian Moslems. Among its sorry preconditions of the Bosnian war was the capture of the leadership of the Moslem people by a group of untypical Islamist bigots: Izetbegovic was an extremist in any sense of the word; the Chechen leadership were far worse: unhinged fanatics who forced Russia into a war she was extremely reluctant to fight. The Kosovo UCK (a.k.a. KLA) were brigands financing their warfare by drug smuggling and slavery-prostitution rackets whom the Americans had on their official terrorism list until just a few weeks before going to war on their behalf.
Appeasement of Saudi Arabia in particular, and the string of related little despotic sheikhdoms along its eastern rim, is continuing even in the aftermath of September 11. It is as detrimental to peace and democracy in all affected regions as it is detrimental to the long-term security of North America and Europe. It does nothing to help the Moslem world come out of its state of deep denial about its responsibility for the worst terrorist outrage of all time, the denial as irrational as the culture that breeds it.
The beneficiaries of three decades of Western appeasement have been Osama bin Laden, his ilk, and his co-religionists all over the world. Conceivers and executors of Brezhinski’s “excellent idea” paved the way for September 11 by failing to grasp Islam’s inherent link with violence and intolerance. The unspoken assumption of the architects of failed Western policies, that generosity would be rewarded by loyalty, is mistaken: loyalty to unbelievers is not a Moslem trait. Cynical pragmatism, however, is — and, as Yohanan Ramati has remarked, “pragmatism prescribes that when dealing with fools one milks them for all one can get, demoralizes them until they are incapable of protecting their interests, and then deprives them of any influence they have left.”
Islam might have been made much less threatening if the West had not conciliated or sponsored its most threatening exponents. Islam was exposed to a devastating collapse in credibility within the Arab world itself in the middle of the twentieth century. The forces of secularism were very strong indeed. But America opposed them every time because they were socialist, communist, or simply anti-American nationalist. America gave whole-hearted support to the worst fascist freak-show in the region: Saudi Arabia. As the economies of real states faltered and halted in accord with Islam’s eternal difficulty in establishing a viable economy upon a predator mindset, the Saudi petrodollars were poured into establishing violent fanaticism as the big alternative. Inexorably, the people who could have moderated Islam have been pushed aside by raving sheiks congratulated by US diplomats.
The Moslem world today has no love and very little respect for the Western powers in general and for the United States in particular. It was for many years a bitterly divided world, where individual rulers competed with each other for wealth, influence and sometimes territory. This was why the wealthy states of the Gulf Cooperation Council were ready to accept protection from American and other Western forces. But four decades of prattling about decolonization and “globalism” have made their mark. If globalism is a good reason for uniting Europe, preventing it is a better reason for uniting Moslem states (which have much more in common than the Europeans) on a policy to wrest power from the unbelievers.[ii]
The Moslem states are aware of Western greed and its political repercussions, and they trust that they will not be hindered in increasing their military, political and economic capacity to a point at which they can blackmail the West into accepting their political, cultural, or religious demands. After September 11, they are hoping that the US will settle for destroying Bin Laden and the Taliban and gradually resume its oil-dictated pro-Moslem policies. The crack whore of Western petro-consumerism will always return to her john for her next fix, however much she complains about how he treats here.
Such policies, drastically manifested in the “great game” under Presidents Carter and Reagan, have had their apologists in each subsequent American administration. Under Bush I, they were summarized in a statement by then-Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and North African Affairs, Edward Djerejian, who declared that the United States did not regard Islam or Islamic movements as the enemy, and recognized their right to participate in the political process.[iii] The spirit of the statement was reiterated and expanded upon by his successor, Robert Pelletreau, under Clinton. Pelletreau lamented in 1996 the fact that the
“image of Islam in the minds of the average newspaper reader is often one of an undifferentiated movement hostile to the West and ready to use violence and terrorism to achieve its ends.”[iv]
He distinguished the many “legitimate, socially responsible Moslem groups with political goals from Islamists who operate outside the bounds of law.”
A generation ago it was understandable, even excusable, for bone-headed God-fearing CIA bosses of the low-Church Protestant kind to work up a hatred of atheism and enjoy dealing with believers. They used Moslems in just the way they used the Roman Catholic Church in the early 1950s, the time of the Gladio. But appeasement by their feeble successors in our own time only breeds the contempt and arrogance of the Islamic radicals and fuels their limitless ambition.
Changing the self-defeating trend demands recognition that the West is in a war of religion, whether it wants that or not and however much it hates the fact. This war is being fought, on the Islamic side, with the deep and unshakeable condition that the West is on its last legs. The success of their demographic deluge enhances the image of “a candy store with the busted lock,” and that view is reinforced by the evidence from history that a civilization that loses the urge for biological self-perpetuation is indeed finished. Even after its unfinished victory in Afghanistan, America is viewed as a paper tiger, with F-16s and dollars but no strong heart and no long-term stamina. Indeed, it is uncertain that anything significant has taken place in Afghanistan: the Afghan Talibs were forced to change their coats as one set of Islamists took a lot of money for replacing another.
Mr. Bush may be hoping to domesticate Islam under the aegis of the non-denominational deism that is professed in his rhetoric. In the last century Americans, inspired by Protestant missionaries, conceived the ambition of getting closer to the Arab world and the Chinese than the imperialist Europeans. The attempts failed, but they left echoes in American thinking. The wish to patronize Islamic modernism is one. Hence the enduring fantasy of an American-Islamic alliance against extremism. The Islamists are often quite worldly and some have accommodated themselves to the appropriation of great wealth. Nevertheless, the alliance Mr. Bush may be looking for is less available than ever. There may be no homo Islamicus – a Moslem is certainly not a programmed fanatic – but saying so is too often a preface to evasive talk about tiny minorities with no power.
The West cannot wage “war on terror” while maintaining its dependence on Arab oil, appeasing Islamist designs around the world, and allowing mass immigration of Moslems into its own lands. It risks being the star actor of a Greek tragedy in which the Gods make the unfortunate rulers mad before they destroy them.
On the ground, the reversal of existing policies means, inter alia, active Western help, diplomatic and when necessary military, to relieve Indonesia of West Papua and the Christian parts of the Moluccas, to expel Syria from Lebanon and create a Christian state in part of Lebanon, to create an independent Christian state in southern Sudan, to detach the Serb-populated and Croat-populated parts from Moslem-dominated Bosnia-Herzegovina, to stop Albanian attempts to take over Kosovo or Macedonia and to force the Arabs to give “land for peace” to Israel. It also means supporting India against Pakistan and independence for oil-producing, Christian provinces of Nigeria.
The inevitable argument against such a policy reversal will be that it will set off Islamic terrorism “on a never before experienced scale.” It is as spurious as the logic that combines “globalization” and “promotion of democracy” with support of Moslem dictatorships. Islamic terrorism has been thriving because the existing policy is perceived as a sign of Western weakness. The real problem facing the United States and Western democracy is not how the Moslems will respond to a policy hostile to their interests but whether the West still has the moral strength to adopt any policy causing its power-wielders temporary financial losses. Curbing their greed — this doesn’t mean you personally, Pres. Bush, but it does mean some of your slimy oil-patch friends whispering in your ear — is a prerequisite for success in the inevitable conflict with Islam and indeed for maintaining US superpower status at all, as a nation that can be put on the run by these people simply is not a superpower.[v]
Just as in 1936 with the Nazis, checking appeasement requires a revolution in the West’s political thinking. It requires a realization that safeguarding Western elites’ economic interests from Moslem encroachment or confiscation may become impossible if such encroachments continue to be tolerated or encouraged. It also requires understanding that, as Reagan impolitely observed about Marxism, Islam regards lies, violence, and threats of violence as legitimate means of gaining political ends and that the only capacity Islam respects in an unbeliever is the capacity to use diplomacy or military force successfully against it.
Pandering to Islam’s geopolitical designs, and sacrificing smaller Christian nations – Timorese and Sudanese yesterday, Serbs and Orthodox Cypriots today, Bulgars and Greeks tomorrow – is counterproductive: such morsels will only whet the Islamic appetite, paving the way to a major confrontation some time in this century.
The price of delusions is going up. The time to sell off is now.
[i] James Jatras, Chronicles (1999), op. cit.
[ii] Yohanan Ramati: The Islamic Danger to Western Civilizationhttp://www.westerndefense.org/special/TwinTowers2001.htm
[v] Yohanan Ramati, op. cit.
THERE MAY BE NO WAR FOR ANOTHER YEAR
December 07, 2002
On the face of it, with only days left to a key U.N. deadline to account for any “weapons of mass destruction” it may have, the regime in Baghdad is in deep trouble. The Bush administration seems determinedly bellicose as it escalated the rhetoric against Saddam Hussein. On Thursday the White House announced that it had “solid evidence” that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Ari Fleischer declared that “the Iraqi government has proved time and time again to deceive, to mislead and to lie.” President Bush himself dismissed reports that Iraqi weapons inspections were going well, saying that Saddam “is not somebody who looks like he’s interested in complying.” In this way he contradicted earlier statement by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who said that Iraq’s cooperation with weapons inspectors has been good.
There is less than meets the eye to the war fever in Washington, however. That U.S. Marines will eventually patrol the streets of Baghdad can hardly be doubted, but the hostilities are unlikely to start for about a year to come. There are several reasons for this shift.
The first is that, as of now, there is no politically viable excuse for the attack: UNMOVIC (the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission) says that no smoking gun is in sight, and Saddam is going out of his way to be cooperative. European diplomatic sources say that even President Bush’s staunchest ally, Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair, feels uneasy about going ahead right now because the forthcoming report by the U.N. weapons inspectors will not provide any grounds for the claim of non-compliance. “It would look unconvincing and plain bad right now,” our sources say, “creating the impression that the U.S. was merely pretending to be going through the U.N. procedure while its mind had been made all along.” In addition, we were told, “Blair knows that on this form Moscow and Paris would not support the second Security Council resolution” authorizing military action.
To the doves in Foggy Bottom (the State Department), that is in itself a political problem par excellence. The hawks across the river (at the Pentagon), who are less worried by other nations’ disapproval of American actions, don’t care one way or another. They would happily go ahead regardless, but they face the problem of logistics: Without a second Security Council resolution the new, neo-Islamist government of Turkey would almost certainly refuse the use of its key air base at Incirlik. That base is essential to the two-prong strategy currently elaborated by U.S. military planners.
Last but by no means least, rumor has it that Mr. Bush’s political strategists—and notably Carl Rove—are adamant that he should not follow in his father’s footsteps and win the war too early. CNN shots of beaming Iraqi children waving V-signs at GIs in Hummers would be marvelous for Bush’s chances of a second term—but only provided they are shown in early 2004. If they come early next year, however, their impact on the presidential campaign would be greatly diminished.
None of the above is to suggest that the war is off, only that it will be postponed for about a year. We’ll go through this winter reluctantly giving inspectors a chance. By March 2003, the hot season will begin, however, when no military action can be planned for at least nine months: Complex protective gear would dramatically reduce the effectiveness of U.S. ground troops in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees. If a full-fledged campaign is planned before that time, the deployment of U.S. troops to the region would need to be greatly accelerated.
The political temperature will rise too: Under U.S. pressure, the inspections will become progressively more intrusive, testing the Iraqis’ nerves and increasing the possibility of a confrontation. One intermediate tool on the road to war may be for the United States to declare Iraq in “material breach” of the Security Council resolution demanding that it dismantles its arsenal, not as an excuse for outright war but as a means of pressuring UNMOVIC to become ever more aggressive in its methods. If and when a confrontation occurs, the United States may demand U.N. authorization to occupy incriminating sites by military force.
The inspection process itself, complex and filled with potential ambiguities even without its future use as a means of exacting war, may provide ample opportunity for the administration to claim that the process is bankrupt. Simultaneously, even if there is no flagrant violation by Baghdad, a file on the difficulties experienced by the inspectors and a body of circumstantial evidence and intelligence data about Saddam’s weapons programs will be accumulated in Washington. And finally, with air patrols intensifying, we’ll have fresh reports of Iraqi firings on American and British aircraft in the no-fly zone.
The result will be an impressive looking dossier that Washington could present to the Security Council in, say, late October or early November 2003. Even if no single element in it amounts to a clear violation—and we should never exclude the possibility that Saddam does have skeletons in his closets that will be revealed—teams of military experts, international lawyers, and spin-doctors will ensure that the cumulative effect of Washington’s case appears greater than the sum of its parts. Simultaneously, there will be an escalation of statements about the war’s inevitability from administration officials. It will be said “we’ve been patient and restrained for almost a year, but Saddam is just impossible”—and it is more in sorrow than anger that we now demand that second Security Council resolution.
The last quarter of 2003 will be the moment when the political, diplomatic, and military pieces of the Iraqi puzzle—conspicuously absent today—will finally fit together for the day of reckoning with Saddam, provided the Bush team plays its hand with skill and patience. The real test will the eventual acceptance by key foreign players—including France and Russia—that war is the only option. If all goes well, the requisite resolution will be duly granted, and the rest will be history.
“АMERICANS DON’T UNDERSTAND ISLAM AS IT IS, HISTORIAN SAYS”
Investor’s Business Daily
by Brian Mitchell
November 29, 2002
Author of “The Sword of the Prophet: Islam – History, Theology, Impact on the World” (Regina Orthodox Press, 2002)
Foreign-affairs editor of Chronicles magazine, published by the Rockford InstitutePh.D. in European history, University of Southampton, England Post-doctoral research at the Hoover Institution
Historian Serge Trifkovic saw his homeland torn apart when the Muslim government in Bosnia declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1992. The move opened old wounds and led to years of fighting. The Muslim leader, Alija Izetbegovic, was a well-known militant. In his “Islamic Declaration,” Izetbegovic wrote, “there can be no peace or coexistence between the Islamic faith and non-Islamic societies and political institutions.”
But the U.S. blamed the Serbs for not submitting to Muslim rule. Today, Trifkovic hopes Americans will be more understanding. His new book, “The Sword of the Prophet,” is meant to set the record straight on Islam, as it appears in history and in its own sacred texts. IBD asked him how that differs from what Americans often hear:
What’s wrong with what we are being told about Islam by our elected leaders?
Everything, and that’s the basic motive for the book itself: to debunk the notion that there is a “real Islam” which is as peaceful, as tolerant, as respectful of other religions as most other religions are of each other today. Most character witnesses for Islam are Westerners who are not Muslims and don’t know much about Islam. Because of their liberal humanistic outlook, they assume that the legal parity these religions enjoy in the West automatically translates into a theological parity: Every religion is assumed to be much like every other religion. That, as we know from the historical record and from the source texts of Islam itself, is simply not true.
What do we find in these Muslim scriptures?
What we find in the Kuran is a fairly incoherent and sometimes contradictory set of statements. Most apologists for Islam will quote some of the more conciliatory ones, such as “there is no compulsion in religion.” Not many non-Muslims realize that the rule of abrogation applies here: if you have a quote that contradicts another quote, the one that came later takes precedence.
In the early days of his prophetic career, Mohammad was a powerless, marginalized, and often despised teacher in the city of Mecca, where he had only a handful of followers and where, perforce, his statements were conciliatory and moderate.
After the emigration of Mohammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina, where he established himself as a successful political leader, he started settling scores with opponents in Medina. The Sira of Mohammad tells us this included 27 murders and the slaughter of the Jewish tribes living there. That’s when Mohammad starts having very different visions. That’s when Allah tells Muslims to strike their enemies, to kill the infidels, to enslave them or else to force them pay the poll tax once they have submitted to Islamic rule.
That’s the part of Islam that multicultural apologists don’t like to talk about, and yet that is the part that retained its validity by virtue of coming after the early Meccan verses.
How does the Wahhabi sect fit into Islamic tradition?
An attempt has been made to present Wahhabis as Muslim Anabaptists- stern heretics who have somehow overturned the more tolerant tenets of Islam. On balance, this analysis simply does not stand. The Wahhabis are much closer to the original teaching and practice of Mohammad and his immediate successors – the four so-called Rightly Guided Caliphs – than any other major variety of Islam.
Wahhabism as practice today – in thousands of mosques throughout the Western world – is much closer to the original spirit of early Islam in its vigor and simplicity than the more sophisticated layers imposed in later centuries. It would be very difficult to establish the claim that Wahhabism is heretical whereas, for instance, Sufism is not. Sufism, which is popular with Western New Agers because of its woolly-headed ambiguities and mysticism, is quite clearly contrary to the stern, Manichean, black-and-white clarity of orthodox Islam.
Are there not, as some claim, “two faces” to Islam, seen in Arab extremism and Turkish moderation?
Any claim by Turkophiles in the West to present the Ottoman Islam as a more enlightened or tolerant variety must deal with the unpleasant reality of the disappearance of Middle Eastern Christians under Ottoman rule and the series of slaughters throughout the 1700s and 1800s, culminating with the Armenian genocide and the Greek exodus from Asia Minor in the early 1900s.
Can Islam reform itself into a religion at peace with the modern West?
There are those who say that, face with the cultural message of Hollywood, consumerism, pornography, and the glittering lights of the Western world, Islam will somehow succumb and Muslims will relativize and disrespect their own faith just as Westerners have relativized and ultimately abandoned their own spiritual legacy. But what evidence do we have for this? Every Islamic community in the West is faced with such temptations, but the rot is not really happening. Maybe there is a quiet majority of Muslims who are perfectly happy to sink into the Western mainstream, where little Aishas and Ahmeds become little Johnnies and Chelseas, thanks to state education and television. But it’s not happening with a sizable core of serious Islamic believers, who remain not only undeterred by Western temptations, but even more deeply committed to destroying them. A tolerant, user-friendly Islam is like the unicorn. You can visualize it, you can draw it up, but you cannot bring it to life. It would require such a thorough rewriting of the sayings of the Prophet and of Allah himself, as they would see it, that it would result in a whole new religion.
Fleischer is right, but only in the purely technical sense: it is indeed unprecedented for a midterm election to yield such riches to the incumbent President. Beyond that this event signifies nothing. American elections no longer “make history” in the sense of effecting a tectonic change of the political landscape.
While America was still a Republic, before 1861, some elections did matter a great deal. That of 1800 comes to mind, of which Jefferson later said that “the Revolution of 1800 was as real a revolution in the principles of our government as 1776 was in its form.” The incumbent Federalists were not merely defeated on that election day, but the seeds were planted for a new party system. Andrew Jackson’s victory in 1828 did to Washington what “the inundation of Northern barbarians” did to Rome: “Strange faces filled every public place and every face seemed to bear defiance on its brow.”
Almost two centuries later America is no longer a “democracy” in the sense of the res publica of informed and responsible free citizens exercising their rights and fulfilling their obligations. Its polity has lost a rational and self-authenticating principle that lies at the root of all moral distinctions. Americans are encouraged to vote, but in doing so they are no longer expected to make a meaningful specific contribution to a rational society. Most probably would not want to discharge that vocation. If told that to live otherwise is to be spiritually diseased, and unworthy of the appellation of “citizen,” they would not know what you were talking about.
If we have a really bad stock market crash coupled with a few truly awful terrorist outrages, perhaps many Americans will wake up to the need to “make history”—to elect a government that will control the country’s borders, expel illegal immigrants, outlaw racial discrimination (“affirmative action”), de-feminize the armed forces, decontaminate the PC-infested academia, and terminate the suicidal project of Global Empire. Perhaps the remaining real Americans will have the will and courage to wrestle their country back, city by city and state by state, from the duopoly that runs their lives from inside the Beltway. In the meantime nothing much will change, last Tuesday’s election notwithstanding. Jefferson saw it all coming already in 1821: “When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will . . . become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.”
ISLAM’S WRETCHED RECORD ON SLAVERY
November 20, 2002
The big Republican victory last Tuesday has given Mr. Bush control of the Senate and an increased majority in the House. For the next two years at least he will have no obstacles to pursuing his agenda of tax cuts, “homeland security,” and “war on terror.” Ari Fleischer declared that “President Bush and the Republican Party have made history.”
Fleischer is right, but only in the purely technical sense: it is indeed unprecedented for a midterm election to yield such riches to the incumbent President. Beyond that this event signifies nothing. American elections no longer “make history” in the sense of effecting a tectonic change of the political landscape.
While America was still a Republic, before 1861, some elections did matter a great deal. That of 1800 comes to mind, of which Jefferson later said that “the Revolution of 1800 was as real a revolution in the principles of our government as 1776 was in its form.” The incumbent Federalists were not merely defeated on that election day, but the seeds were planted for a new party system. Andrew Jackson’s victory in 1828 did to Washington what “the inundation of Northern barbarians” did to Rome: “Strange faces filled every public place and every face seemed to bear defiance on its brow.”
Almost two centuries later America is no longer a “democracy” in the sense of the res publica of informed and responsible free citizens exercising their rights and fulfilling their obligations. Its polity has lost a rational and self-authenticating principle that lies at the root of all moral distinctions. Americans are encouraged to vote, but in doing so they are no longer expected to make a meaningful specific contribution to a rational society. Most probably would not want to discharge that vocation. If told that to live otherwise is to be spiritually diseased, and unworthy of the appellation of “citizen,” they would not know what you were talking about.
If we have a really bad stock market crash coupled with a few truly awful terrorist outrages, perhaps many Americans will wake up to the need to “make history”—to elect a government that will control the country’s borders, expel illegal immigrants, outlaw racial discrimination (“affirmative action”), de-feminize the armed forces, decontaminate the PC-infested academia, and terminate the suicidal project of Global Empire. Perhaps the remaining real Americans will have the will and courage to wrestle their country back, city by city and state by state, from the duopoly that runs their lives from inside the Beltway. In the meantime nothing much will change, last Tuesday’s election notwithstanding. Jefferson saw it all coming already in 1821: “When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will . . . become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.”
November 7, 2002
As the recent campaign for reparations has shown, the West is still being taken to task for the fact that it used to permit slavery. But in fact the West, rather than being the origin of slavery in the world, is in fact the only civilization to have created from within itself a successful movement to abolish it. Other civilizations, like Islamic civilization, have not yet achieved this. To this day, the principal places in the world where one can buy a slave for ready cash are Moslem countries.
This should not come as a surprise, for slavery finds explicit positive support in Islam, rather than the mere acquiescence it does in Christianity. Christianity is not explicitly anti-slavery, as the long acceptance of slavery by the various churches shows, but it does not positively endorse it, either. More importantly, it was out of evangelical Christian circles that abolitionism emerged in American and Britain, and no church today countenances it. While both the Old and New Testaments recognize slavery, the Gospels do not treat the institution as divinely ordained. Christianity recognized slavery as a fact of life, as part of how the world works, as indeed it did in New Testament times.
The Koran, by contrast, not only assumes the existence of slavery as a permanent fact of human existence, but regulates its practice in considerable detail, thereby endowing it with divine sanction by revealing God’s detailed will for how it should be conducted. Mohammed and his companions owned slaves. The Koran recognizes the basic inequality between master and slave and the rights of the former over the latter. To be fair, it also urges, without actually commanding, kindness to slaves, and considers a Moslem slave to be of a higher order than a free infidel. However, this does not entitle him to be set free.
The Koran explicitly guarantees Moslems the right to own slaves, either by purchasing them or as bounty of war. Mohammed had dozens, both male and female, and he regularly traded slaves when he became independently wealthy in Medina. Some of their names are recorded to posterity. As for the women:
“Whenever Mohammed took a woman as a captive, if he imposed the veil on her, Moslems would say he took her as a wife, but if he left her unveiled they would say, ‘He owned her as a slave’; that is, she became a property of his right hand.”
In line with the racist views of Mohammed himself about his own people, the Arabs as “the nobles of all races” were exempt from enslavement. More later on the present-day consequences of this in Africa.
The four caliphs or religious rulers who came after Mohammed discouraged the enslavement of free Moslems, and it was eventually prohibited. But the assumption of freedom as the normal condition of men did not extend to non-Moslems. Disobedient or rebellious dhimmis (subject peoples, i.e. Christians, Hindus, Jews, Africans) were often reduced to slavery and prisoners captured in jihad were also enslaved if they could not be exchanged or ransomed. In Africa, Arab rulers regularly raided black tribes to the south and captured slaves claiming their raids to be jihad; in India, many Hindus were enslaved on the same pretext.
The divine sanction of slavery in Islam means that disobedience carries everlasting punishment. The Koran says that:
“There are three whose prayer will not be accepted, nor their virtues be taken above: The runaway slave until he returns back to his master, the woman with whom her husband is dissatisfied, and the drunk until he becomes sober.”
Historically, while maltreatment was deplored, there was no fixed penalty under sharia, Islamic law, placing protection of the slave’s well-being at the capricious mercy of judges. If, of course, they could even get their day in court: slaves had no legal rights. The Koran mandates that a freeman should be killed only for another freeman, a slave for a slave, and a female for a female. A Hadith or officially-recognized traditional saying says that “a Moslem should not be killed for a non-Moslem, nor a freeman for a slave.”
A Moslem slave-owner was entitled by law to the sexual enjoyment of his slave women. Many African slaves were eunuchs. Castration was against Islamic law, but this was massively evaded. For African captives nothing short of “castration level with the abdomen” would do; no mere removal of the cojones, as with Slavic and Greek captives. Only such radically castrated eunuchs were deemed fit to be guardians of the harem.
During its so-called golden age, the slave trade inside the Islamic empire and along its edges was vast. It began to flourish at the time of the Moslem expansion into Africa, in the middle of the seventh century, and it still survives today in Mauritania and Sudan. The Spanish and Portuguese originally purchased black African slaves for their American colonies from Arab dealers. Nubians and Ethiopians, with their slender features and thin noses, were preferred to the equatorial Bantus, who were perceived as crude beings for whom hard toil and lowly menial tasks were appropriate.
There are notable differences between the slave trade in the Islamic world and the trans-Atlantic variety. The former has been going on for 13 centuries and it is an integral feature of the Islamic civilization, while the influx of slaves into the New World lasted less than a third that long and was effectively ended by the middle of the 19th century.
Just over ten million Africans were taken to the Americas during that period, while the number of captives taken to the heartlands of Islam – while impossible to establish with precision – is many times greater. Nevertheless, there are tens of millions of descendants of slaves in the Americas, and practically none in the Moslem world outside Africa. For all its horrors, the Atlantic slave trade took place within a capitalistic context in which slaves were expensive pieces of property not to be destroyed. In the Moslem world slaves were considerably cheaper, far more widely available, and regarded as a dispensable commodity. They were effectively worked to death, and thus left no descendants.
Contrary to the myth that Islam is a religion free from racial prejudice, slavery in the Moslem world has been, and remains, brutally racist in character. To find truly endemic, open, raw anti-Black racism and slavery today one needs to go to the two Islamic Republics in Africa: Mauritania and Sudan. Black people have been enslaved on such a scale that the term black has become synonymous with slave. The mixed-race, predominantly Negroid but self-avowedly “Arabic” denizens of the transitional sub-Saharan zone have been indoctrinated into treating their pure-black southern neighbors with racist disdain. (To this day it can be dangerous to one’s life to ask a dark-looking but Arabic-speaking Sudanese or Mauritanian Moslem if he is “black.”)
For the pure-black populations of Sudan and Mauritania, independence from colonial rule marked the end of a slavery-free respite. Slavery was “abolished” several times in Mauritania since independence, most recently on July 5, 1980. Yet the Anti-Slavery Society’s findings (1982) and those of Africa Watch (1990) point to the existence of at least 100,000 “full-time” slaves and additional 300,000 half-slaves, all of them black, still being held by Arab-Mauritanians. Even the head of state from 1960 to 1978, Mokhtar Ould Daddah, kept slaves behind the presidential palace. The Mauritanian government has not tried to eradicate slavery and failed; it has not tried at all. Even the old Arab practice of forming slave armies is being revived in Mauritania, where thousands of Haratines were forcibly recruited, armed, and sent to take over black African villages in the south, where they massacred the inhabitants.
In 1983, the Arab-controlled government of Sudan instituted strict Islamic law in the entire country and subjected black Christians and other non-Moslems of the south in its decree. Then in 1992 a religious decree was ordered that gave justification to the military onslaught against non-Moslems. Since that time the United Nations and human rights groups have documented countless cases of slavery.
The Moslem world has yet to produce a serious indigenous movement to abolish slavery that was not the consequence of Western prompting.
The Arabian Peninsula in 1962 became the world’s penultimate region to officially abolish slavery, yet years later Saudi Arabia alone was estimated to contain a quarter of a million slaves. Thousands of miles away from Africa, in Pakistan’s NorthwestFrontierProvince, girls as young as five are auctioned off to highest bidders. Afghan girls between the ages of 5 and 17 sell for $80 to $100. The price depends on the colors of their eyes and skin; if they are virgins, the price is higher. The girls are generally sold into prostitution or, if they are lucky, they may join harems in the Middle East.
If they are lucky.
NORTH KOREA‘S TROUBLING ADMISSION
October 18, 2002
Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said that North Korea already has a “small number” of nuclear weapons. The statement follows the admission by North Korea that it has a secret nuclear program. A Pentagon official later added that the U.S. government thought Pyongyang had two nuclear bombs.
This second stunning revelation about North Korea in 24 hours has sent shockwaves around the world.
The reaction from the White House has been surprisingly restrained so far. Spokesman Scott McClellan said Pyongyang’s nuclear program was a “serious violation” of the 1994 deal under which North Korea agreed to halt its nuclear weapons program in return for light water reactors, but he added that Washington viewed the problem in a different light from Iraq which is threatened with military action over its weapons program. “These are different regions, different problems,” McClellan said, “we are seeking a peaceful solution. This is best addressed through diplomatic channels at this point.” McClellan then went on to describe Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein as a “homicidal dictator who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction.” He did not comment on allegations that North Korea is also pursuing chemical and biological weapons programs.
This is all very curious. Let’s suppose that you, a superwealthy and powerful homesteader in a mansion on the hill, have some issues with two unruly gang leaders on the wrong side of the track. They are both trashy types, murderous and nasty to boot, one Middle Eastern and another Oriental. One gang leader is said to “gas his own people” (an apparent lie dating over a decade back, but useful for the requisite reductio ad Hitlerum). The other starves his charges to death, in the name of a curious concept of self-sufficiency that is somehow connected to mid-19th century neo-Hegelian dialectics elaborated in a London suburb. It’s a strange world.
The former, a nasty brute with a low IQ but with no powerful backers, tried to take over one of your client’s properties a decade ago, assuming that it was OK with you. Once you changed you mind about that, you taught him a lesson that was—now you claim—not memorable enough. He is still around, cornered in his seedy abode that you keep cordoned off, but powerless to threaten you. As you go into strange paroxisms of rage about his alleged transgressions he wonders what he needs to do to stay out of your way, and keeps his fingers crossed that you’ll just forget he exists. There’s no serious proof that Saddam really means to hurt you. There can’t be any: he IS bad but he’s not mad. Even if he did dream of getting back at you (we’re all human, sort of) he has no wherewithal to do so now, and there is no serious likelihood of his acquiring it in a decade or two to come.
The latter gang leader—his awful domain’s latent famine notwithstanding—is a far nastier piece of work. This fellow, Kim Jong Il, is hell-bent on acquiring some serious weaponry of mass destruction, in fact he already has them on your own admission, and wants to use the hardware as a tool in his dealings with you and your proxies.
So what do you do?
If you follow George Washington’s advice, you stick to your side of the track, well armed to be sure, and let the bad guys over there do their thing—whatever unpleasantness it entails for their subjects and their unlucky neighbors—for as long as they stay away from your turf.
Ah, but you like being the boss. OK, if you’re half-serious about being the only sheriff in town, you’ll prioritize and go after the chief offender first. You declare the rules, you define the consequences. Having, or seeking, “weapons of mass destruction” invites blind, automatic retaliation—nothing personal.
On the other hand, if you’re a coward or a fraud, or if your choices of enemies are determined by someone else, you’ll go after the softer target pretending that he’s the really bad guy. In this case you’ll pretend that Comrade Kim is the lesser threat—he has “only” two nukes after all—while Saddam remains the real threat.
The rest of the world disagrees. With Pyongyang’s spectacular admission that it has a secret nuclear weapons program Washington’s attempts to muster a new coalition for the preventive march into Baghdad have suffered a serious setback.
On October 17 middle-ranking State Department bureaucrats embarked on a hasty tour of east Asia to forge a concerted strategy. As James Kelly, the assistant Secretary of State, and the Undersecretary, John Bolton, arrived in Beijing, en route for Tokyo and Seoul, Mr. Bush described the North Korean admission as “troubling and sobering.”
This statement was curious. In addition to Iraq and Iran, Mr. Bush included North Korea, urbi et orbi, in his “axis of evil” State of the Union address last January. If he was half-serious about the threat from this dangerous rogue nation, what is there to be “troubled” by, and “sobered” from? Whatever the rogues do, we should be ready for them.
In the aftermath of Mr. Kim’s admission that he’s out to get nukes we face a strange spectacle in Washington. It seems that last winter’s “axis of evil” was purely coincidental, and its pecking order dependent on expediency. Saddam—the real target all along—is a secularist dictator who appeals to the Baathist variety of Arab nationalism, but whose vanity and ambition guarantee that he’ll get no external support when the going gets tough. (Forget Iran for now. It upholds Islam as the basis of its ancient polity, but its Shiite leaders detest the Wahabi “heretics” of Al Qaeda and the Taliban. It is far closer to getting nukes of its own than Saddam will ever be, but that is not a polite thing to say inside the Beltway.)
North Korea, by contrast to both, is a zany neo-Stalinist hell on Earth, whose minimal external links go only as far as Peking. To Mr. Bush the “Axis of Evil” was a rhetorical device that sought not to describe reality, but to blur it. How inconvenient, then, that one of the evil triumvirate proves to be seriously demented. In a pragmatic and non-ideological scheme of things, after the latest announcement from Pyongyang the assorted North Korean sites should become more attractive targets for cruise missiles, airborne assaults, and special operations, than Baghdad or Basra.
But the Administration minimizes North Korean threat while we’re still on automatic pilot to clobber Saddam. This indicates that in Bush’s team there is no predictable corelation between a threat to national security and its processing through the decision-making machinery. Messrs. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al. will not allow mere national security threats to get in the way of their grand Middle Eastern designs, so the North Korean bombshell needs to be ignored or minimized. Our readers wouldn’t know any of this from their local TV channels, but as London’s “Independent” reported, “Washington’s uncertainty is reflected in the long delay between Mr. Kelly being told of the programme when he visited the North from 3 to 5 October, and the announcement by the State Department on Wednesday, almost a fortnight later”:
The immediate fears in Washington are twofold: first, that a new crisis might erupt on the divided and heavily armed Korean peninsula, where 35,000 US troops are stationed… The second worry is that the restrained US reaction will lead to accusations that America operates double standards in its dealings with Iraq and North Korea, making the search for a tough United Nations resolution against Saddam Hussein even trickier… In the eight years since the agreement with the Clinton administration, which essentially bartered US economic aid for the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear programme, Pyongyang appears to have mounted a secret one, based on enriched uranium. Unlike the plutonium technology mothballed in 1994, reactors are not needed in this process. But it does require centrifuges, precisely the technology Washington claims the Iraqis are trying to assemble in their own pursuit of a bomb.
While the old plutonium-based program was in force the North Koreans admitted that they had only three ounces of the deadly material. This was implausible, and the CIA always believed the stock was much more substantial. It is sufficient now to produce several atomic weapons—something that Saddam can only dream of.
Scarcely less alarming was Pyongyang’s claim, reported by US officials in early October, that it had unspecified “more powerful” weapons. This is a confirmation that North Korea already has chemical and biological arms, as all of its neighbours and most weapons proliferation specialists have long believed. Nevertheless, we shall be told yet again that the war against Iraq is a must. No new facts from the outer fringes of the Orient will be allowed to disrupt the Iraqi war scheme.
While it may be a good idea to get rid of Saddam, to pretend that hitting him and the city of Baghdad in preference to Pyongyang would serve any American interest is absurd. In a sane world the very notion of America going to war with a rogue on the wrong side of the track would be preposterous. We live in a fallen world, however. The best we can do, perhaps, is to remind ourselves that, in a real democracy, determining threats to national security should be hotly debated. Since this is not going to happen, for now anyway, we’ll have the Marines in the streets of Baghdad before this winter is out. At the same time there will be a Fat Boy or two in North Korea’s arsenal, out of America’s sight or mind. Saddam will have a hearty posthumous laugh.
THE UNTOLD STORY OF PRIVATIZATION IN SERBIA
October 16, 2002
In two of my recent articles dealing with the presidential election in Serbia I have made passing references to Zoran Djindjic as “Serbia’s kleptocratic prime minister,” and to his “corrupt establishment” that “controls the economy and the media more stringently than Milosevic had ever done.” While such designations would be considered unremarkable by an overwhelming majority of Serbia’s impoverished and disheartened people, they raised an eyebrow or two among some foreign Yugoslavia-watchers who still subscribe to the view that Mr. Djindjic is a “pro-Western, reformist” politician whose program of privatization may prove painful at first, but eventually will lead Serbia to prosperity and free market system. One academic critic remarked that “there’s nothing wrong with Djindjic and his team doing well personally if in the end everyone will be better off.” Dr. Z. Papadopoulos from Germany suggested that “it is time to grasp the reality that Djindjic is the only man who can take Serbia into Europe.”
That, sadly, appears to be wishful thinking. Mr. Djindjic, his privatization minister Aleksandar (“Aca”) Vlahovic and about a dozen members of their inner coterie, are in the process of turning Serbia’s state industries into their private assets, by means that would be considered—to put it mildly—highly dubious in most Western countries. Undoubtedly, if it hopes to transform and revitalize the economy, Serbia needs to enlarge and strengthen the private sector; but the methods employed thus far by Djindjic’s circle—well illustrated by the attempted quasi-legal theft of Serbia’s highly profitable cement works at Beocin a year ago—are most discouraging. As Accuracy in Media noted at the time, “Workers also fear what the Serbian government may do, that is, whether privatization will be public or the government will succumb to pressure from foreign buyers to consider all contracts as business secrets.” Because of widespread corruption in all secret deals, the report concluded, the people of Serbia are highly suspicious of Djindjic:
The mistrust has two origins: one is because the government embarked on reforms without previously making a social contract, and the other is that Privatization Minister Aleksandar Vlahovic used to work for Deloitte & Touche, which is now the chief consultant in the sale of the Beocin cement factory.
Mr. Vlahovic was back in the news last week, and the alarm bells are on again, louder than ever before. This time his well-publicized appearance was in connection the forthcoming privatization of the ZASTAVA car factory in Kragujevac, Serbia’s fourth largest city. The story opens with an innocuous-looking Reuters news wire from Belgrade on October 11:
Serbia has agreed a joint venture with a US group to revive the country’s sole carmaker Zastava pulling in investments of at least $150 million over three years, Privatisation Minister Aleksandar Vlahovic said on Friday. Zastava became well-known as producer of the cheap-and-cheerful Yugo hatchback in the 1980s but was crippled by international sanctions and bombed by NATO during the turmoil that engulfed the Balkans in the 1990s. Vlahovic said the joint venture with New Jersey based NUCARCO, backed by a group of investors headed by New York investment bank Kaupthing Securities Inc, would raise monthly production from 1,200 vehicles now to 10,000 over three years. “This investment will enable Zastava Vehicles to increase and modernise its production capacities and sell its models throughout the world,” Vlahovic told a news conference. NUCARCO Inc. is headed by Malcolm Bricklin, who brought the Yugo to the U.S. market in the 1980s. Vlahovic said the joint venture would be called Zastava Motor Works ZMW. NUCARCO would own 80 percent, undertaking to invest a miniumum of $150 million over three years to upgrade technological standards and existing brands and to initiate development of new models. The Zastava Vehicles group would have a 20 percent stake but invest no cash. It would provide goods, land and know-how. The joint venture would market at least 75 percent of the vehicles it produces in the United States, the European Union and in developing countries, Vlahovic said. The number of employees would remain at 4,500 for now but would grow gradually to 9,000 over five years, he said. He also said the group hoped to reach annual production of 220,000 cars in five years—a level not seen since Zastava was one of the industrial giants of the old communist Yugoslavia.
The questions connected with this story are not immediately apparent to an uninitiated eye; but for those of us who instinctively reach for their wallets when the name of Mr. Vlahovic is mentioned, they come naturally.
The exact status of the heralded “joint venture with New Jersey based NUCARCO” is unclear, as according to the Department of Revenue in Trenton no company by such name is registered in the State of New Jersey. In a telephone interview Mr. Malcolm Bricklin stated that the company in fact does exist, as the umbrella group for Zastava Motor Works USA. Perhaps more worrying that the formality of NUCARCO’s status and registration is the fact that Mr. Bricklin—for all his upbeat talk of “returning job security and a sense of pride to Serbian workers”—refused to disclose any details about the company’s ownership and management structure, personnel, or present capitalization.
The same air of mystery applies to Zastava Motor Works USA which has a shell of a website that displays silhouettes and pictures of Zastava cars with no accompanying text or functioning links. Mr. Bricklin says that the company does have a mission statement and a business plan, but refused to disclose any information saying that they are lodged with the Government of Serbia, which should be approached for all further details as he is not at liberty to discuss such issues withou prior approval from Belgrade.
“New York investment bank, Kaupthing Securities Inc.” is a securities trading subsidiary of an Icelandic bank, Kaupthing, that in addition to corporate headquarters in Reyktavik also has offices in Copenhagen, Faroe Islans, Helsinki, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. According to the bank’s statement for the first half of 2002, “The operations of overseas associate companies and subsidiaries returned a profit of less than ISK 1 million” (i.e., less than US $1,400 at the rate of 71.5 Icelandic Krone to a dollar). The firm’s site and its newsletter make no mention of Kaupthing’s participation in any deal concerning Zastava, NUCARCO, or, Serbia. In a telephone interview a representative for Kaupthing said that the company will be retained by NUCARCO, but neither he nor Mr. Bricklin wanted to disclose the intended strategy of raising very substantial liquidity, except to indicate that (a) there would be no IPA, for three years at least; and (b) that foreign providers of financial assistance to Serbia are expected to chip in. To a specific question Mr. Bricklin replied that the well-known international financial institutions based in WashingtonD.C. are not expected to be among the investors, because their conditions are too stringent.
Perhaps most serious of all, company is people—and Mr. Bricklin’s name raises many eyebrows in the industry. An article in the Detroit News (“Bricklin redux: Another one of Malcolm’s bright ideas”) published on May 1, 2002, illustrates the problem:
Omigosh, Malcolm Bricklin is at it again . . . He’s hooked up with his old pals at Serbian automaker Zastava, the former manufacturer of the late and largely unlamented Yugo, to bring another low-priced automobile from the region to lucky North American consumers. The piece instantly triggered several flashbacks, some amusing, some painful . . . Their reputation was such that one U.S. luxury-car dealer who was offering a free Yugo with every purchase reportedly had several customers who requested a 10-speed bike instead of the Yugo as their gift . . . So now Malcolm Bricklin, at the age of 63, wants to resurrect his automotive career . . . I can’t help but wonder if he’d have better luck in trying to rebuild the Serbian film industry.
First some history. When Bricklin dropped out of university in 1958 he established a building supplies business in Orlando and franchised Handyman hardware stores, which reached a peak of 18 stores. Then the lawsuits started; by the time he was 25 his name was on half a dozen of them. But in 1971 he made a fresh start and formed two car companies, General Vehicle Inc. and Bricklin Vehicle Corporation. By late 1972 he had a prototype inexpensive sports car with gull-wing doors—just like DeLoreans—and started looking for a plant to manufacture it, provided that someone else put up the money. After failed negotiations with the Government of Quebec he went to New Brunswick and his undoubtedly considerable promoting talents got him $20 million of Canadian taxpaer funds. As Bricklin’s biographer Charlie Russell recalls,
The New Brunswick government had provided financing of $4.5 million for Bricklin’s car. The money had been advanced on the assumption that Bricklin needed the initial financing to begin the production of cars. By the time the New Brunswick government discovered its error, it would have paid for the engineering and development of Bricklin’s car. By that time, it would also be paying many of the costs, including salaries of keeping Bricklin’s U.S. companies in operation.
Over the three ensuing years only 2,854 Bricklins were produced, but when Bricklin Canada Ltd. and General Vehicles Ltd. filed for bankruptcy the companies owed a total of $34.6-million which makes Bricklins second only to DeLoreans in terms of cost-per-unit. At that time Mr. Bricklin also recorded a personal low: in 1976 he filed for bankruptcy with a United States District Court in Phoenix, declaring personal assets of $2,000 against debts of over $32 million.
In the aftermath of the Canadian fiasco it was stated that “Malcolm Bricklin’s flagrant nepotism alone would have been reason enough for a prudent business operator to call a halt”: his mother was paid $30,000 a year as Vice President, and his father got $60,000 a year, being in charge of “cost reduction” (sic). He took care of his family, while New Brunswick’s Premier Hatfield took care of him—and nobody took care of the interests of the taxpayers.
The subsequent Yugo episode is remembered chiefly for cruel jokes. (“How do you double the value of a Yugo? Fill up the gas tank.”) The fiasco Mr. Bricklin ascribes to poor quality and Yugoslavia’s implosion, but the company went belly-up before the first shots were fired in anger in the Balkans. You’d think that would be it—not quite. In 1993, Malcolm Bricklin and two other entrepreneurs formed the Electric Bicycle Company and developed a battery powered moped called the EV Warrior. Unfortunately that company went bankrupt in 1997, just as interest in electrically powered mopeds seemed about to take off.
You’d think four bankruptcies would be enough. Well not quite. Malcolm Bricklin got once again involved in a high risk automotive venture, this time with fuel cells. In 1998 Bricklin’s EVX Inc. has signed an agreement with British fuel cell maker Zevco to open a pilot plant in New York City to replace internal combustion engines with Zevco fuel cell engines.
Mr. Bricklin’s record would be enough to warrant a painstaking and very open scrutiny of the proposed Zastava deal back in Belgrade. He may be an old dog that has learned some new trick, but any prudent investor would want to see some tangible evidence of such metamorphosis before plunging into any deal that is not at least evenly matched by Bricklin’s personal funds. In conjunction with Messrs Djindjic, Vlahovic, et al. it spells big trouble, for Zastava’s longsuffering workers, for Serbia’s impoverished citizens whose taxes had built the factory in the first place, and for whatever entity proves rash enough to provide the liquidity. Both “Zastava” and Serbia need to get back on their feet, and can do so; but this is not the way.
THE FAILED SERBIAN ELECTION
October 15, 2002
Last Sunday’s presidential election in Serbia failed to muster enough votes for the poll to be valid. Only 46 percent of voters took part in the run-off between current Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and his rival, Miroljub Labus. Kostunica beat Labus by a 2:1 margin, but without the minimum turnout of 50 percent, the result was void.
The result is disappointing not only for Labus’s sponsors at the IMF but also for Kostunica, whose approval rating at the time of Milosevic’s downfall exceeded 80 percent. Most Serbs are disappointed by his apparent inability or unwillingness to confront the corrupt establishment, centered on Serbia’s prime minister Zoran Djindjic, that controls the economy and the media more stringently than Milosevic had ever done.
What happens next is uncertain. In theory the whole procedure should be repeated within 60 days, according to the legislation inherited from Milosevic’s times. In practice there are difficulties. If the voters could not be motivated to turn up in sufficient numbers this time round, there is no reason to believe that things will be different in late December. The full extent of Serbia’s economic misery and collective depression will be more painfully felt under the leaden winter sky, deepening the sense of alienation from politics and futility of the proceedings so keenly felt by most Serbs.
On the other hand, if the 50 percent requirement introduced by Milosevic is to be removed it will be necessary to draft the necessary legislation at a very short notice and bring it before Serbia’s parliament within days. As it happens, the majority in the Assembly is controlled by prime minister Djindjic and his allies from a dozen microscopic parties. That control was enhanced by Djindjic’s expulsion of deputies belonging to Kostunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) on a spurious pretext–a move that even Djindjic’s foreign backers find hard to defend. If Kostunica is to be installed as Serbia’s new president, it is almost certain that he would call a new parliamentary election. Since Djindjic and his allies are likely to suffer badly at the polls, they will not do anything that would place Kostunica in the position to dissolve parliament.
An ongoing power vacuum at the top suits Djindjic and his allies, enabling them to continue running the government by default. Djindjic’s ploy was evident in his Democratic Party’s (DS) quiet sabotage of the second round of voting. He may come under some pressure from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which monitored the elections, and which said the law should be repealed urgently. But that pressure will never be effective unless Djindjic is given some guarantees that he will retain a position of power and influence. Western diplomats in Belgrade point out that, regardless of the outcome of a future parliamentary election, Djindjic’s DS will remain the only likely coalition partner for Kostunica’s DSS: “The alternative is to make a deal with Seselj’s Radicals or Milosevic’s Socialists, and Kostunica knows that he cannot even contemplate such a move without losing what little Western support and credibility he still enjoys.”
Another failed election would further erode Kostunica’s already jaded credibility and effectively leave him without a job: the post of the federal head of state will become purely ceremonial, and subject to six-monthly rotation, once the new constitutional platform regulating relations between Serbia and Montenegro is enacted. If there is another electoral flop, Djindjic could resort to another constitutional trick inherited from Milosevic: he could install the temporary speaker of Serbia’s parliament–a non-descript woman from one of the mini-parties allied to him–as the acting president of Serbia for a period of up to one year, while the new legislation is drafted and debated.
For a cynic devoid of moral scruples such as Djindjic the possibility of extending his rule over Serbia for a year may well prove irresistible, especially if his long-suffering subjects remain numbly apathetic. But as we’ve seen in the streets of Belgrade two years ago, Serb apathy may easily turn into rage. Watch this space.
DAYTON ON THE JORDAN: RE-THINKING THE U.S. POLICY IN THE MIDDLE EAST
October 11, 2002
(Paper presented at the 13th Annual Meeting of The John Randolph Club, October 5, 2002)
Dayton is a forgettable industrial city in Ohio from which ambitious boys and pretty girls move out to get what they assume is a “life.” It was once home to the Wright brothers, and was also known for its rubber industry, as witnessed by the old Dayton Tires painted metal signs.
What gave Dayton global exposure was the so-called peace treaty imposed by the Clinton administration on the Bosnian warring parties after a gruelling three weeks of quasi-negotiations conducted at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base just outside the city exactly seven years ago. This “Dayton-Bosnia” has become a familiar term in world affairs, like the Weimar Germany, or the Vichy France.
The Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (RBH) is the product of the political will of the Clinton administration, and the military might at its disposal. It is the “International Community’s” first major experiment in nation-building, the harbinger of great and glorious things to come in the new millennium. (The fact that its people still stubbornly vote for the “nationalist” parties that led them into war is inconvenient but irrelevant.)
It would therefore seem natural for the experiences of this multiethnic, multiconfessional, multicultural polity, based on democracy and human rights, to be applied to the Middle East. After all, there’s no reason that the sauce prepared for the Balkan goose should not work with the Levantine gander.
Let us therefore look at the original Dayton Agreement—with only the names of the parties changed—creating the united, multiethnic and democratic Republic of Israel and Palestine (RIP). This arrangement, to be known as Dayton-on-the-Jordan, resolutely rejects the notion of ethnic partition of an area known as the “historical Palestine” that had been an indivisible geographic, political, economic, and cultural entity for centuries. Instead it creates two semi-autonomous entities that will have vaguely defined and altogether limited self rule within one single, internationally recognized state of “Israel and Palestine”:
The Parties welcome and endorse the arrangements that have been made concerning the boundary demarcation between the two Entities, the Federation of the West Bank and Gaza and the Republika Israelska.
The Parties welcome and endorse the elections program for Israel and Palestine and endorse the arrangements that have been made concerning the Constitution of Israel and Palestine.
The Parties welcome and endorse the arrangements that have been made concerning the establishment of an arbitration tribunal, a Commission on Human Rights, a Commission on Refugees and Displaced Persons, a Commission to PreserveNational Monuments, and Israel and Palestine Public Corporations.
The Parties welcome and endorse the arrangements that have been made concerning the implementation of this peace settlement, including in particular the international peacekeepers and police task force.
If the blueprint from Dayton is to be followed, Israel and Palestine will be an international protectorate under the United Nations, policed by NATO troops with a significant US contingent. It would have ostensibly democratic institutions and elections, but the real power would reside with the High Representative of the International Community (in Bosnia’s case a Spaniard, followed by an Austrian, and now and a Briton) based in Jerusalem. The duty of the High Representative will be, above all, to prevent all secessionist tendencies in either of the entities and to promote the sense of unity and togetherness between Arabs and Jews. In pursuit of that objective he will have the power to replace any elected official who does not cooperate.
