Friday, October 07, 2005
t was a popular theme at the recent "anti" war demonstrations in Washington and other North American cities, blaring from banners and placards in all its many permutations. "Resist US Imperialism," "Resist Zionist-Nazi Aggression," "Resist Globalisation, Smash Capitalism," "Support Iraqi Resistance" and oh so many others. Had I been in any of these places, I would have liked to paint up a nice big sign with something like, "Resist Trite, Tired and Empty Slogans -- Resist Long Discredited Ideologies," and looked around for the nearest small contingent of Protest Warriors to join.
I ended my last article a few days ago on the theme of resistance, albeit a more difficult and even dangerous form than painting it on a sign and screaming support for Zarqawi's butchering creeps halfway around the world. Solidarity with victims of the current wave of violent, fringe Islamist ideology is a real resistance which every person can join in a real way, in a multitude of ways. Refusing to be a victim to begin with, is a good start -- as many Londoners demonstrated by "flipping the bird" to any and all faceless terrorists after July 7, proclaiming that "We are not afraid," and riding the underground the next day. Following a credible specific threat against the New York subway (news that was voluntarily embargoed by the media for two days by request of authorities), New Yorkers are today doing likewise. After last Saturday night's bombing attacks in Bali, the commercial and tourist areas appeared (from what I could see from the extensive local reporting) to have returned quickly to normalcy outside the investigation scenes. Even the traditional religious cleansing ceremonies (as after the 2002 bombings) seemed to me as a form of resistance. Sweep out any remaining evil forces and get on with life. The newspaper accounts found tourists at the airport, frantic to get on the first flight out; but I saw many interviews on local tv with visitors who explicitly said they would stay on -- and will return again -- in solidarity with Bali and her people.
This is a true resistance, not the hooded freaks in Baghdad who blow up school kids, machine gun their teachers, and saw off heads to make jihadi porn videos (yes, still -- another was released this week). Anyone who calls that any sort of resistance needs to have their head examined, while they still have it. In my readings of the wire services accounts of the newest joint Iraqi-Coalition operation to clean out al Qaeda ("AQ in Mesopotamia") terrorists from four towns in the Euphrates River basin close to the Syrian border, there was a story of one woman in a rural area who had actually seen the terrorists moving westwards after having been flushed out of a nearby town. They wanted shelter in her house, to hide from the American helicopters' view. She refused them, and sent them on their way. This is resistance.
Abu Bakar Ba'asyir would have condemned her for that as an apostate, for he teaches that it is every Muslim's duty to support the mujahideen in any way possible, and that jihad is the prime duty which obviates any other obligations or duties. In fact, she is a hero of the Iraqi people's resistance to terror.
Would any of those "peace" activists who advocate support for Zarqawi's "resistance" and "freedom fighters" go so far as to laud his ideological mates who blew up all those people peacefully having their dinners last weekend in Bali? Surely few of them would have thought it through that far, and the question would likely lead to a conceptual fracture of some sort. But from the enemy's viewpoint, the suicide/homicide bombers of Balinese cafes are equally entitled to be called mujahideen, freedom fighters, and syahid (martyrs for Islam).
Another form of resistance I would advocate, is the resistance against the drumbeat of handwringing surrender-ists -- a number of them in the opinion columns of Australian newspapers this week -- asking for understanding of root causes, looking for answers to questions like "Why do they do it?" and seeking to blame everyone but the killers themselves. There is no "Why?" and there cannot be one. It just is -- that's what we're faced with now, and "Why?" is just a pointless waste of time. The only question that matters at all is, "What are you going to do about it?"
In his column in Slate this week, Hitchens makes the point very well. The only "policy" responsible for these atrocities, is that of the killers themselves (and their "spiritual leaders" I might add). Australia's role in halting the slaughter of East Timorese following their referendum vote in 1999 (leading a "coalition of the willing"), is often trotted out as a grievance -- a proposed answer to "Why?" after Oct. 12, 2002 (since that event, Bom Bali I as it's now known in Indonesia, couldn't yet be blamed on Australian participation in Iraq's 2003 liberation). Likewise, the destruction of the UN's Baghdad headquarters in 2003 by massive car-bomb which killed UN diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello among the many others, was hailed by al Qaeda as vengeance for his role in supervising UN efforts in East Timor's transition to independence -- in their words, "the crusader that extracted a part of the Islamic land."
