Monday, December 1, 2003

Why don’t moderate Muslims speak up in favor of President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair when they resolve, “to crush global terrorists who hate freedom”?

One of Pakistan’s most respected former army chiefs supplied a chilling explanation last week: because the “terrorists” are the “freedom fighters” of a “Muslim world facing unprecedented oppression and injustice.”

Obstreperous is the way the Pakistani media refer to retired Gen. Aslam Beg. Harum-scarum would be more accurate. Mercifully, his finger is not anywhere near Pakistan’s nuclear trigger. But it could be tomorrow or the next day should President Pervez Musharraf fall victim to a seventh attempt on his life.

In a lengthy e-mail, Gen. Beg said the Bush-Blair “strategy to combat global terrorism” is “a declaration of total war on freedom movements and it is the Muslim world that will be at the receiving end.”

The anti-coalition resistance in Iraq and Afghanistan, as seen by Gen. Beg, is “a new reality emerging — a surging tide of their elan and vitality.” By the standards of Pakistan’s coalition of six politico-religious parties that govern two of Pakistan’s four provinces, and hold 20 percent of the seats in the federal assembly, Gen. Beg is a moderate.

President Musharraf estimates the number of extremists at “no more than 1 percent of the population.” That’s 1.5 million religious fanatics who are holding, according to Mr. Musharraf, “99 percent of the population hostage.” But what happens when the moderates nuncupate — only to echo the extremists? That certainly appears to be the case of Gen. Beg, a soft-spoken man who is a leading geopolitical thinker in a country that is one of nine nuclear powers in the world. Pakistan is also a Muslim nation where anti-Americanism is the issue that unites all shades of political opinion.

Gen. Beg argues it is the U.S. that originally sponsored the Rent-a-Jihadi (holy warrior) when the CIA sought the support of jihadis from all over the Muslim world to fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Some 60,000 mujahideen (freedom fighters) passed through a system that was sponsored by the U.S., Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Their numbers are now growing daily, says Gen. Beg, and they “form the core of the global Muslim resistance … engaged in fighting in Chechnya, Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan and Iraq.”

“They are highly motivated, selfless and fearless people, obeying no earthly authority,” according to Gen. Beg. “They are hard to subdue by military force, and recognize no international borders in pursuit of their goals. … They have frustrated the designs of the two superpowers and are surging forward to carve out their own destiny.”

The Bush administration dismisses the “Islamic Resurgence” by “maligning such liberation movements as terrorism,” but, adds Gen. Beg, the U.S. will soon find Iraq and Afghanistan are “quagmires” from which “safe exits” will become increasingly difficult.

As for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, “All wars of liberation have splinter groups who lose sense of direction and indulge in wanton acts of terrorism.” But the U.S. only has itself to blame. Because U.S. administrations failed to grasp elementary psychiatry, as understood by the Pakistani general: “The substrata of human senses — the mental reality which constitutes the sociocultural interpretations, and are the inner springs of individual and social behavior — are ironically overlooked. The perceptions based on membership in marginalized groups, the deprived sensibility accumulated through sufferings, discriminations and denial of justice and fair play, dissolve hope and expectations and lead to what sociologists have termed anomie — a mental state where death or life ceases to have any meaning or relevance. In the war on terror, who are the culprits — the promoters of anomie or the perpetrators of violence?”

Gen. Beg’s use of anomie is America’s alleged lack of ethical values, which, in turn, begets violence, ergo Osama Bin Laden is not responsible for the attacks of September 11, 2001; America is. This is a switch on the still widely held belief in the Muslim world that the CIA and Mossad were co-conspirators in the September 11 plot, whose objective was to provide a rationale for military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This taradiddle also had its roots in Pakistan when Gen. Hamid Gul, a former head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, a classmate of Gen. Beg, said he had evidence the U.S. Air Force was also involved in the plot (i.e, the fact no U.S. fighter planes took off to shoot down the hijacked aircraft). Both Gen. Beg, the head of a think tank, and Gen. Gul, who is “strategic adviser” to politico-religious parties, are held in high regard by the Pakistani military.

Either way, the warped, apprentice sorcerer thinking does much to explain the recent Pew Foundation survey on global attitudes toward the United States: As a trustworthy leader, bin Laden scored higher than George W. Bush in most Muslim countries.

There are no quick fixes for change. Despite all the constantly repeated assurances given to the U.S. about reform, Pakistan’s madrassas (Koranic schools) are still churning out 750,000 jihadi-prone male teenagers a year with the same hateful views of America, Israel and India.

The fossilized clerics in charge have stood their ground — with Wahhabi clergy money still reaching them from Saudi Arabia. An estimated total of 5 million young men have passed through the system for the last 13 years. The madrassas were the spawning grounds of Taliban.

Today, a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan continues to enjoy the same logistical support — and casualty insurance.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.

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