March 29th, 2006

The Rahman case and the Inquisition

Now that the case against Abdul Rahman has been dropped, Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi has offered him sanctuary:

“I say that we are very glad to be able to welcome someone who has been so courageous,” Premier Silvio Berlusconi said.

Berlusconi himself is no slouch in the courage department. And of course who could forget another incredibly brave Italian, Fabrizio Quattrocchi.

The Afghan clerics, however, haven’t given up:

Muslim clerics condemned Rahman’s release, saying it was a “betrayal of Islam,” and threatened to incite violent protests.

Some 500 Muslim leaders, students and others gathered Wednesday in a mosque in southern Qalat town and criticized the government for releasing Rahman, said Abdulrahman Jan, the top cleric in Zabul province.

He said the government should either force Rahman to convert back to Islam or kill him.

“This is a terrible thing and a major shame for Afghanistan,” he said.

Note the word “shame” here, and the notion that killing this man for his change of religious faith would somehow restore a sense of honor! Of course, in the eyes of most of us, it would only have increased Afghanistan’s shame. But Abdulrahman Jan and others don’t seem to agree.

On reading Abdulrahman’s chilling words, The Spanish Inquisition was the first thing that came to my mind. But, on further reflection, I decided that the comparison was not all that apt, despite certain similarities.

The Inquisition, although it featured the same sort of violent religious absolutism with death as the Draconian punishment, was actually dedicated to the opposite goal of Islamic clerics such as Abdulrahman Jan. Inquisitors–including, of course, the famous Torquemada–were interested (or professed to be interested; their motives were probably far more complex than that) in rooting out false converts to Catholicism. They were involved in preventing people from insincerely professing to be Catholics, whereas the Moslem clerics are interested in preventing people from leaving Islam, no matter what their consciences might dictate.

It’s an interesting difference of emphasis, is it not? The Moslem clerics are only looking at the outward appearance of things, whereas the Inquisitors took individual beliefs into consideration, or at least said they did. But both involve imposing the ultimate punishment for what we would consider to be no crime at all: a change of religious conscience. That’s a process our post-Enlightenment minds would regard as the domain of the individual, and solely between him/her and the deity.

The present-day Moslem clerics don’t seem to regard the actual viewpoint of the individual involved to be of any importance; obedience to the faith is the goal, whatever the internal belief system. Of course, in a way, that’s better than the Inquisitors: at least one can get around the Moslem system by a public lie and a profession of adherence to the Moslem faith. That was exactly what the Inquisitors were interested in eliminating.

So, you pays your money and you takes your choice. Suffice to say they are both abominable ways of dealing with a matter of individual belief.

In researching the Spanish Inquisition briefly for this post, however, I came across a fact I hadn’t previously known (that is, if one can believe the Wikipedia article in this respect), which is that the Pope of the time was initially against its excesses, but later bowed to political pressure from Ferdinand and gave the Spanish Inquisition his approval. And note the role of the war with Islam in the entire story of how this pressure was brought to bear:

The Pope did not want the Inquisition established in Spain at all, but Ferdinand insisted. He prevailed upon Rodrigo Borgia, then Bishop of Valencia and the Papal Vice-Chancellor as well as a cardinal, to lobby Rome on his behalf. Borgia was partially successful, as Pope Sixtus IV sanctioned the Inquisition only in the state of Castile…

Sixtus IV was Pope when the Spanish Inquisition was instituted in Seville. He worked against it, but bowed to pressure from Ferdinand, who threatened to withhold military support from his kingdom of Sicily. Sixtus issued a papal Bull establishing the order in 1478. Nevertheless, Sixtus was unhappy with the excesses of the Inquisition and took measures to suppress their abuses.

The Pope disapproved of the extreme measures being taken by Ferdinand, and categorically disallowed their spread to the kingdom of Aragon. He alleged that the Inquisition was a cynical ploy by Ferdinand and Isabella to confiscate the Jews’ property…

Ferdinand had some important levers he could use to bend the Pope to his will. Venice, traditionally the defender against the Turks in the East, was greatly weakened after a protracted war which lasted from 1463 to 1479. The Turks had taken possession of Greece and the Greek islands. France, as always, was looking for signs of weakness which it could use to its advantage. And in the midst of all these threats, in August of 1480 the Sultan of Turkey had attacked Italy itself, at the port of Otranto, with several thousand janissaries who pillaged the countryside for three days, largely unopposed.

Under these conditions, Ferdinand’s position in Sicily — he was king of Sicily as well as Aragon and several other kingdoms — gave him the leverage he needed. He threatened to withhold military support for the Holy See, and the Pope relented.

Sixtus then blessed the royal institution of the Spanish Inquisition. Ferdinand had won everything he sought: the Inquisition was under his sole control, but had the blessing of the Pope.

So the Inquisition received the Pope’s blessing in order to counter the threat of the Moslems battering at the gates of Italy.

Another interesting point is that, although converted Jews were definitely a major target of the Spanish Inquisition, Moslem converts to Catholicism were definitely very much at risk as well:

There were many motivations for Ferdinand to create the Inquisition. Spain, historically an area with disparate religious traditions and ethnic groups, needed a common religion – Catholicism – if it was to have a sense of unity. Ferdinand was particularly concerned with false converts to Catholicism who often remained loyal to the rule of Islam during the final years of Reconquista, and the Inquisition, which had no jurisdiction over non-Catholics, was his method of identifying them.

I mention all of this as a matter of historical interest only. What I’m most definitely not saying is that, because Christianity (or any other religion, for that matter) has had its wretched and horrific (and yes, shameful) excesses, that this fact would in any way justify or excuse what’s happening today with Islam.

The important thing is that today there is no longer any Inquisition in Christianity, nor does there appear to be any on the horizon. In fact, all the great world religions of today seem to have adopted religious tolerance as a whole, as well as respect for the individual religious decisions of adherents, into their worldviews–except for one.

