You are posting a comment about...
Tony Cartalucci and “The Truth About Radical Islam”
by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tony Cartalucci’s full article can be found here.
Yes, I know. Must we yet again go over the same ground, sweep back the same tide of taqiyya, remind ourselves yet again of what the Qur’an and hadith contain, tell ourselves yet again what the 1400 years of Islamic conquest and subjugation of many different lands and peoples have meant for them?
Yes. We must. There is no end to the nonsense and lies — every day brings a fresh batch. Google “Islam news” for what’s just come from the oven — but if we remain silent, and cease to engage in the task of constant rebuttal, the Defenders of the Faith will eventually win. They will simply have worn us out. While we can’t reply to all of the sly and sinister, or semi-demented, apologists for Islam, we can take on a representative few, hold their claims up for examination and rebuttal, as must be done, however tedious the task.
These apologist articles are essentially the same, of course, just as all those “Coffee, Cake, and Islam” events that Muslims, especially Ahmadi Muslims, put on all over the country, are essentially the same. For they deliver the same soothing messages, quote the same Qur’anic verses (2:256, 5:32), describe the Five Pillars, tell us all about Ramadan, let us know yet again that Islam means “peace,” explain how much the three Abrahamic faiths have in common, note that Moses and Jesus are revered as prophets in Islam and, above all, carefully omit any mention of Qur’an 2:191, 3:110, 3:151, 4:34, 8:12, 8:60, 9:5, 9:29, 47:4, 98:6, which might give Unbelievers the wrong idea about wonderful (peaceful, tolerant, your favorite adjective here) Islam. And of course, there is always mention of the “vast majority” — why are majorities always “vast”? — of Muslims who have never been terrorists, or disapprove of terrorism, such as Malala Yousafzai, which must mean, of course, by some sleight of illogic, that Islam itself can have nothing to do with terrorism.
Here is a fresh example, hot off the press, of the apologetics on behalf of Islam — “The Truth About Radical Islam,” by one Tony Cartalucci:
There are approximately 1.8 billion Muslims on Earth. That is approximately 24% of the world population. They live in regions spanning North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and reaching as far as Southeast Asia. There are Muslim communities in virtually every nation – and in many – they have played a pivotal, constructive, and welcomed role in national development.
The insistence that there are 1.8 billion Muslims — the upper end of all the estimates — is designed to impress us with the onward and relentless march of Islam, and with the increasing numbers of its adherents. Partly a boast (reminding us that “Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion”) and partly an implied threat (“there are so many of us, and more every day, and there is nothing you can do about it”), such numbers are indeed cause for alarm.
The claim that “Muslim communities in virtually every nation….have played a pivotal, constructive, and welcomed role in national development” does not adequately describe the effect of Muslim populations in countries conquered by Islam. In the Middle East and North Africa, the “constructive” role of Muslims has meant in many countries the near-total disappearance of the indigenous non-Muslim (chiefly Christians and Jews) populations, although in a few places, e.g., Egypt, the Christians,though much diminished in numbers, have held on. Another recent display of the “constructive’”role of the Muslim community has been in Iraq, where the Christian population, under constant Muslim assault, has decreased from 1.5 million in 2003 to 250,000 today.
When Muslims completed their conquest of Sasanian Persia in 651, the Zoroastrians slowly yielded to Islamization. The invading Arabs burned their sacred texts. Many Zoroastrians were killed resisting the Arabs; others found themselves over time forced to convert to avoid the onerous status of dhimmi, and still others, who went into exile, ended up in tolerant Hindu India, where they became known as the Parsis (“Persians”) and exist to this day. What “constructive” role was played by Muslims in Persia, as they destroyed what they could of the pre-Islamic culture of Zoroastrians? What stunning cultural achievements, aside from mosque architecture, can be ascribed to the Muslim conquerors?
In India, under Mughal (Muslim) rule, 70-80 million Hindus were killed over several hundred years by their Muslim overlords. Others converted to Islam. Both the killing, and the active converting, of Hindus only stopped when the Muslims realized that they needed to keep millions of Hindus unconverted, in order to be able to keep receiving from them, as dhimmis, the jizyah on which the Muslim state depended. All over India, tens of thousands of Hindu (and Buddhist, and Jain) temples and temple complexes were destroyed by Muslims, who used the stones to build their own mosques, often right on top of the ruins of the pre-Islamic temples and temple complexes they destroyed. Is this the “constructive” role of Islam which we are supposed to admire? V. S. Naipaul famously described India as “a wounded civilization” — wounded, fatally in his view, by the Islamic conquest.
