Rewriting History


 

In a previous post, I discussed the nature of our current war against Islamic terror, and the importance of understanding the religious nature of this war. One of my commenters left a note expressing his dismay that I should have such a poor understanding of history, and asserted that Christianity and Islam were brothers, and had been so throughout their history. He subsequently left a link to a post expanding his thoughts on the matter at considerable length.

His comment and post provided an opportunity to address what I believe are common misconceptions about Islam, and which seem to have percolated through our culture. Whatever the source of my commenter’s opinions, he is far from alone in these conclusions–which have been widely promulgated in the cultural studies, media, and postmodern history so widespread in our higher education system.

The problem I have with such beliefs is not merely one of disagreement based on religious conviction or personal opinion–nor is my position motivated by some blind rage against the Islamic world. The problem is that such opinions rewrite history. In the years since September 11, I have made an effort to familiarize myself with the teachings of Islam, its history, and the historical events which have touched upon it, such as the Crusades. I make no claim to be an expert in such matters–but I have found a number of excellent sources which are both complementary and consistent, and which shatter quite effectively the illusions of Islam as a peaceful religion, happily coexisting for the most part with Christianity, with the exception of a few “excesses”–carried out equally by both sides, of course.
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Thoughts on the Long War


 
My recent post on the importance of clear-sighted understanding of Islam in the turbulence of our present world provided an opportunity to contemplate a number of issues regarding our current long war against those driven by this ideology. It is one thing to say that this is a war of ideas more than military might, or a war of absolutes; it is quite another to create clear understanding and strategy for fighting and winning such war. So I hope here–and perhaps in some subsequent posts–to provide a few thoughts about the current progress of our struggle and some ways which we as a culture must begin to address it.
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Warren Peace

coexist bumper sticker
 
David Warren, in my opinion, is one of the better writers and commentators on the web. His pieces are well-written, concise, and always thought-provoking. His latest piece, called Comparative Religion, nevertheless misses the mark, in my opinion.

The essay begins with an analogy of anger in the blind, using it as a metaphorical segue into a discussion of comparative religion, especially as it relates to Islam. He closes his essay with the following statement:

Today, a great deal of nonsense is spoken about Islam–as ever, especially by its apologists. There is a similar blindness towards a cultural tradition that includes much more than crazed jihadis. It is particularly the religious, the spiritual dimension of Islam that is incomprehensible, not only to observers who have not lived in Muslim lands, but to many “postmodern” Muslims themselves, who \'ve become as blind to “Allah, the merciful, the compassionate,” as Western postmoderns have become to the Christian understanding of He who is Love.

I am not saying there aren \'t many hard, violent passages in the Koran, and Hadiths; nor am I saying these are no better or worse than similar passages in the New Testament, or Dharmapada. For to say this is to ignore fact. But before we stare, at what may seem alien and frightening, and before we let anger make us blind, we must realize that the sincere Muslim, in his humility, is doing what we are, when we are seeking God. He is in prayer.

It seems to me that this, “we’re all praying to the same God” mentality–this brushing aside of those pesky jihadists, and searching instead for the deep, peaceful spirituality which is true Islam–is naive at best, and quite dangerous at worst. A scholarly dissection of the theology of Islam, Christianity, or any other major religion is not really the point here–although logic would dictate that the vastly disparate nature of the deity in each of these religions is fundamentally incompatible with any contention that same transcendent being is worshiped by all. One cannot doubt that the devotion of a sincere adherent of any major religion takes place in an environment of sincerity in seeking the God of their understanding. But much can be gleaned from the manifestations of religion in culture and history, and as such these fruits–the outworking of religious convictions in societies and cultures–may tell us far more than erudite discussions of theology and the relative teachings and merits of the sacred scriptures of each religion.
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The Face of Evil

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9-11The face of evil: who can ever forget it?

Formed in an instant, frozen in time, captured unknowingly in a wire photograph — one of millions taken that day — it spoke of an evil so profound the mind could little grasp it. An evil which transformed the world, from a place of peace to a furnace of fury; from a crisp September day to hell on earth; from a life where all was right with the world to a cauldron of discord and hatred.