Yes, there are Christian sects who believe nonbelievers are doomed to eternal punishment. Yes, there are members of certain religions who shun and ostracize those who leave the fold. But that’s a far, far cry from calling for their deaths. No, there is only one religion today that does this, and that is Islam.

And yes, I’m sure not all adherants of Islam subscribe to the idea that apostates and converts must die. But it seems to be an extremely common position. It puzzles me that a religion that believes in itself wouldn’t have more faith in its own ability to draw people to the fold–and to keep them there without the rather persuasive compulsion of the threat of death.

[NOTE: And this guy reminds me a bit of the Taliban. Bonfire of the Vanities, anyone?]

[ADDENDUM: Here are some figures on the official Moslem legal position on the crime of apostasy, including how often it is prosecuted in the Moslem world:

A broad consensus exists through much of the Islamic world that apostates from the faith deserve to be killed. This consensus could be glimpsed in Abdul Rahman's case, where the judge, Ansarullah Mawlavezada, said, "In this country we have the perfect constitution. It is Islamic law and it is illegal to be a Christian and it should be punished." Even the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, expected to take a more moderate stance, called for Abdul Rahman's punishment, claiming that he clearly violated Islamic law.

But apostasy laws stretch far beyond Afghanistan. At least 14 Islamic countries make conversion out of Islam illegal. The crime is punishable by death in at least eight of these states, either through explicit anti-apostasy laws or the broader offense of blasphemy.

Official proceedings against those who convert out of Islam are rare, at least in part because most of those who leave Islam choose to keep it secret. More often the government looks the other way while irate citizens mete out their own punishment. In July Paul Marshall, a senior fellow at Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom, estimated that dozens of apostates from Islam had been killed throughout the world in the previous year. Bolstering Marshall's estimate, the Compass Direct News Agency was able to identify 23 expatriate Christian workers who were killed in the Muslim world between 2002 and July 2005.

So, although the law is on the books in many countries, prosecution is usually left to the mob, and is not all that common even then. This, at least, is better than if these prosecutions and/or killings were an everyday event. But still, not very encouraging.

The article concludes with the assertion--and I agree--that it is necessary not only to encourage the growth of democracy in countries such as Afghanistan, but the concomitant protection of human rights. Freedom of religion is one of the most basic human rights--one we hold to be "self-evident," under the rubric of "liberty"--and it must go hand in hand with any democracy.

This idea, of course, is on a collision course with the principles of Islam. The Rahman case is important because it confronted this inherent contradiction, which must be resolved if this sort of thing is not to go on. And since it strikes to the heart of Islam, the resolution is not going to be easy, I'm afraid.]

33 Responses to “The Rahman case and the Inquisition”

  1. Annie Says:

    I agree with many here. When a group of people are repressed by their governments, religions or both – their reaction to any opposition is expressed in anger and hatred. It happened with the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages and it is happening now with Muslims. Human beings are expressive creatures. When that freedom of expression is squelched, it either implodes onto itself or explodes onto the rest of us.

    I just wanted you to know there is one more 50ish Democratic woman in New England who has ‘turned.’ It is nice to know I am not the only one.

  2. douglas Says:

    The inquisition was basically a hiccup in the history of the church. It’s notariety is classic historical sensationalism.
    When people start talking about how Islam needs a Martin Luther I know we’re in trouble. First, As someone already pointed out, he’d be dead about two days after nailing his grievences to the church door. Second, have people forgotten the fighting that the division of the church? It wasn’t a century after Luther that the Thirty Years War took place, killing (directly and indirectly) 10-30% of the population in affected areas. Third, I’m ont planning on waiting a hundred years or so for the Muslims to reform, anyone else?
    Look, the mullahs have already told us the path to our victory- it is our western ‘decadent’ ‘permissive’ culture. That is why they fear it so. That is why we must continue to cultivate more western friendly nations in the Islamic world. This is why ‘multiculturalism’ is so dangerous.

  3. benning Says:

    Sadly, we have no institution which can be empowered to create a new culture in Afghanistan. Something powerful enough to arrest the Neo-Taliban and keep order.

    So, we can choose to ignore it and play at diplomacy once again, or we can send the troops back. To arrest the Neo-Taliban and show the Iron Fist.

    Is there a third choice? I don’t see it. It is obvious that Afghanistan is not a finished work, but a work in progress.

  4. MikeZ Says:

    You’re the first person I’ve seen to make the Inquistion connection – and it’s certainly a good one.

    Another thing I’ve heard is that Islam really needs a Martin Luther – to reform it.

    Unfortunately, like Rahman, any would-be Luther would have a short life-span.

    It may be the case that Islam is almost by definition un-reformable.

    One difference between Islam and Christianity (as it was around the year 1500) is that Christianity had a Pope – a Man at the Top, an Ultimate Authority, and decrees and dogma flowed down from the top.

    Islam seems to have only two layers in its org chart: the mullahs on top, and everyone else below.

    In one curious way, that’s almost exactly like the early Christian church. It wasn’t until later (maybe 100 – 200 years) that a heirarchy evolved.

    But the bottom line is that Islam has no one (or even group of about 200, like the College of Cardinals) to say, “This is what we stand for”.

    And so we get, and they are stuck with, chaos.

  5. Sally Says:

    Steve’s a bit funny — unintentionally, I’m pretty sure. Like those nerdy guys in high school with a ready answer for everything: “Invaders from Mars? What’s the problem? All you do is: Locate. Isolate. Destroy.” Little wonder he doesn’t share your appraisals, pessimistic or otherwise.

    The question is whether we really are heading for a so-called “clash of civilizations”, which the Islamists, in their vicious delusions, hope to bring about. Their bet is that the Satanic modern world is in fact a hollow and corrupt shell of a culture, weak, guilt-ridden, fearful, and easily manipulable, that will collapse in the face of their own murderous fanaticism.

    In that, I think they’re wrong. But I also think two other things: that they’ve been encouraged in their delusions by the obvious pusillanimity of much of the West (e.g., the media and the cartoons); and that that very fearfulness can tip out of control very fast, resulting in a conflagration that no one can see the end of. No problem for Steve, of course, who knows just what he would do if he were President, king, world-ruler, or whatever, but it would be for everyone else, muslim and infidel alike.

