September 11, 2006 | FrontPage Magazine

Symposium: 9/11: Five Years Later

 On this fifth anniversary of 9/11, Frontpage Symposium has assembled a distinguished panel to discuss the significance of that terror attack, what we have done right and wrong since then, and what steps must now be taken to confront our enemy.

There are some specific themes we hope to cover in this discussion. First and foremost: have we, after five years, deciphered exactly who our enemy is? Surely it was not al Qaeda alone that attacked us on 9/11, but a force that can, arguably, be legitimately labelled as Islamo-Fascism. If we can agree that this ideology is our enemy,  what is it  that we need to do to defeat it?

The Bush administration has also kept America remarkably safe since 9/11. We have not been attacked once on our home soil since 9/11. What do we learn from this success?

Furthermore,  the war in Iraq is, of course, at the center of the terror war. Now that we look back, was the liberation of Baghdad the right thing to do? What strategy must we pursue now? And how does the recent Israeli effort to remove Hezbollah from Lebanon figure in all of this? Has it changed the global picture for the better or for the worse?

And what about Iran and its nuclear ambitions?

To discuss these issues with us on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, we are honered to have:

Tom McInerney, the co-author with Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely on their book Endgame: The Blueprint for Victory in the War on Terror. He is a retired Air Force Fighter Pilot who has been a Fox News Military Analyst for the last four and a half years and continues to appear regularly on Fox. He just returned from his second visit to Iraq in December, 2005

Andy McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor and a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He prosecuted the Blind Sheik and his organization for seditious conspiracy in 1995.

Ralph Peters, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who served in infantry and intelligence units before becoming a Foreign Area Officer and a global strategic scout for the Pentagon. He has published five books on strategy and military affairs, as well as hundreds of columns for the New York Post, Armed Forces Journal, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and other publications.  He is the author of the new book Never Quit the Fight.

Jed Babbin, the former deputy undersecretary of defense in the administration of George H.W. Bush.  He writes weekly for and the American Spectator.  He occasionally guest-hosts on Hugh Hewitt's and Michael Medved's radio shows. He's the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe are Worse than You Think, and the co-author (with Ed Timperlake) of the new book Showdown: Why China Wants War with the United States.

FP: Tom McInerney, Andy McCarthy, Ralph Peters, and Jed Babbin, welcome to Frontpage Symposium.


Andy McCarthy, let’s begin on a general note with you. You’ve heard my introduction and perhaps a theme or two caught your interest. What are some of the key thoughts on your mind on this fifth anniversary?


McCarthy: Jamie, let me begin by saying that it I am honored to be here at Frontpage Symposium again — especially in such distinguished company.


It becomes more apparent as time goes on that we are in a clash of civilizations.  There was an effort made after 9/11 — made for the most admirable of reasons — to confine our battle merely to “terrorists.”  But this has caused real confusion about who the enemy is and how profound a challenge we face.  We are confronting a force that is palpably much broader than what has been wishfully portrayed as a fringe element.  That force enjoys vastly more support in the Islamic world than the administration has ever cared to acknowledge.  We have made policy on the assumption that there is a globally vibrant brand of “moderate Islam” which will become dominant among Muslims if only we can pick off a relatively few jihadists — something that we must take on faith since there has been neither debate on nor evidence of it.  Increasingly, it becomes manifest that militant Islam is, in fact, the dominant stream.  We have to face that and what it portends, since you can't fight what is an ideological war by defaulting on ideology.  Besides, our enemies are very confident in what they believe and have no ambivalence about saying forthrightly that we are the enemy (they don't talk about a “war on freedom” or some other opaque phrase — they say, “Death to America”).  We need that same kind of confidence and clarity.


That said, the Bush administration deserves enormous credit for keeping the country safe since 9/11.  Initiatives like the Patriot Act, the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program, the SWIFT Terrorist Finance Tracking Program are things the president had to fight hard for against what I've called the “war against the war” conducted by leftists and civil-liberties extremists.  The events in London in early September prove yet again how significant the administration's efforts have been.  We haven't been attacked again because we are taking the right precautions, not because the threat has gone away.


Finally, I continue to believe removing Saddam was the right thing to do.  The critics of the policy never seem willing to play out what would have happened if we'd left him there:  The sanctions regime would have collapsed and we now know that he not only had at least some WMD but had positioned himself to ramp up production quickly — especially on the chemical weapons front.  We also know that he had cooperative relationships with terror organizations (including al Qaeda), and the oil-for-food program meant that he had both access to prodigious financial resources and lots of leverage over both the UN and some Security Council members — i.e., the players whose cooperation would have been necessary to rein him in once he inevitably started making trouble again.


As for the here and now, I think we need to worry a lot more about crushing jihadists in Iraq and a lot less about democratizing it, and we need to think hard about Iran.  But the president was right that Saddam had to be deposed.


FP: Thomas McInerney, your thoughts on this 5th anniversary and Andy McCarthy’s perspective? And is it time to worry more about crushing our enemy in Iraq than about trying to build democracy there?


McInerney: Jamie, I am in complete agreement with Andy’s assessment but would go even further on the importance of changing the regime in Iraq. The additional intelligence information coming out of Iraq particularly Saddam’s audio tapes of his meetings confirms that he in fact did have WMD in larger numbers than we found because Russia helped moved them out in the Fall of 2002.


These tapes also indicated that he was planning on using Proxies (AQI plus other terrorist groups) to disperse them in the US. Saddam was continuing to develop his nuclear program to include Plasma Enrichment  processes. Furthermore, Tariq Aziz discussed using anthrax against US cities and offers enough dots in my judgment for Iraq to be the perpetrator of the anthrax attacks against the US congress immediately after 9/11.


