MORE MURDER BY MUSLIMS SOON!
SAN FRANCISCO — In a repudiation of the Bush administration's now-defunct Terrorist Surveillance Program, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that government investigators illegally wiretapped the phone conversations of an Islamic charity and two American lawyers without a search warrant.
U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker said the plaintiffs provided enough evidence to show "they were subjected to warrantless electronic surveillance."
The judge's 45-page ruling focused narrowly on Al-Haramain case, touching vaguely on the larger question of the program's legality.
Nonetheless, Al-Haramain lawyer Jon Eisenberg said the ruling had larger implications.
"By virtue of finding what the Bush administration did to our clients was illegal, he found that the Terrorist Surveillance Program was unlawful," Eisenberg said.
At issue was a 2006 lawsuit filed by the Ashland, Ore., branch of the Saudi-based Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation and two American lawyers Wendell Belew and Asim Ghafoor.
Belew and Ghafoor claimed their 2004 phone conversations with foundation official Soliman al-Buthi were wiretapped without warrants soon after the Treasury Department had declared the Oregon branch a supporter of terrorism. They argued that wiretaps installed without a judge's authorization are illegal.
It was the last active case pending before a trial judge challenging the wiretapping program that ended in 2007.
"The ruling ends the case, but without the fireworks everyone expected," George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr said. "It ended with a whimper."
The plaintiffs were seeking $1 million each, plus attorney fees in the case. Walker ordered more legal arguments before deciding on possible damages.
The ruling came after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the lawsuit threatened to expose ongoing intelligence work and must be thrown out.
In making the argument, the Obama administration agreed with the Bush administration's position on the case but insisted it came to the decision differently.
Holder's effort to stop the lawsuit marked the first time the administration has tried to invoke the state secrets privilege. Under the strategy, the government can have a lawsuit dismissed if hearing the case would jeopardize national security.
Holder said Judge Walker had been given a classified description of why the case must be dismissed so the court could "conduct its own independent assessment of our claim."
That was a departure from the Bush administration, which resisted providing specifics to judges handling such cases about what the national security concerns were.
Holder previously said the administration would respect the outcome of Walker's review.
Eisenberg called on the Obama administration to accept Wednesday's ruling and forgo any appeals.
"We are reviewing it," Department of Justice spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said.
President Bush authorized the surveillance program shortly after 9/11, allowing National Security Agency officials to bypass the courts and intercept electronic communications believed connected to al-Qaida.
Generally, government investigators are required to obtain search warrants signed by judges to eavesdrop on domestic phone calls, e-mail traffic and other electronic communications.
In June, Judge Walker tossed out more than three dozen lawsuits against the nation's telecommunications companies for allegedly taking part in the program.
Congress in 2008 agreed on new surveillance rules that included protection from legal liability for telecommunications companies that allegedly helped the U.S. spy on Americans without warrants.
Walker previously upheld the constitutionality of the new surveillance rules. His ruling is being appealed.
Anthony Coppolino, the U.S. Department of Justice lawyer who has been in charge of the Islamic Foundation case under both administrations, has never addressed the legality of the wiretap program.
Coppolino has always argued the case should be tossed out in the name of national security and said the government risked exposing ongoing intelligence work if the lawsuit were allowed to proceed.
The government argued that its "state secret privilege" trumped the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, which requires investigators to seek wiretap approval from a special court that convenes behind closed doors.
Coppolino refused to even discuss whether such a secret warrant existed, arguing that to confirm or deny would threaten national security.
On Wednesday, the judge said the government was wrong and ruled that it should be assumed investigators lacked a warrant.
"FISA takes precedence over the state secrets privilege in this case," Walker wrote.
The Bush administration invoked the secrets privilege numerous times in lawsuits over various post-9/11 programs.
In another wiretap case targeting the Bush tactics, the Center for Constitutional Rights asked the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday to order government officials to disclose if officials eavesdropped without warrants on electronic conversations between 23 attorneys and their clients held at Guantanamo.
