A View From The Handbasket

Monday, August 21, 2006
Cal Thomas declares war
Posted by neros_fiddle at 2:08 PM
As discussed below, George Will is of the opinion that US policy has nothing at all to do with the rise of Islamic extremism. Given how hostile US policy has been to so much of the Muslim population of the Middle East (in other words, those who aren't claiming monarchial privileges over a swath of desert with oil under it), the obvious inference is that nothing we do could explain antipathy that spills over into violent hatred.

Encouraged by this, Cal Thomas vomits up yet another love letter to the ultimate right wing wet dream: The Clash Of Civilizations:

During the Cold War, American intelligence loved getting its hands on defectors from communism. The reasoning was that these people had the best information about the plans of the other side, information that would help America defeat them.

In the present war against what President Bush has properly labeled "Islamic fascism," defectors are just as valuable.

The Israel Project, an international nonprofit organization devoted to educating the press and the public about Israel, recently made a former leading imam and radical Islam expert available for media interviews and I had a chance to speak with him. He goes by the name of Sam Soloman because of death threats from those not happy with the information he has about their plans to dominate the world.

So what did this remarkably bias-free expert have to say?

Soloman speaks with knowledge, credibility and conviction. He has memorized large sections of the Koran and tells me, "There's not a single verse in the Koran talking about peace with a non-Muslim, with the Jews and the Christians. Islam means submission. Islam means surrender. It means you surrender and accept Islamic hegemony over yourselves..."

I ask him about the best strategy for fighting it: "It cannot be combated simply by force. It needs to be combated ideologically, spiritually (as well as) through arms."

Soloman says the outlets for Islamic ideology are religious — seminaries, the madrassas (Koranic schools) and especially the mosques. "From the beginning, Mohammed used the mosque to propagate this ideology. It was in the mosque that jihad was declared (and) that troops were sent to conquer the rest of the world. The mosque was the seat of government and Americans are right to be concerned about (their growth)."

Frankly, I don't know where the Islamic world gets the idea that Americans are out to crush them.

Are there real-world examples of how the Muslims are eagerly destroying American society? Of course:

How serious? He says. "They are infiltrating and undermining every part of this society. We are promoting Islamic mortgages, Islamic insurance companies. There are 29 banks in the United States promoting Islamic banking. Since 1999, Dow Jones has launched Dow Jones Islamic Index and has subjected itself to be governed by an international Sharia board." (Sharia is the religious law of Islam outlined in the Koran.)

Horrors. 29 banks who are marketing to Muslims. And there's a Sharia-compliant "Islamic Market Index" that Dow Jones publishes, which of course means that the Wall Street Journal is an al Qaeda mouthpiece. (And the number of spam e-mails I get advertising "Christian" services of one form or another suggest that Islam hasn't cornered the market on religion-specific business.)

After surveying this chilling evidence, Thomas advises us to stop being all tolerant and multicultural and wimpy and instead start kicking some Islamic ass:

Americans must see past their natural reluctance to paint all members of a group with a broad brush and realize our failure to act now against this clear and present danger in the ways Sam Soloman recommends will lead to a disaster for us that is far worse than our Cold War enemies had envisaged.

Apparently, Cal has a following in England, where the citizens, having been whipped into an appropriate state of panic by code-crimson terror alerts, are taking their safety into their own hands:

British holidaymakers staged an unprecedented mutiny - refusing to allow their flight to take off until two men they feared were terrorists were forcibly removed.

The extraordinary scenes happened after some of the 150 passengers on a Malaga-Manchester flight overheard two men of Asian appearance apparently talking Arabic.

Passengers told cabin crew they feared for their safety and demanded police action. Some stormed off the Monarch Airlines Airbus A320 minutes before it was due to leave the Costa del Sol at 3am. Others waiting for Flight ZB 613 in the departure lounge refused to board it.


The Tories said the Government's failure to reassure travellers had led the Malaga passengers to 'behave irrationally' and 'hand a victory to terrorists'.

Websites used by pilots and cabin crew were yesterday reporting further incidents. In one, two British women with young children on another flight from Spain complained about flying with a bearded Muslim even though he had been security-checked twice before boarding.

The trouble in Malaga flared last Wednesday as two British citizens in their 20s waited in the departure lounge to board the pre-dawn flight and were heard talking what passengers took to be Arabic. Worries spread after a female passenger said she had heard something that alarmed her.

Passengers noticed that, despite the heat, the pair were wearing leather jackets and thick jumpers and were regularly checking their watches.

Initially, six passengers refused to board the flight. On board the aircraft, word reached one family. To the astonishment of cabin crew, they stood up and walked off, followed quickly by others.

The Monarch pilot - a highly experienced captain - accompanied by armed Civil Guard police and airport security staff, approached the two men and took their passports.

Half an hour later, police returned and escorted the two Asian passengers off the jet.

Soon afterwards, the aircraft was cleared while police did a thorough security sweep. Nothing was found and the plane took off - three hours late and without the two men on board.

Monarch arranged for them to spend the rest of the night in an airport hotel and flew them back to Manchester later on Wednesday.

College lecturer Jo Schofield, her husband Heath and daughters Emily, 15, and Isabel, 12, were caught up in the passenger mutiny.

