For a decade at the very least, Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants and associates, from Indonesia to Morocco, have made it clear that they are at war with everyone–Muslims included–who does not completely agree with their goals and methods. Contrary to popular opinion, their list of enemies includes not just the Western world, let alone the United States, or the “Crusaders and Jews” often railed against. Japan and India, Russia and China–not exactly “Western” in the usual sense–as well as Hindus, Buddhists, and Communists, East African blacks and Turks, not to mention “the U.N., which is opposed to Islam.” All figure quite prominently on the Islamists’ “people to murder” list. And, as Casablanca and Istanbul, Djerba and Riyadh, Baghdad and Karachi have demonstrated, the “wrong” kind of Muslim is on that list too. Not surprising, since, for Osama bin Laden, “the general aim of the jihad and the mujahadeen is to strike at the foundations and infrastructure of the Western colonialist program or at the so-called world order…. Their defeat means, simply, the elimination of all forms of nation-states, such that all that remains is the natural existence familiar to Islam–the regional entity under the great Islamic state.”
Simply put, Islamic terrorists are not involved in a war of civilizations as much as a war against civilization of any kind–pure barbarism against culture. But this is barbarism with a very dangerous twist–in its skilled use of technology, communications, and the media, the al Qaeda nebula is the first “postmodern” terror movement–certainly compared to the still-active Marxist insurgent and terrorist groups in Latin America, or the largely defunct ones in Western Europe. Its strategy is global, its tactical modus operandi is perfectly adapted to the post-Cold War environment, and its leadership–not just, or even primarily, Osama bin Laden or Ayman al Zawahiri–is adept at taking advantage of today’s uniquely fluid geopolitical map. But, to take just the West, “[its] occupation of our countries is old, but takes new forms. The struggle between us and them began centuries ago, and will continue. There can be no dialogue with occupiers except through arms.” Why? Because “believers are in one tent and the infidels are in another,” and “you should know that seeking to kill Americans and Jews everywhere in the world is one of the greatest duties [for Muslims], and the good deed most preferred by Allah, the Exalted.” So said Osama bin Laden, on many occasions.
One would think that all of this widely available information, and the actions of the jihadists themselves, at least since 1993, would be enough for any rational and thinking person anywhere to understand the global and deadly threat Osama bin Laden and his cohorts represent for humanity–but one would be wrong. The incredulity and blindness of so many people, in the West and elsewhere, multiply the effectiveness of the Islamist barbarians–and until disbelief and ignorance are dealt with, no amount of military force, technology, intelligence, or money could keep the new barbarians from the gates of civilization. Here is a preliminary roster of the blindness-and-idiocy types:
‐The umma solidarity crowd. Since the jihadists began their activities in the early 1990s, a large majority of their victims has been Muslim–beginning with those killed in Afghanistan by bin Laden’s Brigade 52 unit, but also including those killed in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Morocco, and Indonesia. In Algeria alone some 120,000 people–virtually all Muslims – were killed since 1991 by two Islamist terror groups, one of which is closely associated with al Qaeda. Nor did Osama bin Laden make a secret of his priorities: “The most qualified regions for liberation are Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, the land of the two holy mosques [Saudi Arabia], and Yemen.”
One would think that enough to trigger the hostility of most Muslims–but it wasn’t. It almost appears that the Muslim masses are waiting to see who will win, prepared to quietly accept the outcome. In the case of the Palestinians, it is even worse–the masses won’t even stay neutral, instead actively sympathizing with the likes of Islamic Jihad and Hamas–especially among the young. The Muslims in the West are too busy complaining about alleged discrimination to bother with the bomb throwers in their ranks. If the iron rule of guerrilla and terrorist success is that the passivity of the majority is more important than its active support, the jihadists are winning in Pakistan as much as in Detroit and Saint-Denis. For the majority of the world’s Muslims, bin Laden may be misguided, but ultimately he is their misguided devil. For bin Laden & Co., this is a religious war–and most of the world’s Muslims seem to agree, at least implicitly. Ultimately, the Muslim masses and bin Laden share one key psychological trait–a persecution mania of historic and mass proportions, in which all that is wrong in Islam is everybody else’s fault.
