Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Thomas Friedman wants the Sunnis and Shia to get together and settle their differences like Christians…. And Maureen Dowd needs to have someone tell her what “boink” means. Mr. Friedman first:

It’s hard to know what’s more disturbing: the barbaric sectarian murders by Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq, or the deafening silence with which these mass murders are received in the Muslim world. How could it be that Danish cartoons of Muhammad led to mass violent protests, while unspeakable violence by Muslims against Muslims in Iraq every day evokes about as much reaction in the Arab-Muslim world as the weather report? Where is the Muslim Martin Luther King? Where is the “Million Muslim March” under the banner: “No Shiites, No Sunnis: We are all children of the Prophet Muhammad.”

I can logically understand the lack of protest when Muslims kill Americans in Iraq. We’re seen as occupiers by many. But I can’t understand how the mass slaughter of 70 Baghdad college students last week by Sunni suicide bombers or the blowing up of a Shiite mosque on the first day of Ramadan in 2005 evoke so little response. Every day it’s 100 more.

I raise this question because the only hope left for Iraq — if there is any — is not in a U.S. counterinsurgency strategy. That may be necessary, but without a Muslim counternihilism strategy that delegitimizes the mass murder of Muslims by Muslims, there is no hope for decent politics there. It takes a village, and right now the Muslim village is mute. It has no moral voice when it comes to its own.

“The Koran describes the Prophet Muhammad as a Prophet of Mercy,” said Husain Haqqani, the Pakistani-born director of Boston University’s Center for International Relations. “Muslims begin all their acts, including worship, with the words: ‘In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful.’ The Koran also says, ‘To you, your faith, and to me, mine.’ But unfortunately, these mercy-focused, peacemaking ideas are lost [today] in the overall discourse in the Muslim world about reviving lost glory and setting right the injustice of Western domination.

“For a Muslim Martin Luther King to emerge, Muslim discourse would have to shift away from the focus on power and glory and include taking responsibility as a community for our own situation.”

In fairness, for a Martin Luther King to emerge requires some free space, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the courageous Egyptian democracy campaigner, remarked to me. But right now many liberals in the Arab world are in one way or another under house arrest by their regimes. “While Islamists in Egypt have access to thousands of mosques and can meet with their followers five times a day,” Mr. Ibrahim said, liberal members of his own institute “can barely move in Cairo, let alone organize a march.”

The Arab regimes want America to believe that there are only two choices: Islamists and the regimes, so it will side with the regimes.

This is one reason Mr. Ibrahim hopes the Islamists will take up the democratic agenda. They could carry it to the masses. One of the most popular Islamist leaders in the Arab world today, he notes, is Hezbollah’s Sheik Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon. Up to now, though, the leaders of Hezbollah and Hamas seem to prefer being of pawns of Syria and Iran than agents of democratic change and Muslim reconciliation.

There’s a lot at stake. If Iraq is ultimately unraveled by Muslim suicide-nihilism, it certainly will be a blot on our history — we opened this Pandora’s box. But it will be a plague on the future of the whole Arab world.

If Arab Muslims can summon the will to protest only against the insults of “the foreigner” but never the injuries inflicted by their own on their own, how can they ever generate a modern society or democracy — which is all about respecting and protecting minority voices and unorthodox views? And if Sunnis and Shiites can never form a social contract to rule themselves — and will always require an iron-fisted dictator — decent government will forever elude them.

The brutally honest Syrian-born poet Ali Ahmad Said, known as Adonis, gave an interview from Paris on March 11, 2006, with Dubai TV, and warned of what’s at stake (translation by Memri):

“The Arab individual is no less smart, no less a genius, than anyone else in the world. He can excel — but only outside his society. ... If I look at the Arabs, with all their resources and great capacities, and I compare what they have achieved over the past century with what others have achieved in that period, I would have to say that we Arabs are in a phase of extinction, in the sense that we have no creative presence in the world. ...

