Imperial Hubris and its critics

(Playlist of various themes from Westerns)

The brutal reality we face—
because of the reality
we willfully ignored for a quarter-century—
is that we must kill many thousands of [Muslim] fighters
in what is a barely started war
that will be unimaginably costly to each side.
This judgment, I believe, is harsh but accurate.
It will remain so
as long as
unchanged U.S. policies
motivate Muslims to become insurgents.

The butcher’s bill will only increase
if we keep bucking reality.

One of the greatest dangers for Americans
in deciding how to confront the Islamist threat
lies in continuing to believe
that Muslims hate and attack us for what we are and think,
rather than for what we do.
The Islamic world is not so offended by our
democratic system of politics,
guarantees of personal rights and civil liberties, and
separation of church and state
that it is willing to wage war against overwhelming odds
in order to stop Americans from
voting, speaking freely, and praying, or not, as they wish.
With due respect for those who have concluded that
we are hated for what we are, think, and represent,
I beg to disagree and contend that
your conclusion is errant and potentially fatal nonsense.

Michael Scheuer’s Imperial Hubris, completed in May 2004,
[from pages 8 and 222 of which the above quotations are taken]
provides much-needed insight on the goals and motivations of
Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, and
the Muslims who feel the need to wage jihad
against America and her allies.
It is a totally different view of their motivations
than that provided by the neocons.
It gives a dose of reality that has been conspicuously absent
from the chattering of America’s media/political elite,
neocon or not, during the post-9/11 period.
(Why is that?
For my answer, see this.)

Below, from the green start line to the red end line,
are some of the passages from IH that I found most enlightening,
divided into sections
  1. Preface
  2. Jihad
  3. Imperial Hubris
  4. Democratization
  5. Iraq
  6. Israel
  7. Why They Hate Us
  8. A Religious War?
  9. Towards a Modest Foreign Policy
  10. The Need for National Debate
Some passages from IH dealing specifically with Osama bin Laden
have been incorporated in a separate post.

Headings, emphasis, links, and
some comments in this color are added;
quotations from Muslims are highlighted in green.

(Also, Wikipedia has a useful outline/summary,
Justin Raimondo has written an informative summary/commentary,
and NPR has placed part of the introduction online.)

0. Preface

[IH, pages ix–xi]

For the past seventeen years [1987–2004],
my career has focused exclusively on
terrorism, Islamic insurgencies, militant Islam, and
the affairs of South AsiaAfghanistan and Pakistan.
My training, career, experiences, and interests are narrow,
but they are deep and fairly comprehensive
on the issues for which I have been held responsible.

[M]y knowledge is a very small wedge
of a very large intelligence pie.
But within that wedge,
I have earned my keep and
am able to speak with some authority and confidence about
Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda,
the dangers they pose and symbolize for the United States, and
the manner in which they were handled by the intelligence community.
[T]he genesis, dimensions, and threat of the bin Laden problem—
shorthand for the broader U.S.-Muslim world confrontation—
is knowable for anyone who takes the time to read and ponder
a representative sample of relevant open-source literature.
The conclusions a fair-minded individual would draw from this endeavor
would, I believe, include the following:
  1. U.S. leaders refuse to accept the obvious:
    We are fighting a worldwide Islamic insurgency
    not criminality or terrorism
    and our policy and procedures have failed to make
    more than a modest dent in enemy forces.
  2. The military is now America’s only tool
    and will remain so while current policies are in place.
    public diplomacy,
    presidential praise for Islam, or
    politically correct debate masking the reality that
    many of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims hate us
    for actions not values,
    will get America out of this war.
  3. Bin Laden has been precise in telling America
    the reasons he is waging war on us.
    None of the reasons have anything to do with
    our freedom, liberty, and democracy,
    but have everything to do with
    U.S. policies and actions in the Muslim world.

    [Scheuer’s points 2 and 3 have been echoed by Stephen Walt
    in paragraph of his Taming American Power.]
  4. The war bin Laden is waging has everything to do with
    the tenets of the Islamic religion.
    He could not have
    his current—and increasing—level of success
    if Muslims did not believe
    their faith, brethren, resources, and lands
    to be under attack

    by the United States and, more generally, the West.
    Indeed, the United States, and its policies and actions,
    are bin Laden’s only indispensable allies.
  5. Persian Gulf oil
    and the lack of serious U.S. alternative-energy development
    are at the core of the bin Laden issue.
    For cheap, easily accessible oil, Washington and the West
    have supported the Muslim tyrannies
    bin Laden and other Islamists seek to destroy.
    There can be no other reason for backing Saudi Arabia,
    a regime that, since its founding,
    has deliberately fostered an Islamic ideology,
    whose goals—unlike bin Laden’s—
    can be met only by annihilating all non-Muslims.
  6. This war has the potential to last beyond our children’s lifetimes and to be fought mostly on U.S. soil.

[IH, pages xv–xvi]

As I complete this book [in early 2004],
U.S., British, and other coalition forces are trying to govern
apparently ungovernable postwar states in Afghanistan and Iraq
while simultaneously fighting growing Islamist insurgencies in each—
a state of affairs our leaders call victory.
In conducting these activities,
and the conventional military campaigns preceding them,
U.S. forces and policies are
completing the radicalization of the Islamic world,
something Osama bin Laden has been trying to do
with but incomplete success since the early 1990s.
As a result,
I think it fair to conclude that
the United States of America remains
bin Laden’s only indispenable ally.


I believe the war in Afghanistan was necessary,
but is being lost because of our hubris.
Those who failed to bring peace to Afghanistan after 1992
are now repeating their failure
by scripting government affairs and constitution-making in Kabul
to portray the birth of
Western-style democracy, religious tolerance, and women’s rights—
all anathema to Afghan political and tribal culture
and none of which has more than a small, unarmed constituency.
We are succeeding in fooling only ourselves.
Certain the Afghans want to be like us …
we have allowed the Taleban and al Qaeda to regroup and refit.
They are now waging an insurgency
that gradually will increase in intensity, lethality, and popular support,
and ultimately force Washington
to massively escalate its military presence or evacuate.
In reality, neither we nor our Karzai-led surrogates
have built anything political or economic
that will long outlast the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces.
Due to our hubris,
what we today identify and promote as a nascent Afghan democracy
is a self-made illusion on life-support;
it is a Western-imposed regime that will be swept away
if America and its allies stop propping it up with their bayonets.

[IH, pages xx–xxi]

“Every major religion warns its adherents
of the danger of vanity,”
Ralph Peters wrote,
“decrying the sin of pride or
insisting that only humility can lead to enlightenment.
In our rush from religion—be that flight good or bad—
we have certainly lost this fundamental insight.”
Sadly, unless the Divinity rids our eyes of hubris, we are lost.
There is no sign that we can remove it, and, I fear,
al Qaeda sees the world more clearly than we.
“We thank God for appeasing us
with the dilemma in Iraq after Afghanistan,”

Ayman al-Zawahiri said in late 2003.
“The Americans are facing a delicate situation in both countries.
If they withdraw they will lose everything, and
if they stay they will continue to bleed to death.”

Chapter 1
Some Thoughts on the Power of
Focused, Principled Hatred

In America’s confrontation
with Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, their allies, and the Islamic world,
there lies a startlingly clear example of how
loving something intensely
can stimulate an equally intense and purposeful
hatred of things by which it is threatened.
This hatred shapes and informs Muslim reactions
to U.S. policies and their execution,
and it is impossible to understand the threat America faces
until the intensity and pervasiveness of this hatred is understood.

