August 19, 2006

Aug. 19, 2006: Bud Talkinghorn

Homegrown terrorism and the Iraq rationale

Iraq gets a drumroll each time a new homegrown terrorist cell is uncovered. The West's "invasion" of Afghanistan gets mention as well. The West simply has to stop interfering with the godly Taliban and al-Qaeda's moves to entrench themselves as the government, the Arab street maintains. Even our Canadian Muslims largely believe we should have backed the terrorist Hezbollah.

I have tried to put myself in the place of these people. Many turn out to be highly educated, therefore, one doesn't have to descend to the dolt level to try empathy. So I look at Iraq through their eyes and say the "crusaders" are defiling the Muslims' culture. Yet didn't they liberate Iraq from a monstrous Baathist regime? Consider the repression that the Shia and Kurds suffered under Saddam's iron-fisted control. So that liberation should count as a good thing. Than there is the endless slaughter between Sunnis and Shia. That surely must be a bad thing -- something that the Coalition want to defuse. Finally, if the Coalition had succeeded, the Iraqis would have a democratic society, with all that that implies economically and socially--just what our homegrown terrorist lads enjoy in Britain, the USA and Canada. None of that is going to happen if the fanatics of both sects continue their carnage and massacres. Monday's death total from sectarian violence was 57 known dead and 148 wounded. More victims are expected when the bombed-out apartment building is fully excavated. The bloodshed is now so common that the news of it was a two paragraph column on page A-11 of The Globe and Mail ( Aug. 14 ). Our Canadian Muslims, at least, must see this evil for what it is. The perpetrators must be seen as hell-bound. Otherwise they are beyond redemption themselves in a civilized society. Maybe I've slipped completely off the empathy radar screen, but Christians could not see Timothy McVeigh sitting on the left hand of God discussing chemical compounds and his glorious accomplishment.

Obviously, I have failed to penetrate the Islamists' rationale for terrorism against one's own citizens. But then my loyalty to Canada's society is not shrouded by religious blinkers. My ancestors got over that around 400 years ago during the 30 Year religious War, unlike 84% of British-Muslims polled, who said they were Muslims first and British a distant second. These folk talk about the Crusades as though they happened yesterday.

If my minister started raving about murdering the infidel Christians (or Muslims) amongst us, I would turn him in, pronto. However, there is an enormous Canadian-Muslim denial of the radicalism that infuses too many of their mosques, youth centers and chat rooms. You can't even get the majority to openly admit that their fanatics were behind Sept. 11--"Mossad or the CIA did it", is their mantra. Until our Islamic community gets deeply involved in thwarting these murderous plots and casting out the extremist imams, they will always be suspect. They have to do it, because there is no way the rest of us can fathom their nuanced ideological positions on jihad.

In fact, I never cease being astounded by the Muslim world's indifference to the Muslim-on-Muslim wars that have left millions dead or critically wounded in Algeria, Sudan, Egypt, Somalia, and Iraq. There is no condemnation about these atrocious internecine wars in the UN, except the occasional "tut, tut". I gather that the assembled thug states hold to that old maxim, "Those who live in glass houses...."

© Bud Talkinghorn

Piety, politics and pure murder

There are in the current renaissance of Islamist wrath many echoes from the past. Deciphering the complexities of the Middle East is not for historical slackers. Still, as a history-dipper over the years I have spotted certain commonalities to this present chaos. One element that stands out through the centuries of Islamic history is the presence of eternal warfare. It was the sword of Islam, wielded by the purest-of-the-pure, that conguered North Africa and goodly parts of Europe. If these crusaders hadn't been stopped at the Gates of Vienna and at Tours in France, we of European stock would all be bowing to Mecca today. The Christian crusaders of the 11th and 12th centuries were pikers by comparison. Most of their ragtag armies only succeeded because the Muslim tribes around their routes were at each other's throats. Nevertheless, these feeble attempts at colonization have been etched in the Islamic memory. Long, long revenge memories were the fuel for their past violence and it hasn't changed much today. Only the face of the invader has changed. Once the Christian "crusaders" are eliminated, they can get back to the serious business of killing each other.

Islam might portray itself as the religion of peace, but politics always managed to stick a shiv in that pretence. Different Muslim states/fiefdoms would employ the hashshashin--better know by our corrupted spelling, "assassins". These were the prototype for today's suicidal jihadis. In one encounter they were trapped in a vizir's fortress. To show their loyalty and courage, one after another of the Hashshashins would throw himself off the ramparts. Their beseiging opponents were quite impressed, to the point that they fled. Those were role models for our more current amateur shahids (shaheeds?). As though the endless tribal blood feuds didn't complicate Middle Eastern affairs enough, along came a schism. Suddenly the majority Sunni faith had a serious contender, the Shia, Westerners rarely got past the similarities of their puritanism, denigration of women and their violent zealotry, but for Muslims, you either belong to their branch or you are an apostate. Seeing gray areas is discouraged.