  6. nittypig Says:

    “They were involved in preventing people from insincerely professing to be Catholics, whereas the Moslem clerics are interested in preventing people from leaving Islam, no matter what their consciences might dictate.”

    I’m not sure the distinction is quite so clear. Once the jew or muslim had accepted baptism he WAS a christian, and for him to practice his former rites was indeed leaving christianity.

    And of course in many ways the situation in Spain was worse. For the jews (after 1492) and the muslims (after various dates, but noo later than 1502 anyway), the only choices available were conversion or exile and loss of all property. This is pretty close to Hobson’s choice, and it should have been obvious to anyone that you’d end up with Spanish Conversos and Moriscos who were Christians in name only.

    Because the conversions of both muslims and jews were coerced, I think that the idea that the Inquisition wanted to prevent people from insincerely professing to be Catholics is basically wrong. As an instrument of royal power the Inquisition was interested in ensuring the assilimation of both minorities. It didn’t deal with unrepentent jews or muslims, but that’s only because a different part of the bureaucracy would deal with those – in theory stripping them of all their assets and putting them penniless on a ship to anywhere else, and in practice using direct force to baptize them. It was impossible for either converso or morisco to renounce his conversion.

    In the context of the 16th century the Afghan laws on apostates are, as is so often asserted, very tolerant. It’s in the context of the 21st century that they are so barabric.

  7. Ymarsakar Says:

    I don’t tend to think steve is naive in the sense that he isn’t aware of such problems and different philosophies. Rather, I believe steve has encountered these problems, but continues to believe as he does simply because of his belief. All other systems of thought, is considered “not based upon reality”, as he termed it.

    Naive people have a likely chance of readjusting their positions because they have never encountered the opponent’s position before, or never encountered a dangerous/new situation before, but people who have and still stay the course are something different than naive.

  8. SB Says:

    Let’s not forget to put Saudi Arabia on the hypothetical target list. It is the nidus from which the wahhabist disease originates.

  9. grackle Says:

    I remember that liberals I hung out with in the ’80′s used to say the same things about Reagan and his “Evil Empire” and “The bombing will begin in 5 minutes” remarks. I remember it from my childhood, too, with the “We will bury you” remarks, which we have discussed.

    Steve there were a couple of times when the USSR & the USA came within a hair of trading nukes & the USSR wasn’t half as fanatical as the Islamists. The Islamists have been letting us know their intentions & so far they have managed to pull off 2 strikes in the US – once with truck bombs & once with airplanes. If they get access to a nuke they will use it. Believe it, Steve.

    Let’s take it one piece at a time. Iran. Well, what to do. In the first place, a full scale military assault is not in the cards, because we don’t have the manpower available to take down a country much larger and much better organized than Iraq. Not to mention the fact that there are two rather largish nuclear powers, Russia and China, who may not want us to do it. OK.

    A full scale military assault would not be necessary. One sub sitting off the Gulf would do the trick. In a second Iran could be rendered a nation of goat herders for the next fifty years.

    Iran’s nuclear capability. If I were president, I’d have intelligence on what was going on. If things got to critical mass — not as reported in Op Ed pieces or on blogs but on the basis of RELIABLE intel, I’d send in the equivalent of Delta forces and air strikes to neutralize this capability. Mind you, I don’t think that’s what will HAPPEN, but that’s what I’d do. (I predict that nothing will happen.)

    Air strikes with stealth bombers would do as well.

    Shadowy terrorist networks that might get safe nukes from North Korea — OK, where are these groups? Afghanistan? Iran? Locate. Isolate. Destroy. Are we doing that? I don’t know. Should we be doing that? I think so.

    Steve, are you forgetting about the recent strike in Pakistan that killed al Qaeda at a celebratory dinner party? When the US locates al Qaeda, the US strikes.

    North Korea? Why aren’t we isolating and destroying their nuclear capability? Why aren’t we isolating, rather than encouraging, nuclear weapons development in India? Why aren’t we going after Al Qaeda in Pakistan? I don’t know. That’s what I would do. And I would galvanize the American people to accomplish that mission.

    Steve, if the US locates al Qaeda in Pakistan, the US goes after them. As for North Korea, if North Korea continues on its present path some such fate as contemplated just might await them.

    If we can keep track of Nyquil used to make meth, and fertilizer used to make truck bombs, then we should be able to keep track of nuclear precursors. That’s all that is required in the first place.

    But it only because the fertilizer & the Nyquil are under our control. Terror-sponsoring states that would give portable nukes to terrorists are not under our control.

    Our porous borders: you know, we could actually fix that, and fix our porous ports too. Why don’t we? Lack of national will, and that starts at the top of the chain of command.

    Steve, smuggling has been going on since there were such things as borders. I don’t think it is possible to seal the borders & ports without taking extremely expensive & draconian steps. That’s why the US hasn’t already implemented such means to stop the drugs.

    I am going to assume that someone will take credit. After all, Al Qaeda took credit for 9/11, along with (NB) a list of demands. People who want to kill people because they think it is their holy duty to merely kill people do not make demands. So that undercuts the initial premise.

    But leaving that aside. If the perpetrators identify themselves, you know we will nuke in response. If they do not identify themselves, you know we will identify the source and nuke in response. That’s a given.

    I don’t see how you think the US would identify the source. Do you think the offending state would announce their guilt? Of course, the terrorist group would be bragging on al Jazeera & the rest of the media but I am sure the offending state would be silent. Steve, sometimes you are so naïve that you take my breath away.

    OK, so one American city is gone, and we retaliate. But that’s not all we would do. We would freeze our borders, and you can bet, that, although it is unpleasant to say this, you would probably have a lot of vigilante justice meted out on anyone who even looks Muslim in this country. The nation would be mobilized, and we would engage in full blown ops against all terrorist cells and countries hosting them. Not the same as regime change: in, locate-isolate-destroy, and out.

