Monday, October 24, 2005

The Free West moved...

Dear Reader,

Legendary historian Walter Laqueur and one of the world's most brilliant statisticians Mark van der Laan have joined me in blogging at The Free West.
German newspaper Die Welt is hosting us.

Please follow us to

http://www.welt.de/z/plog/blog.php/the_free_west

Hope to see you there!

Leon de Winter

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Mao's Legacy

Nicholas Kristof’s review of ‘MAO The Unknown Story’ by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday in The New York Times, starts as follows:

‘If Chairman Mao had been truly prescient, he would have located a little girl in Sichuan Province named Jung Chang and "mie jiuzu"- killed her and wiped out all her relatives to the ninth degree. But instead that girl grew up, moved to Britain and has now written a biography of Mao that will help destroy his reputation forever.’

They are still out there, the fellow-travellers, the real, imagined, the neo- and the deeply committed Maoists, and some do not hide their admiration for the Great Leader. Some of them are working in academics. Others are politicans or journalists. I know a couple of them.

Kristof writes: ‘This biography shows, though, that Mao was something of a fraud from Day 1.’

His review is a devastating read in its own right – I expect the read of this book to be a long trip into hell.

Kristof: ‘This is an extraordinary portrait of a monster, who the authors say was responsible for more than 70 million deaths.’

Still, at the end of his raving review, Kristof cannot suppress the old habit of trying to find some kind of balance, which is a perverted addiction of Western intellectuals who can make abstractions of even millions of innocent deaths:

‘I agree that Mao was a catastrophic ruler in many, many respects, and this book captures that side better than anything ever written. But Mao's legacy is not all bad. Land reform in China, like the land reform in Japan and Taiwan, helped lay the groundwork for prosperity today. The emancipation of women and end of child marriages moved China from one of the worst places in the world to be a girl to one where women have more equality than in, say, Japan or Korea. Indeed, Mao's entire assault on the old economic and social structure made it easier for China to emerge as the world's new economic dragon.’

Indeed, Hitler created the German Freeway and introduced pensions for the elderly. Stalin turned Russica into an industrial state.

You never heard of Willem Drees. He was as gray-ish bourgeois technocrate who transformed post-war Holland into a modern nation without extermination camps, without famine, without killing whole ‘classes’ of people. His contributions to his country are taken for granted because it was normal what he tried to achieve: create more wealth, security, safety, freedom.

Giving Mao his dues for developments that could have occurred without the suffering of so many people, is sickening, especially coming from a man like Kristof, who is a fine journalist and commentator.

Read the review here.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Bin Laden and Benni Landau

Bin Laden and Benni Landau
The following narrative has recently come to my knowledge; Needless to say I cannot vouch for its authenticity. I have filled in some minor details
It concerns the true identity of Osama Bin Laden.
There is no doubt about the date and place of birth and the identity of his parents nor with regard to the first 30 odd years of his life. But there is much reason to believe that the true Osama disappeared one day in the Sudan and was replaced by one Benni Landau. This was the result of a project carried out by the Mossad in collaboration with the CIA. Their intention was to gain a foothold among the developing jihadi movement and to manipulate it.. The idea occurred to Bin Laden's later handlers having watched The Manchurian Candidate a well known film of the 1960s. The script was by George Axelrod a New York Jewish writer, the main roles were played by Laurence Harvey a South African Jewish actor whose really name was Skikne. The other central character was Frank Sinatra, who (what is less know) is of Chinese-Jewish origin (Sin in Hebrew means China, atar is “place”) It \is well known that one or two of the lost Jewish tribes settled in China and some of their descendants still live there. Nor is it a matter of pure accident that one of the best known songs of said Sin-Atra is called “New York New York”
The technique used in the Manchurian Candidate for a change of personality is brainwashing , but this was considered impractical and hence the idea of a substitution arose. Agents of the Mossad found a tall young man in a suburb of Nashville Tennessee, the son of a realtor, who had a gift for languages and a sense of adventure. Not much persuasion was needed to persuade him to accept the assignment that was planned for him.
For thr next ten years he became what is technically known as a sleeper. But he was a very active sleeper. He underwent intensive training in various Arab dialects, he traveled widely in the Arab world, went on the Haj to Mecca, enrolled at Al Azhar religious university in Cairo and became virtually indistinguishable from an Arab his age.
Meanwhile the real Bin Laden after a few years of militancy had settled in Sudan where he bought a farm at Soba and various other enterprises. In April 1995 Bin Laden went out to inspect a distant part of his farm, but he did not return before the late evening , his horse had jolted, he had a bad fall with major facial injuries. A doctor was called who suspected concussion and prescribed two weeks of bed rest. In truth the switch had taken place; no one knows what happened to the real Bin Laden.
Benni Landau played his new role admirably. True, there were some minor slip ups, he behaved a little strangely and did not remember certain things, but everyone thought that these were the after effects of the fall , which the doctor had predicted. Benni L. gradually disposed of those who had been \closest to him, his four wives were sent home to Saudi Arabia and replaced by others. One of his servants continued to voice astonishment and suspicions, but he had an unfortunate fatal accidentt during a hunt that same summer.
During the next two years until his expulsion from Sudan Benni grew into his new role .perfectly. On Friday mornings after the prayers he went to the horse races, later to his office in Mak Nimr street. The new Bin Laden was more militant than the old one who had been content to engage in his various business activities. He talked increasingly about the need to intensify jihad and when he was expelled in 1997 to Pakistan and later Afghanistan he quickly mobilized the cadres of Al Qa'ida which subsequently was to be come the main terrorist force among the Islamists.
But why had Mossad and CIA engaged in this complicated ,expensive and risky maneuver? The explanation is obvious. The wirepullers were aware of the rising militancy among young Muslims and they wanted to use the substitution as a provocation. If the terrorists had been a bit more patient their base would have been much stronger, their weapons more sophisticated. All the false Osama had achieved was one major operation in New York followed by a dozen minor attacks which did not shake the West but made it aware of the threat facing it .The correct strategy would have been to lull it into a false sense of security. Furthermore the ultraradical strategy led to internal war between Sunnis and Shi'ites. In brief, by acting prematurely the false Osama had caused irreparable harm to the cause he professed to serve.