In Indonesia, a vast Hindu-Buddhist culture, of which the Buddhist temple at Borobudur is the greatest physical reminder, was largely effaced, slowly but relentlessly, by Muslims who arrived beginning in the 15th century. Only in Bali have the Hindus, who on that island make up 84% of the population, not been replaced by Muslims. Everywhere else there has been destruction of Buddhist and Hindu temples, statues, artifacts. Music was largely limited to the ensemble of instruments known as the gamelan, which survived not because of, but despite, Islam, for musical instruments are supposed to be banned in Islam. Puppetry, too, has continued as entertainment tolerated by Muslims as folkloristic practices, another sign of a practice that signifies a more forgiving version of the faith. Both gamelan music and puppetry are exceptions to the rule, famously enunciated by the Ayatollah Khomeini, that “there are no jokes in Islam. There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious.” What has been the “pivotal” and “constructive” role of Islam in Indonesia? What art, architecture, what music (other than the gamelan), what science has flourished in Islamic Indonesia?
Muslims everywhere destroyed the physical evidence of other faiths. Some managed to survive simply because they were too difficult to destroy. The Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan avoided destruction until a few years ago, when Muslims finally made use of powerful modern explosives, and blew them up, as Muslims had destroyed so many statues, temples, temple complexes, all over the subcontinent. Another example of Islam’s “pivotal, constructive, and welcomed role”?
Where was the development, after the Muslim conquests, of art? Islam forbids the depiction of living creatures. This severely curtailed the possibilities for artistic expression. No statuary, no portraits, nothing of human face or form. Permitted forms of art were reduced to mosque architecture, to ceramics, carpets, and Qur’anic calligraphy.
As for music, it too was constrained in Islam. Musical instruments are haram, and singing of devotional music, where allowed at all, is a cappella. There is a strong tradition that declares that any non-religious music ought to be forbidden. Music, like art, has thus been severely limited in the Islamic world. Where it is allowed, that is despite, not because of, the teachings of Islam.
What of the enterprise of science? Islam discourages free and skeptical inquiry, primarily out of fear of what might happen if Muslims began to be skeptical about Islam itself. There certainly were achievements in science in the Islamic world, especially in the earlier centuries of Islam — this should not be denied. But as the population became ever more Islamized through conversions, and as the deadening doctrine that deplored bid’a, or innovation, became more entrenched, the Islamic world fell behind the West in the development of science. From the medieval period to today, science has made constant progress in the West, and not in Islamic lands. Mr. Cartalucci might want to consult the studies of such historians of science as Toby Huff and Stanley Jaki on why Islam did not play a “pivotal” or “constructive” role in the development of science. Hostility to innovation, the mental habit of submission to authority, the fear of skeptical inquiry, all played their part. One might note that there have been only three Muslims who have received Nobel Prizes in the sciences. One of them was an Ahmadi from Pakistan who was never allowed to self-identify as a Muslim, the second a thoroughly secular Turk, an admirer of Ataturk, a Muslim-for-identification-purposes-only Muslim, who did his scientific work in the United States; only the third can remotely be called a mainstream Muslim. This offers stark evidence of the lack of scientific achievement among 1.5 billion Muslims, who constitute 22% of the world’s population. By comparison, Jews, who make up 0.2% of the world’s population, have won more than 200 Nobel Prizes in the sciences. Such differences invite discussion of what it is about Islam that has discouraged interest and achievement in the enterprise of science. To repeat: the habit of mental submission, distrust of innovation, and discouragement of free inquiry explain much of that underachievement.
Neither in art, nor in music, nor in science, nor in philosophy, has Islam demonstrated a “pivotal,constructive, and welcomed role in national development.”
Back to Cartalucci:
If even 1% of the world’s Muslims were violent terrorists bent on conquering the world, that would constitute an army 18 million strong – or in other words – larger than the next 20 largest armies on Earth combined. Most critics of Islam infer that the number is actually much higher than 1% – many suggesting that the majority of Muslims either are engaged in or support terrorism. It is logical to conclude that if even 1% were dedicated to terrorism and the “conquest of infidels,” the war would have ended in their favor long ago.
It is clear that there is not even 1% across Islam engaged in or supporting [sic] terrorism. Across the Arab World, the vast majority of Muslims, Christians, other sects, and the secular, stand united against terrorism. It is clear that a mountain of lies stands between many and the truth – a mountain built so tall that it leaves entire segments of targeted populations in the perpetual darkness of ignorance.
What “standing united” against terrorism is Tony Cartalucci talking about? Do Christians in the Muslim lands, so often on the receiving end of Muslim terrorists, feel that other Muslims are “standing united” with them, or are largely indifferent to their fate?
