This Applies to the Middle East as well as the Far East

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We must be very careful when we speak of exercising “leadership” in Asia. We are deceiving ourselves and others when we pretend to have answers to the problems, which agitate many of these Asiatic peoples. Furthermore, we have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3 of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships, which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world benefaction…

In the face of this situation we would be better off to dispense now with a number of the concepts which have underlined our thinking with regard to the Far East. We should dispense with the aspiration to ‘be liked’ or to be regarded as the repository of a high-minded international altruism. We should stop putting ourselves in the position of being our brothers’ keeper and refrain from offering moral and ideological advice. We should cease to talk about vague — and for the Far East — unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.

~ George Kennan

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Islamic Tolerance would, today, be called Apartheid

Islamic Tolerance would today be called Apartheid

“I call you to God and to Islam. If you respond to the call, then you are Muslims: You obtain the benefits they enjoy and take up the responsibilities they bear. If you refuse, then you must pay the jizyah. If you refuse the jizyah, I will bring against you tribes of people who are more eager for death than you are for life. We will then fight you until God decides between us and you.” (Al Tabari, Volume XI)

Khalid bin Al-Waheed (Muslim General, 632AD)

It is truthful to say that Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance.

Tolerance: the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.

Tolerance is sometimes a first step towards elimination or assimilation. We can tolerate the influx of immigrants in the United States until (or only if) they assimilate. It’s the same with Islam.

Islam tolerates Christians and Jews (and whomever else) as long as they eventually assimilate. At the apex of Islamic Empire, this tolerance worked in their favor. They were THE World Power, especially in the Eastern Hemisphere, and those below them were of little consequence. Islamic law made it difficult to be an outsider or less difficult to revert (convert). Non-Muslims in Islamic lands were required to pay a special tax (jizya). No buildings were to be created or built that were for the purpose of worship or exercise of any other religion. Non-Muslims could ride on a horse in many (most) Muslim lands. Non-Muslims could not own Muslim slaves. Though Muslims could own Muslim slaves. Any non-Muslim in a Muslim country was characterized both culturally and legally as a dhimmi.

So, yes, Islam has a strong tradition of tolerance. At that point in Islamic history, tolerance worked in Islam’s favor. Let’s not confuse tolerance with true acceptance, though. Non-Muslims in the Islamic world were little better than second class citizens. In today’s parlance, the existence and lifestyle created by Islamic tolerance would be called Apartheid. Apparently, Mr. Obama believes that this is a thing to be tolerated when it exists in Islam.

In the modern age, most Islamic nations are small despotic, tyrannical States with no real power outside of their borders. Tolerance does not work. In order for Islam to survive, no other religion can be allowed to have influence over the people or the culture. Islam will not survive if people are allowed to make choices contrary to Islam.

Islamic civilization was definitely a tolerant society at one time. In some cases in some countries, it still is today. However, I hardly would call this Apartheid-like tolerance any better than Southern Jim Crow.

Summon the people to God; those who respond to your call, accept it from them, but those who refuse must pay the poll tax out of humiliation and lowliness. If they refuse this, it is the sword without leniency. Fear God with regard to what you have been entrusted. (Al Tabari, Volume XII)

Umar ibn al-Khattab during the conquest of al-Basrah (636 CE)

Geo-Politics: Change the Dynamic ~ Offer Incentive

If I were President…

1.  We get less than 20% of our oil from the Middle East.  I’d halt this immediately.

2.  That oil shortfall would be sourced from our own reserves and Canada.  I’d even throw a bone to Venezuela in exchange for their withdrawal from OPEC.

3.  I’d close all bases in the Middle East.

4.  I’d place a base in Israel and Egypt.  Keep the base in Turkey.

5.  I’d tell Egypt and Turkey that they have choice.  Either they’re with the West or their with the Muslim world.  If they decide that they’re with the Muslim World, then we withdraw all support and all bases from those countries.

6.  I’d tell Europe and Asia that America is no longer responsible and will no longer take action in the Middle East except in the case of defense of our allies.

7.  The Allies in the Middle East would be designated as Israel because they are a Democracy as well as Egypt, Turkey and Jordan.

8.  Our alliance with Egypt, Turkey and Jordan would be predicated upon Democratic reforms and their renunciation of a foreign policy based upon Islamic Internationalism.  These countries can keep their Islamic Nationalism, if they chose to do so.  That choice would mean our pulling all resources and support from their nations.

9.  Support of Jordan and Egypt would also be predicated upon an agreement to assimilation all Palestinian refugees.  All refugee camps would have to be closed down.  Those refugees would have to be given full rights in the countries in which they are located.  The US would assist with funding for housing and job training for these refugees at 50% of the cost.  This Aid Package would be closely guided by a contractual auditor to ensure that the monies were being used to build infrastructure and not lining the pockets of corrupt officials.  If bribes are insisted upon, funding would be withdrawn.

10.  Continued support of Israel would be predicated upon a real peace plan with the Palestinians.

a.  Israel would either permanently partition the West Bank and Gaza as sovereign nations and pull out completely leaving the Palestinians to their own fate.

or

b.  Israel would annex the Palestinian areas and alter their constitution making Israel an officially and legally secular nation.  Part of that constitutional reconstruction would be safeguards for all religions, creeds, ethnicities from persecution, etc.

