- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2004

Amsterdam helps explain the stakes in Fallujah — the Amsterdam of Nov. 2, 2004, where an Islamist radical murdered Dutch libertarian filmmaker Theo van Gogh.

Fallujah is Iraq’s murder capital — or more precisely, the outlaw town used as a staging area for murder committed by Iraq’s secular and religious reactionaries.

And “reactionary” is a much more apt description for these thugs than “insurgent.” Words matter, and insistently describing the murderers in Iraq as insurgents distorts the aims and true nature of these enemies. Saddam’s old cronies (the secular reactionaries) and Abu Musab Zarqawi’s suicide bombers (the religious reactionaries) don’t hold elections, they don’t dig sewers, and they don’t build hospitals. The secular reactionaries want to return Iraq to a Sunni-dominated dictatorship — the corrupt, murderous hellhole Iraq was in March 2003. The religious reactionaries have a grander target, with their “golden age” a bit deeper in time. They want to run the entire world along the lines of an 11th or 12th century Muslim caliphate.

While Iraq’s secular and religious reactionaries have irreconcilable political differences, at the moment both groups think they can use the other as a means to an end. They intend to spill enough Iraqi and American blood to convince Iraqis and Americans that they cannot be defeated. The United States will then withdraw, and the new Iraqi government will fall. That’s when the reactionaries will fight it out over which past (March 2003 or a theo-fascist 12th century) will control the Middle East’s future.

The secular and religious reactionaries also share a common “political tool”: murder. This isn’t news. Dictators and religious zealots have always used murder to enforce oppression and conformity.

To maintain his regime, Saddam murdered at least 300,000 Iraqis. Three religion-inspired murders continue hindering any rapprochement in Israeli-Palestinian relations: the 1951 murder of Jordan’s King Abdullah I, and the murders of Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Yitzhak Rabin. Extremists who rejected respect and dialogue believed Abdullah I would make peace with Israel. The murder of Rabin by an Israeli religious fanatic was a vicious mirror of this evil.

Van Gogh’s murder in oh-so-Euroliberal, oh-so-politically correct, oh-so-ostensibly multicultural Amsterdam stems from the same reactionary roots. Van Gogh received numerous death threats from Islamist radicals after he produced a movie criticizing what he called Islam’s abysmal treatment of women.

His killer, a second-generation Arab immigrant named Mohammed Bouveri, shot Van Gogh, stabbed him, then slit the filmmaker’s throat. Bouveri left a five-page letter on the body that said, “There will be no mercy for the wicked, only the sword will be raised against them” and that the Netherlands, the United States and Europe will be destroyed.

Like the people of Afghanistan who demonstrated a month ago in the Afghan presidential election that democracy is an attractive alternative to states run by political and religious fascists, the people of Iraq look forward to freedom.

Ending the reactionaries’ reign of terror in Fallujah and other outlaw towns in the Sunni Triangle won’t eliminate terrorist murder in Iraq, but it will put a severe crimp in the killers’ ability to intimidate en masse.

The Netherlands benefits from the democratic rule of law, and Bouveri is already in custody. However, his crime is a glimpse of how the “murder tool” is used by political and religious reactionaries to thwart moderate voices and frustrate freedom’s advocates throughout the Middle East. For decades, Palestinian moderates have complained they literally live under the gun, fearing reprisal and death.

Is the international press describing Bouveri as a Dutch insurgent or an Islamic insurgent? No, and he certainly isn’t, except perhaps in the demented, self-loathing minds of arch-leftists like Michael Moore. The thugs in Fallujah, whether inspired by Saddam or bin Laden, aren’t insurgents, either. They are reactionaries whose only route to power is murder. Iraq’s interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi now says the rule of law is coming to Fallujah. It would be nice to see a few of van Gogh’s filmland friends (who claim to value political and artistic freedom) send Mr. Allawi a letter of thanks.

Austin Bay is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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