Lower courts had tossed out that request.
Failed case seen as blow to terror war
the Gandhi of Islam?
By Charles Moore
Yes, there was a Blitz spirit. As we waited in large crowds for a train out of London on Thursday afternoon, everyone was peaceful, cooperative, calm and slightly more jokey than usual. A woman near me in the carriage was talking on her mobile phone: "There's nothing left for them to bomb," she said cheerfully. "You'll find the sausage rolls at the bottom of the fridge."
And, yes, the emergency services were magnificent. They had trained; they were coordinated; they were ready. The strength of a civilization is shown not only in its great monuments and works of art, or in its famous people: it appears also in the instant, instinctive behavior of millions at a moment of crisis. By this measure, London is part of a great civilization.
Yet there seems to me to be a radical disjunction between our heroic capacity to deal with the immediate effects of terrorism and our collective refusal to confront what lies behind it. The effects of this disjunction are, literally, fatal.
The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, was in Singapore on Thursday, having helped London's successful Olympic bid. His stricken face showed his shock, and of course he condemned the attacks. Then he analyzed them.
They were not, he said, attacks "against the mighty and the powerful", but against "working-class Londoners". Would they have been all right, one wondered, if they had been against the mighty and powerful, or if they had cleverly found a way of killing only middle-class Londoners?
Then Mr. Livingstone said: "This is not an ideology or even a perverted faith." Why did he want to say that? How - if, as the authorities tell us, the attacks were carried out by Islamist extremists - could this be true?
The main spokesman for the Metropolitan Police on Thursday was Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick. He also complained about attacks on "purely innocent members of the public", thereby making one think that there might be other people (police? soldiers? politicians?), who are not purely innocent and should have been attacked instead. Asked about the nature of the terrorists, Mr. Paddick said: "Islam and terrorism don't go together."
It is true that the vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists, or involved in terrorism, and this needs to be said strongly if people assert otherwise. But if the Metropolitan Police really believe what Brian Paddick says, if they really, truly think that the words "Islam" and "terrorism" must not be linked, then we have little hope of catching the killers, of understanding how the terrorism works, or of preventing new atrocities.
You can show this with a simple comparison. When Britain was afflicted by Irish republican terrorism, most Irish people repudiated that terrorism. It was nevertheless the case that the great majority of the terrorists - more than 95 per cent - were Irish, or of Irish origin, and they drew overwhelmingly on Irish people to help and hide them.
This was not a funny coincidence. It was because the IRA preached a doctrine about Ireland and called on the loyalty of a perverted version of Irishness. Therefore, the words "Irish" and "terrorist" went together, hard though this was on the majority of Irish people. The Brian Paddicks of the day would have been appallingly negligent if they had not concentrated their investigations among the Irish. And the vigilance of the public, which the police then and now rightly call for, inevitably directed itself towards Irish neighbors, Irish accents, Irish pubs.
So it must be with Muslims in Britain. In fact, the situation is more serious because we are dealing with a religion, not merely a national aspiration, and the demands of a religion are more absolute than anything else. If fanatics can persuade people that their religion insists that they kill others (and often themselves) in its service, then they will obey. And whereas the IRA, though utterly sadistic and fanatical, kept in mind a political aim which, once achieved, would mean that they need kill no longer, the religious fanatic lacks even this check on his behavior.
From time to time, perhaps, he will kill for a specific reason - to take power in one country, to drive foreign troops out of another - but, in principle, there is no end to his killing until everyone who does not share his particular version of truth is exterminated.
What strikes one again and again about the reaction of the public authorities, of commentators, of the media, is the terrible lethargy about studying what it is we are up against. We are dealing with an extreme interpretation of one of the great religions of the world.
We flap around, looking for moderates and giving them knighthoods, making placatory noises, putting bits of Islam on to the multi-faith menu in schools, banishing Bibles from hospital beds, trying to criminalize the expression of "religious hatred", blaming George Bush and Tony Blair. But if we do not know the way the faith in question works, its history, its quarrels, its laws and demands, we will not have the faintest chance of distinguishing the true moderate from the fellow-traveler or of bearing down on the fanaticism.