September 11, 2001: the razor’s edge. Dividing an illusory tranquility from the stark reality of wickedness empowered, we learned, were we teachable at all, that simple things we took for granted–box cutters and backpacks, cell phones and chemicals, airplanes and atoms–could kill us on a scale unimaginable. We were no longer safe; our prosperity gave us not a secure haven, but was rather a weapon to be used against us by primitive demons frozen in a seventh-century death-cult, in ways far too horrid to even imagine.

The world we constructed–the Babel we lifted to heaven, created with sweat and savvy, hard work and hardware–proved but a house of cards, and crumbled to dust just as surely and disastrously as did the towers that brilliant fall morning. We know now the face of evil: we see it in the rugged faces of desert Bedouins and the silk suits of cultured diplomats, in hooded beheaders and Hollywood elite. It is the face of the human heart, ripped open for inspection in all its ugliness and vile vanity, for all to see, if they will look.

And look we must, if we are ever to survive, or ever to triumph.

September 11th was an opportunity, a window which will close quickly, through which we may glimpse–horrid though we may find it–our very soul.

Let us not squander these moments. We may not have many more such opportunities.

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Head of the Snake

If you read nothing else this weekend, you should read Michael J. Totten’s Head of the Snake post at his excellent Middle East Journal blog. Michael is one of the growing number of independent journalists who are breaking out of the rut into which their mainstream brethren have fallen, and bringing us the kind of reporting top-notch journalism should (and used to) deliver. Michael, who has extensive time and experience in the Middle East (including Libya and an extended stay in Lebanon) is now travelling through Kurdish Iraq. He has visited the genocide museum in northeastern Iraq, which has preserved the horrors of Saddam Hussein’s brutal extermination and torture of the Kurds.

It is not an easy read, but an important one nevertheless. We live in an age where moral and cultural relativism reigns unchallenged, where Palestinian suicide bombers and Israeli defense measures are treated as equivalent, where Bush = Hitler, where Ted Kennedy tells us that Sadaam’s prisons have reopened under U.S management because a few prisoners had to wear women’s underwear or be photographed naked. Though we resist it, evil must sometimes be seen face-to-face, at its very darkest: Michael shows us one of Sadaam’s prisons, in all its horror. Go, look, ponder, reflect–and never forget.

P.S. — Be sure to click his Paypal button, and contribute. Michael is doing this on his own dime, and should have your support.

Apollyon Appears-III
The Core

Mecca at nightMy prior post, on the subject of the Islam, its history, and the relevance thereof in an age where nuclear terrorism is increasingly a possibility–if not a certainty–was one of the more difficult posts I’ve had to write in a long time. It was a difficult labor, morphing through many revisions, ended up far different than it began–and I don’t ever recall being quite as uneasy in the past when hitting the Publish button as I was this time. And I’m not entirely sure why…

There is a certain–discomfort–in challenging another man’s faith, be it religious or otherwise. Faith, after all, is an intensely personal thing–arguably one of the most powerful forces in the psyche of man. To question another’s beliefs is to challenge the believer: to paint him or her with a broad brush, slathering thick layers of ignorance and bias over their good intentions and sincere convictions. It implies, in many ways, a superiority: that your faith–or lack of faith–is a finer, more noble, more intellectually honest or morally superior way–and that you, by inference, are also morally or intellectually superior to those who espouse such beliefs. Such presumption naturally makes others bristle–especially in a postmodern age where there can be no objective truth, where my feelings are as true, and legitimate, and valid as yours, beyond all reproach, and demanding of your tolerance. For today, to feel that something is true, and right, and good, is to know it is thus–an unassailable fact.

In daily life, however, we live with such emotive delusions at our peril. That kindly gentleman helping your aging mother with her finances may in fact be a con artist, scamming her out of a life’s savings–no matter how strongly she feels he is honest. That passionate attraction, that illicit love, which feels so right and noble, can destroy a marriage, wreak havoc on the lives of its children–often for generations–and in the end be bitter and unsatisfying rather than blissful and fulfilling. We feel that the Islamists mean us no harm–until we see that low-flying jet roaring towards our 100th floor office window. The power of deceit and emotional self-delusion is enormous, and its presence ubiquitous–and detached from something permanent, real, true, is highly destructive and dangerous. Such magnetic poles–good and evil, light and darkness, right and wrong–live far more in the world of the unseen–in the spiritual, vertical, intangible world, rather than the horizontal, material one. It is on the anvil of such principles, morals, and ethics that feelings must be hammered, tested, and annealed, to verify their true strength and integrity.

