(6PMish – promoted by On The Bus)
The Department of Defence defines Al Qaeda as “a radical Sunni Muslim umbrella organization established to recruit young Muslims into the Afghani Mujahideen and is aimed to establish Islamist states throughout the world, overthrow ‘un-Islamic regimes’, expel US soldiers and Western influence from the Gulf, and capture Jerusalem as a Muslim city.”
They’re probably right. I think that’s a good assessment. But, it’s pretty much on a par with defining the objectives of groups like Fred Phelps and his band of christian(?) nutbars, or Aryan Nation, or Ann Coulters or Pat Robertsons followers, and bears no relation to these groups status or non-status as representative of the thinking and intentions of all people in their respective societies – Al Qaeda in Islamic countries, and the groups I mentioned in western Christian societies.
There are crazy fringe fanatics in every society. Al Qaeda is probably a little bigger that the three I just mentioned, but is probably not anywhere the size of the group that supports bush’s hegemonic fanaticism. There are no hordes of billions of insane Islamic killers out there about to wash over us in a tidal wave of massacre.
Maintaining some perspective is important here, I think. There is a fringe group of fanatics, called Al Qaeda. That is what we are dealing with.
So, what are some things we as a society can do about them? How can we stop them and live peacefully with Islamic countries?
On June 23, 2006 author Salman Rushdie (“The Satanic Verses”) was interviewed by Bill Moyers. The video is here. Transcript here. Rushdie drew a very apt and instructive analogy to the long history of ‘terrorism’ troubles Britain had to deal with from the IRA that can be of help in understanding what we are dealing with when considering how to deal with Al Qaeda:
SALMAN RUSHDIE: There are people, as I say, you have to defeat, you know. But I’m talking about the enormous culture of which they’re the pimple on the nose of it. And I think in the end the way in which radical Islam will be defeated is when ordinary Islam, you know, when the regular world of the Muslim faith comes to reject the idea that they will be represented by, defined by that kind of extremist behavior.
BILL MOYERS: But many people say that that kind of extremist behavior is part and parcel of the ideology of the heart of Islam. What do you–
SALMAN RUSHDIE: I don’t think necessarily. I mean, the IRA was not intrinsically– was not somehow arising from something intrinsic to Catholicism. And actually the IRA is a relevant example. Because when the Catholics of Northern Ireland became disillusioned by being represented by the IRA that is what brought the IRA to the peace table. At that moment their power disappeared. And that’s why I’m saying that it is in a way incumbent on the Muslim world to reject Islamic radicalism, because that is what will remove the power of Islamic radicalism.
BILL MOYERS: Is America doomed to live under a fatwah as you did? Under the threat of terrorism for a long time, as you did?
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Yes, I think. But I mean, I think everywhere is dangerous now. You know the world is not a safe place; and there are no safe corners of it. And actually, there probably never have been. I think, in a way, America was insulated from that for awhile by the enormous power of America. But even that no longer insulates. So I think we do have to accept that the world is like that now. And I think ‘ one of the reasons I can say this is that, having lived in England during the years of the of the IRA campaign ‘ it became something that people, in a way, came to accept. That every so often a bomb would go off in a shopping mall, shopping center, and in the end, people refused to allow that to change their daily lives and just proceeded. And I think that refusal to be deflected from the path of normality also played a great deal of the role in the defeat of the IRA, that they didn’t achieve their goal. And I think it is, I mean, it’s something I’ve written quite a bit about, that the answer to terrorism is not to be terrorized, and it becomes important to continue–
The craziness that’s been quoted from the Koran by many about ‘Islamofascists’ with the goal of either converting the world to Islam or killing all infidels is just that, craziness on a par with nutty stuff in the bible, and is no more representative of the thinking or of the intentions or of the desires of the average person in Islamic countries than Phelps’ or Pat Robertsons’ or Aryan Nations’ or Ann Coulters’ idiotic interpretations of the bible are.
Stephen M. Walt – professor of international affairs at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, writing for the Boston Globe in his article Misreading the tea leaves: US missteps on foreign policy on October 5, 2006 observes that:
JUST WHEN YOU think that US foreign policy couldn’t possibly get worse, the Bush administration manages to take it down another notch…. These setbacks occurred because the Bush administration’s foreign policy rests on a deep misreading of contemporary world politics. Conducting foreign policy on the basis of flawed premises is like designing an airplane while ignoring gravity: it won’t get off the ground, and if it does, it is bound to crash.
Independent surveys of global opinion and separate studies by the Defense Science Board and the State Department showed that anti-Americanism is primarily a reaction to specific US policies. Yet Bush and his advisers never considered whether a different set of policies might reduce global opposition and enhance US security.
To reiterate Rushdies point: “…it is in a way incumbent on the Muslim world to reject Islamic radicalism, because that is what will remove the power of Islamic radicalism”, but if our foreign policies, taken beyond all reason by bush, continue to drive the average person in Islamic societies to supporting Al Qaeda because they see them as opposing the bush administration and US foreign policies pursued by all administrations left or right, democrat or republican, of the past half century, then it is going to take them that much longer to “reject Islamic radicalism”.
The Council on Foreign Relations recently commented that:
The declassified judgments from the National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism caused a stir in the political world this week, but for most ‘we would guess almost all’ scholars of jihadist terrorism, they are largely uncontroversial. The war in Iraq, the lack of reform in the Muslim world and anger at its endemic corruption and injustice, the pervasiveness of anti-Western sentiment ‘all these have long been identified as major drivers of radical Islamist terror.
In fact, you don’t need an NIE to demonstrate the most controversial judgment ‘that the war in Iraq has worsened the terrorist threat. The official coordinated evaluation by Britain’s domestic security and foreign intelligence services noted that the conflict in Iraq has exacerbated the threat from international terrorism and will continue to have an impact in the long term. This conclusion is echoed by interior ministries, law enforcement agencies and intelligence services in every part of the world.
All of which leads inescapably to a rather uncomfortable and paradoxical conclusion:
It’s been said many times that they attack because “they hate us for our freedoms”.
Not only is that a ridiculous statement on its face. It is absolutely untrue and misleading, and in fact is in diametric opposition to reality:
They attack us because they want the same freedoms we enjoy.
Or used to enjoy. Until lately. Until the dismantling of those freedoms began under the current administration.
As Rushdie observed: ‘the answer to terrorism is not to be terrorized, and it becomes important to continue’. Dismantling freedoms here is not the way.
Working together peacefully with the enormous Islamic societies is the way to live peacefully with those societies.
Far from appeasing Al Qaeda and terrorism, doing so would eliminate Al Qaeda.
And not engaging in terrorism would be an important first step towards eliminating terrorism.