The ever-centralizing pressure on Jews and Palestinian Arabs to accept living in a common state will be justified by the mystical “Spirit of Dayton,” not contained in the letter of the agreement itself but allegedly implicit in the intent of its drafters. The High Representative’s aides will accordingly remove offending references to “the Chosen People,” to “the Prophet” and his “rightly guided caliphs,” to Col. Nasser, Gen. Dayan, and other “divisive” concepts and personages from the textbooks. The sense of national unity will be fostered by promoting twinning of cities such as Nablus and Jaffa, Jenin and Haifa, Tel Aviv and Gaza, with a contingent of heavily armed peacekeepers always on hand in case the bonding gets too close and personal.
Following the Dayton-on-the-Jordan deal Israel and Palestine will have a flag and an anthem created by the International Community, both devoid of any traditional symbols of the dark, divisive, intolerant past: both the Star of David and the Crescent are to be strictly verboten. The Federation of the West Bank and Gaza, as one of the two entities, will be allowed to develop certain special cultural and economic links with the Arab neighbors of Israel-and-Palestine, but will not be able to join them in the same state. Indeed, any advocacy of pan-Arabism in whatever form will be grounds for immediate political and legal measures, including but not limited to the loss of public function (regardless of popular mandate) and imprisonment.
In a similar fashion, Republika Izraelska must not advocate re-creation of an exclusivist, mono-ethnic, “nationalist” Jewish state; it must accept the Dayton framework as its permanent and immutable solution. Zionism will be simply banned.
All this may sound farcical, but not funny. This is exactly what has been done in the former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is an artificial, inherently untenable and absurd construct that could stay together only within the context of a wider, Yugoslav, Hapsburg, or Ottoman context. Today it is a cruel joke, as free from any purpose as it is devoid of a future.
But if we do not want to play nation-building and force Israelis and Palestinian Arabs into the same, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural state—and we certainly should not—what, then, is the solution?
TOWARD A NEW PARADIGM
A whole new Middle Eastern paradigm is needed in Washington. It should be based on three key premises.
First, that Israel is a small foreign country. It is a friendly and democratic country, to be sure, to which we have links rooted in sentiment and tradition, but a country by no means special to American experience or central to its interests any more than, say, Greece, or Holland, or Italy, are “special” or “central.”
Second, that Islam—Islam-as-such, and not just one of its alleged aberrations—is a major threat to America’s global security and to the survival of our civilization. While containing its violent manifestations, and preventing the rise of the islamic fifth column within its boundaries, the U.S. foreign policy should avoid policies that help further rise of Islamic militancy, including the perception of a permanent bias in Middle Eastern affairs that breeds anti-Americanism and Islamic fundamentalism.
Finally, it should be acknowledged that American national interests in the Middle East are primarily economic. It is vitally important to the United States to have permanent access to secure and affordable sources of energy. It is not vitally important to the U.S. whose flag flies over the Dome on the Rock, not any more than whose flag flies over Pristina or Sarajevo. American interests therefore demand a lasting, stable peace that should be based on a value-neutral, scrupulously even-handed treatment of the conflicting parties’ claims and aspirations.
A key advantage of the suggested approach is that it would additionally serve American interests by enhancing Israeli security. Forcing Israel to diversify and creatively enhance its external relations, and to reduce its present excessive dependence on the United States, would make it better equipped to survive in an inherently unfriendly environment. “The people of Israel have lived for 3700 years without a strategic memorandum with America and will continue to live without it for another 3700 years,” said the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin almost 20 years ago, when the Reagan administration tried to obtain his agreement on common strategy. More recently, in 1998, AIPAC’s own Dr. Eugene Schupak openly aired the same viewpoint when he bewailed pressures to accept an “American plan” that would define Israel’s interests: “The idea that American officials sitting in Washington know more about Israel’s security needs than the people of Israel, whose lives are on the line, is untenable.”
Quite so: The present U.S.-Israeli symbiosis is not inherent in Israel’s existence. The Jewish state had come into being against many odds, and it had fought three wars quite successfully, before the present “special relationship” finally ripened after the Six-Day War of 1967. Becoming effectively a client-state of the United States in the aftermath of that war was a distinctly mixed blessing for Israel. Foreign policy making is a form of continuous adaptive behavior aimed at preserving and enhancing the security of a state. Being perceived as a permanent American client-state, and perceiving itself as such, and modifying its behavior accordingly, was bad for Israel because it distorted the adaptive pattern. This over-reliance limits Israel’s room for diplomatic and military maneuver, and this may become fully apparent at a future critical juncture when American and Israeli strategies diverge.
Entrusting the Jewish-American community with the task of preventing such divergence in perpetuity, by hoping that it will be indefinitely able to equate American and Israeli interests in the minds of hundreds of millions of Americans with no a priori emotional bond to the Jewish state, is very risky. If and when American regional hegemony is challenged by a new element in the equation, say by Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons—and Iran is far more likely to acquire those weapons than Iraq had ever been—the limits of the present symbiosis may become rapidly, and for the Israelis painfully obvious.
The new paradigm demands recognition that the conflict in the Middle East is neither incomprehensible outside its own terms of reference, nor unique. It is structurally comparable to that between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo, or between Orangemen and Nationalists in Ulster. It is a zero-sum dispute, with one side’s gain rightly seen and felt as another’s loss. They all vie for power and for territory that each side claims as its own. Many are willing to fight and die to take it or to preserve it. Their claims are often accompanied by the warring parties’ metaphysical claims that are rooted in history, myth, faith, and tradition. The battlefield of Kosovo is as holy to a Serb as the Wailing Wall is to a Jew or the Dome on the Rock is to a Muslim.
A prime example of metaphysical drivel parading as rational discourse is the claim, eagerly embraced by the wilder fringes of the American evangelical movement, that the modern state of Israel is the embodiment of a biblical covenant. It was memorably stated by the former Israeli Prime Minister, the late Golda Meir: “This country exists as the accomplishment of a promise made by God Himself. It would be absurd to call its legitimacy into account.” Ms. Meir was referring to God’s Old Testament pledge to Abraham that “unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the Euphrates.”
Quite apart from the fact that this claim also provides for Israel’s extension from the Nile to the heart of Iraq, it is a structurally flawed recipe for never-ending war as it limits Israel’s capacity to seek models of coexistence based on the presumed equality of all parties. At the legal-technical level, Americans cannot take such claims seriously because the First Amendment denies recognition of religious establishment—and within these terms Israel is not merely a state, but a divinely ordained institution. It is also politically impossible to have it both ways, and Israel is a self-avowedly secular state, with most of its citizens indifferent to the God of their Fathers and opposed to any notion that He is anything more than an element of their lore that has no bearing on their lives. Finally, in substantive terms, the U.S. should treat metaphysical rationalization of a territorial or political claim by a foreign party with polite respect, but it must not co-opt it or internalize it as a relevant factor in America’s own security calculation.
De-mystifying the relationship between America and Israel, redefining it in terms of mutual interests devoid of metaphysical or emotional mists, will help Israel mature into a “normal” nation-state. It may also help overcome the paradox that the State of Israel, instead of solving the perennial problem of Jewish insecurity, remains beset by it. Its real and legitimate security concerns after 1948, and especially after 1967, were aggravated by their subjugation to a traditional Weltanschauung predicated upon the premise that the world is inherently hostile. Over-dependence on the United States in the past 35 years has postponed the squaring of this complex circle. America’s “obligation” is to understand the causes of that insecurity from without—by scrutinizing the underlying structure of the Middle Eastern conflict—rather than to pander to its symptoms from within by the undissenting acceptance of the “moral” burden. In this manner America will uphold its true interests, and prove itself a better friend to Israel.
One consequence of such reassessment would be to terminate the unhealthy, costly, open-ended, and practically unconditional financial support for Israel. Bipartisan consensus that Washington should underwrite Israel’s finances in perpetuity is one of the very few budgetary issues that are not subjected to detailed congressional scrutiny. Beyond the economic and military components of the U.S. foreign aid budget (of which Israel has received between one-quarter and one-fifth of the worldwide total for decades), there are additional billions disbursed through other departments and agencies scattered throughout the U.S. government. Assistance to Egypt should be simultaneously phased out, of course.
None of this will happen under the present administration, of course. It is noteworthy, and puzzling, that the Bush administration appears oblivious to all four core problems of the Israeli-Arab dispute: the final borders Israel and its future Palestinian neighbor, the standing and future of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, the status of Jerusalem and its holy sites, and the right of return, or some other long-term solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees. Three months ago, you will remember, Mr. Bush ended his long-awaited address on this issue on an incongruously haughty note, quoting from the (Jewish) Old Testament: “I have set before you life and death, therefore choose life.” The quote sounded like a taunt to the Palestinians.
His conditions for the reformed and democratic Palestinian Authority reform cannot be fulfilled. Not a single Arab (or, for that matter, predominantly Muslim) state is a functioning Western-style democracy, for numerous reasons of history, religion, and psychology too complex to discuss here. Expecting the Palestinian Authority to become an exception, and to do so more or less overnight—while simultaneously ridding itself of the existing political leadership—is either naive or disingenuous. Since the President’s speech itself was the product of long and comprehensive consultations between Washington and Jerusalem, naivety is not an option.
The second problem is that the reward offered to the Palestinians at the end of the long road, even if it could be traversed, is not attractive enough to inspire the effort. The unlovely Chairman Arafat and his corrupt cronies will have no incentive to comply with anything; but even if there were potential American assets within the Palestinian leadership, those people would need a far more attractive package as the incentive to risk their reputations—and quite possibly lives—in confronting Arafat. “Conditional” statehood, a murky and ambiguous concept open to political voluntarism, will never provide the rallying cry for a new, “moderate” Palestinian leadership.
The third problem is that Bush’s concept leaves U.S. policy ever more firmly in the grip of Israeli decision-makers. A single suicide bombing could lead the Israeli cabinet to conclude that any prior “progress” has been compromised. For as long as the criteria of measuring Palestinian “progress” remain undefined, the Israeli government has an excuse for postponing statehood ad calendas Graecas.
The fourth problem is that greater democracy in Palestine, like elsewhere in the Muslim world, plays into the hands of the hardliners. The demand from Washington for Arafat’s ouster will have the predictable short-term effect of bolstering his popularity at a time when his standing among his own people was in decline.
The fifth and most serious problem with Mr. Bush’s “vision” is its lack of real vision. Yet again the U.S. diplomacy acts incrementally: put together a ceasefire, then “build trust,” then get a “peace process” under way while leaving the vexed political issues for later. All that has been tried, and found wanting.
For an anti-Dayton on the Jordan a future administration—this one is hopeless—will have to re-focus from the mechanic notion of the Middle East “peace process” to the substantive issues of conflict analysis. It will grasp that there are problems that may not have a solution, that long-term management is perhaps the best we can hope for, and that the desirability of any possible solution must be assessed from the value-neutral point of clearly defined American geopolitical, economic, and diplomatic interests.
The long overdue re-examination of strategy demands not only new substance but also new style and personnel. The false pretense of “neutrality” must be discarded in favor of cool even-handedness, in the Middle East and everywhere else. Emotional commitment to one of the parties in the dispute, and associated difficulty in distinguishing between one’s personal and professional involvement, is unhealthy in American diplomats. It would be rightly deemed poor form, and even poorer politics, to send Serbian-Americans as U.S. negotiators on Kosovo and Bosnia, or Greek-Americans as U.S. negotiators on Cyprus. “Unique understanding” is no substitute for detached reasoning. Upholding the Golden Rule means that America should come first to Americans, Israel to Israelis, and Palestine to Palestinians. Beyond that there can be no inherent “special relationships,” only special interest groups and special agendas.
In the Holy Land life has been getting ever more nasty, brutish, and short since the marauding bands of barbarians from the Arabian desert descended upon it, under the banner of their so-called prophet, almost 13 centuries ago. It will get worse before it starts getting better, if it ever does. Israel’s security is correlated to the extent the legitimacy of its existence is accepted by its Arab neighbors. It has a developed economy with a tiny territorial base and a small, static population. It cannot afford indefinite losses in tit-for-tat attacks. To put it crudely, an end to the Israeli occupation is an infinitely more likely end result of the spiral of violence than the Palestinians’ acquiescence in that occupation.
While the Arabs are well advised to remember that in extremis Israel would not hesitate to use some or all of its two-dozen-odd nuclear devices, this ultimate deterrent has no meaning for many young Palestinians—armed, dangerous, and radicalized. They agree that the intifada will end with independence of Palestine, but in their mind this entails the destruction of Israel. They see the Palestinian Authority as part of the problem, not its solution.
In order to break the structural deadlock America needs to develop a detailed political blueprint for the final settlement, which the two sides are unwilling or unable to negotiate for themselves. The key criterion—let me repeat—should be the U.S. interest, pragmatically and quantifiably defined, as opposed to the goals of ethnic-religious lobbies and special-interest groups that seek to impose their agenda on the rest of the nation as America’s own. That interest includes the continued existence of the State of Israel, on geopolitical rather than emotional, moral, or Biblical grounds. It therefore demands a settlement that would remove the constant threat to Israel’s existence from its Arab neighbors. The concept of “land for peace” is still fundamentally valid, but needs to be re-thought. Israel must give up Gaza and most of the West Bank, of course, where the Palestinians will establish their own independent state. In return, the Palestinians and other Arabs will formally end all their claims on the Jewish state. In addition there need to be some adjustments to the pre-1967 borders, with Israel and the Palestinians swapping territory and Jerusalem being divided but shared. These are real goals, and they demand real strategies. Interim states and provisional states, limited sovereignties, and similar silly or insulting constructs, are neither real nor useful. They should be ditched, urgently.
America must learn how to pressure Israel to accomplish the structural requirements for a stable peace in the Middle East, and, in the longer term, to save Israel from its own failed policies. There are two tools: American-made military hardware, the use of which by the IDF should be far more closely monitored, and money—presently $10m a day in direct subsidies. Both must be used, and be seen to be used, for everyone’s good, not least that of Israel itself.
This administration’s current policies may be seen as a victory for Ariel Sharon and for the Amen Corner in Washington. As we are mid-way through the third year of murderous violence in the Middle East, neither Israel nor the United States can afford many more such victories. What Israel can risk is not for us to decide; what America needs to do, however, we have every right to state with clarity, to argue for with courage, and to demand with firmness.
SERBIAN ELECTION COVERAGE
October 3, 2002
The current president of the soon-to-be-defunct Yugoslav Federation, Vojislav Kostunica, has won the initial stage of Serbia’s presidential elections, the first held since the fall of Slobodan Milosevic almost exactly two years ago. Kostunica garnered 31 percent of the vote, with Miroljub Labus–the “pro-Western, reformist” candidate supported by the “international community”–coming in second at 28 percent and the nationalist veteran Vojislav Seselj unexpectedly winning 22 percent. Kostunica will face Labus in a runoff on October 13.
The turnout, estimated at 56 percent, was low, partly because of unseasonably miserable weather. Since voter turnout in Serbia is traditionally lower by 10 to 15 percentage points in the second round, less than one half of all registered voters (the constitutional threshold for a valid election) will likely vote in the runoff. If that happens, Serbia will be plunged into a constitutional crisis. If the whole electoral cycle were to be repeated, it is uncertain that a greater number of Serbia’s impoverished and disillusioned voters could be induced to go to the polls.
This would be good news for Zoran Djinjic, Serbia’s kleptocratic prime minister Labus’s mentor, who fears that Kostunica would call an early parliamentary election if elected, thus depriving Djinjic of the mandate that he won thanks to Kostunica’s endorsement in December 2000, in the aftermath of Milosevic’s downfall.
This would be bad news for the nation, however. “My heart hopes that we’ll have a winner, my mind is telling me that the second round will fail,” says a senior Western diplomat in Belgrade. “With the ongoing ambiguity in Montenegro and the unending mess in Kosovo, we are not getting any nearer to real solutions.”
It is somewhat ironic that both Kostunica and Labus still occupy their posts. This reflects the general lack of confidence in the proposed rearrangement of the Yugoslav federation under the European Union’s tutelage, which should be completed by the end of the year.
Some Western analysts noted that the combined vote for “nationalist candidates” (Kostunica and Seselj, as well as Arkan’s heirs, who won just under five percent) exceeded two thirds of the vote and deemed it alarming: Serbia stubbornly refuses to be “de-Nazified.” They do not mention that Labus’s defeat was even more significant in light of the massive support he received from the entire media. Serbia’s television and press are admittedly more flashy than a few years ago–Politika, under its new German ownership, has color photos on the front page–but they are also more depressingly uniform (“transition,” “free market,” “international community,” “reforms,” “entering Europe,” etc.) and more rigorously guided by Djindjic’s cronies than at any time under Milosevic. The pro-Labus bias of Serbia’s state television and a dozen leading national and regional “independent” channels supported by Western NGO money (Studio B, B-92, etc.) was sometimes embarrassing, often tasteless, and always blatant. The source of the massive funding for the Labus campaign remains unknown, but it is unlikely to have come from domestic in sources.
The U.S. ambassador in Belgrade, William Montgomery, who now acts like an imperial proconsul in an unimportant but subservient satrapy, was another Labus aficionado. (His lecture on Serbian politics at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., last summer was filled with the kind of anti-Kostunica rhetoric that would have warranted a quick recall if a “real” country had been in question.) The continuing preference of the Bush administration for Djindjic’s camp, however, is puzzling. As James Jatras, former senior analyst with the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee, noted recently,
However justified Washington’s preferences might have been in the past, they have long since become anachronistic in the post-9/11 era. Today American priorities must mean weeding out radical Islamic and organized crime elements in the Balkans with al-Qaeda links, and protecting the security of U.S. and allied forces. Here Serbia is not part of the problem but–under the right leadership–can become a significant part of the solution. . . . Far more important to U.S. interests than hauling the next indictee to the Hague would be Belgrade’s following Bucharest’s example in agreeing to exempt American personnel on Serbian soil from the International Criminal Court. . . . Working with Serbian enlightened patriotism, rather than crushing it, is a far more promising path to solid security and economic integration into the Western community. The same factors of moral stature and personal integrity–including strong support in the Church and the Army–that made Kostunica the only candidate in 2000 with a possibility of unseating Milosevic should today make him Washington’s preferable prospective president of Serbia. It should, but it did not. The results, nevertheless, indicated the limits of propaganda. In the end, it was the tangible effect of Labus’s IMF-dictated brand of shock therapy–two thirds of Serbia’s eight million people are at or below poverty level–and his perceived link with the hugely unpopular Zoran Djindjic that outweighed Western agitprop.
The real trouble for Serbia is that, even if Kostunica is elected on October 13, he may be unable to halt the collapse of Serbia’s economy and society, which was already under way before the anti-Milosevic popular revolt on October 5, 2000, thanks to the joint efforts of the old neocommunist regime and the Clinton administration; by now, it may be irreversible, unless a strong leader emerges who can inspire the nation and confront the kleptocrats. Kostunica’s inability to do so thus far, his good intentions and personal integrity notwithstanding, is as disheartening to the nation he should lead as it was predictable to those who know him.
BUSH GOES MULTILATERALIST, BIEN PENSANTS REJOICE
September 20, 2002
When the Guardian, Le Monde, and La Repubblica praise George W. Bush, it is a sure sign that he is doing something seriously wrong—and last week he did commit the greatest blunder of his presidency so far. Addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 12, the President declared that the conduct of the Iraqi regime is a threat to the authority of the United Nations, and a threat to peace. Iraq has answered a decade of U.N. demands with a decade of defiance. All the world now faces a test, and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment. Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?
The President’s new stand was reiterated in his September 14 national radio address and at a Camp David press conference later that day: “The U.N. will either be able to function as a peacekeeping body as we head into the 21st century, or it will be irrelevant.” This is the chance for the United Nations to show some backbone and resolve, the President concluded, “as we confront the true challenges of the 21st century.” All of which gives us the worst of all worlds: yet another unnecessary, and therefore unjust war is to be “legitimized” by being waged under a Security Council resolution.
The immediate result was to establish that there does exist something more nauseating than the whine of assorted European and Third World talking heads lamenting Washington’s unilateralist selfishness, and it is their chorus of praise for America’s sudden willingness to subject its foreign policy to the approval of the “international community.”
Predictably, the Wall Street Journal’s British equivalent, the Financial Times, was elated, saying that Bush “proved himself a master of the art of turning the tables on his critics” with a powerful speech that offered a “strong rationale” for action:
Above all, the speech cleverly emphasised that what is at stake is the post-1945 international system itself. [Saddam’s] contempt for the international community, if it goes uncorrected, risks profoundly undermining, perhaps fatally, the UN’s credibility as the forum for achieving global security. Bush has clearly rejected the views of hardliners in his administration . . . The U.S. should be applauded for having taken the diplomatic road. As Bush said, it is the authority of the UN itself that is challenged. The onus is on the rest of the Security Council—to demonstrate their commitment to helping the UN and the international system it represents to face down the challenge to its authority.
To remark that saving the “authority” of the United Nations is not a good reason for war is apparently an alien notion to most Europeans regardless of political affiliation. The nominally conservative Irish Independent thus wrote that Bush’s speech was noteworthy for two points, one indisputable and one highly positive. One, UN resolutions must be enforced, and Iraq has defied them; two, Mr. Bush wants to act through the UN. He may have only modified, not renounced, his unilateralism. But he has made an important concession to world opinion. That makes the U.S.-dominated world a slightly safer place.
Even the presumably “conservative” editorialist of the London Times joined the bandwagon:
The president deftly turned the tables on his critics. He put the multilateralist argument for dealing with Saddam . . . The shallow caricature of Bush as a sort of ‘cowboy’ will be less plausible after yesterday’s performance. He has instead offered the UN the opportunity to share the role of sheriff with him.
The Guardian noted that “Bush has made some positive steps—rejoining UNESCO and seeking solutions to global poverty are all commendable” and added that taking his case against Iraq before the UN was “heartening.” All that is not enough, however:
Blair worked hard to persuade the president to observe the diplomatic proprieties and his efforts, in the teeth of opposition were not all in vain. Bush is right to say that the UN’s credibility will be undermined if its resolutions are ignored . . . The damage may be incalculable if, in the future, the U.S. continues to veto or block the UN actions it does not welcome simply because they do not serve the narrow U.S. national interest. Support for the UN’s integrity cannot be selective: a la carte multilateralism is not an option.
Across the Channel Le Monde announced that “the road to Baghdad passes through New York” now that Mr. Bush has chosen “the multilateral look”:
On the surface the idea is to implement the resolutions asking for Iraq’s disarmament. In reality it is a way of making official Washington’s new strategy, the strategy of ‘preventive war’ . . . Its aim is to counter a virtual threat with a specific operation. President Bush did not even bother to give proof of the existence of Iraq’s arsenal or of the collusion between Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden. Faced with this new doctrine, Europe has nothing to offer. What is most worrisome is not the fact that among themselves, the Europeans had different views on Bush’s Iraqi policy. What is of concern is the total absence of strategic thinking in Europe on the threat posed by Islamic radicalism and the dissemination of weapons of mass destruction. If we are against preventive war, what have we to offer? If we feel that Iraq is not today’s number one danger and that to wage a war against it is a treatment worse that the disease itself, why not say it loud and clear?
In Holland DeVolkskrant only had one complaint: that Bush’s conversion to the correct globalist-multilateralist mindset was insufficiently enthusiastic: “The fact that Bush is prepared to go through the UN is the good news. The bad news is that he is not doing this very happily.”
In Warsaw Rzeczpospolita wrote that “the United Nations today has perhaps a last chance to prove that it is able to safeguard world peace and security.” Spanish La Razon praised the fact that “Bush has saved the dignity of the UN.” The leftist Madrid daily El Pais also commended “a positive step forward on the part of the administration that had previously leaned in the direction of unilateralism.” In Stockholm Expressen went so far as to assert that the world may breathe freely, since the U.S. has chosen to seek Security Council approval. In Switzerland the Neue Zurcher Zeitung praised Bush’s emphasis on strengthening the success and credibility of the UN.
Even the traditionally America-bashing, old-Left Parisian daily Liberation praised the fact that “a dose of mutilateralism has been added to the messages of unilateral threats made during the summer.” Across the Rhine another leftist bastion, Germany’s national television ARD-TV, commented that “America may now fight the evil with the blessing of the international community.” In Cologne the Westdeutscher Rundfunk—long critical of Bush—finally accepted his argument that “ignoring UN resolutions is totally unacceptable.” Frankfurt’s Hessischer Rundfunk delighted in the fact that “with President Bush’s speech in New York, the General Assembly and the UN Security Council have turned into the appropriate forums for the debate over how to react to the Iraq question.” The Frankfurter Allgemeine approvingly noted that Mr. Bush “acted as someone who speaks on behalf of the UN . . . and his appeal to accept the danger from Saddam is a chance for the UN to regain lost credibility.” Even the traditionalist Die Welt of Berlin sighed with relief that Mr. Bush is not going it alone, but “in the legal framework of the UN, approved by the UNSC”: “The accusations of unilateralism no longer remains . . . The United States may even act more internationally than the model pupils of multilateralism.”
We know that something is badly amiss when a French paper—in this case Le Figaro—commends an American president in terms worthy of a Midwestern country club geostrategist, or one of Rush’s faithful listeners:
The man is smart . . . The charges he made against Saddam are irrefutable. Enumerating them without passion added to their intolerability. Washington did not bring out any new proof against an Iraqi threat, but the White House’s reasoning was faultless.
Copenhagen’s Berlingske Tidende went further, sounding like a loyal Bulgarian paper praising a speech by Comrade Brezhnev three decades ago: “Bush made it crystal clear that the ‘remove Saddam project’ is not about American aggression, but the world’s interests. Bush’s excellent speech has ensured that overwhelming pressure will be brought to bear on Saddam Hussein and the partners of terror.”
As the Private Eye’s columnist used to say, “Pass the sickbag, Alice!”
For a breath of fresh air away from this mondialist love-fest we have to return home, to Will Grigg, editor of The New American magazine. There is only a handful of instances in which it is right to wage war, he says, but when war is justified, it is mandatory: we have no choice but to fight if our vital interests, our homes, families, freedoms, and homeland are threatened by an aggressor. None of this applies to Iraq, and therefore fighting it would be a wrong war. Furthermore, the Administration’s case for war against Iraq omits entirely the question of U.S. national interests, focusing instead on the supposed necessity of enforcing the will of the UN:
No sane American relishes the thought of an Iraqi regime armed with nuclear or bio-warfare weapons. But here’s the question patriotic Americans must confront: Are we willing to send our nation’s sons to kill and die on behalf of UN disarmament decrees? . . . Warfare is an unfortunate, and probably inevitable, aspect of the fallen human condition. But Americans should fight wars on our terms, for our reasons, through the constitutional mechanisms provided by our Founding Fathers. The impending war on Iraq meets none of those conditions. Americans must contact our representatives in Congress—who control both the power of the purse and the power of the sword—and tell them in no uncertain terms that we will not stand for any more UN wars.
IRAQ AND PSEUDO-REALITY
August 28, 2002
In the final years of the Soviet Union, as Glasnost broadened the scope of permissible public debate, it was nevertheless deemed advisable to precede any expression of controversial views with a little disclaimer, e.g. “While I hold no brief for the Islamic dushmans terrorizing the people of Afghanistan, I think we should withdraw from that country”; or, “While rejecting the notion that Western-style capitalism provides the best model for good life, I think that we should abandon central planning and collectivized agriculture in favor of free-market reforms.”
It is a sign of these unpleasant times that one feels compelled to do the same, here and today, when discussing Iraq, but I am a realist and so be
it: I think, unreservedly, that Saddam Hussein is a nasty piece of work. In fact I wish he were dead and gone, and someone very different in power in Baghdad. (Admittedly, hardly any leader in the Arab world is very different from Saddam: to bully, cheat, and lie abroad, and to oppress and rob at home, is the rule rather than exception in that political culture.) The Iraqi dictator has brought nothing but misery to his own people, as well as chronic instability to the region. His military adventures – including two disastrous wars – ended in fiascos, and yes, he did “gas his own people” (actually the Kurds, whom he sees as anything but “his own,” but who had had the misfortune of living under his sway). If he could make them or buy them, Saddam would undoubtedly love to have all kinds of “weapons of mass destruction,” and, in extremis, he would probably use them against a foe unable to retaliate in kind.
All of the above, while obviously necessary to the argument that the United States must topple Saddam by force, is not sufficient to make the argument stick. Since different members of the Bush Administration and the War Party have used different tools to support the basic argument, we need to examine them one by one and so introduce much-needed clarity into the debate.
In the immediate aftermath of September 11 the proponents of war against Iraq immediately claimed that it should be dealt with “once and for all” because it was in cohorts with Al-Qaeda. This turned out to be untrue. Saddam is a secular dictator with pan-Arabic, nationalist, rather than Islamic, delusions of grandeur. Accordingly his regime tends to support non-Islamic radicals, notably the PLO dissidents – including Abu Nidal, who was found murdered in his Baghdad lodgings recently – and he fears Muslim fundamentalist groups such as al-Qaeda. Bin Laden, for his part, regards the Iraqi dictator as a “bad Muslim” and wants him out of power. Widely circulated claim that Muhammad Atta, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, had met an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague months before the hijackings, was discarded in April 2002, when the top Czech spymaster and federal law-enforcement officials both said an extensive investigation had found no evidence that the meeting ever took place. The war enthusiasts nevertheless do not give up, resorting to desperate ploys: on August 22,
William Safire even claimed in the New York Times that “a score of terrorists” were captured by the U.S. Special Forces in Northern Iraq, including a Saddam agent and an Qaeda operative; there’s even a “Qaeda-Saddam joint venture” to produce “a form of cyanide cream that kills on contact.” This was all unsubstantiated rubbish.
Anticipating the absence of a smoking gun, within weeks of 9-11 the proponents of bombing Baghdad declared that this did not matter: we were waging a “war on terror,” Iraq supported terrorists, and so it was a legitimate target. The ruins of the Towers were still smoldering when Paul Wolfowitz declared that the time had come to settle the score with Saddam once and for all, and his old buddy Richard Perle – George W.’s
part-Rasputin, part-Svengali – echoed the line ever since. In a letter to Bush, Bill Kristol and two-dozen neocon leading lights (including Perle, Kagan, Krauthammer, Martin Peretz, and Norman Podhoretz, argued that “even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power.” Saffire chipped in with his claim that “terror’s most dangerous supporter can be found in Baghdad.”
In reality Saddam has provided support to a variety groups that oppose his regional adversaries-including the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq dissidents fighting the government of Iran, Kurdish rebels fighting Turkey, and, since the Palestinian uprising began in 2000, various Palestinian groups attacking Israel. None of those groups have targeted America. His mischief in this respect is no worse than Pakistan’s support for the Kashmiri separatists who routinely resort to terror against India, or Georgia’s benevolent tolerance of Chechen terrorists on its territory. Saddam’s terrorist-friendly sins pale compared to the Clinton Administration’s warm embrace of the KLA, a bunch of homicidal dope-dealers and pimps who now run Kosovo – compliments of the U.S. Air Force – having murdered or ethnically cleansed every non-Albanians they could lay their hands on. Yes, Saddam probably does channel money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, too, but in doing that he is only following the example of that “reliable ally” of the United States, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Unless Messrs. Musharraf, Shevardnadze, Clinton, and Abdallah are judged by the same yardstick, Saddam’s “support for terrorism” is not a serious argument.
The proponents of the war next resurrected the old claim that Iraq had to be attacked because it could be acquiring “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs) and was refusing to allow the U.N. weapons inspectors to find out if this were so. There was no proof of Saddam actually developing his arsenal; but that objection was discounted by Donald Rumsfeld in a turn of phrase worthy of Torquemada: “the absence of evidence does not mean the evidence of absence.”
In Congressional hearings last August, former UN arms inspector Scott Ritter – a Marine veteran, Bush voter, card-carrying Republican – responded by saying that the Bush administration does not want renewed inspections of Iraq, it only wants war: “A handful of ideologues have hijacked the national security policy of the United States for their own ambitions.” Ritter insisted Iraq was stripped of its WMDs, and the capacity to make them. All else is speculation and rhetoric entirely divorced from fact. This man, who spent seven years in Iraq with the UNSCOM weapons inspection teams, is adamant: Iraq simply does not have weapons of mass destruction, any more than it has threatening ties to international terrorism.
Ritter’s former boss, Rolf Ekeus, head of United Nations weapons inspections in Iraq from 1991-97, supports this view and questions the stated reasons for withdrawing inspectors in the first place. He has accused the US of manipulating the UN inspections teams for their own political ends, and attempted to increase its influence over the inspections: “As time went on, some countries, especially the US, wanted to learn more about other parts of Iraq’s capacity.” It tried to find information about the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein, and pressed the teams to inspect sensitive areas, such as Iraq’s ministry of defense, when it was politically favorable for them to create a crisis – “inspections which were controversial from the Iraqis’ view, and thereby created a blockage that could be used as a justification for a direct military action.” In December 1998, one such fabricated crisis enabled Bill Clinton – then in the midst of the Lewinsky affair – to order UNSCOM inspectors out of Iraq two days before renewing bombing. As it happened, most of the targets bombed were derived from the unique access the UN inspectors had enjoyed in Iraq, and had more to do with the security of Saddam than weapons of mass destruction.
In reality the current war fever is totally unconnected to weapons inspections. John Bolton, the arms control supremo, declared that the US “insists on regime change in Baghdad and that policy will not be altered, whether inspectors go in or not.” Bolton is probably aware that it would be audacious for a boldly unilateralist Administration to invoke Saddam’s violations of “the will of the international community” as casus belli. That’s the Clintonistas’ line; the Bush team has no qualms about abrogating nuclear arms control treaties, biological weapons conventions, torpedoing the International Criminal Court, not signing global warming protocols, and taking a hard line on the legality of those Guantanamo cages. Most of those conventions and documents admittedly deserve to be ignored or torn, but from the purely legal point of view, the readiness to attack Iraq without a Security Council mandate represents a violation of international law of the highest order.
More worrying is the fact that the forthcoming war is also a violation of the Constitution of the United States. President Bush may have been told by his unnamed “top legal advisers” that he does not need to secure the prior approval of Congress before launching a full-scale war on Iraq, but their claim is based on the assertion that the original Security Council resolution that paved the way for the Gulf War back in 1991 remains in full legal force – but that claim is not accepted by the Security Council itself!
When the War Party encounters legal and rational obstacles, it resorts to dehumanization and demonization: Saddam is evil, so evil in fact that no arguments are needed, and whoever insists on getting them is no better than he. Yes, Saddam is the new Hitler – forget Milosevic and Noriega (and let’s please forget unapprehended Ossama!) – and if we don’t act now. Munich. higher price later. blah, blah. But this trick has been played once too often, and Condoleeza Rice’s “moral case” for attacking Iraq has been either derided, or allowed to lapse amidst an embarrassed silence. Even the neocons realize that it would be tricky for them to support the Wilsonian line, in view of the distinctly unsavory nature of so many regimes whose support they regard as essential to the neoimperial edifice they advocate. Turkey, Croatia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and, yes, Israel, all have so many closets in their cupboards that the “moral case” would necessitate a literally unending American war for human rights and democracy.
In the end we are left with the uncomfortable realization that the US government wants to attack Iraq because it can do so, because it expects to be able to do so with relative impunity, and because within the Administration there are people who have vested interests and their own geopolitical and emotional agendas that have nothing to do with the national interest of the United States. The ultimate reason for attacking Saddam is the same as Sir Edmund Hillary’s reason for climbing the Everest: because it’s there. This seemed to be the bottom line when Vice-President Cheney, addressing a VFW convention in Nashville at the end of August, vowed that the Bush administration “won’t look away and hope for the best.” The risks of inaction were far greater than those of action, warned Cheney: “We will take whatever action is necessary.” Addressing a stated concern of some Republicans urging caution, he said the US would be ready to help with the rebuilding of Iraq, once Saddam had been removed. He also predicted that Saddam’s removal would be greeted with joy inside Iraq, and would help the spread of democracy across the entire Arab world.
This is pure rhetoric, spiced with wishful thinking. There is no strategic
vision, no cost-benefit analysis, no consideration of risks, and no definition of victory. This is frivolity on par with the behavior of Europe’s leading statesmen in July 1914. It remains unchallenged, amidst the bipartisan War Party’s near-monopoly on U.S. media commentary, making America less open to meaningful debate than during either World War or the Cold War. What had started, on October 2001, as a legitimate (although not fully legal) military response to the terrorist outrage of 9-11 has degenerated into a hubristic power-play. Small wonder that only one foreign government in the world fully supports what Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney & Co. want (and yes, you have guessed which one it is).
There are other reasons for the war, in addition to the “passionate attachment,” all of them equally bad: to hide the fact that Afghanistan is a costly failure, to keep the Administration’s many arms industry buddies busy in these lean economic times, but above all to satisfy the hubristic longings of the neoconservative cabal that now possesses Bush’s ear, soul, heart, and tongue. They give the President ever more menacing scripts to read, and then claim that we have to attack Iraq because now we were painted into the corner, since the White House rhetoric no longer allows for a “humiliating” retreat.
These puppet masters are America’s true enemy. They are far greater threat to the constitutional order, identity, and way of life of the United States than Saddam will ever be. They are in pursuit of Power for its own sake – thus sinning against God and man – and history teaches us that, in the end, America will be destroyed if its rulers are allowed to proceed with their mad quest. Given the choice, the people of this country would never opt for it, but it is unclear how they can resist it, in this age of ‘managed mass democracy.’ The War Party may even prevail, for now, and enter Baghdad in triumph; but before long there will be new excitement, new opportunities, a new Hitler. In the end the misused power will inevitably generate countervailing power – a grand coalition containing many current “allies” – after the world has become a poorer, nastier, less free, and far less populous place.
THE LATEST AMERICAN BAILOUT: DEJA-VU ALL OVER AGAIN
August 23, 2002
American taxpayers are about to fund yet another IMF bailout of a failing Latin American economy, and the main beneficiaries of the deal will be a few private banks whose loans are at risk. Tens of billions to be pumped into Brazil will exceed the misdeeds of crooks at Enron and WorldCom, and there is practically no public debate about the deal.
Particularly galling is the fact that this is the second Brazilian bailout in only four years. In the summer of 1998 the IMF put together a $41.5 billion rescue package to help Brazil avert another financial crisis. On September 29 of that year the Financial Times warned that “Washington [is] on red alert over Brazil… damage to Latin America’s largest economy would bring crisis right to U.S. front door.” At the end of March of that year, according to the Federal Reserve, U.S. bank exposure to Brazil exceeded $27 billion; by contrast, these same banks only had $6.8 billion exposure in Russia. “If Brazil goes,” debt strategists at Merrill Lynch warned, “there will be no way of shielding the U.S. economy” from the crisis. In the end Brazil did not “go” because public money was used to rescue private investors that placed capital into risky but lucrative ventures. The absence of private creditor involvement was a striking aspect of the bailout program. The message to creditors was clear: be calm, stay put, you will be fully paid.
It is therefore unsurprising that over the ensuing four years private banks have continued lending money to Brazil, at double-digit rates of interest: they trusted the U.S. to bail them out again in case of trouble, and they were right. It did not have to be that way. When Mr. Bush took office in January 2001, the Treasury Department implemented a new strategy: not granting direct aid, as that given to Mexico in 1994, and refusing to support the IMF rescue packages. When Argentina started collapsing late last year Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill gave assurances that the days of mega-billion bailouts of failed economies south of the border were over. Only three months ago he said that “wasting taxpayers’ money in a country plunged in political uncertainty like Brazil didn’t seem like a very good idea.” Such statements did not make him popular south of the border, but they made economic and political sense.
Mr. O’Neill did not keep his promise. When he returned from a four-day whirlwind tour of South America’s capitals earlier this month, his promise of a $1.5 billion U.S. loan for Uruguay was soon overshadowed by the announcement of the latest IMF bailout package for Brazil amounting to $30 billion. For the second time in four years we were told that the U.S. “had to act” to prevent South America’s largest economy from defaulting on its public debt that is close to $300 billion. That debt will never be repaid, but on Wall Street it is necessary to pretend otherwise–and Uncle Sam is footing the bill to maintain the illusion. We have yet another example of corporate welfare: most of the IMF largesse will be funneled to Citigroup, FleetBoston and J.P. Morgan Chase. These institutions will be the first in line to be covered against default. They have made billions so far in risky, high-interest investments in Brazil, and they may rest assured that their gamble will remain covered.
Furthermore, there is now no incentive for the Brazilian government to change its profligate ways if the IMF is seen to come to its rescue every time it is unable to cope with the burden of debt. As a result Brazil and other countries in the region are flirting dangerously with radically populist, anti-market and anti-trade futures, which is the exact opposite of the intended effect of the rescue package.
Secretary O’Neill said Washington supported the deal because Brazil had shown that it had “the right economic policies in place to maintain stability so that the economy can continue to grow.” His assurances were echoed by the IMF chief Horst Kohler, who declared that “Brazil is on a solid long-term policy trend which strongly deserves the support of the international community.”
That is wishful thinking, however. The next presidential election will be won by one of the two leftist demagogues, neither of whom is intent on following the austerity cure dictated from Washington. The Workers’ Party (PT) candidate, Luiz Inacio (Lula) da Silva, and the leftist ex-finance minister Ciro Gomes, have a big lead in the polls over Washington’s favorite, the government-backed Jose Serra. The market-friendly policies that seemed to offer the hope of stability and prosperity in the early 1990s are more and more unpopular. That the new government will not mend its ways is obvious from an op-ed by PT congressman Aloizio Mercadante in the Folha de Sao Paulo on August 13: “The new IMF loan will not solve the crisis by itself… Without the re-establishment of external lines of credit, a new deal will only postpone the inevitable and make the nation further indebted, leaving to the next administration a legacy of restrictions that may hinder Brazil’s development by more than a decade. It is necessary to establish emergency accords to defend production and create jobs.”
New loans to “defend production” and “create jobs” are guaranteed to perpetuate the underlying weaknesses of Brazil’s economic and political system, and they will lead to the need for another bailout three or four years from now. But until then Wall Street bankers will assuredly continue their business-as-usual in Rio. Fresh loans and rollovers will be seen as an unceasing source of secure profits, underwritten by the U.S. Government. This is unpardonable. In domestic financial markets bankruptcy proceedings and other regulations ensure that when debtors cannot repay their loans, both the creditor and the debtor share the burden in the workout. Similar arrangements are urgently needed in international debt arrangements, ensuring more immediate private sector participation and burden sharing so that public sector funds are not used to simply ensure repayment to private creditors. Creditors must be made to think more carefully about where they lend their money.
IRAQ: U.S. ALLIES UNCONVINCED
August 20, 2002
The Afghan campaign last October was broadly supported by America’s allies. Even some Middle Eastern nations that are anything but friendly to the United States felt compelled, in the aftermath of September 11, to refrain from criticizing a military action that could be legitimately presented as an inevitable response to terrorist attacks. The link between the Taliban, Bin Laden, and WTC was indisputable.
By contrast, the proposed U.S. action against Iraq is almost universally regarded as unjustified, unnecessary, and illegal. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac, among others, have warned the US that they could only support a strike backed by the UN Security Council. They do not accept the argument advanced from Washington that no such resolution is necessary because Iraq is supposedly in violation of UN mandate to inspect Iraq’s weapons development sites. At the same time there is an almost fatalistic sense among some allies that there is little they can do to influence events. “The Europeans are resigned to the idea that if the Americans are committed to going into Iraq they will do it,” says Dominique Moisi, of the French Institute on Foreign Relations (IFRI) in Paris. This was echoed in London by the solidly Atlanticist and conservative Financial Times which warned on August 8 that the signals from Washington about its intentions towards Iraq and the Middle East have been getting steadily more confusing, and “now they are beginning to get alarming–arguably more so for America’s friends than its foes”:
If we are to take Mr. Rumsfeld at his word, he is overturning decades of international law, under which all the land captured by Israel in the 1967 six-day war, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as all of east Jerusalem, is occupied territory. The political reality, moreover, is that there is no peace settlement conceivable without a negotiated end to that occupation–which it is part of Washington’s responsibility to sponsor…. There may be a case to be made, detailing why an assault on Mr. Hussein’s Iraq is the least bad option, despite the enormous risks of regional destabilization. Washington has not yet made it.
The London Times (August 13) published a “Foreign Editor’s Briefing” by Bronwen Maddox, who seemed relieved at the apparent disagreement within the Administration over the next move on Iraq. The dispute is sharpened by the unfinished business in Afghanistan, say Maddox, with the anniversary of September 11 less than a month away and Osama bin Laden conspicuously uncaptured–but its real roots lie in Vietnam:
In Europe there has been a tendency in the past fortnight to portray the US as united in its enthusiasm for war. It isn’t; not the public, nor Congress, nor the Administration itself, nor even the Pentagon. Last week’s Senate hearings were comical in presenting a spectacle of the world’s only superpower debating in public how best to invade another country–and being unsure. But they also advertised how even Republicans, who were presumed hawks, appear troubled. The Armed Services Committee, in calling witnesses with military expertise, was tapping into the vein of dissent within the Pentagon that is now the first battle that President Bush must win if he wants to attack Iraq.
Maddox concludes that in Britain General Sir Michael Rose has warned that Iraq could be Bush’s Vietnam; but, in terms of the war within the Pentagon, it is already.
Across the Channel, in France, the leading weekly news magazine Le Nouvel Observateur wondered what were President Bush’s true motives in Iraq (August 8). Its conclusions were unflattering:
First off, because the elections are drawing near and in the wake of the financial scandals that have touched his administration he cannot present himself before the voters with only his ‘crusade’ to show for his time in office. A crusade that that did not even result in the capture of Ossama Ben Laden, despite an extremely costly operation in Afghanistan. It is time to find new impetus for the crusade against the ‘axis of evil’ which includes Iraq.
Across the Rhine Matthias Nass opined in a front-page editorial in the weekly Die Zeit of Hamburg (August 8):
The possibilities of diplomacy have by no means been exhausted. If Saddam really played his obvious games and allowed the weapons inspectors back to Iraq, then they must return but on UN conditions: unlimited access to any place at any time. Second, the Bush doctrine of a ‘preventive war’ violates international law, since self-defense based on a mere suspicion does not exist. If the United Nations allowed the use of force because Iraq continuously disregards UN Security Council resolutions, then the question of German participation will be raised. Third, the Mideast is now burning. A war on Saddam would mean even more terror, even more killed people. Unbridled hatred of the United States and Israel would make the peace process illusory.
On the same day Franco Venturini’s front-page editorial in Italy’s leading daily, Corriere della Sera, warned that Italians are treating the “announced war against Saddam Hussein with strong dogmatism and the slightest reflection”:
Those who oppose Bush’s plans revive their old anti-American feelings without considering the nature of the Iraqi regime; and those who support action against Baghdad consider mandatory (Italy’s) alignment with the United States, as if the Berlin Wall hadn’t ever fallen, or the transatlantic alliance wasn’t an alliance among free democracies…. Is it possible to find a solution? The answer lays in having a vision of priorities…. Everyone should consider an attack irrational if the successor to Baghdad’s leadership hadn’t been previously identified, and pre-emptive accords related to a military presence that would guarantee stability in Iraq hadn’t been taken. Everyone should deem a new UN resolution is necessary before beginning any action. (Despite) Bush saying that nothing has yet been decided, promising that he wont’ proceed hurriedly, only few people believe him.
Also on August 8 Boris Biancheri wrote an editorial in Turin’s La Stampa warning that “the rifts between Europe and the United States is getting wider”:
Whether rightist or leftist, Europe is convinced that Saddam is a dangerous criminal, but it is also sure that an attack on Iraq… would be even more politically dangerous… Great Britain loves to hold the balance between Europe and the United States… but this time its task isn’t at all easy: should war occur having Great Britain stand with America, European foreign policy could be considered dead for a long time; or, should Great Britain stand with the other European counties, Europe would strengthen its influence, but it could be the end of the current Anglo-American ‘special relationship.’ The only hope that remains is that there will be no war. The truth is that if we want to understand Washington’s real intentions, the use of reason is not enough, but a prophet of doom is certainly necessary.
Smaller NATO countries were uniformly unenthusiastic about a new Desert Storm. Belgium’s business-oriented De Financieel-Economische Tijd concluded (August 6) that the United States clearly cannot build a large international coalition against Iraq:
An invasion of Iraq would trigger a storm of indignation in the Middle East–which would certainly not advance America’s interests in that region. In Europe, nobody is very enthusiastic about such a war either. Russia and China are totally against it…. The main question is: what after Saddam Hussein? In any case, the replacement of Saddam would have to be carried out rapidly because a destabilization of Iraq would have serious consequences for the entire region. Neighboring Turkey fears that an independent Kurdistan in Northern Iraq would fuel the separatist aspirations of its own Kurdish minority.
In Russia, the official government Rossiyskaya Gazeta stressed on August 7 that, so far, nobody has produced convincing evidence that Baghdad is planning to have nuclear weapons of its own:
Do the Americans fear that they may be threatened at some point in the future? If yes, they will have to fight many countries…. The Europeans believe that those fears are exaggerated. In their opinion, thrashing Iraq and humiliating the Arabs would send reverberations through all of the Middle East, posing a threat to Israel’s security. That would also harm the antiterrorist coalition. It won’t bring about a political settlement in Iraq, either. To install ‘our man’ in Baghdad won’t solve the problem of power in that country. Afghanistan is graphic proof…. The Europeans prefer carrot to stick. Europe believes in international law, talks, and economic ties. Herein lies the chief difference between the New World and the Old World as far as their approaches to international problems are concerned.
The neutrals reasoned in a similar vein. In Austria foreign affairs commentator Gerhard Bitzan opined in Vienna’s Die Presse (August 8) that all those overenthusiastic about a war against Iraq should take a good look at the current situation in Afghanistan: “At the moment, even optimists don’t dare to bet on that country’s stable and peaceful future. The simple truth is that a speedy military success is relatively easy to achieve, while the real obstacles only emerge with the strategies aimed at long term stabilization.” Across the Irish Sea, in Dublin, the Sunday Business Post (“US incoherent on Iraq policy,” August 11) questioned the credibility and coherence of the United States’ policy towards Iraq and the Middle East:
Bush’s assurances that he will seek the counsel of America’s allies before taking any action are little consolation for either friend or foe. Concerns are intensifying about the future of America’s fair-weather friends in the House of Saud, whose control of Saudi Arabia is looking increasingly tenuous. Indeed, it has emerged that some Pentagon advisers have branded Saudi Arabia the “kernel of evil” in the Gulf region and have speculated that the state is America’s “most dangerous opponent”. The Bush administration has sought, with limited success, to distance itself from such sentiments. But US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld managed to cause further anxiety in the region by claiming that a focus on Jewish settlements in the “so-called occupied territory” in Palestine “misses the point”, which, he believes, is to facilitate the emergence of a Palestinian leadership with which the Israelis can negotiate… If the Bush government wants to drag its allies into a perilous conflict in the Gulf region, it has yet to make a compelling argument in favour of an attack on Iraq. Half-formed ideas from those close to the US administration suggesting possible advantages of destablilising allies in the Gulf simply make Bush and his government appear all the more incredible.
THE EUROPEAN UNION’S LOOMING ACCOUNTING SCANDAL
August 2, 2002
If you think that Enron is the biggest accounting scandal of our time, and that the most culpable creative bookkeepers are to be found in America, think again. Think really big, big beyond any single corporation, like Brussels, like the European Union. And it is in Brussels that you’ll find the most brazen attempt at cover-up, with the whistle-blower exposed to the full wrath of the uncontrollable bureaucratic Leviathan.
Not many Americans are aware—as most cynical Europeans are—that about one half the European Union’s budget is wasted on the Common Agricultural Policy, a fundamentally flawed program of pork-barrel subsidies for farmers encouraged to produce things that have no buyers, or not to produce them. Furthermore, billions are simply misspent as intended. About 5% of the entire EU budget, five billion dollars, is lost to straightforward fraud–from non-existent tobacco farms to imaginary decontamination plans to help deal with Chernobyl–while another 5% or so is misappropriated, and not spent on the programs for which it was designated. One-tenth of the Union’s budget which the European Court of Auditors accepts is misspent amounts to almost 10 billion dollars a year.
It is puzzling that the U.S. media are not reacting as yet to the news that the European Commission’s former chief accountant–hired with the specific brief to overhaul accounting procedures—has been punished and vilified for claiming that the EU’s one hundred billion dollar (у98bn) annual budget is “massively open to fraud,” even though a report from independent auditors backed many of her claims.
The Spanish-born Marta Andreasen first came into prominence when she was suspended on full pay in May when she refused to sign the EU’s accounts for 2001. “During the time I have been here I have been able to establish that the system . . . is vulnerable, involving risk of errors and fraud,” she stated in a letter addressed to the Commission’s President Romano Prodi of Italy on May 7. She added that there was an “urgent need” to replace the in-house controls with outside agencies mandated in the private sector that “allow transparency and accountability in the management of funds.” She also urged the Commission to carry out an independent audit of the inflow and outflow of funds.