To start,
I want for now to avoid debate over
whether bin Laden practices an aberrant form of Islam,
as well as charges—almost always by non-Muslims—
that he is merely a deranged killer
using religious rhetoric to justify his attacks.
[Note by KHarbaugh: I think that last charge is absurd.
He has given a well-reasoned justification for attacking America.
Americans would do well to take his grievances seriously,
no matter how much all Americans, including myself,
may decry the tactics he has used to retaliate against America
for those grievances.]

And though I think both accusations wrong,
I will not argue against them here.
I ask the reader to suspend judgment
and look at how bin Laden and other Muslims—
those who support and those who reject his martial actions—
appear to genuinely love their God, faith, and fellow Muslims
in a passionate intimate way
that is foreign to me and, I suspect to many in America and the West.
This is not to say Westerners do not love their faith, God, and brethren; evangelical Christians
have a fervor for God and His word similar to the Islamists’,
though the former have yet to take up arms in His defense.
Even they, however, do not live and love their religion
with the ferocity and thoroughness of bin Laden and many Muslims,
primarily because Christians—evangelical and otherwise—
accept the American and European legal divide between church and state.
And while evangelical Christians
would like the Bible to have more impact on state behavior,
no evangelical leader, or any Christian leader for that matter,
has called for creating Western theocracies.

[There is an interesting comment on that last assertion.
While I and many others would agree with it,
it is a fact that many on the left in American society
have an indisputable record of claiming that
Christians trying to use their Christianity as a basis for public policies
are, in their words, trying to impose a “theocracy” on America.]

Most Muslims—and bin Laden is in the Islamic mainstream—
believe separating church and state is apostasy.
“You are the nation,”
bin Laden criticized Americans in a late-2002 letter to them,
“rather than ruling by the law of Allah,
chose to implement your own inferior rules and regulations,
thus following your own vain whims and desires.
You run a society contrary to the nature of mankind
by separating religion from your politics.”

For Muslims, God’s word—as He revealed it in the Koran—
and the Prophet’s sayings and traditions (the Sunnah)
are meant to guide all aspects of life:
personal, familial, societal, political, and international.
God makes laws, man does not.
As Professor [Bernard] Lewis explained,
“The idea that any groups of persons,
any kind of activities, any part of human life,
is in any sense outside the scope of religious laws and jurisdiction
is alien to Muslim thought.”
Anything appearing to attack the ability or right of Muslims
to perform this divinely ordained duty to run all of life according to God’s law
is seen as an act of war and, on a personal level,
an attack on a faith they love with an intensity unknown to Christians
since Pope Urban II sent Crusaders to the Levant, after granting
“remission of sins to all Christians fighting Muslims,”
and since the wars attendant to the Protestant Reformation.

1. Jihad

[IH, pages 6–8]

The Koran, the five pillars of Islam, and the Sunnah
are the same the world over, as is—
and here is the rub for contemporary Christendom—
each Muslim’s responsibility
to defend his faith and coreligionists
when they or Muslim territory are attacked.

Often referred to as the unofficial “sixth pillar of Islam,”
the act of defending the faith is more commonly known as
which is written of frequently in the Koran, the Sunnah,
and more than fourteen centuries of Islamic scholarship
and jurisprudence.
Thus, the doctrine of jihad,
and an individual’s responsibilities under it,
are familiar to all Muslims;
it is divided into two categories:
the offensive jihad and the defensive jihad.

At this point in history,
we need worry little about the threat
of an offensive and expansionist jihad
meant to conquer new lands for Islam and
convert new peoples to the faith.
Such a jihad is the collective—not individual—
responsibility of Muslims,
and must be called by a Caliph,
the recognized leader of the world Islamic community, or ummah.
There had not been such an individual since the British
destroyed the Ottoman Caliphate’s rusticating remains (see also) in 1924.

The threat facing America is the defensive jihad,
an Islamic military reaction triggered by an attack by non-Muslims
on the Islamic faith, on Muslims, on Muslim territory,
or on all three.

In this scenario, it is doctrinally incumbent on each Muslim—
as an unavoidable personal responsibility—
to contribute to the fight against the attacker
to the best of his ability.
In such a jihad
there is no Koranic requirement for a central Muslim leader or leadership
to authorize warlike actions.
Once Islam is attacked,
each Muslim knows his personal duty is to fight.
He needs no one else’s authority, not even his parents;
indeed, he would be guilty of sin
if he did not respond to an attack as best he can.
“It is generally agreed within Islam,”
wrote the American scholar of the concept of jihad,
James Turner Johnson,
“that the jihad of the first sort (collective) is impossible today,
as there is no central caliph or imam.
This gives new importance to
what was originally considered to be an exceptional case:
the idea of jihad as an individual duty
in the face of external aggressions.”

The reality of individual responsibility in a defensive jihad
is entirely congruent with
the individual Muslim’s direct relationship
with God and with Islamic history.
“The historical model for such action,”
Turner explains,
“is the medieval hero Saladin,
who though only a regional commander (not a caliph)
organized and led a successful defense
against the armies of the Second Crusade.”
Doctrine and historical practice, therefore,
void any claim that bin Laden cannot lead a jihad
because he was not educated as an Islamic scholar
and has no religious credentials.
The fact is that bin Laden
believes Islam is being attacked by America and its allies and
is simply recognizing his responsibility
to fight in a defensive jihad.
bin Laden is calling on other Muslims
to similarly identify the threat and
to do their duty to God and their brethren.
It is the attack by infidels on Muslims that triggers the jihad,
not the call or directive of a suitably educated leader.
Bin Laden is waging a defensive jihad against the United States;
he is inciting others to join, not because he orders them to,
but because God has ordered them to do so
in what He revealed in the Koran.

Bin Laden’s genius lies not in his call for a defensive jihad,
but in
constructing and articulating a consistent, convincing case
that an attack on Islam is under way
and is being led and directed by America.

In turn, as his argument is increasingly accepted by Muslims,
each individual faces a fateful decision,
one that will decide where he or she spends eternity.
If bin Laden’s argument is accepted,
he or she must take up arms or otherwise support the mujahideen,
or face eternal damnation for not performing
a duty mandated by God.

[Compare the testament
by a man believed to be one of the suicide bombers
who struck London on 2005-07-07,
Mohammad Sidique Khan.]

2. Imperial Hubris

[IH, pages 165–168]

[T]he way we see and interpret
people and events outside North America
is heavily clouded by arrogance and self-centeredness
amounting to what I called
imperial hubris
in [page 24 of] Through Our Enemies’ Eyes.
This is ... a way of thinking America’s elites have acquired
since the end of World War II.
It is a process of
interpreting the world so it makes sense to us,
a process yielding a world in which few events seem alien
because we Americanize their components.

“When confronted by a culturally exotic enemy,”
Lee Harris explained,
“our first instinct is to understand such conduct
in terms that are familiar to us—
terms that make sense to us
in light of our own fund of experience.
We assume that if our enemy is doing X,
it must be for reasons comprehensible in terms of our universe.”
Thus, for example,
bin Laden is a criminal whose activities are fueled by money—
not a devout Muslim soldier fueled by faith—
because Americans know how to beat well-heeled gangsters.
We assume, moreover,
that bin Laden and the Islamists hate us
for our liberty, freedoms, and democracy—not
because they and many millions of Muslims believe
U.S. foreign policy is an attack on Islam
because the U.S. military now has a ten-year record
of smashing people and things in the Islamic world.