What do Muslims think of terrorism? Opinion polls of Muslim populations repeatedly confirm that about 35% of Muslims supported the 9/11 attacks,while about the same percentage did not, and the rest were “unsure.” That’s not being “united against terrorism.” In some Muslim populations, as the “Palestinians,” even more — 65% of those responding — supported the 9/11 attacks. One-half of British Muslims, that is, 1.5 million Muslims, told pollsters that they supported ISIS. Other polls also show significant Muslim support, both in Muslim and in non-Muslim countries, for terrorism. Surely these disturbing statistics give the lie to the author’s insistence that “not even 1% across Islam” have “engaged in or supported terrorism.” Let us distinguish between those who “engage in” — admittedly not even 1% of the world’s Muslims — and those who “support” terrorism. The figures from every poll (conducted by many different pollsters) show that at least a third, and sometimes many more, of Muslims do support terrorism against the Infidels, whether by ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hamas, Hezbollah, or other groups that have not yet made it to the media bigtime. Furthermore, support for terrorism is not merely a question of answering an opinion poll. Along with the “moral” support, there is practical aid, such as the vast sums contributed by rich Gulf Arabs both to Al Qaeda and ISIS, money used to pay salaries and to buy weapons for terrorists.
Terrorism does not necessarily require mass murder: it means creating an atmosphere of terror in a population, and that has indeed been achieved by Islamists the world over. Look just at the changes in our daily lives, especially in Europe, the security checks everywhere, the police and army patrols, the cancellation of everything from concerts to Christmas markets, the traffic-halting bollards — all due to fear of Muslim terrorists.
The source of terrorism is not the Qur’an – a book that few critics of Islam have even picked up let alone genuinely read – but rather a very easily traced money trail that leads to Washington and London.
How would Mr. Cartalucci know that “few critics of Islam have even picked up let alone genuinely read” the Qur’an? How many thousands of hours,for example, has Robert Spencer devoted to reading the Qur’an and the classical Muslim commentaries on the text? How much time has he devoted, in writing his 17 books on Islam, to the Hadith, which Cartalucci fails to mention and of which he may, for all I know, be blissfully unaware? Does Tony Cartalucci expect us to believe that such critics (and apostates) of Islam, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan, Ibn Warraq (who has written many dense scholarly books on the early history of the Qur’an) haven’t read the Qur’an closely, don’t know it inside and out?
And what does “genuinely read’ mean? Does it mean to read the Qur’an in the way that Mr. Cartalucci wants you to read it, endowing it with that peace-and-tolerance meaning that apologists for Islam insist is there for all to see?
“The source of terrorism is not the Qur’an” he tells us.
So what shall we make, then, of these verses in the Qur’an?
“We will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve for what they have associated with Allah of which He had not sent down authority. And their refuge will be the Fire, and wretched is the residence of the wrongdoers.” (Qur’an 3:151)
“When your Lord inspired to the angels, ‘I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.’” (Qur’an 8:12)
“And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know, whom Allah knows. And whatever you spend in the cause of Allah will be fully repaid to you, and you will not be wronged.” (Qur’an 8:60)
Or of this hadith, from the collection that Muslims deem the most reliable, where we find Muhammad saying: “I have been made victorious with terror” (Bukhari 4.52.220)?
Apparently these are not among the verses that Mr. Cartalucci has read, despite being a profound student of the Qur’an who, unlike Islam’s critics, knows how to “genuinely read” it. But now that they have been placed helpfully before him, perhaps he would like to comment on their meaning. He might also tell us if he is aware that many of these very verses have been quoted by Muslims, including members of ISIS and Al-Qaeda as they decapitated their Infidel victims, and by Boko Haram, and by the two Muslims who ran down, decapitated, and then dismembered Drummer Lee Rigby on a London street. They all took those verses to heart. If they did, why shouldn’t we?
Critics of Islam are simultaneously being accused by Cartalucci of not knowing the Qur’an, or not knowing how to “genuinely” read it and, at the same time, of not realizing that the Qur’an is irrelevant because terrorism is the result of “a very easily traced money trail that leads to Washington and London.”
Now comes Cartalucci’s descent into real craziness:
It is indeed the Western World that has created, branded, and marketed “radical Islam,” which is for all intents and purposes a strictly political tool designed to provoke direct Western military interventions where possible, and fight conflicts by proxy whenever direct military intervention is not possible.
In Syria and Iraq, the US has used its terrorist proxies to do both – first to fight the government of Damascus and its allies by proxy, and when that failed, to set a pretext for direct US military intervention.
It has also been used domestically, as one former analyst once put it, “to enlist our obedience for the construction of the prison planet.” Indeed, under the pretext of “fighting terrorism,” the United States and much of Europe has been transformed into an invasive police state and despite stripping away the freedom and liberty of the Western World for the promise of security – the peoples of the West find themselves with neither.
