It’s a reflection on the inherent goodness of most Americans that we are willing, in almost all cases, to make an effort to avoid offending Islamic sensibilities. When President Bush spoke recently at the D.C. Islamic center, the female staffers accompanying him donned headscarves. Suspected terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay receive prayer rugs and complimentary copies of the Koran, and large painted arrows point the direction of Mecca. Female soldiers stationed in Saudi Arabia conform to the local laws forbidding women to drive. Politicians and the press alike are careful to distinguish jihadists from the ordinary practitioners of the “religion of peace.”
In fact, we pay the Islamic world every courtesy except the one that really matters: Too often, we simply refuse to take its most threatening leaders seriously. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for example, hasn’t been shy about defying every U.N. mandate forbidding Iran to develop nuclear weapons – or about expressing his contempt for Israel and the United States. The hateful rhetoric is reported (for the most part) – and nothing happens. It’s as if we simply don’t believe he means what he says.
The audiotape released late last week by Ayman al-Zawahiri – Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda deputy – is an even more stunning example. As in previous communications, al-Zawahiri described Iraq as the centerpiece of the fight against America, and portrayed Al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq as the vehicle for repelling the US military and establishing a caliphate of Islamic rule across the region. Again, not much opacity there – it should be crystal clear to every American that our enemies see the battle for Iraq as vital to their terrorist aims, and as a precursor to yet more aggression across the Islamic world and elsewhere. This is hardly the first time that such a message from Al Qaeda has been disseminated worldwide in plain and unmistakable language.
Even so, on the very day the al-Zawahiri tape was made available, Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) threw in his lot with the majority of congressional Democrats, a group of “chicken littles” who are seeking little more than hasty withdrawal from Iraq, whatever the cost to the war on terror. Given that our enemies have made it clear that they will regard an American retreat as a victory of the first order and a vindication of their terrorist methods, it’s hard to understand how any elected official who purports to take America’s national security seriously would even consider it.