26 Dec 2006
Faith, Logos, and Antichrist: A Post Scriptum on Regensburg
by Srdja Trifkovic
“God is not pleased by blood-and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature” is the essential statement in Emperor Manuel’s verbal duel with his Persian interlocutor, which Pope Benedict quoted in his now famous Regensburg lecture last September. “Faith is born of the soul, not the body.”
The world outlook based on this simple yet essential adage is light years away from the Verse of the Sword (9:5), the essential message of the Kuran. It is, in fact, so diametrically opposed to it that we may be forgiven for concluding that Muhammad’s “inspiration” was indeed supranatural, but not divine .
The timeless Kuranic dictum to all faithful, to fight the rest of us infidels until we pay the poll tax ( Jizya ) with the trembling hand of abject submission, has a whiff of sulphur to it. It conclusively denies the possibility of “peace” (short of Islam’s global triumph), or even of peaceful co-existence. “Kill the unbelievers wherever you find them” is an injunction both unambiguous and powerful.
Of course, Karen Armstrong, John Esposito et al . will reply with the verse ” la ikraha fiddeen ” (“no compulsion in religion”), but they will do so to deceive and misguide us. Verse 2:256 is not at all a proof that forced conversion is against Islam. Verse 2:256 does not leave non-Muslims free to make their religious choices unmolested and un-coerced, in accordance with their conscience and free will. As contemporary Islamic scholars explain, there is no compulsion inmaking the choice of whether you want to be a Muslim or not. Once that choice is made, however, your options are bleak-death or submission-if it is the wrong choice: “Faith and rejection, iman and kufr, cannot be forced upon one by others. So Islam does not say that others must be forced into Islam; that if they become Muslims, well and good, and if they do not, they are to be killed, that the choice is theirs.” (In the same spirit, there was no compulsion to accept Communism under the 1936 Soviet constitution, but its insufficiently enthusiastic embrace meant death in the Gulag.)
The difference among Islamic scholars on 2:256 is that of degree, not kind. Some assert that it has been abrogated not only by 9:5 but also by 9:73 (“O Prophet, struggle with the unbelievers and hypocrites, and be thou harsh with them”). Other scholars-more “tolerant” ones, we might say-said 2:256 has not been abrogated, but it had a special application: it was revealed concerning the People of the Book (Jews & Christians), who should not be compelled to embrace Islam if they submit to the rule of Islam and pay the Jizya . It is only the idol worshippers who are compelled to embrace Islam and upon them 9:73 applies. As al-Nahas points out in An-Nasikh wal-Mansukh , “this is the opinion of Ibn ‘Abbas which is the best opinion due to the authenticity of its chain of authority.” In exempting the Jews and the Christians from 2:256, theulema agree that pagans and atheists can and should be compelled to accept Islam by force.
The foremost Islamic scholar of all time, Ibn Khaldun, summed up the mainstream consensus-the consensus that is valid to this day-when he defined systemic violence as a religious duty based on the universalism of the Muslim mission and the obligation to convert all men to Islam either by persuasion or by force. He readily concedes that “Islam is under obligation to gain power over all nations .”
The orthodox Islamic rationale for compulsion-e.g. that given by Ibn al-‘Arabi-is worthy of dialectical materialism’s somersaults; we find that “no compulsion” actually means compulsion, and that “freedom” is only the freedom to accept revealed truth :
The Prophet said: I have been ordered to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah. This Hadith is taken from the words of Allah, “Fight them on until there is no more tumult and religion becomes that of Allah” (2:193). If someone asks how can people be compelled in the truth when the mere fact of compelling indicates a violation of the will of the one compelled?-the first answer is that Allah sent Mohammad calling people to Him, showing the way to the truth, enduring much harm . . . until the evidence of Allah’s truth became manifest . . . and His apostle became strong, He ordered him to call people by the sword . . . hence there is no more an excuse after being warned. The second answer is that people first are taken and compelled, but when Islam becomes prevalent . . . their faith strengthens and finally becomes sincere.
Translated into the language of contemporary and equally mainstream Islamic discourse, with “reasonable” people there is no need for compulsion because “after all the clear proofs, the logical reasoning and the manifest miracles there is no need for force at all .” But with those who persist in their obstinate refusal to be reasonable and convert (or submit), coercion is both legitimate and necessary. After all is said and done, the authorities at al-Azhar hold, jihad is “a divine obligation: the Muslim is always mindful that his religion is a Qur’an and a sword . . . the Muslim is forever a warrior.”
It is therefore inevitable that imperialism is immanent to Islam, asEphraim Karsch argues persuasively. The apologists assert that Muslims are called by the Kuran to strive for peace, but the “peace” is possible only under an all-pervasive Islamic rule. Such “peace” does not only have the negative meaning of the absence of war. It is a positive state of security, attainable once all infidels are killed, converted or subjugated.
Islam may use the rational form, but in substance it is implacable in the view that only Allah creates our acts and enables us to act, and we are but transmission belts with a preordained balance of debit or credit that determines our destiny in the hereafter. A Muslim’s prayer is not “communication,” and it is offered in the hope of placating a capricious and unpredictable Master. The Master, Allah, is so transcendent as to be devoid of personality.
As then-Cardinal Josef Ratzinger wrote back in 1979, “the unrelated, unrelatable, absolutely one, could not be a person. There is no such thing as a person in the categorical singular.” In the end, Allah the unknowable and un-personable, is served out of fear, obedience, and hope of bountiful heavenly reward. Islam explicitly rejects the notion that “he who has my commandments and keeps them, he is it who loves me.” (John, 14:21) The Kuran states the opposite: “Say, If ye love Allah, follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your sins.” (3:31) This “love” is a means of winning love and forgiveness. It is the “love” of the self, the very opposite of true love; pure sulphur yet again.
In lieu of the sordid “interfaith dialogue,” the lasting benefit of the Regensburg controversy is that it forced some of us to reconsider the claim that three “great monotheistic religions” share common roots and “believe in the same God.” But do Christians believe in the same God that Muslims say they worship?
Of course we do not .
The formal argument first. It is clear and fairly simple. The Christian God of the Creed is trinitarian: the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things seen and unseen; the Son, our Lord and Savior, eternally begotten of the Father; and the Holy Spirit, the giver of life. This is the orthodox faith, “which except a man shall have believed faithfully and firmly he cannot be in a state of salvation.”
The doctrine of the Deity of Christ is essential. Unless the Son is truly God and “one with the Father,” Christians would be idolaters. If He were but a prophet, Christians would be foolishly entrusting themselves to a created creature in the vain hope of salvation. Islam, on the other hand, violently and explicitly rejects and condemns the Christian doctrine of God (Kuran 4:171), the Trinity (5:37), and the deity of Christ (5:72, 5:17), and Allah unambiguously condemns Christians as disbelievers worthy of destruction (9:29-30). Muhammad’s insistence that there is a heavenly proto-Scripture and that previous “books” are merely distorted and tainted copies sent to previous nations or communities means that these scriptures are the “barbarous Kuran” as opposed to the true, Arabic one. (Let’s leave aside for a minute the puzzling question of how any degree of “distortion” of the Kuran could produce either an Old or a New Testament.) The Muslim Tradition also regards the non-canonical Gospel of Barnabas, and not the New Testament, as the one that Jesus taught. To cut the long story short, orthodox Islam teaches that it alone worships one true God that Judaism and Christianity tell lies about-lies for which Christians and Jews will be punished in hell.
“One God” cannot be trinitarian and infinitely transcendent. Christians and Muslims cannot be both right. Their convergent paths do not lead to the same hilltop.
Unlike the Christian faith in God revealing Himself through Christ, the Koran is not a revelation of Allah -a heretical concept in Islam-but the direct revelation of his commandments and the communication of his law . Christian God “comes down” and seeks man because of His fatherly love. The Fall cast a shadow, the Incarnation makes reconciliation possible. Allah, by contrast, is unknowable and so purely transcendent that no “relationship” is possible. He reveals only his will, not himself. Allah is “everywhere,” and therefore nowhere relevant to us. He is uninterested in making our acquaintance, let alone in being near to us because of love. We are still utterly unable to grasp his purposes and all we can do is what we have to do, to obey his command.
Allah’s absolute transcendence means that he cannot be fathomed, only worshipped. It is by virtue of being infinite , not loving, that he is inseparable from his creation. His absolute sovereignty means that his “closeness” to man is not a two-way relationship; man’s experience of Allah is impossible. Any such attempt would imply heretical encroachment on his absolute transcendence. Ultimately, Allah’s absolute transcendence means that he is everything and nothing. He cannot be grasped by the human mind and is greater than we can comprehend. Every thought about him is insufficient and false.
This is emphatically not the “same God” we believe in. Judging by Islam’s fruits through the ages, we’d be fully justified to conclude that “Allah” is His arch-enemy . . .
15 Dec 2006
The Untold Story of Kosovo Negotiations
by Srdja Trifkovic
Vojislav Kostunica, Serbia’s prime minister for the past three years, has one of the most challenging jobs in the world. He nevertheless seems at ease with that burden, and appears more confident than while he was Yugoslavia’s last president (2000-2003). When we met in Belgrade last week, he was as matter-of-fact about the problems he is facing as ever; but whereas in the past he had occasionally agonized about the magnitude and complexity of those problems, today he treats them as facts of life that neither intimidate nor depress him. It may be telling that in appearance he has hardly aged over the past decade, while in substance he has become the key figure on Serbia’s political scene for many years to come.
The most pressing of those problems is of course Kosovo. The United States, NATO and several leading European Union countries have occupied one-seventh of his country’s territory for over seven years, and the officials who run the “international community” appear keen-for now-to detach the southern province permanently from Serbia. Kostunica’s best defense against the pressure to sign Kosovo away-and that pressure keeps coming from Washington, Brussels, London and other power centers-has been to insist on the need for any solution to be legal, to conform to the letter and spirit of the international law.
The law is clear: Kosovo belongs to Serbia, and its status was reiterated in the UN Security Council Resolution 1244 that stopped NATO bombing in June 1999. Detaching it from Serbia against Belgrade’s will would be an unprecedented violation of the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act of 1975. Ahtisaari and his political masters know that, of course, but like to pretend that it is but a minor irritant. As Kostunica says, “When we mention the need for legality, some of these officials become exasperated, even agitated. They respond with various comments to the effect that we should not be bound by ‘mere’ legality.”
This, Kostunica adds, reminds him of the attitude of Yugoslavia’s late communist dictator, Marshal Tito. When commenting on how the country’s judges should try political cases, Tito famously advised them “not to stick to the law like a drunk sticks to a fence.” Such attitude irritates Kostunica-a constitutional lawyer, whose nickname in Serbia is “the Legalist”-but it does not surprise him. “The whole negotiating process had been designed from the outset to lead to only one outcome: Kosovo’s independence,” says he; and the role of the U.N. mediator, Finland’s former president Marti Ahtisaari, was simply to choreograph that outcome.
Kostunica’s account of Ahtisaari’s bungled attempt to “deliver” the Serbs indicates that the promoters of the Albanian cause had selected the wrong person for the job. The Finn came to it as a self-declared proponent of detaching Kosovo from Serbia and an associate of the Soros-funded International Crisis Group, a leading pro-Albanian lobby group. Ahtisaari’s opening gambit nevertheless was to try and assure Kostunica of his good intentions: he really wanted to assist Serbia, he said, in ridding herself of a problem-of Kosovo, that is; and “we” should work together on finding the formula to make it happen smoothly and painlessly, since “we” (men of the world, big-time players in the “international community”) surely realize that Kosovo is lost to Serbia anyway.
Ahtisaari’s approach may have been based on six years’ worth of flawed advice that he and others in the “international community” had received from Western diplomats in Belgrade and from a small but influential clique of “pro-Western” Serbian officials and analysts. All along their assumption had been that Serbia would cave in yet again and agree to Kosovo’s detachment, albeit with some meaningless fig leaf (“conditional independence,” “international guarantees for minority rights,” etc, etc); that Russia and China would endorse the deal at the Security Council; and that the problem would be taken off the agenda by the end of this year with the admission of yet another part of ex-Yugoslavia into the “international community.”
Observers agree that the nature of the new entity would be clear not so much for what Kosovo would be (an international protectorate, an EU-NATO condominium, a future province of Greater Albania) but for what it would no longer be: part of Serbia. As a Washingtonian insider has noted, “The UN, the EU, the Contact Group countries, would issue the appropriate guarantees, mainly protection for the remaining Serbs-and everyone would know the guarantees were just new lies on top of the old. When all the Serbs were cleared out and their holy places destroyed, there would be expressions of regret from Washington, Brussels, London, etc: ‘Indeed, how sad. How unfortunate that these Serbs should have made themselves so hated’.”
The belief that this scenario might work was reinforced by none other than President Boris Tadic’s chief foreign policy advisor Vuk Jeremic, one of very few Serbian enthusiasts for John Kerry’s victory in November 2004. Mr. Jeremic (who happens to be a Muslim on his mother’s side) came to Washington on 18 May 2005 to testify in Congress on why Kosovo should stay within Serbia; but in some of his off-the-record conversations he assured his hosts that the task is really to sugar-coat the bitter pill that Serbia will have to swallow anyway-and to ensure that the nationalist Radical Party does not score excessive gains in the process.
When confronted with Kostunica’s polite but firm refusal to operate on those assumptions, Ahtisaari tried subterfuge, suggesting tete-a-tete off-the-record conversations with individual Serbian leaders. Aware of the potential for intrigue and double-dealing contingent upon such arrangements, Kostunica refused. All his meetings with Ahtisaari were strictly official, on-the-record, minuted, and attended by advisors. In the meantime the negotiations between Serbs and Albanians in Vienna, supposedly mediated by Ahtisaari, failed because they were doomed to fail. As Kostunica says, the Albanians were led to believe that they would get independence anyway, and therefore had no incentive to negotiate.
The biggest internal challenge for the prime minister was to ensure coherence of the official Serbian position, between himself, President Tadic, and foreign minister Draskovic. That has not been easy, and may have become impossible were it not for the remarkable unity of the country’s public opinion on this issue, manifested in the referendum on Serbia’s constitution last October that reiterated Kosovo’s status as integral part of Serbia. Confronted with the strength of popular sentiment, Kostunica’s coalition partners and Tadic-whose Democratic Party is not in government-realized that breaking ranks would be tantamount to political suicide. Some of the lingering ambiguities in Belgrade’s leadership remain, however, and became apparent only days after our meeting when President Tadic announced that he would fight to save Kosovo-but added that he does not believe that the fight would be ultimately successful.
Kostunica disagrees with that assessment, and believes that the chances of success-of a compromise that would give self-rule to the Albanians but keep Kosovo within Serbia’s boundaries-are better now than at any time since 1999. The fact that Ahtisaari felt compelled to move the deadline, long set for the end of this year, has tremendous psychological and political significance: the surest means of denial is delay. Many proponents of Kosovo’s independence now realize that setting a firm deadline was a grave mistake. We are witnessing a shift in momentum that does not work to their advantage.
The shift would not have been possible without Russia’s firm and unambiguous commitment not to support any Security Council resolution that is not acceptable to Serbia. We can only speculate whether Moscow’s stand would be so solid had the United States promised to treat Kosovo as a valid precedent for Transdnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh; but having rejected any such possibility out of hand, Washington has ensured that Putin has no incentive to play ball. As for China, the danger works in the opposite direction: had Peking supported Kosovo’s independence, it could have facilitated the creation of a precedent that could be and therefore would be used against it vis-a-vis Taiwan (or even Tibet) at some future date.
Option B for the proponents of Kosovo’s independence was stated by the province’s “prime minister,” war criminal Agim Ceku, earlier this week: Albanians proclaim independence regardless of the UN and invite bilateral recognition by individual countries, most crucially the United States. The trouble is that the Europeans hate that option, even those (notably in London and Berlin) who are supportive of independence. Option B cannot work unless the European Union supports it as a whole, and within the EU so many countries have announced their opposition-Spain, Greece, Rumania, and Slovakia unequivocally-that it is not practicable. No individual EU country will recognize a self-proclaimed “state” in Kosovo unless it is an agreed policy consensually approved in Brussels. Ceku et al may try it nevertheless, but Washington is certain not to extend recognition that bypasses the Security Council if that risks a rift with the Europeans: the U.S. needs them on board to manage the mess in Afghanistan, and for the forthcoming disengagement from Iraq.
In conclusion, the untold news is that Kosovo will not become independent. The New York Times , the Washington Post and the rest of the Western “mainstream” will go on huffing and puffing and pretending otherwise, but there is not much they can do: Kostunica will not be duped, Serbia will not cave in, Russia will not relent, and the Albanians will not give up on what they had been promised by those who had never had the right to make the promise in the first place. They threaten renewed violence, but the threat only serves to reinforce the argument that they should not be allowed to get away with it. As Russia’s ambassador to the U.N. told his Western colleagues last Wednesday, “you may be willing to give in to Albanian blackmail, but we are not.”
As Kostunica says, once the reality sinks in we’ll finally have some real negotiations. We do not know what the end result will be, but that is in the nature of all genuine negotiations: their outcome is unknown. Ahtisaari has failed, and his supporters are getting very nervous. As Misha Glenny confided to the former U.S. ambassador in Belgrade William Montgomery on December 7, “I am seriously worried about the Kosovo situation . . . entre nous , I am very disappointed with Martti’s performance.”
Good. Very, very good.
01 Dec 2006
Pope in Turkey: A Reluctant State Guest
by Srdja Trifkovic
On Friday Pope Benedict XVI arrived back in Rome following a four-day visit to Turkey. His trip marked his first papal visit to a Muslim nation, and was marked by controversy that followed remarks he made in September on the link between violence and Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. Before leaving Turkey the pope celebrated Mass for the small Roman Catholic community in Istanbul and repeated his call to heal divisions among the world’s Christians. On Wednesday pope met Patriarch Bartholomew I, widely respected as “the first among equals” among Orthodox bishops. Earlier in the week, immediately upon his arrival in Turkey, the pontiff surprised the world by telling the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that the Holy See supports his country’s entry to the European Union. He also called for increased dialogue, peace and reconciliation between Christians and Muslims, and-according to Mr. Erdogan-“the most important message the Pope gave was toward Islam, he reiterated his view of Islam as peaceful and affectionate.”
To consider the significance of these events we bring you a transcript of Srdja Trifkovic’s interview on Pope Benedict’s visit broadcast onIssues, Etc. , presented by Todd Wilken on KFUO (St. Louis, MO).The Rev. Wilken is an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod . His first question to Dr. Trifkovic-a regular guest on his program-was if Benedict’s statements have changed the atmosphere in his official talks with Turkish leaders.
TRIFKOVIC: First of all let’s be clear on one point: it was the Turkish government that dictated the framework and the official status of his visit. The pope’s original intention was to pay a strictly pastoral visit to Patriarch Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch. It was NOT his intention to have a state visit to Turkey, and certainly it had not been his intention to visit Ankara at all. Your listeners need to know that the Turks, even though nominally secular, are treating the Orthodox Patriarch as an obedient subject of theirs-and he did not have any say in this matter. What the Turks have done is the equivalent of the Italian Republic telling the leader of the Anglican Church that he cannot come to the Vatican and visit the pope, unless he agrees that his visit is to be a fully-blown state visit to Italy that would include formal visits with the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, and the laying of a wreath at the tomb of king Victor Emmanuel.
WILKEN: What you are saying is that we have a big story here: the political leaders of Turkey are dictating the terms of pope’s visit, of why he’s visiting and what he’s going to do?
TRIFKOVIC: Absolutely, and this is something too delicate for the pope to hint at, for him or the Vatican bureaucracy. This is something well known and quite obvious to the curious, and yet it seems to elude the attention of countless commentators, scribes and talking heads. Turkey, a nominally secular country, is abusing its position of physical control over the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, and using it as a means of forcing the pope to convert a visit originally intended to be pastoral into a state occasion. Furthermore, regarding his latest statements on Islam’s “peacefulness” and his support for Turkey in the European Union, there was a pound of flesh to be extracted on the account of his Regensburg address and his earlier statements that clearly indicated his opposition to Turkey joining the EU. On both those topics I do not believe that the Pope was being completely sincere in his latest statements, but he is between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, had he cancelled the visit, that would have aggravated the position of the remaining few Christians in Turkey, who are already under immense pressure. On the other hand, once he decided to go ahead with the visit, he knew he’d have to make all of the politically correct statements that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and others were expecting. Personally I think it was rather unfortunate that the pope opted for the second course. I do not think that Turkey belongs in the European Union. If one were to be cynical one could say that the only reason why Turkey should join the EU is to bring about a speedy end of that odious institution, because it would be subjected to all kinds of internal pressures that could no longer be accommodated. Nevertheless, the Pope’s statement about the “peaceful” and “loving” nature of Islam is not only at odds with his Regensburg address-where he was only quoting Emperor Manuel, rather than venting his own views-but it is quite clear that his words in Ankara were spoken under duress.
WILKEN: You have mentioned several times that Turkey is “ostensibly” a secular state, so do you see Turkey moving towards political Islam, towards officially becoming an Islamic state any time in the near future?
TRIFKOVIC: If you remember the shah, he seemed fairly solid and inviolable in his position of near-absolute power in Iran throughout the 1970s, and it was only in the last year of his rule that things rapidly started going downwards. I believe that Iran in 1975 or 1976 corresponds to where Turkey is today: three or four years away from an Islamic wave that is already sweeping the country but is not yet apparent at the top of the political pyramid. Turkey’s elite class is rather narrow, it invludes many Western-educated people with highly developed sensibility, notably the Nobel Prize winner for literature Orhan Pamuk, people willing and able to act as a bridge between two cultures and two continents. But by and large Turkey is an overwhelmingly Muslim society. The feelings of the Turks are well manifested in the fact that they’ve elected Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party that is now termed “post-Islamist”-but he hasn’t given up on any of the tenets of his political creed. What is particularly worrying is that the junior officer ranks of the Turkish army are being affected by the Islamist tendencies. And yet the Army is widely regarded as the only real bulwark, the defender of the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the reformer who, back in the 1920s, turned the derelict Ottoman Empire into Turkey, a secular nation-state.
WILKEN: Turkey is constantly referred to as the friendliest Muslim nation we have, that is, the one nation with predominantly Islamic population that is a friend of the West. Is that a deserved reputation?
TRIFKOVIC: Not at all. If you look at the actual sentiments of ordinary Turks, they are well reflected in the most popular movie ever made in Turkey-it is called “Valley of the Wolves, Iraq.” It offers a largely fictitious account of a firefight between a Turkish contingent of peacekeepers and an American Marine unit. It is very loosely based on fact-there had been a skirmish resulting from a case of mistaken identity-but it is a film in which evil Americans deliberately shoot civilian guests at a wedding party, including a little boy, and they kidnap Iraqis in order to remove their body organs and sell them on the black market in New York, and-significantly-Tel Aviv. Turkey is also a country where a Westerner may feel relatively safe and relatively comfortable in Istanbul or in a resort along the Aegean Coast (when the Kurds are not blowing themselves up during the tourist season, that is). If you go into the heartland of Anatolia, however, and if you go to the eastern part of Turkey, you’ll find that U.S. personnel at Incirlik Air Force Base have to travel in convoys and carry small arms with them at all times. It is no longer safe for them to go around on their own. Let’s also remember that Turkey has regional ambitions that far exceed the appetites of a regular secular, democratic country. In the Aegean Turkey has constant territorial disputes with the Greeks, and in 1974 it militarily occupied the northern two-thirds of Cyprus-an independent and sovereign country-in an act of blatant military aggression for which it had never been reprimanded, let alone punished, either by NATO or by Washington. Turkey has further geopolitical designs in the former Soviet Central Asia, most of which is ethnically or linguistically related to the Turks. What we are witnessing is a regional power of the first order in the making that has every reason to mimic the language of modern secularism in its PR, but which, in essence, remains culturally, spiritually and politically, not to mention ethnically, vastly different from the rest of Europe-not only vastly different, but also potentially inimical to Europe.
WILKEN: Are you comforted at all that, at least in its outward form, Turkey nevertheless remains a democracy?
TRIFKOVIC: Turkey “remains” a democracy in the sense in which Iraq is “turning into” a democracy: a budding Islamic theocracy in which the institutions of political Islam are being re-legitimized by the will of the majority. In Turkey, under the democratic veneer we are witnessing the erosion of Kemalist institutions, and the gradual return of the Islamic mindset that once dominated the Ottoman domain. It is very much in line with the overall phenomenon of what is known as “democracy in the Greater Middle East.” We’ve witnessed it in Algeria, where the Army had to intervene in 1994 to prevent the Islamists from coming to power, and in the Palestinian Authority last January, where Hamas was victorious in a general election. It was exactly a year ago that President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt allowed the Muslim Brotherhood, the Ikwanis, to contest elections, and in every constituency where they were allowed to field candidates, they swept the board. So yes, Turkey is very much a “democracy”-in the spirit of the Islamic Greater Middle East.
22 Nov 2006
The Price of Modernity: A Letter From Dublin
by Srdja Trifkovic
On my last visit here 22 years ago, Ireland looked and felt pre-modern, charmingly as well as annoyingly so. It is a vastly different place today. Late-model BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes glide past my hotel window (metallic silver is de rigueur). Georgian terraced houses across the street are immaculate outside, remodeled inside, and sell for three million apiece. The term “economic miracle ” is entirely appropriate to the Celtic Tiger ‘s performance over the past decade-a fortuitous mix of low corporate taxes, low wages, good public education, Anglophone culture, US economic strength, foreign investment, stable national economy, prudent budget policies, and EU membership.
Economists are still debating the relative importance of each of those factors, but taken together they have interacted to transform Ireland into an economically vibrant, rich modern country. In 1987 Irish GDP was a mere two-thirds of the EU per-capita average; it is 140 percent today. Unemployment fell from one-fifth of the population in the mid-1980s to 4 percent-one twenty-fifth-in 2003; and government debt shrank from 112% of GDP to just over 30 percent today. Ireland’s per capita income exceeds that of Great Britain-a feat unimaginable a generation, let alone a century ago.
The cultural price of prosperity could be predicted with mathematical precision. Between 1975 and 1995, Ireland’s fertility rate declined from 3.55 (Europe’s highest at that time) to well below replacement level of 1.87. This represented a decline of almost 50 percent within one generation, comparable to what happened to Spain and Italy in the 1970s and 1980s. The freefall is still continuing, and-unless checked-will halve the country’s already ageing population in the next four decades.
Ireland’s rapid decline in birth rates was the net result of dramatic changes in social mores. Marriages and marital fertility rates are collapsing, with over a third of all Irish babies born out of wedlock. The Church, having grown stale and complacent after decades of state patronage, is unable or unwilling to address the challenge ofmulticulturalist mammonism . When Pope Jon Paul II died, even Castro declared three days of mourning-but Ireland had none. The business community opposed it because of the cost of a day’s idleness, while the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) opposed it on cultural grounds, declaring that Ireland was no longer a Catholic but a multicultural society.
Yes, Ireland is just another postmodern country now, and that includes high-speed internet in my room (so you get these musings in real-time), as well as collapsing birth rates, dysfunctional families , rising crime, ubiquity of global mass-cultural uniformity. The number ofunassimilable immigrants and ” asylum seekers” is rising rapidly-their influx inevitably coupled with the imposition of ideological and legalmandates of ” diversity ,” multiculturalism and anti-discriminationism by the elite class. In the meantime, Irish culture is fast becoming a relic, either neutered a la “Riverdance” and relegated to heritage, or else condemned as retrograde.
“Plucky little Ireland” is no longer on the periphery of Europe or the world. It has joined the global mainstream, economically, culturally and spiritually, and it has done so with gusto. Like the rest of the Old Continent, it seems hell-bent on birth-controlling and multiculturalizing itself to death.
The process has reached the point where even this diagnosis is rejected by those who might be expected to combat its consequences. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, the apostle of a “humble, listening church,” revels in the “radical newness of the gospel” that leads us “along paths that we may not have expected to tread” and “away from traditional ways”:
It may lead to appreciate methods of evangelisation which we had earlier found not always to our liking. It will lead to overcome prejudices. The radical newness of the Gospel must be brought into dialogue with the culture in which we live. At times that radical newness will lead us to appreciate the signs of the times, as they can be discerned through the major currents of thought of contemporary humanity and its searching.
On balance, an American who likes to feel at home when away from home should not have any qualms about coming to Ireland.
09 Nov 2006
Rumsfeld’s Long Overdue Departure
by Srdja Trifkovic
Had President George W. Bush fired Donald Rumsfeld a month ago, the Republican Party could have fared better last Tuesday-not much better, perhaps, but possibly well enough to retain control of both houses. Doing it late is nevertheless better than not doing it at all. Rumsfeld was a liability and an embarrassment, the embodiment of all that went wrong in Iraq. He disregarded sound military advice, ruled by intimidation, and made fundamental strategic mistakes.
Many staunch GOP loyalists would have liked to see Rumsfeld go in the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib scandal two and a half years ago, and last April it looked, briefly, as if they may get their wish. They realized that shifting some of the blame for Iraq on the architect-in-chief of the war was necessary to halt the freefall of Mr. Bush’s approval rating. Several retired generals fired their guns , but Rumsfeld’s war of words with former generals soon spread to the lower ranks, with recent veterans of the Iraq war and Pentagon civilians resorting toweblogs to attack their current and former bosses. Ret. General Anthony Zinni spoke for many active-duty comrades when he blasted Rumsfeld’s arrogance and his inability to devise a viable strategic plan. As recently as last Saturday the Army Times published a devastating editorial calling on Mr. Bush to fire Rumsfeld.
It is ironic that Rumsfeld’s departure will not be lamented even by his erstwhile neoconservative associates, who now claim that he is not one of them. Had they conducted the war, they now say , it would have ended, victoriously, a long time ago. Richard Perle et al, judging by a fascinating Vanity Fair feature, are way beyond asking “how to win?” They are moving on to “who screwed up?”-and the culprits are supposed to be in the White House and the Pentagon.
Rumsfeld’s betrayal by the Neocon Central is well deserved. He could not have not known that he was surrounding himself with riff-raff of dubious integrity and uncertain loyalty. In 2001 he made Richard Perle chairman of the Defense Policy Board, the position which the latter had to resign in March 2003 after it was revealed that a venture capital firm in which Perle was managing partner would profit from the Iraqi war. Douglas Feith was crafting “intelligence” from whole cloth. The attitude of these people was evident in Paul Wolfowitz’s now famous Vanity Fair admission , that in seeking justification for war against Iraq “for bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on.” That surprisingly frank statement reflected a manipulative Straussian mindset that knows no restraint and no moral bounds.
As has been pointed out in this column some months before the war, Rumsfeld and his neocon team (Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith) had long sought to construct an Iraqi pseudo-reality. They were among the founding members of the Project for a New American century (PNAC) established in 1997 and dedicated to “American global leadership.” In January 1998, in an open letter to President Clinton, PNAC said that the only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use, or threaten to use, weapons of mass destruction. This theme was to be a mainstay of the group’s public speaking and private policy advocacy for years.
There was no proof, then or later, that Iraq had any WMD capability; but in 2002 that objection was discounted by Rumsfeld in a phrase worthy of Hegel: “the absence of evidence does not mean the evidence of absence.” In making the same point he could sound like a Beria, like when he asserted that the failure of U.N. arms inspectors to find weapons of mass destruction “could be evidence, in and of itself [ sic!], of Iraq’s noncooperation”; or like Descartes: his remark that “simply because you do not have evidence that something exists does not mean that you have evidence that it doesn’t exist” is a roundabout way of saying cogito ergo sum . (My favorite piece of Rumsfeldiana is a mix of Sartre and Groucho: “There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know.”)
Rumsfeld never repudiated his reasons for war. The intelligence that we were operating off was correct, he declared , and repeatedly expressed certainty “that we will, in fact, find weapons or evidence of weapons programs that are conclusive.” That did not happen, of course, and on the basis of that blunder alone Rumsfeld should have done the honorable thing, or Bush should have fired him back in 2003.
He was equally wrong in his often stated belief that U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators, and yet he appears to have believed his own assertion: his initial plans called for the reduction of forces to 30,000 U.S. troops within three months of the invasion. His assurances to Jim Lehrer of February 20, 2003, have a melancholy ring today: “There is no question but that they would be welcomed. Go back to Afghanistan, the people were in the streets playing music, cheering, flying kites.” He was also wrong in his expectation that a friendly government led by someone like Ahmad Chalabi would be able to take swift control, and that, faced with utter defeat, the fighting remnant of Saddam’s loyalists would surrender, assimilate, or be destroyed . Rumsfeld was not only wrong, he was seen to be wrong and “his critics within the Army have turned out to be right that this force would be too light to occupy, secure, and defend the country after the war.”
The deeper problem with Rumsfeld has less to do with Iraq than with his global vision. He remains an advocate of NATO expansion into Russia’s back yard, and he still favors the antimissile defense system whose assumptions are both politically and technically flawed. The 1999 “Rumsfeld Report” (of the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States) 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.”
Eight years and three thousand American soldiers’ lives later the outgoing Secretary of Defense still doesn’t understand that to pursue global hegemony-for that’s what unrestrained projection of power is all about-will doom America. A strategic doctrine that demands the capacity to project power everywhere and all the time cannot be sustained either economically or physically, because the threat is limitless and open-ended by definition. No man who succumbs to this dangerous obsession should head the Pentagon.
Compared to Rumsfeld, Robert Gates will be a breath of fresh air. His appointment (he’ll be confirmed easily) heralds the approaching endgame in Iraq and the score-settling in Washington that, Andrew Bacevich says , promises to get downright ugly:
Still, whatever their political inclinations, Americans should welcome this debate. At a bare minimum, the eruption of blame and backstabbing will offer considerable entertainment value. To read [in Vanity Fair ] that neoconservative David Frum, former White House speechwriter and author of a fawning tribute to Bush, has discovered that “the president said the words, he just did not absorb the ideas,” is simply a hoot. More substantively, the purging of political elites infesting Washington always has a cleansing effect. Figuring out “who lost Iraq?” ought to provide the occasion for throwing out more than a few rascals who hold office and discrediting others.
With Rumsfeld’s firing the Chistka is officially under way. Ladies and gentlemen, tighten the seat belts and have your sick bags ready.
07 Nov 2006
A Troubling Verdict
by Srdja Trifkovic
There are few people in today’s world as richly deserving of the noose as Saddam Hussein. North Korea’s Kim Jong Il and Kosovo’s ” primeminister ” Agim Ceku would be close contenders in a just world. The fact that they are safe-for now-does not mean that the former Iraqi dictator is not a nasty piece of work whose unnatural death would mark a natural end to a bad life.
There are nevertheless three main reasons why the sentence passed last Sunday should make every decent American cringe. First of all, the trial was a kangaroo affair. Secondly, it will make the sectarian turmoil worse. Last but not least, it will make a dignified American exit ever more difficult.
The integrity of the proceedings was compromised right away when Ahmad Chalabi, now long disgraced but still on the Iraqi Governing Council at the time, made the unambiguous statement that “Saddam will be punished for his crimes.” He did not qualify the satetement with “if found guilty,” and he did not have a jail sentence in mind. Mouwafak al-Rabii, a Shiite member of the Council, opined that death is the onlyappropriate punishment: Saddam should be “resurrected hundreds of times and killed again.” Asked if the death penalty could be considered, Governing Council leader Abdelaziz al-Hakim said: “Yes. Absolutely .” Two years later nothing much has changed: prime minister al-Maliki, a Shia, confidently predicted a guilty verdict only weeks ago.
The trial itself was as good as their word. Rules for presenting evidence and introducing witnesses were improvized ad-hoc, in a manner reminiscent of The Hague “tribunal” on the former Yugoslavia. Political interference in the case never stopped, notably when one presiding judge resigned in protest against government pressure after being accused of excessive leniency to the accused, and another was summarily fired by al-Maliki’s government for allowing the possibility that Saddam was not a dictator . The court’s dubious independence and impartiality were further undermined by the lack of protection for defense witnesses and lawyers , several of whom were killed by persons unknown but widely assumed to be connected to the Shia-dominated Interior Ministry.
Two years ago, at the time of Saddam’s arrest, countless talking heads and scribes claimed that his trial by an Iraqi court would be ” cathartic” and contribute to the country’s stability. Back then we warned that this was worthless psycho-babble : “Doing a Ceausescu on Saddam would be in tune with the Iraqi political tradition. but let us not pretend that the deed would purify or enoble anyone, or cleanse anyone’s sins.” By letting Saddam hang we won’t be made to look better than him, or make Iraqis think that life is better now than it was under Saddam . . . “Only so ghastly is the hell-disaster that we have inflicted upon Iraq that we cannot even say that.”
At the time of Saddam’s capture President Bush said that there should be a trial in which the Iraqi people are “very much involved” and that can “stand international scrutiny.” Mr. Bush was understandably loath to have the occupation authority or some ad-hoc international body try Saddam, as the trial would have been seen as an “American” affair; but to expect fairness and legality from an Iraqi court was either naive or obtuse. At least he should have upheld Bremer’s abolition of the death penalty: the first administrator was inept on the whole, but at least on this issue he knew that the law would be used as a means of sectarian vengeance.
It was tasteless for Mr. Bush to greet last Sunday’s verdict as “a landmark event in the history of Iraq,” and to congratulate “the Iraqi people” who are “converting their country from a rule of tyrant to rule of law.” The verdict is more likely to become a landmark event in the history of the Iraqi civil war, with all parties perceiving the trial as Shia revenge on Saddam’s fellow Sunnis. It was additionally discomforting to hear the President’s comments in view of the fact that Saddam was sentenced for killing Kurds in 1987-88, when he was considered an American friend in the region. In 1988 Washington lobbied hard to prevent international condemnation of Iraq’s chemical attack against the Kurdish village of Halabja . In previous years the U.S. had provided Iraq with critical satellite intelligence and battle planning assistance, at atime when US intelligence agencies knew that Iraqi commanders would employ chemical weapons against Iran.
The reason why last Sunday’s verdict makes American disengagement more difficult is simple: a viable exit strategy demands the development of a working rapport with Iraq’s six million Sunnis, who provide the backbone of the insurgency. By seeing first-hand that they cannot expect fairness or justice from this or any other Shia-dominated government, Sunnis will be even less motivated than before to end their resistance. In other words, to control the situation the U.S. would need to create a split within the ranks of Iraqi insurgents between those who are driven primarily by nationalist and tribal motives, and the ideologues of jihad who don’t give a hoot for Iraq as such but simply want to use it as a chapter and a focal point in their global struggle. This would require overcoming distaste for a dialogue with former Baathists and Saddam loyalists, but no such dialogue will be possible if Saddam is hanged under the noses of American soldiers. On the other hand, if Washington acts to prevent such outcome, the breach with the Shiites-inevitable although not yet imminent-would draw closer and make Iraq even less governable than it is today.
Caught between the Sunni rock and the Shia hard place-both of his own making-Mr. Bush can only hope that Saddam’s additional trials and subsequent appeals will drag on slowly, and see him through the remaining two years of what is fast becoming an embarrassing and failed presidency.
19 Oct 2006
Fighting Jihad at Home
by Srdja Trifkovic
To be operationally useful, the notion of “Fighting Jihad at Home” demands a clear definition of Jihad , the evidence that the activity thus defined is present in the United States, and a set of policy recommendations to counter it.
Jihad is the application of divinely mandated violence by Muslims against non-Muslims with the objective of (a) converting, (b) killing, or (c) subjugating and taxing the latter. The doctrine of jihad was Muhammad’s only significant original contribution to history.
Muhammad’s followers and successors were prone to war by custom and nature, accustomed to living by pillage and the exploitation of settled populations. Theirs was an “expansionism denuded of any concrete objective, brutal, and born of a necessity in its past” (Ibn Warraq), but Islam provided a powerful ideological justification for those wars-a justification that was inherently global in scope and totalitarian in nature. It shifted the focus of attention of the tribesmen from their internecine feuds to the outside world. The enormous aggressive energy and hunger for loot was henceforth to be directed outwards.
Jihad is not so much the means of spreading Muslim faith, as the means of spreading the rule of Islam. The view of modern Islamic activists, that “Islam must rule the world and until Islam does rule the worldwe will continue to sacrifice our lives,” has been solidly rooted in traditional Islam ever since the early divine sanction of violence that came to Muhammad in Medina: “O Prophet! Rouse the Believers to the fight,” the Kuran orders , and promises that a hundred Muslims would vanquish a thousand unbelievers (Kuran, 8:65). In dozens of verses Allah orders the faithful to fight the unbelievers,(9:123) “and slay them wherever [they] catch them.”( 2:191 ) The end of the fight is possible only when “there prevail justice and faith in Allah” in the whole world.
Such scriptural basis made Islam different from all other major religions, in creating the foundations for a theocratic universal state with unlimited aspirations. From Muhammad’s second year in Medina on, Islam combined the dualism of a universal religion and a universal state and jihad became its instrument for carrying out the faith’s ultimate objective by turning all people into believers. Islam postulates the fundamental illegitimacy of the existence of non-Islam, and mandates permanent “rejection of the Other”-to use a fashionable term-by every bona fide Muslim as a divine obligation. To a Muslim Jihad does not necessarily mean permanent fighting, but it does mean a permanent state of war .
All jihad is “defensive” by definition: the legal formulation of the relationship of Muslims to others is based on the principle that Islam is a universal message to the whole of mankind which the whole of mankind must accept, or else submit to. Since no political or material power may hinder Allah’s will, any such “hindrance” is an act of aggression and Islam has no recourse but to remove it by force. All conquered lands are the House of Islam where ummah had been established, while the rest of the world belonged to the House of War inhabited by Harbis . 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 true peace comes with the completion of global conquest.
