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Stop the Mewling

By David Warren

One of the most frequently asked questions about President Bush (albeit usually with jaundice) is, "What does he know?"

By asking it myself, I don't mean: What does he know that we don't, from the massive civil and military intelligence establishments at his disposal? For if we have learned one thing over the course of the Bush administration, it is that their information is worthless. They are large bureaucracies that exist for their own institutional purposes, which include self-perpetuation, physical expansion, and resisting direction from the White House. They are extremely averse to risk. They are incapable of planting human agents inside any serious enemy's command; and when the opportunity to do so is presented to them on a platter, they are likely to pass on it.

After perusing George Tenet's recent memoir, for instance, I was unable to imagine anything that would be lost by simply closing down the CIA, cashiering its entire staff, and starting a new agency from scratch that simply monitors the Internet -- but with its eyes open.

No: I meant, what does Mr Bush know about how the world works? More, much more, than his political opponents -- according to my considered judgement of the years since 9/11/01. But less, I am increasingly convinced, than he needs to avoid embarrassment.

I say this after looking through his remarks at the rededication ceremony for the Saudi-funded Islamic Centre in Washington, on Wednesday. It would be understatement to say they were naïve. Nearly six years after he visited that place, in the wake of the attacks on New York and Washington, and announced as if with the authority of an imam that, "Islam is a religion of peace," he opens himself to the charge of having learnt nothing.

To begin with, he does not seem to grasp that this Islamic Centre does not even represent the views of most American Muslims. It represents the views of the established Wahabi sect in Saudi Arabia, and thus, a smoothed-over version of what is preached from the minbars of Mecca -- Islam in an unpleasantly puritanical and fanatical form. Membership in such associated lobbies as CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has a branch here in Ottawa), has plunged since the terror strikes on the U.S. Which alas does not seem to affect their budgets. But does speak well for North America's beleaguered Muslims.

One of the most damnable mistakes we continue to make throughout the West, towards Muslims, is to accept strident and unreasonable Islamic spokesmen as legitimate representatives of the whole community. (That includes the smooth-talking ones, few as they may be.) This, more than any other single thing, leaves faithful Muslims trapped in the very stereotypes that we claim we are trying to overcome.

To say "Islam is a religion of peace" is, in itself, meaningless. But to say it in the company of Saudi-financed representatives of a sect that preaches a violent interpretation of Jihad; disseminates literature that is anti-Western, and often anti-Semitic; which demands the ultimate imposition of Shariah over Muslim and non-Muslim alike; and sends incendiary imams to preach these things into mosques all over the world -- is to say something not merely false, but intrinsically facetious.

Mr Bush went on to praise the Organization of the Islamic Conference -- the world's only religiously-based community of secular nations, and a regular source of anti-American diatribes. (Imagine if all the majority-Christian countries of the world created an Organization of the Christian Conference as a prototype world government.) He moreover announced that the U.S. would now appoint a special envoy to "listen and learn" at the OIC; and laughably, tell them about American ideals.

The OIC has officially and repeatedly stated that the greatest threat to world peace is "Islamophobia." It has condemned "terrorism" vaguely, but in its "Declaration on International Terrorism" of 2002, still not rescinded, it explicitly denies that those attacking Israel can be defined as terrorists. In other words, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade are not terrorists. Whereas, cartoonists in Danish newspapers probably are.

While I was in favour of invading both Afghanistan and Iraq, and remain in favour of fighting the Jihadis on the ground in both countries, until they are extinct, I never thought that should be the limit of the West's response to the menace of "Islamism."

Equally important is to confront, rather than appease, the claims of this enemy -- whoever puts them forward.

The United States and her allies have no business allowing the posturing of the OIC to stand. Flattering our enemy is a confession of weakness with real-world consequences. Rather, we should impose costs, including the withdrawal of all civil and military aid, to any country that signs on to anti-Western declarations. And I think of that not as something President Bush should consider, but as something he should know.

ENDNOTE: Just after I wrote this I saw the news of the latest terror attempts in Britain -- failed Baghdad-style car bombs in London, then the inept Molotov attack on the airport at Glasgow. This is a test for Britain's new prime minister, Gordon Brown. Every new head of government has a chance to change at least the rhetoric of his predecessor, and carpe diem, I wish him well. Good on him, for using the word "evil." Muslims who help us find, arrest and disable, those with Al Qaeda sympathies are among our most valuable citizens (and the British police get plenty of Muslim help). Those assisting the enemy by deed or by word require no sympathy. We must stop the mewling about "religion of peace," and get on with rounding them up.

© Ottawa Citizen

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