There would be a ten year time frame to effect these changes with specific milestones in place.  If these milestones are not met, we would pull all support for any or all of these nations.

We would offer the new Palestine Nation, if created, a package of aid in return for a turning away from Islamism.  The US would provide financial and expert support in building a nation from the ground up.  A referendum from the Palestinian people would be required to receive this Aid Package.  In essence, the Palestinian people would be required to request it via said referendum and the leaders of Hamas, Fatah as well as members of any other quasi-governmental group recognized by the people.  If the people did not vote for our assistance, the offer would be withdrawn.  This Aid Package would also be closely guided by a contractual auditor to ensure that the monies were being used to build infrastructure and not lining the pockets of corrupt officials.  If bribes are insisted upon, funding would be withdrawn.
The onus would then be on these nations.  If they decided to go along with us, they would have our support.  If not, we would withdraw from them and leave them to their collective  fates.

I would have these treaties ratified by the US Congress and the United Nations.

There would be no military solutions offered.  Either they come on line with us or we no longer have a reason to be associated with them.  End of discussion.

As for the Gulf and their oil, that would be the responsibility of whomever wishes to continue to purchase oil from those nations.  China, France, Germany…whomever it may be.

We would continue to patrol the ocean lanes for support of international trade.  The Straits of Hormuz — no longer our problem.  Saudi Arabia — keep with your Wahhabism/Salafism on your own shores or risk offending more nations.

Egypt seems to be progressing towards Democracy.  This surprised me as I thought that the Muslim Brotherhood would take them in the direction of Islamic Sharia.  This is a positive development.  Jordan would need to step away from Monarchy and join the rest of the world in Democratic reforms.

Over the short term, these initiatives would seem expensive.  Over the long term, these initiatives would save America and the Globe much in terms of blood and treasure.

This would be my solution.

In effect, we would be saying; “Join the World and we will support you.  Remain in the Dark Ages and we will abandon you.”

I want out of the business of supporting corrupt and/or stubborn regimes.  Whether that regime be Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Western Europe.

The next thing that I would do would be to withdraw all forces from Europe.  The only way we would keep US troops stationed in Europe would be if at least 50% of the costs were funded by the country that wished for us to be there.  All real estate used by the forces stationed in those countries would need to be loaned permanently at a cost free basis for the duration of the deployment to that country.  A Status of Forces Agreement would have to be met whereby our Servicemembers would be subject to US Law and the UCMJ only while in country.  All services for our Servicemembers would be provided without interference by the United States.  All Servicemembers would be on a Tax Free Status in that country.  That nation would also have to be a member in good standing of the Democratic Nations of the World.

If they are not willing to do this.  No problem.  We will simply not have a need to act in defense of their Nation.

I would also pull out of South Korea.  On the way out, I’d tell China that if North Korea attacks, we would bomb the North into the dark ages.  That would be my final and only dealing with North Korea.  If the people of the North are too brainwashed, too stupid or too weak to fight for change, this is not the problem of the United States of America.  Let China feed North Korea or South Korea if that be their desire.

I would pull all of our forces out of Japan.  Japan doesn’t need us there and many of the people don’t want us there.  Next, I would enter a treaty with the Philippines wherein we purchase land from them to station our Pacific Forces.   I would base a Marine Expeditionary Unit and an Army Mechanized Infantry/Stryker Division there along with a Carrier Fleet being on Station at all times.

China would be warned that Japan is still our ally.  Taiwan would be told to work out their differences with China.  If China became bellicose and threatened invasion, we would act in defense of Taiwan.  Unless the threat is based on Taiwanese provocation.  In that case, Taiwan is on their own.

I would also make an alliance of mutual support with India.  Our Armed Forces would conduct joint operations/exercises with India.  If possible, I would allow for a treaty whereby US Forces would be permanently stationed in Southern India.  This would hinge upon Indian acquiescence on the Kashmir debate.

I would withdraw all forces and support from Pakistan and Afghanistan.  If Pakistan wanted our support, they would have to oust the Saudi Wahhabis and the Deobandi.  Pakistan would also be required to sweep the FATA and NWFP of taliban influences.  They would also be required to withdraw from the Kashmir debate.  This would be the price of assistance from the US.  No debate.  No equivocation.  If they want our support, they give up their dispute with India over Kashmir and halt support of all terrorism directed towards India.

India and Kashmir would be required to allow a full vote by the Kashmiri people.  1.  Independence  2.  Annexation by Pakistan  3.  Retention by India

International Election Officials would oversee the vote.  Any monkey business by either side and no deal.  Kashmir should be able to decide it’s fate.  Their fate should not be decided by Muslim terrorists or Indian Soldiers.

We would withdraw all support from Pakistan if this is not followed through to completion.   With regards to India, we go to a neutral stance.  India has no need of our support.  They’re a viable nation in their own right.

Aside from moving away from the Defense of Europe, I would do nothing in Europe.  They’re sovereign nations that can navigate their way through the world in their own rite.  We should not be providing defense for them unless they are willing to subsidize it.

On patrolling the commercial sea lanes, I would require that other nations either subsidize fleet operations or provide support in the form of personnel and equipment.  Either that or we protect only US shipping.

It’s time for the free ride to end.  The Nations of the World (especially Europe) have enjoyed peace at the expense of the American tax payer for far too long.  They decry our every move.  It’s time for them to step up.  The World doesn’t want Team America — World Police or so they say.  Let them have their desire.