In an ad hominem response that did not address the fundamentals of Marta Andraesen’s claim, the European Commission dismissed her allegations as “old complaints” and criticized her performance in her job. A statement from Michaele Schreyer, the EU budget commissioner, described the appointment of Ms. Andreasen as a “mistake” and claimed she “rapidly generated extreme ill feeling in essential relationships” with colleagues.
On August 1 she responded to the slight with an even more embarrassing barrage, describing the Commission’s current financial regulations as “out of control” and declaring that fraud was harder to track in Brussels than in Enron or WorldCom. According to her statement to the media, there were “serious and glaring shortcomings” in parts of the budget management process and a “dangerous failing at the heart of the system” because of a “complete lack of compliance with basic and minimum accounting standards”:
Unlike the issues surrounding Enron and WorldCom, where you can at least trace transactions and accounts, you cannot do so within the E.U. accounts as there is no system in place for tracing adjustments and changes to figures presented.
Paradoxically, her case has been indirectly supported by the Commission itself which has under its control a number of bodies that are supposed to be responsible for combating fraud, but their record is abysmal. The main one, UCLAF, according to the Commission’s own findings, had “no standard system under which proceedings were opened, pursued and concluded”; the filing system was so chaotic that it “failed to meet the minimum requirements for criminal evidence”; the figures it produced on fraud were “incomplete and misleading”; and the Court of Auditors refers to cases where documents were “withheld or destroyed.”
Corruption and fraud are generally much more prevalent across the EU than they are in Great Britain or the United States for three main reasons. The standards of probity and honesty in pubic affairs are much higher in the English-speaking world than they are in countries such as France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, or Ireland. Second, the administrative and financial arrangements in the EU lend themselves to misappropriation and misuse. Furthermore, the communautaire camouflage conceals a competition for resources that is still largely a national contest. National governments don’t mind the malpractices for as long as they benefit their coffers and harm others. But most importantly, the structure of the EU is bureaucratic, NOT democratic, providing the electorate with little insight and no control over corruption and fraud endemic to the system.
EU standards of administration and probity are so poor is that traditions of honest and transparent government have never been established among the Union’s institutions. This was shown most clearly in the recent report on the probity and efficiency of individual members of the Commission, following scandals of nepotism, favouritism, extravagance and bad management which proved too much for even hardened eurocrats. The final sentences of the report on the behaviour of Commissioners—an internal EU document, making its conclusions even more damning—read as follows: “It is becoming difficult to find anyone who has even the slightest sense of responsibility. However, that sense of responsibility is essential. . . . The temptation to deprive the concept of responsibility of all substance is a dangerous one. That concept is the ultimate manifestation of democracy.”
The controversy surrounding Europe’s allegedly mishandled billions came at a time of steadily darkening outlook for the Old Continent’s economy. The European Commission’s own survey of economic sentiment published on August 2 fell to 99.4 for the month of July, from 99.6 in June. The only countries where consumer confidence improved slightly in July were Greece and Portugal. It fell in France, Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands. All over the Euro-zone there is a growing awareness that the recent sharp falls in stock markets will have a negative effect on the wider economy. Consumers’ expectations about the general economic situation worsened and fears about unemployment are mounting. Her comments also coincided with the leak of a draft report from the EU’s Court of Auditors, which confirmed that the accounting system had obvious risks because of a lack of security of its computer system and other accounting failures. The Court of Auditors has been warning about problems at the heart of the accounting system since 1999 and repeated its criticisms in the annual report for 2000.
CORPORATE AMERICA IN CRISIS: REACTIONS AROUND THE WORLD
July 23, 2002
By Tuesday’s close in New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 2.93% or 234.82 points at 7,784.44. The last time the Dow was this low was in October 1998. All of the nominal gains made in the dot.com explosion of the late 1990s have been officially wiped out. The NASDAQ Composite–whose dot.com gains have long since evaporated–is in an even worse shape. By dipping below 1,300 it is at its lowest since May 1997. The crisis in markets is a far cry from the heady days of 1999, when analysts thought the sky was the limit, predicting the Dow would soon hit 20,000 or even 30,000.
The current weakness reflects a fundamental illness within the market, partly resulting from the scandals at Enron, WorldCom and others. Investors are seriously questioning whether the information contained within corporate trading statements and other documents is trustworthy. The shock waves from corporate America are felt around the world, and–in the words of London’s Independent (July 23)–“Bush’s attempt to talk up markets falls on deaf ears as confidence evaporates.” The paper’s financial columnist Jeremy Warner opined on the same day that the US economy has not yet ground to a halt, but unless shares rebound soon, it surely will:
In the US at least, the fear is that the bad news has only just begun. Whether or not shares have fallen so far that they are now fair or good value, investors are in no mood to listen. People believe they were conned during the exuberance of the boom, as indeed they were, and confidence will take a long time to recover… President George Bush was at it again yesterday attempting to act as a cheerleader for the stock market. From what he hears “corporate profits are improving, which means value will be available for those who invest in markets.” You have to wonder who he is talking to. That’s not the word coming down the line from most companies. If Mr. Bush’s purpose is that of attempting to bolster confidence, he should take note of how little good came of it when his Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, did the same thing… The fundamentals for US economic growth may be as real as Mr. Bush believes, but if the stock market keeps falling like this, they soon won’t be. The summer holidays will provide some respite, but even so the next few weeks could be crucial. It is as if some ghastly meteorite is heading towards us. Will it hit, or is there to be another narrow miss? Recent history would point to the latter outcome. On the other hand, we haven’t had a serious economic catastrophe for an awfully long time now.
The weekly Economist wrote a fortnight earlier that as the first American president with a masters degree in business administration, Mr. Bush was always expected to be more than a little friendly towards Corporate America and Wall Street; but right now friendliness to boardrooms and financiers has become a political liability following a wave of accounting scandals:
Even now, many of Mr. Bush’s measures will require a large amount of self-policing by companies and stock markets. The clamour for tough action has grown with every revelation and every wriggle of highly-paid executives trying to get off the hook…. There is no doubt that the corporate scandals have started to harm Mr. Bush’s administration and Republicans at large, especially with mid-term elections for Congress due in November. What people will now have to decide is whether members of the administration are speaking out only for political purposes or if they are really doing something to clear up corporate abuse. Mr. Bush’s new measures will greatly increase the potential punishments facing errant bosses. But will they really go far enough? The SEC is already introducing new requirements for firms. Yet despite this, even more forceful legislation is currently being steered through Congress by Senator Paul Sarbanes. His bill is much tougher on auditing firms than the SEC’s proposals…. This means Congress may yet seek harsher measures than Mr. Bush’s proposals.
The Financial Times argued (July 10) that Mr. Bush still underestimates the need for policy changes to strike at the conflicts of interest and abuses of power that have surfaced in the aftermath of the late 1990’s stock market bubble:
Mr. Bush still clings to minor changes that fall short of the sensible proposals for the accounting industry in the legislation sponsored by Senator Paul Sarbanes. The president could and should have supported the spirit of the bill…. The right regulatory response to the discovery of abuse is to address the clear conflicts of interest and excesses in the present system. Punishing the few found guilty is not enough.
Writing in The Times of London on July 23, Anatole Kaletsky declared that the collapse of investor confidence has more to do with politics than economics: the immunity to criticism, which was suddenly bestowed on the Bush Administration by September 11, has been shattered by the WorldCom and Enron accounting scandals and the personal involvement of the President and Vice-President in several questionable transactions. As a result, he says, the Democrats may win control of both houses of Congress on November 5 paralyzing U.S. politics and turning Bush into a lame duck for his last two years in office. In the meantime, he says, there is no reason for panic:
Instead of anticipating a recession, investors are just modestly downgrading their expectations for economic growth. At the height of the internet fever, the US was widely expected to enjoy long-term economic growth of 4 per cent a year. A trend growth rate of around 3 per cent always seemed more plausible. But given the long-run strain on the US economy from President Bush’s military and fiscal policies, I have long suspected that a growth rate of around 2.5 per cent might be more plausible in the next few years. If this turns out to be true then a downward adjustment would seem quite reasonable. The question is how much more adjustment will be required before investors are prepared for “normal” economic conditions… There is no reason to suppose that stock market slump foreshadows a world recession or any other economic crisis. More likely, it just represents an adjustment to the mundane reality of 2 or 3 per cent growth in the U.S. On this assumption, stock market prices in America are no longer very expensive, as they were in the late 1990s, but neither are they particularly cheap.
Two weeks earlier The Times’s foreign editor Bronwen Maddox argued that the Bush administration will find it more difficult to impose its foreign policy agenda on its partners as the result of its economic woes: “Abroad, it is already a clear handicap for Bush…. Those who have felt aggrieved by American demands for reform–or are straightforwardly unwilling to comply–are not about to let Bush forget the scandals. This is not a case where he can escape a messy problem at home by reaching abroad for respite.”
In France Le Monde wondered in its editorial (July 12) if President Bush is guilty of the types of crimes he denounced in his speech on July 9:
In spite of numerous investigations, including by the press, nothing seems to point to the President or his administration. He was therefore able to make his speech and teach a lesson to delinquent executives. But two different affairs are catching up with him. His revelations about his own oil company sold to Harken Energy and Vice President Chaney’s involvement with Halliburton…. These two affairs weaken considerably the president’s position just months before the mid-term elections. They cast doubt on the Bush administration’s determination to eradicate corporate fraud… They re-enforce the old feeling that President Bush owes his personal fortune and his career to practices which may or may not fall within the ‘ethics’ he has been promoting.
The problem of ethics in the American corporate community long antedates this presidency, says The Guardian (July 23), and harks back to an unlikely culprit: Lee Iacocca:
But if it weren’t for Iacocca, it is unlikely that we would be talking about Enron and WorldCom today… Iacocca’s ascent signaled a dramatic change in American culture. Prior to him, the popular image of the American CEO had been of a buttoned-down organisation man, pampered and well paid, but essentially bland and characterless. The idea of the businessman as an outsized, even heroic, figure seemed like the legacy of a long-forgotten past when men like JP Morgan and William Randolph Hearst were still around. In fact, in 1982, Forbes magazine wrote, “Tycoons are fairly rare birds in today’s business world. We seldom hear of moguls.” Within just a few years, that had all changed, with business journalists turning every clever executive with a good idea into the next Henry Ford, and with the Rupert Murdochs, Sumner Redstones, and Donald Trumps of the world actively cultivating the “mogul” label. By the time the boom of the 1990s rolled around, CEOs had become America’s superheroes, accorded celebrity treatment and followed with a kind of slavish scrutiny that Alfred P Sloan could never have imagined.
The systemic questions raised by the bursting of the stock-market bubble and the revelations of corporate corruption don’t, in the end, have much to do with the virtues or vices of markets per se, concludes the Guardian. They have to do with the vigilance and regulation that markets need in order to work. The delusion that everyone abided by in the 90s was that self-interest alone would point everyone in the same direction. What’s only now becoming clear is that without the right kind of harnesses for self-interest, the system is given to fragmentation. The stock market will be suffering the consequences of these scandals–in the form of lower stock prices and lowered expectations–for years to come. The US, on the other hand, may escape from all this without any sustained damage to its real economy:
The historian Richard McCormick famously argued that Progressivism was the product of “the discovery that business corrupts politics”. But what we seem to have discovered in the past year is simply that business corrupts business. It may be an obvious lesson, but apparently it has to be learned over and over again.
JAPAN, THE NEXT TARGET FOR MULTICULTURALIZATION
July 16, 2002
The furor surrounding Jean-Marie Le Pen last spring was largely due to the liberal establishment’s amazement at the discovery that there are still so many Europeans around who have the gall to resist Third World immigration, globalization, multiculturalism, multiracialism, and other blessings of Our Global Village. The media and politicians did an effective hatchet job on Le Pen in the manner well known to Pat Buchanan over here. The result—predicted in this column immediately after the first round of the presidential race—was that the “soft Right” led by the unspeakable Monsieur Chirac (a man about as conservative as George W. Bush) is more firmly in charge of France’s continuing Arabization than ever before. The grim moral of the story is that resistance to the bad guys is futile on their own terms.
The only developed country in the world of any significance where this does not hold true is Japan, and for that reason it is increasingly targeted by the proponents of collective suicides of nations. Many leading newspapers in the U.S. and Western Europe publish articles every few months warning of Japan’s resistance to what is allegedly “inevitable” influx of foreigners to compensate for an aging workforce and a declining birthrate. Newly founded “NGOs,” funded from abroad, are aggressively lobbying for an end to Japan’s “restrictive and racist immigration policy.” Anti-discrimination suits have been filed against the main Japanese air carrier, JAL, for refusing to accept Chinese citizens on its planes if they are suspected of wanting to work illegally or are deemed “likely to abscond.” They are particularly incensed that “illegal stay” is now considered a crime under Japanese law.
At the same time the influx of illegal immigrants, mostly from China and Korea, has reached epidemic proportions. The cost of being smuggled into Japan ranges from $10,000 to $25,000, with the smuggling fee often paid on delivery by the migrant’s relatives in Japan or with wages earned in Japan. Many of the illegal migrants work as unskilled laborers in construction and small factories. In the past five years, 200 vessels with 4,000 illegal immigrants have been captured.
An advocacy group for those being held in a detention center in Ushiku sent a letter of protest to the Justice Ministry regarding the quick deportation of five Iranians between November 1999 and January 2000. The group claims that the Iranians were seeking refugee status for fear that they would be persecuted if they returned home. It did not explain the apparent mystery of the Iranians crossing six or seven other international frontiers before reaching Japan, and NOT requesting political asylum in any one of them. The ostensible correlation between a country’s GNP per capita and the number of “asylum seekers” seeking its protection-and economic opportunity, welfare, buzz, etc.-remains unstated and unexplained by the advocates of these queue-jumpers who seek to bypass immigration procedures of the host-countries, unpardonably lax as they are. In Japan this discrepancy is still allowed into the public debate on immigration, and for that reason Japan is soon going to be singled out as a “racist” and “bigoted” society.
The “NGOs” also demand that the Japanese government cancel the 60-day deadline for application for refugee status after entering the country and to guarantee the safety of those who claim to fear persecution. They regard as unpardonable the fact that between January and April 2000, only four out of 78 applications for asylum have been approved, while in 1999, 16 out of 260 applications were accepted.
Unlike the United States or Western Europe, in Japan immigration officers go around the country arresting unauthorized foreigners and bring charges for overstaying their visas or entering Japan illegally. Of those arrested, 968 were working without the proper documentation. The raids were conducted in Tokyo, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Yamanashi and Nagano.
Watch out for the pending demonization in the Western media of the outspoken governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, as “the Jean-Marie Le Pen of Japanese politics” (the London Independent). The fact that “it is rare for him to have a good thing to say about foreigners and their foreign ways” is a crime. His references to “Sangokujin”—an allegedly derogatory word that literally means “people from third countries,” and generally refers to those from the former Japanese colonies of Taiwan, China, and the Korean Peninsula—is presented as the Japanese equivalent of using the “N” word over here. When Ishihara says that “atrocious crimes have been committed again and again by sangokujin and other foreigners” he is telling the truth: illegal foreigners are 300 times more likely to commit crimes than native Japanese citizens. When he publicly expresses fears that “we can expect them to riot in the event of a disastrous earthquake,” he is simply stating what an overwhelming majority of Japanese think and fear.
The bien-pensants claim that Japan’s demographics make the influx of immigrants inevitable, and New York Times lamented, on March 14 of last year, the fact that four-fifths of Japanese are against allowing more foreigners into Japan. The captains of the race-relations industry simultaneously lament the fact that “not only has the Japanese government never made any sincere attempts to educate the public on issues of racism nor encourage its citizens to self-reflect on the subject, it itself has often been racism’s very own mouthpiece”:
“Japanese politicians are renown for their outrageously bigoted comments that seem to appear like clockwork every few years or less (three memorable examples are former prime minister Yasuhiro Nakasone’s beliefs that blacks and Puerto Ricans were responsible for America’s intellectual decline, former Justice Minister Seiroku Kajimaya’s remarks that blacks ruin every neighborhood they move into, and most recently, the statement of current Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, who said that daisankokujin . . . might cause “great chaos” in the event of a national disaster.”
The obvious conclusion is that Japan is the last remaining place in the civilized world where the truth about race relations, immigration, and barbarization of the host societies is still allowed to be told. The fact should be lauded and copied. America needs to learn from different nations different things, and Japan’s attitude to the satanic plot to kill all traditional identities off is one lesson that is long overdue.
ONE WEEK LATER, BUSH’S MIDDLE EAST PLAN IS ALREADY JADED
Tuesday, July 2, 2002
One week after President George W. Bush delivered his long-awaited speech on the Middle East it is becoming obvious that his proposed outline is unlikely to develop into another “peace plan,” primarily because it has an in-built self-destruct feature called “Arafat Must Go!” The louder the U.S. President demands Arafat’s removal as a precondition for any progress at all, the more assured is the ineffective Palestinian leader’s continued presence.
In his statement mainly devoted to harshly critical remarks about the Palestinians, the President asserted that “peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership… not compromised by terrorism.” In addition to ditching Yasser Arafat and ending the system in which “power is concentrated in the hands of an unaccountable few,” the U.S. President told the Palestinians that they had to eradicate corruption, reform security services, create an independent judiciary, empower the legislature, and “build a practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty.” Mr. Bush declared that Palestinian democratic transformation must consist of more than “cosmetic changes or a veiled attempt to preserve the status quo.” If fully and willingly applied, he said, those changes would create the basis for the commencement of a peace process that eventually may lead to a “provisional” Palestinian state.
Mr. Bush talked briefly but approvingly of Israel’s right to defend itself, indirectly condoning Prime Minister Sharon’s attempt to deal with the Palestinian problem by military means. He equated the Palestinian suicide attacks with the global “terror” against which he is fighting a war. He made no demand for an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories, which has long been regarded as a prerequisite to any serious peacemaking effort, but said that the Israeli army should withdraw to positions it held on the West Bank prior to the latest round of troubles on September 28, 2000. He stated that Israel should refrain from building new Jewish settlements in the West Bank, but he did not specify whether the practice of expanding existing settlements must end. At some point in the future, according to Mr. Bush, Israel should agree to pull back to the lines it held before the 1967 Six-Day War, but this has to be preceded by negotiations based on UN resolutions 242 and 338 that call for “secure and recognized” borders–the term Ariel Sharon has used to defend retaining large swathes of occupied land.
The reaction to the address around the world was aptly summarized by the London Times on June 26: “President Bush’s speech on the Middle East was so pro-Israel that it might have been written by Ariel Sharon.” The Independent’s columnist wondered “why doesn’t Mr. Bush let Ariel Sharon run the White House press bureau? Not only would it be more honest we would at least be hearing the voice of Israel at first hand but it would spare the American President the ignominy of parroting everything he is told by the Israelis.” The Financial Times contended that “Mr. Bush has spelled out a vision without a road map. He does not have any new ideas about getting from here to there… What is missing in all of this is a real incentive for the Palestinian people to behave as Mr. Bush would wish.” On the other side of the political spectrum the Guardian was equally critical of Mr. Bush’s outline (June 27): “His first solemn shot at bringing peace to the Middle East is so one-sided, so absurdly unreal, that it’s tempting to dismiss it as the casual folly of a president who cannot be serious.” The BBC’s Jeremy Cooke opined that, for Sharon, “Mr. Bush’s speech was a political victory on a scale he could not have imagined.” The Israeli daily Maariv was delighted that Bush effectively equated Arafat with Saddam Hussein: “True, Arafat is not officially a head of state and the Palestinian state is barely a state-in-the-making. Still, pretty seldom does a U.S. president threaten an entity with military measures because it is not turning itself into an organized democracy, a law-abiding regime and a transparent government.”
A few Arab commentators tried to put a brave face, saying that some prospect of Palestinian statehood is better than none, and that the President is now at least committed to the concept. The Palestinian daily Al-Quds thus wrote on June 26 that “the President talked about eliminating occupation, freezing settlements, and ending siege, closures and restrictions imposed on the Palestinian people.” The Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth was closer to the mark when it declared that “Sharon can demand copyright on the speech.” Ruby Rivlin, the Israeli Government’s Communication Minister, a member of Sharon’s Likud Party, was equally blunt: “It looks like it was written by a senior Likud official. We are talking about a pro-Israeli speech and a victory for the course taken by Prime Minister Sharon.”
The leaders of America’s partners and allies in the industrialized world privately agree, and have accordingly refrained from offering more than a polite nod to Mr. Bush’s Middle East initiative at the Group of Eight (G8) summit in Canada. As the Sueddeutsche Zeitung noted in an editorial on June 27, they have almost unanimously made it clear that they do not support imposing a new leadership on the Palestinians: “It seems odd that there was so little coordination between Bush’s Middle East initiative and those countries whose support the U.S. president needs to get things moving in the region. This is what Bush does not understood: Arafat’s (and Sharon’s) removal would help the peace process, but if a U.S. president explicitly demands such a change, the opposite will happen.”
While the Europeans would like nothing better than to see the U.S. put more pressure on Israel, they have a problem: in the wake of Bush’s failed European tour, and the threat of a trade war still on the horizon, they wanted to avoid the appearance of another trans-Atlantic rift. In the words of the Frankfurter Rundschau editorialist, “Thanks to George W. Bush, the Europeans are finding themselves between a rock and a hard place. If they embrace his pro-Israeli policy, they will lose all credibility as mediators among the Arabs and Palestinians. If the EU continues to steer a neutral course in order to put together an international Middle East coalition, a collision with the United States will be inevitable.” They will decide to remain aloof, and they are right to do so, at least until the Bush “plan” is thoroughly overhauled.
It is noteworthy, and puzzling, that the President avoided dwelling on all four core problems of the dispute: the final borders Israel and its future Palestinian neighbor, the standing and future of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, the status of Jerusalem and its holy sites, and the right of return, or some other long-term solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees.
Mr. Bush ended his address on an incongruously haughty note, quoting from the (Jewish) Old Testament: “I have set before you life and death, therefore choose life.” Pretentiousness is fine when you have some words and deeds–preferably miracles–to back it up, but at the end of this speech the quote sounded like a taunt to the Palestinians.
One suspects that in its aftermath all too many young Palestinians will choose a loud, TNT-wired death; and within their own outlook and belief system, the choice will seem reasonable. In the short term the main effect of President Bush’s position on the ground will be to encourage Sharon to escalate his military response and to ignore calls to resume dialogue. Israeli tanks in and out of Ramallah, Jenin, or Hebron, a few Palestinian deaths today and more Israeli victims of suicide bombers tomorrow, will cease to be front-page news.
Quite apart from the disquieting implications of Mr. Bush’s view of himself as God, his speech was problematic for five reasons.
The first and most obvious problem is that Mr. Bush’s conditions for the Palestinian Authority reform cannot be fulfilled. Deliberately or not, he has set up the post so high that neither Arafat nor any likely or imaginable successor to Arafat can cross it, now or in the foreseeable future. As the French daily Le Monde aptly noted on June 26, “What the United States is demanding of the Palestinians under occupation–democracy, transparency, effectiveness–it does not demand from many dictatorships in the region with whom it enjoys better relations.” Not a single Arab (or, for that matter, predominantly Muslim) state is a functioning Western-style democracy, for reasons of history, religion, and psychology too complex to discuss here. Expecting the Palestinian Authority to become an exception, and to do so more or less overnight–while simultaneously ridding itself of the existing political leadership–is either naive or disingenuous. Since the President’s speech itself was the product of long and comprehensive consultations between Washington and Jerusalem, naivety is not an option.
The second problem is that the reward offered to the Palestinians at the end of the long road, even if it could be traversed, is not attractive enough to inspire the effort. The unlovely Chairman Arafat and his corrupt cronies will have no incentive to comply with anything; but who exactly is Mr. Bush’s target-audience remains unclear. Even if there were potential American assets within the Palestinian leadership, those people would need a far more attractive package as the incentive to risk their reputations–and quite possibly lives–in confronting Arafat. “Conditional” statehood, a murky and ambiguous concept wide open to political voluntarism, will never provide the rallying cry for a new, “moderate” Palestinian leadership.
The third problem is that Bush’s concept leaves U.S. policy ever more firmly in the grip of Israeli decision-makers. He has made even the limited Israeli withdrawal to the positions of September 2000 conditional on “progress toward security.” A single suicide bombing could lead the Israeli cabinet to conclude that any prior “progress” has been compromised. Bush’s statement that Israeli settlement activity in the Territories should be “consistent with the recommendations of the Mitchell report” ensures that Israel can stall for as long as it pleases. And finally, Mr. Bush’s three-year timeline means that if Israel decides the hypothetical new Palestinian leadership is not demonstrating “real performance” within that timeframe the Palestinians will not get their statehood. For as long as the criteria of measuring Palestinian “progress” remain undefined, the Israeli government has an excuse for postponing statehood ad calendas Graecas.
The fourth problem is that greater democracy in Palestine, like elsewhere in the Muslim world, plays into the hands of the hardliners. The demand from Washington for Arafat’s ouster will have the predictable short-term effect of bolstering his popularity at a time when his standing among his own people was in decline. Arafat is well aware of the political capital that he was given by the President, as to oppose or criticize him now will appear tantamount to siding with America and Israel. In addition, continuing Israeli military actions will further erode the resentment against his team’s inaptitude, corruption, and mismanagement. He will try to seize the day: only two days after Mr. Bush’s speech the Palestinian Authority announced that presidential and legislative elections would be held next January. Jimmy Carter may not have been an effective foreign policy maker as President, but he was right on the money as commentator when he wrote earlier this week that “further progress is undermined by our almost undeviating approval of Israel’s demands and our refusal to deal with the Palestinian leaders who are apt to be re-elected in January.” If Arafat runs and wins again–as he probably will–the U.S. policy will be painted in a corner of Sharon’s making. Refusing to talk to him would freeze the status quo, while accepting him yet again as an interlocutor would further diminish Mr. Bush’s credibility.
This is a no-win situation for the United States. Worse still, the likely longer-term “democratic” alternative to Arafat is not a “pro-Western moderate” but an ultra-Islamist militant. As former Senator George Mitchell, author of the Mitchell Report, has warned, “There’s a risk that someone from Hamas or Islamic Jihad could succeed Arafat, which would make it much, much worse than the current situation.” Support for Hamas and the Islamic Jihad two extremist groups among the Palestinians has more than doubled since the start of the intifada, almost matching the 30% support levels for Arafat himself.
The fifth and most serious problem with Mr. Bush’s “vision” is its lack of real vision. The U.S. diplomacy under him will continue to act incrementally: put together a ceasefire, then “build trust,” then get a “peace process” under way while leaving the vexed political issues for later. All that has been tried, and found wanting. Another failure will be both predictable and inevitable. The vicious cycle of terror and military attacks can only be broken by a fair and comprehensive end-of-conflict political agreement. The 1993 Oslo accords that collapsed, the subsequent Mitchell and Tenet stillborn plans, were all based on incremental “confidence-building”–steps that failed to end the violence or to build any confidence at all.
In order to break the structural deadlock America needs to develop a detailed political blueprint for the final settlement, which the two sides are unwilling or unable to negotiate for themselves. The key criterion should be the U.S. interest, pragmatically and quantifiably defined, as opposed to the goals of certain ethnic-religious lobbies and special-interest groups that seek to impose their agenda on the rest of the nation as America’s own. That interest includes the continued existence of the State of Israel, on geopolitical rather than emotional, moral, or Biblical grounds. It therefore demands a settlement that would remove the constant threat to Israel’s existence from its Arab neighbors. The concept of “land for peace” is still fundamentally valid, but needs to be re-thought. Israel must give up Gaza and most of the West Bank, of course, where the Palestinians will establish their own independent state. In return, the Palestinians and other Arabs will formally end all their claims on the Jewish state. In addition there need to be some adjustments to the pre-1967 borders, with Israel and the Palestinians swapping territory and Jerusalem being divided but shared. These are real goals, and they demand real strategies. Interim states and provisional states, limited sovereignties, and similar silly or insulting constructs, are neither real nor useful. They should be ditched, urgently.
America must learn how to pressure Israel to accomplish the structural requirements for a stable peace in the Middle East, and, in the longer term, to save Israel from its own failed policies. There are two tools: American-made military hardware, the use of which by the IDF should be far more closely monitored, and money–presently $10m a day in direct subsidies. Both must be used, and be seen to be used, for everyone’s good, not least that of Israel itself. George W. Bush’s present refusal to do so may be seen as a victory for Ariel Sharon and for the Amen Corner in Washington. As we enter the third year of murderous violence in the Middle East, neither Israel nor the United States can afford many more such victories.
PALESTINIAN RADICALISM AND ARAB ANTISEMITISM
Monday, June 17, 2002
That a majority of Arabs, and especially Palestinians, want the destruction of Israel is something we assume and intuit. It is therefore unsurprising to have this assumption confirmed by the results of a major opinion poll released on June 11. The poll, by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center (JMCC), highlighted a radicalization of views as we near the third year of unabated Israeli-Palestinian violence.
The JMCC interviewed 1,179 people in the West Bank and Gaza in late May and early June. Fifty-one percent of people surveyed said the end result of the uprising should be “liberation of all of historic Palestine,” referring to pre-1947 British-mandate Palestine, part of which was recognized as the State of Israel in 1948. Forty-three percent of respondents said the aim of the uprising was more limited: to end Israeli occupation and establish a Palestinian state only in the West Bank and Gaza. This compared with a poll taken in December in which 48 percent said the uprising’s goal was merely to end the occupation, compared with 44 percent who said the aim should be to eliminate Israel.
A further sign of Palestinian radicalization is the decline of support for the Palestinian Authority and Yasser Arafat himself in favor of the radicals, and the declining support for any peace process with Israel. More than two-thirds of all respondents said they approved of suicide bombings against Israeli civilian targets, and 59 percent declared that the Israeli raids had boosted their approval of the militant Islamic group Hamas, which opposes Israel’s existence and represents a major challenge to Arafat’s authority.
This poll illustrates an often-neglected ingredient in the ongoing Middle Eastern tragedy: the fact that even if Israel is eventually recognized by all of its Arab neighbors as part of a peace package imposed by the outside world (which is, incidentally, the only way that can ever happen), a growing segment of the Arab world—especially among the young, who are the majority today and the leaders of tomorrow—will not accept the legitimacy of its existence, and won’t regard that existence as a permanent feature of the Middle Eastern landscape.
Historical parallels abound. In the aftermath of its defeat in 1870 France was forced to recognize the loss of Alsace and Lorraine, and on that basis maintained full diplomatic and commercial relations with Germany for the ensuing 44 years; yet what could not be on the French lips remained in the French heart throughout, to be fulfilled in 1918. In 1921 the Irish Free State had the partition of the Six Counties imposed on it, and for over eight decades now Ireland has put up with the legality of the fact—however dubious—that has enabled it to maintain normal relations with Great Britain and to join the European Union. And yet the Republic continues to reject the legitimacy of the partition, and its dormant irredentist claim on Ulster is enshrined even in its Constitution. More recently, the Carthaginian peace imposed on the Bosnian Serbs at Dayton in 1995 and on Kosovo in the aftermath of the NATO bombing of 1999 will be challenged as soon as the “international community” gives up policing the Balkans.
The ultimate radicalization is to reject the legitimacy of you adversary’s right to exist; it makes the conflict structurally unmanageable, and leads to Final Solutions. It is a grave sin of which both parties in the Middle Eastern conflict are guilty to some extent, but not to the same extent. Legitimate concern for Palestinian rights and institutionalized discrimination of non-Jews in Israel should not blind us to the fact that the problem on the Arab side is structural and antedates the creation of the Jewish state. The problem of Arab antisemitism harks back to the beginning of the remarkable life and times of prophet Muhammad.
“Arab antisemitism” may sound illogical as both Jews and Arabs are supposedly of the same or racially similar Semitic stock. The semantic confusion is due to the invention of the term “antisemitism” by a late 19th century German to give the anti-Jewish sentiment a “scientific” veneer. It was never meant to brand all Semitic peoples in the same category. Ever since it has denoted, and was meant to denote, different types and degrees of animosity to the Jews, and modern antisemitism has found a perfect fit in the Arab world when the drastic deterioration in its relations with the Jews occurred in the 20th century, resulting from the conflicting claims over Palestine. Inherent religious animosity was fully coupled with anti-Jewish attitudes on ethnic and geopolitical grounds, but religious and political aspects of that struggle were as inseparable in the early seventh century as they are today.
THE PROPHET’S LEGACY
In the early days of his prophetic career, in Mecca before the Hijra, Muhammad had hoped to be accepted as God’s messenger by the Jews. To win them over he even ordered his followers to turn in the direction of Jerusalem during prayer, and adopted the Jewish Day of Atonement, Ashura, as the Muslim holy day. He seems to have underestimated the allegiance of Arabian Jews to their scriptures and the effect that the many discrepancies between Muhammad’s own Koranic pronouncements and the Jewish tradition would have on them. His superficial, second-hand knowledge of the Tradition made it impossible for him to argue on par with the learned merchants of Medina. Muhammad’s earlier, favorable pronouncements about the Jews soon evolved into an implacably hostile position: “verily, Allah teaches us, and we believe it, that for a Muslim to kill a Jew, or for him to be killed by a Jew, ensures him an immediate entry into paradise and into the august presence of Allah.” The result is summarized in a chillingly euphemistic account by a contemporary Muslim scholar: “The final result of the struggle was the disappearance of these Jewish communities from Arabia proper.”1
This “disappearance” was not a spontaneous phenomenon but the result of what would be known in our own time as ethnic cleansing and genocide. The first stage consisted of individual murders of Jews (AD 624); the second entailed the expulsion of two tribes from Medina (625-626); the third was completed with the slaughter of one remaining tribe, Banu Qurayzah (627). Muhammad offered the men conversion to Islam as an alternative to death; upon their refusal up to 900 were decapitated at the ditch, in front of their women and children. Torches were lit so that the slaughter could be accomplished all in one day. “Truly the judgment of Allah was pronounced on high” was Muhammad’s comment. “Allah” added a few words of his own: “And He has caused to descend from their strongholds the Jews that assisted them. And he struck terror into their hearts. Some you slaughtered and some you took prisoner.2 The widowed or orphaned Jewish women were subsequently raped; Muhammad chose as his concubine one Raihana Bint Amr, whose father and husband were both slaughtered before her eyes, only hours earlier; but such treatment had already been sanctioned by prophetic revelation.
Muhammad’s Endloesung was accompanied by dozens of suitably grim “revelations” in the Koran. The Jews have drawn on themselves wrath upon wrath, and their just reward in the form of “disgracing torment” yet awaits them.3 Every time they make a covenant, some party among them throws it aside;4 “And you will not cease to discover deceit in them.”5 So Allah brought them down and cast terror into their hearts, had some killed and others made captives, “And He caused you [Muslims] to inherit their lands, and their houses, and their riches, and a land which you had not trodden before”6 The Muslims are able to do so because the Jews are cowards: “If they fight against you, they will show you their backs.”7 Until the Day of Resurrection they will be afflicted with humiliating agony.8 They are accursed for their obstinate rebellion and disbelief, so “We have put enmity and hatred amongst them till the Day of Resurrection.”9 Even when they seem united “their hearts are divided.”10 They have incurred the Curse and Wrath of Allah, who transformed them into monkeys and swine.11 “Indignity is put over them wherever they may be” because they disobeyed Allah and used to transgress beyond bounds.12 They cling greedily to this life even if it is humiliating and villainous life, “And verily, you will find them the greediest of mankind for life.”13
In the centuries after Muhammad there have been periods when the Jews were able to live in relative peace under Arabs, but their position was never secure. They were generally viewed with contempt by their Arab neighbors, and their survival was always predicated on their abject subordination and degradation to them. Mass murders of Jewish “protected people” started in Morocco as early as the 8th century, where Idris I wiped out whole communities. A century later Baghdad’s Caliph al-Mutawakkil designated a yellow badge for Jews, setting a precedent that would be followed centuries later in Nazi Germany, and synagogues were destroyed throughout Mesopotamia in 854-859. In Tripolitania Jews were considered as property of their Arab masters, who would bequeath the Jews to their heirs upon death. In the 12th century, after anti-Jewish riots the contemporaries commented that their population had “greatly declined.”14
On the other side of the Muslim empire, on December 30, 1066, Joseph HaNagid, the Jewish vizier of Granada, was crucified by an Arab mob that proceeded to raze the Jewish quarter of the city and slaughter its 5,000 inhabitants. Muslim preachers, who had objected to what they saw as inordinate Jewish political power, incited the riot. And those were the most civilized Muslims in history, in Baghdad at the peak of one Islamic “golden age” and in Spain at the peak of another.
In 1465, Arab mobs in Fez slaughtered thousands of Jews, leaving only 11 of them alive, after a Jewish deputy vizier allegedly treated a Muslim woman in “an offensive manner.” The killings touched off a wave of similar massacres throughout Morocco.15 In Tripolitania in 1785 Ali Burzi Pasha murdered hundreds of Jews. In Algiers Jews were massacred in 1805, 1815 and 1830; and in Marrakesh more than 300 Jews were murdered between 1864 and 1880. Decrees ordering the destruction of synagogues were enacted in Egypt and Syria (1014, 1293, 1301) and Yemen (1676). Despite the Koran’s prohibition, Jews were forced to convert to Islam or face death in Yemen (1165 and 1678), Morocco (1275, 1465 and 1790-92), and Baghdad (1333 and 1344).16
The situation of Jews in Arab lands reached a low point in the 19th century. Throughout North Africa they were forced to live in ghettos. In Morocco, which contained the largest Jewish community in the Islamic Diaspora, Jews were made to walk barefoot or wear shoes of straw when outside the ghetto. In 1884, the Sultan of Morocco said Jews had to work on Shabbat, could only “clean foul places and latrines,” had to part with merchandise at half-price and accept counterfeit coinage, to name a few of the provisions.17 Muslim children freely humiliated them by throwing stones. Writing in 19th century Syria, one Jew lamented, “When a Jew walked among them [the Muslims] in the market, one would throw a stone at him in order to kill him, another would pull his beard, yet another spit on his face. He became the symbol of abuse.”
ARAB NATIONALISM AND NAZISM
With the emergence of Zionism in the late 19th and early 20th century the Arabs faced a “Jewish problem” for the first time since Muhammad. This time they faced it from a position of weakness, with the Jews for the first time since the destruction of the temple poised to reestablish a polity that would be territorial as well as spiritual and cultural. It was a rude awakening for the Arab world, after the phenomenal success of the earlier centuries, to find itself by the early 20th century on what looked like the losing side of history. The many weaknesses produced the sense that something had gone terribly wrong, but it did not result in the creative self-examination. The question never was “What have we done” and always “What have they done to us?” The Mongols, Turks, and Western imperialists have all had their share of blame apportioned, but, inevitably, in the 1930’s the Jews were included among “them” who were to blame.
Hitler’s Germany sensed this and made a concerted, and remarkably successful effort to plant “modern” antisemitism in the Arab world. The struggle for Palestine greatly facilitated the acceptance of the antisemitic interpretation of history, but even before Israel was created that struggle had turned into an existential battle of identity, with the complete denial of the legitimacy of Jewish existence as a central component of this campaign. When the Mufti of Jerusalem declared at the Dome on the Rock in 2001 that the negation of Jewish existence is an existential need of Islam, he was reflecting a majority, mainstream Muslim position, and continuing a well-established tradition.
In 1945 one name was missing from the Allies’ list of war criminals, that of Haj Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem and the former President of the Supreme Muslim Council of Palestine. In May 1941 the Mufti declared jihad against Britain, “the greatest foe of Islam,” and made his way to Berlin. When he met Hitler, on November 21, 1941, he declared that the Arabs are Germany’s natural friends, ready to cooperate with the Reich with all their hearts by the formation of an Arab Legion.
Hitler promised that as soon as the German armies pushed into the Southern Caucasus the Arabs would be liberated from the British yoke. The Mufti’s part of the deal was to raise support for Germany among the Muslims in the Soviet Union, the Balkans and the Middle East. He conducted radio propaganda and set up anti-British espionage and fifth column networks in the Middle East. Partly thanks to his recruiting efforts in the Balkans—and mainly due to their natural proclivities—the Muslims in Bosnia and Albanians in Kosovo, and Chechens flocked en masse into SS volunteer units famous for their savagery against the Serbs.
During the annual protest against the Balfour Declaration held in 1943 at the Luftwaffe hall in Berlin, the Mufti praised the Germans because they “know how to get rid of the Jews, and that brings us close to the Germans and sets us in their camp is that up to day.” Echoing Muhammad, on March 1, 1944, the Mufti called in a broadcast from Berlin: “Arabs! Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history, and religion. This saves your honor.” Already in 1941 he pledged “to solve the question of the Jewish elements in Palestine and in other Arab countries as required by national interests, and in the same way as the Jewish question in the Axis lands is being solved.” According to German officials who knew him, “The Mufti had repeatedly suggested to the various authorities with whom he was maintaining contact, above all to Hitler, Ribbentrop and Himmler, the extermination of European Jewry. He considered this as a comfortable solution of the Palestinian problem.”
Perhaps the “Nazis needed no persuasion or instigation,” as he was later to claim, but the foremost Arab spiritual leader of his time did all he could to ensure that the Germans do not waver in their resolve. He went out of his way to prevent any Jews being allowed to leave Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, which were initially willing to let them go. In the end, Eichmann said, “We have promised him that no European Jew would enter Palestine any more.” In 1943 the Mufti wrote to the Hungarian foreign minister: “If there are reasons which make their removal necessary, it would be indispensable and infinitively preferable to send them to other countries where they would find themselves under active control, for example, in Poland, in order to protect oneself from their menace and avoid the consequent damage.” The choice of “Poland” as the Mufti’s favored location for the deportation was chillingly uncoincidental. On July 27, 1944, he accordingly wrote to Himmler: “I ask you, Reichsfuehrer, to do everything necessary to prevent the Jews from emigrating.”
In return it was with the architect of the holocaust, Heinrich Himmler, that Islam had found its most ardent admirers and promoters in the pre-multicultural Europe. Himmler’s hatred of “soft” Christianity was matched by his liking for Islam, which he saw as a masculine, martial religion based on the SS qualities of blind obedience and readiness for self-sacrifice, untainted by compassion for one’s enemies. While Hitler did not think much of Himmler’s neopagan mysticism, he was happy to let Islam become the “SS religion.” By creating an SS division composed of Bosnian Muslims Himmler was only taking the first step in the planned grand alliance between Nazi Germany and the Islamic world. One of his closest aides, Obergruppenfьhrer Gottlob Berger, boasted that “a link is created between Islam and National-Socialism on an open, honest basis. It will be directed in terms of blood and race from the North, and in the ideological-spiritual sphere from the East.”
After the war the danger returned at the time of the partition of Palestine in 1947. In Iraq the cleansing commenced in 1941, during the festival of Shavuot, when 180 Jews were murdered in a farhoud [pogrom] in Baghdad. Six years later the Syrian delegate at the United Nations, Faris el-Khouri, warned: “Unless the Palestine problem is settled, we shall have difficulty in protecting and safeguarding the Jews in the Arab world.”18 This was a self-fulfilling prophecy: Over one thousand Jews were killed in the ensuing anti-Jewish rioting in Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Syria and Yemen, triggering the mass exodus of Jews from all Arab countries.19 In the early 1940’s there were close to a million Jews throughout the Arab world. There are only a few thousand left today, mainly elderly. The number of Jews displaced from the Arab world in the aftermath of the creation of Israel exceeds that of Palestinians expelled by the Israelis.
The contemporary heirs to the Nazi view of Judentum are not skinheads and Aryan Nation survivalists. They are schools, religious leaders, and mainstream intellectuals in the Arab world. Quite apart from the ups and downs of the misnamed “peace process” in the Middle East, quite apart from the more or less bellicose posture of the government of Israel, the crude way they actively demonize all Jews as such is startling. Take the most prominent and influential daily newspaper in the Arab world, Al-Ahram, a semi-official organ of the Egyptian government. In June 2001 it carried an op-ed article, “What exactly do the Jews want?”—and the answer was worthy of the Voelkische Beobachter six decades earlier:
The Jews share boundless hatred of the gentiles, they kill women and children and sow destruction . . . Israel is today populated by people who are not descendants of the Children of Israel, but rather a mixture of slaves, Aryans and the remnants of the Khazars, and they are not Semites. In other words, people without an identity, whose only purpose is blackmails, theft and control over property and land, with the assistance of the Western countries.20
The second most influential Egyptian daily is Al-Akhbar, which went a step further on April 18, 2001: “Our thanks go the late Hitler who wrought, in advance, the vengeance of the Palestinians upon the most despicable villains on the face of the earth. However, we rebuke Hitler for the fact that the vengeance was insufficient.”
It is hard to imagine hatred more vitriolic than that which reproaches the Nazis for not completing the Final Solution more thoroughly. What is remarkable is not that such sentiments exist, but that they are freely circulated in the mainstream media and internalized by the opinion-making elite throughout the Muslim world. In the same league we find the claim that the Holocaust in fact never happened and that the Jews and Israelis are the real Nazis is regularly made. The Jewish-Nazi theme is a favorite of Arab caricaturists, some of whom use the swastika interchangeably with the Magen David, or juxtapose them. Graphic depiction of the Jews appear to have been lifted directly from the pages of Der Stuermer.
Syria is in the forefront. Mustafa Tlass, Syria’s foreign minister, published a booklet, The Matza of Zion, about the infamous Damascus Trial of 1840, and concluded that Jews use non-Jewish blood for ritual purposes. The “Jewish Section” of the Makhabarat, the Syrian secret police, exercised strict control over the lives of the remaining members of the community. Just like Soviet citizens before 1989, Jews could travel abroad only if other family members remained behind in order to ensure the return of the traveler. Within the country there were tight restrictions on Jewish mobility and Jews had to seek permission to travel more than several kilometers from their homes. The documents of Jews were marked with a special designation indicating that the bearer is a Jew. Jews were not permitted to serve in the Syrian government, army, police or nationalized industry.
Even in countries not directly engaged against Israel, such as Morocco, demonization of the Jews is widespread. In October 1996 an op-ed article appeared in the Moroccan weekly al-Usbu’ that provides an apt illustration of the genre. It claimed that “the Jews are a special kind of human being” by virtue of being spiteful and criminal, and congenitally dishonest:
They are not content with the usurpation of the lands but they aim at the annihilation of mankind entirely in order to fulfill their devilish dreams. They cannot be satisfied without seeing the shedding of Moslem blood. The only arm which will enable us to confront this Jewish racist octopus is to know the Jews and we cannot know them unless we read the Holy Koran. You, the Moslem rulers, read the Koran and forget about the politicians’ accounts. The Jews are the enemy number one of the Moslems.
Among the recurring themes in the press in Islamic countries is that Judaism is a sinister religion and that Jews are a grotesque life form. Jews are also often represented as part of a diabolical cabal that strives at world domination. Political and economic expert Dr. Amira Al-Sinwani thus wrote in the Egyptian government-controlled daily Al-Akhbar: “We all understand why Israel conceals The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, published at the First Zionist Congress in the city of Basel in 1897, when we look at the calls for destruction and the immorality, a world Jewish government that will rule the world.” To support the claim Dr. Al-Sanwani referred to a book published in 1935 in Nazi Germany, A Handbook on the Jewish Question.21
In the aftermath of September 11, the most widely spread view all over the Arab world-even at top governmental levels-is that “the Jews” carried out the attacks. Syrian foreign minister Mustafa Tlass, who has revived the “blood libel,” claimed during a meeting in Damascus with a delegation from the British Royal College of Defense Studies that the Mossad planned the operation as part of a Jewish conspiracy.22 Former Egyptian ambassador to Afghanistan Ahmad Al-‘Amrawi stated that the Zionist movement and American intelligence organizations planned the attacks. Lebanese Druse leader Walid Jumblatt told Al-Ayyam daily that he thought the Mossad and American intelligence did it.
Columnist after columnist, in one leading paper after another, in Iran, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and elsewhere opined that “what happened is the work of Jewish-Israeli-American Zionism, and the act of the large Zionist Jewish mind controlling the world economically, politically, and through the media,” and that “they, more than anyone, are capable of hiding a crime they carry out, and they can be certain that no one will ask them what they have done.”23 Syrian ambassador to Tehran Turky Muhammad Saqr even declared that Syria has documented proof that “4,000 Jews employed at the WTC did not show up for work before the attack, which clearly attests to Zionist involvement in these attacks.”24 The most respected daily in the Arab world, Al-Ahram, joined the fray: “At the WTC, thousands of Jews worked in finance and the stock market, but none of them were there on the day of the incident. Out of 6,000 killed, of 65 nationalities from 60 countries, not one was a Jew!!”25
As Fouad Ajami has observed in The Dream Palace of the Arabs, “the custodians of political power” in the Arab world determined some time ago that diplomatic accommodation would be the order of the day, but the intellectual class was given a green light to ensure that no peace with “the Other” was possible. When faced with concerns about antisemitism in the Arab media officials claim that is the price of a ‘free’ press-even in countries that have none.
It is objectionable as well as regrettable that Israel was not intended as a state in which all of its citizens, Jews and non-Jews, would be treated alike. But while Israel’s treatment of non-Jews, and Palestinian Arabs in particular, is discriminatory and even racist, the darkly psychotic hatred of the Arab-as-such-the hatred that leads to literal genocide is mercifully confined to a fanatical fringe (more often imported from Brooklyn than born in Israel). It is on the Arab side that the illegitimacy of the Other is not only morally acceptable but also divinely ordained. A well-meaning outsider contemplating Middle Eastern solutions would do no favor to the longsuffering Palestinians to remain politely silent on this fact.
1 W.N. Arafat, “New light on the story of Banu Qurayza and the Jews of Medina,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, (1976), pp. 100-107.
2 Koran, 33:25
14 Middle East Digest, September 1999
15 Maurice Roumani, The Case of the Jews from Arab Countries: A Neglected Issue, Tel Aviv: World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries, 1977, pp. 26-27.
16 Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1985
17 Middle East Digest, September 1999.
18 The New York Times, February 19, 1947.
19 Maurice Roumani, The Case of the Jews from Arab Countries: A Neglected Issue, (Tel Aviv: World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries, 1977), pp. 30-31
20 Dr. Mustafa Mahmud in Al-Ahram, 23 June 2001
21 www.memri.com quoting original source. Charles Krauthammer also referred to this article, in his March 6, 1998 column in The Washington Post entitled “Arafat’s Children.”
22 The Jerusalem Post (Israel), October 19, 2001.
23 Cf. comprehensive analysis of Arabic media reports onwww.memri.com
24 IRNA (Iran), October 24, 2001.
25 Al-Ahram, October 7, 2001.
CANADA, THREAT TO AMERICAN SECURITY
June 11, 2002
U.S. intelligence has apparently foiled the Al Qaeda plot to explode a radioactive “dirty bomb” in an American city, possibly Washington, D.C. Luckily, Abdullah al-Muhajir, 31-an American-born U.S. citizen of Latin American origin-made the mistake of traveling to Chicago O’Hare from Pakistan following the end of his terrorist training. Had he taken the trouble to travel through Canada instead, in all probability he’d be at large, unknown and undetected, rather than in military custody aboard a naval vessel in Charleston, South Carolina.
The longest demilitarized international border in the world, that between the United States and Canada, is also the most porous. There are only 1,773 Customs agents and 300 Border Patrol officers for 4,000 miles of the border. Even assuming that one-third of the latter are on duty all the time, that means than one agent would have to “protect” 40 miles of the border. In practice it means that America’s huge northern frontier is wide open, undefended and unsupervised. Over one half official crossings-62 of the 113 points of entry-are not operated around the clock, and especially in the summer months thousands of campers and boatmen cross from one country into another without any control whatsoever.
All of that would be just fine if Canada could be trusted to subject the newcomers to its shores to the same or similar level of scrutiny that is being finally introduced in the United States following last year’s terrorist attacks. Unfortunately this is not the case, and Canada’s total and incomprehensible failure to protect itself from the emergence of an Islamic terrorist network has serious implication for America’s security.
Retired Canadian diplomat James Bissett, a member of our Center’s Advisory Board who was the executive director of Canada’s Immigration Service from 1985 until 1990, told me Tuesday (June 11) that Canadian refugee legislation and practice is a threat to the security of his country as well as that of the Unites States. He points out that Canada has accepted 15,000 so-called refugees since September 11, most of them bogus asylum seekers who want to bypass the regular immigration procedure. Two and a half thousand of them came from countries that are breeding grounds for Islamic terrorists, such as Algeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Many arrive without any documents at all, and “for most of them we don’t know who the hell they are,” Bissett says.
In the year 2000 Canada accepted 38,000 “asylum-seekers,” and last year their number jumped to 44,000. Once in Canada they are granted housing, welfare and health benefits-and let loose. They know that it will be up to two years until their immigration hearing is due, and one-fifth never bother to turn up anyway: they just disappear. As for the rest, even those whose requests are turned down often stay on illegally, and Canada does not have the resources or the political will to track them down and deport them to their country of origin.
