Dec 24, 2003
It is to our credit as a nation, a society, and a culture, that Americans instantly grasped the true meaning of 9/11. We understood, as we had not fully grasped before, that we were the declared enemy in an Islamic fantasy.
“It is the enemy who defines us as his enemy, and in making this definition he changes us, and changes us whether we like it or not,” writes Lee Harris in his new book, “Civilization and Its Enemies: The Next Stage of History” ($26.00, Free Press). “To insist on maintaining utopian values when your society is facing an enemy who wishes only to annihilate you is to invite annihilation.”
If you still have any doubts whatever, consider what Sheik Saleh al-Taleb, a Saudi Arabian imam told 500,000 people in Mecca’s Grand Mosque on January 30 during the annual hajj that brings millions of Muslim pilgrims there every year. “Oh God, give victory to the holy warriors everywhere. Give them victory in Palestine. Oh God, make the Muslims triumphant and destroy their enemies, and make this country and other Muslim countries safe. Oh God, inflict your wrath on the criminal Zionists.”
It was the power of that fantasy---the destruction of America---that was played out with the lives of those who seized the planes, those in the planes, and those in the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. More than 3,000 died that day, including those on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.
Those candidates who are berating President Bush for having “lied” us into the war in Iraq completely miss the essential reason for our “liberation” of that nation. (And they ignore the years of UN resolutions Saddam ignored with impunity.) While they understood invading Afghanistan to rid Osama bin Laden of al Qaeda’s base of operations there, they have not grasped the necessary for our military presence in the Middle East. We are projecting our power to threaten any nation that harbors the Jihadists. It is a matter of national survival.
Many of us look at the images of men on their knees, their heads pressed to the ground, facing in the direction of Mecca, and praying five times daily as some odd form of behavior left over from earlier centuries. We cannot grasp the passion with which Middle Eastern and other Muslims express and define themselves. We cannot see them as who they are, nor can they see themselves as we see them.
We are a religious society, but most of us do not express our faith as those in the Middle East. Our churches are places of beautiful music and quiet meditation. We joke about boring sermons. We believe in tolerance for other faiths. We regard them often as simply different paths to the same God. We may begin a meeting with a prayer or benediction, but we are not suffused with the view that religion is the sole subject worth discussing. The notion that millions of Muslims are bent on killing us for being “infidels” is beyond our imagination. The fact that this is preached in thousands of mosques is ever more bizarre and frightening.
We are rational people living, we think, in a rational world. Only we are not living in a rational world. If that were the case, we would not have a system of “alerts” in place, nor would we submit to searches in airports or have to ponder what a “dirty bomb” could do. We would not live each day wondering when and where “they” will strike next. Our enemy is not rational and will not yield to the rational efforts of diplomacy to deter their intent to destroy us.
Our efforts to communicate our intent, our good will, our desire for peace to those in the Middle East are wasted on a people so indoctrinated with hatred for the West, that anything we say will be dismissed. A society that thrives on conspiracy theories is indifferent to our instinctive wish to resolve conflict.
We liberate a nation from the worst despot since Hitler and elements within that nation continue to wage war against our allies and us. And against their own people! At great expense and great risk, we freed them and they now seem only to want us to leave. Thanks, but get out. They haven’t a clue about how to run a democratic society, they only know they don’t want us around. The Arabs of the Middle East are the world’s adolescents.
As Harris explains, “If we look at the source of Arab wealth, we find nothing that the Arabs created for themselves.” Indeed, the Saudis and Saddam Hussein were paid for natural resources “the West could simply have taken from them at will…” What the West has done is provide “the prodigious funding of fantasists who are thereby enabled to pursue their demented agendas unencumbered by any realistic calculation of the risks or costs of their actions.”
Literally millions of Arab and Persian Muslims, as well as others spread across Africa, India, Indonesia, and other Muslim population centers, are caught up in the most dangerous theologically-based fantasy since the last century when Germans under Hitler, the Italians under Mussolini, and the Japanese under Tojo yielded to the fantasies that led them into a second World War. Fantasies of past and future empires mesmerized them all.
Of all fantasies, though, the most dangerous are those embedded in religion. For these fantasists, it is not merely Osama bin Laden, the ayatollahs of Iran, or the Palestinian leaders calling upon them, but God himself. This is the fantasy of the Islamic Jihad or Holy War. The Muslims---and we cannot tell who among them is with us or against us---have become our enemies and the enemies of Western civilization.
This is why tiny Israel has never ceased to be under attack by Muslims, now calling themselves Palestinians, despite having no claim to statehood, along with neighboring Syria and other nations throughout the Middle East. What is at stake is the very existence of Israel and its Jewish citizens. The same hatred directed at them is the hatred directed at the United States and its allies in the West and elsewhere.
Generations grew up during the half-century “Cold War” with Communist Russia. We understood the Soviets, however, to be rational people unwilling to risk their lives and their nation to impose Communism through war. The concept of mutually assured destruction worked because Russia’s leaders were not crazy. Al Qaeda does not operate by the rules that guide the affairs of most nations of the world. Al Qaeda is not a nation; it is a fanatical religious movement.
Harris points out that “in the fantasy ideology of radical Islam, suicide plays an absolutely indispensable role. It is not a means to an end but the end in itself. Seen through the distorting prism of radical Islam, the act of suicide is transformed into an act of martyrdom---martyrdom in all its transcendent glory and accompanied by the panoply of magical powers that religious tradition has always assigned to it.”
Thus, as this new century begins to take shape, we confront an enemy for whom death not only holds no fear, but is embraced. It explains the bomber who kills innocent men, women and children in an Israeli restaurant. The bomber in Bali and the attacks on the United Nations and Red Cross headquarters in Baghdad. It explains 9-11.
It tells us that we must find, capture or kill the cancer loose in the world called al Qaeda. Think of the transformational power of Martin Luther’s edicts that altered the history of Christianity. Think of the transformational power of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Understand now that Islam must embrace its own transformation or face a rational and relentless enmity from those it deems infidels.
I do not want to die for some Islamic fantasy. America will not let itself be destroyed for some Islamic fantasy. This is about the survival and triumph of Western civilization. Or its loss.
Alan Caruba is the author of “Warning Signs” and his weekly commentaries are posted on www.anxietycenter.com, the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center.
© Alan Caruba 2003
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