Religion is supposed to provide clarity about such transcendent principles. Religious belief carries the implied subtext of a first cause, a universal law-giver, a source of goodness, and wisdom, and guidance to steer us through the pain, the meaninglessness, the struggles of material life in this world. It is supposed to result in a life improved, one with more meaning and purpose, a life lived better, more nobly, more beneficially through its principles both for ourselves and for those in the society around us.

Yet it takes but little reflection to realize that people who follow religious beliefs and principles, who adhere to faiths seemingly lofty in their teachings and tenets, often behave in ways as bad–or worse–that those who eschew all religious faith and teachings. It is child’s play to point to countless instances of wars and strife, both ancient and modern, brought about–or at least intensified by–religious differences and pietistic enmities. It is trivial to find instances where religious individuals live lives which fall far short of their stated moral and ethical standards, manifesting a hypocrisy quite evident to others. And so, it is no large leap for some to conclude that all religion is hypocritical, that religious faith is the source for much–if not all–of the evil in the world, and that only true secular skepticism can save us from the deluded fanatics in our midst.

Yet such easy dismissiveness–while emblematic of an age where the superficial masquerades as the profound–avoids the far harder work of discrimination needed to sift through the noise and the nuance thrown up by a postmodern culture reveling in relativism. To cut through the chaff you must look at the core: what does a religion hold as its core beliefs? Do these beliefs have historical integrity, maintaining its fundamental convictions throughout the centuries, or rather wafting and wandering from one set of beliefs to another, drifting in the shifting winds of cultural convenience and awkward revisionism? For such is the call of postmodernism: change your “truth” to conform to our culture. But if there be that which is unchanging, transcendently true in ever age and every place, then it is the truth which judges culture–not the other way around.

Such is the confusion manifested today in the world’s response to Islam. That many of its ways seem foolish, destructive, and childish at best (burning flags and embassies to protest cartoons, which most protesters have never seen), or heinous at worst (suicide bombers, beheadings, terrorism, nuclear blackmail) is patently obvious to all but the most obtuse observers. Yet there is a desire not to paint all Muslims with the ragged brush of the most extreme and violent of Islam’s members–and rightly so, as large swaths of the Muslim world neither participate in, nor endorse, such errant behavior and wanton destruction. We blame the violence on those who have “hijacked” Islam; we call for moderate Muslims to “stand up” against such perversions of their faith (which few seem to do), and “recapture” or reform Islam from within; our politicians and leaders repeatedly stating that the war on terror is not a war on Islam.

While such assertions may be politically expedient, fashionably non-judgmental, or optimistically naive in the face of obstinate realities, they must be examined in light of the core: the central tenets of Islam and their historical congruity. For we see one religion, but two different behaviors: one peaceful, one violent. Such could be said about many religions, of course–the behavior of their followers is not of necessity an accurate measure of their true nature, especially when one is selective about choosing specific instances of behavior or historical time periods. Which behavior–peaceful coexistence or belligerent conquest and conversion, with death to the infidels–best represents the core of Islam?