Certainly the FBI has not found anyone else so the discussions he and Saddam had are the most compelling evidence I have seen to date. I will gladly change my position if someone offers a better culprit and more evidence. The mainstream media continues to avoid this very important intelligence information that was highlighted during the Intelligence Summit in Crystal City VA in Feb 2006 hosted by John Loftus. The translation of the tapes was done by Bill Tierney, a former UNSCOM Inspector.

Just because the insurgency in Iraq has been tougher than we anticipated does not mean it is not important to the terror war. I believe the lack of successful attacks against the US has been our Forward Strategy of attacking the Islamic extremists at the roots of this horrific ideology — Islamo Fascism in Iraq and Afghanistan just as we attacked Nazism and Fascism in WWII.

You don’t defeat an ideology by defending ports and airfields in the US. You defeat them at their roots as we are doing in the ME today in Iraq and Afghanistan. By creating moderate governments as we did in Germany, Italy and Japan after WW II you create the environment for moderates to flourish. What we are finding out is that Islam and democracy are creating tensions and challenging the culture of Islam. Islam in fact needs a Reformation and a Renaissance but these moderate governments will have to do this not the Coalition of the willing.

For the cut and run crowd heavily represented by the left wing of the Democratic Party they offer no strategy for defeating this ideology except to withdraw to Fortress America and give all the resources in the Middle East to the Islamo Fascists. We should remember it was Islamo Fascists who attacked us on 9/11, not Afghanistan. The Left’s desire to attack locations versus an ideology exhibits a gross lack of understanding what the threat is.

Unfortunately the Bush Administration has not done a good job of creating an Information Operations Campaign of describing this threat. World leaders should be demanding moderate Islamic leaders to purge this ideology from their countries. We can not win unless they do and if they don’t it will be a war of civilizations in which we could expect 100-200 million causalities just as we experienced 60 Million dead in WW II because the allies would not take action in the late 1930s.

Today, the Democratic Left has the Flag of Appeasement as their constant companion. Ahmadinejad is the 21st Century’s Adolph Hitler and a nuclear attack on US cities is highly likely if we do not learn the lessons of WW II and 9/11 and change the regime in Iran using covert action by dissident Iranians.  Iran today is behind Hezbollah, Hamas and supporting al Qaeda plus as Sadr’s militia army in Iraq. We cannot stabilize Iraq today with the present Iranian regime.  They are the single most disruptive power in the region and if we are to learn anything from 9/11, it is we must pre-empt especially when there is evidence of nuclear weapons or other WMD.

Iran’s enrichment program is on a track for nuclear weapons production sooner than the experts think. Ahmadinejad has been very vocal on removing Israel from the face of the earth and one of his Mullahs has authorized the use of nuclear weapons against the US. Do we need to duplicate the mistakes of 9/11 again with more horrific results? I repeat: lets enable the Iranian people to take their country back. The mullahs are deathly afraid of them but the Bush Administration has been very passive and let the Europeans dictate an exclusive diplomatic track. We need both as 9/11 showed us.

Peters: Well, first of all, the sky isn't falling.  Since 9/11, we've made great progress on multiple fronts.  That doesn't mean that a final victory is in sight–if it comes at all, it will arrive generations from now.  But the Feds have kept our homeland remarkably safe, despite the determination of Islamist extremists to do us harm.

We have taken the fight to the terrorists and, in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, we're now terrorizing the terrorists.  Inevitably, they'll land another blow.  But we've pushed them on to the strategic defensive.  Despite mainstream media and left-wing nonsense, al-Qaeda is far weaker than it was, without a protected, open base.  There are many other strains of Islamist terrorism, though, from the growing Shi'a terror threat to Sunni splinter groups with various aims (none of them rational or constructive).  Extremism in motion breeds more extremism: Extremists spawn ultra-extremists who then spawn ultra-ultra extremists who think the mere extremists are too weak-willed.  Old story–it arises in deeply troubled societies.  And the greater Middle East just may be the most troubled civilization in recorded history.

Yes, we are in a clash of civilizations.  PC denials are just plain goofy.  But, then, clashing is what civilizations do–in military parlance, it's their Darwinian “mission statement.”  Even beyond that, though, we're simultaneously witnessing the ultimate crash of a once-great, still-vain civilization, that of Middle Eastern Islam.  Middle Eastern cultures (and I stretch the region to include Pakistan) are not competitive in a single positive sphere of human endeavor.  And their self-wrought failure is humiliating to them, so they indulge themselves in a culture of blame: If the water pressure falls, it's the fault of Israel, or the U.S., or Mossad, or the CIA. That culture of blame is emotionally satisfying, but paralyzing.  Show me the Arab society willing to roll up its sleeves and fix its own problems.

I do diverge from the other participants on a few points.  I've been privileged to spend a good bit of time not only in the greater Middle East, but, over the past half-dozen years, on the far fringes of the Islamic world.  Religions–all religions–as practiced on earth are what men and women make them.  At least for now, our problem is with the stagnant, suffocating forms of Islam practiced from North Africa through Pakistan.  Elsewhere, I've found Muslims remarkably tolerant and spiritually healthy–faiths change on their frontiers.  We only hear about the handful of terrorists and extremists in Indonesia, for example.  But, outside of Aceh and a few urban neighborhoods, Indonesian forms–plural–of Islam are humane and absorptive (if sometimes downright weird).  In Senegal, Muslims have resisted Wahhabi missionary efforts and want no part of Bedouin Islam.  I found the Senegalese startlingly pro-American (and increasingly disenchanted with the French).  I believe, firmly, that the long-overdue liberal reformation in Islam is coming–in Michigan or Ontario.

