October 16, 2011

Death By Cultural Misunderstanding

"The Iranian terror plot: Why would Iran do it the way they allegedly did it?" So goes the title of an article by Allahpundit at Hot Air. It is representative of many, not only on the Internet, but across the conventional media. Allahpundit is not nearly as credulous as many and raises several good points.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is former Federal Prosecutor Andy McCarthy—whose article is also linked in Allahpundit's article—who concludes:

"But, as night follows day, the State Department and other administration officials are out throwing cold water on these claims with their usual tap dance: Iran is very complicated; the IRGC is like a government within a government; there are various rogue elements, so this was probably a rogue operation; just because somebody in the Iranian government may have been complicit does not mean muckety-mucks like Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei were involved; diplo-blah, blah, blah. It looks like we will keep chasing the Holy Grail — rationalizing inaction in the face of ever-mounting provocations while we keep searching for “moderates” embedded somewhere in the regime who will somehow maneuver Iran into a new era of good relations with the Great Satan. Continued good luck with that."

What we now know is that the Iranian used-car salesman from Texas who was apparently the prime broker in the plot was actually trying to arrange not only the murder by explosives of the Saudi Ambassador in a Washington DC restaurant, but attacks on American and Israeli embassies possible in simultaneous strikes. Not only was this used-car dealer traveling between Texas, Mexico and Iran, but was prepared to deliver $1.5 million dollars to the DEA informant posing as a representative of a Mexican drug cartel. It is not known with certainty, but it seems we may have intercepted this plot for no reason other than that the Iranians blundered—by pure chance—into one of our assets rather than the Mexican killers he sought. If so, this is truly one of the most remarkable cases of serendipity on record.

Some excerpts from Allahpundit:

"As Iranians struggled Wednesday to comprehend an alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington, analysts here agreed that even if U.S. charges of official Iranian involvement were true, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his government likely had nothing to do with the scheme…"

"The Quds Force is Iran’s A-team, equivalent to the Mossad in Israel. As Robert Baer, a former CIA analyst, told WaPo, “If they wanted to come after you, you’d be dead already.” And yet, their big idea for striking a blow against the Great Satan and its Wahhabist puppet in Riyadh was to … hook a used-car salesman from Corpus Christi up with an alleged member of a Mexican drug cartel? Seriously?"

In its 30-year history of attacking the West, the Quds Force went out of its way never to be caught with a smoking gun in hand. It always used well-vetted proxies, invariably Muslim believers devoted to Khomeini’s revolution. And when the operation was particularly sensitive, they gave the job to Lebanon’s militant Shi’ite Hizballah, organization the Iranians themselves had founded and which has an unsurpassed record in political murder. Hizballah has cells all over the world, including in the United States. But the point of it all was that if caught — and they were, more than once — Iran still enjoyed plausible deniability, a commodity in this business worth its weight in gold. So, if this plot was genuine, why didn’t the Iranians use tried and tested Hizballah networks and keep Iranian nationals, much less unknown Mexican narcos, out of it?"

Allahpundit suggests that the Revolutionary Guards have somehow gone rogue and are conducting, dangerous, provocative operations on their own, outside of the knowledge and control of the Iranian leadership. Another possibility is that the democratic Iranian opposition is trying to frame the Mullacracy in an attempt to bring the United States into a direct conflict that might unseat the hardliners, allowing democracy to flourish.

McCarthy is less apparently conflicted:

"Iran’s brazenness. It is surprising to hear suggestions that Iran has suddenly crossed a line by — allegedly — plotting to kill a Saudi diplomat on U.S. soil. As Iranian provocations go, this one is pretty tame. I related the history here a couple of years ago, and the best accounting is found in Michael Ledeen’s books — most recently, Accomplice to Evil. To highlight just a few things: Iran killed 19 members of our air force at Khobar Towers in 1996; it has had a working relationship with al Qaeda since the early nineties; it was likely complicit in the 9/11 attacks (a matter the 9/11 Commission strongly suggested — but on which neither the Commission nor anyone else in government followed up); and Iran has been plotting against and killing American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq for a decade. Compared to that rich record of direct attacks against Americans, the current plot is no more than par for the course."

