has long been the chief demonizing marker that
Israel and the United States have used in their
wars against Islamic states and peoples who have
stood in the path of their imperial ambitions.
Israel has led the way in charting this course.
With massive propaganda, the Zionists succeeded
in equating the Palestinian resistance with terrorism.
In no Western country did this propaganda encounter
greater success - including Israel itself - than
in the United States. Most liberal Americans -
and a few leftists - argued that Palestinian terrorists
threatened Israel's existence.
After the capitulation of Egypt at Camp David,
Israel pursued more lofty ambitions. The original
dream of a Pax Israelica, stretching from Morocco
to Pakistan, now seemed within reach. Only the
newly emerging Islamist forces in the region -
notably, in Iran - now stood in its way.
The nascent Islamists offered both a challenge
and an opportunity to Israel. If Israel could
paint the Islamists as a civilizational threat
to the very survival of the West, the American
voters could be goaded into supporting Israel's
war against the Islamists: or better still, make
this war their own.
This is not to discount the lure of Middle Eastern
oil for America's power elite. Although the US
is the world's only superpower, its relative economic
position has been declining for some time. Although
the US may not reverse its economic decline, it
could solidify its power by gaining control over
the world's oil spigot in the Persian Gulf. Europe
and China could be tamed if they knew that the
US had its hand on the oil spigot.
This temptation was strong, but it also carried
risks. In a democracy, moreover, there stands
another obstacle. Public opinion in the United
States would resist such a major and risky war.
Americans, therefore, would have to be prepared
for war by conjuring fears of new Islamic hordes
gathering to attack and destroy the West, especially
the United States.
Israel, the Zionists and their neoconservative
allies in the United States began to work on these
fears. It would not be too difficult to revive
the West's old obsession about fanatical Muslims,
forcing their religion upon infidels at the point
of their swords. But these atavistic fears would
have to be decked anew. The Zionist and neoconservative
thinkers would go to work painting Islam as anti-modernist,
opposed to freedom, and inimical to the rights
of women and minorities. In other words, Muslims
were the last remaining obstacle to the final
and irreversible triumph of Western values and
This was not all. The Zionists also argued that
the Muslims were an active and growing threat
to the survival of the West. The new forces gathering
under the Islamic banner were determined to attack
the West. Israel was only their immediate target.
After destroying Israel, they would go for the
United States and Europe, their real targets.
Their goal was nothing less than the imposition
of Islamic law on Western Christendom. Most importantly,
the Zionists warned repeatedly, the Islamists
would use terror - the same tactics they had employed
so long against Israel - to destroy the Western
This strategy could scarcely fail to achieve its
objective. On the domestic front, Americans were
being told constantly of Islamic hostility to
modernity, to the West and the United States especially.
On the international front, the US and Israel
together deepened their siege of the Islamic world,
with open wars against Palestinians, Lebanese,
Iraqis, Afghans, and threats of new wars against
Iran, Syria and Pakistan.
Under these dire circumstances, small groups of
Muslims - no more than a few hundred at first
- broke away from the mainstream Islamist movements
who were battling the repression and corruption
of their own governments. These splinter groups
advocated attacks against the United States, the
'far enemy' that they argued was the real power
behind Israel and the indigenous tyrannies.
When these splinter groups began their terrorist
attacks in the early 1990s, the Zionists, neoconservatives,
and other assorted right-wing reactionary groups
had gained what they waited for. Here was proof,
they proclaimed, of the malevolent designs of
the Islamic terrorists, the Islamic fundamentalists,
nay, of the entire Islamic world. Wake up, the
Zionists began telling the Americans. The Islamic
terrorists who have been attacking us since 1948
have now attacked you. We face the same terrorist
hordes. It is the Islamic world, stupid.
So, when the nineteen hijackers from al-Qaida
attacked the Twin Towers, renewed efforts were
launched to establish a definitive connection
between Islam and terrorism. Some voices proclaimed
that all Muslims are terrorists or at least potential
terrorists. The US government was not going that
far yet. It proclaimed that it was waging war
against Islamic terrorists, not against Islam.
What the US government did after 9-11, however,
sent exactly the opposite message. It launched
a war against Iraq, a secular Arab government,
opposed to the Islamists and with no known connection
to the perpetrators of 9-11. It gave up its pretense
of playing the honest broker between Israel and
the Palestinians. It launched plans to effect
'regime change' in Syria and Iran. US intentions
in the Middle East were summed up ominously in
its plans to bring 'democracy' to the region.
The real plan - long a part of Israel's strategic
plan for the region - was to redraw the map of
the Middle East.
The advocates of civilizational war in the United
States were not yet resting on their laurels.
They had not achieved quite what they wanted.
They wanted all-out, open war against the Islamic
world. They wanted the US to equate Islam with
terrorism, and Muslims with terrorists. They wanted
to deport Muslims who called the West their home,
or shut them up in internment camps. They wanted
to legalize the torture of Muslims, and their
indefinite detention. Indeed, they were celebrating
the loss of their own liberties as a necessary
tool in the war against Islam.
Unremittingly, Israel, the Zionists and neoconservatives
are pushing the United States to start the total
war against Islam. They work openly, covertly
and by deceit. On the ideological front, their
goal is to define all Muslims as terrorist.
This goal appears to be nearly in sight. They
have persuaded many Americans that all
terrorists are Muslims even if all Muslims
are not terrorists.
A tenuous distinction indeed, if there was one.
If all terrorists are Muslims, and we cannot
tell the bad ones from the good ones, can we then
afford to give 'good Muslims' the benefit of the
doubt? Can the West risk its survival on so fine,
so tenuous a distinction? Should the West risk
its survival on this distinction?
The charge that all terrorists are Muslims
is a scarcely concealed advocacy for war against
all Muslims. It does not matter that this equation
is false. The claim that Saddam Hussein had WMDs
was also false; so was his connection with the
9-11 hijackers. But these lies were used to invade,
occupy and devastate Iraq. If this new falsehood
prevails, and it appears to be gaining ground,
this is what will drive the war against Islam
- the most deadly after the second World War.
Duped into rage, Americans will stand four square
behind the war of the twenty-first century to
defeat the Islamo-fascists, to eradicate the Islamic
terrorists. Once this is over, they can enjoy
the glories of yet another American century.
M. Shahid Alam
Shahid Alam is professor of economics at a university
in Boston, and author of Challenging the New
Orientalism: Dissenting Essays on America's 'War
Against Islam' (IPI Publications: 2006 forthcoming).