In a word, says Bissett, “Canada has the most generous refugeee laws in the world that offers everything for the discriminating terrorist. You get taken care of, and you can blend into a vast immigrant population.” Two-thirds of these asylum seekers didn’t have proper documents when they arrived. Absurdly, the new legislation coming into force this week will actually “make it easier for asylum seekers to come into the country,” says Bissett, by adding more levels of review. He points out that a number of terrorists have taken advantage of the system, most prominently Ahmed Ressam, a refugee claimant and Al Qaeda operative who planned to bomb the Los Angeles airport before U.S. authorities caught and convicted him.
Canada’s visitor visa regime is also in need of urgent overhaul. Undaunted by the fact that 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, Canada still allows Saudi citizens to come as visitors, without a visa. This provides an excellent route for Islamic operatives deterred by the more stringent U.S. security measures: it is but a short drive from the Leaster Pearson International Airport in Toronto to a pleasure boat on one of the Great Lakes, with the target country wide open on the other shore.
Bissett’s warnings are echoed by David Harris, the former chief of strategic planning for the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service: “Given the fact that the U.S. is the main enemy of a considerable number of the most vicious groups on our territory, I don’t know that Americans should sleep terribly well,” he said in an interview last April. “And it certainly means that the Canadian frontier assumes a complexion altogether different from that which is traditionally recognized.” Canadian analysts insist that security can only be achieved when their country owns up to its problems and revamps its immigration and asylum regulations.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and its appalling weakness along the northern border of the Unites States may compromise all other efforts. The U.S. government should urgently exert pressure on Canada to get its act together, for the sake of both countries. The Liberal government in Ottawa cannot be trusted to do so by itself. It is in a state of deep denial on this issue, and its multiculturalist blinkers are rapidly taking Canada down the road of demographic and cultural ruin. That is not America’s problem, of course, but the corrolary of that policy-a system unwittingly designed to aid and abet terrorists in need of a support base in North America-is a problem for all of us who share this continent.
Islamic extremism exposed on September 11 must end another kind of extremism: the irrational and manifestly false belief of multicultural ideologues that each immigrant is equally welcome. That dogma costs lives. By realizing that certain ethnic, religious, and cultural traits make some groups more adaptable to the North American values and lifestyle than others the powers-that-be in Ottawa will do a favor to all of us.
By the way, the up-dated figures for the number of asylum seekers from known terrorist producing countries entering from September 11, 2001 to April 30, 2002, are approximately 4,000—from Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Algeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Egypt.
A NEW CENTURY OF CHRISTIAN MARTYRDOM: THE UNTOLD MIDDLE EASTERN CRISIS
June 5, 2002
A book that relates the untold story of the murder of 45 million Christians in the 20th century alone has caused controversy in Italy. The author of The New Persecuted: Inquiries into Anti-Christian Intolerance in the New Century of Martyrs, Antonio Socci, has been accused that by raising the issue of Christian suffering in the Muslim world he “demonizes Islam.”
Socci provides evidence that in the past 2,000 years some 70 million Christians have been killed primarily or exclusively for the reason of their faith, two-thirds in the past 100 years alone, with Joseph Stalin as the chief culprit. He says that an average of 160,000 Christians have been killed every year since 1990, the vast majority by Muslims in the Third World. Chronicling attacks, pogroms and wars in East Timor, Indonesia, Sudan, Egypt, Pakistan, India, and the Balkans, Socci identifies Islamic extremism as the main danger. And yet, says he, “This global persecution of Christianity is still in progress but in most cases is ignored by the mass media and Christians in the west.”
Western indifference to Christian suffering, documented by Antonio Socci, is well illustrated by the recent standoff at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, one of the holiest Christian sites in the Holy Land, which was re-consecrated last month after being occupied by Arab gunmen and besieged by the Israeli army for 38 days. While extensively covered because of its photogenic value and its potential for further bloodshed, the stand-off has caused hardly a ripple in the Western world on what should be the obvious grounds for media scrutiny and public concern: the misuse and abuse of a Christian shrine by warring non-Christians in pursuit of their political objectives. The Bethlehem episode is thus illustrative of two parallel processes overlooked in the current Middle Eastern crisis: the apparently terminal decline of the Christian remnant in the Middle East after two millennia of precarious and mostly painful existence, and the remarkable indifference of the post-Christian Western world to its impending demise.
Already by their choice of the stage for what soon became a propaganda exercise the Muslim gunmen who occupied the church desecrated the basilica built on the site of the grotto where Jesus Christ is believed to have been born. They ate the food they found on the premises until it ran out, while more than 150 civilians went hungry. They consumed alcoholic drinks that they found in priests’ quarters, undeterred by the Islamic ban on drinking alcohol. They tore up Bibles up for toilet paper. They turned one corner of the ancient church into an impromptu mosque. They even attempted to bury seven of their comrades, who were subsequently killed by Israeli snipers, inside the church or on its grounds—obviously intending to turn one of the holiest Christian shrines into a place of Islamic pilgrimage to the fallen “martyrs.”
It may be worth noting that when Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount, two years ago, the world reacted angrily to what was interpreted as a gesture calculated to inflame the Muslims, and Palestinians treated his mere presence near the al-Aqsa mosque as sufficiently provocative to justify a new intifada. Their double standards and cynicism are breathtaking, but they were not the only ones to treat Christian shrines with contempt.
Two weeks before the siege of the Church of the Nativity, as Israeli forces stormed into Bethlehem, an Israeli tank shell hit the facade of the nearby Holy Family Church, in a complex with an orphanage, hospital and hostel. The soldiers then fired, from fifty yards’ distance, at the statue of the Virgin atop the Holy Family Church. The statue lost its left arm and its face was disfigured. The Israeli army expressed regret and promised investigation, but this did not look like an accidental shot: no terrorist could possibly hide behind the figure on the pinnacle of the hospital church. The story was reported by Reuters, and a picture taken by an AP photographer. It was available to the world media but ignored.
These two incidents illustrate the predicament of the dwindling Christian remnant in the Middle East. Once thriving Christian communities are now minorities squeezed between the warring Jews and Muslims who may hate each other but all too often share their aversion to Christianity. Within Israel the indigenous Christians, as Arabs, are regarded as indistinguishable from Palestinian Muslims, and have suffered accordingly. In 1948 two-thirds of the Palestinian Christians were driven from their homes with the creation of a Jewish state. Within Arafat’s Palestinian Authority the Christians are viewed with distrust as non-Muslim. They resent Israeli incursions and occupation as much as their Muslim neighbors, but they also feel uncomfortable amid the tide of Islamic radicalism—symbolized in the rise of Hamas—that has engulfed the Palestinian community. They are also deliberately exposed to Israeli reprisals by their Muslim compatriots: in the West Bank city of Beit Jala Muslim gunmen chose the rooftops of Christian homes as sites from which to fire on neighboring Jerusalem.
Institutionalized or covert discrimination to which Christians are subjected in Syria, Israel, Egypt, and Lebanon, accompanied by occasional eruptions of anti-Christian violence by the Muslim majority in the last two countries, have contributed to an exodus that threatens to eradicate the believers in Christ in the lands of his birth and life.
At the outset of the Islamic conquests under Muhammad’s successors all of these lands were 100 percent Christian. At the outset of the Ottoman rule they had a Christian plurality, and in Palestine and Lebanon the outright majority. Under the British Mandate, Palestine officially was a Christian country, with Bethlehem having a population that was 90 percent Christian. Today they are literally disappearing. Among almost three million Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, only 50,000 Christians remain. Within the pre-1967 borders of Israel there are six million people; only 2 percent are Christians. In the city of Jerusalem the Christian population has declined from 45,000 in 1940 to a few thousand today. At the current rate of decline, the Christian population will be a fraction of one percent in the year 2020 and there will be no living church in the land of Christ. It is a cruel irony that the plight of indigenous Christians remained invisible to hundreds of thousands of Christians from Europe and North America-from mainstream churches and fringe groups-who descended on the Holy Land to mark the 2,000th anniversary of their faith.
If the Jewish or Muslim population of America or Western Europe were to start declining at a similar rate, there would be an outcry from their co-religionists all over the world. There would be government-funded programs to establish the causes and provide remedies. The endangered minority would be awarded instant victim status and be celebrated as such by the media and the academe. By contrast, when the President of the United States visited Jerusalem in October 1994, he was steps away from the most sacred Christian shrines but did not visit any of them. He did not meet a single representative of the Christian community that remained invisible to him. Eight years later, as busloads of American evangelicals still come to the Western Wall in pursuit of their dream of a rebuilt temple that will provide an eschatological shortcut through history, the remnants of that community are on the verge of extinction.
UNDER THE PROPHET’S SWORD
At the time of Muhammad’s birth Christianity had covered, outside Europe, the ancient Roman province of Asia extending across the Caucasus to the Caspian Sea, Syria with the Holy Land, and a wide belt of North Africa all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
Christians numbered over thirty million by A.D. 311, in spite of imperial persecution that often entailed martyrdom. Most of them lived not in Europe but in Asia Minor and Africa, the home of many famous Christian fathers and martyrs, starting with St. Paul of Tarsus, such as St. Augustine, Polycarp of Smyrna, Tertullian of Carthage, Clement of Alexandria, Chrysostom of Antioch, Origen of Tyre, or Cyprian of Carthage. The Seven Churches of Revelation were all in Asia Minor. (Smyrna was the last of these, and kept her light burning until 1922, when the Turks destroyed it, along with its Christian population.)
Between Muhammad’s death in 632 and the second siege of Vienna, just over a thousand years later, Islam expanded—at first rapidly, then intermittently—at the expense of everything and everyone in the way of its warriors. Unleashed as the militant faith of a nomadic war-band, Islam turned its boundary with the outside world into a perpetual war zone. When Muslims conquered the hitherto Christian lands of the Middle East in the 7th century the subject peoples were not immediately aware of the momentous quality of what had come to pass. For many dissident Christian groups that had been denounced as heretical in Europe, it seemed preferable at first to be ruled by largely absentee non-Christian overlords who cared only about taxes and did not feel strongly one way or another about the finer points of Christology.
Slaughters did occur in the initial wave of conquest: during the Muslim invasion of Syria in 634 thousands of Christians were massacred; in Mesopotamia between 635 and 642 monasteries were ransacked and the monks and villagers slain; while in Egypt the towns of Behnesa, Fayum, Nikiu and Aboit were put to the sword. The inhabitants of Cilicia were taken into captivity. In Armenia, the entire population of Euchaita was wiped out. The Muslim invaders sacked and pillaged Cyprus and then established their rule by a “great massacre.” In North Africa Tripoli was pillaged in 643 by Amr, who forced the Jews and Christians to hand over their women and children as slaves to the Arab army. They were told that they could deduct the value of their enslaved family from the poll-tax, the jizya. Carthage was razed to the ground and most of its inhabitants killed. Nevertheless, since dead bodies paid no taxes, while the captives were an economic asset, once the conquerors’ rule was firmly established a degree of normalcy was reestablished at the communal level.
For a long time the outcome of the early onslaught was in doubt. The first wave of attacks on Christendom almost captured Constantinople when that city was still far and away the important center of the Christian world. The Greeks stood their ground against Islam for another six centuries. But the Muslims also conquered Spain, and had they gone further the Kuran -in Gibbon’s memorable phrase-might have been “taught in the schools of Oxford” to a circumcised people: the Muslims crossed the Pyrenees, promising to stable their horses in St. Peter’s at Rome, but were at last defeated by Charles Martel at Tours, exactly a century after the prophet’s death. This defeat arrested their western conquests and saved Europe.
The last attempt in pre-postmodern times, going through the Balkans, took the Sultan’s janissaries more than halfway from Constantinople to Dover (1683). On both occasions the tide was checked, but its subsequent rolling back took decades, even centuries.
The Crusades were but a temporary setback to Islamic expansion, and the source of endless arguments that sought to establish some moral equivalence between Muslims and Christians at first, and eventually to elevate the former to victimhood and condemn the latter as aggressors. Far from being wars of aggression, the Crusades were a belated military response of Christian Europe to over three centuries of Muslim aggression against Christian lands, the systemic mistreatment of the indigenous Christian population of those lands, and harassment of Christian pilgrims. The postmodern myth, promoted by Islamic propagandists and supported by some self-hating Westerners-notably in the academe-claims that the peaceful Muslims, native to the Holy Land, were forced to take up arms in defense against European-Christian aggression. This myth takes AD 1095 as its starting point, but it ignores the preceding centuries, starting with the early caliphs, when Muslim armies swept through the Byzantine Empire, conquering about two-thirds of the Christian world of that time.
On the eve of the First Crusade the prominent Islamic scholar Abu Ala Al-Mawardi prepared the formal blueprint for the Islamic government, based on the Kuran, the Tradition, and the practice of the previous four centuries of conquest. It reiterated the division the world into the House of Islam, where umma has been established, and the House of War inhabited by Harbis, that is, the rest of the world. The House of Islam is in a state of permanent war with the lands that surround it; it can be interrupted by temporary truces, but peace will only come with the completion of global conquest. The progression was from Dar al Sulh-when the Muslims are a minority community, and need to adopt temporarily a peaceful attitude in order to deceive their neighbors (Mecca before Muhammad’s move to Medina is the model for which the Muslim diaspora in the Western world provides contemporary example)-to Dar al Harb, when the territory of the infidel becomes a war zone by definition. This happens as soon as the Muslim side feels strong enough to dispense with pretense.
The example was provided by Muhammad, who accepted a truce with Mecca when he was in an inferior position but broke it as soon as his recuperated strength allowed, and offered his pagan compatriots the choice of conversion or death. In Europe today the early signs of this forthcoming stage, amounting to a low-intensity civil war, are visible in ethnic disturbances in English and French cities, when young English-born Pakistanis or French-born North Africans venture out from their no-go areas. The final objective all along is Dar al Islam, where Muslims dominate and infidels are at best tolerated, at worst expelled or killed. This applies even to “the people of the book”:
Declare war upon those to whom the Scriptures were revealed but believe neither in God nor the Last Day, and who do not forbid that which God and His Apostles have forbidden, and who refuse to acknowledge the true religion until they pay the poll-tax without reservation and are totally subjugated. The Jews claim that Ezra is a son of God, and the Christians say, ‘the Messiah is a son of God.’ Those are their claims that do indeed resemble the sayings of the Infidels of Old. May God do battle with them!
The Muslims are obliged to wage struggle against unbelievers and may contemplate tactical ceasefires, but never its complete abandonment short of the unbelievers’ submission. This is the real meaning of Jihad. Indeed, in certain contexts and in certain times it may also signify “inner striving” and “spiritual struggle,” but to generations of Muslims before our time-and to an overwhelming majority of believers who are our contemporaries-the meaning of Jihad as the obligatory and permanent war against non-Muslims has not changed since Al-Mawardi’s time. At all times, according to Allah (i.e. Muhammad), “Those who believe fight in the cause of God.” For the fallen and victorious alike, the rewards are instant and plentiful:
Let those fight in the cause of God who barter the life of this world for that which is to come; for whoever fights on God’s path, whether he is killed or triumphs, we will give him a handsome reward.
The conquered peoples were “protected persons” only if they submitted to Islamic domination by a “Contract” (Dhimma), paid poll tax-jizya-and land tax-haraj-to their masters. Any failure to do so was the breach of contract, enabling the Muslims to kill or enslave them and confiscate their property. The cross could not be displayed in public, and the people of the book had to wear special clothing or a belt. Their men were not allowed to marry Muslim women, their slaves had to be sold to a Muslim if they converted, and they were not allowed to carry weapons. They had to take in Muslim travelers, especially soldiers on a campaign, but they had no right to the spoils of war. Since the income from the poll tax was mostly used to finance Jihad, Jews and Christians under Muslim rule were effectively forced to bankroll the subjugation of their co-religionists who were still free.
A host of additional petty rules were either enacted or adopted that were meant to humiliate non-Muslims. Some of them were summarized in the “Pact of Umar,” imposed upon the vanquished by Muhammad’s conquering successor and son-in-law, in which the Christians were forced to solemnly declare:
We shall not build in our cities or in their vicinity any new monasteries, churches, hermitages, or monks’ cells. We shall not restore, by night or by day, any of them that have fallen into ruin or which are located in the Muslims’ quarters. We shall keep our gates wide open for the passerby and travelers. We shall provide three days’ food and lodging to any Muslims who pass our way. We shall not shelter any spy in our churches or in our homes, nor shall we hide him from the Muslims. We shall not teach our children the Koran. We shall not hold public religious ceremonies. We shall not seek to proselytize anyone. We shall not prevent any of our kin from embracing Islam if they so desire. We shall show deference to the Muslims and shall rise from our seats when they wish to seat down… We shall not ride on saddles. We shall not wear swords or bear weapons of any kind, or ever carry them with us. We shall not sell wines. We shall clip the forelocks of our head. We shall not display our crosses or our books anywhere in the Muslims’ thoroughfares or in their marketplaces. We shall only beat our clappers in our churches very quietly. We shall not raise our voices when reciting the service in our churches, nor when in the presence of Muslims. Neither shall we raise our voices in our funeral processions. We shall not build our homes higher than theirs.
Umar told them that disobedience meant death: “Anyone who violates such terms will be unprotected. And it will be permissible for the Muslims to treat them as rebels or dissenters namely, it is permissible to kill them.”
Al-Mawdudi adds that “Muslims have the right to confiscate places of worship in such towns as have been taken by storm,” as has been done with St. John’s in Damascus, the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, and countless others. The precedent is valid to this day. That “protection” was also abolished if the dhimmis resisted Islamic law, gave allegiance to non-Muslim power, enticed a Muslim from his faith; harmed a Muslim or his property; or committed blasphemy. “Blasphemy” included denigration of the Prophet Muhammad, the Kuran, the Muslim faith, the shari’a by suggesting that it has a defect, and by refusing the decision of the ijma—the consensus of the Islamic community or umma.
The moment the “pact of protection” is abolished, the jihad resumes, which means that the lives of the dhimmis and their property are forfeited. To this day those Islamists in Egypt who kill and pillage Copts claim that these Christians have forfeited their “protection” because they do not pay the jizya. This relationship, typical of a war-treaty between the conqueror and the vanquished, remains valid for Muslims because it is fixed in theological texts.
Islamic scholars assert that an Islamic state is by its very nature bound to distinguish between Muslims and non-Muslims:
In an honest and upright manner, [it] not only publicly declares this state of affairs but also precisely states what rights will be conferred upon its non-Muslim citizens and which of them will not be enjoyed by them… A Muslim is not to be put to death for (murdering) one of the people of the covenant [a Jew or a Christian] or an unbeliever, but a free Muslim must be killed for a free Muslim, regardless of the race.
Discrimination was universal, not only legal. Non-Muslims could not be employed in the upper echelons of the civil service, and in educating or in any way exercising authority over Muslims. Umar, the second caliph, refused to allow an exceptionally able Christian to continue in his post of the tax accountant in Syria, and attacked one of his aides with a whip who employed a Christian to oversee the accounts of Iraq. As Islamic scholars state, “Some who were less qualified than the Christians were appointed; that would be more useful to Muslims for their religion and earthly welfare. A little of what is lawful will be abundantly blessed, and abundance of what is unlawful will be wasted.” No one but “a mature, sane Muslim should assume the office of judge” and no non-Muslim should ever “hold a position in which he can have power over a Muslim.”
The resulting inequality of rights in all domains between Muslims and dhimmis was geared to a steady erosion of the latter communities by the attrition and conversion. The Greek Orthodox were suspected of loyalty to the Patriarch and the Emperor in Constantinople, which was the main symbol of the Christian enemy until its fall in 1453. All of them were regarded as natural would-be allies of Christendom, an assumption as natural in view of the captives’ position under Islam as it was unjustified by their actual behavior. By the time Timur’s invasions at the end of the 14th century the Christians became a minority in their own lands where no other religion had been known until the Muslim conquest.
Millions of Christians from Spain, Egypt, Syria, Greece and Armenia; Latins and Slavs in southern and central Europe; as well as Jews, henceforth lived under shari’a, forming what Bat Ye’or calls the civilization of dhimmitude.8 They endured for centuries the lives of quiet desperation interrupted by the regular pangs of acute agony. In all these societies the dynamics of Islamization were at work, different in form, perhaps, between Spain and Syria, but always following the same pattern determined by the ideology and laws of jihad and shari’a.
The objective in all cases, and the outcome in most, was also the same: to transform native Christian majorities into religious minorities. The initial choice of the vanquished was not “Islam or death” but “Islam or super-tax”; but over time Shari’a ensured the decline of Eastern Christianity, the sapping of the captives’ vitality and capacity for renewal. Even in Moorish Spain oppression or anarchy were the rule, good order and civilized behavior a fondly remembered exception.
THE OTTOMAN NIGHTMARE
With the fall of Baghdad to the Tatars a sturdy race of converted barbarians saved the day for Islam. Arab historian Ibn Khaldoun hailed the rise of the Ottomans as the manifestation of Allah’s mercy “when the Abbasid state was drowned in decadence and luxury” and overthrown by the heathen Tatars “because the people of the faith had become deficient in energy and reluctant to rally in defense.” Allah “rescued the faith by reviving its dying breath and restoring the unity of the Muslims in the Egyptian realms.” The Ottoman Empire became the standard bearer of Islam, “one intake comes after another and generation follows generation, and Islam rejoices in the benefit which it gains through them, and the branches of the kingdom flourish with the freshness of youth.”
The bearers of the standard came to Anatolia at the turn of the second millennium as mercenary soldiers. Osman I, from whom the name Osmanli (“Ottoman”) is derived, proclaimed the independence of his small principality in Sogut near Bursa, on the border of the declining Byzantine Empire, in the early 13th century. Within a century the Osman Dynasty had extended its domains into an empire stretching from the Balkans to Mesopotamia. Its growth was briefly disrupted by the Tatar invasion and Sultan Bayezit’s defeat at the Battle of Ankara (1402). Under Mehmet I “the Restorer” the Turks were back in business and conquered a ruined and impoverished Constantinople under Mehmet II in 1453. For three days the conquerors indulged in murder, rape, and pillage.
Islam may have rejoiced, but there was precious little cause for rejoicing in Asia Minor and in the Balkans as further Christian communities came under Muslim rule. The conquered populations were subsequently subjected to the practice of devshirme. The annual “blood levy” of Christian boys in peacetime was a novelty even by the Arabian standards. In Arabia those families unable to pay the crushing jizya were obliged to hand over their children to be sold into slavery, and to deduct their value from their assessment. But Turkish “devshirme,” introduced by Sultan Orkhan (1326-1359), consisted of the periodic taking of a fifth of all Christian boys in the conquered territories:
On a fixed date, all the fathers were ordered to appear with their children in the public square. The recruiting agents chose the most sturdy and handsome children in the presence of a Muslim judge… The devshirme was an obvious infringement of the rights of the dhimmis-a reminder that their rights were far from secure, once and for all.
Military expeditions made forays into Christian villages. Enslavement of the subject peoples was thus legitimized even if they did not rebel against their conquerors. The practice left a deep scar on the collective memory of the Christians. And yet contemporary Turkish propagandists present the tragedy of the kidnapped boys and their families as the Ottoman equivalent of a full scholarship to Harvard or Yale: “From the poor families’ point of view, it was a great chance for their sons to be offered a high level of education especially in the palace which would provide good future prospects.”
The difference between the crusaders’ senseless debauchery and the Turks’ calculated barbarism is visible in the treatment of both subjects by a great painter. While acknowledging the shame of the “Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople,” through his 1840 painting of the same name, it was Eugene Delacroix’s depiction of a Turkish monstrosity that became the Guernica of the 19th century. “The Massacre at Chios: Greek families awaiting death or slavery” is a masterpiece of horror depicting the systematic extermination of the entire population of an Aegean island, graphically illustrated how being a Greek, Armenian, Serb, or indeed any other Christian in the Ottoman Empire meant living in daily fear of murder, rape, torture, kidnap of one’s children, slavery, and genocide.
As for the Jews expelled from Spain, they were invited by the Sultan not because of any motivations involving tolerance but to replace the vast swathes of Christians that had been eliminated, and thus maintain the area’s commerce and the Sultan’s tax base. While the Ottoman Jews were also subjected to discrimination and periods of cruel persecution, that they held a favored status within the Empire over the subhuman giaours (infidel Christian dogs) is as much a reason for celebration of the Ottomans’ “tolerance” as the fact that the Nazis were “tolerant” of occupied Slavs in comparison to their treatment of the Jews.
The weakening of Turkey enabled ascendant European powers first to take an interest in the destiny of the remaining Christian communities under Muslim rule, and next to try and alleviate their condition. The effort was conducted through bilateral agreements between the Ottomans and victorious European powers (Russia, Austria) or voluntary contacts with the friendly ones (Britain, France). Some improvement resulted from the granting of a Western style constitution in 1839, which eventually led to the abolishment of the old Millet system and at least nominal equalization of rights between the three main religious communities. In part these reforms were defensive in nature, as the Turkish government hoped to placate the Europeans and, by enacting desired legislation remove the grounds for interference. They did not have much effect on the ground, however.
The last century of Ottoman rule—from the defeat of Napoleon until the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War—witnessed a more thorough and tragic destruction of the Christian communities in the Middle East, Asia Minor, and the Caucasus, than at any prior period. Almost the entire Greek population of the island of Chios, tens of thousands of people, was massacred or enslaved in 1822 (as we have seen in reference to Delacroix). The following year the number of victims of the slaughter at Missolongi is known precisely: 8,750. Thousands of Assyrians were murdered in the province of Mossul in 1950, and in 1860 some 12,000 Christians were put to the sword in Lebanon. The butchery of 14,700 Bulgarians in 1876 was almost routine by Turkish standards. At the town of Batal five thousand out of seven thousand inhabitants were murdered, the fact that was unsuccessfully suppressed by the British government of Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli but nevertheless made public by private journalists.
In many cases the massacres of Christians resulted from local Muslim revolts against any decree granting them greater rights than those that were regarded as divinely ordained by Caliph Umar. At the same time the great Western powers, and Great Britain in particular, supported the Turkish subjugation of Christian Europeans on the grounds that their empire was a “stabilizing force” and a counterweight against Austria and Russia. The scandalous alliance with Turkey against Russia in the Crimean War reflected a pernicious frame of mind that has manifested itself more recently in the overt, covert, or de facto support of certain Western powers for the Muslim side in Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Chechnya, Cyprus, Sudan, East Timor, and Kashmir.
From many anti-Christian pogroms in the 19th century the “Bulgarian Atrocities” are remembered because they provoked a cry of indignation from Gladstone (to the chagrin of Disareli), who asserted, “No government ever has so sinned, none has proved itself so incorrigible in sin, or which is the same, so impotent in reformation.” But Gladstone’s opponents, the advocates of Turkophile policy at Westminster, went beyond Realpolitik in arguing for the lifeline to the Sick Man at the Bosphorus: they devised the theory that the Ottoman were in reality agreeable and tolerant, and only need a friendly, supportive nudge to become just, or almost, like other civilized people:
If, in the more remote past, Bourbon France had made common cause with the Sublime Porte (the scandalous union of the Lily and the Crescent) against Habsburg Austria, the arrangement at least had the virtue of cynical self-interest: Catholic France was hardly expected to praise the sultan’s benevolence as part of the bargain. But by the 1870s, Disraeli’s obsession with thwarting Russian ambitions in the Balkans prompted the Tories’ unprecedented depiction of Turkey as tolerant and humane even in the face of the Bulgarian atrocities. Even so, Britain’s Christian conscience, prodded by Gladstone’s passionate words, was sufficient to bring down Beaconsfield’s government in 1880.
In 1876, Gladstone told the Ottomans: “You shall retain your titular sovereignty, your empire shall not be invaded, but never again, as the years roll in their course, so far as it is in our power to determine, never again shall the hand of violence be raised by you, never again shall the flood gates of lust be opened to you.” This was not to be. Regular slaughters of Armenians in Bayazid (1877), Alashgurd (1879), Sassun (1894), Constantinople (1896), Adana (1909) and Armenia itself (1895-96) claimed a total of two hundred thousand lives, but they were only rehearsals for the genocide of 1915. The slaughter of Christians in Alexandria in 1881 was only a rehearsal for the artifical famine induced by the Turks in 1915-16 that killed over a hundred thousand Maronite Christians in Lebanon and Syria. So imminent and ever-present was the peril, and so fresh the memory of these events in the minds of the non-Muslims, that illiterate Christian mothers dated events as so many years before or after “such and such a massacre.”14 Across the Middle East, the bloodshed of 1915-1922 finally destroyed ancient Christian communities and cultures that had survived since Roman times-groups like the Jacobites, Nestorians, and Chaldaeans. The carnage peaked after World War I ended.
DUSK OF LEVANTINE CHRISTIANITY
“The attitude of the Muslims toward the Christians and the Jews is that of a master towards slaves,” reported the British Vice Consul in Mosul, 1909, “whom he treats with a certain lordly tolerance so long as they keep their place. Any sign of pretension to equality is promptly repressed.” It is ironic but unsurprising that the persecution of Christians culminated in their final expulsion from the newly founded Republic of Turkey in the early 1920s under Mustapha Kemal known as Attaturk, the same man who also abolished the Caliphate, and separated the mosque and state. The fact that this ethnic cleansing was carried out under the banner of resurgent Turkish nationalism, rather than Ottoman imperialism or Islamic intolerance, mattered but little to the victims. The end result was the same: churches demolished or converted into mosques, and communities that used to worship in them dispersed or dead.
The burning of Smyrna and the massacre and scattering of its three hundred thousand Christian inhabitants is one of the great crimes of all times. It marked the end of the Greek civilization in Asia Minor which at its height had also given the world the immortal cities of Pergamus, Philadelphia, and Ephesus. On the eve of its destruction Smyrna was a bustling port and commercial center. The seafront promenade, next to foreign consulates, boasted hotels modelled after Nice and elegant cafes. Yellowing postcards show its main business thoroughfare, the Rue Franque, with the great department and wholesale stores, crowded by the ladies in costumes of the latest fashion. American consul-general remembered a busy social life that included teas, dances, musical afternoons, games of tennis and bridge, and soirees given in the salons of the rich Armenians and Greeks:
In no city in the world did East and West mingle physically in so spectacular a manner as at Smyrna, while spiritually they always maintained the characteristics of oil and water. One of the common sights of the streets was the long camel caravans, the beasts passing in single file, attached to ropes and led by a driver on a donkey in red fez and rough white-woolen cloak. These caravans came in from the interior laden with sacks of figs, licorice root, raisins, wood, tobacco and rugs. While the foreigner is apt to be afraid of these ungainly beasts, one often saw a Greek or Armenian woman in high-heeled boots and elegant costume, stoop and lift the rope between two camels and pass under. At the north end of the city is a railroad station called “Caravan Bridge”, because near by is an ancient stone bridge of that name over which the camel caravans arriving from as far away as Bagdad and Damascus, used to pass.
Sporadic killings of Christians, mostly Armenians, started immediately the Turks conquered it on September 9, 1922, and within days escalated to mass slaughter. It did not “get out of hand,” however; the Turkish military authorities deliberately escalated it. Metropolitan Chrysostomos remained with his flock. “It is the tradition of the Greek Church and the duty of the priest to stay with his congregation,” he replied to those begging him to flee. The Muslim mob fell upon him, uprooted his eyes and, as he was bleeding, dragged him by his beard through the streets of the Turkish quarter, beating and kicking him. Every now and then, when he had the strength to do so, he would raise his right hand and blessed his persecutors. A Turk got so furious at this gesture that he cut off the Metropolitan’s hand with his sword. He fell to the ground, and was hacked to pieces by the angry mob.
The carnage culminated in the burning of Smyrna, which started on September 13 when the Turks put the Armenian quarter to torch and the conflagration engulfed the city. The remaining inhabitants were trapped at the seafront, from which there was no escaping the flames on one side, or Turkish bayonets on the other, but the spectacle remained invisible to the “Christian” West:
The Turks were glutting freely their racial and religious lust for slaughter, rape and plunder within a stone’s throw of the Allied and American battle-ships because they had been systematically led to believe that they would not be interfered with. A united order from the commanders or from any two of them-one harmless shell thrown across the Turkish quarter-would have brought the Turks to their senses. And this, the presence of those battle-ships in Smyrna harbor, in the year of our Lord 1922, impotently watching the last great scene in the tragedy of the Christians of Turkey, was the saddest and most significant feature of the whole picture.
Elsewhere in the Muslim world following the end of World War I, and notably in the newly-independent or semi-dependent Arab states, European presence meant that it was no longer possible to enforce more drastic forms of discriminatory practices against the surviving Christian population. But this was merely a temporary improvement, not a permanent solution of their position:
But at the very time that Europe achieved its military and geopolitical advantage, the moral and religious decline that culminated in the autogenocides of 1914 and 1939 had become evident. Having found in their grasp places their Crusader predecessors had only dreamed of reclaiming Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople—effete and demoralized European governments made no effort to re-christianize them and, within a few decades, meekly abandoned them.
One notable exception to a brief era of imposed tolerance, even in the period of Western domination between two world wars, was Saudi Arabia, which remains to this day a fortress of stern Wahabbism, as determined to convert the western world to Islam as it is to decapitate any one of its own subjects who violates the tenets of the Faith.
ARAB NATIONALISM MEETS ISLAM
The perceived slight of infidel presence and direct or indirect dominance in the Arab world has created the backlash in the form of Islamic religious revival. Notably in the aftermath of the Arab defeats of 1967 and 1973, Christians were subjected to new restrictions. In Egypt the construction of new churches was obstructed, a quota system was instituted regarding university admissions, Christians were barred from high government positions, and they were even accused of complicity with Zionism on the grounds of conciliatory statements from the Vatican about the Jews. The process of Islamic resurgence reached a new peak with the fall of the Shah and the Islamic revolution in Iran 1979As late as 1955, Istanbul’s Christians suffered the worst race riot in Europe since Kristallnacht. Further east, in Asia Minor and the Lepanto, some Christian communities survived but their numbers are a pale shadow of what they were only two centuries ago. Entire peoples have been obliterated since that time.
Egypt, supposedly a friend of the United States and the second largest recipient of the U.S. taxpayers’ largesse, failed to convict a single murderer following the January 2000 massacre of 21 Coptic Christians in the village of Al-Kosheh, 300 miles south of Cairo. The court convicted only four of 96 defendants, and only on lesser charges. All four men convicted were Muslims; not one was convicted for murder, but two for “accidental homicide and illegal possession of a weapon” and the other two were each sentenced to one year in prison for damaging a private car.18 From the outset the government of Egypt had sought to cover up the gravity of the case and to avoid the political minefield of punishing Muslims for the murder of Christians. After the verdict Egypt’s Christians may well have cause to fear for their lives.
Further up the Mediterranean coast, just how many Christians remain in Lebanon is in dispute: there are no official population figures. The last census was taken in 1932. The reluctance to complete a new one illustrates how explosive an issue population figures become when so many sects vie for power. It is widely believed that no more than one million residents, or 25 percent of the country, are Christian. This figure is less than half of the nearly 60 percent majority of the early 1970s. Among Christians, Maronites—who are in union with Rome—represent roughly two-thirds of the total. They take their name from a 4th century Syrian monk, St. Maron. The next two largest denominations are Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic, and they are also in rapid numerical decline.
The Maronite patriarch, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, says that most Maronites consider themselves Phoenicians, whose civilization dominated the eastern Mediterranean for centuries, not Arabs. “The Christian church has been here from the dawn of Christianity,” says Cardinal Sfeir. “But what we see today is very sad for us. We see the Christian majority shrink to a minority. We fear it will shrink even more.”
The Vatican acknowledges the Maronite flight as a profound threat to the future of the Catholic Church in the Mideast. Rome convened a synod on Lebanon prior to a visit by Pope John Paul II there in May of 1997. The council created a mechanism for reconciliation between Christians and Muslims, which church officials consider the first step to rebuilding the country and staunching the outflow of Christians.
It is remarkable that in this age of rampant victimology the persecutions of Christians by Muslims has become a taboo subject in the Western academe. A complex web of myths, outright lies, and deliberately imposed silence dominates it. Thirteen centuries of religious discrimination, causing suffering and death of countless millions, have been covered by the myth of Islamic “tolerance” that is as hurtful to the few descendants of the victims as it is useless as a means of appeasing latter-day jihadists. The silence and lies, perpetrated by the Western academe and media class, facilitates the perpetuation of religious discrimination and persecution even today.
The myth of tolerant Islam did not die with the collapse of the Turkish Empire. Rather it took another form: that of the national Arab movement, which promoted an Arab society where Christians and Muslims would live in perfect harmony. Once again this was the fabrication of European politicians and writers. In the same way as the myth of the Ottoman tolerance was created to block the independence of the Balkan nations, so the Arab multi-religious fraternity was an argument to destroy the national liberation of non-Arab peoples of the Middle East: Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, Maronites, and Jews.19 The exact meaning of its “defensive” character is provided by the Traditions: Jihad “has its material and moral functions, i.e. self-preservation and the preservation of the moral order in the world… The sword has not been used recklessly by the Muslims; it has been wielded purely with humane feelings in the wider interest of humanity.”20Those “wider interests” have been defined by Allah: “fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them and seize them, beleaguer them and lie in wait for them in every way.” The famous Surra of the Sword leaves no room for ambiguity: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day. Nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Apostle, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth (even if they are) of the People of the Book. Until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” This abrogates the often-quoted “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error.”
Recent attempts by Islamic apologists to assure the West that only the “spiritual” definition of Jihad really applies amount to distorting history and brushing up centuries of very physical “striving” by generations of Muslim warriors. It is true that “Muslims are called by the Qura’an and the example of the Prophet of Islam to strive for Peace through all available means,” but the “Peace” that is called upon believers to implement is impossible unless it is established under Islamic rule.24 The author quite correctly admits that “in Qura’anic terms, peace does not only mean absence of war, it is also a positive state of security in which one is free from anxiety or fear.” He does not specify, however, that this state of security is only available in Dar el-Islam, once Islam defeats its enemies and conquers their lands. This is exactly the same definition of “peace” as that used by the Soviet empire in the period of its external expansion (1944-1979): it is the objective, but it is fully attainable only after the defeat of “imperialism as the final stage of capitalism” and the triumph of the vanguard of the proletariat in the whole world.
What matters to non-Muslims today, and to non-Communists 60 years ago, is not the metaphysical meaning of “Peace” within the community of the believers, but the consequences of their definition for the rest of us. Those who invented Jihad in the 7th century intended it for particular purposes and are the authors of the concept and as such, they should be respected intellectually. “If some of their heirs wish to change the meaning of what was normal then, they should say so, and act upon it. In the Christian world, modern Christians outlawed Crusading; they did not rewrite history to legitimize themselves. Those who believe that the Jihad-Holy War is a sin today must have the courage to delegitimize it and outlaw it as well.”
Islam is and always has been a religion of intolerance, a jihad without an end. Despite the way the apologists would like to depict it, Islam was spread by the sword and has been maintained by the sword throughout its history. William Muir, one of the greatest orientalists of all times (1819-1905), summed it up at the end of a long and distinguished career when he declared his conviction “that the sword of Muhammad and the Qur’an are the most fatal enemies of civilisation, liberty and truth which the world has yet known.” They have combined to create the Arab empire, once described as “an unmitigated cultural disaster parading as God’s will,” but parading, in its modern metamorphosis, as the creed of equality:
This fiction has been presented as a fact with an unparalleled skill. In fact, the Prophet Muhammad divided humanity into two sections, the Arabs and the non-Arabs. According to this categorisation, the Arabs are the rulers and the non-Arabs are to be ruled through the yoke of Arab cultural imperialism: Islam is the means to realise this dream because its fundamentals raise superiority of Arabia sky-high, inflicting a corresponding inferiority on the national dignity of its non-Arab followers. From the Arabian point of view, this scheme looks marvellous, magnificent and mystifying . . . yet under its psychological impact the non-Arab Muslims rejoice in self-debasement, hoping to be rewarded by the Prophet with the luxuries of paradise. The Islamic love of mankind is a myth of even greater proportions. Hatred of non-Moslems is the pivot of Islamic existence. It not only declares all dissidents as the denizens of hell but also seeks to ignite a permanent fire of tension between Moslems and non-Moslems; it is far more lethal than Karl Marx’s idea of social conflict which he hatched to keep his theory alive.
The Tradition is surprisingly modern when it describes wars of global conquests, slaughter and enslavement of countless millions as an activity with a “moral function” undertaken “in the interest of the humanity.” Never are people killed more easily, and in greater numbers, than when it is done for their own good. The jihadi campaigns fought by the Muslims in Spain, France, India, Iran, throughout the Balkans, or at the very gates of Vienna, were as defensive as Stalin’s winter war with Finland, or the “counterattack” against Poland by his illustrious German colleague.
The only distinction between Islamic terror through the centuries—against Medinan Jews, Arabian pagans, Greeks, Serbs, Persians, Hindus, Armenians, African Blacks, and countless others—and its 20th century totalitarian counterparts, as practiced in the workhouses of the Final Solution and the Gulag, concerned methods. Unlike Arabs, Turks, and their local collaborators through the centuries, the mass murderers in European totalitarian powers adopted the “style” of a developed industrial state. Their terror relied on complex equipment and intricate administrative network, while Islamic terror was “primitive” and “traditional.” Nazis and Stalinists relied on coordinated plans, orders, reports, invoices, lists, cost-benefit calculations, statistics. On the other hand, from Muhammad and Usman to Abdul Hamid, Mustafa Kemal, and the Sudanese Army, the orders have been mostly oral, the apparatus of terror arbitrary, the selection of targets and methods of killing sometimes random. Nazi and Stalinist terror was for the most part depersonalized and bureaucratic, it was cold, abstract, objective; the warriors for Islam were direct, personal and “warm.” Their terror was often directed against their first neighbors; it was passionate and subjective. The terror of the Reichkommissars and Politkommissars, with its somberness, discipline, bureaucratic pedantry, was “puritanical,” while the Muslims in all ages and locations indulge literally in orgies of violence.
The Malaysian Islamist leader Anwar Ibrahim was unintentionally frank when he declared “We are not socialist, we are not capitalist, we are Islamic.” The differentiation is vis-а-vis rival political systems and ideologies, not religions:
While fundamentalist Islam differs in its details from other utopian ideologies, it closely resembles them in scope and ambition. Like communism and fascism, it offers a vanguard ideology; a complete program to improve man and create a new society; complete control over that society; and cadres ready, even eager, to spill blood.
In all cases the lust for other people’s lands, possessions, women, and sheer power over other people’s lives have been justified by a self-justifying ideology that perverts meanings of words, stunts the sense of moral distinctions, and destroys souls.
Fourteen centuries after Muhammad the real question for the free world—and the term is more apt now than it had been at any time during the Cold War—the real question is not “why does a Muslim wage jihad.” In a sane world such a question would concern nobody but social anthropologists. It is “what makes a jihad-minded Muslim hate the West so much that he is prepared to kill any number of Westerners, and himself for good measure, to make that point.” It is certainly not jazz and rock and roll that he hates, as Orianna Fallaci has noted, not the usual stereotypes like chewing gum, hamburgers, Broadway or Hollywood. The “tangible” objects of that resentful hate are the skyscrapers, the science, the technology, the jumbo jets. Accustomed as the Westerners are to the double-cross, blinded as they are by myopia, they’d better understand that a war of religion is in progress:
A war that they call Jihad. Holy War. A war that might not seek to conquer our territory, but that certainly seeks to conquer our souls. That seeks the disappearance of our freedom and our civilization. That seeks to annihilate our way of living and dying, our way of praying or not praying, our way of eating and drinking and dressing and entertaining and informing ourselves. You don’t understand or don’t want to understand that if we don’t oppose them, if we don’t defend ourselves, if we don’t fight, the Jihad will win. And it will destroy the world that for better or worse we’ve managed to build, to change, to improve, to render a little more intelligent, that is to say, less bigoted—or even not bigoted at all. And with that it will destroy our culture, our art, our science, our morals, our values, our pleasures.
Islam, a religion born of the desert, has created jihad and remains defined by jihad, its most important concept for the rest of the world. Through jihad Islam has emerged as a quasi-religious ideology of cultural and political imperialism that knows no natural limits to itself. Unlike the “just war” theory originated in Christian thinking, which has evolved into a secular concept instituted in international laws and codes, including the Geneva conventions, jihad is inherently religious as well as political: Islamic normative thinking does not separate the two. It has emerged from the desert and it perpetually creates new mental, psychic, spiritual, and literal deserts of whatever it touches.
Thursday, May 30, 2002
Foreign commentators greeted with skepticism the warnings by Bush administration officials that renewed terrorist attacks against the United States were imminent and unavoidable, suspecting them of hedging their bets in the face of allegations that the Administration had not taken seriously the warnings of Usama Bin Laden’s plans prior to September 11. The news of one such warning, both detailed and credible, has inexplicably failed to find its way into the U.S. media. On November 22 of last year Agence France Presse reported that a Moroccan agent by the name of Hassan Dabou, who had successfully infiltrated Al-Qaeda, informed his superiors several weeks before September 11 that the group was preparing large-scale attacks in New York using hijacked planes as a weapon. Dabou named the World Trade Center as a likely target. The Moroccan services had in their turn passed this information to the U.S. intelligence.
The story made its solitary English-language appearance in the International Herald Tribune on May 21 (“The Road to September 11,” by John K. Cooley). Noting that the Dabou case has met a wall of official silence ever since last November, the article revealed that the Jordanian intelligence service, the General Intelligence Division (GID), had also provided detailed warning to Washington of what was about to happen:
Sometime in the summer of 2001 GID headquarters in Amman, Jordan, made a communications intercept deemed so important that King Abdullah’s men relayed its contents to Washington, probably through the CIA station at the U.S. Embassy in Amman. To be doubly sure that the message got through, it was passed through an Arab intermediary to an Iranian-born German intelligence agent who was visiting Amman at the time. The text stated clearly that a major attack was planned inside the continental United States. It said aircraft would be used.
The code name of the operation was given in Arabic, Al Ourush al Kabir, “The Big Wedding.” Cooley notes that when it became clear that the information about the intercept was embarrassing to Bush administration officials, who had initially denied that there had been any such warnings before September 11, senior Jordanian officials refused to discuss the issue.
Writing in the French daily Liberation (May 21) Jacques Amalric noted that such revelations are additionally embarrassing to the Administration “because it has become obvious to everyone that the war in Afghanistan has not put an end to the al-Qaida network” and that it is legitimate to wonder whether Mr. Bush “was less surprised by the 9/11 attacks than he pretended to be.” In Germany the Sueddeutsche Zeitung editorialist (May 23) sarcastically noted that, according to U.S. agencies, “a new terrorist attack could hit New York-but then perhaps not; the danger of an attack is not higher than before September 11, but it is not smaller either”:
Why these diffuse warnings, why this hysteria right now? The reason is that the U.S. government is trying to preclude accusations of carelessness, and prevent the political nightmare that Congress has been promoting for days The president is on the defensive. But the apocalyptic warners in the government will probably soon regret their over-zealousness. Those who constantly cry wolf eventually will no longer be taken seriously Perhaps they should dedicate their attention to their internal communication and organization before they constantly sound the alarm bells at home and in the world.”
Two days earlier columnist Stefan Kornelius declared in the same paper that when Vice President Cheney warns of an al-Qaida attack “today, in a week, or in a year,” then he either knows much and should take concrete action against a threat, or he knows little and only wants to keep awake the sense of a terrorist threat among the people:
This promotes panic and does not satisfy the need for information if the second most powerful man of the United States develops scenarios for future attacks but at the same time concedes his helplessness to prevent them. But Cheney’s remarks have another effect: They force domestic critics of George W. Bush’s anti-terror policy to remain silent, because, in situations of national emergency, it is not appropriate to burden the country with petty-minded political bickering. The single-minded focus of the Bush administration on domestic politics forces us to assume this to be the case. America, however, would be better off if the government reacted with greater imagination to the threat. Neither the chaos of departments and agencies in Washington nor classic warfare will be enough to defeat al-Qaida.
Cheney’s warning infuriated Antiwar.com’s Justin Raimondo:
There’s that word again: it’s “inevitable,” they tell us. The Marxists once touted the inevitability of a Communist victory, but isn’t it strange that the last superpower left standing trumpets the inevitability of a terrible defeat? I don’t want to be in the position of telling the warmongering idiots who have seized control of our country how to conduct their permanent “war on terrorism.” But isn’t their rhetoric what we used to call “defeatist”? During the last world war–once America got dragged in–it seems to me that any American citizen, let alone a public official, who said that Hitler’s air force would soon pulverize New York City would be taken out and shot. As well they ought to be. What is the point of demoralizing the American people, having them so frightened, so ready to believe the worst that they can hardly think? Think (if you still can) of the power-mad fools who rule us–vainglorious demagogues who have overthrown the republic, and proclaimed Washington the capital of a world empire–and the question answers itself.
In Russia Semyon Lang noted in Noviye Izvestiya (May 21) made a similar point by saying that “it is not just Bush’s second term in office which is at stake. It is the prospects for U.S. special services to retrieve their very extensive powers and, by extension, the establishment of supreme executive power at the head of a system known in other countries as controlled democracy September 11 has resulted in restrictions on Americans’ civil liberties unheard-of in peacetime.” The same theme was picked up by the leading daily in the Arab world, Al Ahram. In an editorial on May 22 its editor-in-chief Ibrahim Nafie wrote that in the aftermath of September 11 the U.S. resorted to “using laws not used in over two centuries.”
The Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg reflected the consensus of most European media by declaring on May 21 that the Bush team’s PR offensive had only one domestic goal: to get a breather at home: “Eight months after September 11, the bipartisan consensus in questions of domestic security has vanished. President Bush is now on the defensive.” The influential Frankfurter Rundschau opined, on May 17, that “the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon did not happen quite as unexpectedly as has been proclaimed since then”:
It would indeed be strange if the CIA, which had been following the activities of Bin Laden and his network since 1998, did not do anything [about the collected information.] That would be more than bureaucratic mismanagement. It is also odd that the CIA claims to have known relevant names in the summer of 2001 and still had not been able to present legally convincing evidence. There seemed to be a lot of suspicion and circumstantial evidence, but none of it was enough for prevention or prosecution. And yet it was deemed sufficient for a war in Afghanistan with unavoidable collateral damage. An explanation would be in order.
In the same vein, in Turkey commentator Sami Kohen concluded in the Milliyet (May 23) that “the Bush administration has begun to disseminate news of terrorist alarms to compensate for its failure to evaluate intelligence reports properly prior to September 11 attacks.” In Italy La Repubblica noted on May 17 that the alarms seek to deflect the accusation that the Bush team was “asleep at the wheel”: “The defense that the White House tried to put up was predictable and, at the same time, terribly embarrassing.” La Stampa of Turin on May 22 also detected domestic politics behind the fresh round of terror fever: “Such tense atmosphere makes it more difficult for the Democrats to launch a political offensive and press for the establishment of an independent commission of enquiry to examine White House responsibility for failing to prevent the September 11 attacks.” On May 17 this paper carried a report by its New York correspondent Maurizio Molinari who noted that “a front against the president is opening among the Republicans as well. The leader of this front is Richard Shelby, Deputy Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who for months has advocated the need for the resignation of the CIA director over his failure to prevent the attacks and now has sufficient arguments to succeed.”
In Australia the Sydney Morning Herald declared on May 23 that “it is fair to ask why President George Bush and his lieutenants have chosen just now deliberately to raise fear levels”:
particularly when, by the administration’s account, the threat is unspecific, the evidence shaky, and the possible targets and timing of an attack are unknown. The answer lies partly in domestic politics… By refocusing public attention on future threats, the administration hopes both to regain the initiative and to ensure that, should there be an attack, it cannot again be accused of not sounding a warning. It must also hope that, with Mr. Bush having just begun a visit to European capitals, the latest terrorism alarm will counter growing uneasiness within allied governments over his combative and unilateralist ways.
In Malaysia an editorial in the pro-government New Straits Times claimed on May 22 that “the U.S. administration appears to be overcompensating for the rising odor of suspicion” that it might have been napping in the weeks prior to the September 11 attacks:
With the benefit of partisan-enhanced hindsight, these fault-finders are looking for a failure to ‘connect dots’ that might or might not have been there. Nevertheless, even the tiniest hint that the president might have done nothing to avert the worst terror attack in U.S. history hurts–although, at the time, a lunge at the panic button would have required the kind of paranoia that might not have deemed Bush fit for office. Now, however, paranoia has its uses. The best way to make sure that no guilt attaches for a future incident is to anticipate one now with a degree of certainty that covers all bases. Vice-President Dick Cheney’s warning that another attack on the United States was “not a matter of if, but when” is a political strategy to excuse the past by scaring up support for what is being done to make up for it. Soon after September 11, the CIA and FBI sounded the same alarm to shift some attention from their immediate culpability. It hasn’t worked. There have been undeniable lapses in U.S. intelligence. But these must be rectified in the full glare of scrutiny, not behind a coating of teflon designed to slip off blame.