My point: Blanket condemnations of Islam are stupid and counter-productive.  We've got enough enemies in the Middle East (and we need to get a lot more serious about killing them).  Why make other enemies unnecessarily?  Perhaps Islam will turn violent and anti-Western elsewhere–but at present that is not the case.  Let's concentrate on the killers, not the bystanders.  Why unify the Islamic world against us when it's usefully divided?

I also disagree that we are a primary target for Iranian nukes (which Tehran likely will get, since the West is so gutless). We're way, way down on the target list. While the Iranians–Persians, really–seek nukes to deter our military in the region, when it comes down to who-gets-hit-first, it's a coin-toss between Israel and Sunni Arabs. We're too self-absorbed to recognize that we're just passing through (even if we stay in the Middle East for another century).  The real, enduring, merciless struggle is between Sunni and Shia (as in Iraq).  Human beings may hate a distant enemy in theory, but they prefer butchering their neighbors.

I worry about Israel's future.  It may not have one.  Europe couldn't care less if Tel Aviv and Haifa disappear under mushroom clouds.  Israel's remarkable success is as embarrassing to Europeans as it is to Arabs.  Israel's only meaningful allies are in the English-speaking world.

Finally, Iraq:  Even if our noble effort fails, it was worth it.  If Iraq goes south–and the odds are now about fifty-fifty–it won't ultimately be an American failure, but yet another tragic Arab failure.

We made no end of mistakes in Iraq.  But, thanks to the skill and valor of our troops, we nonetheless gave the Iraqis a unique chance to build the first true Arab constitutional democracy.  If they fail to seize that chance, it's a lick on them.

We shall remain powerful, wealthy and indestructible.  But we'll get some more bruises in this very long fight.

Babbin: I agree with most of what Andy and Tom have written, but I have to start where Ralph ended.  He, like most patriots, assumes we'll win this war.  But there won't always be an England, as the WW2 pop song said, nor will the USA always be powerful, wealthy or indestructible. In fact, unless we get ourselves organized around some basic ideas and recommit our nation to them, we're likely going to lose this war.

We have made enormous strides since 9-11. The Taliban no longer rule Afghanistan and the world is much better off without Saddam in power. But Americans are entirely disunited about whether terrorism is a problem for the military or for the cops, who the enemy is, and what we need to do other than decide to stay in Iraq preaching Jeffersonian democracy or cut and run. The American people are not much more dedicated to this war than they were to Vietnam around 1972 because we don't agree that we're even at war, who the enemy is, or whether it's worth fighting.  These questions are fundamental, and the Bush administration is doing an abysmal job of answering them and providing the wartime leadership our nation needs.  The result is that if a Democrat is elected in 2008, we will be out of Iraq in 2009, Iran will be uninhibited in its pursuit of nuclear weapons and the few moderate Muslim nations will be intimidated into compliance with the radical Islamists.

So who is the enemy?  The president tells us again and again that we're not at war with Islam. And to a diminishing degree that's true. The president also says we are at war with Islamo-fascists. In that, he is both right and confused.  The enemy is not Islam, but an enormously powerful minority of the Muslim world: those who adhere to the ideology of radical Islam. The degree to which we aren't at war with all of Islam is shrinking because we haven't broken the hold of radical Islam on any Muslim nation except Afghanistan and even that is still in doubt. Radical Islam is spreading because moderate Islam hasn't stood up to it and we haven't either helped it do so or demanded it do so. We have lacked the courage to define the enemy properly. Islam is a religion; radical Islam is merely an ideology that we have to attack and defeat just like we defeated Soviet Communism and German Nazism. We need to be fighting the ideological (and kinetic) battles to split the radicals from the rest of Islam.

We have failed to place more of the burden of this war on the Muslim nations.  Radical Islam is ascendant because we aren't fighting the ideological battle that pits radical Islam against Western modernism — not democracy against Shari'a law — and because we haven't had the courage to put much more pressure on the moderate Muslim states to stand up against the ideology.  When Lebanon's government suffers — as it does now — a national form of the Stockholm Syndrome, holding it in thrall to terrorists, why don't we say plainly that no government that contains terrorists can be legitimate?  Why are we agreeing to UN resolutions that seek to help the Lebanese government disarm Hizballah when the Lebanese government is partially comprised by Hizballah and says it has no reason do disarm it? Elected or not, terrorists are terrorists and radical Islamists cannot be part of a democracy, period.  And signing up to UN resolutions that pretend otherwise is contrary to our national interests.

We can't defeat radical Islam without saying — long, hard and continuously — that Western society is superior to radical Islam, and telling that to all we can reach on radio, the internet and otherwise.  We offer peace, prosperity and human rights.  They offer war, death, poverty and slavery.  Until we break the hold radical Islam has on the countries it controls, this war will not be won.  Which means that we need to be taking the initiative against Iran, Syria and the rest without regard to how well or how poorly Iraq's nascent democracy is doing.