In my conversations with adults, and in the classroom with teenagers, I am endlessly fascinated to discover that most Americans seem unable to truly understand that the peoples of other nations are so utterly different than Americans, so actually alien in the truest sense of the word. Americans seem to believe that since other peoples wear blue jeans, watch American movies, have McDonald's, speak English, even attend college in America they must be more or less unusual looking Americans with funny accents. My students, for instance, are universally amazed when they learn that hundreds of millions of people have never seen toilet paper, using their left hands instead.

In the same way, Americans tend to think of religion only within the American framework of separation of church and state and tolerance for the faiths of others. Americans may think adherents of some faiths to be a bit odd--holy Mormon underwear, people going to church on Saturday, eating only fish on Fridays—but they are generally accepting of that, and the fact that Americans are free to change religions and churches as often as they change their socks. Many Americans take their faith seriously, but the idea of killing in its name is—alien, as alien as the idea of being ruled by ministers, mutilating the genitals of their wives and daughters, killing their wives and daughters for violating family honor, killing friends, even family members who leave the faith, or killing anyone not of the faith for that reason alone.

Perhaps the most pitiful—and potentially deadly--example of American inability to understand Muslims in general and other cultures in particular is Mr. Obama who has a tendency to want everything both ways. Mr. Obama is Muslim, or at least, observant Muslims would certainly consider him to be Muslim. In every Muslim culture, the children born to a Muslim father are themselves Muslims. It is not a matter of choice. Muslims do not leave the faith, for if they do, they immediately become apostates and there is one punishment in Islam for apostasy: death. It is the duty of all Muslims to defend the faith by killing apostates.

Mr. Obama has declared himself to be Christian by choice, and has denied that he is, or ever has been, Muslim. His supporters cry racism and foul if anyone speaks or prints his middle name: Hussein. Yet for a Christian POTUS, he seems determined to do everything possible to support Muslim sensibilities and causes. For example, he told newly appointed NASA chief Charles Bolden that NASA's new primary mission was to make Muslims feel good about the scientific accomplishments of their ancient ancestors. Mr. Obama reflexively supports—or at the very least shows great deference toward—Muslim despots. Because of our cultural and Constitutional heritage, we think nothing of those who choose to change faiths, or who profess no faith. Not so in the Muslim world.

Mr. Obama traveled to Cairo and extended a hand to Muslims. What could they have thought of this? Did they recognize his Muslim middle name, hear his words of conciliation and peace, believe that he was one of them, a man they could trust and with whom they could do business? Hardly. Most would simply ignore him. True believers would want to kill him, not only because he is the President of the United States, but because he is a self-confessed apostate. The Iranians almost certainly see him as a weakling, a fool not to be feared but manipulated. They believe their actions against us will have few, if any, consequences, and thus far—since 1979--they've been right.

In a very real way, we are dealing with medieval thinking, a mindset that sees the world in black and white terms. There are the strong and the weak, the elect and infidels. There is, above all, the Dar al-Islam—the realm or land under Islamic control—and the Dar al-Harb—the realm of war or chaos, the land of the infidels where Islam is not in control. In the Dar al-Islam, Sharia—Islamic law—reigns supreme. It is a medieval code of conduct and justice administered by Imams, essentially Islamic ministers, who have absolute power over life and death. In Islam, there are no individual freedoms, not separation of church and state. The church is the state and individuals live—or die—at its whim.

Islam and Sharia are absolutely incompatible with freedom of religion and individual liberty. Christianity teaches the inestimable worth of each individual, the incalculable value of each human life, not just during its earthly journey, but because each human being possesses an immortal soul which can have, by means of faith, eternal life. These beliefs are the foundation of our Constitution and our criminal and civil laws, yet no American is required to pay them deference or to adhere to these beliefs. A nation where ministers decide civil disputes, hand down brutal, medieval punishments, treat women little or no better than cattle, afford children no rights at all, is almost unimaginable for Americans, yet this is the reality of daily life for the Dar al-Islam.