conspiracy--a competition

Conspiracy theories a competition
The other day in the middle of a Washington radio phone-in a gentleman from the Middle West announced that President Kennedy had been murdered because he tried to cut the CIA budgt/ \. When asked for the source of this startling information the caller said “that it was all in the archives”. It was a relatively harmless example of a condition called conspiracy theory, a term which goes back to the year 1909; the word conspiracy is of course much older, it can be found as far back as the early 14th century. Its original meaning was to “breathe together” to agree, to unite” but also “to plot”.
Conspiracy theories were relatively infrequent in the 19th century, except at the very end with the campaign against the Elders of Zion, the masons and the Illuminati.. But in recent decades, and especially in recent years there has been a tremendous upsurge of conspiracy theories. There are even encyclopedias about the subject,; the media are full of it, so are the bookshops and even more the Internet. \\\\\C.G. Jung the great Swiss psychologist was quite right when he wrote that the high tide of parapsychology, astrology and similar pastimes was not , as frequently believed, the Middle Ages, it is the present ime.
The same is true with regard to conspiracy theories. It is difficult to think of any major event (let alone any major disaster) which has not attracted the conspiratologists, \from the murder of President Lincoln to John Lennon and Princess Diane. Hundreds of of conspiracy theories have been woven around events such as 9/11 and the Iraq war but also natural disasters such as AIDS, globals warming, Katrina and most recently the Chinese bird disease.There have been countless conspiracy theories about Pearl Harbor, about the Pope and the Jesuits, about the Council of Foreign Relations and the Bilderberg group, about extraterrestrials and of course the Zionists.
Not all conspiracy theories are bona fide. When a French author wrote a book in which he proved that the attack against the Pentagon in September 2001 never took place, there is no certainty whether he really believed in it or whether the motive was to produce a bestseller. It is also true that according to a well know saying even paranoiacs have enemies. But the overwhelming majority of these theories are sincerely and intensely believed, among their protagonists are British and German ex-government ministers. and even a few scientists.
How to explain this enormous popularity of conspiracy theories? This is a subject that has ben insufficiently studied so far ; the late American historian Richard Hofstetter wrote an important essay on the subject many years ago but it dealt only with the United States ,the subject certainly needs further investigation.
If one were to prepare a geopolitical atlas on the diffusion of political paranoia,, the Arab countries and some ;parts of the Muslim world would probably emerge on top. It is widely believed in these parts ( by about 80% or more) that the Israelis carried out the attacks of 9/11. For how to explain that 3000 Jews working in the World Trade Center had been warned and did not appear to work that day? Muslims lacked the know how and sophistication to carry out a complicated operation of this kind. But at the same time about equal numbers believe that the brave jihadis were the heroes of 9/11 and America had the punishment coming in view of its anti-Arab and anti Islamic policies. These beliefs are not restricted to the more backward sections of sockety, they are widespread among academics and the TV station Al Jazeera , among others, has made a notable contribution.to the spread of these beliefs.
However. other parts of the globe` are also close contenders in this race for the conspiracy championship. Historically the far right was the main champion of the belief in the “hidden hand”but in the 1930's the Soviet Union was not lagging far behind with the propaganda about Wallstreet as the source of all evil, and the Moscow trials constituted another breakthrough. They proved that the Old Bolsheviks had all been agents of British and French, Polish, Romanian and Japanese intelligence. This trend continues to day among many anti Globalists and the believers in the neo conservative conspiracy, with Leo Strauss having replaced Leon Trotsky.
However conspiracy theories are also strongly represented in the Mediterranean world and other European countries,. Less so in India and China but quite prominently in Japan.
I
I do not think we shall find any time soon convincing explanations for the prevalence of conspiracy theories, and why some societies are more prone to believe in them than others. But the attempt should be made and I would like to suggest a competition—Readers are asked
to submit the most fascinating conspiracy theories they have encountered off late.. We are not in a position to offer an award at this stage , but if a donor will be found , it will be announced. I shall present in a forthcoming posting an example.

We don't know our enemy

Is the Letter real?

Rita Katz, director of the SITE Institute, thinks so. She informs us about the intriguing end of the letter. She quotes from a critical report of the letter:

"If the letter is written from Zawahiri to Zarqawi, the reports implicated, why does the former ask the latter to send regards to himself? How could Zawahiri, the purported writer of this letter, forget that it was already addressed to Zarqawi?"

Next, Katz tells us that this strange end is a direct reference to a poem that is widely distibuted on jihadi websites:

"You who rule countries by his infidels
You can kill flies with chemicals
You who are riding the fast thing
By Allah, where are you going to?
If you are going to Fallujah
Send my regards to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
And all the jihadis in his group . . ."

Katz remarks: "The poem has caught on in jihadi circles. Members of hundreds of online jihadi forums, not just ones directly connected to the insurgents in Iraq, had posted and discussed it. Some of these discussions are down now, but others are still active. Examples are the Jihadi Palestinian Forum where the poem has been posted since November 15, 2004, and the Yemen Youth Forum, which still features an active link."

Here is her punchline: "The slogan is also frequently used in greetings, blessings, or, as in Zawahiri’s letter, as concluding statements."

The end of her piece reminds us of our lack of understanding of what is going on here:

"An erroneous interpretation of the letter is a typical example of how superficial understanding of the al-Qaeda network and its workings continues to imperil the war on terror. Wrong conclusions based on partial or incorrect information can lead to wrong decisions, tactics, and strategies. The fight over the letter is bad news: The West just doesn't know it's enemy."

Read her piece here.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Morally Reprehensible

I don't know why it did not come to my attention earlier, but it is revealing to read this statement in an op-ed piece in The New York Times of February 12, 2004:

'We must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue weapons of mass destruction yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them for security — and indeed to continue to refine their capacities and postulate plans for their use.'

I believe the opposite: it is totally morally understandable to prevent some states of pursuing the development of weapons of mass destruction in order to save our civilization. I cannot understand why it is morally reprehensible to prevent Iran, Saddam's Iraq, Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan or Libya from producing weapons of mass destruction.

I am not at all afraid of France's nuclear power, although I am living 150 miles from its borders. I am not afraid of British WMD, living just across the North Sea. I know that these countries, modern democracies, will never use their WMD in conflict with other democracies.

But Iran? Syria? Libya? It is not morally reprehensible if these countries would pursue the development of WMD?

In reality, they are pursuing it. Libya made an end to it, but Iran is pushing harder than ever.

But it is not morally reprehensible, according to the above mentioned quote, that these morally reprehensible countries, inhuman tyrannies, are developing WMD.

According to the man who formulated this quote in his op-ed piece, we should abandon all WMD - which is like: tomorrow we wake up and suddenly overnight the world has changed into paradise - or we should stop condemning countries - which did he had in mind? - to pursue weapons to erase Israel, the USA, the whole West.

Who wrote that op-ed piece? It is IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Holy war against newspaper

This comes from The Copenhagen Post: 'Internet collages threatening Denmark and daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten with death and retribution have begun circulating on the internet after the newspaper published caricatures of Muslim prophet Mohammed.'

On the internet the Jihad against Denmark already started: 'Daily newspaper Berlingske Tidende reported that the internet collages, posted in the name of an unknown organisation calling itself 'The Glory Brigades in Northern Europe', showed pictures of various tourist attractions in Denmark and stated that 'The Mujahedeen have numerous targets in Denmark - very soon you all will regret this', amongst other things.
Another picture showed soldiers, armed with bombs, over a map of Denmark, with blood spattered over parts of the country.'