Even the fine historian Victor Davis Hanson got it wrong
when he wrote on 20 September 2001 [and subsequently],
“These terrorists hate us for who we are,
not what we have done.”

Our political leaders contend that
America’s astoundingly low approval ratings
in polls taken in major Muslim countries
do not reflect
our unquestioning support for Israel
and its lethal hijinks under the banner of “targeted killings.”
Likewise, we are confident that the single-digit approval ratings
have nothing to do with
our refusal to apply nuclear nonproliferation rules
with anything close to an even hand,
a situation that makes
Israeli and Indian nuclear weapons acceptable—
each is a democracy, after all—
while Pakistan’s weapons are intolerable
(perhaps because they are held by Muslims?).
Finally, say our elites,
the movement bin Laden symbolizes
has nothing to do with the Islamic religion
because here in America all religions get along amiably
and so the rest of the world can work the same way.
To make this so,
we send forth U.S. diplomats, politicians, officials, and preachers
to coercively persuade Muslims to
Westernize the Koran and the Prophet’s traditions and sayings,
especially the parts of the Islamic canon dealing with
education, charitable giving,
the non-separation of church and state,
and that pesky idea of jihad.
Surely, we have concluded,
if we drive and manage an Islamic Reformation
that makes Muslims secular like us,
all this unfortunate, nonsensical talk about religious war will end
and Muslims will be eager to keep God
in the same kind of narrow locker
in which the West is slowly asphyxiating Him.

because of the pervasive imperial hubris that dominates the minds
of our political, academic, social, media, and military elites,
America is able and content to believe the Islamic world
fails to understand
the benign intent of U.S. foreign policy and its implementation.
Moreover ... our elites have found that the U.S. Constitution
sanctions the election of the “president of the world”
instead of the chief magistrate of the American republic.
These two lines of thought yield a mind-set that holds that
America does not need to reevaluate its policies,
let alone change them;

it merely needs to better explain
the wholesomeness of its views and the purity of its purposes
to the uncomprehending Muslim world.
What could be more American in the early twenty-first century,
after all,
then to re-identify a casus belli as a communication problem,
and then call on Madison Avenue to package and hawk
a remedy called
“Democracy, Secularism, [Feminism,] and Capitalism
Are Good for Muslims”
to an Islamic world that has, to date,
violently refused to purchase.

The foregoing is meant
neither to ridicule my countrymen’s intellectual abilities
nor be supportive of bin Laden and his interpretation of Islam.
It is rather to say that most of the world outside North America
is not, does not want to be, and probably never will be
just like us.
there probably are people other than Muslims
who would take up arms to avoid
being forced to become like us.
And let me be clear,
I am not talking about America’s political freedoms,
personal liberties, or respect for education and human rights;
the same polls showing Muslims hate Americans for their actions
find broad support for
the ideas and beliefs that make us who we are.
Pew Trust polls in 2003, for example,
found that while Muslims believed
it is “necessary to believe in God to be moral,”
they also favored what were termed “democratic values.”

When Americans—leaders and led—
process incoming information to make it intelligible in American terms,
many not only
fail to clearly understand what is going on abroad
but, more ominous,
fail to accurately gauge the severity of the danger
these foreign events, organizations, attitudes, and personalities
pose to U.S. national security and our society’s welfare and lifestyle.
The urgent need to eliminate this perceptual shortcoming
is purely to ensure that America is prepared to defend itself,
not to increase its empathy
for the complaints and troubles of non-Americans.

Even less is it meant to imply that Americans should feel
more debilitating guilt about events outside North America.
Looking just at our attitude toward Israel, for example,
it is clear Americans already feel far too much guilt,
for no good reason, at far too high a cost.
Decisions about America’s future security must, as always,
remain solely in its own hands.

[T]o make the decisions and allocate the resources
needed to ensure U.S. security,
Americans must understand the world as it is,
not as we want—or worse yet, hope,—it will be.
While I believe this contention is true
for all of America’s dealings with the world,
I am not smart or arrogant enough
to formulate an all-inclusive approach to U.S. foreign policy.
I do, however, have long experience analyzing and attacking
bin Laden and Islamists.
I believe they are a growing threat to the United States—
there is no greater threat—
and that we are being defeated not because
the evidence of the threat is unavailable,
but because we refuse to accept it at face value
and without Americanizing the data
that comes easily and voluminously to hand.
This must change
our way of life will be unrecognizably changed.

3. Democratization

[IH, pages 203–204]

Since World War II, it seems,
we have bred political, media, military, academic, and social elites
who lead the country in a manner that shows little knowledge of,
or respect for, American history.
When U.S. leaders speak blithely and ad nauseam
of building a democracy like our own
in Afghanistan or Iraq or Burma or Russia or Liberia or Saudi Arabia,
saying that it can be done speedily and on the cheap,
they betray ignorance of foreign lands, cultures, and histories
as well as the creeds and ambitions of other peoples.
Added to this is their vast ignorance
of the bloody struggles and dearly bought accomplishments
of American history.
This double-strength ignorance
is likely to put us on the road to self-inflicted disaster.

[IH, page 207]

Only when U.S. leaders stop believing and preaching
that bin Laden and his allies
are attacking us for what we are and what we think,
and instead clearly state that
they are attacking us for what we do,
can we put aside our ill-advised and hallucinatory
crusade for democracy—our current default response.
At that point,
Americans can begin
to intelligently discuss
how this national security threat is to be defeated
or, more precisely,
to decide if status quo U.S. foreign policies toward the Islamic world
benefit America enough to offset
increasing levels of human and economic loss
that will be the cost of unchanged policies.

Victory, I think, lies in
a yet undetermined mix of
stronger military actions and dramatic foreign policy change;

neither will suffice alone.
Defeat for America, I fear, lies in
the military and foreign policy status quo
the belief that
our Islamic foes will be talked out of hating us and disappear
if only we can teach them
voting procedures, political pluralism, feminism,
and the separation of church and state


“Do not waste an inordinate amount of effort,”
Ralph Peters wisely advised in 1999,
“to win unwinnable hearts and minds.
Convince hostile populations through victory.”
And, I would advise,
by revising those foreign policies now endangering national security
and leaving us with only the military option to pursue.

4. Iraq

[IH, pages 212–214]

[Scheuer’s title:]
Iraq: The Hoped for but Never Expected Gift

Time for a question in the field of cross-cultural analysis:
Why is today’s
Iraq like a Christmas present you long for but never expected to receive?
Give up?
Well, there is nothing bin Laden could have hoped for more than
the American invasion and occupation of Iraq.
The U.S. invasion of Iraq is Osama bin Laden’s gift from America,
one he has long and ardently desired, but never realistically expected.
Think of it:
Iraq is the second holiest land in Islam;
a place where Islam had been long suppressed by Saddam;
where the Sunni minority long dominated and brutalized the Shia majority;
where order was kept only by the Baathist barbarity that prevented a long overdue civil war;
and where, in the wake of Saddam’s fall,
the regional powers Iran and Saudi Arabia would intervene, at least clandestinely,
to stop the creation of, respectively, a Sunni or Shia successor state.
In short, Iraq without Saddam would obviously become
what political scientists call a ‘‘failed state,’’
a place bedeviled by its neighbors and—as is Afghanistan—
a land where al Qaeda or al Qaeda-like organizations would thrive.
Surely, thought bin Laden,
the Americans would not want to create this kind of situation.
It would be, if you will, like deliberately shooting yourself in the foot.

