Friday, March 04, 2005

The Foundations of Barad-Dur

The leniency of Bali bombing mastermind Abu Bakar Bashir's sentence -- 30 months for the murder of 202 people -- has shocked the Australian public, not in the least because after long labor the mountain has brought forth a mouse.

Former magistrate Brian Deegan, who lost his son Josh, 22, in the Bali bombing, said Bashir's sentence was outrageous. "It equates to a bit over a week (in jail) per man, woman and child that were hurt," Mr Deegan said today. "You get no closure out of this, it's absolutely insulting."

Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty is warning that the kid-glove treatment of Bashir has not satisified his supporters, who regard the slightest inconvenience to their 'spiritual leader' for the mere act of murdering infidels a mortal insult.

New terrorist attacks are possible in a backlash by supporters of Indonesian Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir over his jailing, Australia's senior police officer said here Friday. Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty said intelligence agencies would be updating terror threat assessments, taking into account a possible violent response from Bashir's supporters.

Veteran newsman Max Soliven of the Philippine Star who has covered Indonesia since the Sukarno era in the mid-1960s talks about the shadow of fear that is spreading where it had never been seen before.

"This sends the message to us, who live fearfully on the perimeter of the JI venom this vicious agitator has been sowing among the pesantren, the thousands of religious schools (equivalent to our Muslim madrasas here) ... the government prosecutors acted like a bunch of nervous Nellies at the trial .... many witnesses refused to testify ... Only one witness, Nasir Abbas, has linked Bashir to terrorism, resolutely testifying that the cleric had personally pit him (Abbas) in charge of "terrorist activities in part of the Philippines".

Indonesia’s turmoil had never been about religion. ... Indonesia was a society in which women played a major role, free from the fetters of second-class status ... In my recent visits, I’ve seen – while some of the smiles remain spontaneous – a visible change. An increasing number of women are wearing head scarves, and even all-black covering (ala the Middle East’s structures). Christian churches are being bombed, Christian communities embroiled in civil war with their once-friendly and happy Muslim neighbors, with the ABRI (Armed Forces) too often siding with the militant Islamic jihadis.

Salamabit*, you don’t even have to go to Indonesia. A Vice-Governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao ... is now insisting on implementing a city ordinance ...  which requires every Muslim female in Marawi City, yep in our own Mindanao, to wear the head-scarve, otherwise be penalized with a fine of thousands of pesos ...  (* Sonuvabitch)

Soliven notes what most of the regular newspapers have missed: that Bashir was at the nexus of the Saudi madrassa system that is the assembly line of terrorism. It is the same system that produced Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, a "former Virginia high school valedictorian ... accused in federal court Tuesday of allegedly conspiring with al-Qaida to assassinate President Bush." And it is a system that has proved too powerful to shut down or even criticize.

Lawyers for Abu Ali, who graduated at the top of his class from the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria, said he would plead not guilty. Raised in nearby Falls Church, Va., he was enrolled at a university in Medina when he was arrested. ... According to the grand jury indictment, items found at Abu Ali's home in Falls Church a week after his arrest included a six-page document on how to avoid government and private surveillance, a document praising the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and the terror attacks on New York and the Pentagon, a copy of Handguns magazine with the name "Ahmed Ali" on the subscription label, audio tapes promoting violent holy war and the killing of Jews, and a book by Al Qaeda deputy Ayman Al Zawahiri criticizing democracy.

Presiding judge O'Grady issued the ritual apology which has become a standard part of treating with these men of the shadows. "I can assure you, you will not suffer any torture or humiliation while in the marshals' custody". Already the victims have become accustomed to craving pardon, in advance, for their unspeakable inferiority, before the emissaries of the madrassas. If US judges are halfway to their knees how likely is it that the Indonesians will hold themselves erect? Secretary Donald Rumsfeld provided the broadest description of the nature of the conflict and laid out what it took to defeat the enemy:

this struggle cannot be won by military means alone ... And since, ultimately, what they need to survive is the support of those who they can indoctrinate, this is an ideological battle as well. ... This war has required not only the vigorous pursuit of known terrorists, but finding ways to stop extremists from gaining recruits and adherents. It is this ideological component, I suggest, that is the essential ingredient for victory.

And it is in this essential area that Australia and by extension the United States, have lost a serious battle. Unless the foundations of the enemy's power are shaken there can be no victory against ever-growing tide that will come against us.

Who was it who said that all wars of consequence were conflicts of the mind? Without getting too metaphysical, it still makes sense to regard ideas as the foundation of historical struggles; the thing that animates the visible clashes. While an idea's potency remains it will find adherents.

The casual outside observer would conclude, from the apparent fact that the Western ideal can find no public defenders, that it is not worth upholding. Radical Islam, on the other hand, must self-evidently be an idea of great worth, as so many are publicly willing to die for it. And to a limited degree they would be right, for something must be terribly wrong with the West to cause such self-hatred.

America has shown itself apt at striking the visible parts of its enemy but seems unable to touch its foundations. On the contrary, every blow it deals seemingly reverberates within it, spreading cracks throughout its own base. Sometimes I think this is fortunate because I am beginning to suspect that the foundations of Barad-Dur lie within the West and not within Islam.