I know: barking dogs don't bite (maybe I should not compare Muslims hotheads to dogs, who are not considered 'halal'), but it is clear that there are lots of Muslims surfing the internet who can't take a joke or a cartoon.

I want to tell them: if the Prophet really felt insulted, He had taken revenge Himself by striking the offices of the newspaper by lightning straight from heaven. But no lightning was reported - apparently He is not insulted!

Read about it yourself...

Orhan Pamuk

Orhan Pamuk, Turkey's most prominent novelist, is being prosecuted by the Turkish state because he made insulting remarks about Turkey's past. In a Swiss newspaper he recently remarked that he is the only one in his country who dares to discuss the genocide of Armenians by the Turks in 1915/16.
He was right: he was immediately accused by a state prosecutor of un-Turkish behavior.

Whatever the historical truth of the genocide may be (I read shocking articles about the genocide, but I know there are historians who disagree), it is quite ridiculous that a modern state is suppressing Orhan's freedom of speech this way. If this rule would be the rule in the EU and the USA, many commentators and writers would be looking for other jobs (I know: this in itself is not a bad idea - yes, some of you are thinking along these lines about me too).

The way Orhan is being treated is significant for what the Turkish state is: a multi-faced organism with modern and dangerous masks. It is ridiculous to start negotiating with such a state about full EU-membership.

Dutch under-secretary for European Affairs Atzo Nicolai finally had the guts to expose this insanity.

In a remarkable op-ed piece in today's Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant (not on-line), he wrote that the treatment of Orhan should have consequences for the 'negotiations' between the EU and Turkey (read more about it on the Dutch website of Elsevier, the weekly for which I wrote a weekly column and to which I will return in January).

He is absolutely right. Salman Rushdie wrote in The Times a strong and convincing op-ed piece about Orhan: 'How can a country that victimises its greatest living writer also join the EU?'
Now Nicolai is ringing the alarm bell.

It is time to wake up.

Putin,Petrovsky,Caucasus,Siberia

PUTIN.PETROVSKY, CAUCASUS SIBERIA
Russia has an Islamist and a terrorist problem , it is becoming worse and it is not dealing with it very cleverly. What happened in Nalchik a little while ago was not the end of the affair but could well be a further stage in the spreading of unrest beyond Chechnya. Nalchik was not a great victory of the terrorists; they made the elementary mistake of getting overconfident. Instead of concentrating on frequent small scale attacks, they tried to operate in comparatively large units— thus exposing themselves to the Russian forces and were of course defeated by the greater firepower of the other side. But this was not a decisive defeat and the Kremlin is facing a growing problem.
It is frequently forgotten that Russia has a sizable Muslim population, between 16 and 20 millions, no one know the exact figure. And while the Russian population is rapidly shrinking , the population of Tatarstan, Bashkorstan and other Muslim concentrations is rising. These regions furthermore are rich in resources (including oil) and while they do not want to secede from Russia, they want much more self rule . Off late they have suggested that the Vice president of Russia should be a Muslim. They are not in their great majority Islamist but small cells do exist there too. Among the prisoners in Guantanamo there are no Chechens but there are some from Bashkirstan .
Russian Muslims have not very much in common with each other, they are dispersed over a very large country , there is no united front, they do not have a common language and it should not be too difficult for the Kremlin to keep them content by a variety of concessions.
But the Kremlin has not shown much aptitude in dealing with its Muslims. Instead they have been doing all kind of favors to countries such as Iran—for instance building nuclear facilities for them, in the wholly mistaken assumption that the Iranians will help them to contain the Muslim problem at home.
The Russian rulers feel aggrieved about the loss of empire and they increasingly tend to put the blame on the West—rather on themselves. To a certain extent one can feel sympathy or at least understanding; the .loss of Kiev was not just the loss of Ukraine, it is the loss of a thousand years of Russian history for the history of a Russian state begins after all in Kiev.
Putin and a majority of his colleagues want to regain as much as possible of what was lost. But they are doing it all wrong, at best this could be a long process, and they are people in a hurry. They bring pressure not only on the Muslims, they want to undermine Georgia and Moldavia as well as the Ukraine, they put increasingly military bases in Tadzhikistan and other Central Asian republics which depend on them. (These republics too mishandle their Islamist problem as shown recently in Andizhan causing the radicalization of a movement which is not inherently militant and religious-fanatic in character). The Kremlin feels in a strong position in view of the great and growing income from the oil and gas they are selling.
But oil and gas is not enough to reestablish an empire. They try to do the impossible-- to make the new Russia more nationalist and more multi cultural at the same time. But the number of Russians is dwindling , the Russian countryside is becoming empty, thousands of villages are simply disappearing. . The demographers predict that the population of Russia at present 142 million will have declined by 2050 to 101 millions, even if the birthrate should recover which is quite doubtful. For comparison. The population of Yemen , not the most populous country in the Middle East ,will also be about 100 millions by the middle of the century.
Perhaps the demographers are mistaken with regard to the Yemen overrating its growth. But they are not mistaken with regard to the decline of Russia and the question arises how long will the Russian Far East and Siberia remain in Russian hands if it is empty of people? The Russian military leadership and the KGB live an a fantasy world called Eurasianism that is to say an alliance with China and parts of the Muslim world against the Western threat. But neither the Americans nor the Europeans want to replace the Russians in Yakutia and Kamchatka. One of these days this may be understood in Moscow too.
It would be wrong to put all the blame for the crisis in the Caucasus on the Russians. The Chechens had their chance in the nineteen nineties to establish an autonomous republic and they made a great mess of it. . Aggressive Islamism is a virulent condition which tends to spread but it does not occur everywhere and given the situation in the Caucasus it was not preordained that it would spread outside Chechnya.
It is perfectly natural that Russia should have special interests in the region surrounding it and that Russian influence should be felt.. But to assert such influence tact and patience is needed and Russian policy has been showing neither. As far as the Caucasus is concerned they may have missed the opportunities, it may be too late for a real improvement in the situation and we may face a long period of widespread unrest.
.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Petrovsky
When a few Russians began to arrive in Washington soon after Gorbachev had come to power, one of the most interesting and attractive I met was a youngish man whom I shall call Petrovsky. He had been a dissident who spent some time in prison and during Perestroika edited a little journal which went about as far as one could go within the borders of glasnost. His English was very limited but he was highly intelligent and very enterprising. He wanted to know above all how to set up a research center and how to finance it.
Over the years I met him a few times in Washington and Moscow and watched with admiration his rise from critical dissident to leading spin doctor. What impressed me most was the fact that he established within a few years a substantial center with many employees. I do not know where the money had come from, certainly not from the US or Europe. More impressive yet was his indestructibility; the people in the Kremlin changed but Petrovsky became a permanent fixture, apparently as tenured as the cooks and the physicians in the Kremlin- the man who gave Putin the ideas. .
Last week a conference took place in the Kremlin about of all things multiculturalism. Petrovsky, not surprisingly gave one of the central presentations. He upbraided Washington for being beastly towards Byelorussia “our closest political-military ally”. Speakers at this conference pointed out that while Russia was ;practicing multiculturalism neighbors such as Georgia and the Baltic republics did not.
Reading about this conference it occurred to me that the transformation of my friend Petrovsky was in many ways not the story of one person but that . of large sections of the new Russian political elite. Where will it lead Russia? I shall return to this subject in a day or two

Saint Noam

I don't care what people do privately. I don't care that they are as opportunistic as possible and are trying to evade the Taxman and hire good tax lawyers to decrease the tax they have to pay.

