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The Gunga-Din Problem

"One of [the Iraqis the reader met] in particular was a really good guy and totally reliable, as best as I could tell at the time."-- from a reader

So what? You met this or that nice Iraqi. It has happened to me, and to many of us. It certainly happened all over official Washington, where such "nice Iraqis" as Ahmad Chalabi and Rend al-Rahim Francke and Kanan Makiya (who not only wrote a book about the mass murder of the Kurds, but thinks that Iraq should not be called an "Arab state"), managed to persuade many -- Bush needed no persuasion -- that an American invasion and overturning of Saddam Hussein would be greeted as a "liberation" and the "liberators" treated presumably as heroes by a grateful populace.

Too many people substitute their own encounter with this or that pleasant Muslim colleague, for an encounter with Islam itself. Too many people are prepared to think that the nice Pakistani who always inquires after your children, who is soft-spoken and never as gratingly self-absorbed as your other, American colleagues, who would love to have you over for dinner to show you the "real face of Islam," and who is quite sure that you have been "misinformed" about this "peaceful" religion, but who whenever you even come close to discussing something -- say, his attitude toward apostates, or toward the right of Israel to exist, or his own indifference to his own civilizational history outside of, or before, Islam -- manages to skitter away.

The attitude that "I know this one guy" or "I met a really reliable Iraqi officer in Mosul" or.. well, fill it in. There is the Gunga-Din problem, the sentimentalism of those who focus on the one or two, or even a dozen, genuinely trustworthy and loyal Iraqis they met, and do not focus on the millions who are quite unlike that.

It is Islam that mandates a state of permanent war -- though not always open warfare when Muslims are too weak or can obtain the same goals more effectively through other instruments -- between Believers and Infidels. In such a war, as in all wars, one does not make policy based on the exceptions, rather than the rule. One did not soften the blows against Nazi Germany because there was the White Rose resistance of the Scholls, or because there was here and there an Oskar Schindler. One did not change policy toward the Soviet Union because within that Soviet Union there were such people as Andrey Sakharov and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Andrey Amalric, because it was the Soviet state, the Red Army, the Communist Party, that counted.

It is the same in dealing with Iraq or any other Muslim entity. Not the exceptions, but the primitive masses, endlessly re-primitivized by Islam's texts and tenets and attitudes and atmospherics, that should serve as the basis of policy.

Not some smiling Western-educated Arab diplomats, not even the plummy Prince Hassan of Jordan, or the gravelly-voiced former Saudi Ambassador Prince Turki or the smiling operator and fixer and distributor of goodies, Prince Bandar, should be allowed to mislead any longer. Look at what is preached in the mosques and what is in the textbooks, and what is in the press, on the radio, and television, of this or that Muslim state. That, and not the "nice guy" someone met, even if that "someone" should be Colin Powell (with his tennis-partner Prince Bandar, who gave Powell's wife a Jaguar as a token of his affection and esteem), should be kept firmly and unsentimentally in mind.

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