July 17, 2006

For The Record

See how arch neo-con William Kristol frames the latest conflict by just cruising from one ill-defined fantasy to another:
What’s happening in the Middle East, then, isn’t just another chapter in the Arab-Israeli conflict. What’s happening is an Islamist-Israeli war. You might even say this is part of the Islamist war on the West--but is India part of the West? Better to say that what’s under attack is liberal democratic civilization, whose leading representative right now happens to be the United States.
Kristol has completely misrepresented the conflict for his own narrow ideological purposes. Given the mess he and his fellow neo-cons made of Iraq, you must wonder why any reputable news outlet (the Financial Times, in this case) still gives any of them column space.

There are many Israelis who do not support their government's aggression (though you would never know it from reading the Murdoch press). If you are going to label anyone who violently opposes the US-Israeli war machine as "Islamist", then it is only fair to label the war-mongers on the other side with a similarly ideological tag: "Zionists". So then you can talk about an "Islamist-Zionist conflict", which at least helps you begin to define all the innocent bystanders in the middle.

But even that is not really appropriate. The term "Islamist" implies that anyone who believes in Islam is therefore a supporter of this latest wave of violence. That is a massive insult to about a third of the world's population. Anyone who re-publishes such a term so loosely is guilty of the worst sort of lazy journalism.

There is already a more appropriate and widely accepted cliché for those who preach the spread of radical Islamic beliefs through violence: "Islamic fundamentalists". But even that, when you think about it, is misleading. It implies that Islam is based on violent and repressive fundamentals. Does the term "Christian fundamentalist" summon a similar sense of negativity?

I think "Islamic radicals" is a far more appropriate term, just as "Christian radicals" appropriately describes people like Bush, who subvert the peaceful teachings of Christ to their own ends.

Kristol's fantasy speculation takes him to some very wierd places indeed:
... the Islamist threat to liberal democracy may or may not turn out to be as dangerous as the threats posed in the last century by secular forms of irrationalism (fascism) and illiberalism (communism).
He argues that the lessons of Iraq should be ignored, because this is a whole new kind of threat. He then argues that without Iran, Hezbollah could not exist. Nor could the Assad regime in Syria. Nor could Hamas, nor even the Taleban! Just nuke Iran and all your troubles will melt away, George!

And let's not allow mere facts to get in our way:
It’s of course true that Hamas - an arm of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood - is at odds ideologically with Shia Iran, and that Shia and Sunni seem inclined to dislike, even slaughter, each other elsewhere in the Middle East. But...
There is only one language these brutes understand, of course:
Weakness is provocative. We have been too weak, and have allowed ourselves to be perceived as weak.

The right response is renewed strength - in supporting the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, in standing with Israel, and in pursuing regime change in Syria and Iran. For that matter, we might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait?
We are all Zionists now, according to Kristol.

UPDATE: At least somebody has the courage and opportunity to talk Kristol down: here's Juan Williams rendering him speechless with a simple question on Fox News Sunday.


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