As Alan Bock concluded in his antiwar.com column (“The Real Failures,” May 21), more important than the allocation of blame for ignored warnings is the deeper significance of the failure to act:
There’s an even deeper question that might lead some members of the Bush administration to be defensive. The 9/11 attacks revealed weaknesses in the whole command-and-control hierarchical state structure our leaders are always telling us is the only thing standing between us and chaos The attack was a demonstration of what might be called the downside of what seems to be an irreversible trend. Social systems are moving from centralized to decentralized structures, from vertical to horizontal networks of communication. However we might hate to admit it, al Qaida (while sharing some attributes of old-fashioned political conspiratorial organizations like communist cells) is a decentralized, non-state structure. As such, it has certain advantages over a pyramidal structure, as it demonstrated So now we’ll have congressional hearings with too much grandstanding and too much politicization. Perhaps we’ll even get an independent commission. Such efforts can be useful in digging out and publicizing information. If they don’t include the option of streamlining and focusing intelligence services rather than padding them, however–and if they don’t invite discussion about the more fundamental shortcomings of top-down institutions–they will be of little use.
Thursday, May 16, 2002
Disagreements and even open disputes between Washington and its European allies and partners over trade, Iraq, and the Middle East are increasingly reflected in the European media. Especially on the Middle East the Europeans contrast the pro-Israeli position of Washington with their own more balanced approach. Several European papers have taken note of the tendency of influential circles in the U.S. to interpret such even-handedness as European traditional anti-Semitism. The fact that crude anti-Europeanism on the American neo-conservative right exceeds anti-Americanism on the European left is resented and regretted.
According to Bronwen Maddox, the foreign affairs editor of the Times (May 2), European leaders’ greatest problem at the Washington summit was that the Continent is suddenly accused across much of America of being anti-Semitic:
The past fortnight’s comment in the [American] media and politics have been so poisonous, so homogenous, and so voluminous, that it amounts to a sharp change of national mood, and is a real diplomatic problem of its own. Blame Le Pen for triggering it, although he is not the only thing that has given the new mood its furious voice. The French elections are coupled in every comment with the burning of synagogues in France and Europe’s perceived sympathy for the Palestinians and Yassir Arafat.
The previous day Maddox wrote that of the three disputes set to dominate the summit in Washington between the U.S. and the EU “Israel is the most bitter and the most intractable, but there is also a real danger of wide and spreading trade war. ”
The tone on the Left was accurately reflected in the Guardian on May 15, with Andrew Murray’s op-ed entitled “The Axis of Nonsense”:
Washington’s war is going a la carte. Each passing week is placing both new targets and new justifications for attack on the menu for military action. There is now not the slightest pretence that the scope of the US’s regime-change wishlist is in any way tethered to the attacks of September 11. Now the administration’s planning has moved “beyond the axis of evil”, in the words of John Bolton, one of the creatures of the night occupying sub-cabinet rank in the Bush regime. The under-secretary of state identified Syria, Libya and, above all, Cuba as states that needed to come round to Washington’s view of the world before Washington comes round to them, guns blazing. Optimistic Europeans have clung to the illusion that September 11 would help Bush rediscover the rest of the world. Even governments and peoples who may admire the US economic and political system increasingly fear the brazen lawlessness of this administration, and worry at the implications of the endless war, with its ever-expanding list of governments to be ousted.
“Insensitivity in Washington and disunity in Brussels have damaged transatlantic trust. A war with Iraq would harm it further,” was the headline of on op-ed piece by Philip Stephens, editor of the Financial Times (May 10)
America’s self-confidence is Europe’s frustration. The transatlantic relationship is now viewed by Europeans with irritation and gloom… Enlargement, the Europeans know, will dilute NATO’s military identity. The U.S. does not mind. The military side is still useful but NATO’s relevance for the U.S. is as a security organisation that entrenches its interests across a widening expanse of Europe. The U.S. is happy to belong when it can lead or control; and determined to opt out of commitments that challenge its freedom of action. A looming confrontation with Iraq threatens to deepen the divide.
Three days earlier, FT warned in an editorial that the U.S. and the Europeans “need to get their collective acts together”:
Many Europeans see America as blindly unilateralist, determined to find muscular military solutions to complex situations, whether in Afghanistan or Iraq. For their part, many Americans now feel clear moral justification in the war against terrorism. They see Europeans as half-hearted and, with far-right movements such as the National Front in France apparently seeing some political success, they believe there has been a revival of anti-semitism in Europe, leading to hostility to Israel in its own war against terrorists. Both sides are guilty of oversimplifying the political processes on the other side of the ocean. The Middle East is not the only point of friction. The future of the NATO alliance, the most powerful manifestation of transatlantic cooperation, is another. Its military arm is increasingly irrelevant. Enlargement will make it more cumbersome.
What does not help at all is for either side to claim a monopoly on the moral high ground, the FT editorialist concluded. Writing in the same paper on May 1, William Wallace, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, warned that neither side should underestimate the current deterioration in political relations across the Atlantic:
European leaders approach these exchanges with an overloaded agenda, against the background of declining respect within the U.S. for European opinion and rising criticism within European media of U.S. policies. One immediate cause of increased mutual disrespect is the divergence of Americans and European perspectives on the Arab-Israeli conflict, the proclaimed war on terrorism, and the ‘axis of evil’ and what to do about Saddam Hussein… Long-term differences flow from the Bush administration’s commitment to a more assertive and less multilateral . . . foreign policy and from disagreements about the management of the world economy. Europeans have been shaken by the vigor with which Americans denounce their governments as ‘appeasers’ and ‘whiners’; Americans protest at the barrage of ‘unconstructive’ criticism of U.S. leadership that they face. Anti-Europeanism on the American right now matches anti-Americanism on the European left… Private diplomacy cannot succeed against a rising tide of public distrust and mutual incomprehension.
In a similar vein, Judy Dempsey and Richard Wolfe summarized the state of trans-Atlantic play in the Independent (May 2):
Once again, the U.S. sees itself involved in a moral battle—the war against terrorism. And once again, European questioning of its fervour and tactics have provoked resentment in Washington… For the Europeans, the issue is clear. The U.S. cannot win the battle alone, either in Afghanistan or if it chooses to strike against Saddam Hussein… But in the U.S., European opposition appears part of a broader cultural and political divergence from U.S. values… In Congress, there is an emerging consensus among Democrats and Republicans that Europe’s opposition to U.S. policy in the Middle East is at least partly motivated by anti-semitism… There is a looming trade war over Washington’s recent decision to impose heavy tariffs on steel imports to protect its struggling steel industry… There is European disappointment too over what is seen as U.S. unilateralism on global issues… Two fundamental tensions remain. The first is that the Europeans, scarred by centuries of war, tend to believe in exhausting all the instruments of diplomacy before bowing to U.S. military pressure… Second, the Europeans believe that Washington now interprets foreign policy and shapes alliances against the background of September 11… In the U.S., administration officials find it hard to believe that Europeans still care about environmental protocols and genetically modified food at a time when the world is threatened by terrorists seeking nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
The Guardian turned its ire on increased subsidies to American Farmers (May 10):
George Bush came to office committed to free trade. But his claims seem about to be exposed once more as a fraud, only weeks after his action to protect American steel. It is indefensible to give billions more to rich farmers while poverty afflicts so many in a time of plenty. This is not just bad economics, it is bad politics. Beyond America’s borders, the move will be viewed as another example of the U.S. acting unilaterally. Washington used to flaunt its international commitment to begin phasing out farming subsidies. By increasing them, Bush damages more than his own credibility. He also undermines European attempts to reform the common agricultural policy. After all, if America can renege on its undertaking to open markets, why should Europe not follow?
According to the weekly Economist (May 2), “It is harder than it used to be to imagine NATO, as it is, advancing far into the 21st century . . . does America, with its unrivalled military power, need NATO any more?”:
And, assuming someone wants and needs it, how can the alliance be adapted to defend its members against the very different threats they now face? If good answers are not found before the NATO summit in Prague in November, the future of NATO looks bleak indeed… The challenge now is to make the alliance more effective against the new threats… Not only NATO, through its defence-capabilities initiative launched in 1999, but also the EU, with the goal it has set for its rapid-reaction force, have promised more than European governments have delivered… These meagre efforts are recognised in defence ministries across NATO as the greatest threat to the ability of Americans and Europeans to sustain NATO as a military alliance… But an alliance limited merely to that sort of burden-sharing, based on America’s hard power and Europe’s soft power, would give Europeans little real say over the strategic agenda.
Across the Channel, in France, Les Echos commented on May 3 “Europe regrets that America’s pressure on Israel is not more forceful. And Europe continues to worry over America’s unilateralism in matters of environment and disarmament.” On the same day Philippe Gelie opined in Le Figaro Economie that “Europe hopes that its method, a cocktail of dialogue and determination, will in time be able to neutralize Bush’s latest plans regarding agricultural subsidies.” Jean-Jacques Mevel noted in Le Figaro (May 2) that “in the U.S., any criticism of Ariel Sharon is immediately equated with anti-Semitism.”
In Germany, Washington correspondent Malte Lehming wrote in Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (May 6) that “in principle, the United States does whatever it likes”:
At the beginning, Europe was shocked, but in the meantime, at least the powers-that-be have accepted this. Every visitor to Washington wears velvet gloves and makes a deep bow. This feeling of helplessness is being strengthened by the lack of gratitude with which the United States responds to gestures of subordination. The United States is satisfied with its power. The agenda is dominated by issues in which Europe does not play a role. Washington only registers anti-Semitic and pro-Palestinian tendencies, because they fit the picture. The transatlantic gap is widening not because of different interests but because of the self-complacency of the last superpower and the devotions of the Europeans. The United States is swinging between ignorance and criticism, Europe between ingratiation and resignation. This combination cannot produce much good.
Germany’s national radio station Deutschlandfunk of Cologne commented on May 3 that “currently, Americans and Europeans have not too much to say to each other… From a U.S. point of view, the EU is at best a junior partner who has little to offer because military and security policy cooperation in the EU is still in its infancy and all member states do too little to increase their defense budgets… But the United States urgently needs a corrective, too. We may only recall Bush’s stupid formulation of the axis of evil and the subsequent considerations for a military adventure that could be directed against Iraq.”
The Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich wrote on May 3 that Washington is still caught up in the European post-war structures revolving around the antagonistic centers of London and Paris: “The United States has the problem of having too much power for one nation. However, Europe’s problem is that it is not building up enough power to achieve a balance, develop compromises, and push through alternative strategies for dealing with the world’s problems.” Martin Winter saw the problem in starker terms in the Frankfurter Rundschau (May 3):
The prejudice that the Europeans are weaklings and cannot get their act together is nothing new in U.S. politics. But now this point of view has become a guiding principle of U.S. policy . . . in part, because Bush is eager to pursue a strategy that makes him popular at home and prevents him from being hamstrung by the restrictions of a true partnership. In the current situation, it does not come as much of a surprise that Europe, too, has begun to revive outdated stereotypes: The Americans are unable to find complex answers to complex problems; they are politically inexperienced; they are too clumsy and filled with too much missionary zeal. In the end, arrogance, no matter on what side, is never a position of strength, and it only deepens the crisis. The United States and the EU have never before gotten along as badly as right now . . . The United States must realize that it cannot solve the world’s problems alone. Europe must realize that it cannot stay only partially involved in these matters.
In Italy, Il Foglio wrote on May 3 that “American unilateralism stems from the conviction that its European ally is lukewarm in its determination to push an all-out the war against terrorism . . . for example, to Baghdad” and concluded that the problem is in the uneven strength of America and Europe: “while the economies can be compared, the political and military powers cannot at all. This makes an agreement more difficult–an agreement that is convenient for America, but which is indispensable for Europe.”
Even in Turkey the mass-circulation Milliyet attacked Mr. Bush’s farm bill (May 13): “The new farm bill proves that the Bush administration is a champion of protectionism rather than free trade… The U.S. under the Bush administration makes rules and imposes them on Turkey and other countries sometimes directly, sometimes via the IMF. Yet the same U.S. does not observe any of these rules… One wonders if the U.S. will eventually be faced with a crisis simply because it ignores the rules and principles that it asks others to obey.”
U.S. DUMPS I.C.C.
GLOBAL BIEN-PENSANTS INDIGNANT
Wednesday, May 15, 2002
The Bush Administration’s decision to withdraw the U.S. signature from the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC) is right and proper. That signature was a poisoned chalice deliberately and mischievously left behind by Bill Clinton in the final weeks of his presidency, in the full knowledge that it would never be ratified.
Clinton’s support for the ICC project was unsurprising, since the ICC is a caricature of legality and a travesty of justice. Its prosecutor will have discretionary powers to investigate “criminal cases”—including “hate crimes” and various loosely defined “human rights violations”—on his own initiation, or at the request of a U.N. member-state, the Security Council, or even NGOs. The ICC would have made it possible not only for American soldiers to be indicted for obeying the orders of their political masters, but also for “international peace-keepers” to come and patrol the streets of America’s racially or ethnically troubled cities. It would have made it possible for ICC judges from Muslim countries to demand extradition of American citizens from the United States to a third country (say, Iran or Saudi Arabia) to stand trial accused of denigrating Islam. American writers, journalists and editors could be put on trial for undermining the multicultural fabric of our planetary community.
As international lawyer William Jasper warned us in The New American four years ago, “We currently have this model in the UN war crimes tribunals at The Hague, where methods and standards unacceptable to any civilized country are practiced. All the travesties associated with the Yugoslavian war crimes trials will be replicated in the ICC.” Its architects want to go way beyond genocide or human rights as conventionally understood. Violation of human rights would include “enforced pregnancy”—which does not mean making a woman pregnant against her will but denying her the “right” to obtain an abortion. It also includes the crime of “persecution”: “the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights by reason of the identity of the group or collectivity.” ICC judges will claim the authority to strike down any laws, or even the policies of private religious bodies, that “deprive” homosexuals of their “fundamental rights” to teach at a primary school, belong to a church, or lead a troop of boy scouts.
The United States is not the only key power in the world to reject the ICC. China, Russia, and India have also done so, which means that three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and almost one half of the world’s population will not be subject to its jurisdiction. Furthermore the U.S. acted within its rights under international law in rejecting the ICC. The international standard is the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which holds that nations that sign treaties but do not ratify them should not do anything to undermine the treaty’s purpose. The U.S. signed the 1969 Treaties convention, but never ratified it.
Nevertheless the American decision to get out of this nightmare unsurprisingly provoked global editorial indignation. Assorted bien-pensants lambasted Bush’s “unsigning as “unprecedented” in the history of international law, and as taking “unilateral arrogance” one step further. While U.S. unilateralism was the leading editorial mantra, some critics further accused the U.S. of expressing contempt for international law and dealing a “body blow” to international justice.
The few dissenters, supporting the U.S. decision, are also the papers otherwise most worth reading. An editorial in the Daily Telegraph (May 8) stated:
The Bush administration’s unilateral repudiation of the treaty to establish the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal put Jack Straw in a difficult position yesterday… When it repudiated the treaty, America may well have had in mind Straw’s own decision, as Home Secretary, to allow the arrest of the former Chilean leader General Pinochet, on a warrant issued by the Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon. That precedent can only have fueled Washington’s fears that the proposed [ICC] might be used to promote politically motivated prosecutions against American serviceman, and even politicians… But there are plenty of persistent lawyers out there with a political axe to grind who would relish the prospect of dragging the mighty U.S. through the courts. The Americans can hardly be blamed for seeking to deny them the opportunity. Rather than trying to change Washington’s mind over the ICC, as Straw indicated he would yesterday, the government should take these worries seriously… There is a tendency to try to use international systems to turn America into a pariah nation. Britain should have no part in this. There is no proven need for a permanent [ICC].
In France Jean-Jacques Mevel wondered in Le Figaro (May 7) if this was a ‘repudiation,’ a ‘renouncing’ or simply an ‘un-signing’ of the ICC treaty:
Washington’s decision is not surprising. Clinton had furtively signed the treaty and left his successor the sour responsibility of dealing with it… Since then, the domestic policy debate has turned into a test of foreign policy, culminating with yesterday’s decision and adding one more subject of contention between Washington and its European allies… On one hand, there is the U.S. with its desire not to relinquish an inch of its sovereignty, and on the other, the majority of the world’s democracies, including its EU and NATO partners. They are beginning to feel that the Bush team only wants to honor those treaties that coincide with its interests. By closing the door to the ICC, the American superpower wants to reaffirm its status of ‘exception,’ as it had previously done with the Kyoto Protocol. In this case, President Bush is going one step further.
In Germany the commentary was uniformly negative. Die Zeit weekly of Hamburg bombastically declared (on May 8) that “May 6, 2002, will enter the history books as a black day for international law”:
On that day the U.S. nullified its signature under the ICC statutes. President Bush is suspicious of any treaty that binds the superpower, irrespective of whether it is Kyoto, ABM or the Children’s Rights Convention… He wants to fight the universality of the law and undermine the global court. That is why he resorts to a means that is unprecedented in post-war times: nullifying a signature. All major and minor dictators in this world will consider this move to be an encouragement. That is why the day can’t be too far away when the U.S. finds out that others, too, no longer consider treaties to be binding.
Die Tageszeitung of Berlin went even further on May 8, by comparing Bush’s Administration to the Hitler regime, which is the highest notch on the scale of liberal abuse:
The U.S. move is unprecedented in the history of international law since the foundation of the UN in 1945. And even during the times of the League of Nations, only the Hitler regime chose this means. Now the Bush administration is encouraging others not to abide by the law. Saddam Hussein and the governments of 51 of 190 UN members, which have thus far refused to sign the statutes for the ICC, will now be strengthened in their views. Before the summer recess begins, Congress in Washington is now likely to approve a bill that is also unprecedented in its arrogance. The draft allows the U.S. administration to impose sanctions on nations that cooperate with the ICC. But even under these conditions, the 66 ICC member states have no alternative but to continue with the establishment of the court. We can even find some positive aspect with regard to the decision of the Bush administration. Prosecutors and judges for the ICC can be chosen and selected without any U.S. influence and disruptive U.S. maneuvers.
Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger noted in the Frankfurter Allgemeine (May 7) that there was never any indication that the Bush administration would change its mind and ask the Senate to approve the statute to set up the ICC:
It is obvious that a U.S. that is militarily active all over the world is a nuisance to many who would like rid themselves of it by legal means. It is unimaginable that the U.S. would permit this, would hand over soldiers or politicians to a criminal court where they would be accused of ‘genocide.’ But there is a deeper factor underlying Washington’s relationship with international organizations that is also playing a role in this case–the desire for maximum freedom of action and unrestricted sovereignty. What is self-evident to Bush and Congress is perceived elsewhere as a new example of unilateral arrogance. The real question is whether Washington has done itself any favors.
Even that part of the German press usually considered “conservative” wrote in the same vein. Nikolaus Blome observed in Die Welt of Berlin (May 7) that the U.S. decision will have a negative impact on all parties:
It is a blow to the ICC, a court set up to defend nothing but very American values… It is also a setback for the friends of the U.S. who will find a bit harder to defend the country’s role as the only competent ‘world policeman.’ The U.S. may be partially justified in its fear that the court could become a stage for anti-American political maneuvers. However, the ICC is not some obscure UN subcommittee in which strange coalitions sometimes support complete and utter nonsense.
Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin falsely stated (5/7) that “never before had a country nullified a signature on an international treaty,” and went on to wonder: “Of what value are international treaties if subsequent administrations feel no longer bound by their predecessors’ signatures? Anyone who had still been in doubt about the U.S. administration’s unilateralist tendencies knows now what the real story is. If possible alone, if necessary with others—that is the current political motto in U.S. foreign policy.” As for the rest of Europe, in Italy Bruno Marolo filed from Washington in the “post-Communist” L’Unita’ (5/7) that “The U.S. wants to fight its wars answering to no one, while the rest of the world should answer to it. Woe to the vanquished!” In Austria the Salzburger Nachrichten (5/8) joined the fray: “Washington’s flat refusal to ratify the treaty reveals the Bush administration’s true motives. The U.S. does not want to give up its all-powerful position.” In Denmark the Information called the U.S. decision (May 7) “a catastrophe for justice.” The Irish Times (May 7) bewailed “the fact that U.S. diplomats successfully watered down the text during talks leading to its adoption, and then walked away from it.” In Holland NRC Handelsblad declared (May 10) that “the rescinding of the American signature to the Statute of Rome is destructive of America’s reputation as champion of international justice…The most important victim, in the near future, of this, will be the international rule of law itself.”
Well, thank goodness for that! The “international rule of law” is incompatible with the constitutional principle that only the 50 states and federal government have the authority to prosecute and try individuals for crimes committed in the United States. The judicial power of the U.S. is “vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as Congress may, from time to time, ordain and establish.” No judicial body or tribunal not established under the authority of the Constitution should ever be allowed to exercise jurisdiction over citizens of the United States for real or pretended crimes committed in the United States. Nor should U.S. officials ever turn over U.S. citizens to a foreign government to be tried for alleged crimes in that country without a valid extradition treaty with that country.
All ICC proponents insist that we all live in a global village, we are all celebrants in the universal “democratic” ritual. America’s answer was given over two centuries ago. “The freemen of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents,” James Madison observed. “They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle.” Thomas Jefferson provided an important corollary: “In questions of power let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution.” By contrast, the ICC embodies the imperial arrogance of those post-Christian, post-civilized Western powers whose leaders mistake might for right. They want the model of the legal order under which all laws are administered by an “impartial” agent of organized humanity.
MUSHARRAF’S FRAUD CONDONED BY WASHINGTON
May 10, 2002
On the last day of April Pakistan’s military ruler and self-appointed President, General Pervez Musharraf, has won a victory in the referendum to extend his “mandate” for a further five years. Pakistan’s Election Commission said General Musharraf had won with over 97 percent in favor of him staying in power, in a turnout of just over 56 percent. The outcome was a foregone conclusion, of course, but the event nevertheless has been marred by gross irregularities. The opposition—that is, all main political parties—estimated turnout at well below ten percent and boycotted the ritual as unconstitutional. Under Pakistan’s constitution, the president is chosen by the members of the national and provincial assemblies and the senate. However, the captive supreme court upheld General Musharraf’s argument that the constitution justifies referendums “on matters of national importance”—although it fell short of endorsing it as a substitute for proper procedures.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says that irregularities “exceeded its worst fears,” and its chairman Afrasiab Khattak said that observers who were supposed to be neutral had been seen stamping ballots themselves. Voluntary turnout was very low, with millions of public sector workers being obliged to vote. Institutionalized rigging appeared to be deliberate, as no formal identification was required for voting and there were no constituency lists; some people boasted that they voted eight or even twelve times. The opposition was not allowed to canvass votes against the referendum. Huge sums of money were doled out to hire crowds for pro-Musharraf rallies before the referendum and for transporting friendly voters to the polling stations. The number of polling booths was increased tenfold. In brief, we have witnessed a replay of the farcical referendum held by General Zia ul-Haq in 1984.
Even had the referendum been properly conducted, and successful from Muharraf’s point of view, it would not have given the man and his regime the missing legitimacy. He has already resorted to legal alchemy with a provisional constitutional order retroactively legitimizing his 1999 military coup. On this form the general election to be held next October will also be fraudulent, and produce a rubber-stamp parliament of third-rate pro-Musharraf politicos but without the two mainstream parties led by Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, who are now both in exile. The leaders of the opposition may feel emboldened by the referendum’s lack of credibility at home and abroad, but their successful campaign against an election under Musharraf’s own rules may prompt him to postpone the polling more or less indefinitely on the grounds of national security.
The prospects for Pakistan’s economic and political stability remain gloomy if Musharraf and the opposition parties do not agree on ground rules for the elections. Renewal of open-ended and institutionalized military rule in Pakistan is also unlikely to contribute to a long-term lowering of tensions along the volatile border with India, the scene of considerable tension last winter. Pakistan’s President is the same man who as a Chief of Army Staff bypassed his Prime Minister to launch a war on India. Today he is the most powerful military dictator Pakistan has ever spawned. And yet the United States continues to turn a blind eye to Musharraf’s shinenigans, apparently because it mistakenly believes that he serves U.S. interests in the region. The holding of a referendum, the release of many militants, backtracking over controlling the madrassahs and the unsatisfactory progress of the Daniel Pearl trial indicate that Musharraf is not as committed to “the war on terror” as Mr. Bush may hope, or the Americans and Europeans might wish. Musharraf himself reckons that he is safe from open criticism for as long as Pakistan is viewed as a key player in the “war against terrorism,” but if the Administration continues to back his military regime which is so obviously devoid of legitimacy and real support, it risks alienating the majority of Pakistanis.
The United States thus risks strengthening Islamic fundamentalists who know how to use populist democratic rhetoric. The ultimate paradox is that the U.S. policy of undue reliance on a Musharrafуa man lukewarm about clamping down on Islamic extremismуmay force the secular parties to strike a deal with those same Muslim hard-liners to try to overthrow Musharraf. Until recently, the United States looked upon Musharraf as the ally who would reverse Pakistan’s involvement with militant Islamic ideology in addition to making peace with India. But with his flawed referendum he has proven that he cannot or will not break from the tradition of Pakistani military leaders, most notably General Zia-ul-Haq. The U.S. policy needs to take into account the risks of giving Musharraf legitimacy and support: his referendum will make antiterrorism efforts in Pakistan even less likely than before, because terrorism springs from religious and political extremism nurtured by U.S.-protected autocrats.
CHIRAC’S HOLLOW VICTORY:
BRUSSELS FEDERALISTS CELEBRATE
Wednesday, May 8, 2002
In France the Establishment has won: in the second round of the presidential election last Sunday President Chirac has been reelected with the Stalinesque 82 percent of the vote, to Jean-Marie Le Pen’s 18 percent. The only surprise of sorts is that fewer than one in five Frenchmen were sufficiently infuriated, disgusted, or simply insulted by the relentless media campaign against Le Pen to cast a vote for the hoary old paratrooper. So much for the Gaulish spirit of non-conformist rebelliousness: Asterix would not feel any more at home in today’s France than John Randolph would in today’s America. There’s no liberty left in those countries where freedom is reduced to electing a Jacques Chirac—or, for that matter, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, or George W. Bush—to the highest office in the land.
Chirac has won, but his is an accomplishment as hollow as the victor himself. Like Musil’s anti-hero the French president is filled with a breathtaking inner void. To claim that “a certain idea of France” has triumphed over “fascism” is plainly ludicrous, but to find the right label for the proceedings is difficult because Jacques Chirac is a post-modern devoid of properties: who, or what, has won, and why, to what end?
At least the loser is definable. Like him or hate him, Le Pen stands for something. He evokes a France of solid, lower-middle-class shopkeepers and Poujadist artisans, of Algerian war veterans and pieds noirs with Italian and Spanish-sounding names, of blue-collar bistros filled with tobacco smoke and stocky peasants of the midi aghast at the transformation of their market towns into north African kasbas. Chirac is nothing, and even with four-fifths of the vote he represents nothingness. He is a nothingness that’s been around for longer than any of us care to remember, and all these decades later he remains the quintessential Man-without-Properties. He has been re-elected faute de mieux—all faute and no mieux here—and the problem of France, its identity, its future, its essence, remains wide open.
Of course Chirac will adopt some Le Peniste policies, like restricting the influx of phony asylum seekers and patrolling more vigorously the no-go areas of Toulon or Marseilles, without ever confronting the serious issues of what does it mean to be French and what is the optimal, tolerable, or survivable level of Muslim immigration. Contrary to some ill-informed opinions in the East Coast press Chirac will not be a “consensus” president in his second term, not because he wants to be true to his principles (of which he has none) but because he doesn’t need to be one. He owes no favors to the Left for supporting him in the second round: after Lionel Jospin’s debacle the Socialists had nowhere to go but to Chirac, and they have no claim to any slice of the Elysee cake… although it will make it.
Chirac’s predecessor, Francois Mitterrand, understood Le Pen’s value as a disruptive force that would prevent the French right from getting its act together. It was Mitterrand the socialist who manipulated the French electoral system in the 1980s to assist Le Pen’s rise, knowing full well that some of his support would come from disenchanted working-class electors who had previously voted communist. This was deemed OK if the rise of Le Pen put a few final nails into the coffin of the French Communist Party. The result is a fifth of the vote for the “real” Right, and an enormously strengthened establishmentarian center. Far from feeling threatened, the federalists of Brussels should and do rejoice. Not only will right-wing parties be disabled. Given the need to distance itself from the rhetoric of the ultra right, the European conventional right will find it harder than ever to develop the self confidence to expound moderate, nationalistic conservatism, which is the only serious obstacle which the federalists face.
GEN. ALEXANDER LEBED, 1950-2002
May 3, 2002
When I first met General Lebed, shortly after he was forced to retire from his stellar military career in 1995, he was a crusty soldier with great political ambitions, itching for action but visibly uncomfortable in mufti. His tie knot was too wide and his parade-ground bass sounded coarse and unmodulated. His lived-in face, with more than a hint of the Asian steppe, bore the marks of many brawls. I remember well the moment when Lebed first came to my favorable attention, with his statement of approval for General Augusto Pinochet: “Preserving the army is the basis for preserving the government, and Pinochet was able to revive Chile by putting the army in first place.” By the time of our meeting, however, Lebed realized that the use of military force to maintain Russia’s position externally and order internally was no longer an option: “We used military power in Tbilisi, Baku, Vilnius. Where are they today–Georgia, Azerbaijan, Lithuania? Everything we tried to keep by force was lost. Now everything is being done in order to lose Chechnya.” Although Lebed favored the army’s active role in Moldova he was extremely critical of the decision to intervene militarily in Chechnya. As the campaign began he sarcastically offered to lead a regiment into battle if it would be made up of the children and grandchildren of “our glorious government and members of the Duma.” He was despondent about the state of the military: “Russia doesn’t have an army anymore. It has only toy soldiers, formations of boys with no capacity.”
Lebed’s views on Russia’s predicament, mostly grim but stated with simplicity and conviction, were refreshingly clear in a city brimming with “experts” who sought to rationalize their country’s economic, political and military collapse. He furiously attacked President Boris Yeltsin: “nothing but the first secretary of Sverdlovsk, infamous for the destruction of the building where the last Russian tsar and his family were incarcerated before their execution.” He favored cooperation with the West to confrontation, but had no illusions about the possibility of “convergence” that were still rampant in the “reformist” circles: “The West is attempting to turn Russia into a cheap supplier of raw materials, a reservoir of free labor, and a huge hazardous waste dump for the industrial world.” Lebed did not oppose capitalism–“real competition is good, healthy”–but he hated its Mafioso-monopolistic variety rampant in Yeltsin’s Russia, and resented the resulting reduction of his countrymen to the status of “beggars.” He accepted the Soviet Union’s disintegration but wanted clear guarantees of the rights of millions of Russians stranded in the successor states; his own rise to national prominence was due to his support in 1992 of the Russians’ demand for self-rule in Moldova’s Trans-Dniester region. As the commander of the Russian troops he made clear that his sympathies lay on the side of the ethnic Russian population. Nationalists credited him with preventing a “second Croatia” (i.e., the expulsion of Russians from Moldova.) However, he soon fell out with the local Russians in Moldova after accusing the president of the pro-Russian Dniester Moldovan Republic, Igor Smirnov, and his colleagues of corruption. He told a press conference at the time that he was “sick and tired of guarding the sleep and safety of crooks.” The news of Lebed’s death in a helicopter crash on April 28 did not merit front-page treatment in the West, but at the time of our first encounter he was widely regarded as a man of destiny in Russia and abroad. Assuming that I was yet another foreign visitor in need of quick assurance about his intentions he claimed to accept “democracy” as the basic framework for Russia’s future political discourse. To his credit he did so without starry-eyed enthusiasm feigned by so many post-communists, and without nurturing any illusions about democracy’s magical properties; personally he favored what he called “the dictatorship of the rule of law.” Looking back at his notable record as a paratroop commander in the “chaos” of the Afghan war he said he saw “pain and remembrance, but never shame”-shame belonged strictly to politicians, the breed for which Lebed had a healthy disdain. To him Yeltsin’s “democrats” (with whom he sided in the confusion of the 1991 coup attempt) were as self-serving and hypocritical as their Communist predecessors. He condemned them by quoting Plato on the dangers of liberty when oligarchs and demagogues manipulate it. “I couldn’t care less for democracy,” he famously remarked about his role in the events of August 1991, “but I wasn’t ready to kill my fellow Russians.” In a programmatic article published in Nezavisimaya gazeta, Lebed rejected democracy as harmful for Russia. He asserted that the abundance of political parties “has so clouded the brains of the average citizen” that the results are much worse for the country than its addiction to vodka. As a result, the domestic political situation is “out of control” and has significantly reduced the authorities’ ability to find social consensus in resolving Russia’s economic and political problems.
Lebed was born in the southern city of Novocherkassk in the Cossack country in 1950. His boyhood taught him some of the harsher lessons of Russian politics. In 1962 he watched Soviet troops gun down hundreds of workers in his home town, bringing a quick end to one of the few labor strikes recorded in Soviet history. Lebed’s own father was a former political prisoner, condemned by Joseph Stalin to the Gulag but later reprieved to serve in a military punishment battalion during the Second World War. Lebed nevertheless chose a military career. After graduating from the paratrooper academy in 1970, he rose swiftly through the ranks. He was decorated for his service as a battalion commander in Afghanistan in the early 1980s, and in 1990 became one of the Soviet Army’s youngest generals.
Five years later Russia seemed ripe for someone like Lebed: patriotic, unlike Yeltsin’s “pro-Western” coterie embodied in his foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev and the hated ex-premier Yegor Gaidar; honest, unlike the mega-rich oligarchs in and around the “family” embodied in prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin; reliable, unlike the erratic and embarrassing Vladimir Zhirinovsky; and free from the old apparatchik taint, unlike the Communist opposition leader Gennadi Zyuganov. As the election year of 1996 drew near Lebed seemed more popular than any one of them. A few months after our introductory meeting, in January 1996, I brought half-dozen Western friends (including Tom Fleming) to meet the man then increasingly regarded as Russia’s likely next president.
We encountered a self-confident and friendlier Lebed. His voice sounded smoother and he wisely made pauses before answering questions. Lebed’s suite of offices on the Arbat had the appearance of a viable political operation. He spent over an hour speaking mainly on foreign affairs, and his salient theme was the need for Russia’s recovery-not only for Russia’s own sake, but also because the “void” in place of Moscow’s traditional geopolitical role was bad for the rest of the world, America included. In the crucial months that followed Lebed proved out of his depth in the complexities of national politics. He was unapologetically individualistic and driven, and gave off an air of arrogant self-reliance and self-motivation-all qualities prized in the individualist West, but instinctively frowned upon in the post-Soviet collectivist mindset. He nevertheless did very well: he came third in the first round of the presidential contest, winning over 11 million votes (about 15 percent of the ballots cast). Some projections showed him winning in the second round, which scared Yeltsin into cutting a deal, in which Lebed dropped out of the race in return for a high Kremlin post and anointment as the president’s chosen successor.
To the boundless chagrin of many of his followers and his party-the Congress of Russian Communities virtually became his vehicle-Lebed made the u-turn and supported Yeltsin in the second round, helping him clinch a victory against Zyuganov. This was a fateful error: he was rewarded by being appointed Yeltsin’s national security advisor, but the damage to his credibility eventually proved irreparable. In his new capacity Lebed successfully negotiated the ceasefire in Chechnya, but he also created powerful enemies by his unconcealed disgust for the sleaze and graft rampant in the Kremlin. Lebed’s costly and morally ambiguous acceptance of a high position could have been followed by a patient exercise in empire-building, and it is possible that his role of heir-apparent could have been accepted by the oligarchs had he not made them feel threatened. He unwisely chose to make himself feared by the corrupt presidential entourage instead, and ended up with the worst of all worlds. After only four months, in October 1996, he was fired, and there was no power base to go back to. Lebed seemed able to rebuild it when he ran for, and won, the governorship of the huge Siberian province of Krasnoyarsk in 1998 (allegedly with some help from one of the oligarchs), but his victory in retrospect looks like an admission that his goals had shrunk. He took no part in the subsequent political maneuvers that brought Vladimir Putin into the Kremlin as prime minister in 1999, and gave him the presidency in March 2000. He had become a has-been, without ever having “been,” while bemoaning the fact that almost a decade of Yeltsinism had reduced Russia to a neocolonial wreck with collapsing birth rates, a moribund industry, an unconsolidated body-politic. He was equally bitter on world affairs: “Our relationship with the United States has long ceased being a partnership,” he forlornly declared from his new abode. “It is the relationship between master and dog: the dog is fed, sometimes stroked, sometimes beaten. However, it can never be an ally, an interlocutor.”
It will be forever unknown if Lebed could have prevented Russia’s descent. On one occasion in the past half-decade he attracted attention in Washington, when he warned the United States that at least 80 suitcase-sized nuclear devices from the old Soviet Union’s weapons arsenal had gone missing. He first revealed on CBS’s 60 Minutes on September 7, 1997 that Russia had built small, portable nuclear bombs called “Special Atomic Demolition Munitions” that were truly “first strike” weapons that could be used at the outbreak of nuclear war by saboteurs. As he told a delegation of visiting American congressmen, of 132 such devices he could only locate 48.
During NATO’s bombing of Serbia Lebed’s words elicited no response from Washington, however. “We should announce to the entire world that we will provide military and technical aid to Yugoslavia in order to minimize civilian casualties there,” he declared from Krasnoyarsk in March 1999. “This would allow us to unite our nation and regain our self-respect,” he said. Acting on Lebed’s advice, the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, approved a non-binding resolution calling on the government to send military aid to Yugoslavia. A week later, in an interview with the Hamburg weekly Der Spiegel on April 5 1999, he rejected the interviewer’s suggestion that he wanted Russia towage war on Serbia’s behalf: “On the contrary. I want to resist the large-scale war in a civilized manner, because, otherwise, it will spread over the entire world–above all, through terrorism and, above all, against the Americans.”
As this prescient quote indicates Lebed was not “clever” but he did have the Russian peasant’s natural wisdom, and the enlightened nationalist’s capacity to limit his demands for his own people by the need to grant the legitimate demands of others. Until his last day in this life he remained a political underachiever whose detractors were often more passionate than his followers. May he rest in peace, while his long-suffering nation awaits the appearance of a leader destined to restore it to life and self-respect.
THE PARADOX OF LE PEN’S SUCCESS:
CENTER-RIGHT ESTABLISHMENT TRIUMPHANT
Friday, April 26, 2002
The success of the National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in the first round of France’s presidential election—he came second and faces President Jacques Chirac in the final round—falls far short of a “revolution” of the Right’s wishful thinking. The number of his votes has risen only slightly since 1995, and the rout of the Socialists was primarily caused by the disunity of the Left (it had most votes, but they were split among several candidates) and by the arrogant odiousness of Lionel Jospin, the Socialist prime minister and presidential candidate who has now retired from politics. Even if in the second round he gets the votes of his former ally Bruno Megret, and a few percent of don’t-knows, Le Pen will not become France’s president on May 5.
Le Pen’s relative success nevertheless indicates that he has tapped into resonant sources of grievance and concern. Many Europeans worry about immigration, crime, and loss of cultural identity, and feel alienated from the dominant post-national establishment. France is a ten-percent Muslim country today, and one third of newborn babies are Arab, not French. Its classrooms have been turned into laboratories for multicultural experimentation, and its working-class suburbs are no-go areas ruled by immigrant gangs every bit as violent as their counterparts in West LA or Brixton.
Faced with such issues mainstream politicians run for cover—either because they don’t have a view, or because they have politically correct opinions that they know are still largely unpopular, or because of their fear of appearing to be racist. They say nothing, they do even less, and they pay the just price. The upset in France thus fits in with the backlash against the Left’s near-monopoly of power in Europe that was cracked by Silvio Berlusconi’s victory in Italy last year. The resurgent CDU in Germany—and especially its sister CSU in Bavaria—makes the prospect of a massive Center-Right comeback in Germany almost imminent.
The reaction from the French establishment has been predictable: Le Pen became the latest Hitler-of-the-week, a grave threat to civilization as we know it, symbolized by the Euro, multiculturalism, the Common Agricultural Policy, and “tolerance.” “Non!” screamed the front page of the leftist Liberation. The talking heads agreed that Le Pen voters needed re-education and therapy. Chirac declared that he would refuse to take part in the traditional presidential campaign debate with Le Pen, declaring that he would have nothing to do with his challenger: “Faced with intolerance and hate there is no transaction, no compromise and no debate possible,” he said. “I do not want this election to be confiscated by obscurantism, hatred and contempt. I do not want the French nation to yield to the giddiness of fear. This has been a combat all my life, in the name of morality and a certain idea of France.” The President added that France faced a grave situation that threatened “its soul, its cohesion, its role in Europe and in the world.”
That “certain idea of France” is a quote coined by De Gaulle, and in its originally intended meaning it would apply more aptly to Le Pen that any of his opponents. Chirac’s kidnapping of the Gaullist legacy is dishonest but essential to his strategy, which now must include a sop to the old Right. The support from the mainstream Left he can take for granted: the loathing of the hoary, old FN leader and everything he stands for—authority, patriotism, self-reliance, discipline, law and order, traditional values—has scared the French ruling elite and forced it to gather around Chirac. Paradoxically, the resulting strong mandate for the President will pave the way for another seven years of supposedly Center-Right presidency—and this is the outcome least likely to favor the “hard,” or real Right. This is counter-intuitive but unsurprising: those described by M. Le Pen as belonging to the “corrupt, cosmopolitan oligarchy” that runs France have more in common with each other, regardless of their political affiliation, than with the rest of their countrymen. (In exactly the same way, in a run-off between Pat Buchanan and either Gore or Bush the ruling duopoly would march together.)
The second paradox—affecting the Socialist-Communist-Green alliance—concerns not the final round of the presidential election on May 5 but the election for the National Assembly in June, to decide which party will select the prime minister and assume the reins of government. The Left will lose big, and therefore it won’t be able to continue the “cohabitation” of the past five years of a neo-Gaullist president and a Socialist prime minister, because it cannot afford to campaign against Chirac’s party too vigorously while at the same time supporting Chirac against Le Pen for presidency.
In addition, with Jospin’s resignation the Left has no obvious leader who could energize the campaign. The “pluralist left” of the late President Mitterand’s heyday in the 1980s is but a distant memory. Inside the demoralized Socialist camp the leadership struggle is only beginning and the party’s secretary, the boring Francois Hollande, will lead the party into the June elections. The eventual favorite may be Martine Aubry, a powerful woman who as Jospin’s labor minister pushed through his major reform measure, the 35-hour working week. But in her own stronghold of the northern working class city of Lille, the Socialists were outvoted by Le Pen, a personal humiliation that damages her chances.
The good news for America is that Europe’s shift to the right makes its opposition to the U.S. “benevolent global hegemony” more likely than under the assorted “Third Way” apparatchiks who had dominated the Old Continent for a decade. Only by reasserting its independence in foreign affairs can Europe help President Bush resist the rampaging interventionists who have become far too powerful for anyone’s good.
BUSH IN EUROPE
April 24, 2002
In the immediate aftermath of September 11 Europe was closer to America, politically and emotionally, than at any time since the Second World War. For a brief while the threat of Islamic terrorism had rekindled a dormant awareness of just how much the Old Continent and the New World have in common.
Only seven months later, as President George W. Bush arrived in Germany at the start of a four-nation tour, transatlantic relations are more strained than at any time since the Cold War. While a few thousand leftist demonstrators chanting abuse from the curbs can be dismissed as irrelevant and unrepresentative, the sense of disenchantment with Washington now felt by the members of Europe’s political and economic mainstream-including America’s friends and reliable Cold Warriors of yore-cannot be disregarded. Across a broad spectrum of issues, ranging from the Middle East and anti-terrorist strategy to trade and arms control, there are differences of opinion and policy that need to be frankly diagnosed and, if possible, resolved in the spirit of common overall interest.
On the Middle East the U.S. policy is perceived throughout Europe as a hindrance, because of its pro-Israeli bias, to the quest for peace. Mr. Bush’s unwillingness, or, worse still, inability to put any real pressure on prime minister Ariel Sharon is seen in all key European capitals as puzzling and counterproductive. They know that without such pressure, coupled with the parallel European effort to deliver the Palestinians, there will be no meaningful negotiations and therefore no peace.
Regarding Iraq, America’s friends and allies-including the ever-pliant Tony Blair-simply do not accept that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the rest of the world. They are not convinced that he is seeking weapons of mass destruction, and do not accept that the “war against terrorism” should be randomly broadened beyond the verifiable culprits for September 11. Some Europeans suspect-but will not say so in public-that the anti-Iraqi zeal in Washington has more to do with America’s unhealthy “passionate attachment” in the Middle East than with a sober assessment of Western security and political interests.
Trade disputes may prove more intractable. America’s image as the bullwark of free market capitalism has been tarnished by the overtly protectionist tariffs the Republican administration has imposed on steel, textiles and timber. In addition, Mr. Bush’s Farm Bill, which provoked remarkably little attention in the U.S. (and which will primarily help powerful agro-conglomerates, rather than small farmers) is universally condemned as a step back to the failed protectionism of the old Common Agricultural Policy. European analysts warn that the perceived hypocrisy of the U.S. trade policy will have repercussions in other areas, including the war against terror. In the White House fact sheet the Administration claims that “free trade is a cornerstone of President George W. Bush’s agenda to help generate jobs for American workers, open markets to American products and services, and spur economic growth.” But while preaching to others the gospel of opening markets and pushing protected industries into the brutal but real world of open competition, Mr. Bush is buying rustbelt and prairie votes with taxpayer-funded largesse.
In the longer term the real danger to the United States’ interests from protectionism is in the loss of trust of European and Japanese financial markets in the sturdy vitality of the American market. With the current trade deficit of over 400 billion dollars and rising, the U.S. will have to attract more money from abroad than ever before. Over the past decade the private sector has done most of the borrowing, but with the massive rise in military spending the federal government will become the main borrower yet again, as it once was during the Reagan presidency. The New York stock market, many foreigners believe, is still overvalued, and America’s lead in new technologies and management methods is narrowing.
As a columnist noted in the London Times (May 23), the world economy may now be moving from a revolutionary period into one of incremental change, as new technologies are adapted, perfected and applied to everyday services and products: “In such an evolutionary economy, there may again be a premium on the patient perfectionism and long-term commitment that allowed Japanese and European industries, ranging from cars and aerospace to banking and insurance, to catch up with and overtake their American rivals between the 1970s and 1980s.” If this is so, the United States may find it hard to attract sufficient foreign capital to finance chronic trade deficits and Mr. Bush’s simultaneous tax cutting and rearming.
Unilateralism in pursuit of rationally defined objectives in world affairs, and protectionism as a means of leveling the trading field, are not necessarily bad per se; but to practice them while preaching the virtues of multilateralism and free trade to the rest of the world invites ridicule and spite. The contradictions of Mr. Bush’s policies carry a price that may not become fully obvious during his current European tour, but may yet cost him the presidency two years from now.
MR. BUSH COMES OUT OF HIS NEOCON TRANCE
Friday, April 12, 2002
It seemed as if George Bush had been sleepwalking for weeks on end, mesmerized by some neocon spell, and finally woke up on April 4, to the undisguised shock and horror of his handlers. After weeks of kowtowing to Prime Minister Sharon’s doomed policy of “solving” the Palestinian question by military means and doing nothing, last Thursday Mr. Bush suddenly declared that Israel had to end its occupation of Palestinian citiesсRamallah included, where Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has been besieged at his headquarters for over a weekсand to stop building Jewish settlements. The President also condemned innocent Palestinians daily humiliation and asserted the Palestinians right to statehood. Speaking in the Rose Garden he further said that “the storms of violence cannot go on” and declared, “Enough is enough!”
Mr. Bush quite properly also asserted Israel’s right to exist and defend itself, and criticized Mr. Arafat for failing to prevent the recent wave of suicide bombers, saying that “[t]he situation in which he finds himself today is largely of his own making… He has missed his opportunities and thereby betrayed the hopes of his people.” Nevertheless, after days of mounting international criticism of his apparently immutable pro-Israeli stand as violence spread and escalated, Mr. Bush’s statement was a breath of fresh air.
Secretary of State Colin Powell will travel to the area to pick up the pieces left over by General Anthony Zinni, Washington’s failed special envoy. He will have to convey to Sharon that Israel is a small foreign country, albeit friendly and emotionally especially close to some 2.5 percent of Americans, and that U.S. policy in the region will be conducted accordingly. He will have to tell Arafat that unless he stops being a would-be statesman one day and a “freedom fighter” the next the United States will look for his replacement among his less compromised top aides. There is no shortage of candidates for succession, and several would be better able to strike the right balance between defying Sharon’s irrational, self-defeating policies and imposing discipline and authority in the Palestinian camp.
The fact that he is now criticized by both sides in the Middle East indicates that Mr. Bush is finally doing something right. In Israel editorials expressed predictable resentment of President Bush’s demand that the IDF incursions be reversed. The Jerusalem Post bristled at the “rank paternalism” of his remarks about “distinguishing between the terrorists and ordinary Palestinians,” and other papers fretted that IDF withdrawals would presage a “victory” for Arafat. The Arabs, for their part, were offended by the president’s heightened criticism of PA leader Arafat’s passivity in fighting terrorism. Many likewise fumed that Bush had “overlooked” the death and destruction in the territories caused by the Israeli military offensive.
In Europe the reaction to the President’s retreat from the neocon trance was invariably hailed as a rare piece of good news in the gloomy Middle Eastern landscape. “Finally!” proclaimed a Paris daily, “Engagement at Last” headlined a London paper. Nearly all media let out a collective sigh of relief that “America has spoken with a strong and decisive voice” and acknowledged its unique responsibility to broker an end to the violence. Bush’s speech was welcomed in Europe as a turning point, marking a shift from what had been widely criticized as an irresponsible wait-and-see approach. It was politely acknowledged but not over-emphasized that European pressure contributed to Mr. Bush’s “turnaround.”
In the first few weeks after September 11 President Bush had wisely avoided neoconservative pressure to broaden the war and to use terror as a pretext for the final showdown with Saddam Hussein and indeed any other regional player disliked in Israel. In the first few months in this year the pendulum apparently swung to the other side, most notably with the President’s awful State of the Union address that seemed to herald a new era of unrestrained, brazenly triumphalist global imperialism of the worst neocon kind. Right now it is to be hoped that we are witnessing the re-birth of the “real” George W. Bush, who understands the need for the United States to reject the permanent bias in Middle Eastern affairs that breeds anti-Americanism and Islamic fundamentalism. As an oilman he understands that it is vitally important to the United States to have permanent access to secure and affordable sources of energy; as a down-to-earth pragmatist he should come to see that it is not vitally important to the U.S. who rules the Temple Mount.
The neocons now feel betrayed and may yet turn nasty, but it does not matter. They can and should be challenged. In the past one could be forgiven for thinking that their schizophrenia owed more to their post-national, globalist-hegemonist world outlook than to their background. Today it appears that they do have undivided loyalties after all; but those loyalties do not imply that they act in Israel’s best interests. What they demand of President Bush is exactly what deductive reasoning indicates to be Osama bin Laden’s real objective: a cataclysmic war of civilizations that can only benefit those who desire the destruction of the remnants of our race and culture. That too, as per Albright, the likes of Norman Podhoretz may consider to be the price well worth paying for the greater glory of themselves; they must be stopped.
APPENDIX: Extracts from the survey of media reaction around the world, prepared by the U.S. Department of State
ISRAEL: “Bush Time” Senior columnist Nahum Barnea wrote in a page one article in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (4/5): “One cannot avoid separating the rhetoric of President Bush from his operative demands. Rhetorically speaking, this was a heart-warming speech. . . . Operatively, he demanded that Israel pull back its forces. . . . Sharon, who responded to Bush’s statement with carefully contained fury, knows that eventually he will follow the orders from Washington. Israel cannot afford to refuse: it is isolated in the world as it has not been since the Lebanon War. America is its only supporter. If America moves aside, Israel will become the world’s leper. The injustice of the situation that Israel finds itself in is irksome. The world that allowed the U.S. to bomb Afghanistan as it saw fit and allowed Russia to destroy the cities of Chechnya and transfer its citizens, is impatient and demanding when it comes to Israel. . . . Powell’s scheduled visit is not a harbinger of peace. In terms of Arafat, the American move, despite all the rebukes, is a preface to victory. . . . An agreement will not come out of this.”