This is the kind of lunatic conspiracy theorizing that causes the head to swirl. What is commanded in 109 Jihad verses in the Qur’an apparently has nothing to do with “radical Islam”? The past 1400 years of Muslim conquest and subjugation of many lands and people have nothing to do with what some call “radical Islam” today? This whole business of a supposed threat from Muslim terrorists has been entirely “created and branded and marketed” as “radical Islam” by the Western world? And why has the Western world chosen to make its people endure the threat of terrorism? Why has the Western world decided to spend hundreds of billions of dollars annually on security, with some countries, such as France, putting army patrols in the midst of cities? The countries of North America and Western Europe now have very expensive security details at every airport, at every train and bus and subway station, as well as on trains and buses and subway cars, at every major national monument, at government buildings, at museums, at churches and synagogues, at Christian and Jewish schools, at concert venues, at sports stadiums, at nightclubs, at important pedestrian walkways, such as those that were struck in Nice, Barcelona, and New York, and at all large gatherings of people, whatever their purpose. Why would the US and Europe deliberately foster, as Mr. Cartalucci insists they do, Islamic terrorism, eliciting security measures costing hundreds of billions of dollars, so as to create these “invasive police states”? Is there something we are missing here? What exactly could any Western country or cabal stand to gain from promoting Islamic terrorism, ignored to frighten its own people who will then, as a consequence, approve security measures that will turn their country into an “invasive police state”? He never explains just how this “invasive police state” will serve the interests of the groups he claims are encouraging terrorism.
Here is how Mr. Cartalucci understands things:
For those that have been sucked up into “radical Islam,” it seems very real. Just as the US uses patriotism to convince young men and women to devote their lives to foreign invasions, wars, and occupations against scores of sovereign nations around the world – predicated on “freedom, democracy, and self-determination” even as US militarism strips all of the above away from the planet – that fraction of a fraction of 1% engaged in “radical Islam” truly believe in their cause – no matter how nonexistent and contradictory it is in reality.
In the same way that “radical Islam” — Mr. Cartalucci claims — sucks in only a tiny number of Muslims (what about half of all Muslims in Britain declaring their support for ISIS?) so is “patriotism” used by our government to convince American young people to “devote their lives to foreign invasions, wars, and occupations against scores of sovereign nations around the world.”
He mentions that tiny group of Muslims, a fraction of a fraction of 1% — is “engaged” in “radical terrorism.” But even if you don’t join ISIS, or Hamas, or Hezbollah, if you support any of these or other terrorist groups, are you not “engaged” in what he calls “radical Islam”? If you refuse to report the sermons of a “radical” imam, if you tell fellow Muslims not to cooperate with the FBI, if you shout down all reasoned criticism of Islam as “Islamophobia,” are you not helping terrorists? And Cartalucci’s “less than 1%” figure for supporters of terrorism, it must be repeated, is refuted by the evidence from public opinion polls showing considerable Muslim support, more than one-third of all Muslims, for terrorist groups. He says these Muslims “believe in their cause,” but carefully refrains from telling us what that cause is — that is, the traditional cause of Islam, for 1400 years, which is to create a world where Islam everywhere dominates, and Muslims rule, everywhere.
As for all these “foreign invasions, wars, and occupations” that he attributes to America, what is he talking about? Has he forgotten what led to the American invasion of Afghanistan in the first place, which was the 9/11 attack, and the fact that those responsible, members of Al-Qaeda, were to be found in safe havens in Afghanistan? This surely was a limited undertaking prompted by self-defense, not a war of conquest. Had there been no 9/11, there would have been no invasion of Afghanistan. Nor was the invasion of Iraq a war of eager conquest. It was the result of a mistake, of an overestimation of Saddam’s nuclear capability, which he himself had promoted in order to scare Iran, but instead found, much to his chagrin, that he had scared the Americans instead. As for the 1991 Gulf War, it had been thrust on us when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and made it the 19th province of Iraq. Responding to pleas from Kuwait, our only objective was to push back the invader, and leave Kuwait as soon as possible. What “occupations” in “scores of nations” does he charge us with? If Cartalucci means the 7,000 American troops still in Iraq, and the 11,000 still in Afghanistan, these are not enough troops to constitute an occupying force, but there only to lend a hand and get out, in “two” — not “scores of” — nations. Furthermore, Mr. Cartalucci must surely know how desirous the American people are to free themselves, once and for all, of the expensive burdens of Iraq and Afghanistan, that have cost us a fortune and been such great disappointments. We are, pace Cartalucci, most reluctant “occupiers.”
And “radical Islam” does not exist in a vacuum. It requires a medium to interact with. That includes an equally extreme, but opposite “radical ignorance” and fear sown across the Western population. Together, the two feed each other creating a perpetual pretext for foreign war, a perpetual sense of injustice against Muslims to which US-armed and funded terrorists can rally around, and perpetual fear and hatred spread across the Western World.
It is the age-old political tool of empires – divide and conquer – honed to perfection and supercharged through information technology – particularly social media.
