20070822

Islamism's Quest- in al Qaeda's Own Words


"The al Qaeda Reader" book review by Bruce Thornton in VDH's Private Papers.

"Given that war, as both Sun Tzu and Mohammed preached, is deception, it behooves us to understand accurately the enemy’s motivations and not be fooled by his deceiving propaganda. Yet in the current war against Islamic jihad, the West has stubbornly refused to take seriously what the jihadists tell us, believing instead what Thucydides called the “pretexts” with which an enemy rationalizes his aggression. Osama bin Laden and his theorist Aymin al Zawahiri in particular have provided us with numerous texts outlining the Islamic foundations of their war against the West. A few of these pronouncements and manifestoes have long been available, but now thanks to Raymond Ibrahim’s The Al Qaeda Reader, writings previously unavailable in English can be studied and analyzed. Such study will provide powerful evidence that contrary to the deceptions of apologists and the na├»ve delusions of some Westerners, the bases of the jihadists’ actions lie squarely within Islamic tradition, not in the alleged Western crimes against Islam. ...

The next section of The Al Qaeda Reader comprises selections translator/editor Raymond Ibrahim calls “propaganda,” arguments designed for Westerners that exploit all the self-loathing pathologies of Western intellectuals. Every distortion of history repeated in thousands of American college classrooms, every lurid lie peddled by the Chomsky-Moore cult is repeated by bin Laden, the only difference being a much more explicit indulgence in anti-Semitism. Thus in “Israel, Oil, and Iraq,” Bin Laden really doesn’t sound much different from your typical college professor off on a rant about the Halliburton-Cheney-Bush-neocon [read Jews] nexus. We hear about the “Jews — who direct you [Americans] through the lie of ‘democracy’ to support the Israelis and their machination and in complete antagonism to our religion,” which is basically the same argument American academics continually make about the “Israeli lobby.” Bush is castigated in Chomskyean terms for “concealing his own ambitions and the ambitions of the Zionist lobby in their desire for oil.” Western guilt is massaged by statements like, “He [Bush] is still following the policy of his ancestors who slew the American Indians in order to seize their land and wealth” — this coming from a devotee of the most ruthlessly imperial religion ever. And our old leftist bogey, the “military-industrial complex,” appears when bin Laden tells our troops, “You are spilling your blood to swell the bank accounts of the White House gang and their fellow arms dealers and the proprietors of great companies.”

These leftist bromides appear over and over in subsequent speeches and manifestoes, and testify to bin- Laden’s shrewd recognition of the West’s Achilles heel: the appeasing proclivities of its elite intellectuals who, riddled with self-loathing guilt, are incapable of defending their way of life and its highest goods. So our Saudi millionaire businessman rants on about “providing business [contracts] for their [the Bush administration] private corporations,” the 2000 presidential election “stolen” by the Bush clan, the “contracts acquired by large and dubious corporations, such as Halliburton,” and the stupidity of our troops, who “convinced of injustices and lies of their government . . . fight only for the sake of capitalists, the lords of usury [code for Jews], and arms and oil dealers — such as that gang of criminals in the White House.” Even the failure to sign the Kyoto agreement, the dropping of a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, and the supposed flouting of international law — standard anti-American leftist charges — are trotted out by bin Laden, who mentions not one of these complaints when talking to fellow Muslims, for the simple reason that traditional Muslims care nothing for them. But guilt-ridden, self-loathing Westerners of the sort currently agitating for withdrawal from Iraq care very much.

The Al Qaeda Reader, simply by letting our enemies speak in their own voices, explodes the popular delusion that Western crimes and policies are responsible for the “distortion” of Islam that al Qaeda represents. As Ibrahim writes, “This volume of translations, taken as whole, prove once and for all that, despite the propaganda of Al Qaeda and its sympathizers, Radical Islam’s war with the West is not finite and limited to political grievances — real or imagined — but is existential, transcending time and space and deeply rooted in faith.” This means that the fight will be long and hard, that leaving Iraq or creating a Palestinian state will not buy peace, and that the side that accurately understands its enemy and has confidence in its own beliefs will ultimately triumph.

Thanks to Raymond Ibrahim’s The Al Qaeda Reader, we have the means for achieving that understanding. ©2007 Bruce Thornton

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