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.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

“Can people taken more or less at random, who are however members of a class or nation perceived to be an enemy of Islam, rightly be beheaded?”

One of the most fascinating conservative thinkers in Britain is Theodore Dalrymple. For many years, he has been a psychiatrist in British jails, he tried to help people living in the underbelly of British society, and most of his observations are devastating.

In an interview with FrontPage he remarked: 'About half of British homes no longer have a dining table. People do not eat meals together - they graze, finding what they want in the fridge, and eating in a solitary fashion whenever they feel like it (which is usually often), irrespective of the other people in the household.
This means that they never learn that eating is a social activity (many of the prisoners in the prison in which I worked had never in their entire lives eaten at a table with another person); they never learn to discipline their conduct; they never learn that the state of their appetite at any given moment should not be the sole consideration in deciding whether to eat or not.
In other words, one's own interior state is all-important in deciding when to eat. And this is the model of all their behaviour.'

Dr. Dalrymple now wrote a piece about beheadings:

'Is beheading Islamic? Clearly it is not uniquely so, or it would have been unknown elsewhere, which is certainly very far from the case. Nevertheless, in the modern world at least, beheading seems to be largely the prerogative of people acting in the name of Islam. This is a sociological fact, whatever the doctrinal justification for it. But is beheading permitted or enjoined or forbidden by true Islam?'

Read his piece. It sparkles with intelligence.

'A Jinn is trying to have sex with me.'

Islam On Line is a wellknown website for Muslims looking for answers.
And, thank God, Smart counsellors are able to find answers for most questions.

Like this one:
'As-salamu `alaykum. During the night, when I am sleeping, I get this strange sensation that almost paralyses my whole body and prevents me from screaming for help. The worst thing is that during that time, I think something is having sexual intercourse with me. Then whenever I put a Holy Qur'an under the left of my pillow, the feeling of paralysis goes away. This thing happens mostly when I do a good deed. I would like to ask if it is Satan causing this to happen, and if so, how can I fight against this bad thing?'

The counsellor answers as follows:

'As-salamu `alaykum. Thank you for writing to us. Your question is actually best addressed through in- person counseling, or at least discussing this particular situation with an imam in person. If you feel you do not have access to in-person counseling or to a local imam, so we are glad that you at least submit this same question to us. If for now you know that putting the Qur’an under the left of your pillow is helping you to deal with this paralysis, then by all means put the Qur’an under the left of your pillow each night when you go to sleep.
Based on what you have written, it is highly likely that you are dealing with the Jinn at night. We quote for you a response regarding the Jinn from our Islam Online Fatwa section. The entire response can be accessed through the link below. “Shedding more light on the protection against, and the immunity from, the harm of jinn, we’d like to cite for you the following:
"Because jinn can see us while we cannot see them, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us many ways to protect ourselves from their harm. They are seeking the refuge of Allah from the accursed Satan, reciting Surat Al-Falaq and Surat An-Nas, and reciting the words taught by Allah in the Qur’an. Allah Almighty says, “And say: My Lord! I seek refuge in Thee from suggestions of the evil ones. And I seek refuge in Thee, my Lord, lest they be present with me.” (Al-Mu’minun: 97-98)Saying bismillah, (in the name of Allah) before entering one’s home, eating or drinking, and having intercourse will keep Satan from entering the house or partaking with a person in his food, drink and sexual activity. Similarly, mentioning the name of Allah before entering the toilet or taking off one’s clothes will prevent the jinn from seeing a person in a state of undress or harming him. The Prophet (peace and blessings of be upon him) says:
“To put a barrier that will prevent the jinn from seeing the `awrah(parts of the body to be covered) of the sons of Adam, let any one of you say ‘bismillah’ when entering the toilet.” (Reported by At-Tirmidhi)For further guidance please refer to the following links: Jinn Possession: Between Facts and Illusions.'

This is a truly effective answer. So, if you are being haunted by a Jinn, contact Islam On Line. Don't forget to visit the 'Jinn Possession' site. It is enlightening.

(See the site here. Via Littlegreenfootballs)

Thailand's complicated south

Here a good essay about the history of the troubles in southern Thailand written by GlobalSecurity, a respectable U.S. think tank.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Bikini's make them do it!

If you still think that the Zionists force the Jihadi's to go nuts - because of the Palestinians, who are so terribly humiliated by the Jews, who stole their land - you have to do some mental acrobatics: it is not about the Zionists!

It's about bikini's.

