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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Stop the Moral Equivalence

Suicide bombing and hostage-taking vs. democracy
by Garry Kasparov (yes, the world's leading chess player) at WSJ Opinion Journal

It is said that to win a battle you must be the one to choose the battleground. Since the Abu Ghraib abuses were revealed, the battleground has been chosen by those who would blur the lines between terrorists and those fighting against them. The Bush administration has contributed to the confusion with its ambiguous "war on terror." You cannot fight a word. You need targets, you need to know what you are fighting for and against. Most importantly you must have beliefs that enable you to distinguish friend from foe.

While al Qaeda may not have a headquarters to bomb, there is no shortage of visible adversaries. What is required is to name them and to take action against them. We must also drag into the light those leaders and media who fail to condemn acts of terror. It is not only Al Jazeera talking about "insurgents" in Iraq, it is CNN. Many in Europe and even some in the U.S. are trying to differentiate "legitimate" terrorism from "bad" terrorism. Those who intentionally kill innocent civilians are terrorists, as are their sponsors. No political agenda should be allowed to advance through terrorist activity. We need to identify our enemy, not play with words.

The situation is worse in the Muslim world. Calling the terrorists "militants" or "radical Islamists" presupposes the existence of moderates willing to confront the radicals. Outside of Turkey, it is very hard to find moderate clerics who will stand up to Islamist terrorists, even though the majority of their victims are Muslim. In Iraq, Muqtada al-Sadr has been murdering his religious opposition and using armed gangs to establish political rule. He appears immune to anything resembling condemnation. We know that his militia receives outside support--and where would it come from other than Syria and Iran?

We have seen 25 years of anti-Western propaganda and hatred emanating from Iran, not only against Israel and the U.S. but against the liberal values that make up the core of our civilization. The effect has been to so polarize the Muslim world that we are left with two unappealing groups. On one side you have those who rally support by exhortation against a common foe: America and Israel. We may call this the Arafat model. By appearing to be the only viable leader in Palestine he has received billions of dollars from the European Union to prop up his corrupt organization and to fund terrorism. Hijacking, suicide bombings, hostage-taking--this "Palestinian know-how" has been exported throughout the region.

Leaders of this type focus the energy of an impoverished people into fighting a sworn enemy. They realize that the free circulation of liberal ideas would threaten their hold on power. With modern methods of communication it is impossible to build a new Iron Curtain, so they convince their people that they are engaged in a war against the very source of these democratic ideals. Arafat has done this successfully for decades.

On the other side of this dual model we have dictators who present themselves as the last bastion against religious extremists. Gen. Musharraf in Pakistan and the Saudi royal family are supported by the U.S. and given free reign to limit human rights because they are considered the lesser evil. Yet the more favor they have with the U.S., the more they are hated at home, empowering the extremist opposition. Everyone gets what they want in the short run but it is a recipe for inevitable meltdown.

U.S. success in Iraq is essential in order to provide an alternative model. Unlike Vietnam, there will be repercussions for global security if America does not finish the job. This is the big picture that must stay in focus. We are dealing with an enemy who considers the concessions and privileges of democracy to be weaknesses. To prove them wrong we must follow through.

The Islamic public-relations offensive is focused on proving that the West is corrupt and offers no improvement on the despots in charge throughout the Islamic world. At the same time, Al Jazeera isn't examining Vladimir Putin's war against Muslims in Chechnya. All of Chechnya is one big Abu Ghraib, but the Islamic world pays scant attention to the horrible crimes there because Mr. Putin shares their distaste for liberal democracy. The war is not about defending Muslims; it is about Western civilization and America as its representative.

Continue . . .

I cannot help but wonder how things might be different now - if Israel had taken Arafat out years ago, and/or if the U.S. had attacked Saudi Arabia in response to 9/11.