Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Once Again, Never Again

At the TimesOnline, David Aaronovitch has written an excellent column on Islamic extremism. In it he discusses the ranting of radical Muslim clerics in Britain, and offers a chilling anecdote from the book The Suicide Factory:

On page 272 the authors tell how Faisal [a radical Muslim cleric Aaronovitch had interviewed] -- before he was sent down -- visited the Beeston area of Leeds on three occasions. In his audience was Mohammad Siddique Khan, the "exemplary" young man who was almost certainly the ringleader of the 7/7 bombers. "Witnesses," write O'Neill and McGrory, "remember Khan peppering (Faisal) with questions".

He then discusses a second book, One Day In July, by 7/7 survivor John Tulloch. Tulloch takes a dim view of Tony Blair and the invasion of Iraq, blaming them for his injuries more than he does the terrorists who tried to kill him. He is even indignant that the 7/7 bombers didn't realize that he hadn't actually voted for Blair, as though a terrorist would think to check a person's voting record before blowing himself up inside a commuter train. Facts ultimately interfere with Mr. Tulloch's geopolitical insights:
Tulloch’s West is so defined as to do nothing other than kill and mistreat Muslims. Notice too that Muslim deaths only count in the demonology if the West can be said to have caused them. But Khan was listening to Faisal’s "kill the unbelievers" stuff long before Iraq. His farewell statement makes no mention of Iraq, and has almost perfect elasticity. His casi belli could be and are Chechnya, Palestine, Bosnia, Iraq, Kashmir, maybe even the south Philippines or East Timor. "I pray to Allah," Khan concluded, "to raise me amongst those whom I love like the prophets ... like our beloved Sheikh Osama bin Laden, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi ..." Ah yes, al-Zarqawi, that great lover of Shia Muslims.

Tulloch's understanding of the character of the enemy is so lacking intelligence that it hardly deserves a hearing. But Britain, as here, apparently raises assertions up on the basis of the victimhood of those who utter them, and not on the basis of the wisdom contained in the thought. (I won't say more on that trend so as to avoid causing a kerfuffle.) That Tulloch seems so indifferent to the facts about the people who tried to blow him up -- primarily that his mere existence as a westerner was the primary motive, and not some answerable political complaint -- is part of what is frightening about Muslim terror. His unwillingness to even examine his enemy, and the popularity of such attitudes in the West, indicates a clear possibility that the enemy will succeed in forcing the West's submission on a range of subjects, from the Iranian bomb to the very existence of Israel.

Aaronovitch continues:
We dismiss zealots at our peril. Suppose they had atomic weapons. Though I am not in favour of any military action against Iran, I’m not in favour of complacency either. It has become the habit of some media Tullochs to play down the significance of the utterances of Iran’s President Ahmadinejad. Jonathan Steele in The Guardian was keen last week to tell readers that the "wiped off the map" stuff was wilfully mistaken. "The remarks are not out of context," he wrote. "They are wrong, pure and simple. Ahmadinejad never said them. Farsi speakers have pointed out that he was mistranslated." He was just repeating some old stuff from Khomeini; he didn’t mean like, right now; Iran never invades anyone anyway; in any case he’s only one among many competing forces in Iran. So back off.

The problem with Steele’s analysis is that the official Iranian translations of President A’s words refer to "wiping Israel away" (a distinction here between "away" and "off the map" seems unimportant). Ahmadinejad has also said that Israel is a "stain" that must be erased, that Israel is a "rotten tree" that would be destroyed by a coming "storm" and suggested that "Germany and Austria can provide the ... (Zionist) regime with two or three provinces ... and the issue will be resolved". Finally.

It appears to be becoming canonical that we so misunderstand the Middle East that we cannot be trusted even to analyze the words of the official translations of Mid East governments.

To ignore the import of the words of the Iranian President, which have the backing of many clerics who are less ambiguous even than he, which express thoughts common in mosques from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia to Palestine to Paris, is to invite our own demise. Such bloodthirsty expressions represent a totalitarian mindset that cannot tolerate any entity that might threaten its aggressive ambitions. Whatever Islam is at heart, in most places today it has a totalitarian form, and all such forms are impervious to reason. To pretend such ideas and ambitions will dissipate if we only had a slightly different policy here or there is to ignore that to a totalitarian, our concessions merely gain a brief respite before their next demand. Should people like Tulloch ever gain power they will see that their concessions do not bring peace, but rather than change course, they will simply make ever more drastic concessions, until there is little left to concede.

Aaronovitch ends with a passage from a play about Albert Speer, Hitler's architect, that nicely summarizes why it is so important to listen to what people like Ahmadinejad actually say, and to ignore the unrealistic fantasies of people like Tulloch:
The dead Hitler is reproving the dying Speer. "Why," he demands, "did you insist that anti-Semitism was 'a vulgar incidental'? I said it — clearly time and time again. I didn't say 'resettlement' or 'cleaning efforts'. I did not speak of 'special handling'. And yet you all insist that when I said the Jews must be destroyed, I only meant 'defeated'. That when I said 'eliminate' I didn't mean 'exterminate', I only meant 'exclude'. That when I said 'purge' and 'perish' and 'annihilate' it was, of course, a metaphor. Why was I cursed with never being taken literally? How could the world have been so blind? And how could you?" Well?

Again, when people said "Never Again" after the holocaust, it was people like Ahmadinejad that they were talking about.

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