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What You've Wrought

By Marvin Hutchens | February 22, 2006

Many people here in the United States, and throughout the West, are now concerned with the potential escalation of civil unrest and violence – and potential civil war - in or from the Islamic and Arab influenced world. Particularly in Iraq, in light of recent attacks on magnificent historic mosques. We find Americans in increasing numbers opposed to the potential sell of the business operating a vital group of American ports to Dubai Ports World, a UAE company. Our concern - the security of our ports and the potential compromising of that security. When a few weeks back I first read of the potential sale - to either DPW or a company from Singapore - I caught the trickle of a tinge of hope within that it would be the Singapore based company, if it couldn't be a US based or other Western firm.

To call it a tinge is somewhat of an understatement. It was clearly to me something that I didn't want. I knew that while a trickle only, it had the potential to gush as a river and so I sought to vanquish it and to do so with some reflection on the cause. In doing so it became apparent that the cause of my hope against the deal - and perhaps that of many others now being voiced - was not that a viable threat to security was apparent in the deal but rather due to my failed belief that the people of the Middle East, and more broadly that the 'ummah of Muslims around the world are true partners in defeating the terror brought on by their fellow believers.

For four and a half long years I held the belief, likely held by many Americans of various faiths and of no faith, that you, the Muslim 'ummah, are not only as opposed to the terrorist acts taken in your faith's name as I am, but that you are eventually going to stand against it. On more than one occasion I've written that you would find the means to oppose terrorism and the values which make it possible. Likewise, I've held that while those values are not shallowly supported among your brethren - perhaps being more deeply rooted that we or you acknowledge - that the means to discover and remove the cause is available to you in your faith and customs. It also is a necessity that you do so.

From our far away perspective and shores it is difficult for us to grasp the problem before us. From a lack of real understanding we are also incapable of seeing the solution. The result is that we are threatened by you. It is not that Americans haven't tried to understand. Many from across the political spectrum and from myriad of walks of life have made the effort. We've held back the might of our defense capabilities – restraining our ability to make war beyond the absolute minimum force required, and more than once it can be argued we've done even less than the minimum needed to secure our safety. As a whole, we've sacrificed the lives of our servicemen and taken a far smaller number of steps here at home to separate ourselves from the Middle East and your chief export – petroleum. But the problem and its solution do not rest within our shores or behind our might and force – unless further provoked.

And therein lies the problem. We are fighting against terrorism. The fight is against terrorists and their view of your faith. Not against Muslims, Arabs or Islam. And the part we are to play in this war will not be against Islam and Muslims – for the soul of the faith is determined by its adherents, not those who could oppose it. You, the Muslim 'ummah, must be the ones who define that soul and the values your brothers in faith are permitted to espouse and act on.

From these distant shores it appears that you've dammed the flow of discussion within your ranks for centuries too long. Time's affect being to reduce your balanced application of the spirit and law provided in Islam to a blind application of the ahl us-sunnah with little regard for the moral and ethical guidance availed to you in the Qur'an and ahadith. The great value of open discourse and study of the nature of your faith, of Kalam, and of fiqh ul-sunnah to the early years of the 'ummah was apparent in the reverence the West held for your thinkers and in the success of your culture. Across long seas of time and water the West seeks to understand the gulf between us and to suppose a gulf must likewise exist among Islam's adherents. That is, we long to believe you are not like - in faith and deed - those who strike against us with terror.

It is not for us to say that the drying up of any particular school of thought or the flowering abundance of another is at fault. Was it the end of ijtihad and the study of the nature of Allah that bound the faithful as a river between dikes, dams and levies? What we can be certain of is that the flow of thought and voices of opposition are essential to the building of successful societies and to the free practice of faith. I once wrote that I was still waiting on you to take the reigns of the war on terror. It was long ago and, while there have been those among you who like a summer rain have refreshed my hope, it has been a dry season.

Americans are not a people unwilling to forgive and to help, nor are we a people who will believe that a body as large as the Muslim 'ummah is incapable of evicting from its ranks the ideals of those who threaten the peace of the entire world. It is your task. Until and unless there is progress from within the Islamic world it should be clear that the citizens of the US will experience the trickle of fear and apprehension with regard to the Muslim world. If you act - that trickle may never become the uncontrolled river of iron and steel, fire and force, free of hope for a peaceful future between us.