"Alcohol, bikinis, that kind of thing makes Muslims angry. Don't do that when visiting a country with a Muslim majority," he said. "I'm sorry, Australian culture makes war on morality. They come to Bali with bikinis, they make war on morality. Not physical war, morality war. Respect the culture and religion of Indonesia."

Who is this he?

Well, he is an expert: he is a brother of two of the bombers of the 2002 Bali bombing.

According to the son of this expert the bombers go to heaven:

'He believed the first Bali bombing committed by his uncles was justified because it discouraged tourists in Bali. "If Muslims died in that action, the Muslims will go to heaven," he said.'

Don't believe me; read it yourself.

Civil war in Thailand

I have no clue why the MSM is not reporting at length and in detail about the civil war taking place in the south of Thailand. Here, Islamist terrorists kill people at random.

Read this Reuters message: 'Suspected Muslim militants killed a Buddhist monk and two teenage boys and set fire to a temple in Thailand's restive south, police said on Sunday, in separatist violence that has claimed more than 900 lives.'

For the MSM, it is hard to explain this violence. How to link this to Bush or Zionist agression?

And, as usual, not the use of the word 'militants'.

Bush's low is high

You have read the messages in the MSM about Bush's low ratings. I've seen many articles that almost glow because of Bush's reducing popularity. Schadenfreude, is the German word.

One cannot deny it: relative to his earlier performances, Bush has hit a low.

But how low is low? We don't know yet if this is the lowest low Bush can go, but according to many MSM articles his crew is in deep trouble. The vast attacks on him (Iraq, Katrina) and the enormous publicity concerning the problems of his crew (Rove, DeLay) have had a biting effect on his standing.

But: is the context right?

Here are the lows of the last 7 presidents:
Bill Clinton: 37 percent
George H. W. Bush: 29 percent
Ronald Reagan: 35 percent
Jimmy Carter: 28 percent
Gerald Ford: 37 percent
Richard Nixon: 24 percent
Lyndon Johnson: 35 percent

Bush stands at 38% now. He has still a long way to go to go lower than Nixon or hero of the Eutopians and the lunatic fringes, Carter.

Until now, Bush's low is still higher than Clinton's.

Did you read that in your MSM-newspaper?

You can read about this here.

A staged soldier speaks up

'Yesterday, I (bottom right corner in the picture) was chosen to be among a small group of soldiers assigned to the 42ID's Task Force Liberty that would speak to President Bush, our Commander-in-Chief. The interview went well, but I would like to respond to what most of the mass-media has dubbed as, "A Staged Event."'

These are the words of one of the soldiers who took part in the discussion with President Bush which was world-wide by the MSM qualified as a staged event.

Thank God we live in the Age of the Blogosphere. Read his blog here. He is still serving in Iraq. He writes:

'The question I was most asked while I was home on leave in June was, "So...What's REALLY going on over there?" Does that not tell you something?! Who has confidence in the media to tell the WHOLE STORY? It's like they WANT this to turn into another Vietnam. I hate to break it to them, but it's not.'

The terrible truth is: he' s right, the media became a political force in intself, until recently unchecked, unbalanced, unfair.

I carefully see how U.S. politics are being described in the Netherlands, my homecountry, by correspondents who basically are being lead by what they read in The New York Times and The Nation. Fine publications, but they don't cover the whole spectrum of opinions and perspectives in this vast country.

Pinter's wasted talents

Harold Pinter got the big one. The group of Scandinavian critics who last year gave the prize to Elfriede Jellinek, now gave the Nobel Prize to another progressive and experimental artist.

I searched the web to look for Pinter’s website, and yes: he has one.

It opens as follows:

‘In 1958 I wrote the following:"There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false." I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?’

So Pinter as a writer explores reality without making distinctions between real and unreal and true or false. Is that really possible? And if so: is that more exciting than seeing the grass grow? Or leafing through the Yellow Pages? Are some of the truly great plays not about morality and necessity? About doing evil for good reasons? About integrity and pragmatism?

Pinter writes: ‘The exploration of reality through art.’
It is a remark that can be found by thousands in catalogues of galleries for modern art. It means absolutely nothing. It is a remark to cover the emptiness of a huge chunk of modern art.

And what does Pinter mean with the distinction between being a writer and being a citizen?
I don’t have a clue what he means.