    Steve, you seem to think it is easy to locate terrorist groups. But I am really intrigued that you seem to be saying that in such an eventuality you would leave the offending regimes in place! Whew! Let me catch my breath.

    Now let’s suppose the originator of the first nuke was Korea (as Wretchard seemed to think). Well, we’d nuke North Korea.
    Let’s suppose it was Iran. Well, we’d nuke Iran. Frankly, I don’t know what part of Iran we’d nuke, but if it came from there, we’d do it. And they know it.

    But all the above presupposes the offending country would confess. Naivete, thy name is Steve. Steve, the only alternative for a POTUS after a nuke in America would be to nuke the likely suspects, innocent as well as guilty, since the POTUS would not know the source of nuke.

    Wretchard has this idea that if terrorists get nukes, Islam will be destroyed. That isn’t going to happen. I see no reason why we would nuke any of the Moslem states in South Asia, or Africa. In the ME, I think it’s doubtful that we would nuke any Muslim country there, with the possible exception of Iran. Iran is not Islam, and to equate the destruction of Iran (IF) with the destruction of Islam is hysterical hyperbole, in my humble opinion, of course.

    What states the US would nuke after being nuked by their proxies(the terrorists) would depend on intelligence & maybe on what type of pronouncements had been coming from their leaders. In such a horrific scenario inflammatory, hate-filled speech might not be a good thing in terms of regime survivability.

    My scenario is a little different than Wretchard’s. I don’t think it would be possible to eliminate all of Islam, nor do I think it necessary to do so. After US retaliation I believe a much chastened & subdued Islam would emerge – perhaps even an Islam that could undergo a reformation away from Jihad. But one nuke in an American city would unleash retaliation that would make Nagasaki & Hiroshima seem trivial. This would happen precisely because there would be no way to figure out which state was actually guilty. There really would not be much else that a POTUS could do except eliminate the likely suspects, since the POTUS would not know who gave the nuke to the terrorists. If it happened today I believe Iran & Syria would immediately be struck by tactical nukes from the US submarine fleet. Pakistan & North Korea might also be put out of commission, depending on what US intelligence had on them & how cautious the POTUS might be. Better safe than sorry might make perfect sense in such an eventuality.

    The paradox is that if the world lets Iran develop nukes it might mean far more deaths in the end than if Iran can be prevented from going nuclear. Some may believe that if Iran can manage to develop a WMD that Iran would then become somehow invulnerable – that nuclear capability would be a free pass to do whatever they wanted to do. But even after development & testing I feel sure the US could still neutralize their nuclear capability. Another paradox is that while a terrorist like bin Laden can hide from the US’s technologically advanced weaponry it is much more difficult to conceal the physical plant needed for a nuclear weapon system. Then they’re playing our game.

  10. Goesh Says:

    TJH (The Jihadi Boys) have just freed Jill Carroll. See!? Islam is a religion of peace – they didn’t bhead her, they turned her into a muslim. Look and see her covered head. Look and see the muslima smile on her face and what pretty teeth she has. She was not made to grovel in the dirt as an infidel, otherwise her teeth would be dirty and gritty and not pretty. Her glasses are even clean. They had concern for the well being of her eyes too. Joy!

  11. Ymarsakar Says:

    Because Islam combines religion and politics, it doesn’t really matter if something isn’t in the Koran. Because even assuming if death by execution isn’t in the Koran, it is a state power, reserved for government use. And they will use it.

    I just don’t share your pessimistic appraisal.

    It’s an honest appraisal, not a pessimistic one. A pessimistic one would be to say that it wouldn’t happen at all because America is too weak to destroy all Muslims simply because there are so many of them. That’s pessimism.

    Neo: I read the Wretchard piece some time ago. I think it is grounded in no reality.

    Crackpot hypotheses are grounded in no reality. I wonder why you have so much to say against something that is a crackpot theory in your view.

    They further presuppose that, as American cities are incinerated, we will respond by methodically destroying every congregation of Muslims on the face of the earth, instead of doing something rather more logical, such as: restricting entrance to the US, mobilizing the country and systematically hunting down all terrorists, etc.

    Israel with their particular mentality would do that, because Israel acts the same way that steve thinks. But not every nation in the world is as rational in their national makeup as other comparable nations. The difference between Germany and America, alone, accounts for the majority of differences in philosophy.

    Of course, I would be in favor of doing those things now, but apparently no one else is.

    Since that’s your plan, obviously you would favor it. Because psychologically, it is derived from your core principles and fits your psychological profile. Your mistake is assuming that anyone else in America will think, behave, or believe as you do.

    The fact that apparently no one else agrees or is acting upon your plan, might tell you something about the actual differences between how you would act and how we would act. Israel does most of everything you propose, in fortifying their country against a siege, but America is not Israel.

    And it wouldn’t take an unlimited actual supply of weapons to get the whole thing rolling,

    The only source of these WMDs are nation-states. Such as France and Iran. The point about the number of weapons simply limits the actions of the nation-state in proliferating the weapons. Simply because, Iran has to have more than one bomb if they are going to give it to Al Qaeda for them to use on the West. They need their own backup bombs, just in case we invade, to serve as a deterent. So while they don’t need an infinite number, they do need more than one if they are to be free to use them.

    Lack of national will, and that starts at the top of the chain of command.

    Some might say that national will is the nation’s responsibility, starting with each individual citizen. But I suppose some believe their will only derives if Bush stokes it.

    A Japanese-Oriental way of looking at it is a lot more rational than the Western manner. The West has always practiced limited war, the few times that the West, which includes Athens and Sparta, commenced Total War, bad things happened.

    A severe nuclear attack is not a fluke situation. The terroists can only be able to launch such a devastating attack, if they were winning everywhere else. Iran would have to be safe behind their nuclear curtain, Iraq would have to be lost, and Europe would have to be caving to Muslim coup de tats.

    That kind of scenario is very different than your scenario, steve, of a nuclear attack with current limitations and status quos.

    In the reality that contains a nuclear attack, the terroists are winning and they believe and know it.

