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Sounds Familiar

Reader comment on item: The Triumph Of the 9/11 Commission

Submitted by Michael Lopez-Calderon (United States), Aug 4, 2004 at 10:42

"Finally, an official body of the American government has come out and said what needs to be said: that the enemy is 'Islamist terrorism…not just ‘terrorism‚' some generic evil.' The 9/11 commission in its final report even declares that Islamist terrorism is the "catastrophic threat" facing America."

"As Thomas Donnelly points out in The New York Sun, the commission has called the enemy "by its true name, something that politically correct Americans have trouble facing." -- The Triumph Of the 9/11 Commission by Daniel Pipes / New York Sun / July 27, 2004

I know. I said something very similiar as far back as October 18, 2001 when to write or utter such a thought was extremely un-PC. See below:

By Michael Lopez-Calderon

October 18, 2001 – Why is it that the Bush Administration has not acknowledged the fact that we are at war with an idea? This idea runs parallel to the shadowy world of terrorist hideaways, safe houses, and training bases.

We're told it's difficult to hold accountable and punish a shadowy network of extremist guerrilla leaders and their foot soldiers. Our leaders tell us the terrorist networks thrive as amorphous enemies of freedom. Well, is this true? Others suggest terrorism reflects pure hatred of freedom; that terrorism occurs in a vacuum bereft of an idea or ideology. Does it?

The terrorists, we're told, hijacked Islam itself to wage jihad against the progressive and modernizing West and the peaceful Muslim majority. Oh, really?

The West cannot conduct a war against terrorism without first confronting the Weltanschauung (worldview) that fuels the terrorists' raison d'etre. Ultimately, we are at war with an idea. And that menacing idea, whose presence was made known loud and clear on September 11, 2001, is nihilistic Islamic absolutism (NIA).

Make no mistake about it, a radical version of Islam preached, practiced, and perpetuated by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Sudan, Iran, and the Taliban nurtures these Islamic terrorists. There are over eight thousand official and 25,000 unofficial madrassas (strict Islamic schools) with more than a million pupils, in Pakistan alone. These hothouses of nihilistic Islamic absolutism that spread anti-modernity and misogynistic ideas are well-funded by the Saudis and the Pakistanis.

The problems with articulating these truths are numerous.

For starters, it means disabusing the American people of the idea that this new war is a hybrid version of "Patriot Games" and Desert Storm. America's new war involves more than mobile, Special Forces units and the occasional hi-tech military gizmo. Right now, perhaps only less than 1 percent of Muslims (10 million) either side with or embrace some aspect of the extremists' agenda. However, now that war has commenced against nihilistic Islamic absolutism, it means taking on perhaps twenty to thirty percent of the Muslim world; small consolation when you realize that amounts to 200 to 300 million mostly young men scattered across several continents. From North Africa to the Philippines, American and Western forces may have to engage this menace or face massive destabilization of numerous, mostly Middle Eastern countries. A broader war involving millions of troops and perhaps even the need for the draft looms ahead for America.

A second problem with identifying nihilistic Islamic absolutism as the real enemy is the fact that US foreign policy in the Middle East and Central Asia has placated and propped up regimes that embrace this religious extremism. No two countries have done more to fuel nihilistic Islamic absolutism than Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, respectively. Both countries form a portion of the bulwark (Israel and Egypt the other portion) of US economic and military strategy in the regions, with Saudi Arabia playing the more prominent role, for now. Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, is also the center of the most puritanical, extreme version of the faith, Sunni Wahhabism. The Taliban are merely an extension of the Mujadhedeen (the soldiers of god) that were lavished by the CIA and Pakistan with over four billion dollars in military aid to combat the Soviets (1979-1989). However, responsibility for the formation of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban lie solely with Osama bin Laden, Saudi Arabia, and the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), respectively.

Third, identifying nihilistic Islamic absolutism as the real enemy means compelling self-criticism within much of the Muslim world, a process for which few antecedents can be found in recent Islamic history (circa 1500s). Muslims worldwide must decide between two powerful, mutually exclusive forces: the pull of modernity from the West and their homegrown radicals' nostalgia for a mythical Golden Age of Islam. What confronts Muslims is not a clash of civilizations between East and West but rather a Kulturkampf within the Islamic world itself. And that struggle in turn causes many of its adherents' to blame an imagined Western bogeyman for all that is wrong in the Muslim world.

That nihilistic Islamic absolutism's fanatical ideologues derive from the Muslim middle- and upper-classes should come as no surprise to any political-scientist or sociologist remotely familiar with the social-economical origins of revolutionaries. Think of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, formerly medical and law school graduates. Think of Pol Pot and the directorate of the Khmer Rouge, all graduates of the Sorbonne. Think of Theodore Kaczynski Ph.D., a former UC Berkeley math instructor-cum-Unabomber terrorist. Think of millions of well-educated, unemployed young Muslim men that, confronted by a complex array of limited choices in their respective bankrupt societies and collapsed economies, opt for the mythic Golden Age of Islamic certitude. Men like Muhamed Atta, Osama bin Laden and his Egyptian lieutenants, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mohammed Atef join a long line of educated but dangerous Utopians.

Often middleclass, radical Islamic students become the True Believers that buy into nostalgic notions of the perfectibility of man under the paradigm of religion. Such absolutism will never fault the True Faith even when its implementation fails to bear the fruit of perfection, peace and prosperity (as it has failed in making the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan, nations currently ruled under the strict Islamic law, al-shari'a, into earthly paradises). So an external enemy must be blamed. Naturally, our radical Islamic Luddites hate globalization, modernization, and secularization, and of course the harbingers of these trends, America and the West.

Finally, that America and the West should be singled out as the "Great Satan," is more a projection of an internalized hatred on the part of anomic Muslim nihilists than any tangible "threat" posed by this existential other known as the West.

Until President Bush and our American leaders acknowledge that the real enemy is nihilistic Islamic absolutism swathed in the fabric of the Wahhabi sect and armed with an array of weaponry and evil intentions, we will be shooting at shadows.

(1,003 words)
October 18, 2001

Copyright© Michael Lopez-Calderon October 18, 2001

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