The reality of militant jihad as a centuries-long religious and legal institution of Islam has a rock-solid rooting in its scriptures, traditions, and jurisprudence. The most prominent Islamic jurist of all time, Ibn Khaldun , summed up the consensus valid to this day when he defined the holy war as a religious duty based on the universalism of the Muslim mission and the obligation to convert all men to Islam by persuasion or force. He readily concedes that “Islam is under obligation to gain power over all nations.”
The apologists assert that Muslims are called by the Kuran to strive for peace, but the “peace” that is called upon believers to implement is impossible unless it is established under an all-pervasive Islamic rule. Such “peace,” resulting from jihad, does not only have the negative meaning of the absence of war, it is also a positive state of security that is attainable once Islam kills, converts or subjugates all infidels, 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.
Like communism and fascism, Islam 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-and all that thanks to the doctrine of Jihad. It breeds a gnostic paradigm within which the standard response to the challenge presented by non-Muslim cultural, technological and economic achievements is hostility and hatred. The alleged distinction between “extremists” and “moderates” is a Western construct-the difference between them may concern the methods to be applied but not the final objective: to rekindle the glory that was Islam under the prophet and his early successors.
The revival of the model of early Islam in a modern form mandated the reaffirmation of uncompromising animosity to non-believers and the return to violence as a means of attaining political ends. Terrorism offered the final release from tension by democratizing jihad, making it individualized. The theoretical basis was provided by Sayyid Qutb, the ideologue of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood executed by the Nasser regime. Since all non-Islamic states were illegitimate, Qutb concluded, an Islamic “vanguard”-obviously inspired by the Bolshevik model-is needed to wage jihad both locally and globally. His impact is reflected in al-Qaeda’s own theological justification for its actions. The US is waging an offensive war against Islam and terrorist operations were therefore Kuranically ordained defensive measures to protect the Muslim community from outside aggression.
The apologists for terror invoke sources and principles that are independent of any capricious or dubious interpretations of the Kuran or the Hadith. Even if the “moderates” genuinely disprove of al-Qaeda’s methods, as some among them probably do, they would be hard-pressed to reject the fundamental claim of the theorists and practitioners of terror: that their guidance as well as their methods are rooted in the orthodox Islamic sources and practices. The terrorists may differ from other Muslims in the exact command for action that they derive from the Kuran and the hadith, but they all speak the same language, literally as well as legally and theologically.
Unlike the civilization based on Christianity, to which warfare represents a departure from normality, Islam is devoid of any reasoned principle of justice or moderation. Unlike the “just war” theory rooted in Christian thinking, which has evolved into a secular concept instituted in international laws and domestic codes, Islamic jihad is an institution and a mindset, religious and political, that is inherently conducive to terrorism. It creates among its adherents the paradigm of a permanent cosmic war that breeds the terrorist Weltanscahuung . Antagonism towards the demonized “infidel” is rooted in the conviction that Islam is not only the true faith but the only faith with any truth . No matter how much a believer has been exposed to Western or secular thought, no matter which passport he carries or what clothes he wears, his instinctive first priority on meeting a stranger is to establish which side of this divide that person belongs.
Even the cornerstone statement , “there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet,” goes beyond a declaration of monotheism and implies the radical division of the world into two camps. Antagonism towards non-Muslim religions, societies and cultures, is certainly not the trait shared by all Muslims, but it is an attitude mandated to all true Muslims and prevalent among most. Through jihad Islam has emerged as a quasi-religious ideology of cultural and political imperialism that absolutizes the conflict with other than itself, and knows no natural limits to itself.
In conclusion of this sketchy definition of jihad, let me say that it is not the jihadists who are “distorting” Islam; the would-be reformers are. Islam, in Muhammad’s revelations, traditions and their codification, threatens the rest of us. It is the religion of war and intolerance. It breeds a peculiar mindset, the one against which Burke warned whenhe wrote that “intemperate minds never can be free; their passions forge their fetters.” Until the petrodollars support a comprehensive and explicit Kuranic revisionism capable of growing popular roots, we should seek ways to defend ourselves by disengaging from the world of Islam, physically and figuratively, by learning to keep our distance from the affairs of the Muslim world and by keeping the Muslim world away from “the world of war” that it seeks to conquer or destroy.
As for the danger of Jihad here at home, a Muslim immigrant to the United States, or an American-born convert to Islam, is literally millions of times more likely to plot terrorist acts against his fellow citizens than a member of any other religious creed or political ideology (and Islam is both). It is not possible to wage a meaningful “Global War on Terrorism” without considering the technical, legal, moral, and cultural implications of this problem.
Yes, for the time being, America is in a better shape than Europe. Itwould be dangerous to assume that this is so because Muslims have better assimilated into this country’s culture. It would be an even greater folly to hope that America’s economic, political and cultural institutions act as a powerful source of self-identification that breeds personal loyalty and commitment to the host-society that is so evidently absent among the Muslims in Europe. There is ample evidence that Muslims in America share the attitudes and aspirations of their European coreligionists.
That things are not as bad in America is due to three factors. First of all, Muslims do not account for much more than one percent of the population of the US, in contrast to Western Europe where their share of the population is up to ten times greater. They like to pretend otherwise, and routinely assert that there are between 4.5 and 9 million Muslims in the United States, but impartial studies place the number at 3 to 4 million.
The second difference is in the fact that Muslim enclaves in Europe are ethnically more homogenous. Most Muslims in France, Spain and Benelux came from Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. In Germany and Austria they are mostly Turks. In Britain they are overwhelmingly from the Indian Subcontinent. Their group cohesiveness based on Islam is therefore reinforced by the bonds of ethnic, cultural and linguistic kinship. In the United States, by contrast, neither Arabs nor Sub-continentals enjoy similar dominance within the Muslim community, which is therefore not equally monolithic.
And finally, there are proportionately fewer U.S. citizens among Muslims in America. In France and Britain, by contrast, most Muslims are citizens of those countries and feel free to act assertively or criminally without fear of deportation. But as Citizenship & Immigration Services officials are well aware (and some readily admit off-the-record), the attitudes of Muslims coming here also tend to change once their status in America is secure: as soon as they gain citizenship, many rediscover the virtues of sharia and jihad.
Muslims in the United States don’t have different attitudes to their coreligionists in Europe. On the contrary, the image of America in the Muslim world is far more negative than that of any European country: 81 percent of Pakistanis dislike America while only 10 percent have a favorable image of it. That baggage comes to America with the Muslim immigrants and it is transmitted to their American-born children. In a survey of newly naturalized citizens, 90 percent of Muslim immigrants said that if there were a conflict between the United States and their country of origin, they would be inclined to support their country of origin. In Detroit 81 percent of Muslims “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” that Shari’a should be the law of the land.
The picture becomes even more disturbing if we look at the incidence of terrorist threats America faces from the ranks of that one percent of its citizenry. The evidence is overwhelming, voluminous and unsurprising. On the basis of various surveys both in Europe and here it is reasonable to expect that, among a hundred Muslims, 250 sympathize with the motives of the terrorists and 5 are ready and willing to join their ranks and actively participate in their activities. The sense of hostile detachment from any recognizably American identity and values that breeds terrorist intent is not confined to any single group of Muslims. Doctors, musicians, students, and truckers have been convicted of it; it transcends class and affects students, doctors, criminals, soldiers and arty bohemians equally.
The problem is not limited to those Muslims who come to the United States as adults. In December 2003 Mukhtar al-Bakri, a naturalized citizen, and five U.S.-born youths from upstate New York were convicted of aiding Al-Qaeda and plotting attacks on Americans. The seven, known as the Lackawanna Cell, lived in a tight-knit Arab community, but to an uninformed outside observer, “most were all-American teenagers who played soccer together and enjoyed going to parties.” These “all-Americans” went to the Al Farooq training camp in Afghanistan in the summer of 2001; all but one returned to the U.S. They received sentences of between seven and 10 years in prison.
A similar sentiment of hostile detachment from America that ends in treason can be found among some American-born converts to Islam, both white and black. The tone was set in 1996 by Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, an NBA player, who refused to obey the League’s demand that players stand in a “dignified posture” when the national anthem is played. Look at al-Qaeda’s official spokesman, American-born convert Adam Yahiye Gadahn, white, born and raised in California. In 2003, Sergeant Asan Akbar of the 101st Airborne Division threw grenades into tents with fellow soldiers in Kuwait, killing an officer and wounding 13 others. He declared at the time of his arrest, “You guys are coming into our countries, and you’re going to rape our women and kill our children.” Akbar was born in the US to American parents, but once he became a Muslim, other Muslim countries became his countries, and Muslim women and children became his women and his children. The Americans, by contrast, became “you guys.”
In addition to various ad-hoc groups and self-motivated individuals who opt for do-it-yourself jihad, America is now home to the offshoots of international Islamist groups that have a long and distinguished pedigree, such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
Defense is impossible for as long as the American elite class refuses to accept that Islam as such , traditionally interpreted, poses a threat, and not some allegedly aberrant variety of it. The enemy is well aware of the opportunity provided by this failure. It sees the liberal mindset as his most powerful secret weapon, while despising it at the same time.
The outcome of the war will depend on our ability to halt this ongoing invasion. The precondition is to accept that a practicing Muslim who comes to the United States cannot be “absolutely and entirely” loyal to the United States by definition. The basis of the social and legal order and source of all obligation in Islam is the Kuran, the final revelation of Allah’s will that is to be obeyed by all creation. His divine sovereignty is irreconcilable with popular sovereignty, the keystone of democracy. Politics is not “part of Islam,” as this would imply that, in origin, it is a distinctly separate sphere of existence that is then eventually amalgamated with Islam. Politics is the intrinsic core of the Islamic imperative of Allah’s sovereignty.
The result of that imperative is that among some three million Muslims in the United States of America there are sufficient numbers of terrorist sympathizers and active human assets to justify expenditure of some $300 billion annually in direct and indirect homeland security costs, excluding military operations abroad. That money would not need to be spent if America had been prudent enough to devise a sane immigration policy back in the days of Lyndon Johnson. The tangible cost of the presence of a Muslim man, woman and child to the American taxpayer is at least $100,000 each year. The cost of the general unpleasantness associated with the terrorist threat and its impact on the quality of our lives is, of course, incalculable.
Off the record, anti-terrorism experts, law-enforcement and intelligence professionals will readily concede that the existence of a multi-million-strong Muslim presence in the Western world is the biggest problem they face in trying to battle terrorism. That diaspora is essential in providing the terrorists with the recruits who hold target-country passports, the infrastructure, the mobility, and the relative invisibility without which they would not be able to operate. And yet in polite circles, mentioning immigration, identity, loyalty, and common culture as a possible area of legitimate concern is verboten. The result is cloud-cuckoo land in which much of what is said or written about terrorism is not about relevant information that helps us know the enemy, but about domestic political agendas, ideology, and psychology.
It is especially noteworthy that the terms of the debate, as currently structured, reject the notion that religious faith can be a prime motivating factor in human affairs. Having reduced religion, literature and art to “narratives” and “metaphors” which merely reflect prejudices based on the distribution of power, the elite class treats the jihadist mindset as a curable idiosyncrasy. Its upholders are supposedly decent but misguided or else mistreated people who will change their ways if we give them more asylum visas, prayer-rooms at colleges and workplaces, and pork-free menus in schools and jails, more welfare, public housing, and taxpayer subsidies for Islamic social and cultural societies.
The belief that the problem can be legislated away or neutralized with public money goes hand-in-hand the elite class’s evident fear of an anti-Muslim backlash among the majority host-population. As the threat grows graver by the day, the elite class insists ever more stridently that counter-terrorist policies must not be pursued at the expense of liberal values, since any alternative would “play into the hands of terrorists.”
With the Rushdie affair an ominous pattern was set in the early 1990s, and now we see that it has crossed the Atlantic. It has two key ingredients.
The Muslim diaspora will condone religious justification for acts that challenge the monopoly of the non-Muslim host-state on violence, and it will use a highly developed infrastructure of mosques, Islamic centers and Muslim organizations either in open support of terrorists’ goals or else as a means of deception and manipulation in order to diminish the ability of the host-society to defend itself.
On the other hand the non-Muslim establishment-public figures, politicians, academic analysts-will try to appease the Muslim diaspora by insisting that “true Islam” is peaceful, and by ignoring or openly misrepresenting the problem of the immigrants’ attitudes and impact.
The same spirit of appeasement and pretense manifest in London in the early 1990s prevails in today’s Washington. The 9-11 Commission, the White House in its own Progress Report a year earlier, and a host of special reports and research papers published by various think-tanks and academic research centers, all opted for the path of pretense by ignoring the current significance and future dynamics of the Muslim diaspora in the United States.
If the elite consensus is not challenged and stopped, Islam will continue to be deployed by the promoters of postmodern liberalism as a tool in the destruction of traditional culture and institutions. The tool will subsequently escape all control, of course, but those seeking to exploit Islam’s destructive force fear such calamity less than they hate the old order they want to see dead. Their new global order requires hybrid identities that are expected to flourish once the old ones are eradicated. They seek to co-opt Muslim immigrants into the project, first as the means of eradication of the native communities and then as an ingredient in the new melange devoid of any clear cultural identity, group coherence, or historical memory. Being dysfunctional, it will supposedly provide millions of grateful recipients of their welfare, compassion, non-discrimination, inclusiveness, affirmative action, etc. The dynamics and legitimacy of the liberal society will be maintained indefinitely.
The proponents of co-opting jihad as a means of revolutionary change do not realize that the unassimilated and unassimilable Muslim multitudes pouring into Europe and North America from the greater Middle East, North Africa, and the eastern and western edges of the Sub-Continent, do not want to be their pliant tools. Being untouched by the self-loathing of the Western elite class, contemptuous of their hosts, they will never be passive subjects in a post-national, post-religious Utopia. They sense that they can become actors in their own right, supplant the enfeebled natives, and gradually take over this “candy store with a busted lock.”
The defense demands having no Muslims-practicing, believing followers of Muhammad-inside the walls. There is a direct, empirically verifiable correlation between the percentage of Muslims in a country and the increase of terrorist violence in that country (not to mention the general decline in the quality of life and civilized discourse).
Those Americans and Europeans who love their lands more than other lands and who put their families before other people, are normal people. Those who tell them that their attachments should be global and that their lands and neighborhoods belong to the whole world are sick and evil. The elite class has every intention of continuing to “fight” the war on terrorism without naming the enemy, without revealing his beliefs, without unmasking his intentions, without offending his accomplices, without expelling his fifth columnists, and without ever daring to win. It is up to the millions of normal Americans and their European cousins to stop the madness, and to win this war. The victory will come, as I’ve written in Chronicles , not by conquering Mecca for America but by disengaging America from Mecca and by excluding Mecca from America. It is time to start fighting Jihad at home by treating all forms of “Islamic activism” as an inherently seditious political, rather than “religious” activity, and, accordingly, to exclude the adherents of Muhammad from these shores-all of them, regardless of race, gender, age, disability, or sexual orientation.
The traitor class will scream blue murder, of course. It wants us to share its death wish, to self-annihilate as people with a historical memory and a real identity rooted in Europe and Christendom, and to make room for the monistic Utopia spearheaded by the jihadist fifth column. Their crime can and must be stopped. The crime of which Jihad’s Shabbos-goyim here at home are guilty far exceeds any transgression for which the founders of the United States overthrew the colonial government.
This article was first presented at the 17th annual meeting of The John Randolph Club in Rockford, October 15, 2006.
13 Oct 2006
A New Architecture in the Pacific North East
by Srdja Trifkovic
The following is a transcript of Srdja Trifkovic’s interview on the situation in Northeast Asia in the aftermath of North Korea’s announcement that is has successfully tested a nuclear bomb, broadcast last Wednesday (October 11) on Issues, Etc. , with The Rev. Todd Wilken on KFUO (St. Louis, MO). The Rev. Wilken is an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. His first question to Dr. Trifkovic-a regular guest on his program-was how seriously should we take the latest pronouncements and the nuclear test itself:
TRIFKOVIC: Fist of all, we are still not 100 percent certain that it was indeed a “nuclear test,” rather than an explosion of a huge stockpile of conventional ordnance.
Either way it has an impact, not so much directly on the security of the United States as it does on the security of our allies in the region, Japan and South Korea. At the same time there are certain creative possibilities for the American diplomacy that are now open with Kim Jong Il’s move, and should be explored. The immediate diplomatic and politicalloser from this affair is China, which is in a no-win situation. On the one hand China has tried hard to act as a responsible power and a stakeholder in the international order and a great power that can be counted upon to act with due gravity, in concert with her partners. On the other hand, China is the only external ally of the North Korean regime, certainly the only one after the fall of the Soviet Union. North Korea, which is economically a basket case , depends very heavily on China for its energy and foodstuffs-and we are talking about a country in which it is estimated that over a million people have literally starved to death over the past few years. China cannot afford to lose the image of a regional power of the first order that can be disobeyed with impunity, and China was very openly and-on her own admission-brazenly disobeyed by North Korea’s behavior. On the other hand, for ideological and geopolitical reasons China is loath to see the fall http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?l=1&id=3920 of the regime in Pyongyang. China cannot afford to see North Korea go and therefore could not agree to a seriously stiff package of multilateral sanctions at the Security Council of the United Nations.
Q: Is it correct to say that while the United States and other members of the UN Security Council can talk about sanctions, it is really China that has to make it happen because China is the one who actually trades with them on a scale that is significant?
TRIFKOVIC: It is not so much two-way trade as it is one-way assistance. North Korea’s sea urchins and sea weed, the country’s only significant export in addition to some ores and minerals, is not sufficient to make up for the massive Chinese assistance in energy, fuel and food. It is not an economic, but a political issue . China has a long border with North Korea, much of it along the Yalu River, while Russia has only a single border crossing near Vladivostok. As for the other countries, what little trade they have with North Korea is done by sea. For the Chinese to accept the kind of sanctions that would entail a blockade on the Yalu is in my opinion out of the question. There may be some unilateral move by China to punish Kim Jong Il, but the North Korean leadership thinks it can afford to push China around, for as long as the Chinese are not seriously contemplating some kind of regime change in Pyongyang itself. It may become very dangerous territory for the North Koreans if China decides that the regime has become so much of a liability that the time has come to look for some alternatives, perhaps within the regime itself. In that case it would be possible that some North Korean officers, perhaps some who are Chinese-trained, could be approached by their old contacts from Peking with the suggestion that it’s time for a change. Let me add that this plan could be accompanied by some kind of sweetener to the United States and South Korea: Peking could dangle a realistic prospect of reunification under a post-Kim regime. If the Chinese decide that North Korea under its current leader has become a liability , they also may decide that a grateful unified Korea, allied with China and traditionally distrustful of Japan, may be a feasible alternative .
Q: Does all this also open the possibility of the rearmament of Japan?
TRIFKOVIC: First of all it will be necessary to break the shackles of the 1947 constitution, which imposed strict limits on the Self-Defense Force, both in terms of its size and its deployment. But for too long Japan has been getting its defense on the cheap, thanks to the American nuclear umbrella and security guarantees , and to the presence of U.S. troops, both in Japan and in South Korea. The United States is spending six times as much as Japan on defense in terms of its gross domestic product” six percent as opposed to one percent. If China is visibly unable to rein in her client, if China is effectively slapped in the face by Kim Jong Il, who pursues his tests regardless of Peking will do or say, then Japan and the United States have a plausible alibi for the Chinese consumption. The United States could quietly sit back and even gradually disengage from the area, by allowing rich, economically powerful and militarily underpowered Japan to take the burden of its own defense-the burden which it is no longer tenable for the United States to carry and to underwrite.
Q: But what is then to stop Kim Jong Il from responding by arming Iran?
TRIFKOVIC: If we look at the pattern of nuclear proliferation over the past decade, North Korea was less the proliferator than the beneficiary of proliferation. The chief culprit was Dr. Khan, the author and mastermind of Pakistan’s nuclear program. A couple of years ago it came to light that Pakistan’s nuclear technology was being spread left, right and center, North Korea included. The Pakistani leader, General Musharraf, looked on sternly as Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan ate his humble pie, but really nothing happened: in Pakistan’s nuclear and military intelligence establishment still you have people who are sympathetic to various rogues around the world, and they should be watched more closely. By all indications the North Korean technology is pretty crude and primitive. Everybody knows what the blueprint for the making of an atomic bomb entails, and as we’ve seen with North Korea’s missile tests last July , they are far from developing a credible delivery system that could threaten, say, Japan. Of course in extremis they could use one or two devices on the peninsula and that would be a catastrophe of the highest order, but the question is whether Kim Jong Il is merely bad or mad as well. His behavior is erratic, he is making statements that seem to be calculated to irritate everyone, including the people on whom he depends like the Chinese. When push comes to shove, however, he’d thing twice before unleashing his meager arsenal of nukes, one or two at the moment and at best six or seven over the next decade, when he knows that the result would be turning not only Pyongyang but everything between the 38th parallel and the Yalu into pulp. [ . . . ]
Q: Does North Korea’s nuclear test make the argument for or against the continued presence of the American military in South Korea?
TRIFKOVIC: It only enhances a very strong argument for withdrawing those forces. Let’s imagine for a moment that there are no U.S. troops in the Korean peninsula, that there is an uneasy peace between North and South Korea with tensions along the 38th parallel, but no U.S. troops at all. Would the explosion of a North Korean nuclear bomb be the cause for the U.S. to rush in, to send the troops to Korea? Most certainly not. There would be a great deal of opposition to that idea in the United States, and quite rightly so: it would be very difficult to provide political or military justification for such a move. But because those troops are already there, people here are inured to their presence; and yet those troops make no sense. They made a lot of sense in the aftermath of the Korean War, during the Cold War. Those 36,000 soldiers should be withdrawn , Japan rearmed, South Korea bolstered, and we can have a new north-east Asian architecture, the one in which the United States could take a back seat and at the same time be the power that’s courted by all concerned.
Q: Who has the most to fear from a nuclear North Korea??
TRIFKOVIC: South Korea. Even without the nuclear weapons in the equation, Seoul is only some 30 miles from the North Korean border and it can be hit by thousands of rounds of heavy artillery . Kim Jong Il operates in a paranoid environment devoid of a calm assessment of the costs and benefits of different policy options . His nuclear program could be a major asset that he could give up if he gets his sought-after bilateral talks with the United States leading to some kind of firm and public security guarantee; but so far he has not displayed a desire to trade horses and to use his chips in the way that would help his country get out of isolation and improve its disastrous economic position.
Q: Where do you stand on whether the talks should be one-on-one or multilateral?
TRIFKOVIC: I see some rich irony in that the President who had ignored the United Nations when he went to war with Iraq in March 2003, and who has been skeptical at best regarding the utility of multilateral approach and bodies over Iran, is now saying so categorically that “the United States remains committed to diplomacy” and will work through the United Nations . That is both ironic and indicative of the limited range of options at his disposal. If I were him, yes, I would agree to the bilateral talks with North Korea and to a clear-cut political guarantee, in return for strict international supervision of North Korea’s nuclear installations and the dismantling of the military arm of North Korea’s nuclear program. Some would object that this would help cement the regime there that is a remnant of Stalinism, but that is neither here nor there: if we were to go around the world slaying dragons and liberating people from all unlovely regimes, we’d be at permanent war against most of Africa, the Middle East and the rest of the Islamic world. If North Korea were to dismantle its nuclear program and agree to a significant reduction of its conventional forces, both under international supervision, a bilateral treaty would be the price well worth paying.
04 Oct 2006
Kosovo and the “Global War on Terrorism”
by Srdja Trifkovic
Why is the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija-until two decades ago an obscure corner of the former Yugoslavia-relevant to “the War on Terror”? There are several valid answers to this pressing question, but let me start with the one that is often overlooked or unthinkingly discarded as either propagandistic or paranoid: Kosovo is a key link in the “Green Corridor,” or the Green Transverse, an Islamic belt anchored in Asia Minor and extending north-westward across the Balkans into the heart of Central Europe.
Over a decade ago a friend of mine, an Orientalist who was at that time a diplomat in Ankara, came across an interesting little brochure in a second-hand book shop in Istanbul. It was an old propaganda pamphlet issued by an Albanian emigre organization some decades previously, and it contained a simplified colored map of the Balkans. The map showed a mighty green arrow, emanating from Turkey, thrusting through the Muslim-populated parts of the Balkans (Thrace, Macedonia, Kosovo, Sanjak, Bosnia) all the way to Bihac and Cazin-an hour’s drive from Slovenia. It was depicted severing the links of the unbelievers’ defensive chain and victoriously heading to the north-west, towards the heartland of Europe. This geopolitical idea, known for decades as the Green Route or Green Corridor (“Zelena transverzala”) both by the advocates and opponents of Islamic inroads into Europe was simple and suggestive. It was the earliest known explicit depiction of a design harking back to Sultan Murat and his successors, an idea that was interrupted, rather than permanently defeated, at the gates of Vienna in 1683.
As Yugoslavia started disintegrating in the early 1990s, most Western analysts of world affairs promptly categorized the Green Route thesis as a crude, anti-Muslim conspiracy theory, mainly propagated by nationalist Serbian academics. But it has gained fresh credence, in continental Europe at least (and notably in Italy), after 9-11. It is by now hard to dispute that the radicalisation of Islam in the Balkans-deliberate or not-turned out to be the net result of the actions of the “international community” during the Yugoslav crisis. In fact, if Western policy in the Balkans was not meant to facilitate the Green Route, the issue is not why but how its effects paradoxically coincided with the enduring aspirations and goals of pan-Islamism, including its extremist and even terrorist manifestations.
After 9-11, nothing was supposed to be as before, but the U.S. policy in the Balkans has inexplicably retained its Islamophile bias, so remarkably persistent during the Clinton years. In the meantime, the Green Route has morphed from an allegedly paranoid Islamophobic propaganda ploy into a demographic, social and political reality. The absurdity of this ad hoc regional alliance between global enemies is demonstrated by its end result, namely the further undermining of the weakest geopolitical link in the war on terrorism.
The American benign attitude towards Jihad in the Balkans is not a consequence of ignorance: within the U.S. policy-making community, there have been voices for many years warning that those regions in the Balkans where Muslims are in a majority are prime entry points andtransit routes for terrorists . And yet, when questioned about the existence and the magnitude of the threat in the Balkans, U.S. policy makers are typically evasive, sometimes aggressively so. They do not deny the existence of various activities that point to Islamic extremism and terrorist infiltration in the Balkans, but, as a rule, almost immediately relativize it by saying that it is unlikely to undermine the social, political and security balance in the region, or to threaten American vital interests. Then follows the reassuring mantra about the supposedly pro-European and pro-“Western” orientation of secularised Balkan Muslims-and the alleged pro-Americanism of Kosovo’s Albanians in particular-with the optimistic conclusion that the accelerated process of the Euro-Atlantic integration of the whole region would narrow the space for radical Islamism until such tendencies will finally disappear.
The problem with such rhetoric-detectable during Donald Rumsfeld’srecent visit to Tirana-is not that it is absolutely wrong, but that it had never been right , and that it becomes less right with each passing year. A majority of the Muslims in the Balkans may still be nominally “pro-Western,” but the question is how they perceive their vocation. Are they likely to remain so if “the West” stops pandering to their demands as a matter of course, and starts judging them on their intrinsic merits? Yes, a majority of Kosovo Albanians may be 19th-century-style nationalists who treat religion as an element of their core identity, but there are a growing number of those who insist that a return to authentic Islam is the key to their national aspirations; and then there are their leaders who have well documented and long-stablished links with various Islamic terrorist networks .
The principal defect of the American approach is in
(1) A visceral faith in the attractive powers of secularisation and soft-porn consumerism; and
(2) The cynical expectation that feeding local Muslims with the morsels of Balkan Christendom will keep the global beast at bay.
On this latter part of the equation in particular, the involvement of the Clinton administration in the wars of Yugoslav succession was an excellent example of the failed expectation that pandering to Muslim ambitions in a secondary theater will improve the U.S. standing in the Muslim world as a whole. That notion matured in the final months of George H.W. Bush’s presidency, when his Acting Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger said that a goal in Bosnia was to mollify the Muslim world and to counter any perception of an anti-Muslim bias regarding American policies in Iraq in the period leading up to Gulf War I. The result of years of policies thus inspired is a terrorist base the heart of Europe, a moral and political debacle most visible vis-a-vis Moscow and Peking, and the absence of any positive payoff to the United States.
The state of Yugoslavia, a multi-ethnic, decentralized, and increasingly dysfunctional polity, was slow to reform following Tito’s death in 1980. By 1990 its survival was in doubt. In 1991 its disintegration was given a major boost when the European Community declared under German pressure that Yugoslavia was untenable and its constituent republics were encouraged to seek independence on the basis of self-determination. At the same time the boundaries of those republics were declared inviolable, even though they did not correspond to the ethnic map and although they had been arbitrarily fixed by a communist dictator whose objective was to cut down in size the most numerous of the country’s constituent nations.
The pattern of Washingtonian responses was established in, Bosnia-Herzegovina, a microcosm of Yugoslavia itself. When it disintegrated in 1992 into three ethno-religious units, under the pressure of those same centrifugal forces that had been deemed irresistible in Yugoslavia’s case, the administration of Bush-father declared that it had to be put together again in the name of ” multiethnicity .” This played right into the hands of the Muslim side, which on the strength of its numeric plurality expected to have the upper hand in a centralized Bosnian state. In the name of “multiethnicity” and respect for the Communist-drawn internal boundaries of Yugoslavia’s constituent republics, both democracy and self-determination were denied to the Christian majority of Bosnian citizens-i.e. Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats-who did not want to be Bosnified under Alija Izetbegovic , the fundamentalist leader of Bosnia’s Muslims and author of The Islamic Declaration . In that name Bosnia has been run for the past decade by a series of European administrators as an international protectorate, with the Muslims as the favored party and the key Jihadist base in Europe effectively inviolable.
Now all along it was obvious to any sober Westerner that Muslims did not want a multiethnic liberal democratic society: An astute American military officer warned in 1995 that “President Izetbegovic and his cabal appear to harbor much different private intentions and goals.” But the demonization of the Serbs proceeded nevertheless, a schooltext case of media-induced pseudo-reality in the service of a flawed strategy. An orchestrated campaign soon followed, to contextualize the brutalities of the former Yugoslavia with the horrors of the Holocaust.
Once the paradigm was successfully planted in Bosnia, the possibilities for Kosovo were limitless. The Albanians are supported in their bid to secede (“self-determination”) although that violated the borders of Serbia, but the Krajina Serbs were expelled in the biggest act of post-1945 ethnic cleansing in Europe, rather than allowed to secede from Croatia (“inviolability of borders”). Macedonia was effectively partitioned between Slavs and Albanians in 2001, but no such arrangement is allowed in Kosovo, where under NATO occupation three-quarters of Christians were expelled and over a hundred of their shrines put to torch. While The Hague Tribunal continues its frenzied quest for the remaining two alleged war criminals from Pale, three war criminals par excellence , Agim Ceku , Ramush Haradinaj , andHashim Thaci , run Kosovo as their criminal little fiefdom with the blessing of the “international community.”
The result of Clinton’s Balkan policy is a vibrant jihadist base in the heart of Europe. The collusion between Muslim terrorist groups and criminal gangs in the Balkans has also spawned a criminal network with jihadist sympathies that currently supplies Western Europe with tens of thousands of smuggled humans (most of them Muslims) and with the bulk of its top-quality heroin, mostly of Afghan origin . The Interpol and European security agencies know, and occasionally are allowed to warn, that the trade is controlled mainly by Albanian Muslims from Kosovo-with the mujahedeen providing the logistics .
The denial of this reality is continuing, as we’ve seen in the remarkableClinton interview with Mike Wallace on Fox News (September 24). Succumbing to tantrums worthy of a schoolyard bully, Clinton indignantly stressed that he could “simultaneously be trying to stop a genocide in Kosovo and, you know, make peace in the Middle East, pass a budget.” He’ll never admit that Kosovo was a serious and perhaps a fatal detraction. In the words of Dimitri Simes, not only is Clinton trying to rewrite history-there was no genocide in Kosovo to justify the NATO attack-but he continues to gloss over the heavy price of his aggression for U.S. national security. Thanks to his war America squandered a real chance to get bases in Uzbekistan by cooperating with Russia, and its cooperation with China-another key player in central and south Asia with considerable influence over Afghanistan’s neighbor Pakistan-suffered another heavy blow. Concludes Simes, “If Russia and China were in America’s corner in 1999 and 2000, the U.S. could have taken action against the Taliban and either driven them from power or at least severed their links to al Qaeda. This would have made the September 11 attacks much more difficult to organize.”
The war was ostensibly waged for human rights, but-judged by any rational standard-even on that front the NATO-UN mission in Kosovo has been and still is an utter, unmitigated disaster . Under a string of Euro-Gauleiters (Kouchner, Haekkerup, Steiner, Holkeri, Petersen.) the pretense of progress is still maintained, amidst murders, unreversed ethnic cleansing, rampant crime, prostitution, drug-smuggling, and general dysfunctionality of a thoroughly failed, violent, and dysfunctional polity devoid of a single redeeming feature. The former commander of UN forces in Bosnia, Canadian Gen. Lewis McKenzie, knows the score in the Balkans better than any think-tank “expert.” He notes that, back in 1999, “those of us who warned that the West was being sucked in on the side of an extremist, militant, Kosovo-Albanian independence movement were dismissed as appeasers”-while the fact that the KLA was universally designated a terrorist organization and known to be linked to al-Qaeda was conveniently ignored. And yet, the Albanians “have played us like a Stradivarius,” he says. If the Albanians achieve their independence with the help of our tax dollars combined with those of bin Laden and al-Qaeda, McKenzie warns, “just consider the message of encouragement this sends to other terrorist-supported movements around the world.”
Yes, do. It is high time for the realists with no axes to grind in this conflict to resist the curiously undead Clinton model of the new Balkan order- known to its proponents as “the unfinished business”-that seeks to satisfy the aspirations of all ethnic groups in former Yugoslavia, all, that is, except those of the Serbs. A Carthaginian peace may be imposed on Serbia today, but the Radicals will be in power in Belgrade next year as a consequence, and the resulting upheaval will merely contribute to chronic regional imbalance and strife for decades to come. That is not in America’s interest. It is in the interest of Islamists in general and Islamic terrorists in particular, and therefore it should not be condoned.
The short-to-medium-term model for the future of a fully autonomous, but certainly not sovereign, Kosovo and Metohija should be based on the Cyprus precedent; those who lament the “boundary” on the Ibar in Mitrovica should recall that it was acceptable for an ethnically divided Cyprus to join the EU in 2004, and that its de facto ethnic partitioninto two self-governing entities has been effectively condoned by the UN and the US. The status of Serbian shrines surrounded by the Albanian-controlled territory-Decani, Prizren, Gracanica, Pec etc.-should follow the model of exterritoriality of the Vatican, Castel Gandolfo, and St. John in Lateran vis-a-vis Italy. And finally, the status of Kosovo itself vis-a-vis Belgrade should be based on the status of the Aland Islands vis-a-vis Finland. The precedents exist, and the problem of Kosovo is neither so unique nor so intractable as to warrant a solution outside the parameters of established practices in other places where different ethnic and religious communities vie for the same space.
No effective anti-terrorist strategy is possible today without recognizing past mistakes of U.S. policy that have helped breed terrorism. Eight years of the Clinton team’s covert and overt support for the Islamist camp in the Balkans have been a moral disaster and a foreign policy debacle of the first order. Its fruits are visible in the world-wide threat that America faces today. Its chief beneficiaries were the upholders of global Jihad and their co-religionists in Sarajevo, Novi Pazar, Tetovo, Tuzi, and Pristina. The problem of Islamic terrorism may not be resolved short of a major restructuring of the current Balkan architecture that would entail splitting Bosnia-Herzegovina into three ethnically-based cantons, decentralizing Kosovo and Metohija on the basis of pre-ethnic-cleansing population patterns, and vetoing its independence. The alternative is to create a lawless black hole, centered in Pristina, that would destabilize not only Serbia but also Macedonia and Montenegro, as well as Bosnia-Herzegovina by providing the Republika Srpska with a valid precedent for secession from the Dayton edifice.
If the Bush Administration is half-serious about the GWOT, it should
(1) Fire Nicholas Burns,
(2) Reverse its current support for Bosnia’s centralization, and
(3) Accept that Kosovo should be autonomous but not independent.
To continue encouraging the global Muslim sense of righteous victimhood partly embodied in the myth of the “genocide” in Kosovo-as Bill Clinton tried doing last Sunday in his memorable interview with Mike Wallace-is to feed would-be suicide bombers with a political pap that nourishes their hate. If the war on terrorism is to be meaningful, that idiocy must stop. Pandering to Islam’s geopolitical designs-in the Balkans, or anywhere else-is not only bad, it is counterproductive. To deal with the terrorist threat effectively and on the basis of leadership willingly accepted, the United States should discard the pernicious notion of its exceptionalism. This will be resisted by the advocates of “benevolent global hegemony,” of America’s open-ended and self-justifying world mission and its supposedly unfinished business in the Balkans. They need to be confronted, because their mindset and their policies are contrary to the American interest in general, and detrimental to the specific goal of defeating jihad.
The cultural context of that policy needs to be changed, too. As the shadow of global Jihad grows darker, that elite class is following in the footsteps that are 800 years old. When they sacked Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade, the Franks did not understand, or care, that the New Rome on the Bosphorus was the guardian and protector of the West against the same enemy we all face today. Their treachery opened the way for the Jihadist onslaught against Europe that did not stop until it reached Vienna in 1683. Replicating the same folly with Serbia today, by condoning the creation of an independent Muslim statelet that embodies everything that America does not stand for, brings to mind Talleyrand’s comment on Napoleon’s execution of the Duc d’Enghien: “It is worse than a crime; it is a mistake.”
This article was first presented as a paper at the international conference “ Reconsidering Kosovo ” organized by Christian Solidarity International and the American Councuil on Kosovo, at the Capitol Hill Club, Washington D.C., on September 28, 2006.
26 Sep 2006
Pope Benedict and the Meaning of Words
by Srdja Trifkovic
In these accelerating times, the passage of a fortnight offers sufficient distance from an event to make it amenable to even-handed scrutiny. And so, fortified with the calm aloofness of a detached historian, two weeks after Pope Benedict XVI gave his now famous lecture at the University of Regensburg we can aver that the ensuing controversy was based on three errors: his statements were taken out of context, they were misunderstood, and they were judged on their form rather than substance. On balance, his unduly conciliatory tone on the subject of dialogue with Islam notwithstanding, the Pope has said and done nothing that a reasonable person could or should find objectionable.
INTENT-The Pontiff’s allegedly controversial comments were made in the course of a complex philosophical and theological treatise to academics in an ancient institution of higher learning . Its title, “Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections ,” was unappealing to the media pack. The comments were not made in a public homily to the faithful in a square or a cathedral. Had he intended to make a high-profile, politically charged statement, the chosen venue and format would have been totally inappropriate. Furthermore, the supposedly contentious aspect of the Pontiff’s remarks was completely lost on his expert audience. On the day of the lecture, Rev. Robert P. Imbelli of Boston College thus selected a long quote on faith, reason, and modernity for the “Editors’ Blog” on Commonweal’s website , but he did not deem it necessary to mention Islam, or a Byzantine Emperor, or a learned Persian.
DISCLAIMER-Pope Benedict’s quote of Emperor Manuel II Paleologus was accompanied with a long disclaimer that it did not reflect his own views. That disclaimer was more strongly emphasized in the German original-available to the curious-than in the English-language reportage and commentary . The obvious purpose of the quote was not to defame Muhammad and his religion, or even to make a comment about Islam per se, but rather to develop an argument about the relationship between faith and reason.
ISLAM AND REASON-If there is anything potentially offensive to a Muslim ear in the lecture it is not the Pontiff’s use of the opinion of a Byzantine emperor of Muhammad’s contribution to the history of ideas, but rather Benedict XVI’s implied hint that Islamic teaching is-or may be-unreasonable, and therefore at odds with God’s nature:
The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God’s will, we would even have to practise idolatry.
Some Western commentators have attacked this part of Benedict’s lecture for inaccuracy. Daniel Martin Varisco, “Chair” of Anthropology at Hofstra University, thus argues that “Islamic doctrine nowhere teaches that Allah can contradict his own words or divine principles of justice . To say that Muslims worship a God so fickle as to contradict the Quran and force people to worship idols is, to borrow a phrase, beyond belief.”
“Beyond belief” is not that a prominent “Chair” is ignorant of Islam, but rather that he is so obtuse as to make that ignorance public. In fact, the Kuran-supposedly the literal word of Allah-is replete with mutually incompatible and contradictory quotes, because Allah changes his mind, and abrogates some verses in favor of others. The famous “there is no compulsion in religion” and similar “Meccan” verses were all abrogated by the infamous Verse of the Sword .
Of course Allah can contradict his own words: he can do anything, because he is not Allah-as-Logos. We cannot have complete transcendence and self-limitation at the same time. As for Professor Varisco’s “divine principles of justice,” their mention implies his belief that Islam upholds a concept of natural law and natural morality. That is nonsense. Islam has a moral philosophy and a legal code that explicitly denies the possibility of judgment based on natural morality or on the allegiance to any other source of authority but itself. It mandates submission to the letter of revealed law (Kuran) or to the precedent of the Prophet (Hadith). Analogies thus derived stand above reason, conscience, or nature. A Muslim knows that a thing is right simply because Allah says so, or because his prophet has thus said or done. There is no “spirit of the law” and no rationality behind the revealed law for human reason to discover. There is no critical discernment and revelation and tradition must not be questioned. No other standard of good and evil can be invoked. Islam’s denigration of the individual conscience befits the demand for an obedient servant’s prostration before a capricious master whose commands have no rational basis. The political consequences are crucial for societies that derive their concept of authority from this image. Any notion of freedom distinct from that implicit in that complete submission is forbidden and sinful.