    With a terror network spanning the globe, every Muslim country becomes a Palestine. A network of thugs, criminals, and jihadist recruiters. Europe would also be an incubator of Islamic terror, by providing money and Danegeld to fuel the jihad.

    Only in this scenario, would there ever be a single or multiple nuclear attacks. Even if Iran gets a nuke, they still need time to make more of them, to secure their security first. Before giving them to terroists or using them as offensive means. The terroist’s main offensive WMD is propaganda, not conventional military arms. That has always been the case in guerrila warfare.

    The situation analysis would be the same as right after 9/11. Without an open declared war, the immediate reaction is to take military force and invade in response to an enemy incursion on American soil

    But the fact is, there are no good targets in the Islamic and European world to nuke. You can talk about nuking Iran, but the question you’ve never braised is where in Iran are you going to Nuke, steve.

    Killing a bunch of villagers just living their lives, won’t do a lot to ensure terrorism is defeated, you know.

    A decapitation strike would be worse than useless. It’s like killing the leader of a mob, another one takes his place immediately. All you do is buy a few months of time.

    The real question after a nuclear strike on American soil is this.

    How many casualties can the American people sustain before reaching their genkai limit, and going insane? And once the American people have reached their limit, to what means can that energy be channeled into?

    A defensive strategy, doesn’t require a lot of anger or rage. You need a strategy that can channel rage and retribution correctly and efficiently.

    What actually happens when the AMerican people reach The Limit, as the Japanese term it, is that the United States comes fully into a war to the knife with Islam. This means destroying Islam’s forward bases in Europe, home bases in Persia, and outposts in Indonesia and Africa.

    And in all wars to the knife, only one victor shall remain. The main danger of a nuclear strike isn’t the radiation or casualties, it is the psychological damage inflicted. One suicide bombing inflicts much psychological damage, but combine that with a nuclear device, and you get something entirely off the charts.

    A nuclear attack on America would galvanize anti-American forces across the globe. There would be a world wide insurrection against American forces, everywhere. Suicide bombing would be as common as AIDS and disease in the world.

    Because the terroists and their allies will NOT stop fighting after a nuclear attack, they will either survive and kill us, or we will survive and kill them. Because nobody gives up, since there is no rational reason to give up, everyone on one side must side. As mandated by the logic and the analysis.

    An unrepeatable attack with a stolen WMD weapon would elicit a different response from one arising from a capability to strike on a sustained and repetitive basis.
    [...]
    However, suppose Pakistan or North Korea engineered a reliable plutonium weapon that could be built to one-point safety in any machine shop with a minimum of skill, giving Islamic terrorists the means to repeatedly attack America indefinitely. Under these circumstances, there would no incentive to retaliate proportionately. The WMD exchange would escalate uncontrollably until Islam was destroyed.

    When the world is against you, and you’re in a war to the knife, there is no incentive not to bring a bigger hammer. When the survival of your very nation is at stake, against the forces of jihad, Iranian nukes, and suicide bombers, there is no possible rational excuse not to use the full power of this battlestation.

    Even if people were acting rationally, which would probably not be the case in a war to the knife.

    In a war between nations, the conflict might stop at this point. But since there is no one with whom to negotiate a peace and no inclination to stop anyhow, the Islamic terrorists will continue while they have the capability and the cycle of destruction continues.

    What Wretchard is talking about, but doesn’t seem to phrase, is a War to the Knife. A war of obliteration as would have been the case had the Soviets tried to go Hot with WWIII. Nothing can stop the terroists, including nuclear devices. And that is the point. Because nothing will stop them if they believe they can win, there will only be one victor on this globe.

    Due to the fixity of intent, attacks would continue for as long as capability remained.

    People will hang Americans on the streets, including Michael Totten. They will inundate the American people with psychological attacks and propaganda, goading us with our helplessness to prevent them from doing whatever they want. Suicide bombings will kill American children and servicemen. When the whole world is against you, there is no reason nor choice in the matter.

    There is little that can be done except destroy Europe, if the Muslims conquer Europe. But even that won’t stop the war. When you talk about America not destroying Muslims, you don’t understand that what really would occur is that Muslims would destroy themselves. They only need us to input the codes in the nuclear football

  12. Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) Says:

    How about I charge you a dollar for each instance?

    Nah, let’s turn that the other way around. I made a moderate amount of money off my mom, getting a buck for each time she swore. But clearly the big money is getting the same deal with you.

  13. Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) Says:

    Steve might find this interesting.

  14. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Steve. You make the assumption the Muslim wackos are rational actors.
    This is not necessarily so.
    Keep in mind the number of wars lost by their instigators: Germany (twice), North Korea, Argentina, Iraq, and some others you can probably think of. If the instigators were rational, they’d have a better won/lost record.
    No details here, but see Keegan on Moltke before WW I. According to his figures, they lost. Before they started. His solution was to pencil in ten corps and go ahead.

    What makes you so sure that, say, a democratic administration would nuke a country based on some intel from an agency they had freshly gutted?
    But, more to the point, what makes you so sure the Islamic terrorists would think so?
    The key isn’t what I think. Or what you think. It’s what they think.
    And, as I say, war instigators don’t have a good record of rational thought.

  15. Steve Says:

    Neo: Thanks for taking my prior comment easy, I was in haste, since I had to go down and eat leftovers at my mother’s and get into an argument about WMD’s in Syria and illegal immigration.

    Now I will elaborate on my remarks (a little) but first respond to your last.


    So, you doubt it? And why? I tend to believe people when they say they are out to destroy the US, the “Great Satan.” The people who say this believe it literally, not just as a figure of speech. [and so forth]

    I remember that liberals I hung out with in the ’80′s used to say the same things about Reagan and his “Evil Empire” and “The bombing will begin in 5 minutes” remarks. I remember it from my childhood, too, with the “We will bury you” remarks, which we have discussed.

    Let’s take it one piece at a time. Iran. Well, what to do. In the first place, a full scale military assault is not in the cards, because we don’t have the manpower available to take down a country much larger and much better organized than Iraq. Not to mention the fact that there are two rather largish nuclear powers, Russia and China, who may not want us to do it. OK.

