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Terrors to Come – Part Nine: Magic Carpets By: Lowell Ponte
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, November 08, 2001

"CARPET BOMBING WILL WIN THIS WAR," I found myself thinking when news broke of President George W. Bush’s escalation. "And the reason," my sardonic, errant brain continued, "is that carpets are one of Afghanistan’s biggest sources of income, second only to the sap of opium poppies."

My perception may be faulty, but no more so than how many of us see such Muslim lands through the cultural lens of Orientalism.

Our view of these lands remains tinged with images of flying carpets, of Douglas Fairbanks’ Thief of Bagdad and Rudolph Valentino’s The Sheik, of voluptuary harems of naked odalisques and eunuchs confined behind arabesqued walls. Ours remains a romantic view of Arabian stallions and Arabian Nights, of turbaned caliphs and swirling scimitars, of whirling dervishes and crescent moons and mystery.

Such are the Muslim lands our Leftist media and academia see through the near-opaque lens of multiculturalism. ("How dare you think America is superior to a Taliban culture that is merely a bit different from ours. Who are we to criticize just because they require women to live their lives shrouded from head to toe, prohibit the education of females, and subject girls to the quaint custom of thorough genital mutiliation?")

CNN at least urged its reporters to balance their usual anti-American bias with at least an occasional reminder that more than 5,000 Americans were murdered by terrorists on September 11. Reuters wire service, as one pundit this week noted, refused to label such attackers with the judgmental label "terrorist," but it has been quick to accept the fanatics’ label for their point of view in calling their acts a "holy" war. Want to bet whether Reuters will describe America’s military response "holy?"

A war by and against terrorism involves psychology. From their cultural stereotype of us, the terrorists assume that we are susceptible to terror tactics.

Among the great transforming insights in his radicalization, says Osama bin Laden, were his recognition that the superpower Soviet Union could be beaten in Afghanistan and that the superpower United States, as its soldiers’ bodies were dragged through the streets of Somalia, was a "paper tiger."

If the U.S. is attacked relentlessly, even by biting fleas, bin Laden and his followers are convinced that we will soon turn and run.

Terrorism, traditionally called the war of the flea, according to the doctrine and tactics set forth in bin Laden’s 7,000 page Encyclopedia of Jihad, can be won by those armed with the flea’s historic weapons – such as bubonic plague, anthrax, and other weapons of mass destruction wielded by those too weak to fight or win a conventional war.

We tend to stereotype and dehumanize Muslim culture, argued Leftist intellectual Edward Said in his classic 1978 book Orientalism.

But Muslims increasingly hold a stereotypical, dehumanizing view of the West in general and United States in particular that could be called Occidentalism, notes Charles Paul Freund in a luminous essay in the December issue of Reason Magazine.

This Occidentalist reconstruction of reality, in the words of social anthropologist Dr. Nadje Al-Ali of England’s University of Exeter, perceives "an imperialist, corrupting, decadent and alienating West."

This prejudice sees and depicts Westerners as power-mad, decaying, immoral, sexually (especially its loose women) depraved, a bad influence on other nations and cultures, and under the control of (usually Jewish) conspiracies.

("Osama bin Laden," writes Freund, "is reported to have been especially disturbed at the presence of American women soldiers in Saudi Arabia…." Given what is done to women in many Muslim lands, the thought of his circumcised wives seeing Western women empowered, armed, and trained to fight probably left Osama limp and frightened.)

This "Occidentalist trope of conspiracy," writes Freund, "reduces the Westerner to a witless puppet manipulated by unseen hands."

"Like conspiracism, Occidentalism," he continues, "appears to play a scapegoating role for some, ‘explaining’ Eastern political failure by positing a satanic foe and extending the revolutionary struggle against him…."

This distorted image of the West makes it hard for Occidentalists who adhere to the ideology of Islamism to see us accurately.

Would they call the West depraved or decadent, for example, if they saw the new legislation in Germany granting full social benefits – including unemployment pay, health insurance, and a state pension – to prostitutes, er, "sex workers?" (The government will demand a cut in taxes from every assignation, of course, to pay for this.)