These actions would save American Tax dollars.  They would remove us from the Middle East conflicts.  They would place the onus on other nations to conduct their own defense and improve the lot of their own citizenry.

After these offers, blame for the sorry affairs of the world could no longer be placed at the feet of America.  The primary sources of conflict would have been given a viable alternative.  If they chose the path to peace, it would be with our leadership.  If they chose the path to war, it would be at their own behest.  The blame would lie with themselves.

Another thing that I think would be a positive is for an exchange program wherein a Battalion of another Nations forces would be given the opportunity to come to Fort Irwin, Texas to train with US Forces.  I’d rotate the Nation on a regular basis.  6 Month rotations.  This would be a tremendous opportunity for our Armed Forces and theirs.  I’d offer this opportunity to India, Romania, South Korea, Hungary, Egypt, Russia, Thailand, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and other Nations with whom we would engage in treaties of mutual defense or with whom we wish to improve relations.

The last item on my agenda would be reforming the UN.  That, though, is a whole other post.

That would keep us from any more of this:

Along with legislation mandating a Declaration of War in order to commit forces to a Ground Invasion of another country.  I have no problem with bombing a perpetrating country into the stone ages.  If there are viable targets.  I would also work to repeal the prohibition against assassination of World Leaders.  We could have saved a lot of money and lives by simply putting a .99$ bullet through the forehead of Saddam Hussein.  We could save a bit more by spreading about 200 USD worth of lead throughout the Iranian, Hezbollah and Syrian power structures.

The “Welfare State” of Israel

I’m pretty damn pro-Israel.

I am. Unabashedly so.

They fight. They work for their own welfare. They built an oasis out of a desert.

That said.

How long are we supposed to defend these guys? How long are we supposed to put out security and treasure and blood on the line for these people? When do they stand on their own?

If they can’t, then they’re not a Nation State. They’re at best a dependent territory. Perhaps, they should become a state. Join the Union. Then I could see supporting them indefinitely. They could pay Federal taxes with the rest of us.

If they can never stand on their own, should they stand at all?

That is my question.

From Cairo to Istanbul in 28 Days

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We flew from Bangkok to Cairo on the 21st of September.  On the first day, we tripped around to Giza and the City of the Dead.  Later that evening, we took the train to Aswan.  Along the way, we stopped at Abo Simbel, Luxor, Karnak, Philae, Deendeera, Abydos, Hurghada and finally flew to Alexandria.  We spent two days touring Alexandria.  Taking in the new Library of Alexandria and Fort Qutbay as well as the Greek and Roman Catacombs under the city.  We drove from Alex. back to Cairo where we toured the city in detail (Muhammad Ali Mosque, the Giza Plateau, Pyramids and Sphinx, Saladin’s Citadel, etc).  We also took in Sakkara and Memphis and viewed the Red and Bent Pyramids as well as the Alabaster Sphinx and the Statue of Ramses II along with the Ziggurat of Zoser and the surrounding pyramids.

Then we were off to Israel.  We spent about 5 days in Jerusalem viewing the old City and took day tours out to Nazareth, Akko (Acre), Ceaserea, the Dead Sea, the Jordan River and Masada.  We met an old friend (Mali) from my days in the MFO in the Sinai.  And we got the excellent airport treatment for which Tel Aviv is so famous.  But that’s a story for another day.

Finally, we were on to Turkey.  I wanted to see the Hagia Sofia.  Primarily.  That said, I was a bit anxious about Turkey.  I’ve been to quite a few Muslim countries and Islam hangs over them like a pall.  I don’t particularly care for it.  It’s quite heavy and puts a damper on things.  Israel did not have this except in the Palestinian areas of the Old City in Jerusalem.

We arrived in Turkey and I was quite pleasantly surprised.  Islam is an undercurrent in Istanbul.  They’re Muslim.  You know it.  They know it.  No one gives a damn.  I like that.  It’s how it should be with all religion and it’s how it is in most non-Muslim places.

It was refreshing.  I don’t think I saw but 10 Chadori/Hijab wearing women and they all seemed to be tourists.  Nothing oppressive in Turkey about religion.  They seem to all get along.  I met quite a few Nestorian Christians and they had the same attitude.  We’re Christians.  So what!  There’s none of the demand that their religion be respected at all cost.  I like that.

Turkey was clean as well.  That’s another thing about Muslim countries.  They’re dirty and run down.  Even newer places.  It’s as if Allah has declared that “thou shalt not do maintenance.”  lol  Cairo is the worst.  They built the city hundreds of years ago atop ruins.  They didn’t remove anything.  They cleared no land.  Just started building atop the rubble.  When those buildings started falling apart, they just built around them.  And the dirt and grime.  It’s everywhere.

Not so in Istanbul.  It’s a beautifully maintained city.  Clean streets.

And the people.  Everyone was so nice.  And they smiled.  Very few mean spirited folks or scammers around.  As a matter of fact, I can’t remember anyone even attempting a scam on us.  We asked directions when we were lost and we were simply given directions.

The food was great as well.  They had these pancakes with beef or veggies or jellies. Whatever you wanted.  AND THEY WERE DELICIOUS.  Of course, the Lamb Kabob was excellent.  I ate so much kabob, I thought I was going to explode.

The Hagia Sofia or Aya Sofia was wondrous.  Incredible.  Amazing.  It was gargantuan.  The famous religious depictions were beautiful.  Centuries old Art.

The Blue Mosque or Suleimein.  One of the most beautiful structures I have had the pleasure to visit.  More lovely inside than the Mohammad Ali Mosque in Cairo.  Insanely intricate and well maintained as well.  Simply beautiful.  Can’t say it enough.

We walked around the city several times. Stopped by a few museums.  The Istanbul Archaeological Museum was huge.  Relics from Troy, Persia, the Ottomans, the Greeks, the Romans, and everything in between.  It was amazing.

Then we went up the hill to the Topkapi Palace.  I didn’t know much about it.  I knew it was supposed to be gorgeous and historical.  I hadn’t researched it.  We almost didn’t go.  Huge mistake.  If you make it to Istanbul, you must go to the Topkapi Palace.   Aside from it’s beauty and historocity.  It has what are called “The Sacred Trusts.”

The Sacred Trusts are actual artifacts handed down (or stolen) from Empire to Empire from the time of Mohammad.  His clothing.  His water bowl.  The plates off of which he ate.  And not only Mohammad.  There are relics from Fatima and “the Companions.”

That is some serious history.

There are also pieces of the Kaba’a from Mekkah and old keys and locks to the Kaba’a and the Grand Mosque there in Mekkah.

Treasures all.

I could scarcely believe my eyes when I walked in this room.  When I laid my eyes upon the Sword of Mohammad, I thought I was seeing things.  I had to rub my eyes.  Take my glasses off and clean them and take a second to let it sink in.

Imagine finding the sword of Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great.  Imagine finding the actual clothing that Jesus wore or the actual cup and plate from the last supper.

I’m no believer in any of these religions, but, I have a keen interest in history.  As a personality from an earlier age and a great historical interest, I have much respect for Mohammad.  He built an empire from nothing.  He created a religion and a culture which has lasted for over 1300 years.  It’s not his fault that his religion and his culture has been hi-jacked by complete asses like Osama bin Laden, the House of Saud and the followers of al Wahhab.  That’s not to mention the Iranian fools.  And, still yet, it doesn’t take into account the idiotic Apologists in Europe and America who sell their lies to an ignorant populace.

At any rate, it was a singular experience for me to be able to gaze upon the Swords that Mohammad and his companions used to rise up out of the desert and plant the seed that created one of the worlds greatest empires.

I was awe stricken.

After Istanbul, it was on to Ephesus to see the Greek Ruins, the House of Mary where Jesus’ Mother supposedly lived out her last days and the Temple of Artemis.  Next day it was on to Pammakule.   These places are so full of history and culture that there is no possible way for me to do them justice.  The Temple of Artemis is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

In this trip, we’d been fortunate enough to visit 3 of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.  The Temple of Artemis, The Pharos of Alexandria (Fort Qutbay) and the Pyramids at Giza.

In my estimation, Abo Simbel is a great worthy of this acclamation as well.  Abo Simbel is a wonder of any age much less to marvel that it was built thousands of years ago.  But then again, Egypt is full of wonders that defy description, dazzle the eye and boggle the mind.

From Cairo to Istanbul in 28 Days.  This was a great trip and we all very much enjoyed ourselves.

Hope you enjoy the pictures…Dave

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(some of the pics in the slideshow are from earlier trips to Paris, Rome, Athens, Santorini, etc)

 

 

Iraq: Bush makes final Presidential visit.

Bush Makes Surprise Trip to Iraq

BAGHDAD — On a farewell trip to Iraq, President George W. Bush said Sunday the war has been hard but was necessary to protect the U.S. and give Iraqis hope for a peaceful future.

Mr. Bush visited the Iraqi capital just 37 days before he hands the war off to President-elect Barack Obama, who has pledged to end it. At the end of nearly two hours of meetings at an ornate, marble-floored palace along the shores of the Tigris River, Mr. Bush defended the war, now in its sixth year.

[President Bush and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani] Associated Press

President George W. Bush walks with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani after arriving for a surprise visit to the country.

“The work hasn’t been easy, but it has been necessary for American security, Iraqi hope and world peace,” the president said. “I’m just so grateful I had the chance to come back to Iraq before my presidency ends.”

But in many ways, the unannounced trip was a victory lap without a victory. Nearly 150,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq fighting a war that is remarkably unpopular in the United States and across the globe. More than 4,209 members of the U.S. military have died and the war has cost U.S. taxpayers $576 billion since it began five years and nine months ago.

After an arrival ceremony, Mr. Bush began a rapid-fire series of meetings with top Iraqi leaders. The president wanted to highlight a drop in violence in a nation still riven by ethnic strife and to celebrate a recent U.S.-Iraq security agreement, which calls for U.S. troops to withdraw by the end of 2011.

Air Force One landed at Baghdad International Airport in the afternoon local time after a secretive Saturday night departure from Washington. In a sign of security gains in this war zone, Mr. Bush received a formal arrival ceremony — a flourish absent in his three earlier trips.

Referring to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, seated beside him, and the country’s two vice presidents, mr. Bush said: “I’ve known these men for a long time, and I’ve come to admire them for their courage and their determination to succeed.”

Mr. Bush’s meetings at the palace were held as the sun set outside and darkness fell over Baghdad. Mr. Talabani called Mr. Bush “our great friend,” who “helped to liberate” Iraq. “Thanks to him and his courageous leadership, we are here,” Mr. Talabani said.

Mr. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki planned a ceremonial signing of the security agreement — a “remarkable document,” according to Mr. Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen Hadley. He said the pact was unique in the Arab world because it was publicly debated, discussed and adopted by an elected parliament.

Mr. Hadley said the trip proved that the U.S.-Iraq relationship was changing “with Iraqis rightfully exercising greater sovereignty” and the U.S. “in an increasingly subordinate role.”

more

The year is 2018.  Iraq is a viable and peaceful nation.  An upstanding member of the United Nations.  Their economy is humming.  They are cracking down on extremism.  Law and order is the rule of the day.  They are aiding in the effort to bring peace to the Middle East.

If such a future comes to pass, will anyone admit that Bush was right for invading Iraq?

I think the Left will do everything in their power to credit Barack Obama.  He will deserve credit.  But if it happens, the architect of that future is George Bush.

I don’t know if such a future is in the offing.  No one does.  Iraq could go either way or end up somewhere in the middle of the chaos and anarchy predicted by the doom and glooming left and the bright and sunny picture of peace and prosperity that Neo-Cons try to push as the most certain future.

I’ll hope for a peaceful future for the people of Iraq.  After a century and more of Ottoman rule followed by decades of Colonialism and the more immediate past decades of terror at the hands of the madman Saddam Hussein, these folks are due a bit of peace and prosperity.

Salaam…

The War Won’t End in Afghanistan

The War Won’t End in Afghanistan

Senator Barack Obama said something at the presidential debate last week that almost perfectly encapsulates the difference between his foreign policy and his opponent’s: “Secretary of Defense Robert Gates himself acknowledges the war on terrorism started in Afghanistan and it needs to end there.” I don’t know if Obama paraphrased Gates correctly, but if so, they’re both wrong.

If Afghanistan were miraculously transformed into the Switzerland of Central Asia, every last one of the Middle East’s rogues gallery of terrorist groups would still exist. The ideology that spawned them would endure. Their grievances, such as they are, would not be salved. The political culture that produced them, and continues to produce more just like them, would hardly be scathed. Al Qaedism is the most radical wing of an extreme movement which was born in the Middle East and exists now in many parts of the world. Afghanistan is not the root or the source.

Naturally the war against them began in Afghanistan. Plans for the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States were hatched in Afghanistan. But the temporary location of the plotters of that strike means little in the wide view of a long struggle. Osama bin Laden and his leadership just as easily could have planned the attacks from Saudi Arabia before they were exiled, or from their refuge in Sudan in the mid 1990s. Theoretically they could have even planned the attacks from an off-the-radar “safe house” in a place like France or even Nebraska had they managed to sneak themselves in. The physical location of the planning headquarters wasn’t irrelevant, but in the long run the ideology that motivates them is what must be defeated. Perhaps the point would be more obvious if the attacks were in fact planned in a place like France instead of a failed state like Afghanistan.

Hardly anyone wants to think about the monumental size of this task or how long it will take. The illusion that the United States just needs to win in Afghanistan and everything will be fine is comforting, to be sure, but it is an illusion. Winning the war in Iraq won’t be enough either, nor will permanently preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons or resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. The war may end somewhere with American troops on the ground, or, like the Cold War, it might not. No one can possibly foresee what event will actually put a stop to this war in the end. It is distant and unknowable. The world will change before we can even imagine what the final chapter might look like.

Most of the September 11 hijackers were Saudis. All were Arabs. None hailed from Afghanistan. This is not coincidental. Al Qaeda’s politics are a product of the Arab world, specifically of the radical and totalitarian Wahhabi sect of Islam founded in the 18th Century in Saudi Arabia by the fanatical Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab. He thought the medieval interpretations of Islam even on the backward Arabian peninsula were too liberal and lenient. His most extreme followers cannot even peacefully coexist with mainstream Sunni Muslims, let alone Shia Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, secularists, feminists, gays, or anyone else. Their global jihad is a war against the entire human race in all its diversity and plurality.

Wahhabism has spread outward from Saudi Arabia by proselytizers funded by petrodollars who have set up mosques, madrassas, and indoctrination centers nearly everywhere from Indonesia to the United States. In the Balkans, for instance, Wahhabis are actually replacing traditional moderate Ottoman mosques destroyed by the Yugoslav Army and Serbian paramilitary units with their own extremist knockoffs. They’re staking out new ground in the West where they deliberately gin up virulent hatred among immigrants from Muslim countries. They tried to car-bomb their way into power in parts of Iraq, and in the cities of Baqubah, Fallujah, and Ramadi they even succeeded for a while.

In some places the ideology flourishes more than in others. It was effectively transplanted to Afghanistan with the assistance of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency. In thoroughly secular Muslim countries like Azerbaijan and Albania, bin Ladenism remains thinner on the ground than in Western Europe. Its adherents are unevenly distributed, but it began in the Middle East and has since metastasized.

Al Qaeda leaders did not spring up from the ground in Afghanistan, nor are they chained there. They move around. Any country where they are located becomes crucial whether American soldiers are present or not. Like the Cold War, this conflict is not exclusively military, but the theaters of armed conflict have already been widened well beyond Afghanistan. And the war isn’t America-centric. It is not all about us. Fighting between violent Islamists and their enemies broke out in Arab countries like Algeria and Lebanon, and even in countries without a Muslim majority like Russia and the Philippines. Many of these conflicts started before the attacks on September 11, before anyone could even imagine that American troops would fight a hot war in Afghanistan.

And let’s not forget the radical Shias. While Sunni Wahhabis export their fundamentalist creed from the Arabian Peninsula, the Khomeinists in the Islamic Republic of Iran are busy exporting their own revolutionary and totalitarian brand of Shia Islam to countries like Lebanon and Iraq. So far the Iranians and their proxies have been less violent and extreme than Al Qaeda, but Iran remains the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. While the leaders are Shias, that has not – contrary to mistaken conventional wisdom – stopped them from forming tactical alliances with radical Sunnis from Hamas in Gaza to Ansar Al Islam.

Before the U.S. demolished the regime of Saddam Hussein, Ansar Al Islam was based in and around the town of Biara in Northern Iraq. Al Qaeda in Iraq founder Abu Musab al Zarqawi was one of its members. American Special Forces and Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters pushed Ansar into the Northern Iranian city of Mariwan where they remain today and receive support from the government of Iran. They have since changed their name to Al Qaeda in Kurdistan.

On some level even Senator Obama himself understands that Afghanistan is unlikely be the beginning and the end of this war. He correctly argues that more needs to be done to shut down the safe havens bin Laden and company have established in Pakistan. He likely doesn’t believe some of his own rhetoric about Afghanistan even though it’s a standard staple of his campaign. His dovish liberal base seems sometimes desperate to believe that Afghanistan was the beginning and will be the end of a war they have little stomach to wage.

Wishing will not make it so. Afghanistan, indeed all of Central Asia, is on the periphery. The violent ideologies that animate the most dangerous terrorist movements in the world are Arabic and, to a lesser extent, Persian. The Middle East is central. It is not a distraction. It is where the war truly began because it is where most of the combatants, ideological leaders, and supporters were born and raised. While there’s a chance it won’t end there, most of it will be fought there.

Michael J. Totten 09.29.2008 – 4:32 PM

Michael Totten speaks the truth.  Will anyone listen?

Doha, Qatar 18 May 2007

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I arrived at the American Air Base at Doha, Qatar at about 8 AM. I proceeded to the Air Force customs counter. Because I was travelling on to Bangkok via commercial air, I had to go through Qatari customs and then off the base to the Doha International Airport. Therefore, I had to “enter” the country through Qatari customs. Qatari customs, when I have gone through it, consists of one Arab sitting at a counter mostly waving you through. He checks nothing. At times, no one sits at the counter and there is the entry stamp just sitting there. The first time I went through this customs stations I had to go and find the customs agent for a friend, Jamaal, who was travelling back to the States. I had already passed through and had my passport stamped. Jamaal had lagged behind and been detained by the Air Force because of something in his baggage. He was always slow so it was no surprise to me when after 15 or 20 minutes Jamaal had not come through the customs stations. I left my bags sitting on the other side of the customs trailer and went to find Jamaal. When I finally got him through, there was no customs agent in the trailer. He had gone off to drink chai or to pray or God only knows. I went out to find him. When I found him, he entered the trailer and looked at the stamp as if to say why did you not stamp it yourself. I just laughed which brought a smile to his face. He stamped Jamaal’s passport and we proceeded through the metal detector which to my knowledge is always switched off.

On rare occasions, there are two or more people in the customs trailer. When this is the case, they will usually run your bags through the dusty x-ray machines while talking to each other. Then wave you through no matter what is in your bags. (I once carried a lighter in my carry on baggage from Afghanistan through several countries–Cambodia, Thailand, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. No one raised an eyebrow. It was not until I arrived in Atlanta and was exiting the airport to fly no more that a security guard discovered it and confiscated it. I questioned the guard fairly harshly. Asking why he would take the lighter when I was exiting the Airport and would not be boarding an airplane. He told me that he was just doing his job. I replied; “Then you have a stupid job with stupid fucking rules.” And walked on. America is a pain. I don’t fully agree with the paranoia that has become the norm in the American government. We are becoming truly byzantine in our rules, regulations and laws. Bottled water?)
By about 9:30, I was at the Airport. I had a ticket to Bangkok. The problem. My flight departed from Kuwait and I was in Doha. I had to get my ticket changed. I proceeded to the counter of a local Travel Agent and attempted to get my Gulf Air ticket changed from a Kuwait departure to a Doha departure. No success. I was told that I would have to go to the Gulf Air office in downtown Doha to get it changed. I asked if there was not a Gulf Air agent in the Airport. There was but it was in the back area. I went off to find it. I had to go back into the administrative offices of the airport. I found the office and walk inside. A woman and a man are sitting in the office. Neither of whom speak much English. The man goes off to find the manager. The manager walks in. Offers me chai and asks how he can help me. I explain my situation and he tells me that I would have to go to the main office in Doha. I ask him if it is possible to help me from here as I have two bags and a back pack with me and I don’t want to drag these bags with me all over the city. He attempts to help but cannot seem to get the system to work.

I decide to blow off the Kuwait flight altogether and to purchase a new flight from Doha to Bangkok. It costs me about $500. The flight doesn’t depart until around 2000 hours that night. So I have about 10 hours until departure and about 8 hours before I can go into the gate departure area.

I feel sticky and disgusting from sleeping in the air terminal at Bagram for two days. I decide to try to get a shower somewhere in Doha. There are airport hotels and shower rooms in Dubai, Amsterdam, Bangkok and several other places through which I have traveled over the years. Nothing of the sort exists in Doha. Qatar is a surprisingly backwards country for being so affluent. I hire a taxi to take me to a hotel. I grab all of my bags and throw them in the cab. And off we drive. After several tries, I could not find a hotel that rented by the hour so that I could take a shower. For some reason, I had no problem writing off a $500 ticket from Kuwait to Bangkok, but, I would not pay 80 bucks for a shower. $80 for a shower seemed offensive. Another scam in another Arab country. And I was tired of Arab stupidity and rigidity.

I abandon hope of taking a shower. But it’s only 11 AM. I still have 8 hours to kill before I can get to my gate for my flight. I tell the taxi driver to take me around and show me the major sights around the city. Apparently, my taxi driver is an idiot. He doesn’t know a thing and doesn’t know how to play it up for a tourist minded person like me. I ask him to take me to see Al Jazeera. I want to get a picture of the evil purveyor of Islamic propaganda and the protectors of terrorism worldwide. It’s a curiosity. He drives on.

We drive for about 15 minutes and I’m getting impatient. I’m thinking about just heading back for the airport when the drivers pulls up outside a place that he calls Al Jazeera. I stand outside of the cab to take 4 or 5 pictures. The idiot then proceeds through to the gate of what I am thinking is Al Jazeera. There are these security guard looking guys at the gate. They stop us. They ask us to pull over and exit the vehicle. Then they detain us. I try to tell the taxi driver to leave. He won’t budge. I get fairly irate. I ask why I am being detained. They tell me because they saw me taking pictures.

There are no signs prohibiting photography. “Photography not allowed” signs are no where to be seen. But to show that I have no problem and want no trouble I delete the pictures and show the guard. I just erase the whole memory stick in my camera. Now I have no pictures on my camera.

The taxi driver and I are told to sit inside the guard booth and wait. The taxi driver enters the booth and sits down. I sit down across from him and scowl at him. I ask him why he went through the gate. Tell him that he is an idiot and stare off into the distance. Every few minutes, taxi guy looks at me and I glare back. I think that I would like to smack the hell out of him and tell him this. I wonder how I picked the dumbest taxi driver in the Middle East. Every other taxi driver I had met before had been crafty and out to make a buck. This guy seemed to have a singular ability to drive and no imagination. IDIOT!

I keep asking the guards why I am being detained. The guards give me the same answer over and over. “No problem.” Mostly because none of them speak English. I’m told that they must talk to their Sergeant. A half hour passes and a Sergeant stops by and tells me the same thing. “No Problem.” I keep asking. “If there is “no problem,” why am I being detained?” All I get in reply is the same; “No problem.” But now it’s “We must wait for Captain.”

After waiting another half hour, a Sergeant and an Officer arrive. The Corporal and Sergeant who were there confer with the new arrivals as they whisper and point in my direction. The Officer steps over to me and asks to see my camera. Asks me to show him the pictures that I had taken. I tell him that I deleted them. He asks me why. I tell him that I was told to do so. Not completely accurate. It seems to satisfy him with me. Conversely, it seems to make him angry at the police officer who I singled out as the originator of the order.

I am told to get into a Toyota Landcruiser. I tell the Police Sergeant that my bags are in the taxi. He tells me to take my bags out of the taxi and place them into the Toyota. They are taking me to the local police station. I’m getting pretty nervous. I’m still not sure that these are real police. I’m thinking to myself that I’m in danger of being an Al Jazeera Friday Night Special. My head is in danger of being separated from my shoulders in an Al Qaeda Allahu Ahkbar saw fest.

They tell my taxi driver to leave. Before he leaves, he tells them that I owe him the fare. I curse at him and tell him to go to hell and refuse to pay the idiot. The police Sergeant tells me that I must pay. I’m feeling threatened enough over the whole picture debacle. Who knows what they might charge me with for refusal to pay this moron. I pay. I let them know that I feel cheated as I throw half of the fare on the ground. I spin around and get into the Toyota and slam the door shut.

I think the Police find it humorous. When they get in the vehicle they are motioning toward the taxi driver and laughing. I smile a bit. Feeling the tension ease a bit. I start to talk to the Police Sergeant in the front seat. I assume he is a Sergeant. His stripes look like those of our Police Sergeants in the U.S. I tell him that I am nervous. Frightened. I’m still a bit nervous that these jackasses are going to cart me off to some damn non-descript room and start hacking my head off and screaming Allahu Akbar at the top of their lungs. I’ll be posted 2 hours later on the Al Jazeera website. The Sergeant tells me that there is no reason to be nervous. I am safe. This comforts me little.

They take me to the police station. It’s a simple, yet, officious looking building. That eases my mental discomfort. I still keep getting the “no problem” comments. I still keep asking; “If no problem, why detain me?”