While still hoping against hope,
bin Laden would then have thought that the United States must know that
it is hated by many millions of Muslims for enforcing sanctions
that reportedly starved to death a million and more Iraqis.
In this context,
an invasion would sharply deepen anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world,
a hatred that would only worsen
as Muslims watched the U.S. military’s televised and inevitable thrashing
of Saddam’s badly led and hopelessly decrepit armed forces.
And then, dreamed bin Laden wildly, things would get bad for the Americans.
They would stay too long in Iraq,
insist on installing a democracy that would subordinate the long-dominant Sunnis,
vigorously limit Islam’s role in government,
and act in ways that spotlighted their interest in Iraq’s massive oil reserves.
All Muslims would see each day on television that
the United States was occupying a Muslim country,
insisting that made-man laws replace God’s revealed word,
stealing Iraqi oil,
and paving the way for the creation of a ‘‘Greater Israel.’’
The clerics and scholars would call for a defensive jihad against the United States,
young Muslim males would rush from across the Islamic world to fight U.S. troops,
and there—in Islam’s second holiest land—
would erupt a second Afghanistan, a self-perpetuating holy war
that would endure whether or not al Qaeda survived.
Then bin Laden awoke and knew it was only a dream.
It was, even for one of Allah’s most devout, too much to hope for.

But in March 2003 bin Laden—to his astonishment—
got his longed-for gift, complements of America,
when the United States invaded Iraq.
The fatwas that greeted the invasion
essentially validated all bin Laden has said
in arguing for a defensive jihad against the United States.
Even leaving aside the fatwas issued by pro-bin Laden clerics,
the virulence of the remaining fatwas is clear
in those published by such notable scholars as
Shaykh Sayyid Tantawi, Shaykh Yusuf Qaradawi, and Shaykh Salman al-Awdah,
all of whom ‘‘are not voices in the wilderness,
but [are] rather the core of the Sunni Muslim establishment,’’
according to Professor Daniel Byman.
‘‘Once an enemy lands in Muslim territory,’’
Shaykh Tantawi, head of al-Azhar University, declared in March 2003,
‘‘jihad becomes the individual duty of every Muslim man and woman.
Because our Arab and Muslim nation will be faced with a new crusade
that targets land, honor, creed, and homeland,
scholars ruled that jihad against U.S. forces
has become the duty of every Muslim man and woman.’’
In the end, something much like Christmas had come for bin Laden,
and the gift he received from Washington will haunt, hurt, and hound Americans
for years to come.

5. Israel

[IH, pages 226–228]

There is certainly not a more difficult or dangerous issue to debate
in the field of postwar U.S. foreign policy.
The American political and social landscape
is littered with the battered individuals—
most recently the president of the United States
who dared to criticize Israel
[another, more recent, example is Norman Finkelstein],
or, even more heretically,
to question the value to U.S. national interests
of the country’s overwhelmingly one-way alliance with Israel
[an example of such questioning,
and the over-wrought and near-hysterical response thereto,
is provided by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s “The Israel Lobby”]
Almost every such speaker is immediately branded anti-Semitic
[further examples]
and consigned to the netherworld of American politics,
as if concerns about U.S. national security are prima facie void
if they involve any questioning of the U.S.-Israel status quo.
Surely there can be no other historical example
of a faraway, theocracy-in-all-but-name of only about six million people
that ultimately controls the extent and even the occurrence
of an important portion of political discourse and national security debate
in a country of 270-plus million people
that prides itself on religious toleration,
separation of church and state, and freedom of speech.
In a nation that long ago rejected an established church
as inimical to democratic society,
Washington yearly pumps more than three billion taxpayer dollars
into a nation that defiantly proclaims itself “the Jewish state”
and a democracy—
claims hard to reconcile with
its treatment of Muslims in Israel,
its limitations on political choice
for those in the occupied territories
, and
the eternal exile it has enforced on those camped
in the refugee diaspora across the Levant.
At the UN and other international fora,
the U.S. government stands four-square, and often alone,
with Israel
to free it from obeying UN resolutions and nonproliferation treaties
[see, for example, this]

One can only react to this stunning reality
by giving all praise to Israel’s diplomats, politicians,
intelligence services, U.S.-citizen spies,
and the retired senior U.S. officials and wealthy Jewish-American organizations
who lobby an always amenable Congress on Israel’s behalf.
In an astounding and historically unprecedented manner,
the Israelis have succeeded in lacing tight
the ropes binding the American Gulliver
to the tiny Jewish state and its policies;
as Anatol Lieven has written,
the Israelis have been so successful that Israeli nationalism
“for many Americans has become deeply entwined
with their American nationalism.”

[Do these supporters of Israel,
who seem to want for America to support Israel
no matter what it costs America,
not exemplify precisely what
The Father of Our Country
so presciently warned us against?

“Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and
excessive dislike of another
cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and
serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other.
Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite
are liable to become suspected and odious
[or labeled ‘anti-Semitic’
or defeated in elections by overwhelming cash flows,
cf. Findley]
while its tools and dupes
usurp the applause and confidence of the people
to surrender their interests.”

6. Why They Hate Us

[IH, pages 240–241]

The United States is hated across the Islamic world
because of specific U.S. government policies and actions.
That hatred is
concrete not abstract,
martial not intellectual,
and it will grow for the foreseeable future.
While important voices in the United States claim
the intent of U.S. policy is misunderstood by Muslims,
that Arabic satellite television channels deliberately distort the policy, and
that better public diplomacy is the remedy,
they are wrong.
America is hated and attacked
because Muslims believe they know precisely
what the United States is doing in the Islamic world.
They know
partly because of bin Laden’s words,
partly because of satellite television, but
mostly because of the tangible reality of U.S. policy.
We are at war with an al Qaeda-led, worldwide Islamist insurgency
because of and to defend those policies,
and not, as President Bush mistakenly has said,
“to defend freedom and all that is good and just in the world.”

To recognize the validity of this point,
always keep in mind how easy it is
for Muslims to see, hear, experience, and hate
the six U.S. policies bin Laden repeatedly refers to as anti-Muslim:
  1. U.S. support for Israel that keeps Palestinians in the Israeli’s thrall.
  2. U.S. and other Western troops on the Arabian Peninsula.
  3. U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
  4. U.S. support for Russia, India, and China against their Muslim militants.
  5. U.S. pressure on Arab energy producers to keep oil prices low.
  6. U.S. support for apostate, corrupt, and tyrannical Muslim governments.

7. A Religious War?

[Scheuer’s title is more definite:
“Islam Is at War with America”]

[IH, pages 249–250]

While U.S. leaders will not say America is at war with Islam
[recall that Scheuer wrote this in early 2004;
President Bush revised his rhetoric in 2005-10]
some of Islam is waging war on the United States,
and more is edging closer to that status.
“The war is fundamentally religious,”
bin Laden said [on 2001-11-03].
“Under no circumstances should we forget
this enmity between us and the infidels.
For, the enmity is based on creed.”

[For a fuller version of bin Laden’s statement,
clarifying who bin Laden thinks initiated this “religious war,”
see this.]