“Bush’s Confusion” The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (4/5): “As the leader of the free world and the war on terrorism, Bush’s job is to support Israel to the hilt, not stand hovering with a stopwatch. It is rank paternalism to suggest Israel must be lectured to about ‘distinguishing between the terrorists and ordinary Palestinians’ and told long-term security depends on peace. As usual, Israel will swallow such insults and be thankful the U.S., alone in the world, supported her right to self-defense for seven whole days without succumbing to international pressure to say ‘stop!’. . . Bush’s ratcheted-up rhetoric against Arafat does not change the fact he is being given yet another last chance. . . . How many more Israelis and Palestinians must die on the altar of another last chance for Arafat?”
“A Brief History Of Time” Senior columnist Hemmi Shalev commented in a page one article in popular, pluralist Maariv (4/5): “The American initiative and the meetings with Arafat will put an end to the attempt to ‘isolate’ the PA Chairman, and the Palestinians will certainly see it as a victory. And Powell’s wish to hasten the diplomatic element, in the model of the Saudi initiative, is tantamount to shaking the Israeli tactics to their foundation, and already last night Sharon cried out against the American attempt to hold ‘negotiations under fire.’ The Middle East pot, boiling over, forced Bush to shrug off his apathy, against his will, and do something. . . . This is not to say that the Americans know what they are doing, because they are acting sloppily as well with hasty, pressured, last-moment decisions. Powell is coming to the region to get Arafat to sign the Zinni-Tenet-Mitchell trilogy, knowing very well that Arafat’s word, even if he gives it, means much less today than ever, after his organizations have been crushed in the IDF offensive.”
“Preventing An Unhappy Ending” Senior columnist Zeev Schiff argued in the independent Ha’aretz (4/5): “We cannot move toward a cease-fire when one side continues to kill citizens in suicide bombings while the other side is called upon to exercise restraint. It’s like asking the Americans to suffice with tightening U.S. immigration laws in response to the destruction of the Twin Towers. . . . [The U.S.] accepts the notion that Israel must defend itself forcefully against Palestinian terror, but unless Israel shows some willingness to move along the political track, it may conclude that Israel not only is having trouble solving its problems militarily, but also has no desire to seek a just political settlement. In the end, the U.S. will resort to an imposed solution of one sort or another.”
“The World Sheriff” Washington correspondent Orly Azolai-Katz wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (4/5): “Since he began his term, President Bush has not spoken to the Prime Minister of Israel so harshly and unequivocally, as though he were giving an order: ‘The occupation must end. You need to get out of the West Bank. Ramallah too.’ It’s not that the President woke up in the morning looking for a target. . . . Bush, who said that he enjoyed eating hamburgers with Sharon in the White House, told him yesterday that in Washington there are no free lunches. When Sharon became a landmine in the Administration’s eyes, the President decided to defuse it, and quickly.”
“No Good Being Right On One’s Own” Chief Economic Editor Sever Plotker wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (4/5): “The Americans will not let others push them into a corner and will not bend. They are prepared to be alone when they feel they are right. That is one of the most solid foundations of American culture. In terms of their support for Israel, the Americans are certain that they are right. The two large American political blocs, Democrats and Republicans, support Israel equally, as do two U.S. Presidents who are completely different and opposite to each other, Bush and Clinton. However, it is easier to be right and alone when you are the only superpower in the world.”
“Matzot With Jewish Blood” Uri Dan noted in popular, pluralist Maariv and the conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (4/4): “Sharon, when Defense Minister, realized what a terrible enemy Arafat was, and therefore expelled him from Beirut in August 1982. But afterwards. . . Rabin, Peres, Barak, and their band of blind ministers. . . turned Arafat in the hero of their dream of ‘the path to peace.’ Arafat, in reply, demonstrated to these partners of his that he is waging a war against the Jewish nation. Those whom the suicide bombers and the Seder night massacre did not make aware of this reality, will never become aware of it. Therefore, to his amazement and surprise, Arafat found darkness at the end of the tunnel in Ramallahсthe war waged against him by the majority of Jews who feel, justifiably, that the Arafat peace dream has brought upon them and their homes the risk of annihilation.”
“Burning The Bridges” Diplomatic correspondent Alexander Maistrovoy wrote in popular, pluralist Russian-language Novosty Nedely (4/4): “More than eighteen months since the Al Aqsa Intifada began, the conflict has reached the level of a frontal confrontation. Now the Palestinians are burning. . . bridges, and the Jewish state has no other options than to respond to this challenge. . . . The attack the U.S. is preparing on Iraq makes the Palestinian leader feel. . . like a defender of both the Iraqi regime in Iraq and almost all the Arabs against ‘U.S. imperialism’. . . . Arafat is demonstrating complete and unconcealed disregard of General Zinni’s requests. . . . Total terror. . . is Arafat’s ultimate choice. His long-term goal is to provoke an Israeli response which would lead to massive bloodshed in the PA and stir up international pressure, which Sharon and his government would not be able to take.”
“What Will Follow This War?” Liberal writer Yael Paz-Melamed wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv (4/4): “Today, it is absolutely clear to the staunchest opponents of the use of force and the reoccupation of Area A that there is no choice. . . . There is no alternative to fighting, with all our might. But Israelis should not forget the essence of the conflict with the Palestinians. Israel should neither forget the sin of the settlements nor the greater sin that lies in the fact that no Israeli leader, be it on the Right or the Left, has dared evacuate a single settlement, even the most isolated one. It is not for self-flogging purposes that Israelis must remember the occupation and the settlements, but to ensure that Israel has a future, not only a present.”
WEST BANK AND GAZA: “President’s Speech Somewhat Positive” Independent Al-Quds opined (4/5): “President Bush’s speech has some points that can be described as positive. But it also includes points that adopt the Israeli viewpoint regarding the conflict. . . . To begin with, the U.S. President’s campaign of words against Yasser Arafat offends all the Palestinian people, who care about the dignity of their elected leader and the symbol of their struggle. In his speech, President Bush also overlooked the death and destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure, caused by the Israeli military offensive in the Palestinian towns and refugee camps. . . . We have to say, though, that the President’s decision to send Secretary of State Powell to the region is one of the positive elements in the speech. . . . But, what is needed now is for Israel to withdraw its forces immediately and to stop its aggression against the Palestinian cities.”
“U.S. Must Step Aside” Independent Al-Quds editorialized (4/4): “In light of the statements made by President Bush and Secretary Powell, it has become clear to the whole world that the U.S. is no longer an impartial mediator. . . . Since Bush has been in office, he has not bothered to meet with President Arafat, while finding the time. . . to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Sharon four times and become a personal friend of his. . . . Even stranger was Washington’s insistence on demanding that Arafat do more to curb violence despite the fact that he is confined to his office in Ramallah. The U.S. has been an obstacle in the way of many international initiatives and has prevented the European role from becoming more effective in the efforts of achieving peace. . . . It is time for the United States to step aside and let the international community and sane and objective European effort resolve the conflict.
“Bush, Sharon Want To Deprive Palestinians Of Legitimate, Historical Leadership”
Gaza Palestine Satellite Channel Television carried this report in English (4/2): “Ironically, the U.S. President George W. Bushсin his address this eveningсreiterated his recognition to the Palestinians’ right to independence and living in their own state, while in the same time, blaming them for defending this right. Bush, who knows more than anybody else, the legality of the Palestinian inalienable rights, guaranteed by UN and world legitimacy resolutions, and the illegality of the Israeli occupation for the withdrawal of which his country, the United States, sponsored a UN Security Council resolution, is the same President Bush, who accused President Arafat this evening of betraying his hopes of his own people. . . . It is really obvious now that Sharon and the U.S. administration are the judge and the opponent for us. What opportunities that President Arafatсthe Palestinian elected president, the symbol of all Palestinian generationsсhas really missed? President Arafat has signed the peace-of-the-brave agreement with his partner in peace Yitzhaq Rabin. President Arafat also accepted Mitchell report, Tenet’s understanding, and all previous understandings and accords. . . . The conspiracy is crystal clear now. The U.S. administration and Sharon want to deprive the Palestinian people from their legitimate historical leadership to have them an easy prey for Sharon’s ill dreams of expansion, occupation, invasion, and imposing military solutions. But, we again say to President Bush and all concerned parties: Don’t fool yourselves and think that President Arafat is the problem, because if you stop and think you will find for sure that he is the real solution. Do not fool yourselves and think for one moment that you can find any Palestinian who just thinks or dares to replace President Arafat, because President Arafat has always been the leader and symbol of all generations of the Palestinian people. . . . We call on the U.S. administration not to fall to its bias and be fooled by Sharon’s illusions of imposing a military solution and not to hide behind false, untrue accusations of President Arafat, but to stand by its responsibilities as a sponsor to the peace process and its role as the superpower of the world, and decisively order Sharon to stop his massacres and immediately withdraw his trigger-happy soldiers from Palestinian territories, before the cycle of violence and anarchy engulfs the whole region.”
EGYPT: “America’s Responsibility” Pro-American columnist Reda Helal wrote in leading pro-government Al Ahram (4/4): “America now regards herself as Rome, and Bush, as Caesar and world leaders, princes of his municipalities. The world is a U.S. empire. America no longer asks why the world hates her thinking that is not important, as long as the world fears and follows her orders. . . . Richard Haass heard from Egyptian intellectuals and writers that. . . American bias towards Israel threatens American interests in the region and makes Arabs sympathize with [Saddam]. . . . The Cheney conservative right wing, which dominates the Bush Administration is resolved to launch a war against terrorism worldwide. . . to secure hegemony of the U.S. Empire. This is a deficient view. Arafat has become a hero; Saddam is calling for an oil boycott; the war camp voices have risen; and, moderates have come to an impasse. All talk about freedom, democracy and economic welfare have faded. Is this what the U.S. wants? Does it wish to destroy the values it should defend? The responsibility of the American empire, like her call to war, is to impose peace.”
JORDAN: “Dispatch Of Powell A Welcome Development” Semi-official, influential Al-Rai observed (4/5): “Washington is capable of starting dialogues if it wishes to put and end to the Israeli aggression and force General Ari’el Sharon to return to the negotiation table and compel him to give up the path of adventure and recklessness, which has characterized his term in power throughout the past year. This path brought security to nobody, neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians or the region. The U.S. president’s decision to send his secretary of state to the region represents a notable development and enhances the U.S. role, which will be successful, decisive, and vital if it shows honesty, fairness, and justice; if it conforms to international legitimacy resolutions; and considers the issue within its proper framework. This framework underlines that fact that the Israeli occupation is the cause of the conflict and that ending the occupation is the shortest way to end the conflict. . . . If it is neutral and serious, the countries of the region and their people, particularly the Palestinian people, will appreciate the U.S. move although it came late and after Sharon had shed a lot of Palestinian blood. This U.S. move will be an indicator to the credibility of President Bush’s Administration in his declared war against terrorism. Arabs will rally around him after he eliminates the causes of this ‘terrorism,’ and not only view its results.”
“Why Now, And Why The Distortion?” The semi-official, influential among-the-elite, English-language Jordan Times stated (4/5): “Washington could no longer ignore the alarms that have been resonating warnings against the horrific consequences of Israel’s atrocities and U.S. inaction. Bush was completely unjustified and utterly unconvincing in his attempt to blame the Palestinians for the chaos that Israel has brought to West Bank cities, towns and even mosques and churches. But he was right to demand the end of occupation as a prerequisite for peace. Occupation is the root cause of conflict in the Middle East. It is the biggest evil. Everything else is a symptom, and unless Israel withdraws its occupation army from Palestinian land, there will be no peace, and no one will enjoy security in the region. Bush outlined the broad lines of a lasting solution to the conflict. But he proposed no mechanism for enforcing compliance by the terms of reference he identified as requirements for progress. Unless he does so, his speech will join many other pronouncements and resolutions which Israel has shamelessly dismissed to the detriment of the causes of peace and stability.”
LEBANON: “No Peace Without The Man Of Peace” Samir Qassir wrote in anti-Syrian An-Nahar (4/5): “When catastrophe struck the U.S., we excused Bush for delivering primitive speeches. However, he has not stopped acting and talking primitively since. For the thousandth time. . . catastrophe struck an Arab land. . . so stop your preaching Mr. Bush! Isn’t it time for you to learn some lessons?. . . . The first lesson the U.S. should understand is that the logic of cowboys that has been used by President Bush is exactly what is filling this world with destruction and blood. . . . Mr. Bush should realize that the language he used in his speech yesterday would only backfire. We will never get a better chance for peace by isolating Arafat. . . . Hasn’t any U.S. official noticed the fact the wave of suicide bombings against Israeli civilians have increased only after President Bush. . . adopted this nonchalant policy towards the Middle East.”
“Bush Ends His Seclusion But Does Not Change His Policy” Joseph Samaha declared in Arab nationalist As-Safir (4/5): “Bush admitted yesterday that he cannot escape the Arab-Israeli conflict. No doubt, Bill Clinton smiled when he listened to Bush announcing that he will send Secretary of Sate Powell to the region. Bush had initially built his policy on the basis of not intervening in the regionсand by that he was not only trying to undo what Clinton did but also what his father has done. Bush has ended his seclusion just because he is worried. . . that he has allowed the. . . Israelis to lead the Middle East towards a big explosion. . . . As for Bush’s speech, . . . we can conclude that there was nothing new in his speech. . . . Bush has ended his seclusion but he did not change his policy.”
MOROCCO: “Colin Powell’s Urgent Trip” Semi-official, French-language Le Matin declared (4/5): “In the face of the rising pressure from many capitals and from the public opinion, President Bush interrupted the silence yesterday and stated he would send Secretary Powell to the region to diffuse the crisis. . . . Bush, who wants to play the role of the leader, blamed Arafat and accused him of ‘betraying the people’s hope’. This accusation is rejected as Arafat has been democratically elected by his people. The world has been waiting impatiently for U.S. action. However, Bush’s statement on Arafat and Syria and Iran risk to complicate the situation at a time when the international community calls Israel to respect legitimacy and Palestinian rights in conformity with the UN resolutions.”
SAUDI ARABIA: “Bush Offer ‘Too Little, Too Late” Javid Hassan and K.S. Ramkumar, writing in the internet version of the Jeddah-based, moderate Arab News said (4/5): “U.S. President George Bush’s decision to dispatch Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Middle East and his call on Israel to stop incursions into Palestinian-controlled territories was seen more as a public relations exercise than as a serious attempt to halt Israeli aggression against the Palestinians. Saudis as well as Arab and other expatriates, contacted by Arab News, said the visit of Powell should have been scheduled soon after the outbreak of hostilities. His appeal to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to halt violence and come back to the negotiating table also lacks the force of conviction that one would have expected from the U.S. president, especially when Israel, its protege, has been guilty of heinous crimes against humanity. A marketing executive in Jeddah, KA, reacted strongly to Bush’s speech saying, ‘What he’s offering the Palestinians is too little, too late. The Bush administration should realize that the Palestinians will settle for nothing less than full rights and freedom, release of all prisoners, especially the young children who are being held and tortured in jails, and full compensation from the United States which is Israel’s prime supporter in terms of aid and military equipment. Dr. Saleh I. Al-Babear, assistant secretary-general of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) and editor in chief of Muslim Youth, said the U.S. is not an honest broker. “If President Bush had been serious, he could have asked Ariel Sharon to get his troops out of Palestine. The main obstacle in the settlement of the Palestine-Israeli conflict is the United States itself.'”
“Not Far Enough” The internet version of the pro-government, Jeddah-based, moderate Arab News opined (4/5): “President George Bush’s intervention yesterday, ordering Secretary of Colin Powell to the Middle East and seemingly urging Ariel Sharon to end his invasion of the West Bank does not seem to be anything more than a fig leaf to disguise American inaction. It goes nowhere near far enough to ending the conflict. It is one-sided, holding the Palestinians to blame for the present crisis; and it allows the Israelis the right to hit out at what they want to call ‘terrorism’. . . . It is a catastrophe for the United States which is now seen by virtually all Arab public opinion as the co-villain of events, first for having given the Israelis the green light to carry out their rampage and now for doing nothing to stop them. . . . It is a catastrophe for moderate Arab states who have tried to secure a just peace through negotiations based on a two-state solution but have seen it trampled by the Israelis and virtually ignored by the Americans. Sharon’s response, dangerously shortsighted though it was, came of course as no surprise. But that of the less emotionally involved and supposedly more astute Bush administration. . . .came as a profound shock. True, the initiative was praised. But, every step of the way, in every single reaction, it looked as though Washington was taking special care to vilify, humiliate and demonize the Palestinians. The impression Washington gave was of following an Israeli script calculated to ensure that the Palestinians never got a chance to opt for peace. There is no other explanation. Claims that the Americans do not understand the region, that their vision does not extend beyond the United States, no longer ring true. Their vision extended perfectly well to Afghanistan. The Middle East is at its most explosive for years. The Bush administration had better start getting its priorities right. It has to rein in the Israelisсand, for its own future credibility in the Muslim world, must be seen to be doing so. Behind-the-scenes pressure will not be enough to repair the damage. If it continues to do nothing, it will have no friends whatsoever in the region at allсand for a very long time to come.”
SYRIA: “Bush Breaks Silence, Blames Arafat” Official Damascus Radio noted (4/4): “After a long silence, occasionally broken with statements and hints justifying Sharon’s war and brutal massacres of the Palestinian people, U.S. President George Bush called on Israel today to put an end to the ongoing military operations against Palestinian territories. He declared that he would dispatch his Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Middle East to carry a message, which he described as new. News agencies cited Bush as saying in a statement he delivered at the White House Garden that what he termed the storms of violence in the Middle East cannot go on, and that enough is enough. Bush called on Israel to stop incursions in the territories under Palestinian autonomy, halt the building of settlements in the Palestinians, and respect the dignity of the Palestinian people, in addition to opening border crossings and giving the Palestinians a larger freedom of movement. Bush stressed that he is committed to the friendship of Israel, and that he speaks out of his concern for Israel’s long-term security. The U.S. president said PA President Yasser Arafat is largely responsible for the situation in which he finds himself today. He charged that Arafat missed opportunities, thus betraying the hopes of the Palestinian people, as he alleged.”
TUNISIA: “The American Order!” Editor-in-chief Mustapha Khammari wrote in independent French-language Le Temps (4/5): “Who can doubt, after his speech yesterday, that President Bush still does not understand anything about the Middle East, let alone International relations. Those who hoped to see the White House show compassion towards the suffering of the Palestinian people were disappointed. Only Israeli victims count for the American president. He even declared that ‘Arafat has betrayed his people’, suggesting clearly that the Palestinian people should have a better leader. The ease with which the United States invaded Afghanistan led them to think that they can do the same thing and ‘Karazaize’ the Palestinian power. It is Mr. Bush who betrayed those who are for justice and liberty in the world. . . . He keeps making the same amalgam by describing the legitimate Palestinian struggle as ‘terrorism’. He understands nothing about the Palestinian issue, though it is so obvious. . . . It is not,. . . by imposing a new leadership on the Palestinians that Mr. Bush will help create democracy and peace. . . Palestinians should understand that they can only rely on themselves and at the same time should give a chance to peace in order to avoid giving a pretext to Sharon the criminal to accomplish his plan for the ‘Judaification’ of Palestine.”
BRITAIN: “Bush Has Finally Grasped Sharon Is The Problem” An article in the liberal Guardian read (4/5): “The most important change is that the Bush administration has committed itself in this speech, in a manner which is close to unequivocal, to steer the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians through to a settlement. American prestige is now on the line in a way it has not been before, even during President Clinton’s efforts to mediate; and the most important aspect of any act of policy now becomes its success of otherwise in leading to such a settlement. That now matters more that Israeli wishes, Palestinian wishes, the influence of the Israeli lobby, or the attitudes of diaspora Jews. Whereas the critical element used to be that the president wanted to steer a course that would keep him clear of trouble, the new critical element is that the president must not fail. That changes a great deal.”
“Bush Stands By Sharon” An editorial in the conservative Daily Telegraph stated (4/5): “Mr Bush was much harder on the Palestinian leader than on the Israeli prime minister. . . . The president said the current situation was largely of Mr Arafat’s own making; by missing opportunities for peace, he had betrayed his own people; he should focus on Palestinians’ need, rather that feeding their resentments. On the one hand, an understanding of Israel’s terrible predicament; on the other, the virtual writing off of Mr Arafat as a valid interlocutor. The Palestinians may at present be unable to conceive of any other leader. But Arafat is not the man to lead them towards the promise of peace and prosperity that the president held out yesterday.”
“Engagement At Last” An editorial in the Guardian stated (4/5): “Mr Bush’s intervention comes not a moment too soon. The entire region was threatening to explode with a force which could have hadсindeed, could still haveсquite catastrophic consequences. It would have been inexcusable for the worlds only hyperpowerсparticularly one that funds Israel so generouslyсto attempt to sit this out, never mind simultaneously turning up the heat on another Arab country in the region. There is, of course, no guarantee that Mr Powell’s trip will be any more fruitful that his last two trips. Neither Sharon nor Arafat is an ideal partner in any effort to build a lasting peace. It is all the more vital therefore, that America now remains seriously engaged.”
“What Blair Must Say To Bush” An editorial in the independent Financial Times stated (4/5): “Bush’s decision to send the U.S. secretary of state to the Middle East in an attempt to end the escalating violence between Israel and the Palestinians is welcome.”
FRANCE: “Finally!” Jacques Amalric opined in left-of-center Liberation (4/5): “In the midst of despair, hope came yesterday from Washington. President Bush’s cry of ‘enough is enough,’ expressing almost equal feelings of compassion for two people killing each other, is probably less spontaneous than one might think, considering that the deteriorating situation in the Middle East is paralyzing the U.S. operation against Saddam Hussein. . . . But the cryсwe are certainсmarks the much-awaited end to an irresponsible wait-and-see policy, even indifference, on the part of the world’s major power. In addition to the sending of Secretary Powell to the region, the other encouraging sign is the fact that Bush has given up on the security-only approach, which doomed General Zinni’s mission to failure, and has adopted the outlines for a peace solution which the two sides could never rally to if left to their bloody face-off. This attitude required much courage. Much courage was also required, considering the American political context, to ask Sharon to withdraw his troops. And to recognizeсafter having fingered Arafat for his ambiguous attitude towards terrorismсthat both parties ‘had responsibilities to bear.’ While a speech does not in itself guarantee a turning point, it is a founding step. Let us hope, while we hold our breath, that this is indeed the case. The next few days will be crucial, because after similar remarks, any sign of prevarication is often an indication that there is a lack of determination, and therefore failure.”
“Good For The U.S.’ Image” Jean-Jacques Mevel held in right-of-center Le Figaro (4/5): “The hope of seeing some softening in the region is not the only explanation for Washington’s diplomatic turning point. In the Arab world, in Europe and even in Washington the pressure was becoming too much for both the image of the U.S. and for the reputation of its president, who was being accused of culpable passivity.”
“Bush Bangs His Fist On The Table” Fabrice Rousselot argued in left-of-center Liberation (4/5): “In answer to the accusations of immobility, President Bush and the U.S. are back in the picture in a spectacular way, with the announcement of Secretary Powell’s trip to the region. . . . Going beyond the notion of a simple truce, President Bush has defined a political framework for a durable solution. . . and for the first time clearly given his unequivocal support to the Saudi peace plan. . . . After a long period of inactivity, America has decided to take certain risks by getting involved in the Middle East. . . . With a tone of voice never heard before from a U.S. president, George Bush has warned Israel and openly asked Sharon to put an end to the construction of settlements in occupied territories. . . . But the contrasting reactions of both sides to the president’s speech give a sense of the enormous task awaiting Secretary Powell.”
GERMANY: “His Word Is Valid: Enough Is Enough” Washington correspondent Malte Lehming filed the following editorial for centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (4/5): “Enough is enough. President Bush referred to violence, oppression, terrorism and the daily humiliations of the Palestinians, but the main addressee of the U.S. president was he himself and his government. The time of staying out of the conflict is over. The United States has decided to bring this conflict to an end. The U.S. president has now announced a total turnabout of his policy towards the Middle East. America’s abstinence in the region has now been punished. Ignorance is no longer an option. This is a courageous almost brazen insight that resulted from the accumulating chaos created by Israelis and Palestinians over the past few weeks. . . . Enough is enough, these are warnings, but for the first time in a long time, also promising words from the U.S. president. If Arafat and Sharon still have a bit of reason, they should have understood the message. If not, nobody can help them any longer.”
“Enough Is Enough: Bush Had To Act” Martina Doering had this to say in an editorial in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (4/5): “The fact that President Bush now wants to interfere in the Middle East conflict and restore peace does not mean that all previous scenarios of horror have been ostracized. Colin Powell will now travel to the region. The president made very clear in his speech what Powell is to tell the Palestinian president. And if the Israelis allow Powell to talk to Arafat, he will certainly convey Bush’s words. But the president also clearly said for what he ‘asked’ the Israeli premier. But he left it open what kind of means the U.S. president is willing to use to see his views be implemented. As clear as such requests are in diplomacy, in times of war, Sharon and Arafat often overheard such pleasant appeals before.”
“Bush Finally Intervenes” Lothar Loewe judged in mass-circulation, right-of-center tabloid Bild-Zeitung of Hamburg (4/5): “Late but hopefully not too late, Washington is beginning to act. President George W. Bush, a convinced friend of Israel, is now taking full advantage of the United States as a global power to halt the barbaric bloodshed in Israel and Palestine. During his upcoming trip to the Middle East, U.S. Secretary of State Powell will have to use all his diplomatic talent to force Sharon and Arafat back to the negotiating table. All previous mediation attempts, UN resolutions, and the diplomacy of the Europeans failed. The moment of the Americans has now come. But Washington leaves no doubt that it considers Palestinian leader Arafat to be co-responsible for the existing horrible situation. Arafat must now prove whether he can really stop Palestinian suicide terrorists.”
“Europe’s Side Role” Christian Wernicke editorialized in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (4/5): “No, peace in the Middle East will not come from Europe. Everybody knows that, where Washington fails, Brussels cannot succeed either. And Ariel Sharon is gleefully enjoying the opportunity to show the Europeans their limits. . . . As long as a fight for life and death is taking place in the Middle East, Europe will be doomed to play a side role, even though it has many good intentions but has no real power.”
ITALY: “Washington’s Rules” A front-page commentary by report by New York correspondent Maurizio Molinari in centrist, influential La Stampa read (4/5): “America moves ahead and the Middle East has a plan for a just, comprehensive peace, but it is still difficult to reach. President George Bush spoke clearly and asked everyone to step back: Israel must withdraw from the Territories ‘today’ and give up its settlements ‘tomorrow;’ the Palestinians must stop ‘encouraging’ suicide bombers and find a new leader since Arafat is compromised by terrorism; the Arab nations must follow the route of peace with Israel by accepting the Saudi plan following in Sadat’s and King Hussein’s footsteps; Iran, Iraq and Syria must stop providing weapons, money and support for terrorism, otherwise they will have to confront Bush’s doctrine, which doesn’t apply to only the Taliban and Bin Laden. Bush surprised everybody, including defendants, doubtful allies, and inflamed Arab populations as well as bitter critics. Washington’s political machine needed to take the time necessary to propose a credible solution and not a messy compromise… All those holding an ideological prejudice must give it up. The initial reactions of all interested parties confirmed that the route is uphill and human bombs are waiting to ambush. It’s now Secretary of State Colin Powell’s turn to demonstrate that peace can become real by silencing the weapons and stopping the ‘kamikazes’…. On his way to the Middle East, Colin Powell will go through Europe. It is an occasion that Europe canсand mustсtake to contribute to peace by concretely combining its efforts with Washingtons, as occurred during the Afghan war.
Mission Impossible During The Time Of The Hawks A different opinion from Molinaris was expressed by Paolo Garimberti in left-leaning, influential La Repubblic (4/5): “Cornered by Europe, the Pope and by an ever-growing bitter criticism of the U.S. ‘liberal’ press due to his inertia which has been close to complicity, George Bush has finally done something by admonishing Sharon that ‘enough is enough,’ and warning both the Israeli prime minister and Yasser Arafat that he is ‘expecting better leadership and better results.’ However, Europe ‘did even more’ yesterday when its Ambassadors Solana and Piquй refused to meet Sharon, who had denied them a meeting with Arafat, and they left Israel in protest. Both the U.S. and European actions were late, which probably wont change the tragic scenario in the field. . . . Sharons reply was disdainfully eloquent: ‘we haven’t yet finished (our job)’. And the lack of replies from those who maneuver the kamikazes…was even more eloquent, especially in the wake of the triumphant declarations coming from four Hamas leaders boasting about the efficiency of human bombs, as published by the New York Times just yesterday morning.”
“Bush Enters The Arena: ‘Withdraw From The Territories’” Ennio Caretto filed from Washington in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (4/5): “This is a diplomatic turning point that was expected throughout the world. From the White House. . . with Colin Powell by his side, President Bush asked Sharon to ‘stop the raids and to start withdrawing his troops’ from the Territories, and asked Arafat, as well as the Arab countries, ‘to immediately adopt measures against terrorism.’ And not only that: in fact, he (President Bush) also warned Iraq that paying the families of the kamikazes ‘is the same as fomenting the worst perpetrators of mass massacres.’ And finally, President Bush announced that Secretary of State Powell would go to Israel and the Territories next week, without giving any further timeframe or details. The President appeared quite upset: ‘All these bursts of violence must not continue.’”
“Finally Bush Had To Step In” Stephen Mavi commented in Rome’s center-right Il Tempo (4/5): “And finally President Bush had to step in. Urged from all sides, accused by both the ‘hawks’ and the ‘doves,’ pushed by Arab moderate countries, and called by Europe and the Vatican to take an active role, he had to force himself to get out of the corner. . . . Iraq is still the top priority on his agenda. However, in order to be able to attack Saddam, the consensus of the Arab countries is necessary and, in order to obtain their approval, it is necessary to disappoint U.S. ally Sharon. What did Bush, then, decide? He again opted for a middle course. He asked for Israel’s withdrawal. . . while also condemning Arafat.”
RUSSIA: “U.S. To Pitch In” Gennadiy Sysoyev pointed out on page one of reformist business-oriented Kommersant (4/5): “The U.S. President not only announced his decision to come to grips with the issue of a Middle East settlement but, in effect, claimed a key role in these efforts. He is sending Secretary of State Colin Powell on a special mission to the Middle East next week to explain the details to local leaders.”
“Israeli Response Improper” Vadim Markushin contended on page one of centrist army Krasnaya Zvezda (4/5): “The international community insists that the use of force by the Israelis in response to terrorist acts is improper. A negotiation process can go on, parallel to efforts to bring about a cease-fire. Even the United States has come around. Earlier the Americans said that implementation of security measures, that is, the cessation of terrorist acts and violence must precede consultations on a final settlement.”
AUSTRIA: “Isolated Israel” Foreign affairs writer Christian Ultsch commented in liberal Der Standard (4/5): “It is quite revealing, how ruthlessly Israel’s Premier can cold-shoulder the EU without even having to worry about possible consequences. . . . Bush is the only one who can still stop Sharon. . . . But the only strategy the U.S. president could come up with initially was to give Israel the green light for their military operation. . . . Now, finally, Bush is trying to call a stop to Israel’s actions. . . . There’s only one way for Israel to gain the upper hand again on the diplomatic stage. It has to withdraw from the occupied territoriesсif necessary even without a peace agreement. Everyone in their right minds would consider this an act of strength, not weakness.”
BELGIUM: “The Americans Take Up The Initiative Again” Sabine Verhest in a front page article of independent La Libre Belgique noted (4/5): “At the moment when the United States is trying to rally the Arab world to its anti-terrorist campaign and to mobilize against Iraq, the outburst of violence in the Middle East and its support of Israel are hampering its efforts, according to American analysts. Therefore, the need to get Arab support for their plans is forcing the Americans to get involved in trying to find a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Which will not be superfluous, given the fact that the Europeans are clearly not welcome in Israel, as demonstrated by their latest lightning visit in that country.”
“Bush, The European” Christophe Lamfaluss wrote in independent La Libre Belgique (4/5): “George W. Bush has finally yielded to the insistence of the Europeans, of the Arab countries, and also of the media of his own country which consider that the United States is the only one capable of convincing the Israeli Prime Minister. The contempt with which the former Sabra and Chatila General handled the European delegation illustrates the credit which the Israeli Government lends to the European Union. . . .he Israeli Prime Minister only respects force and it is therefore from the United Statesсfrom the Republican Administration of his friend Bushсthat he is expecting understanding, or even a solution. However, the Europeans should not be down in the dumps as far as the future of their foreign policy is concerned. Although George Bush and his special envoy Colin Powell are now the ones in whom the international community is hoping, it is to European positions that the U.S. President finally rallied.”
CZECH REPUBLIC: “BushДs Uneasy Choice” Milan Slezak opined in business Hospodarske noviny (4/4): “The U.S. should intervene [in the Middle East conflict]. . . . If Bush focuses on ‘improving the virtuousness’ of the Israelis, he will estrange his strategic ally. If he sacrifices Yasir Arafat for the benefit of Israel he will further disrupt the already disintegrating anti-terrorist coalition, which cannot do without the Arab states.”
DENMARK: “Our Hopes Rest With Powell And U.S.” Sensationalist tabloid BT stressed (4/5): “The fact that the EU countries cannot agree, means that it is a weak player [on the international scene.] Our hopes for peace rest therefore with Colin Powell and the U.S.”
“Bush Changes Horses” Center-right Berlingske Tidende’s Washington D.C. correspondent, Poul Hшi, commented (4/5): “During the last fourteen days, a open war has been raging in the Bush administration between the hawks who want to back Israel to the last and Colin Powell who favors negotiation. President Bush does not appear able to defend his hard-line policies any longer and has chosen to change horses.”
FINLAND: “Psychosis Of Violence” Leading Helsingin Sanomat had this op-ed (4/4): “The only way to reach agreement [in the Middle East] is peace enforcement. . . . It could be carried out only through extensive international cooperation, but there is no hope as long as the United States supports Israeli action as Bush did on Monday. The EU is powerless, split and passive.”
GREECE: “After The Maneuver” The lead editorial in popular, influential and anti-American Eleftherotypia claimed (4/5): “George Bush intervenes in the Mideast tragedy after he let Ariel Sharon sweep the Palestinian territories and spread terror in the name of fighting terrorism. The American president asked the Israelis to withdraw but gave them sufficient time to ‘complete their work’ until next week when Secretary Powell arrives. After supporting war and barbarity, President Bush appears as a peacemaker instead of helping the UN assume this role by implementing SC Resolution 1402. Bush wants the UN aside and weakened so as to be able to play by alone according to his interests.”
“Proof Of European Weakness” The lead editorial in large-circulation pro-government Ethnos declared (4/5): “Europe’s failure to intervene in important events instead of standing aside as an observer of initiatives and/or decisions undertaken by the overseas superpower is neither unprecedented or inexplicable. It is, however, unprecedented to have its right to intervene refused or to be told to what point and in which manner its intervention is acceptable. Once more it is proven that the EU not only lacks, but does not even claim the role it can play in international affairs for the simple reason that it lacks a common foreign policy.”
HUNGARY: “A Quiet American In The Middle East” Former Washington correspondent Gabor Lambert argued in influential business/political Vilaggazdasag (4/4): “The United States is the only external power that could ease the drama in the Middle East. . . . But it is quite doubtful that the two sides to this decades long conflict would quit fighting just now. Gershom Gorenberg in the Washington Post reminds us that ‘every successful Israeli offensive is followed by not less but even more Palestinian terrorist attacks.'”
IRELAND: “Storm Of Violence Cannot Go On” The liberal Irish Times ran this editorial (4/5): “In his speech yesterday President Bush accurately described the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the danger that it could threaten the entire Middle East region. As an exercise in political leadership his intervention came none too soon, after the appalling events of recent days. U.S. passivity up to now has drawn unprecedented criticism at home and abroad. His call yesterday for an end to violence, an Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian areas. . . and a return to political dialogue brokered by. . . Colin Powell, is welcome and altogether necessary. But it must be conducted in cooperation with the UN and the EU if it is to be balanced and politically credible. . . . If Israel continues the operation for the next few days before Powell arrives much of the goodwill generated by Mr Bush’s speech could be dissipated. . . . The fundamental significance of this welcome return to full engagement by the U.S. is that it came in response to a widespread international demand for political and diplomatic action.”
THE DOOMED SAUDI PEACE INITIATIVE:
ABDULLAHнS TRANSPARENT SMOKESCREEN
Thursday, March 28, 2002
It has been announced that on Thursday (March 28) the Arab League summit in Beirut unanimously approved a Saudi-proposed plan for Arab peace with Israel. Saudi Arabiaнs foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told the CNN: мWe envision a relationship between the Arab countries and Israel that is exactly like the relationship between the Arab countries and any other state.о He added that Israelнs security would be guaranteed because the peace will be comprehensive.
There is less than meets the eye to all this. To start with, the мArab League summitо is a misnomer for a gathering lacking several key players in the Arab world. Israelнs Prime Minister Ariel Sharon prevented Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat from attending, and this was followed by the unexpected last-minute decision by Egyptнs president Mubarak to stay away. Libyaнs Gaddafi, Iraqнs Saddam Hussein, and a few less important dignitariesуthe rulers of the Emirates and Qatarуalso remained at home.
Secondly, the Saudi peace initiativeуit is not a мplanо in any accepted senseуis a repackaged set of general guidelines that have been around for decades. It was launched in February by Crown Prince Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz, the Saudi de facto leader, in order to improve Saudi Arabiaнs tarnished image after September 11. Its key points are familiar: Israel is to withdraw from all territories seized in 1967 (the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights), and in return all Arab states will establish normal diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. The deal would be sealed in a peace treaty that recognizes Israelнs right to exist and secures its borders. It allows for Israeli sovereignty over the Western or Wailing Wall in JerusalemуJudaismнs holiest site, and for the transfer of some areas of the West Bank to Israel in return for equivalent territorial transfers to the future Palestinian sate. But perhaps the most important feature of the proposed deal is that it quietly drops the demand for the right of return of Palestinian refugees to Israel, and proposes financial compensation instead. This issue is crucial because to most Israelis the Palestinian claim to the right or return is a fundamental threat to the idea of a Jewish nation-state.
There is nothing new about the Saudi initiative: in one form or another it has been around ever since the Six-Day War of 1967. Nevertheless, Secretary of State Colin Powell has described it as an important development; so has the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. The attention it generated in Washington, at the UN, and in Europe is entirely due to the lack of anything else on the political horizon, amidst the ever-deepening crisis, escalating violence, and hardening attitudes in the Middle East. Its adoption by the truncated Arab League summit notwithstanding, this initiative is doomed to fail for three reasons:
Ariel Sharon will never accept the key concessions that Israel would need to make: to withdraw from the Golan Heights, to accept Palestinian political presenceуlet alone sovereign rightsуin East Jerusalem, and to dismantle all Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. In the end Israel will probably have to accept all of the aboveуand perhaps much moreуto reach a lasting peace (if it can ever be reached)уbut that will not happen under this prime minister. According to European Unionнs foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who has enthusiastically endorsed the proposal, the Israeli prime minister has мexpressed great interest in having more informationо on the plan. Solanaнs carefully chosen words reflect the fact that right now Sharon is under pressure from his coalition partners to get even tougher on the Palestinians, not to make concessions of any kind. Even a hint of his going beyond мgreat interest in having more informationо could cause his government to collapse.
The initiative can work only if there is an Arab consensus on its key ingredients. Syria, Iraq, and Libya will not go along with the Saudi proposal unless there is a clear commitment from Washington that there will be no broadening of the мwar against terrorо on other regional targets, whether they are included in the Presidentнs мAxis of Evilо or not. Short of such assurances Messrs Saddam, Assad, and Qaddafy remain not only able but also eager to torpedo the proposal.
The United States will not give any such assurances. In addition, there is no political will in Washington to put the kind of pressure on Israel without which there will be no concessions necessary for a comprehensive settlement.
Crown Prince Abdullah is aware of all this, and nevertheless went ahead with the proposals that were doomed to fail in the absence of prior diplomatic footwork. His real purpose in launching the initiative was not to kick-start the moribund мpeace processо in the Middle East but to improve his countryнs tarnished image in the West. In the aftermath of September 11 it has been subjected to some long-overdue scrutiny, and this has caused some nervousness in Riyadh.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia remains the most intolerant Islamic regime in the world. The practice of any religion besides Islam is as strictly prohibited there now as it was in мprophetо Muhammadнs lifetime. While the Saudis continue to build mosques all over the world, thousands of Christians among the hundreds of thousands of foreign workers from India, Europe, America, and the Philippines, must worship in secret, if at all. They are arrested, lashed or deported for public display of their beliefs.
In Saudi Arabia American citizens can be detained indefinitely, in one particular instance at the pleasure of their Saudi Muslim father who kidnapped them from their American mother. This has happened to Patricia Roush, whose daughters Alia and Aisha are now clad from head to toe in the black abbaya, and the former forced to marry her fatherнs first cousin. The State Department directed the U.S. embassy in Riyadh to remain мimpartial.о Ray Mabus, ex-U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia who disapproves of such appeasement, explains that diplomats feel they should be working on the мbig stuff.о
Saudi Arabia is the source of most al Qaeda fighters and funding and the instigator of Islamic agitation all over the world, but it is also a major source of oil, and its мroyalо cleptocracy owns huge parts of major American corporations, and that is the мbig stuff.о Suffice to say that the present U.S. Ambassador there is a Dallas attorney by the name of Robert Jordan, a man with no diplomatic experience who defended George W. Bush in a probe of insider trading allegations in 1990. Jordan comes from the Dallas office of Houston-based Baker Botts, which has an office in Riyadh and whose client list includes The Carlyle Group. One of the Groupнs directors is former President George Bush Sr., while James A. Baker III is the current Baker in Baker Botts. Baker was a classmate of Donald H. Rumsfeld at Yale University. Rumsfeld, the current Secretary of Defense, was the roommate of Frank C. Carlucci at Yale. Carlucci, who was head of the National Security Counsel under President Ronald Reagan, is currently chairman of The Carlyle Group. At least $2 million of Carlyle funding has come from the bin Laden family of Saudi Arabia.
Tens of thousands of able-bodied Saudi males sound of mind and devout Muslims have completed terrorist training or received combat experience abroad since 1979. Saudi Arabia is not nearly as populous as its Muslim brethren in Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt, Bangladesh, or Nigeria, but the initiated Jihadi volunteers are proportionately over-represented everywhere. At home they planted a bomb in Riyadh that killed 5 Americans and wounded 37 in November 1995. In June 1996 they bombed an air base in the eastern city of Al Khobar, killing 19 American airmen and wounding hundreds more. Abroad, from Chechnya to Kosovo, from the Philippines to Bosnia, there is a distinct Wahhabi imprint on the proceedings, such as the ritual decapitation of 26 Serb POWs captured on videotape in the mountains of Bosnia. In the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi one of the attackers was a Saudi, and the bombing in Yemen of the destroyer Cole in October 2000, was masterminded by another Saudi, Tawfiq al-Atash, who lost a leg in Afghanistan. All along the Islamic мcharitiesо that financed terrorists included prominent members of the royal family on their boards. Since 1992, one Saudi charity, the Al Haramin Foundation, has distributed hundreds of millions of dollars, with money often ending up in extremist coffers.
In reality the rulers of Saudi Arabia differ from their prodigal son in the caves of Afghanistan (or wherever he may be) only in degree, not in kind. Their response to the outrage of September 11 illustrates the point. The reactions throughout the Muslim world have been less concerned by the fact of those terrorist attacks than by the alleged Islamophobia of the West. Saudi religious establishmentarians in particular have repeatedly said that extremists have мdistorted Islamic teachingsо but beyond these now-familiar declarations that the attacks were мnot Islamо there has been mostly silence. There has been no public repudiation of those, like Hamoud Shuaebi, who has called on Muslims to wage war against Americans, and has warned that мthose who help the infidels are infidels themselves.о The response from prominent, establishment clerics like Saleh al-Sheikh, the Saudi minister of Islamic Affairs, has been almost tepid: мThe problem of extremism comes when some people surrender to emotions, but donнt use their brain,о Mr. al-Sheikh was quoted recently as saying in the Saudi newspaper Okaz. The reality behind this ambiguity is that the Saudis and their co-religionists do not object to terrorismуunless, of course, it is directed against their rulers
The focus on the мbig stuffо has nevertheless allowed thousands of young Saudis easy access to American entry visas under various pretexts, many of them hell-bent on fighting the Jihad against the unbelievers across the ocean. The Saudi authorities issued them exit visas in the full knowledge what they were up to. At least they were keen to get rid of the potentially troublesome hotheads who could stir up trouble at home. Worse still, they may have considered the resulting mayhem, exemplified in the predominantly Saudi suicide teams of September 11, as not necessarily wrong or undesirable. Rather than prevent young Saudis from enlisting in military ventures abroad or silence the sheiks encouraging them, some officials say Saudi Arabia has mostly tried to deflect the problem outside its borders. мAlarm bells should have rung,о said Wyche Fowler Jr., the former U.S. ambassador in Saudi Arabia. мSomeone should have said, wait a minute, we canнt have people marching off to choose their own jihad, without examining the foreign policy and security repercussions.о
In anticipation of such development alarm bells have rung in Riyadh. On September 12, 2001, Crown Prince Abdullah and his oil minister Ali Nuaimi decided to break a recent promise to other OPEC nations to cut oil production. They arranged for quick delivery of additional nine million barrels of oil to the United States instead, which helped reduce the price from almost $30 a barrel before 9-11 to under $20 only weeks later. This was a preemptive gesture by people with a guilty conscience. They knew that someone, somewhere in the United States would put two and two together: that whenever there are Islamic terrorists bringing death, destruction, and havoc to the non-Muslim world, there are some Saudis lurking in the background, either as masterminds, or direct participants, or as bankrollers. The questioning of the Saudi connection is only beginning to happen, and for now it tends to focus on the questionable ability of the members of the royal familyуwhose numbers add up to an incredible 30,000уto break away from their addiction to a lifestyle of parasitic idleness and institute reforms.
The United States is still reluctant to read the riot act to the Saudis. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, normally not a mealy-mouthed man, on a visit to Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of terrorist attacks appeared strangely evasive on the issue of Saudi funds for Islamic terror, and admitted that he had not asked the Saudis to freeze the assets of people and groups linked to Mr. bin Laden, even though the United States had asked all countries to do so: мWe understand that each country is different, each country lives in a different neighborhood, has a different perspective and has different sensitivities and different practices, and we do not expect every nation on the face of the earth to be publicly engaged in every single activity the United States is.о The limits of Saudi Arabiaнs engagement have been accordingly strict and narrow: not until October 2001, and the beginning of the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan began, did Saudi Arabia detain its young men trying to join that fight.
Choosing accommodation over confrontation, the Saudi government shied away from a crackdown on militant clerics or their followers, a move that would have inflamed the religious establishment, the disaffected returnees from other wars, and a growing number of unemployed in this economically and socially dysfunctional society. Saudi Arabia has 18 million citizens (and 6 million foreign workers), growing at over 4 percent a year from 1980 to 1998. The average Saudi family now has between six and seven children. Per-capita income has collapsed from a peak of $19,000 in 1981 to $7,300 in 1997. Unemployment is rampant, but young people donнt want the lower-paying jobs held by foreigners. The government can no longer support the generous social welfare system it created at the height of the oil boom. From a peak of $227 billion in 1981 oil revenue is down to under 50 billion.
The only expanding industry is that of Islamic extremism. In 1966 the Vice-President of the Islamic University of Medina complained that Copernican theory was being taught at Riyadh University. Three hundred years after the Christian theologians had to concede that the Earth went around the Sun the geocentric theory was reaffirmed in the centers of Saudi learning. In 1967 segregation of the sexes at schools was set at age nine, which was the age for girls to start to wear the veil. The King was forced to sack the Minister of Information for мoffensiveо TV programs: apparently a cartoon passed the censors in which Mickey Mouse gave Minnie a little peck. The opinions of the ullema are the only internal check and balance on the ruling family, and the religious establishment is expanding. Saudi Arabiaнs five Islamic universities produce thousands of clerics, many more than will ever be hired to work in the countryнs mosques and religious institutions. Many end up spreading and promoting Wahhabism at home and abroad. For Osama bin Ladenнs most audacious strike against the Great Satan, Europe was his forward base, Saudi Arabia provided his pool of recruits and most of the money, the United States a vulnerable target. As the Western world braces for more attacks, Saudi Arabia is still managing to square the circle of its ostensible partnership (we should never delude ourselves with the notion of an мallianceо) with the United States, while maintaining its leading role as the promoter and bankroller of Islamic interests in the outside world.
For the time being the Saudis and their co-religionists have no reason to doubt that the talk about promoting democracy is propaganda for internal consumption and that the US prefers to deal with autocratic rulers, who are much easier to bribe. The end result, for now, favors an oppressive plutocracy without elected representative bodies, light-years and worlds apart from all that America and the rest of the Western world hold near and dear. It cannot be otherwise, because Saudi Arabia is defined, and exists, as an Islamic polity based on the virulently intolerant and aggressive brand of what is already intolerant and aggressive religion.
The ability of the inherently fanatical and mendacious, as well as profligate and corrupt, rulers of the desert kingdom to square any circles at all is entirely due to its oil reserves, which account for up to one-fifth of all U.S. oil imports. The Saudis are perfectly aware that this is their only, albeit enormously powerful trump card, and immediately after September 11 they embarked on a multimillion-dollar public relations campaign to try to restore confidence in the Saudi-American мspecial relationship.о It culminated in the launching of the latest мMiddle Eastern Peace Initiativeо in February 2002. The initiative was packaged by the Saudisн American PR consultants, and launched as a smokescreen for the Saudisн many past transgressions and to draw attention away from the many serious disagreements that have emerged between the Bush administration and the Ibn Saud ruling family over how to deal with Iraq and Iran. America and the rest of the West urgently need to set themselves free from the need to pander to Saudi whims, including the non-existent and unreciprocated мrightо of its government to bankroll thousands of mosques and Islamic мcultural centersо around the world that teach hate and provide the logistic infrastructure to Islamic terrorism. Their ability to break free from the Saudi connection is predicated upon their liberation from Middle Eastern oil imports. That liberation is possible and necessary. It only requires political will and monetary investment into the development of new technologies. This is, and has always been, the crucial prerequisite to the development of a meaningful anti-terrorist strategy.
CONDITIONS FOR WINNING THE WAR AGAINST TERROR
March 15, 2002
On March 12 the White House ordered an investigation to determine why a Florida flight school that trained two of the terrorists who flew planes into buildings on September 11 received notices saying the student visas had been approved.
President Bush admitted he was “plenty hot” about the notifications, sent by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to Huffman Aviation International in Venice, Florida. The visa approvals by the INS were for Mohamed Atta, 33, and Marwan Al-Shehhi, 23, two Al Qaeda terrorists who acquired their flying skills at the school. Attorney-General John Ashcroft, described by high-ranking Justice Department officials as “furious” over the incident, immediately ordered the department’s Office of Inspector General to investigate what he called “disturbing failures” at the INS.
Atta and Al-Shehhi filed requests in September 2000 to change their non-immigrant status from visitor to student. Atta’s application was approved July 17, 2001, and Al-Shehhi’s was approved Aug. 9, 2001. Notices to students are automatically generated on approval, while a secondary notification to the school occurs later, after data is manually entered at an INS contract facility. The INS said in a statement that when the applications were approved it had no information indicating that Atta or Al-Shehhi had ties to terrorist organizations.
The story is too grotesque for words, and describing the current mess as a matter of “disturbing failures” is an understatement. The possession of a valid U.S. visa ought to imply that the individual in question has been deemed safe to admit into America, yet last November a Justice Department investigation established that all 19 hijackers involved in the September 11 attacks had legally entered the United States on tourist, business, or student visas. Three of the attackers had overstayed their visas, but 16 others were in the country legally when they carried out the attack.
ENDEMIC FAILURE OF SECURITY
The failures are endemic to the system. Federal agencies had long known of the extremist activities of Muslim activists in America in general, and of the existence of U.S.-based terrorist cells associated with Osama bin Laden in particular. They did not act to break them up and deport the conspirators, or even to monitor them effectively enough to prevent the attacks. Already on June 23, 2001, air industry officials received a detailed warning about a threat from bin Laden’s network to use airliners to attack Americans. Citing a report from the Arabic-language MBC satellite television channel, the AirlineBiz.com news service reported a plot to destroy 12 U.S. airliners in Asia. An MBC reporter who had met with bin Laden in Afghanistan two days previously predicted that “a severe blow is expected against U.S. and Israeli interests worldwide: “There is a major state of mobilization among the Osama bin Laden forces. It seems that there is a race of who will strike first. Will it be the United States or Osama bin Laden?” Despite such detailed advance warnings, bin Laden won that “race.”
