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Jewish World Review Nov. 26, 2002/ 21 Kislev, 5763

Mark Steyn

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A bombing pause --
for 12 months!? |
Maybe it's just me, but Ramadan seems to come round earlier every year. Around the world, the holy month is being observed in the time-honored fashion we've come to know so well. There has been the traditional annual call for a "bombing pause" during Ramadan -- this year not from the humanitarian nancy boys at Oxfam and Co. but from Saddam himself, who apparently feels it would be "culturally insensitive" toward Muslims to depose him during the holiest of Islamic festivals. In calling for a bombing pause when we are not, alas, bombing him, the wannabe Saladin has usefully reminded us of the strange state of play this Ramadan. It has been a year since the fall of the Taliban, and in that year ... nothing has happened.

Oh, to be sure, there've been some useful bits of intelligence co-operation, and London and Washington have frozen the bank accounts of the dodgier Canadian charities. Two weeks ago, President Bush scored remarkable double victories over Tom Daschle's Senate Democrats and the French Security Council veto. But Senator Daschle and the French are not the enemy; they're just speed bumps on the way to the enemy, and both ought to have been receding into the distance in the rear-view mirror a long time ago. Instead, it's the war that keeps getting deferred, to the point where it's beginning to look like the Bush version of the Soviets' endlessly rolled-over Five Year Plans.

So we have had a bombing pause for 12 months. Some of us would like a pause in the bombing pause. But, if that's not possible, perhaps we could at least have a burbling pause for Ramadan, a temporary respite from the multicultural hooey. Instead, in his month-long Ramadan-a-ding-dong, George W. Bush is relentlessly on message: as he told Islamic bigwigs at the White House the other day, "Our nation is waging a war on a radical network of terrorists, not on a religion and not on a civilization."

Not true. The world is at war not with a Blofeldian "network" of crack evildoers, but with an ideology. Indeed, the evidence from Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bali and North London suggests that it's now the ideology of choice for the world's troublemakers, as Communism once was. In 1989, with the Soviet Union crumbling into irrelevance, poor old Mikhail Gorbachev even received a helpful bit of advice from the cocky young upstart on the block, the Ayatollah Khomeini: "I strongly urge that in breaking down the walls of Marxist fantasies you do not fall into the prison of the West and the Great Satan," wrote the prototype Islamist nutcake. "I openly announce that the Islamic Republic of Iran, as the greatest and most powerful base of the Islamic world, can easily help fill up the ideological vacuum of your system." Yes, indeed, folks. We're the one-stop shop for all your ideological needs: Call today for a free quotation ("Death to the Great Satan!"). The Ayatollah found no takers in the Kremlin, but there's been no shortage of customers elsewhere in the world.

JWR's Daniel Pipes and others have argued that this is the Islamists' great innovation -- an essentially political project piggybacking on an ancient religion. In the last year, we've seen the advantages of such a strategy: You can't even identify your enemy without being accused of bigotry and intolerance. What we still can only guess at is the overlap between the ideology and the religion. It seems unlikely that many Muslims in, say, Newark or Calgary or Singapore would wish to be suicide bombers themselves, but what seems clear is that in these and other places there is -- to put it at its most delicate -- a widespread lack of revulsion at the things done in Islam's name.

On the one hand, Muslims deny it's anything to do with them: A year ago, in The Ottawa Citizen's coast-to-coast survey of Canadian imams, all but two refused to accept Muslims had been involved in the September 11th attacks. On the other hand, even though it's nothing to do with them, they party: In Copenhagen as in Ramallah, Muslims cheered 9/11; in Keighley, Yorkshire, you couldn't get a taxi that night because the drivers were whooping it up.

This is the real war aim -- or it should be, if we're to have any chance of winning this thing: We have to change the hearts and minds of millions of Muslims, too many of whom are at best indifferent to great evil. "Changing" isn't the same as "winning the hearts and minds," which is multiculti codespeak for pre-emptively surrendering and agreeing not to disagree with them. For over a year now, nothing has been asked of Muslims, at home or abroad: you can be equivocal about bin Laden and an apologist for suicide bombers, and still get a photo-op with Dubya; you can be a member of a regime whose state TV stations and government-owned newspapers call for Muslims to kill all Jews and Christians, and you'll still get to kick your shoes off with George and Laura at the Crawford ranch.