Unless you are an icon of the Left and a spokesman of the anti-capitalist radicals who despise making money because you like making money.

And, naturally, Saint Noam Chomsky is just as pragmatic as we all are: he is using the advice of a good tax lawyer as well. While trying to get a socialist world revolution off the ground, he created a tax shelter for his own benefits.

I like personal benefits. Even for Noam.

Read this juicy piece.

Iraq the Model

The Iraqi brothers who run the blog 'Iraq the Model' became worldfamous. They are in the middle of the events, and they have sharp eyes and clear minds.

The scandalous editorial in today's New York Times about Saddam's trial - 'a show trial' - is contradicted by the reality of ordinary Iraqi's.

Here is Iraq the model:

'We’re drawing the outlines of a change not only for Iraq but also for the entire region and I can feel that today we have presented a unique model of justice because in spite of the cruelty of the criminal tyrant and in spite of the size of the atrocities committed against the Iraqi people, we still want to build a state of law that looks nothing like the one the tyrant wanted to create.'

But I am sure, on Manhattan they know better...

Iraq the Model.

'They kill a lot'

This is a terrifying read: Michael Ledeen, one of the smartest Iran experts, has a very entertaining piece on NRO about recent developments in Iran.

Let me quote him in full:

"A bit of background is necessary in order to get the full significance of the news. According to the Shiite faith, the 12th imam (the authoritative successors to the Prophet Mohammed) disappeared from this earth, and at the end of mortal time he will reappear, to usher in the Kingdom of Allah. The Iranian Shiites believe that the imam is hiding at the bottom of a well in Ifahan, known as the Jamkaran well, around which a magnificent mosque has been constructed. Okay? Now you can understand the story:

In a formal cabinet meeting chaired by Iran's new president’s first deputy, the ministers printed and ratified an agreement with the Shiites' 12th Imam. In his opening remarks, Parviz Davoudi, Ahmadinejad' first deputy suggested that the cabinet ministers should sign an agreement with 12th Imam, the same way they signed a pact with the new president. The ministers collectively agreed and so there is now an agreement between the two! The ministers then questioned how the 12th hidden Imam will sign the agreement!

The solution was resolved when the government's cabinet ministers agreed to ask Saffar Harandi, Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance how president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad planned to take the letter to the holy Imam. Next Thursday night, Saffar Harandi dropped the signed agreement to the Jamkaran well, a spot that Moslem religious groups believe is where the Shiite 12th Imam is hidden. This well is also the resting place for tons of letters and requests from Muslim pilgrims.
A short while after the cabinet ministers' collective agreement, the government spent 70 billion rials to feed the needy pilgrims of Jamkaran Mosque. At the Transportation Minister's suggestion, this money would be spent to reconstruct the roads leading to Jamkaran and to allocate large amount of money for other similar projects. There was strong criticism on this from all fronts and even Ahmadinejad seemed very offended. He said that this government was not in power to build roads and that it should be thankful to 12th Imam's blessing for being in power.

We are talking about some of the highest-ranking officials in the Islamic republic. So far as I know, this is not political satire, it’s reportage. And the point is obvious, isn’t it? We are not dealing with people like us (although a couple of the more hyper columnists at, say, the New York Times might well suspect that there are lots of evangelicals who secretly aspire to this sort of behavior).

The Iranian people are suffering enormously at the hands of this regime,
whose president "was not in power to build roads" and owes its legitimacy to a vanished religious figure at the bottom of a well in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

And for those who thought that Iranian "elections" somehow gave a form of democratic legitimacy to the president and his cabinet, read it again. It’s the 12th imam, not the people of Iran, who bestows power.

There are two groups of people who ought to be made to read this account several times: those European pseudo-diplomats who think that you can reach a rational modus vivendi with the mullahs; and the innumerable failed diplomats and elected officials (I am thinking, as I so often do, of Senator Richard Lugar and his buddies on the Foreign Relations Committee, who do not deign to take testimony from critics of the Iranian regime) in this country who keep on calling for normalization with Iran.

We’re talking about real fanatics here. Fun reading, yes, but they kill a lot."

Ledeen is writing a fascinating series of articles in the last couple of years. Read the piece yourself.

What do Manhattenites want?

Our popular continuing series about the deepest wishes of people reading The New York Times.

Ads on page 2 and 3 of today’s New York Times:

Page 2:
Chanel: jeweled camellia pumps with diamonds $ 925
Tourneau: TagHeuer watch, ladies’ aquaracer $2.795
Asprey: jewelry, daisy collection, starting at $ 1.200
Chopard: LUC Collection, starting at $ 8.765
Cartier: ‘writing instruments’ starting at $ 230

Page 3:
Macy’s: announcement One Day Sale
Bloomingdale’s: announcement chef Daniel Boulud’s cooking demonstration
Lord & Taylor: announcement Pail Innis, make-up artist, will give advice
Saks Fifth Avenue: announcement the No-Limits Lifestyle event
Tiffany & Co: jewelry, pendant $ 950, earrings $ 1.500

Saddam is enjoying what he denied his victims

Amir Taheri in The Times:

'What is at stake is more than the fate of a despot and his entourage. Iraq and, beyond it the Arab world, where the remnants of pan-Arabism regard Saddam Hussein as their champion, need a prolonged, dispassionate, and judicially impeccable lesson in history and political ethics.
According to Khalil al-Dulaimi, who heads Saddam’s team of Arab lawyers, the fallen despot intends to cast himself in the role of “the defender of pan-Arab values”. This should be welcomed by the judges, for it would allow the exercise to assume a greater role: putting on trial the military-security model of statehood that has been the most popular in the Arab world since the Egyptian coup d’état of 1952. Far from being an aberration, Saddam Hussein was an archetypal figure of the modern Arab despotic regimes based on the military and the security services. His kind of despotism was imposed on a dozen Arab nations at different times and is still in power in Libya, Syria and Sudan. In its 50 years of existence, this form of government has provoked ten large wars, including the longest of the last century: the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88 that stole more than a million lives.'