The building to which I am taken reminds me of the scene in which Peter O’Toole is taken to in the city of Aqaba in the movie Lawrence of Arabia. In the scene, Lawrence is tortured by a sadistic Police Captain. I’m hoping that no similar character arrives on the scene to beat me with a whip and pinch my nipples. This thought makes me laugh a bit. Later in the movie, Lawrence helps the Arabs of the Arabian Desert capture Aqaba.

I sense that I am ok. But still not sure.

They place me in a room with two desks and a bench. I sit on the bench for a while. The cops bring in a thief with a bag full of cell phones. They start to ask him questions. At one point, he must have given them a wrong answer. It sounded like he was being a smart ass to me. The Sergeant in the room reaches over and smacks the hell out of the guy. The guys head bounces off the wall behind us.

At about this point, one of the other Sergeants take me to another room in the back of the station. It’s hot as hell back there because the air conditioner is broken. I sit back there sweating and falling asleep. After about an hour of sweating and dozing, I walk to the front ant tell them that I am hot. Is there another room I can sit in and wait? They take me to a third room which seems to be a business office. Business men keep coming in and out paying the Officer inside money and kissing his hand. I have no idea what kind of service they were purchasing. I just witnessed a lot of kissing and money changing hands.

I’m now sitting in a plush chair and I keep dozing off. At one point I cross my right leg over my left leg this points the bottom of my foot at one of the Officers in the desks. I look at him in a daze. The sergeant walks over and tells me to put my foot down. Explaining to me that it is bad manners and disrespectful to point the bottom of your feet at another person in Arab custom. I think about saying that it’s bad manners and disrespectful to arrest someone and detain them for no reason in my country but think better of it. He gets no argument out of me. I lower my foot.
Eventually, the Captain of the Station walks in and asks questions about me. He then questions me. Why was I taking pictures? What was I taking pictures of? Why am I in Doha? For whom do I work? When do I leave Doha? When is my flight? How long have I been in Doha? I tell him that I was taking pictures because I thought Al Jazeera would be a good story to tell friends back in the States. I answer all of his questions and act as patient as I can. Then I ask him if I am being charged with anything and if not when I could go. He tells me to wait.

More waiting. I’m going insane with all of this waiting and no information.

Finally, I am taken to the Captains office. He lectures me on taking pictures of sensitive sites. Telling me that there is “NO PURPOSE! NO SENSE!” in taking pictures of Al Jazeera. I tell him that I’m a tourist and it was a curiosity to me. I keep repeating that there were no signs. How is one to know that one cannot take pictures if there are no signs prohibiting the act?

They keep asking me why I was taking pictures. I keep telling them the same thing. They ask me if I am a U.S. soldier. I tell them that I am not but that I work for the U.S. Army. Then they ask if I work on the base outside of the city. I answer no and that I am passing through Doha because I have finished a contract in Afghanistan and that I am going home via Thailand.

They start asking me where I was when I took the pictures. I describe the place. It turns out that I was taking pictures not of Al Jazeera but of the Qatar National TV Station. This is why they are upset. It is against the law to take pictures of this place. There are no signs prohibiting photography. In English or Arabic. Hhow would I know this? I realize that retard taxi driver took me to the wrong side of the compound to take the pictures and that is why I am being held.

Finally a CID Inspector shows up. Ahmed. He is of Pakistani descent. Ahmed talks to the police Captain about me. The Captain and he discuss me for 15 minutes or so. Ahmed tells him that there are no signs. Since there are no signs there is no crime. He tells them that I was doing no wrong. Since there are no signs, the guards should not have detained me.

The Captain can’t believe that there are no signs around the TV Station. So he tells the Ahmed the CID Investigator to take me to the TV Station so that I can show him where I was when I was taking the pictures and the route that I travelled to get to the TV Station. We travel the course of my earlier journey with the idiot taxi driver. As I had said all along there were no signs prohibiting photography. Ahmad takes me back to the station. We go inside the station to the Captains office and Ahmad re-affirms that there were no signs. The Captain tells him that I will be released.

I’m getting nervous. By this time, it’s 6 PM. My flight leaves at 830 PM. It’s getting close to my departure time. I should be at the Airport already sitting at the gate. I’m thinking. “Yeah, I’ll get released and miss my flight.”

Ahmad takes me outside and buys me tea at a local vender outside the station. He offers me a cigarette. I laugh and think of all the movies where those soon to be executed are offered a cigarette. After another hour and a half of signing statements and going back to the scene of the “crime,” I am released. Ahmed volunteers to take me to the Airport. I chat with him the whole time and he apologizes for the overzealousness of the guards and for my troubles. He gives me his email address and tells me that he will show me around if I ever return to Doha. I laugh. He understands my reluctance to return.

At one point, I thought to myself; “Dave, you’ve finally done it. Stepped on that landmine. These Jihadi bastards are going to take you to some white room and saw your goddamned head off.” Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Eventually, I loosened up and realized that they were real Qatari police and merely incompetent in the “inshallah” mode of the Arab world. In the end, I made my flight by about 45 minutes and slipped out of the country without causing an international incident. It had taken the Qatari police 8 hours to figure out that I was guilty of no crime and release me. Typical of the Arab World and their “inshallah” philosophy.

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I should have gone to the Gulf Air office in Doha City and worked out my ticket problem. I probably would have avoided all of the excitement. In the end it all worked out. Just another story to tell around the campfire.