Monday, November 5, 2001

Week of 11/05/2001

The Real Enemy
- by David Matthews 2

"From the saintly and single-minded idealist to the fanatic is often but a step." - F.A. Hayek

Ever since George Bush’s War on Terrorism started with air assault on Afghanistan, the two statements that have been constantly chanted has been that our response to the 9-11 attacks would be neither a war on the Islamic religion, nor would it be a war on Afghanistan.

And from a strictly US and UK perspective, it has not been a war with Afghan people nor with Islam. In fact, we’ve been bending over backwards to help out the Afghan people in terms of supplying aid to them. After all, the bad guys this time around are really invaders from Pakistan and a spoiled rich pig bastard from Saudi Arabia. This is something we’ve never done with any other war effort. We usually give aid AFTER the war. Here we’re giving aid before AND during the war.

As for the claim that our aggression is really a war against Islam, if that is the case, then why would the US bend over backward to get the support of Islamic states like Pakistan and Turkey? If we really were the bad guys, we wouldn’t be asking permission to play through, would we? No, we wouldn’t. We’d just storm in and tell them to deal with it.

Nor would we start out with conventional weapons if we were truly wanting to destroy Islam. Do you really think that an aggressive war-like nation with a history of using nuclear weapons against their enemies would simply sit back and allow some pissant group like the Taliban to taunt them? Just ask the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki if you have any doubts about our willingness to nuke whole cities if need be.

But then again, I have to remind myself that this is the perspective of the good guys. The ones who have been wronged by a bunch of pig bastards who hide behind women and children and are not above killing anyone who disagrees with them. From their perspective, OF COURSE it is a war on both Afghanistan and Islam. After all, the Taliban run Afghanistan, don’t they? Well, most of it anyway. And we want them out of power. And since they are also supposedly all theology students, they believe that they not only support Islam, but also arrogantly presume to BE Islam.

So from their arrogant self-righteous perspective, of course it is a war against Afghanistan and against Islam. That’s the message they are able to get their great-unwashed masses to chant whenever they see a member of our alphabet soup media.

And that is what makes this war so different than previous ones. Even if… or when… we kill Osama bin Laden and every member of the Taliban and restore Afghanistan to some semblance of order, our war against terrorism would still be far from over. There would still be scores of others around the world who would turn bin Laden and his wacky band of un-merry men into martyrs and excuses to cause even more trouble. And we would be obligated to fight them as well.

But the real difference between this war and the previous ones is that the real enemy is NOT just Osama bin Laden, the Al-Qua’ada terrorist network, or the Taliban. They are just one part of the problem, one face of the enemy.

Let’s get brutally honest here… our real enemy in this war is not politics nor a person, but an ideal, a belief. In this case, it is religious fundamentalism. The bastardization of a belief into a cult-like following where absolute compliance is the rule.

In his article to the New York Times, famed author Salman Rushdie points out how the Islamic religion itself has been taken over by fundamentalists who then use their religion as an excuse to persecute others who disagree with them. If there is anyone who would know about that, it would be the man who still has a death warrant against him by the Shiite clerics in Iran simply for writing a book they did not like.

Indeed, long before Osama bin Laden even thought nasty thoughts about the United States, the face of the enemy were the Shiite Muslims who were taking Americans and Europeans hostage all around the world. They were the ones calling for jihad against the civilized world. And they were more than just one person, or one country. It was, instead, a sect of people operating with theocratic beliefs that were bastardized by absolutes.

Unfortunately, Islam is not alone in this theological abuse. In the nearly two thousand years of its existence, Christianity has certainly had its share of fundamentalism. How can we forget the reign of terror caused by Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition? The zero-sum fundamentalist mentality he and his cronies exhibited was not just limited to Spain. Indeed, that mentality was pretty much standard for Europe during the whole Dark Ages. Self-righteous theocrats used the cross as not just their shield, but also as their sword, to smite those whom they felt did not live up to their beliefs. They turned Christianity from a religion based on love and forgiveness into one of fear, terror, and self-righteous tyranny. As Will Durant put it: "Protestantism was the triumph of Paul over Peter, fundamentalism is the triumph of Paul over Christ."

And sadly that mentality is still here today, and not just in the Middle East. There are quite a few religious leaders today who would beat their chests and say "Well, I would NEVER advocate the kind of carnage caused by Osama bin Laden and the Taliban." But then in the same breath they would talk about how they believe America is a Christian nation, and how everything would be better in the world if school kids would simply pray to their prayers and government was run in accordance to their beliefs.

Whether or not they accept it, the fact of the matter is that these self-righteous fundamentalist crusaders of modern-day Christianity are as much a part of the problem as the self-righteous fundamentalist crusaders of Islam. Their mentalities are the same. They strongly believe that their religious beliefs are so absolute and without question that they demand everything in the world conform to their beliefs.

Granted, our Christian versions of the Taliban do not talk about bombs and explosions and deaths, but that’s only because they have their own preferred weapon – government. They know that as long as they have the support of people who make and enforce the law, they do not have to take action themselves. They can have others take action on their behalf. And because we are talking about government, there is absolutely zero risk for anyone involved, even if the laws they lobby for and pass and enforce are wrong. It is a win-win situation for them, and they exploit it at every opportunity.

Imagine, then, what would happen if these fundamentalist groups in America were deprived of that power called government. What would happen if they did not have even the "unofficial" support of the legislators, the judges, the education system, or of law enforcement? What if they were to be considered by our society to be truly no different than any other group of people? To be given no more preferential treatment in government than… say… the publisher of Playboy Magazine? Would their political impotence force them to moderate their fundamentalist views? Or would their zealousness compel them to take to those drastic actions that they currently condemn?

It would be scary for us to find out, wouldn’t it? And yet, if we really do support freedom for everyone and not just the dominant groups, we would have to put that zealousness to the test.

Unfortunately, the signs are already there that zealousness would prevail over civility. Look at how one anti-abortion terrorist group in Virginia allegedly used the Anthrax scare to terrify 200 women’s clinics with fake Anthrax letters. When the anti-abortion groups fail to get government to do their bidding, some decide to use terrorist tactics.

Part of the problem with fundamentalism is that their more moderate peers are reluctant to keep these groups in check. You can see that today with the reluctant positions of the Arab nations in their condemnation of the 9-11 attacks. Oh yes, they condemn the action, but they won’t condemn Al Qua’ada or bin Laden, or of the Taliban in helping facilitate them. Yes, they’ll say, these groups are pig bastards… but they’re OUR pig bastards!

History has shown time and time again that civility and zealotry are not compatible with each other. Zealotry and religious fundamentalism are both the real enemies of any civilized world. Their rigid adherence to the status quo… or even for the status quo of the past… is contrary to direction of civilization. All you have to do is see the kind of abject poverty that exists in countries run by fundamentalists of any religion to know that it is not good.

No comments: