The 9/11 commission’s 500-plus-page report is filled with
suggestions on how to reorganize the nation’s defenses against sneak attacks.
So great and so positive has been the reaction to this latest offering that
Congress is getting off the dime and cutting short one of its interminable
vacations to consider acting on its recommendations.
Part of the document’s power is that the report is touted as
bipartisan and therefore deserving of special respect. But that is TV-news-host
palaver. In truth, if it’s bipartisan it is deserving of special suspicion,
because “bipartisan” really means a put-up job, a behind-the-scenes deal,
something in which the fix is in between the two political parties.
Bipartisanism is what has gotten us into the foreign-affairs fix we are in.
Years of bipartisan agreement on foreign policy brought us 9/11 and the Iraqi
disaster. There is no more poisonous apothegm in American politics than the one
which has it that “politics stops at the water’s edge.”
A bipartisan foreign policy is a policy decided in the back room,
out of sight and without meaningful public debate. It is smother politics-that
is, politics played by both parties and the ruling elites to cast a blanket of
silence over foreign-policy decision-making. Whenever there is no argument,
when debate is suspended in favor of locking arms and singing “God Bless
America,” no good comes of it, and no good will come of this report.
There is debate aplenty about some of the report’s
recommendations. Already, screaming, yowling and shouting are audible as the
elected ones and their appointees argue over whether or not to have an
intelligence (not intelligent) czar and whether or not to consolidate various
agencies under such a person, as well as how to reorganize the Congressional
oversight committees-which amounts to little more than a fight among
steatopygic politicians over who gets what in the spoils and honors department.
All that carrying on is secondary to the report’s major premise,
which, if accepted and acted on, commits us to a dreary and even dangerous
future. In the deepest sense, what these 9/11 commissioners would turn the
country into is a vast walled fortification within which we are to immure
ourselves, except when we issue out the sally ports to act against a real or
fancied enemy. Bunker America. If you are in, you don’t get out, and if you are
out, you don’t get in.
They would have us make ourselves into the world’s largest
Israel, a nation surrounded by concertina wire, search lights, sensors, patrol
boats, electric fences, and a thick magnetic field of suspicion and secret
detentions. We are to become a bleak land of police officers asking for picture
ID’s. We are to be a fingerprinted, bio-recognized people whose irises are
photographed and kept in a Washington database, whose movements and words will
be the common property of ever-expanding police forces, security guards, rapid
responders and impolite imbeciles manning X-ray machines. We will be the
world’s anti–Motel 6, where the light is off and the unwelcome mat is out.
If Bunker America were to be a temporary, short-time thing while
we win the war, we could endure its costs in liberty lost, money spent and
wealth foregone. But that is not the thrust of this report. It promises us war,
terror and mayhem long into the future, inasmuch as it does not envision a
peace settlement of any kind at any time. It opposes an Arab/Muslim jihad with
an American/Judeo-Christian crusade, although that word-“crusade”-hasn’t been
spoken since that one time George Bush used it.
Yet the war aims in the report and the suppositions visible
behind them reveal a desire to all but extirpate Arab/Muslim life as it now
exists. “The catastrophic threat at this moment in history is the threat posed
by Islamist terrorism, especially the al Qaeda network, its affiliates, and its
ideology,” says the report, which continues: “Islamist terrorist leaders draw
on a long tradition of extreme intolerance … [which is] motivated by religion and does not distinguish
politics from religion, thus distorting both. It is further fed by grievances
stressed by Bin Ladin and widely felt throughout the Muslim world against the
U.S. military presence in the Middle East, policies perceived as anti-Arab and
anti-Muslim, and support of Israel. Bin Ladin and Islamist terrorists mean
exactly what they say: to them America is the font of all evil, the ‘head of
the snake,’ and it must be converted or destroyed.
“It is not a position with which Americans can bargain or
negotiate. With it there is no common ground, not even respect for life, on
which to begin a dialogue. It can only be destroyed or utterly isolated.” No
deals, no negotiations, no agreements, no compromises, no peace treaties, no ententes cordials , no summits, no
détentes, just unconditional surrender, but not of a nation-of a religion and a
In its rational, quiet way,
this 9/11 commission is cuckoo. They tell us in their report that we must
proselytize and even wage war in the following countries and regions: western
Pakistan and the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region; southern and western Afghanistan;
the Arabian Peninsula, especially Saudi Arabia and Yemen; the Horn of Africa,
including Somalia and extending southwest into Kenya; Southeast Asia from
Thailand to the southern Philippines to Indonesia; West Africa, including
Nigeria and Mali; and various European cities with Muslim communities,
especially cities in Central and Eastern Europe where security forces and
border controls are less effective. Are these people crazy or what?
The report would have our agents going into schools in tens of
thousands of Islamic communities, replacing their textbooks and the teachers of
their religion with our teachers and our textbooks. Evidently the commission is
willing to have the United States force its way past the enraged hostility of
hundreds of millions of people to inculcate their children.
“Right or wrong,” the commission says, just in case the
impracticalities of what it’s proposing are not understood, “it is simply a
fact that American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and
American actions in Iraq are dominant staples of popular commentary across the
Arab and Muslim world. That does not mean U.S. choices have been wrong. It
means those choices must be integrated with America’s message of opportunity to
the Arab and Muslim world.” Yeah, there’s a welcome message of opportunity if
the sons and daughters of Allah ever heard one. From Morocco to Indonesia, our
glad tidings are already being barfed back in our faces.
The commission admits as much when it says: “The United States is
heavily engaged in the Muslim world and will be for many years to come. This
American engagement is resented. Polls in 2002 found that among America’s
friends, like Egypt, the recipient of more U.S. aid for the past 20 years than
any other Muslim country, only 15 percent of the population had a favorable
opinion of the United States. In Saudi Arabia the number was 12 percent. And
two-thirds of those surveyed in 2003 in countries from Indonesia to Turkey (a
NATO ally) were very or somewhat fearful that the United States may attack
Note in the quote above the tone of injury implicit in the aside
about Egypt’s ingratitude for American aid. We call it aid, but do the
Egyptians? Or do they call it a bribe? And what about the crack about Turkey,
“a NATO ally”? Everything which Turkey feared would come of an invasion of Iraq
seems to be coming to pass, namely an independent Kurdistan threatening Turkish
interests and thus driving Turkey, the NATO country, away from its Israeli
alliance and toward common cause with Syria, Iran and Jordan.
Much of the commission’s writing revolves around misunderstanding
Muslims or presuming to understand Muslims on the thinnest of evidence when
some effort might have been spent understanding ourselves. Less attention
should have been paid to Muslim “extremism,” which is hardly an undiscussed
topic in the United States, and more devoted to Judeo-Christian extremism.
Christianity is a one-god-one-truth-and-we-Christians-own-it type of religion.
Leaving aside abstruse arguments over the separation of church and state, a
more immediate danger to the peace of the world is an America whose policies
are controlled by the intolerant spirit which lurks in this religion and from
time to time dominates the civic life of its practitioners. You don’t have to
be a Muslim to wonder if the highly organized Christian elements in the United
States hold the levers of power and drive policy. It sticks out all over this
report, which seems to neutral, agnostic eyes as a battle plan by one religion
to destroy another. That’s all fine and well, but when holy wars are fought,
there is hell to pay.