So these Muslim terrorists are “US-armed and funded terrorists.” And thus do we, the offending West and our Saudi allies — keep the conflict going, keep “perpetual fear and hatred” against Muslims alive in the Western world, and keep those Muslim “radicals,” our unwitting tools, in business too. We are, in Cartalucci’s topsy-turvy world, the ones behind all the terrorism of which we only seem to be the victims. It’s nonsense. Whatever US arms ISIS managed to get its hands on, they were not supplied by the Pentagon, but seized from what the Iraqi army abandoned when it fled Mosul. And of course, all the terrorists who have attacked throughout Europe had no need of “US arms” — they had their explosives, their suicide vests, their rifles, their trucks and cars to with which to kill Infidels, none of it supplied by the Americans. As for “funding,” there is so much money sloshing around among the rich Arabs of the Gulf, some it happily given to Islamic extremist groups, that there is no need for, nor any evidence of, American funding of Muslim terrorists.
Part of “radical ignorance” includes a deep and profound ignorance of history. Understanding the actual inception of “radical Islam,” more accurately known as Wahhabism, dispels many of the most virulent lies spread about Islam – that is has always been a barbaric, warlike ideology. Militant Islam is a relatively new phenomenon, invented by the House of Saud, then cultivated and exploited to its full potential by the British Empire and its American heirs.
Militant Islam is not, pace Cartalucci, a “relatively new phenomenon.” There is nothing about it that would surprise any Muslim from the first century of Islam, nothing about it that would be unfamiliar to Muslims from the past 1400 years of Islam’s history. If Mr. Cartalucci believes that Islam has only recently become a warlike ideology, then we must ask him how he thinks Muslims conquered the Middle East, North Africa, the Iberian peninsula, the Sasanian Empire, the Byzantine Empire, India, much of Central Asia? Were not all these conquests not one long bloody story of jihad warfare? And we are entitled, too, to ask what he makes of such Qur’anic verses as 2:191, 3:151, 8:12, 8:60, 9:5, 9:29. And we must also ask too, if he is aware of the doctrine of “naskh” or abrogation, by which more than 100 of the “peaceful verses” are cancelled by the Verse of the Sword. The House of Saud, unappealing as it is, nonetheless hardly deserves to be blamed for what is to be found, without much trouble, commanded in the Qur’an and has been taken to heart by Muslims since the 7th century. Mr Cartalucci complains about those who have a “deep and profound ignorance of history.” He has done us all an unwitting service, by so brilliantly embodying the very problem he claims to deplore..
The Ottoman Empire and mastery over the Arab World was coveted and contested by the British Empire. The promise of Arab independence was dangled over the heads of the founders of many of the dynasties now ruling Arabia – dynasties that were carved out through cults of personality and a violent misinterpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism. The British, after betraying the Arabs, would harness this political tool to do what all empires do best – divide and conquer – and specifically so regarding the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
The Ottoman Empire was not “contested by the British empire.” The Ottoman Empire, with Turkey already the “sick man of Europe,” finally came undone because it was on the losing side in World War I, and as one consequence it lost its territories in the Middle East. It had already lost control, in North Africa, of Morocco (1912), Tunisia (1881), and Algeria (1830) to the French long before, while Libya was taken over by Italy in 1911. In Egypt, the British arrived in 1882, and while Egyptian independence was formally recognized in 1922, the British remained influential, and full independence did not come until 1952. But influence is not the same thing as imperial rule. After World War I, none of the territories that once formed part of the Ottoman Empire were incorporated into the British Empire.
Describing the families who ruled in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf sheikdoms as dynasties “that were carved out through cults of personality” is inaccurate. These “dynasties” were no more the result of “cults of personality” than the House of Windsor has been in the United Kingdom. The leader of the dominant tribe simply took power, without any need for a “cult of personality” to justify his rule, in Qatar (Al-Thani), Abu Dhabi (Al-Nahyan), Dubai (Al-Maktoum), Kuwait (Al-Sabah), Saudi Arabia (Al-Saud). There have been “cults of personality’” in some Muslim countries, notably that surrounding Ataturk, and to a lesser extent, around the Ayatollah Khomeini, but the Gulf Arab states have not yet been among them.
As for Saudi Arabia, to call Wahhabism a “violent misinterpretation of Islam’” deserves comment. Wahhabism represents an attempt to go back to the earliest Islam, to end the veneration of saints, to return the faith to pure monotheism. That is hardly a “misinterpretation” of Islam, even if it is a strict version that other Muslims dislike and some insist in describing it as such.
Why does Mr. Cartalucci write that “the British, after betraying the Arabs, would harness this political tool [Wahhabism] to do what all empires do best – divide and conquer – and specifically so regarding the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)”? The British did not “betray the Arabs,” but in fact, liberated them from their Turkish masters. Or does Mr. Cartalucci mean here to allude to the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916, which the Arabs have always regarded as an attempt to assign newly-freed Arab territories to either British or French rule? More likely he has in mind the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate for Palestine, which Arabs and Muslims consider a “betrayal’” because in their view, no people other than the Arabs deserved to have a state, or — as it has turned out — 22 states, carved out of what had been lands ruled by the Ottomans.