Christianity does not demand that its adherents conquer—in the spiritual or military sense—the world. It suggests only that they spread the Gospel; it is an entirely voluntary faith. Therefore, Christianity does not proscribe specific steps to be observed in the waging of war, nor does it demand that those who do not accept Christianity be treated as second-class beings, with a complete set of rules for how such beings may be enslaved, treated, taxed, even killed. Islam does all of this and more.

Winston Churchill observed that individual Muslims may have "splendid qualities," and indeed, most Muslims wish only to live in peace with their neighbors. However, it must be clearly understood that these Muslim are not, in fact, following the dictates of their faith. It is those who war against the Dar al-Harb who are being true to the letter and intent of their religion. And if there are only ten million such Muslims in the world—and there are surely that many—who are determined to follow the clear dictates of their faith to the letter, it's not hard to see the depth of our problem.

The leaders of Iran, those who so brutally crushed the Iranian democracy movement—the movement Mr. Obama studiously ignored—are very much determined to conquer the world for Islam, to turn the entire globe into the Dar al-Islam. The Koran holds special enmity for Jews, specifically preaching their destruction. It is no accident that Iran's leaders constantly refer to America as "the Great Satan," and Israel as "the Little Satan," for when they mouth these labels, they mean that Satan is the fount of all evil and must be destroyed by those faithful to Islam.

In waging war, Americans generally abstain from striking the first blow, are incredibly cautious about harming non-combatants, even risking and losing American lives rather than accidently killing innocents. Americans even avoid unnecessarily destroying property. For Americans, there are specific laws regulating the conduct of soldiers. None of this is true for Muslims waging Jihad—holy war aimed at establishing a global Dar al-Islam. They kill indiscriminately, ignore the international laws of war, use innocents as human shields, and commit inhuman atrocities as common practice.

In the pursuit of Jihad, Islam encourages and allows Muslims to lie to infidels. However, it requires Muslims to give infidels a chance to convert to Islam. If they do not, they may be slaughtered at will. When Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatens America and Israel and suggests conversion to Islam, he is not doing this because he has a sincere religious concern for the souls of Americans and Israelis, but because he is adhering to Islamic rules for war.

Americans make the mistake of hearing what they think is yet another preacher trying to convert them and think ignoring them will have no consequences just as it does in America. They fail to realize that when they don't immediately convert to Islam, the safeties have just been released on Muslim weapons.

Jihadists recognize no international laws, no "international norms," no treaties, no diplomatic protocols. There is only the struggle to conquer the world, and apart from the Islamic rules for waging war, they observe no restraints, even killing other Muslims, which the Koran forbids.

Islam is a culture of death; Christianity is a culture of life. Islam preaches that the most sublime pleasures of paradise are reserved for those who die in Jihad. Christianity teaches love for all and the attainment of paradise through steadfast faith, mercy, kindness and tolerance.

One of the most dangerous misconceptions Americans have is confusing the political realities of America with those of other nations, particularly Islamic nations. "We can't attack Iran," our State Department says. "It's only the leaders of Iran that are bad. The people love us. There are many factions. There are moderates. Why, the leaders of Iran may not even know what is being done in their name!" Idiocy.

Doubtless many Japanese in 1941 had no desire for war. Many Germans were likewise peaceful people, but nations are responsible for actions done in their name, using their resources--$1.5 million and more in this case--pursuing their stated national goals. All of these factors are clearly present in the thankfully foiled plot.

Islamic nations, particularly rogue states like Iran—unquestionably the foremost terrorist nation on the planet—do not brook internal opposition. There is no democracy, no debate, no effective political opposition. Iron-fisted rule extends from the top down. And while it is true that millions of young Iranians think well of the United States and would welcome having the heel of the Islamic boot lifted from their collective necks, this is a tactical, not a strategic concern.