Nor is it surprising for the largely illiterate “Arab street” to think that way–if “think” is the term–when prominent intellectuals, in prestigious newspapers, deliver pearls like “the Afghani experience and then the Iraqi one–despite their differences–have confirmed that the concept of independence related to free will and self-determination has no place in the new world order as long as the Americans are the ones to choose the regimes, the men in power, the laws and even the constitutions.”
We are being told ad nauseam that “most Muslims do not support terrorism”–a very dubious claim in places like Gaza and the West Bank, Pakistan and Yemen–and at best irrelevant elsewhere, since we know that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
‐The “it cannot happen here” believers. For a multitude of reasons, governments like those of Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Thailand have persistently denied the obvious jihadist threat–out of narrow-mindedness, fear, incompetence, or expediency. It took some bloody and rude awakenings for these governments to finally admit the existence of an “Osama bin Laden,” and some have yet to draw the necessary conclusion: that they are also targets.
‐The delusional neutrals. Some African governments labor under the illusion that the present conflict is somehow going to avoid their shores. Similarly, some Western governments (especially Scandinavians) prefer to see the present conflict as one between a disliked United States and a misguided minority of violent Muslims. Or they prefer to see what is a declared war against civilization itself as only a regrettable result of the unfortunate conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
‐The “altermondist” fellow travelers. It may be little known, but Osama bin Laden supports the Kyoto Treaty, considers capitalism as one of the main pernicious influences of the infidel West on the Islamic world, and is a great supporter of the rights of the Guantanamo detainees. Hate for America is a strong unifying factor, and the altermondists, formerly known as the anti-globalists, also share his desire to get off the train of global cultural and economic integration. While only the anarchist fringes of the altermondists openly express solidarity with the jihadists’ anti-Western goals, the entire movement protects or legitimizes that fringe. Groups like the remnants of the Italian Red Brigades are in open solidarity with al Qaeda–and hyperactive altermondists as well.
‐The “blame-the-yanks” crowd. Anti-Americanism is so widespread throughout the world, and is so intense, that the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” dictum has global effects benefiting the Islamist terror networks. America exploits the world, and makes it poorer, more unjust, and more polluted: “Right on!” says the bearded prophet out of the Middle Ages into his cell phone. “The U.S. is the main terrorist force in the world,” says an MIT professor, “absolutely!” say those proud perpetrators of September 11 and Bali; if only the Americans would let that Israeli tumor be neutralized or removed from the Middle East, the “democratic” lamb and the Islamic lion could peacefully lie together.
The altermondists meet this crowd in their explanation of the “real causes” of cowboy Bush’s assault on Afghanistan and Iraq; “On one hand he (Bush) is carrying out the demands of the Zionist lobby that helped him to enter the White House. These demands are to destroy the military strength of Iraq because it is too close to the Jews in occupied Palestine, regardless of the harm that will happen to your people and your economy.” On the other hand, Bush is concealing his own ambitions and the ambitions of the Zionist lobby and their own desire for oil. He is still following the mentality of his ancestors who killed the Native Americans to take their land and wealth. Sounds familiar? We heard this from members of Congress, Democratic presidential candidates and huge European crowds–but the quote is from a statement of Osama bin Laden, in October 2003.
‐ The idiots savants of academia and media–”poverty and injustice” as bomb makers. There was a time, not so long ago, when Galbraith was detecting a convergence between Marxist totalitarianism and American capitalism; when political pilgrims “discovered” Ho Chi Minh’s peasant nationalism, Castro’s egalitarianism, and Mao’s intellectual prowess, or saw the “future that works” in Lenin’s Soviet nightmare. Today our academic “experts” on Islam claim that poverty and lack of democracy are the root causes of Islamist terror: Have free elections, and bin Laden will go into the honey-export business.
