On June 26th, Martin Longman (BooMan
to Michael Barone's editorial, "The New York Times at War With America
Barone began with what he considered a self-evident truth, for he said,
... We know why [Islamofascist terrorists] hate us: because we have freedom of speech and freedom of religion, because we refuse to treat women as second-class citizens, because we do not kill homosexuals, because we are a free society.
BooMan took exception to Barone's explanation. "Every single word of it is dishonest," BooMan asserted.
"In order to determine why the so-called Islamofascists hate us," BooMan said, "I am going to go straight to the main source. Usama bin-Laden laid out his reasoning in a 1996 fatwa and a 1998 fatwa."
BooMan pointed out: (1) the 1996 fatwa "complains mainly of the corruption of the Saudi regime," and (2) the 1998 fatwa "is more specific to America's perceived faults." BooMan stated, "bin-Laden is critizing what he sees as economic exploitation by the West."
It is true that bin-Laden subscribes to a kind of medieval version of Sunni Islam ... and he's hostile to modern innovations in Islam, including some what we rightfully refer to as human rights.
... there is nothing there, nothing even hinted at, to suggest that he hates America because of our freedoms, or the way we treat women and homosexuals ... His concerns are economic, political, and geo-political.
... And it is the refusal of the neo-conservatives to be honest about why Islamists are targetting U.S. civilians that has led ... to the total collapse of American credibility on the international stage.
The Islamists are not angry about the freedoms that Americans enjoy. They are perfectly content to let us go on enjoying them ... Islamists will leave us alone the moment we leave them alone.
After reading BooMan's commentary, I sent Mr. Longman a response:
In 1905, Professor Jacob Burckhardt told us Islam was a religion of conquerors. His critique of Islam and its civilization was harsh, but he was equally harsh on Christianity and Judaism. (Reflections on History and Judgment on History and Historians)
In 1918, Professor Oswald Spengler told us the same thing. (The Decline of the West)
In 1920, Professor Max Weber told us the same thing. (Economy and Society)
In 1945, Lord Bertrand Russell told us the same dang thing. (The History of Western Philosophy)
In 2006, you foolishly tell us: "They are perfectly content to let us go on enjoying [our freedoms]."
Your comments are the product of a shallow, lazy, and an historically uneducated mind.
Mr. Longman responded to my barbed criticism: (emphasis mine)
Funny, because I've read all of those books.
I don't know if you are even interested in debate, but you are taking one part of a comment and using it to make a rebuttal of all my thinking. Islam is gaining demographically, not territorily. Europe needs to worry about its inability to secularize its Muslim population, but that is the only area where they might make territorial gains, and it won't be done militarily, but through differential reproductive rates over centuries. Not really our army's concern, right now.
My point is that al-Qaeda does not intend to kill American citizens for the hell of it. They have specific goals. I didn't BTW advocate giving in to their demands, or leaving them alone. I advocated listening to their demands, so that we behave in an educated manner. We were attacked because we had an airbase and other troops stationed in Saudi Arabia and because we were blockading Iraq. Not because Usama has a problem with Pamela Anderson's tits, or because you and I can vote and watch porn and gamble.
If we want to stop being attacked, we need to figure out how to get our oil and gas to market without creating generation after generation of jihadists. Occupying Iraq isn't helping, and leaving Iraq is going to have a mixed effect, both positive and negative. But staying will only increase the negative and diminish the positive.
Well, I cannot speak to whether Osama bin Laden has a "problem" with Pamela's undeniable charms
; however, I will say BooMan's reasoning is critically flawed.
In BooMan's response to me, he said Islam is expanding "demographically, not territorially." Islamic territorial expansion did not end at the Battle of Tours (732), or with the fall of Constantinople (1453), or at the siege of Vienna (1529), or with the Battle of Vienna (1683), or with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire (1919). In recent memory, we have witnessed Mullah Mohammed Omar
seize control of Afghanistan (1996). And less than one month ago, the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) seized control
of the Somali capital, Mogadishu. UIC Chairman Shaykh Sharif Shaykh Ahmed's statements are not so different than Osama bin Laden's statements, for Ahmed blames the United States for his country's bloody tribal factionalism.
BooMan would have us believe our present difficulties began with Osama bin Laden ("main source") and have been excerbated by our invasion of Iraq, and he suggests our troubles with radicalized Muslims would end if we figured out "how to get our oil and gas to markets" from the Middle East. This notion defies common sense.
Clearly, bin Laden is one among many that clings to a what BooMan calls a "medieval version" of Islam. As I stated in my initial response to BooMan, some of greatest minds of 19th and 20th Centuries have told us Islam is a "religion of conquerors" (e.g., Professor Jacob Burckhardt, Judgment on History and Historians
). As recently as 1990, Professor Bernard Lewis discussed
the folly of believing as BooMan does.
