Monday, October 08, 2007

Success in Iraq More Important than in the 'STAN's

I'm watching, reading, and listening to a cacophany of noise about Iraq is the unnecessary place fo combat the enemy. They say the hi-jackers of 9-11 were not from Iraq. They say no WMD's were found in Iraq. They say Iraq wasn't where the terrorists were until the invasion. It's all just about shedding blood for oil. To paraphrase Bernard Lewis, all of this claptrap is imaginary; imaginary is the polite word.

The problem that a lot of people have in their thought processes is that they don't look at situations in historical terms from the enemy's POV, but instead look at finding an explanation that can put the most amount of blame on their political opponent. Bernard Lewis put it this way ,

Remember when dealing with Islam. This is a very historically minded society. In this country if you say "that's history," you mean it's finished, irrelevant, of no present concern. Muslims, generally, do not look at history that way, they are conscious of the past.

I'm not saying that their history is always accurate, it may not be accurate, it may be wildly inaccurate. But nevertheless it is the self-perception in a historical framework.

When Osama bin Laden, in one of his statements, said 'for more than eighty years now we have been suffering the burden of shame and humiliation,' we meaning the Muslim world. I'm quite sure everyone in the Muslim world knew exactly what he was talking about.

How many of us knew what OBL was about in saying for more than eighty years? Bernard Lewis explains to his interviewer
When he was talking of the eighty plus years, what he was clearly referring to was the final defeat of the Ottoman Empire. In 1918, the end of World War One, the Ottoman Empire, like its allies, is defeated, but unlike its allies, it's destroyed.

The capital was occupied, the ruler imprisoned, the provinces partitioned between the victorious allies and at about the same time infidel rule was consolidated over almost the whole of the Muslim world.

It was almost the whole of the Muslim world was under direct or indirect foreign rule, and this was seen as the low point in their struggle.

This is especially Iraq that we are talking about. This piece of real estate holds almost as much historical and religious significance to Muslims as Mecca. Many of the early Imams have died and been buried in places in Iraq like Najaf, and Karbala. This is a very important place to them even if we can't believe it.

Shiite Islam originated as a political movement supporting Ali (cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam) as the rightful leader of the Islamic state. The legitimacy of this claim, as initially envisioned by Ali's supporters, was based on Muhammad's alleged designation of Ali as his successor, Ali's righteousness, and tribal customs, given his close relation to the Prophet. Ali's right passed with his death in 661 to his son Hasan, who chose not to claim it, and after Hasan's death, to Husayn, Ali's younger son. The evolution into a religious formulation is believed to have been initiated with the martyrdom of Husayn in 680 at Karbala (today in Iraq), a traumatic event still observed with fervor in today's Shiite world on the 10th of the month of Muharram of the Muslim lunar year.source

Shi'as believe that Muhammad al-Mahdi will reappear when the world has fallen into chaos and civil war emerges between the human race for no reason. At this time, it is believed, half of the true believers will ride from Yemen carrying white flags to Mecca, while the other half will ride from Karbala, in Iraq, carrying black flags to Mecca. At this time, Muhammad al-Mahdi will come wielding God's Sword, the Blade of Evil's Bane, Zulfiqar (Arabic: ذو الفقار, ðū l-fiqār), the Double-Bladed Sword.source

I'm not disagreeing with anyone who thinks that this is some really whacked out stuff to believe. I'm just saying it is important to remember that some of our enemies believe this stuff fervently enough to die for it. For them the threat of death from bombings is not a deterrent but an inducement.

Bernard Lewis also makes an excellent point about this common expression in the Muslim countries of the 'US is the great satan and Israel is the little satan.
The jihad against infidels means non-Muslims. The jihad against apostates is very much an issue at the present time for Al Qaeda because their struggle is not primarily directed against the outsider, but against what they see as the renegade Muslims who rule much of the Muslim world.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other countries. In their perception these are not true
Muslims. They are Muslims who have abandoned Islam, and while posing as Muslims, have introduced infidel laws, infidel customs and infidel ways into the Islamic lands. You remember Sadat of Egypt was murdered.

It was commonly assumed at the time here that he was murdered because he made peace with Israel, because he opened friendly relations with the United States. The evidence is entirely to the contrary.

And we know these were what we now call Islamic Fundamentalists and their grievance against Sadat was that he was introducing infidel ways, he was disestablishing Islam, destroying Islam from within, opening the country to pagan influences.

Now this is precisely the same reasoning as the Islamic revolution in Iran. Khomeini made it very clear when he describes America as the great Satan. Now what is Satan? Satan is not a conqueror, he's not an exploiter, he doesn't set up factories or administer provinces. He seduces, he's a tempter and a seducer. Knomeini and his various successors have made it quite clear that what they fear is the seduction of American popular culture, the fact that to this day millions of Iranians use their satellites to watch television and their favourite program is Baywatch.

On the significance of middle eastern oil Bernard Lewis gives an interesting and quite unusual analogy.
Imagine that the Ku Klux Klan suddenly becomes the ruler of Texas, and has at its disposal all the wealth acquired from the sale of Texas oil. They then use this money to build up a network of well-endowed schools and colleges all over Christendom to preach their particular brand of Christianity. You will have an approximate idea of what has happened in the Islamic world. Because of oil money, the Saudis, who are Wahhabi, they use this money to establish a whole network of schools and colleges all over the Islamic world. And you get an approximate idea of what has happened from my Klux Klan.

I think it is a fair analogy in the sense that it's a radical, violent, extreme doctrine, and without oil money it would have remained a lunatic fringe in a marginal country. Thanks to oil money it has spread all over the Islamic world.

Mr. Lewis offers a refreshing contrast to the doom-mongers who extrapolate feverishly from every shootout in Fallujah, every dustup in which an American soldier is shot, or an Iraqi killed. Mr. Lewis has high hopes for Iraq. Why? Their "cultural and intellectual standards"--set high in the years before Saddam--have "miraculously, if precariously, survived his ravages." Also, the status of women is high in Iraq. As Mr. Lewis puts it--perhaps paraphrasing a desert proverb--"women are half the population and mothers of the other half." In the early formative years, it makes "a great deal of difference to have an educated mother." But his main reason for optimism is that "Iraqis have gone through everything, and are much less likely to be taken in by the fanatical groups in the region."

Although we "keep voicing fears that democracy won't work in Iraq, that's not what they're saying in the Middle East." There's a real terror there among the despots "that democracy in Iraq will work."source

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