The war is being waged against us
for specific, quantifiable reasons
and not as our leaders claim
because a few Muslim fanatics hate democracy and freedom.
This claim belittles the Muslims opposing us—
reducing them to madmen throwing bombs at liberty—
and thereby weakens America’s ability to resist
by underestimating
the brains, patience, and religion-based fortitude of our foes.
The one thing accomplished by refusing to admit a war exists
with an enemy of immense durability, manpower, and resources
is to delay design of a strategy for victory.
Only in today’s America
could the simple statement of fact
that much of Islam is fighting us,
and more is leaning that way,
be labeled discriminatory or racist,
a label that kills thought, debate, and, ultimately, Americans.
But such is the case,
and so U.S. leaders prepare for and fight
the enemy they want to see,
not the one standing on the battlefield.

What does it mean to be at war with Islam?
It means deadly, matter-of-survival business
that must be taken more seriously than it has been to date.
War is being waged on us
because of what we, as a nation, are doing in the Islamic world.
Bin Laden’s [1996-09] declaration of war
specifies U.S. actions causing him to incite war.
His declaration is a neutral, factual statement,
parts of it like Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.
As a sovereign state,
the United States is free to decide and implement
its policies and actions in the Muslim world.
They have been
  • designed by elected leaders to meet national interests,
  • approved and funded by elected representatives, and
  • validated repeatedly in presidential and congressional elections.
To say America is responsible
for the policies against which Islam is waging war
is a truism,
as it is to say that
those policies have propelled us into a religious war.

So, what does it mean to be at war with Islam?
It means:
  1. We must accept this reality and act accordingly.
  2. A U.S. policy status quo in the Muslim world
    ensures a gradually intensifying war for the foreseeable future,
    one that will be far more costly than we now imagine.
  3. We will have to publicly address issues
    support for Israel,
    energy self-sufficiency, and
    the worldwide applicability of our democracy—
    long neglected and
    certain to raise bitter, acrimonious debates
    that will decide whether
    the American way of life survives
    shrinks to a crabbed, fearful, and barely recognizable form.

8. Towards a Modest Foreign Policy

[IH, pages 250–252]

George Washington’s warning about
the dangers of “entangling alliance,” and
John Quincy Adams’s caution to Americans not to go abroad
to slay dragons they do not understand
in the name of spreading democracy
are generally treated as the core
of one of postwar America’s most-despised “isms”—
As such, they are misunderstood.
Now, Washington and Adams were sophisticated, thoughtful men,
and each saw that America’s economic growth
depended not just on domestic industry and agriculture,
but on trading with the world.
Neither gentleman argued for nonintercourse—
that nonsense was fathered by Jefferson—
but both did warn against unnecessary commitments and actions.
Each advocated U.S. activity abroad in
business, diplomacy, trade, education, science, finance, and other realms.
What Washington and Adams argued was that
U.S. involvement overseas should be of net benefit,
and, being hardheaded, practical, and pessimistic men,
they defined benefit in material and political terms,
not in terms of self-satisfaction derived from
being the deliverer of democracy to the oppressed.
Life was a zero-sum affair for the Founders—
even for the egregious Jefferson—
and the position of Washington and Adams was simply that
American should not enter into
unprofitable arrangements,
situations she did not understand,
and, most of all,
other people’s wars.
They argued for America first, not America alone,
and sought to spread the democracy that was their pride
by example, not coercive foreign action.
The lessons of Washington and Adams
guided Americans until the postwar era,
when our elites slowly came to believe and teach that
America owes more to others than to itself.
More, they came to preach that
guilt and shame are attached to wanting to care first for America,
that somehow it is nobler to force-feed foreigners democracy
than to expend time and resources to perfect our democracy.

Perhaps the best book I read while writing this study was
Ralph Peters’s Fighting for the Future: Will America Triumph?
In it, Peters makes a suggestion
that still stuns, haunts, and encourages me.
“We Americans must avoid fantastic schemes
to rescue those for whom we bear no responsibility,”
Peters said.
“In dealing with nationalism and fundamentalism
we must be willing to let the flames burn themselves out
whenever we are not in danger of catching fire ourselves.
If we want to avoid the needless, thankless deaths of our own countrymen,
we must learn to watch others die with equanimity.”
Peters is right,
brutally updating the guidance of Washington and Adams.
Can any U.S. official, academic, politician, or pundit
claim to know what is going on in
Iraq’s sectarian and tribal politics,
Afghanistan’s tribal and ethnic rivalries, or
the tribal-religious-ethnic politics
of the Balkans, Rwanda, Liberia, or Congo?
Can anyone honestly believe the claim that
Washington will broker a “just peace” between Israel and Palestine
is anything other than
a thirty-year-old, mindlessly repeated mantra?
Can anyone even describe
the basic elements of the Islamic faith
and their impact on world affairs?
More to the point, can it be proven that
it would make a substantive—vice emotional—difference to U.S. security if
every Hutu killed every Tutsi, or vice versa;
every Palestinian killed every Israeli, or vice versa; or if
Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians exterminated each other to the last person?
The brutal but correct answers are:
we do not understand these conflicts, and
none of them, regardless of who wins, endangers U.S. interests.
All evoke empathy and stir emotion,
but it is, as always, a cruel world, and
each nation’s one mandatory duty is to care for and defend itself.

[The neocons, along with the liberal interventionists,
are “big government” people,
whether it be foreign or domestic policy.
In fact, in some ways it is hard to tell them apart.]

For our own welfare and survival,
we must “watch others die with equanimity” and help
after “the flames burn themselves out”
by focusing our overseas intercourse on
trade, sharing knowledge, and donating food and medicine.
America must not commit abroad
unless genuine national interests are at risk, and
she must go to war
only for survival and then act to annihilate the enemy.
We must let our efforts to perfect self-government
and ensure equality for all at home
be the example that spurs democracy abroad.
We must unflinchingly let foreign dragons devour each other
without expending American lives, treasure, and self-respect
on an endless series of fool’s errands.

[This section makes interesting reading in conjunction with
the article The Incompetence Dodge
on the rationales favored by the liberal interventionists.]

9. The Need for National Debate

[Scheuer’s title:]
Thought Police Be Damned:
Nothing Is Too Dangerous to Talk About

[IH, pages 255–259]

The simple reality is that Muslims believe what Muslims believe,
and today tens of millions of Muslims—
beyond bin Laden, al Qaeda, the Taleban,
and like-minded Islamists—believe
their faith is being attacked
by the U.S.-led Western Crusaders

and that
Islam will be changed beyond recognition, if not eradicated,
if each Muslim does not step forth to defend it with his life,
as has been prescribed by Allah and His prophet.

If any doubt this claim,
they can read the fatwas issued by leading Muslim clerics and jurists—liberal, conservative, and radical—
at the start of the second U.S.-led war against Iraq.
The fatwas unanimously call
for a defensive jihad against the United States
for attacking Iraq and its people.
Without mentioning bin Laden,
the fatwas mirror the religious arguments
for an anti-U.S. defensive jihad
bin Laden has expounded since 1996;
in many ways,
they validate the theological accuracy of bin Laden’s fatwas.
The Iraq-war fatwas also describe as “apostates”—
deserving death—
any Muslim individual, organization, or government
that in word or deed helps the United States
attack the Iraqi people and occupy their country.

Leaving aside political-correctness concerns
will allow us to recognize and candidly discuss
the genuine and growing substantive, not just visceral,
hatred for America among the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims.
Because Muslim leaders—with bin Laden in the van—
repeatedly have told us that
they hate Americans for what we do
and not for what we think, look like, or talk about,
there can be no valid charge of racism or Islamophobia
in such a discussion.
“We regret to tell you
that you are the worst civilization in the history of mankind,”

bin Laden explained in his October 2002 letter to Americans.
“You ransack our lands, stealing our treasures and oil....
Your forces occupy our land....
You have starved the Muslims of Iraq....
So what is left on the list of the most heinous, evil and unjust acts
that you have not done?”


