The big debate last week

Posted: Oct 05, 2004 12:00 AM

There was quite an interesting debate reported in the media last week. No, not that one. I am referring to the debate in the Muslim world on whether it is permissible under Islamic theological teachings to seize and behead hostages. The best reporting on the beheading debate can be found in a Sunday article by the Iranian, Paris-based commentator Amir Taheri in the Wall St. Journals' Website, (The following quotes and items come from Mr. Taheri's report.)
This debate was triggered by the killings of the schoolchildren in Beslan, Russia. According to Mr. Taheri's reporting, most Muslim scholars opposed the killings (called exhibition killings in Muslim theology) not because it violated religious guidelines but for the political reason that because Russia had supported the Palestinian cause, they did not deserve to have their children killed.

 "Sheik Yussuf al-Qaradawi, a Sunni Muslim scholar based in Qatar, was among the first to condemn the Beslan massacre. At the same time, however, he insists that a similar attack on Israeli schools would be justified because Israeli schoolchildren, if not killed, could grow up to become soldiers (Sheik Qaradawi also justifies the killing of unborn Israelis because, if born, they could become soldiers.)"

 Similarly, when two French journalists were taken hostage in Iraq, the Arab League Secretary-General, Amr Moussa, called for their release: "France is a friend of the Arabs; we cannot treat friends this way." This position was confirmed by the spiritual leader of Hezbollah, Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, who has not condemned any of the other 140 hostage takings and other beheadings. (So much for applying Geneva Convention standards to POWs in war with Muslims. Such application will be a tad one-sided.)

 The French government well understands this perverted policy of many Muslim clerics and politicians of beheading Americans, Israelis and other enemies, but not Frenchmen. As Mr. Taheri reports:

 "The French authorities have reinforced that sentiment. (French) Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin speaks of the Iraqi insurgency as "la resistance." And (French) Foreign Minister Michel Barnier has announced that France would reject the international conference on Iraq, proposed by the Bush administration, unless "elements opposed to the occupation," meaning the terrorists, are invited."

 All of which brings me back to the other debate between George Bush and John Kerry on foreign policy last Thursday. The essence of Mr. Kerry's claim for the presidency is that: Whether or not he supported the war, whether or not he thinks it was a mistake, whether or not he thinks we are better off with Saddam out of power and in our prison, he, John Kerry, being much smarter than George Bush and having his policies grounded in reality rather than fantasy is better able to win the Iraqi war and protect Americans from terrorism.

 The first, and most advertised, part of Mr. Kerry's four-part plan to win the war in Iraq is to hold a summit amongst Arab and European leaders, which would lead to a true internationalization of our effort. I think it is fair to assume that Mr. Kerry would not exclude the French or the Arab League from that summit.

 And at that summit, according to the French Prime Minster and Foreign Minister (as quoted, above), formal representation would be granted to the terrorists currently beheading Americans and murdering even Iraqi children by the dozens at a time: What the French Prime Minister heroically calls "la resistance." Let it be recalled that the French "resistance" (to which the French Prime Minster makes unambiguous equivalence of our enemies in Iraq) opposed Nazi occupation of France during WW II.

 So, French policy is to morally equate America's presence in Iraq to Hitler's Nazi occupation of France. This is the foundation of Mr. Kerry's plan to win the war in Iraq. A notional President Kerry would find himself seated at the summit table negotiating peace terms with the literal cutthroats of our fellow citizens. This, Mr. Kerry calls realism, while he characterizes President Bush's determination to defeat the cutthroats of the world ... "fantasy."

 But it would be unrealistic to think that such a summit, with the terrorist enemy formally seated as a negotiating partner, would call for the military defeat of the terrorists -- certainly not with their friends the French and the Arab League nations vociferously supporting the enemy.

 Whenever one is told to be realistic, it inevitably means one is not going to get what one wants. George Bush wants defeat of the terrorists and their fellow insurgents and a peaceful pluralistic Iraq.

 In France in 1940, the men and women who dreamed of liberation and eventually formed "la resistance" were not being realistic. The realist was the austere, aristocrat Marshall Petain, who negotiated a collaborator's peace with Hitler and called it Vichy. Five years later, his followers were shot in the village squares by patriotic Frenchmen. There is a lot of Petain in John Kerry.

 John Kerry may have won the debate, but he would lose the war.