And to be honest: I still do not have a clue what most of his plays are about. As a young man I have spent many hours in the theatre watching Pinter plays, and I – how to put this? – I often did not get it.
No, let me be blunt: I was often bored to death.
At the time, it was impossible to admit this in public. There was something deep in his work, it was assumed, and he was considered important. I had no clue what the importance was. The boredom I experienced was sometimes tantalizing – and there was always a strange exultant moment when the play was over. I was grateful that the torture had ended, and in this relief I confusingly found my opinion about Pinter. It was great, I honestly could say, although I really meant: It is great it is over.

The reception of Pinter’s work is in general a collective misunderstanding. He is a modernist, and usually that means that you don’t need to develop identifiable characters or a plotline. Many modern artists cannot not draw a recognizable head or a recognizable tree. Modern art is essentially about ‘Verfremdung’, Alienation, and naturally for Alienation one does not need a basic mastery of technique.

But one has to be honest: as a screenwriter Pinter did wonderful work with Betrayel (one of his better plays) and The French Lieutenant’s woman. He is a master dialogue writer, and working within the framework of a film production with all kinds of demands from producers/directors, he wrote beautiful scripts. But I feel he spent his enormous talent on a lot of experimental nonsense.

The Scandinavian critics of the Nobel Committee are a small group of extremely arrogant snobs. Giving the prize to Pinter is, as usual, most of all a political gesture. Pinter moves around in the centre of the British radical chique, a Bush-hater, a basher of American popular culture, an anti-Iraq-veteran.

Why not Peter Schaeffer? Schaeffer is a truly great play writer. Or is his work too understandable and too identifiable?

Why not novelist Philip Roth or my countryman Harry Mulisch? Why not the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk? Why not maestro John Updike?

I can tell you why: because these laureates don’t represent a clear-cut self-hating, anti-capitalist, Eutopian political point of view. I cannot wait for Pinter’s speech when he comes to Stockholm to cash his cheque!

Friday, October 14, 2005

How to stop this?

David Gelernter, Professor of Computer Science at Yale, wrote in The Los Angeles Times a wonderfully furious column.

Bill Bennett, former Drugs Czar under Bush I and a well-known and hated conservative, made a remark a couple of weeks ago about abortion. Bennett is a dedicated Pro Lifer. In a discussion on his radio show about the consequences of abortion he gave an example: abort black women and the crime rate will probably go down, but he added this was impossible and morally reprehensible and ridiculous.

Here is Gelernter:

‘A few weeks ago, Bennett said on his radio program that X is a stupid idea; then he said that if you believe X, you might as well believe Y. But Y is "impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible." One thing we know for sure: Bennett is against Y. He thinks that Y is "impossible," is "ridiculous," is "morally reprehensible." "Y" was the idea that aborting all black babies would cut the crime rate.
So the left jumped all over him. Bizarrely enough, the White House chimed in. (A Republican White House opening fire on Bennett is like the Joint Chiefs bombing their own front lines.)
Yet no one who read or heard Bennett's actual statement in context could possibly have believed that Bennett is racist or had talked like a racist. But our public life is so deeply phony that, although a few stalwarts defended him, no one pointed out the gross hypocrisy of his accusers. (No one I've heard, anyway.)
Those accusers knew perfectly well that he was not promoting a racist view of American life, he was denouncing a racist view — loudly and clearly, without a shadow of ambiguity.What part of "impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible" did they not understand?’

Expierience the full fury of this column.

By the way, here is Bennett’s personal answer.

Tony Blankley in The Washington Times writes about the same things:

‘During the Reagan years, and even during the Gingrich years, the central complaint about the mainstream media by conservatives was that they misrepresented the substance of our policy proposals. A 4.5 percent budget increase (after adjusting for inflation and the size of the beneficiary class) of the hot-lunch program was characterized by the media as a cruel cut in the program that would leave poor little children hungry and with empty tummies, thus causing empty minds. (The second part was true, but that was due to the damage caused by National Education [sic] Association — not the government-provided nutrition programs.) A guarantee that the current-law traditional Medicare program would remain available for any beneficiary who wanted to participate in it was called an end to such benefits. Increases in spending were called cuts. Guarantees were called broken commitments. President Reagan's war efforts to defeat Communism and create democracies in Central America were called support for fascism and brutal right-wing regimes.’

Read his full column.