Taheri's short piece is shocking in it preciseness, in the broad perspective on the devastation Arab dictators brought upon their nations.

'In the three decades that Saddam dominated Iraq he had almost $200 billion in oil revenues not only to finance three large-scale wars and kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, but also to buy influence in the West. Part of that investment may be bearing fruit as the chorus of his admirers, led by the French, raises its voice.'

In The Washington Post Anne Apppebaum writes:

'But if his Sunni countrymen learn what he did to Shiites and Kurds, if the Shiites and Kurds learn what he did to Sunnis, if Iraqis come to realize that his system of totalitarian terror damaged them all, and if others in the Middle East learn that dictatorships can be overthrown, then the trial will have served its purpose. That, and not an arbitrary standard of international law, is how the success of this unusual tribunal should be measured.'

Ralph Peter's column (free subscription needed) in The New York Post should be quoted here in full, which I can't do, but I am quoting a large chunk:

'Iraq may yet fail as a unified state. Violence will continue. But what's frustrating is the determination of so many in our media to convince the American people that Iraq's a hopeless mess. It's an example of vanity, selfishness and spite virtually without precedent in the history of journalism.
The greatest tragedy imaginable for our "mainstream media" would be to have to admit that President Bush was right about Iraq.
A startling number of editors and opinion columnists have been wrong about every development in Iraq (and Afghanistan). First, they predicted a bloody, protracted war against Saddam's military. Then they predicted civil war. They insisted that Iraq's first elections would fail amid a bloodbath. Then they declared that Iraq's elected delegates would not be able to agree on a draft constitution. Next, they thundered that Iraq's Sunni Arabs wouldn't vote.
Most recently, the sages of the opinion pages declared that the proposed constitution would be defeated at the polls by the Sunni Arabs. All along they've displayed a breathtaking empathy with the Islamist terrorists who slaughter the innocent, giving Abu Musab al-Zarqawi a pass while attacking our president and mocking the achievements of our troops.
A herd mentality has taken over the editorial boards. Ignoring all evidence to the contrary, columnists write about our inevitable "retreat" from Iraq, declaring that "everyone knows" our policies have no chance of success.
That isn't journalism. It's wishful thinking on the part of those who need Iraq to fail to preserve their credibility.
We are dealing with parasitical creatures who, never having done anything practical themselves, insist that the bravery and sacrifice of others has no meaning. Their egos have grown so enormous that they would sacrifice the future of Iraq's 26 million human beings just so they could write "I told you so." And, of course, the greatest military experts are those who never served a day in uniform.'

Please read Peters' full story.

The U.S. lead coalition is not only in the middle of a war against the 'so-called' insurgents, but also in the middle of a fight for the TV-screens and the hearts and minds of Western audiences. Vietnam is often mentioned by the peaceniks, and of course there is no similarity between both wars. The mythology surrounding the Vietnam War has left all kinds of distortions in the collective memories of Western audiences. And the mythology always stops at the departure of the Americans from Vietnam. The reign of terror that stopped any human devolpment in the whole of Sout Eastern Asia for decades is never part of the left-wing mythology.

The Left is suddenly in the grip of International Law, which Bush seems to have damaged. The Left has never been a champion of International Law. International law was of course no argument for the Left to oppose the invasions of the North Vietnamese in the South. The Left did not oppose whatever the Northern Stalinists aimed for. For decades the Left had been looking for ways to appease the Soviets, who de facto controlled half of Europe. International Law? Has that ever been a Leftist argument during the civil wars in Central America?
Well, now it is.

The Left, still led by the Radical Chique of the Vietnam era, needs the idea that a Socialist Utopia is Man's destination while it enjoys the wealth and liberties of Capitalism.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., one of the spokesmen of the environmental movement in the US, prefers to travel in private planes, in limo's, and has no problem of maintaining several houses, each one big enough to give shelter to many families. For me, he is a symbol of the hypocrisy of large parts of the Left in the US. Never go where your mouth is.
Here, in Berkeley, where I am staying until the end of the year, on the bumpers of big SUV's I see stickers condeming a war about oil.
Do you see G.I.'s stealing Iraq's oil? Has the price of oil dropped dramatically since the war?
It is a war to change the systems that kept the Arabs in a state of confusion, poverty and resentment.

If the present media would have been reporting D-Day, Europe would have been a Nazi continent.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Saddam on trial

Saddam will be on trial for his murderous reign. With or without weapons of mass destruction, the end of his tyranny is the result of the neocon idea that collaborating with Middle Eastern dictators did not bring the world a lot of progress, peace and love.

What I have been missing though in the opposition against US involvement in Iraq, is the call for Saddam's return as Iraq's supreme leader. The people in the 'peace' camp want the Americans out of Iraq, but I always miss the next step in their reasoning: restore Saddam himself. Apparently they feel that the US did not have any legitimacy in invading Iraq, and if you took that position three years ago you still take it today.

The 'leave Iraq now' movement has always been implicitely a 'restore Saddam tomorrow' movement too. It always meant: we don't care what foreign dictators do unless we find a conspiracy which will lead us to Zionists and American conservatives. Madman Mugabe is not an issue at the moment. The genocide in Darfur is not an issue. Abu Ghraib still is.

'The landscape of Baghdad was haunted by the earless, the handless, the tongueless, the widowed and orphaned.'

This is from an article in U.S. News about the psychological toll of living under a brutal totalitarian regime for a quarter century.

'When Iraqi-American psychotherapist Ilham Al-Sarraf visited Iraq two years ago, she stayed in her 7-year-old nephew's room. In a place of honor at the head of his bed was a clock with a prominent picture of Saddam on its face. Unable to sleep with the dictator's image looming above her, Al-Sarraf turned the clock to the wall.
The next morning, when her nephew came in to gather his clothes, he asked her why "Baba Saddam"--Father Saddam--was facing the wall. Her brother and sister-in-law frantically tried to explain it away as a clumsy accident. What if the little boy told his teacher that his American aunt had acted disrespectfully toward Saddam Hussein?'

And:

'A minor incident, perhaps, but one that reveals many of the psychologically most debilitating forces at work in a brutal totalitarian state: the intrusive cult of personality; the ruthless indoctrination of children; the pervasive atmosphere of paranoia; the frightening potential for one inconsequential event, remark, or gesture to become grounds for severe reprisal.'

Scene from hell. The peaceniks don't care. They - the leftists, the anti-authoritarians - are suddenly deeply concerned about the legitimacy of international law and the rules that govern the interaction between states. Suddenly they care for the sanctity of Iraq's borders. They do not care for the sanctity of its population, that physically and mentally has been tortured by a regime of sadists.

It will be fascinating to see how these peaceniks will swallow the flood of horror stories that will brought in the case against Saddam.

Wait for the stories.

