The fight against terrorism
Among the “fallout” from a recent issue of the Denver Post and 70 odd other papers around the country, was a DVD entitled “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.” The flyer accompanying the DVD asks “How can you help fight radical Islam?” The sponsor of the film is the Clarion Fund, which declares itself an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization devoted to educating the public about national security issues. A look at the Clarion Fund’s Web site tells very little about who the organization is such as names of staff and board directors.
The hour-long film starts with horrific video footage of terrorists attacks around the world over the last decade. It continues with footage of various imams in the Middle East and followers cheering the attacks of Sept. 11. The speakers in the film include academics, policy center experts on Islam, former PLO terrorists, the daughter of a Muslim martyr and a former Hitler Youth Commander. The film concludes with scenes of young Muslims being recruited for jihad and draws a parallel with the Nazi strategy of using propaganda to recruit youth into its youth corp with radical Islam’s use of propaganda to lure young boys and girls to jihad.
The film and flyer advertise several Web sites to promote activism, become a member and seek donations. One of the sites offers articles ranging from Gregory M. Davis’ view that the non-Muslim world is at war with all of Islam to Ms. Ayaan Hirsi Ali (who recently spoke at the Vilar Center) who addressed women’s rights, or lack thereof, in traditional Muslim society. The film has created an uproar by those who see it as a hate campaign against Muslims. The 70 or so papers, including the New York Times, which distributed the DVD and have accepted advertising money for the film have also come under attack.
Some political strategists think this is a political ploy to heighten terrorists fears among voter son the theory that Republicans are tougher against terrorists threats than Democrats. Voter polls validate this theory and you may wonder how this perception came to be. Immediately after Sept. 11, Karl Rove established a strategy to politicize the “war on terror.” This led to a constant drum beat by Republicans leading up to the 2004 election (and to this day) that Democrats were soft on national security. Democrats generally played into this trap by having the audacity of asking the question of how and why someone could hate us so much. Those kinds of questions were the furtherest thing from the group think in the Bush administration, which was hell bent to start a war with Iraq, export democracy to the Middle East and secure another friendly oil exporting country.
As I pondered the film and the associated articles, several things became clear. Depending upon whose counting, there are about 1.4 billion Muslims in the world.
The former PLO terrorists in the film estimated that between 10 to 15 percent of Muslims are terrorists. Doing the math results in a possible Islamic terrorists population of 210 million people, roughly equivalent to the U.S. population aged 18 or older. Still another substantial percentage of all Muslims view the West negatively, but are not of a violent nature. Then there is the observation by Ms. Hirsi Ali that “Muslims are as diverse as Islam is monolithic … Islam attempts to unify more than 1 billion people of different geographical origins, languages, ethnicities, and cultural and educational backgrounds into one religious tribe.”
Clearly, this will not be a war ultimately won by bullets or bombs. Also clearly, we cannot confuse the war on terror with a misguided goal to export democracy around the world. As we have learned the hard way in Iraq and Afghanistan, these countries have a cultural hierarchy of family, then tribe, and then religion ” all of which are closely intertwined. The concept of a nation state is alien to all, but the most highly educated of these cultures. Winning the hearts and minds in the recruitment of jihadists requires Islamic propaganda that is fed by causes, fed by a supply of “fuel.” Our presence in Iraq, the embarrassment of Abu Ghrab, our sinking into the practice of using torture at Guantanamo and outsourced prisons around the world, and our taking of innocent civilian lives (“collateral damage”) have been a constant source of fuel to inflame Muslim people. However, these issues are either behind us or will end before long. The most enduring cause of radical Islam has been our unflinching alliance with Israel. This is the one cause that we will not withdraw and yet, a peaceful solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, as daunting as that challenge is, will inflict a mortal blow to the recruitment and survival of terrorists in the Islamic world. It will be the achievement of peace and not a war that will ultimately end the war on terror.
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