Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Modest Proposal about Islam

According to Web site, during the last thirty days, there were 188 Islamic attacks in 22 countries, in which 1358 people were killed and 1519 injured. That's nearly half the death toll of 911.

Yesterday I watched a video (supposedly) of IS soldiers placing living people in a trench then systematically shooting them. I'm still in shock. I'm still assimilating the imagery of not just one person getting killed but fifty. This slice of the Holocaust served up on YouTube will change my thinking because there's no way I can watch that and stay the same.

I'd like to know more about the US-IS link, if it exists. Julian Assange is promising to pull Clinton off her high horse no later than 26 September, and even muttered something about ISIS. If Assange is blowing houses down instead of smoke up our asses, I might get my wish about knowing what the US-IS deal is.

I am happy that Assange has stuck his neck out with a promise of a 26 September deadline. Most politicians make promises that I forget about before they come to fruition, and I assume that it's pure demagoguery: I hear the promises, but I hear very little about any of them coming true. If Assange delivers on or before his deadline, he will have proved himself something sturdier than political rhetoricians, and he will have delivered something that will cut one tumor out of the tissue of lies that compose the American body politic.

I have seen the following range of ideas for what created ISIS and what their relationship with the US is:
  1. ISIS came into existence because the US created a power vacuum (the Hydra theory); or
  2. ISIS, no matter how they formed, are funded and armed by the US because the US and ISIS share a common enemy and are therefore "friends" in some bizarre fashion; or
  3. They are a CIA operation from start to finish.
The complexity of the theory increases from 1 to 3. According to Occam's razor, when the situation is equal among all theories, then I should choose the simplest theory to explain what I see. At present, there is no readily accessible evidence to support theories 2 and 3, and people who assert these theories with any measure of confidence are indulging in a perverse sort of wishful thinking. However, if, for example, new information from WikiLeaks shows some sort of accountability of ISIS to the CIA or—as Julian Assange seems to be promising—to the US Department of State during Hillary Clinton's tenure as Secretary, then the situations of the three theories are not equal.

Said Qutb.
There is in wide circulation an historical theory that explains the violence of militant Muslims even as it preserves the idea of pacific Islam as a whole. That theory is built around the story of two good friends, Gamal Abdel Nasser, who eventually became the President of Egypt, and Sayyid Qutb, who wrote a seminal book called Milestones (Ma'alim fi al-Tariq). This theory labels political, militant fundamentalists as Islamicists as opposed to plain and simple Muslims.

Gamal Abdel Nasser and Sayyid Qutb were lifelong good buddies and fellow leftists. However, much to Qutb's dismay, when Nasser ascended to the presidency of Egypt, he became something of a lapdog for the West, which petted the leftism right out of him.

The conflict over Nasser's weakening commitment to the Left, reminiscent of the conflict between Henry VIII and Thomas More, led to Nasser eventually imprisoning then executing Qutb.

During his imprisonment, however, Qutb rejected Marxism as a viable means for throwing off Western colonialism because it was in itself an essentially western ideology. He decided then that Islam should be used as a political doctrine to throw off the shackles of the West because it had the advantage of being a Mideastern product immediately accessible to people of North Africa and the Middle East. His book, Milestones, provided a central text to the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and to Al Qaeda. I don't know how ISIS fits into this scheme, if at all.

If you look at it this way, this is an important distinction between traditional Muslims and anti-colonialists who have adopted Islam as a unifying doctrine to fight the West. A lot of people use the terms Muslim vs. Islamicist.

The sloppiness with which the US has conducted itself in Iraq and Syria has created a power vacuum that fostered ISIS. Yet I have heard from not necessarily reliable sources that ISIS is a CIA creation. All of these are possible. After all, Osama bin Laden was the liaison between the CIA and the Mujahideen, the resistance group that in the 1980s fought against the Russians during their occupation of Afghanistan.

I lean toward the more extreme model because, after living two years in Latin America, I am keenly aware that the US's Will to Power freely murders and has committed a long list of atrocities in the name of profit.