Islamophobia

Help Needed: When was the term Islamophobia (Islamophobie) first used? It was given fairly wide currency by some after 9/11. It was used infreqeuntly earlier on, for instance in a report by a committee in London in 1997. Does anyone know about use of the term prior to 1997? If so, please let me know.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Tony Judt and the elephant in the living room

Tony Judt and the elephant in the living room
Fall has come to Washington. The leaves are falling after a hot summer, the squirrels in Rock Creek park make their preparations for the winter and the birds of passage are disappearing., The politicians have come back from their long summer holiday but nothing of overwhelming interest is happening in this field just now. There are some new books worth reading, one is Tony Judt”s Postwar-- a history of Europe since 1945. Judt, London born and educated, relocated to the United States and became famous when he suggested in an article that instead of Israel and the Palestinian authority there should be a binational state, an idea that did not strike everyone as brilliant or indeed practical.
Postwar is a huge book, it describes how bad, indeed desperate, the situation was as the second world war ended and how within a decade Europe recovered, how it became not only wealthier but more peaceful and civilized than ever before,..how if flowered culturally and how in the end the wall between west and east came down and Europe was reunited. It is a remarkable story and it is well told . Of course, like in almost every book, there are sections which are more competent or more profound than others, but as my old Latin teacher used to say In magnis voluisse sat est—in great endeavors it is enough to have wanted—and to write the history of Europe of the last sixty years is indeed a great endeavor.
Judt is on the whole very happy with the outcome . Europe as a social model is something for emulation for the whole world , its productivity is higher than America's ,its holidays longer, its values are universal, it is everything that America is not. Judt does not go quite as far as some recent authors who argued that the 21th century belongs to Europe but he comes pretty close to it. There are a few paragraphs of this book of 876 pages hinting at certain unresolved problems and difficulties but by and large this is a huge success story.
And yet, as the reader reaches the last pages he has the distinct feeling, there is something very essential missing in this book. Mr. Anatole Kaletsky, a leading contributor to the London Times said last week in an article that the nations of Europe are on the road to economic decline, political paralysis and global irrelevance. And the question arises whether Messrs Judt and Kaletsky are writing about the same continent.
The brief answer is that Judt's story about Europe's amazing recovery after world war two is quite correct. But he manages to ignore the elephant in the living room—every one knows about it but it is thought ill advised to draw attention to his presence. In other words, he does not mention that more recently the story of Europe has been one of economic stagnation and even decline and of lack of political will. He manages to ignore something which half an hours walk through the inner part of any major European city (or many of its suburbs) would have shown him, that the demographic constitution of Europe has radically changed and will change even more.--- the Europe he writes about no longer exists.
He says many times that Europe has become more cosmopolitan, but he does not mention that multiculturalism, how to put it cautiously?, has been less than a full success. He does not consider that the future of the European social model is in danger, and that the common European values are not perhaps as widely shared as they used to be. How much of Europe will there be left within a generation or two and what will it be like? The historian is not a prophet but nor can he afford to be oblivious of trends which are as obvious as the elephant in the living room.

BREAKING NEWS: WALTER LAQUEUR JOINS THE FREE WEST

Walter Laqueur, legendary historian and one of the sharpest and clearest minds of our time, has joined The Free West. Walter will post his commentaries and observations on this site. His experience, knowledge and reputation will make a welcome contrast to my, often emotional, posts. Watch his posts, which will be signed by him.
I am honored that Walter, whose studies of Nazi Germany, Fascism and the Holocaust are part of the central curriculum of Western civilization, is going to blog here. There are not many people of his stature and maturity taking the step to enter the Empire of the Blogosphere.
Walter did.
I bow to him.

Walter Laqueur directed the Institute of Contemporary History (Wiener Library) in London from 1964 to 1994. He was Chairman of the international research board of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington (he was at CSIS from 1970 - 2001).
Walter Laqueur was founder and editor of the Journal of Contemporary History, chairman of the board of editors of the Washington Quarterly, and editor of the Washington Papers monograph series. He is the author of many books and has published numerous articles in such newspapers and periodicals as the New York Times, the Washington Post, Commentary, Encounter, and the New Republic.
Laqueur's books and articles have been published in many countries. His works include The Dream That Failed: Reflections on the Soviet Union (Oxford University Press, 1994) and Fascism: Past, Present, and Future (Oxford University Press, 1996). A 66-page bibliography of Laqueur's work was published in 1986.
His most recent works are 'Voices of Terror' (2004) and 'No end to war: terrorism in the Twenty First Century' (paperback 2004). Please visit Amazon.Com's amazing list of Walter Laqueur's work.

The End of Al Qaeda?

The Iraqi’s went to the polls and there is only one conclusion possible. Walid Phares, a Lebanese who teaches ‘Middle East political issues, ethnic and religious conflict, and comparative politics’ at Florida Atlantic University, wrote in The Washington Times:

‘On October 15, 2005, an historic Iraqi victory was registered in the 6,235 polling centers across the country. Millions of Iraqis cast their ballot for a "yes" or a "no" to the new constitution.
Regardless of the final results, the political process in the post-Baath Iraq is emerging as a victor against the stubborn terror attacks by al Qaida and the Saddam regime remnants. From that angle alone, the bloc of 15.4 million registered voters – including those who voted "no," or weren't able to participate because of fear – have defeated one more time the forces of Jihadism and Baathism.’

Until two and a half years ago most of these voters collaborated – actively or passively - with Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror. Many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were willing executioners. Millions of others were only able to survive by averting their eyes and placing the interests of their own family and clan above the elevated but dangerous principles of solidarity and compassion. In Communist Eastern Europe and in Europe under the occupation of Nazi Germany, people often made the same choice.

Saddam Hussein’s immediate power base was his own Sunni clan and the tribes living in what is now known as the Sunni Triangle. Their hegemony has left deep scars. Iraq is littered with mass graves. From the centre of this artificial nation - Iraq was devised in 1921 by Winston Churchill (one of his lesser masterpieces) - Saddam Hussein ruled over Iraq like potentates have done for millennia in the Middle East: with cruelty, violence, corruption.

As such, Saddam showed himself a classic Middle Eastern despot, knowing exactly when to kill and when to distribute gifts. His was a regime that differed little from the traditional governments of the Arab Islamic region (and differing until recently little from that of many a dictator in much of the rest of the world).

In addition to bringing an end to this specific terror, the American-led invasion incidentally undermined the organisational principle on which the power of the state has been founded in this region since time immemorial. Small wonder, therefore, that this democratic revolution has caused a major upset in the Arab world.