President Bush has made a strategic error in focusing on democracy as the weapon to counter radical Islam and terrorism.  It doesn't matter whether Iraq or Iran or Syria or Saudi Arabia are democracies, so long as they do not threaten our security or our interests.  By making the establishment of democracy in Iraq a precondition to other action, the president has given control of the pace and direction of the war to the enemy.  It may not be possible to establish democracy in a Muslim nation (except those that decide — like Ataturk's Turkey did almost a century ago — to set aside Shari'a law in favor of democratic ideals) but that shouldn't matter to us. We have to divorce ourselves from the naivete of this neo-Wilsonianism and reorient this war to fighting and defeating the enemy which means attacking him ideologically and militarily at his centers of gravity.  We can be in Iraq for another sixty days or another sixty years, and nothing much is going to change there unless and until we remove the regimes in Syria and Iran, and force the Saudis out of the terror-banking business.

Iran is closing on its nuclear weapons ambitions, and the UN will do nothing to stop them from achieving deployable nuclear weapons.  We — those of us in the 'talking warhead' community — need to be saying that we can't wait for Iraq to sort itself out before taking on these other regimes.  And all the talk about air strikes on Iran's nuclear weapons program should be shelved.  We need to say that the UN's time to deal with the Iranian nuclear program is short.  We need to establish regime change in Iran as national policy and do whatever we can to foment revolution there.  The Iranian people aren't the enemy: the radical Islamists who enslave them are. And when the revolution we help start begins, we must — pace, Ralph, by the heavy application of air power — destroy the mullahs' ability to defend their regime.  It needn't be perfect, but enough to enable the revolution to succeed.

At home, we are safer but not safe.  We are — by millimeters — losing ground here to political correctness and election year agendas.  Cong. Pete Hoekstra's recent report showed that — five years after 9-11 — we still haven't come close to fixing what ails our intelligence community.  We are nearly blind on Iran and most other threats.  I wrote in The American Spectator on August 23, 2004 that we needed to force “jointness” on the intel agencies.  Instead, Congress crafted the bureaucratic overlay from the 9-11 Commission report – the DNI – which has served to make intel more diffuse and less effective.  When I spoke to Hoekstra on Friday 25 August, he agreed we needed jointness for intel. So when are the 535 experts on Capitol Hill going to do something about it, and when is the White House going to even say something about it?  This is probably the most neglected, and as a result most urgent, priority that arose from 9-11.

Our borders are still practically open, and the great successes the FBI has had in nabbing terrorists coming in only illustrates the problem. It's like drug traffickers: no matter how many you catch, you can be sure others get through.  But how many?  We're now on the verge of a Congressional session in which an immigration bill will likely be passed. Will it close the borders? Not bloody likely.  Why can't we even do this much to secure ourselves? I've given up on trying to get the government to take practical steps to protect us against biowarfare attacks.  Has your family had a smallpox vaccination?  Neither has mine.  Does your city have an evacuation plan or decent disaster plan?  If it does, stay there.  If I'm in downtown DC when the balloon goes up, I plan to do what the people in the pub did at the beginning of “Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy”: down a pint of bitter, put a paper bag over my head and let the planet dissolve around me. There's not much else I'll be able to do.

The PC police are on the wrong side of this fight.  Why aren't we profiling airline passengers for more scrutiny?  Because phony “civil rights” groups such as CAIR are calling anyone who advocates it a racist.  Remember, please, the Supreme Court decisions going back five decades properly condemn and prohibit “invidious” discrimination: discrimination that classifies people into different groups in which group members receive distinct and typically unequal treatments and rights without rational justification.  There is nothing illegal or any invasion of civil rights by profiling because it is rationally justified by the experience of 9-11 and the plot just broken up by the Brits.  And by decades of Islamic terror going back to the 1970s.

All is not lost, but it is on the way to being so.  Let's get ourselves together around some basics, and then we can figure out how to win this war. We don't even know what “victory” consists of, far less how to achieve it.

McCarthy: I'm largely in agreement with my colleagues, particularly Jed.  But let me register a respectful disagreement with one aspect of Ralph's characteristically sharp assessment.  I think he is misinterpreting what he calls “Blanket condemnations of Islam.”  First, I don't think they've been “blanket” at all.  I'll freely concede that they haven't been as thoughtfully discriminating as his critique, but what Ralph neglects is that they've been a balancing reaction to something I would submit, borrowing his phrase, has been equally “stupid and counter-productive”:  The mindless approbation of Islam as a “religion of peace” and an unqualified force for good in the world.  The inescapable fact is that while there is not terrorism everyplace there is Islam, there is Islam virtually everyplace there is terrorism.  Militancy, moreover, is not the only stream of Islamic practice, but it is the dynamic one — and the one that lines up most comfortably with doctrine.  While religion is what men and women make of it, doctrine is where the making begins, and this doctrine demands a lot more of our attention.

Ayatollah Sistani, the highest authority of Shiite Islam in Iraq (and widely touted by our State Department), maintains (on his website) that non-Muslims should be considered in the same category as “urine, feces, semen, dead bodies, blood, dogs, pigs, alcoholic liquors and the sweat of an animal who persistently eats [unclean things.]”  Sistani's fatwa that homosexuals should be brutally killed is even now being acted on in the Shiite areas of the “new” Iraq.  In the “new” Afghanistan, a man was nearly put to death for apostasy.  In Yemen a few weeks back, a judge dismissed terrorism charges against 19 defendants who went to Iraq to fight along with al Qaeda against U.S. forces … because, he reasoned, jihad against occupiers is legal under Islamic law.  As frequent FPM contributor Andy Bostom has written, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar University in Egypt, instructs that Jews are “enemies of Allah [and] decendants of apes and pigs” — views, along with his approval of terrorist bombing attacks, that he attributes directly to the Koran.