Never mind that bin Laden disagrees: “Democracy is deviation. Voices have risen in Iraq as before in Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, and elsewhere, calling for a peaceful democratic solution in dealing with apostate governments or with Jewish and crusader invaders instead of fighting in the name of God. Hence, it is necessary to warn against the danger of this deviant and misleading practice that contradicts Allah’s teachings to fight in the name of God. They have chosen democracy, the faith of the ignorant.” Indeed, “It is not the American war machine that should be of the utmost concern to Muslims. What threatens the future of Islam, in fact its very survival, is American democracy.” This according to Issue al-Ayyeri, a.k.a. Abu Muhammad, a now-deceased (killed in action by the Saudis in 2003) associate of bin Laden in “The Future of Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula After the Fall of Baghdad,” published by al Qaeda.
Do the experts–the same types who have long told us that the Vietcong, Shining Path in Peru, or FARC in Colombia are “peasant reformers,” despite the “reformers’” insistence that they are Marxist revolutionaries–know better what Osama bin Laden seeks?
‐The clueless and the absurd. Those “peace activists” with no hidden agendas, and the clueless youths at good colleges, think that if only Bush and his misguided (or militaristic) allies would stop persecuting the jihadists, terrorism would stop. Hence the strange argument that the removal of the Taliban and Saddam is the cause of Bali, Madrid, and Istanbul, and the pathetic spectacle of Spaniards reacting to the Madrid massacre by holding signs of “Paz!”
Perhaps the most spectacular combination of the clueless and the absurd is to be found in the person of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, who “urged America to recognize that terrorists can ‘have serious moral goals.’” He said that, while terrorism must always be condemned, it was wrong to assume its perpetrators were devoid of political rationality. “It is possible to use unspeakably wicked means to pursue an aim that is shared by those who would not dream of acting in the same way, an aim that is intelligible or desirable.”
He said that in ignoring this, in its criticism of al Qaeda, America “loses the power of self-criticism and becomes trapped in a self-referential morality.” After this, what can one expect from politically illiterate college students?
‐The blind mice of human rights.
You have claimed to be the vanguards of Human Rights, and your Ministry of Foreign Affairs issues annual reports containing statistics of those countries that violate any Human Rights. However, all these things vanished when the mujahadeen hit you, and you then implemented the methods of the same documented governments that you used to curse. In America, you captured thousands the Muslims and Arabs, took them into custody with neither reason, court trial, nor even disclosing their names. You issued newer, harsher laws. … What happens in Guatanamo is a historical embarrassment to America and its values. In America, you captured thousands of Muslims and Arabs, took them into custody with neither reason, court trial, nor even disclosing their names. You issued newer, harsher laws. …..What happens in Guatanamo is a historical embarrassment to America and its values.
If one believed this to be part of a press release by Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch–as it may very well be–the error would be understandable. It is, in fact, a quote from bin Laden’s November 2002 “Letter to America.”
Much as when, during the Cold War, anti-anti-Communists were the most effective de facto fellow travelers and useful idiots, human-rights fundamentalists and libertarians are serving in those roles now. They see terrorism as no different from ordinary crime, and think terrorists have the same rights as soldiers–while implicitly accepting the fact that they play by different, or, more accurately, no rules. Thus, interrogation becomes “psychological torture,” underage bombers are “children” to be protected, focus on statistically and culturally likely suspects is “racial profiling” (Muslims are now a “race”), as if the same resources should be devoted to old Lutheran ladies as to young bearded Muslim men; and, in the memorable words of the late foreign minister of Sweden, Anna Lindh, killing a prominent al Qaeda operative in the deserts of Yemen is “extra-judiciary execution”–a crime itself. Moreover, at least in the opinion of a California judge, supporting officially defined terrorist groups is a constitutional right.
One does not have to support or share the jihadists’ goals or methods in order to promote their cause and help their activities, just as before it was not necessary–in fact it was often counterproductive–to be a card-carrying Communist-party member or even a Marxist, if one wanted to promote the victory of the “socialist camp.” All that is needed is to weaken the immune system of society in its struggle against barbarism, to unilaterally disarm civilization, and to dilute its moral and legal standards and values. For that, the useful idiots and fellow travelers are well trained–and they’re back.
–Michael Radu is a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.