Tuesday, August 02, 2005

With Friends Like These

It's true, you don't really need enemies with radical Islamist Muslims like these as friends. Nicholas Kristoff, in The New York Times, has done a masterful job of exposing the problems facing women in most of the Third World. In the past, he has written movingly about teenage prostitutes in Southern Asian countries, and here he documents the very real oppression of female victims of rape in a Muslim society.

As Kristoff writes, rape victims are usually expected to kill themselves to preserve their honor while their assailants go free. Indeed, the perpertrators are often celebrated for their acts of rape. And if a woman isn't willing to commit suicide (which, by the way, Muslims claim is against the law in the Koran - I guess except where brutalized women are concerned) her family is often more than willing to commit an "honor killing."

Except, this time, in Pakistan, they picked on the wrong woman.

Dr. Shazia Khalid is a well-educated physician, as well as a devout Muslim. But when she was sexually molested, she did not crawl into a hole, commit suicide, or just go away. And her husband, rather than go along with an honor killing, actually is supporting her.

After her vicious attack, she was devastated. He was the one who convinced her that she had done nothing wrong and encouraged her to go to the authorities and to confront her attacker. He stood beside her in her insistence on real justice.

But that's not what Pakistan wants. Just as its not what Saudi Arabia wants.

The sad truth is that the very worst part of our misadventure in Iraq is that we went after the wrong villains.

I won't defend Saddam Hussein, who was a brutal dictator - no question about that. But if we're going to be honest, there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The sanctions and the UN investigations were working there. The U.S. villified the chief UN inspector, Hans Blitzer, but he was vindicated in the end.

Not only were there no WMDs, but nobody has been able to link Hussein to Al Qeda.

But I could have told you that. It's not because I know anything about intelligence. I just know a rudimentary amount about Islam. You can learn it too, if you're willing to hang around Beliefnet and other religiously oriented websites and read a few books - it's really not that hard to learn about religion, including Islam.

Immediately after 9-11, Beliefnet ran an article explaining Wahabbiism, which is the form of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. It's an extremely puritancal and fundamentalist sect that would like to see the old Caliphate restored to political power. In that respect, the nearest Western equivalent to it would be Fundamentalist Christian Dominionism, which seeks to establish a nation based on Biblical law. Dominionism would abolish church-state separation and politically would set up a society that would be ruled by Old Testament Biblical morality.

Wahabiism is also expansionist. Since it looks back to the good old days of the Caliphate, it's followers are dedicated to the spread of Islam, and an Islamic empire, by the sword, just like in the twelfth century.

Saddam Hussein for all his many faults was never a follower of Wahabiism. Nor was he an Islamist. Hussein was an old-fashioned, garden variety, secular dictator. He was vicious in his use and abuse of power. This is a man who executed his own sons-in-law - nobody was truly safe around him. But he was also a secularist who was not willing to die for his cause. He wasn't looking for 72 virgins in heaven, just a good glass of Chardonay here on earth (that's important because Islam forbids the use of any alcohol - something even moderate Muslims observe - and it means Hussein was really not all that into religion, let alone religious fanaticism).

I can't say Hussein wasn't an enemy. Only that he wasn't the most dangerous enemy we had. With limited resources and fanatics really dedicated to destroying us, he's not the one I'd have picked to launch a major war against. We've squandered our precious resources and the even more precious lives of Americans, both the military and civilian contractors, to defeat the least of our threats in an increasingly dangerous world.

So, who should we have actually gone after?

Need you ask. Osama bin Laden would have made a nice start. If we had used even half the resources we squandered in Iraq to mount a serious campaign in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we would have him in custody now, rather than the rather worthless (to us) Saddam Hussein.

But the truth is, to really stop the threat of radical Islam you have to go to the heart and soul of Wahabiism. And that's Saudi Arabia.

It's not an accident that most of the terrorists, thus far, are Saudi citizens, including bin Laden. The Saudis also are the major fundraisers for the Islamist revolution through their money laundering to suspect charities. And it's mainly fiery Saudi clerics in worldwide madrassas who fuel the ideology and rhetoric of this incendiary brew of Islam.

It's very important to mention that not all Muslims are part of the Wahabbi sect. But most right now are intimidated by it.

Invading Iraq as a reaction to Wahabbi terrorists is a lot like attacking New Jersey rather than Russia or China, during the Cold War, to fight communists. It's the wrong target and the wrong place.

The one person who knew this and tried to warn us was former Senator Bob Graham (D-Florida) when he was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. At that time, much of the material which implicated the Saudis in al-Qeda was classified. So, Sen. Graham did not name the names. But he was extemely upset at the way the Bush Administration was conducting the war on terrorism, which is a misnomer. As somebody pointed out, terror is the means of the enemy, not the enemy itself. What we're really engaged in is a war on radical Wahabbi Islamists terrorists.

When it looked like Graham would not make it through the Democratic primaries, he dropped out and the Democrats dropped the ball on the most important criticism of the Bush White House. Which was that they had badly bungled the War on Islamist Terrorists. Nobody else truly picked up on it and challenged Bush.

The war in Iraq did not make us safe from terrorists and it never will for simple reason that Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism, except for the terror that Hussein wreaked on his own countrymen.

If you want to strike at the heart of terrorism, you must strike at the heart of Wahabbiism, and that's in Saudi Arabia. And also in Pakistan, which still harbors and coddles radical Islamists while failing to protect its own women citizens.

But these folks are also still Bush's allies and friends.

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