Jewish World Review Nov. 9, 2001 / 23 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- With the war on Islamist terrorism in its fifth week of military action, China has finally begun to do its bit for the international coalition. According to the Associated Press, officials in China's Muslim Northwest have closed down Bin Laden's Beef Noodles, a newly opened -- make that newly shut -- restaurant in the city of Lanzhou named for the cave-dwelling terrorist himself.
As the Worker's Daily put it, Bin Laden's Beef Noodles showed an "unhealthy understanding of business culture." Meanwhile, in that same city where Bin Laden's Beef Noodles were just too hot to handle, the AP also reports that a greasy spoon known as Saddam's Beef Noodles continues to do landmark business.
At first glance, China's noodle policy seems as inscrutable as tea leaves, but it's really quite simple. In China -- and throughout the international coalition against terrorism -- conflicting messages about the war effort are not the exception, but the rule.
This hypocrisy helps explain why Chinese President Jiang Zemin could leave a handwritten note of commitment to the war against terrorism on George W. Bush's pillow -- sweet -- during the American president's recent trip to Shanghai even as his government's propaganda machine was spewing out books, video games, documentaries and other "entertainments" exalting the attacks of Sept. 11.
Consider the government-produced documentary "Attack America." This new film, according to the London Telegraph, has been a big hit with the Chinese public. Featuring horrific news footage of Sept. 11, it also includes cuts from the likes of "Godzilla" in which a monster tears down New York landmarks. One particularly memorable sequence of the Chinese film features actual footage of American rescue workers treading the scene of death and smoking ruin in Lower Manhattan while a narrator says: "This is the America the whole world has wanted to see. Blood debts have been repaid in blood. America has bombed other countries and used its hegemony to deny the natural rights of others without paying the price ... until now ... "
So much for galvanizing the Chinese people for the war against terrorism. Given these mixed messages -- the noxious slag of the state-run machine versus a note on a pillow -- the recent claims made to a Pakistani newspaper by a Taliban military commander that China is secretly aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan begin to sound quite plausible.
Such atmospheric static hangs over the coalition. In Iran, influential government "moderates" seek better relations with the United States, promising Iran's aide in search-and-rescue efforts, while influential government "hardliners" seek worse relations with the United States (if possible), fanning the flames of anti-Americanism. But moderate or hardliner, both factions are said to oppose the Taliban. Do they really? The London Telegraph is reporting this week that the Iranian government is in secret negotiations with the Taliban.
Egypt presents another kind of conundrum. While Osama bin Laden calls on Muslims to wage holy war, government leaders, such as Nabil Fahmy, Egyptian ambassador to the United States, insist that Islam "has nothing to do with what [bin Laden] is propagating." But meanwhile, back at Egypt's Al-Azhar University, the Islamic center constitutionally affiliated with the Egyptian government, representatives keep issuing religious justifications for bin Laden's dreams of global jihad. The comments of Sheikh Ali Abu Al-Hassan, head of Al-Azhar's Religious Ruling Committee, are typical: "Jihad in this instance is an obligation for all Muslims," he said last month in a translation posted by the Middle East Media Research Institution (http://www.memri.org). "Islam has commanded us to support our Muslim brothers under attack, and to fight alongside them against the polytheists."
Whose voice will prevail? So long as the United States is dropping 15,000-pound bombs on Taliban positions, it doesn't much matter. But after Afghanistan, coalition doubletalk will become harder to ignore. That is, Bin Laden's Beef Noodles may be history, but Saddam's Beef Noodles are no better. The plainspoken truth is they both leave a bad
JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.