These are not merely the meanderings of the bin Ladens and Nasrallahs — these are widespread views of authoritative Islamic figures to which tens of millions of Muslims subscribe.  They are (quite literally) dehumanizing of non-Muslims, and it is that current of dehumanization — in its most extreme manifestation — that explains how a well-educated man like Mohammed Atta could believe it was his duty to plow a jumbo jet into a skyscraper, indiscriminately slaughtering thousands of human beings whom he didn't know and who'd never done a thing to hurt him.  We continue to ignore that at our great peril.  And if the rationale for abjuring criticism it is to avoid the possibility of turning neutral Muslims against us, what do Ralph and others suppose is going to happen if — as he suggests and I wholeheartedly agree — we ever “get a lot more serious about killing” our enemies?

Finally, although we have not addressed it yet, the single biggest challenge we may face five years after 9/11 is the withering force of ascendant, un-democratic international law.  What were once mere humanitarian guidelines, such as “proportionate” use of force are increasingly regarded as legally binding.  And the arbiter is not the American people (or, recently, the Israeli people) deciding at the ballot box what they believe is necessary to protect their security and their interests; it is what the UN and the so-called “international community” (including enemies of the United States) decide is proportionate and compliant with international obligations.  Which is to say, we are now in a world where Kofi Annan pronounces the American invasion of Iraq illegal (after over a dozen UN resolutions), and the International Court of Justice pronounces the Israeli security fence (which reduced murders from suicide bombings by over 90 percent) illegal.  This system, and its effect on a sovereign nation's ability to govern and protect itself, badly needs rethinking.

FP: Yes, it is truly counterproductive for us to ignore the reality that when Islamic terrorists perpetrate violence against us, that they do because they are inspired by the teachings of their religious literature — which is why they quote from it (i.e. The Verse of the Sword, Sura 9:25, 9:29, etc.)

Do we have Muslim allies, such as Sheikh Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi, in this terror war? Yes. Must we support those Muslims who are trying to democratize and modernize Islam? Yes. Are we committing suicide by trying to make ourselves feel better by taking Islam completely out of the equation of why Islamic terrorists hate us and want to destroy us? Yes.

Tom McInerney go ahead.

McInerney: Well I must wholeheartedly agree with Andy’s refinement of Islam’s responsibilities — especially moderate Islam which Jed and I mention. I repeat we cannot win unless moderate Islam accepts the challenge and responsibility of defeating those Islamic fascists amongst them. Despite what Ralph says it is not a war of civilizations yet. If it were we would be fighting moderate Muslims in our own streets, Europe, Asia as well as the Middle East.

The Islamic fascists want that to happen and their goal of global Islam could be a possibility. Eurarabia is getting to be more than a figure of speech. The US best not submit to suicide by avoiding this threat and as I said previously this is why we have a forward strategy.

Iran’s nuclear weapons desires are designed not only for regional hegemony but also to be used by proxies against the US and Israel. They have this same global Islamic objective. Fortunately, the President’s recent speech in Salt Lake City on 31 Aug indicates the administration is beginning to articulate it. For those who do not think Iraq is the central front in the terror war they should read bin-Laden’s eulogy to Zarqawi on 30 June 2006 in which he stated  that it was the central front – and he was using his words of Jihad. There can be no better testament than Osama himself, which unfortunately leaves the Left in this country without a strategy for the war on terror.

Peters: Gee, Hitler's bad–so let's shoot Konrad Adenauer (a religious conservative, by the way).  The glee with which so many who have never deigned to serve in uniform want to take on the entire Islamic world compels me to offer a suggestion:  Encourage your own children to join the Army and Marines.  Why should only NASCAR America pay in blood for the schemes of our intellectuals–on the Left or on the Right?  Let's get some Ivy-Leaguers out on the front lines.

Serious strategists look for ways to divide their core enemies from casual or forced allies–and they never seek to crowd additional parties into the enemy's camp.  Islamo-fascism is not the only vibrant current in the Islamic world–it just gets the most headlines, for obvious reasons.  Personally, I'm all for killing (not capturing, but killing) violent Islamist fanatics wherever we can track them down.  But I do not favor the approach Christians took upon reaching Jerusalem at the climax of the First Crusade: Just kill everyone, since “God will know his own.”

We need to concentrate on defeating our true enemies, not on creating additional enemies through faintly disguised bigotry of our own.

As for appalling quotes from Islamic leaders, dead or living, one doesn't have to look far for repellent quotes from Christian leaders–since we're on top now, we're not quite as virulent or frequent in our attacks, but we've got our share of “Bomb-Mecca Baptists.”

Blanket hatred, however piously couched, is un-American.  I didn't wear our country's uniform to help out in the Slaughter of the Innocents–and there are innocents in every faith.

And there's nothing in the Koran as murderous as the divine injunctions in the Book of Joshua, so let's get a little balance in our quote selection.

As a believing Christian, I believe in being Christian.  As a former soldier, I believe in doing what we reasonably can to limit our killing to those who need killing.  The problem is that we're not even willing to do that.  We may have to kill millions before this is over–but intellectuals shouldn't be quite so blithe about it.  And, by the way, we'll win.  No question about it.  None.  Zip.  The issues are how long it will be before we get serious about winning wars again–and what costs our nation will pay in the interim.

In the meantime, I'll take an honorable American Muslim over Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson any day of the week–including Sunday.


FP: With all due respect Mr. Peters, you are creating fictitious arguments and stances that no one of importance and real influence believes in and that no one here believes in —   and then you are knocking them down.