If you look at the Koran, you will find many glorifications of violence. In Sura No 8, for example, God is quoted as saying: "I shall cast terror into the hearts of the infidels. Strike off their heads, strike off the very tips of their fingers!" This punishment comes to them for having "defied God and His apostle". It seems reasonable to ask Muslims what this sort of remark means in the modern world.
Some will counter that there are plenty of equally nasty dictums in the Old Testament. This is true - though it is surely significant that they are very much harder to find in the New Testament. History is full of violent deeds done in the name of the Christian God.
But it is an important fact about Christianity in the past two or three centuries that it has conducted a great reinterpretation of these texts and of how the faithful should follow them. The struggle against the enemy in the Book of Joshua, say, or in Judges is now seen as a strictly spiritual one. The idea that these are divine 007 licenses to kill has been explicitly repudiated.
Has the equivalent happened in Islam? Certainly, most Muslim leaders advocate peace and most are surely sincere in doing so. But push a bit harder, and you encounter some interesting problems.
I have asked, for example, if the Muslim Council of Britain, the mainstream umbrella organization in this country, will condemn the killing of British troops in Iraq. They will not do so in absolute terms. They prefer instead to condemn the war itself, which is by no means the same thing.
Take a case from the dramas on Thursday. One heartening tableau was of the Bishop of Stepney, Stephen Oliver, appearing with Mohammed Abdul Bari from the East London Mosque, both condemning the attacks. But if you look up Mohammed Abdul Bari, you find that he welcomed to the opening of the London Muslim Centre Sheikh Abdul Rahman al Sudais, the Saudi-government-appointed imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
In Mecca two years ago, al Sudais described Jews as "scum of the earth", "rats of the world" and "monkeys and pigs who should be annihilated". Yet, criticize al Sudais, and Mohammed Abdul Bari leaps furiously to his defense.
As I write, I have beside me an article that appeared during our recent election campaign in Muslim Weekly. By Sheikh Dr Abdalqadir as-Sufi, it calls for the replacement of British parliamentary democracy with "a new civilisation based on the worship of Allah", attacks the Conservatives for being "in the hands of an illegal Jewish immigrant from Romania" and speaks of the "near-demented Judaic banking elite".
These views are expressed by an educated Muslim in a Muslim publication. Are these Muslim views, non-Muslim views, anti-Muslim views?
The mayor of our bombed city has himself got involved with Muslim leaders who say some interesting things. Last year, Mr. Livingstone extended a warm welcome in London to Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a mainstream, world-famous spiritual leader based in Qatar.
Qaradawi has supported suicide bombing against Israelis, the treatment of all Jews as legitimate targets, the whipping of homosexuals and the killing of all Americans - civilian and military - in Iraq. Surely, Ken recognizes an ideology here, and a faith of sorts? Yet he praised, rather than condemned, and so now, when the logical extension of such ideas hits King's Cross and the Edgware Road and kills dozens of his voters, he has to say that such deeds arise from no belief at all.
There seem to be two broad reasons why many Muslim leaders appear unable or unwilling to break absolutely with the teachings that give cover to violence. The first is that their religion is much more literal and much more political than modern Christianity. Its Prophet was a political and military leader.
The faith Mohammed taught does not just hope that the world will become Muslim. It wants all human society and politics to be governed by religious law: it draws no distinction between the secular and religious sphere (except to condemn the secular). Therefore, Muslim leaders find it very difficult to resist the hotheads who say that Sharia - the divine law - should be imposed wherever possible.
In addition, the religion is absolute in its attitude to particular bits of territory. It is forbidden, for example, that any other religion be practiced in the Arabian Peninsula, because that land is considered sacred to Islam. Therefore, it is hard for a "moderate" to oppose the second-class citizenship of Christians or Jews in Muslim lands, or to say that "infidels" fighting in Muslim countries should not be murdered - even when they are his fellow citizens in a Western country.
