A field guide to the Arab Spring.
There were eras in human history whose great challenges lay in isolating chemical compounds, unlocking the structures of human genetic material and examining the hearts of dying stars. But the great challenge of our time is telling apart Muslim moderates and Muslim extremists.
Fly to Tripoli International Airport, take the Airport Highway into Tripoli, drive along the coast through all those towns and cities you heard about on the radio when the announcers were excitedly describing battles between the brave Libyan rebels and the despicable forces of the despot; Homs, Misrata, Sirte. Drive through the night while hugging the Mediterranean coastline until you reach Benghazi.
Benghazi is the city on whose behalf we went to war against Gaddafi. The imminent peril to Benghazi was the reason that Obama gave for the conflict. “We struck regime forces approaching Benghazi to save that city and the people within it,” he declared proudly. But the firepower that proved so potent in displacing and dismantling the Gaddafi regime could not protect Ambassador Stevens and the American consulate.
The Benghazi consulate’s own security forces had been stripped down to their bare essentials. Inside the compound, in their own barracks, were members of the February 17 Martyrs Brigade who were tasked with providing security for the consulate. The February 17 Martyrs Brigade is an Islamist militia affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. The attackers firing off RPGs into the compound were members of Ansar Al Sharia, a spinoff of the February 17 Martyrs Brigade, associated with Al Qaeda.
On diplomatic paper the moderate February 17 Martyrs Brigade and the extremist Ansar Al-Sharia had nothing in common. In reality, the differences between the two militias were mostly cosmetic and the Martyrs Brigade had been contacted ahead of time by an Al Qaeda politician and asked to stand down while the attack took place.
A month later and a thousand miles away, the moderate Free Syrian Army and the extremist Al Nusra Front captured a missile base in Syria. The base was stocked with the rather popular S-75 SAMs which may be a bit dated, but had still managed to shoot down an F-111 over Libya back in 1981 and would make short work of most commercial airliners.
The Free Syrian Army is the force that almost everyone agrees we should be supporting. They are almost certainly the fighters that Obama is conveying weapons and trainers to. And the Treasury Department approved a license to provide direct financial assistance to the FSA. The Al Nusra Front however is linked to Al Qaeda and waves the black flag of the Caliphate. It considers the United States an enemy of Islam.
The rebel spokesman for the local franchise of the Brave Syrian People ™ explained, “We don't distinguish between the groups Al Nusra and the other militias, as long as everyone is working toward one goal of ousting the regime.” Our beloved moderates were making no distinction between themselves and the extremists. By helping the Free Syrian Army, we were really helping Al Qaeda.
The missile base attack was not the first time that the Free Syrian Army and the Al Nusra Front had worked together. The exploits of the Free Syrian Army were often actually the work of the experienced Jihadi fighters of Al Nusra. When gullible Westerners thought they were applauding the daring acts of freedom fighters, they were actually cheering the fanatical murderous frenzy of their own enemies.
The S-75s of Aleppo won’t pose much of a threat to us because the Syrian Air Force promptly swooped in and blew the missile base to bits, thereby probably saving a few hundred or a few thousand American lives—not that they did it for that reason. The real mission of the FSA and Al Nusra however had been to dismantle Syrian air defenses on its northern border clearing the way for a Turkish invasion of Syria.
But there is no reason to worry about that. As the media incessantly inform us, Turkey is run by the moderate AKP Islamists. The moderate AKP Islamists proudly support Hamas, which is an extremist group, and they have ties to Al Qaeda, which is an even more extremist group, but that’s just because they’re all working toward one goal on behalf of the brave peoples of Gaza and Afghanistan to oust the Great Satan and the Little Satan.
To make moderate matters even more confusing, the Muslim Brotherhood regime which has taken over Egypt has been designated as moderate, and yet the only difference between the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza, better known as the immoderate Hamas, is the border between them. On one side of the border the Muslim Brotherhood is moderate while on the other side of the border the Muslim Brotherhood is extreme.
But let’s head back along the coast through Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and Libya over to Tunisia, where the moderate ruling Islamist Ennahda Party has just had questions raised over its true degree of moderation by the release of a video that shows Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi collaborating with the Salafists on an Islamist takeover of Tunisia.
Ghannouchi’s previous declarations that America was the enemy of Islam while vowing to fight against it had been dismissed. His fatwa that “There are no civilians in Israel. The population-- males, females, and children-- are the army reserve soldiers, and thus can be killed” was just one of those genocidal remarks that did not discredit him as a moderate figure.
Tunisia was where the bloody Arab Spring had been born in a Muslim man’s fit of sexist pique at being slapped by a female police officer. Its enablers needed to believe that Ennahda was moderate while the Salafists enforcing Islamic law with their fists and storming the American embassy were the extremists. But instead, like their Libyan, Syrian and Egyptian counterparts, Tunisia’s moderate and extremist Islamists proved to be one and the same.
What is the true difference between the February 17 Martyrs Brigade and Ansar Al Sharia, between the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, between the Free Syrian Army and the Al Nusra Front, between the Salafists wearing suits in government buildings in Tunisia and Egypt, and the Salafists wearing robes and marching in the streets?
There are differences between them, but there are far fewer differences between these groups than there are between any one of them and us.
The Koran advises Muslims not to take Christians and Jews as friends, “for they are friends of each other.” When going on a safari through the Arab Spring, it might be well for us to heed that advice when it comes to all the moderate Islamists springing out of the grass.
We have no friends among the Islamist forces of the Arab Spring; only enemies who hate us moderately and enemies who hate us extremely.
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