America swept away an order that prevailed in Iraq based on violence and corruption, but the new democratic order (which is a concept introduced from the West: peaceful transfer of power through regular free elections) is vehemently opposed by various different groups. Were it not for the violence of these anti-democratic so-called ‘insurgents’ - in most of the Western media the murderers of innocent Iraqi civilians are still not referred to as terrorists - Iraq would probably have long ago been pacified and the most liberal and free society that the Arab world has ever known would have become a fact. Progress towards this goal is continuing, but many obstacles remain. The main question is what would happen if the Americans were to leave the country in the short term.
To answer this it is necessary to examine the forces currently undermining the new order.

The British government recently confirmed what many had already surmised: Iran is actively involved in terror in Iraq. Iran has much to gain if the democratic revolution fails. An Iraqi Shiite state that pursues its own liberal agenda alongside a fundamentalist Iran would form a direct threat to the Teheran regime. For the mullahs it is therefore essential to be able to influence events in Iraq, and if possible to ensure the secession of the oil-rich south-eastern Shiite section of the country.

For Teheran the advantage would be enormous: a Shiite vassal state in the south would dramatically reinforce the position of the Iranian regime. It is hardly surprising that Iran has put so much energy into obtaining a nuclear capability, since this would place its hegemony over that part of Iraq beyond dispute. The mullahs have obviously learned from Saddam Hussein’s mistake of occupying Kuwait without having first acquired a nuclear arsenal. It is in Iran’s interests, therefore, to maintain instability and to keep up the level of violence in Iraq until it has manufactured an atomic bomb, enabling it to annex – de facto or de jure - the south unopposed. The mullahs know that the West would not risk nuclear war over Basra.

Syria is equally anxious at the prospect of peace in a free and prosperous Iraq. The Alawite tyranny in Damascus, which has the country in a grip of economic stagnation, is only able to maintain its hold through corruption and repression, so that the influence of a democratic Arab neighbour might easily lead to a conflagration in Syrian society.
There is a tradition in Damascus of conspiring with Iran against Iraq. During the rule of Saddam’s family, ideological cousins of Syria’s Assad family, their aim was to restrain the expansionist ambitions of Iraqi Baathists. But unlike Iran, Syria has no long term interest in chaos in Iraq. Syria’s support for terrorism is almost a natural reflex reaction for the Assad regime, but Damascus has nothing to gain from a restoration of Iraq’s Baath party regime or an Islamist victory.
What the deal is between Damascus and Teheran is not entirely clear. Strong Western pressure will probably produce results in Syria, unlike in Iran: the rulers in Damascus know equally well that Teheran’s mullahs will never trust the Alawites, a Muslim sect.

The Islamist terrorists pretend to have their own long term perspective. But the notion of a caliphate in the west of Iraq is despite Islamist rethorics quite unrealistic, and it may well be that the terrorist leaders have come to realise that Iraq is no Afghanistan, where Koran students in isolated regions of the country formed the Taliban and exported their rural culture to the cities. Nothing like this could emerge in Iraq, nor could it be imposed from above. If Iran’s support for terror can be stopped - which is an absolute prerequisite - there are two options for Iraq, and neither of these fulfils Islamist ambitions.

Option 1: Iraq disintegrates into three separate states with their own ethnic and cultural identities - Kurdistan with oil, Shiitistan with oil, and Sunnistan without oil.

Option 2: Iraq manages to survive as a modern federal state.

The fourth group, the Baathist insurgents, have equally little chance of succeeding. Saddam relied on his secret police services, who gave Iraqis a choice as individuals either to collaborate or to be marginalised (or eliminated), and on the army, which he compartmentalised, like the secret police, in order to prevent possible coups. The Baathist state apparatus and its executive organs have been destroyed, making the restoration of the old regime virtually impossible.

There is one burning ambition all these groups share: the demise of America’s power. Despite the vast differences in their goals and capabilities, the main resistance groups hope to weaken the foundations of the only superpower by a terror campaign which main objective is to strengthen opposition in the West against the present American administration. The Americans cannot be defeated in the field, but they can be defeated on their television screens and their newspaper pages. That is the Vietnam Option (in Vietnam the Americans withdrew from a victory).

The Islamists face a terrible dilemma: they have to fight the Americans, but if they succeed they play Iraq – or a huge part of Iraq – into the hands of the Shiites in Iran. There may be cooperation between Sunni terrorists and Teheran, but this will break down the moment the Coalition troops would leave.

The terrorist leaders are still driven by a century old Muslim fiction: the Ummah, the global Islamic community. They still imagine that they are able to galvanise the Ummah, the global Islamic community, to rise up en masse against the West.

Why did this not happen after 9/11? Nor after Bali, Madrid or London?

The abuses that took place at Abu Ghraib make two things clear: in the American army as well there are individuals who are unable to control themselves when they have people in their power. And secondly: pictures of incidents perpetrated by Americans - comparable incidents would have been considered irrelevant by the world’s press under Saddam Hussein’s regime - are considered far more scandalous by Muslims than pictures of mosques blown up by terrorists. At least, this is what the media try to picture.

On 26 September Reuters reported that ‘gunmen killed five Shi’ite primary school teachers and a driver in a school in Iskandariya, south of Baghdad on Monday, a spokesman for Babel police said. “These men were terrorists in police uniform,” the spokesman told Reuters. He said the gunmen arrived at the school in two civilian cars, led the teachers and the school driver to a part of the school where no children were present, and shot them.’

This type of attack is an everyday occurrence. There is no response from the Arab-Islamic world. The terrorists are counting on the explosion of indignation in the Ummah when new photos emerge of humiliated Arab prisoners (an American judge recently ordered the Pentagon to release more pictures). Al Jazeera and Western media created an immense scandal of the Abu Ghraib pictures, and severe incidents of rioting Muslims occurred. But no such thing as an uprising of the Sunni civilization as such – Bin Laden’s main ambition. Not even a shred of that.

On the contrary: increasing numbers of Muslims are voicing their abhorrence to terrorist tactics, and it seems that the barbarity and magnitude of the attacks against the Shiites are beginning to reduce support among the Ummah. Nevertheless, the terrorists continue to try and provoke the Americans into retaliating and creating Abu Ghraib-like situations.

Al Qaeda’s acting COO Ayman Zawahiri has a sharp eye for the changing image of his brand among Muslims. He warned in a letter to Al Qaeda’s franchise chief in Iraq Abu Musab Zarqawi against the negative response to his terror campaign.

The Washington Post noted: ‘The letter may indicate al Qaeda’s recognition of Muslim public opinion, said one Middle East scholar. “If the letter’s true, it’s new because they haven’t shown any particular avoidance of certain ruthless tactics. It says to me they are concerned about the way they are being perceived in the Muslim world,” said Shibley Telhami of the Brookings Institution and the University of Maryland. “The vast majority of people in the Arab world sympathize with al Qaeda only because it champions their issues and speaks their language and it’s seemingly effective against their enemies. But most would not want al Qaeda to be the rulers. They would be repulsed to have someone like Zarqawi, who is beheading people, to head their government,” he said.’