Is there any doubt Russians are engaged in oppression of Muslims in Chechen? Is there any doubt regarding Russian and Chinese desires to exploit Iraq's and Iran's oil and gas reserves for their own selfish ends? Since the end of the Persian Gulf War, has there been a greater "economic exploitation" of Iraq than the French and Russian involvement in Saddam Hussein's oil-for-food scandal? Where are bin Laden's fatwas on France, Russia, and China, Mr. Longman?
In 1996, bin Laden was expelled
from Sudan and sent to Mullah Omar's Afghanistan. As Homer and Plato taught us "likes attract likes," so these kindred spirits made common cause.
BooMan analyzed bin Laden's fatwas against Saudi Arabia and the U.S. while ignoring Mullah Omar's words. Two months after September 11th, the BBC News interviewed
Mullah Omar: (emphasis mine)
BBC: What do you think of the current situation in Afghanistan?
MO: You (the BBC) and American puppet radios have created concern. But the current situation in Afghanistan is related to a bigger cause - that is the destruction of America. And on the other hand, the screening of Taleban [for those who are or are not loyal] is also in process. We will see these things happen within a short while.
BBC: What do you mean by the destruction of America? Do you have a concrete plan to implement this?
MO: The plan is going ahead and, God willing, it is being implemented. But it is a huge task, which is beyond the will and comprehension of human beings. If God's help is with us, this will happen within a short period of time; keep in mind this prediction.
BBC: Osama Bin Laden has reportedly threatened that he would use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against America. Is your threat related to his?
MO: This is not a matter of weapons. We are hopeful for God's help. The real matter is the extinction of America. And, God willing, it [America] will fall to the ground.
Professor Jacob Burckhardt said, "Any importation from Western culture, however, seems to be detrimental to the Muslims, from loans and national debt onward" (Reflections on History
). Mr. Longman, how does a Muslim country trade with the U.S. or Europe without importing a modicum of Western culture? Just as Commodore Matthew Perry's Black Ships
irrevocably changed Japan, Muslims buying Western foundry products, Western oil and gas extraction and refinery technology, Western nuclear power plants, Western computers and telecommunication equipment, Western aircraft and motor vehicles, Western pharmaceuticals and medical technology, and Western armaments and munitions, each product and service we provide is "detrimental" to Muslim civilization, for Muslims are faced with the stark realization they cannot do what we do. Burckhardt said, "Something very peculiar and rather unparalleled in the history of religion is the enormous degree to which pride is taken in this religion, the feeling of absolute superiorty over all others, the utter inaccessibilty to any influences; these characteristics grow into innate arrogance and boundless presumption in general" (Judgments on History and Historians
Burckhardt analyzed the struggle for primacy between the "three great powers" in a civilization: the State, the Religion, and the Culture (Reflections on History
). In the West, two centuries of bloody war were required to end the Church's brutal mastery of Europe. Muslim nations have not resolved Burckhardt's conflict, which is nothing more than Plato's question: Who shall govern?
In BooMan's response to Barone, he correctly noted that bin Laden's concerns "are economic, political, and geo-political." Like the Muslim raiders and brigands (e.g, the Prophet Mohammed) that preceded him, bin Laden desires economic power, so he despoiled modern-day caravans as he could. In The History of the Western Philosophy
, Lord Bertrand Russell stated: "The Arabs, although they conquered a great part of the world in the name of a new religion, were not a very religious race; the motive of their conquests was plunder and wealth rather than religion." Russell's characterization of Arabs aptly describes Osama bin Laden.
BooMan believes if we "leave them alone," while "getting our oil and gas to market," while Muslims obtain goods and services they cannot produce, then radical Muslims will not attack us. This notion defies common sense.
Professor Hannah Arendt said, "men are unable to forgive what they cannot punish and they cannot punish what has turned out to be unforgivable. This is the true hallmark of the offenses which, since Kant, we call 'radical evil' and about whose nature so little is known, even to us who have been exposed to one of their rare outbursts on the public scene." (The Human Condition
Mr. Longman, is there any doubt that the events of 9/11 was the manifestation of "radical evil"? If you concede that point, then how can you know
the "nature" of those involved to be able to foretell, with any certainty, they will stop attacking us if we do as you suggest ("listening to their demands, so we behave in an educated manner")?
Perhaps, Barone's overly simplistic explanation of Muslim "hatred" was too imprecise. However, contrary to the teachings of David Hume (A Treatise of Human Nature
), you have established a causal relationship, for which you have no empirical evidence, other than the words of a so-called "propagandist," as you described Osama bin Laden.