Although many contemporary apologists for Islam emphasize its peaceful nature and the “inner struggle” aspect of jihad, early Islamic sources tell a quite different story. After the hijra–the forced emigration of Mohammed and his followers from Mecca to Yathrib in 622, barely a dozen years after Mohammed received his revelation from the angel Gabriel–Mohammed created a “new order” in the city. Yathrib (later known as Medina) was a Jewish colony formed by the diaspora of those who survived the revolt against the Romans. Initially invited by the residents of Yathrib, Mohammed established what appeared at first a peaceful covenant with the tribes of the city–but which later allowed the Muslims–on a tribe-by-tribe basis–to drive out, slaughter, and confiscate the property of these Jews, often enslaving their women and children. Tribes who capitulated to Mohammed and his warriors with the promise of reprieve were subsequently slaughtered without mercy. Indeed, the wealth thus plundered provided Mohammed and his armies the resources to later conquer Mecca. This brutal conquest was viewed by Mohammed as divine vengeance on the infidels–an attitude extended soon thereafter to Christians and anyone else who refused to convert to Islam. Subsequent caliphs, from Abu Bakr, Mohammed’s successor who initiated the Great Jihad which overtook all of the Arabian peninsula, to the great expansionist wars which conquered Asia Minor and much of southern Europe until finally stopped by Europe’s ascendence and military dominance, were all a manifestation of the central teachings and revelation of Islam. Indeed, “peaceful” Islam is the true anomaly, brought about far more by the social and technological advances of the Christianized West rather than any change in purpose or mission on the part of Islam. Islam was born under the sword, and lived by the sword: it was from the start the divine judgment on the infidel, executed by the hand of man.

It is this very core which persists today, unchanged and unchangeable. If Mohammed is the Prophet and the Apostle of God, and the Quran Allah’s inspired and unchangeable word thus revealed, then the manifestation of this revelation was evident from the religion’s earliest days: conversion by coercion, and death to those who refuse the “submission”, and its “peace” enforced at the point of the sword. For Islam to reform from within–as many wistfully hope it will–is for Islam to reject that which Allah gave to His last and greatest Prophet. Such “reform” would be as the Jew rejecting Moses as the giver of the Law from Yahweh, or the Christian to reject Jesus Christ as the Son of God: it is only those who dilute and corrupt their faith who could believe thus, thereby undermining and destroying the very essence of the faith they would thereby “reform.”

At its heart, Islam is a faith of weakness wrapped in the armor of a warrior. Its god Allah is incapable of winning victory or changing hearts except by the murder, warfare, subjugation, and coercion of his followers. Who needs such a God when man is fully capable of such deeds without Him? For to convert a man through threat of death is to fail utterly to change a man’s heart. To enforce morals through coercion is not to create moral men or righteous societies, but fearful men and tyrannical rule, strapped by rigid legalism, and fear, and the slavery of hatred which crushes rather than renews the spirit of man.

Such are those who now seek access to modern weapons which can kill millions. That such an act will not usher in the kingdom of Allah, but rather a living hell on earth, is something about which we can no longer afford to be deluded. At the core of our peril is a religious zealotry which seeks–with horrifying weapons it could not develop on its own–to kill or subjugate all who will not convert. The postmodern secular mind cannot and does not grasp the strength such conviction, though delusional, can foment–it wants to coopt Islam into its euphoric pipe dream of peace and tolerance. To resist and destroy such an enemy requires not nuance, nor negotiation, nor appeasement, nor the painless fantasies of a postmodern culture with neither heart nor soul, but those assets now increasingly rare in the pampered and stupefied West: courage, clarity, endurance, character. May there be enough such men to stand in the gap.

Apollyon Appears-II
The False Prophet

Cult

We are children of the bomb.

Those of us–especially those growing up in the ’50s and ’60s–lived under the shadow of the mushroom. From elementary school drill of covering our heads and hiding under our desks (highly effective ways of surviving a nuclear attack, by the way…), to watching the Cuban missile crisis play out on grainy gray TV screens, we felt that primal fear of impending annihilation, of bomb shelters and fallout, of silos releasing their deadly arrows as we waited that agonizing 15 minutes until the incoming salvos struck.

We learned, over time, to live with–and even love–our dysfunctional companion, like a battered spouse returning home, with no where else to go. Perhaps it was the dark humor, a la Dr. Strangelove, which dulled our senses; perhaps the overwrought rhetoric and ridiculous answers of the anti-nuclear left, with their unilateral disarmament proposals and Grim Reaper costume marches. But the fall of the Soviet Union let us focus on more important things, like global warming and saving the snail darter, televangelists and “reality” TV.

With two global giants armed to the teeth, toe-to-toe in MIRVed madness, our focus–when we stopped to think of it–was “The Day After“–a massive missile exchange, nuclear annihilation, the end of Earth as we know it. It was, ironically, a calming, reassuring thought: no one could unleash such madness, such horror, such destruction of an entire planet: it would be … suicidal.

Exactly.

