Isolated extremists? This “war” is about the intersection of Islam and the West.
By Mark Steyn
Not long after the Ayatollah Khomeini announced his fatwa against Salman Rushdie, the British novelist suddenly turned up on a Muslim radio station in West London late one night and told his interviewer he’d converted to Islam. Marvelous religion, couldn’t be happier, Allahu Akbar and all that.
And the Ayatollah said hey, that’s terrific news, glad to hear it. But we’re still gonna kill you.
Well, even a leftie novelist wises up under those circumstances.
Evidently, the president of the United States takes a little longer. Barack Obama has spent the last year doing bigtime Islamoschmoozing, from his announcement of Gitmo’s closure and his investigation of Bush officials to his bow before the Saudi King and a speech in Cairo to “the Muslim world” with far too many rhetorical concessions and equivocations. And at the end of it, the jihad sent America a thank-you note by way of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s underwear: Hey, thanks for all the outreach! But we’re still gonna kill you.
According to one poll, 58 percent of Americans are in favor of waterboarding young Umar Farouk. Well, you should have thought about that before you made a community organizer president of the world’s superpower. The election of Barack Obama was a fundamentally unserious act by the U.S. electorate, and you can’t blame the world’s mischief-makers, from Putin to Ahmadinejad to the many Gitmo recidivists now running around Yemen, from drawing the correct conclusion.
For two weeks, the government of the United States has made itself a global laughingstock. Don’t worry, “the system worked,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Incompetano. Don’t worry, he was an “isolated extremist,” said the president. Don’t worry, we’re banning bathroom breaks for the last hour of the flight, said the TSA. Don’t worry, “U.S. border-security officials” told the Los Angeles Times, we knew he was on the plane and we “had decided to question him when he landed.” Don’t worry, Obama’s chief counterterrorism John Brennan assured the Sunday talk shows, sure, we read him his rights and he’s lawyered up but he’ll soon see that “there is advantage to talking to us in terms of plea agreements.”
Oh, that’s grand. Try to kill hundreds of people in an act of war and it’s the starting point for a plea deal. In his Cairo speech, the president bragged that the United States would “punish” those in America who would “deny” the “right of women and girls to wear the hijab.” If he’s so keen on it, maybe he should consider putting the entire federal government into full-body burkas and zipping up the eye slit so that henceforth every public utterance by John Brennan will be entirely inaudible. Americans should be ashamed by this all-fools’ fortnight.
On Thursday, having renounced over the preceding days “the system worked,” the “isolated extremist,” the more obviously risible TSA responses, the Gitmo-Yemen express checkout, and various other follies, the president finally spoke the words: “We are at war.” AsÂ National Review’s Rich Lowry noted, they were more or less dragged from the presidential gullet by Dick Cheney, who’d accused the commander-in-chief of failing to grasp this basic point. Again, to be fair, it isn’t just Obama. Last November, the electorate voted in effect to repudiate the previous eight years and seemed genuinely under the delusion that wars end when one side decides it’s all a bit of a bore and they’d rather the government spend the next eight years doing to health care and the economy what they were previously doing to jihadist camps in Waziristan.
On the other hand, if we are now at war, as Obama belatedly concedes, against whom are we warring? “We are at war against al-Qaeda,” says the president.
Really? But what does that mean? Was the previous month’s “isolated extremist” â€” the Fort Hood killer â€” part of al-Qaeda? When it came to spiritual advice, he turned to the same Yemeni-based American-born imam as the Pantybomber, but he didn’t have a fully paid-up membership card. Nor did young Umar Farouk, come to that. Granted the general over-credentialization of American life, the notion that it doesn’t count as terrorism unless you’re a member of Local #437 of the Amalgamated Union of Isolated Extremists seems perverse and reductive. What did the Pantybomber have a membership card in? Well, he was president of the Islamic Society of University College, London. Kafeel Ahmed, who died after driving a burning jeep into the concourse of Glasgow Airport, had been president of the Islamic Society of Queen’s University, Belfast. Yassin Nassari, serving three years in jail for terrorism, was president of the Islamic Society of the University of Westminster. Waheed Arafat Khan, arrested in the 2006 Heathrow terror plots that led to Americans having to put their liquids and gels in those little plastic bags, was president of the Islamic Society of London Metropolitan University.
Doesn’t this sound like a bigger problem than “al-Qaeda” â€” whatever that is? The president has now put citizens of Nigeria on the secondary-screening list. Which is tough on Nigerian Christians, who have no desire to blow up your flight to Detroit. Aside from the highly localized Tamil terrorism of India and Sri Lanka, suicide bombing is a phenomenon entirely of Islam. The broader psychosis that manifested itself only the other day in an axe murderer breaking into a Danish cartoonist’s home to kill him because he objects to his cartoon is likewise a phenomenon of Islam. This is not to say (to go wearily through the motions) that all Muslims are potential suicide bombers and axe murderers, but it is to state the obvious â€” that this “war” is about the intersection of Islam and the West, and its warriors are recruited in the large pool of young Muslim manpower, not in Yemen and Afghanistan so much as in Copenhagen and London.
But the president of the United States cannot say that because he is over-invested in a fantasy â€” that, if only that Texan moron Bush had read Khalid Sheikh Mohammed hisÂ Miranda rights and bowed as low as he did to the Saudi king, we wouldn’t have all these problems. So now Obama says, “We are at war.” But he cannot articulate any war aims or strategy because they would conflict with his illusions. And so we will stagger on, playing defense, pulling more and more items out of our luggage â€” tweezers, shoes, shampoo, snowglobes, suppositories â€” and reacting to every new provocation with greater impositions upon the citizenry. You can’t win by putting octogenarian nuns through full-body scanners. All you can do is lose slowly. After all, if you can’t even address what you’re up against with any honesty, you can’t blame the other side for drawing entirely reasonable conclusions about your faintheartedness in taking them on.
After that cringe-making radio interview, Salman Rushdie subsequently told the Times of London that trying to appease his would-be killers and calling for his own book to be withdrawn was the biggest mistake of his life. If only the president of the United States were such a quick study.