As for the notion that the British “used” Wahhabism to “divide and conquer” — where and when did this occur? Wahhabism was the state religion of Saudi Arabia from its inception. How did the British use it to “divide,” much less “conquer,” any of the other Arabs? We have no way of rebutting a claim that is both preposterous and vague; we can only ask for details to see what Mr. Cartalucci has in mind. For the British, the Middle East was not then a source of wealth. Iraq was, in Churchill’s celebrated phrase, an “ungrateful volcano.” Saudi Arabia, and the lesser sheikdoms, still needed subventions from the West. Oil would not be discovered until 1938.
The British did control Aden (in present-day Yemen), but had done so since 1839. It was a useful port from which to subdue pirates who were attacking British shipping to and from India. Other than that entrepôt, the British established a few small garrisons in the lesser Arab sheikdoms, to keep the peace as much as to control the sea lanes. But “Wahhabism” had nothing to do with any of this.
Then there were the League of Nations mandates. The Syria-Lebanon mandate was held by the French, who guided both territories — Syria and Lebanon — to statehood after World War II. The British held Iraq, not as an imperial power, but as a mandatory authority, for exactly ten years, from 1922 to 1932, at which point Iraq became independent, under a Hashemite monarch, and the British left. The Palestine Mandate’s history was more complicated, as the British unilaterally lopped off all the territory east of the Jordan to create the Emirate of Transjordan, later the Kingdom of Jordan, which became independent in 1946. This was despite the fact that the Mandate for Palestine, which was originally established for the sole purpose of creating the Jewish National Home, ended when the State of Israel was declared on May 15, 1948. Nowhere in the Middle East did the “British Empire” expand at the expense of the defeated Ottoman Empire.
As the British Empire unraveled, the Americans picked up where London left off. The Saudis and their neighboring Persian Gulf kingdoms have been propped up by the West since the end of World War 1. Since World War 2, many of the same dynasties have sat in power, armed, funded, protected, and invited into some of the most lucrative business deals and economic activity in human history.
The Saudis have hardly been propped up in the usual geopolitical sense. They were helped in the discovery, and exploitation, of their enormous oil reserves, but did not face any outside military threat to their rule. As for the smaller Persian Gulf kingdoms, “propped up” implies weakness and instability, but there was none. The traditional ruling families of Kuwait, the Emirates, and Qatar did not face any military or political challenges, until Kuwait was invaded by Iraq in 1991. They all had enormous oil or gas reserves, derived large revenues from them, and naturally made business deals, which included contracts given to Western companies to build, from the (desert) ground up, the spectacular cities we see today, and also, unsurprisingly, bought arms in order to survive in a place where neighbors included Saddam Hussein and the Ayatollah Khomeini. There was nothing particularly sinister or surprising about any of this, though Cartalucci wants you to think there is. Nor were those Arab dynasties, as he claims, “invited in” to make lucrative business deals– it was they that did the inviting to Western companies.
It was with members of the Muslim Brotherhood that the US attempted to overthrow current Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad. It was the US with the Saudis and factions within Pakistan’s military and government who oversaw the very creation of militant groups like Al Qaeda to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.
First, there is no evidence that the Americans ever supported the Muslim Brotherhood, in Syria or anywhere else. The Americans did not like Hafez al-Assad, but understood, correctly, that the Muslim Brotherhood would be far worse. In Assad’s Syria, the Alawite-dominated government shut down at both Christmas and on Good Friday (impossible to imagine any other Muslim country allowing this); the Alawites guaranteed the safety and well-being in Syria of the Christians (Catholic, Orthodox, and Armenian), who would have suffered had the Muslim Brotherhood come to power. This was understood in Washington. And when Assad attacked the Brotherhood, and even killed 20,000 people in Hama in 1982, no one in Washington was unduly disturbed. Yet Cartalucci blithely claims that the US tried “with members of the Muslim Brotherhood” to overthrow Hafez al-Assad. Cartalucci’s narrative — or rather, the Iranian narrative whose script Cartalucci largely follows — has the Americans always supporting Sunni extremists. In Syria today, the Americans have supplied arms to the Kurds and to the liberal Arab opposition, making sure that their arms do not inadvertently end up in the hands of such groups as the Muslim Brotherhood.
Second, Cartalucci’s assertion that the Americans “oversaw the creation of militant groups like Al-Qaeda” is simply false. Al-Qaeda was created in 1988 by Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam, and some members of Egyptian Jihad. The Americans had nothing to do with it. American scholars and reporters deny that the CIA or other American officials had contact with Bin Laden, let alone armed, trained, coached or indoctrinated those who joined Al Qaeda. Those scholars and reporters have called the idea of a CIA-backed Al Qaeda “nonsense,” “sheer fantasy,” and — as Peter Bergen, who conducted the first interview with bin Laden, concluded, as “simply a folk myth.”
Here are the reasons why American support for Al-Qaeda would have made no sense:
First, with a quarter of a million local Afghans willing to fight, there was no need to recruit foreigners unfamiliar with the local language, customs or lay of the land.