Nation-states–even though they be fixated on world domination, as were the Soviets, or small-time despotic troublemakers like Syria or Iraq under Saddam–ultimately have their own self-interest–and self-preservation–at heart. As much as they desire global conquest, or regional dominance, they value their own lives and the preservation of their power base to sustain such dreams of glory–and such vulnerability allows effective deterrence to their threat. The nuclear standoff of the Cold War was at its heart a high-stakes game of chess, where the goal was challenge and response, perceived threats and feints–without ever putting your king in any real danger. There were, of course some frighteningly close calls–the Cuban missile crisis and the story of Stanislav Petrov come to mind–but ultimately the calculation came down to this: there is no sense destroying the world–yourself included–if you want to rule it.

Suicide as a weapon is not without precedent in nation-state warfare and struggle: Japan’s kamikaze pilots in WWII proved a potent and lethal–albeit short-lived–weapon, for which the Allies had little adequate defense: Approximately 2,800 kamikaze attackers sunk 34 Navy ships, damaged 368 others, killed 4,900 sailors, and wounded over 4,800–this carnage occurring in the brief period between October 1944 and August 1945. Their effectiveness was limited by the rapidly crumbling Japanese war effort, the vast supremacy of U.S. air power–and ultimately by the abrupt end of the war brought about by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was the destruction and defeat of the Japanese nation-state–almost ironically, by nuclear weapons–which brought an end to the effectiveness of the lethal kamikaze weapon.

In the first post on this topic, I used the vehicle of historical fiction to portray an apocalyptic vision of the near future. It may come as a surprise to many readers that I am not particular enamored of biblical prophecy interpretation or end-times fear-mongering. I neither pine for, nor live in terror of, any end-of-world scenario. The world may end tomorrow, or in a billion years when the sun exhausts its spent fuel in a spectacular supernova. I have no prescience about such things–nor would I wish to: life is more calmly and sanely spent living a day at a time, rather than obsessing about some future catastrophic event.

Nevertheless, it is instructive to note how threatened some seem by even postulating that nuclear terrorism is a distinct possibility, and that its effects on global stability and commerce, should it occur, would be profound and catastrophic in many ways. One erudite commenter opined that I was “crazier than those Islamic fundamentalists.” OK, yeah, whatever–unfortunately my spam filter doesn’t exclude commenters with IQs under 50. Another commenter gleefully pointed out a numeric inconsistency in the story, proudly proclaiming that the “inhabitants of the story are wrong,” broadly consigning both me and my readers to the trash bin of easily-duped fools. Sigh–such are the products of today’s institutions of lower education, which produce fine postmodern deconstructionists, utterly incapable of discerning truth from falsehood, or good from evil. Bad math is easily corrected; hollow-souled intellectuals far less easily fixed. The grand mansion of Western civilization still stands, majestic, but its supporting timbers are rotting, the termites of nihilism relentlessly nibbling at its ancient foundational beams. The neutered Last Man, so elegantly described by Van der Leun recently, is alive and well, blissful in his tiny, blinkered, spiteful world.

What is striking in our current age–unlike decades past–is the confluence of technology, global communication and commerce, with modern weaponry which makes a scenario such as my prior post so easily imaginable. Such capabilities have existed for many decades, of course–what has now changed is the disinhibition brought about by the end of the Cold War and the rise of Islam. In what may prove to be the ultimate historical irony, the fall of the Soviet Union led to the geopolitical balkanization of nations and cultures which allowed Islam to rise in power and influence–and further isolated and economically undermined dysfunctional client states like Syria and North Korea, leading to their increasing dependence on the development and export of WMD technology for survival.

How then shall we deal with the contemporary threat of Islamic radicalism, which like the Japanese warlords before them have embraced the suicide weapon? Unlike a nation-state, Islam is trans-national; it has no capital, no cities, no boundaries, no industrial base. It is fueled not by economic self-interest, nor the desire for imperialistic expansionism, nor wealth, nor national pride. It is driven by religious zealotry–and not merely this alone (for many faiths manifest zealotry among their followers)–but by a zealotry which envisions as its highest duty the destruction of all other religious faiths, and all unbelievers–and holds as one of its highest ideals the martyrdom of its adherents. Islam views itself as God’s instrument of conquest and vengeance: bringing all into forced submission to the will and rule of Allah–and destroying those who will not submit. Such ruthless zealotry, combined with access to weapons capable of killing thousands or even millions, and the willingness–even eagerness–to die for this cause, is indeed a frightening development in world history–unlike any other.