    Iran’s nuclear capability. If I were president, I’d have intelligence on what was going on. If things got to critical mass — not as reported in Op Ed pieces or on blogs but on the basis of RELIABLE intel, I’d send in the equivalent of Delta forces and air strikes to neutralize this capability. Mind you, I don’t think that’s what will HAPPEN, but that’s what I’d do. (I predict that nothing will happen.)

    Shadowy terrorist networks that might get safe nukes from North Korea — OK, where are these groups? Afghanistan? Iran? Locate. Isolate. Destroy. Are we doing that? I don’t know. Should we be doing that? I think so.

    North Korea? Why aren’t we isolating and destroying their nuclear capability? Why aren’t we isolating, rather than encouraging, nuclear weapons development in India? Why aren’t we going after Al Qaeda in Pakistan? I don’t know. That’s what I would do. And I would galvanize the American people to accomplish that mission.

    I guess what I am suggesting first of all, is that you isolate your threats and eliminate them. I can accept America’s right to violate sovereignty and engage in pinpoint destructive sorties to protect ourselves. Absolutely. I assume we agree. If we do that, we can contain the threat of nuclear proliferation.


    Terrorists are already not all that hampered from entering this country, especially through our porous borders. And it wouldn’t take an unlimited actual supply of weapons to get the whole thing rolling, it just takes the perception that the access is there. How could we ever know how many weapons a terrorist group has, once we know they have one, and have used it? Do we sit around waiting for more to be detonated?

    OK, first, we have had one terrorist attack on this country in the past 5 years. Two prior terrorist attacks in 15 years, one home grown. All low tech. Let’s keep some perspective here.

    If we can keep track of Nyquil used to make meth, and fertilizer used to make truck bombs, then we should be able to keep track of nuclear precursors. That’s all that is required in the first place.

    Our porous borders: you know, we could actually fix that, and fix our porous ports too. Why don’t we? Lack of national will, and that starts at the top of the chain of command.

    However, this gets me to one of the problems with Wretchard’s thesis. It assumes a monotonic progression of actions that bears no relationship to how humans actually act. To be sure, the basic idea, that we and Islam could engage in nuclear tit for tat that would kill hundreds of millions is theoretically possible, but it just isn’t going to happen that way.

    Suppose a nuke goes off in some American city. Suppose 100 K are killed. It will have to be truck device, or something, because a missile is not likely to make it and if it did, we would know exactly where it came from.

    I am going to assume that someone will take credit. After all, Al Qaeda took credit for 9/11, along with (NB) a list of demands. People who want to kill people because they think it is their holy duty to merely kill people do not make demands. So that undercuts the initial premise.

    But leaving that aside. If the perpetrators identify themselves, you know we will nuke in response. If they do not identify themselves, you know we will identify the source and nuke in response. That’s a given.

    OK, so one American city is gone, and we retaliate. But that’s not all we would do. We would freeze our borders, and you can bet, that, although it is unpleasant to say this, you would probably have a lot of vigilante justice meted out on anyone who even looks Muslim in this country. The nation would be mobilized, and we would engage in full blown ops against all terrorist cells and countries hosting them. Not the same as regime change: in, locate-isolate-destroy, and out.

    I am confident that if there was one such attack, there would be no second attack. In fact, we would probably have something akin to martial law for some time after an initial attack, and lot of anti-Muslim violence that would be tacitly allowed.

    Now let’s suppose the originator of the first nuke was Korea (as Wretchard seemed to think). Well, we’d nuke North Korea.

    Let’s suppose it was Iran. Well, we’d nuke Iran. Frankly, I don’t know what part of Iran we’d nuke, but if it came from there, we’d do it.

    And they know it.

    A couple of weeks ago Bush said that the US would defend Israel. That was good, I liked that, even though I am not always happy with Israel. But it was a good thing to say. Why? Because it took the pressure off the Israelis. For awhile now, they have been concerned about Iran. You may recall awhile ago they spoke of acting unilaterally if they had to (which I considered a bluff, for logistical reasons.) But when Bush spoke, that talk stopped. Because now Tehran knows that if it strikes against Israel, we will strike Iran. Iran – a small part of Islam, btw – knows that it cannot strike anything but one blow against Israel or the US after which the Iranian state will be destroyed – not the same as nuking all of Iran of course, but we would nuke some city and invade the rest.

    They know that if a nuke comes out of their territory, THEY will be held responsible. In fact, I wouldn’t mind making that crystal clear, if I were president.

    Now I’m looking at your final para and I think I have addressed that. And I have addressed most of the issues I had with Wretchard, except one. So I will deal with that for tonight.

    Wretchard has this idea that if terrorists get nukes, Islam will be destroyed. That isn’t going to happen. I see no reason why we would nuke any of the Moslem states in South Asia, or Africa. In the ME, I think it’s doubtful that we would nuke any Muslim country there, with the possible exception of Iran. Iran is not Islam, and to equate the destruction of Iran (IF) with the destruction of Islam is hysterical hyperbole, in my humble opinion, of course.

    I am not happy about nuclear proliferation. Everything changed on 9/11, but the fact is, many things have stayed the same, including the threat of terrorists — Muslim and even home grown — obtaining nukes. That has to be dealt with intelligently, and with focus. I think the broad brush approach is not conducive to clear thinking or clear action and may just cause us to over-react.

    Best Regards.

  16. SB Says:

    Good reading about this stuff on Sigmund, Carl, and Alfred: here.

  17. neo-neocon Says:

    steve:

    I don’t find it completely persuasive; it is meant to be speculative. However, I find it more persuasive than your merely saying you’re not pessimistic.

    You write: The conjectures presuppose that Muslim terrorists desire to drive around the USA and explode devastating nuclear weapons solely for the purpose of killing 300 M people. I doubt that.