“We have the quantity. We have the masses of people, but a people becomes extinct when it no longer has a creative capacity, and the capacity to change its world.”

And now Maureen Dowd on … oh, I can’t stand it. In the very first line she uses the wrong word … MoDo, you meant “bonk,” not “boink.” And there’s stuff about aspens too …

Madame Speaker didn’t lean over and boink the president on the head with her gavel, or garrote him with her red pashmina.

No one was gelded or cuckolded or left to bleed on the floor of the Senate, as in HBO’s “Rome,” that other gory saga of a declining empire with people who can’t stop talking.

Still, the nation’s capital had the aroma of treachery, as former allies brutally turned on one another. Despite W.’s attempt to salvage his presidency last night by changing the subject and going all domestic-sensitive, Washington was more consumed with betrayal than substance.

The city was riveted by opening statements in the Scooter Libby trial, where the aspens were turning but not in clusters. Scooter’s lawyer claimed that the White House had made his client a scapegoat in the Valerie Plame case to protect Karl Rove because “Boy Genius,” as W. calls him, was critical to keeping the Republican Party in power.

In light of the 2006 debacle, the White House might have been better off saving Scooter and making Karl the fall guy.

Vice got an extra dose of unflattering limelight in the debut issue of The Politico, a Capitol Hill publication. In an interview with Roger Simon, John McCain stopped pandering to the White House long enough to lambaste Dick Cheney for stirring a “witch’s brew” of a “terribly mishandled” war. What took the brave senator so long?

“The president listened too much to the vice president,” he said, adding, “Of course, the president bears the ultimate responsibility, but he was very badly served by both the vice president and, most of all, the secretary of defense.”

At a critical hearing yesterday, senators happily blew a chance to grill Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, W.’s choice to try to rescue Iraq, on whether those 21,500 additional troops will be cavalry to the rescue or lambs to the slaughter.

Why dwell on the most consequential elements of American strategy when they can linger over something even more repercussive: their own political reputations?

Hillary Clinton, who dodged a recent important Iraq hearing by flying to Iraq, did not have any questions at all for the general. She simply lectured him crisply on her belated discovery that the administration has a “dead-end” and “blank check” policy, as she tried to seem like the kind of gal who could command the most powerful military on earth. This is odd from someone who is running infomercials on her Web site promising “a conversation.”

In their questioning, Senator Joe Lieberman and Mr. McCain seemed most interested in enlisting the general’s prestige for their own campaign to discredit colleagues in both parties who are tired of passively watching W.’s disaster unfold.

If the Senate sends the additional troops but conveys the belief they cannot succeed, Mr. McCain asked, “what effect does that have on the morale of your troops?”

“It would not be a beneficial effect,” the general replied.

Senator Lieberman also asked whether a Senate resolution expressing disapproval of The Surge would give the enemy in Iraq “encouragement” that the American people “were divided.”

The general agreed: “That’s correct, sir.”

Much of the rest of the hearing was squandered in attempts by Democrats and Republicans who had criticized the war to get the general to back away from his opinion that the troops would be hurt and the enemy emboldened by any impediment that the legislative branch might throw in W.’s way.

“Honorable people have different views, and they will voice their criticisms,” chided John Warner, who presented a bipartisan resolution on Monday declaring that the Senate “disagrees with the ‘plan’ to augment our forces.”

He told General Petraeus that as President Nixon’s secretary of the Navy, he had sat where the general was, justifying another impossible war. “I hope,” he warned the witness, “that this colloquy has not entrapped you into some responses that you might later regret.”

The fact that Senator Warner attacked The Surge in a formal way means that a substantial majority of the Senate are willing to stick their necks out. It’s the beginning of a slow procession to limit spending on the war and rein in Mr. Bush.

As one does in a job interview, the general tried to oblige everyone. After getting caught in a political mine field, he demurred that he had learned “that mine fields are best avoided and gone around rather than walked through.”

The poor man. He probably thought that he came all this way to talk about how to fight the war, not to talk about how to talk about the war.


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