For us to be honest about the violent teachings of Islam does not translate into anyone suggesting that we take on the entire Muslim world. To be honest about where Islamic terrorists get their inspiration from does not translate into us “killing everyone,” since “God will know his own.” No one in his right mind advocates that and such lunacy has not been the Bush administration’s tactic in the terror war. There is also no one in this symposium that has even mentioned doing such a thing.

I also can’t grasp how it makes a person a bigot when he reads texts that preach hate and is honest about seeing and labelling that hate for what it is.

None of this means that all Muslims are our enemies. Of course they are not. Of course many Muslims are our allies in the terror war and we must ally ourselves with them. They are our hope. Of course Muslims have the power to reform their religion, modernize and democratize it, and to make the teachings of peace supplant the teachings of hate. Whether this can be actually done or not is another matter, but to suggest that by being honest about where Islamic terror finds its source means that one is bigoted and wants to take on the entire Muslim world is absurd.

It is also an oft-repeated and destructive assumption that if we speak honestly about the elements of Islam that give rise to fanaticism and violence, that we are somehow alienating and radicalizing more Muslims. In fact, such truth-telling about Islam is the fertile soil for the opposite — crystallizing these truths is the most crucial weapon with which we can arm our Muslim allies who seek to extinguish the fanatics amongst them. Muslim moderates and reformers can best eradicate the sources of violence within their religion if they can isolate exactly what those sources are.

The bottom line is that if Muslims really reject those elements of Islam which fertilize violence and hate, then they will not object to people labelling those aspects of their religion.

I am a bit puzzled by the reference to Adenauer and the analogy to Hitler. Adenauer did not share Hitler's core principles. But all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence teach that it is part of the responsibility of the umma to subjugate the non-Muslim world through jihad.

You state that Islamo-fascism isn’t the only “vibrant current” in the Islamic world. The problem is that empirical reality and evidence instructs that the ideas of pluralism and adapting Islam to humanist values are everywhere retreating within the Islamic world.

Where exactly is the “vibrant current” teaching Muslims to accept living with non-Muslims as equals on an indefinite basis, without ultimately hoping to impose Sharia? Yes, there are some isolated, brave and noble Muslims with small followings, like Manji, Nawash, and Palazzi, who need our support. But kindly identify the “vibrant current” which is persuading masses of Muslims that the effort to subjugate the non-Muslim world through jihad must be rejected. Perhaps it will give us more optimism.

The equivalency applied to Islamic and Christian teachings simply does not hold up. No legitimate Christian leaders with any credibility and respect are calling for the bombing of Mecca or any other kind of indiscriminate violence. There is nothing analogous among Christians to the hate-filled and inciteful sermons that are preached weekly in the Islamic world.

The book of Joshua contains no universal, open-ended command to all believers to wage war against all unbelievers, as does the Qur'an in Suras such as 9:29 and 9:5. Millions of Muslims obviously take those verses seriously today, but no Christians or Jews are committing violence in the name of their religion and justifying it by the book of Joshua. This is no accident. And to make this false analogy blurs a crucial issue in this terror war. Unlike Islam, nowhere in Jewish and Christian teachings is there a specific instruction to kill all those who are unlike you and to do this in order to force your religion upon others — which Islam irrefutably does.

I am also not sure how Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson fit into any of this discussion and why they should even be brought up. Falwell and Robertson don’t promote and activate the stoning of adulterers, “honor” killings, female genital mutilation, forced marriages, death sentences for “apostates,” the violent submission of the non-Christian world, etc.

We are, at the moment, dealing with a deadly totalitarian enemy — an enemy that receives inspiration for its violence in its religious texts. How ridiculing and demonizing Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson — Christian leaders who operate within the confines of our democratic and pluralistic tradition — plays a constructive or logical role in any of this is completely beyond me. And frankly, it implies a moral equivalency that casts the millions of victims of Islamic despotism and terror into the shadows and exonerates the ideas and practises that victimize them.

When you have an Islamic Mufti in Copenhagen like Shahid Mehdi, who has publicly declared that women who refuse to wear headscarves deserve to get raped, and he receives widespread support in the Islamic world, it is a bit curious why one would bring Falwell and Robertson into the conversation – since it implies some kind of moral equivalency here. Robertson’s and Falwell’s stances and behaviour are completely benign and civilized in comparison to what is happening — and what is being pronounced — throughout the Islamic world. And to blur this distinction is to blur the moral clarity of our cause in the dire conflict we face.

If I am misunderstanding your main theme and point, kindly clarify.

Peters: Brilliant — you twist what I said and claim I twisted what others said. Well, I stand by every word I wrote.

I regularly visit a range of Muslim countries–they are incredibly various.  In the Middle East, the situation is nearly hopeless; elsewhere, it's hopeful or at least muddling through.  I don't think much of Muslim civilization in general–but I'd rather try to understand it than simple-mindedly write it off.  There's plenty of nuance out there for those willing to recognize it.

I am revolted by the coded hate-speech emerging among some conservative demagogues–who are going to discredit conservatism in general (or at least play into the hands of the movement's domestic enemies).  The things I read and hear from the “all Muslims are in on the Jihad deal” crowd echo yesteryear's bigots who damned the Irish and the Jews, the Italians and the Slavs, the Latinos, etc.  I am appalled by the irresponsible, toxic situation in much of the Muslim world–but let's not fall into the anti-Islamic version of the “International Jewish Banking Conspiracy.”