Consider this, look again at the awful carnage in Bali, and shudder if you ever said, or thought, that the bombs in London in July, or the bombs in Baghdad every day, or the bombs in Bali last Friday, are caused by any "policy" but that of the bombers themselves. Note the following:In some of the news and discussion programs on Indonesian tv I've seen this week, viewers are able to send short SMS notes which are put up on screen in an inset. I'm greatly encouraged -- I see very little of that whiny PC psychobabble about looking for root causes and understanding of grievances, and quite a lot of righteous anger and determination to oppose and resist such criminals.1) East Timor was for many years, and quite rightly, a signature cause of the Noam Chomsky "left." The near-genocide of its people is an eternal stain on Indonesia and on the Western states that were complicit or silent. Yet Bin Ladenism wants not less of this killing and repression but more. Its demand to re-establish the caliphate is a pro-imperialist demand, not an anti-imperialist one.So, what did Indonesia do to deserve this, or bring it on itself? How will the slaughter in Bali improve the lot of the Palestinians? Those who look for the connection will be doomed to ask increasingly stupid questions and to be content with increasingly wicked answers.
2) Random bombings are not a protest against poverty and unemployment. They are a cause of poverty and unemployment and of wider economic dislocation.
3) Hinduism is considered by Bin Ladenists to be a worse heresy even than Christianity or Judaism or Shiism, and its adherents, whether in Bali or Kashmir, are fit only for the edge of the sword. So, it is absurd to think of jihadism--which murders the poor and the brown without compunction--as a movement against the rich and the "white."
And yet, Jemaah Islamiyah, the transnational jihadist "movement" of Southeast Asia has not been restricted in any official way by the Indonesian government. Their position is that since JI is not a normal sort of organisation -- with membership cards, offices and so on -- their hands are tied as far as issuing a ban. It seems like a weak excuse, but public sentiment coupled with the persuasion of neighbouring countries may soon change that. President Yudhoyono relies on the support from some Islamic political parties in the legislature, so an indicator will be the extent to which certain other public figures will be prepared to distance themselves from jihadist radicalism. At the very useful Counterterrorism Blog, Dr. Walid Phares looks at the strategic question of JI in the wider jihadist movement, while his colleague Zachary Abuza examines Indonesia's Islamic political parties and figures, particularly the Speaker of the legislature and founder of the most overtly Islamic Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (Prosperous Justice Party), Hidayat Nur Wahid.
The weathervane for any progress in this area, is of course the jolly cleric now in Jakarta's Cipinang Prison, widely accepted as the "Emir" of Jemaah Islamiyah, Abu Bakar Ba'asyir. Many figures in the political mainstream have dutifully trooped down to his cell during his several incarcerations, to show their solidarity -- including former vice-president Hamza Haz, Hidayat Nur Wahid and others.
Ba'asyir received a sentence reduction in August, on the occasion of Indonesian independence day -- something which is granted to very many convicts every year, excepting those under a death sentence such as those convicted of carrying out the first Bali bombings. Ba'asyir received a 30 month sentence for conspiracy with that attack, and was given a four and a half month reduction. With the fasting month of Ramadan now under way, it is expected that he may also benefit from the customary sentence reductions handed out to convicts at the end of the holy month. Without the clemency, Ba'asyir's sentence will be completed sometime in April 2006 if I recall correctly. If he receives his reduction, he will be out preaching again very soon indeed.