It may not be within their power to act, giving in to feelings of hopelessness and fear. One might have longed for the German people themselves to throw off the yoke of Nazi oppression, yet such did not happen, and probably could not have. Tyrannies are rarely defeated without the application of brute force, and the shedding of much blood. This war, too, I am afraid, will likely be no different.

Brute did not work against faithless Veitnammese and is unlikely to do so against people of faith, regardless of what it is. US is faced with a more brutal and capable enemy who for their 9/11 assault did have US nuclear installations on the map but excluded them due to the wider scale of death and destruction that might have caused in the US. Faced with an elusive enemy who capitalises on our thirst for black water and the need to sell military hardware to the developing World we are bound to be restrained and patient than we actually are and can be! Civil war or no civil war in Iraq is unlikely to be of much use for US if you see what I mean!

I do not see that comparing this military action with Germany or Vietnam is a worthwhile effort. Neither has a religion as its base. The only thing that can be compared in any of those actions would be the state and operation of our military forces. But the cause is not the same. Terrorists fight, baseline, with no uniform. That is a completely different enemy than we have had to deal with. They use all manner of destruction, death, and mayhem that the military of Germany or even the guerilla operation in Vietnam did not adopt. Terrorists don't seem to stop at just killing people - they always have ulterior motives beyond deaths' conquest.
I feel that civil war in Iraq will have a deep impression on the spread of democracy for a while, at least until the world takes notice of where democracy is actually working in Arab lands. It does appear, on short notice, that Turkey and the Kurds may have a working form of democracy. As the Bush Admin. has pointed out, it won't look the same as ours.
Whether Iraq can avoid Civil War depends on how information is spread on the mosque issue. I feel that the core of Marvin's post is this:

"And therein lies the problem. We are fighting against terrorism. The fight is against terrorists and their view of your faith. Not against Muslims, Arabs or Islam. And the part we are to play in this war will not be against Islam and Muslims – for the soul of the faith is determined by its adherents, not those who could oppose it. You, the Muslim ‘ummah, must be the ones who define that soul and the values your brothers in faith are permitted to espouse and act on."

It's really what most of us have been thinking and feeling since the decision to knock out Hussein. And I believe, like Marvin, it is past time for the 'ummah to act.

Well said. You have managed to capture my hopes and disappointment in the Muslim world in a way that I have not been able to.

I agree, Marvin, that we Americans do like to help others, but in the end they've got to help themselves.

BTY, nice job you've done here at Threatswatch. I don't leave a lot of comments but I do read it quite regularly.

An industry-government advisory panel has called for tighter US port security (http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=domesticNews&storyID=2006-12-18T225249Z_01_N18183533_RTRUKOC_0_US-USA-SECURITY-PORTS.xml&WTmodLoc=USNewsHome_C2_domesticNews-3). We could have begun that last summer if politicians had put port security before self-interest. We had the perfect opportunity to increase and strengthen security through agreements with Dubai Ports World, a foreign terminal operator that was about to begin US operations.
Politicians and media from both sides of the aisle and all parts of the spectrum (www.google.com/DubaiPortsWorldControversy/Wikipedia) reacted with hysteria at the news that a company owned by the Government of Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates, would operate terminal facilities in 6 US ports (not "own" the ports, as was widely reported). They had been silent when a British firm managed those facilities, but when DPW bought that company, politicians and reporters overreacted, mangled facts and did the nation a disservice. DPW agreed to sell its US rights; it announced a deal with AIG Investors last week.
Before it was shouted out of the country, DPW had committed to work with the US Government to introduce extra security measures. That wasn't good enough for the alarmists who ignored the facts: DPW, one of the world's largest terminal firms, is recognized as the most high-tech and the most efficient. It ships cargoes every day into US ports from its facilities around the world -- most of which are monitored by US Government agencies, as are cargoes shipped by other terminal operators. Homeland Security, Customs and the Coast Guard recognize the importance of monitoring operations overseas and on the high seas. They do so, and they will heighten their operations here in the US under new legislation providing $60 million for ports security upgrades.
So the panel is correct; we need to increase US port security. Now, if we only keep the hysterics out of it.