Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Religion or Money?

Reader BM writes to ask whether Follow the Money does not underrate the ideological aspects of radical Islamism.

I fear that the ideological/religious component of the Islamicists, because of an ability to permeate the core of the personality of uneducated and educated alike, because of its global reach, and because of its ability to conceal itself within the edifice of a seemingly legitimate religion, has the potential to dwarf anything that the National Socialists and Communists were ever able to achieve.

This is a valid point, addressed in the Monopoly Money section of the Follow the Money post.

If America is to win the War on Terror at the grand strategic level, not for a generation, but for time to come, it must help Muslims alter the very nature of Islam itself. Until Muslims bring the mutable concept of Jihad under control and forever forswear the kuffar as an object of conquest, it will always remain a spring under tension waiting to be harnessed by unscrupulous men, whether Pakistani officers, corrupt Iranian Mullahs or oily Saudi princes. Secretary Rumsfeld recently asked, "how many young people are being taught to go out as suicide bombers and ... how does that ... get reduced?" And the answer, is in part to make it un-Islamic.

But although the Jihad has purely ideological or religious aspects, operationally, all radical Islamic goals are worldly. The "right of return", "restoration of Muslim lands", "Islamic states" and the "global Caliphate" are not conditions of the soul but actual things. Many Israelis know the "right of return" in practice means the seizure of their house, just as an "Islamic state" means territory, armies, and governments with a budget of billions. Alphabet City (hat tip: Little Green Footballs) has the transcript of an Italian wiretap of a conversation in an Islamic center in Milan. It is all about military training, the advisability of establishing safe houses in mosques, smuggling people across borders and money.

"Never worry about money, because Saudi Arabia's money is your money; the important thing is not to rush ahead, because it is all new; there are old things too, but the training is completely new. The man who wanted to set up the plan is close to Emir Abdullah and we are grateful to Emir Abdullah. Get prepared."

(Emir Abdullah is an alias for Osama Bin Laden)

Pretty worldly stuff. According to US News and World Report, radical Islamism has already outspent the Communist propaganda machine at its height. They may want a return on their investment  Here is Jihad al-Khazin writing in the Saudi-owned London daily Al-Hayah:

I propose "A Punishment of the United States Act."

... I propose that the Arab League's Secretariat General submit this proposed act to the upcoming Arab summit ...the United States to transfer the $4.25 billion in its annual military aid to Israel to the Palestinians so as to rebuild what Israel has destroyed in their country with US weapons. ... The Palestinians maintain the right to demand additional reparations from the United States in future for the losses in lives and possessions it has caused them.

European allies who did not support Operation Iraqi Freedom have unleashed a howl, not over mass graves in Iraq, to which they are indifferent, nor any issue of principle, but over their exclusion from rebuilding contracts in Iraq. "We are astonished by this report and want to speak to the Americans about it," German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told reporters in Berlin after talks with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov. At is issue is not dolors and incense but dollars and cents. Yet who should be eligible for the same contracts (albeit as subcontractors) but the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Reader Christine Houts sends a link to US-Saudi Business, whose article Business Council Hosts Luncheon on Iraq Reconstruction describes how a State Department Representative explains the ways in which Saudi companies can take a slice from the American taxpayer's pie. Verily, as the Milanese terrorist said, "Saudi Arabia's money is your money". The Belmont Club occasionally ends its posts with poetry. The appropriate verses for today in light our relations with the Saudis are:

They're coming to take me away, ha-ha
They're coming to take me away, ho-ho, hee-hee, ha-ha
To the funny farm. Where life is beautiful all the time and I'll be
happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats and they're
coming to take me away, ha-ha