A researcher into the jihadist movements, Prof. Scott Atran interviewed Ba'asyir in mid August this year, right at the time his partial clemency was handed down. The interview was published last month at the Jamestown Foundation, including a very good, short introductory background. Prof. Atran interviewed the cleric in a visitors' room at the prison, where Ba'asyir was being attended to by convicted terrorist bombers involved in pre-Bali attacks (the Atrium Mall bombing and the Philippine ambassador's residence bombing) in Jakarta. Wai Rantburg. Some selected quotes:
On whether the West can do anything to create a more peaceful world:
They have to stop fighting Islam, but that's impossible because it is "sunnatullah" [destiny, a law of nature], as Allah has said in the Qur'an. They will constantly be enemies. But they'll lose. I say this not because I am able to predict the future but they will lose and Islam will win. That was what the Prophet Muhammad has said. Islam must win and Westerners will be destroyed. But we don't have to make them enemies if they allow Islam to continue to grow so that in the end they will probably agree to be under Islam. If they refuse to be under Islam, it will be chaos. Full stop. If they want to have peace, they have to accept to be governed by Islam.What did he write in his letter to President Bush? (his lawyer was asked to take it to the US Embassy, Jakarta):
"You are useless, you'll lose."Do Muslims need nuclear weapons?
Yes, if necessary. But the Islamic Ummah should seek to minimalize [the intensity of the fighting]. Allah has said in verse 8 chapter 60 that we should equip ourself with weapon power--that is an order--but preferably to scare and not to kill our enemy. The main goal is to scare them. If they are scared they won't bother us, and then we won't bother them as well. But if they persist, we have to kill them. In this way, Prophet Muhammad sought to minimalize the fighting.On Amrozi, the famous "smiling bomber" of 2002 attacks, now sentenced to death:
That bomb was a CIA Jewish bomb. [...] If Amrozi really did make that bomb, he deserves the Nobel Prize. So, the death penalty is not fair.On whether the fight against America will ever end:
Never, and this fight is compulsory. Muslims who don't hate America sin. What I mean by America is George Bush's regime. There is no iman [belief] if one doesn't hate America. There are three ways of attacking: with your hand, your mouth and your heart.On how American policies might change in the future:
We'll see. As long as there is no intention to fight us and Islam continues to grow there can be peace. This is the doctrine of Islam. Islam can't be ruled by others. Allah's law can't be under human law. Allah's law must stand above human law. All laws must be under Islamic law. This is what the infidels fail to recognize, that's what America doesn't like to see. [...] There is no [example] of Islam and infidels, the right and the wrong, living together in peace.I leave it to the reader to sort out the myriad inconsistencies and contradictions contained in "Ustadz" Ba'asyir's answers -- even within the same answer! Is peaceful coexistence possible with the infidel? Yes, never, no, maybe.... on balance it looks like no way. Just imagine how it must spin the heads of his young, impressionable boarding school students.
When asked plainly whether he was the Emir of Jemaah Islamiyah, he simply says that the court failed to prove it.
But included in Atran's footnotes, is a letter dated Aug. 3, 1998 to "respected clerics, teachers, sheikhs" from Ba'asyir and Abdullah Sungkar (co-founders of JI -- Ba'asyir became Emir following Sungkar's death the next year), and in which they claimed to be acting on bin Laden's behalf.
"This letter is to convey a message from Sheikh Osama Bin Laden to all of you. We send you this letter because we can't visit and see you directly...."What follows this intro is OBL's message regarding the freeing of the Arabian peninsula from occupation by "Allah's enemies" -- Jews and Christians. Ba'asyir and Sungkar continue:
"Sheikh Osama bin Laden really wants to visit all clerics and Islamic preachers everywhere in the world to share his views so that there will be a common understanding about this momentous struggle. In the end, we will have similar movements simultaneously across the world. However, Bin Laden realizes that the situation outside his sanctuary is not presently safe. He also awaits your visit with his deep respect so that this great struggle may proceed. These are Bin Laden's messages that we convey to all of you."The letter then explains about OBL's situation at his camp in Kandahar, working to unify the Taliban and mujahideen. It closes with:
"If you have the time and commitment to visit Sheikh Osama, Inshallah, we can help you meet him safely.After last Saturday night's jihad atrocity, Ba'ashyir was allowed to issue a statement from prison. He said that the attacks were a sign that the Indonesian government had displeased Allah. "I suggest the government bring themselves closer to God by implementing his rules and laws because these happenings are warnings from God for all of us." He told the victims and their families to accept their fate gracefully, as their suffering is God's will. He hedged on declaring the attacks as a wrong act (if they are God's own "warning", there's a convenient cop-out on that score), but affirmed the three dead killers as "mujahid" and "syahid" -- which pretty much says it all.