The Taliban would doubtless applaud the hottest new product test-selling like hotcakes in Cologne, Germany. With this $17 do-it-yourself paternity test, a suspicious husband can, while baby-sitting, swab the inside of his own cheek and his baby’s – and send in the swabs for a DNA match that claims to be 99.999 percent accurate. When DNA paternity matching has been done in the West in recent years, at least seven percent of babies turn out not to have been sired by the presumed father. Such a result in many Muslim lands would be a death sentence, de jure or de facto, for the mother. A Muslim cynic might joke about what match Joseph might have gotten by swabbing the inner cheek of the baby Jesus.

And who is behind this seven or more percent of illegitimate fathers? The answers are many. And in a completely unrelated story, former President Bill Clinton began advertising a job opening in his Harlem office. He is seeking a new Intern. Why, given the honor and integrity of our national leaders, would any Muslim regard America as decadent or immoral?

Would the Taliban call us satanic or under the control of conspiracies if they saw the success of the new Harry Potter movie, expected to break all previous box office records with its frolicsome depiction of the joys of witchcraft and uses of magic?

This flick is yet another triumph of movie magic, conjuring with special effects to give a sense of power to the children who are Harry Potter’s main audience.

Such is the talismanic power of what we are taught – that to have real power, you must believe in the power within you. In practice, this means that when the war in Afghanistan goes unwon after only three weeks, a successful people does not begin to wail that we have already lost it.

Consider the "Special Edition" that Steven Spielberg has brought out this season of his classic movie E.T. In the original, law enforcement officers were portrayed carrying guns. In this new, Orwellian altered version those same policemen have been digitally modified and now carry walkie-talkies. Somewhere between the apparition and the apparatchik falls the shadow.

In the same way, dedicated Leftists are eager to airbrush the Second Amendment out of our Bill of Rights. In the same way, pseudo-scholar Michael Bellesiles of Emory University in his now-discredited history Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture, tried to airbrush firearms out of early American history; he did this by arguing that family wills documented few guns, but by that same logic few axes and plows existed too because few got mentioned in wills.

The Taliban, like most American Leftists, have been authoritarian gun controllers. From the moment they seized power in 1996, they have busily confiscated the firearms of every Afghani who was not of their ruling elite.

Would the Taliban, who conduct public executions at a sports facility rather as the ancient Romans did at the Colosseum, not applaud the public health officials in Nashville, Tennessee, who on Halloween took children through an "STD Free! Haunted House" to see "full-color photos of canker sores and genital warts on male and female genitalia infected with syphilis, chlamydia or gonorrhea…"? (Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s drama "Ghosts" was about the haunting effects of hidden venereal disease on his characters.)

The Talibandits doubtless would object to last week’s legal exoneration of five witches executed in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. Even more offensive to the Taliban would be that the law clearing these witches was signed by the once-Puritan state’s acting Governor Jane Swift, a woman.

A concern of many conservatives, at least prior to September 11, was that in expanding rights for women and political correctness for all, our society appeared to be becoming unbalanced in a feminine direction. Politicians angled their policies and statements to win the women’s vote to the exclusion of male concerns. Boys were learning to play with dolls, even if labeled "G.I. Joe." And some cave-dweller males were as concerned about women being advanced in the U.S. military as is the cave-dwelling Osama bin Laden.

But now, as famed speechwriter Peggy Noonan and others have observed, manhood and the male virtues apparently have returned to America at as high and noble a level as ever in our history. We are again the Land of the Brave. The next huge act of terrorism will be the test of how susceptible, and hence how vulnerable, we in the eyes of other nations appear to be. If we stand strong one more time, the Occidentalist propaganda that the U.S. is weakening will be proven false.

So which is stronger and will set history’s future direction – our carpet bombing, or their letter bombing or use of a few radiological or other horrid weapons? Through our courage and determination, or lack thereof, we each have the power to help answer that question.

Mr. Ponte co-hosts a national radio talk show Monday through Friday 6-8 PM Eastern Time (3-5 PM Pacific Time) on the Genesis Communications Network. Internet Audio worldwide is at GCNlive .com. The show's live call-in number is 1-800-259-9231. A professional speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader's Digest.

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