It should be added that the Mutazila Islamic sect Mu’tazili in eighth-to-tenth century Baghdad tried to use the categories and methods of Hellenistic philosophy to assert free will and responsibility for one’s actions, and claimed-as per Professor Varisco-that Allah would be unjust if he predestined all human actions; but they were denounced as heretics. In orthodox Islam, any notion of freedom distinct from that implicit in the complete submission to the will of Allah is not an ideal, but a perilous trap. Only Allah creates our acts and enables us to act, while we are but transmission belts with a preordained balance of debit or credit that determines our destiny in the hereafter. Even prayer is a payment of debt, not communication, offered in the hope of placating a capricious and unpredictable Master.
So much for Logos: how can we assume it in a supreme being that is so transcendent as to be devoid of personality? As then-Cardinal Josef Ratzinger himself wrote back in 1979 , “the unrelated, unrelatable, absolutely one could not be a person. There is no such thing as a person in the categorical singular.” In the end, Allah, the unknowable and unpersonable, is served out of fear, obedience, and hope of bountiful heavenly reward. Islam explicitly rejects the notion that “he who has my commandments and keeps them, he is it who loves me.” (John, 14:21) The Kuran states the opposite: “Say, If ye love Allah, follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your sins.” (Kuran, 3:31) This “love” is merely a means of winning love and forgiveness. Ultimately, it is the love of the self.
THE REAL TARGET-If anyone should feel threatened by Pope Benedict XVIs words, it is the blase, deracinated elite class of the West. It was to its members that he sent his warning to avoid the contempt for God and the cynicism that deems mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom. “A reason which is deaf to the divine, and which relegates religion to the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures,” said the Pontiff.
His targets understood and responded with bitter animus, notably The New York Times editorialist on September 16, who called Pope”s remarks about Islam “tragic and dangerous”: “A doctrinal conservative, his greatest fear appears to be the loss of a uniform Catholic identity, not exactly the best jumping-off point for tolerance or interfaith dialogue. He needs to offer a deep and persuasive apology.”
That snide little diatribe hit the nail on the head: the problem for The Times is that Benedict dares uphold a doctrinal integrity-any integrity-and a discernible religious identity-any identity. It is of course futile to expect The Times to point out that riots and threats are not a constructive way to demonstrate that Islam is actually peaceful, or toinvite Muslims “to bring us, and live out, teachings of Muhammad that are not evil and inhuman,” because the leading mainstream medium is not in the business of reportage and news analysis, it is on a mission of changing the world in its own image. In that endeavor Pope Benedict XVI is an enemy and an obstacle.
ONE FLAW IN AN ELOQUENT TREATISE-The only part of the Pontiff’s “Memories and Reflections” that was clearly addressed to Muslims came at the end of his lecture:
‘Not to act reasonably, not to act with logos, is contrary to the nature of God’, said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures.
This is also the only segment of Pope Benedict’s lecture with which a reasonable person will take issue. He seems to suggest that Muslims can be “our partners in the dialogue of cultures” on the basis of God-as-Logos, and if that is so, he is wrong.
For all of the reasons quoted above, Islam is not amenable to dialogue. Among non-Muslims it seeks converts or subjects, not partners. After two decades of “dialogue,” many Christians have made many concessions and uttered many apologies for their side’s supposed past misdeeds, without getting anything in return. They merely encouraged the other side in the belief that there is no need for any “dialogue” since the apparent lack of rock-solid faith and conviction on the Christian camp makes their ultimate embrace of Allah and his prophet a logical outcome. Their expectations were kindled in 2001 when Benedict’s predecessor kissed the Kuran inside a mosque in Damascus-built from a desecrated Christian cathedral- and exclaimed , “May the hearts of Christians and Muslims turn to one another with feelings of brotherhood and friendship.” Such gestures encourage the hope that clear re-stating of Islamic dogma will prompt infidels to see the light.
WAS EMPEROR MANUEL RIGHT?-Let us leave the “controversy” well alone and look at the Emperor Manuel’s challenge to his learned Muslim interlocutor in full:
Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith that he preached. God is not pleased by blood-and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats. To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death.
The first sentence does not suggest that “Muhammad was evil and inhuman,” contrary to the perception of Muslim spokesmen and Western media pundits, but rather that Muhammad’s original contribution to the edifice of Islam-as opposed to the many elements he had borrowed from Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastranism, Arab paganism, etc.-was “evil and inhuman.”
This statement may be insulting or painful to some, so much so that they’ll kill elderly Italian nuns in Mogadishu and put West Bank churches to torch to make us feel their pain. That is irrelevant to the issue of its veracity. Emperor Manuel’s turn of phrase, while rhetorically charged, should be judged not by its impact on some people’s emotions but by its relation to the doctrinal and historical reality of Islam.
The doctrine of jihad-violence in the path of Allah with the objective of converting, killing, or else subjugating and taxing the “infidel”-was Muhammad’s most significant original contribution to world history and to the history of ideas, as I have argued elsewhere at some length . It defined Islam in its earliest days, it has defined the relations between “the world of faith” and “the world of war” ever since, and-as we’ve seen from the reactions to Pope Benedict’s lecture-it continues to define the mindset of Islam to this day
22 Sep 2006
An End-Timer on the East River: The Hidden Message of Ahmadinejad’s U.N. Speech
by Srdja Trifkovic
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech to the 61st General Assembly of the United Nations last Tuesday was more moderate in tone and more statesmanlike in substance than his rambling U.N. tirade a year ago , when he called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” Most Western analysts have focused on his justification for Iran’s nuclear program, his criticism of the United States and Great Britain, and his demand for a more equitable distribution of power at the United Nations.
The Iranian leader accused the United States and nations with nuclear arsenals of causing conflicts and seeking global dominance. He avoided naming the United States, except when he criticized the lack of effectiveness of the U.N. Security Council, asking who can take UNSC permanent members to account when they “commit aggression, occupation and violation of international law . . . Can a council in which they are privileged members address their violations? Has this ever happened?” He suggested the end of “the abuse of the Security Council as an instrument of threat and coercion” by including representatives of the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the Organization of African Unity as permanent, veto-holding members. He insisted that all of Tehran’s “nuclear activities are transparent, peaceful and under the watchful eyes of International Atomic Energy inspectors,” and reiterated Iran’s “legally recognized rights” to develop nuclear technology, while accusing the U.S.-against without naming it-of having “abused nuclear technology for non-peaceful ends including the production of nuclear bombs. [and] using them against humanity.”
So far, so conventional. The speech was calculated to appeal to the Third World in general, and to the Muslim world in particular. It was defiant in tone, but coherent and well crafted. Some Western commentators concede that Ahmadinejad has made several valid points on the U.N., the gap between his call for the respect for human rights and Iran’s own record on this issue notwithstanding. (Let it be recalled that the General Assembly-which, in his own words, “as the highest organ of the United Nations must be respected”- adopted GA Resolution 60/171 last March, which condemned Iran as one of the world’s greatest violators of human rights.)
Most leading media outlets have ignored the final paragraph of the speech in which Ahmadinejad restated his messianic vision: that we are entering the end-times that will be heralded by the return of the Redeemer. Yet those words, rather than the main body of his speech, provide the clue to the Iranian leader’s world outlook and his long-term agenda:
I emphatically declare that today’s world, more than ever before, longs for just and righteous people with love for all humanity; and above all longs for the perfect righteous human being and the real savior who has been promised to all peoples and who will establish justice, peace and brotherhood on the planet. O, Almighty God . . . bestow upon humanity that thirsts for justice, the perfect human being promised to all by you, and make us among his followers and among those who strive for his return and his cause.
Hefty words, and rather baffling to the uninitiated. Mr. Ahmadinejad’s “perfect righteous human being and the real savior” is “the Hidden Imam,” Muhammad al-Mahdi, the key theological and eschatologicalconcept in Shi’a Islam and the cornerstone of its prophetic doctrine.
Shi’a Islam-which many majority Sunnis see as a heretical sect outside the realm of Islamic orthodoxy-has its origins in the early history of the Caliphate, in the immediate aftermath of Muhammad’s death in AD 632. According to the Sunni version of events, Muhammad died without having appointed a successor. The community of the faithful was unprepared for his death and faced a dilemma regarding his succession. Muhammad was both the “Prophet” of Islam and the ruler, absolute ruler, of a rapidly expanding state founded upon his religious, political, legal and moral teaching. Who should be his heir, and what should be the character of succession? Most of his influential “companions” decided that the nature of succession should be primarily secular-after all, who could possibly hope to “inherit” the spiritual mantle of “the Seal of Prophets”?-and they chose Abu Bakr, an early companion and the father of Aisha, Muhammad’s youngest wife.
Shi’a version of early Islamic history is different. It asserts that as he lay dying, Muhammad appointed Ali-his cousin, son-in-law, and a faithful early companion-to be his successor. This claim is at odds with Ali’s apparently uncomplaining acceptance of the legitimacy of Abu Bakr’s election to the caliphate, or to that of his two successors, Umar and Uthman. The Shi’a response is that Ali did not want to threaten the unity of the nascent Muslim community at a vulnerable time and suffered injustice with fortitude for the greater good of the Faith.
The second of the four “Rightly Guided Caliphs” of orthodox Islam was Umar ibn al-Khattab, whose phenomenal conquests created the impression among the faithful that the Caliphate was on the right track. But Umar’s successor Uthman-a weak and greedy man who caused great discontent by favoring the members of his Quraysh tribe, and who was eventually murdered by discontented soldiers in 656-was the last Muslim leader who presided over a politically and religiously united umma.
The fourth Caliph, Ali, in Shi’a tradition was the first legitimate successor to the “Prophet” and a successor not only secular but, far more importantly, spiritual. Imamate, in Shi’a view, is a divine institution that helps guide believers towards perfection. They hold that Ali’s position vis-a-vis Muhammad is comparable to that of Aaron vis-a-vis Moses, and his early supporters were known as Shi’a Ali, the “partisans of Ali”-hence the name of the sect itself. Imams are neither prophets nor Allah’s messengers, but they are mystically anointed to disseminate His message to humanity. By contrast to Ali, the first imam, Shi’a believe that his three predecessors were usurpers who had strayed from the strict path of Islam and were seduced by power, money, and earthly delights. The usurpers, in this view, had a successor in another scion of the Meccan establishment: the powerful governor of Syria, Muawiyyah, who was Ali’s arch-rival.
Ali’s short and unhappy rule ended when was killed in the Iraqi city of Kufa, where he moved his capital from Medina. His eldest son Hassan succeeded him, but did not have a heart in the fight against Muawiyyah’s forces and gave up his title in return for a comfortable retirement in Medina. After Hassan’s death his younger brother Husayn-reputedly Muhammad’s favorite grandson-was widely seen as a key contender for succession. Muawiyah countered by appointing his son Yazid as his successor, in an attempt to turn the caliphate from an elective into an inherited position. The scene was set for a classic civil war.
After Muawiyyah’s death in 680 Yazid’s claim to succession was challenged in various parts of the young Muslim empire, most seriously in today’s Iraq. Husayn decided to join the rebels at Kufa with his family and a small band of followers, but they were routed before reaching their destination. Husayn’s body is said to have been buried in Karbala, near the site of his death, and it is now one of the most revered Shi’ite shrines. In their view Imam Husayn was a willing martyr for the faith, and his sacrifice is commemorated on Ashura, the day of mourning, with the processions of self-flagellating Shi’ites who mourn the fall of the house of Islam into the hands of illegitimate usurpers, as well as their own failure to rally around the legitimate and divinely anointed leader at a crucial moment in history. The commemoration of Husayn’s martyrdom is widely regarded as the earliest example of a distinctly Shi’a religious practice.
Eleven imams, in Shi’ite teaching, succeeded Ali on the basis of male primogeniture, and the historical record concerning ten of them is sparse but devoid of mystical elements. The tenth successor and eleventh imam, Hasan al-Askari, left no heir, however, causing Shi’ites to split into several sects. The dominant one holds that Hasan al-Askari did have a son after all, Abul-Qasim Muhammad (the same name as that of the “Prophet” himself), known simply as al-Mahdi. He is supposedly the twelfth Imam who has been in hiding for the past 1132 years, kept miraculously alive by Allah in a cave below a mosque in Samarra that is blocked by the “Gate of Occultation,” another highly revered Shi’ite shrine. He will return shortly before the Day of Final Judgment, waging war on the forces of evil, ushering in a period of perfect rule and heralding the end-times. The believers in this tradition are known as Ithna-Ashari-i.e., “Twelver,” or Imami Shi’a-and their sect is commonly treated as synonymous with Shi’ite Islam in general.
In the Shi’a melancholy Weltanschauung, the absence of the Hidden Imam from the world is a tragedy of the highest order for the world. For as long as he remains hidden, the world is doomed to remain fallen-which is why “today’s world, more than ever before. above all longs for the perfect righteous human being and the real savior who has been promised to all peoples and who will establish justice, peace and brotherhood on the planet.” Like many “rapture”-obsessed evangelical Christians, Mr. Ahmadinejad and his fellow Shi’ites are fixated on the end-times and they are on the constant lookout for the signs of the pending return of the Hidden Imam. This obsession shapes not only their philosophy of life and culture, but also their politics and-as attested by the Iranian President’s speech at the U.N.-their approach to world affairs.
Armed with such meta-historical vision, Mr. Ahmadinejad presents a formidable challenge to Mr. Bush. He is a sworn enemy of the status quo and leads a country bigger and more populous than Britain, France, or Italy. He has six other trumps up his sleeve:
. an advanced nuclear program;
. a growing popularity in the Muslim world;
. considerable influence over Shiites in Iraq and elsewhere in the region; and
. a unifying ideology based on the legacy of Ayatollah Khomeini.
The most important Iranian asset, by far, is oil. The country is a major producer capable of affecting the price of crude with its own policies and, in extremis, shutting off its production altogether and crippling that of its neighbors across the Gulf-Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Kuwait-which could trigger a global economic meltdown. Iran is currently exporting over 2.4 million barrels of crude oil each day, and her earnings are projected to hit $54 billion this year. Such enormous revenues enable Iran to do all that she does to enhance her power and standing.
The most expensive of those activities, and the most worrisome for the Western world, is Iran’s nuclear program . Ahmadinejad came to power in June of last year promising to defy the world on this issue, and he is successfully resisting all demands for the establishment of international control over his nuclear assets. Quite the contrary, he is planning to expand the enrichment program, and that expansion “includes all nuclear technology including the string of centrifuges” foruranium enrichment at the main plant in the city of Natanz. Depending on the level of enrichment, treated uranium can be used to generate electricity or to build nuclear weapons.
That Ahmadinejad intends to pursue the latter option is not only possible but, in the opinion of intelligence analysts and International Atomic Energy Agency experts , increasingly probable. While it is reasonable for Iran to build nuclear reactors to free up oil for export, it is arguable that Ahmadinejad’s insistence on Iran’s ability to make her own nuclear fuel makes no economic sense . Fresh fuel for the reactors is available cheaply and reliably on the open market, notably from Russia, while the nuclear technology Iran is trying to master is very expensive. But from his own point of view, nuclear weapons make sense as the ultimate deterrent against any future “Operation Iranian Freedom,” especially with the U.S. and allied forces present on his borders to the west (Iraq) and northeast (Afghanistan). In addition, their possession would be a powerful means of asserting Iran’s claim to be the most important power in the region.
Even if allowed to proceed unhindered, Ahmadinejad will need up to ten years to build his first device. But for an immediate means of applying calibrated violence in pursuit of limited political objectives, he can rely on the services of Hezbollah which has emerged de factotriumphant from the Lebanese mayhem last July .
While it would be simplistic to treat the “Party of God” as a direct extension of Iran’s global network, Hezbollah’s relationship to Tehran may be compared to that Cuba to the Soviet Union: autonomous, but not independent. Its attacks on Israeli targets on July 12 would not have taken place had the leaders in Tehran not wanted them to happen. Iran’s likely purpose was to help divert attention from the nuclear issue and to demonstrate her growing influence in the region-and its objectives have been fulfilled. The Arab world is aware of the connection between Iran and Hezbollah, and it is uncomfortable with the implications. Its ambivalence may be gleaned from the reaction of several key Arab governments-notably that of Saudi Arabia-to the mayhem in Lebanon.
Some American advocates of the war in Iraq had argued that the fall of Saddam would bring to power in Baghdad a government not only more friendly to the United States but also less hostile to Israel, and perhaps willing to act as a catalyst of changing attitudes in the Arab world. The crisis in Lebanon has shown the futility of such hopes. In their hostility to Israel and de facto support for Hezbollah, Iraqi politicians have asserted their distance from Washington more boldly than at any time in the past three years. Only one day after the fifth anniversary of 9/11, Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki-a committed Islamic activist who had spent years in Khomeini’s Iran as an exile from Saddam’s secularist regime-was cordially greeted by Mr. Ahmadinejad in Tehran, who declared that the visit would strengthen ties between them: “Iran and Iraq, as two brotherly neighbors, will stand by each other, and unwanted guests will leave the region.”
Perhaps Mr. Bush does have “a clear plan to ensure that a democratic Iraq succeeds” and becomes an ally in the war on terror, as he assured the nation in his speech to mark the anniversary, but that plan’s main beneficiaries so far have been people who see him as an “unwanted guest” and whose vision of “democracy” is some light years away from the notions of “tolerance and personal dignity” that he claims is the preferred ideal of most Middle Easterners.
In the aftermath of the crisis in Lebanon, Iraq is seen more clearly than before as Ahmadinejad’s insurance policy against any action Mr. Bush may contemplate against him. The country has been an American quagmire for some time, but if the Shiite majority were to end its cooperation with the occupation authority, the situation would become utterly unmanageable. In view of Hezbollah’s performance in Lebanon, the United States should entertain no illusions about Iran’s ability to use her regional proxies boldly and effectively. That much has been obviousfor years .
The events of the summer of 2006 have increased Iran’s regional stature and Ahmadinejad’s personal prestige, while diminishing American influence in the Middle East and making hostility to Israel probably more universal and intense than at any other time since 1948. Hezbollah’s ability to avoid annihilation by Israel indicates the limits of conventional military power. Furthermore, as one Arab analyst has noted, the Iran-Hezbollah axis has hijacked the Palestinian cause and redefined the Arab-Israeli conflict to the point where it is evident that it is Iran’s and not Washington’s traditional allies in the region that hold the key to solving the crisis.
The practical objective of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s foreign policy in recent months has been to convince Mr. Bush that regional stability is impossible without his acquiescence, and that the cost of trying to isolate and intimidate Iran may prove prohibitive. Theoretically, it would be in the American interest to give Iran a vested interest in a new regional-stability framework. The problem is that a bullish, increasingly self-confident Mr. Ahmadinejad would demand a price for his stake in the project that Mr. Bush cannot and will not pay.
The problem is real, and it remains insoluble for as long as the Iranian leader is guided by the expectation of Al-Mahdi’s imminent return, and for as long as America remains a direct and therefore vulnerable participant in the affairs of the Middle East. We cannot do much about the former, but we can change the latter.
15 Sep 2006
Farewell to a Good European: Oriana Fallaci (1929 2006)
by Srdja Trifkovic
Back in the 1960s Oriana Fallaci was a “brave,” leftist, feminist hackette. Her iconoclastic interviews were praised by the chattering classes for bringing the genre to the heights of postmodernism-she was lauded for doing to journalism what Susan Sontag was doing to fiction. But whereas the latter progressed to become an apologist for jihad and died as a self-hating degenerate, Fallaci’s old age brought her wisdom and true grit. She died on September 14 as an outstanding defender of our culture and civilization against the onslaught of barbarity from without and betrayal from within.
For some 20 years starting in the early 1960s Fallaci was famous for her political interviewers with the great and the mighty of that era, including Deng Xiaoping and Henry Kissinger, who later wrote that his 1972 interview with her was “the single most disastrous conversation I have ever had with any member of the press.” On his own admission, he had been flattered into granting it by the company he’d be joining in Fallaci’s “journalistic pantheon,” but realized too late that it was more like a collection of scalps. Her manner of interviewing was deliberately unsettling: “she approached each encounter with studied aggressiveness, made frequent nods to European existentialism. and displayed a sinuous, crafty intelligence.”
Fallaci’s once-famous reportage has not aged well, and on the strength of it alone her death would have attracted scant attention. But in the aftermath of 9/11 she became a fierce critic of jihadism and an outspoken opponent of Muslim immigration into Europe. Her book The Rage and the Pride-a provocative extended essay initially published by Corriere della Sera-caused a sensation. While countless bien-pensants and talking heads from her 1960s and 70s milieu were prompted by 9/11 to explain to the masses the peaceful and tolerant nature of “true Islam,” Fallaci understood what was going on. It is certainly not rock and roll music that the jihadist hates, she wrote, not the usual stereotypes like chewing-gum, hamburgers, Broadway, or Hollywood. 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.
Fallaci had no qualms when it came to the comparison of what we have with their culture, their art and their science, not to mention their morals, values, and pleasures. She despised the evaders of the truth about our two civilizations as weaklings, cowards or simple masochists:
It bothers me to even talk about “two of them,” to put them on the same plane as though they were two parallel realities of equal weight and equal measure. Because behind our civilization we have Homer, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Phydias, for God’s sake. We have ancient Greece with its Parthenon and its discovery of Democracy. We have ancient Rome with its greatness, its laws, its concept of Law. Its sculptures, its literature, its architecture. Its buildings, its amphitheaters, its aqueducts, its bridges and its roads. We have a revolutionary, that Christ who died on the cross, who taught us (too bad if we didn’t learn it) the concept of love and of justice.
Yes, I know-the old agnostic went on-there’s also a Church that gave me the Inquisition, the torture and the burning at the stake. But Fallaci, who was granted an audience with Pope Benedict XVI last year, readily recognized the contribution of Christianity to the history of European thought, “the inspiration it gave to Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael, the music of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, to Rossini and Donizetti and Verdi, and to science that cures diseases, and has invented the train, the car, the airplane, the spaceships, and changed the face of this planet with electricity, the radio, the telephone.”
She offered a resolute reply to “the fatal question” of what is behind the Muslim culture: “We can search and search and find only Mohammed with his Kuran and Averroe with his scholarly merits, his second-hand Commentaries on Aristotle”-all quite worthy, but pretty second-rate stuff, really. Well, yes, numbers and math; but even on that, Fallaci pointed out, there’s far less than meets the eye. Unlike the perpetrators of the myth of an Islamic Golden Age, she realized that the Muslim Empire merely inherited the knowledge and skills of the ancient Middle East, of Greece and of Persia, and added to them a few innovations.
The learning curve of Oriana Fallaci on the issue of Islam may be traced back to her famous October 1979 interview with Ayatollah Khomeini, soon after the fall of the Shah, when she took off her chador in the middle of the proceedings. His political and social views were hardly a revelation to her, but his passing comments on the music of the West shook her deeply. The old man declared dryly that it “dulls the mind, because it involves pleasure and ecstasy, similar to drugs,” instead of exalting the spirit as it should. “Even the music of Bach, Beethoven, Verdi?”-Fallaci asked, to which Khomeini curtly replied, “I do not know these names.” He went on to allow for the possibility that if Western music does not dull the mind, it would not be prohibited: “Some of your music is permitted. For example, marches and hymns for marching . . . Yes, your marches are permitted.”
For once she was genuinely horrified. As she told the New Yorkerearlier this year , “I am known for a life spent in the struggle for freedom, and freedom includes the freedom of religion. But the struggle for freedom does not include the submission to a religion which, like the Muslim religion, wants to annihilate other religions. Which wants to impose its Mein Kampf , its Koran, on the whole planet. Which has done so for one thousand and four hundred years. That is, since its birth. Which, unlike any other religion, slaughters and decapitates or enslaves all those who live differently.”
As an astute analyst of world affairs in her mature years. Fallaci knew that the Islamic genie, released by the United States thanks to Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski’s “excellent idea” to support Usama bin Laden and his ilk in Afghanistan in 1979, came to haunt us all like a boomerang.She recalled the footage of mujahideen attacking Soviet positions:
Do you remember those bearded men with the gowns and the turbans who, before firing their mortars, shouted “Allah akbar! Allah akbar!” I remember them very well. I used to shiver hearing the word “Allah” coupled with the shot of a mortar . . . Well, the Russians left Afghanistan . . . and from Afghanistan the bearded men . . . arrived in New York with the nineteen kamikaze.
But unlike her beloved New York, European cities would succumb, she feared, because of the Muslim demographic onslaught on the Old World, an invasion unparalleled in human history. This was a key theme of the best-selling sequel to The Rage and the Pride which was published last year, The Force of Reason was another frantic wake-up call. It made Fallaci the subject of several “hate-crime” lawsuits in her native country, where a court in Bergamo indicted her for ‘defaming Islam.’ In her final months, she was gripped by deep pessimism, lamenting the decline of Europe which refuses to confront the “reverse Crusade” by the “sons of Allah.”
Europe is already “Eurabia,” she declared last year , “a colony of Islam, where the Islamic invasion does not proceed only in a physical sense, but also in a mental and cultural sense.” What actually occurred,she wrote four years earlier , “was not an immigration, it was more of an invasion conducted under an emblem of secrecy-a secrecy that’s disturbing because it’s not meek and dolorous but arrogant and protected by the cynicism of politicians who close an eye or maybe even both.” The tolerance level was already surpassed fifteen or twenty years ago, “when the Left let the Muslims disembark on our coasts by the thousands.” Servility to the invaders has poisoned democracy, undermined the freedom of thought and the concept of liberty itself.
The tangible results are as devastating as the moral and spiritual ones. In Venice the invaders have taken over Piazza San Marco. In Genoa the marvelous palazzi that Rubens so admired “have been seized by them and are now perishing like beautiful women who have been raped.” In her native Florence, a huge tent was put up next to the Cathedral to pressure the Italian government to give them “the papers necessary to rove about Europe” and to “let them bring the hordes of their relatives to Italy”:
A tent situated next to the beautiful palazzo of the Archbishop on whose sidewalk they kept the shoes or sandals that are lined up outside the mosques in their countries. And along with the shoes or sandals, the empty bottles of water they’d used to wash their feet before praying. A tent placed in front of the cathedral with Brunelleschi’s cupola and by the side of the Baptistery with Ghibertils golden doors . . . Thanks to a tape player, the uncouth wailing of a muezzin punctually exhorted the faithful, deafened the infidels, and smothered the sound of the church bells . . . And along with the yellow streaks of urine, the stench of the excrement that blocked the door of San Salvatore al Vescovo: that exquisite Romanesque church (year 1000) that stands at the rear of the Piazza del Duomo and that the sons of Allah transformed into a shithouse.
Of course she prompted countless howls of rage from coast to coast and from one side of the Atlantic to another, among the degenerates, cowards, masochists, madmen, and villains. (Christopher Hitchens, who is all of the above, has described Fallaci’s work as “a sort of primer in how not to write about Islam.”) They can relax now, and write mean-spirited obituaries of this “controversial author” who’s been “harshly criticized” for “inciting hatred against Islam.” She will be sorely missed by those of us who know what she knew, and who abhor what she abhorred.
11 Sep 2006
A Grim Anniversary
by Srdja Trifkovic
Amidst the lakes of ink, tons of toner, and exabytes of memory expanded on the fifth anniversary of 9-11, it is easy to lose sight of three key issues concerning the “War on Terror”: What is it? Are we winning-and if not, why not? How are we to define “victory,” and how can we score it?
The warring parties’ offensive potential provides a reliable indicator of the likely outcome of the conflict. After von Paulus surrendered it was obvious that the Reich was doomed: for the remaining two years it was on a downward slide that had to end in the ruins of Berlin. After Russia Napoleon was finished, although the actual finis came almost three years after the Berezina. And after the carnage in Pennsylvania the Confederacy fought on for twenty desperate months, but it could no longer turn the tide.
On this grim anniversary only the most zealous supporter of President George W. Bush will claim that we are “winning” the “Global War on Terrorism,” a misnomer that fails to differentiate between the enemy’s modus operandi and the enemy himself. Yes, a war is going on, a Fourth Generation war in which the enemy will not stand up and “fight fair.” It is waged by a loose global network of Jihadists against the rest of us. The proper name of the enemy is still absent from our public discourse, however. “Islamofascism,” popular of late, is a red herring: the foe is not a “fascist” fringe distinct from the “anti-fascist” mainstream. The enemy is an inherently aggressive, demographically vibrant, and ideologically rigid Islamic movement of global proportions and world-historical significance. It has different guises-Wahhabist, salafist, Shia-and often mutually antagonistic protagonists: Iranians Mahdists and their Lebanese clients, Saudi royal kleptocrats and their sworn Al Qaeda enemies, Pakistani generals, Afghan guerrillas, Bosnian politicians, coarse Chechen child-killers and suave professors . . . The contemporary upsurge of Islam as an ideology and Islam as a blueprint for political action, is a multifaceted and decentralized phenomenon that cannot be compared in dynamism, energy, and potential consequences with any other creed or ideology in today’s world. It demands a sustained and bold Western response that has failed to materialize so far.
The all-pervasive Western unease in naming the enemy reflects a spiritual debility, common on both sides of the pond, that impedes serious defense. Had Rome declared the War on Elephants in 216BC, Hannibal would have won. Had World War II been waged against Guderian’s Blitzkrieg, the Reich would still have 927 years to go. But the free citizens of the Roman Republic, and even our grandfathers six decades ago, were not afflicted by that debility which undermines Western identity, culture, and sense of rootedness, and which is manifested in the reluctance to name the enemy.
Five years on, even his methods remain widely misunderstood.Terrorism , defined as arbitrary violence against civilians in pursuit of ideological, religious and political objectives, makes sporadic appearance in various conflicts that do not involve Muslims, notably in Sri Lanka. Yet Islamic terrorism -that used by Muslims in pursuit of objectives inspired by Islamic teaching, tradition, and historical practice-is the only variety that targets the United States, the rest of the West, Russia, India, Israel, and other “infidels” as such . (And yes, we deliberately avoid the modifier “Islamist,” as distinct from “Islamic,” because it implies a distinction between the political, cultural and religious aspects and programs upheld by the followers of Islam that is neither clear-cut nor regarded as valid by the Muslims themselves.) It is also the only kind of terrorism that is global in scope and ambition, and against which the war imposed on the Western world should be directed.
This war belongs to fourth-generation warfare in which it is inherently hard to target the enemy and to evaluate results. It cannot be understood, let alone conducted, in conventional military terms. Body counts are of dubious value. Hundreds may be dead or safely locked at Guantanamo, but thousands are ready and willing to take their place. The enemy has de facto unlimited human assets. The enemy has an operational reach that is limited only (1) by the limits of penetration of the Muslim diaspora in the Western world, and (2) by the growing awareness of the Diaspora’s local leaders and external financiers that terrorism is counterproductive to the apparently attainable objective of gradual demographic conquest. The current threat typically comes from freelance amateurs among Western Europe’s second-generation Muslim immigrants. The attacks in Madrid (March 2004) and London (July 2005) and the foiled conspiracies in Britain (2006) indicate a decentralized pattern with no command and control hierarchy, or even coordination, among the cells embedded inside the target-nations. Usama Bin Laden’s network has been hit hard over the past five years, but self-starters have taken over.
A new strategy is needed to win this war. It can’t won in the conventional terms of destroying the enemy and his will to fight, but the threat can be effectively managed, and the enemy contained. As I wrote in these pages eight months ago, the victory will come not by conquering Mecca for America but by disengaging America from Mecca and by excluding Mecca from America; not by eliminating the risk but by managing it wisely, resolutely, and permanently. The task has three key elements.
(1) It is essential to define and understand the enemy, and to move beyond the phony distinction between “Islam” and “Islamism” or “Islamofascism.” Terrorists belong to the doctrinal and moral mainstream of their ideology-cum-religion. This conclusion does not come from a priori judgments by Islam’s apologists and non-Muslim multiculturalists. It comes from the sacred texts of Islam, from its record of interaction with other societies that is almost 14 centuries old, and from the character of its founder. Taken together, they provide the clue to the motives, ambitions, and methods of our enemies, and the explanation why those enemies do not represent an aberration, but a conventional consequence of the ideology of jihad .
(2) The second task is to clean up the home front. All over the Western world the elite class regards above conclusions about the nature of the enemy as shockingly heretical. On both sides of the ocean there also exists an elite consensus that the existence of a large Muslim diaspora within the Western world is to be treated as a fixed given and should not be critically scrutinized. That consensus is ideological in nature, flawed in logic, dogmatic in application, and disastrous in results. It needs to be tested against evidence, not against the alleged norms of acceptable public discourse imposed by those who either do not know Islam, or else do not want us to know the truth about it. The impact of ongoing Muslim migratory influx, and the consequences of the existence of a multi-million Muslim diaspora in Western Europe and North America, are inseparable from the coherent long-term defense of the homeland. That strategy must entail denying actual and potential terrorists the foothold inside the United States. Much has been done but not nearly enough, because of the heavy focus on the failures of government agencies rather than on the institutional culture of the decision-making community that makes such failures likely. Above all, operational effectiveness must no longer be confused with strategy itself. Controlling the borders is only the first step. The application of clearly defined criteria related to terrorism in deciding who will be admitted into the country, and in determining who should be allowed to stay from among those who are already here, is essential. Stopping Muslim immigration and expelling seditious resident aliens and naturalized citizens is an essential ingredient of any serious anti-terrorist strategy. It is high time to start treating Islamic activism as an eminently political, rather than “religious” activity. Homeland can be made secure, but not under the banner of open immigration, “tolerance,” diversity, and multicultural all-inclusiveness.
(3) An effective defense against terrorism demands a re-think of our foreign and military policies, and that is the third task. Would America be safer with her GIs patrolling the Rio Grande or the Euphrates? What are the costs and benefits of supporting the Muslim side in the Caucasus and the Balkans? In an ever more “globalized” world that is ever less “Westernized,” America will remain the strongest actor-economically, technologically, and militarily-for many years to come; but the shape and nature of international alignments are changing. The United States will lose ground to its combined global competitors, and any attempt to continue projecting its power offensively (especially in the greater Middle East) will be self-defeating. The path of “benevolent global hegemony” leads to the cliff’s edge, and should be discarded in favor of the rediscovery of a realist, national-interest-based global strategy.
Rediscovering who we are is the essential prerequisite for all of the above. The victory in the war on terrorism ultimately has to be won in the domain of morals and culture. As I have argued repeatedly in recent months , the war can be won only by the nations of the great European family that have regained their awareness of their moral, spiritual, and civilizational roots. If that happens, the renewed impulse to defend those lands and to procreate will come, too. While the likelihood of such belated recovery remains in doubt, this grim anniversary offers us an opportunity to renew the hope that it is not impossible. Miracles do happen, and therefore they will happen.
05 Sep 2006
CAIR at ORD: Vampires Inside the Bloodbank
by Srdja Trifkovic
We’ve learned with two months’ delay that on June 21 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security took officials of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) on a behind-the-screens tour of U.S. airport security measures at O’Hare International in Chicago. During the tour Customs and Border Patrol agents outlined their high-risk passenger lookout system to the guests. The decision to take Muslim activists to point-of-entry and Customs stations, secondary screening and interview rooms at America’s busiest airport was made in response to CAIR’s complaints that Muslims were being unfairly targeted for scrutiny on arrival in the United States. This is not the first time CAIR was able to intimidate American institutions into compliance with its dictates, but it is by far the most alarming such incident to date.
Brian Humphrey, Director of Field Operations at O’Hare, assured his guests that agents do not target Muslim passengers for special screening and explained that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents are obliged to complete an interactive cultural sensitivity course . The course, which teaches agents, inter alia , that Muslims believe jihad is an inner struggle against one’s sinful desires, was developed by Margaret Nydell , professor of Arabic at Georgetown University and the author of Understanding Arabs, a notable piece of Islamophile apologia. Professor Nydell’s are of special interest and expertise is Saudi Arabia . Perhaps it should be added that Georgetown’s Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy is lavishly funded by Saudi money and that its head is one of the world’s leading apologists of jihad , Dr. John Esposito .
Nydell’s instruction and CBP’s companion training manual and video, were described as “politically correct drivel” by a Customs and Border Protection supervisor: “It’s all about how Islam means peace and tolerance,” he told WorldNetDaily . “We’re told how to deal with Arabs and Muslims, that they are loving people and not terrorists. That jihad is struggle with sin and has nothing to do with violence.” Customs agents involved in the CAIR tour at O’Hare told the same source that they were outraged that sensitive counterterrorism procedures were revealed to an organization tainted with terrorist links.
CAIR claims to be “just another civil-rights group,” devoted to protecting the rights of Muslims and promoting a better understanding of Islam in America, but there is more, much more , than meets the eye:
-Ihsan Bagby, a founding Board member of CAIR, maintained that Muslims “can never be full citizens of this country [the U.S.] . . . because there is no way we can be fully committed to the institutions and ideologies of this country.”
-Shortly after it was founded with foreign Arab money in 1994, CAIR called the guilty verdict in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing case “a travesty of justice” and a proof of the all-pervasive “Islamophobia” in the American society.
-In 1995 CAIR condemned the conviction of Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheikh, for conspiring to blow up New York City landmarks, as a “hate crime.”
-CAIR advisory-board member Siraj Wahhaj was named in 1995 as one of the unindicted co-conspirators in the scheme to blow up New York City sites in 1993.
-In July 1998 CAIR’s chairman of the board, Omar Ahmad, declared that the Kuran should be America’s highest authority and that Islam is not in America to be equal to any other religion, but to be dominant.
-In August 1998 CAIR condemned the targeting of terrorist training camps in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.
-In October 1998 CAIR demanded the removal of a Los Angeles billboard describing Osama as “the sworn enemy.”
-That same year CAIR denied bin Laden’s responsibility for the twin East African embassy bombings.
-In November 1999, at a Muslim youth rally in Chicago, Omar Ahmad praised suicide bombers: “Fighting for freedom, fighting for Islam-that is not suicide.”
-After 9-11 CAIR called for donations: under a picture of the flaming Towers the hyperlink took donors to the website of the Holy Land Foundation, an Islamic charity whose assets were frozen soon thereafter by the Treasury Department. On July 27, 2004, a federal grand jury in Dallas, Texas, returned a 42 count indictment against the HLF that included conspiracy, material support to a foreign terrorist organization, and money laundering.
-A week later CAIR called on people to donate to the Global Relief Foundation, another Islamic charity from Illinois, whose assets were also frozen in December 2001, and which has provided assistance to known Islamic terrorist groups.
-In December 2002 CAIR called the closure of the Holy Land Foundation “unjust” and “disturbing.”
-CAIR claimed the closure of the Global Relief Foundation was due to the racial profiling of a group that “had established a track record of effective relief work.”
-In 2002 CAIR embarked on a campaign to place a package of pro-Islamic books and CDs in thousands of American libraries. It claimed the program was not subsidized from abroad, but kept quiet about $1/2m donation from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz al Saud-which gave a Wahabi seal of approval on the materials.
-In 2003 CAIR complained about the FBI surveillance of mosques, but remained mute when it was revealed that the Al-Farooq mosque in New York was complicit in collecting funds for al-Qaeda. Undeterred, it has continued to demand amendments to the USA Patriot Act to protect the Muslims from eavesdropping.
-In September 2003 Bassem Khafagi, CAIR’s community relations director, pleaded guilty to lying on his visa application and was deported.
-After the March 11, 2004, bombings in Madrid, Ibrahim Hooper said a Muslim convert in Florida who allegedly had her hijab pulled by Spanish tourists “is also victim of terrorism.” Adolf [ sic ] Ali, head of CAIR Florida, insisted that Florida should reinstate the electric chair for “kuffars [infidel] accused of causing offense to Muslims.”
-In April 2005, the founder of the Texas chapter of CAIR, Ghassan Elashi was found guilty of supporting terrorism. He was the third CAIR-connected figure to be convicted on federal terrorism charges since 9-11.
-Also in April 2005, CAIR orchestrated a nation-wide campaign to have my book The Sword of the Prophet banned from the National Review Online bookstore.
-in August 2005 when WMAL, a Washington, D.C. talk radio station, succumbed to CAIR’s pressure and fired presenter Michael Graham for his comments on the link between Islam and terrorism.
-In April 2006 a federal appeals court upheld the dismissal of a $2 million defamation lawsuit by CAIR against former U.S. Rep. Cass Ballenger. The suit was filed in response to an October 2003 interview in which Ballenger said CAIR raised funds for terrorists and did so “with actual malice, wrongful and willful intent to injure and with reckless disregard for its truth or falsity.”
This is only a partial list , and it is likely to be enriched in the months and years to come. And yet, in the immediate aftermath of 9-11, CAIR’s lading PR duet-Palestinian-born Nihad Awad and American-born Ibrahim Hooper-were invited to the White House. When receiving them President Bush may have been unaware that CAIR’s condemnation of the attacks was delayed, and only came in December of that year. Until that time it had referred to the “alleged attackers,” implying that someone other than the named 19 were the real culprits.
CAIR’s medium-term agenda became apparent in May 2004, when it issued a report claiming that anti-Muslim incidents in the United Stateshad increased by almost 70 percent in 2003. The study “outlined”-euphemism for superficial or fraudulent research-over a thousand “incidents and experiences of anti-Muslim violence, discrimination and harassment.” (The word “experience” denotes an entirely subjective view of a situation or event that could not be pumped up into an “incident.”) Claiming that “hate crimes” alone had jumped by 121 percent, CAIR demanded a public inquiry into post-9/11 policies impacting the Muslim community, legislative actions to curb the use of profiling by law enforcement agencies, strengthening of hate crime prosecutions, and “modifications” to the Patriot Act to end “abuses” of the Muslim community.