We praise God to all of you for your attention and cooperation.
Jazakumullah khoirul jaza (Thanks to God the best thanks)
Wassalamu'alaukim, Your brother in Allah
Abdullah Sungkar Abu Bakar Ba'asyir
THE GOOD CHINA
laudia Rosett sounds like she's getting a little burned out following the massive money scandals and twisted anti-democratic bureaucracy of the United Nations, so she takes a short hike from the soon to be refurbished UN headquarters (which will be yet another momentous tribute to waste and inefficiency), and visits another building in the neighbourhood now reaching completion of its own renovations. But this one is actually a tribute to freedom, democracy and determination -- it's the new embassy of the Republic of China. Although nobody's actually allowed to call it that, that's what it is. Not to be confused with the "People's" Republic, this is the free and democratic China which is shut out from participation in any UN affairs or agencies. The contrast between the UN behemoth and the mission of Free China is very telling in more ways than one, but I found this anecdote pretty interesting:
Borrowing a page from George Orwell, the U.N. also celebrated its anniversary with a poster in the lobby of its famous but decrepit headquarters, on which it advertised a display of "Original Signatories of the U.N. charter." Except they weren't. The original signatory for China of the U.N. charter was the Republic of China. In the 2005 U.N. version, the signatory listed was "China, People's Republic of." Informed of this Turtle Bay twisting of history, Mr. Hsia wrote to U.N. Undersecretary-General Shashi Tharoor, noting, "It is hard to imagine how the U.N., perhaps the world's most important international organization and one which is widely counted on to preserve the truth, could allow itself to blatantly deviate from history and misinform the world about something so fundamental to its history."All the best to the Republic of China, her new embassy in New York, and the Free Chinese people on the occasion of their National Day on October 10.
The U.N. did not write back, says Mr. Hsia, nor did the U.N. correct the mistake. Instead, in the finest tradition of Orwell's memory hole--the poster simply vanished.
DIGGING UP THE TRUTH
ou didn't likely hear about much of this from the MSM -- unless you read the New Orleans Times Picayune or LA Times or a couple of others on the right day -- but all the self congratulations and mutual back slapping about the media's rediscovery of its "spine" during the reportage of Hurricane Katrina was a little premature. As time goes by, and the true story finally emerges, it turns out that most if not all of the most sensationalistic media coverage (what Dan Rather recently dubbed as a marvelous example of "speaking truth to power") was little more than rumours and plain old BS spun into some sort of pathetic facsimile of journalism.
The shoddy reporting actually contributed to the hampering of immediate relief efforts, and clearly contributed to putting people in unnecessary peril. It is not beyond the bounds of probability that the media's eagerness to believe, and to propagate, almost any sort of sensational rumours that came their way, actually caused additional deaths in New Orleans.
Matt Welch in Reason investigates some of the rumours, and provides a very good roundup of a few media mea culpas. In the process he interviews a Louisiana National Guard Major who was present in the NO Superdome during the entire period. Welch learns a lot more than he'd bargained for, and you may (or may not, I suppose) be surprised. Wai protein wisdom. See also Powerline: It's Time to Investigate the Press.
If they can't even get New Orleans right, why is so much credence given to the media's relentlessly negative hammering on the situation in Iraq? There is another side to that story, in fact many other sides which are simply not able to penetrate the filter of mainstream journalism. Conventional wisdom is a dangerous thing, and the legacy news media manufactured it with ease in the days and weeks after Katrina came ashore. It spread around the world at lightning speed, and none of those people will ever hear the corrections. I find clear evidence here, that where political impacts can be generated by reporting spin and ommissions, too many in that field find the temptation to influence is too great to resist. Idealism is a fine thing, but journalists are not supposed to be out to "change the world" and "make a difference," however noble their idealistic little hearts are. They are expected to transmit an accurate and full picture, to the best of their ability, and to put their personal preferences about it firmly aside. That should include, especially include, the stuff that they might personally think that the folks back home don't really need to know about.