THERE WAS NEVER A CHANCE of the U.S. suspending its bombing of Afghanistan during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The days of such short-sighted, politically correct insanity are, thankfully, over. Serious people are now at the helm, and serious people understand that wars are not won by giving one’s enemies four weeks to regroup and reorganize.
But for the better part of the last month, the mainstream media and other unserious types have obsessed over the idea that, as some sort of goodwill gesture, Operation Enduring Freedom should cease to endure some time around Nov. 17, at the first sighting of the new moon, when the fasting month begins. Cultural sensitivity and the international alliance, they argue, demand no less.
Their ranks include the heads of state of some of the various "moderate" Muslim countries that are America’s more fickle allies. Osama Baz, a top aide to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, cautioned that continuing the bombing through Ramadan would be an "affront" to Muslims world over. Indonesian Foreign Minister Hasan Wirayuda said that a protracted war extending into the holy month "will be emotionally more sensitive in the Islamic world." Pakistani president Gen. Pervez Musharraf has warned of "negative fallout."
Domestically, several of the American Muslim organizations President George W. Bush has tried diligently to woo have been every bit as skittish. Fifteen groups, including the prominent Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Circle of North America, have signed a statement calling for an outright end to the U.S. bombing campaign.
The Administration, to its credit, never took such appeals seriously. Over the last two weeks, numerous officials made a point to stress that Ramadan or not, the war would continue, uninterrupted, until it was won. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice all took turns reiterating the nation’s resolve. Even British Prime Minister Tony Blair, once the darling of the American left, joined in reaffirming the position. Still, the chattering classes kept chatteringand speculatingabout the much-desired reprieve.
It took the words of the President himself to discard the idea once and for all. "The enemy won’t rest during Ramadan and neither will we," Bush declared last Friday. "We’re going to pursue this war until we achieve our objectives."
End of discussion. America is willing to tie its hands only so muchthe coalition ceases to be of value the moment it stands in the way of the war it was assembled to wage.
Muslims, it’s worth noting, have rarely had any qualms about fighting during Ramadan, starting with the prophet Mohammed in 624. Neither the eight-year Iran–Iraq war nor Afghanistan’s ten-year struggle against the Soviet Union was ever suspended for the holy month. In 1973, Egypt and Syria launched an attack on Israel during the Jewish solemn holiday of Yom Kippur, which, that year, also happened to be the tenth day of Ramadan. And Palestinian militants didn’t shelve their intifada against Israel for a month last year, nor are they about to do so this year.
Terrorists have little interest obeying the rules of civilized warfare. The bombers of Pan Am 103 in 1988 didn’t seem to worry that the flight was packed with American college students returning home for Christmas. And radical Islamists showed how much they care for western sensibilities last month when they opened fire on Protestant worshippers holding services in a Pakistani Catholic Church.
There’s no reason why America should complicate its war effort by bowing to the quasi-religious sensibilities of its enemieswho show no inclination of ever returning the favor. Besides, for the last two months, the nation’s mantra has been that the radical terrorists it’s fighting are not real Muslims, but idolaters besmirching the true faith. It only follows, then, that if they are not real Muslims, then there’s even less cause to grant them the peaceful celebration of a real Muslim holiday.
The world’s peaceful Muslims should know by now that they’re not the target of the American campaign. If they don’t, a brief cessation won’t change their mindsthat will require the re-education that comes with total victory.
The agitation of some "moderate" Muslim leaders to bombing through Ramadan has less to do with newly discovered religious doctrineafter 1,400 years, war is now prohibited during the holy monththan an alliance that’s wobbly at its very core. These tepid allies, who have some disdain for terror, but more still for Israel and America itself, quite frankly find their allegiances divided. They long for an end to a war that forces them to make what is, for them, a difficult decision: Side with civilization, or side with the terrorists.
It’s not religion but political cowardice that inspires the call for a Ramadan ceasefire. Once again, anti-Americanism has taken on the guise of some sort of "peace" movement, this one temporary. (Although there can be little doubt that at the end of Ramadan, its proponents will find another reason to halt the warnote the incessant rumblings about collateral damage and public opinion in the Muslim world.) American Left-wingers who glommed on to the idea hoped that their appeals to cultural sensitivity would be more persuasive than their appeals to pacifism.
They were wrong.