    So, you doubt it? And why? I tend to believe people when they say they are out to destroy the US, the “Great Satan.” The people who say this believe it literally, not just as a figure of speech. They believe we are in league with Satan, and they believe in the reality of Satan. And they do not care whether the bulk of their own people survive or not; their eyes are firmly on the next world, not this one. That is what fanaticism is all about, but never before have fanatics had possible access to such powerful means of destruction. That’s what’s different about this conflict.

    Terrorists are already not all that hampered from entering this country, especially through our porous borders. And it wouldn’t take an unlimited actual supply of weapons to get the whole thing rolling, it just takes the perception that the access is there. How could we ever know how many weapons a terrorist group has, once we know they have one, and have used it? Do we sit around waiting for more to be detonated?

    We can only assume (as Wretchard points out), that the desire to acquire such weapons is there–and, once acquired, the desire to use them is there.

    If you don’t think nuclear retaliation would indeed occur if this country were to be attacked, I suggest that you are living in a world of naive fantasy. And it wouldn’t take “methodically destroying every congregation of Moslems on the face of the earth,” either, to get a major clash of civilizations going, with widespread death and destruction on each side, especially the Moslem one. Do you really think that after some sort of nuclear exchange, we would just batten the hatches and keep terrorists out, and all would be well? That would be the end of it?

  18. Steve Says:

    Neo: I read the Wretchard piece some time ago. I think it is grounded in no reality.

    The conjectures presuppose that Muslim terrorists desire to drive around the USA and explode devastating nuclear weapons solely for the purpose of killing 300 M people. I doubt that.

    They presuppose that such terrorists are on the brink of acquiring an unlimited supply of such weapons, and that they will be allowed to enter the US and Europe at will.

    They further presuppose that, as American cities are incinerated, we will respond by methodically destroying every congregation of Muslims on the face of the earth, instead of doing something rather more logical, such as: restricting entrance to the US, mobilizing the country and systematically hunting down all terrorists, etc.

    Of course, I would be in favor of doing those things now, but apparently no one else is.

    Invading countries, and nuking all Muslims. That’s what it has come down to.

    I’m surprised you find it persuasive. I will respectfully leave it at that.

  19. neo-neocon Says:

    Steve: Please read.

    Whether Wretchard is correct I do not know. But I think his reasoning is a lot more convincing than your sanguine: “I just don’t share your pessimistic appraisal.”

  20. hgwells Says:

    People often draw casual equivalences between the Bible and the Qur’an. The Qur’an goes a long way past the Bible.

    I recommend reading the Qur’an and judging for yourself. It’s not long or difficult to read. It is, however, numbing in its relentless viciousness towards anyone who does not believe properly, and it essentially mandates war on them and how to conduct this war and share the booty. Furthermore, in the Qur’an Allah promises that Islam will come to dominate all other religions.

    There is no other scripture of a world religion like the Qur’an when it comes to intolerance and violence.

  21. Steve Says:

    The answer to the question of whether Islam will change over time is not at all clear. One reason is that it has managed to avoid this change so far, despite its relative antiquity, and even seems to be going in the wrong direction lately.

    Neo: my position is that religions change when social conditions change. The ideological infrastructure of the Muslim world hasn’t changed much in 1200 years, even though the social conditions of Muslims have changed radically in the past 50 years, and I submit that that is the problem.


    The second–and perhaps more important–point is that Islam, through its aggressive behavior in a post-nuclear world, may run out of time to change before some sort of major conflagration occurs. The clock is ticking.

    I note that you keep coming back to this as though you are concerned about an imminent nuclear apocalypse which in turn may call for a pre-emptive nuclear apocalypse on our side. I just don’t share your pessimistic appraisal.

    There are Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia in a belt that covers 2/3 of the world. They won’t be wiped out.

  22. Terry Baker Says:

    The most interesting part of neo-neocon’s article is that, since the collapse of National Socialism and Communism at least, Islam is the only world faith today that tolerates and encourages the punishment and death of apostates and heretics. The question is this; is it a matter of cultural evolution over time that it will evolve out of this, or is there something intrinsic to Islam as it originated and developed that will prevent its reform? Given the “revealed truth” basis of Islam vs the “interperative” nature of Judeo-Christianity, is it possible that Islam cannot survive doubt. (I know, the Turks found a secular accommodation so why can’t the Arabs? I think the answer is that the Turks adopted the faith rather loosely, but the Arabs are its founders and have a much greater stake in its survival). Anybody got a reaction to this?

  23. neo-neocon Says:

    Dean: there’s a certain amount of disagreement about whether the Koran mandates death for apostasy, see here.

    I’m with you, though, on the fact that what’s important is not a text (terrible things can be found in the Bible, for example). It’s the modern interpretation and use of that text.

  24. neo-neocon Says:

    4:21 anonymous: Have you read the Addendum to the post? It contains some of the statistics you are requesting.

    But Ann Coulter does not determine the law of the land, the last time I checked. On the other hand, fourteen Moslem countries make conversion from Islam illegal, and in eight it’s punishable by death. That’s an official postion I’m afraid, and even if it’s rarely enforced legally, it’s not totally unheard of that it’s enforced by the mob. It remains the official and sanctioned position.

    To compare this to some statement of Ann Coulter’s is, quite simply, sophistry.

  25. Anonymous Says:

    Sorry, Coulter – who appears on Fox News and on the cover of Time Magazine as if she’s an actual pundit instead of a lunatic, and who frequents Republican Party events along with major politicians – didn’t want to convert the leaders of Muslim countries to Christianity. She wanted to kill the leaders and convert the population to Christianity, by force. By this, I guess she means something like “we will imprison or harm you if you don’t.”

    The difference between this major right-wing media figure and the Taliban is…what, the gumption to act on your words?

  26. Dean Esmay Says:

    Oh, and I’ll note that while a death sentence for apostacy is NOT in the Koran, it IS in the Bible (at least if you count blasphemy and idolatry as apostacy).

    Christians managed to stop executing people for it anyway.