Blanket hatred is blanket hatred, no matter how piously it's couched in terms of patriotism or “defending our civilization.”  I cited the Book of Joshua because of the grotesque thirst for blood of our own Old Testament deity–far uglier than anything in the Koran (which is simply stream-of-consciousness nonsense–Mohammed should sue James Joyce for plagiarism).  We could compile endless volumes of Christian hate speech that's stacked up over the past thousand years (it really hit its stride in the tenth century).  Unfair to cite only the Muslim hate-mongers without noting that we've had plenty of our own.

You can't get off the hook by saying that no one is suggesting killing all Muslims.  That's the ultimate logic of much of this discussion: “Muslims as Untermenschen.”  What's next, Wansee II at Lake Tahoe?  Much said and written in the name of Islam is, indeed, vile and intolerable.  Too many mullahs preach hatred (thank the Bush family's Saudi friends).  Too many promise divine favor for killing the infidel.  In short, many Muslims today sound a lot like Christians less than five-hundred years ago.

As for Falwell and Robertson, well, at least Osama bin Laden has the courage of his convictions.  Those clowns are about as Christian as Montezuma.

How about a bit more Adam Smith and David Hume conservatism–and a bit less Ku Klux Klan atmosphere?  I'm all for killing terrorists–but not for murdering our own values.  Conservatives should be upright and just, defenders of the weak and apostles of justice for all.  Bigotry is intolerable–and I can't believe that any impartial reader–if one could be found these days–would read this discussion and not find plenty of blanket hatred between the lines.

FP: It remains blurry what exactly I twisted. The very arguments that I countered in my response to you are regurgitated once again in your own response.

Again, I don’t know or see anyone here who is “simple-mindedly” writing Islam off and that is in on the “all Muslims are in on the Jihad deal”. Again, these are just straw men. I have already emphasized the Muslim allies we have and the crucial importance of allying ourselves with them.

You say that “There's plenty of nuance out there for those willing to recognize it.” I guess. But I have tried my hardest to detect a hint of nuance in Suras like 9:5 and 9:29 and have desisted from the experiment in despair.

The bottom line, Mr. Peters, is that no one up till now can produce a sect of Islam or a school of Islamic jurisprudence that is generally regarded as orthodox and does not teach the subjugation of unbelievers. How this makes the people that point out this fact “bigots” remains a mystery to me.

I also do not understand why the key distinction is so hard to understand regarding Jewish/Christian verses and teachings and Islamic ones. Yes, there has been a promotion of certain kinds of violence in the Judaic and Christian context. But the key, again, is that no Christians or Jews are perpetrating violence that is sanctioned by their texts. I don’t know why I have to keep repeating this same point: nowhere in Jewish and Christian teachings or verses is there a specific instruction to kill unbelievers and to do this in order to subjugate the world by force under your brand of faith. To blur this crucial distinction is to blur the essence of the conflict we are in.

So no, “many Muslims today” do not sound “a lot like Christians less than five-hundred years ago.” That’s because there is nothing in the Old or New Testaments that is even close to the themes of Suras like 9:5 and 9:29. And if Christians were saying anything of that variety, they had no support for it in any of their religious texts.

You state that “too many mullahs preach hatred” thanks to “the Bush family's Saudi friends.” I hate to spoil the party here, but too many mullahs have preached hatred long before Bush’s contemporary family and their Saudi friends even occupied this earth.

As for Falwell and Robertson, I become increasingly confused as to what the point is for their names to be brought up in this discussion. Now apparently “Osama bin Laden has the courage of his convictions.  Those clowns are about as Christian as Montezuma.” As a Christian myself, all I can say is that I will leave up to God to decide who is and is not a true Christian. And to be honest with you, when the name Osama bin Laden comes up, or the names of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot come up, the last thing on my mind is to poke criticism at Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson for supposedly not living up to their convictions. I don’t really get it, and I guess I will just drop it. But suffice it to say, that if anything brings fear and dread into my heart, it is the jihadists who behead school teachers in front of little children and who maim and mutilate women who do not abide by some kind of rigid dress code – not Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.

You refer to a “Ku Klux Klan atmosphere.” The only Ku Klux Klan atmosphere I am aware of that poses a dire threat to us and our livelihood is that represented by those who seek to perpetrate another 9/11 on our territory. I am not aware of any KKK disposition of anyone on our side that has any influence or credibility, and it is clear that all of us of sound mind reject whoever they may be and whatever they may believe.

Finally, while you assert that I twisted what you said, there continues to rest the accusation in your argument that there is “blanket hatred” to be found among some mystery figure or figures in this symposium and that it exists “between the lines” of what they are saying. So far all I have witnessed is the recommendation that when we see and hear an enemy spewing hatred of us, that we must be honest who he is and from where he draws his hate. How the observer is indulging in “blanket hatred” in this process is, once again, beyond me. And more serious still: in referring to this “blanket hatred” that you allege is inherent in this discussion, you are making a very serious accusation against some, or all, of the people on this panel, including myself. If this accusation has no basis in reality and cannot be proven, it is a very reckless one and is a grave insult to everyone presiding here.

In any case, Jed Babbin go ahead.

Babbin: At this point, there's little to “go ahead” about. The debate Tom, Andy and I engaged in has become an emotional shouting contest that's irrelevant to the subject. And I am pretty tired of those who claim that no one who hasn't served in the armed forces has a right to express an opinion.  And I say that as an Air Force veteran.  Our Constitution makes the military subordinate to civilian authority for many historical reasons, all of them good. I only wish my writing skills were adequate to the task of adapting Ring Lardner's famous, “shut up, he explained” to this circumstance.