It is not as though we are contemplating turning all of Iran, or even its major populations centers, into a sheet of glowing, radioactive glass. Alone in the world we possess the military means to strike with amazing precision, severely limiting collateral damage. Our assets could, with a few days of overwhelming strikes, severely damage, even obliterate Iran's ability to produce nuclear weapons and wage war.

But Iran would be angry with us! Iran would strike out at us! Iran has been doing just that since 1979. Not only have its agents been caught on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have captured its munitions, specifically designed and manufactured to kill American soldiers. There is no doubt that Iran is arming and training our enemies, enemies that have killed Americans and the citizens of our allies. Iran declared war on us in 1979 and has been actively pursuing that war on multiple fronts.

Yet, Iran has exercised some restraint. Its leaders understand that in a conventional military conflict with the United States, it wouldn't last a week. But they also understand that we are tied down in two conflicts. It works with China, North Korea, Syria, any nation opposed to America, to keep us occupied, to limit our ability and willingness to respond. Above all, it knows that with Barack Obama in the White House, there is virtually nothing it cannot do—even producing nuclear weapons it has sworn to use against Israel and America—that would provoke Mr. Obama to punishing military action.

Would Iran conduct an attack against Americans that would cause hundreds, even thousands of deaths? Of course it would. Iran has been killing hundreds, even thousands of Americans for years. But iran has never done anything so brazen before! You mean like seizing hundreds of American diplomats hostage and keeping them for more than a year? You mean like killing hundreds of Americans through proxies and by providing purpose-built weapons to them? But this hasn't been Iran's modus operandi—their method of operation—in the past!

Even if that were true—and it isn't--it is now.

Mark Twain said that one should be careful in reading health books because they could die of a misprint. Americans must now be careful in interpreting the clear words and actions of one of our most deadly and determined enemies. They say: "we will kill you all," over and over again. If we don't take them at their clear words, if we don't understand their mindset, millions of Americans and Israelis could die of a cultural misunderstanding.

Posted by MikeM at October 16, 2011 09:47 PM

If so, this is truly one of the most remarkable cases of serendipity on record.

So far, after 10 years of countering terrorism, the government has managed to prevent exactly zero terrorist attacks except those that they were personally involved in planing. The rest were thwarted by bystanders and terrorist incompetence.

Posted by: Professor Hale at October 17, 2011 09:10 AM

Well exactly right. the day on which Americans stop watching people in their framework at that time people will stop killing innocent lives. Every one would get freedom to live how they want to live. no body could tease other or be the king of this jungle.

Posted by: Learn Quran at October 18, 2011 02:45 AM

With havin so much written content do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright violation? My blog has a lot of unique content I've either authored myself or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my permission. Do you know any methods to help reduce content from being stolen? I'd certainly appreciate it.

Posted by: Penney Luscombe at October 21, 2011 10:23 AM

Dear Penny:

Thanks for reading. This is one of the down sides of the wonders of the Internet. We all trust that others will be ethical and give proper attribution when they use something we've written--primarily in the form of a link to the original material--but that's not always the case.

You have basically two options:

(1) Contact those using your material without giving you credit and ask--nicely--that they give you proper credit. If they're buttheads, and ignore you or refuse...

(2) Hire an attorney and sue them. Unfortunately, this is an expensive, lengthy and frustrating process with no guarantee of eventual success. Probably, the people you would be suing have no greater assets than you and you'd be trying to squeeze blood out of a turnip while rapidly draining your own meager assets.

Ultimately you might just have to come to grips with it as I have. Consider imitation-even theft--the most sincere form of flattery and keep writing. You can, of course, write about such Philistines, which might provide some satisfaction.

I hope this helps, and thanks again for reading.

Posted by: Mike Mc at October 22, 2011 11:01 AM