But let's take the simplistic view that ISIS is just another group of religious fundamentalists (like George W. Bush, for example), who really do believe they are doing their best for God on Earth. If that's the case, should Islam as a whole be asked to take responsibility for their errant brethren? Instead of blaming a few sick individuals for the crimes they commit against humanity in the name of Allah, why not take the bombers' seriously? When they say that they have killed people not in the name of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, for example, but in the names of Allah, his messenger Muhammad, and for all Islam, shouldn't the response take the provocation seriously? Respond not in kind but punitively and in a way that obliterates piece-by-piece the infrastructure of Islam. For example, Muhammad is buried in Medina, and his tomb is in Al-Masjid an-Nabawī, the Prophet's Mosque, at 24.468333°N and 39.610833°E. 
The Kaaba, which is at 21.4225° N, 39.8262° E, is in an Islamic sense the best symbolic address for Allah on this planet.

There are thousands of ultra-conservative Jews in Jerusalem who would delight in seeing the Temple Mount at 31.7781° N, 35.2360° E razed so that they could begin construction of the Third Holy Temple. Indeed, there are thousands, perhaps millions, of ultra-conservative fundamentalist Christians who would cheer the clearing of the Temple Mount because they imagine that the construction of the Holy Temple is part of their eschatological agenda as well.

The cave called Hira, located on the mountain called Jabal an-Nour, near Mecca, where Muhammad received the beginning of the Quran from the Archangel Gabriel is another site that could be on the list. Draw up a list of twenty such holy sites in Islam, and deliver a message with an ample margin of warning so that responsible people have time to rein in their violent children: "These are the places that will cease to exist, one by one, with each attack that Islam makes on the West. Take responsibility for your people, or we will do it for you."

The biblical injunction of an eye for an eye wasn't intended to be interpreted literally. It means simply that damages should be paid after injury. It does not mean that if I pluck out someone's eye that my eye now must be plucked out—that is a ham-handed interpretation for idiots. What good will my eye serve my victim or his family? Satisfaction? They will be much more satisfied if they are paid in a way that costs me but that helps them, particularly if that help allows them to overcome the hardship I've introduced. I pay in some manner that helps my victim and his family. And with that understanding, those who attack in the name of Islam should be punished by a systematic dismantling of Islam. Since no literal eye-for-eye exchange is called for. If the Kaabah is now at the top of the target list, then the rings and rings of pilgrims fulfilling the requirements of the Hajj by circling the building become both not only regrettable collateral damage but also martyrs to the cause of peace.

This raises some interesting questions.
Between the World Wars the theory of bombing was invented to target civilians. The idea, in a time of conventional (as opposed to terrorist) warfare was that bombing the enemy's civilian population would demoralize them, weaken their support for the war, and stimulate an apathy that would lead to defeat. The theory was wrong, and bombing turned out to have the opposite effect: it strengthened the resolve of the enemy civilian population to defeat their enemy. Britain, which suffered terribly from nightly poundings from German V-2 rockets during WWII, is the most often cited example. I am of course relieved that bombing civilians is now illegal in the same way that other forms of weaponry like gas and biological agents are illegal.

Yet war has changed. Terrorists consider instruments like the Geneva Convention, which limits weaponry and war and which limits cruelty to prisoners, a folly among Westerners to which they are not beholden. Indeed terrorists invariably employ their own civilians as shields, and their targets almost invariably include civilians.

For example, of the four planes involved in the 911 attack, two struck civilian targets. One struck the Pentagon, the Bull's Eye of military targets. And the fourth, which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, is typically said to have had the US Capitol or the White House as its target. That's a 50/50, civilian/military target ratio in terms of weapons (the planes), but in terms of casualties the civilians drastically outnumber the military.

It would be nice to eliminate civilian casualties, but war is hell, and civilian casualties are unavoidable in a war against an enemy using terrorist tactics. The US usually speaks in euphemisms and refers to killed civilians as collateral damage. The terrorists seize every opportunity to show off their dead children without mentioning why these children were used as shields by a cowardly military force in the first place.

But if anyone takes me so seriously as not to see my tongue in cheek, they should bear in mind that long after the ant's nest is destroyed, there will still be a lot of angry ants with nothing to do but sting. As I just noted, bombing does not weaken but strengthens the resolve of a people to survive. I can envision a world devoid of Islamic holy sites, and a whole lot of angry Muslims who weren't smart enough to stop bombing while they still had a Kaabah or a mosque left on earth.