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Louis Untermeyer


Weekly Muse
My humble opinion on current events

October 15, 2001

The Bombing Continues

American and British attacks on military sites, terrorist camps, and communications centers in Afghanistan continue. The attacks have increased, and unconfirmed reports came out today that helicopters and maybe even special forces are involved. 

The troops are also dropping food supplies to starving Afghans and today began dropping "informational" leaflets, better known as propaganda. But that's a good thing. After all, as long as we're telling those people the truth, and explaining why we're doing what we're doing, there's a slight chance they won't hate us. I'm talking about the Afghan people, not the Taliban or terrorists, of course. The Taliban keeps its own people in the dark. TVs are illegal, and most people have some kind of radio, but the Taliban controls the airwaves, so the people hear only the Taliban's propaganda. It's time they heard ours.

Anti-terrorism Bill Moves Fast

The House and Senate have passed similar anti-terrorism bills, which were written mostly by the Justice Department. Provisions include authorization of roving wiretaps, which allow police to tap any phone owned by a suspect, rather than getting a warrant for individual phones. Non-U.S. citizens may be detained for up to seven days without charges. It broadens subpoena power for e-mail records of suspects. It makes it illegal to knowingly harbor a terrorist. Plus it beefs up the Border Patrol, eliminates the statute of limitations for some of the more heinous crimes, and tightens money laundering regulations.

Many people have criticized the bills. They claim it was passed too quickly with insufficient debate or analysis. They're right about that. In fact, many congressman conceded they hadn't even read the bills before voting on them. That's inexcusable. I don't care how much political pressure they faced to pass a bill quickly. 

Others claim the expanded powers intrude on civil liberties. This claim is a bit weaker. Some provisions certainly toe the line, and without proper vigilance could lead to abuse, but it's a sensible overall package. I have no problem with roving wiretaps. I view that as merely law enforcement finally catching up to technology. Remember, police still need a warrant to do much of anything, and that's all the Constitution requires. 

With that said, I do think Congress should slow down and examine the bill more closely. After all, we've already arrested over 700 suspects without these new laws. Surely, we have the time to get this right.

Peaceniks on the March

Thousands of peace-loving protestors marched in cities around the world this past weekend. They were rallying against the current American campaign against terrorism. Twenty thousand showed up in London. Fifteen thousand in Berlin. More thousands in Rome, Naples, Glasgow, Sydney, Melbourne, and on and on.

These folks are probably very nice, but they're terribly misguided and hopelessly naive. Peace is not necessarily the absence of fighting. We could stop all bombing right now, and America would not be at peace, because she has enemies who will continue to fight against her. The only way to make them stop, and thus bring peace, is to defeat them in battle. A treaty won't do it. "Encouraging development" in Afghanistan to "root out terrorism at its base," as several protestors called for, won't even come close. As if Osama bin Laden, a multi-millionaire and maybe even billionaire, cares anything about the poor in Afghanistan! As if that's why he hates America!

These same "peace activists" somehow couldn't conjure up the oh-so-righteous anger and energy to protest against the September 11 attacks. The monstrous crime of innocent civilians being forced to give their lives to murder their fellow innocents drew no peace protestor to the barricades. And yet they cloak themselves in the armor of peace and humanity. 

Curious, isn't it?

Is Islam Truly Peaceful?

Like many, if not most, Americans, I know little about Islam, but assumed it was a noble, peaceful religion, one that is being tarred by the actions of a few evil men. The recent statements of some local Muslim leaders here in Arizona have bolstered that view. "No one is going to respond to bin Laden's call to the holy war," said Imam Ahmad Shqeirat of the Islamic Cultural Center. "War is not holy. It is ugly."

"It is just plain offensive," said Jameila Al-Hashimi, an American convert to Islam and member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. "We Muslims stand behind what is right and just, according to Al-Islam. We will not stand behind irresponsible actions and calls to war. He (bin Laden) has insulted Muslim morals and underestimated our intelligence to assume that all he had to do is call for a war, even on an unjust basis, and we will act accordingly."

These are encouraging statements, and I am sure that most Muslims agree. But Paul Johnson, a reputed historian, has written an interesting article in the latest National Review that challenges that view.

According to Johnson, Islam does not mean peace, as is commonly believed. "Islam means "submission," writes Johnson, "a very different matter, and one of the functions of Islam, in its more militant aspect, is to obtain that submission from all, if necessary by force."

He backs up his claim by quoting selected verses from the Koran itself. "Strongest among men in enmity to the Believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans," reads Sura 5, verse 85. Pagans are Christians. Sura 9, verse 5 instructs Muslims to "fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them. And seize them, beleaguer them and lie in wait for them, in every stratagem [of war]." All nations must be fought "until they embrace Islam."

History shows that several Moslem cultures have heeded this command. Writes Johnson: "The history of Islam has essentially been a history of conquest and reconquest.

The 7th century "breakout" of Islam from Arabia was followed by the rapid conquest of North Africa, the invasion and virtual conquest of Spain, and a thrust into France that carried the crescent to the gates of Paris. It took half a millennium of reconquest to expel the Moslems from Western Europe. The Crusades, far from being an outrageous prototype of Western imperialism, as is taught in most of our schools, were a mere episode in a struggle that has lasted 1,400 years, and were one of the few occasions when Christians took the offensive to regain the "occupied territories" of the Holy Land.

The Crusades, as it happened, fatally weakened the Greek Orthodox Byzantine Empire, the main barrier to the spread of Islam into southeast and central Europe. As a result of the fall of Constantinople to the ultramilitant Ottoman Sultans, Islam took over the entire Balkans, and was threatening to capture Vienna and move into the heart of Europe as recently as the 1680s."

This is a challenging proposition, and I would love to hear a Muslim respond to it. Does Johnson quote the Koran out of context? Is his history correct? I'd really like to know.

In Other News...

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a 1999 study that said 23.5 percent of American adults smoke, about 46 million people. That's down from 24 percent in 1998 and 25 percent in 1993. Health officials welcomed the news but expressed hope that the decline be even more dramatic. But with taxes from cigarettes now paying for so many government programs, from health care for kids to mental health for adults, don't we need more people smoking and paying the cigarette tax? 

The patriotism movement sparked by 9-11 has started a backlash. Some don't like the Pledge of Allegiance, because it mentions God. Others think the National Anthem is hypocritical because so many Americans still face discrimination. Quoted a first grade teacher in Wisconsin: "Mandating patriotism is a really scary thing. It leads to nationalism, and, ultimately, to fascism." Spouted another individual: "It makes our country as bad as Osama bin Laden (by setting up) a war between the believers and the infidels." That's right, asking first graders to say the Pledge of Allegiance is no different than murdering six million Jews and slaughtering six thousand Americans. Patriotism must be pretty evil.

In Colorado, you can take your ten-year-old daughter to a therapist, force her to undergo something called a "reborn" procedure, in which the child is wrapped in blankets and pillows and encouraged to escape the makeshift "womb." In Colorado, your ten-year-old daughter can vomit, complain that she can't breathe, and beg to be released, but you and the therapist hold her in for another hour. In Colorado, your daughter can die from such barbarity and you, the mother who betrayed your own flesh and blood and allowed your daughter to die, can plead guilty and get off with probation and community service. In Colorado, such a gross offense is no different in the eyes of the law than jaywalking.

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