The World is a Safer Place

In “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11,” Lawrence Wright’s monumental examination of the jihadist movement that threatens the civilized world, characters other than Osama Bin-Laden emerge as the network’s chief ideologues. The handful of Americans who still read newspapers regularly are familiar with names like Zarqawi and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Less known, but dangerously influential, are members of the inner council, many of whom draft lengthy treatises on the future of the Islamic caliphate. Their ideas are interpreted, refined, and put into practice by Osama and his murderous colleagues.

According to Wright, one of the most important thinkers in Al-Qaeda is a Syrian named Abu Musab al-Suri (real name Mustafa Nasar.) He is famous in the Muslim world for a 1,600-page call to jihad published in 2004 and entitled “Call for Worldwide Islamic Resistance,” which lays out in terrifying detail the future of the jihadist struggle. The goal, Suri writes, is “to bring about the largest number of human and material casualties possible for America and its allies.” The attacks of September 11, 2001, in his estimation, were a setback for jihadis, because it brought about the demise of the Taliban, which he considers the world’s only legitimate Islamic government. Indeed, in Suri’s view, the underground terror movement — Al-Qaeda and its sleeper cells — is defunct, because it is incapable of unifying Muslim people to their collective cause.

But that’s all changed now.

The American occupation of Iraq, Suri declares, inaugurated a “historical new period” that single-handedly rescued the jihadi movement just when many of its critics — including members of Al-Qaeda — thought it was finished.

Earlier this week, our incurious President, who admits he doesn’t read the newspapers — why should he: Dick Cheney can just tell him what they say — looked the TV camera in the lens and told his countrymen, a few of whom still give credence to the mendacity that pours from his lips, that “the world is a safer place” without Saddam Hussein in power. So-called “conservative” talk radio and TV news shows would repeat this lie throughout the week until it sounded almost sort of true. But the evidence suggests the opposite.

Our obscene occupation of Iraq, where thousands of lives have been wasted in anything but heroic action, has rallied radical Islamists, providing the signal event to resurrect a movement that even its chief theorists suspected was dead. The great nation of America has behaved just as the jihadi propagandists promised their benighted followers it would: with imperialist, Zionist, anti-Muslim recklessness. Once again, five years after the towers fell, we’re the bad guys.

It’s easy to dismiss as insane the millions of Muslims who view martyrdom as the greatest gift they can bestow on this world. But are they any more gullible than the millions of Americans who listen faithfully to Rush Limbaugh, re-elected George W. Bush, and tuck themselves in at night believing that deposing Saddam has made the world a safer place?

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