The strange case of Zacarias Moussaoui is the clearest example of astonishing indolence. Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent (once hilariously described as a “Frenchman” on NPR) was arraigned on January 3, 2002, on six counts of conspiracy to commit murder and terrorism in the September 11 attacks. He was originally arrested in Minnesota for immigration violations three weeks before the attacks, after officials of a flight school—the Pan Am International Flight Academy in Eagan, a suburb of Minneapolis—tipped off the FBI that he was seeking flight training on a Boeing 747 jumbo jet. He was belligerent, evasive about his personal background, and he paid the $6,300 fee in cash. School officials were puzzled that he did not want to learn how to take off or land, only how to steer the jet while it was in the air. The instructor and a vice president of the flight school repeatedly tried, and failed, to get the FBI to take an interest in Moussaoui’s conduct. The instructor became so frustrated by the lack of response that he gave a prescient warning to the FBI that a 747 loaded with fuel can be used as a mighty weapon of mass destruction.
Eventually local FBI investigators in Minneapolis sought authorization for a surveillance warrant to search the hard drive of his home computer. Officials in Washington, however, who said there was insufficient evidence to justify the warrant, rejected this request. FBI agents tracked Moussaoui’s movements to the Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma, where he logged 57 hours of flight time earlier in 2001 but was never allowed to fly on his own because of his poor skills. This alone should have set off alarm bells, since a confessed Al Qaeda operative, Abdul Hakim Murad, had trained at the same school, as part of preparations for a suicide hijack attack on CIA headquarters. Murad testified about these plans in the 1996 trial of Ramzi Ahmed Yusef, the principal organizer of the first 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
On August 26, 2001, FBI was notified by French intelligence that Moussaoui had ties to the Al Qaeda and bin Laden. Even this report did not spur the agency to action. A special counter-terrorism panel reviewed the information but concluded there was insufficient evidence that he represented any threat; he was not even moved from INS detention to FBI custody until after September 11. The French warning arrived on the day after the first two suicide hijackers purchased their one-way, first class tickets for flights on September 11. More tickets were purchased on August 26, 27, 28 and 29, while the FBI was refusing to pursue a more intensive investigation into Moussaoui or search his computer. The notion of flying a plane into a building or using it as a bomb was never considered as a serious threat by the Bureau: it was a straightforward hijacking scenario that they were worried about. 
Moussaoui was not the only member of the conspiracy known to the federal authorities but left in peace. On the morning of September 11th “two people already identified by the government as suspected terrorists boarded separate American Airlines flights from Boston using their own names.” Federal officials were also aware of a third hijacker, Hani Hanjour, who had come to the attention of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) while learning to fly at the Pan Am International Flight Academy in Phoenix. When officials at the school expressed concerns to the FAA about Hanjour’s inability to speak English, the agency stepped in to provide assistance—to Hanjour. An FAA representative sat in on a class to observe him, and discussed with school officials finding an Arabic-speaking person to help him with his English. Hanjour continued his program, which enabled him to fly American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon.
The Al Qaeda network could have been destroyed well before the attacks had the FBI not shown reluctance to share information with other agencies. It was in possession of innumerable diaries and business cards, and had the access to names and addresses of many Al Qaeda terrorists, all of which could have been effectively used to create a road map of the outfit’s network. During the course of the investigation into 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Africa, FBI had accumulated a treasure trove of leads, including those to the terror cell run by Mohamed Atta, the chief September 11 hijacker. Senior intelligence officers outside the FBI complain that such grotesque failures were inevitable because they received very little cooperation from the Feds.
Belatedly, months after the attacks, the FBI started conducting more than 150 separate investigations into Islamic groups and individuals with possible ties to Osama bin Laden. The domestic targets include dozens of people who are under electronic surveillance through national security warrants, and others who are being watched by undercover agents. The large number of cases suggests the FBI’s efforts against the terrorist network have gone well beyond the widely publicized dragnet and suggests the Al Qaeda presence is far broader than previously known. Most of the suspects are active members of, or have been sponsored by “mainstream” Muslim organizations in the United States, including bogus charities that have handled millions of dollars of tax-exempt money. Some activists have traveled lecturing at mosques and Islamic centers filled to the capacity. They have relied on quasi-legitimate civil rights Islamic groups, such as the Council of American-Islamic Relations, the American Muslim Council, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) that operate as fronts of the fundamentalist movement. Six months after the attacks there is no sign that any mainstream Muslim group in the Western world (never mind the faith’s heartlands) understands that some soul-searching and critical examination of their assumptions, however tentative, may be a necessary prerequisite for the community’s claim to the permanent enjoyment of the rights and privileges enjoyed by other citizens of the countries to which they freely chose to migrate.
ABUSE OF AMERICA’S HOSPITALITY
Incomprehensible permissiveness of the cynical abuse of America’s hospitality by the Muslim fifth column is sometimes justified by “sensitivity,” multiculturalism, or a badly skewered notion of human rights. In reality it is rooted in the inability of the leadership of either party in Washington to perceive their country as a real community, rooted in the continuity of shared memories and cultural legacies. They refuse to treat America as a land that belongs to the majority of people inhabiting it and bearing its name, and not to whatever random melange happens to be within their boundaries at any given moment in time. That refusal is evident from the renewed talk of amnesty for Mexican illegal immigrants. What is sauce for the Latino goose will inevitably become sauce for the Muslim gander: respect for the rule of law by the latter will not be enhanced if it is declared inapplicable to the former.
The reluctance to read the riot act to the fanatical newcomers who abuse America’s hospitality, starting with the arrests and swift deportations of all illegal and other law-breaking immigrants, has had fatal consequences and will continue to do so. The lean and hungry Muslim youngsters, doomed to marginal existence by the tempora et mores of the societies into which they are born, will provide an ever-expanding recruitment pool for the jihad. The collective striving embodied in “We the People” makes no sense unless there is a definable “people” to support it. Most Muslim immigrants have no kinship with the striving and no connection to that “people,” except for the unsurprising desire to partake in its wealth. But their deep disdain for the democratic institutions of the host-countries notwithstanding (and just like the members of communist parties in the democratic world before them), Muslim activists in non-Muslim countries invoke those institutions when they clamor for every kind of indulgence for their own beliefs and customs. They demand full democratic privileges to organize and propagate, while acknowledging to each other that, given the power to do so, they would impose their own beliefs and customs, and eliminate all others. Once it is accepted that “true Islam” does not recognize a priori the right of any other religion or outlook to exist—least of all atheistic secular humanism of the ruling establishment—a serious anti-terrorist strategy will finally become possible.
Whether it is feasible remains to be seen. Before the suicide of the West in 1914 the Christian world was as sharply defined as the Muslim world. Both were perfectly capable of defining themselves against each other in a cultural sense and keeping their tolerations and rejections in useful order. What secularism has done, since replacing Christianity as the guiding light of “the West,” is to cast aside any idea of a Christian social, geographic, and cultural space that should be protected. This is especially obvious in the United States, which for the past half-century has been increasingly gravitating towards agnostic liberalism and cynical materialism. Patriotism rekindled after September 11 cannot be sustained if the dominant Weltanschauung is that of agnostic liberalism and cultural and economic globalism. For a superpower, it is a source of weakness and a serious handicap in dealing with terrorists or religiously motivated aggressors.
The outcome may be grim unless Muslims are either “westernized”—that is to say, made as willing as Christians to see religion first relativized, then mocked, and its commandments misrepresented or ignored—or else Christianized, which of course cannot happen unless there is a belated, massive, and unexpected recovery of Western spiritual and moral strength.
If neither of those scenarios work—and there is no indication that Muslims are any more likely to give up their faith for “Madonna’s” CDs than that they’ll do so for Madonna’s intercession at Lourdes—the West faces two clear alternatives: effective defense, or submission and acceptance of sacred Arab places as its own. Our political leaders have every right to pay compliments to Muslim piety and good works, but they should be as wary of believing their own theological reassurances as they would be of facile insults. Islamic populations and individuals draw very different things from their religion, its scripture and traditions, but anti-infidel violence is a hardy perennial. The challenge remains—how to prevent theocratic intransigence from winning support, and how to prevent it sheltering behind secular-liberal toleration.
TOUGH BUT NECESSARY CHOICES
The current terrorist threat to the United States comes almost exclusively from the Muslim community. Critical to reducing the chance of an attack in the future are an immediate moratorium on all immigration from the risk-nations, an expansion of the Border Patrol to the point of zero-porosity, a radical reduction of visas issued to nationals of states that harbor or produce terrorists, abandonment of amnesty for any illegals, and the swift deportation of all illegal aliens, beginnings with those from rogue nations. We are being indoctrinated into the dogma that the trend is inevitable, that economically motivated, unceasing immigration on a vast scale is unstoppable because it is due to inexorable global market forces. This is not true. Free citizens must not submit their destiny, and that of their progeny, to a historicist fallacy. Immigration can and should be subject to the democratic will of the American people.
Reducing and gradually ending unnecessary and harmful dependence on Middle Eastern oil is probably the easiest to achieve of all prerequisites for the policy of survival. Greed has always blinded power-wielders to danger, however, and it still does: “The greed of the business tycoons promoting globalism is far greater in scale and its impact on humanity than any greed history has known—and just as blind. It has nurtured an enemy who cares more about land than about money and has a profound religious urge to prove his superiority to the infidel. The message of history is that the United States will be unable to stem the tide of Islam in the 21st century unless it abandons globalism and begins to treat Moslem states as potential enemies whose strategic assets and importance must be reduced before it is too late.
Islam has an inherent advantage over the tepid ideology of multicultural mediocrity in that it offers Allah in the place of nothing. It should not be blamed for being what it is, nor should its adherents be condemned for maintaining their traditions. We should blame ourselves for refusing to acknowledge the facts of the case, and failing to take stock of our options. People did not take Mein Kampf seriously at their own peril. The Koran’s exhortations to the believers to annihilate the non-believers, to confiscate their land and property, to take their women and enslave their children are equally frank, and the fruits visible through the centuries.
In the present state of Western weakness, this firmness may appear attractive to the legions of cynical nihilists and lead further millions to the conclusion that we should all become Muslims, since our goose is cooked anyway, spiritually and demographically. A surge in conversions to Islam in the Western world after September 11, especially among affluent, young whites, attests that the strategy of reliance on the spiritual Death of the West is sound. It also fits a pattern set by recent history; similar surges followed the outbreak of the Gulf War, the Bosnian conflict, and the fatwa against Salman Rushdie. Perhaps there is, after all, no such thing as bad publicity. To a self-hating nihilist bin Laden is willy-nilly an admirable figure: a man with a cause for which educated people are ready to die. “Why grapple with mental puzzles such as the Holy Trinity and Original Sin, they asked, when the alternative proved to them so much more satisfying?” God is great; there is no god but God, and Mohammed is His prophet… By contrast, Christianity seems cluttered and its meaning obscure, its once powerful symbols wrapped up in ritual and hidden away. The starkness and terror of the Cross have been forgotten.
Those of us who do not cherish the prospect of a forest of minarets replacing spires in our cities and villages should at least demand that our rulers present that option fairly and squarely. In Washington, sadly, the enemy is still not Islam but the traditional culture and belief systems. A chronic pseudo-war of American secular wealth against Islamic religious poverty is an ominous outcome, the contest presumably desired by the minds behind the atrocities. The American foreign policy establishment still resists resist a strategy that promotes Russia (and India) into the league of friendship assumed and celebrated in the media. They want a “civilization” that includes Saudi Arabia, and pays only lip service to the world’s largest country or the world’s largest democratic society. Their coalition is too close to what went wrong in Afghanistan. Terrorism was factored into their political equations and their balances of power. They tried to ride the tiger: they are conspicuously unqualified to lead an effective war against it.
EXPOSING THE REAL AXIS: SAUDIA-PAKISTAN
Islam might have been made much less threatening if the West had not conciliated or sponsored its most threatening exponents. Islam was exposed to a collapse in credibility within the Arab world itself in the middle of the twentieth century. The forces of secularity were strong, but America opposed them because they were leftist, or simply anti-American nationalist. America gave whole-hearted support to the worst fascist freak-show on earth: Saudi Arabia. As the economies of real states faltered and halted, the Saudi petro-dollars were poured into establishing violent fanaticism as the big alternative. Gradually, the people who could moderate Islam have been pushed aside by raving sheiks congratulated by US diplomats. The main reason for hailing Islam as a religion of peace is to cover this up.
The real axis of evil connects Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and it is not being fought by America. The Administration prefers its failed manhunt in the wastes of Afghanistan to the difficult job of facing up to decades of error in handling those two far more important countries. The essential thing is to get these two pariah states defined as such and to stop them funding subversion in the rest of the Islamic world, and outside it. The Saudi regime will in any case be swept away: the question is by what. The time to act is while the anger of America is still hot and we have not yet been lulled back to sleep by meaningless pictures of B52s attacking snowy mountains. The obstacle to right action is the oil industry and the foreign policy establishment. Given half a chance they would replace Sadam Hussein with some new bin Laden approved by the Saudis. Sadam richly deserves the dustbin of history, but he is not the enemy of the moment, and if he is to be yet again the favorite target it will be another decoy.
The only way for the West to reclaim its identity and refuse to allow itself to be infiltrated and finally destroyed by Islam is for the Christophobic elites—the real enemy within—to be subjected to democratic control. Only then will it be possible to contain Islam at worst, or convert Islamic nations and peoples to a less pernicious outlook at best. As a first step we should insist on reciprocity. If the Saudis have the right to travel to Western countries and build mosques then we should have the right to engage in open missionary activity in Saudi Arabia or anywhere else. We have every right to proclaim our ideas of western freedom and an open society whether this offends other countries rulers or not. We need to wean ourselves from dependency on oil for Islamic nations. We have no obligation to respect other cultures and ideas when those cultures and ideas lead to human suffering, misery and servitude. We have every right to protect our ideas and way of life by openly proclaiming the superiority of our principles.
The first task, then, is to expose the enemy within, manifested in world affairs in the neo-imperial hubris (“globalization”) that destroys identities and thus paves the way for Islam. That is the path of death.
The second task is to help our fellow humans trapped in Islam to become free. Yes, let those guilt-ridden, self-hating Western nihilists who are so inclined opt for Islam as an alternative to suicide, heroin, or the New Age, but for millions of real people with real problems other alternatives should be encouraged, and made freely available. The Islamist campaign of violence in Algeria has turned some Muslims, especially Berbers, away from Islam and toward Christianity. The massacres and killings in the name of Islam have prompted the converts to declare, “Christianity is life, Islam is death.” For their sake, and that of the yet unknown and unenlightened countless millions of others, we must reject the absurd notion that we have no right to try and convert Islamic nations and peoples to a truer, more humane, and more rewarding world outlook. The allied nations did not shirk their duty to convert Germany and Japan into democracies after defeating them. In the same way we have every right to openly evangelize the Islamic nations with not only the gospel of Christianity, but also the “gospel” of modern and democratic thought.
Some critics may object that this account does not pay much attention to Islamic moderation, to the everyday wish of everyday Muslims for a quiet life. This is not because such moderates are rare but because they are rarely important. Religions, like political ideologies, are pushed along by money, power and tiny minorities. Within Islam the money and the power are all pushing the wrong way. So are the most active minorities. The urgent need is to recognize this. Our problem is not prejudice about Islam but folly in the face of its violence and cruelty.
There is a huge problem for all Muslims—the violent message of the Koran. We cannot solve it for them, and we should not be asked to deem the problem solved by pretending that the Koran is a pacifist tract. Humans are perfectly capable of reintepreting scripture when absolutely necessary, but until the petrol dollars support a line of Islamic exegesis that can renounce the ideals of jihad, terror, tax and subjugation we must have the guts to call a religion of war by its right name. After the Boshevik revolution the liberal response was to regret its excess but to allow that its idealism was somehow for the best. If this line had been persisted in, Communism would have triumphed. America supplied Europe with the vulgarity it needed to dismiss all the claims of Communism comprehensively. Once this was done, the corner was turned and the Cold War could not be lost.
“As a man thinketh, so is he.” The real problem of the Muslim world is not that of natural recourses or political systems. Ernest Renan, who started his study of Islam by praising its ability to manifest “what was divine in human nature,” ended it—a quarter o a century and three long tours of the Muslim world later—by concluding that “Muslims are the first victims of Islam” and that, therefore, “to liberate the Muslim from his religion is the best service that one can render him.” We need this kind of anti-Islamic vulgarity to fight Islamist radicalism, not beautiful half-truths put up to screen us from the truth.
Islam is a collective psychosis seeking to become global, and any attempt to understand or compromise with such madness is to become part of the madness oneself. No one who believes that jihad is the right of all Muslims or a duty should be allowed to settle in any Western country, and every applicant should be asked. The passport of anyone preaching jihad should be revoked. This may be called discrimination. But the quarrel is not of our choosing. Islam, in Muhammad’s texts and its codification, discriminates against us. It is extremely offensive. Those who submit to that faith must solve the problem they set themselves. Islam discriminates against unbelievers. Until the petro-dollars support a Koranic revisionism that does not, we should go for it with whips and scorpions, hammer and tongs. Secularists and Christians must act together before it is too late.
ISLAMIC TERRORISM IN ITALY:
SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME
Wednesday, February 27, 2002
A bomb blast on Tuesday morning, February 26, damaged parked cars and shattered windows near the Interior Ministry in downtown Rome. Investigators believe the bomb was planted on a moped around the corner from the ministry, the headquarters of Italy’s national police and security services. The attack, while largely symbolic, reflected a rising tide of Islamic terrorism that seems to be focused on Italy.
Only days earlier the police uncovered a tunnel that suspected Muslim terrorists were digging in the vicinity the U.S. embassy in Rome, apparently intending to carry out a chemical attack, or blow it up. A year earlier the embassy was closed for several days following the information that an attack was imminent.
When four Moroccans were arrested in Rome last week (February 21), and found to be in possession of maps showing the city water supply grid and a substance containing cyanide, the Italian capital was thrown into panic. Many people realized that Muslim terrorism is not something that necessarily happens only to others, and wondered how many similar threats to their lives may remain uncovered. Leaked reports to the press said the Moroccans were linked to Al Qaeda’s European network, four of whose members were due to be sentenced in Milan the following day.
On February 22 the Milanese court convicted the four. Essid Sami Ben Khemais, 33-year-old known among his associates as “the Sabre” and suspected of heading Osama bin Laden’s European logistics, pleaded guilty to charges that included criminal conspiracy to obtain and transport arms, explosives and chemicals, and was sentenced to five years in prison. Three other Tunisians who were tried with him–Belgacem Mohamed Ben Aouadi, Bouchoucha Mokhtar and Charaabi Tarek–were convicted on the same charges and sentenced to prison terms of up to five years. They also fabricated false documents that allowed Al Qaeda operatives to travel in Europe and elsewhere. The Tunisians requested and received a fast-track trial, reducing the maximum sentence of nine years to six. Stefano Dambruoso, for the prosecution, said that, since 11 September, “it is the first verdict in Europe that recognizes the existence on European territory of a cell strongly linked to the center in Afghanistan.” Ben Khemais is also suspected of having supervised a planned attack on the American embassy in Rome in January 2001, although he is not charged in that case.
Milan’s main Islamic cultural center is strongly suspected of being bin Laden’s principal logistics base in Europe. The Italian anti-terrorism police, the Digos, say that the Milan group recruited terrorists and sent them to Afghanistan and provided cover, false documents, jobs and cash for Al Qaeda operatives in Europe. It certainly changed the life of Ben Khemais, who came to Italy as an illegal immigrant in 1994 from his native Tunisia, where he did not attend the mosque or observe Muslim rituals. Thanks to the “Islamic Cultural Center” in Milan, in 1997-98 he rediscovered his religion, started to pray and to read the Koran. Italian police contend that soon after he started going to the mosque, Ben Khemais joined the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, a radical organization co-opted by Al Qaeda. By 2000 his “control” was a 36-year-old Tunisian, Tarek Maaroufi, identified as a key figure in Al Qaeda, who is under arrest in Belgium. On his instructions Ben Khemais traveled to Spain in the spring of 2001, at the same time Atta was there. He also began building a circle of recruits from the Milan mosque and indoctrinated them.
Ben Khemais’s rise through Al Qaeda ranks has been put on hold, for a while. There are scores of others who have gone into hiding, and the fresh recruits who arrive on Europe’s shores every day. Since the September 11 terrorist attacks police and prosecutors in Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Belgium and Britain have made scores of arrests and uncovered what they suspect is a large and interconnected network of Muslim terrorists. America may be the primary target, but Europe is the breeding ground.
What we are witnessing today is only a mild hint of the horrors to come. Islam is today the fastest growing faith in Europe, and nearly 20 million inhabitants of the European Union are self-avowedly Muslims. If present trends continue, by 2020 Muslims will account for 10% of the overall population of Europe, and exceed ten million in America. This population is expanding by immigration and an enormous birth rate that far exceeds that of the indigenous population.
Most Muslim Gastarbeiters initially expected to spend only a brief period of their lives in Europe, but the old reluctance to submit to life under the unbelievers was overcome by the lure of economic opportunity. In 30 years the Muslim population of Great Britain rose from 82,000 to two million. In Germany there are four million Muslims, mostly Turks, and over five million across the Rhine in France, mostly North Africans. There are a million Muslims each in Italy and the Netherlands, and half-a-million in Spain—that is, there are more Muslims in Spain today than in the last two centuries of the Caliphate of Cordoba.
Almost a tenth of all babies born in EU countries are Muslim, and in the moribund city of Brussels the figure was over 50%. With the expanding numbers and the creation of distinctly Muslim neighborhoods in Western, primarily European cities, the initial detachment of culture from territory has been reversed and the bold notion of conquest by demographic rather than military means entered the activists’ minds. The model for their strategy is the Muslim conquest of Arabia, North Africa and the Middle East in the 7th century. It was then that the concept of “dodging the threat,” Al-Taqiya, was developed. It encouraged Muslims to use subterfuge, to infiltrate the enemy’s cities and plant the seeds of discord and sedition. Taqiya is reflected in the attempts by Muslim activists to present Islam favorably, replete with tolerance and peace, faith and charity, equality and brotherhood. The “misunderstood Muslims” tell us that Jihad is really the “striving for Allah” and “inner struggle.” They quote the abrogated Meccan verses and keep quiet about the later, Medinan ones.
The unpleasant truth emerging from the Italian trial is that the mosques throughout the Western world are being used to teach hate. In the first instance they promote the most outwardly visible form of Islamic piety, the one that focuses on Islamic ritual and practice in the immigrants’ daily lives. Traditional dress, beard, headscarf or even complete veil, strict observance of prayers and dietary prohibitions, are a sure means of differentiating the diaspora in the Western world from the host society. For younger members of the second and third generation of Muslim immigrants to the West, Islamic appearance and lifestyle provides the much needed means of enhancing group identity and loyalty, and self-respect.
The next step, as we have seen in the case of Ben Khemais, is to use the pool of outwardly pious to recruit the foot-soldiers of radical Islam. They join the considerable ranks of the former Middle Eastern secularists who have been disappointed both in the Marxist failed god and in the futile dead-end of Third World nationalism symbolized by Nasser, Assad, or Saddam. In radical Islam both find a common ground in their opposition to Western value system on one hand, and, on the other, to many regimes throughout the Muslim world which they regard as collaborationist and treasonous to the traditional Islamic teaching.
This reality is denied by western secularists obsessed with political correctitude. The old liberal-secular antipathy to Christianity has converged with the new PC movement and the therapeutic society to produce a climate wherein it is easy for the Muslims to lie about the true nature of Islam. Defense against such lies is difficult when it is deemed “insensitive” to respond to them with facts and in plain language. “I am more afraid of the radicalization of Europeans than the radicalization of Muslim immigrants,” says Stefano Allievi, a sociologist who specializes in immigrant communities and who has published a book to rebut Oriana Fallaci’s Anger and Pride from the pro-immigrant, liberal point of view. “Given Europe’s aging population and declining birth rates, immigration is both inevitable and desirable,” Allievi says, and argues that “Europe must find ways to speed integration of immigrants, and one solution is to build more mosques.”
BRITAIN LEADS THE WAY
Voices of dissent are few, and under pressure. One of them belongs to a Pakistani-born Anglican who now lives in Great Britain, and who grew up as a Muslim, and who warns that, historically, Islam has never learned to live as a minority and simply cannot reconstruct itself in Western societies:
My own feeling is that what will happen in the British society—I am waiting to see whether it will happen in the U.S.—is Muslim societies will emerge within Western countries where they will develop their own patterns of social sharia [Islamic law]. In Britain today, where Islam controls the inner cities, we have major social exclusion and the development of sharia. We have had churches burned, Christians attacked and a mission center destroyed. The media has deliberately kept everything off the air.[i]
Such incomprehensible permissiveness of minor and major infractions of the law by Muslim immigrants is sometimes justified by “sensitivity,” multiculturalism, or a badly skewered notion of human rights. In reality it was rooted in the inability of post-national, secular-liberal host governments to perceive their countries as real communities, rooted in the continuity of shared memories and cultural legacies. They refuse to treat their countries as entities that ultimately belong to the majority of people inhabiting them and bearing their name, and not to whatever random melange happens to be within their boundaries at any given moment in time. The reluctance to read the riot act to the fanatical newcomers who abuse the host-nations’ hospitality, starting with the arrests and swift deportations of all illegal and other law-breaking immigrants, extended to both sides of the Atlantic.
The problem is the same in each and every Western country that has carelessly opened the floodgates to mass immigration from the Muslim world. Religious instruction has been entrusted to teachers imported from the umma who have a clear agenda aimed at inculcating their Western-born wards with disdain and even hatred for their surroundings.
“UK mosques prey to terror” warned a recent headline in the London Times, and this was partly the result of the British Home Office routinely approving priority entry into the country to Muslim clerics from countries such as Pakistan who speak no English and do not control extremists who took over their mosques.[ii] The British security services, like the government, have long been in a state of denial regarding the Islamist threat. There has been no serious effort to develop and enhance intelligence coverage and analysis capability; nor was the recruitment of Arabic speakers made a priority. Time and again the British courts have interpreted the criminal, asylum, and terrorism laws in the manner damaging to the security of the Realm and favorable to the Islamic underground. British police have repeatedly ignored warnings that the recruiting agents for extremist groups prey on mosques, universities and community centers. There are now over three hundred after-hours schools run by militant groups all over Britain in which the children are indoctrinated, Taleban style.
The shape of things to come in Britain—already apparent during the Rushdie affair when Muslim immigrant leaders openly supported calls for the writer’s murder—was visible in the nominally “English” city of Oldham in 2000, when the local council removed dozens of old-fashioned traffic bollards because they had moldings of the town’s owl mascot on them and so were liable to “offend” local Muslims who objected both to the concept of “totemic” imagery and to the heraldic symbolism of the old, mono-cultural and racist past.
“We will remodel this country in an Islamic image,” gloats Syrian-born Sheikh Omar bin Bakri, a foremost Islamic leader in Britain, who is active in “the struggle against racism and discrimination” to which the Muslims in Britain are supposedly subjected. At the same time he belongs to The International Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders, founded by Bin Laden, and openly boasts: “We collect funds to be able to carry on the struggle; we recruit militiamen; and sometimes we take care of these groups’ propaganda requirements in Europe.”[iii] Mr. Bakri also heads the London branch of Hizb Al-Tahrir (Islamic Revolutionary Party), which has some 50 branches all over Western Europe. When the Afghan war started in October 2001 Bakri declared:
We will replace the Bible with the Kuran… Christians have to learn that they cannot do this to Islam. We will not allow our brothers to be colonialised. If they try it, Britain will turn into Bosnia.[iv]
Remarkably, this same Mr. Bakri, who does not care that the Bible has long been replaced in Great Britain by Mr. Blair’s therapeutic state, was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1985 as a dangerous agitator for creating Al-Muhajirun, a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Party. He has lived in London since 1986, drawing $ 500 a week in welfare, and calling on young Muslims to take up arms against the “opponents of Islam” – ultimately meaning everyone who is not Muslim, or who does not subscribe to his vision of Islam. While living in Britain at its taxpayers’ expense he denounces it as “the spearhead of blasphemy that seeks to overthrow Muslims and the Islamic caliphate.” As early as 1991, during the Gulf War, according to the Mail on Sunday Bakri said that then-Prime Minister John Major “is a legitimate target. If anyone gets the opportunity to assassinate him, I don’t think they should save it. It is our Islamic duty and we will celebrate his death.”
We can only guess how many thousands of Bakris operate freely in Boston, Michigan, or New Jersey, or, for that matter, in Paris, Berlin, Toronto, Amsterdam, or Milan. By allowing a vast and so far utterly unsupervised subculture of intrinsically hostile non-Western immigrants to emerge within their societies, the developed nations have permitted the emergence of an alternative social and political structure in their midst in which terrorists can operate virtually undetected. By seeking to appease it by granting it special privileges, the host-countries only prompt demands for more.
MEANWHILE, ACROSS THE CHANNEL…
In Germany the highest court in the land ruled in January 2002 that Muslim butchers should be allowed to slaughter animals according to Islamic practice, by slitting their throats and letting them bleed to death, and without stunning them first in any way. German law says animals cannot be slaughtered without first being stunned, but the constitutional court has now overturned it. The head of Germany’s Islamic Council, Hasan Oezdogan, declared that this will be “an important step in the integration of Muslims in Germany.”[v] If and when the Constitutional Court allows clitoridectomy for Germany’s Muslim girls, presumably another important step will be made, but that integration will be complete only when Pakistanis in Britain, Algerians in France, and Turks in Germany turn the host country into an Islamic society by compelling it to adapt to their way of life.
Bosnian Muslims are the second-largest immigrant group in Germany, and they maintain close ties with the Turkish community.[vi] Already a decade ago, with the number of Muslim residents approaching three million and the number of mosque associations exceeding 2,000, the writing was on the German wall:
The Turks in Berlin constitute a social problem without a solution. There are entire sections of the city closed in on themselves that support a parallel and hostile culture, with no kind of symbiosis with the German culture. And the Magrebins have done the same thing in Marseilles [France]. The very opposite of integration, their objective is to organize society according to the Kuran. Islam is a way of life that annuls any separation between the religious, civil and political reality.[vii]
On the other side of the Rhine, where five million Muslims live and create one-third of all newborn babies, Imam Abdelali Hamdoune urges the faithful: “Do not permit your children to follow the example of the French. They should comport themselves in a totally different manner than the French. Here in France we have to impose ourselves, and impose Islam.”[viii]
Accordingly, in France demands are presented for businesses employing Muslims to observe the Islamic calendar, or for state schools to be segregated by sex and include the tenets of Islam in the curriculum. They scored an early victory with the demand that their daughters be allowed to wear the traditional headscarf, or hijab, claiming that it is more a cultural than a religious symbol. At the same time, and contrary to the media-promoted stereotypes of the community of “law-abiding citizens,” Muslim immigrants account for disproportionate number of serious crimes in French cities. An Algerian Islamic group carried out the only anti-Jewish terrorist attack Europe in 1995, the attempted bombing of a Jewish school near Lyons.
Newly multiculturalized Spain is next. A Moroccan girl, Fatima el Hadi, only months after arriving in Madrid caused a controversy for refusing to wear a uniform in a semiprivate Roman Catholic school in Madrid and insisting on the hijab. Her father is now suing the Spanish state for discrimination.[ix] “Why should she stop wearing a scarf when the Christian girls wear little crosses?” asks Tomas Calvo, head of the Migration and Racism Study Center at Madrid University.[x] Gaspar Llamazares, leader of the United Left coalition, described the issue as “racist” and “another example of the government’s intolerance.”
In Denmark, where predominantly Muslim immigrants account for 68% of rapes, Islamic “community leaders” went out of their way to describe rape as “un-Islamic.”[xi] Perhaps they have not read the Kuran. In the Netherlands police had difficulty controlling joyous demonstrations by young Moroccans celebrating the attacks of September 11.In Italy, currently home to over a million Muslims, Islamic leaders are demanding the destruction of a priceless 15th century fresco in Bologna that “offends Islam” by showing—they claim—Muhammad being cast into Hell. The Union of Italian Muslims has written to the Pope, saying the fresco “constitutes an even graver offence to the religion than that caused by Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses.” They also demanded that the teaching of Dante be suspended in Italian schools in immigrant areas because he had Muhammad cast in his Inferno.[xii] In Turin last October, prominent imam Bouriki Bouchta, the leader of two of the city’s five mosques, defended bin Laden and called for the “end of the West.”
BETRAYAL BY CHRISTIAN CHURCHES
Instead of reacting vigorously, however, Christian churches have aided and abetted the process. In Italy itself, true to the spirit of the New Age, “Every Friday the parish church of Mede is transformed into a small mosque in order to receive those who belong to the Muslim confession. Fr. Cesare Lino, of the Church of Saint Mary of the Angels in Mede, explains the initiative as an explicit consequence of Vatican II.”[xiii] A year later another priest hosting Muslim “worship,” Fr. Campani, explained that his pioneer initiative came from the stimulus of John Paul II: “The initiative of the ‘mosque’ in the parish was born in the wake of a meeting with the Pope who came here in June of 1988, met with the immigrants and stimulated us to intensify our works of assistance.”[xiv] True to the same spirit Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State, counseled President Bush that 9-11 did not signal a religious war: “Certainly in madness, a man can appeal to religious principles, but this a grave deformation.” As Atila Sinke Guimarгes, a conservative Catholic commentator, has pointed out, history is repeating itself: The doors of Spain were opened to the Muslims in the 8th century by the Archbishop of Seville, Oppas. This has been repeated, in European proportions, in the last forty years by the principles of the Second Vatican Council and the constant actions of Conciliar Popes.” On the other hand, when Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, the Archbishop of Bologna, said that there should be “no more entry visas for Muslims” and that “Christian Europe” was in danger of being overwhelmed by a “Muslim invasion,” the voices from within the Catholic Church were the shrillest in their outrage. Today’s Catholics would be well advised to revisit The Catholic Encyclopaedia’s verdict from 1908, which stands as firmly today as it did almost a century ago:
In matters political Islam is a system of despotism at home and aggression abroad… The rights of non-Moslem subjects are of the vaguest and most limited kind, and a religious war is a sacred duty whenever there is a chance of success against the ‘Infidel’. Medieval and modern Mohammedan, especially Turkish, persecutions of both Jews and Christians are perhaps the best illustration of this fanatical religious and political spirit.
AVOIDING THE CAMP OF SAINTS
Open-ended population explosion in every predominantly Muslim country in the world is the underlying reality behind immigration trends, fortifying the impression that tomorrow belongs to Islam. A Muslim woman has between five and six children on average, compared to fewer than two children for women in the developed world. Even when they move to the West, Muslims procreate at three times the host-country average. There is not one European country, except Muslim Albania, where the native population is not stagnant or falling. As we enter the century that will se fresh confrontation between Islam and the West, the outcome is sadly preordained if T.S. Eliot is to be proven right in his warning that the West would end, “Not with a bang but a whimper.” The lean and hungry youngsters, doomed to marginal existence by the tempora et mores of the inherently poor societies into which they are born, will provide an ever-expanding recruitment pool for the jihad.
It is nevertheless wrong to conclude that Muslims have simply “replaced” communists as the main threat to the West; they are but two faces of the same menace of the closed society and the closed mind, and they have been the one real threat all along. Ideological divisions have not given way to communitarian ones. The totalitarian nature of Islam, akin to communism and Nazism in aspects, makes the threat different in degree to that faced during the Cold War, but not in kind. It demands a similar response.
A coherent long-term counter-terrorist strategy therefore must entail denying Islam the foothold inside the West. As the British writer David Pryce-Jones put it, “democracy sometimes appears paralyzed by those who take advantage of its freedoms in order to abuse them for undemocratic ends” and the Muslims themselves are the first who need to be rescued from their own leaders hell-bent on taking us all, and them, into the abyss. The alternative is death, succumbing to the spirit masterfully depicted by Jean Raspail in the preface to the 1985 French edition of his Camp of Saints:
[T]he West is empty, even if it has not yet become really aware of it. An extraordinarily inventive civilization, surely the only one capable of meeting the challenges of the third millennium, the West has no soul left. At every level—nations, race, cultures as well as individuals—it is always the soul that wins the decisive battles.
The story that Raspail tells is rooted in a “monstrous cancer implanted in the Western conscience.” Its roots are in the loss of Faith, and in the arrogant doctrine—rampant in “the West” for three centuries now—that man can solve the dilemma of his existence by his unaided intellect alone. If that loss is not reversed the game is over anyway, proving yet again that where God retreats Allah advances.
[i] The Washington Times, January 16, 2002.
[ii] The Times, December 27, 2001.
[iii] Il Giornale (Milan), October 14, 2000
[iv] The Observer (London), October 27, 2001.
[v] Reuters, 15 January, 2002.
[vii] Vittorio Messori in Avvenire, Rome, November 18, 1992.
[viii] L’Express, Paris, May 16, 1996
[ix] AP, February 16, 2002.
[x] El Pais, February 15, 2002.
[xi] The Copenhagen Post, September 18, 2001.
[xii] The Times, June 29, 2001.
[xiii] Corriere della Sera December 20, 1989
[xiv] Il Sabato, Rome, March 17, 1990
THE HAGUE PROZESS
Tuesday, February 19, 2002
There are contests in which a decent person prefers not to take sides, like bloody wars between Mafia families, or Stalin’s dispute with Trotsky first, Tito next, mass murderers all. The war between Khomeini’s Iran and Saddam’s Iraq also comes to mind, or the family feud between Pol Pot and his Vietnamese communist neighbors.
It is tempting to put in the same category the show trial of Slobodan Milosevic, which started last Tuesday (February 12) at the misnamed “tribunal” at The Hague, to mutter “plague on all their houses,” and flip the channel button; but the temptation should be resisted. What we are witnessing is a travesty of justice with dangerous long-term connotations that goes beyond the personal and political flaws of any one man.
Milosevic is an unpleasant and on the whole pretty bad man. He is probably guilty of many things, including murder, for which he should be tried by his own long-suffering people. He is not guilty as charged, however. He is not guilty of “genocide” in Kosovo, because there had never been one. He is not guilty of a criminal conspiracy to create a “greater Serbia” because that was not what those wars were all about, and in any event he feared the forces that could be thus unleashed more than he feared his foes in Zagreb and Sarajevo. He is not guilty of “starting three wars” in the former Yugoslavia, or at least he is not uniquely guilty, because the potential for their outbreak and their dynamics have been dictated by forces outside his control.
In addition, whatever Milosevic may be guilty of, he should not be tried by The Hague “tribunal,” a fatally flawed institution as unfit by design as it is unwilling by vocation to give us the truth about the Wars of Yugoslav succession. Its crude but insolent demonstration of legal power pleases the modern professionals who provide what ancient Rome knew as “circuses.” It completes their work. The parallel with “Nuremberg,” made by every bien-pensent editorialist and his uncle, is false, of course. Nuremberg court represented sovereign states who were in occupation of Germany: it was not the assertion of a new international jurisdiction. The modern-minded critics of old-fashioned state sovereignty were, back then, the Nazis themselves.
Carla Del Ponte spoke of the “medieval savagery” of the crimes he is alleged to have ordered or failed to stop. As Peter Simple rightly remarked in his column in The Telegraph (February 15),
For those who work for that mysterious entity, the “International Community,” and gather at the Bar of World Opinion, the word “medieval’ is a common term of abuse. Is medieval savagery, perpetuated by identifiable people caught up in the bloodthirsty frenzy of civil war, worse than modern savagery, in which people are targeted by mathematical calculation and blown to bit by bombs dropped from a height of 50,000 feet by anonymous airmen?
The perpetrators of those depersonalized crimes, and their political and military masters—Clinton, Blair, Albright, Clarke & Co.—are safe from Ms. Del Ponte. They know as well as she does that the Yugoslav “war crimes tribunal” uses legal language and decorum, but it is neither a “tribunal,” a forum of impartial justice, nor is it concerned with “war crimes,” understood as gross violations of certain norms of war, regardless of the identity of culprits and victims.
The objections are not any less valid now that Milosevic has invoked them. At least they are being heard, and the world is taking notice. In fact, as the UPI report of February 17 grudgingly conceded, “it has to be admitted by any objective observer that he has scored some telling points so far in his first unfettered presentation to the court”:
His attacks on NATO and grim photographs showing the results of the air bombardment of Serbia were horrific. His repeated attacks on the legitimacy of the U.N. International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia have begun to shake public confidence in it . . . [Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte] is criticized by diplomats following the trial for a cavalier style that is suspected of papering over serious cracks in the prosecution’s case. One diplomatic source is quoted as saying if Milosevic were to get himself a good lawyer he would get himself off. Another suggests 80 percent of the prosecution’s opening statement would have been dismissed as hearsay in a British court.
The Hague “tribunal” is as legal and has as much legitimacy as a pan-American Environment Court which could impose greenhouse-gas taxes on the United States. This is a simple legal fact, quite indisputable, and it is not less true because Milosevic has said so. It was created to “bring to justice” those responsible for crimes in the Balkans. So prior certainty about the authenticity of all serious crimes alleged displaced the obvious need for impartial investigations and created the demand to find someone responsible for them. And the U.S. officials that sponsored the ICTY’s creation were pretty unequivocal about who they regarded as the leading culprit.
For now “the International Community” can play the prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner, with impunity. To its initiates legal formalities are passй, and moral imperativesуadmittedly never sacrosanct in international affairsуare replaced by a cynical exercise in situational morality. Milosevic will be found guilty and sentenced, of course. That he deserves to languish in jail there can be but little doubt; but Scheveningen is the wrong jail, and The Hague the wrong court.
STATE OF THE UNION: AN EMPIRE, NOT A REPUBLIC
February 1, 2002
President Bush’s first State of the Union address was a historic occasion. It is impossible for contemporaries to predict how current affairs will translate into history, but I venture to assert that Michael Gerson and speech writing staff—who went through nearly 30 drafts—finally presented him, and us, with a mature ideological framework that reflects the balance of outlooks within the present Administration, and that the resulting strategic blueprint will have momentous consequences for America and the rest of world for decades to come.
The preceding debate may have been the last chance for any remaining republicans (small “r”) within the national security team to raise their voices, and to insert certain qualifications into what has emerged as the “Bush doctrine,” but this has not happened. The neoconservative Weltanschauung has triumphed. The doctrine now stands unambiguously as the foreign policy of the United States, and is likely to gel into bipartisan credo. For the first time since the end of the Cold War we have been presented with the ideological basis and fully developed self-referential framework for the policy of permanent global interventionism. The full implications of his words are startling, so let us review the key non-domestic points of the speech itself before examining its repercussions.
1. In addition to “ridding the world of thousands of terrorists” in Afghanistan the U.S. had “saved a people from starvation and freed a country from brutal oppression” [T]he mothers and daughters of Afghanistan were captives in their own homes, forbidden from working or going to school. Today women are free, and are part of Afghanistan’s new government” Our progress is a tribute to the spirit of the Afghan people, to the resolve of our coalition and to the might of the United States military.”
2. The President was vague on the estimated number of terrorists still at large, but in any event “our war against terror is only beginning” and it will encompass the whole world: “Thousands of dangerous killers, schooled in the methods of murder, often supported by outlaw regimes, are now spread throughout the world like ticking time bombs, set to go off without warning” tens of thousands of trained terrorists are still at large. These enemies view the entire world as a battlefield, and we must pursue them wherever they are” freedom is at risk and America and our allies must not, and will not, allow it.”
3. The list of enemies also includes “regimes who seek chemical, biological or nuclear weapons” and “at least a dozen countries” that offer refuge to “a terrorist underworld.” Three countries in particular are “threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction,” North Korea, Iran, and Iraq: “States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.”
4. America welcomes friends and allies in this endeavor, “but some governments will be timid in the face of terror. And make no mistake about it: If they do not act, America will.”
5. To handle the threat the United States must “develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect America and our allies from sudden attack.”
6. In addition the U.S. will preempt any possible threat. Mr. Bush says he “will not wait on events while dangers gather” and “peril draws closer and closer”: “This campaign may not be finished on our watch, yet it must be and it will be waged on our watch.”
7. This task is transcedentally ordained: “History has called America and our allies to action, and it is both our responsibility and our privilege to fight freedom’s fight.”
8. All this will require a lot of money, more than anything spent on defense even at the height of the Cold War: “My budget includes the largest increase in defense spending in two decades, because while the price of freedom and security is high, it is never too high. Whatever it costs to defend our country, we will pay.”
9. As “government works to better secure our homeland,” Mr. Bush invited Americans to volunteer two years of their life to the new USA Freedom Corps: “America will continue to depend on the eyes and ears of alert citizens” We want to be a Nation that serves goals larger than self.” He invited his audience to join the new USA Freedom Corps, whose major role will be homeland security.
10. America seeks “a just and peaceful world beyond the war on terror” and it will “lead by defending liberty and justice because they are right and true and unchanging for all people everywhere” America will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women, private property, free speech, equal justice, and religious tolerance.”
11. The “real” Islam is an ally in this bold endeavor: “Let the skeptics look to Islam’s own rich history—with its centuries of learning, and tolerance, and progress.”
12. All of the above is based on a deeper understanding of the world and our purpose in it: “We’ve come to know truths that we will never question: Evil is real, and it must be opposed” Rarely has the world faced a choice more clear or consequential.”
What does all this mean? Let us address these twelve points one by one.
1. AMERICA AS SOCIAL WORKER TO THE WORLD
So Afghanistan has been saved from starvation and brutal oppression, and its women are free to venture out of their homes and attend schools. That’s nice, except that none of this was among the originally stated objectives of the military operation in Afghanistan. That operation was justified on the basis of those stated objectives—reasonably clearly defined, rational, and focused on Usama Bin Laden, his network, and their Taliban hosts.
From the outset there have been warnings that a megalomaniac mission-creep would turn the whole thing into another exercise in Benevolent Global Hegemony. Now we know that such misgivings were justified. The original goals have been retrospectively blended with the mission of bringing democracy, progress, and human rights to the oppressed people of that country. The embarrassing failure to capture or track Bin Laden (who was not mentioned once in Mr. Bush’s speech), his key aides, and their leading Taliban allies, is now covered up by the allegedly splendid results of America assuming the responsibility—not announced at the beginning of the Afghan mission—of the social worker and empowerer to the world.
It was possible to support that mission in the name of hardheaded, Jacksonian realism, and this writer has done so. Belatedly we are told that globalist-missionary impulses—the legacy of Woodrow Wilson—have been a key ingredient all along. This is disastrous: a realistic attachment to the national interest—the art of the diplomatically possible—has the potential to realize moral purposes, while the mantle of “morality” leads to the moral collapse of Western and American values that we have witnessed with the interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo.
2. MERE NUMBERS NO LONGER MATTER
By throwing vastly different—and always neatly rounded—figures about the number of terrorists still at large at his audience, the President has the impression that the actual numbers no longer matter. Precise quantitative parameters are essential if you are planning a limited response calibrated to the magnitude of the threat, but those parameters have to be relativized if you are planning an unlimited and open-ended global campaign. Judging by the President’s treatment of those numbers—which he magnified tenfold from one sentence to another—this is no longer a war against a clearly defined threat, caused by a number of actual or potential adversaries willing to do us harm. The “Terror” in the War on Terror has been transformed into an ontological category, and therefore it has ceased to be amenable to mere quantification. In practical terms this means that the intelligence community now has a bureaucratic incentive and institutional vested interest to keep its estimates on the wild side. If thousands or tens of thousands today why not hundreds of thousands, or even millions, tomorrow?
The casual reference to “thousands of killers” suggests that at least as many thousands of terrorist murders have been carried out by them. We know that 19 known killers caused the carnage on September 11; where are the rest of the victims of those “killers,” unless everyone connected with UBL automatically qualifies? It is not merely pedantic to point out that his trainees should have been called “potential killers,” if their training has not been tested in practice as yet. Undoubtedly the threat still exist after the end of the Afghan campaign, and it is serious enough to warrant our undivided attention, but the President of the United States should not treat it as if it were some metaphysical category, where measurable parameters give way to nebulae, and “terrorism” joins “poverty,” “racism,” “injustice” etc. in the repertoire of ills that will never be eradicated—for the devil never gives up—but nevertheless must be fought, eternally, with vast bureaucracies, and tons of money.
3. “AXIS OF EVIL”
Sixty years ago we had the original Axis, and it took the rest of the world five years to break it. Until 1989 we had the Evil Empire, and it took five decades of determined effort by the Free World to make it snap. How exactly the latest blended metaphor applies to the three countries named by the President is unclear. They are certainly not allies, and therefore the “axis” is purely coincidental: Iran and Iraq are eminently bad neighbors, regional rivals whose bloody war fought after Saddam’s attack in 1980 has been neither forgotten nor forgiven in Tehran. Their ideologies are irreconcilable: Saddam is a secularist dictator who appeals to the Baathist variety of Arab nationalism. Iran by contrast upholds Islam as the basis of its ancient polity, but its Shiite leaders detest the Wahabi “heretics” of al Qaida and the Taliban. North Korea, by contrast to both, is a zany neo-Stalinist hell on Earth, whose minimal external links may go as far as Peking but certainly do not extend to the hotbeds of Islamic militancy in South Asia and the Middle East. In brief, the “Axis of Evil” was another rhetorical device that sought not to describe reality, but to blur it and replace it with another metaphysical figure of speech.
We suspect that North Korea, an irrelevant loser in the game of international politics, was included exclusively so that its medium-range rockets—developed in case of a conflict on the Korean peninsula, and theoretically capable of reaching the westernmost tip of Alaska, but not California—could justify the unnecessary and harmful missile defense program (see No. 5). Under pressure from Russia and China, three years ago North Korea suspended indefinitely flight testing of its missiles—a necessary prerequisite for their operational deployment—so long as the United States engaged in negotiations on issues of mutual concern. Continuing these negotiations is seen by most U.S. allies—including South Korea!—as the best way to contain the North Korean missile threat. In addition, its inclusion on the Most Wanted list can be counterproductive in giving it an incentive to actually develop retaliatory weapons of mass destruction that can be used against 40,000 American soldiers in Korea as a means of deterring threatened attack.
Iraq, by contrast, had always been the intended next target for the trigger-happy duet Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz and their think-tank and media cohorts in both parties. Within days of September 11 Paul Wolfowitz had argued that even if Iraq wasn’t involved in the attacks it simply did not matter: this was a good time to settle the score with Saddam once and for all. A week later, in an open letter to the President, Kristol and two-dozen neoconservative leading lights—including Richard Perle, Robert Kagan, Charles Krauthammer, Martin Peretz, and Norman Podhoretz) argued that “even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power,” and warning that “failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism.” These people want America to initiate an all-out war with all of the enemies of its “only reliable ally in the region,” starting with Iraq, whether they be real, potential, or imagined, and regardless of whether this is in the interest of the United States to do so. Their efforts are summarized in the words of the editorial in the right-wing Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot of January 31: “Bush positioned himself exactly at Israel’s place: without saying it, he clarified that Israel’s enemies are also America’s foes.” The war-on-terror blanket proved to be a handy device for the advocates of this principle to finally impose their agenda and preclude debate.
While Iraq had always been an intended target, the inclusion of Iran in the “axis” is unexpected, and represents a major and extremely dangerous victory for these neoconservatives who must think that if Osama Bin Laden did not exist he should be invented. Dangerous because a simultaneous campaign against both Iraq AND Iran can be desired only by those who want to turn America’s current passionate attachment in the Middle East into a cataclysmic clash of civilizations. In addition, contrary to the President’s assertion, Iran has a democratically-elected president and parliament, albeit constrained by a conservative theocracy. Compared to such American allies as Saudi Arabia, Oman, and even Pakistan, Iran is positively democratic, and partly as a result of the loosening of the clerics’ grip it has been steadily veering in the direction of greater moderation in foreign affairs. A conflict with the US could set back the development of democracy there by decades. It is most unlikely to have the support of Europe, which sees Tehran as a regime to be cultivated and encouraged. The Iranian government does provide support for Hamas and Hizbullah, but the activities of those militant groups depend on reaching a lasting Israeli-Palestinian settlement. They are an Israeli, and a Palestinian, but not an American problem, unless each and every armed and dangerous fanatic everywhere is an American problem—in which case we need to send the Marines to Chechnya, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone,.
It almost defies belief that Mr. Bush has accepted their arguments for a simultaneous massive confrontation with a regional power par excellence—Iran—as well as a huge chunk of the Arab world, a confrontation that probably cannot stop short of nuclear exchanges and, ultimately, lead to new terrorist attacks on America, attacks that would make September 11 look like Bull Run to Antietam. Contrary to this disastrous course, he should have rejected the impression of a permanent U.S. bias in Middle Eastern affairs that breed anti-Americanism and Islamic extremism. We all need a stable peace in the Middle East that should be based on an even-handed treatment of the conflicting parties’ claims and aspirations. There are problems that may not have a solution, such as the valid title to the Temple Mount, and the desirability of any possible solution must be assessed from the point of clearly defined American geopolitical, economic, and diplomatic interests.
