Politics & Policy

American “Stupidity” and “Arrogance” in Iraq

The State Department's Alberto Fernandez strikes again.

Isn’t this just wonderful? The State Department’s top spokesman on the Middle East, Alberto Fernandez, has pronounced that American “arrogance” and “stupidity” is to blame for the downward spiral in Iraq.

What was the problem? Should we have made sure the enemy was quelled before the democracy-building experiment began? You must be kidding.

No, our arrogant stupidity lies in failing to have enough “dialogue” — including, apparently, with terrorists … despite official administration policy, to say nothing of common sense, which holds that negotiating with terrorists is irrational and self-defeating.

Officially, Fernandez’s title is Director of Public Diplomacy in State’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. In reality, he is the administration’s ambassador to the Muslim Umma.

Much of this worldwide community of believers, you may have noticed, has a hard time with some basic tenets of Western civilization — freedom of speech, of religion, separation of church and state, equality between men and women, between Muslims and non-Muslims, and so on. Not exactly what you’d call a running start toward anything we’d recognize as a democracy.

The Umma, moreover, has a hard time with … well, the Umma. Today marks the end of Ramadan, said to be the sacred month in the Islamic calendar. Yet this year, as in many years past, it will be marked in blood. Ironically, just a few days ago Muslim activists were rising up in anger (is there ever a time when they’re not rising up in anger?) over the realization that the 2012 Olympics in London will collide with Ramadan, putting observant pole-vaulters at a competitive disadvantage. Fasting obligations, however, seem to detract little from the energy required for slaughter. Shiites and Sunnis in Baghdad have somehow managed to bomb, bludgeon, and behead each other with furious abandon throughout this “holy month.”

But that, evidently, is not the real problem in Iraq. And even if it were, speaking truth to dysfunction is not in Director Fernandez’s job description. That, after all, would involve calling murderers “murderers.” Why do that when you can blame your own country?

Speaking directly to the Umma in Arabic, via al-Jazeera, Fernandez explained, “We tried to do our best, but I think there is much room for criticism because, undoubtedly, there was arrogance and there was stupidity from the United States in Iraq.”

How good to see that, while it has not mastered much else, State has down pat what it takes to crack al-Jazeera’s rotation.

In any event, the Associated Press reported on Sunday that Fernandez now believes he has the problem figured out: We need to talk more. You see, though we have freed 26 million Muslims from Saddam’s sadistic tyranny and given them a chance — whether or not they want it — to taste freedom, the United States is ignorant and imperious because we haven’t had enough dialogue with the malcontents. But finally, according to Fernandez, “We are open to dialogue.” Why? Because “we all know that, at the end of the day, the solution to the hell and the killings in Iraq is linked to an effective Iraqi national reconciliation[.] … The Iraqi government is convinced of this.”

So there you have it. State’s assessment from the senior diplomat responsible for conveying our position: The U.S. is arrogant and stupid, and what we need to pursue is the chatter course preferred by the Iraqi government. And, yes, that would be the same government whose thoroughly ineffective, Hezbollah-supporting, Iran apologist of a leader, Nouri al-Maliki, can’t or won’t crack down on Shiite militias — particularly the one led by his political ally, Muqtada al-Sadr, who may now outpace al Qaeda and disgruntled Baathists among Iraq’s countless destabilizers.

We’ve seen Fernandez’s routine before. It was only a year ago when our director of public diplomacy was gushing over Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi during a “live dialogue” appearance at Islamonline.net. Qaradawi, you may recall, is the “spiritual leader” of the Muslim Brotherhood — the intellectual font of Sunni Islamic terrorism which boasts Osama bin Laden, Ayman Zawahiri, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman as among the radical throngs it has inspired.

Notwithstanding that Qaradawi had been banned from the U.S. for promoting terrorism, Fernandez told his audience he thought it was “important to listen to intelligent and thoughtful voices from the region like Sheikh Qaradawi, … an important figure that deserves our attention.” Qaradawi, after all, is a “respected scholar” and “worthy of the deepest respect.” Determining his role, Fernandez insisted, was “for the Muslim Umma to decide.”

You’ll not be surprised to learn that Qaradawi later went on to foment the international Muslim rioting over Danish cartoons that depicted Mohammed, who was a warrior, as … a warrior. (Given the choice between defending American First Amendment values or appeasing an Umma yet again rising up in anger, the State Department naturally opted for the latter.)

Further, at a conference in Yemen, flanked by the leader of Hamas and a confidant of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Qaradawi’s “intelligent and thoughtful voice” was once again heard exhorting jihadists to continue the fight “in Palestine, in Iraq, in Lebanon, and in every country that has been conquered by foreigners.” Not to worry, though; I wasn’t there, but I’m sure he did it in a manner “worthy of the deepest respect.”

Might Fernandez have been just a little bit wrong to praise Qaradawi, who remains a committed jihadist at a time when our nation is fighting jihadists? Might Fernandez, as a high official of a country with a proud tradition of religious liberty and the separation of church and state, have thought twice about bragging to his Islamonline.net audience about how the new Iraqi constitution the State Department helped write had institutionalized “the role of Islam” in Iraqi life?

Apparently not. Fernandez doesn’t have much to say about his own gaffes, or about the Umma’s disturbing tendency to breed terrorists. It’s America he prefers to second-guess.

Have mistakes been made in Iraq? Unquestionably. But the one thing those mistakes have surely not involved is insufficient deference to Muslim sensibilities. Indeed, the opposite is true. The administration is now paying dearly for subordinating military success against our enemies — militant Islam and its abettors in Iran and elsewhere — to political accommodations in pursuit of its Holy Grail of rapid democratic transformation in a land hostile to Western values.

That is not arrogance. It is hope borne of exuberance, however naïve it may be.

What clearly is stupidity, though, is having Alberto Fernandez as the public face of American diplomacy.

Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

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