I have often the same experience watching the media. Are we paranoid?
Vice president Cheney repeated in a TV interview that his administration thinks that Zawahiri’s letter is for real. But this does not mean a thing anymore: most journalists love to think that the CIA faked the letter.
The preparation for a TV conversation with the President is called a ‘set up’: as if not in most shows nervous guests are asked to repeat what they want to ask. Spokesmen for Bush assured that their answers were not scripted – nobody wants to believe him.
And at the same time Louis Farrakhan, the totally nutty leader of the Nation of Islam movement, which is a kind of parody itself, is being treated with velvet gloves by the MSM and the Democratic Party.

Farrakhan: ‘Well, I was in a tiny village in Mexico on the 17th of September, 1985. And I had a vision-like experience climbing a mountain there, on the top of which is a temple to the Mexo-American Christ figure, Ketso Quato. And one of these little UFOs came over that mountain and I was signaled from a group of persons to come. And I was beamed up into that small vehicle and carried to a larger vehicle, where I heard the voice of my leader and teacher, the Honorable Elijah Mohamed (search), saying these words to me, in early September, the president met with his joint chiefs of staff to plan a war. He didn't tell me who the war was against or what not. But early in the next year, it came to me while I was in Ghana that this war was against Libya and Libya's leader Muammar Qaddafi. So I went there and warned him of what was about to take place. And it did take place. And the following year, sir, I was sitting on an airplane, I happened to pick up the The New York Times magazine section, and it said America planned war against Libya.’

Here is the whole unbelievable interview.

What’s going on? And how can we stop this?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

What do Manhattenites want?

Ads in today’s New York Times, page 2 and 3:

Page 2:
Chanel: Wedge boots $1365
Baume & Mercier: Classima Executive watch $2295
Movado: rings starting at $3995
Coach: Signature Patchwork bag $398
A.Testoni: Turtle bag $1530

Page 3:
Bergdorf Goodman: bracelet $1560
Macy’s: Doony & Burke bag $220
Bloomingdale’s: printwork, no prices mentioned
Saks Fifth Avenue: invitation for trunk show
Tiffany & Co: earrings $4950

G.I.'s and concrete walls


What is happening in this picture?

A. American G.I.'s jump behind a concrete wall when they come under attack from Iraqi insurgents.

B. American G.I.'s are preparing to blow up a house in which Iraqi insurgents have been hiding.

C. American G.I. are building a new camp where they will humiliate and torture innocent insurgents.

D. American G.I.'s are setting up concrete barriers to protect a polling station - where free Iraqi civilians will bring out their votes - against insurgents/freedomfighters/rebels/guerrillero's.

What is the right answer?
(picture: Scotte Nelson/World Picture News)

THEY CANNOT WIN BUT WE CAN LOSE

Al Qaeda cannot win – after having read the letter again and again by Al Qaeda’s Chief Operation Officer Ayman Zawahiri to the chief of his Iraqi franchise, ‘insurgent’ leader Abu Musab Zarqawi, it is completely clear that this movement is a blimp on the radar screen of history. It doesn’t mean they cannot hurt innocent people, it doesn’t mean they will fade out slowly as the ending of a Hollywood horror picture. But their ideology is a set of extreme concepts in the margins of reality. We are dealing with the phenomenon of collective religious delusions for which Western psychiatrists have created all kinds of fine treatments.

Let me put it differently: these Islamists believe that there is a Cosmic Power outside human consciousness who has been communicating with mankind through a book. I know some things about books. I know how they come to light, how they are constructed and how they function. I can assure my readers: Cosmic Powers don’t write books. If Cosmic Powers exist, they would communicate with us through the new iPod. Or by sending us messages in our mailbox. Why books? Because there was nothing else until the arrival of the telex and telephone.

These Islamists believe that a Cosmic Power first gave his book to the Jews, and according to these Islamists the Jews distorted it. Next he communicated with the Christians, and they distorted the message as well. Next he gave it to the Supreme Messenger (no, this is not a treatment for a new episode of Startrek), and this man got it.

In this book this Cosmic Power orders his followers to convince all humans to follow his guidelines. If they don’t, they should be killed or subjected to special, harsh treatment. His guidelines should be followed strictly. If you die and you have followed his guidelines faithfully, you will be rewarded: you go to a special place where everything you dream of is available without limits for eternity.