Second, with several hundred million dollars a year in funding from non-American, Muslim sources, Afghan Arabs themselves would have no need for American funds.
Third, Americans could not train mujahideen, because Pakistani officials would not allow more than a handful of U.S. agents to operate in Pakistan and none in Afghanistan.
Fourth, the Afghan Arabs were militant Islamists, reflexively hostile to Westerners, and prone to threaten or attack Westerners even though they knew the Westerners were helping the mujahideen.
Fifth, the US government greatly feared arming or training Arabs would lead to attacks on Israel with those arms or training.
Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri says much the same thing in his book Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner.
Bin Laden himself once said “The collapse of the Soviet Union … goes to God and the mujahideen in Afghanistan … the US had no mentionable role,” but that “collapse made the US more haughty and arrogant.”
Cartalucci appears impervious to facts, but perhaps, should he happen to read this piece, he will be less vocal in his insistence that the Americans helped to create Al-Qaeda. He might even drop that baseless accusation altogether.
And it is to this very day still very much a US-European enterprise perpetuating the Saudi regime in Riyadh, arming it to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars in weapons and military support, and using Riyadh admittedly as an intermediary through which Washington, London, and Brussels arm and fund the worst, most virulent terrorist organizations on Earth.
Even current US President Donald Trump – who regularly cites “radical Islam” as an enduring threat to America’s national security, has signed off on immense weapon deals to the very nations the US uses to cultivate and perpetuate global terrorism.
The US and Europeans do not “perpetuate” the Saudi regime, which has shown itself quite capable of remaining in power. It is one of the most stable polities in the entire Islamic world (cf. Egypt, Libya, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan). The Saudis buy arms from the West, which is different from Cartalucci’s statement that the US and Europe are “arming it [impliedly, giving the Saudis arms] to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars in weaponry.” If we did not sell them arms, then they could buy what they desired elsewhere in Europe (the U.K., France, Germany, Sweden). Cartalucci wants to depict Saudi Arabia as an American puppet, doing America’s bidding. History says otherwise. When the Saudis led the effort in OPEC to quadruple the price of oil in October 1973, which inflicted great damage on the American economy, they were hardly following orders from Washington. When some rich Saudis helped to fund Al-Qaeda, and later to do the same with ISIS, they were not acting at Washington’s behest, but against our national interest. When the Saudi textbooks continue to teach hatred of Jews and Christians, despite the repeated protests of the American government, the Saudis are hardly dancing to an American tune.
Cartalucci’s claim that, by using Saudi Arabia as an intermediary, the U.S. and Europe fund the world’s “worst, most virulent terrorist organizations on Earth,” is another bizarre statement. Presumably by those “most virulent terrorist organizations” he means ISIS and Al-Qaeda. In his world, Wahhabi Islam is not the real, the peaceful Islam, but a “violent misinterpretation,” though no Qur’anic verses are quoted to show where Wahhabi Islam has deviated from mainstream Islam, for no such verses exist. There are, of course, differences between the practices of Wahhabis and of mainstream Muslims, in the level of virulence against Infidels, in the strictness of rules concerning women, in the power of takfiris, in the uncompromising way Wahhabi Muslims apply Islam — but these are not based on textual differences. Wahhabi Islam is used, Cartalucci claims, by the US and Europe to encourage Muslim terrorists. Through Saudi intermediaries, we promote the very terrorism that in turn, gives our governments, that is our sinister rulers, the excuse they need to create invasive police states which, as we all know, the democratically-elected leaders all over the Western world apparently desire. We know this because Tony Cartalucci has told us that that’s the plan. Have you noticed anything remotely like an “invasive police state” anywhere in the Western world? Isn’t the problem, rather, that we have too little surveillance of mosques, too few people on watch lists, too few of those who are on watch lists actually being watched, too many Muslim migrants with potentially thousands of violent Jihadis among them? And ordinary citizens are afraid to report suspicious behavior by Muslims for fear of being called “racists” and “Islamophobes.” Some police state.
Cartalucci claims, as one of his subtitles puts it, that “the US and Europe Drive Terrorism, Not Islam.”
Each and every terrorist attack that unfolds across North America or Europe is followed by a tidal wave of propaganda aimed at further bolstering a “clash of civilizations.” The fearful public either cowers or lashes out against Muslims – led by establishment voices including the newly christened “alt-right.”
What “tidal wave of propaganda” supposedly ”aimed at further bolstering ‘a clash of civilizations” is that? After every Muslim terrorist attack, the Western media is not, as he claims, deluged with a tidal wave of propaganda against Islam. Instead, the media run endless stories about how “Muslims fear a backlash” (though no serious “backlash” has ever occurred) and how “officials reassure Muslims” while “neighbors gather to offer support at local mosque”and “local rabbi denounces Jihad Watch director Robert Spencer for hate speech against Islam.”