In her speech at Princeton op September 30th, Condoleezza Rice explained that there is a serious danger that al Qaeda may seize hold of Iraq if the Americans withdraw. President Bush repeated the message in his speech on October 6th for the National Endowment for Democracy: ‘Some observers also claim that America would be better off by cutting our losses and leaving Iraq now. This is a dangerous illusion, refuted with a simple question: Would the United States and other free nations be more safe, or less safe, with Zarqawi and bin Laden in control of Iraq, its people, and its resources?’
Is there an alternative to ‘cutting our losses en leaving Iraq now’?

Sunni terror - perpetrated by national-socialist Baathists and Islamo-fascists - has left deep wounds among Iraq’s Shiites and Kurds. Their self-control is remarkable. But without the US army in place that self control would probably not last long. The question is whether this is something that should be prevented.

America’s intervention in Iraq has been heroic. The achievements of US soldiers have been astonishing and decisive in creating the conditions for the emergence of a just Iraqi society. Walid Phares wrote in his Washington Times piece:

‘With 155,000 American troops, 22,000 coalition forces, and about 200,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen, deployed efficiently, Iraq's territories have been secured by significant deterrent forces. The Jihadists and their cross-borders allies, who have been attempting to wage massive attacks since mid-summer, were denied the capacity to disrupt the voting process. That alone is a field victory for the US-Iraqi alliance: For a second time in one year, the Iraqi people were allowed to express its will freely, while Jihad terror was incapable of reversing the democratic process.’

The consequences of this for the Arab Islamic world are potentially huge. But for now it is essential to examine the current situation as dispassionately as possible.

The social fabric of the Middle East is dominated by ethnicity and religion. The characteristics of a functioning nation-state - the division of legislative, executive and judicial powers, a neutral civil service, responsible police, democratic elections leading to peaceful transfer of power - arose in the West through centuries of bloody conflict, and have to date never been successfully emulated in any Arab state. The variants developed by Arabs themselves, from semi-secular Baathist national-socialism to stifling Taliban style fundamentalism, have created societies brimming with resentment, anger, confusion, delusion.

The Kurds have shown that it is possible to form a relatively open, reformed society based on ethnic-religious identity. With sufficient support, the Iraqi Shiites will be in a position to emulate their success. This depends on Iran being prevented from exercising a negative influence on the situation in Iraq.

It is hardly surprising that it has proved difficult to build up a non-ethnic, national Iraqi army. Not pressured anymore by a ruthless tyranny, with which collaboration seemed to be the only way to succeed in Iraqi society, for most recruits their primary loyalty is not with Churchill’s notion of Iraq but with their tribe and their ethnic-religious affiliation.

Instead of insisting on building a national Iraqi army, it is necessary to discuss the creation of ethnic National Guards, Kurdish in the north and Shiite in the south, which together will form a proto-Iraqi army. The referendum will lead Iraq into the direction of a federation with three distinct ethnic-religious member-states.

The violence is being fed by resentment in the Sunni Triangle, Saddam’s former backbone, a region that has been deeply perverted by its collaboration with Saddam’s culture of rape, repression, theft, murder. If Saddam would have been in power now, the men who now commit acts of terrorism would be his henchmen.

Sunni leaders know what to expect if Kurdish and Shiite units would arrive in the Sunni Triangle to restore order with their US-supplied arms. American forces are limited in their scope and force by rules that don’t fit the region (Israel’s forces face the same kind of problems). The Kurds and Shiites will hardly be interested in playing by rules that the Pentagon will be able to sell to the Western media.

The lack of its own army will weaken the authority of the federal Iraqi government, but a functioning Iraqi state with functioning member states can only flourish after the eradication of terrorism. If an Iraqi army cannot do this job because it hasn’t created national legitimacy, Iraqi National Guards should do the job.

The bitter truth is that terrorism in Iraq continues by the grace of moral and ethnic rules imposed on Western fighting forces by Western journalists and commentators, rules that form a protective mantel over the towns and villages in which the terrorists find refuge. It is the television cameras of the press agencies and the presence of the US army that protects their tribes and families from the vengeance of the Kurds and Shiites. As has been the case for the first time in Vietnam, the media are part of the conflict. In this case: it is unavoidable that camera’s work in the advantage of the ‘insurgents’ (even the wording of their deeds plays into their advantage).

Without Western presence in their region, and because of that a sharp reduction of Western media representatives, the Kurds and Shiites would probably adopt a more ‘traditional’ Middle-Eastern approach to Iraqi terror. What is this more traditional Middle-Eastern approach? A traditional Middle-Eastern solution to terrorism could for example be the torture or liquidation of relatives of terrorists, or even the destruction of entire villages.

Sunni terrorist leaders, and the tribes that harbour them, will understand the potential consequences of the creation of ethnic-religious militias - excluding, as long as the ‘insurgency’ continues, the creation of a Sunnite National Guard - in the context of a new Iraqi federation. Kurds and Shiites, armed with American technology and driven by traditional ethnic-tribal passion, seeking revenge for the mass graves, massacres and car bombs, will not feel the constraint of the Western press. It is highly probable that the creation of ethnic-religious militias will persuade the Sunni leadership that America’s presence is the only guarantee for the continued existence of their clans.

These are cold Machiavellian considerations, but the facts are indisputable. Before the struggle for the hearts and minds of the Arab Islamic world can begin, terrorism has to be eradicated. Iraq is in the centre of the world where the expression ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’ was born. That the response to this in Manhattan’s Upper West Side is one of horror, will mean little to the Shiite who has just lost his wife and children in a bomb attack on a market.

Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes recently found out in Saudi Arabia that Saudi women are the happiest in the world, so she’ll have the time to tell the Sunnis the truth. Cooperation, marginalisation, or annihilation. Those are the only options.

One remark about the ‘Ummah’, a term that also shows up in the letter written by the killer of Theo van Gogh.
The Ummah does not show any concern about the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Islamic victims in Darfur, and it is seemingly unconcerned about the terrorist campaign in Iraq, that kills thousands of innocent Muslims. Would the Ummah suddenly be concerned if Kurdish and Shiite Muslims actively defend their markets, schools and shops by invading the Sunni Triangle?
If it is true that the Ummah remains stoic when confronted with terrible evil, the question arises if the Ummah exists at all. Isn’t it an abstraction comparable to the ‘Christian world community’?
There is only one way for Al Qaeda to succeed: the worldwide revolt of the Ummah. It may be cruelly ironic that Bin Laden is barking up the wrong tree, or better: is barking up the illusion of a tree. Is the Ummah unconcerned because the Ummah does not exist? It may be possible that the Ummah is one of those romantic but deeply ineffective concepts floating around in the ‘dream palace of the Arabs’, as the Arab mindset was called by the great scholar Fouad Ajami.