The sad thing is: I am not making this up. This narrative is essential for the monotheistic tradition. The Islamists took it to its most radical version. Theirs is a fully magical world, just like the Christian world in the Middle Ages and the world of the ultra-orthodox Jews. The orthodox Christian world outlook had to change under pressure of science, which gradually restricted the fearful magic of Nature – the crib of any religion - to purely personal preferences and personal needs. Science unraveled the movements of the sun, the moon, the cycle of the seasons, the creation of life, and nowhere science found the Cosmic Power, who for many believers still is a Person, as the Man in Charge. If this Cosmic Power exists, it is hiding someplace beyond the frontiers of science and reason.

The present discussion in the USA about Intelligent Design is basically a last, low-level fight about a conflict that really has been resolved in the last two centuries: Bible research has given us lots of fascinating insights into the development of our holy texts. And in my opinion, because these texts are so deeply human, they have grown in beauty the more the human hand is visible. It is quite ridiculous to historicize the events descrtibed in these texts. Some have taken place more or less, some not. They are purely literature of the highest level, written by unknown geniuses with the gifts of Shakespeare, Dante, Cervantes.  
  
The Cosmic Power has not been heard of for many centuries, and it is clear that this Power Designer cannot be present in our reality after the enormous revolutions that took place during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Holy books cannot be written anymore. They will be shred to pieces by a reviewer in the New York Review of Books. And nowadays, a person who hears a voice telling him to conquer the world, will be treated as a patient, not as a visionary. We will not find scientific prove for his stories, and most of us will turn to our daily concerns.

Sometimes, a couple of people will be influenced by the charisma of this new Messenger, and in the media this group will be described as a sect of lunatics. The closest we can see in our present the conditions of religious mythology and religious hysteria similar to those in the past, is probably North Korea, where information is strictly controlled and mythologies are spread by design or spontaneously, probably as happened in the decades after for instance Mohammed’s death.

In an era where books were rare and every second of their existence people feared the often terrible, and always magical events in life – birth, death, illnesses, epidemics, roving tribes, natural disasters – a story about a man who heard the voice of the Creator, laid down in a book, could make a devastating impression.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the rituals of religion. I think we need to mark the essential moments in our lives. It is beautiful to thank in a prayer for a meal with friends and family. It is comforting and moving to say a prayer at a grave of a beloved person. And at those moments I hope the Cosmic Power leaves his distant planet for a second to help us, mortals.

The belief in a personal, individual Creator, a power we nowadays feel is synonymous for Goodness and Love, is a new episode in the history of mankind. Even though sportsmen who scored and musicians who get an award make a prayer and thank the Creator for their blessings, the hold of magical thinking on our lives has been reduced tremendously in the last five centuries. God means Goodness to most of us, the bringer of Love, and He is as helpless in the face of Evil as we are.

A magical world is a world fixed in itself. There is an explanation for occurring events in the magic itself. Only after breaking through this closed circle, mankind was able to master the indifference of nature. We now know that sickness is not a punishment by the Creator. We now know that there are no witches, no demons, no ghosts. There is still a lot we don’t know of our reality, but the journey mankind made between 1400 AD and 2000 AD broke the tragic chain of suffering that has been the fate of almost every individual before the rise of modern science.
  In this period mankind opened its eyes.

The progress of human civilization can be defined by two developments: the reduction of magical thinking and the expansion of control over Nature. The two developments are interlinked. Although most Americans define themselves as religious, their belief is a totally different set of ideas and emotions than Christians in 1300 AD in Spain or Germany experienced. The modern Creator is a remote power, an Enigma himself, a symbol for the scandal each one of us experiences by being both an animal in our bodies and a God in our minds, during our lifespan searching for eternal answers to our temporary existence.

I am an optimist about the flexibility of our minds, about our amazing ability to solve problems and about the direction of mankind. In this regard I am not condemning religiosity in general: having a personal Creator you don’t fear, having belief in a power that asks you to be a tender, attentive person, is a positive step in the evolution of monotheism.

It is not an accident that the Muslim world is lacking progress in science. Patents are rarely given to Muslims in the Arab Islamic world. It is difficult to do scientific research at Arab universities. Their world view is closed. It is magical – filled with demons and ghosts who could take over your personality. The feeling that everything and everybody is helplessly owned by a Cosmic Power with its own strict supernatural rules, creates passive individuals, obsessed by the fear to trespass the limits set by this Cosmic Power. In such a world superstition, conspiracy theories, the fear of female sexuality, tribal loyalties, flourish.

What we face in Al Qaeda, is the insane un-reality of original monotheistic thought conceived in a ‘holy’ book. It is about the absurdity of the extreme belief in God-given texts which order you to maim and kill, to take slaves as booty, to hide women behind veils, to isolate women when they menstruate, to make pilgrimage to holy places and throw stones or light candles or to stop eating for a month or forbid the flesh of certain beasts.