With that “report” and the associated demands, reflected in the campaign to censor books and media outlets uncomfortable to jihad, the true agenda of CAIR is finally clear. It is a radical political group that does not merely want to change the nature of discourse on Islam in America, it wants to Islamize America. It wants to transform America into a barren wasteland of mind-numbing uniformity of thought, on par with Saudi Arabia and Mauritania. Messrs. Awad and Hooper are not Islamic community activists seeking to better the lot of their co-religionists, they are political visionaries who want the U.S. government to be Islamic “sometime in the future.”
Emboldened by the lack of moral fiber in the host-society that they despise, with each victory CAIR activists become ever more cocky.Arsalan Iftikhar , national legal director for CAIR, thus promised in September 2005 that it was time for everyday Muslims to “defend the image and reputation of the community and Islam in general”: “I am here to teach you how the American Muslim community can legally empower itself to protect itself in the American courts.”
It is high time to turn the tables and use the courts against CAIR. It has been playing its pernicious game far too long, and needs a healthy dose of the law itself-and the law is clear :
Whoever provides material support or resources or conceals or disguises the nature, location, source, or ownership of material support or resources, knowing or intending that they are to be used in preparation for, or in carrying out [terrorist acts] . . . shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both, and, if the death of any person results, shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.
There is a clear link between CAIR and persons and institutions with terrorist connections, and it defies belief that such an organization is still allowed to operate-let alone to be given VIP tours of America’s border defenses by the Department of Homeland Security.
30 Aug 2006
Sir Alfred Sherman: Witness to a Century
by Srdja Trifkovic
Sir Alfred Sherman , a friend and long-time political associate who died in London on August 26, started his political life as a Stalinist and ended it as one of the few “paleoconservative” thinkers in today’s Britain. He was a brilliant polymath, a consummate homo politicus , and one of the last true witnesses to the 20th century.
Born in 1919 to recent immigrants from Russia, Sherman joined the Young Communist League in his first year at Chelsea Plytechnic; as he later explained, “to be a Jew in 1930s Britain was to be alienated. The world proletariat offered us a home.” Within months he was a machine gunner with the Major Attlee battalion of the International Brigades in Spain. A gifted linguist, he translated the orders of the battalion’s Red Army instructor into English, French and Spanish. Sherman fought at Ebro in 1938 and spent several months as Franco’s prisoner at San Pedro de Cardenas before being repatriated to Britain.
During the Second World War Sherman served with the British Army as a Field Security Officer in the Middle East, became fluent in Hebrew and Arabic, and embarked on a life-long study of Islam. After the war he continued his studies at the London School of Economics and became president of the Communist Party student cell.
In that capacity he visited Yugoslavia, at that time one of Moscow’s staunchest allies, and upon his return prepared a favorably intoned report. As he was about to deliver it to his comrades in the summer of 1948, news came of Stalin’s break with Tito. The Party asked Sherman to rewrite his report accordingly. He refused and was duly expelled for “Titoist deviationism.” Sherman promptly left for Belgrade and offering his services to Tito’s authorities in their dispute with Moscow. He assumed his talents as an intellectual would be of value, but to his surprise when he arrived he was put to work helping to build a railway in Bosnia. Despite his small stature and obvious unsuitability for physical labour, he never complained. He carried on, learned the language, and developed a long lasting emotional tie to the former Yugoslavia.
In the early 1950s Sherman-by that time an ex-Communist but still a man of the Left-returned to Belgrade as an Observer correspondent. Unlike most of his Western colleagues, then and now, he was fluent in the language known as Serbo-Croatian at that time and possessed an encyclopaedic knowledge of the history, culture and politics of the South Slavs. He developed a strong, life-long affinity for the Serbs, in many ways comparable to that of Dame Rebecca West. That affinity was rekindled in the 1990s when Sherman became a leading critic of the Western policy in the Balkans.
After a few years in Israel, during which time he advised the government on economic affairs, Sherman returned to London. Thoroughly disillusioned in Socialism in all its forms he joined the staff of The Daily Telegraph in 1965, rising to become the Tory flagship’s leader writer (1977-86). In 1974 he co-founded, with the late Sir Keith Joseph, the conservative think-tank, the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), and became its first director. (He was ousted from the CPS in 1984 after he fell out of favour with the Tory leadership.) The CPS was the launching pad for Margaret Thatcher, gradually transforming her from the untried party leader of 1974 into a prime-minister-in-waiting. More than any one man, Sherman provided her with the strategy for capturing the leadership of the Party and winning the historic general election of 1979.
Sherman’s forte was economics but he was acutely aware of the importance of a coherent cultural basis on which the economic superstructure rests. It behove a Jew deeply worried about the condition of our civilization to advocate the revival of Christianity in general, and particularly to stress that British political history was largely that of religion: church and state were inseparable. As Margaret Thatcher argued in a lecture, Dimensions of Conservatism, in 1977, which Sherman wrote for her two years before she became Britain’s Prime Minister,
To describe us as a party of free enterprise as opposed to State ownership would be misleading, although we have good cause to fear the deadening effect of State ownership and control . . . The Tories began as a Church party, concerned with the Church and State in that order, before our concern extended to the economy and many other fields which politics now touches.
Sherman’s star shone briefly after Mrs. Thatcher became prime minister. As the Telegraph ‘s obituarist has noted, during those years when his star was in the ascendant, Sherman’s breadth and depth of vision and willingness to say the unsayable provided a vital stimulus to “the Leaderin,” giving her the intellectual confidence to proclaim her radical free-market vision in her early years at the helm:
Sherman was arguably the most eccentric, and certainly the most contradictory, figure ever to have been a leading adviser to a senior politician. His early imbibed skill in Marxist dialectic made him a formidable logician; at his best he could be witty, educated and shrewd on economic matters. But he could also be breathtakingly naive, never losing the instinctive fanaticism which put him in the Communist party in the first place.
In her memoirs , Lady Thatcher herself pays tribute to Sherman’s “brilliance,” the “force and clarity of his mind,” his “breadth of reading and his skills as a ruthless polemicist.” She credits him with a central role in her achievements, especially as Leader of the Opposition but also after she became Prime Minister. But his “instinctive fanaticism”-or, more accurately, his unwillingness to make compromises with the establishmentarian consensus-never enabled him to fit into the clubbable world of British politics.
His successor at the helm of The Lord Byron Foundation, Ambassador James Bissett, remembers Sherman as “a man who held strong views and [who] never hesitated to speak out and let his opinions be known.” To wit, he once gave an interview to a Russian journalist in which he was quoted as saying, “As for the lumpen, coloured people and the Irish, let’s face it, the only way to hold them in check is to have enough well armed and properly trained police.” To his shocked critics Sherman dryly replied that the quotation missed the word “proletariat” after “lumpen,” and denied using the phrase “well armed.”
By 1982, the latent strains in his relationship with Mrs. Thatcher became fully apparent. She complained that he was dismissive of the obstacles she was encountering in dismantling the legacy of decades of socialism, while he berated her for betraying the promise of her early years. (In the 90’s he said of her, “Lady Thatcher is great theatre as long as someone else is writing her lines; she hasn’t got a clue.”) After his exclusion from her inner circle she nevertheless continued to regard him with “exasperated affection,” and rewarded him with a knighthood in 1983. In July 2005 they were reunited at a reception marking the publication of Sherman’s last book with a revealing title, Paradoxes of Power: Reflections on the Thatcher Interlude .
In the last decade and a half of his life, Sherman was tireless in exposing the stupidity and malovelence of the Western policy in the Balkans. In 1994 we joined forces to establish The Lord Byron Foundation for Balkan Studies, with the help of Michael Stenton and Ronald Hatchett, as a non-partisan research institute. In Sherman’s words, it was “designed to correct the current trend of public commentary, which tends, systematically, not to understand events but to construct a propagandistic version of Balkan rivalries, designed to facilitate the involvement of outside powers.” He chose the name of a great Western poet who gave his life in the fight to free Balkan peoples from Mohammedan rule, which reflected his belief in “the essential unity of our civilization, of which the Orthodox nations are an inseparable and essential ingredient.” As Michael Stenton wrote when Sherman retired as LBF Chairman in 2001,
Alfred has known Yugoslavia since the days the Muslim ladies were still wearing veils. Long decades before the talk of a ‘clash of civilizations’ he understood the Balkans in this sense. Where the average journalist sees the wars in Yugoslavia through some ‘worst since World War Two’ lens, Alfred sees precise parallels: between the Anglo-French reluctance to recognize Nazi malice and ‘Western’ courtesies and concessions to Islam today; between the fashionable denunciation of the Czechs for their treatment of the Sudeten Germans in 1938 and the recent excoriation of the Serbs in Kosovo and elsewhere. First select your blue-eyed boys, then wait for the atrocities, then believe what your favorites say. He has seen it all before-whether on the winning or the losing side. It inspires him not with cynicism but with stoicism. He is filled with regret but not with bitterness.
As early as 1992, writing in London’s Jewish Chronicle , Sherman warned against the lapse of logic in confusing the present plight of Bosnian Muslims with that of European Jewry under Hitler. “It does us no good to claim a locus standi in every conflict be equating it with the Holocaust,” he wrote, “or when third parties in their own interests take the name of our martyrs in vain; Bosnia is not occupied Europe; the Muslims are not the Jews; the Serbs did not begin the civil war, but are predictably responding to a real threat”:
Some years ago, I, among others, warned that, whatever the logic of establishing Yugoslavia in the first place, any attempt at hurried dismemberment, particularly along Tito’s internal demarcation lines, would lead to armed conflict, self-intensifying bloodshed and floods of refugees . . . Since 1990, the independent Croatian leadership-with its extreme chauvinist and clericalist colouring-and the Bosnian Muslim leadership-seeking, in its Islamic fundamentalist programme, to put the clock back to Ottoman days-have threatened to turn the Serbs back into persecuted minorities. The Serbs cannot forget that, in living memory, the ‘Independent Croatian State,’ set up by Hitler in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, massacred close on half of the Serbian population-which was then the largest of the three communities in Bosnia-and as many Jews as it could lay hands on . . . If there is any parallel with the Holocaust, it is the martyrdom of the Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, who account for a third of the Serbian nation.
Both the Croatian and Muslim leaderships enjoy support and encouragement from Germany, Sherman noted, and from militantly Islamic governments of Iran and Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, though Serbian refugees from Croatia and Bosnia outnumbered Croatian and Muslim refugees combined, the media virtually ignore them:
It reminds one of the late 1930’s, when most of the British press demonised the Czechs at Downing Streets behest, denouncing them as a threat to European peace and for ill-treating their peaceful German Sudetenland minority; ‘Herr’ Hitler, by contrast was held up as a reasonable man . . . It its almost invariably the innocent who suffer in war. But that does not equate them with victims of the Holocaust, any more than being a Jew automatically qualifies one to pronounce on Yugoslavia. This needs to meet the Serbs’ legitimate claim to self-rule with religious and cultural freedoms, otherwise they will go on fighting even if the whole world is mobilised against them . . . This will not be achieved so long as European Community foreign policy is made in Bonn, whose agenda entails the reversal not only of Versailles, but also of the post-1945 settlement.
By the end of the decade Sherman saw the U.S. policy in the Balkans as inseparable from the drive for global hegemony. At a conference jointly organized by The Lord Byron Foundation and The Rockford Institute in 1997, he noted that the American century began with the Spanish-American War, and that it was ending with American penetration of the Balkans. But in contrast to the Spanish-American war, he argued, U.S. intervention in the Balkans has no clear strategic aim, but is allegedly a moral crusade on behalf of the “international community”:
This begs many questions. First, is there such a thing as “the international community”? Do people in China, which accounts for a fifth of the world’s population, and the Buddhists, who account for another fifth-among others-really want the US and its client states to bomb the Serbs or Iraqis? And who exactly, and when, deputed the US to act on behalf of this “world community”? . . . Secondly, can the blunt weapon of force, of whose use US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright boasted, balance contlicting and competing ethnic, religious, economic and political interactions over this wide and conflictive region? Can the US raise the expectations of the Albanians and Slav Moslems without affronting Macedonians, Greeks, Italians, Bulgars and Croats, as well as Serbs? . . . Thirdly, can force be a substitute for policy? It was a wise German who said that you can do anything with bayonets except sit on them. The same goes for gunships, the modern equivalent of gunboat diplomacy. Bomb and rocket once, and it has an effect. But if the victim survives, the second bout is less effective, because the victim is learning to cope.
Almost a decade ago, well before Iraq and 9-11, Sherman saw that Washington had “set up the cornerstone of a European Islamistan in Bosnia and a Greater Albania, thus paving the way for further three-sided conflict between Moslems, Serbs and Croats in a bellum omnium contra omnes . . . Far from creating a new status quo it has simply intensified instability.” The U.S. may succeed in establishing its hegemony, in the Balkans-Danubia-Carpathia and elsewhere, “but it will also inherit long-standing ethno-religious conflicts and border disputes without the means for settling them.” His 1997 warning could have come from the pages of Chronicles :
At the time of writing, the USA is uniquely powerful. It will not always be so. In the course of time, Russia may gain its potential strength, and there is very little the USA can do about Chinese developments one way or the other . . . A law of history is that power tends to generate countervailing power. It is not for me to trace how this will come about. We can do little more than guard against arrogance and over-extension and minimize the pointless sacrifices they usually entail. I am proud to have taken part in this struggle, the struggle to bring the powerful to their senses before they plunge into reckless, ruthless folly. This struggle carries no guarantee of success, for it is the quest for sanity that epitomizes the struggle of suffering humanity throughout the ages.
His realization that Western intervention in Yugoslavia has come as a result of Western crisis and not of Balkan tragedies, stemmed directly from his key insight that Washington’s “Benevolent Global Hegemony” is based on a new cultural paradigm, materialistic and anti-traditional. This megalomania is a form of madness, he would add, wnd nothing new in world history, but, as he wrote for Chronicles ‘ website in May 2000,
The power and prestige of America is in the hands of people who will not resist the temptation to invent new missions, lay down new embargoes, throw new bombs, and fabricate new courts. For the time being, they control the United Nations, the World Bank, most of the world’s high-tech weapons, and the vast majority of the satellites that watch us from every quadrant of the skies. This is the opportunity they sense, and we must ask what ambitions they will declare next . . . Instead of rediscovering the virtues of traditionally defined, enlightened self-interest in the aftermath of its hands down cold war victory, America’s foreign policy elites are more intoxicated than ever by their own concoction of benevolent global hegemony and indispensable power.
The project is coming to grief, as Sherman knew it would, but since his advice often took the form of a recommendation to prefer pain today to disaster tomorrow, he had found few patrons or disciples. As Dr. Stenton has noted, wilting patrons had found the message too clear, and possible disciples had been skeptical of the typical Sherman claim that the wickedness of the world does not much change:
There is nothing seductive about a Sherman political lesson, and it is delivered without the least concession to rank or reputation. An old communist faith in getting the ‘analysis’ right sits on an even older respect for the mission of Reason. Not that men are likely to do what is Reasonable, but they should have the chance.
May he rest in peace.
23 Aug 2006
Iran Rejects Nuclear Terms
by Srdja Trifkovic
The United States says a proposal by Iran for “serious nuclear negotiations” falls short of UN demands that it cease uranium enrichment, and the U.S. is reported to be considering unspecified “next moves” with other governments. Those could include UN sanctions against Iran unless it reverses course and agrees to a verifiable halt to enrichment activities that can be central to making nuclear weapons . The State Department nevertheless acknowledged that Iran considered its proposal to be a serious one, in what appeared to be a conciliatory gesture to a government it regularly denounces as a sponsor of terror. So what are our options?
The following is a transcript of Srdja Trifkovic’s interview broadcast on Wednesday, August 23, on Issues, Etc. , with The Rev. Todd Wilken on KFUO (St. Louis, MO). The Rev. Wilken is an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. His first question to Dr. Trifkovic-a regular guest on his program-was for his initial reaction to the reply from Tehran.
TRIFKOVIC : Nothing new under the sun. It would have been very surprising had the response been any different, either in substance or in form. I say “in form” because the Iranians are past masters of diplomatic negotiations that drag on for ever. One of the major objectives of their 24-page response is to gain time and possibly to create further rifts within the Security Council, in other words to give those permanent members who are not willing to introduce immediate sanctions an excuse to ask for more time, for clarifications, and so on.
We must be clear on one point: Iran is entering this episode of the protracted nuclear dispute with a very strong hand. The effective Hizballah victory, embodied in the Security Council Resolution 1701, has made it clear to all and sundry that Iran has the wherewithal to make a very tangible impact on events in the greater Middle East. Everybody knows that their influence on their co-religionists, the Shiites of Iraq who comprise two-thirds of the population, is so great that direct Iranian agents have been long infiltrated into the Iraqi security services, and most notably the Interior Ministry. If the United States is serious about pursuing sanctions, the Iranians may press a few buttons that would make an already difficult situation in Iraq totally unmanageable. Even within the European camp there is no complete unity. It remains to be seen whether and to what extent the reaction of the British-who are expected to side with the United States-or the Germans, who may be less willing to do so, will be in line with that of the French or Italians, who are far less happy with the prospect of immediate sanctions.
On balance, Iran has no incentive to comply right now, because even if it did so, it would not obtain what it has been seeking for a long time, which is direct negotiations with the United States that would result in some kind of security guarantee. Having turned the nuclear issue into a litmus test of national pride and dignity, Iran, which sees itself as the regional power of the first order, would be most unlikely to comply because that would be seen as the loss of face, a slap to Iran’s national dignity that the regime simply cannot afford.
And finally, everyone realizes that a serious package of sanctions would have to include sanctions on Iranian oil exports and on Western investments into the Iranian oil industry. If there was no Iranian production on line, we would see oil prices rising above a hundred dollars a barrel within days if not weeks, which could trigger off a global economic recession. So, while the Iranian response in unsurprising, it is even less so in the light of what came to pass in Lebanon last month and of world-wide anxiety about the price of energy.
WILKEN : What else could Iran do to affect the price of oil?
TRIFKOVIC : The next stage would be to close the Straits of Hormuz, but that would be an act of war which the Iranians would be reluctant to try for as long as their diplomatic arsenal remains unexhausted. If there were to be a military confrontation, they also have the capacity to hit the Gulf states. It’s only a short missile ride across the Straits, and only a few days ago the Iranian military held exercises in the course of which various missiles were tested. But even by merely raising tensions in the region, by possibly encouraging Iraq’s Shiites to be less cooperative, the Iranians could open a series of new fronts for the United States. For that reason I think that the calls for an immediate sanctions regime will be somewhat muted in Washington.
WILKEN : The White House is yet to respond in any clear way what are its intentions with regard to sanctions. How do you read a less than immediate response on the part of the U.S.-is it smart, is it an indication that they know how strong Iran’s hand is?
TRIFKOVIC : It is “smart” in the sense that a heavy-handed call for immediate sanctions would fail, and so it is always better to make a diplomatic move that does not result in immediate failure. On the other hand, if the Security Council decides to fudge the issue and to enter into these long negotiations, again, everyone will know that Iran has effectively won. In the long term, until and unless the Iranians get some kind of bilateral security guarantee from the United States, they will pursue their nuclear program-which is a dual-use program, in spite of their protestations that it’s for civilian use only-because they feel insecure. They have U.S. troops in Afghanistan to the north-eats, they have U.S. troops in Iraq to their west, and to the north-west is a NATO ally, Turkey. For as long as Iran remains listed as part of the “Axis of Evil,” and for as long as it remains able to pull various triggers throughout the region, it will not comply.
The question is whether it is at all possible to include Iran in a long-term, constructively devised new architecture of the greater Middle East, on view of Ahmadinejad’s messianic perception of himself, as someone who is actively aiding Allah in an eschatological project that will lead to the end-times. This is a whole separate issue. Ahmadinejad is a “Twelver” Shiite who believes that the second coming of the “Hidden Imam” is imminent, and that it will herald the end-times. It sounds somewhat esoteric, but it is worth bearing in mind that Ahmadinejad is not an altogether rational player in the diplomatic game.
WILKEN : What are his long-term regional goals?
TRIFKOVIC : He has already managed to project himself in the Arab “street” as the champion and protector of the only group that has been able not only to stand up to Israel, but also-in the perception of many ordinary Muslims-to hold it at bay and even defeat it. Even though there are religious differences of long standing between the Sunni, orthodox Islam and the Shia, Ahmadinejad has earned many brownie points in the Muslim world as a whole. Let’s not forget that in the Arab world Iraq is not the only country with a large Shia community. There it’s a two-thirds majority, but there are also large Shia communities in the United Arab Emirates, in Kuwait, and in Saudi Arabia, and of course in Lebanon, where they exceed 40 percent of the population. In many ways Ahmadinejad is behaving in a manner similar to the Soviet Union in its early years: as a dynamic revolutionary power that uses unofficial channels and movements and political groups around the world-or in his case in the region-in pursuit of a wider design. That design envisages a Shiite commonwealth, a Shiite domain, that will extend all the way from the fertile Crescent and across Syria to the Mediterranean. It also seeks influence in the former Soviet Central Asia, where it clashes to some extent with the Turks-but at the moment the Turks are careful to stay out of the current dispute. They also sense that Iran’s regional influence is on the rise. In addition Turkey is having problems with its own Islamists, who have been very sympathetic to Hizballah in the course of last month’s unpleasantness in southern Lebanon.
Iran sees itself as a first-rate regional power, Iran wants to get the United States to acknowledge this fact, to accept its security concerns as legitimate, and to enter into a direct dialogue. Iran will continue pursuing its nuclear program for as long as the United States is reluctant to do so. But the cost to the United States of pursuing escalation with Iran, or even envisaging some kind of military response to its refusal to comply, may prove to be very high. The scenario is being worked out at the Pentagon and in the basement of the White House as we speak. Iran’s response would probably entail three things.
One, the closing of the Straits of Hormuz. It would not take a great deal of effort for the Iranians to put mines in place, which would make it impossible for the mega-tankers to come to the Emirates, or Kuwait, or to Saudi terminals linked by pipeline with its richest fields. This would put out of commission not only Iran’s capacity, but also that of the richest producers in the world. The result of that escalation would be a barrel of oil not at a hundred, but at 150 or even 200 dollars. It defies imagination even to contemplate this scenario’s consequences for the global economy; it would be incalculable.
Two, the Iranians would incite a Shia uprising in Iraq, where as I’ve mentioned earlier they already have a great deal of control, notably through “Badr Brigades” which are an offshoot of the revolutionary Guards, over the Iraqi Interior Ministry. A great deal of violence against the Sunnis in Iraq is being perpetrated by people dressed in Iraqi security forces’ uniforms-and those are not pilfered uniforms, they are actually active-duty personnel who are freelancing in pursuit of greater sectarian strife.
Last but by no means least, the question is what kind of military response, from the United States or Israel, would be effective. I don’t think a ground war is on the cards at all. It is unknown if the air strikes would be effective against a highly dispersed network of centrifuges and against the well protected underground facility at Natantz, where the Iranians denied entry to international inspectors only three days ago. Even if Iran were to be frustrated in its immediate nuclear ambitions as the result of such a military action, the cost to the rest of the world would be enormous and the diplomatic standing of the United States, with Russia, China, not to mention the Islamic world, but also with its European partners and allies would be greatly diminished, much more so than in the aftermath of the Iraq war. It would also act as a powerful unifier within Iran itself. It would immediately pull the nation’s ranks behind Ahmadinejad and make any scenario that entails the moderates coming to the fore even less realistic than it is right now.
21 Aug 2006
Syria: The Weak Link in the Iran-Hezbollah Axis
by Srdja Trifkovic
Israel is reportedly considering the reopening of peace negotiations with Syria that have been suspended for the past seven years. This move-equally unwelcome to the Weekly Standard fringe in Washington and to President Ahmadinejad in Tehran-is long overdue. We have advocated it for the past two years.
The Washington Times reported on August 21 that , “[a]fter years of ignoring the possibility of talks with Syria because of the U.S. effort to isolate President Bashar Assad, a growing number of voices is calling on the Israeli government to consider talks with Damascus, which could help sever the central link between Hezbollah and its main weapons sponsor, Iran.” On the same day, Israeli Public Security Minister Avi Dichter stated that he’d be willing to return the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to Syria in return for peace. “In return for a true peace with Syria or with Lebanon,” he told Ha’aretz , “over those issues that from the standpoint of the land have a history, which we know and the Syrians know and the Lebanese know, I think that what we did with Egypt and with Jordan is legitimate here as well.”
Israel’s Defense Minister Amir Peretz suggested the possibility of negotiating with Syria last week, saying that the month-long conflict with Hizbullah may have created a new opportunity for renewed dialogue with Damascus. The Left is supportive: “In the short run, the mission has to be the separation of Syria from Hezbollah and Iran,” says Avshalom Vilan, a Knesset member from the dovish Meretz party. He pointed out that Arab-Israeli wars often have been followed by successful peace talks, notably the landmark treaty between Israel and Egypt that followed the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In off-the-record briefings, Israeli officials say it is better to have Syrian Presiident Bashar Assad on Israel’s side than to continue current diplomatic stalemate and allow him to arm himself for possible war in future. ‘Assad may be a bastard, but it is entirely possible that it would be better to have him in our camp,’ one official said in response to the reportsof new diplomatic overtures. “We must also take into account what can happen in case a war with Syria breaks out-either we will get a slap in the face or we will respond with a stronger blow that will topple Assad,” the official went on, “And then what will we have in the northern border? The Muslim Brotherhood at best, or an extreme model of Iraq or even Somalia at worst.”
Our regular readers may recall that we made this same point in April of last year, when we warned that “an Islamist alternative to Assad-or to any other secularist regime in the region, e.g. in Algiers-would prove far more detrimental to American interests than the status quo”:
Syria presents a diplomatic realist with many creative possibilities. Assad and the useless old guard he has inherited from his late father are both nervous and keen to make a deal with Washington if they are left in peace. The Syrians have removed their soldiers from Lebanon. although even that move-far from enhancing American interests-may play right into the hands of various Lebanese Islamist factions. They have signaled repeatedly that they are ready for a dialogue with Washington that may entail significant Syrian concessions . . . Assad Jr. may even accept a peace treaty with Israel, and let it keep some parts of Golan ‘on lease,’ if Syria is removed from Mr. Bush’s list of rogue states.
More recently we’ve noted that “in the Golan Heights, the area that Israel occupied from Syria in 1967 and has held ever since, things have been remarkably peaceful for decades. There are no skirmishes, no grenade launchings, no Kassam rocket firings-nothing. It’s one of the most peaceful boundaries in the Middle East.”
Assad’s connection with Iran can and should be broken. It is neither natural nor inevitable. He is a secularist, whereas Ahmadinejad is a millenarian Islamic visionary. He is an Alawite , whereas Hizbullah and their Iranian paymasters are “Twelver” Shiites. Last but by no means least he is an Arab, and therefore unlikely to be indifferent to the implications of Iran’s desire to project its power and influence across the Fertile Crescent and all the way to the Mediterranean. If Assad can be won over to the idea of a peace treaty with Israel, in return for Washington’s. recognition of the legitimacy of his regime, a key link in Iran’s strategic design will have been broken. Hizbullah cannot function if the lifeline from Damascus is severed.
Other Arab countries may publicly frown at this scenario while discretely supporting it . Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora clearly made the hint when he said last Sunday that Israel could take advantage of the political reshuffling after the war to cut a peace deal. The Arab world is aware of the connection between Iran and Hezbollah, and it is uncomfortable about the implications of Iran’s growing influence and stature in the region. Arab unease may be gleaned from the reaction of several key Arab governments-notably that of Saudi Arabia-to last month’s mayhem in Lebanon. While condemning Israeli attacks on civilian targets, Riyadh also expressed disapproval of “irresponsible” attacks that had invited such disproportionate retaliation. Even the 22-nation Arab League has criticized the Hezbollah. This does not mean that the Arabs have suddenly softened their view of the “Zionist entity,” but the League’s condemnation of Hezbollah for “unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts” was clearly aimed at Iran. It was the first time that the Arab world has criticized any Muslim entity attacking Israel, and it reflects the latent tension between Shia and Sunni Muslims on a wider scale.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert unsurprisingly continues to rule out any resumption of peace talks with Syria as long as Damascus supported “terrorism,” but that obstacle could be removed if Washington finally gives a green light to his government to make the right overtures to Assad. Given the choice between continuing to support Hizballah-in violation of UN resolutions, contrary to the wishes of his fellow Arab rulers, and at a rising cost to his international legitimacy-and ditching it in favor of a new regional arrangement underwritten by the United States that would make him an accepted player, we venture to predict that Syria’s president will chose the second option. It is even more likely that, given the right incentive, Assad would terminate all support for the insurgents in Iraq and help make the quagmire there more manageable for the United States.
On the credit side, Syria had never been guilty of a terrorist outragecomparable to the outrage of Lockerbie , yet Libya’s Gaddafi-having done his penance-has been rehabilitated. In the aftermath of 9-11 Damascus passed on to the United States hundreds of files on Al Qaeda and other anti-Western terrorist individuals and movements throughout the Middle East, many of which targeted Jordan, Saudi Arabia and others besides the United States. In an interview with the New York Times in 2004, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell said Syrian officials “gave me some information with respect to financial activities (of insurgents in Iraq) and how we can cooperate more fully on that.” In brief, Syria has the potential to become America’s more useful partner in the “War on Terror” than Saudi Arabia has ever been. Any “regime change” in Damascus remains a perilous proposition for as long as the Muslim Brotherhood represents the only likely alternative to Assad.
Even if the U.S. support for Israel’s approach to Syria is absent at this stage, it is worth remembering that every significant Arab-Israeli contact-from the Dayan-Tohami talks in Morocco that started the Israeli-Egyptian process, the contacts between Ephraim Halevy, acting on behalf of Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein, and the Israeli and Palestinian academics, who started things rolling in Oslo began as back channel contacts that initially had been kept secret from Washington.
11 Aug 2006
Britain’s Jihadist Fifth Column
by Srdja Trifkovic
The Islamic terrorist plot to blow up ten airliners en route from Great Britain to the United States is surprising only in one respect: It makes no sense for the Muslim diaspora in Europe to carry out terrorist acts since they can have Europe-the whole of Western Europe, anyway-if they play their hand right in the next 20-30 years. Blowing up airliners, or London Underground trains, is bad for the cause. It is not directed from “Islam Central”; it is literally “home-grown.”
Only a non- Chronicles reader will be puzzled by the fact that “mainstream” media all over the Western world have been reluctant to state three key facts about the British plot:
1. The 24 plotters arrested thus far are all Muslims;
2. 22 of them are UK-born Pakistanis, and two are British converts to Islam;
3. The plotters were motivated by Islam-by Muhammad’s faith as such, and not by some allegedly aberrant variety of the creed.
We’ve seen this same reluctance to name names with the rioting “youths” in France last fall. The ongoing scenario is becoming a tad tedious: (1) a bunch of murderously minded jihadists are arrested and accused of terrorist intent; (2) local Muslim “community activists” and selcted non-Muslim neighbors respond with a mix of indignation and denial, with the assurances of the suspects’ impeccable character, and accusations of anti-Muslim bias; (3) non-Muslim politicos go out of their way to reassure the Muslim community that it is loved and appreciated, and not in any way associated with the terrorists. It’s deja vu all over again.
This boringly predictable scenario is unfolding in England right now. “Stunned residents” of four English towns-Muslims, of course, although the Daily Mirror does not make it clear in its report -were upset: when “their quiet suburban lives were shattered when police swooped on neighbours suspected of being part of a huge terror plot to bomb airlines.” The suspects, we are told, included “two brothers who loved cricket, a university student, a builder, a pizza worker, a businessman and a dad-to-be.” The implication-that one’s love of cricket, or building buildings, or studying, or baking pizzas, or expecting a baby-is in some manner incompatible with Islaimc terrorism, is clearly made but not elaborated. What a million tabloid readers get instead is a nudge in the direction of righteous indignation at the treatment of poor, innocent Muslims:
One of the converts, Don Stewart-Whyte, was dragged from his car after an officer smashed the driver’s window. A neighbour said police had been lying in wait as he arrived home at High Wycombe with his Muslim wife. The 21-year-old switched to Islam six months ago and recently married after turning his back on a life of drugs and booze.
One can only hope that Don will go back to dope and booze, for his own good and that of his British neighbors. As for the other convert held, his name used to be Oliver Savant until he changed it to Ibrahim. His furious brother said “I’m outraged. We’re shocked and angry that we’re being put through this. He’s married, a newly-wed expecting a baby. Our parents are traumatised, as you would expect. There’s nothing that makes me think he’s linked to this and I’m confident the police will realise this has been a huge cock-up.”
By the time the cock-up is cleared circa 2050, when Ibrahim gets out of jail, he’ll be pleased to note that a simple majority of West European under-21s will be Muslim.
A mere four decades ago the suggestion that the working-class town of High Wycombe, or Birmingham-once a staid city of hard-working Midlanders-could become a hotbed of Islamic terrorism, would have sounded insane. Today it raises no eyebrows. The enormous growth and arrogant self-confidence of the Muslim immigrant community in Great Britain, coupled with the cultural enfeeblement and demographic decline of the English nation, has turned Birmingham and many other Victorian industrial cities into de facto self-governing Muslim ghettos. The formula was devised by Tariq Ramadan a decade ago: Muslims in the West should conduct themselves not as hyphenated citizens seeking to live by “common values” but as though they were already living in a Muslim-majority society .
Most British Muslims come from the Indian sub-continent. They are technically “British” but functionally, for the most part, Pakistanis or Bengalis. More significantly, their British-born offspring tend to consider themselves de facto autonomous, a community of believers opposed to the broader society of infidels. The result is a mature jihadist infrastructure, centered on a network of mosques and Islamic centers.
Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair is the villain of the piece. “What happened in America was not the work of Islamic terrorists, it was not the work of Muslim terrorists,” he declared after meeting a group of Muslim “community leaders” at 10 Downing Street, in the aftermath of 9-11. “It was the work of terrorists, pure and simple” who must not be honored “with any misguided religious justification,” because they “contravened all the tenets of Islam”:
It is . . . explicitly contrary to Islamic law to kill innocent civilians, to murder women and children and non-combatants. Islam is a peace-loving, tolerant, religion. Many of the world’s religions, indeed including Christianity, draw from the same spiritual heritage. We share the same values, and the same respect for the sanctity of human life . . . [W]e know of no specific threat in relation to this country and it is important that we are not alarmist about it. And I mean frankly some of the reports have been alarmist.
Echoing the Prime Minnister, two weeks after 9-11 former Home Office Minister John Denham pledged to cut out the “cancer of Islamophobia” infecting Britain, and declared that “the real Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance and understanding.” In line with the EU instructions he called on the media to avoid promoting “a distorted or caricatured or prejudiced” view of Muslims or the Islamic faith.
Dr. Richard Stone, chairman of the “Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia,” criticized the Blair government for not addressing “in a deep way” the anti-Muslim prejudice in Britain: “There is now . . . mounting concern that the already fragile foothold gained by Muslim communities in Britain is threatened by ignorance and intolerance.” He added that the only area where there had been major improvement was “within Muslim communities themselves.” The key finding of his commission was that 9-11 had made life more difficult for Muslims. It castigated British public bodies for failing to address “institutional Islamophobia” and called for changes in the law to betterprotect Muslim communities ( i.e ., introduce censorship) and “a major effort” ( i.e. , affirmative action and specific quotas) to bring more Muslims into public life.
The Director of Public Prosecutions expressed concern that the War on Terror is “alienating whole communities” in Great Britain. Colelctively they have all contributed to the creation of a culture of Muslim victimhood in which “Islamophobia,” defined both as a legal crime and a moral outrage, inhibited all serious debate in Great Britain after 9-11 on the causes of terrorism.
Since then thousands of people have been murdered in jihadist attacks, in Bali, Moscow, Casablanca, Istanbul, Madrid, Beslan, Sharm-el-Sheik, Nairobi, and dozens of other places. Were it not for the arrests on August 10, several thousand airline travelers would have been added to the tally.
Can the British establishment learn anything, ever? The answer, on current form, is a clear “no.” Just over a year ago, on July 7, 2005, London’s transportation network was hit by four British-born and bred Muslim youths. The suicide bombers were four British citizens, three of them Pakistani by parentage. They attended British state schools, traveled on British passports, and spoke with Yorkshire accents. They also hated England and its people with such intensity that they were prepared to sacrifice their own lives in order to kill as many of them as possible. They were coldly premeditated, practicing their attacks on a dry run on June 28, nine days before their bombs killed 52 people and wounded 200. Mohammad Sidique Khan, the lead suicide bomber, recorded a video in which he declared , “We are at war and I am a soldier.”
The ranks of those potential soldiers are increasing, paradoxically enough, as the British-born young Muslims come of age. “What is striking about most second- and third-generation British Muslims is their intense religiosity. Asked how much of a role Islam played in their everyday lives, 45 percent of the respondents in the student survey said it played a role in everything while 48 percent said it played a role in most things. This is in sharp contrast with a comparable survey of the British public in which 66 percent said religion was not an important factor in their lives.”
According to a detailed survey of the attitudes of British Muslims prepared for the Daily Telegraph in the immediate aftermath of the London bombings of July 7, 2005, one in four sympathizes with motives of terrorists and six per cent insist that the bombings were “fully justified.” In absolute numbers this means there are over 100,000 Muslims in Great Britain who are either prepared to carry out terrorist acts, or ready to support those who do. And a substantial majority, 56 percent, say that, whether or not they sympathize with the bombers, they can at least understand why they behave in this way. The sheer scale of Muslim alienation from British society that the survey reveals is remarkable: nearly a third of them, 32 percent, believe that “Western society is decadent and immoral and that Muslims should seek to bring it to an end.”
The plot to bring down America-bound planes should not have come as a surprise. It has been known for years that trained al-Qaeda terrorists were present in the United Kingdom and operated in classic small cell structures. In December 2002, only a day after the arrest of seven Muslims suspected of terrorism in London and Edinburgh, British government sources acknowledged the existence of terrorist cells in the country and predicted that the most likely threat would take the form of a “explosives left in a public place” and attacks on transport networks.
Left by whom exactly? The British establishment remains adamant that the perpetrators are by definition apostates from Islam. When asked if the bombings across London on July 7, 2005, were the work of Islamic terrorists, the deputy assistant commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, Brian Paddick, responded that the culprits “certainly were not Islamic terrorists, because Islam and terrorism simply don’t go together.” He repeated, almost word for word, Tony Blair’s assurances on the subject given four years earlier.
In November 2005, Blair himself traveled to Leeds to meet with young Muslims in an attempt to understand how three “born-and-bred Yorkshire lads” (the fourth bomber, Lindsay, was a naturalized citizen born in Jamaica) could turn on their fellow citizens in such a murderous manner. His reference to the morbid jihadist trio as “lads”-an English term of endearment for the youthful male person, derived from Middle English ladde-is indicative of the fact that, after 7/7, he has learnt nothing and forgotten nothing.
Paddick’s boss, the Met’s Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, is out-Blairing his better known namesake. Britain’s most powerful policeman belongs to the same milieu as the Prime Minister: he has an Oxford degree, a Miro on his office wall, and the propensity to ascribe to Al-Qaeda “a late 19th-century nihilism.” He takes pride in his force’s “cultural and community resources unit” that enables police to call in Somalian-born officers to a Somalian case, but admits that “we do have some trouble providing Inuits.” Six months before the London bombs he made the unbelievable statement that “there is nothing wrong with being an Islamic fundamentalist.” When a journalist suggested that the family of Theo van Gogh, the Dutch film maker who was killed for questioning Islamic attitudes to women, could beg to differ on that one, Sir Ian replied ,
There were lots of fundamentalist Muslims who didn’t shoot him . . . Look at Jerry Springer. Christian fundamentalists objected very strongly but they didn’t shoot the producer. And nor do 99.9 percent of Muslims want the sort of extremism that leads to violence. They know the consequences of terrorists claiming to be Muslim, so our job is to help.
The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, went one better by blaming Britain’s role in the war in Iraq for the explosions in his city. He also compared an outspoken Muslim scholar who backs suicide bombings, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, to the late Pope John XXIII, because both believed that their faiths must engage with the world. While giving evidence to a House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into the terrorist attacks in London, Livingston said that Sheik Qaradawi is “very similar to the position of Pope John XXIII. An absolutely sane Islamist . . . Of all the Muslim thinkers in the world today he is the most positive force for change.”
Far from being a “moderate,” the sheikh is a mainstream member of the Muslim Brotherhood. His Ikhwani affiliations led to his imprisonment in Egypt in 1949, then in 1954-1956, and again in 1962. For some years Al-Qaradawi has been a media superstar in the Arab world, thanks to his regular program Al-Shariaa wa Al-Haya ( Sharia and Life ) on Al-Jazeera TV network. He has called on Muslims to fight foreigners in Iraq-troops and civilians-because they are occupiers, and fighting them is a religious duty. And yet in 2004 he came to Britain’s capital and spoke at the “European Council of Fatwa and Research” in London’s City Hall, and warmly welcomed by none other than the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. (“You are truly, truly welcome!”) At a public lecture during his stay, the good, sane sheikh asserted that female rape victims should be punished if they were dressed immodestly when they were raped. In his opinion, “For her to be absolved from guilt, a raped woman must have shown good conduct.”
With Messrs. Livingstone, Blair, Blair, and other such elected and appointed officials in charge, the Muslims can proceed with their shenanigans unobserved and unhindered. It is to be feared that if and when a plot is brought to fruition, possibly on a grander scale than the one thwarted earlier this week, the sleepwalking of those who are supposed to protect Britain will become more determined than ever before. With stern illiberalism that belies their self-professed respect for other cultures and belief systems they will continue to deny respect to the bombers who sacrifice their lives for the sake of their faith by denying them the right to define themselves.