When someone like bin Laden says that Islam should confront the "Cross-worshippers" and the "Zionists", he is making a claim in which politics and religion dangerously reinforce one another - a claim which most Muslims might not like, but which most of their leaders cannot find quite the right words to resist.
The second reason is that the leaders are frightened. In private conversations with the moderates, one is always told that they are under "enormous pressure", that they risk losing control of their own people, and therefore they cannot say very fierce things against the extremists. One must accept that this pressure exists, which only goes to show how serious the problem is.
The Bishop of Stepney, say, would not have to look over his shoulder before he dared to condemn Christian suicide bombers (if there were any). But if his friend Mohammed Abdul Bari wants to condemn Muslim ones in Israel, then his life - or certainly his career - might be threatened.
So we have in our midst a religious minority in a state of ferment, and somewhere inside it a number of people (though a tiny proportion of the whole) who want to kill the rest of us. Now, it would seem, they or their foreign allies have succeeded. This country has suffered a greater land-based terrorist death toll than it has ever known before. Instead of subjecting our entire population to the loss of liberties and increase of bureaucratic power which identity cards involve, we should develop a strategy that works out much more precisely where the danger lies, and seeks it out.
Are we satisfied that our immigration and asylum system, and our ceding of much of it to European conventions, keeps a proper check on who comes in? Do our own laws give too ready an entitlement to people to join or marry family here? Do our judiciary now interpret the rights of immigrants and asylum-seekers so generously as to give the country almost no protection from those who abuse those rights?
What about the methods of the police? Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has shown himself so obsessed with the implementation of the recommendations of the Macpherson report that followed the Stephen Lawrence case that he has been officially criticized for "hanging out to dry" three officers falsely accused of racism.
His approach to policing Muslims appears to be to seek the consent of those he supposes to be community leaders before "going in". It is surely not right that they should have a veto on whether or not an inquiry is pursued, and it must be asked whether all of them could be trusted not to protect some of those who merit police attention.
The methods matter, too. Although offence should always be avoided if possible, if the police will not use dogs in their investigations of Muslims (as they may do with almost anyone else), and if they undertake never to go into the religious parts of Islamic buildings, then some people with things to hide will hide them.
If the Blairs and Paddicks won't look at the link between faith and terrorism, how can they ever learn from the evidence in the websites and madrassehs and sermons which incites the trouble and brings like-minded extremists together?
And what about public vigilance? Yesterday, the Met's press conference called for public vigilance - but would you want to go and tell Sir Ian your anxieties about a Muslim neighbor? Might you worry about being turned away as a racist?
The most important question is for Muslims, and the authorities' attitude towards them. Embedded in modern government are too many advisers who believe in a quietist policy. To them, the most important thing is to avoid a "backlash" against Muslims. But the truth is that the backlash only threatens because the terror strikes. Mired in ignorance, our Government (let alone the Opposition) has little idea how to find the trends in Islam that could really improve the life of our country, and run with them.
It is only when you start thinking about what we are not getting from leaders of British Muslims, and indeed Muslim religious leadership throughout the world, that you start to see how much needs doing. The moderates are not pressed hard for anything more than a general condemnation of the extremists.
When did you last hear criticisms of named extremist groups and organizations by Muslim leaders, or support for their expulsion, imprisonment or extradition? How often do you see fatwas issued against suicide bombers and other terrorists, or statements by learned men declaring that people who commit such deeds will go to hell?
When do Muslim leaders and congregations insist that a particular imam leave his mosque because of the poison that he disseminates every Friday? When did a British Muslim last go after a Muslim who advocates or practices violence with anything like the zeal with which so many went after Salman Rushdie?
Why is not more stigma attached to the Muslims who are murdering other Muslims every day in Iraq and the Middle East?
What communal protection is offered to those Muslims who really are brave and confront Islamist violence, or the poor treatment of women, or call for democracy in the Middle East? How much do mainstream political parties with Muslim councilors and candidates really insist on their religious moderation and co-opt them to extrude the bad people lurking within their communities?
