Analyst Calls for Redefinition of 'War on Terror'
ABC (Australia): Lateline
Translations of this item:
From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)
TONY JONES: The Prime Minister is promising a parliamentary debate on the question of Australian forces joining a probable war against Iraq. He is also said that he expects there will be bipartisan support if it comes to that.
So would we be joining the next phase of the war on terror?
Our next guest argues that that euphemistic phrase is misleading, that the US and its allies should be clear about their real target.
In 1995, Daniel Pipes wrote that powerful militant Islamic forces had unilaterally declared war on Europe and the US. It's a point he's consistently hammered home as a columnist for the New York Post and the Jerusalem Post.
He's written eleven books, the latest of which is called Militant Islam Reaches America.
He's also the director of the Middle East Forum and a member of the special taskforce on terrorism and technology at the US Department of Defence and he joins me now.
Daniel Pipes, welcome.
DANIEL PIPES, DIRECTOR, MIDDLE EAST FORUM: Thank you.
TONY JONES: Can we start with the way you want to redefine what America is actually fighting for? It's a very important point because you argue it's not a war on terror at all.
DANIEL PIPES: It's not a war on terror, it's not a war on Islam. It's a war on a terroristic interpretation of Islam, militant Islam, Islamism radical Islam, call it what you will.
TONY JONES: Is it as narrowly defined as that though? Is it that Washington simply isn't interested in other forms of terrorism?
DANIEL PIPES: No, there are American troops in such countries as the Philippines, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Yemen, Pakistan, all of them concentrating on militant Islam.
There are no American troops for example in Sri Lanka or Peru, where there are very virulent terrorist problems but they're not connecting to militant Islam.
So in other words what I am saying is that the practice suggests what the real policy is but the politicians are reluctant to name it and I think that's a problem.
TONY JONES: It raises the question of why, for example, the President included North Korea in his axis of evil.
Now he's not targeting North Korea but he did include North Korea.
DANIEL PIPES: Or for that matter Iraq. Iraq is not a problem of militant Islam. Iraq is a problem of Saddam Hussein, who is a man without any ideology or any belief at all, except his own being in power.
Militant Islam is a body of ideas which I would suggest is comparable to the role of fascism in World War II or Marxist-Leninism in the Cold War and now we have militant Islam as the key body of ideas in this war.
It has nothing to do with North Korea as you pointed out and also nothing to do with Iraq.
TONY JONES: What's the point then of the euphemism war on terror? Why use that in the first place?
DANIEL PIPES: I think there's several reasons. In the first place, it is diplomatic - you don't insult anyone. In the second place - it is flexible.
You can include or exclude from your side whomever you wish and in the third place it doesn't have any domestic implications.
So it is attractive on the surface but I think the problem is that by defining the war in this unreal way, after all war on terror is a war on a tactic, it's like declaring a war on trenches or was on submarines or war on weapons of mass destruction.
It makes no sense, but by doing this, what we're not allowing ourselves is to understand the full scope of the problem.
It's not about terrorists it's about supporters of an ideology which has declared war on us, the whole West, including Australia and we must defend ourselves from it.
TONY JONES: Is the euphemism at least, was that used because the President wanted to be extremely careful not to use the word Islam when invoking the public patriotic reaction that he did?
DANIEL PIPES: Correct and I think it was a good idea to avoid targeting Islam the religion, the personal faith of something like 1 billion people.
That's not the issue.
In fact, I would argue that by focusing on militant Islam you become aware that moderate Muslims who form the bulk of the Muslim population are our allies.
They're very important in this war.
These are the people who suffer first, the predations of militant Islam in such countries as Afghanistan where we saw the response when people were freed or Algeria or Turkey or Egypt all over the world.
It's not an insult to Muslims. Muslims understand that there is this ideology, which is very radical, which is targeting them first.
TONY JONES: Now you've written about this for many years, tell us, if you can, about how you see the origins of militant Islam.
DANIEL PIPES: Militant Islam is of modern phenomenon a twentieth century phenomenon that basically originates in the 1920s, the era of totalitarian enthusiasm, the era when fascism got going, Leninism got going, so did militant Islam.
And just as we destroyed the power and attraction of fascism and Communism, now it's our burden to marginalise and destroy this virulent totalitarian radical utopian ideology.
TONY JONES: We know that 15 of the September 11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. More than a third of those held at Guantanamo Bay are Saudis.
We also know that Wahhabi Islam, which is virtually the state religion in the desert kingdom is what Osama bin Laden effectively preaches.
Wouldn't that make Saudi Arabia then a prime target for a war against militant Islam?
DANIEL PIPES: Saudi Arabia is a problem and what I urge the US Government to do is to follow the President throughout the simple precept of you're either with us or against us and approach the Saudis with this and say, look, "Either help us or you're against us."
Which we have not done by the way and I think that would be very clarifying and do a lot of good in getting the Saudis to be responsible and shut down the schoolbooks, the school curriculum, the mosque sermons, the media reports that are all very much along the lines of militant Islam.
TONY JONES: Bin Laden has considerable support in Saudi Arabia and part of that is derived from the fact that US troops are already there.
The 'Cole' bombing was, I think, the largest terrorist attack on Americans before September 11.
