Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
In Terry Gilliam’s dystopian film-classic Brazil, London is under assault from a 13-year-long terrorist campaign that Londoners won’t stop and so just live with. A bomb goes off in a restaurant, and the waiters scurry to screen off the mangled and dying so survivors can continue eating. When reminded by a journalist that “The bombing campaign is now in it 13th year,” the Deputy Minister laughs, “Beginner’s luck!” The West today is rapidly approaching the surreal insouciance of Gilliam’s fantasy.
Think about Obama, hanging out with head of terror-state Raul Castro at a baseball game during the Brussels attacks that killed 34, including four Americans. Obama told Chris Wallace that the terrorists “win” if we don’t go about our daily business, like the diners in Brazil ordering dessert among the screams and moans of the dying and wounded. After all, ISIS is not an “existential threat,” as the president keeps saying, and more of us die in bathtub falls than are killed by terrorists. Obama apparently thinks he has achieved John Kerry’s goal during the 2004 presidential campaign to reduce terrorism to a “nuisance” like prostitution.
I suppose the absurd security measures we endure every time we board a plane is the sort of “nuisance” Kerry and Obama are talking about. I guess we “win” when we dutifully take off our shoes and coats, put our computers and three ounces of liquids in a tray, and submit to aggressive wanding by surly TSA functionaries. Are such silly measures now part of the daily life we should just get on with? Of course Obama’s attitude is preposterous, and he should know that it is the terrorists who “win” every time an 80-year-old has to endure being felt up by a federal worker. Meanwhile, in breach tests of TSA inspectors in 2015, 95% of fake explosives and contraband sailed through the screening process.
These inefficient and intrusive procedures have been put in place mainly to avoid stigmatizing Muslims. Such obeisance to politically correct proscriptions against “profiling” is just one of the myriad ways in which we tell the jihadist enemy we really aren’t serious about the latest battle in the 14-century-long war of Islam against the infidel West.
Take Obama’s Executive Order 1341, which banned waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” of captured jihadists. Now only those practices in the Army Field Manual can be used to question detainees, despite the fact that the document is public and so jihadists can use it to train terrorists how to resist. Forget that one technique, waterboarding, is legal under U.S. law, and generated actionable intelligence––according to former CIA chief George Tenet, waterboarding a few high-value suspects helped foil over 20 al Qaida plots against the U.S. Those facts cannot outweigh Obama’s need to preen morally and gratify international anti-Americanism.
More recently, his notoriously political CIA director John Brennan displayed once again this administration’s lack of seriousness about the war against Islamic jihad. In 2009 Brennan “corrected” 14 centuries of Islamic scripture, practice, and law by calling jihad a way “to purify oneself or to wage a holy struggle for a moral good.” Obviously, the most revered Shi’a Islamic theologian, the Ayatollah Khomeini, was wrong when he said, “Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers,” or “Those who study jihad will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world.” That’s also the “moral good” for which ISIS wages jihad.
Brennan apparently learned nothing since 2009 about the nature of this war. Responding last week to Donald Trump’s promise to bring back waterboarding of detainees, Brennan huffed that should any president revoke Obama’s executive order and allow waterboarding and other EIT’s, “I will not agree to carry out some of these tactics and techniques I’ve heard bandied about, because this institution needs to endure.” Only someone profoundly unserious about his duty to protect the lives and safety of his fellow citizens would promise to disobey the Commander-in-Chief just so the bureaucracy he oversees can “endure,” whatever that means. The CIA has one job, protecting America’s security and interests, and it will “endure” only by successfully doing so, not by moral exhibitionism.
This lack of seriousness is endemic in this administration. Refusing to call ISIS “Islamic,” even going so far as to censor comments by French president François Hollande that used the word, bespeaks a dangerous frivolity. So too do symbolic tactics like droning an endless parade of ISIS “number twos” instead of committing enough forces and dropping enough bombs to make a strategic difference in the region. Instead, the American-led bombing campaign has averaged a mere seven strikes a day, with 75% of the planes returning with their bombs. Meanwhile Russia was averaging 60 strikes a day, freed from the squeamish rules of engagement that inhibit our forces from taking out an oil truck because it would kill the driver. Obama’s war against ISIS is a symbolic one typical of unserious politicians.
Our problem, however, goes beyond the politicians. Too many of us have failed to understand that this war did not begin on 9/11. It did not begin when al Qaeda declared war on us in the 90s and attacked our embassies and naval vessels. It did not begin in 1979, when our alleged neo-colonialist depredations supposedly sparked the Iranian revolution and created today’s Islamic (N.B., Mr. President) Republic of Iran, the world’s premier state sponsor of terrorism. It did not begin in 1948, when five Arab nations, all but one members of the U.N., violated Resolution 191 and attacked Israel. It did not begin when after World War I the victorious Entente powers exercised mandatory powers, granted by the League of Nations and codified in international treaties, over the territory of the Ottoman Empire that had sided with the Central Powers.
All these acts of aggression were merely the latest in a war begun in the 7th century when Islam attacked the eastern Roman Empire and began its serial dismemberment of the heart of Christendom, the old word for the West. For a thousand years the armies of Allah successfully invaded, conquered, occupied, enslaved, and raided the West, in accordance with its doctrine of jihad in the service of Muslim domination, and in homage to Mohammed’s injunction, “I was told to fight all men until they say there is no god but Allah.” This record of success began to end in the 17th century with the rise of the modern West and its technological, economic, and political advantages.
But the war didn’t end with that Muslim retreat, even after what bin Laden called the “catastrophe” –– the demise of the Ottoman Caliphate, and the division of its territory into Western-style nation-states. The West won that battle, but it did not win the war. One reason is the Muslim nations of the Middle East never suffered the wages of their aggression. They sided with the Central Powers in World War I. They sat out World War II––apart from the many thousands who fought on the side of the Nazis––and received fugitive Nazis as guests after the war. Their serial aggression and terror against Israel has never been repaid with bombed-out capitals or punitive postwar reprisals. Their governments have never been punished for funding and proliferating mosques and madrassas teaching hatred of the infidel and terrorist violence in the service of jihad.
Instead of paying the price of aggression, partly because of the Cold War, more recently because of Western failure of nerve and civilizational exhaustion, Muslims have been the beneficiaries of billions in Western aid, Western arms, Western defense against enemies, Western lax immigration policies, Western appeasement, and Western suicidal ideas like cultural and moral relativism. In short, Muslims have never accepted their defeats, and have never experienced the humiliating cost of their aggression, because the modern West has never forced them to pay for it.
Thus they look at our unserious, godless culture of consumption and frivolity, of self-loathing and guilt, and these serious believers are confident that 350 years of defeat in battle have not led to defeat in the long war. And so the war goes on. The frivolous Western dogs bark, but Allah’s caravan moves on.