For much of the 20th century, the Sunnis ran the show in the Middle East. Iran was the one country where the Shi'ites were in control, but so long as the CIA-imposed Shah Pahlavi kept the mullah fundamentalists down, things went smoothly. Then came the revolution with Khomeini installing a theocracy. Two cannon-fooder wars--a draw--with Iraq in the 80's did nothing except steel the Iranians' desire for stamping their ideology across the entire Middle East. The ferocious Hezbollah bombardment of Israel is matched by the Shi'ites patience in Iraq. They could have started their revenge suicide attacks on the Sunnis long ago. Ironically (Do the Muslims get irony?) Syria is at once feeding Sunni jihadis into Iraq to kill Shia, while arming the Shia in southern Lebanon. That anomaly never seems to come up in the UN. Meanwhile, it is believed that Iran is harbouring Sunni Taliban and al-Qaeda fugitives. These contradictions keep the Western intelligence agencies off kilter. "Where is the pattern? Where is the master plan here?", they wonder.

If you want to see Islamic democracy in action, consider the elections in Algeria. When it appeared that the Islamic Salvation Party would win and impose a theocracy, the army cancelled the election. That set off a vicious civil war, which led to 160,000 dead. One of the reasons that a truce was called was the top military/spiritual leader came to the conclusion that perhaps every single Algerian had to be wiped out for purity to reign. This was too much for even his most hardened terrorist followers. Time for a truce, time for sanity. Unfortunately, that sanity has not penetrated the minds of al-Qaeda's Iraqi jihadis. The Shi'ites' patience exhausted, the fuse is lit for a Hobbesian "war of all against all". The coalition can't even contain the mini-sectarian strife occurring now. Soon it will be come time for them to sit it out.

It is certainly time to re-evaluate our "root causes" myopia--poverty, humiliation, colonialization. You can claim that for most of Asia and South America, but they are not blowing up children to make some point, neither is there pure nihilism. The "root cause" is a messianic eruption of fundamentalism. It unfortunately has also infected those Muslims who are most educated and seemingly assimilated to the West. I remember an al-Qaeda plot broken up in Pakistan. The main suspects were a cardiologist, an engineer, and another professional. Educational levels cannot be a profiling instrument anymore.

Hence, the so-called moderate Islamic associations and mosques must step up to the plate. They know who the extemists are, far better than we. Failure to do so will lead to even greater alienation from the Canadian public -- a public that is shown by polls to be less sympathetic to Muslims as the internal threat builds. The chasm between us will grow expotentially if there were a catastrophic sleeper attack.

© Bud Talkinghorn

The AIDS pessimism of Margaret Wente

Wente wrote an anti-AIDS conference piece for The Globe and Mail. She wrote that she was glad the "AIDS circus was finally leaving town, and that the impossibly bombastic Stephen Lewis was going with it." Her column certainly dropped a bomb on the AIDS' conference. She came right out and said that the plague was never going to stop because African men were not behind the fight. That basically they were a promiscuous, no-hoper bunch. My comments on this come from an English medical report in 1985. A top British epidemiologist was lecturing in Zambia's main medical teaching hospital. He tried to show that HIV was the culprit in AIDS and that sexual contact was the primary cause. The Zanbian medical student burst into raucus hoots and laughter. Three decades after AIDS has claimed millions of victims that laughter still persists. Paul Theroux writes in his travel book, "Dark Star Safari--A journey from Cairo to Capetown" that the level of AIDS ignorance has hardly abated. He was also a two time Peace Corps volunteer in Africa, (Malawi and Uganda). The entire continent seems to be sliding backwards in fact. He recalls a conversation with a Norwegian AIDS lecturer. When Theroux asked what her two year stint accomplished, she said "Nothing". During the entire time in Lusaka, she was harassed by interns who wanted to have sex with her. "They even sleep with 13 and 14 year old girls", she claimed. She was never returning. That had been the eye-opener for her.

Then there is the position that the South African Health Minister holds. She believes that a good diet of lemons, garlic and beetroot will cure AIDS. "Retroviral drugs are poison" is her "professional" position. Mbeki, her President, believes that poverty causes it. This from a country that should have been (after 25 years of AIDS knowledge) a rare African success story. I'm afraid Wente has it right. Until attitudes change among African men, the drugs will be a sideshow. Female emancipation is a long, long way off. Meanwhile, the little head will continue to lead the big one. The irregular use of the anti-viral drugs by both sexes is yet another problem. In many cases it will only create a new super strain of AIDS. But all this is too politically incorrect to discuss openly. "You are blaming the victims", the activists cry. Damned right I am.

© Bud Talkinghorn--"Get a life" takes on a whole new meaning with Africa.


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