Islam is of course one of the world’s great religions, its reach rapidly expanding in many parts of the world. As such, it commands a great deal of respect–especially in a postmodern world where all beliefs are equal, all cultural narratives tolerated and valued. In many regards, Islam is today accorded a deference greater than of both Christianity and Judaism: anti-semitism is rampant and rising throughout the world; Christianity often skewered and ridiculed, its adherents frequently characterized as ignorant and bigoted, especially by the media, among the secular and the intellectual left . Yet rarely is a disparaging word heard about Islam in public, and the cry of victimization of Muslims rings out with a predictable regularity. Such selective bias arises, one suspects, from the widespread postmodern contempt for Western civilization. Islam hates Jews and Christians, so the Islamist must not be all that bad–as the moral and philosophical principles of Judeo-Christian faith form the central pillar of Western democratic traditions, now widely decried as racist, oppressive, and imperialistic.

Yet the blindingly obvious is rarely spoken–that the followers of Islam are the perpetrators of some of the most horrendous acts in our modern world: suicide bombings killing and mutilating innocent men, women and children; hijackings, bombings, and assassination; beheadings videotaped and widely circulated in the world media; honor killings of raped women; and of course the horrors and destruction of September 11th, and London, and Madrid. Of course, there is no shortage of evil and heinous acts in the world, which are hardly restricted to Islam; nor are the vast majority of Muslims involved in such acts. But the situation which most threatens the peace–and even continued existence–of the world today is not totalitarian states, nor ethnic cleansing, nor despots torturing and murdering their own people, nor racist Western imperialism: it is radical Islam, and the lethal fusion of a religion pursuing the death of its enemies, and the technological means to accomplish this–in spades.

But even the term “radical Islam” is misleading–for it implies that a peaceful, benign religion has been hijacked by a few crazies, who are wildly misinterpreting its teachings to promulgate violence and chaos. We hear constantly–from politicians and pundits, the media and Islamic apologists–that Islam is a “religion of peace.” But even the casual observer would be remiss if he did not notice that the daily fare from Muslims worldwide seems anything but peaceful: vicious and institutional anti-semitism; enthusiastic support of terrorist acts and suicide bombers (or at the least, silent assent, which seems little better); riots and violent retribution against any real or perceived insult to Islam (such as the current outrage over the publishing of satirical cartoons about the Prophet in European newspapers); death sentences issued–and sometimes executed–against artists and writers critical of Islamic practices; the suppression of free speech and free expression in Muslim countries; the repression and subjugation of women. The list is long indeed. One cannot but wonder whether those who pursue the most heinous of acts–terrorism, suicide bombs, torture–are not rather quantitatively, rather than qualitatively different from their less notorious brethren–and whether it is in fact Islam itself, rather than some extreme perversion of the extremist few–which is the true seed from which this hideous flower blooms.

If you have not done so, I encourage you to read the interview of Dr. Andrew Bostom in FrontPage magazine. It is lengthy, but well worth your time–and a mere foretaste of Dr. Bostom’s remarkable book entitled The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of the Non-Muslims. This is, by the way, not a religious attack on Islam, but is a rather remarkable work of history: nearly 800 pages of highly detailed, extensively footnoted research on the history of jihad, using both Islamic sources–some first translated into English during this project–and the writings and history of those profoundly affected by its belligerent imperialism. With the precision of cold surgical steel, Dr. Bostom dissects and exposes the history and myths of Islam, from its inception up to the present. The effect is nuclear in magnitude: utterly destroying the myth of Islamic tolerance of Christians and Jews (the so-called “Andalusian paradise” in Muslim Spain); detailing the rape, pillage, subjugation, massacre, and brutality to infidels of every stripe–Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian; the centrality of jihad (holy war, not inner struggle) to the Islamic faith; the widespread deception found in Islam’s apologists today about the true meaning and goals of jihad. It is chilling in its calm, analytical approach to the “Religion of Peace”–and a wake-up call to a sleeping West desperately in need of clarity about its utterly committed, fanatical–and soon to be nuclear-armed–enemy.