I understand and accept that there are many moderates among British Muslims, but I want to know why Britain gets so pitifully little to show for their moderation.
When a nation, a race, a political movement, a group of workers, the followers of a religion have legitimate grievances, there generally arises amongst them a champion who can command respect for his advocacy of peace, his willingness to fight without weapons and to win by moral authority. There may be many such grievances for Muslims in Britain, and in the West, but we are still waiting for the Gandhi or the Martin Luther King to give them the right voice.
We all love it when the British people shrug their shoulders and move stoically on in the face of attack. It is a powerful national myth, and a true one. But it contains within it a great danger - a self-fulfilling belief that there is nothing to be done to avert future disaster. That's not the Blitz spirit - what made London's suffering in 1941 worthwhile was that, in the end, we won.
Iranian president, Saudi king talk on phone
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia held a telephone conversation on Thursday on developments in the World of Islam and bilateral relations.
Ahmadinejad who is currently on a three-day visit to the southern province of Bushehr, during his telephone call to the Saudi king condemned the sacrilege of the Islamic sanctities by media in several European countries.
Such insulting measures, which are against ethical and human principles, are aimed at testing the extent of reaction by the Muslims and the Islamic countries towards such moves, Ahmadinejad said adding that if Muslim states do not consider such acts as important, the insulting move will occur in the future.
The Iranian president referred to both Iran and Saudi Arabia as two large Islamic states which influence regional and global equations.
Due to the mutual understanding which exists between the two countries, particularly following the recent summit meeting of the Muslim states in the holy city of Mecca, Tehran hopes that more effective steps would be taken toward progress and consolidation of the World of Islam, he added.
The two leaders further reviewed different ways to encounter those involved in insulting the Islamic sanctities.
For his part, King Abdullah who is currently visiting Pakistan, underlined the need for effective encounter with such moves.
He also briefed Ahmadinejad on strong condemnation of the sacrilegious act by several Islamic countries and organizations in that regard.
The publication of the insulting cartoons of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) immediately met with outrage and angry protests of world Muslims.
Caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) published in a Danish tabloid in September provoked boycotts and angry protests across the Muslim world on Tuesday with interior ministers from 17 Arab countries calling on the Danish government to punish the authors.
The General Secretariat of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) also condemned the reprehensible publications in the Danish newspaper Jylland Posten which found their way in the Norwegian daily Magazinet.
By ERIC LICHTBLAU
April 26, 2006
WASHINGTON, April 25 — An appellate court on Tuesday directed a lower court to consider statements by a Muslim cleric in northern Virginia that he had been illegally wiretapped under the warrantless eavesdropping program that President Bush authorized.
The ruling opened the door to what could be the first ruling by a federal court on whether information obtained under the program, operated by the National Security Agency, had been improperly used in a criminal prosecution.
The cleric, Ali al-Timimi, who was sentenced to life in prison last year for inciting his Muslim followers to violence, is challenging his conviction because he says he suspects that the government failed to disclosed illegal wiretaps of his e-mail messages and telephone conversations.
In an order released on Tuesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit did not rule on the merits of Mr. Timimi's assertions about the N.S.A. program, but sent the case back to the federal trial court in Alexandria, Va., for a rehearing.
The appellate court gave the trial judge in the case, Leonie M. Brinkema, broad latitude, saying the trial court could "order whatever relief or changes in the case, if any, that it considers appropriate."
A number of defendants in terrorism cases around the country have sought to challenge their prosecutions on the ground that evidence against them may have been garnered from undisclosed wiretaps.
Mr. Timimi's case is the first to result in a rehearing on the challenges. The Justice Department did not oppose his motion to vacate his appeal and have the trial court consider the eavesdropping question. Department officials said they saw the appellate decision as largely procedural, but declined to discuss how the case might play out when the trial court rehears it.
