- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 16, 2003

George W. Bush is getting a lesson this weekend in the meaning of peace, as in, “Islam is the religion of peace.” Most Muslims are as mild as Mennonites and as peaceful as Methodists. But a lot of them aren’t.

The president leaves today on an Asian trip with a stop in Manila, where, according to the New York Times, the Secret Service will not “permit” him to stay overnight in the Philippines, which is wracked with a Muslim insurgency in the far south. This trip, says one White House aide, is “the trip from al Qaeda hell.”

Indeed, it’s the president’s dear Saudi friends who finance al Qaeda hell through the venomous Wahhabi version of Islam, and they’re determined to spread their poison throughout the world. But it may be finally soaking into the brains of the devoutly slow-witted, the stubbornly obtuse and the terminally naive exactly what the stakes in the war, so-called, against terrorism really are.

The Wahhabi fanaticism runs deep, particularly in Asia. In an interview with an Indonesian newspaper, President Bush described the gallant terrorists who delight in killing the innocent, particularly the women and children who can’t fight back, as “hate-filled people.” Who would argue with such a mild description? A high-ranking Wahhabi divine in Jakarta rebuked the president and demanded a retraction and an apology, as if killing innocents is an obligation of faith, like deep-water baptism, Holy Communion or circumcision, and is therefore above even respectful discussion.

So pervasive has Wahhabi Islam become that most of the millions of tolerant Muslims are terrified of telling the fanatics to knock it off and shut up, as Jews and Christians regularly tell the occasional crackpots and bigots of their own (none of whom, however, has flown an airliner into an office building). There is no parallel to Wahhabi Islam in the religions or political movements in the West, nor could Wahhabism thrive in the Islamic world but for the patronage of the Saudi royals so beloved in certain American precincts.

Mahathir Mohamad, the prime minister of Malaysia, which borders on Indonesia, chipped in with a bit of hateful rhetoric yesterday. “Jews rule the world by proxy,” he said, and “get others” — this is code for “Americans” — “to fight and die for them.” The mumbled rumbling from Southeast Asia followed the car-bombing in the Gaza Strip that killed three Americans, the first time that Palestinian goonsters have targeted Americans. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which usually compete to take “credit” for killing Jewish children, didn’t want “credit” this time. The explosion directly engages the United States for the first time. Paraphrasing the (insincere) French promise on September 11, “all Americans are Jews now.”

Hardly anyone on the bloody ground gives much credence to the notion that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorists were ignorant of the attack on the Americans; the “Popular Resistance Committees,” which took “credit” for the killings, is merely a useful figment of the terrorist vision, a device used by the IRA in Northern Ireland to designate surrogates when it didn’t want its handprints on a particularly grisly atrocity.

The timid voices of the usual patsies will be raised in Washington, the usual hands will be wrung, the usual appeals will be made for “peace” in behalf of dread, diffidence and dismay. But it’s too late for a strategy of irresolution.

“American investigators will be asking themselves: Who hates America?” writes Anton LaGuardia, the diplomatic correspondent for London’s Daily Telegraph. “This offers a long list of suspects, chief among them Islamist movements of various shades that make up ‘global terrorism.’ Some Israeli experts [blame] an ‘ideological convergence’ between Palestinian groups and networks such as al-Qaeda.”

What would we do without “experts”? Of course there’s a convergence, of ideology, of religious fervor and of opportunity. The timid and the fearful want to imagine that if somehow Israel could be made to go away America’s troubles in the Middle East would dissolve and our friends would be their friends and their friends would be our friends and we would all be friends together. The timid and the fearful are fools.

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.

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