We are daily told we are in a war on terror. We are not–we are in a war with Islam. It is not a war we declared, or wanted, but an ancient war now declared on us. It is imperative that we speak plainly about this, setting aside the soft sentimentalities which fear offending anyone. There will, of course, be hollers of protest by the usual suspects; these must be ignored, and answered firmly, with truth, and history, and fact, not wishful thinking and weak apologies.

The Prophet has told us his plans, his vision of a world at peace. It is a false peace, from a false prophet–yet his faithful followers pursue it to the gates of death, and we are their targets. The hour is late–it is dangerous to sleep.

Apollyon Appears-I:
Looking Back

The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God …

— Revelation 16:8,9 —

Vision of DeathThe fear resonates: softly, quietly, as yet still an undercurrent, like trickling water barely perceptible, but portending something deeper: the rushing of a torrent wild and raging and uncontrollable. The vast multitude still sleeps, with dreams of peace, and pleasure, and profit, and prosperity, their small lives ever constricted in one-dimensional bliss while imagining their own tumescence. And yet the beast grows, increasingly uneasy in his restraint, restless for anarchy and annihilation. There are dark days ahead–frightful, chaotic, unpredictable, foreboding–times no man should endure, but through which too many–by their own measure–will survive.

Apollyon draws near.

Historians may well reflect on these times–if there are historians to record them–and wonder how it might have been different. They will look to November ’79, and recognize the lost opportunity to crush the nascent Iranian Islamic revolution in its earliest days. They will ponder how a series of American leaders–from Carter in ’79, to Reagan in Beirut, to Bush in Gulf War I, to Clinton in Somalia–squandered the opportunity to establish by strength a bulwark against the rising self-delusional tide of Islamic fundamentalist zealotry. They will marvel at the senescence of Europe–once colonial conquerors whose might and resilience survived two global wars, now weakened and whimpering, their grand cathedrals as empty as their souls, their rotting culture paying feckless fealty to impotent diplomacy. And China: mainlining Mideast oil to sustain a leaden economy, buying off their oppressed billions with cell phones and computers, their children chained to factories churning out the worthless goods the West demanded to feed its own addictions.

It all seemed so–ordinary, so much like decades past, with petty diplomatic spats, brush wars, government corruption, ethnic cleansing and genocide in lost lands while CNN averted its eyes: the banality of evil hiding its hideous face behind a million facades. For great evil had shown its face before: the Great Depression gave rise to global fascism and the icy winter of Communism–but had also steeled a generation sufficient to its challenges, willing to sacrifice their lives to cool the ovens of Auschwitz and break the back of the gulag masters. Darkness had learned its lesson: better to drug the patient, seducing him with wealth, and pleasure, and shimmering screens made bright with empty images, normalizing the depraved while drumming away all reflection through iPod ear buds.

The outlines of the great Darkness formed slowly, over centuries, the confluence of myths and hatreds of ancient desert tribes with fiery fury over a New Mexico desert–ironically named Trinity. Scattered glimpses of its ghastliness were seen, demonic eyes furtively glancing from still-shuttered windows: nail-laden suicide vests shredding flesh and spilling blood; beheadings, hijackings and terror camps; moral equivalency leveling heinous acts with heroic deeds; the wrath of Khan in Pakistan. But still they slumbered, blind to the gathering darkness.

The curtain was ripped back one crisp morning in September 2001, as pretensions of peace and safety collapsed with the twin towers that dark day. The response was swift–and surprised those accustomed to hollow verbal threats unbacked by power. First in Afghanistan, and shortly thereafter in Iraq, the forces of terror sponsors and Al-Qaeda were dealt sharp and striking defeats, decapitating their leadership and decimating their ranks.

But the beast had many heads, and Al-Qaeda was but one .