Blairism is all-pervasive in the academia and EU-funded think-tank community that informs the policy-makers. “The bombs that killed more than 50 people in the heart of London in July served only to reinforce the realisation across the EU that more effective action is needed to ensure the integration of migrants, and their children, into our diverse societies,” writes Sarah Spencer of the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society at Oxford University, in an European Union-sponsored publication. We need to move beyond security and the fear of radicalization, she asserts, which “set a narrow and potentially divisive context” ( i.e ., law and order) for an agenda that “has to embrace broader outcomes,” such as greater access by the Muslim community to jobs, housing, health, education, poverty and civic participation. Such measures should be regulated by “an EU-wide approach to the integration of migrants,” Ms. Spencer concludes.
Historian David Starkey agrees. Addressing The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival in October 2005 he warned that “Britain is in danger of sleepwalking into a new era of religious intolerance after the July 7 bombings” and that the religious intolerance of previous centuries could be repeated unless society reconsiders its attitute. He voiced alarm at the trend towards “thought crimes” encapsulated in anti-terrorism legislation that include expressing any sympathy for suicide bombers. The key to present-day threats, Starkey concludes , is tolerance: “In the same way that a multitude of religious sects were allowed to continue without threat of being burnt at the stake after the Restoration, Britain today should tolerate Islam.”
The thought that British Muslims may be loath to integrate and accept being one among a multitude is inadmissible to the elite mindset. Even in the mundane Britain of commerce and banking, Islam has successfully planted the seeds of its acceptance as a legitimately parallel structure with the non-interest-based, sharia -compliant “Islamic mortgages” , which every self-respecting High Street home loan provider now feels obliged to offer:
It was an unusual sight-hundreds of businessmen listening attentively while a small group of top-notch Islamic scholars instructed them on the intricacies of Muslim ethics. These were bankers, and what they wanted to know was how they could do better business with Muslims. The Islamic Real Estate Finance conference . . . came after The Bank of England’s request for high street banks to create financial solutions for Muslims . . . Islamic scholars were called in to advise on the Sharia-compliance of the new mortgages. On the whole they were happy, but some expressed concern that the banks may be using money in non-permissible activities, like financing breweries or non-halal meat companies.
This is but one manifestation of the ongoing legitimization of the sharia as a legal and moral code with a legitimate role in the public life of Great Britain. It has penetrated culture, high as well as popular. As for the British courts, they are already Sharia-compliant. A key tenet of shariais that non-Muslims cannot try Muslims, or even testify against them. A judge at London’s Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, accepts the concept. He may not be familiar with the Islamic law but he observed its commandments when he banned Jews and Hindus-and anyone married to one-from serving on the jury in the trial of Abdullah el-Faisal, accused of soliciting the murder of “unbelievers.” The judge reportedly announced, “For obvious reasons, members of the jury of the Jewish or Hindu faith should reveal themselves, even if they are married to Jewish or Hindu women, because they are not fit to arbitrate in this case.” One can only speculate what the reaction would be if equally “obvious reasons” were invoked in an attempt to exclude Muslims from a trial of an alleged Islamophobe.
At the time of this writing Muslims control large areas of dozens of industrial cities in the Midlands and Yorkshire, from which non-Muslims-by no means only the white ones-move out as soon as they can. Both the “moderates” and the “radicals” believe in the goal of an Islamized Britain:
There are two main religious traditions among Pakistani-British Muslims. The Barelwi majority believe in a slow evolution, gradually consolidating their gains and finally achieving an Islamic state. The Deobandi minority argue for a quicker process using politics and violence to achieve the same result. Ultimately, both believe in the goal of an Islamic state in Britain where Muslims will govern their own affairs and, as the finishing touch, everyone else’s affairs as well.
The latest terrorist plot is a logical outcome of the Blairite forma mentis, the size of Muslim immigration into the country, and the dynamics of that growing community’s symbiotic interaction with the elite consensus. Even before the Rushdie affair allowed Muslims in Britain to flex their muscles in open opposition to the law of the land, a Declaration issued by the Islamic Foundation in Leicester stated, urbi et orbi , that its goal is to change the existing British society into “an Islamic society based on the Qur’an and the Sunna and make Islam, which is a code for entire life, supreme and dominant, especially in the socio-political spheres.”
A generation later mosques and Islamic centers have multiplied all over Britain and provide the backbone to terrorist support network. The Home Office approved visas to Muslim clerics, primarily from Pakistan, sympathetic to the radicals. Mosques provide venues for the faithful “to hail Osama bin Laden as a hero and to evoke the ‘positive outcomes’ of the attacks in New York and Washington.”
The way in which the war against terrorism is waged in today’s Downing Street resembles the atmosphere at Rastenburg in 1944. With the Blairites in charge T.S. Eliot may yet be proved right in his warning that the West would end, “not with a bang but a whimper.” Some decades earlier, in 1899, 26 year old Winston Churchill expressed hope“that if evil days should come upon our own country, and the last army which a collapsing Empire could interpose between London and the invader were dissolving in rout and ruin, that there would be some-even in these modern days-who would not care to accustom themselves to a new order of things and tamely survive the disaster.”
Even Churchill’s precience could not have envisaged the possibility that “the invader” would have his friends and allies at No. 10, Downing Street, and London’s County Hall. The reality is absurd and the principals involved are abnormal. Only when Blair, Livingstone & Co. are permanently ousted will it become possible for Britain to defend herself, and to be herself once again.
26 Jul 2006
Lebanon: Deja Vu All Over Again
by Srdja Trifkovic
As Secretary of State Rice continued her round of meetings in the Middle East, Israeli troops and the Hezbollah fought a fierce battle at Bint J’bail in south Lebanon and at least 40 rockets were fired at northern Israel on Tuesday morning, killing a teenage girl and wounding three people in the Israeli Arab town of Maghar. Dr. Rice, after meeting separately with Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, declared the United States wants an “urgent and enduring” peace where problems are solved without war. “It is time for a new Middle East,” she declared, “it is time to say to those that don’t want a different kind of Middle East that we will prevail. They will not.”
The problem in Lebanon is that for the second time in a generation those who do not subscribe to Dr. Rice’s platitudes hold sway. But who exactly is doing what to whom, and why? The following is a transcript of Srdja Trifkovic’s interview on the situation in Lebanon, broadcast last Monday (July 24) on Issues, Etc ., with The Rev. Todd Wilken on KFUO (St. Louis, MO). The Rev. Wilken is an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. His first question to Dr. Trifkovic-a regular guest on his program-concerned the viability of Lebanon as a polity in the aftermath of the latest round of violence.
TRIFKOVIC: The country of “Lebanon” is no more. Within Lebanon we used to have a Christian community, a Druze community a Sunni Muslim and a Shia Muslim community co-existing in an uneasy harmony before 1975. When the civil war started-and it was ignited at that time by the forces external to Lebanon, particularly the PLO-this precarious balance collapsed. After the halting recovery of the late 1990s and the early 2000s one had the impression that we were back at square one, that Lebanon was capable of overcoming the ghosts of the past and becoming once again the commercial and entrepreneurial center of the Middle East. Once again, however, there were external forces that wanted to use Lebanon as their turf, as a playing field for their interests that had nothing to do with the interests of the Lebanese. That’s where we come to the Hezbollah.
Hezbollah is not the PLO, it’s no Hamas either-it is not an indigenous Palestinian movement that seeks to remove Israel from the occupied territories. It is a Shi’ite sectarian movement that has the objective of pursuing the interests of the theocracy in Teheran that seeks to create a Shi’ite domain that will extend from Iran across the Fertile Crescent, across the Euphrates and the Tigris, into Syria and Lebanon, all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. Hezbollah is not a home-grown, spontaneously developed “Lebanese” movement. It gets its weaponry, its supplies and its funds from Iran. Even its rockets contain the same explosives that the British Army has detected in the ordnance used against their troops in Basra, in the Shi’ite south of Iraq.
The only mystery in this sad story is why are the Israelis being so indiscriminate in their response. Two decades ago they were capable and skillful in separating the Druze and Sunni and Shia Muslims from the Christians. In southern Lebanon they had allies like Major Haddad controlling the border and the area to the Litani river, thus preventing attacks on Israel proper. Current attacks by the Israeli Defense Force on anything that moves in Lebanon are generating support for the Hezbollah not only among Muslims-including those who are not Shi’ites-but also among Lebanon’s Christians. Once the rockets start falling and the infrastructure is targeted, you don’t blame the force that has inserted itself into your daily life, you blame those who press the trigger that releases the missiles.
Q: What is the goal of the current operation from the Israeli side?
TRIFKOVIC: Admittedly Israel has the right to defend itself, but I am puzzled by the way it goes round doing it. In Lebanon you have a multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-denominational mosaic of different communities and different interests. You need to decide which one party to draw to your camp, and how to focus on another that you want to defeat. What Israel seems to be doing right now is to turn every segment of the Lebanese opinion against itself. It is simply not rational. Yes, a few soldiers have been killed, a couple of them were abducted, and indeed this was an aggressive act by the Hezbollah. To react by effectively blockading the entire country, by targeting its only international airport, by turning every Lebanese-Druze, Shiite, Sunni and Christian, Maronite as well as Orthodox-into potential Israeli target, doesn’t make sense. I am not saying this just for the sake of moral condemnation. If you want to play geopolitics, you need to determine within Lebanon who is your friend, who is your foe, and who are the neutrals. You need to dose your response in the way that will be perceived by the recipients of the message in terms of reward or punishment. The Israeli Defense Force should re-learn the lesson of the 1980s. Back then they were perfectly capable of knowing who were their friends in Lebanon and who were their foes. Right now they are turning everyone in Lebanon into enemies.
Q: How would you comment the US diplomatic reaction?
TRIFKOVIC: For the time being the US line is that we don’t need a ceasefire for as long as the Hezbollah-which the US regards as a terrorist organization-remains in place, and its infrastructure remain intact. The problem is that you cannot dismantle Hezbollah by air strikes. Yes, you can hit a headquarters, you can kill a local leader or two, but you’ll also kill many civilians in the process. This is inevitable because these people deliberately insert themselves into the centers of civilian population, just as the Bosnian Muslims deliberately inserted their mortars and artillery pieces into the heart of Sarajevo, so that the Serbian response would be taken as the proof that we were dealing with genocidal and unreasonable people.
The Israelis have to decide what is their military objective. Right now what we have is an all-round response to any real or perceived provocation or threat that hits everything that moves. On the one hand the Israelis say to the Lebanese, evacuate from the chronically unstable areas such as Tyre and Sidon. On the other hand, as soon as they see the vehicles moving along the winding road to the north, they launch missiles and the local hospitals have to deal with the dead and the wounded. It doesn’t make sense. The Israelis need to differentiate, within Lebanon: who are their friends, who are their foes, and who are the neutrals who may bed wooed to their side?
Right now it is clear that many Lebanese Shiites in the south are the enemy. The Sunnis are only potential enemies, and their attitude will largely depend on what you do with Syria. If we persist in treating Syria as a part of “the Axis of Evil,” Bashir Assad-the president who inherited the mantle from his father-will not go along with any peaceful solution. It would make sense for him to follow the line of “the worse-the better.” But he is not an Islamic fundamentalist. He is a pragmatist who is simply waiting for an offer, for a plum juicy enough that would make him say “OK, I’ll give up on the Hezbollah, I’ll cut my links to them.” If he were to do so, the Iranians would be hard-pressed to re-supply their clients.
Syria is not interested in geopolitical designs, it is primarily interested in gaining foreign approval, the recognition of the legitimacy of its current regime. Bashir Assad, a doctor who was trained in London, does not share the messianic, millenarian outlook of the Hezbollah leadership or of the Iranian president, Ahmadinejad. He is simply going along with the trend because he feels that in this admittedly unpleasant company he has the opportunity to pursue his primary objective, which is personal security and the guarantee of an unhindered, self-perpetuating personal rule in Damascus. If and when Israel and Washington are prepared to tell him, “OK, Bashir, you can die in bed forty years hence, for as long as you cut off you links to the Hezbollah, for as long as you lease the Golan heights to Israel on a 99-year basis without necessarily recognizing the finality of the occupation,” I believe that he may be amenable to a meaningful dialogue. It has not been tried yet. [.]
Israel hopes that by getting Syria and Iran more deeply involved, it will get the United States involved too, to the point where it cannot retreat without losing face. It is indeed in Israel’s interest to have a regime change both in Teheran and in Damascus. It is not a matter of conspiracy theories, it is not an issue that belongs to the fringes of the mainstream discourse, it is a fact of life. Israel would like the United States to do in Teheran and in Damascus what it has done in Baghdad. Israel does not have the wherewithal to pull it off, however, and right now Israel is squeamish about causing rifts even with Damascus. In the Golan Heights, the area that Israel occupied from Syria in 1967 and has held ever since, things have been remarkably peaceful for decades. There are no skirmishes, no grenade launchings, no Kassam rocket firings-nothing. It’s one of the most peaceful boundaries in the Middle East.
Hezbollah started the latest bout of violence in order to remove the attention from Iran, from its nuclear program that had been hitting the headlines throughout the month of June. Even the West Europeans, often willing to give Iran the benefit of the doubt, were losing patience. They were leaning to the US position that the Iranian nuclear program does not look all that peaceful, that it has all the ingredients, including enrichment, that may fundamentally change the strategic equation in the Middle East. We don’t need another nuclear power in the region, and even the Iranians, in their moments of diplomatic sanity, repeat the mantra that they do not intend to go that way. But if electricity generation was their only motive, then enrichment to the point of producing weapons-grade plutonium doesn’t make sense.
So, encouraging Hezbollah, which is inspired, supplied and indoctrinated by the Iranian Shi’ite ideology, to start attacking Israeli targets in the second week of July, is not all that surprising if you look at it in the context of the International Atomic Energy Commission’s probe into the Iranian program. For as long as the Iranians, through their Hezbollah proxies, remain active in Lebanon and remain capable of causing major international crises, they can hope that their goal of developing a nuclear device will remain on the back burner, less visible to the world.
07 Jul 2006
North Korea: The Problem, The Solution
by Srdja Trifkovic
The political turmoil surrounding the launching of North Korea’s seven mostly short-range missiles on July 4 and 5 has temporarily concealed this dismal, starving half-country’s fundamental irrelevance to the world, while underlining its curious desire to challenge even those powers-notably China-on whose benevolence it is utterly dependent.
The fact that North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Il decided to go ahead with the launchings on the Fourth of July indicates that the gesture was meant to create an impression in Washington; so far, so conventional. That he has not taken much heed of the fact that the have also warned Kim against the tests, and expressed their dissatisfaction once they went ahead, is perhaps even more significant because it reflect something that is going on inside North Korea’s ultra-secretive leadership structure. In brief, it is possible to see the tests as a temporary victory for the military within the leadership. The generals have been unhappy with the attempts by the technocrats to try and attract more foreign investment. The latter wanted to create an industrial park along the Chinese-North Korean border which would be the model for similar experiments elsewhere, and which would seek to replicate the beginning of China’s economic opening in the areas adjoining Hong Kong in the Guandung Province 20 years ago.
If that was the plan, it backfired: the military significance of the launchings proved to be negligible. Of the half-dozen devices that have been launched, only one was a long-range missile of the kind launched over Japan and into the Pacific in 1997. The updated model, Taepodong II, did not do well, however. It crashed into the sea close to the launching pad, and some heads are certain to roll in the program top brass. It seems that the North Korean military, fearful of that possibility, decided to launch several other rockets-old but reliable-at the same time, in order to conceal the failure of the one test that really mattered. Had the Taepodong II proved itself more reliable, some parts of the U.S. Pacific coastline theoretically could have become vulnerable to the North Korean threat.
It remains to be seen if and when the North Koreans will prove capable of improving their guidance systems and establishing a permanently functioning fire control center. Nevertheless, it has to be remembered that North Korea probably has at least two and perhaps as many as half-dozen nuclear devices, and that even with a rickety delivery system it may seek to intimidate it neighbors and adversaries. It has one of the last deeply paranoid, Stalinist regimes in the world, and it is ruled by a man who let two million of his own subjects die of starvation, literally, over the past decade, while investing unknown millions into the nuclear program.
All regional players see that program as a problem. Until now all U.S. dealings concerning North Korea’s weapons program have been taking place not in the form of direct, bilateral meetings, but in the context of the Group of Five-China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States-and the Bush administration will likely seek to maintain this framework. As I explained to Todd Wilken last Wednesday in a regular interview for his excellent radio program ,
We are talking about a regime that does not function on the basis of the usual costs-and-benefits calculus that guides foreign policy making in most other countries. We are talking, let me repeat, about one of the most secretive and most paranoid regimes in the world. Whenever we discussed, during the Cold War, the going on behind the walls of the Kremlin, there was always the assumption that you had the “moderates” on one side and the “hard-lines” on the other. The moderates were generally assumed to want more economic reform and foreign investment, while the hard-liners wanted more weaponry. In North Korea’s case this simplistic model is quite true. Kim Jong Il seems to have decided that more of the same, in the footprints of his father, is far safer for the stability of the regime, than the path of modernization that Deng instituted in China after Mao. In Kim Jong Il’s scheme of things the stability of the regime, which means his own unassailable position of course, is the primary motivating factor. Issues such as economic growth, keeping people satisfied, feeding them, or-in more general terms-conducting policies that are in line with the national interest of the country soberly defined, is simply not any part of Kim Jong Il’s calculus. The maintenance of the dynamics of his regime’s stability, which first his father and then he have been able to maintain for almost 60 years, is obviously the highest priority.
In calibrating the Administration’s response, part of the problem is that Seoul is trying hard to avoid any further escalation of tensions with the North. The South Koreans are the ones who would suffer the most if North Korea were to spiral completely out of control. Some Southerners believe that the alleged U.S.-Japanese collusion in preparing a hard-line response carries an even greater risk to regional stability than the North Korean action itself. It will be a challenge for the United States to see how North Korea can be penalized while taking care that the relations with Seoul do not deteriorate. The best framework remains the group of five, and above all working closely with China, which has greater influence in Pyongyang than any other power. China can remind Comrade Kim that without Chinese investment and without Chinese aid, the stability of his regime may be undermined. The long-suffering North Koreans are well aware that their cousins to the south are one of the most developed and richest nations not only in Asia, but also in the world. The one warning from Peking that he would understand, and to which he may respond, is that if things do not improve China herself may start looking for an alternative to the current leadership. China is riled not because of the missiles as much as because North Korea was acting in defiance of her stated wishes, and in the Orient “saving face” is an important issue in foreign policy making. China wants to be perceived as the regional hegemon, or at least as the first among equals in the Pacific Rim area, and for the North Koreans to show defiance in such a public way is an open challenge to the leadership in Peking.
Washington should suggest to Peking a creatively astute scenario that would test Kim’s true intentions and possibly enable America to withdraw its troops from the Korean peninsula. The new policy should assume that the desire for security and self-preservation, rather than aggressive expansionism, provides the clue to Pyongyang’s behavior. That also happens to be the view of the country most directly affected by the North’s nuclear program, South Korea. Its foreign minister Yoon Young-kwan, warned years ago that if North Korea believes that Washington seeks regime change, “it will probably never give up its nuclear option; on the contrary, it will cling more desperately to the nuclear option as the last resort.”
The assumption may be wrong, of course, and Kim Jong-Il may be a deluded megalomaniac who is developing nuclear weapons in order to pursue a policy of external aggression. The United States has no better way of testing the North’s intentions than saying “yes” to its key demand for security assurance. President Bush should use the Group of Five framework to send the message to the “Beloved Leader” in Pyongyang that he is willing to consider a conference that would result in the signing of the formal peace treaty ending the Korean War and in a pact recognizing the status quo in the peninsula. In return, a detailed agreement that will terminate and irrevocably dismantle the North’s nuclear program should be demanded, including a watertight inspection system and complete transparency.
Such concessions would cost the U.S. nothing. Since Washington is not contemplating a second Korean war simply for the sake of liberating Kim’s long-suffering subjects from the blessings of socialism, the pledge is not at odds with Washington’s strategic doctrine. The losers will be the people of North Korea, who will continue to languish under one of the worst governments in the world. That is regrettable, perhaps, but irrelevant to the American strategic calculus. At the same time Washington should warn Pyongyang of the consequences of North Korea’s refusal to accept what would be an eminently reasonable offer. “If you start playing games and start adding new conditions to the proposed deal,” Mr. Bush could tell Mr. Kim, “I’ll finally know that you are a rogue who wants to threaten and intimidate others, and by God I’ll bully, demonize, subvert and starve you for ever.” And he’d enjoy saying that.
I suggested in Chronicles over three years ago that if the North refuses to accept a reasonable deal, the United States should nevertheless withdraw its troops from the Korean peninsula and let those most affected by Kim’s obstinacy deal with him as they deem fit:
The policy of disengagement ought to include a green light to Seoul to develop its own nuclear deterrent, coupled with discrete technical assistance to speed the program up. The Ford Administration forced South Korea to abandon its budding nuclear weapons program in the 1970s, while foolishly agreeing not to withdraw American soldiers in return. The process should now be reversed, and the granting of a free nuclear hand to Seoul should accompany the U.S. withdrawal. South Korea has a strong civilian nuclear program with many dual-use activities in place, a physical infrastructure and a technical capability that could result in a credible deterrent within months, rather than years.
The U.S. military intervention in Korea in the summer of 1950 was necessary and just. The fact of communist aggression was blatant and the implications of allowing it to succeed were ominous. President Truman’s response unexpectedly received the United Nations’ approval in a moment of Soviet absent-mindedness and several countries contributed troops, but-regardless of the fiction of “U.N. forces” of Cold War communiques-the war was an American affair, fought overwhelmingly by its men and in its geopolitical interest. For about one generation after the war it was admittedly necessary to maintain U.S. forces in South Korea, a weak and initially devastated country ruled by unpopular regimes and ridden by internal dissent. Neither Chairman Mao nor Leonid Brezhnev could be trusted to keep Kim Il-Sung in check.
Over the past two decades, however, the equation has changed on all fronts. South Korea has become one of the most successful economies in the world, and the third largest Asian “tiger.” It is currently ranking No. 12 globally, a capitalist success story of the first order that out-produces Russia and has the financial and scientific potential to become a regional military power. At the same time, North Korea has descended into the nightmare of a peculiarly Oriental brand of Stalinism that combines crude militarism, mindless personality cult, and abject poverty. In addition, both Russia and China are more interested in the economic benefits of trading with the South than in the embarrassing, outdated legacy of their past links with the North.
Removing the American umbrella from South Korea would be beneficial to both sides. The United States would be disengaged from a part of the world where the dangers of continued military presence vastly exceed any possible benefits. South Korea should not remain dependent on Washington for its defense. Even now Seoul’s military is qualitatively better than that of the North. It is backed by a larger reserve, much stronger economic base, and a network of friendly states. As South Korea acknowledges in its own defense reports, for years it chose to focus on economic development at the expense of military strength, which it could do, secure in the protection by the United States.
American withdrawal would prompt South Korea finally to become a mature, self-reliant regional power fully responsible for its self-protection, as befits one of the most highly developed economies in the world. It would also force it to diversify its portfolio of foreign contacts, possibly leading to a Russian-South Korean or a Chinese-South Korean alliance, either of which is preferable to an open-ended American guarantee. Furthermore, once Seoul develops its own nuclear devices, a local balance of terror would be established in the Korean Peninsula. It would result in a cold but predictable peace as reliably as the “mutually assured destruction” provided it on the global scale during the Cold War.
Some South Koreans are bound to start dragging their feet while simultaneously clamoring for continued U.S. security guarantee. It would not be the first time, but they should be told in no uncertain terms that the game is up: America has no national interest in retaining troops in Korea or in continuing to protect Seoul. Old habits may die hard, but the 50-year habit of garrisoning South Korea is neither sentimentally nor strategically addictive. It has to be kicked because it is dangerous, expensive, and unnecessary.
Only by removing the tripwire can America finally force South Korea (as well as Japan) to upgrade its military and to assume the full economic and political burden of defending itself. We should do it in our own interest, but also for their own good. They resented the legal immunity enjoyed by American soldiers, they disliked the American Yongsan compound in the middle of Seoul, and they complained that they were not the masters of their own destiny whenever there was a crisis with the North. America should remove those irritants so that South Korea may finally come of age. A strategic anachronism five decades old would thus be finally ended. Almost forty thousand military personnel could be discharged and some hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money saved. It is to be hoped that would not mean beefing up more exciting missions around the world, such as bringing democracy to Iraq, securing equal rights to Afghan women, and making the Balkans even safer for jihad than the region is today.
29 Jun 2006
We Can’t Solve the Problem, But We Can Maintain It
by Srdja Trifkovic
In this article, Srdja Trifkovic interviews Dr. Mordechai Kedar of BESA Center at Bar Ilan in Israel.
In Israel retired senior military officers, especially intelligence officers, are more likely to go into the academe than their colleagues in Europe or America. It is assumed, with some justification, that such background is conducive to a “realist” approach to international and security affairs. A seasoned military man is more likely than a life-long academic to accept the Hobbesian character of the world, and less likely to be fired either by the millenarian notions of Eretz Yisrael of the Right or by the often wishful thinking of the dovish Left .
Mordechai Kedar had spent a quarter-century with the Israeli military intelligence before joining the prestigious Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv. He also lectures in Arabic and Middle East studies at the University. A frequent guest of many TV channels, including those in the Arab world, Dr. Kedar is considered a leading Israeli expert on modern Islam and regime and society in the Arab world. His doctorate was on Syria, and he retains a particular interest in Syrian affairs. Last fall he coined the phrase “nucleotheism” that has gained wide currency in the debate about Iran’s nuclear program.
Thanks to his professional experience that has taken him to both sides of the divide and to his complete fluency in Arabic, Kedar is reputed to have a firm grip on the “real life” in the Middle East. As a self-described moderate Zionist with a long history of personal involvement with efforts to promote peace and understanding between Israelis and Arabs, he accepts that we live in a world in which conflict and power are dominant-but need to be tempered by reason. He started our conversation by declaring that at the outset of the Oslo peace processin the early 1990s he was its wholehearted supporter:
KEDAR : I thought that this might lead to some kind of modus vivendi between the peoples of this land. Neither Jews nor Arabs were going to grow wings and fly away, and my military intelligence background had made me a realist: the two sides don’t like each other too much, and since neither can hope to achieve its maximalist goals, it would be better for all to have two separate entities living side by side, peacefully as much as possible. This is what I saw as the goal, this is how I understood the measures taken during the Oslo process, and this is what I assumed was the intention on both sides.
By the late nineties-I would say around 1998 and 99-I started having doubts as to what the Palestinians were really intending in the long term. In spite of the fact that they were talking of the two-state solution, I did not see this notion coming down from the leadership, from the leading elite of their society, into the discourse of the community, to the lower echelons of the society. The acceptance of the notion that there would be two states did not penetrate into the media or the school system. I was concerned to see that the schoolbooks printed in 1995 by the Palestinian Authority still contained the old political message. It was still upheld by the media in the PA. That message was filled with ambiguity. They were no longer openly proclaiming the intention to destroy Israel, they were not saying of the peace process “this is just the first slice of the salami,” but the hint was there, just as much in what they were saying as in what they were not saying. The kind of language that would prepare the population for the acceptance of the two-state solution was notably absent.
Q: Is it not fair to say that the hurdle for the Palestinian leadership was considerable, that this new discourse could not be developed overnight in a society steeped in the sense of victimhood and injustice?
KEDAR : For two years, three years, you can drag your feet and come up with the reasons-we are not ready yet, we need to prepare, we didn’t print the new textbooks yet, we need to edit them-you know, at first one could accept such excuses at face value. After about four years, however, during which I did not see any sign of real attempt to change the prevailing discourse on their side, I started having doubts about their real intentions. Those doubts were initially focused on their treatment of the problem of refugees. The Palestinian rhetoric still focused on them returning to their homes-in Israel, including those who were not even born there. Remember that in the late 90s it was fifty years after the War of Independence of 1947-48, and yet in Lebanon and other countries the refugees and their descendents were still kept in camps, they were still prevented from integrating and leading normal lives. It was obvious that someone wanted to keep them that way, in order to keep up the pressure.
Quite apart from my job at that time, in the mid-’90s as a citizen I had my dreams and my expectations. By the late ’90s I would have expected some Palestinian attitudes and rhetoric to change, just as ours had changed in the optimistic spirit of those times. It never happened! I was forced to recognize that the Palestinians were not prepared to tackle the issue of refugees in any manner that would at least implicitly allow for some way of solving that issue other than the influx into Israel of hundreds of thousands of their children and grandchildren born abroad. It was over that issue in particular that I started having doubts about their good faith and intentions. Those doubts were strengthened with the outbreak of the Intifada.
Furthermore, at that time the Palestinian media, notably their radio, started to deny any historical connection between Jerusalem and the Jewish religion, while making extravagant claims of their own-claims that were based on the fictitious “night journey” to heaven that Muhammad allegedly made from the Rock on the Temple Mount while he was still in Mecca. This point may seem obscure to an outsider, but in the context of the “peace process” it was important-and not only for symbolic reasons. Instead of using the language of reconciliation that would accept the legitimacy of all the faiths’ presence in Jerusalem, the Palestinians were actually escalating the rhetoric which aimed to establish their exclusive claim to Jerusalem, and they were doing it on explicitly Islamic grounds. It was clear that any Muslim who declared readiness to negotiate on the future of Jerusalem, would be putting his head on the block. He would be violating a basic tenet of Islam.
What I saw by the end of the nineties is that on those two issues, Jerusalem and the refugees, the Palestinians were actually getting more intransigent than before the beginning of the Oslo process: “we’d rather be killed than give up” was a common, often repeated theme. They were doing it even though they knew that on those issues-on the Jewish identity linked to Jerusalem and on the so-called “right of return”-Israel could not give in because it concerned its existence. On all other issues, on the settlements and resources, we could make concessions and solve them by exchanging land, by various technical solutions.
Q: It has been suggested that the Palestinians were potentially amenable to the notion of a generous compensation package for the refugees, and that the problem of their later intransigence sprang partly from the fact that no such offer had ever been made.
KEDAR : Whatever the compensation, in the eyes of the muftis, the religious authorities, it is considered as agreeing to the sale. You did not choose to sell it, you were forced to do so, but if you take the money-especially if the amount corresponds to the fair value of the land-in their eyes you’ve sold the land just as if it had been done willingly. That’s why they have issued many fatwas forbidding any acceptance of compensation. The religious authorities look at the land as a waqf , and endowment that belongs to the whole Islamic community. Caliph Umar declared this land to be a waqf when he conquered it in the 7th century, and nobody is allowed to give it, sell it, or in any other way transfer it to the possession of a non-Islamic entity. How could Arafat, or one of his successors, sign on a document that would give Israel the title to this holy land in perpetuity? They may accept that the Jews are living here, but only under the terms of al-dhimma , under Islamic sovereignty.
When you look at the Israeli-Palestinian problem from the religious, Islamic point of view, it appears insoluble. Jerusalem, the waqf, and the compensation are all non-negotiable. These issues could be dealt with by nationalists, by people who think in terms of costs and benefits. With them this could be solved in a technical way, in terms of give-and-take: let’s share it, you during the day-me during the night, we could come to some kind of solution under which both sides would be getting something and leave peacefully. They would not “live happily ever after” but in a way which could let them live rather than die.
When the religious people-you know what? religious authorities from both sides!-are interfering with the political process and when they are able to block it, the problem becomes insoluble. That’s why I lost my faith in the Oslo process, and came to the conclusion that in the Middle East it’s the more powerful who writes history and draws the borders according to his own interests. In the Middle East even when you are weak, you don’t give up on what you see as your rights.
Q: Would you suggest that the only scenario, then, is an open-ended management of an unresolved and inherently unstable situation? And is the Israeli society able to maintain the dynamics of permanent containment, and the consensus over the requisite level of preparedness and permanent vigilance?
KEDAR : This is what many of us have been talking about ever since the eruption of the intifada. http://lexicorient.com/e.o/intifada.htm The consensus is that we cannot solve the problem, but we can maintain the problem. Once in a while there will be a terrorist attack, from time to time you’ll have some other kind of crisis, but solving the problem is for the time being impossible. In Europe you can do it-Czechs and Slovaks did it nicely, Russia and Ukraine-but it did not work in Bosnia, where you have Muslims, and in Kosovo, where you also have Muslims. The Christians and those who follow that type of thinking mainly think how to live together, and not how to die together. But wherever Muslims are involved, this is not easy: look at Chechnya, at Kashmir, and at Sudan-in Darfour, by the way, Muslim Arab tribes were slaughtering Muslim non-Arab tribes!
This same problem of mindset and culture concerns the refugees. After the Second World War Europe was full of refugees-tens upon tens of millions of refugees, Germans from Poland, from the Sudettenland, East Europeans, refugees all over. After ten years there was not one refugee left in Europe! Some returned to where they lived, most went somewhere else, and they started a new life. In the Sudetten today they come to visit their old homes in the Czech Republic and nobody makes a problem out of it. But in the Arab world they eternalize the problem of refugees. People who left their villages in the northern part of Israel and who are living in Lebanon only a few miles away near Tyre, are looked upon as foreigners. Foreigners-although they speak the same language, share the same faith and culture. But since they were expelled by the Jews they must be “refugees” for ever. The Lebanese law lists 73 professions in which no Palestinian refugee can work. He cannot be an architect, an engineer, a doctor, a professor, an accountant or a lawyer, and he cannot purchase land or own rental property. He can only be a laborer, until this very day. Where else in the world do you encounter such an attitude? And to the people of the same religion, language and culture at that? The story is the same for those who left Lake Tiberias for Syria, an hour’s drive away. The story is the same with te refugees in the West Bank itself, within Palestine! They are still “refugees”-and their children, and their grandchildren, and their great-grandchildren . . . for all eternity. Where in else the world is there such a culture, that treats and utilizes people in this way?
Add to this the attitude to death and life, how you manage your struggle. If you are capable of sending a 16 year old girl to explode herself in a crowded supermarket, a 17 year old boy to explode himself on a bus, you are set apart from all cultures that treasure life. We therefore have to be divided, not by agreement because agreement is impossible, but by what is possible and necessary.
“Compromise” is not part of the possibilities in the Islamic world, as becomes apparent whenever Muslims are involved in a dispute with non-Muslims. You cannot compare what has happened between us and Palestinians with what had happened between France and Germany, or Britain and Germany. Here in the Middle East there are two narratives, two allegiances, two ways of thinking, two cultures, and they cannot establish a common ground. We don’t want to live with them, and they certainly do not want to live with us. We therefore need to find the way to maintain the problem at the minimal price. The question is mainly, what is the “minimal price” which we can accept.
* * *
While we can beg to differ with many of Dr. Kedar’s specific point, his overall assessment of the disruptive role of religious absolutism in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is eminently valid. It corresponds to the views expressed by this author in The Rockford Institute’s recently published collection of essays Peace in the Promised Land: A Realist Scenario(2006):
“The effect of the alliance of religion and nationalism on the Arab-Israeli dispute is detrimental to the quest for lasting solutions. On the Palestinian side, it creates an unstable duality of approach, with compromise allowed as a short-term expedient but total victory seen as the only divinely ordained and therefore legitimate long-term outcome. This view, consistent with the teaching of orthodox Islam, provides the focus for violent Palestinian opposition to Israel and limits the scope for dialogue. The ‘custodians of political power’ on the Arab side talk of diplomatic accommodation, but the society is increasingly influenced by those who invoke Islam to deny the possibility of peace with the ‘Other.’
“It is objectionable as well as regrettable that Israel is not a state in which all of her citizens, Jews and non-Jews, are treated alike. But while Israel’s treatment of non-Jews, and Palestinian Arabs in particular, is discriminatory and sometimes even racist, Israeli society as a whole is largely immune to the darkly psychotic hatred of the Arab-as-such, let alone the ‘infidel,’ the kind of hatred that leads to literal genocide. That sentiment exists, but it is 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 ‘infidel’ is treated not only as morally acceptable but-with the rise of Islamism-as divinely ordained. An evenhanded outsider contemplating Middle Eastern solutions would do no favor to the long-suffering Palestinians by remaining politely silent on this problem.
“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, but religion has turned it into a zero-sum dispute, with one side’s gain seen and felt as the other’s loss. They both vie for power and for territory that each claims as its own, and many are willing to fight and to die to take it or to preserve it. The conflict is unique, however, in that religiously informed ‘narratives’ are invoked to support the parties’ claims more strongly and more explicitly than anywhere else in the world. The Arab-Israeli conflict disproves the Western elite class’s dictum that religion is a declining influence in human affairs and a distraction from the business of politics.”
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
NOTES FROM BELGRADE
by Srdja Trifkovic
On March 16, 17, and 18, I was in Belgrade at the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts for a conference on the future of Kosovo. Many old friends and associates were there, including Joe Bissett, Sir Alfred Sherman, Diana Johnstone, Scott Taylor, Peter Maher, and Elena Gusskova.
The Serbian contingent included many distinguished names. They have restated four sets of arguments in support of their position that Kosovo ought to remain part of Serbia:
-Historical: Kosovo was the heartland of the Serbian medieval state;
-Cultural: in Kosovo there are many priceless monuments of Serbian art and architecture that define that nation’s contribution to the common European heritage;
-Spiritual: Kosovo is “Serbia’s Jerusalem”; and
-Civilizational: Kosovo must not fall to the insurgent global jihad.
In my talk, I noted the irony of the fact that Serbian professors and academicians are addressing “the West” that is no more. They are still using the language and imagery of de Gaulle, Adenauer, and Rebecca West. They have been long replaced by the new, postmodern breed of Westerner, who is distinguished from his predecessors by the tendency to reject the value and importance of the historical, cultural and spiritual legacy of our civilization.
After almost two decades of Yugoslavia’s crisis and disintegration, too many Serbs still cherish too many illusions about the nature of the Western beast, its hostility to Christianity and to any form of ethnic coherence of European nations. To the promoters of such Western pathology, those who argue that they should be entitled to keep a territory because they feel a strong, centuries-long historical bond to it, or because they had built lovely Christian churches in it, or because it underpins their moral code and spirituality based on Christian martyrdom, or because they are defending themselves against an aggressive and resurgent Islam. are only proving the necessity of having that territory taken away from them! The arguments advanced by Belgrade’s distinguished professors only confirm to the luminaries of the International Community that Kosovo should be detached from Serbia in order to cure her from such retrograde atavisms.
An ideological commitment to neoliberal globalization has turned multiculturalism and open-ended, predominantly Muslim immigration into two inviolable dogmas of the elite class. Its members reject the suggestion that the shared legacy of the European family and its common historical experiences are worthy of preserving as such. That is why they will do their utmost to detach Kosovo from Serbia, and that is why their assorted clones-whether they are called Kouchner, Haekkerup, Steiner, or Jesen-Petersen-will think and act in exactly the same manner. This important lesson is yet to be absorbed in Belgrade.
Many decent and patriotic Belgrade intellectuals still talk of “joining Europe”-by which they mean the European Union-but fail to consider the implications of such a move. They are unaware that the emergence of a trans-national hyper-state based in Brussels is the Leftist variety of “benevolent global hegemony” heralded from Washington. These two mindsets, seemingly at odds, are but two aspects of the same emerging globalized universe. The former advocates “multilateralism” in the form of an emerging “international community” controlled by the United Nations and adjudicated by the International Criminal Court (ICC), with the EU acting as an interim medium for transferring sovereign prerogatives to a supra-national body. Both Europe’s multilateralists and Washingtonian hegemonists share the same distaste for traditional, naturally evolving societies and cultures. Divisions between them refer not to the common goal of advancing a global revolutionary project but only to the ways and means of doing so. The end of the Cold War has cleared the way for the rise of a new global empire, and the realization that new possibilities were on offer to the revolutionaries who wanted to move beyond the Gramscian “long march.” In the apparent defeat of revolutionary struggle-epitomized by the triumph of liberal capitalism over bolshevism-the liberal-neocon axis has found the seeds of future victory for their universalist paradigm, which globalization makes possible by eradicating traditional structures capable of resistance.
Globalization, both in its Eurocratic and neoconservative guise, is objectively an ally of the revolution desired by Marxists, not only because it destroys the remnants of the old order, but also because it contains the germ of another form of globalization: the counter-Empire that will be made possible by demographic change within the West. The revolutionary character of the project is revealed in the mantra of Race, Gender and Sexuality, the dialectical Force that moves history forward. Classical Marxist political economy found the dynamics of revolution in the inevitable conflict between the owners of the means of production and the proletariat that has nothing to sell but its labor and nothing to lose but its chains. Today’s elite-class revolutionaries go beyond any recognizable variety of dialectical materialism, however, by introducing a metaphysical concept of victimhood and an array of associated special-rights claims that have worked such wonders for Islam all over the Western world.
Even if the Serbs are robbed of Kosovo, Islam will not thank the West for the favor. There will be no synthesis, no civilizational cross-fertilization, between the World of War and the World of Submission. Even the ultra-tolerant Dutch have seen the light after Theo van Gogh’s murder-but they are hamstrung by a ruling class composed of guilt-ridden self-haters and appeasers. If Europe is to survive they need to be unmasked for what they are: traitors to their nations and their culture. If Europe is to survive, they must be replaced by people ready and willing to subject the issues of immigration and identity to the test of democracy, unhindered by administrative or judicial fiat. For those reasons, too, Serbia must not sign on the dotted line and accept the amputation of Kosovo. By giving it up, Serbia would pander to the spirit that seeks the death of Europe and its surrender to the global totalitarianism of Muhammad’s successors. Not for the first time, in the plains of Kosovo the Serbs are engaged in a fight that is not only theirs.