"We'll brief the court at the right time and advise the court appropriately," a spokesman for the department, Bryan Sierra, said. "Whenever we have the opportunity to set the record straight, we'll do so."
But a lawyer for Mr. Timimi, Jonathan Turley, said the appellate order was a significant and "extraordinary step" because appellate courts did not generally order a rehearing in a criminal case while an appeal was pending.
"This is very good news for us, and we're eager to go back to Judge Brinkema to explore these troubling issues," Mr. Turley said in an interview.
The Justice Department has declined to say publicly whether National Security Agency wiretaps were used against Mr. Timimi or any other terrorism defendants. But Mr. Timimi's lawyers maintain that circumstantial evidence, including incriminating conversations between him and other suspects that were monitored after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, indicate that the eavesdropping program was used against him.
Bali bomb cleric freed from jail
June 13, 2006
A Muslim cleric convicted over the 2002 nightclub bombings on Indonesian island Bali, which killed 202 people, has been released from prison in Jakarta.
Abu Bakar Ba'asyir was found guilty in March 2005 of conspiracy in connection with the bomb plot, but he was cleared of more serious charges.
Security experts say the cleric is a founding member of a regional Islamic militant group Jemaah Islamiah (JI).
Supporters gathered outside the prison, cheering as he left the building.
Australia, from where many of those killed in the Bali nightclub bombs came, has said it is disappointed by the cleric's release.
The BBC's Rachel Harvey, in Jakarta, says Ba'asyir emerged into bright sunlight and a crowd of supporters, police and journalists.
He was freed about one hour ahead of schedule, surprising many - including his lawyer, who did not arrive at the jail until his client had been whisked away.
He was thought to be travelling straight to his home town of Solo, in central Java, where he runs an Islamic school.
Wearing his trademark white skullcap and thick spectacles, the elderly cleric tried to give a brief speech, but his voice was barely heard among the shouting, our correspondent adds.
"I will continue to fight to uphold the Islamic Sharia," he said, thanking Allah and his lawyers for continuing to support him, the Associated Press reported him as saying.
With the crowd becoming increasingly excited, a group of young men formed a human barrier to allow Ba'asyir to move through the sea of jostling people towards a waiting car.
Back to teaching
Ba'asyir was first arrested shortly after the Bali nightclub bombings in October 2002, although he was never accused of taking part in the attack.
Two bombs ripped through the Kuta area of Bali, a regular haunt for tourists, destroying a nightclub and killing mainly foreigners.
Ba'asyir was held in custody and faced two separate trials, eventually serving two separate sentences, the first for minor immigration offences, the second for being part of what the court called an "evil conspiracy".
In both cases more serious charges were either dropped or later overturned on appeal.
Indonesian and foreign intelligence agencies believe Ba'asyir was, and perhaps still is, the spiritual leader of radical network JI.
Our correspondent says Ba'asyir's power lies in his ability, as a charismatic preacher and teacher, to provide encouragement - and some would argue ideological justification - for violence.
However, many experts believe his influence within JI has waned, and the situation has changed hugely since he was imprisoned.
JI's network is fractured, split between those who espouse violence as part of what they say is legitimate and necessary jihad, and those who believe in a longer term struggle requiring patient proselytizing and military preparation, our correspondent says.
Members of JI are accused of being behind a number of operations in Indonesia, including two suicide attacks in Jakarta and the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings.
But most of these attacks took place while Ba'asyir was in prison and he denies JI even exists.
He claims he was the victim of an American-inspired plot to undermine Islam.
The 68-year-old cleric has said that once released he planned to return to the boarding-school he founded and to continue teaching.
Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer said he feared that Ba'asyir could now incite further violence.
Mr Downer said that Australia and the US regard Ba'asyir as an extremist and want his travel restricted and financial assets frozen.
Survivors of the bombings have expressed their outrage and frustration that Ba'asyir has walked free after just two years in prison.
"I think the Indonesian government need to have a good look at themselves," Peter Hughes, who survived with burns to 56% of his body, told the Associated Press.