History presents many ironies, and the defeat of Al-Qaeda was truly one–for in its defeat, slaughtered in remote mountain caves and on Iraq’s desert killing fields, lay the beast’s reincarnation, for its greatest foe was vanquished in its very victory. For Iraq had constrained the Great Satan, tying up valuable and limited resources in a task which was necessary but insufficient both in timeliness and extent. For secular tyrants–while always a threat, and happy to bed down with the zealots of Islam for their own ends–nevertheless always proved more interested in their own grandiosity and power–and hence proved feeble warriors, useful idiots, propitious diversions which bought valuable time.

But Iraq proved valuable in one other, more critical way: it exposed the soft underbelly of American will, fattened by wealth, pleasure, and materialism, weakened by those with whom the desire to govern a cowering giant trumped any sacrifice needed to assure her survival. America could throw a deadly punch–but could be trusted to leave the ring should the fight drag on.

The Iranian project started small–seeded by the Khan Islamic bomb effort, initially prodded by the ever-present threat from the hated infidel Saddam. But the neighborhood grew vastly more dangerous when Americans rolled over Afghanistan–an albatross which drained the lifeblood even from the Soviets–and soon thereafter roared through Iraq. Surrounded now on two sides with hostile forces unstoppable by any conventional army–much less Iran’s–the nuclear trump card become paramount. With the ascent of Ahmadinejad to the presidency–a fanatic Shi’ite who imagined himself the Twelfth Imam–the dry kindling was fanned to a blaze. If the martyrdom of one was glorious, the martyrdom of an entire nation would please Allah greatly, and bring about his kingdom–which Ahmadinejad would rule.

There were, it is now believed, eight bombs: four produced by Iran herself; two purchased from Kim Jong Il, desperate for cash to keep his movies rolling and his regime afloat; and the greatest prize: two high-yield nukes from the Russian Mafia. These broke the bank–but oil prices were high, their target was priceless–and money would be worthless after their use.

The Russian nukes arced toward Zion on pillars of holy flame. Patriot missiles took out the Haifa arm, but Tel-Aviv was incinerated, the waters of the Mediterranean boiling as the sacrifice climbed to heaven. The Palestinians would die, of course–but their usefulness to Allah had long since passed, their timid suicide acts pale archetypes of Allah’s true vengeance. Jerusalem would survive, though its inhabitants would die slowly and painfully, befitting of goats and swine inhabiting that most holy of cities. In a massive counter strike, Iran ceased to exist in any recognizable form. Ahmadinejad and his inner circle were long gone, of course–secure deep within their mountain redoubt in northern Pakistan. The hardened production sites in Iran survived largely intact–but the fruit of their bowels had long since dispersed to faraway cells in faraway lands.

The barge on the Thames was next, eight days later. The Korean nuke was low-yield and dirty, but served its purposes well, killing tens of thousands instantly, many more over the ensuing weeks, decapitating the government, and rendering London uninhabitable for a generation. Paris was next, three weeks later, the Iranian bomb prepositioned in an unused Metro tunnel, it is thought–to destroy a millennium of Western culture while preserving the Muslim suburbs. Russia was next–not Moscow, as expected, where security was airtight–but the oil fields, setting alight enormous blazes which would burn for years, destroying forever in one blow the economy of the butchers of Chechnya.

And then–the pause. Months passed, terror reigned, as anarchy roiled Europe and the Middle East burned. Global commerce stopped; oil became unavailable at any price. Jews and Muslims alike were slaughtered, torn apart by angry mobs and incensed governments. Angry recriminations flew like missiles between governments and politicians, as the world economy ground to a halt. Riots were everywhere, martial law ruled, as all personal freedoms were revoked under pain of incarceration–or worse. Religion was outlawed in many places–and suspect everywhere. Conspiracy theories abounded–was this calamity fomented by America, as yet untouched in this global conflagration? The truth could not be spoken: the last Korean nuke was discovered, serendipitously, in a freight yard in Atlanta–its ensnarement now top secret lest public panic ensue. The two remaining, quietly resting, somehow avoiding the frantic search of all inbound cargo–one in a tanker truck in the Jersey refineries outside New York City, the other in a warehouse just south of San Francisco, located directly over the San Andreas fault–awaiting their synchronized detonation, that fatal day on August 6, 2008 …

Update: Late-night writing makes for bad math. The numbers have been fixed.