Friday, March 24, 2006
A MYSTERIOUS DEATH AT THE HAGUE
by Srdja Trifkovic
The mainstream Western media coverage of the death of Slobodan Milosevic, while predictably relentless in its cliches (the “Butcher of the Balkans,” guilty of “starting three wars” and ordering ethnic cleansing and genocide in his pursuit of a “greater Serbia,” etc .), has ignored the unresolved mystery surrounding the event itself. Having spent a week in Belgrade talking to a score of well-placed individuals at different ends of the political spectrum, I can present to our readers the facts of the case that are deemed unfit to print by their Gannett, Tribune, NYT, or Knight Ridder outlets.
Milosevic was found dead in his cell at the International Criminal Tribunal on the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) detention unit near The Hague on Saturday, March 11, at 10:05 in the morning. His death came less than a week after another indicted Serb-the former President of the Krajina Serb Republic Milan Babic-hanged himself in another wing of the same UN detention facility. It also came a week after the Tribunal formally rejected his petition for temporary leave to travel to Moscow for medical treatment.
Far more remarkably, Milosevic’s death came a day after he wrote a letter in longhand to the Russian foreign ministry, warning foreign minister Sergei Lavrov that his life was in danger:
[T]he persistence with which the medical treatment in Russia was denied, in the first place is motivated by the fear that through careful examination it would be discovered that active, willful steps were taken to destroy my health throughout the proceedings of the trial, which could not be hidden from Russian specialists . . . [O]n January 12th (i.e., two months ago), an extremely strong drug was found in my blood, which is used, as they themselves say, for the treatment of tuberculosis and leprosy, although I never used any kind of antibiotic during these five years that I’ve been in their prison. Throughout this whole period, neither have I had any kind of infectious illness (apart from flu). Also the fact that doctors needed 2 months [to report this fact to me] cannot have any other explanation than we are facing manipulation. . . . [by] those from which I defended my country in times of war and who have an interest to silence me . . . , I am addressing you in expectation that you help me defend my health from the criminal activities in this institution, working under the sign of the U.N. . . .
Within hours after Milosevic’s death was announced, his legal advisor Zdenko Tomanovic filed an official request to the Tribunal to have theautopsy carried out in Moscow , “having in mind his claims yesterday that he was being poisoned in the jail.” This was rejected by the Tribunal and an autopsy was carried out by a Dutch team, in the presence of Russian and Serbian doctors. No overt signs of poisoning were found, but the head of the Bakulev Cardiovascular Surgery Centre, Academician Leo Bokeria, who attended the autopsy, said that the medicines given to Milosevic might have exacerbated the situation : “We indicated how the patient could be cured, but no steps were taken. We warned for more than two years that something might happen to the patient, but the leadership of the tribunal avoided facing this.” Russian diplomats at the UN described the report from The Hague as “disturbing” and demanded a full report from the UN Secretariat.
Suspicions of foul play were fuelled by the ICTY chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte’s strange demeanor in the immediate aftermath of Milosevic’s death. She appeared almost gleeful on March 12 when she declared that Milosevic’s death may have been a suicide , and speculated that he might have wanted to thwart the impending guilty verdict in his trial. The theme of “Milosevic cheating justice” was duly picked up by the media pack and establishment politicians and repeated thousands of times, creating the impression that the trial was going well for the prosecution.
Anyone who had met Milosevic at The Hague-myself included-knew that del Ponte’s speculation was absurd. He was conducting his defense effectively and at times brilliantly, and he was positively looking forward to the rest of the trial-not because he expected a “not guilty” verdict (no such luck at The Hague), but because he believed that he was contributing to setting the record of history straight. Canada’s former ambassador in Belgrade James Bissett was one of the last defense witnesses to see Milosevic alive. He told me in Belgrade earlier this week that, in the course of their long meetings on February 21 and 22, Milosevic struck him as the man least likely to contemplate suicide at the ICTY, the prosecution team included:
He was perfectly relaxed, not in the least depressed, and seemed to be in a good health. He was busy trying to prepare for my testimony and he struck me as being content with the way the trial was going. The following day, however, around five o’clock-after we’d worked for 2 or 3 hours-he suddenly became flushed in the face and clasped his hands to his head. I was startled and asked if he was all right. He answered that he was OK and explained that although his blood pressure was under control, he had these constant ringing and echoing sounds in his head. This was caused, he said, by a problem with an artery in his ear. He complained about it before to the Dutch doctors who simply said it was psychological. But after increasing demands they gave him a MRI test and found that indeed he was right there was a problem with the artery in his ear. Artery had a “loop” in it and to correct it, surgery would be necessary. That is why he wanted to go to Moscow to a clinic that specializes in this type of ailment, but the Tribunal refused it.
Bissett was especially sorry to hear of Milosevic’s death because it means that the historical record that he had wanted to set down during his trial will be incomplete: now we are not going to hear the Milosevic’s story but only the media spin, as all of the evidence in his favor has been censored:
He knew his material. He has done a very good job of cross-examining the prosecution witnesses and destroying many of them who appeared before the Tribunal. He has discounted much of the case against him but the public hears none of this because there seems to be a deliberate news blackout on anything recorded in his favor . . . There is a sense of relief at The Hague, because the Tribunal was having a very hard time bringing forth any hard evidence to prove that there was genocide in Kosovo or that Milosevic entered into the criminal conspiracy to establish a ‘Greater Serbia.’ Nevertheless they would have found him guilty. He was under no illusion about that but he wanted to put the facts on the historical record. Unfortunately this is no longer possible and so it will be NATO’s interpretation of events that the world will have.
According to the former Yugoslav foreign minister Zivadin Jovanovic, who served at the time of the NATO bombing, the issue is not so much whether Milosevic was poisoned, as many Serbs still believe, but whether his death was made more likely by the Tribunal’s willful negligence. He and his colleagues from the Belgrade Forum, an NGO critical of the ICTY, note that there has been no serious attempt by any major Western media outlet to examine the facts of the case, and ask who exactly stood to profit from his death.
The suspicion of deliberate negligence is shared by many Serbs who had never been sympathetic to Milosevic, politically and personally. They complain that Western journalists have accepted a tad too blithely the Tribunal’s claim that Milosevic was illicitly taking powerful antibiotics that had neutralized his blood pressure medication, allegedly in order to create the impression that the therapy ordered by Dutch doctors was ineffective and that therefore he should be allowed to travel to Moscow for treatment. Even if Milosevic had been willing to risk his life by taking a powerful antibiotic, Rifanticin, which would have rendered blood pressure medication useless, the claim is unconvincing for three reasons:
1. Milosevic’s very public alarm about the antibiotic’s traces, evident in his letter to Lavrov, does not tally with his allegedly illicit scheme to self-medicate the drug;
2. Milosevic’s premises were under surveillance and subject to detailed searches;
3. All visitors and their possessions (briefcases, papers) are subjected to a thorough search by the detention unit staff.
As for the assertion that Milosevic “escaped justice,” impartial observers were of the opinion that Carla del Ponte was the one losing the legal battle. The charges against Milosevic-genocide, crimes against humanity, “joint criminal conspiracy” to create a “Greater Serbia”-have always been political, and they are collective by definition. They remain unproven and, by the standards of any normal court in a normal country, would have been deemed discredited by now. Neil Clark, who used to cover the ICTY for the Guardian, noted that “not only has the prosecution signally failed to prove Milosevic’s personal responsibility for atrocities committed on the ground, the nature and extent of the atrocities themselves has also been called into question.” In the worst single atrocity ascribed to Milosevic’s ultimate responsibility, that in Srebrnica in July 1995, Clark says that del Ponte and her team “produced nothing to challenge the verdict of the five-year inquiry commissioned by the Dutch government-that there was ‘no proof that orders for the slaughter came from Serb political leaders in Belgrade.'” John Laughland noted that the trial had heard more than a hundred prosecution witnesses by late last year, “and not a single one has testified that Milosevic ordered war crimes.” In Julia Gorin’s view , an attempt to create an Islamic “Greater Albania” was confused with one to create a “Greater Serbia”:
Surely if the latter were Slobodan Milosevic’s goal, he would have started by ethnically cleansing the nearly 300,000 Muslims of Serbia. Though he built his career in whatever dirty ways Tito’s Yugoslavia allowed, he was the least of the Balkans’ villains. For most Serbs, he was not a hero until he was called upon to defend an entire nation at The Hague. Now that Milosevic is dead, we are spared the worldwide riots that would have ensued had the tribunal mustered the courage to issue a verdict based on the evidence. And we can all sleep comfortably as the disproved charges are accepted as history.
The circumstances surrounding Milosevic’s death will be brought to light sooner or later, and the verdict will not be to the credit of the “international community” or the concept of transnational justice. He was guilty of many sins and errors, but they were a matter between him and his people. The Hague was the wrong court trying to find him guilty of the wrong crimes, and it has always been motivated by all the wrong reasons.
The verdict of history on Milosevic himself will be ambiguous because there had been more than one “Milosevic” in his 64 years (1941-2006). His career can be divided into four periods of unequal duration and significance. The first, from his birth in 1941 until his meteoric rise to power in Serbia in early 1987, was the longest and the least interesting. The only unusual element in his early biography was the suicide of both his parents, who had separated when he was a child. At 24 he married his only sweetheart, Mirjana Markovic, illegitimate daughter of a high-ranking communist official. She was neurotic, uncompromisingly hard-Left in her politics, ambitious, and able to dominate “her Sloba” until the very end. Unstable to the point of clinical insanity, more than any other person she had contributed to his serious errors of judgment and eventual loss of popularity and power base.
To all appearances, until 1987 Milosevic was an unremarkable apparatchik. His solid Communist Party credentials-he joined the League of Communists as a high school senior in 1959-were essential to his professional advance. After graduating from Belgrade’s school of law in 1964 he held a variety of business administration posts, eventually becoming director of a major bank and, briefly, its representative in New York. By the early 80s he increasingly turned to politics and made his way up the Party ladder by forging alliances and friendships that were pragmatic rather ideological. His name remained relatively unknown outside the ranks of the nomenklatura.
Then came the turning point. As president of the League of Communists of Serbia, in April 1987 Milosevic traveled to the town of Kosovo Polje, in the restive southern Serbian province of Kosovo, to quell the protests by local Serbs who were unhappy with the lack of support they were getting from Belgrade in the face of ethnic Albanian pressure. When the police started dispersing the crowd using batons, Milosevic stopped them and uttered the words that were to change his life and that of a nation. “No one is allowed to beat you people; no one will ever hit you again,” he told the cheering crowd.
Used to two generations of Serbian Communist leaders subservient to Tito and reluctant to advance their republic’s interests lest they be accused of “greater Serbian nationalism,” ordinary Serbs responded with enthusiasm. The word of a new kind of leader spread like wildfire. Milosevic’s populism worked wonders at first, enabling him to eliminate all political opponents within the Party leadership of Serbia at a marathon 30-hour Central Committee session in September 1987. A huge rally in Belgrade’s Confluence Park (1988) and in Kosovo to mark the 600th anniversary of the historic battle (1989), reflected a degree of genuine popularity that he enjoyed in Serbia, Montenegro, and Serbian-inhabited part of Bosnia and Croatia in the late 1980s.
Far from proclaiming an agenda for expansion, as later alleged by his accusers, his speech at Kosovo was full of old ideological cliches and “Yugoslav” platitudes :
Equal and harmonious relations among Yugoslav peoples are a necessary condition for the existence of Yugoslavia and for it to find its way out of the crisis and, in particular, they are a necessary condition for its economic and social prosperity . . . Internal and external enemies . . . organize their activity against multinational societies mostly by fomenting national conflicts. At this moment, we in Yugoslavia are behaving as if we have never had such an experience.
The precise nature of his long term agenda was never stated, however, because it had never been defined. He was able to gain followers from widely different camps, including hard-line Party loyalists as well as anti-Communist nationalists, because they all tended to project their hopes, aspirations and fears onto Milosevic-even though those hopes and aspirations were often mutually incompatible.
The key issue was the constitutional framework within which the Serbs should seek their future. They were unhappy by Tito’s arrangements that kept them divided into five units in the old Yugoslav federation. Milosevic wanted to redefine the nature of that federation, rather than abolish it. Then and throughout his life he was a “Yugoslav” rather than a “Greater Serb.” In addition he was so deeply steeped in the Communist legacy of his formative years-and so utterly unable to resist the pressure from his doctrinaire wife-that even after the fall of the Berlin Wall he kept the old insignia with the red star, together with the leadership structure and mindset of the old, Titoist order.
The tensions of this period could have been resolved by a clear strategy once the war broke out, first in Croatia (summer 1991) and then in Bosnia (spring 1992). This did not happen. In the third phase of Milosevic’s career, from mid-1991 until October 5, 2000, a cynically manipulative Mr. Hyde had finally prevailed over the putative national leader Dr. Jekyll. As the fighting raged around Vukovar and Dubrovnik, he made countless contradictory statements about its nature, always stressing that “Serbia is not at war” and thereby implicitly recognizing the validity of Tito’s internal boundaries. Anticipating the onset of the second stage even before it became fully apparent, and to many raised eyebrows in Washington, I opined that “Milosevic is cynically exploiting the nationalist awakening to perpetuate Communist rule and his own power in the eastern half of Yugoslavia.” ( U.S. News & World Report , 18 June 1990), that he “needs outside enemies to halt the erosion of his popularity.” ( U.S. News & World Report , 12 November 1990). In the end, for Serb patriots it turned out that “trusting Milosevic is like giving a bloodbank to Count Dracula” (the Times of London, 23 November 1995).
By blithely recognizing the secessionist republics within Tito’s boundaries, the “international community” effectively became a combatant in the wars of Yugoslav secession. Its “mediators” accepted a role that was not only subordinate, but also squalid. Lord David Owen, prominent among them, conceded that Tito’s boundaries were arbitrary and should have been redrawn at the time of Yugoslavia’s disintegration: “to rule out any discussion or opportunity for compromise in order to head off war was an extraordinary decision,” he wrote, “to have stuck unyieldingly to the internal boundaries of the six republics within the former Yugoslavia as being the boundaries for independent states, was a folly far greater than that of premature recognition itself.” But in all his deeds he and a legion of other mediators nevertheless stuck, unyieldingly, to that formula.
Milosevic’s diplomatic ineptitude and his chronic inability to grasp the importance of lobbying and public relations in Washington and other Western capitals had enabled the secessionists to have a free run of the media scene with the simplistic notion that “the butcher of the Balkans” was overwhelmingly, even exclusively guilty of all the horrors that had befallen the former Yugoslavia. At the same time, far from seeking the completion of a “Greater Serbian” project while he had the military wherewithal to do so (1991-1995), Milosevic attempted to fortify his domestic position in Belgrade by trading in the Western Serbs (Krajina, Bosnia) for Western benevolence. It worked for a while. “The Serbian leader continues to be a necessary diplomatic partner,” the New York Times opined in November 1996, a year after the Dayton Agreement ended the war in Bosnia thanks to Milosevic’s pressure on the Bosnian-Serb leadership. His status as a permanent fixture in the Balkan landscape seemed secure.
It all changed with the escalation of the crisis in Kosovo, however. His belated refusal to sign on yet another dotted line at Rambouillet paved the way for NATO’s illegal bombing of Serbia in the spring of 1999. For one last time the Serbs rallied under the leader many of them no longer trusted, aware that the alternative was to accept the country’s open-ended carve-up. For one last time they were let down: Milosevic saved Clinton’s skin by capitulating in June of that year, and letting NATO occupy Kosovo just as the bombing campaign was running out of steam and the Alliance was riddled by discord over what to do next.
The ensuing mass exodus of Kosovo’s quarter-million Serbs and the torching of their homes and churches by the KLA terrorists did not prevent Milosevic from pretending that his superior statesmanship, embodied in the unenforceable UN Security Council Resolution 1244, had saved the country’s integrity. The ensuing reconstruction effort in Serbia was used as a propaganda ploy to improve the rating of his own socialist party of Serbia and his wife Mirjana Markovic’s minuscule “Yugoslav United Left” (JUL).
For many Serbs this was the final straw. Refusing to recognize the change of mood, in mid-2000 Milosevic followed his wife’s advice and called a snap election, hoping to secure his position for another four years. Unexpectedly he was unable to beat his chief challenger Vojislav Kostunica in the first round, and succumbed to a wave of popular protest when he tried to deny Kostunica’s victory in the closely contested runoff.
His downfall on October 5, 2000, followed a failed attempt to steal yet another election . It nevertheless would not have been possible if the military and the security services had not abandoned him. There had been just too many defeats and too many wasted opportunities over the previous decade and a half for the security chiefs to continue trusting Milosevic implicitly. Their refusal to fire on the crowds-as his half-demented wife allegedly demanded on that day-sealed Milosevic’s fate. After five months’ powerless isolation in his suburban villa he was arrested and taken to Belgrade’s central prison. On June 28, 2001, Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic arranged for his transfer to The Hague Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal, in violation of Serbia’s laws and constitution.
The final four years of Milosevic’s life were spent in prison. During this time a haughty and arrogant know-all of previous years rapidly evolved into a hard-working and efficient lawyer who conducted his own complex defense. He was helped by an indictment that was hastily concocted by del Ponte’s predecessor Louise Arbour at the height of the bombing campaign in May 1999 to serve political, rather than legal purposes.
In preparing his defense Milosevic was initially guided by personal motives. By the end of 2003 or early 2004, however, he came to realize that, regardless of his own destiny, what he was doing had a wider historic significance. He was accused of “genocide,” a crime that places collective stigma on a nation, not just its leader. Furthermore, the accusation of a “joint criminal conspiracy” with the purpose of creating a “Greater Serbia” was expanded by the Tribunal into an attempt to misrepresent two centuries of Serbia’s history as an open-ended quest for aggressive expansion, with Milosevic but the latest link in that chain. As John Laughland wrote in the Spectator last year, even more than the gross abuses of due process which it is committing, the Milosevic trial has shown the futility of trying to submit political decisions to the judgment of criminal law:
Because it seeks to comprehend war as the result of the decisions of individuals , and not as the consequence of conflict between states, modern international humanitarian law sees trees but no wood. In the Milosevic trial, the role of the other Yugoslav leaders in starting the war especially those who declared secession from Yugoslavia is grossly obscured, as is that of the countless Western politicians and institutions who were intimately involved at every stage of the Yugoslav conflict, and who encouraged the secessions.
Finally grasping the extent to which his trial was also the trial of the Serbian nation as a whole, Milosevic succeeded for the first time in his life to transcend the limitations of ideology and egotism that had blinkered him for so long. He turned the trial, heralded by the Western media class as a new Nuremberg, into a political embarrassment for “the international community.” His defense, effective and at times brilliant ( one prosecutor acknowledged that “there’s no doubt who’s the smartest guy in the courtroom”), finally blended Milosevic’s personal interest with the interest of his people. When I met him at his cell in June 2004 he told me that he may never get out of there, but he was certain his “refutation of [chief prosecutor Carla] del Ponte’s ridiculous indictment would set the record of history straight.”Milosevic’s death makes that certainty well justified, even if “the record of history” comes too late to alter the unjust and untenable temporary outcome of the wars of Yugoslav succession. It is to be feared that those who had “collectively invented a fictional character bearing the name ‘Slobodan Milosevic’ in the 1990s”-as one of my Belgrade interlocutors, Diana Johnstone, aptly put it-will use the historic man’s death as a welcome opportunity to put the finishing touches on the caricature, and promote it as the final, approved and unalterable likeness.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
by Srdja Trifkovic
The second anniversary of the bombings that killed 200 and injured more than 1,500 people on Madrid’s commuter trains (March 11) was marked in the all-inclusive spirit of universal values and tolerance, with “Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders”-media reports placed them in that order-joining in prayers to the one God of all faiths for peace, harmony and reconciliation. A Moroccan delegation joined in , and “human rights groups and Muslims themselves say with relief that there has been no significant backlash against Spain’s estimated million-strong Muslim community” since the attacks. Until a decade ago the monument to the victims would have been a cross, or at least something incorporating a cross; but today it is the “Forest of Remembrance,” with 192 olive and cypress trees, that commemorates the victims in the spirit of the New Age. Two children, one “of Algerian origin,” laid a wreath at the site.
Welcome to the new Spain. Miguel de Unamuno and Jose Ortega y Gasset wouldn’t recognize it, but Susan Sontag and John Lennon would feel right at home. No one has yet been tried or even formally charged over the attack, but at least multiethnicity is thriving. In the two years after the bombs Spain has continued to admit over half a million immigrants a year-most of them North African Muslims-and “Spanish society is basically pro-immigration,” according to Professor Joaquin Arando of Madrid’s University of Computense in Madrid. It is the only country in the European Union which provides even illegal immigrants with health insurance, education and welfare benefits. In Madrid nobody of consequence is talking moratorium on immigration from the risk-nations such as Morocco and Algeria. Illegals are not deported when apprehended, even when they commit crimes, and even sporadic calls for more rigorous maritime patrols in the Straits of Gibraltar invite accusations of racism.
Shortly after the bombs went off in Madrid, a statue of St. James fighting Moorish invaders was to be removed from the cathedral in the pilgrim city of Santiago de Compostela, on Spain’s northwest coast, to avoid causing offence to Muslims-or, as the cathedral authorites put it , to avoid upsetting the “sensitivities of other ethnic groups.” Santiago the “Moor-slayer” is a symbol of the fight between Christianity and Islam, and he is said to have appeared to Christian troops fighting Moorish army at the Battle of Clavijo in 844, the Christians rallying to the cry of Santiago y cierra Espana-“St. James, we will reconquer Spain!” That, of course, makes him a prime candidate for banishment in the new Spain, and the fact that he still remains at the Compostela Cathedral is entirely due to the fact that the local tourist board feared that his removal would adversely affect the city’s revenue from visitors.
In polite company in Madrid it is not done to point out that the bombs that went off on March 11, 2004, marked the first Islamist terrorist attack in a major Western country that yielded tangible political benefits for the attackers. Until that morning the Popular Party (PP) government of the former prime minister Jose Maria Aznar looked poised to wi n the general election scheduled for March 14. The ruling party’s candidate Mariano Rajoy led most polls by three to four percentage points and the PP had even hoped to retain its outright majority in the 350-member Congress of Deputies (Cortes).
When a day after the attacks the suspected Islamic connection became known, however, the mood of the nation turned violently against Aznar. His support for President Bush in the war in Iraq -hugely unpopular to start with-came to be seen as the cause of the attack. Aznar was accused of having unnecessarily exposed the country to danger from Islamic militants. Demonstrations initially staged to protest the attacks soon turned into anti-government rallies, with protesters chanting “Aznar, terrorist” and carrying posters of Aznar flanked by Mr. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair with the caption “We pay the price!”
The mood swing produced the greatest electoral upset since Spain returned to multi-party system in the aftermath of General Franco’s death just over three decades ago. The Socialist Workers’ Party and its radical allies easily, and unexpectedly, won a majority of seats. The Socialists immediately pledged to withdraw the Spansih contingent of 1,400 soldiers from Iraq. New Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero left no doubt that Aznar’s “special relationship” with Washington was at an end. The Left was ecstatic. El Pais gleefully noted that “the decision to take Spain into the Iraq war [has] been soundly rejected by the electorate.” El Mundo called the outcome “an electoral debacle” for the PP and the price for Aznar’s error in allying himself with Bush. Even the conservative press conceded that the socialist victory was due to the perception among many voters that Aznar “compromised us in an unjust war in Iraq in close alliance with the US.”
They were missing the point. Aznar was mistaken to despatch Spanish troops to Iraq, and his attempt to grandstand, together with Tony Blair, as Washington’s staunchest European ally admittedly verged on the pathetic. Nevertheless, no reasonable and patriotic Spaniard should have cherished the fact that a terrorist attack contributed to an electoral outcome that would not have happened in the absence of that attack.The event was momentous : “Not since Theodosius and the late Romans paid their annual bribe money to Attila have we seen such success in bullying and terrifying a Western nation.” The outcome may only encourage the followers of Jihad to plot fresh outrages, or merely to threaten them until a country’s policy was changed to suit their preferences.
The attacks in Madrid appear to have been the work of a home-grown immigrant cell, but al-Qaeda had displayed an active interest in Spain for months preceding them. It released a videotaped message in October 2003, in which Spain was singled out as one of the countries that would be attacked “at the appropriate time and place.” In the subsequent wave of bombings in Morocco the Spanish cultural center in Casablanca was hit with particular ferocity. A document in Arabic attributed to al Qaeda and leaked in December 2003 suggested that the network was planning an attack in Spain just before the elections, and with specific political expectations. The 50-page booklet singled out Spain as the weakest link in the U.S.-led coalition, saying it “could not tolerate more than two or three attacks without having to withdraw its troops from Iraq.” The document stated the group’s view that “after these blows, the victory of the Socialist Party will be almost guaranteed.”
Only one round with four targets proved sufficient to defeat Aznar and lead to the Socialists’ withdrawal from Iraq. Asked if the election upset was the first time Islamic militants had toppled a Western government, foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos dismissed such suggestions by saying, “we’re not going to surrender but we want to be much more clever, more sophisticated and more efficient in order to defeat them.” Cleverness and sophistication have resulted in one half-million more Muslims in Spain today that at the time of the attacks two years ago.
The war in Iraq may have been fought for all the wrong reasons, but Zapatero’s and Moratinos’ brand of “sophistication” is not a coherent alternative to Aznar’s posturing. Being truly clever demands a host of measures-including immigration control, re-assertion of national pride, and the promotion of higher birth rates-that no self-respecting Euro-Spaniard would ever condone.
While General Franco was in power Spain enjoyed high birth rates and was a net exporter of labor. A catastrophic drop in fertility rates has taken place over the past two decades, so much so that today’s democratic, liberal Spain is fully integrated into “Europe”-and dying with it. It vies with Italy for the lowest birth rate in the world and on current form Spaniards will disappear within a century. This has already created a growing labor shortage that is being filled by North African Arab immigrants, mostly from Morocco and Algeria. Many migrate on a seasonal basis, making homes in Andalucia during the summer tourist and agricultural season. Others live in Spain permanently and have created their own kazbah-like neighborhoods, mainly in greater Madrid and in the north-east, in Catalon industrial cities. They are estimated to account for four percent of Spain’s 40 million people and may exceed ten percent within a generation.
Twelve centuries ago Spain was the first European Christian country to be invaded by the Arab Islamic armies. The outcome was in considerable doubt at first, and it fought for the ensuing eight hundred years to liberate itself from the invaders. The process was complete in 1492, but the finality of the Reconquista has never been accepted by orthodox Muslims who subscribe to the Kuranic tenet that no land once controlled by the faithful can ever legitimately revert to infidel rule. The reversal of the Reconquista remains their long-term objective: all true Muslims regard the Spanish state-any non-Muslim Spanish state-as inherently illegitimate.
Appeasement is useless. In early 2005 foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos tried to have Hamas removed from the European Union’s terrorist list, but that did not prevent the Hamas’ children’s magazine,Al-Fateh , from telling the children about the city called Asbilia (Seville) and urging them to free it, together with the rest of Al-Andalus, from the infidels when they grow up: “I beg you, my loved ones, to call me to return along with the other cities of the lost paradise to Muslim hands so that happiness may reign in my lands. Dress me, for I am the bride of the land of Al Andalus.” The Al Fateh website says it is up to “the young builders of the future” to complete this noble task. In the same vein Yusuf Qaradawi, an influential tele-imam and “a perfectly sane Islamist,” as the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone described him,routinely calls on Muslims to conquer Europe , starting with former Islamic possessions “in Andalus, southern Italy, Sicily, the Balkans and the Mediterranean islands.”
The growing terrorist network before March 11, the tragedy itself, and the ongoing immigrant deluge have failed to provide a loud enough wake-up call to Spain. This once proud and staunchly Christian land has been thoroughly, perhaps irreversibly modernized and de-Christianized. It appears to have embraced the Falangist slogan-Viva la muerte!-but in the literal sense of seeking extinction, rather than in the original, subtle sense of celebrating life by cultivating a studied disdain for the possibility of its sudden end.
Friday, March 10, 2006
JOHN PROFUMO, RIP
by Srdja Trifkovic
The news of John Profumo’s death took me by surprise, not because it is unusual for a man to die at 91 but because it is extraordinary that a major public figure from the era of Macmillan, Khrushchev and Kennedy had been with us for so long. (I remember having similar thoughts at the news of Molotov’s death in November 1986.) The affair that has made Profumo’s name immortal is the most delicious scandal of the 20th century. His death does not mark “the end of an era”-it is long gone-but it reminds us of our frailty, it warns against hubris and excessive passion, and it illustrates our capacity for redemption.
In 1961 John Profumo appeared to be made of good prime ministerial material. He was a well-liked and respected 46-year-old Secretary of State for War in Britain’s Conservative government. His education was conventional for a high Tory: Harrow and Oxford. His war record was impeccable. His wife, film star Valerie Hobson, was lovely and charming. His friends included aristocrats, intellectuals, artists, and some of the most powerful people in Britain.
Among them was Lord Astor, and it was at his Cliveden country residence in Berkshire that Profumo first met Christine Keeler in July 1961. She was a stunningly beautiful girl of 19 who had run away from home three years earlier. After a stint in Soho’s strip clubs she met and befriended Stephen Ward, a fashionable West End osteopath whose clientelle included many prominent individuals from Profumo’s social tier. Ward did not become her lover-his tastes went the other way-but he loved being surrounded with lovely women of humble origins. “I like pretty girls,” Ward explained, because “I am sensitive to the needs and the stresses of modern living.” Keeler moved in with him into his Wimpole Mews flat. “We were like brother and sister,” Keeler said at Ward’s 1963 trial. “My life really used to revolve around Stephen.”
A world hitherto unknown to her suddenly opened up. It was the world of affluent and powerful men fond of having a bit on the side. Ward obliged them by staging wild parties at his flat attended by Keeler and other girls, such as her friend from the Soho stripper days, Mandy-Rice-Davis. There are many lurid stories of those parties. Sir Roger Hollis, the head of Britain’s MI5 counter-intelligence service at that time, was said to be a frequent visitor to his flat; there was also the “man in the mask,” allegedly a high-ranking figure who served guests naked except for a mask, and ate his dinner from a dog bowl.
Ward also took Keeler to his friends’ parties, such as the one at Lord Astor’s Cliveden where Profumo first met her. According to Keeler, they flirted around the swimming pool and then had some fun trying on suits of armour adorning the mansion. The War Minister was besotted and an affair soon followed. It was brief but passionate, and included Profumo’s visits to Ward’s flat as well as Keeler’s furtive appearances in one of his residences and two offices.
What Profumo did not know is that Keeler was having another affair at that same time, with one Yevgeny Ivanov, Naval Attache at the Soviet Embassy in London. Captain Ivanov was also charming, albeit in a darker, Slavic manner. In addition he was a spy who had entrapped Ward, and received information and documents obtained by him for transmission to the USSR. Ward and Ivanov wanted Keeler to obtain information from Profumo about the plans to deploy American nuclear weapons in West Germany. (Almost 30 years later Ivanov met Keeler in Moscow and apologized for the way he had used her in his attempt to get military secrets.)
The British secret service soon learned of Ivanov’s liaison with Keeler, took note of Profumo’s affair with her in the course of investigation, and alerted Prime Minister Harold Macmillan through his Cabinet Secretary Norman Brook. Brook warned Profumo on August 9, 1961-the very day East Germany started building the Berlin Wall. With uncharacteristic lack of prudence Profumo went on with the affair until December of that year, and ended it only when Keeler proved reluctant to become his full-time mistress.
Even so there may have been no scandal but for what Ward had described as Christine’s “occasional foolhardy adventures in the completely different world of colored men.” Shortly after Profumo ended the affair, one Johnnie Edgecombe, Keeler’s jealous West Indian lover, fired several shots at the door of Ward’s falt. Police arrested him and called Keeler as a principal witness at his trial. She failed to show up, however, and the press soon started speculating that this was because she feared being cross-examined about her own private life and decided-or was told-to protect her prominent friends. Rumor had it that one of those friends was a government minister. Every Fleet Street editor sent his hounds out to find out who it was.
When the story inevitably broke in 1962, Profumo attempted to deny the affair. In March 1963 he made the most fateful move in his life when he told Parliament that “Miss Keeler and I were on friendly terms. There was no impropriety whatsoever in my acquaintanceship with Miss Keeler.” The tabloids did not take him at face value, of course, and a little over two months later a humble Profumo was back to declare “with deep remorse” that he had misled the House because he wanted to protect his wife and family, and that he would resign.
In the meantime Keeler was hiding in Spain, where she was being stalked by an unpleasant former lover called Lucky Gordon. (Incidentally Mr. Gordon had been the cause of Johnnie Edgecombe’s jealous rage.) A farcical car chase ensued , “with Keeler at the head of an entourage of reporters pursuing her through Europe. She was on her way back to Britain, after agreeing to sell her story to the Express newspaper.”
The most pathetic victim of the affair was Ward. He was charged with “living on the immoral earnings” of Keeler and Rice-Davies-an allegation strenuously denied by Keeler, who said Ward used sex not for money but to gain influence among his peers. Abandoned and shunned by his rich and powerful “friends” he killed himself on the last day of the trial. That trial will be remembered not for Ward or Keeler, but for Mandy Rice-Davies’ response to the Crown’s question whether she had received money from Lord Astor in return for sex. When she was told the Viscount had denied ever sleeping with her, she replied, ‘Well, ‘e would, wouldn’t ‘e?”
Macmillan resigned soon after Profumo, Sir Alec Douglass-Home tried unsuccessfully to keep the sinking Tory ship afloat, and in 1964 Harold Wilson’s Labour Party took power. The “swinging sixties” could start in earnest. Britain was never to recover.
For the ensuing three and a half decades Profumo did penance for disgrace with charity work among the poor in London’s East End. He never spoke publically about the affair, and he never wrote about it, although allegedly he had received six-figure offers from papers and publishers. He was a fallen gentleman, but a gentleman nevertheless, light years away from the 1990s Oval Office, cigars, and stained dresses.
There had been other, more significant spy scandals: Philby, Burgess and MacLean , Alger Hiss , Oleg Penkovsky and a host others proved to be far more significant in terms of their security implications. Sex scandals have ruined or tarnished many a political career. L’affaire Profumo beats them all with a mix of cloak-and-dagger drama, farce, titillating intrigue and pure tragedy that no Hollywood scriptwriter could have invented.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
INDIA: A RARE “A” FOR MR BUSH
by Srdja Trifkovic
It does not happen very often in world affairs that an event described as “historic” at the time of its occurrence proves to have a truly lasting significance. Many “historic” summits between Soviet and American leaders in the 1970’s and 80’s are as little remembered today as the documents they signed and the words they exchanged at that time.
Last week’s visit by President George W. Bush to India is an exception, however: already hailed as historic by many pundits and Mr. Bush himself, it may prove to be as significant as Richard Nixon’s trip to China in 1972. The agreement on nuclear energy cooperation announced by Mr. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh herald a new strategic partnership between the United States and the country that is America’s natural partner vis-a-vis China and the Islamic world.
Reversing more than 30 years of U.S. policy, President Bush legitimized India’s entry into the nuclear club. He has agreed to share nuclear reactors, fuel and expertise in exchange for Delhi’s acceptance of international safeguards. India’s hitherto closely guarded, dual-use nuclear facilities will be divided into 14 reactors that will be earmarked for commercial use and 8 designated as military. The U.S. will transfer atomic know-how for the former, and the civilian side will operate under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The deal undoubtedly violates the spirit of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but Washington has routinely turned a blind eye to its other friends’ and allies’ nuclear ambitions-notably Israel, Pakistan, and South Africa, which have never ratified the NPT. By relaxing the formal rules governing the acquisition of nuclear weapons, the United States is finally discarding a stance that was as hypocritical as it was harmful to American interests.
Those interests demanded an agreement with India for four main reasons:
. A nuclear China, which will soon become the world’s second largest economy, will be more easily counter-balanced by India if its military nuclear capability is legitimized, and its strategic partnership with the United States firmly cemented.
. India has over a billion people and its booming economy-growing at 8 per cent a year-already exerts major pressure on the world’s oil and gas prices, but the development of a legitimate and U.S.-supported civilian energy sector will ease that pressure.
. India has unlimited potential as America’s trading partner.
. India has been a major victim of jihad over the centuries, and this historical legacy, coupled with its stable democratic institutions inherited from the British Raj, make India an infinitely more reliable partner than Pakistan in the “global war on terrorism.”
This last point is particularly important. Pakistan is only the most prominent of several supposed “allies” against jihad terrorism that are inherently unreliable because of an endemic jihadist sentiment in society and official collusion. Their reliability is only as good as the supply of American largesse and the longevity of individual strongmen. India’s position on this matter by contrast is neither opportunistic nor subject to change.
It is idle to pretend that America can be equally close to both India and Pakistan, since the two are natural enemies ideologically and territorially.We have argued for years that General Pervez Musharraf’s has been able to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds for far too long. Mr. Bush’s clear signal to Islamabad, which he visited briefly after India, that America has new priorities in the Subcontinent is good news. He has quite properly indicated that Pakistan cannot hope for an equivalent nuclear deal, in view of its awful record on nuclear proliferation . On the disputed province of Kashmir, the cause of two wars between India and Pakistan, Musharraf did not get Mr. Bush to get involved in resolving the problem as he would have liked him to do. Pakistani commentators were right to conclude that the President had only visited Islamabad to give a semblance of balance, but “has not even given a lollipop to Pakistan.”
An India watcher in Washington says privately that Mr. Bush’s visit is not the product of a mere eight months’ negotiation of the nuclear deal but came as the result of a slow but steady political rapprochement between the United States and India that has progressed since the late 1990s despite changes in party control in both countries: “As amazing as it sounds, this may be an instance where the ‘permanent government’ actually got something right. While the [nuclear] agreement is significant in itself-rescuing the Indo-U.S. relationship from the dictates of the more dogmatic elements of the established non-proliferation punditry-it is widely anticipated that Congressional approval of the agreement will be the starting gun for a wide range of U.S. products and services to enter the Indian market.”
Last but by no means least, India’s role as America’s economic partner cannot be overestimated. China’s commercial development has depended on commands from above and, on the American side, from the desire of U.S. firms for a cheap manufacturing platform for exports back to the United States. India’s growth, by contrast, is not confined to heavy industry geared for the export market. Because India’s economic growth is being driven from the bottom up, satisfying the wants of a rising technical and professional class is an indication of a balanced commercial symbiosis with United States. Indeed, there has even been a counter-flow of Indians who had come to live and work in the United States returning to India, where their earnings go farther.
The administration of George W. Bush has made many mistakes and blunders over the past five years. In seeking to forge a strategic partnership with India, and in distancing itself from Pakistan, it has finally made a move that is geopolitically sound and in accordance with this country’s best interests.
Thursday, February 23, 2006
THE HIDDEN IDIOCY BEHIND THE PORT DEAL
by Srdja Trifkovic
President George W. Bush has declared that he would veto any congressional attempt to derail a contract allowing a Middle Eastern company to run six major U.S. seaports. His administration has approved the $6.8 billion deal between the London-based P&O (Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company) and Dubai Ports World-which is owned by the United Arab Emirates-to operate ports in Baltimore, Miami, Newark, New Orleans, New York and Philadelphia.
The opposition to the deal has been instant, vociferous, and unprecedentedly bipartisan. The resistance to the proposed transaction within his own party is likely to exceed the rebellion last fall over his nomination of Harriet Miers. Informed Washingtonians predict that Bush will be forced into yet another embarrassing retreat; the issue, it appears, is not “if” but “when,” and at what political cost to himself.
So far the critics have focused on the reliability of the UAE as an American “ally,” the extent to which Dubai Ports World could be used as a means of terrorist penetration of a highly vulnerable segment of the nation’s infrastructure, and the lack of transparency and procedural safeguards preceding the deal. Seven specific arguments have been advanced:
1. While nominally the paragon of Arab striving for modernity, Dubai and the rest of the Emirates are inhabited by people not only similar to their Muslim brethren elsewhere, but disproportionately inclined to Islamic terrorism. There are barely a million UAE citizens, but they included two of the 19 terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks-including Marwan al Shehhi, who-according to the FBI- flew United Airlines flight 175 into the second World Trade Center tower.
2. Several of the 9-11 hijackers and planners traveled through the UAE or stayed there while preparing the attack, and its banking system was used to move funds used in the operation. This has prompted critics to call the Emirates “an operational and financial base for the hijackers”who carried out the 9-11 attacks.
3. Only three countries in the world recognized the Taliban regime in Afghanistan: Saudi Arabia, Pakistan-and the UAE. Entrusting the running of America’s ports to a company owned by one of those three governments is inherently unsafe .
4. According to a bipartisan congressional letter of protest sent to the Administration last week, the UAE has been a key transfer point for illegal shipments of nuclear components to Iran and North Korea. If such shipments, many of them bulky, passed undetected, the UAE government is guilty either of gross negligence or of complicity.
5. The management structure, hiring policies, and external supervision of the company itself are flawed. “There are conditions, which shows they had concerns , but it’s all procedural and relies entirely on good faith,” according to Rep. Pete King, a Republican from New York and the House homeland security chief, but “there’s nothing those conditions . . . nothing that assures us they’re not hiring someone with bin Laden.”
6. The plan was not subjected to any proper evaluation by the Department of Homeland Security. Its administrators obediently rubber-stamped it, but its senior security analysts were surreptitious bypassed. They ” were never told [about it] and they don’t like it now.”
7. The Dubai firm has unnaturally close ties to the White House. Treasury Secretary John Snow, whose department heads the federal panel that approved the deal, was chairman of the CSX rail firm that sold its own international port operations to Dubai Ports World for $1.15 billion in 2004-one year after Snow left for President Bush’s cabinet. David Sanborn, currently in charge of Dubai Ports World’s European and Latin American operations, “was tapped by Bush last month to head the U.S. Maritime Administration.”