In the Western world religion evolved from being an explanation for the unjustified sufferings human beings have to endure into a kind of a mood-setting environment for humane self-help sessions. Going to a church does not mean going to a sacral confrontation with your own helplessness; going to a church is a feel-good-event. Naturally, for many believers it is still about raising questions about the source of evil and suffering, for Christians symbolized in the cross, but the religious service and the religious experience in general are meant to be an uplifting, up-beat event.

I once spent two days in a convent. The monks gathered at 5 AM for the first service, like they did in the Middle Ages. This was not a happening preceding the full, wide, colorful embrace of life – this was about a life-long preparation for an existence after death. I met lovely men in there, but at the same time the life in this convent, pure as it may be, was a step back in history.

Nowadays, religion in the West is preparing for the richness of life. Religion in the Arab world is still preparing for the afterlife, for accommodating the rules of the Almighty.  

Often, Islam is being compared to the phase of Christianity seven hundred years ago. It needs time to develop, experts explain. I don’t agree. I believe Islam is where Judaism was in the first century AD before the Destruction of the Second Temple. I believe Judaism was saved by this destruction; only after this event it could transform into an open, universal way of life. A God who dwells in a selected building is a tribal God and a limited concept.

Muslims carry this same burden: the central role of Mekka in Islam is transfixing the development of Islam and keeps Islam hostage – think of the role of stones in the Meccan rituals, a legacy of the pre-Islamic religions of the Saudi peninsula - to the mindset of Beduins of the seventh century.

The revolt of orthodox Islamic ideas will fade away. The world moved on since the time the holy book of Islam was composed with material from Christian, Jewish and Beduin sources. The majority of Muslims realize that they have nothing to gain from turning back to a literal devotion to the rules of their God. In Western civilization, one day a man said that God was dead. One day in Mekka, such a man will repeat those words without being killed.

I am not pleading here for the abolition of religion. It would be an immense and empty undertaking. There is a lot of truth in the great myths of religion. And a lot of moving, brilliant poetry. It helps us accepting the limits of our existence. But the moment it creates hate, resentment, aggression, we need to suppress it. If necessary, when it threatens our existence, with violence.

In Zawahiri’s letter there is no mention of hunger or poverty. He is not fighting for freedom or equality or brotherly love. He is obsessed by the tasks he believes his God has imposed upon him. He does not talk about love or forgiveness; he only talks about the need to fight the impure and the infidels. He is regarding life like most human beings have been doing for thousands of years: as a ritualized and violent step towards death.

Zawahiri and his ilk are signifying the end of the morbid phase of monotheism. Modern Christianity and modern Judaism have become life-embracing forms of personal meditation. The majority of Muslims will join them.
  The death-loving behavior of the Islamists is not the beginning but the end of a development. They kill innocent people in the lowest manner imaginable because they lost the ability to convince people with other means: the majority of Muslims is, just like most Christians and Jews have experienced, in the middle of losing their fears for the Almighty. They as well start to find out that the world is only what we, mere mortals, make of it and you’d better not bet on what comes after it. This transformation doesn’t happen easily. Vast crises hold the Arab-Islamic world in their grip. I believe these crises are essentially cultural and religious – they are the birth throes of modern individualism in the Muslim world.

Al Qaeda cannot win. It is a manifestation of an outdated and terrifying phase in human development. But that does not mean we cannot lose. Islamist Muslims cannot design and build airplanes, but they can fly one into a majestic building. They can copy the design of a nuclear weapon and bring us the death they love so deeply.

I can write these words freely and without fear of being punished by the religious police. If I would have written these words in 1400 AD, I would have been burned at the stake. If I would have been writing these words in Cairo in 2005, I would have been jailed or Islamists would have come after me to kill me.
        
Some readers criticize the name of this blog. I am not taking back one inch of it. We live in The Free West. I am proud to live in The Free West. I am proud to be part of its humanistic tradition, its fight against stupidity, magical thinking, superstition, and its fight for freedom and its quest for knowledge, truth, sanity. I realize the black parts of its past. The pages on which the cruelty in European history have been described, fill whole libraries. But still – it is there, this miracle. Never before in human history have so many people enjoyed so much freedom and material and emotional wealth as in the past fifty years in the West.

If you don’t agree with its liberties, please move on to an Afghan cave.