Reality for America is simply a matter of saying that
there is a large and growing number of Muslims
who hate our policies and actions toward the Islamic world,
many of whom have or will take up arms against us as a result.
Accepting this reality,
we would at long last be ready to publicly debate and decide
what we, the American people, are going to do
to defeat the threat to our country’s security and way of life.
Such a debate would begin a process toward
something America has lacked since the end of the Cold War:
a clear definition of the national interest.
“No clear national interest has emerged.
No clear conversation about the national interest has emerged,”
Michael Ignatieff wrote in 2003 in the New York Times Magazine.
“Policy ... has seemed to be mostly the prisoner of
international lobbies with access to
the indignation machines of the modern media...”


[I]f we find the guts to debate, we will find
the issues to be debated are at
the core of bin Laden’s foreign policy.
The questions needing debate include the following:

[Scheuer poses six questions.
I include here only the first, second, and last.
If you want to find out what the rest are,
buy the book!]
  1. Does unvarying
    military, economic, and political support for Israel
    serve substantive—vice emotional—U.S. interests,
    those that, by definition, affect America’s survival?
    Do we totally support Israel
    because it is essential to our security, or
    because of
    • habit,
    • the prowess of Israel’s American lobbyists and spies,
    • the half-true mantra that Israel is a democracy,
    • the fear of having no control over a state
      we allowed to become armed with WMD,
    • the bewildering pro-Israel alliance
      of liberal Democrats and Christian fundamentalists, and
    • a misplaced sense of guilt over the Holocaust?
    The question is whether U.S. interests require Americans to
    be Israel’s protectors and
    endure the endless blood-and-treasure costs of that role.
    Status quo U.S. policy toward Israel
    will result in unending war with Islam.
  2. The question of Israel leads to
    a much more important question for Americans:
    that is, in Michael Ignatieff’s words,
    “the difficult questions ...
    of whether their own freedom entails a duty
    to defend the freedom of others beyond their borders.”
    There is no greater duty today’s Americans can perform
    for their nation and posterity
    than to finally abandon the sordid legacy
    of Woodrow Wilson’s internationalism—
    which soaked the twentieth century in as much or more blood
    as any other “ism”—
    and recall and institutionalize
    John Quincy Adam‘s advice that the United States must be
    “the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all ...
    [but] the champion and vindicator only of her own.”
    [... and perhaps recall also the relevant part
    of Washington’s Farewell Address.]

  3. Does U.S. security require, and have we the moral right,
    to aggressively try to install secular, democratic systems
    in countries that give no hint of wanting them?
    Is our nation more likely to perish
    if the rest of the world is not just like us, or
    if our democracy-making crusade
    destabilizes much of the world?

As the reader can imagine,
such questions, if honestly examined,
would spur passionate, far-reaching debate,
not to mention much mud-slinging and charges of
racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, isolationism, nationalism,
and—specifically for the author—simpleton-ism.
Several generations of America’s elites—
who have long accepted as axiomatic
our support of Israel,
iron ties to Arab tyrants,..., and
a duty to make all nations democratic and secular
would rise up in righteous indignation.

These men and women will argue
that the policies listed above are beyond debate,
that they are sacrosanct, universally accepted by Americans,
and require no more thought, analysis, or discussion.
Beyond the elites’ claims on these issues, I think,
lurks fear that the consensus they assert
is neither broad nor durable.
The suspicion may be taking root among our elites
  • that most working Americans see no gain
    in alienating a billion-plus Muslims;
  • that Washington’s talk of democracy-spreading
    while practicing tyranny-protecting
    is an embarrassing, shameful hypocrisy;
    ... and
  • that perfecting America—
    in terms of democracy, education, and economics—
    is overwhelmingly more important
    than financing quixotic, hate-earning campaigns
    to democratize countries and peoples
    who do not want to be like us
    and are not essential to our nation’s survival.

Reactions to Imperial Hubris

I think most of Scheuer’s opinions and suggestions
are right on the money.
But judging from the lack of attention
paid by the mainstream media to Scheuer’s book, and
by the failure of the media and politicians
to rise to the challenge of debating openly
the questions that Scheuer raises,
most of America’s elite thinks otherwise.

For a sample of the virulence of the opposition
coming from some quarters of the elite,
see Gabriel Schoenfeld’s review of Imperial Hubris
in Commentary;
an excerpt from that review, together with some discussion,
appears here.
Excerpts from letters responding to Schoenfeld’s criticism
coming from interesting persons
appear below, in the references.

My comments on Imperial Hubris:
Some semantic musings on his title:

What Scheuer calls “imperial hubris”
is really a problem of perception, not of actions.
I would dub it “parochial perception,”
or perhaps “intellectual myopia.”
(Later on he does use the term “perceptual shortcoming
to describe a phenomenon closely related to
what he originally called “imperial hubris.”)

That myopia is indeed causally linked,
in both directions, to hubris,
while either tends to lead to
the tendencies towards imperialism that are so apparent
in many circles of the American elite these days.

It is useful to subdivide imperialism into classes:
political, economic, military,
and that chestnut of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s,
which somehow is not spoken much of these days,
but does so accurately describe
what America is attempting to impose on the Mideast,
cultural imperialism,
together with its sidekicks involving the media and religion.
The current
ridiculous obsession of America’s elite with the Iraqi constitution
(and thus with Iraq’s system of governance and,
more broadly, social and cultural values)
may introduce a new subdivision of political imperialism:
constitutional imperialism,
while the neocon goal of “democratizing” the Middle East
might be called
“democratic imperialism.”


  1. Wikipedia outline/summary of Imperial Hubris.
  2. Justin Raimondo’s summary/commentary on IH.
  3. Michael Scheuer,
    1. 2005-02-07,
      Scheuer reviews the reviews of IH.
    2. 2005-11-17, W., Washington and war
  4. Melissa Boyle Mahle,
    Letter to the Editor,
    Commentary, June 2005
    [An excerpt from Mahle’s letter:]
    Mr. Schoenfeld implies that I consider
    Michael Scheuer’s assessment of Osama bin Laden
    and al Qaeda to be faulty.
    This is inaccurate.
    Scheuer is one of the few analysts who got bin Laden right.
    His 2002 book, Through Our Enemies’ Eyes,
    is an excellent and detailed exploration
    of bin Laden’s personal and ideological development,
    drawn together by a careful study
    of his statements and writings and of those close to him.

    But Scheuer’s assessment should not be confused
    with the CIA’s assessment.
    The CIA was (and is) stuck in the analytical assessment that
    bin Laden is a terrorist, and
    al Qaeda is a terrorist organization.
    This is wrong.
    Bin Laden is an ideologue,
    who uses terror tactics to wage a war against the West
    as part of a larger agenda
    of establishing a worldwide community
    that adheres to his virulent interpretation of Islam.