Mrs Schofield, 38, said: "The plane was not yet full and it became apparent that people were refusing to board. In the gate waiting area, people had been talking about these two, who looked really suspicious with their heavy clothing, scruffy, rough, appearance and long hair.

"Some of the older children, who had seen the terror alert on television, were starting to mutter things like, 'Those two look like they're bombers.'

"Then a family stood up and walked off the aircraft. They were joined by others, about eight in all. We learned later that six or seven people had refused to get on the plane.

"There was no fuss or panic. People just calmly and quietly got off the plane. There were no racist taunts or any remarks directed at the men.

"It was an eerie scene, very quiet. The children were starting to ask what was going on. We tried to play it down."

Mr Schofield, 40, an area sales manager, said: "When the men were taken off they didn't argue or say a word. They just picked up their coats and obeyed the police. They seemed resigned to the fact they were under suspicion.

"The captain and crew were very apologetic when we were asked to evacuate the plane for the security search. But there was no dissent.

"While we were waiting, everyone agreed the men looked dodgy. Some passengers were very panicky and in tears. There was a lot of talking about terrorists."

Patrick Mercer, the Tory Homeland Security spokesman, said last night: "This is a victory for terrorists. These people on the flight have been terrorised into behaving irrationally.

"For those unfortunate two men to be victimised because of the colour of their skin is just nonsense."

Monarch said last night: "The captain was concerned about the security surrounding the two gentlemen on the aircraft and the decision was taken to remove them from the flight for further security checks.

"The two passengers offloaded from the flight were later cleared by airport security and rebooked to travel back to Manchester on a later flight."

A spokesman for the Civil Guard in Malaga said: "These men had aroused suspicion because of their appearance and the fact that they were speaking in a foreign language thought to be an Arabic language, and the pilot was refusing to take off until they were escorted off the plane."

Hooray for those brave Brits! Let those dirty, leather-wearing, Arabicish-talking brown people fly on some other plane. This one's for white people!

Somewhat more seriously, the Muslims certainly seem to have the spotlight in international terrorism these days. But twenty or thirty years ago, The Red Brigades and the IRA were hogging the headlines, yet I don't remember calls for mass action against Italians or the Irish. And even in more recent times, no one wanted to talk about the 2001 anthrax mailer once it seemed likely that he/she wasn't a Muslim. And Tim McVeigh? The right have convinced themselves that he was working for Saddam.

The more reasonable explanations are those that are less satisying for the rabidly xenophobic and paranoid -- the prevalance of Islamic terrorism says more about the conditions of much of the Islamic world than about the essential humanity of the 1.3 billion Muslims on the planet. Millions of Muslims are poor and desperate, and poor and desperate people are comparatively likely to do extreme things. Plus, Islam seems to especially emphasize obedience to clerical orders (like Catholicism at various points), so those looking to make a name for themselves could do worse than to whip their followers into a state of violence. (And, for the record, I'm not sure how anyone who claims to care about individual rights can be much of a fan of the ugly social regressiveness of nations under Sharia law. All to say, fundamentalist Islam is not something to be cheered by fans of human rights.)

But that's far different from claiming that Islam is an inherently violent religion. Christianity has plenty of blood on its hands (much of it Muslim blood), and plenty of Muslim and Christian residents of Beirut can attest that Jews are not pacifist. Christianity can easily spawn terrorism among the frightened and dispossessed (as seen in recent times by the Klan, the Christian Identity movement, Eric Rudolph, various neo-Nazi groups, and so on). India is well-acquainted with acts of terror from the Sikhs.

But none of this matters to those seeking to make the "war on terror" more about blowing up foreign people and foreign religions than about addressing larger questions about the sort of conditions that exist in Muslim countries and what priorities the US uses when responding to those conditions. It's far easier to dismiss a group as irredeemably violent (or, in Thomas' words, "see past [one's] natural reluctance to paint all members of a group with a broad brush") than to consider the context of the violence.

Even more telling, anyone advocating any response short of genocide is invariably derided as being "on the side of the terrorists." One doesn't have to support the views of Islam to recognize that terrorism is not a problem that can be solved by the application of ever-larger hammers. American bombs will not drive people into the arms of America -- they will drive people into the arms of whoever advocates the most violence against Americans. That seems self-evident, but also seems to sit in opposition to what we've seen happening in Iraq and Lebanon.

At least in Lebanon, Israel was using those American bombs to pummel a country with some relation to the terrorist threat they were facing. The same cannot be said of Iraq, as even President Bush acknowledged today:

BUSH: The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East.

QUESTION: What did Iraq have to do with it?

BUSH: What did Iraq have to do with what?

QUESTION: The attack on the World Trade Center.

BUSH: Nothing. Except it’s part of — and nobody has suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a — Iraq — the lesson of September 11th is take threats before they fully materialize, Ken. Nobody’s ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq.

And yet, of course, it's been shown time and time again that the US accepted the Iraq invasion largely on the false assumption that they were in some way responsible for 9/11, an assumption that was was easy to encourage by conflating Saddam and bin Laden as Muslims of a feather, or, in other words, "seeing past [one's] natural reluctance to paint all members of a group with a broad brush."

The question of whether Bush could have sold an invasion of a non-Muslim country in the aftermath of 9/11 was, as always, left unasked.

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