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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Willful Blindness reviewed

Via Memeorandum, Thomas Joscelyn reviews Andrew McCarthy's book, Willful Blindness: Memoir of the Jihad. McCarthy was the prosecutor responsible for leading the investigation of Blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and others involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Joscelyn's review shows an overview of that case, but more importantly (emphasis added),
Had McCarthy stopped at telling the story of the many tactical failures that allowed Rahman's terrorists to menace America in the early 1990s, Willful Blindness would have been an invaluable addition to the literature of 9/11. But he takes his argument a step further, showing how these tactical failures were merely symptoms of a larger strategic failure to comprehend the nature of our terrorist enemies. In the process, McCarthy has given us one of the most important books on jihadist terrorism.

The strategic failure McCarthy exposes is ongoing, and extends even to something as basic as naming the enemy. Just as Willful Blindness was released, the State Department and other agencies published an edict banning the use of the word "jihadist" (as well as similar terms) from the government's lexicon. The thinking is that the terrorists like to call themselves "jihadists," thereby appropriating an Islamic term which can have far more benevolent meanings, such as the struggle for spiritual betterment or simply to do good.

It is true that, in some Islamic traditions, "jihad" has been endowed with such inoffensive meanings. But as McCarthy rightly argues, "jihad" has far more frequently been used to connote violent campaigns against infidels since the earliest days of Islam. When Sheikh Rahman called on his followers to wage "jihad," they knew that their master did not mean for them to become absorbed in prayer.

Moreover, Washington is apparently too obtuse to notice that Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda's terrorists, Tehran's mullahs, and Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi clerics have called for a militant brand of jihad persistently over the past several decades. All of these parties know how their words will be interpreted by the Muslim masses, and no fiat from the Washington bureaucracy will undo this widely accepted meaning.

Not only does Washington have a hard time properly naming our jihadist enemies, it still fails to understand that terrorist-sponsoring regimes have long backed them. Here, McCarthy has been at the forefront of explaining how jihadist terrorism is frequently, but not exclusively, a tool of hostile regimes: Writing in these pages in 1998 ("The Sudan Connection"), he explored the many ties between the 1993 plotters and the Sudanese regime then led by an Islamic radical named Hassan al-Turabi. Indeed, Turabi and Rahman were longtime friends and allies. McCarthy returns to this aspect of the story in Willful Blindness to show how Sudan's U.N. delegation provided material support to Rahman's terrorists as they plotted to blow up New York's landmarks. (The Clinton administration even expelled two Sudanese delegates because of their involvement.)

Sudan's sponsorship went far beyond Rahman's goons. In the early 1990s Turabi forged a broad terrorist coalition that included Osama bin Laden's core group of followers, all of al Qaeda's affiliates, and a number of other organizations. Turabi envisioned bringing all of these parties together in one grand anti-American terrorist coalition. And he received the support of the two leading state sponsors of terrorism: Saddam Hussein's Iraq and the mullahs' Iran. Out of this witch's brew of state and nonstate actors grew the network that we commonly call "al Qaeda."

It is beyond my scope here to summarize all of the evidence that supports this thesis, but suffice it to say that McCarthy is exactly right when he asserts,
It is not difficult to find some current or former intelligence official ready and willing to opine that Sunnis [such as Rahman and bin Laden] would never cooperate with secularists or Shiites--overlooking abundant evidence of the Ba'athist Saddam Hussein coddling Sunni jihadists and a years-long history of collaboration between al Qaeda and Shiite Hezbollah.
McCarthy argues that, more than a decade after the Blind Sheikh was convicted of inspiring terrorism on American soil, America remains largely blind. Even the September 11 attacks did not fully awaken our nation, or its leaders, from their slumber. An implacable hate drives our enemies to never-ending violence. For them, we are the "other," infidels who deserve to be slaughtered as victims of a religious jihad, and there are many who are willing to support their war on us.
Scott Johnson at Powerline points out that
In the Bush administration, the "willful blindness" takes the form of political correctness. This political correctness, however, is more than an intellectual failure. On the one hand, the administration has supported the prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation and the naming of CAIR and the Islamic Society of North America as HLF's unindicted co-conspirators supporting Hamas. On the other hand, the adminstration continues to treat CAIR and ISNA, for example, as respectable organizations and occasional partners.

On the Democratic side, the failure runs deeper. Listening to the Democratic debates over the past year, one could not help but be struck by the candidates' understanding of the Bush administration as an enemy far more formidable than any we are facing beyond our borders. Next to the Bush administration, the threats posed by Iran, Syria and their terrorist proxies pale in comparison. Should the Iranian Revolutionary Guard be designated a terrorist group? According to Barack Obama, this is going too far: the Bush administration is merely engaged in "saber rattling." He would prefer to rattle the tea cups with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran.
Scott quotes from Bruce Thorton's review,
This jihadist ideology motivated Abdel Rahman and the 9/11 jihadists, and continues to motivate Islamic terrorism today. But, then and now, this obvious traditional belief is ignored or rationalized away by those entrusted with our security: The secretary of state publicly croons that Islam is the "religion of peace and love," and the State and Homeland Security departments instruct their employees not to use words like "jihad" or "mujahedeen" (holy warrior) in their communications. In contrast to this delusional thinking, McCarthy bluntly, and correctly, states the obvious: "Islam is a dangerous creed. It rejects core aspects of Western liberalism: self-determination, freedom of choice, freedom of conscience, equality under the law." We refuse to face the truth about Islam, and thus we disarm ourselves before "a doctrine that rejects our way of life and a culture unwilling or unable to suppress the savage element it breeds wherever it takes hold."
In yesterday's podcast Dr. Andrew Bostom discussed his book The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History where he examined a vast amount of Middle Eastern Islamic anti-Semitic literature that has endured through the ages, literature that goes ignored. From the Middle East through Europe, the US and Latin America, the Jihad continues.

We are blinding ourselves again and again to the reality of Jihad. When will we wake up?

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