To all that, the President responded with an ill-tempered challenge: “I want those who are questioning it to step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a [British] company,” he told reporters. The idiocy of such thinking, rather than any specific security threat, is the real reason why this dealmust be called off . It reflects his enduring ideological commitment to the fiction that there are good Muslims, who are our friends and allies and whose countries are every bit as “normal” as Great Britain, Canada, or Japan; and then there are some bad apples who have “hijacked a great religion.”
Bush’s logic in defending the right of a Middle Eastern company to enjoy the same access to America’s strategic infrastructure as a British company is the same logic that has granted millions of Muslimsequal access to this country’s green cards and passports, thus creating the main terrorist threat that America faces today. It is the logic of globalization and anti-discriminationism. It is not merely flawed, it is evil, and it presents a mortal danger to our civilization.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
BIN LADEN TAPES AND CENSORED TRUTHS
by Srdja Trifkovic
The jihad is continuing and the war against America will not be confined to Iraq, says Osama bin Laden in his latest tape that was released on Monday. He also pledged never to be caputred alive, and-implicitly denying any links between al-Qaeda and the former Iraqi leader-accused U.S. forces of “barbaric” acts in Iraq, comparable to those committed by Saddam Hussein. Segments of the tape, released by an Al-Qaeda-connected website, were initially broadcast last month by Al Jezeera, and the CIA said at the time that the voice was indeed bin Laden’s.
The news of the tape has been promptly carried by thousands of media outlets in the United States and all over the world. Such diligence was in marked contrast to another, far more interesting news item concerning bin Laden, the one that has been either overlooked or else deliberately ignored by the mainstream media. It concerns the testimony of my old acquaintance, British journalist Eve-Ann Prentice, who appeared as a defense witness at Slobodan Milosevic’s trial at The Hague on February 3. Presiding judge Patrick Robinson abruptly stopped her testimony the moment she disclosed having seen Osama bin Laden walk into the office of late Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic in November 1994. Before she could continue Prosecutor Geoffrey Nice objected and judge Robinson cut off the testimony, declaring it “irrelevant.”
Any seasoned media professional would look at this story as potential front-page material. Did it happen, was bin Laden really received at the highest level in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war? What exactly was he doing there? What were the implications of that meeting, if indeed it had taken place? How credible is the witness? And most important of all, why did the Tribunal interrupt her testimony?
The first noteworthy fact is that, as of this writing, there is no official transcript of Ms. Prentice’s testimony. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) website still states merely that “on 3 February 2006, the following witness was examined by the accused, subsequently cross-examined by the Prosecution and then re-examined by the accused: Witness Eve-Ann Prentice (a journalist and a reporter during the relevant period).” Sorces close to the Milosevic defense team have posted an unofficial summary of her testimony, which says she was cut off after testifying that, “[w]hile she was waiting in Izetbegovic’s foyer both she, and a journalist from Der Speigel, saw Osama bin Laden being escorted into Izetbegovic’s office.” This account has not been contradicted by the ICTY or by Ms. Prentice herself.
The credibility of the witness is confirmed by her impressive track record. She reported for the Times of London from the Balkans as a hands-on journalist-unlike the Sarajevo Holiday Inn media pack -and risked her life under NATO bombs while touring Kosovo in 1999. Her experiences have resulted in one of the best books on the wars of Yugoslav succession published in any language.
As for the connection between Alija Izetbegovic , the wartime leader of Bosnia’s Muslims, and Osama bin Laden, it has been known to our readers for some years and needs no recounting here. It has been known to the U.S. military, too: contrary to their propaganda, “President Izetbegovic and his cabal appear to harbor much different private intentions and goals,” concluded Lt.Col. John E. Sray in a study for the U.S. Army Foreign Military Studies Office (” Selling the Bosnia Myth to America: Buyer Beware “). At times it even trickled into themainstream media , the Washington Post for instance, which reported in November 1995 that “the core of Bin Laden’s Balkan network are the veterans of El Moujahed brigade of the Bosnian-Muslim army,” which “included volunteers from all over the Islamic world whose passage to Bosnia was facilitated by Al-Qaeda. The unit was distinguished by its spectacular cruelty to Christians, including decapitation of prisoners to the chants of Allahu-akbar. El Moujahed was the nursery from which an international terrorist network spread to Europe and North America.” The brigade’s cadres were given Bosnian citizenship and issued passports , including bin Laden himself.
So much on whether Izetbegovic and bin Laden had reason to meet. That leaves one unresolved issue: why did the ICTY censor Ms. Prentice? As we know , ICTY is a quasi-judicial political institution that acts in accordance with its paymasters’ wishes. We suggest that it censored Ms. Prentice because after all these years, it is still undesirable to the U.S. government that the connection between its various Muslims proteges be revealed. This ongoing reluctance was noted on February 18 by an anonymous Counterpunch analyst, who has grown tired of various conspiracy theories concerning bin Laden. “More dispositive than these speculations,” he writes , “are the very real connections between Washington and Islamic jihadists in the Balkans throughout the 1990s”:
The [9-11 Commission’s] report hints at this relationship by mentioning the presence of charity fronts of bin Laden’s “network” in Zagreb and Sarajevo. In fact, the U.S. government engaged in a massive covert operation to infiltrate Islamic fighters, many of them veterans of the Afghan war, into the Balkans for the purpose of undermining the Milosevic government. The “arms embargo,” enforced by the U.S. military, was a cover for this activity ( i.e ., using military force to keep prying eyes from seeing what was going on). A key Washington fixer for the Muslim government of Bosnia was the law firm of Feith and Zell. Yes, Douglas Feith, one of the principal conspirators involved in launching the Iraq war under the banner of opposing Islamic terrorism, was a proponent of introducing Islamic terrorists into South Eastern Europe. Do the “Islamofascists” of pseudo-conservative demonology accordingly seem less like satanic enemies and more like puppets dangling from an unseen hand? Or perhaps the analogy is incorrect: more like a Frankenstein’s Monster that has slipped the control of its creator.
The only part of the above statement that is wrong is the suggestion that the monster has slipped the control of its creator. Quite the contrary: the creator still hopes to rein in the monster, to make him user-friendly by appeasing and cajoling him. The same report of the 9-11 Commission, for instance, asserts that America “does stand up for its values” by supporting Muslim causes around the world: “The United States defended, and still defends, Muslims against tyrants and criminals in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo , Afghanistan, and Iraq. If the United States does not act aggressively to define itself in the Islamic world, the extremists will gladly do the job for us.”
Remarkably enough, the same report admits that it was partly in the context of the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s that the “groundwork for a true global terrorist network was being laid” (p. 58). And yet the Commission ended up recommending more pro-Islamic interventions along the lines of Bosnia and Kosovo. This apparent absurdity needs to be understood in a larger context. According to James Jatras, for many years an analyst with the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee, we have to start with the tendency of American global policy that is summed up in one word-hegemony:
This means not only hegemony in Europe through NATO-which had specific application in the Balkan interventions-but also in what is called the Broader Middle East, which includes the Caucasus and Central Asia, and of which the Balkans is seen as much a part as it is of Europe. In its wider application, it means that the opinion of any other power, or any possible combination of powers, may not outweigh that of the United States on any point of the globe. An important corollary of the foregoing is the effort to undermine the status of certain regional powers, notably Russia.
The striving for hegemony has been and still is bipartisan, hence the continuity of the Balkan blunder. The discrepancy between the coverage of the latest bin Laden tape and the absence of that coverage concerning the silencing of Ms. Prentice at The Hague serves to remind us that no effective anti-terrorist strategy is possible today without recognizing past mistakes of U.S. policy that have helped breed terrorism. Eight years of the Clinton-Albright Administration’s covert and overt support for the Islamist camp in the Balkans have been a moral disaster and a foreign policy debacle . That this debacle is contining under Bush indicates the extent to which the creators of foreign policy in Washington, like the late Bourbons, learn nothing and forget. Its rewards, it is to be hoped, will be the same as those reaped by Charles X.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
A BISHOP’S LONELY STRUGGLE
by Srdja Trifkovic
When various Balkan potentates come to Washington, you can guess their ethnicity by the kind of treatment they receive. Albanian terrorists like the KLA leader Hashim Thaci do rather well . They are received at the State Department, which but a decade ago would have deemed them untouchable . They have full access to the mainstream mediaand publically-funded think-tanks to propagate independence for their mono-ethnic criminal fiefdom.
When Bishop Artemije of Rashka and Prizren, the spiritual leader of Kosovo’s beleaguered Serbs, comes to Washington, he stays with friends in suburban Maryland who drive him hundreds of miles tomeetings in Chicago, Pittsburgh, or Cleveland . He is received in Washington by low-to-middle ranking bureaucrats who listen to him politely but repeat stock platitudes that should be too embarrassing to utter by now (“we want a democratic, multi-ethnic Kosovo, in which each group will be able to prosper in peace and security,” und so weiter, und so weiter ).
The reason for the discrepancy is simple. Bishop Artemije has no money because he is not dealing drugs; he has no armed thugs under his command; and he is telling the truth, warning that “working for Kosovo’s independence is to prepare, consciously or unconsciously, the ground for a militant jihad and terrorism in the heart of Europe, which will put at risk all democratic values of Europe and of America itself.” That is not what the U.S. government and its European partners want to hear.
Bishop Artemije will not give up, even if the times appear desperate. Hisdiminutive frame conceals a fighter unused to admitting defeat. In the final years of the Milosevic regime Bishop Artemije was accused of “treason” and had no access to government-controlled media because of his opposition to violence and condemnation of any crime, regardless of the culprit’s ethnicity. This earned him no friends across Kosovo’s ethnic divide, however. After the KLA took over the province under NATO’s occupation in June 1999 and started blowing up Serbian churches and monasteries by the dozen, his life was in danger. Since then he has emerged willy-nilly as a political figure, although politics for him “has never been an ambition but a necessity” in order to save what can be saved of his people’s lives and lands.
Bishop Artemije is an accomplished master of rhetoric but on this occasion his tone is somber. The “final status talks” in Vienna, he suspects, may lead to the creation of yet another Muslim state in Europe. Since 9-11, he says, “the United States has been engaged in a global struggle against jihad terrorism, which threatens not just America but peaceful people of all faiths and nationalities. That is why we who live in the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija find it difficult to understand why so many voices of influence in Washington support a course of action that would hand to the terrorists a significant victory in Europe.”
But that “course of action” is pretty firmly cast by now, although the U.S. government has taken no formal position on the outcome of the talks. Many on Capitol Hill, in the Administration, and among NGOs believe that independence is the only “democratic” outcome for Kosovo in accordance with the demands of its Muslim Albanians, who greatly outnumber the province’s Christian Serbs. The Bishop warns that independence would reward ethnic cleansing of non-Albanians: “During the years of international control, the violence directed against us had been decreased only by the reduction of the possible targets: fewer Christian Serbs to be attacked or kidnapped, fewer remaining churches and monasteries to be demolished by perpetrators who are never apprehended”:
I have come to America, once again, to bear witness to the agony that has befallen the Christian people of Kosovo and to warn against the path that lies before us. Detaching Kosovo from democratic Serbia would mean a virtual sentence of extinction for my people in the province-the larger part of my diocese-who continue to face unremitting violence from jihad terrorist and criminal elements that dominate the Albanian Muslim leadership. Even today, while the international community maintains formal control, Kosovo has become a black hole of corruption and organized crime, including trafficking in drugs, weapons, and slaves. All too often these things happen under the noses of NATO soldiers, who fear to confront these criminals directly.
Indeed, the Bishop points out with a wry smile, the sporadic outbreaks of violence are themselves cited as justification for independence, as if appeasing Muslim “frustration” in the form of an ongoing intifada will bring peace anywhere. He readily admits that the situation prior to 1999, before the initiation of international administration, was far from satisfactory; but now, “to empower men of violence with state authority is no solution to problems that go back many years. Forcibly detaching Kosovo from democratic Serbia, contrary to all accepted legal principles, cannot resolve the absence of the rule of law and of elementary standards of human rights.”
A workable solution for Kosovo, according to Bishop Artemije, needs to proceed from the fact that Kosovo is part of sovereign Serbia, and that a solution must be found that provides for the human dignity and respect for all its people. Viable and balanced plans have been put forward, he says, and they can ensure safety for all citizens with a fullest degree of self-rule, in accordance with all accepted standards (“The question of status is one of legality and not of politics”). Kosovo Albanians have engaged all available resources to convince the world that the independence of Kosovo is a panacea that will solve all of Kosovo’s problems and automatically improve all basic standards, and bring peace and stability to the region, but, according to His Grace, the push for independence for Kosovo is neither inevitable nor desirable. I think many Americans would be shocked to learn that key sectors in their government-heeding the pressure of a noisy and well-funded lobby-is pushing for Kosovo independence, which would consign the remaining Christians of Kosovo to the mercies of a violent Islamic jihad movement. At a time when money and radical propaganda pour into Kosovo from around the Islamic world, I ask: does it make sense for America to hand them a great and unnecessary victory? Even aside from what may happen to my people-which is my first responsibility-what can be gained from such an outcome in terms of peace in the Balkans, or in Europe? What can America gain?
The Bishop is well aware that people in the West do not like to think in terms of “winners and losers” when it comes to matters of religion and ethnicity. He supports a solution that address everyone’s needs and fears within a democratic European country, Serbia, “but that is not how the radicals on the Muslim Albanian side and their jihadist supporters around the world see it”:
The victory of jihad in Kosovo would be a local triumph pointing the way to further victories to come, eventually to a worldwide victory. They would point and say: “Where is their God?” As Christians, our hope of victory is not an earthly one. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” I remind you that in our part of the world, we suffered centuries under shari’a rule, and no man knows the numbers and names of all the martyrs from those times. We do not prefer to repeat that nightmare, but we are prepared for it if it comes. But my plea to you, as American citizens, is that your country would not help hasten that day for the Christian Orthodox people of Kosovo.
But help it will; as an American analyst commented for the Voice of America last week, no Serbian politician can have a more flexible stance than a high level of autonomy , with the most likely result that the “final status” will be imposed by force: “the Kosovo status solution could be imposed regardless of the objections of the Belgrade officials, with the knowledge that Serbia is not in a position to do anything about such a decision.” Admittedly, in Washington the desired modalities of that status solution have acquired an explicitly Clintonesque flavor over the past few months, most notably with the return of Nicholas Burns to the center stage. Never a paragon of original thought or principled consistency, his nominal boss Dr. Rice has internalized the views of Mr. Burns, and other Albright proteges like him, on what needs to be done on Kosovo and Bosnia. She has become a vocal advocate, within the Bush team, of the Balkan startegy hardly different from that advocated by candidate John Kerry in 2004.
Not all is lost for the Serbs, however. The EU position is far from unified. Formally it has not changed: Kosovo must not be partitioned, the “rights” of the Serbs must be respected, and the pre-1999 status of direct rule from Belgrade is not acceptable. But there is more than meets the eye . Several states-including the Czech Republic, Spain, Greece and Italy-are publicly or privately promoting their own ideas, which are different from the EU’s common position, and notably more favorable to the Serb point of view than are the policies advocated in London, Berlin, and Vienna. Czech prime minister Jiri Paroubek has suggested that partitioning Kosovo could be the best solution.
Russian President Vladimir Putin weighed in on January 31 by stating that independence for Kosovo could create a dangerous precedent in the troubled regions of the Caucasus, for provinces such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which gained de facto independence from Georgia in the early 1990s and are now propped up by Russia. “If someone considers that Kosovo can be given full state independence, then why must we refuse this to the Abkhazians or South Ossetians,” Putin said . “I do not want to say that Russia will immediately recognise Abkhazia or South Ossetia as independent states, but such precedents exist,” he said. A day earlier Putin said that the six-nation Contact Group monitoring international policy in Kosovo must make “universal decisions” as conflicts remain unresolved in the former USSR. “We must not follow the way of applying some principles to solve one problem and others to solve another,” Putin declared, clearly hinting that an independent Kosovo would provide an international legal precedent that Moscow would feel authorized to apply in its own back yard.
A creative diplomatic game-plan from Belgrade is needed at forthcoming negotiations . The process will include diplomats of the Kosovo Contact Group, with a representative of the EU as well as the United States, Russia, the UK, France, Germany and Italy. With this line-up the potential for creative lobbying and button-pressing is considerable. It is only to be feared that, with Belgrade’s diplomacy in the highly dubious hands of Vuk Draskovic, that potential will not be used.
Friday, February 10, 2006
THERE IS SOMETHING HEALTHY IN THE STATE OF DENMARK
by Srdja Trifkovic
Denmark’s government, her media and the public at large, continue todefy the prevalent spirit of Western decrepitude by refusing to eat humble pie over some half-dozen mildly satirical cartoons of Muhammad, the inventor of Islam. Every American by now has heard about those cartoons, but very few have actually seen , thanks to our mainstream media’s strange view of what actually constitutes “all the news fit to print.” The cartoons, originally published in the Jyllands-Posten , have prompted a fresh round of anti-Western rage in the Muslim world and among Muslim immigrants in Europe . It looks like there will be no apology coming from Copenhagen, however, no matter how many Danish consulates burn in Dar al Islam, or how resolutely Iranians and others pursue their announced boycott of Danish products (which is unlikely to hurt anyway: being pious they don’t consume Tuborg or Carlsberg, and they wouldn’t touch the succulent, lightly smoked Crown ham.)
The U.S. State Department, by contrast, has effectively sided with Jihad by condemning the newspapers in Denmark, Norway, and elsewhere in Europe that have published those cartoons . On February 3 a State Department press officer, one Janelle Hironimus,declared that “inciting religious or ethnic hatred in this manner is not acceptable.” “We call for tolerance and respect for all communities,” she went on, “and for their religious beliefs and practices.”
Ms. Hironimus and her bosses are guilty of a fourfold blunder. First of all, they are guilty of gross misrepresentation of fact: The cartoons in question do not incite hatred-religious, ethnic, or any other. Muhammad telling suicide bombers arriving in heaven to stop coming as he’d ran out of virgins, or wearing a turban containing a stick of dynamite, is somewhat funny and mildly satirical. It is not outrageous by any sane standard.
They are also guilty of arrogance: it is not the job of a foreign ministry to pass judgments on cultural matters, or to set standards of “acceptability.” Its job is to promote the country’s interests around the world. In this particular case those interests entail siding with a brave, little fellow-Western society in defending freedom of speech against crude intimidation by our common enemies.
Even more troubling is the hypocrisy, endemic in Washington anyway. The U.S. government did not comment when far worse cases of inciting religious and ethnic hatred occurred here in America, notably when an NEA-funded “artist” submerged a crucifix in his urine , when the Chicago Tribune published a cartoon in 1992 depicting “the Serbs” as a pig emerging from a latrine, or when a winner of the Turner Prize depicted Holy Virgin Mary using “polyester resin, map pins, and elephant dung on linen.” Anti-Muslim images are as unacceptable as “anti-Christian images, or [those insulting to] any other religious belief,” Ms. Hironimus’ colleague Sean McCormack declared at a State Department press briefing on the same day (February 3), but he was not telling the truth.
And finally, we are witnessing the ongoing delusion at Foggy Bottom about the effect U.S. appeasement will have on the Muslim world. If the State Department believes that it will earn some brownie points for America in the streets of Cairo or Peshawar by betraying the Danes, it is merely repeating Clinton’s Balkan folly of the 1990s and Brzezinski’sAfghan blowback a decade earlier; and “not to learn from history is to be a child for ever” (Cicero).
While Danish artists have every right to draw and publish cartoons that mock Muhammad, and while various bien-pensants, busybodies and jihad’s fellow-travelers who suggest otherwise deserve our studied contempt, the entire debate is based on flawed assumptions.
The real problem is this: a figure as disturbing as the founder of Islam should not be gently made fun of, at least not until his remarkable career has been given a vigorous public treatment in the Western world.
The trouble with those cartoons is not at all that they offend fervent Muslims -that sort are offended by our very existence-but that by their placid humor they humanize a man with a hugely problematic legacy, and thereby offended the memory of untold millions of victims of Jihad through the ages.
Ahmed Akkari, spokesman of the Muslim organizations in Denmark, said that Muslims all over the world want the “truth” about their prophet to become known to the rest of the world. “We want respect for Muhammad restored and we want him to be described as the man he really was in history,” he declared.
In the spirit of multicultural tolerance and interfaith dialogue we willingly take the challenge. We’ll briefly examine Muhammad as ” he really was in history,” relying exclusively on the orthodox Islamic sources: the Kuran and the hadith , or recorded “traditions” about the prophet. Those sources provide an account of uncertain historical accuracy, but that account is regarded as true by all true Muslims and it provides the scriptural basis for the Muslim faith and the Islamic law.
Muhammad was both the prophet of the religion he invented cca. 610 AD and the creator of a political ideology and a social program associated with it. He also remains, to all true Muslims, the paragon of goodness. Imitatio Muhammadi is reflected in the prevalence of his name in the Muslim world. Understanding him is the key to grasping the Muslim world outlook.
Of Muhammad’s life we are informed from the Kuran (English convert Marmaduke Muhammad Pickthall’s 1930 translation is still the best by far) and the far more voluminous hadith , recorded “traditions” about the prophet. Those sources provide an account of uncertain historical accuracy, but it is regarded as true by all true Muslims and it provides the scriptural basis for the Muslim faith and the Islamic law.
Muhammad was born around AD 570 in the city of Mecca, a place of pagan pilgrimage focused on the temple of Kaaba (“cube”) that sheltered a revered black stone. The dominant pagan deity was themoon-god whose title was al-ilah -“the chief among gods”-shortened by frequency of usage to Allah. Mecca, close to the seaport of Jeddah and halfway between Yemen and Syria, was a large trading center and Muhammad’s tribe, the Quraysh , included many affluent and politically influential merchants. His own family was poor, however. Orphaned at an early age, he grew up on the social margins and lacked formal education. Muhammad’s later bitterness towards his native city and its social and spiritual structure reflected a resentful and marginalized young man’s sense of powerlessness and alienation.
At 25 Muhammad met a wealthy widow, Khadija, 15 years his senior, and entered her service as a camel driver, soon rising to become her partner and eventually husband. But his enduring detachment from Meccan society and from the Quraysh tribe prompted the development of his contemplative side. He would often wander in the hills around Mecca, meditating in solitude. One day in AD 610, coming out of one of his hallucinatory trances, he confided to his wife that he was visited by a majestic being-whom he identified as angel Gabriel-with a call to prophecy: “You are the Messenger of God.” That “Night of Power” marked the beginning of his career as messenger of God-rasul Allah-or Prophet, nabi. Starting in 610, at increasingly frequent intervals until his death 22 years later, Muhammad received “revelations” or verbal messages that he claimed came directly from Allah. Around 650 AD they were collected and written in the Kuran, and eventually codified in the form that has endured until today.
Three years after the first supposed revelation Muhammad decided to go public. His initial teaching was simple, focused on the submission to one transcendent Allah, on the end of the world and the Day of Judgment, on the subsequent delights of paradise for the virtuous and torments of hell for the sinners. In the early days the revelations were delivered in the tone of warnings and appeals rather than threats. (Kuran, sura 46, verse 12; hereafter denoted only by numbers). But the Meccan leaders sneered at the audacity of this common man, with no natural claim to authority or prestige, whose attack on the divinity of old idols could deny the Quraysh their profits derived from the guardianship of the temple of the Kaaba. This was taken as a proof of the upstart’s disregard for the interests of his community and his obligations to the tribe. The initial humorous contempt for Muhammad’s claims eventually turned to indignation and enmity.
Muhammad felt offended by the scorn of his native city, and his wrath brought an early revelation that was harshly violent in tone. It was directed against his uncle Abu Lahab and aunt Umm Jamil: “May the hands of Abu Lahab perish! May he himself perish! Nothing shall his wealth and gains avail him. He shall be burnt in a flaming fire, and his wife, laden with faggots, shall have a rope of fiber around her neck!” (111:1-5) For the first time Muhammad’s family problems were thus echoed by Allah, but certainly not the last.
Muhammad’s fortunes changed in June 622, when a group of 75 people from the fertile settlement of Yathrib, 200 miles north of Mecca, came to him professing acceptance of his faith and inviting him to come to them. In his subsequent escape from Mecca Muhammad was joined by a small group of seventy muhajirun who were all intensely loyal to him personally. This was the hijrah and Muhammad’s arrival in Yathrib on in September 24, 622, marked the beginning of the history of Islam. From that time Yathrib became the city of the prophet, Medinnet el Nebi, which has been shortened to Medina. Significantly, just prior to leaving for Medina, Muhammad received first revelations allowing him to fight the Meccans. (22:39-41)
Once physically secure in his new abode but always short of funds, Muhammad ordered armed raids against Meccan caravans passing near Medina on their way to Syria. An early raid, at Nakhla, took place in the sacred pagan month of Rajab, when no Arab was permitted to raise arms in battle. Not only Muhammad’s foes, but his followers, too, were likely to be scandalized by the wanton violation of sacred trust, so he promptly received a revelation from Allah that the raid enjoyed divine sanction. (2:214) From that moment on, the morality based on pre-Islamic concepts and scriptures, in custom and in natural human sensibility, was to be abrogated in favor of what was advantageous to Muhammad and his followers.
In 624, at Badr, his men killed over forty Meccans in a single razzia that fortified Muhammad’s power in Medina. Yet again, however, divine justification was required for ambushing and murdering one’s own kinsmen, which was repugnant to an Arab. Yet again it was duly granted. (3:123-125) Allah’s alleged messages grew more bellicose at this time: “I will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers, Smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger tips of them.” (8:12) The “messenger” gloated in the spectacle of his slain enemies and ordered execution of several prisoners who had crossed his path back in Mecca. From the victory at Badr on, to quote Ayatollah Khomeini, “Islam grew with blood.”
At that time Muhammad made the prospect of booty and ransom legal to his followers. This powerful inducement to endemic warfare was so important that it merited a separate sura in the Kuran (the eighth). In the division of the spoils, every man was allowed to retain the plunder of those whom he had slain, with the rest thrown into a common stock. From the proceeds one fifth was Muhammad’s, as condoned by Allah. (8:41) Once the loot was divided it was time to relax: “Now enjoy what ye have won.” (8:69) The promise was reiterated in other verses: “Allah promiseth you much booty that ye will capture.” (48:20-21) Muslim warriors desire the lure of this world, so “enjoy what you have won as lawful and good.” (69:30-37) As for the fallen, a very tangible, X-rated paradise filled with virgins “unouched by man” (52:17-20, 55:56-77) and “fresh” pre-pubescent boys (52:24, 56:17, 76:19) awaits them immediately.
At Badr the simple preacher of yore finally morphed into a vengeful warlord, who jubilantly exclaimed that the spectacle of severed enemy heads pleased him better than “the choicest camel in Arabia.” Killing prisoners was divinely condoned by Allah (8:68) and urged by Muhammad . Fresh revelations described the unbelievers as “the worst animals” (8:55) and “the vilest of creatures” (98:6) undeserving of mercy. The prophet was the “enemy of infidels” (2:90) and his enemies’ heads were to be cut off. (47:4) Killing, enslaving and robbing them was divinely sanctioned and mandated.
When Muhammad returned from Badr to Medina in triumph, he proceeded to settle old scores with his detractors. An atmosphere of fear and foreboding descended on the city. His first victim was Asma bint Marwan , a poetess who had mocked him in verse; she was slain while nursing her baby, and the surviving members of her family “willingly” accepted Islam the following morning. Abu Afak, an elderly Jew who dared question Muhammad’s methods , was the next victim of Muhammad’s hit squads, immediately followed by yet another unfriendly poet, Kab bin al-Ashraf . Artistic expression and freedom of speech were thus given a distinctly Islamic interpretation by thereligion’s founder himself .
In the morning after Ashraf-a Jew-was killed, Muhammad told his followers to “kill any Jew you can lay your hands on.” One Muhayyisa bin Mas’ud, to prove his devotion, killed Jewish merchant Ibn Sunayna, his ex-employer. When six of Muhammad’s henchmen murdered an elderly Jew by the name of Abu Rafi in his sleep, they argued whose weapon had actually ended the victim’s life. The prophet decided that the owner of the sword that still had traces of food on it was entitled to the credit: Abu Rafi had just eaten his dinner before falling asleep, and the fatal slash went through his stomach.
Muhammad’s attack against the Jewish tribe of Banu-‘l-Mustaliq was the next step towards his Endloesung. His followers slaughtered many tribesmen, looted thousands of their camels and sheep; and kidnapped 500 of their women. The night after the battle, Muhammad and his brigands staged an orgy of rape .
In Mecca Muhammad had hoped to be accepted as God’s messenger by the Jews, but he underestimated their allegiance to their scriptures. His superficial, second-hand knowledge of the Bible made it impossible for him to argue on par with the learned merchants of Medina steeped in their Tradition. The result of their unsurprising refusal to give it up in favor of the claims of a poorly educated refugee was that Muhammad’s earlier, favorable pronouncements about the Jews evolved into a harshly hostile position. The result is summarized in a chillingly euphemistic account by a Muslim scholar : “the final result of the struggle was the disappearance of these Jewish communities from Arabia proper.”
This “disappearance” was not a spontaneous phenomenon but the result of ethnic cleansing and genocide, culminating in the attack the last surviving Jewish tribe in Medina, Banu Qurayzah . Accused of treachery and forced to surrender, some 600 and perhaps up to 900 men were decapitated in front of their women and children. “Truly the judgment of Allah was pronounced on high,” Muhammad gloated , and Allah responded by praising him for the way “he struck terror into their hearts.” (33:25) The women were subsequently raped, of course; Muhammad chose as his concubine one Raihana Bint Amr, whose father and husband were both slaughtered before her eyes some hours earlier. Such treatment of captive women had already been sanctioned by prophetic revelation, and applied to the captive women of Banu-‘l-Mustaliq .
Around that time Allah’s messages concerning “the infidel” grew ever harsher: “Take him and fetter him and expose him to hell fire.” (69:30-37) Others “will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off.” (5:33-34) In this world for the captured infidel “We have prepared chains, yokes and a blazing fire.” (76:4) In the hereafter things get even worse: “garments of fire will be cut out for them, boiling fluid will be poured down their heads. Whereby that which is in their bellies, and their skins too, will be melted . . . And for them are hooked rods of iron.” (22:19-22) One single Kuranic verse, “the Verse of the Sword,” (9:5) Islamic scholars agree, abrogates 124 earlier verses -the ones that are quoted most regularly by Islam’s character witnesses and apologists to prove its alleged tolerance and benevolence.
The image of a victorious leader, merciless with the defeated infidel and feared by his foes, worked wonders for Muhammad. On January 12, 630, he marched into Mecca in triumph, having violated the ten-year truce of Hudaybiyya signed two years previously. That violation was predictably condoned by Allah. (60:10) Ever since, the view of Islamic jurists has been that truces with the infidel could only be temporary and that their only permissible objective was to enable the Muslim side to gain strength for a new onslaught.
Muhammad’s progression from a marginalized outsider to a master of life and death produced a transformation of his personality in the decade preceding his death in 633 AD. Allah was invoked as the authority supporting the prophet’s daily political objectives and his personal needs. Nowhere was this more obvious than when it came to his exaggerated sensuality.
Contrary to his own regulations he had at least fifteen wives. The youngest was Aisha , a daughter of his close aide and the first caliph Abu Bakr, who was seven years old “and with the dolls” when Muhammad-44 years her senior-“married” her. Two years later, when she was 9 and he 53, the “prophet” consummated the “marriage,” i.e. raped the little girl. Some years later he came up with a Kuranic verse approving his nightly trysts with an Egyptian slave girl, and admonishing his jealous wives for their objections to the practice. (66:1-3) Allah’s revelation also enabled Muhammad to take his daughter-in-law Zainab as a wife when he lusted after her. (36:37)
Many commands of the Kuran and Muhammad’s actions and words recorded in the Traditions are morally abhorrent and/or criminal by the standards of our time. But even in the context of 7th century Arabia they were often considered repugnant. Muhammad had to resort to “revelations” as a means of justifying his actions and suppressing the prevalent moral code of his own society. Attacking caravans in the holy month, taking up arms against one’s kinsmen, slaughtering prisoners, reserving a lion’s share of the booty, murdering people without provocation, violating treaties, and indulging one’s sensual passions, was also at odds with the moral standards of his Arab contemporaries. Only the ultimate authority could sanction it, and Allah duly obliged him.
Muhammad’s practice and constant encouragement of bloodshed are unique in the history of religions. Murder, pillage, rape, and more murder have “impressed his followers with a profound belief in the value of bloodshed as opening the gates of Paradise” (cf. Margoulith 1914 ) and prompted countless Muslim governors, caliphs, and viziers, to refer to Muhammad’s example to justify their treatment of the infidels. Allah’s order to “kill the unbelievers wherever you find them” is an injunction both unambiguous and powerful. The word “genocide” was not even coined when Muhammad conveyed Allah’s alleged dictum, “When we decide to destroy a population . . . then we destroy them utterly.” (17:16-17) Disobedient people “we utterly destroyed.” (21:11)
The lives of the unconverted captives could be spared if they pay a tribute to the Muslims: “Fight those who do not profess the true faith till they pay the jiziya [poll tax] with the hand of humility.” (9:29) That Islam sees the world as an open-ended conflict between the Land of Peace (Dar al-Islam) and the Land of War (Dar al-Harb), which must be conquered by jihad, is the most important bequest of Muhammad to his heirs. That “Allah is great, there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger” was easily grasped by the coarse nomads of the desert, especially when the celestial reward was preceded by the tangible earthly loot divinely sanctioned. Charles Manson had met John Gotti; the results were phenomenal.
JIHAD, war in the path of Allah with the objective of converting, killing, or else subjugating and taxing the “infidel,” is Muhammad’s most significant single contribution to the world history. It defined Islam in its earliest days, it has defined the relations between Islam and other religions and cultures ever since, and it continues to define the mindset of Islam today. Muhammad’s followers and successors were accustomed to living by pillage and the exploitation of settled populations. Islam provided a powerful ideological justification for this mindset, a justification inherently global in scope and totalitarian in nature.
The view of modern Islamic activists, that “Islam must rule the world and until Islam does rule the world we will continue to sacrifice our lives,” has been solidly rooted in traditional Islam ever since the early divine sanction of violence that came to Muhammad in Medina: “O Prophet! Rouse the Believers to the fight,” the Kuran orders, and promises that twenty Muslims, “patient and persevering,” would vanquish two hundred unbelievers; if a hundred, they will vanquish a thousand. (8:65) Allah further orders the faithful to fight the unbelievers and be firm with them, (9:123) “and slay them wherever ye catch them.” (2:191) The end of the fight is possible only when “there prevail justice and faith in Allah”-everywhere. (2:193)
Muhammad made Islam different from Judaism and Christianity in creating the foundations for a theocratic universal state with unlimited aspirations. From his second year in Medina on, Islam combined the dualism of a universal religion and a universal state and became“Islam’s instrument for carrying out its ultimate objective by turning all people into believers.” Muhammad postulated the fundamental illegitimacy of the existence of a non-Muslim world. Jihad did not necessarily mean permanent fighting, but it did mean a permanent state of war. Only after the universal Islamic Empire is established, the notion of an “inner” jihad-one’s personal fight against his sinful desires-may come into play. “My livelihood is under the shade of my spear,” from booty and poll tax, Muhammad declared, and the faithful followed his example. They could contemplate tactical ceasefires, but never its complete abandonment short of the unbelievers’ abject submission. This is the real meaning of Jihad. (4:76)
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. The resulting inequality of rights in all domains between Muslims and dhimmis steadily eroded the non-Muslim communities, but in this age of victimology the persecution of Christians by Muslims has become a taboo subject in the Western academe. 13 centuries of discrimination, suffering and death of countless millions, have been covered by the myth of Islamic “tolerance.”
On its own admission Islam stands or falls with the person of Muhammad, a deeply flawed man by the standards of his own society, as well as those of the Old and New Testaments, both of which he acknowledged as divine revelation; and even by the new law, of which he claimed to be the divinely appointed medium and custodian.
The problem of Islam, and the problem of the rest of the world with Islam, is not the remarkable career of Muhammad per se, undoubtedly a “great man” in terms of his impact on human history. It is the religion’s claim that the words and acts of its prophet provide the universally valid standard of morality as such, for all time and all men.
The cartoon controversy confirms the validity of Bat Ye’or’s warning (in 1993) that no “Europeanization” of Islam is on the horizon anywhere: there is no move or gesture that would be expressed in “a self-critical view of the history of Islamic imperialism, an acceptance of the principle of equality between Muslims and non-Muslims, a retroactive recognition of the rights of the peoples decimated and degraded by the system of dhimmitude, and an attitude of moral humility-a necessary stage on the path toward reconciliation between peoples. We are light years away from such a development.”
The experience of France last November and Denmark today raises the issue that America, too, ought to ponder: how far is a receiving country expected to go in order to accommodate the religious, moral, and political demands of often unassimilable and hostile immigrants? And why should it do any such thing at all? A further question (courtesy of Chilton Williamson) is where exactly one-billion-plus members of the biggest cult on earth get off telling the rest of us their “prophet” must not be criticized under pain of death: “It is, of course, an insane position. Has any other ‘religion’ in the history of the world made such a claim? Not to my knowledge anyway.”
Our judgment on Muhammad rests on evidence of his followers and faithful admirers-and those who rage against the Danish cartoons can scarcely complain if, even on such evidence, the verdict of the civilized world goes against their “prophet.”
That verdict, once it is passed-and it will be passed-will make the gentle mockery of Muhammad in those cartoons appear as inappropriate as it would be inappropriate today to lampoon Adolf Hitler for his out-of-wedlock trysts with Fraulein Braun, or for his inability to control flatulence.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
by Srdja Trifkovic
Some commentators have said that President George W. Bush’s State of the Union address last Tuesday was more low key and less assertive this year than before. That view is incorrect. A grand domestic theme was absent this time-last year it was the ill-fated Social Security reform-but on world affairs and terrorism Mr. Bush offered a host of cliches, platitudes, and assertions every bit as ideological as hisfirst State of the Union address in 2002, every bit as misguided ashis speech at the National Endowment for Democracy last October.
Barely 300 words into his address Mr. Bush presented the choice facing America in starkly Manichean terms: we must “act confidently in pursuing the enemies of freedom-or retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life.” In a complex and challenging time, he went on, “the road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting-yet it ends in danger and decline.” The only way to protect America, to secure the peace and “to control our destiny is by our leadership-so the United States of America will continue to lead.” Abroad, Mr. Bush asserted, this demands pursuing “an historic, long-term goal . . . the end of tyranny in our world.”
This is a breathtaking agenda indeed. “The end of tyranny” is a metaphysical objective that is indistinguishable from candidate John Kerry’s insistence , in 2004, that America’s interests “are consistent with the peace, prosperity, and self-determination of every country on earth . . . [America’s] interests and the world’s are one.”
There is nothing to choose between those two “visions.” The bipartisan consensus is set, and its implications are staggering. For as long as there is a single country anywhere in the world that is gripped by tyranny (Bush), or that does not enjoy peace, prosperity and self-determination (Democrats), it is ripe for regime change by all practicable means, USAF and USMC included. This is not to be done in order to protect America’s security interests in any traditionally defined sense: even supposing that such interests are not necessarily identical with those of “the world” smacks of “isolationism” and shows readiness to “retreat from our duties.”
Mr. Bush’s circulus vitiosus was reinforced last Tuesday by some bad history, and in particular by the entirely false claim that dictatorships are inherently aggressive while democracies “replace resentment with hope, respect the rights of their citizens and their neighbours, and join the fight against terror.” As Tom Fleming reminded us Athens was a democracy when it converted the Delian League into the Athenian Empire and provoked war with Sparta and its allies.
The parallel is worth expanding. In imposing their benevoleng hegemony, the Athenians claimed that their “leadership” was needed to promote free trade and, yes, democracy. That was the first time in history that one state sought to order the affairs of others in the name of an ideological concept. Athens’ self-appointed role signaled the birth of a view of international affairs that has created endless problems, both for its upholders and for its victims, ever since. Pericles sought to justify Athenian imperialism in the language heralding Bush-Kerry’s millenarianism, claiming that it brought freedom from fear and want to the Greek world. He, too, subscribed to the view that the way “to control our destiny is by our leadership.” The end of that road came in 404 B.C., when Athens was routed by Sparta, stripped of its empire and de-militarized, never to rise again.
The worst single statement in Mr. Bush’s Tuesday address concerned his characterization of “radical Islam” as “the perversion by a few of a noble faith into an ideology of terror and death.” This stale mantra is not worthy of a fresh comment, so let us merely restate our verdict on similar statements made by the President over the years.
In the immediate aftermath of 9-11 we hoped that Mr. Bush was not serious. In a “Memo to the President” ( Chronicles , December 2001)we wrote , “While political considerations may temporarily oblige you to say that ‘Islam is a religion of peace,’ you must understand that Islam as such-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.”
Two months later, after Mr. Bush’s first State of the Union address that contained the idiotic claim that the “real” Islam is America’s ally in the War on Terror (“Let the skeptics look to Islam’s own rich history-with its centuries of learning, and tolerance, and progress”), we again noted that Bush may be disingenuous rather than seriously deluded:
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.
But like a Bourbon who “learns nothing and forgets nothing,” President Bush announced last Tuesday that the policy of poking the hornets’ nest will continue: “In a time of testing, we cannot find security by abandoning our commitments and retreating within our borders. If we were to leave these vicious attackers alone, they would not leave us alone. They would simply move the battlefield to our own shores.”