    We are facing an insurgency.
    Operational methods like renditions and targeted killings
    are effective against terrorists,
    but these alone will not stop an insurgency.
    [Tell that to the Israelis!]
    The U.S. government is only now beginning to devise
    a counterinsurgency strategy that will
    discredit the ideology,
    promote ideological alternatives, and
    undercut the recruiting effort
    by addressing the social, political, and economic issues
    [how curious she omits religious;
    see Ellen Laipson’s observation for a possible reason]

    driving discontent in the Islamic world.
  5. R. James Woolsey,
    Letter to the Editor,
    Commentary, June 2005
    [An excerpt from Woolsey’s letter:]
    [Gabriel] Schoenfeld cannot comprehend how
    Michael Scheuer (the no longer anonymous “Anonymous”)
    could have come to head
    the agency’s al-Qaeda team in the late 1990’s.
    Scheuer has indeed said and written things
    (as Mr. Schoenfeld points out)
    • that are decidedly anti-Semitic
      [what Schoenfeld pointed out was this],
    • that show a lust for carpet-bombing
      [Scheuer answers that charge in this], and
    • that draw bizarre parallels between Osama bin Laden
      and America’s founding fathers
      [perhaps Woolsey refers to the quotes here].
    Yet in being willing to swim against the tide of the time
    and to see bin Laden not as just another terrorist
    but as the charismatic leader
    of a very major and dangerous movement,
    Scheuer showed himself to be,
    as Melissa Boyle Mahle puts it in her book
    cited by Mr. Schoenfeld,
    “one of those great analysts who think outside the box.”

    A stubborn rebel against groupthink
    may have strange views,
    just as a creative artist may decide to cut off his ear.
    It does not mean either is useless.
    But why did Scheuer head the CIA’s al-Qaeda office,
    and why did he not have a boss
    who would scrap his nutty musings
    while listening to his insights—
    and who would tell him to publish his books
    after he retired?
    I have no explanation.

    [Woolsey’s name does not appear in the index to IH,
    however its section on Iraq
    does contain the following sentence:

    “Notwithstanding claims of surprise by
    U.S. political and military leaders,
    the covey of frothing-at-the-mouth Iraq experts
    led by a former director of central intelligence, and
    some journalists,
    the surge of Islamist fighters into Iraq
    was easy to predict.”

    The remainder of Woolsey’s letter
    does not deal with Scheuer,
    but the concluding two paragraphs
    contain such interesting information
    on the relations between the DCI, the president,
    and Congress
    that I include them as well.]

    In 1993, Congress was in session 195 days
    and I had 205 appointments on Capitol Hill.
    Then the pace picked up.
    Most of this had to do with my efforts
    to reverse budget cuts or
    to stop proposed pieces of legislation,
    generally coming from [Senator] Dennis DeConcini [D-AZ]
    of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
    but sometimes inspired by the executive branch
    [i.e., by the Clinton administration],
    that would seriously damage intelligence:
    limits on the CIA’s ability to spy
    on foreign intelligence services,
    cuts in funds for Arabic- and Farsi-language instruction,
    cuts in satellites and supercomputers
    for National Security Agency code-breaking.
    I could virtually never get White House assistance
    (except from Vice President Al Gore) in these fights.

    After two years of this, as Mahle writes,
    my resignation surprised the White House.
    It should not have.
    Intelligence heads cannot defeat these perennial assaults
    on their own.
    Presidents need to decide,
    or be urged by resignations to decide,
    to be the playing coach of the intelligence team.
    Nothing else will work.
  6. Ellen Laipson,
    Vice Chair of the National Intelligence Council
    from 1997 to 2002,
    While America Slept:
    Understanding Terrorism and Counterterrorism
    Foreign Affairs, January/February 2003
    [An excerpt from her review (emphasis is added):]

    U.S. government officials face many constraints,
    formal and informal,
    in addressing religion as a threat.
    Norms of tolerance and multiculturalism
    discourage the analysis of religion and culture.

    Many good civil servants, fearing political incorrectness,
    are uncomfortable openly assessing foreign cultures
    on the basis of religious or cultural beliefs.
    In the late 1990s, for instance,
    when the National Intelligence Council (NIC)
    embarked on its unclassified exploration
    of the “drivers” of international politics,
    culminating in the publication of Global Trends 2015
    [followed by Global Trends 2020],
    analysts debated whether
    religion should be identified as a principal driver.
    [Michael Scheuer?
    For a sample of his opinion on this matter, see this and this.]

    Some argued forcefully that
    neglecting it would be a shortcoming in the study.
    But in the end,
    the NIC shied away from focusing sharply on the issue
    out of concern that
    such analysis might be considered insensitive
    and unintentionally generate ill will toward the United States.
  7. John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States
    (and George Walker Bush’s predecessor as presidential son),
    1821-07-04 Independence Day Address
    [An excerpt, also found on IH, page 200
    (emphasis is added):]

    [America] has abstained from interference
    in the concerns of others,
    even when conflict has been
    for principles to which she clings.

    Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence
    has been or shall be unfurled,
    there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be.
    But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.

    She is the well-wisher
    to the freedom and independence of all.

    She is the champion and vindicator
    only of her own.

    She will commend the general cause
    by the countenance of her voice,
    and the benignant sympathy of her example.

    She well knows that
    by once enlisting under other banners than her own,
    were they even the banners of foreign independence,
    she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication,
    in all the wars of interest and intrigue,
    of individual avarice, envy, and ambition,

    which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.
    The fundamental maxims of her policy
    would insensibly change from liberty to force....

    She might become the dictatress of the world.
    She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.

    [See also Washington’s Farewell Address.]
  8. Editorial, New York Times, 2005-09-25
    [An excerpt:]

    In Iraq,
    the elimination of expectations is on display
    in the disastrous political process.
    Among other things,
    the constitution drafted under American supervision
    does not provide for the rights of women and minorities
    enshrines one religion as the fundamental source of law.
    Administration officials excuse
    this poor excuse for a constitution
    by saying it also refers to democratic values.
    But it makes them secondary to Islamic law
    and never actually defines them.
    Our founding fathers had higher expectations:
    they made the split of church and state fundamental,
    and spelled out what they meant
    by democracy and the rule of law.

    [What ignorant jackasses are
    the members of the editorial board of the NYT!
    For the real thoughts
    of (the son of) one of our founding fathers
    on the subject of
    American interference in the affairs of others,
    see John Quincy Adams’s 1821 Independence Day Address.]
  9. Mohammad Sidique Khan,
    quoted in 2005-09-02 NYT story
    Al Jazeera Video Links [2005-07-07] London Bombings
    to Al Qaeda

    [An alternative transcript is available from Reuters;
    the following is from the NYT article
    (with added emphasis):]

    The man resembling one of the British-born bombers,
    Mohammad Sidique Khan,
    read what Al Jazeera described as a testament,
    somewhat like those recorded by Palestinian suicide bombers for broadcast after an attack.
    Speaking in a Yorkshire accent, he praised
    “our beloved sheik, Osama bin Laden,”
    and declared,
    “We are at war,
    and I am a soldier and now you too
    will taste the reality of this situation.


    “I am going to keep this short and to the point
    because it’s all been said before
    by far more eloquent people than me,”

    said the man, whom the BBC said identified himself in the tape as Mr. Khan.
    “But our words have no impact upon you.
    Therefore I’m going to talk to you
    in a language that you understand.
    Our words are dead until we give them life with our blood.

    “I’m sure by now the media has painted a suitable picture of me.
    This predictable propaganda machine
    will naturally try to put a spin on it
    to suit the government and
    to scare the masses into conforming
    to their power and wealth-obsessed agendas.


    “I and thousands like me
    are forsaking everything for what we believe.
    Our driving motivation
    doesn’t come from tangible commodities
    that this world has to offer.