4. TIMIDITY OF OTHERS WARRANTS ACTION BY AMERICA
That “some governments will be timid in the face of terror” is inevitable, but their precise reactions undoubtedly will have a lot to do with the definition of “terror” and the selection of measures to be used against it. There is no doubt that, if the logic of the “axis of evil” is applied and Iraq is attacked, America’s remaining Arab friends will display extreme timidity. In some of them timidity may turn to hostility, including above all Egypt—the most populous and arguably most important Arab country—but also Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, not to mention the non-Arab “allies” such as Pakistan. Should those guilty of timidity also fear armed retribution in view of the President’s warning: “And make no mistake about it: If they do not act, America will”? We suspect that Osama Bin Laden’s real objective all along has been such cataclysmic war that can only benefit those who desire the destruction of the remnants of our race and culture.
What will the Government of the United States do if the “timidity” about starting an all-out War of Civilizations spreads to our European allies, who have already expressed amazement at the implications of Mr. Bush’s speech? This reaction is noticeable even in the right-of-center, usually pro-American camp. The neoconservative equivalent of The Wall Street Journal on the right bank of the pond, the Financial Times of London, felt compelled to warn on January 31 that Mr. Bush’s ringing rhetoric will divide the alliance with Europe, rather than seal a common purpose: “North Korea and Iran do not belong in the same breath as Iraq. To lump them together is simplistic and will alienate new allies in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.” In France equally conservative and usually U.S.-friendly Le Figaro noted on the same day that Mr. Bush “avoided any reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an issue over which the Europeans are almost as touchy as the Arabs.” In Germany commentators opined that “Bush needs this war in order to explain the budget deficits the country is facing for the first time in years, to justify the recession, and he needs it as a recipe for fighting the economic crisis. And Bush needs this war and the popularity it is bringing him because congressional elections are coming up” (Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich, January 31). In Greece Eleftherotypia noted that nobody dared say that many terrorists were trained by the Americans in order to confront the ‘Evil Empire,’ “nor did they take into account that Bosnia, a host of terrorist camps according to Bush, has been practically under NATO rule since 1996.”
Perhaps the Europeans had better watch their step, too: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz has warned them that the U.S. was ready to act outside traditional alliances in its fight against terror, and that it would take “a dim view” of anyone who tried to sit on the fence: “Nations cannot afford to act like those neutral nations 60 years ago,” Wolfowitz told a 43-nation security conference in Munich on February 2.
5. MISSILE DEFENSE NON SEQUITUR
The logic of justifying the missile defense project by September 11 has never been explained. On that day death came to ordinary Americans not by means of an ICBM but by a more prosaic route, and the real and present threat that remains with us all does not include a rogue missile. Mr. Bush and his team must know that this paranoid Marxist dictatorship is not part of any “axis” and it will not be attacked or otherwise bothered by the U.S. unless its leaders decide to commit suicide. For the past fifty years they have not shown any such desire.
Without North Korea’s inclusion on the list, however, NMD critics could argue that September 11 made the expensive and elaborate scheme all but irrelevant for the foreseeable future. Without it the decision by President Bush to abrogate the Anti Ballistic Missile treaty with Russia would be seen for what it is: a decision likely to harm American interests at a time when the threat of global Islamic terrorism, and the need for coalition building, require a thorough reexamination of some key tenets of the Administration’s national security team. Branding terrorism and rogue rockets together may be clever from the point of view of domestic politics, but nevertheless disingenuous. Very different “effective defenses” are needed against terrorist attacks on one side and “rogue state missile attacks” on the other. The former are likely, even imminent, in the years to come; the latter are and have always been extremely unlikely. A hundred-billion-dollar antimissile shield will do nothing to protect American cities from nuclear or biological weapons smuggled across a virtually uncontrollable southern border and detonated from within the country. Ironically it may render such attacks more likely, by forcing any possible aggressor to consider alternatives to the method of delivery that leaves a clear “signature” and may be countered by the antimissile shield.
It should be noted that many U.S. allies in the anti-terrorist struggle see the insistence on missile defense as proof that Washington’s multilateralist rhetoric was only a temporary expedient, used while the Administration searched for and obtained wide international support immediately after the terror attacks. The impact of the missile defense obsession on America’s relations with Russia is also likely to prove more complex than Mr. Bush apparently assumes. It is seen even in Putin’s own camp as proof that promises of a new partnership amounted to empty talk: “When the U.S. needed support in Afghanistan they called us a partner, but they forgot the partnership once they decided to scrap ABM.”
All that for the sake of a deeply flawed project, justified by fraudulent intelligence assessments and based on unproven technology. The proponents of NMD and threat assessors are as unable after September 11 as ever to present a credible scenario of “rogue” attack on the United States. Its assumptions were not only technically flawed but also politically paranoid. In practical terms America’s true safety is not in anti-missile missiles, but in tightly controlled borders and a well-equipped military capable of defending its territory and its clearly defined national interests. In fundamental terms the missile defense “philosophy” as currently conceived assumes the desirability of the global hegemony as the basis of U.S. foreign policy. A “good” missile defense system would only be compatible with a return to constitutional foreign policy.
6. ON OUR WATCH
President Bush’s aides and advisors, and other Administration officials have elaborated what will happen “on our watch” with more precision. Donald Rumsfeld says he has told the Pentagon to “think the unthinkable.” Vice President Dick Cheney, the President’s reliable voice, has said the US is considering military or other action against “forty to fifty countries” and warns that the new war may last “fifty years or more.” A Bush adviser and Defense Department consultant, Richard Perle, explained that there will be “no stages” and that not even a pretense of some international “coalition” is needed: “This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there … If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely, and we don’t try to piece together clever diplomacy but just wage a total war, our children will sing great songs about us years from now.” In Singapore, where several al Qaeda-linked arrests have been made, U.S. Ambassador Franklin Lavin was explicit: “We must remain on the offensive” Sometimes this will be through the U.N. system, sometimes it might be through NATO or other organizations, and sometimes we might have to do this job ourselves.” And finally, less than a week after the President’s speech the United States signaled it would take pre-emptive action in the next phase of its war on terror. “The best defense is a good offense,” Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told a security conference in Munich (February 2), referring to the “axis of evil”: “Our approach has to aim at prevention and not merely punishment. We are at war.”
Bill Clinton had to invent the “Kosovo genocide” in order to justify the bombing of Serbia, and cajoled NATO into giving him the mantle of multilateralist legitimacy. The war against terror eliminates the need for similar constructs in the future. America will go it alone, or not, as it deems fit, and attack is the best form of defense. The concept of national sovereignty, functioning within an international system based on a balance of power among the major actors, has formed the basis of Western politics, liberalism and the rule of 1aw ever since the Peace of Westphalia (1648) is now being formally replaced, in America’s war against terror, by the Bush Doctrine, a more developed variant of the Brezhnev doctrine of “limited sovereignty” which was used as a pretext for the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968. While Clinton had to use an abstract notion of universal “human rights” as the pretext to violate the law, tradition, and all established procedures in international relations, the war on terror provides a more convincing and ever present alibi for the interventionists to do literally as they please. This mindset is rooted “benevolent global hegemony,” as the world’s self-appointed guarantor of peace, executor of justice, and champion of democracy and freedom.
The vision presented by President Bush, and so frankly elaborated by his officials, hinges on the continuing technological and military superiority of the United States, not on its moral authority or political magnetism. They openly proclaim that America is to be obeyed because it is strong to impose its will, not necessarily because it is accepted as the legitimate leader. The rest of the world is put on notice that it is more advisable to share in the Fifty-Year War than to attract suspicions of disloyalty. This mindset—especially when it comes from a presumably “conservative” Republican team—dims the lingering hope that America is still a Republic, in the sense of the res publica of informed and responsible free citizens exercising their rights and fulfilling their obligations.
7. ANSWERING HISTORY’S CALL
The belief that one is on the right side of “history” is one of the most dangerous delusions in history. This historicist fallacy has bred not only Gnostic ideologies that murder millions of those who are deemed to be on the “wrong” side of history—foreigners as well as their own citizens—but also results in the inevitable destruction of the over-expanded, over-extended bearer of the divinely appointed task. The symptoms of imperial over-reach are already present in the case of the United States: Can we permanently guarantee Israel’s security (regardless of what it does to its neighbors), bring Arafat back to the table or else get rid of him, teach North Korea, Iraq and Iran a lesson they’ll never forget (provided that they live long enough to remember anything), maintain “friendly” regimes in the Muslim world in power while this carnage proceeds, guarantee the “security” of the Chinese province of Taiwan against the most populous country in the world, prop up Turkey, keep Bosnia safe for the local Muslims while telling them not to play hosts to terrorists, occupy Kosovo for the benefit of the Albanian dope-smuggling pimps, build a space shield to ward off rogue missiles, surround Russia with an ever expanding NATO, keep India and Pakistan from a nuclear shootout, destroy Colombian drug lords, protect the porous Rio Grande border, control Internet messages and guns and phone calls at home, and stop the nosedive of the economy? The question makes the answer superfluous. We cannot pay the price of the new Imperium, even if it was worth paying.
Epistemological hubris is in the heart of every utopian who wants to make the world obey. God knows; man only thinks he knows, and actually knows far less than he thinks. When he thinks he can play god, he does abominable things.
8. “WHATEVER IT COSTS WE WILL PAY”
When honey changes pots, according to Chinese folk wisdom, fingers get licked. When hundreds of public billions are about to go into private hands, with the President saying that “we” will sign the check regardless of how many zeros it has, we should ask “cui bono.” For some friends of the A-team in Washington all this is nothing short of corporate bonanza. The day the Wall Street stock market opened after September 11, the few gainers were the giant military contractors Alliant Tech Systems, Northrop Gruman, Raytheon, and the biggest supplier of them all, Lockheed Martin, whose shares jumped by a staggering third.
The Bush Administration, and most notably Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, spent the previous nine months of 2001 promising to “transform” the U.S. military by canceling or cutting back obsolete systems to forge a quicker, more mobile force. But Mr. Rumsfeld’s budgets for this year and next, supplemented by the President’s additional largesse, have managed to retain each and every major, Cold War-inspired weapons program that was in the pipeline when the Administration came into office. This includes hardware eminently ill-suited to the “war on terror,” such as nuclear attack submarines, heavy destroyers, the 70-ton Crusader artillery system, and the F-22 fighter plane—at two hundred million a piece. None of that has anything to do with the new, post 9-11 challenges, or indeed with the old, post-Soviet ones. It has everything to do with the Republicans’ supposed disdain for “big government,” which simply does not apply to the big military, and their corporate suppliers. “Everything that’s being done in the name of the war on terrorism is getting kicked through,” said Christopher Hellman, senior analyst at the Center for Defense Information, an independent Washington think tank.
Take the $32 billion defense-budget increase, which brings the Pentagon’s total to $343 billion and is the biggest hike since Reagan’s cold war buildup. The money has nothing to do with shredding al-Qaeda, and the increase was on the table before the towers came down. With the current deficit, the increase will be paid for with Social Security money. And yet, most people are unaware that war spending mostly does not come out of the military budget. Thje cost of the Afghan campaign had to be covered from $20 billion of emergency spending passed after Sept. 11, and more fast-tracked bills are expected to pass soon.
Of the defense appropriations bill Mr. Bush signed amidst much pomp on January 10, about $7 billion to $10 billion will pay for programs the Pentagon did not even ask for. As part of the bill, Boeing will supply the Air Force with 100 tanker jets it says it does not need, at a cost to American taxpayers of $26 billion. This is not war on terror, this is not defense; this is pork. Mr. Bush’s subsequent announcement that he will seek a $48 billion increase in Pentagon spending this year only confirms that notions of military reform have taken second place to the “needs” of weapons contractors, military bureaucrats, and members of Congress from militarily-dependent states and districts.
As Paul Krugman of the New York Times has noted, Rumsfeld’s decision to save the Crusader system from the budget ax directly benefited his old college roommate and wrestling partner Frank Carlucci, whose Carlyle Group investment company owns United Defense, the manufacturer of the Crusader. Carlyle, which also employs former Secretary of State James Baker and former President George Bush Sr., took United Defense public late last year and raised over $200 million in capital in the process. Suggestions that Rumsfeld may have cut a deal to help an old buddy (not to mention the company that employs our current president’s father) have been met with the argument that Don Rumsfeld just doesn’t do that kind of thing.
9. CITIZEN PARTICIPATION
The shock of September 11 was a painful opportunity for America to rediscover a world in which it will be secure and free, and will not threaten security and freedom of others. These goals are inseparable from the preservation of our identity and our liberty at home. Unless the government defines foreign policy strategies founded upon the notion of America as a real, completed nation, a state with definable national interests that ought to be the foundation of its diplomacy, it is not possible to reanimate civil activism based on the healthy assumptions of a genuine community, a shared polity. This is miles away from the neoconservative call—articulated by Kristol and Kagan in their famous 1996 article “Benevolent Global Hegemony,” for “citizen involvement,” which is in their terms tantamount to militarization of the populace and their seduction into the imperial enterprise: “to close the growing separation of civilian and military cultures in our society,” to “involve more citizens in military service,” to “lower the barriers between civilian and military life.”
It is indeed desirable and necessary to have informed, responsible and willing citizens participating in the effort to protect the nation at home and present its best image abroad, but this can be done properly only if the participants in this endeavor are imbued with “enlightened nationalism” based upon the Golden Rule, in line with the U.S. Constitution and in accordance with the true spirit of “citizen-soldiers.” Republican government involves civic activism, and as Sam Francis has reminded us, the early champions of republicanism in European history were insistent on the virtues of the vita activa over the vita contemplativa, the contemplative life, which is more consistent with monarchy. Republican citizens must work at being free all the time. They have to go vote, but far more important than voting is the immense amount of time they have to spend in discussing public affairs and informing themselves about them, and even more time-consuming is the actual participation of the citizen in public office or in public duties, including military service. Mr. Bush’s plea for participation is coupled with further centralization of authority and decision-making, which inculcates passivity into the population.
But instead of a new Golden Age of republican virtue and self-sufficiency that is still possible and desirable, the Kristol-Kagan-Bush model offers “citizen participation” of the kind we’ve seen all too often in 20th century Europe, where ideological assumptions of the ruling establishment are not only beyond critique or reproach but where any doubt is in itself evidence of bad faith. That this call is accepted at face value indicates that the American polity is losing a rational and self-authenticating principle at the root of moral distinctions. Its subjects are encouraged to “participate” but they are no longer expected to make a meaningful specific contribution to rational decision-making. Many no longer know, or care, that morality and justice is to discharge that vocation. But to live otherwise is to be spiritually diseased, and unworthy of the appellation of “citizen.”
10. NON-NEGOTIABLE DEMANDS OF HUMAN DIGNITY
If “America will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women, private property, free speech, equal justice, and religious tolerance,” we shall have permanent war for permanent peace that will not be limited by time or geography. It is light years away from candidate Bush’s response in the second debate with Al Gore (October 2000), when he warned the Vice President that it is not America’s role to patrol the planet and arrange other peoples’ lives in its own image:
One way for us to end up being viewed as the ugly American is for us to go around the world saying, we do it this way, so should you” The United States must be humble and must be proud and confident of our values, but humble in how we treat nations that are figuring out how to chart their own course.
This was, we still hope, the “real” Dubya, positively a breath of fresh air after Mrs. Albright’s triumphalist ravings about the “Indispensable Nation.” Another ray of hope was Bush’s pledge, made shortly after he was nominated, to order a review of America’s foreign commitments, and his promise to “scrutinize open-ended deployments, reassess U.S. goals, and ascertain whether they can be met.” But his present apostasy was made possible by the fact that Bush’s guiding principles, insofar as they exist, are contradictory, and not strong enough (as it turns out) against pressures from hegemonists. After the decline of higher cynicism in the name of Human Progress, followed by the Clinton-Albright brand justified by Human Rights, we now have the ascent of higher cynicism in the name of Human Dignity.
The proponents of all three varieties share the same fear that the world will happily pass them by unless America imposes herself, rises to the challenge and throws her weight about. But to live for the adrenaline is to ride for a fall and to walk with Hubris. The longing to be the world’s social engineer-in-chief cum policeman will never be admitted as the basis of policy. Clinton knows that he should always deny the charge. Throughout the Bosnian Intervention he was the respectable front-end of the Albright program. Inside the State Department and the CIA there is always room for the pretense that policy is more limited and calculated than the passions and arrogance which drive it. In the same vein German policy before 1914 was defined, on paper, by men more rational and cool than their political bosses.
American power and prestige are in the hands of men and women unable, or, worse still, unwilling to resist the Temptation to invent new missions, lay down new embargoes and fabricate new courts. They sense limitless opportunities, and we must ask what ambitions they will declare next. Such declarations are there for all who care to read and listen on both sides of the dominant political spectrum. Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan have gloated for the past six years in what they call “benevolent global hegemony.” The neocons’ definition of Pax Americana is summarized in those two gents’ exultation that we have never lived in a world more conducive to [our] fundamental interests in a liberal international order, the spread of freedom and democratic governance, [and] an international economic system of free-market capitalism and free trade. They don’t tell us how the US will preserve the traditional moral fabric, social structure and economic interests of its own people—what most Americans still mean by ‘national interests.’ Their concern is exclusively with the blessings America should bestow upon the rest of benighted humanity.
11. THE REAL ISLAM?
Bush may be disingenuous here, rather than seriously deluded—we certainly hope the former is the case—because Islam as such, and not some allegedly aberrant form of it, is the main identifiable threat to America’s global security in the coming century, and, in the longer term, to the survival of our civilization. Islam has been synonymous with violence and intolerance since its earliest days. Like communism or Nazism, it is part-religion and part-ideology that seeks to impose mind-numbing uniformity of thought and feeling on its faithful, to subjugate and ultimately destroy all non-believers. It accepts no “peaceful coexistence” and never will. But while Mr. Bush should have no illusions about the nature of the beast—which may lead him to serious miscalculations as to who is, or can be, America’s friend or ally—there is no reason to continue alienating over one billion Muslims in Asia and Africa. Their peculiar ways notwithstanding, he should make it clear that we have no immediate quarrel with them for as long as they do not threaten America. Once again, the U.S. foreign policy must avoid creating conditions for specifically anti-American Islamic hostility (the general anti-Western, anti-Christian and anti-European bile will always be there). It therefore must avoid the perception of a permanent bias in Middle Eastern affairs. The U.S. needs a stable peace in the Middle East that should be based on a scrupulously even-handed treatment of the conflicting parties’ claims, including Israeli security and Palestinian statehood.
At the same time, it is vitally important and necessary to deny Islam (the adjective “militant” is frankly redundant) the foothold inside America, and the omission of a moratorium on immigration is the most remarkable missing link in the President’s antiterrorist strategy. Like its red ideological sibling of yore, Islam relies on a domestic fifth column—the Allah-worshiping Rosenbergs and Hisses—to get its work done. Not one in a hundred communists was a Soviet spy, just as perhaps not one in a hundred Muslims is a bin Laden asset—but reducing the risk then demanded denying visas (let alone green cards or passports) to all self-avowed communists. Doing likewise now with Osama’s potential recruits is the prerequisite of any meaningful anti-terrorist strategy. Since the first WTC attack in 1993 the FBI has known that belligerent Islam had a firm foothold within the Muslim diaspora in America, but the demographic deluge has continued unabated. Islamic extremism exposed on September 11 must end another kind of extremism: the irrational and manifestly false claim that each newcomer to America is equally meltable in the pot. That dogma costs lives.
12. “WE’VE COME TO KNOW TRUTHS THAT WE WILL NEVER QUESTION”
By postulating America as the epitome of all that is good, and those who wish it ill as the incarnation of evil, and by telling the rest of the world that the choice is clear and must be made, the President is effectively precluding any meaningful debate about the correlation between U.S. foreign policies and terrorism. Ottawa, Copenhagen, Zurich, and Oslo were not attacked; Washington and New York were. He refuses to acknowledge even the possibility that this country was a target, and others—just as democratic and affluent, and therefore worthy of jealousy and envy—were not, because of what America does around the world (and most notably in the Middle East), whether we believe that to be good or bad.
Some years ago my friend Brian Mitchell has diagnosed the “twin faults” of this mindset leading in the same murderous direction. The first is “a gnostic belief in our own anointing as a nation, a belief without any foundation in scripture or tradition, chosen merely because it flatters us.” The second is an undeserved confidence in our ability to know and reason, which makes it easy “to pass judgment on others and bear the sword against them, accounting ourselves blameless for the destruction we cause”: We all know how well men rationalize their nonrational preferences, yet after doing our just-war calculations and obtaining an answer in favor of war, we then proceed with a clear conscience to commit ghastly acts.”
Reality is always more complicated than we imagine, and the farther the reality is from our own experience the less we can understand it. This is the moral basis for nonintervention, for staying out of other peoples’ problems and not imposing “non-negotiable demands” on them because we do not know well what to do about them. Even in moral matters, our ability to discern right and wrong is limited, and many times we must choose our course without full confidence that our choices are correct.
To deal with the terrorist threat effectively and on the basis of consensual leadership, the United States should discard the pernicious notion of its “exceptionalism”—reflected in Bush’s claim that “we’ve come to know truths that we will never question: Evil is real, and it must be opposed” Rarely has the world faced a choice more clear or consequential”—and that had previously been thrown at the world in Madeleine Albright’s memorable phrase that “the United States stands taller than other nations, and therefore sees further.” Both imply that America is not only wise but also virtuous, and that its foreign policy is influenced by values and not by prejudices. This idiocy makes literally billions of people livid.
The State of the Union address shows that the main lesson of the tragedy of September 11 has not been grasped by the President and his national security team. It is that the danger to ordinary Americans will remain with us for as long as the United States remains committed to the concept of unrestrained projection of power everywhere in the world. Instead of realizing that the threat to America exists because of the policy of global hegemony we are now told that that hegemony will be confirmed as the divinely-ordained, morally mandated, open-ended and self-justifying mission of America for decades to come. America’s national interests are assumed to include, more firmly than ever before, the ability to project power everywhere and all the time. If that is so, then indeed the terrorist threat is also unlimited and permanent.
The pursuit of Global Power for its own sake is the Great Temptation in human history, the path of ruin that winds from Xerxes, the Persian King of Kings, to Napoleon and Hitler. President Bush’s first State of the Union address should raise the alarm that what he is planning to do today is what Athens did after leading the Hellenic coalition against Persian aggression, attempting to convert consensual leadership into imposed hegemony. The result, as we know, was destruction of Hellas as a political and military factor for all time, and America will be just as surely destroyed if its rulers are allowed to proceed with their quest for the Weltmacht.
As per Cicero, failure to remember what has gone on before condemns us to remain forever children. The hubris of “knowing unquestionable truth,” “imposing non-negotiable demands,” “answering history’s call” and “paying any costs” in the endeavor is the path which Washington and Jefferson forbade America ever to take. Given the choice, the people of this country would never opt for it, but can they prevent it, in this age of ‘managed mass democracy’? The American foreign policy elite—and this term is woefully inadequate in the context—is hell-bent on forcing 280 million to follow their path of Global Glory, and their co-conspirators in the media are calling it a pilgrimage. They deny the certainty that power will ultimately generate countervailing power. We do not know how and when this will come about; but the least we can do is to warn against the Project, and the pointless sacrifices it will entail, including the ruin of America itself.
The hegemonists will deny all this, of course. Ultimately they and terrorists need each other, and feed upon each other. The victim is the Old Republic. The winner is: Empire.
U.S. NUCLEAR POLICY: WHAT THE WORLD SAYS
Monday, January 28, 2002
At the end of last year the Bush administration completed the first Nuclear Posture Review in seven years. A classified version of the report was sent to Congress, but it has not been made public. The report clarifies the President’s pledge to Moscow to reduce the number of deployed U.S. strategic nuclear devices in the next decade by two-thirds. The key point of the report is that deactivated nuclear weapons will be kept in storage rather than destroyed, making them immediately available for future use. This will almost certainly prompt the Russians to follow suit and to also keep their deactivated nuclear warheads in storage, as the U.S. is not proceeding with irreversible reductions in the nuclear arsenal.
This de facto reversal of previously announced policy was mainly the work of Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, a cold-war junkie par excellence, who claims that “we are putting more emphasis than we have in the last 10 to 15 years on that underlying infrastructure that allows you, including in the nuclear area, to rebuild capabilities or build new ones if the world changes.” What exactly is to be gained by the “flexibility” to return to six thousand warheads, instead of being stuck with merely two thousand, remains quite unclear. Recent computer-based estimates indicate that eliminating Russia as a viable country would take only fifty nuclear weapons, while China would require perhaps seven times that many due to its large population. The United States could be effectively annihilated with 124 nuclear weapons and all NATO countries, including North America, could be destroyed with approximately 300 devices. Contrary to Wolfowitz’s claim that withdrawal from the ABM Treaty and deployment of ballistic missile defenses will make the U.S. safer, it will prompt Moscow to respond in kind and force the Chinese to expand their nuclear deterrent force with increased targeting of the United States. The obstinate belief that more nuclear weapons means greater safety reflects a curious rigidity of the defense establishment’s mindset.
The reactions around the world have been predictable, and hardly differ from one country to another, from one end of the political spectrum to another. The Japan Times commented in an editorial on January 17 (“Mr. Bush’s nuclear sleight of hand”) that the move makes no sense:
Coming after a year of shrugging off virtually every multilateral commitment that has been proposed, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Bush administration has decided to free itself from any restraint on its action. It is a singularly shortsighted policy. First, it alienates allies and friends, such as Japan, who believe in arms control and continue to work toward a nuclear-free world. It undermines trust in the U.S. and raises doubts about its ability to lead through example. Second, it undermines President Putin, who looks like he has been played for a fool. Mr. Putin has made some bold choices in recent months, and while his room for maneuver has been constricted, he has not had to side with the U.S. as he has chosen to do. And yet, rather than being rewarded, Mr. Bush has undercut his Russian counterpart and damaged his credibility within Russia. Third, and perhaps most critically, the policy undermines the logic of arms control and international nonproliferation regimes. It is difficult for any other government to accept the utility of arms control regimes when the world’s leading nuclear power withdraws from its own commitments or when it refuses to put its weapons beyond use. That is not the message to be sending India and Pakistan as they continue to bristle at each other, and as the U.S. tries to dissuade countries like North Korea of the utility of building their own bombs. It destroys the bargain implicit in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty by which nonnuclear powers give up their nuclear-weapons aspirations in exchange for a commitment by nuclear powers to move toward disarmament. Most important, it highlights the utility of nuclear weapons—a foolish and dangerous position when the world should be working to rid itself of these abominations.
Russian media across the political spectrum, including usually pro-Western (“reformist”) papers reluctant to criticize any decision coming from Washington, interpreted the decision as an unfortunate “relapse” into old thinking. For instance, Nezavisimaya Gazeta noted on January 18 that “despite Washington’s stated commitment to the dialogue, what has really been done to date is too little–and this applies not only to the Americans’ decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty and their plans to store dismounted warheads, but also to their intention to resume nuclear tests.” This was echoed on the same day by Nikolai Zlobin of the U.S. Center for Defense Information, who wrote in reformist Izvestiya:
Politicians and the military in Russia, their focus on one aspect alone, point out that the Americans don’t want to destroy nuclear warheads but will store them instead. There are other, more serious irritants in the bilateral relations. Firstly, the Bush team does not feel like signing any accords . . . Secondly, the Americans believe that they can save [money] not only by reducing arms but also by not destroying warheads. Frugality like that won’t make the process of arms reduction irreversible . . . Finally, the United States still trusts that it has won the Cold War, so it doesn’t give a hoot about what the vanquished party thinks. The Americans’ success in Afghanistan is a factor, too. Donald Rumsfeld and his right-hand-man Paul Wolfowitz have had their influence inordinately increased . . . They have become the chief newsmakers, with Colin Powell hardly seen or heard from.
Vitaliy Gan noted in the oppositon weekly Slovo (January 18) that Moscow’s calls to make cuts irreversible “have been ignored with characteristic haughtiness”:
The White House thinks the Russians’ position weak since they will have to write off their fast-aging nuclear arsenal anyway. Surely, playing up Russia’s financial and economic problems is not consistent with Bush’s harangues about ‘new times’ in relations between Russia and the United States.
The reformist Vremya MN predicted in a piece by Vladimir Frolov on January 15 that we are in for a repeat of the ABM story: “Either we will have a ‘feeble’ agreement, with the issue of ‘irreversible cuts’ left aside and everybody pretending to see nothing wrong with that, or there will be no agreement at all, if both sides refuse to budge.” The opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya focused its criticism of the decision on Putin’s inaptitude:
Oddly, Putin still keeps quiet about Washington’s intention not to destroy, but rather to store the number of nuclear warheads he promised to reduce to a third in the next few years. This is another instance of Russia having been humiliated in front of the whole world, just a few weeks after the U.S. president announced his withdrawal from the ABM Treaty. Washington’s action is all the more humiliating because it follows in the wake of the Kremlin’s letting the Americans gain bases in Central Asia . . . Washington does not hide that its long-term plans in post-Soviet Central Asia go far beyond its ‘antiterrorist operation’ in Afghanistan.”
Izvestiya concluded on January 14 that despite its partnership with Russia in Afghanistan, the U.S. remains distrustful of Russia—which now “would be right not to hurry to use up warheads after they are taken off the missiles either.” Vremya Novostey also bewailed the fact that “nothing has changed” in the two countries’ relations (January 11), while the business-oriented Kommersant wrote on January 10 was told by “a ranking [Russian] General Staff official ‘This is ridiculous!'”
In Britain the influential Financial Times noted on January 10 that before he was elected Mr. Bush had promised “bold thinking” on the U.S. nuclear deterrent:
On this week’s evidence, he has flattered to deceive. The “nuclear posture review” . . . understandably worries Russia, which may feel compelled to follow suit and put many of its nuclear warheads into storage instead of destroying them. Of course, Washington cannot and should not build national security policy around Russian concerns; but must consider potential threats . . . The irony of all this is that although the Cold War has ended, making it inconceivable that thousands of nuclear warheads could have any use, the review has embedded the nuclear deterrent even more deeply into U.S. strategic thinking. It sends a strong message to other states, such as India and Pakistan, that the real route to power lies in nuclear arms. Most important, it reduces rather than increases America’s own security by strengthening the hand of hardliners in Moscow who want to retain the biggest possible deterrent. To make matters worse, warheads in storage in Russia can hardly be considered secure. By encouraging Russia to store its warheads, the United States is increasing the likelihood that nuclear material will end up in the hands of terrorists, who now represent the greatest danger to U.S. security.
In France Jean-Christophe Ploquin held in Catholic La Croix on January 16 that Putin will be in an uncomfortable position, as his bet after the September 11 attacks has been slow in bringing him the returns he hoped for:
His immediate support to the U.S. has always been in his view something he could use as currency with a Bush administration tempted by unilateral policies. Russia therefore aligned itself with the anti-terrorist coalition. Since then, many observers in Moscow are wondering where American compensation for such a turn-around has gone. The United States has renounced the ABM Treaty . . . and indicated it would store certain nuclear warheads instead of destroying them . . . Even in Washington, some worry about this latest series of rebuffs . . . Putin has only a few months left to try to collect on the dividends of his policy. After that, Russian legislative elections will open the way to nostalgia for Russia’s long lost grandeur.
In Germany Wolfgang Koydl noted in Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (January 15) that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were never happy with the president’s promise to reduce the number of U.S. nuclear warheads to below 2,000, so a few days before the start of U.S.-Russian disarmament talks in Washington the Pentagon pre-empted the outcome with its ploy that the decommissioned warheads be stored, not destroyed–just in case: “Bush gave in to the pressure from the generals. It may be a new experience for Russia that one cannot necessarily rely on a U.S. president’s word.” In Italy La Stampa commented on January 9 that “with the beginning of the war on terrorism the White House tried to soften its positions on non-imminent issues, in order to avoid friction with allies” but is now showing its true intent.
In Australia Melbourne’s Age warned on January 14 that the resumption of nuclear testing “would be disastrous”:
If the United States resumes nuclear testing, it has no credibility to tell the Indians and Pakistanis not to expand their own nuclear weapons stockpile. Nuclear testing debases the currency of diplomacy . . . The United States has expected the rest of the world to rally around its war on terrorism. Cooperation should be a two-way street. America’s allies should say that further cooperation in the U.S. campaign should be done on the basis of enhancing international cooperation. This means among other things, ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the Rome Treaty for an International Criminal Court and the creation of a protocol to augment the Biological Warfare treaty.
In China Li Bin penned a restrained initial comment in the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily (Renmin Ribao, January 11), simply stating that “if the U.S. deploys NMD, other nuclear countries will take technical measures to maintain the effectiveness of their own nuclear retaliatory capability.” Next door in Canada the leading Globe and Mail was far more scathing, noting somewhat sarcastically (January 14) that “slashing your nuclear arsenal by two-thirds, it turns out, is not quite as difficult as it seems, especially if you don’t actually destroy those pesky warheads at all, but rather place them in storage,” and perhaps the United States thought nobody would notice its sleight of hand, or at any rate make much of a fuss:
Wrong again. Russia is furious. With good reason . . . Considering the stakes in the Bush administration’s deceitful posturing, it was remarkable how little media attention last week’s Pentagon announcement drew. Mr. Putin, for his part, may not have been entirely surprised . . . But Mr. Putin must surely be worried at how things are unfolding. If the United States stores and conceals a significant portion of its nuclear capability, the pressure on Russia and other nuclear powers to do the same will be formidable . . . Then there are all those other nuclear powers. China is one. India and Pakistan, seemingly on the brink of yet another war, are two more. What might they conclude from this latest exercise in smoke and mirrors? Only that behind all the rhetoric about peace and security, the world’s only superpower still regards nuclear weapons as a cornerstone of its national security, even as it abandons the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty on grounds the treaty is obsolete. If that’s the message that gets digested, the world is in even greater danger than we had thought.
The latest turn in U.S. nuclear policy is bound to reinforce the fact that most foreigners—even in friendly, allied, and culturally akin countries—hold negative perceptions of U.S. power (see the latest Pew Charitable Trusts survey published on December 19, 2001 http://www.people-press.org/1219012.htm). While there is a comparably high level of principled support for America’s “war on terrorism,” most people in other countries think that U.S. policies around the world were a major cause of the September 11 attacks.
CYRUS VANCE, R.I.P.
January 16, 2002
The news of Cyrus Vanceнs death on January 12 brought back the memory of a golden autumn afternoon in 1992 we spent discussing the intricacies of the Balkans at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. Vance was at that time the U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellarнs special representative charged with the impossible task of mediating the war in the former Yugoslavia. At that time I advised Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia, who had made Vanceнs acquaintance some years before, and we were to meet again at the lovely lakeside villa of Daniel Boyer, a joint friend.
Vance was an old-fashioned liberal of impeccable manners, dress, and speech. But for his accent he could have passed for an English squire of a Whiggish bend, tweeds and half-moon glasses and all; his implicit Anglophilia was evident from a few casual references to books, friends, and places. I had been warned that he did not have any original ideas or profound insights, but I was gratified by his quiet modesty. While his performance as Jimmy Carterнs Secretary of State was on the whole lackluster (his contribution to the 1978 Camp David deal between Sadat and Begin notwithstanding), his 1980 resignation from that postсin protest at the ill-fated military operation to rescue the hostages from Tehranсbefitted that old-fashioned integrity which had once been the hallmark of the East Coast establishment.
When we met Vance was growing weary of the Balkans. A year earlier, in late 1991, he had helped reach a ceasefire in Croatia; but with Bosnia-Herzegovina he faced an impossible task. Unlike the ideologues in Washington and their media cronies, he understood that мBosniaо was not a real country, much less a nation, but a mini-Yugoslavia devoid of inner cohesion that could not be kept together except by external force. At the same time he could not say so aloud as his brief was clear: square the circle the best you can, but only within the Bosnian framework. Partition would not be allowed.
Vance did not have his heart in it. Having developed a healthy disdain for all parties to the conflict, and an understated awareness of the impossibility of the mission, he was glad to have the burden taken off his shoulders with the arrival of David Owen, a failed British politician full of ambition and adrenalin who was sent by the European Union as Vanceнs fellow negotiator. Owen did not have a problem with the fact that the settlement had to be based on the illogical and immoral recognition of administrative boundaries between Yugoslaviaнs former constituent republics as fully-fledged international frontiers. Unlike Vance, Owen joined with gusto in the effort to construe мBosniaо as a test of Western resolve in the epic struggle of multi-ethnicity (the Muslims) versus atavistic, tribal nationalism (the Serbs).
The resulting absurdity known as the мVance-Owen Peace Planо was Owenнs doing, and his failure, not Vanceнs. Ever neurotically hyperactive, Owen hijacked what passed for the Bosnian peace process by hinting that мCyнs past itосbut he hardly stopped to reflect that Vance did not mind in the least having the limelight taken away. He quietly went along with the planнs key objectiveсto give the Muslims their chief war aim, a single, centralized Bosnian stateсknowing that the Clinton Administration would duly torpedo the whole thing anyway, believing the territorial arrangement too generous to the Serbs. The subsequent fiasco was a personal tragedy to Owen, and a matter of no consequence to Vance. His career was over anyway, and his name beyond reproach.
Vanceнs career had reached its zenith fifteen years earlier when he got the State. His previous career was solid, albeit not exactly distinguished. He was born in 1917 in Clarksburg, WV, got his honors from Yale Law School in 1942, and served as a naval gunnery officer in the Pacific for the rest of the war. After stint as a Wall Street lawyer Vance entered public life at 39 as general counsel to the Senate Space and Aeronautics Committee, where he drafted the legislation establishing the NASA. In 1960 he moved to the Pentagon, and two years later Kennedy appointed him Secretary of the Army. Shortly after Dallas LBJ made him deputy defense secretary under Robert McNamara. Within months Vance had to deal with the escalating Vietnam War, which he supported until the tide of public opinion turned in 1967.
Some of Vanceнs former colleagues never forgave his abrupt change of heart and subsequent resignation from the government. Nevertheless, when Johnson withdrew from the impending presidential race in March 1968 and offered to discuss peace terms with Hanoi, he made Vance deputy to the chief American negotiator, Averell Harriman. The commentary in Washington, based on Vanceнs well-established reputation for endless nitpicking, was that Johnson was simply pursuing the war by other means. The job remained unfinished, however: it took five years, and another administration, before the inglorious terms were signed.
During the Nixon years Vance returned to his law practice but was recalled to government by President Carter in 1977. From his earliest days as secretary of state there were clear tensions within the new team. Vanceнs position was made difficult by the Presidentнs lack of strategic objectives, his hesitant nature, and his frustrating proneness to micromanagement. Vance also had to contend with two people he came to detest, with ample reason. One was Andrew Young, the U.N. ambassador, enough said. The other was Carterнs national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, the clever demagogue who Vance eventually suspected of pursuing an agenda determined by his ethnic obsessions and atavistic hang-ups. The tone was set within a week of the new Administrationнs assuming office, when Washington issued an tactlessly worded declaration of support for the dissident physicist Andrei Sakharov, then involved in a row with the Kremlin, which brought an outraged protest from Moscow. Within hours it transpired that the declaration had been made without Vanceнs knowledge: Zbig had been flexing his muscles.
Brzezinskiнs disruptive influence surfaced again over the complex negotiations that Vance conducted on the strategic arms limitation treaty (Salt II). Without mentioning anything to Vance Brzezinski persuaded Carter to present at the last minute a completely new set of proposals to the Russiansсproposals he knew to be unacceptable, and which were duly dismissed by Moscow as мabsurd.о He also intervened destructively after the conclusion of the Camp David accords in 1978, in which Vance had played a major role. Brzezinski ignored State Department warnings that the Jordanians and Saudis would take a long time to accept the new situation, andсto upstage Vanceсhe enraged both nations with ill-disguised briefings in which he claimed they were simply putting up token opposition before joining enlarged talks. This proved to be wrong, and the damage to the peace process proved deep and durable.
This pattern continued across the foreign policy spectrum, culminating in the showdown precipitated by the fall of the Shah. In a frantic bid to resolve the impasse with American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Teheran, further complicated by Carterнs inept response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the White House planned a military rescue mission. The final decision to go ahead was taken at a meeting of the National Security Council held while Vance was on holiday. He strongly opposed the plan on his return but his objections were not heeded. Although the news was kept initially secret Vance resigned and went back to the law.
Looking back at that unhappy period over two decades later, compared to his rivals Cyrus Vance comes across as the embodiment of integrity and trustworthiness. Just like with Owen over a decade later, the more they won publicity for their personalities (and their failures), the more respect grew for his quiet modesty. Zbig the Ideologue despised Vance because he did not hate Russia, in addition to abhorring Soviet communism, and because he was not an мintellectual.о Indeed he was not, as we can see from of the concluding paragraphs of Vanceнs book of memoirs (Hard Choices, 1983):
In the end, deciding whether and how to act in the cause of human rights requires informed and careful judgment. No mechanistic formula will produce an automatic answer. Predicting the course of future events is difficultЦ It is unlikely that we will find easy answers to major questions. Our wisdom, imagination, and leadership will be severely tested. We will find increasingly that we must work with other nations to achieve our goals and to coordinate, as never before, our foreign and domestic concerns. We are likely to find that in many areas of foreign policy, our basic frame of reference is shifting, sometimes subtly, sometimes with dramatic force. We must therefore prepare ourselves for what may come by constantly probing for new understanding, by educating ourselves and the coming generation in the realities of the world and our place in it, and by developing the national strength, skills, and relationships with others that can help us meet the future with confidence . . . We can see tomorrow as merely an extension of today and erode our ability to adapt to and influence new circumstances. Or we can see what lies ahead as another opportunity to use our immense strengths and talents to provide better lives both for our own people and for others. The choice is ours, but it must be made early in this decade if we are to play our necessary role in the next.
This is pedestrian stuff, but on the whole honest and harmless, just like the man himself, and therefore totally unlike Brzezinski and his ilk. In the end the difference boils down to the fact that Cyrus Vance was a good American.
AMERICA’S IMAGE AFTER SEPTEMBER 11
Monday, January 14, 2002
In the aftermath of September 11 America seems to enjoy an overall positive image abroad, according to a comprehensive survey of the decision-making elites around the world. At the same time most global opinion leaders warn that people in their countries hold negative perceptions of U.S. power. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts survey published on December 19, 2001 (http://www.people-press.org/1219012.htm), elites perceive that there is a comparably high level of support for Americaнs мwar on terrorism.о At the same time large numbers of people in other countries think that U.S. policies around the worldсand especially in the Middle Eastсwere a major cause of the September 11 attacks. Even in Western Europe, 36% of opinion leaders say most or many people in their country believe U.S. policies were to blame; that figure rises to 71% in Eastern Europe and Russia, and to over eighty percent in the Middle East. Even more widespread among ordinary people, according to elites, is the view that it is good that Americans know what it is like to be vulnerable. More than two-thirds of opinion leaders say that many people in their countries think so, ranging to a high of 76% in Asia.
It is disheartening, though, that the survey attributes positive feelings toward the United States to the perception that America is the land of economic opportunityсnot to its supposed ideals, nor to its defense of democracy, human rights and open markets (forget the history, arts, or literature). An overwhelming majority of those questionedсtwo-thirds of opinion leaders in Latin America and three-quarters in Eurasia and the Middle Eastсthink that economic opportunity is what people in their countries like America, andсpresumablyсwhy so many of them want to come here. The high regard for the United States is also due to the popularity of American consumer goods and technology.
Dissatisfaction with the United States is largely attributable to how America acts in the world. Particularly in many European countries, including Russia, opinion leaders perceive a good deal of resentment of the United Statesн might in the world among citizens of their countries, as well as unhappiness with the dominance of U.S. culture, corporations, and the belief that U.S. policies may have contributed to the growing gap between rich and poor nations.
Distinct from these concerns is the criticism of U.S. policies in the Middle East. The impression that U.S. policies and actions in the world were a major cause of the terrorist attacks is strongly related to the perception (1) that the United States is overreacting in its response, and (2) a general dislike of U.S. support for Israel. Not surprisingly, public dissatisfaction with America’s Middle East policy is perceived to be highest in largely Islamic countries. Citizens of those countries closest to the current conflictsсpresumable allies in Pakistan, Egypt, and Uzbekistan, as well as the NATO мpartner,о Turkeyсall have a strongly unfavorable view of U.S. policy toward Israel, and the U.S. response to the terrorist attacks. However, these same Islamic states express less concern over American power in general than do citizens of other parts of the world.
The Europeans, by contrast, have the greatest distaste for American power in general, and least opposition to American policy in the Middle East in particular. The Russians, however, are perceived as being unhappy with the American hegemony in general as well as its handling of Middle Eastern affairs. On the whole, about four-in-ten opinion leaders outside the U.S. say that many or most people in their country believe that the United States is overreacting to the terrorist attacks. This opinion is most prevalent in the Middle East/conflict area (62%), but a majority in Eastern Europe and Russia also say that many or most people hold this view.
APPENDIX: WHAT THE PAPERS SAY
The ambivalence of foreign opinion is reflected in the end-of-year commentary in major daily newspapers around the world. The Wall Street Journalнs London equivalent, the Financial Times, is reliably gung-ho. It carried a report by Gerard Baker, its Washington correspondent, on December 27, 2001, that emphasizedЭ мenduring optimismо of most Americans and their renewed faith in their country:
Indeed, the paradox of 2001 is that, in seeking to bring the United States lower, its enemies have succeeded only in building it up. This is not empty political rhetoric. It is an accurate picture of American self-regard today. It would be absurd to suggest that the rest of the world has embraced everything that America stands for in the wake of September 11. The details of how you organize a free society will be quibbled over for centuries yet. However, the war on terrorism has set in stark relief the really important political choices the human race confronts. In its way, September 11, 2001 and its aftermath could prove as significant as November 1989 in its consequences in the global struggle for freedom.
In pondering the мConsequences Of The September 11 Attacksо in Franceнs Les Echos (January 10, 2002), Stephane Dupont opined that George W. Bush has been transformed after a year in the White House, мa true leader able to rally members of the political class to his cause in a rare united front: мUnskillful up to then on the diplomatic scene, the former Texas governor also succeeded in the amazing feat of bringing together in a few weeksн time a broad international coalition against terrorism.о But Herve Kempf, writing in Le Monde (January 8), warned that the attacks мdid not change Americaнs position on dealing with major world issuesо and its unilateralist approach to their resolution. This view, widespread throughout Europe, was shared by Pascal Boniface of the Institute for International Strategic Relations, who commented in the leftist Liberation (January 7):Э
Americans are interpreting their military victory as a triumph. It reinforces their belief that they are almost always right and that they can always impose their point of viewЦ Now that it has been reassured by a victory that turned out to be easier than expected, it has once again become sure of itself, very sure in fact . . . The events, far from proving its weakness have proven [its] superiority. Its victory has reinforced Americaнs unilateralism and its desire to impose its vision . . . America has learned nothing and could face other rude awakenings.
Jean-Pierre Ferrier lamented the demise of Europe in Le Figaro (January 4), and its incompetence in the military sector manifested in three wars initiated and led by the United States in the past ten years:
Iraq presented the opportunity to verify the individual faithfulness of the members of the Alliance. Kosovo showed the minimal role played by European allies whose participation the Pentagon considered as a weakening factor militarily but nevertheless diplomatically useful. Afghanistan served to summarize the situation: The allies have the obligation to participate in missions decided by the United States following the guidelines determined by Washington. In each instance the rules are the same: At most, the Europeans have the right to information, or to the impression that they have been kept informed.
The same sentiment is echoed east of the Rhine. Malte Lehming maintained in an editorial in centrist Tagesspiegel of Berlin (January 4):
Washingtonнs desire for invulnerability was already part of the discussion about missile defense. Terrorism has not reduced this desire; it has made it stronger. Whether in Somalia, Sudan, the Philippines or Iraq, the United States will not give up its fight against various threats any time soon. In addition, the Bush administration will generally act alone in these matters. Success in Afghanistan has encouraged those military strategists who view coalitions as obstacles. Anyone in Europe who had hoped that лunrestricted solidarityн with the Americans would mean the chance of gaining more influence is likely to be disappointed. All of this will put tremendous pressure on transatlantic relations.
In Russia Sovetskaya Rossiyaнs Vasiliy Safronchuk reflected this view on December 29 with his view that there have been no qualitative changes inside Russia or in its relations with the West since September 11: the current regime, as Yeltsin in his time, is wooing the West, hoping for Russia to be recognized as a partner, but that is not in line with those who seek global hegemony:
But the Americans have been trying in every way to hide their true intentions, disguising them as fighting against international terrorism. The United Statesн attempts to drag Russia into the Gold Billionнs coalition to stand up to the rest of the world are really disturbing. It is surprising how easily Putin fell for the antiterrorist trap Bush set up for him. He readily joined the U.S. action against Afghanistan and used his influence to get Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to pitch in and offer their bases for the U.S. aviation and airborne troops. The ungrateful Washington responded by declaring its withdrawal from the ABM Treaty . . . In effect, Putin has had Russia bonded with the U.S. war chariot in a crusade against all those who oppose American global hegemony.
In Belgium, diplomatic correspondent Mia Doornaert argued in the Flamish-language daily De Standaard (1/3) that мAmerica does not feel accountable to anyone about the goals of its future operationsо:
It insulted Putin by withdrawing from the ABM Treaty.Э Moreover, the United States worried friend and foe by talking about possible attacks against Iraq. That obvious unilateralism is a strange result of “9/11″сthe date that should have made the US realize that even the mightiest nation does not live on an island.
In the neighboring Holland the Trouwнs editorial of December 24 maintained that in the aftermath of the war in Afghanistan the international coalition against terrorism is creaking because the U.S. is being suspected of wanting to bomb other countries:
Furthermore the United States is being reproached, and not without reason, that in the area of international agreements and treaties, they are dealing as opportunistically and arrogantly with the world as they before September 11. And finally, this American administration is doing much too little to attempt to take the sting out of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, a conflict that in whatever way contributes to the hate and jealously in the Arabic and Muslim world with regard to everything which the U.S. stands for. Thus apparently nothing has changed since the eleventh of September. . . . And that is a pity, because terrorism is far from eradicated in this world, and every momentum to deal with it and to deny it material and emotional base should be grasped.
The tone of much Middle Eastern commentary was much harsher and on the whole rather gloomy. The most respected daily newspaper in the Arab world, Cairoнs Al Ahram, commented on the last day of the old year:
The Arab world has never suffered such horrible setbacksсin all its issuesсas in 2001. This started with the arrival of President Bush and the election of Sharon in Israel. Arabs have shown total inability to make predictions about the new American administration. Arab naivety reached the point that some of them even believed Bushнs background in the oil industry and his fatherнs old relations…could make American policies more sympathetic to Arabs and less biased toward Israel. But events have proven the opposite to be the case. . . . The Arab world witnessed no change in either thinking or policies according to the new changes. They have failed to rearrange their ranks, reconcile belligerent parties, and emerge from the tunnel of empty exaggerations to realistic, effective policies. . . . Naturally then, the Middle East reached an impasse with the first American shock [on September 11]; Israel kidnapped the Palestinian issue under the excuse of fighting terrorism.
Al Ahramнs columnist Gamal Zayda wrote (Dec. 30) that Arabs face heavy challenges:
The Arab world is accused of exporting terrorism, clashing with the Christian West, being incapable of coping with the liberal democratic world, and providing the climate for religious fascism. . . . Some people have not realized that most precepts crumbled after September 11; the world and the West changed but Arabs have not. . . . These challenges require a broad dialogue in the Arab world to create a formula for agreement with the modern world which allows us to be part of the new world agenda: i.e. applying democracy, opening the way for freedom of expression. . . . The goal is to block some extremist conservative powers in the American political system which want to use the American military prowess to realize their purpose and allow the terrorist Israeli prime minister to destroy the Palestinian people.
In Saudi Arabia, Jeddah-based Okaz pondered on December 23 the new regional landscape:
The negative American domination reached its peak after the collapse of its major competitor, the former Soviet Union. But fate has punished those who wished for USSR collapse and praised America out of ignorance. These people now say: “Uncle Sam is not any better than the Red Bear.” . . . Sharon came to destroy the concept of the peace process between Arabs and Israelis. Perhaps all these events contributed to the Sept. 11 attacks, but they gave Bush his political gain. It gave him a chance to exercise his military domination and launch his missiles regardless of the effects of such actions on innocent civilians. . . . It is ironic that those who attacked America out of hatred and to destroy its power, gave Bush increased popularity within his country. A benefit Bush would have never dreamed of getting on his own.
In Bahrain Fawzia Rasheed sounded a note of doom in semi-independent Akhbar Al-Khalij on January 5, when he wrote that мAmerica is not aware that its war against terrorism today will mark the beginning of its end because if the nations are silent now they will not be in the long term.