Mr. Bush is simply wrong. The war against those “vicious attackers” can never be “won” in the sense of eliminating the phenomenon of terrorism altogether, but it can be successfully pursued to the point where the Western world can be made significantly safer by adopting strategies-defensive strategies-that would reduce the danger of such incidents to as near zero as possible. To put it succintly, this would necessitate leaving the Muslim world to its own devices and preventing it from having a toehold in America: the victory in the War on Terrorwill come “not by conquering Mecca for America but by disengaging America from Mecca and by excluding Mecca from America; not by eliminating the risk but by managing it wisely, resolutely, and permanently.”
The intent “not to abandon our commitments” Mr. Bush justified by the unprovable assertion that “America rejects the false comfort of isolationism”: “We are the nation that saved liberty in Europe, and liberated death camps, and helped raise up democracies, and faced down an evil empire.” He was wrong or misleading on three counts:
. “Our commitments” imply the existence of a constitutionally binding document, debated and passed into law by the House and Senate. Policies pursued by executive fiat and ad-hoc decisions of the White House or various Cabinet members are no “commitments.”
. America’s alleged rejection of “isolationism” should be tested against the fact that 60 percent of Americans disapprove of the president’s Iraq policy and only 39 percent approve. This represents a reversal of those ratios since May 2003, and compares to the nation’s mood on Vietnam in 1968.
. Europe was saved from Nazism-never mind “saving liberty,” we all know what happened at Yalta-by the Soviet Army, which caused 85 percent of all Wehrmacht casualties, and which also liberated the worst death camps of them all, Auschwitz, Birkenau and Treblinka.
Not allowing mere facts to invade his pseudo-reality, Mr. Bush went on to assert that, “once again, we accept the call of history to deliver the oppressed and move this world toward peace.” This reference to “the call of history” is an old theme in Mr. Bush’s speeches. It was present in his 2003 State of the Union address, when we commented on its megalomaniacal implications:
To deal with various threats effectively and on the basis of consensual leadership, the United States should discard the pernicious notion of its “exceptionalism,” reflected in Madeleine Albright’s memorable phrase that “the United States stands taller than other nations, and therefore sees further.” The implication that America is not only wise but also virtuous, and that its foreign policy is influenced by values and not by prejudices, is untrue. It hinders interest-based alliances and blurs the clarity of debate . . . That the claim of exceptionalism makes literally billions of people all over the world very angry indeed is neither here nor there; but it should also irritate all real Americans, whose sense of common decency and modesty has to be offended by such hubristic ravings.
Moving to Afghanistan, the President declared that “we remain on the offensive” in that country, “where a fine President and a National Assembly are fighting terror while building the institutions of a new democracy.” This is in line with the manner in which Mr. Bush hailed last September’s parliamentary election in Afghanistan as “a major step forward” for the country’s democratic process.
When the results were published three months ago, however, it became obvious that the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House) will be dominated by warlords, veteran jihadists and former Taliban officials. The new National Assembly includes Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, the head of the Ittihad-e-Islami (Islamic Union Party), who was mentioned in the 9/11 Commission Report as a mentor to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind behind the attacks in New York and Washington. It also includes Hazara warlord Mohammed Mohaqiq , notorious for hammering nails into the heads of captives; the Jamiat-i-Islami’s Younis Qanooni , accused of countless atrocities during the civil war in the 1990s; and many others tainted by violence and criminality. Far from being a “major step forward,” Afghanistan’s elections illustrate the perils of “spreading democracy” in the Muslim world. That world’s genuinely democratic transformation would require a reform of Muhammad’s faith so colossal as to turn it into something altogether new and different. Short of that elusive goal, the question we should ask is not how shall we bring them democracy, but how shall we reduce interaction with them and make America safer.
The President’s presentation on Iraq was devoid of any new moments. We’re on the offensive, with a clear plan for victory. We’re helping Iraqis build an inclusive government, so that old resentments will be eased and the insurgency will be marginalized. We’re continuing reconstruction efforts. And, third, we’re striking terrorist targets while we train Iraqi forces that are increasingly capable of defeating the enemy: “In less than three years, the nation has gone from dictatorship to liberation, to sovereignty, to a constitution, to national elections.” This is all old hat , and so is the critical scrutiny.
Suffice to say that Mr. Bush’s expressed confidence “in the will of the Iraqi people” may be at odds with his assertion that “we are in this fight to win, and we are winning.” His words imply the existence of a consensual and cooperative relationship in which a significant majority of Iraq’s citizens is actively supportive of the U.S. presence in their country, or at least tacitly sympathetic to it, but the reality is vastly different: according to British government sources , 82 percent of Iraqis are “strongly opposed” to the presence of foreign troops and 45 percent support attacks on them. Almost three-quarters of Iraqis, 72 percent, have “no confidence” in the foreign forces, and fewer than one per cent (!) think that continued military involvement by the United States and her allies is helping to improve security in their country. This being so, the real question is how to end the war and disengage. That it can never be “won” in a conventional sense is obvious, but in his State of the Union address the President appeared devoid of fresh or useful ideas.
A bizarre part of Mr. Bush’s address concerned recent elections in the Middle East. “The great people of Egypt have voted in a multi-party presidential election,” he said, “and now their government should open paths of peaceful opposition that will reduce the appeal of radicalism.” The reality behind this innocuous sentence is that the Muslim Brotherhood scored a major success at a parliamentary election in Egypt last December. The Brotherhood is an officially banned movement that seeks to impose Sharia on Egypt. Even though its candidates had no run as nominal independents, it easily won 88 seats. In more than half the districts where they ran, the “Ikhwanis” triumphed over their rivals from both the ruling party and from the secular opposition and are now the main opposition to President Hosni Mubarak’s government. They would have won more seats were it not for the government crackdown on their strongholds during the final round of voting. That was a victory of democracy of sorts, but it will translate into fewer freedoms for women, into increased persecution of Egypts beleaguered and dwindling Christian minority, and a more stringent posture vis-a-vis Israel. Predictably enough the Brotherhood will refrain from promoting its Islamic political agenda for the time being, because it wants to press for broad democratic reforms of which it will be the main beneficiary. Mr. Mubarak would be crazy to follow Mr. Bush’s advice and facilitate this process because it would end in his own demise and the Brotherhood’s eventual triumph.
“The Palestinian people have voted in elections,” Mr. Bush went on, “And now the leaders of Hamas must recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism, and work for lasting peace.” That hope faces the reality that Hamas triumphed in Gaza and the West Bank and won 76 of 132 seats. It now dominates the Palestinian Authority, and has the power of veto over any eventual peace package that a weakened President Mahmoud Abbas may deliver. Its activists do not dwell on the group’s manifesto that calls for the destruction of Israel, but wisely focus on the corruption of the old Fatah establishment.
The victory of Hamas and the success of the Brotherhood present Mr. Bush with a dilemma. “Democracies in the Middle East will not look like our own,” he said last Tuesday, “because they will reflect the traditions of their own citizens.” Bold words, which conceal the fact that the kind of people he’d presumably like to see elected-secular reformers and technocrats America can do business with-are unelectable. The continuing American presence in Iraq and the perceived structural bias in favor of Israel makes the United States more thoroughly disliked throughout the Muslim world than at any time in living memory. Whatever Mr. Bush hopes for, the locals will want more of the opposite. Whoever its candidate or political force of American choice, the “street” will reject them the moment it suspects that there is a connection.
In his closing remarks Mr. Bush said that “we’ve been called to leadership” in a decisive period: “Sometimes it can seem that history is turning in a wide arc, toward an unknown shore,” he said. “Yet the destination of history is determined by human action, and every great movement of history comes to a point of choosing.” That was a new rendering of an old fallacy of Mr. Bush’s: “history” is linear, and it has a “destination” determined by human action. The President’s speechwriters reflect a post-Christian, liberal-democratic variety of millenarianism. The Citizen-Man is on the right track, and he’ll keep self-improving until an eschatological shortcut to the End of History is developed that does not require a Second Coming.
“History has called America and our allies to action,” Mr. Bush initially asserted in his first State of the Union address four years ago, and by now this claim has become an act of faith. It is one of the most dangerous delusions in history. As we commented back in February 2002 , “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 . . . 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.”
President Bush’s 2006 State of the Union address was delivered in a less triumphalist tone than others before it. His premises, however, and the strategies derived from those premises-pursuing the enemies of freedom, controlling our destiny by our leadership, striving for the end of tyranny in the world-seem more deeply internalized, more ideologically inflexible than ever before. They are dangerous for America and should alarm the rest of the world.
Thucydides taught that States, threatened by the Imperium, should take on a balancing role as a deliberate policy designed to discourage or contain excessive power. He was right, and Russia and China are doing so as we speak. An imbalance neglected for too long can only be resolved through the disaster of war. External restraint dictated by containment is a viable route to peace. Thucydidian prudence, if properly applied, can save peace. Such prudence is eminently American in spirit, and its rebirth would re-legitimize the notion of America as a real and completed nation, a State with definable national interests as the foundation of its diplomacy. Contrary to Mr. Bush’s claims, this is neither defeatism nor escapist isolationism; it is sanity.
Friday, January 20, 2006
CAN A PIOUS MUSLIM BECOME A LOYAL AMERICAN?
by Srdja Trifkovic
A Muslim who becomes a naturalized American citizen is literally millions of times more likely to plot terrorist acts against his fellow citizens than a member of any other religious creed or political ideology (Islam is both). It is not possible to wage a meaningful “Global War on Terrorism” without considering the legal, moral, and pragmatic implications of this problem.
First, the facts. Muslims account for up to one percent of the population of the United States, in contrast to Western Europe where their share of the population is up to ten times greater. They like to pretend otherwise, and groups such as the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Student Association, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the American Muslim Council (AMC), and the Harvard Islamic Society routinely assert that there are between 4.5 and 9 million Muslims in the United States. It is remarkable that these sources do not provide any empirically verifiable basis for their figures.
Impartial studies currently place the number of Muslims at between 2 and 3 million. The American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) conducted by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY) polled more than 50,000 people in 2001 and found the total American Muslim population to be 1.8 million. The University of Chicago’s Tom W. Smith reached a similar figure :
The best, adjusted, survey-based estimates put the adult Muslim population in 2000 at 0.67 percent or 1,401,000, and the total Muslim population at 1,886,000. Even if high-side estimates based on local surveys, figures from mosques, and ancestry and immigration statistics are given more weight than the survey-based numbers, it is hard to accept estimates that Muslims are greater than 1 percent of the population (2,090,000 adults, or 2,814,000 total).
It is estimated that up to two-thirds of that group are foreign-born immigrants, and about one half are naturalized American citizens. In other words, about one-half of one percent of the country’s overall population are foreign-born Muslims who are now naturalized U.S. citizens.
As U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials are well aware (and some readily admit off-the-record), the attitudes of these people tend to change once their status in America is secure. As visa applicants or permanent residents they refrain from statements and acts that may make them excludable under current laws. But as soon as they gain citizenship, some among them are quick to rediscover the virtues of sharia and jihad. Examples abound:
. In June 2005 22-year-old Hamid Hayat was arrested in Lodi, CA, and admitted spending six months in 2003-2004 at a terrorist training camp in Pakistan. He attended classes that included instructions on “how to kill Americans.” He and his father, Umer Hayat (47), are both naturalized U.S. citizens. They are in jail awaiting trial; both have been refused bail. . In Falls Church, VA, Maher Amin Jaradat, was arrested on June 6, 2005, and pled guilty on July 14 to fraudulently procuring U.S. citizenship because he failed to disclose previous ties to militant groups. . In May 2005 a naturalized U.S. citizen, Rafiq Sabir, was arrested in Florida and accused of conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization. Sabir is an Ivy League-educated medical doctor who lived in a gated community in Boca Raton. He pledged loyalty to al-Qaida and offered to treat injured or sick terrorists. . In March 2004 two naturalized U.S. citizens, Ilyas Ali and Muhamed Abid Afridi, plead guilty to plotting to sell shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles to al Qaeda. Ali had previously claimed he was an innocent victim of Attorney General John Ashcroft and his over-zealous Justice Department. “Nine-eleven, me and my wife cried,” he said. “We cried for three days.” . Mukhtar al-Bakri, a naturalized citizen, and five U.S.-born youths from upstate New York were convicted in 2003 of aiding Al-Qaeda, training in terrorist camps, and plotting attacks on Americans. . In October 2003, Iyman Faris (34), an Ohio truck driver and naturalized U.S. citizen, was sentenced to 20 years for providing material support to al Qaeda. He pleaded guilty to plotting to destroy Brooklyn Bridge by cutting its suspension cables. He became a U.S. citizen in 1999 and only months later, in 2000, he traveled from his native Pakistan to Afghanistan where he met bin Laden and other senior leaders who gave Faris his orders.
“We must never forget . . . that as Muslims, we are obligated to desire, and when possible to participate in, the overthrow of any non-Islamic government-anywhere in the world – in order to replace it by an Islamic one,” the speaker concluded his remarks. The venue was a mosque, not in Rawalpindi or Jeddah but in San Francisco. When a recent convert noted that if Muslims are obligated to overthrow the U.S. government then accepting Islam was tantamount to an act of political treason, the lecturer responded matter-of-factly, “Yes, that’s true.”
He was right both technically and substantively. A breach of allegiance to the United States by naturalized Muslims is not a rarity, it is an integral part of the Muslim-American experience . It is an inherent dilemma for many; it leads the serious few to give aid and comfort to the enemy. The problem will be solved only if and when Islamic activism is treated as grounds for the loss of acquired U.S. citizenship and deportation . The citizenship of any naturalized American who actively supports or preaches jihad, inequality of “infidels,” the establishment of the Shari’a law, etc ., should be revoked, and that person promptly deported to the country of origin.
Before defining “activism,” let us remember that a foreigner who becomes naturalized has to declare, on oath , that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God. (In acknowledgement whereof I have hereunto affixed my signature.)
For a Muslim to declare all of the above in good faith, and especially that he accepts the Constitution of the United States as the source of his highest loyalty, is an act of brazen apostasy par excellence , and apostasy is punishable by death under the Islamic law. The sharia , to a Muslim, is not an addition to the “secular” legal code with which it coexists with “the Constitution and laws of the United States of America”; it is the only true code, the only basis of obligation. To be legitimate, all political power therefore must rest exclusively with those who enjoy Allah’s authority on the basis of his revealed will. In America that is not the case and its government is therefore illegitimate.
It is equally sacrilegious for a Muslim to swear to “support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” That vow, if it means anything substantial, means that he would be prepared to shoot a fellow Muslim, or denounce him to the authorities, in defense of his adopted homeland. That this is not how many if not most naturalized Muslims see it is a matter of record.
So how can a self-avowedly devout Muslim take the oath of American citizenship, and expect the rest of us to believe that it was done in good faith and not only in order to get that coveted passport? A devout Muslim can do it only if in taking the oath he is practicing taqiyya , theart of dissimulation that was inaugurated by Muhammad to help destabilize and undermine non-Muslim communities almost ripe for a touch of old-fashioned Jihad . Or else he may take it because he is not devout and may be confused, in other case if he is not a very good Muslim at all; but in that case there is the ever-present danger that at some point in the future he or his American-born offspring will rediscover their roots. The consequences of such awakening for the rest of us are invariably perilous.
The interior ministry of the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg has introduced measures that seek to avert this danger. Potential German citizens will have to answer a 30-topic loyalty test dealing with marriage, sexuality, democracy, attitudes to other faiths, etc. The manual for the naturalization authorities insist that applicants for citizenship must concur with the “free, democratic, constitutional structure” of Germany. Personal interviews may last for hours and will be given to an estimated half of all applicants. The German scheme, while causing predictable expressions of shock and horror among the usual suspects , looks like a potentially useful first step that the United States should consider in reforming the entire naturalization process. The ultimate objective of the reform process, however, needs to address two key questions: why should a Muslim want to become a citizen of a secular, pluralist, non-Muslim state; and why should that state’s non-Muslim citizens want to have him accepted as one of them.
The answer is inseparable from the fact that a person’s Islamic faith and outlook are incompatible with the requirements of personal commitment, patriotic loyalty and unquestionable reliability that are implicit in the oath of citizenship, and absolutely essential in the military, law enforcement, intelligence services, and other related branches of government.
It is to be hoped that the acceptance of other proposed measures would lead to a swift and irreversible reduction in the burgeoning number of mosques and Islamic centers in the United States. The remnant would have to be registered with the Attorney General and subjected to all legal limitations and security supervision strictures that apply to other quasi-religious cults prone to violence.
Conditio sine qua non all along is to accept and declare that the First Amendment does not protect Jihadists. It is in the American tradition that nothing ought to protect those who advocate the overthrow of the United States Government by force and violence, and, at bottom, that is what the Jihadists are up to. Legal regulators need to grasp that Islam itself is a radical, revolutionary ideology, inherently seditious and inimical to American values and institutions.
No court in a democratic country should uphold the constitutionality of any measure targeted at a particular religion quia religion. But if the facts were known about what is going on in mosques, and what is the nature and goal of worldwide Jihad , the necessary legal regulation may be accomplished. The First Amendment protection to political speech should not extent to Sharia, period. We do not need new legal theories, or a different conception of the First Amendment; we need an educational campaign.
The dominant view in the academy and in the courts is that any thought or political idea ought to be protected, so the educator’s job is to convince legislators that we are dealing with a new phenomenon more dangerous even than anarchism, fascism or communism. As our Legal Affairs Editor Stephen Presser points out ,
If that is ever done, then the precedents from 1903 or 1920 basically kick in, and the Jihadists get perceived not as exercisers of First Amendment rights, but as dangerous subversives. Anyone trying to do that will have to plunge into the thicket of what a religion actually is, however, and the Courts are notoriously unclear on that.
A radically new form of legal clarity on Islam’s nature is needed before the acceptance of our proposals becomes reality.
On the bright side, the proposed measures are politically eminently feasible. In a study conducted a year ago to determine the public attitude to terrorism, a half of respondents polled nationally said they believe the U.S. government should curtail civil liberties for American citizens who are Muslim. It should be noted that they do so in spite of the efforts of an elite class that never tires of assuring us that we are dealing with the “religion of peace and tolerance!” When it comes to visa moratoriums for Muslim non-citizens, the picture is even more encouraging.
The deadlock on the Somme in 1916, or at Verdun a year later, could not be broken with the strategic ideas and modus operandi of Messrs. Haigh, Petain, or Hindenburg. It could have been unlocked, however, had Lidell-Hart, de Gaulle, or Guderian held their ranks and positions. Winning a war demands “knowing the enemy and knowing oneself,” of course, but it also demands “thinking outside the box.” This old cliche is apt: the magnitude of the threat demands radical responses that fall outside the cognitive parameters of the elite class.
Acceptance of these proposals would represent the long overdue beginning of serious Western defense against Islamic terrorism. It would signify the recognition that we are in a life-or-death struggle. It is being waged, on the Islamic side, with the deep conviction that the West is on its last legs, spiritually, morally, and biologically. That view is reinforced by the evidence from history that a civilization that loses the urge for biological self-perpetuation is indeed in mortal peril. Even at this late stage a recovery is possible, however, and the suggested measures would herald that recovery.
This article is partly based on the final chapter of Dr. Trifkovic’s latest book, Defeating Jihad , which will be published by Regina Orthodox Press (Boston) on March 1, 2006.
Monday, January 16, 2006
TORTURE IN IRAQ
by Srdja Trifkovic
American soldiers stumble upon a secret dungeon and discover dozens of emaciated prisoners-173 of them, to be precise-who had simply vanished from the face of the Earth over the previous weeks and months. Horrified GIs walk wide-eyed through the stinking chamber of horrors whose inmates grasp with difficulty that their ordeal is over. Most of the latter bear obvious marks of torture as they are led into sunlight for the first time since their incarceration.
No, this is not Germany 1945, or Korea 1950, or Mogadishu 1993. The date was November 13, 2005. The jail in question was in a disused air-raid shelter of the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior; the prisoners were mostly Sunni Arabs; and their torturers were members of the Badr Organization, a pro-Iranian Shiite militia that has been given a free hand by Bayan Jabr, the minister himself, who is also a member of the Shiite Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The Supreme Council was at the head of the political ticket condoned by Grand Ayatollah Sistani that emerged as Iraq’s strongest political force at national elections in January 2005 and now effectively controls much of the government.
Since then, members of the Badr have spread out of their strongholds in the south and killed dozens of men in a sustained campaign of intimidation in Sunni neighborhoods. Last June, media reports documented several instances in which Sunni men who had been detained by uniformed men in police vehicles were later found dead. The latter are also suspected of being involved in the killing of two lawyers trying to defend Saddam Hussein and his associates. Oppressed for decades under Saddam, Iraq’s Shiites are using the American occupation to take revenge on the Sunni community as a whole.
Sunni leader Adnan al-Dulaimi, who had complained to the government about abuses at three other Interior Ministry compounds, has called for an international inquiry. But the United States, whose own troops have faced accusations of prisoner abuse in Iraq, has ruled out any international involvement in an inquiry, saying that the Iraqi government is up to the job. American officials on the ground are perfectly aware that, if the investigation is left up to the likes of Bayan Jabr and his colleagues from the Supreme Council, it will be neither fair nor impartial. They nevertheless think that it is more important to maintain the Shiites’ cooperativeness, as the entire Iraqi operation is turning into a nightmare, than to make too much fuss.
Their cynicism is understandable. If one group of Iraqis is torturing another-and torture is the right term, rather than the euphemistic abuse so beloved of the media and defense bureaucracy-they are only doing what the denizens of the Middle East have been doing to one another for millennia. Our friends Egypt and Saudi Arabia torture prisoners, as do our potential enemies Syria and Iran. Turkey does it but pretends otherwise for the sake of “Europe.” Robert Fisk’s latest book, The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), contains a sickening list of electric torture, burnt genitals, sawed-off heads, and mutilated corpses that is not for the faint of heart.
Such practices cannot be eradicated short of uprooting the political culture that breeds them. The task is formidable because of the burden of history and because torture is not deemed sinful per se in the Islamic world. The Koran is full of Muhammad’s lovingly elaborate descriptions of agonizing torture; stonings; amputations and decapitations of infidels, sinners, and political dissidents (“those who spread mischief in the land”). In a culture devoid of any sense of natural morality, torture is OK if it is made legal-by the Prophet or by some other authority-and if it serves a good cause.
The United States should not tolerate Shiite mistreatment of Iraq’s Sunnis, not because we expect to change the Iraqis’ hearts and minds-that battle is lost and had never been winnable on present form-but because we need to engage the Sunni community. The Sunnis must be given a viable stake in postoccupation Iraq in order to enable U.S. troops to come home. Only a deal with the Sunnis may end the insurgency and create conditions for a withdrawal with some honor and dignity. That deal will necessitate the use of American political pressure to uphold Sunni interests vis-a-vis Iraq’s Shiite-Kurdish alliance. If the Sunnis agree to enforce a cease-fire in their provinces and clean up Al Qaeda in Iraq, the price is well worth paying.
This article first appeared in the January 2006 issue of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.
Friday, January 13, 2006
“PROFILING”: A NECESSARY AND JUSTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT TOOL
by Srdja Trifkovic
Arab-American and Muslim leaders met on January 11 with FBI officials to discuss concerns that Muslim religious places and homeswere targeted for surveillance without court orders. John Pistole, deputy director of the FBI, and John Miller, the bureau’s assistant director of public affairs, tried to reassure Muslims that surveillance had been based on intelligence leads, and not on “profiling.” They struck a conciliatory tone and acknowledged that the bureau could have responded to their concerns more quickly.
The meeting offered an opportunity to “increase mutual cooperation on issues related to national security and the prevention of hate crimes,” said an obviously pleased Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). In view of the fact that CAIR is an organization notoriously tainted by its own support of Islamic terrorist groups, it took some gall for Mr. Awad to assert that any perception that the Muslim community in the U.S. is targeted for surveillance “can create difficulties between Muslims and law-enforcement authorities,” “Islamophobia” and “anti-Muslim hate crimes.”
Such effrontery by the Agitprop for jihad is possible because in June 2003 the Bush administration ordered a broad ban on “racial and ethnic profiling” at all 70 federal law enforcement agencies, thus making the pre-existing ban even more stringent. Guidelines issued by the Justice Department directly impacted some 120,000 law enforcement officers at the FBI, the DEA, Homeland Security Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Coast Guard and other agencies. “Religious or ethnic or racial stereotyping is simply not good policing,” said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Ralph Boyd . “We want to make sure it doesn’t happen, even once.” The guidelines said that authorities may subject certain groups to greater scrutiny if there is “specific information” that such people are preparing to mount a terrorist attack. Middle Eastern men might draw greater attention at airports, but only if the government discovered a plot by al Qaeda or some similar group to mount an attack.
These rules are nonsensical and they place front-line defenders of America in a quandary. Some of them, who care about doing their jobs well more than doing them “right,” are discretely violated by law enforcement officers, especially at passport and customs checkpoints. Ahmed Ressam was stopped in December 1999 by a Customs Service agent as he tried to enter the U.S. from Canada, even though the agent had no specific information giving him cause to suspect the traveler-prima facie, a classic case of profiling, of bad and even illegal policing worthy of moral condemnation and bureaucratic censure. It turned out that Ressam was a terrorist with over a hundred pounds of powerful explosives in his car trunk, explosives meant to blow up the Los Angeles International Airport.
In August 2001, the would-be twentieth hijacker was prevented from entering America at Orlando International Airport because customs officer Jose Melendez-Perez did the right thing, not the bureaucratically mandated thing, and turned away the would-be 20th hijacker, who was supposed to be on Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania. Possibly because of the shorthanded muscle on that team, the passengers were able to overcome the terrorists; but Melendez-Perez acted at great personal risk: his colleagues and his supervisors told him, “You can’t do this. This guy is an Arab ethnic. You’re racially profiling. You’re going to get in real trouble, because it’s against Department of Transportation policy to racially profile.” He said, “I don’t care. This guy’s a bad guy. I can see it in his eyes”:
As he sent this guy back out of the United States, the guy turned around to him and said, “I’ll be back.” You know, he is back. He’s in Guantanamo. We captured him in Afghanistan. Do you think Melendez-Perez got a promotion? Do you think he got any recognition? Do you think he is doing any better than the 19 of his time-serving, unaccountable colleagues? Don’t think any bit of it. (“Our Enemy Is Not Terrorism,” by former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman. U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, May 2004.)
The aversion to “profiling” is a symptom, minor but telling, of the contemporary Western pathology. Law-enforcers in other parts of the world pay no heed to the dictates of “sensitivity” and anti-discriminationism. Arabs profile other Arabs, Indians profile Pakistanis, Japanese profile Chinese, and everyone profiles Africans. Israel, democratic and friendly to America, profiles everyone entering and exiting all the time, and makes no qualms about it. In 1986 a Palestinian terrorist, Nezar Hindawi, tried to blow up an Israeli airliner by sending his pregnant Irish girlfriend on board with a bomb in her luggage. The El Al screeners in London profiled a young pregnant woman traveling alone as suspicious, and found the bomb of which she had been blissfully unaware.
Not all Muslims are terrorists, but for some years now all terrorists of concern to America’s national security and to the quality of life of its citizens have been Muslims. One percent of Muslims living in the United States were responsible for over 90 percent of terrorist offences and serious threats in the country since 9-11. A young Muslim man is literally tens of thousands of times more likely to carry out a terrorist attack in the United States than an Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, or Orthodox Christian, a Jew, a Hindu, or a Buddhist, or for that matter a Lebanese Christian Arab. Membership of a group is a valid pointer in assuming and judging unobserved behavioral characteristics of an individual, especially in the absence of specific information about that individual’s background. To suggest otherwise is neither moral nor sane.
A person’s Islamic faith and outlook is incompatible with the requirements of personal commitment, patriotic loyalty and unquestionable reliability that are essential in the military, law enforcement, intelligence services, and other related branches of government. For as long as practicing Muslims are able to get security clearances, terrorist organizations will continue trying to insinuate their supporters into the hiring pools of American security agencies. At least 40 American citizens who sought positions at U.S. intelligence agencies have been red-flagged and turned away for possible ties to terrorist groups, and several such applicants have been detected at the CIA. Any presence of practicing Muslims in any such institution would present an inherent risk to its integrity and undermine its morale.
Examples abound. Sergeant Asan Akbar of the 101st Airborne Division threw grenades into tents with fellow soldiers in Kuwait. Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun deserted his unit in Iraq-the only Marine deserter of the war-but at least did not cause much damage in the process. By contrast, an FBI agent by the name of Gamal Abdel-Hafiz, a naturalized U.S. citizen, caused a lot of damage. On two separate occasions he refused on principle to tape-record his coreligionists, thus hampering the investigations. One case concerned an Islamic investment bank, BMI Inc., which was financed by known terrorists and by members of the bin Laden family.
The FBI got a break in 1999, when a BMI accountant contacted it and relayed his suspicions that $2.1 million in BMI funds “may have been used” to finance Al-Qaeda’s twin bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa in August 1998. When the president of BMI-a Muslim-learned of this communication, he contacted Abdel-Hafiz to ask for a meeting. On a conference call in April 1999, an assistant U.S. attorney dealing with the BMI case, Mark Flessner, encouraged Abdel-Hafiz to meet the BMI president and clandestinely record their discussion. Abdel-Hafiz refused. Why? “I fear for my life.” But you have FBI protection, Flessner pointed out. No, Abdel-Hafiz scornfully replied : “The FBI can’t protect me. The FBI, I don’t trust them.”
Pressed further, Abdel-Hafiz blurted out the real reason: “That is against my religion.” According to Robert Wright, an FBI agent, he declared, “A Muslim does not record another Muslim.” Wright informed a supervisor at FBI headquarters about the situation and met with indifference. When ABC News inquired about Abdel-Hafiz’s statement, the FBI bureaucracyexonerated him by saying that the clandestine recording would have taken place in a mosque. But this was a falsehood (there was no mosque involved) which the FBI later acknowledged and retracted.
In another case, Sami Al-Arian, a University of South Florida professor indicted for helping the Islamic Jihad terrorist group, was acquitted in December 2005-partly thanks to the refusal of Abdel-Hafiz to secretly tape-record with the accused. Abdel-Hafiz refused in spite of several requests from colleagues investigating al-Arian. His FBI colelagues complained to headquarters about Abdel-Hafiz, but in early 2001 he was nevertheless chosen to become the FBI’s deputy legal attache at the U.S. Embassy in the Saudi capital Riyadh. As Paul Sperry pointed out, this was a key post in the battle against al-Qaida:
After 9/11, when 15 of the 19 hijackers turned out to be Saudi nationals, Abdel-Hafiz was in a prime position to run down leads in the Saudi capital. Only, that didn’t happen, at least not as often as headquarters had hoped. Agents back in Washington complained about his performance there, saying they were not getting answers to the hundreds of leads they were sending him in Riyadh. Abdel-Hafiz says he was one of only two people manning the office there and was further hobbled by an antiquated computer system. But he and his boss Wilfred Rattigan, a black convert to Islam, had nonetheless found time to fly off to Mecca for the hajj . . . Both Rattigan and Abdel-Hafiz, who have since been reassigned within the bureau, wore traditional Muslim headgear and robes while on the job in Saudi Arabia, further outraging fellow agents.
When a senior supervisor was sent to the Riyadh office nearly a year after 9/11, Sperry continues, she found secret documents strewn all over the office and a huge backlog of boxes each filled with three feet of paper containing secret, time-sensitive leads. Much of the materials, including information on Saudi airline pilots, had not been translated or reviewed, and it is anyone’s guess how many terror cases were compromised in the Saudi office.
Parallel with the removal of Muslims from all positions requiring security clearance, it will be necessary to use religious profiling in recruiting replacements. Lebanese and other Middle Eastern Christians should provide a large pool of qualified candidates with excellent linguistic skills and cultural assets essential to the task. Wherever they went, Lebanese Christians have assimilated and become valuable and respected members of their host communities. Their former neighbors, ethnically and physically undistinguishable Lebanese Muslims, have not.
Profiling is not “good” or “bad” policing, it is just policing. It is necessary and it should be perfectly legal: there is nothing in the Constitution to suggest otherwise. It is time to accept that “profiling” based on a person’s appearance, origin, and apparent or suspected beliefs is an essential tool of trade of law enforcement and War on Terror.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
JACK ABRAMOFF’S BALKAN CONNECTION
by Srdja Trifkovic
(From Belgrade, January 11) An important early break in Jack Abramoff’s career came in the form of a contract with the government of Montenegro, according to the former representative of the Montenegrin strongman Milo Djukanovic in Washington, D.C. Bearing in mind that government’s long record of corruption and institutionalized criminality, the connection appears entirely appropriate.
Starting in mid-1995 Ratko Knezevic was formally the head of Montenegro’s trade mission to the United States. In reality there was precious little trading to take care of, but his primary task was to help pave the way for Montenegro’s secession from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (as it was then) by promoting the separatist cause in Washington. To that end he was authorized to hire a professional lobbyist and engaged the services of Julius Kaplan. Kaplan subsequently put him in touch with Abramoff, whose initial nine-month retainer was $90,000.
Knezevic broke away from Djukanovic a few years ago and he is now one of his staunch critics. In 2002 he even announced his intention to run as an independent candidate for Montenegro’s presidency but changed his mind, apparently out of concern for his personal safety.
According to Knezevic’s account, published in Belgrade’s leading dailyPolitika on January 10, Abramoff was a hard worker. On the other hand he notably greedy, Knezevic says, “not to say insatiable.” Starting in November 1996 he organized visits by Rep. Robert Ney (R-OH) and other influential Americans to Montenegro’s capital Podgorica. Soon thereafter the media and some lawmakers in the United States started talking of Djukanovic in favorable terms, as a “reformist” and “pro-Western leader” who was worthy of American support in his attempts to break away from the regime of Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade.
Abramoff’s task was facilitated by Milosevic’s image in Washington as the embodiment of all things evil in the Balkans. Furthermore, on many key points Djukanovic’s lobbying effort could tailgate the larger and more lavishly financed campaign by the Albanian lobby. Abramoff’s major task, to airbrush Djukanovic’s previous close alliance with Milosevic, was not too difficult at a time when any defector from the latter’s camp was seen as welcome by Bill Clinton and Bob Dole alike.
In early 1999, with Clinton’s war against Serbia in full swing, Djukanovic’s lobbying effort in Washington underwent a significant change. “Preston Gates Ellis” was awarded a new contract that year, and its primary task from that time on was to “promote a new identity of Montenegro, the one clearly distinct from the Serbian identity.” The focus was no longer on Djukanovic’s political differences with Milosevic. It was on the myth of a long struggle by the brave, little Montenegro to break free from the shackles of Serbian hegemony. The myth was entirely devoid of historical substance, but in a society as steeped in historical amnesia about itself as America, telling lies about some obscure corner of the Balkans could proceed unchallenged for many years.
The result was a systematic campaign of disinformation, outlined in Thomas Fleming’s Montenegro: The Divided Land . It went on unabated even after Milosevic’s fall in October 2000, and it continues to this day. The reality of today’s Montenegro (see my two articles from last July) remains as little known in today’s America as the truth about the life of Serbs under NATO occupation and Albanian rule in Kosovo.
05 Jan 2007
Good and Bad News on Iraq
by Srdja Trifkovic
The appointment of Lt. Gen. David Petraeus as the top U.S. commander in Iraq would appear to signal a more nuanced approach to the problem that will dominate the White House agenda this year. General Petraeus is a military intellectual with a Ph.D. from Princetonwho believes that military force must be combined with winning hearts and minds in order to defeat insurgency. In his current post as Commanding General of U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and Commandant of Army Command and General Staff College he supervised the writing of the new Army and Marine Corpscounterinsurgency field manual . Released three weeks ago, thedocument notes that in addition to fighting insurgents, the role of the military is also to facilitate the establishment of local governance and the rule of law.
On the other hand, the shift of John Negroponte from his current post-that of Director of National Intelligence -to Condoleeza Rice’s No. 2 does not bode well for the State Department, long bereft of useful ideas under a weak and inept Secretary of State, or for the willingness of the Administration to look for new ideas. Negroponte is a clever and cunning bureaucrat, but he is not someone to question the decisions of his political superiors. During his ten months as ambassador to Baghdad (2004-2005) he must have witnessed first-hand the schism between the extravagant assertions of “progress” in Iraq, routinely made by Mr. Bush and his team, and the grim reality on the ground. Both then and later, however, he remained a staunch loyalist and refrained from any hint of public criticism of “staying the course.” There is no public record of his effort to jolt his bosses back to the real world; but, as The New York Times points out , “That will have to change if he is to have any chance of improving things. Before confirming him, the Senate should make sure he understands that asking hard and unwelcome questions is an essential part of the job.”
In addition, it now appears certain that President George W. Bush will announce a further increase in troop numbers in Iraq next week, by up to 20 thousand, to around 150,000. He is likely to link this supposedly short-term “surge” in U.S. troop levels to political milestones or other conditions, in order to secure the support of the Democrat-controlled Congress. The supporters of the plan admit that a troop surge into Baghdad and western Anbar Province will not solve problems overnight, but hope that by helping to establish security they can weaken the insurgency, which is the first step to addressing most of Iraq’s other problems, including the growth of Shiite militias.
It remains unclear, however, what those additional soldiers can change in the overall equation. The hanging of Saddam Hussein in the early hours of December 30 has sealed the sectarian schism in the country that claimed over 16 thousand Iraqi lives last year . In December alone some two thousand civilians were killed. (Adjusted for population size, the U.S. equivalent would be 30,000 deaths, or ten World Trade Centers.)
The vindictive gloating of Saddam’s Shiite executioners, clad in black leather jackets and balaklava helmets like members of Muqtada al-Sad ‘s death squads (whose name they chanted at the scene, and to whom they presented the noose that was placed around Saddam’s neck), came at the end of an irredeemably flawed, politicized quasi-judicial process. Iraq’s prime minister Nuri al-Maliki-a Muqtada protege-violated a series of constitutional, legal and religious norms to ensure a speedy execution. The event itself was paradigmatic of the country itself almost four years after “Operation Iraqi Freedom”: a violent, lawless, hopelessly divided ruin of a country that is doomed to sink deeper into a civil war. Saddam’s death will be remembered as a landmark event in the history of that war. It is rightly seen as Shia revenge not only on Saddam, but also on his fellow Sunni Arabs.
Gen. Petraeus undoubtedly understands that a viable exit strategy demands the development of a working rapport with Iraq’s six million Sunnis, who provide the backbone of the insurgency. The result of the hanging, however, is that all Sunnis, for now at least, have become pro-Saddam , viewing him not as a convicted killer but as a victim, mercilessly lynched by a vengeful, U.S.-backed Shi’ite government. It strengthens the belief among Sunni Arabs that members of Muqtada’sImam al-Mahdi Army and other Shi’ite militias have infiltrated the Iraqi security forces at the highest levels. By seeing that they cannot expect fairness or justice from this, or any other Shia-dominated government, however, those Sunnis who have taken up arms will have their resolve stiffened; and many others will be more motivated than before to join their ranks. And many Iraqis-not all of them Sunni-alreadyhark nostalgically for the time when there were no suicide bombers and death squads roaming the streets.
Almost four years after the war started, with over three thousand young Americans dead (109 last month alone), the Bush strategy in Iraq has failed. It is more accurate to say that no viable strategy for turning Iraq into a stable and U.S.-friendly country had ever existed. The “job” has never been clearly defined, and therefore-to paraphrase the disastrous Mr. Rumsfeld-the presumed moment of its successful completion always has been an unknown unknown.
With the Democrats taking control of Congress for the first time after 12 years , and simultaneous important personnel changes in Baghdad and Washington, the end-game in Iraq should be under way. The moment is reminiscent of December 1970, when President Nixon decided to pull U.S. forces out of Vietnam by the end of the following year. The major difference is that Nixon’s decision was very much his own-his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, among others, had opposed it-whereas President George W. Bush would have preferred to “stay the course” “until the job is done.”
It is noteworthy that Dr. Kissinger himself, ever the realist, declared last November that the United States would have to choose between stability and democracy in Iraq-and that democracy was the one out of reach. “That was true from the beginning,” he said. “Iraq is not a nation in the historic sense. The evolution of democracy. usually has to go through a phase in which a nation [is] born. And by attempting to skip that process, our valid goals were distorted into what we are now seeing.”
What we are seeing is an open-ended nightmare that can be ended only if and when the U.S. makes it clear to the Shi’ite-controlled Baghdad government that American troops will depart and leave it to its fate if it does not end sectarian violence. This is essential: at the moment the Shiites are using American military power as a means of prevailing in an ongoing civil war. That Iraq is in the grip of a civil war is no longer a matter of semantic dispute, and the United States must act immediately to end the perception of acting in support of the Shiite side in that war. The Shiites have willingly upped the ante by executing Saddam, and performing the act it in the most provocative manner possible, and Washington should call their bluff.
To control the situation the U.S. will need to create a split within the ranks of Iraqi insurgents between those who are driven primarily by nationalist and tribal motives, and the ideologues of jihad who don’t give a hoot for Iraq as such but simply want to use it as a chapter and a focal point in their global struggle. This would require overcoming distaste for a dialogue with former Baathists and Saddam loyalists, but such dialogue will be much more difficult now that Saddam was hanged under the noses of American soldiers and administrators.
The shift to even-handedness as a prelude to disengagement risks the breach with the Shiites, of course, which would make Iraq even less governable than it is today. Since such breach is ultimately inevitable anyway, it is better to risk it now and level the playing field, than to continue pandering to Shia designs that are fast turning most of Iraq into an Islamic republic in Iran’s image.
Mr. Bush’s Shia partners, prime minister al-Maliki included, are steeped in an Islamist ideology that would make the late Ayatollah Khomeini proud. They are controlled from Tehran more effectively than anyone in Washington wants to admit. They can hardly believe their luck that American arms, blood and treasure are giving them what they could never hope to achieve on their own. In the meantime the war will continue, and we do not know how it will end, but we can predict with near certainty that the winner will be Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his fellow “twelver” millenarians.