    “This is how our ethical stances are dictated:
    Your democratically elected governments
    continuously perpetuate atrocities
    against my people,
    your support of them
    makes you directly responsible,

    just as I am directly responsible
    for protecting and avenging
    my Muslim brothers and sisters.

    “Until we feel security, you will be our target.
    Until you stop
    the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture
    of my people,
    we will not stop this fight.
    We are at war and I am a soldier.
    Now you too will taste the reality of this situation.”

    [Also, the video included a section
    showing what appeared to be Ayman al-Zawahiri,
    the second in command of Al Qaeda,

    “Oh, nations of the Christian alliance,
    we have warned you before.
    So taste some of what you have made us taste.

    “We will respond in kind to all those who took part
    in the aggression on Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.

    “Just as they made rivers of blood flow in our countries,
    we will make volcanoes of anger erupt in their countries.”
  10. 2005-07-09, Letter from al-Zawahiri to al-Zarqawi
  11. 2005-09-29, Glenn Kessler, WP,
    “Turks Challenge Hughes On Iraq:
    Female Activists Decry U.S. Policy”

    [An excerpt from the article:]

    “This war is really, really
    bringing your positive efforts to the level of zero,”

    said Hidayet Sefkatli Tuksal,
    an activist with the Capital City Women's Forum.
    She said it was difficult to talk about cooperation
    between women in the United States and Turkey
    as long as Iraq was under occupation.


    “War makes the rights of women completely erased,
    and poverty comes after war --
    and women pay the price,”

    said Fatma Nevin Vargun, a Kurdish women's rights activist.


    “War is not necessary for peace,”
    shot back Feray Salman, a human rights activist.
    She said countries should not try
    to impose democracy through war, adding that
    “we can never, ever export democracy and freedom
    from one country to another.”
  12. 2005-11, Sam Rosenfeld and Matthew Yglesias,
    The American Prospect,
    The Incompetence Dodge
    The liberal hawks now say the idea of the war wasn’t bad,
    just its execution.
    This saves face -- and serves a more dangerous function.

    [An excerpt from the article (emphasis added):]

    [The liberal hawks now assert]
    that the invasion and occupation could have been successful
    had they been planned and administered by different people.
    This position may have its own internal logical coherence,
    but in the real world, it’s wrong.
    defending the competence of the Bush administration is a fool’s endeavor,
    administrative bungling
    is simply not the root source of America’s failure in Iraq.
    The alternative scenarios liberal hawks retrospectively envision
    for a successful administration of the war
    reflect blithe assumptions --
    about the capabilities of the U.S. military and
    the prospects for nation building
    in polities wracked by civil conflict --
    that would be shattered by a few minutes of Googling.

    [This is generally an excellent article.
    But one omission is glaring.
    There is a common denominator between
    most of the “liberal hawks” discussed and
    most of the neocons lurking just offstage,
    e.g., Wolfowitz, Libby, Feith, Wurmser, Perle, Abrams
    in the government, and
    Kristol, Krauthammer, Kagan, Kaplan, et al. in the media.
    Either they are Jewish or
    they have a passionate interest in Israel.
    The notable exceptions are, perhaps,
    Bush, Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld.
    But Bush and Cheney are politicians,
    of the class Ralph Nader has sorrowfully but accurately described as “Israel’s puppets.”
    Rumsfeld was merely an implementer, not a maker,
    of the decision to go to war.
    For Rice there is no excuse.
    She was in a position where she was charged
    with setting America’s foreign policy objectives,
    and as a professional academic
    the country could rightly expect her decisions and pronouncements
    to reflect her academic, professional, expertise,
    not the imperatives of politics.
    Why then did she deliver
    so many grotesquely inaccurate forecasts with regard to Iraq?]
  13. 2005-11-21, Jackie Spinner, WP,
    “Jordanians’ Feelings Mixed on Attacks:
    Anger Over Iraq War Leads Some to Take Private Pleasure in Hotel Blasts”

    [The conventional wisdom in Washington is that
    Jordanians are repulsed
    by Zarqawi’s bombing of a wedding party.
    This article suggests that is not totally correct.
    An excerpt from the article (emphasis is added):]

    Abu Ali, a solidly built man with a beard and permanent grease stains under his nails from his job as a truck mechanic, was pleased when he heard about the hotel bombings in his country.

    Speaking solemnly, looking around to see who might be listening to him, Abu Ali said he had been waiting for something like this to happen ever since his country allowed U.S. troops to assemble on Jordanian soil during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The Nov. 9 suicide blasts in Amman that killed 60 people, most of them Jordanians, were justifiable payback, said Abu Ali, who lives in a small suburb of this ancient city near the Syrian border.
    He can muster little sympathy for the victims.


    Their view of the bombings
    reflects lingering anger here over the war in Iraq and
    belies the images of Jordanians
    united under their flag after the suicide bombings


    In the days following the Amman blasts,
    the Jordanian government has acknowledged that
    its citizens largely view the insurgency in Iraq
    as an Iraqi problem created by the U.S. invasion.


    Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher, the government’s spokesman, estimated that
    60 percent of Jordanians
    consider the al Qaeda network to be legitimate.


    [Abu Ali said:]
    “This was a message from Zarqawi and his guys:
    The Americans should leave Iraq.
    As long as they stay,
    it’s legitimate to hit them anywhere.
    The innocent people who died,
    they are the casualties of war.”
  14. 2001-11-03, Osama bin Laden,
    “Crusader Wars,”
    contained in Statements of Osama bin Laden.

    bin Laden quotation on religious war that Scheuer gave
    is part of a larger bin Laden statement.
    Here is a fuller extract from that statement,
    from the book cited above:]

    The mass demonstrations [in the Muslim world] show that
    this war is fundamentally religious in nature.
    We cannot ignore
    this enmity between us and the infidels, since
    it is a doctrinal one.
    We must show loyalty to the believers and
    those who profess that there is no god but God, and
    we must renounce the idolaters, infidels, and heretics
    (against whom I seek God’s help).
    God almighty said
    “And the Jews and Christians will not be satisfied with you
    until you follow their faith.”
    So the issue is one of faith and doctrine,
    not of a “war on terror,” as Bush and Blair depict it.
    [The Muslim masses] do not move for bin Laden’s sake
    but for the sake of their religion,
    because they know that they are in the right, and that
    they are resisting
    the strongest, fiercest, most dangerous and violent
    Crusader campaign against Islam
    since Muhammad was sent.

    [I believe the larger context makes a fundamental difference
    in how the statement is interpreted.
    Without that context,
    one might think that bin Laden is initiating
    the religious war of which he speaks.
    But the context shows that
    bin Laden views “the Crusaders”
    as the ones initiating the war.

    In reading statements from the zealots of each side,
    the Zionist one and the Muslim one,
    one sees the same symmetry.
    Each side claims that the other started the conflict.
    Each side, with justice, claims that the other is trying to convert its people
    to the other’s religion.

    The only road to peace begins with
    each side understanding what the other side is saying,
    even if they do not, initially, agree with it.]
  15. 2006-04-14, WP,
    Moussaoui Tells Court 9/11’s Toll Was Too Low

    Invited by [defense attorney Gerald T.] Zerkin
    to explain why he hates America,
    Moussaoui said
    much of the reason is U.S. support for Israel,
    saying the Jewish state was
    “a creation of the Jewish community of New York and London. . . .
    For me, the Jewish state of Palestine is a missing star in the American flag.
    You are the head of the snake for me.
    If I want to destroy the Jewish state of Palestine,
    I have to destroy you.”

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