We are quickly running out of time.  Iran will, within two to five years, have nuclear weapons.  Radical Islam is ascendant because Muslims – like the French – are taking the easy way out. They are falling under its rule because they aren't brave enough to oppose it, and because the West imposes no penalty for adhering to it.  There is an ideological war to be fought and we aren't fighting it.

I end where I began.  We aren't at war with Islam, but we will be if we don't split the ideology of radical Islam from the religion of Islam.  Is our ideology stronger than the enemy's?  Are our people more dedicated to winning than theirs?  At this juncture, the answer to both questions is, sadly, no.  How long it will take us to lose this war is anybody's guess. But it won't be very long.

FP: I’m not so sure that the conflict that has broken out in this symposium is “irrelevant” to our subject. There wasn’t just one crystal clear issue we were discussing in this symposium — and the source from where Islamic terrorists draw their hate I think is an important issue. It is also a crucial issue for us to be able to point to those sources without facing cheap smear tactics and being labelled with all kinds of negative labels (i.e. bigots etc.).

Again, we are not at war with Islam. The key is for us to support those forces in the Islamic world that seek to reform and save their religion from the fanatics and militants. But this can’t be done by us, nor by our Islamic allies, if all of us are dishonest about the factors that inspire the fanatics and militants.

Andy McCarthy, let’s start the last round. Feel free to comment on the fireworks here, but in your last comment kindly conclude on your final thoughts regarding the 5th anniversary of 9/11 and where we stand now and what we are going to have to do to win this war.

McCarthy: I tried to register disagreement, respectfully, with a single point that Ralph Peters made — out of an analysis he'd offered that I otherwise thought was sound.  People can judge for themselves the merits of our relative positions, and which of them more closely approximates reality.  My only regret is that the enormous respect I have for Ralph — for his intellect, his patriotism, and his service to our country — is evidently not mutual.

It's true:  I've never served in the military.  But as for putting my own loved ones at risk — including my wife, my then six-year-old son, and various other members of my family –we spent years under varying degrees of protection while I investigated and prosecuted some of world's most vicious Islamic terrorists.  Obviously, there are consequences attendant to that which remain to this day — and some, unavoidably, that will go on as long as I do.  I didn't want to subject my family to all that, but I did it because I thought it was my duty to my country, and that it was a small price to pay compared to the ultimate sacrifices made by our brave men and women in uniform.  In any event, I am neither gleeful about the state of our affairs, nor looking to “take on the entire Muslim world.”  I am neither carping ignorantly from the sidelines, nor asking others to shoulder a burden as to which I have been unwilling to endanger the things I hold dear.

I am trying, like I know Ralph is trying, to protect my country from a profound threat that, inescapably, comes from the Muslim world.  I've dealt personally for many years with jihadists and what animates them, and with other Muslims who were instinctively pro-American and pro-humanity but too intimidated to take the militants on.  I agree with Ralph that we must split off and marginalize our core enemies (and even though I disagree with him about how numerous and influential that core is, I quite agree that it does not represent all of Islam). Based on that experience, I have come to believe that our best hope of prevailing in this struggle is to zero in on the intolerance and inequality that are elements of mainstream Muslim doctrine.  Unless and until these are authoritatively reformed, some percentage of Muslims will continue to be terrorists — and even if that is small, a small percentage of 1.3 billion people is way, way too many.

McInerney: Frankly I am not sure where Ralph is coming from. We are saying that we will defeat Islamo Fascism with a coordinated effort between moderates Muslims and Christians. Period. This combined effort is imperative for success.

Peters: Emotional?  You bet.  My quarrel isn't with this forum's members, but with the chronic haters who infect the edges of our society.  Bigotry is bigotry is bigotry.  There's no difference between condemning Islam in its entirely and damning Christianity or Judaism in its entirety.

This has gone on long enough, so I'll end with a question for the all-Muslims-are-in-on-the-conspiracy crowd:  If Islam is one great, big, coordinated plot to get us, why have the overwhelming majority of the victims of Islamist terrorism been Muslims?  Yes, I understand Shi'a vs. Sunni — and that fight's barely begun.  But in Iraq, for example, Sunnis randomly slaughter Sunnis.

Our fight is not with the totality of Islam (as much as many of that religion's tenets trouble me).  Our fight is with fanatics.  And that includes, unfortunately, our own fanatics.

As for those who want to take on Islam wherever they find it, I'm anxious to hear how they intend to do it.  And if they ever go after innocent American Muslims, they'll find me on the side of their intended victims.


FP: I sense there is a bit of ghost-chasing going on, and none of those ghosts are here — nor have they proven to pose much of a threat to anyone in any case.

On this fifth anniversary of 9/11, we mark a tragic day on which Islamist terrorists and psychopaths perpetrated a vicious crime against humanity. Since that time, the same enemy is working furiously to perpetrate another 9/11, or something far worse, on our territory, and the hard Left is doing everything in its power to facilitate it. Why, in this horrifying context, someone chooses to be preoccupied with some fictitious straw men who are apparently going to go after innocent American Muslims, when there is no record or evidence that this is any kind of actual problem or reality, remains a mystery to me.

Ralph Peters, Tom McInerney, Any McCarthy and Jed Babbin, it was a privilege for me to be in your company to mark this 5th anniversary of 9/11.

We dedicate this symposium to all the tragic victims of 9/11 and to their surviving families. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. We also keep in our hearts the memories of the heroes that rose and fell on that awful day — the police officers and firemen who risked and gave their lives in the hope that others could live.

You are the testament of America.


Al Qaeda