The Isolated Islamic World
Jude Wanniski
November 26, 1997


Rupert Murdoch’s Weekly Standard, which earlier this year repeatedly ridiculed me for having discussions with the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan, in its current issue makes fun of my attempts to understand our relations with Iraq. Its cover contains big black letters stating “SADDAM MUST GO,” advertising several articles within that explain why war must be declared using air power and ground troops, with or without coalition support, or Saddam must be overthrown by means fair or foul. In The New York Times Monday, Thomas L. Friedman, who two weeks ago advocated the assassination of Saddam, now reports that throughout the world the United States is viewed as an arrogant, ugly meddler in local affairs: “Do you know what Iran calls America today? Not ‘the Great Satan.’ Iran calls America ‘the Capital of Global Arrogance.’ Unfortunately, that’s also what the French, the Malaysians, the Russians, the Chinese, the Japanese and the Germans call Washington behind its back.” From Moscow, Friedman writes that Russian commentator Aleksai Pushkov says “the attitude here now is that Russia should be a balancing force to correct situations where America gets infatuated with its own power.”

In other words, Friedman, the “Foreign Affairs” columnist for the most important newspaper in the world, in the space of two weeks first advocates the murder of a foreign head of state and then frets that the rest of the world questions our exercise of power. What does he suggest we do? Learn to get along better with the Russians, but not a word about finding a way to live with Saddam. It is still assassinate the bum, but maybe give the Russians a cut in the deal, a little Iraqi oil perhaps. In the Sunday Times Magazine, there is only admiration for Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, who has managed to stay in power even after failing in his attempt to assassinate a leader of the Palestinian group Hamas. And we still are irked that our bombs did not find Muamar Khadafy at home when we bombed Tripoli a decade ago. This was in retaliation for Libya’s terrorist act in Germany, which we have since learned was inspired not in Libya, but in Iran.

As we listen to the tapes of the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon years, we find ample evidence that the United States was plotting assassination, acts of terrorism, and even the use of weapons of mass destruction. We were at the state of the art in nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare, which is probably why we now insist American inspectors are better than all others on the UN teams. In all those years, I was a no-holds-barred defender of any and all means of defeating the USSR, even if it meant pushing around smaller countries like pawns. Dirty tricks, deception, disinformation were all part of the U.S. arsenal, which of course meant our agents had to fool our own population if we were going to fool our enemies. The people who played these clever war games, my comrades in arms, now write for the Weekly Standard and are most distressed that I have betrayed them by declaring peace.

The reason the Islamic world needs such attention is that it has the least direct access to the U.S. political process. This is because we are a Judeo-Christian culture and while Islam is an offshoot of that culture, it has no political foothold in the United States. There are one billion Muslims in the world, about the same as the number of Catholics, and they control an aggregate land mass almost three times the size of the United States, including Alaska -- 10.5 million square miles compared with 3.6 million. If they were united, they would be a formidable political force in the world, but the 20th century of war and depression has had the effect of fracturing Islam into bits and pieces. In the Cold War, whether we now like to think about it or not, it was always easier for our grand chess players to push around the Islamic countries without worrying too much about their blood being spilled -- the way we would if they were Christians or Jews. There are in the world, by the way, 13 million Jews, according to the Britannica Yearbook.

On last Sunday’s “McLaughlin Group,” John McLaughlin, a former Catholic priest who was taught about the sanctity of life, asked his panel to consider the fact that since March of 1991 when the sanctions against Iraq began, an estimated 1.4 million civilians have died because of the sanctions, including an estimated 681,800 children under the age of five. McLaughlin was debated on these numbers by Pat Buchanan, another Catholic, who clearly wanted not to believe them but finally acknowledged that even if only half the number died, it was not worth it. These numbers are staggering. To Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the idea of 500,000 Muslim children dying of starvation was of no account when she was asked about the costs and benefits last year. On "Meet the Press" last Sunday, when Bob Novak said the sanctions against Iraq should be lifted immediately, because they were killing children, not Saddam, William Safire poked fun at him for his “compassion.” If these were Protestant children, Catholic children, or Jewish children, is there any doubt we would be a bit less callous in our approach to our difficulties with Iraq? One reason I’m so aware of this is my recollection of how torn I was, between satisfaction and remorse, upon learning in 1965 that as many as a million “Communists” had been slaughtered in Indonesia, when Suharto came to power. A million is a lot of people, even if they aren’t Christians or Jews.

Any Protestant, any Catholic, or any Jew in the world can always find a sympathetic ear in the legislative, executive or judicial branch of our government. The Confucians and the Buddhists, organized in China and Japan, have a bit more difficulty, but because they are unified in sovereign, prosperous nations, their voices can be heard, even if they must shout now and then. Islam is shut out, though. Louis Farrakhan is said by Vanity Fair to be among the 65 most powerful people in the world. But we are not supposed to hear what he has to say, on the grounds that he criticizes Christians and Jews. We forbid Iraq a hearing before the Security Council of the United Nations and prohibit our UN Ambassador from talking to anyone from Iraq, Libya, Syria, Iran or the Sudan, and spread the word that maybe Egypt is next. The heads of state of Malaysia and Indonesia wonder if “Jewish speculators” have undermined their economies by attacking their currencies. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait question our handling of Iraq, and our political Establishment sneers at them as being ingrates.

On Monday, Farrakhan will embark on a three-month “Friendship” tour of the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. He plans visits to 50 nations, mostly Muslim, but also including Israel, Russia and China. He hopes to meet with Israeli religious leaders as well as the Palestinians. On December 9, in Tehran, he will participate in a global conference of Muslims from 50 nations. His overriding aim is reconciliation of the world’s religions. Another aim, I believe, is to pull the Islamic world together in a way that would gain it common access to “the Capital of Global Arrogance.” Only when the Islamic world knows it has that access and can petition for redress of grievances does Farrakhan believe the threat of global terrorism and the use of weapons of mass destruction will recede. More than that, an Islam in isolation and opposition is surely a recipe for WWIII.