That was in Saudi Arabia. I'm wondering, though, if America goes to war with Iraq, doesn't that threaten the Saudi regime, the Saudi royal family?
DANIEL PIPES: Actually, the biggest attack before September 11 was in 1983 in Beirut, but I take your point.
Yes, it will be problematic for the Saudis. Yes, they are worried about this, but they have to make up their minds, just as President Musharraf of Pakistan had to make up his mind.
Which side are they on? Are they on the side of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, bin Laden and militant Islam in general or are they on our side, the civilised world's side against that?
Mind you, there are many Muslim states, which are on our side. Notably such states as Turkey and Egypt and Kuwait and others.
So there's nothing inherently difficult but the Saudi regime has to make up its mind. I think that's going to become an issue of some importance in the months ahead.
TONY JONES: Why does it have to make up its mind though? Why can't a State make up its mind to look after its own business and not America's?
Why can't it simply say, "We don't want to take part in a war on Iraq, that's not in our national interests and that could threaten our royal family?"
DANIEL PIPES: We're in a war. The President has said so over and over again and he's said over and over again either you're on our side or you're on the other side.
In effect, you have to choose if you're Saudi Arabia or Pakistan or other states. You ignore the United States at your peril when the United States is at war.
TONY JONES: In a sense, you pointed to the contradiction in this argument yourself when you said that Saddam Hussein is not in fact part of the militant Islamic movement, he's more like a Stalinistic dictator.
DANIEL PIPES: Precisely.
TONY JONES: He's a secular dictator at that. How does he then fit into a war against militant Islam?
DANIEL PIPES: He doesn't in any rigorous sense. What happened was a year ago, before the events of September, Americans weren't paying a whole lot of attention to the outside world.
As a result of September 11, Americans are emotionally concerned about the outside world and are ready to take steps.
What the President basically did was to parley this readiness to act into a focus on Iraq, but strictly speaking, it's a completely different problem.
There could be some connection between Iraq and September 11, I'm not denying that.
TONY JONES: Is there any evidence of it?
DANIEL PIPES: There is.
TONY JONES: I mean, this has been talked about. Do you know of any specific evidence that links Saddam Hussein?
DANIEL PIPES: I don't want to have the prospective military action against Iraq depend on that link. I think the problem is a quite a different one with Iraq.
The Iraqi Government signed an agreement with the United States back in 1991 that would allow inspection of its military arsenal.
It permitted those to go on for seven years and then it stopped them. It is in breach of that agreement from 1991.
I believe we have the right to take action because they're in breach and that's what I think the perspective war is about. I, therefore, don't think it requires -
TONY JONES: Doesn't that mean there's more than one war going on - there's a war against militant Islam and then there's a war against Saddam Hussein to stop him possibly developing nuclear weapons?
DANIEL PIPES: Two different things. They just happen to be in the same part of the world. One certainly affects the other, but they're essentially two different concerns.
The way I put it is the threat of militant Islam is the strategic enemy. This is the long-term, complex, massively supported ideology.
It's a body of ideas that attracts intelligent and capable people. Saddam Hussein is something very different.
Saddam Hussein is a brutal totalitarian ruler who believes nothing in particular and can be quite easily dispatched.
There's no ideas there, there's no beliefs, just one cruel dictator. The Iraqi people will be the most delighted when they're rid of him and will move on.
It's simple. Militant Islam is not simple.
TONY JONES: You're saying there's going to be potentially a short war against Saddam Hussein and a longer one against militant Islam. Is this the way the United States Administration sees things?
DANIEL PIPES: Yeah, basically, but not publicly.
TONY JONES: You're saying that we're in for a protracted period of warfare, even after-
DANIEL PIPES: The President has cleared that this is a long war, but he hasn't explained why. In other words, if it's just terrorists, presumably it's something we can get rid of.
But if it's what I say it is, and what I think everybody actually knows but doesn't always want to say, then you understand that this is a very attractive ideology to a substantial body of people that cannot simply be gotten rid of.
It is something that must be waged war against over years and decades.
TONY JONES: It means, though, doesn't it, that a small country like Australia, which is contemplating giving military support to this war against Iraq, could get sucked into a much longer conflict that goes, as you say, over many years and spreads beyond one country.
DANIEL PIPES: I don't think so. I think signing up for the Iraq campaign is one thing, and then you and we and the whole Western world or indeed the civilised world, has this problem of this radical version of Islam, which is going to come to you whether or not you sign up for the war there. It's going to come to you.
By the way, it's important to note that this isn't start a year ago in September. This really began in 1979 when Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in Iran. One of his most prominent slogans was death to America, and America is a symbol of the West as a whole, and Americans started to be killed and other Westerns as well. This is not a new phenomenon.
What happened last year in September was that this traumatic, large-scale event brought it to everyone's attention in a way it was not clear before, but it has been a problem now for some 25 years.
TONY JONES: Daniel Pipes, I'm afraid we'll have to leave it there. Thank you very much for joining us tonight on Lateline.
DANIEL PIPES: Thank you.
Reader comments (35) on this item
Comment on this item
Support Daniel Pipes' work with a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum. Daniel J. Pipes