  27. Dean Esmay Says:

    One of the things to bear in mind is that the Koran does not demand the death sentence for apostates. It’s just not in there. A number of muslim scholars, including the former head of the Pakistan Supreme Court, have said so. Such a punishment IS found in four of the sharia traditions, but sharia is at best a tertiary force in muslim interpretation, beneath the koran and beneath the hadith (of which there are even more versions). There is simply no question as to whether Muslims CAN give up this doctrine, because they obviously can and many already have. But, there’s no question that a big part of the muslim world, especially places like Afghanistan, are still barely out of the Middle Ages.

  28. Anonymous Says:

    Of course, the Right in this country has people like Ann Coulter, who said that the US should invade Muslim countries and forceably convert their leaders to Christianity, and people like Micah over at the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, who frequently does that annoying little thing with the whole “rope – tree – some assembly required” bit whenever someone disagrees with him.

    We have plenty of people in this country who are perfectly willing to advocate the deaths of people who have the gaul to disagree with them – fortunately, they are mostly talk and little action. I have a feeling the same is true with a great number of Muslims who talk about this as well.

    After all, it only “seems” as though this is common throughout the Muslim world – but how often are converts actually prosecuted? In Afghanistan 500 clerics and students came together to call for this man’s death. 500 people, maybe they represent more, but how many more out of a population of millions?

  29. neo-neocon Says:

    Steve: The answer to the question of whether Islam will change over time is not at all clear. One reason is that it has managed to avoid this change so far, despite its relative antiquity, and even seems to be going in the wrong direction lately.

    The second–and perhaps more important–point is that Islam, through its aggressive behavior in a post-nuclear world, may run out of time to change before some sort of major conflagration occurs. The clock is ticking.

  30. Steve Says:

    I was surprised to find in looking about that blasphemy prosecutions in the West continued until rather recently: talking the 1950′s.

    Death sentences for blasphemy in the West died out about the same time that the death penalty for stealing a loaf of bread was lifted, a little under 200 years ago.

    I did not know that our ally, Pakistan, as late as 1992, has arrested and charged apostates who have tended to die in custody.
    Where’s the outrage?

    Insofar as Islam is not unique among religions who all seem to have had periods where apostasy was considered deserving of the death sentence, I don’t know what the upshot of this is to be. Doubtless Islam will change over time, just as other religions have.

  31. dicentra Says:

    I’m just guessing here, because I haven’t discussed the matter with actual Muslims, but I wonder if their desire to execute apostates comes from a zeal for world-wide ideological/religious purity, because that’s what will please Allah the most.

    An apostate would be a “pollution,” a contaminant, and worst of all, a mark of shame (as neo pointed out). If someone voluntarily leaves Islam, it might point to a flaw in Islam. Either that, or it indicates that the apostate is evil incarnate and ought not to be tolerated.

    An American parallel might be the contempt that was heaped upon white people who married (or mated with) blacks because they’re “contaminating the race” or being “race traitors” or whatever. Not that either zeal for purity is a good thing.

    As much as I dislike moral relativity, the Muslims sure could use a dose of it. The argument that “hey, I live the religion that I was raised with, just as you live the one you were raised with” apparently holds no water with these Muslims. That’s infinitely frustrating.

  32. sammy small Says:

    I hope we don’t have to wait 500 years for Moslem’s version of the inquisition to evolve to where Catholics are today.

    Interesting that Berlusconi accepted Rahman so quickly, and I applaud his courage as well. I can’t but wonder if each of the EU countries are trying to share the wealth of having to protect citizens from fatwas issued by imams. The UK of course has Salman Rushdie, Holland has Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Denmark now has the infamous cartoon publisher. These individuals all represent a badge of courage for their countries.

  33. Ymarsakar Says:

    That’s a process that our post-Enlightenment minds would regard as the domain of the individual, and solely between him/her and the deity.

    There are people that are post-Enlightenment that thinks religion is a government issue, the right of the government to outlaw for example using the distorted “separation between church and state”. It is not surprising that humans can refuse to believe in Enlightenment principles, we see it even here, such a Dark Age mentality.

    A lot of the Inquisition and abuses, were due to the economic benefits that the Church would obtain from heretics put under the Question. Humans cannot be expected to be objective when there is that much money floating around in favor of torture and confessions.

    The Islamics aren’t getting money, they’re getting a sense of superiority to supplement their inferiority complex. In this case, what they need is to feel their inferiority, not to be praised or appeased or told that they are “superior” and worthy of respect. You don’t cure someone of inferiority by telling them they are superior. Their sense of shame requires that they one up everyone else.

    The Pope disapproved of the extreme measures being taken by Ferdinand, and categorically disallowed their spread to the kingdom of Aragon. He alleged that the Inquisition was a cynical ploy by Ferdinand and Isabella to confiscate the Jews’ property…

    As the Founding Fathers knew, government have a notorious mendacity to confiscate your property (Fake liberal arse judges in the SC) and encroaching upon religious freedom. Spain is just both in one. Besides, they needed money to conquer the Dutch. So they didn’t really care who they stole from. Just as the fake liberals don’t care how many Americans have their property stolen so long as their state government and local councils get the proper kickbacks.

    As I refered before, the economic interest plays a powerful role in human politics. Don’t need Wikipedia for that understanding.

    There were many motivations for Ferdinand to create the Inquisition. Spain, historically an area with disparate religious traditions and ethnic groups, needed a common religion – Catholicism – if it was to have a sense of unity.

    One of the reasons why the Democrats keep saying Bush is a divider, not a uniter, is because if the Democrats were running the show, we would be back under Roosevelt like conditions where dissent is crushed absolutely and conscientious objection is trumped by “unity”.

    It puzzles me that a religion that believes in itself wouldn’t have more faith in its own ability to draw people to the fold–and to keep them there without the rather persuasive compulsion of the threat of death.

    Religion is a human tool after all. Prey to all the human excesses and virtues. Including greed, selfishness, and personal ambition. The Islamic Clerics aren’t interested in true belief, they’re interested in personal power and salving their inferiority complexes. Rather than appeasing such Dark Age mentalities, we should exorcise them with power and death.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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