Also never discussed is the fact that terrorists – particularly those either members of the self-titled “Islamic State” (ISIS) and Al Qaeda, or those inspired by such groups – are indoctrinated, radicalized, armed, funded, and supported by Washington, London, Brussels, and a collection of the West’s closest allies in the Middle East – namely Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan, and Israel.
Cartalucci’s wild claims, in which the Americans (and the U.K., and the E.U.) are accused of having “indoctrinated, radicalized, armed, funded, and supported” terrorists of ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and similar groups, represent the conspiratorial worldview of Iran’s mullahs. They see Saudi Arabia as always having been an American puppet, the Saudis eager to act as takfiris and to excommunicate Iran’s Shi’a, even describing them as “Rafidite” (Rejectionist) dogs and the worst kind of Infidels. And even Israel, Iran’s other great enemy, is accused by Cartalucci of supporting ISIS and Al-Qaeda. That will come as news to Mossad.
Despite admissions from the United States military and high-level politicians that ISIS was literally a creation of its own intentional foreign policy and perpetuated through state-sponsorship by America’s closest regional allies, both the administrations of President Barack Obama and President Trump would continue signing weapon deals, maintaining diplomatic ties, and strengthening military and economic cooperation with these state-sponsors of terror.’
Where are these “admissions” by U.S. military and politicians that “ISIS was literally [as opposed to what? “figuratively”?] a creation of its own intentional foreign policy”? Again, there are none. And were there even a hint or scintilla of such an admission, it would be all over the papers, as a stunning example of government stupidity and moral turpitude.
Simultaneously, the US and Europe also continue encouraging and protecting Saudi Arabia’s global network of faux-madrasas – centers of indoctrination often under the watch and even co-management of Western intelligence agencies ensuring a constant, fresh supply of potential patsies for local terrorist attacks and recruits for the West’s proxy armies fighting abroad.
This “global network” of “faux-madrasas” are neither “encouraged” nor “protected” by the US and Europe. In 2003, a United States Senate committee on terrorism heard testimony that in the previous 20 years, Saudi Arabia had spent $87 billion on promoting Wahhabism worldwide.
This included financing 210 Islamic centers, 1,500 mosques, 202 colleges and 2,000 madrassas. Far from “encouraging” or “protecting” these Wahhabi mosques and madrasas, it has been the position of American officials that Wahhabi Islam is a menace, that the Saudis have been intimately involved in the recruitment of terrorists by spreading Wahhabism, and that Western governments ought, where they can, to closely monitor Saudi-funded Salafist mosques and madrasas and close those deemed “extreme.” That is why such Congressional investigations have been undertaken in the first place. What prevents more intrusive monitoring of mosques and madrasas in the U.S. is not a desire to protect Saudi Wahhabis, but the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of religion.
In Europe, the authorities are keeping mosques and madrasas under surveillance, and closing those where sufficient evidence exists of “extremism.” France recently closed 20 Salafist mosques. In Germany, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said that “Salafist mosques must be banned, communities dissolved, and the preachers should be expelled as soon as possible.” In Belgium, the Loqman Mosque in Molenbeek, the main Muslim neighborhood in Brussels, has been shut down for “extremism.” In the United Kingdom, madrasas are now required to register and be open to inspection, because of the perceived effect of Saudi money. None of this supports Cartalucci’s claim that the US and Europe are colluding with the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia.
Nor is Saudi Arabia being “protected” by the American government. The American government has repeatedly — and publicly — called on the Saudis to reform their school curriculums and particularly their textbooks, which preach hatred of Jews and Christians. When in July 2016 Congress finally released those “28 pages” missing from the original Congressional report on the 9/11 attack, that clearly showed Saudi ties to the terrorists, this surely signaled the end of any putative “protection” for Saudi Arabia.
Of course, more surveillance, more monitoring is needed of mosques, madrasas, Islamic centers, connected to, and funded by, not just the Saudis, but by any of the many groups of Muslims who are found to preach jihad and hatred of Infidels. Some of us believe that will necessarily include a great many Muslims. It would be an error to think, as Mr. Cartalucci wants us to, that only the Wahhabi brand of Islam is a threat. If there is not enough surveillance now of all Wahhabi mosques and madrasas, that is a question of insufficient resources, not of a deliberate desire to either “encourage” or to “protect” the Saudis, as Cartalucci seems to think.
There is much more that one could say about this farrago of conspiracy-theorizing, and sheer craziness, which attempts to blame the West, or its leaders, for deliberately encouraging Wahhabi terrorism (the only kind that Mr. Cartalucci recognizes), so that, as a natural reaction, our liberal democracies, unhinged by fear of Muslims, will turn into “invasive police states.” But at a certain point it becomes such an absurd exercise, which one ought not, as the saying goes, dignify with a response. I’ve done too much dignifying, by too much responding, already. So I’ll stop here.
First published in Jihad Watch.