But Mr Downer said that Canberra accepted the decision of the Indonesian legal system.
The BBC's Phil Mercer in Sydney says the Bali bombings brought Australia to the front line of international terrorism for the first time, hardening the government's resolve to fight alongside the US in its war on terror.
I will continue to fight to uphold the Islamic Sharia. I thank Allah that I am free today - Abu Bakar Ba'asyir.
By Victor Davis Hanson
Originally published August 18, 2006
What makes two dozen British Muslims want to blow up thousands of innocent passengers on jumbo jets? Why does al-Qaida plan hourly to kill civilians? And why does oil-rich Iran wish to "wipe out" Israel?
In short, it's the old blame game, one that over the past century has taken multiple forms.
Once, a tired whine of Islamists was that European colonialists and American oilmen rigged global commerce to "rob" the Middle East of its natural wealth. But they were pretty quiet when the price of crude oil jumped from around an expensive $25 a barrel to an exorbitant $75.
Another old excuse for Islamist anger was the claim the West had favored autocrats - the shah of Iran, the House of Saud, the Kuwaiti royal family - in a cynical desire for cheap gas and to prop up strong anti-communist allies.
Some of that complaint was certainly accurate. But since Sept. 11, America has ensured democracy in Afghanistan, spent billions and more than 2,500 lives fostering freedom in Iraq, pressured Syria to leave Lebanon, and lectured longtime allies in Egypt and the Gulf to reform. For all this, we are now considered crude interventionists, even when our efforts may well pave the way for radical Muslims to gain legitimacy through plebiscites.
Islamists gripe about Western infidels encroaching on Muslim lands. Osama bin Laden attacked because of American troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, or so he said. Hamas and Hezbollah resorted to terror to free Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon, or so they said.
Yet nothing much has changed since the United States pulled its combat troops out of Saudi Arabia, or after the Israelis departed Gaza and Lebanon, and announced planned withdrawals from parts of the West Bank. Meanwhile, the elected Iraqi government wants American soldiers to stay longer (while the latest polls suggest the American public doesn't).
Then there is moaning that the West treats its Muslim immigrants unfairly, despite evidence to the contrary. After all, Muslims build mosques and madrassas all over Europe and the United States; yet Christians cannot worship in Saudi Arabia or have missionaries in Iran. Western residents or immigrants in most Arab nations would not dare demonstrate on behalf of Israel. But in Michigan last week, largely Arab-American crowds chanted "Hezbollah" - despite that terrorist group's long history of murdering Americans.
Another Islamist grumble is that the West supports only Israel. Again, that's hardly true. The Europeans gave plenty of aid to Palestinian groups whose hostility to Israel is well-established. The United States makes no bones about aiding Israel, but it also has given huge amounts of money to the Palestinians, Egypt ($50 billion so far) and Jordan. And without the United States, Kuwait would be the 19th province of Iraq, the Taliban would rule Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein and his sons would still slaughter Kurds, and there might not be any Muslims left at all in Kosovo or Bosnia.
The one thing, however, that the United States cannot do to please Islamists is change its liberal character and traditions of Western tolerance. And isn't that the real story behind all these perceived grievances and phantom hurts: the intrusive dynamism of freewheeling Western, and particularly American, culture?
Both its low forms of girlie magazines and punk rock and its impressive literature, art, commerce and technology saturate the world. And why not? American radical individualism appeals to the innate human desire for freedom and unbridled expression. Instantaneous communications have also brought to an insecure Middle East firsthand views of how much wealthier, freer and more tolerant the outside world is when it is democratic and transparent.
But instead of providing a blueprint for reform, these revelations only incite envy and anger from millions who are advised that parity with the West is found instead by retreating further into seventh-century religious purity.
So never mind the trillions in petrodollars, billions in aid and concessions. Unless we change our very character, or the Middle East achieves success and confidence through Western-style democracy and economic reform, expect more tired scapegoating and violence from radical discontents, from Lebanon to London - and well beyond.
Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
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