This is not just wrong but self-defeating. As long as Dubya and Colin Powell and the rest are willing to prance around doing a month-long Islamic minstrel-show routine for the amusement of the A-list Arabs, Muslims will rightly see it for what it is: a sign of profound cultural weakness. Healthy relationships require at least some token reciprocity -- I said as much during the Monica business, and it never occurred to me the same problem would rear its ugly head during this Administration. But, hosting an iftaar (the end-of-day break-of-fast) for hundreds of head honchos from Muslim lobby groups, Colin Powell felt obliged to announce yet another burst of Islamic outreach. According to the Associated Press, he told his audience that "he is trying to expand programs to bring educators, journalists and political and religious leaders from Islamic countries to the United States."

Why? The problem isn't that Colin Powell's admissions program is too restrictive, but quite the opposite. It was his Saudi "visa express" conveyor belt that admitted the September 11th terrorists to the U.S. on forms filled in with a perfunctoriness no eighth-generation WASP Canadian snowbird would try getting away with. When asked why 15 of the 19 killers that day were Saudi, the Kingdom's Ambassador to London, my old friend Ghazi Algosaibi, replied with admirable candour that that was simply because it was easier for Saudis to get into America. In other words, the State Department's Islamic outreach facilitated the murder of thousands.

Meanwhile, the whining twerp on that I Can't Believe It's Not Osama audio cassette has expanded the Islamists' list of grievances to include not only the Mongol sack of Baghdad in 1258 -- I forget where Canada stood on that: it was OK as long as the Mongols were part of a multilateral pillage force? -- but also the West's support for East Timor's independence. East Timor! The left's pet cause of the late Nineties! And yet it turns out to be just another "root cause" like Yankee imperialism and Zionist occupation. Will it cause any of the West's self-loathers to question their support for the Islamists? Don't hold your breath.

The Canadian position on this war is sadly typical: Some reports indicate that the Indonesian group which killed hundreds in Bali used bombs delivered by Hezbollah operatives. Two Canadians were among their victims. But Messrs Chrétien and Graham refuse to act against Hezbollah because, aside from killing Canadians, these chaps run some useful community activities. Canada's more "moderate" approach is that as long as they kill just a few Canadians -- say, hold it under three figures annually -- we can, so to speak, live with them. And, given that several Hezbollah execs seem to be running around Gaza with Canadian passports, in terms of how many Canucks are murdered and how many are murderers, it's probably a wash. This is cultural sensitivity taken to its logical conclusion.

As things stand, there are only three countries that are serious about the "war on terror": America, Britain and Australia. And, even within that shrunken rump of the West, there are fierce divisions: Australia's sissy press makes The Toronto Star look like, well, the National Post; it's doubtful whether Tony Blair speaks for more than 30% of his parliamentary party; and President Bush's resoluteness doesn't extend to his Secretary of State or even, during Ramadan, to himself. The longer this already too long period of phony war continues, the more likely it is that even these stalwarts will decay and Canadianize. I worry about the thin line on which our civilization depends. This last year has been too quiet. Next Ramadan, when the traditional calls for a bombing pause are issued, let's hope there's some bombing to pause.

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JWR contributor Mark Steyn is Senior Contributing Editor of The National Post. Comment by clicking here.

10/30/02: Stop making excuses for Muslim extremists
09/27/02: The more inventively you try to ''explain'' the Islamist psychosis as a rational phenomenon to be accommodated, the more you risk sounding just as nutty as them
08/23/02: Battered Westerner Syndrome inflicted by myopic Muslim defenders
08/09/02: Friends in low places
08/02/02: Armageddon out of here
07/26/02: Enjoy the ''scandal'' while you can, lads
07/16/02: Arafat is toast; Bush knows it --- so why doesn't the rest of the world?
07/10/02: Hey, FBI: So, denial really is a river in Egypt!
06/20/02: A fight to the finish
06/11/02: Rock, royalty a good match
05/31/02: Unless we change our ways ... the world faces a future where things look pretty darn good
05/24/02: Sweet land of liberty: Britain and Europe have free governments, but only in the US are the people truly free
05/14/02: Extreme hypocrisy in the pursuit of 'peace' is ...
05/10/02: The home office of extremism
05/01/02 Slipping down the Eurinal of history: France, the joke is on you
04/23/02 It's time to snap out of Arab fantasy land
04/16/02 Mideast war exposes 'ugly Europeans'
04/09/02 Arafat has begun his countdown to oblivion. Now it's time to crush the Palestinian uprising
03/27/02 The good, the bad and the Gallic shrug
03/20/02 Grand convocation of the weird

© 2002, Mark Steyn