11 February 2007


For the 9/11 Victims, For Rushdie, For Havel, For Truth and For Freedom

Whatever you feel about the Iraq war—doomed from the start or a horrible betrayal by executive incompetence—Islamism, Islamic fascism, Islamic militancy, Muslim terrorism—whatever you want to call it—remains a real threat. To pretend that there is no threat, no forces that want me destroyed, that would remove your head with a dull blade, that want to put into place a religious totalitarianism that would make the Inquisition look tame, is head-in-the-sand ostrichism.

That is not, of course or by any means, to say something nuts like "Kill All Muslims." It is not to characterize all believers of Islam as being less than individuals. It is, however, to say that each and every one of us should stand up to Islamic militants and say, "No, I would rather kill those who want me dead before I live under those conditions." Not very pretty in turn-the-other-cheek or don't-get-attached ethical frameworks, but those have to be tempered by the reality of living in a world where cohorts of extreme religious individuals want to kill those who subscribe to "live and let live."

Yes, America and our governments have made mistakes that have acerbated the situation. Not being able to secure Iraq after overthrowing the Saddam government is a good example. But what Islamofacists believe is not determined by the behavior of the US government: It's a collection of choices by individuals around the world that are almost exclusively about their own religious beliefs and their participation in a religious community that is pathological in its lack of tolerance for other religious beliefs, for other social contexts.

In the ideal, our willingness at least to identify accurately those who would kill us for not believing what they insist we believe, lest we be labeled infidels, will be sufficient to save ourselves from those who would prefer we be poofed out of existence, if not by God behaving according to their rules, then by a nuclear device of their own making. But since some of those who believe that we are anathema to life itself insist on seeking those nuclear devices, we have to recognize that stronger measures might be required beyond "please, don't hurt me." Pretending that Islamist-controlled governments are the functional equivalent of the National Organization of Women or believing that the U.S. Government is just as bad as the Sadr militia will not do the trick. Bush may be a mess, a clown, a total loss as President of the USA, but I'm not convinced he wants to kill the unbelievers, the others, the way either the Shia extremists or the Baathist facists do. Wishful thinking along those lines is fun and games until someone—or your your country or your culture—departs the face of this Earth for good.

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